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Tips For Filing A Car Insurance Claim

If you drive, chances are that you will eventually be in an accident or have another incident that damages your car. You will need to follow certain steps to file a claim with your car insurance company to get reimbursement.

Claim types include bodily injury claims for medical expenses and property damage claims to vehicle repairs and stolen property. Read on to find out how to file a car insurance claim.

When to File a Claim

Contact your car insurance company as soon as possible following a car collision. You may also need to file a claim if your vehicle is:

  • Vandalized.
  • Stolen.
  • Damaged from a non-accident-related event, such as fire or severe weather.

Your auto insurance agent's or insurance company's telephone number is listed on the front of your insurance card. However, you may also be able to find it online and in your actual policy documents.

Information You'll Need

When you contact your company to file a claim, make sure to provide the following details:

  • Your full name and policy number.
  • The start and end date of your policy.
  • Date and time of the incident.
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all drivers, passengers, and witnesses.
  • Driver's license and license plate numbers for all drivers.

Your insurance company might also require you to complete a sworn statement that details the events of the auto accident (i.e. weather conditions, time of day or night that the incident occurred, etc.). Make sure also that you note any personal harm you notice and take photos of the damage.

Five Basic Steps of Filing a Claim

Once you contact the car insurance company, your case will go through the following steps.

  1. Case assignment to a professional at your car insurance company who will work on your claim.
  2. Meeting with your claims professional to discuss your coverages and the situation.
  3. Evaluation by your claims professional, which can include inspecting your car, examining evidence of any injury claims, and an initial payment.
  4. Resolution of the case, including payments as appropriate.
  5. Closing of the case.

Since you are responsible for protecting your own property, your car insurance company may require you to make temporary fixes to your car while you are waiting for car repairs. These can help prevent further damage. However, be sure not to make permanent repairs before you are approved, because these may not be reimbursed.

Make sure to keep receipts for expenses as you fix your car and seek medical treatment.

Hiring an Attorney

In some cases, you might consider bringing in the counsel of an attorney who specializes in accident claims. They may be able to expedite the process.

Coverage for Bodily Injury Claims

If you are not at fault for the accident, you'll typically be covered by the other driver's bodily injury liability coverage. However, if you live in a no-fault state, you may pay for your injuries through your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

Other optional medical coverages that will help pay for your injuries include:

  • Medical payments coverage – Helps pay for funeral costs, injuries suffered by your passengers, injuries to you if a car hits you while you are walking or biking, and necessary dental care resulting from a car accident.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage – Pays for injuries sustained in an accident with a driver who has no or too little insurance to cover your costs.

Before purchasing optional medical coverage or raising your minimum deductible, consider using your own health insurance to cover all or part of your injuries.

For more information, visit our Medical Coverages page.

Handling a Bodily Injury Claim

When you are hurt in a car accident, there are certain steps that can make the process of dealing with a personal injury claim easier. Remember to:

  • Take photos of the scene and your injuries.
  • File a police report and request a copy.
  • Visit a doctor immediately.
  • Write down everything related to your injury, including any work time or activities you may have missed due to the injury.
    • This is necessary if you're going to file a lost wages claim.
  • Hire an attorney, if necessary.

Finally, remember to never admit fault at the scene.

For more information on how to ensure you handle an injury-causing accident properly, visit our page on the first steps after a personal injury accident.

Property Damage Claims

Your ability to file a claim for vehicle repairs depends on the cause of the damage and the coverages that you have.

Liability property damage coverage, which is required in many states, does not cover your own car. It will only pay for the damages you cause to another driver's vehicle in an accident that you cause.

The two major coverage types that pay for damage to your vehicle include:

  • Collision coverage, which pays for damages to your vehicle after a collision.
  • Comprehensive coverage, which will cover damages to your car occurring from events that aren't related to accidents.
    • Examples include vandalism and severe weather.

Other coverages that will cover property damage include:

  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist property damage coverage to get you reimbursement if you are in an accident and the driver that hit you does not have insurance.
  • Gap insurance coverage to cover the difference if you have a car loan or are leasing your car, and it is declared a total loss.
  • Windshield or glass coverage to replace or repair a windshield, mirror, or window that is damaged in an incident other than a collision.

For more information, see our Vehicle Coverages page.

Handling a Property Damage Claim

When you file a physical damage claim, an insurance adjuster will inspect your vehicle and estimate how much it will cost to repair the damage. You will then receive a check from the insurance company that takes into account the auto deductible you have chosen for your policy.

If your vehicle has been damaged, follow these steps in order to have your car insurance claim processed effectively:

  • Report the damage to your vehicle to your insurance company immediately.
    • Depending upon your insurance company's policies, you can do this online, by calling your insurance agent during regular business hours, or by calling the company's claims division.
  • If another driver was involved, exchange insurance information.
  • Allow your insurance company to inspect the vehicle before repairs are made.
  • Protect the vehicle so no further damages are caused and losses are limited.
    • For example, if the accident causes the fender to rub against the vehicle tire, you should have this repair made immediately so the tire is not further damaged. If you don't make the repair, your car insurance company can refuse to pay for any additional damages.
  • Save all receipts and any other documentation you receive to give to your insurance company as part of your claim.
  • Provide any requested information the insurance company needs as part of its investigation. If you refuse to cooperate, your claim could be denied.

Making smart decisions about how to move forward with your claim, and making sure you document all damage, will go a long way toward a fast and smooth settlement of your claim.

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