How to Make a Car Insurance Claim

Filing a car insurance claim isn't exactly what anybody dreams about doing. However, the reality is that most people will end up filing a claim at some point. The good news is that most insurance companies make the process of filing a claim pretty straightforward these days. Of course, the steps you need to take will depend on the severity and nature of the accident you've been in. Accidents that involve police reports or physical injury could require longer processes for filing claims.

When to File a Car Insurance Claim

You may be wondering when it's necessary to file a car insurance claim. Depending on the types of coverages you have, claims can be filed in the event of:

  • Collisions.
  • Vandalized vehicles.
  • Stolen vehicles.
  • Damage from:
    • Weather.
    • Fire.
    • Projectile objects.

The First Step to Filing a Claim

You don't want to waste any time when it comes to letting your insurance company know that you need to file a claim. Some auto insurance companies actually have time limits for filing claims. The best way to get the ball rolling is to place a phone call to your insurance company or agent. Your agent or a representative will be able to give you a list of the specific things you need to do to file a claim with the company you're insured with. You may be transferred to a claims division.

Your specific insurance company may request that you submit your claim:

  • Online.
  • In person.
  • Via a mobile app.
  • By mail or by fax.

What You Will Need to Provide to Your Auto Insurance Agent

You might want to have some specific information in front of you when you contact your agent to start the process of filing a claim. It might help to write this information down before you place the call to ensure that you can communicate as clearly as possible.

Be prepared to provide (among other things):

  • Your full name.
  • Your policy number.
  • The start date and end date of your policy.
  • The date and time that the incident occurred.
  • Names and addresses of anybody else involved (if applicable).
  • License plates number and insurance information of any other driver involved in the incident (if applicable).

Important Questions to Ask Your Car Insurance Agent

You may not know the details of your policy off the top of your head. You can either review your policy or speak with your agent to clear up any questions you have. Here are the important details to know as you begin the process of filing a claim:

  • Your deductible amount.
  • Losses that are covered.
  • The time frame for filing a claim.

Keep Records of Every Expense

It's important to be vigilant about recording every expense following an accident. It is much easier to fill out paperwork for reimbursement and receive a check in a timely manner if you already have all of your receipts organized. You may be reimbursed for certain expenses related to an automobile accident in some situations. For instance, a no-fault insurer will often pay for your medical expenses, cover lost wages and compensate you if you need to hire someone to provide extra help around your house.

Your Vehicle Inspection

In most case, an auto insurance adjuster will be assigned to inspect your vehicle and determine the cost of repairs. Your insurance company will then send you a check for the total amount that is owed to you. The amount will depend on the specific deductible attached to your policy.

Make sure to protect your vehicle to preserve the state it is in immediately following the accident. Driving the vehicle around or leaving it outside to be exposed to weather right after an accident could alter the state of the vehicle and make it more difficult for your insurance company to conduct a proper assessment.

Following Your Insurance Company's Recommendation

You may actually be able to save money by going to a mechanic that has been recommended by your car insurance company. This isn't a requirement. Insurance companies can't actually force customers to use a specific repair shop. However, your insurance company may require you to obtain more than one estimate for repairs to ensure that you don't overpay.

Hiring an Attorney

It isn't necessary to hire an attorney for most standard claims. However, this is an option you may choose to consider if you'd like to expedite the process of getting your situation settled. In addition, it is worth consulting with a lawyer who specializes in auto claims if you plan to prove that your vehicle has a diminished value for resale after sustaining damage during an accident.

Car insurance claims are a part of life, but as long as you take all of the necessary precautions and work with your insurance company as soon as possible, you should be able to resolve the matter with minimal frustration.