What is the Proper Way to File an Insurance Claim After an Accident?

Last Updated on March 6, 2019

So you’ve been in an accident and you need to file an insurance claim. Filing an insurance claim isn’t difficult. Thousands of drivers do it every day. Some insurance companies even let you file a claim using a mobile app!

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to properly file an insurance claim after a car accident.

When to File a Claim

proper way to file car insurance claimYour first decision is whether or not you should file a claim. In general, you may want to avoid filing a claim if the cost of repairing the damage is going to be less than your deductible. However, it’s always a good idea to file a claim after a collision: even in a minor collision, your body may have suffered some type of soft tissue damage. The injuries may not be apparent until years after the accident.

In any case, talk to your insurance company. Your insurance company will help you decide if filing a claim is worth it.

You can find your insurance company’s number listed on the front of your insurance card and on other documents from your insurance company.

Alternatively, some insurance companies have apps you can use as electronic proof of insurance and also to submit a claim. This can make the initial claims process easier.

Information Needed When Filing a Claim

Make sure you have all of the following information when preparing to file an insurance claim after an accident:

  • Your full name and policy number
  • The start and end date of your policy
  • The date and time of the incident
  • The name, addresses, and phone numbers of any drivers, passengers, or witnesses
  • A driver’s license number and license plate number for all drivers

While submitting this information, your insurance company might also ask you to fill out a statement explaining the details of the accident. In this sworn statement, you’ll describe how the accident occurred, the weather conditions at the time of the collision, the time the accident took place, the types of damages incurred to yourself or your vehicle, and any other relevant details.

Ideally, you’ll have photos of the accident scene as well. This can help the insurance company verify information in your claim.

How to File a Claim

Insurance companies all work in slightly different ways. However, the claims process remains mostly the same between insurance companies, including:

Step 1) You submit your case, and an agent at your car insurance company will be assigned to handle your case

Step 2) Meet with your claims agent over the phone or in-person to discuss your policy coverage and other details of the situation

Step 3) The claims agent will evaluate all aspects of the incident, including the car, your personal injury claims, and initial payments

Step 4) The case will be resolved, and your insurance company will send out any appropriate payments

Step 5) The case is closed

While going through this process, your insurance company might require you to make temporary fixes to your vehicle. Insurance companies cover damage from collisions, but they may not cover damage that occurs after a collision – like further damage caused to your vehicle as a result of damages suffered in the collision. If you do repair your vehicle during this period, make sure you keep all receipts.

How to Make a Claim for Bodily Injuries

Typically, any driver that experiences bodily injuries from an accident will be covered by the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage. Your medical claims are filed through the other driver’s policy, and you receive compensation for your bodily injuries.

Certain states, however, are considered “no-fault states”. In these states, drivers may pay for bodily injuries through personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

Depending on your policy, you might also have medical payments coverage, which covers medical expenses for passengers in your vehicle and other medical expenses. There’s also uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which can be useful if you’re injured in an accident by someone with little to no insurance.

Don’t forget that you can use your own health insurance policy to cover injuries sustained in a collision.

How to Make a Claim for Property Damage

Sometimes, your insurance policy only covers damage you caused to other vehicles involved in the collision. You can only claim damages to your own vehicle if you have collision or comprehensive coverage. Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle after a collision, while comprehensive coverage covers non accident-related damages – like hail damage or vandalism.

If you plan on making a property damage claim, then follow the same steps listed above: you’ll speak with your insurance company, submit all related documentation, repair your vehicle, then receive compensation from your insurance company.

What You Need to Make a Bodily Injury Claim

If you’re making a bodily injury claim, and you’ve sustained damage as a result of the collision, then you should make sure you do the following:

  • Take photos of the collision scene and your injuries
  • File a police report and request a copy
  • Visit a doctor immediately after the collision
  • Make notes of everything related to your injuries, including any work time you missed as a result of the injury, or any other normal activities you were unable to attend

When to Hire an Attorney

You may want to hire an attorney for certain insurance claims cases. An attorney can expedite the entire process listed above.

If you believe your insurance company is dragging its feet, or if you believe your insurance company isn’t providing adequate compensation based on your policy, then you may wish to hire an attorney.

Many attorneys also specialize in personal injury claims from car accidents. Considering scheduling a free consultation with a personal injury attorney to talk about your case.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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