How to File an Auto Insurance Claim

How do you file an auto insurance claim? There are five steps to follow in order to ensure your claim is processed quickly. First, you should determine whether or not you need to make a claim. Then you should document all details of the accident, and file your claim as soon as possible. After this you should talk to the other party's insurance company and work on getting your car fixed.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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There are over 220 million cars on the road today in America. With so many vehicles clogging the roads, accidents are bound to occur. In fact, there are over 17,000 car accidents reported per day in the United States. If you happen to be one of these unfortunate individuals, you might need to make a claim with your insurance company.

An auto insurance claim is any request for payment in accordance with your insurance policy. For example, if you get into a car accident and need to ask your insurance company for money to pay for repairs, this is called “making a claim.” If you are lucky enough to have a good, easy-to-work-with insurance company, making a claim should be a piece of cake. If you don’t, on the other hand, things could get pretty difficult.

The hard part of making these claims is proving that your incident is covered under the stipulations of your contract. Often times there is small, fine print in your contract that will negate your claim. Other times your insurance company might stall on the payment or be completely unwilling to work with you.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make the claims process go as smoothly as possible. If you ever are in an automobile accident and need to file a claim, please follow the five steps below in order to ensure your claim is processed quickly. In addition, make sure you adhere to the claim-filing tips that we discuss in detail following the five steps claim process.

The Five Steps To Filing A Car Insurance Claim

  1. Determine whether or not you need to make a claim.
    Whatever you do, don’t call up your insurance company immediately after the accident if you are unsure about filing a claim. Be sure to first consult with the police and your friends or family to make sure filing a claim is necessary. The reason for this being that if you call up your insurance company and inquire about making a claim, they can record this call and put it on your permanent record – even if you don’t make a claim! If you can safely pay for the damage caused by a minor accident, don’t even think about calling your insurance company – just bite the bullet and pay for it yourself. It will help your insurance rates in the long term.
  2. Document the details of the accident.
    Following an accident, there are some pieces of information you need to make sure to get. First, exchange license plate numbers, contact information, and insurance information with any other parties involved in the accident. Also, look around to see if there are any witnesses to the accident.  Get their contact information. Finally, make sure to file an accident report with the police. If it is a minor accident, police officers often times won’t file accident reports. Even if they refuse, insist on them doing so. This report can help you a lot when it comes time to file your claim. Often times, insurance companies won’t take claims seriously unless there is some written proof from the police.
  3. File your claim as soon as possible.
    As soon as you have gathered enough information needed to make the claim, grab your phone and give your insurance company a call. Even if the accident was your fault, you should still file the claim as soon as possible. It will help get everything settled and squared away quickly without any hassles. I recommend calling the insurance company immediately at the scene of the accident. If you are unsure of your insurance company’s phone number, open up your glove box and look at your insurance card. The number should be printed on the back of it. The agent who takes your claim will walk you through the process. Be prepared to tell them details of the accident as well as other information you have gathered in step 2.
  4. Talk to the other party’s insurance company.
    The other party’s insurance company might contact you if there is a dispute between the two parties in the accident. They will ask you for “your side of the story” in regards to the accident. It might be a good idea to seek legal advice if you need to speak with the other person’s insurance company. If not, you need to be very careful about what you say, otherwise, they may not make a pay-out on your claim.
  5. Get your car fixed.
    After the accident, a claims adjuster will inspect your vehicle to assess the damage. The insurance company will then cut a check for the amount needed for repairs (or replacement). Your insurance company usually will send your car to a company-approved repair shop to get these repairs done. While you wait for your vehicle to be repaired, the insurance company will provide you with a rental car you can use if you have rental reimbursement coverage.

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Tips for Filing a Claim Correctly

Once you have determined that you should, in fact, file an auto insurance claim (you have been involved in an accident, your vehicle has been damaged by an act of nature, or it has been vandalized or stolen), proceed with filing a claim. Here are some tips that will help ensure you are filling a claim correctly:

  • Collect the necessary information. Before you file an auto insurance claim, make sure that you have all of the necessary information. Your insurance provider will require the following details:
    • Your full name as it appears on your auto insurance policy
    • Your auto insurance policy number
    • The date and time that the incident occurred
    • The information of anyone else involved in the accident, including other drivers, passengers, and witnesses. Make sure you have their names, phone numbers, and addresses.
    • The driver’s license number(s) of all drivers involved, including yours and any other drivers that were involved in an accident.
  • Contact your auto insurance carrier. The contact information for your auto insurance provider should be printed directly on your insurance card. You can also check online for the contact phone number.
  • Be prepared. Depending on the nature of the incident and your insurance provider, you may be required to fill out a sworn statement that highlights the details of the events that occurred. For example, you may need to provide details about the weather, the traffic conditions, the time of day the incident occurred, and so forth. If you have any photos of the damage and/or injuries, you may want to, or be asked to, provide them to your insurance carrier.

What to Expect After You File Your Claim

After you file an auto insurance claim, your auto insurance carrier will assign a claims adjuster to your file. You can expect to receive a phone call from the assigned claims adjuster within a few days after your claim has been filed. Your adjuster may want to meet with you in person to review the case, or the claim may be handled over the phone; it depends on the specific nature of your case.

In order to support the claim that you have made, your insurance carrier may ask you to fill out a Proof of Loss (a claim form that serves as a sworn statement and supports the claim you have made).

The claims adjuster that is filed to your file will determine how much of your claim will be covered by your insurance coverage. He or she will also review the coverages your policy provides, and assist you throughout the entire claims process.

How Long After Filing A Claim Can You Expect a Payout?

It depends. There are a number of factors that will affect how long it will take to receive a payout from your insurance provider, including the extent of the damages, the details of the incident, and your insurance provider’s policies. For instance, your insurance company may require you to have the necessary repairs made – and have you pay for them – before issuing a check to cover the damage; or, your provider may issue a check directly to the repair shop.

Although nobody particularly likes dealing with insurance companies, it is necessary to do so if you are ever in a serious accident. After all, without insurance, we wouldn’t have the financial freedom needed to drive.

We hope our step-by-step guide to filing claims helped clear up some of your questions and concerns regarding the process. If you need to find insurance for your vehicle, you should compare quotes online to find an affordable policy that fits your needs. There are many websites (including this one) that will provide you with free insurance quotes.

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