Five Steps to Keep in Mind When Filing an Auto Insurance Claim

Abstract: According to some experts, you will likely be involved in several car accidents during your driving lifetime. Therefore, it pays to know how the auto insurance claims filing process works. This article will help guide you through the process.

Damaged 2006–2009 HSV Clubsport (E Series) R8 sedan (1)
At some point in our lives, most of us will have a car accident. In fact, the average American will be involved in three to four such incidents over the course of his or her driving lifetime. Therefore, it makes sense for you to take a few minutes to research the car insurance claims filing process. You never know when this information will come in handy.

With that thought in mind, here are five important steps to note when filing an auto insurance claim.

Call the Police

Whether you are involved in a simple fender bender or in a more serious accident, you should immediately call the police. Even if you think the cops might not have jurisdiction (eg. in a private parking lot), you should still call them just in case. When the police officer arrives, he or she will fill out an incident report. You can refer to this document as evidence to help you back-up your side of the story with the insurance company. It goes without saying that you should always double check the incident report before the cop leaves the scene, to make sure that it is filled out correctly.

If you feel that you have been injured in the crash, you should also call an ambulance (or have the police officer call one for you).

Notify the Insurance Company

If the police officer determines that you are not at fault in the accident, you can usually file your claim with the other person's car insurance plan. Otherwise, you will need to contact your insurance company and file a claim. In either case, you should file your claim immediately, as the remuneration process does not start for you, until you fill out a claim.

Most of the time, you will only need to provide the insurance company with basic information about yourself, your vehicle, and the accident. You can usually complete this task online or over the phone. I prefer talking to a live person. Unlike a computer, a human being will sometimes be able to provide me with a useful, but little known, tidbit about the particular company's claims filing process. You should make sure that you take care of issues, such as determining who is going to pay for the rental car, during this step in the process.

Quickly Fax All Relevant Information

You insurance company will likely want you to fax information, such as a copy of the police report and hospital reports (if applicable), to its processing headquarters before it begins working on the claim in earnest. You should fax the required information as quickly as possible.

Get Ready for the Inspection

Depending on who is at fault, either your insurance company or another firm will call you within a few days of the accident to schedule a vehicle inspection. The company's claims adjuster will review the vehicle, with an eye to determining the monetary damage. In order to ensure that the process goes smoothly, you should confirm the date of the visit with the claims adjuster and plan to review the vehicle with him or her if possible. Regardless, you need to make sure that the adjuster can gain access to the vehicle at the appointed time.

Follow-up with the Insurance Company

Sometimes the insurance company will finalize the claim rather quickly. In other cases, the insurance companies representing you and the other people in the accident will disagree about who is at fault. In those cases, the claim might go to an arbitrator. The process, called subrogation, can take several months or longer. In any case, you should routinely follow-up with your insurance company to ensure that the process is going smoothly and to see if you need to submit any additional information.

These are the basic steps in the insurance claims filing process. You might have to take other steps, such as appealing your claim or even taking the insurance company to court yourself. However, you would usually only take those actions once the initial claim has been finalized.

-- Anthony Hopper

#insurance #cars #autos #autoinsurance #carinsurance #accidents #wrecks #drivers #drive #information


Caputo, Sal. (2003). "8 Steps to Filing an Auto Insurance Claim." Bankrate homepage.
21 Century Insurance. (2014). "Filing an Auto Insurance Claim after an Accident."
Startin, W. Lane. (2011). "How to File an Auto Insurance Claim: What the Adjuster Does and How You're Compensated in an Auto Insurance Claim." Car Insurance Guidebook.

1. Photographer: Jason Eade
    Title: Damaged 2006–2009 HSV Clubsport (E Series) R8 sedan, photographed in Western Australia, 
    Date: September 12, 2009
    Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.
    (please click on the title/link to see the photo/credits/permissions)

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