Share This Page
Share Pin It Email Print

Property Damage Claims

If you are in an auto accident and your vehicle gets damaged, you'll likely want to submit a claim to get the repairs covered by your car insurance.

This guide will walk you through the steps to take when you get into an accident, auto insurance coverage types you might need, and the process of filing a claim.

Steps to Take After an Accident Involving Property Damage

When you've been in an accident and your vehicle is damaged, make sure you:

  • Move to a safe location.
  • Get the other driver's name and insurance information.
  • Call the police.
  • Take pictures of your vehicle.
  • Make sure you do not admit fault at the scene.
  • Get contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
  • Document the damage:
    • Take photos of all sides of your vehicle.
    • Take photos of any other vehicles that were damaged.
    • Document and take photos of any contributors to the accident, such as traffic signs hidden by brush.

Generally, the more documentation you can provide, the quicker and easier the accident investigation. This means you'll get your claim paid faster!

With Whose Company Do I File a Property Damage Claim?

The car insurance company to whom you submit your claim will depend on who was at fault for the accident. If the other driver was clearly at fault and there are no questions about liability, you can submit a third party claim to his insurer. However, if liability is unclear, it makes sense to submit the claim to your own insurer.

If the investigation determines the other driver was indeed at fault, they can seek subrogation for reimbursement of the damages they paid out to you. Through this process, you may be able to get your deductible back.

Will I Get a Rental Car?

This depends on your auto insurance company and your coverage. Your insurer may pay for you to get a rental, or you might be required to have rental reimbursement coverage in order to have that cost paid.

Speak with your auto insurance agent if you need to get a rental while your car is in the shop.

What Coverage Do I Need for Property Damage Claims?

If you are going to file your property damage claim with your own insurance company, you'll need either:

You may also need some additional optional coverages, such as custom parts and equipment coverage, if you want extra coverage (e.g., for equipment you've added to your car).

Total Loss

If the damages to your car exceed a specific percentage of the vehicle value, your auto insurance company may deem the vehicle a total loss.

If your vehicle is determined to be a total loss, you may need to negotiate with the insurance company in order to determine the actual cash value of your car.

Vehicles depreciate quickly and there are often several different calculations used when assessing the worth of a particular vehicle. The Kelley Blue Book is a good starting point for determining the value of a vehicle, but even this estimate will vary depending upon how well your car has been maintained.

Also, you will need to keep in mind that the insurance company does not necessarily need to give you enough money to pay off your auto loan. It is only required to repair the vehicle or provide a check for the fair market value.

Gap Insurance

If your car is deemed a total loss and you still have a loan or lease on your car, gap insurance can cover the difference between:

  • The amount you owe your lienholder.
  • The actual cash value of your vehicle.

This can be a huge cost-saver if you lose the ability to drive your vehicle but you still owe money on it. The relatively low cost of gap insurance coverage can save you thousands of dollars in the event of a total loss.

Hiring a Car Accident Attorney

Do you need legal assistance to file a property damage claim? In most cases, property damage claims can be handled on your own through your car insurance.

If the accident also involved personal injury, however, you can hire a car accident attorney who will handle both claims for you.

DMV.ORG BBB Business Review