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How to File a Car Insurance Claim in 4 Steps

How to File a Car Insurance Claim in 4 Steps

Whether it be a car accident, extreme weather event, or simply damage to your vehicle, the reason you are filing an insurance claim can be stressful. You'll likely be dealing with the fallout of the incident, and worrying about the financial aspects will be just another burden to deal with. Fortunately for those of us that have insurance, money shouldn't be a problem. The only thing you have to worry about is filing the insurance claim itself.

What is a Claim in Car Insurance?

A claim on car insurance refers to the fulfillment of a policy's benefits, particularly the reimbursement you are entitled to after an automotive incident. This could mean making a car crash claim if you were in an accident, a comprehensive coverage claim if there was a non-collision event, or a medical payments claim if you need help with hospital bills. Figuring out what insurance you have and whether it covers an incident is only one part of the claim-filing process.

4 Steps to Completing the Car Insurance Claim Process

Step #1: Contact the Police

In almost all cases, when you are filing a car insurance claim, you'll want to call the police and have them make a report. Having a report created is especially important in the event of an accident or if a crime has taken place. After an incident, make sure you get to safety and take care of any immediate medical issues. Once the police arrive, tell them what happened to your best ability, including information like:

  • Your personal details
  • What parties were involved
  • Any crimes that occurred
  • How your vehicle was damaged

Insurance companies will ask for a copy of a police report to help them assess the validity of your claim, and getting one can make the reimbursement process much faster. Ask for the responding officers' names and any case information they have. Then, a few days after your accident, you should be able to call their department and ask for a copy of the report.

Step #1: Contact the Police

Step #2: Document the Accident

After you've made sure no one is hurt and you've contacted the police, you'll want to start gathering information from the scene. For example, suppose there was a collision, and you plan to make a car accident insurance claim. In that case, you'll want to take pictures of any vehicles involved in the incident, particularly of the license plates. If you can also take a video showing the damage, location, and area, that would help. If you have a dash cam, make sure that the footage is recorded correctly and save the video as quickly as possible.

It would help if you also held on to any documents related to the accident itself. These documents may include any receipts related to roadside assistance or towing. It's possible that you'll be able to get reimbursed for this assistance if your claim is successful.

You'll also want to ask for the other driver's information and contact details. These details include driver's license number, names and addresses, phone numbers, and any other contact information you can gather. Ask if they will provide the names of any passengers, along with the insurance company they use and their policy number. Make sure to take down the make and model of their car in addition to their license plate number, as your insurance company will need all of this information to assess your claim.

Step #3: Contact Your Insurance Company

You'll need to call your insurance company as quickly as possible after an incident, preferably the moment you are done dealing with the police and the accident scene itself. Your insurance card should have a claims number, though there will also be contact information on your insurer's website. In addition to calling, many insurance companies have online agent assistance, where you can chat with a claims representative through your personal computer or smartphone. To get a hold of your insurance company if you do not have your information handy, you can do a quick search online for the name of your insurance company, plus "file a claim" and it should bring you right to the correct page.

Once you contact your company, you'll be assigned an adjuster who will deal with your claim. They'll ask for your account of the accident and any additional documents you have. Make sure to give as factual an account as possible, and give them any photos or information you gathered at the scene. An adjuster will likely want to inspect the damage on the car, either through photographs, video, or in person. They may also ask that you bring your vehicle to an automotive technician to inspect it.

Step #3: Contact Your Insurance Company

Step #4: Wait for Claim Results and Repair Your Vehicle

An adjuster will take time to review your claim, and you may have to wait anywhere from a week to a month for a response. Once they have, they'll give you an estimate of the repair costs to your insurance company. If approved, you'll be able to get your vehicle repairs reimbursed.

You may also need to repair your vehicle before your claim is approved. Check to make sure that doing so won't void your coverage. Cars that are financed through loans or leases may have clauses that prevent you from repairing damage in specific ways, including fixing any issues on your own. Contact your dealership or lender to make sure that repairing your car won't violate the terms of your agreement.

Depending on the size of your claim and the extent of the damage, you may also be eligible for a vehicle replacement. This usually means that the costs to repair your vehicle exceed its value or the damage is so significant that reasonable repairs are not possible.

How Can I Tell if a Vehicle Has Been in an Accident?

Some insurance companies may look into a vehicle's past to set your premium rates or determine whether a claim is valid. For example, if a car has been in an accident, even before you owned it, your insurer may say that some of its current damage resulted from a previous incident. You can find whether your vehicle has experienced any previous accidents with a vehicle history report, among other bits of information you can get out of these reports. You can use this information to determine whether a vehicle is worth purchasing and get an idea of how high your insurance rates will be.

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