Complete Guide On Filing Car Insurance Claims


WRITTEN BY: Julia Matseikovich

UPDATED: OCTOBER 25, 2022 | 3 MIN READ

For most people, car insurance is a pesky added cost of owning a car. Many people will, luckily, never have to use it. Unfortunately, there may come a time when you have to file a car insurance claim. Read on to learn all about how to go through that process.

Car Insurance Claim Quicklinks

When would I need to file a car insurance claim?

Certain situations mean you may have to file an insurance claim.

If it’s unclear whose fault it was

Sometimes it may not be crystal clear who was at fault for the car accident, or both parties may claim they’re not at fault. In this scenario, it’s best to let insurance companies argue it out amongst themselves.

If someone is injured

Regardless of who is at fault or injured, you will probably want to file an insurance claim as soon as anyone’s medical bills are involved. Medical expenses add up quickly, and you may be unable to afford them out of pocket.

If your car is totaled or repairs are pricey

If your car is totaled, it means that it’s beyond repair. You’ll need to replace it. In this case, you’ll likely want to file a claim so you’re not stuck paying for a replacement car you didn’t need before the accident. 

If the car can be repaired, but you can’t afford the thousands of dollars it’s going to take to do it, consider filing a claim to cover the costs.

What are the steps to filing a claim?

So, you’ve decided that you need to file a claim. Now what?

Get to safety

Immediately after an accident, the first thing that needs to happen is for you to make sure that everyone is safe. Get to the side of the road, away from traffic. Remember, accidents are stressful for everyone, so try to stay calm.

Call 911

Next, call emergency services to ensure any injuries are taken care of. Most insurance companies need you to file a police report before filing a claim, so calling the police to the scene of the accident means that the requirement is fulfilled.

Document everything

When you contact your insurance company, they’ll ask for a lot of information. The more you have, the easier the process will be.

  • Take photos of any damage to the car from as many angles as possible. 
  • Note the accident’s details, including the location, time, and weather conditions. 
  • Note the names and badge numbers of any officers that responded to the incident. 
  • Ask for a copy of the police report or a case number.

Exchange information

Get the name, contact details, and insurance details of anyone involved in the accident. Be sure to get the contact information of anyone who may be a witness to the accident and take detailed notes. If you hit an unattended vehicle, try to locate the owner. If you can’t, leave them a note with your contact information and insurance details. 

Keep the receipts

Whether you incur any medical bills, have to call a tow truck, or need to make temporary repairs, keep the receipts for any expenses related to the accident.

Call your insurance company or use your smartphone

Even if you aren’t filing a claim through your insurance, you should still report the accident to them as soon as possible. This is because the other party involved may claim that you’re at fault.

The quicker you provide all the relevant information to your insurance company, the quicker they’ll have everything they need to dispute it.

Many insurance providers have apps that allow you to file a claim. This makes it easy to file a car insurance claim, as they often have checklists on their apps that tell you exactly what steps to take to file without worrying about missing something. 

Alternatively, if you prefer to speak to someone on the phone, you also have that option. They’ll run through everything with you. 

Questions you should ask your insurance provider include:

  • Is there a time limit for resolving disputes?
  • Is there a deadline for providing further information?
  • Does my insurance offer rental car coverage?
  • When will I be contacted regarding the claim?

What happens after I file my car insurance claim?

After you‘ve filed your claim, you’ll be assigned an adjuster to investigate. They may come out and assess the damage to the vehicle, or you may be asked to gather several repair estimates. Often, they’ll provide a list of preferred auto shops that you can choose from. 

Car Insurance Claim FAQs

Read on to find the answers to some commonly asked questions.

How long do I have to file a car insurance claim?

The time you have to file a claim varies depending on the state you live in and your insurance company. Most insurance policies require you to file a claim ‘promptly’ or ‘within a reasonable time.’ Typically, the quicker you file your claim, the smoother the process. 

Will my insurance rate go up if I file a claim?

Whether you file a claim with your insurance company or a third-party claim. Your insurance company is likely to increase if you caused the events leading up to the claim. These increases will typically stay with you for three to five years following the claim.

Who pays for my rental car after an accident?

That depends on who was at fault. If you file a third-party claim, the other driver’s insurance company should foot the bill for a rental car. You may have to front the cost and be reimbursed. If you file a claim through your own insurance company, you’ll have to check if your coverage includes rental cars or not.

Can I file a car insurance claim without a police report?

Technically, yes. However, having a police report to back up your version of events is always a good idea. The police report will document the facts and help make things clearer during the claims process.

How long does it take to settle a car insurance claim?

It can take anywhere from several hours to several months, depending on how complex the situation is. Usually, the insurance company will either send you a check or pay for repairs directly to the auto shop.

Can I choose where to get my car repaired?

Most of the time, your insurance provider will give you a list of their preferred repair companies. However, you’re not obliged to use any of the preferred shops. You can go to your auto repair shop, but be aware that if the cost exceeds the estimate provided by the insurance adjuster or their preferred shops, you may have to pay the difference. 

When shouldn’t I file a car insurance claim?

If nobody was injured, and the damage caused was only minor, it might be more beneficial to settle out of pocket. When you file a claim, your insurance will likely increase for the next three to five years, so it might work out cheaper to handle things without getting the insurance company involved.

Have the Right Car Insurance Coverage

Being involved in an accident is stressful for everyone, and filing a claim can be complicated. It doesn’t always have to be. If you follow the above steps and ensure good car insurance coverage, you can ensure the whole task runs as smoothly as possible.