Insurance Claim Process for Car Accidents

Understanding the insurance claim process for car accidents can provide peace of mind if you are involved in a collision. When you file an insurance claim, you receive payment for covered damages based on the terms of your contract with the insurer. According to WalletHub, auto insurance companies in the United States pay out more than $170 million in annual claims. Follow these steps to report the accident to your insurer so they can handle the details of your claim.

Seek Medical Care

First, call 911 if you or anyone else at the scene has accident injuries. Check on your own passengers as well as people in the other vehicles if you can safely do so. Even if you do not have obvious injuries, plan to see your doctor within a few days of the collision, just in case.

Move Off the Road

If possible, move your vehicle to the shoulder or otherwise off the main road to avoid obstructing traffic and keep yourself out of harm’s way. You may want to set up reflective triangles or flares if you have them in your car. If you smell gas or have concerns about a fire or explosion, get as far away from the vehicles as possible.

Call the Authorities

Even for minor accidents, your state may legally require you to call the police. Either way, it is a good idea to contact law enforcement whenever an accident involves any level of property damage or injury. The officer who comes to the scene will complete an accident report, which will provide important information for your insurance claim. If law enforcement is not available to come to the scene of the accident, you can complete your own report at the local precinct, according to the finance website NerdWallet.

Gather Details at the Scene

Most states require you to provide your name and insurance information to other drivers involved in the collision. You do not have to provide any other details. In fact, doing so can damage your insurance claim if you say anything that admits or indicates fault.

If possible, write down the other motorists’ names and insurance policy information, contact details if available, and contact information and names of witnesses to the crash. You should take photos and videos of the crash scene and damage to your vehicle and surrounding property. Make sure to get images from different angles and capture the license plate numbers of all involved vehicles.

WalletHub recommends taking down the name, phone number, and badge number of the officer who comes to the scene. He or she may also be able to provide the police report number, which you can use to get a copy of the report when available. Ask the officer where you can obtain the final police report. Take notes about your recollections of the accident while it is clear in your mind.

Contact the Insurance Agent

Go online or call your insurance company to report the accident. You can start this process at the scene or wait until you get home. You’ll need to provide comprehensive details, including:

  • When and where the collision occurred
  • The VIN of the covered vehicle involved in the accident
  • Who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident
  • How the accident happened
  • An overview of the damages
  • Contact details and insurance information for other drivers involved in the crash as well as witnesses

    Prepare to write down important information you get from the insurance agent, such as a claim number. If the company has assigned someone to cover your claim, take down this person’s name and contact information.

    Understand Your Coverage

    The type of compensation you will receive from your insurance provider depends on the circumstances of the accident and the type of coverage you have. If the other driver caused the accident, his or her liability policy would pay for property damage and bodily injury (medical expenses) for you and your passengers. However, your recovery amount is limited by the driver’s coverage limits. If you live in one of the 12 states that requires personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, you could file a claim for medical expenses with your own PIP policy.

    When you get in an accident caused by a driver with insufficient or no auto insurance, you may have uninsured motorist coverage to pay your expenses. Drivers must legally have this policy in 21 states and in Washington, D.C.

    If you cause an accident, your liability coverage will pay for the other parties’ expenses. In this case, you would have to pay out of pocket for the damages to your own car unless you have collision coverage, which pays for repairs up to the value of your vehicle, minus your deductible amount.

    States do not require drivers to carry collision coverage, but your contract probably requires it if you finance or lease your vehicle. If you get injured in this type of situation, you can file claims through your health insurance policy. You may also have medical payment coverage through your auto insurance.

    Repair Your Vehicle

    According to the finance website The Balance, you should not move forward with auto repairs unless you receive official approval from your insurance provider. The adjuster may provide a settlement for less than the quoted repairs. If you cannot negotiate a higher payout, you will be responsible for the remainder of the cost.

    Consider downloading the free WreckCheck app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. This program lets you use your smartphone to record details about the accident and send them to your insurance company. Your insurer might also have this function in its own dedicated app.

    You do not necessarily have to file an insurance claim when you have an auto accident. It may make more financial sense to pay cash for repairs if you can afford to do so since your insurance premium price will rise.

    Check this out if you need additional information, resources, or guidance on car insurance.


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