Image via Flickr by orangesky3
Knowing how to file a car insurance claim before you get into an accident can help you be better prepared and make your claim go more smoothly. While each insurance company may have its own steps to follow during the claims process, there are some basic steps you should take during any type of vehicle claim.
How to File a Car Insurance Claim
If you’ve been in a car accident, use this list of steps to help you quickly and effectively file a claim with your insurance provider:
1. Contact the Police
Immediately following a vehicle accident, contact the police. Your insurance company will likely need a police report number to file the claim. The police will also be able to secure emergency medical treatment for you, the other driver, or passengers if needed. If you live in an at-fault insurance state, the police officer may be able to decide on the scene of fault, which may be critical to making your claim case.
Even if you are in a minor accident, you should contact the police to ensure that the accident is on file. The officer will probably give you a report number on the scene or instructions for obtaining it.
2. Snap Some Pictures
Taking a few pictures at the scene can help prove the damage from the accident and also determine who may be at fault. Some insurance companies may use a fault determination when it comes time for rate renewal, and it may also affect how your claim pays out. Try to take photos as soon as possible if you are not injured. This way, you will accurately represent the scene.
3. Contact Your Insurance Company
Your accident should be reported to your insurance company after you have completed your police report. Each insurance company may ask you different types of questions, but all of them will want to know the following information:
- What vehicle on your policy was involved in the accident
- Which driver was driving
- Whether the collision was with an animal, object, or another vehicle
- When and where the accident occurred
- A description of how the accident occurred
- A description of the damage and any injuries to those involved
- The name of the other driver and their insurance information
- Contact information for any witnesses
- A police report number or department where the report was filed
Before concluding your call, get the name of the adjuster handling your claim and their contact information.
4. Meet With the Adjuster
An adjuster will be assigned to find out more about your claim and assess the damage. If there were witnesses to your accident, they are likely to contact them to find out their accident description. You will need to provide them with any photographs and as many facts as possible regarding the accident.
The adjuster will also inspect the damage to the vehicle or refer you to one of their preferred repair shops to get a repair estimate.
It is important to note that if you plan on filing a personal injury claim against the other driver, you would want to contact an attorney before meeting with the adjuster.
5. Obtain the Final Report
Once the adjuster has completed their assessments, they will have a final report to provide their initial estimate of needed repairs. The insurance company will then look at this amount and determine how much it will cover. In most cases, if you have enough coverage, you will only be responsible for the deductible.
6. Get Your Car Repaired
If the payment from your insurance company is satisfactory, then you may accept it and get your car repaired. If your insurance company has a preferred repair shop, it may be best to use them, since the insurance company will often guarantee their work.
If you disagree with the payout decision, you will need to contact your claims handler to find the steps you need to take to find an agreeable resolution.
When to File an Insurance Claim
If you have full coverage on your vehicle, you will want to file a claim any time you are involved in an accident with another vehicle or an accident where the damage is more than your deductible. Below are the main types of coverage in car insurance and which coverage will be used for each claim type.
- Comprehensive: If your vehicle is stolen or you collide with something other than a car, your comprehensive insurance policy will cover the claim. If you have a higher deductible and minimal damage, it may be best to pay for repairs yourself.
- Liability: If you are not at fault for the accident, you will be filing your claim against the other party’s liability insurance. The other driver will likely file a claim against this portion of your policy if you are at fault.
- Collision: If the fault of the accident is unclear, or you are at fault, then your collision coverage will cover the cost of vehicle repairs. If you are in a no-fault state, this portion of your policy will cover your auto repairs, no matter the fault.
- Uninsured/Underinsured: If the accident is the other driver’s fault and they do not have the proper coverage or enough coverage, the damages will be filed against your uninsured or underinsured motorist policy.
- PIP: Personal injury protection insurance is required in many states and will provide coverage for physical injuries for you or your passengers due to an accident.
Medical Treatment After an Accident
It is important to seek medical treatment for injuries from a car accident, even if they seem minor. Injuries can become more severe over time, and if you do not have them treated or reported promptly, it may be more challenging to get them covered under your auto insurance policy.
If you think you are injured, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some doctors can bill your insurance company directly, while others may require payment upfront. If you do pay for any costs for an injury from an accident, submit the receipts with your claim so that your insurance company can reimburse you.
Knowing how to file a car insurance claim properly will help you quickly get your vehicle repaired and back on the road. Always make sure to file your claim in a timely manner and have as much information as possible to ensure a smooth process.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.