If you’re lucky, you may carry auto insurance for many years without ever needing to file a claim. Unfortunately, accidents do happen and sometimes they are completely beyond your control. Insurance exists to protect you against the unexpected, and the first step to getting your life back on track is filing a claim.

Simply put, a claim is a way for you to report the accident to your insurance company so that you can receive payout. Without filing a claim, the insurer may not know that an accident occurred and will not be able to cover your damages. Depending on the coverage that you carry and the type of accident that occurred, the insurance company may pay for your repairs, cover the cost of medical expenses and pay for damages to other people’s property. Each claim is unique, so some accidents may take longer to settle than others, but insurance companies always strive to get your settlement to you as quickly as possible.

What Happens When a Claim is Filed?

Once an insurance company becomes aware of the accident, they will assign an adjuster to the loss. Different types of adjusters review different factors, so there may be multiple people working on a single claim. For example, a liability adjuster will determine who is at fault while a damage adjuster will look at the vehicle and write an estimate for the repair cost. Each person involved in the collision may have their own bodily injury adjuster as well, depending on the circumstances.

The liability adjuster will need to get a recorded statement from each person involved in the collision. Based on this information, the damages reported and a police report or witness statement if applicable, the adjuster will decide who is at fault for the accident. They will then determine what coverages will apply and whose insurance is liable for paying the damage.

If you are found at fault for the accident, your insurance will pay for the damage caused to another party. If you are not at fault, your insurance company will pursue the at-fault party’s insurance for reimbursement of the claim. After these funds are procured, you may receive a deductible reimbursement if you already paid the deductible.

Coverages Determine Payout

Before filing a claim, it’s a good idea to know what your policy actually covers. You should take the time to understand your insurance when you purchase it rather than waiting until an accident occurs. This helps to prevent you from being unpleasantly surprised by a claim denial due to lack of coverage; it also helps you set money aside to cover deductibles.

If you do not carry first-party coverage, your insurance company will not be able to pay for your repairs even if you are not at fault for the accident. You will need to file the claim third-party with the at-fault driver’s insurance company in order to receive payout. If you are at fault for an accident that causes damage to your vehicle and only carry liability insurance, insurance will not pay for your repairs.

It’s important to file a claim any time an accident occurs, however, even if you do not have the coverage that applies to the loss. This is because you may have caused damage to another person’s property as a result of a collision, even if the owner isn’t immediately obvious. For example, you will be held liable for damage to a guard rail or telephone pole if you collide with it.

You should also file a claim if you sustained any injuries. Many health insurance policies will not cover injuries caused by a car accident unless the car insurance has formally denied the claim. Even if you do not have injury coverage on your vehicle, you should file the claim so that you can receive a denial and obtain funds another way.

Because each policy is different, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company about your coverages before you file a claim. By understanding exactly what you have on your policy, you can make decisions about coverage and prepare yourself for the possibility of an accident.

How to File am Auto Insurance Claim

Some insurance companies handle all of their claims through agencies. If you have an insurance agent, you would simply call them or visit their office to report the accident. Other insurance companies have a separate claims department that can be reached over the phone or even online. Either way, when reporting the accident you will need the contact information of any other parties involved in the collision as well as a description of damages and a summary of what happened in the accident.

It may be helpful to you to file a police report prior to filing the claim. Most insurance companies do not require police reports, but the report will have all of the information that you will need. It will also report the accident to the DMV for you so that you don’t have to alert them separately. Filing the report itself should be free, and your insurance company can obtain a copy from the police department without you paying for your own copy.

Filing a claim should be fairly quick and painless. The initial phone call should take you about 15 minutes, and the adjusters assigned to your claim will be happy to discuss details with you and walk you through anything that you don’t understand. Be sure to ask questions about things you’re uncertain of.

By researching the claims process well before the knowledge is needed, you can save yourself time and frustration in the event of an accident. If you’re lucky, you may never need to put your knowledge to use; if you do encounter a claim in the future, you will be fully prepared.