Extensive auto insurance coverage protects you and the other road users you interact with. You know that — and it’s probably precisely why you chose to exceed your state’s minimum car insurance coverage requirements and instead opted for a more comprehensive coverage plan.
Let’s make no mistake. Your car insurance is a backup plan, and you hope you’ll never need to file a claim.
What if you were involved in a car accident, though? You’ll likely be shaken up, even if nobody sustained serious injuries. It’s good to know how to file an insurance claim after an accident, so the process will be easier if it ever comes to that.
Filing an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident: The Basics
Making an insurance claim isn’t simple, not least because there are numerous possible scenarios:
- You may file a first-party claim (with your own insurer) if you were at fault. You may also file a first-party if you want a quick resolution and have collision coverage. Your insurer may later try to get the other party’s insurance company to reimburse this amount.
- You generally file a third-party claim (with the other party’s insurer) if the other party was at fault.
- Some states have no-fault laws and require drivers to carry personal injury insurance. You should file with your own insurer in these cases.
- The other party may also be uninsured or underinsured. That’s what uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is for.
How to File a First-Party Car Insurance Claim After an Accident
Here’s a look at the steps people should take after a car accident to follow a first-party claim with their own insurance company:
- Check if you and any passengers you have were injured. If not, check how the other party is doing. Call 911 if there are any injuries.
- Contact the police. Even minor car accidents should be reported to the police. The police report plays a vital role in the insurance claim.
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. Exchange information with witnesses, too.
- Take pictures of the damage and the site of the accident. These should be as detailed as possible and depict the damage and situation clearly.
It’s advisable to contact your insurance company as soon after the accident as possible, but the precise timing depends on any injuries you may have sustained. When you’re ready, call your insurer and explain what happened.
Your insurance company will walk you through the steps you need to take to file a claim, including submitting a police report and photo evidence of the damage. You’ll be assigned a claims adjuster, who will be responsible for investigating the claim. Keep in touch to find out how your claim is progressing.
You can now take your car to an authorized repair shop to get it fixed. Provide your insurer with evidence of the estimate, and the insurance company will determine how much it can cover. You’ll need to pay your deductible first, and your insurer will cover the rest.
What if Your Claim Is Denied?
Your claim may also be denied. This can happen for various reasons, including insufficient evidence or waiting too long to file a claim.
You’ll be able to appeal, and you may also wish to consider filing a complaint with your state’s insurance department.
How to File a Third-Party Claim After an Accident
Filing a third-party claim (with the other driver’s insurance company) requires very similar steps. There are some important differences, however.
After you contact the other driver’s insurer and file a claim, you will typically be offered a settlement for repair and medical costs after the investigation is complete. You can try to renegotiate this offer if you’re not satisfied with it. This may or may not result in a better offer.
In some cases, negotiations with the other party’s insurance company will not lead to an offer you deem acceptable. In this case, you may want to consider legal action. Begin by consulting a qualified lawyer and assessing your options, and decide how to proceed from there.