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What to Expect When You File a Car Insurance Claim

Thursday, August 31, 2023

We hope you’ll never have to file a car insurance claim. But if doing so is a necessity, knowing what to expect in the claims process upfront will certainly help it be more seamless. Whether you’re at fault or not, understanding how to handle the car insurance claims process can help save you time, stress, and even money. We’re here to guide you through the entire process, answer some common questions, and provide some tips to make sure your claim filing experience goes as smoothly as possible.

A woman with braids checks her phone after getting into a car accident.

How Do Car Insurance Claims Work?

When you are involved in an accident, or your vehicle is damaged, you have the option to file a claim with your insurance company. This claim is a formal request to your insurer to pay for or compensate you for the damages or losses you’ve incurred. After you’ve entered your claim, your insurance company will evaluate the details of the claim, determine the liability, and decide on the amount of money you will be compensated. 

Car Insurance Claim Process

The life cycle of an auto insurance claim begins when an incident occurs that causes damage to your vehicle. Here is the roadmap of the entire claim process: 

  1. Incident occurs: You are involved in an accident or your vehicle is damaged.
  2. Report the accident: Immediately after the accident, ensure everyone is safe and call police and emergency services as necessary. Then, report the incident to your insurance company, even if you believe you’re not at fault.
  3. Gather information: Collect details from the other driver involved in the accident, including their name, contact information, insurance details, and vehicle information, if applicable. Take photos of the accident scene, damages, and any injuries. Get police reports and witness statements, if possible. 
  4. File a claim: Contact your insurance company to initiate the claim process. They will provide guidance on the next steps and what information they require.
  5. Adjuster evaluation: The insurance company will assign an adjuster to assess the damages and determine the claim’s value. They may visit the accident scene, inspect your vehicle, and interview witnesses. Cooperate with the adjuster and provide any additional information they request.
  6. Claim resolution: After the evaluation, the insurance company will offer a settlement amount. If you agree, they will process the payment. If not, you may need to negotiate or seek legal advice.
  7. Payment: You receive payment or repairs are made to the vehicle.
  8. Closure: The claim process ends, and any necessary follow-up is completed.

Oftentimes, your insurance card or insurance company will have detailed information about how to make an insurance claim. If their process conflicts with any of the information we have provided, be sure to default to their protocol.

How Long Do You Have to Make a Car Insurance Claim?

It’s best to file a car insurance claim as soon as possible following the incident. The specific timeline for submitting a claim varies by policy and jurisdiction – some policies may have a specific submission window, such as 30 days, while others might be more lenient. Always check your policy or consult with your insurance agent to be sure.

How Does an Insurance Claim Affect You?

Filing a claim may lead to an increase in your insurance premiums or make it harder to find affordable coverage. This is especially true if you are at fault in an accident or file multiple claims in a short period. You want to avoid getting labeled as a “high-risk” driver. Remember, filing a claim is optional – consider the impact of filing a claim on your rates before doing so.

How Do Car Insurance Claims Work When You Are Not at Fault?

If you’re not at fault in an accident, your insurance company will likely seek compensation from the at-fault party’s insurer (the Third Party Carrier, or TPC) in a process called subrogation (sometimes shortened to “subro”). It is the TPC’s obligation to help provide your repair costs and pay for your medical bills. This means you might not have to pay your deductible, and your insurer will attempt to recover the costs from the other party.  If recovering expenses from the other driver’s insurance company is delayed for any reason, your insurance will often step in to help pay for your repairs and other bills.

How Does Insurance Pay Out on a Claim?

Once a claim is approved, the insurance company will usually either pay you directly or pay the repair shop that fixed your vehicle. If your car is a total loss, they’ll usually compensate based on its actual cash value, minus any deductible.

What Are 3 Important Tips on Filing an Auto Insurance Claim?

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this information? Don’t worry. We’ve distilled it down to the three most important things to know. Take a deep breath and remember these three things if you find yourself in need of filing a car insurance claim:

  1. Document everything: From the accident scene to conversations with your insurer, keep records and take photos.
  2. Be honest: Always provide accurate information. Misrepresentations can lead to claim denials.
  3. Know your policy: Understand your coverage limits, deductibles, and any exclusions. Ask your insurer before an accident takes place if you have any questions.

Insurance is there to protect you and your assets. At Independent Insurance Associates, we will personalize your policy to get the best possible coverage for you. Let us help you be prepared, know your rights, and help make your claim experience the best one possible. Give us a call or get a free quote today!