Filing a Car Insurance Claim

A car insurance claim is a request for reimbursement or compensation for the cost of damages or injuries after a car accident or other covered incident. The three main steps to filing a car insurance claim include gathering evidence and documentation, contacting the insurance company, and receiving your payout. However, you may want to avoid filing a car insurance claim if you don't have the right coverage, the expenses are less than your deductible, or you can afford the costs yourself.

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UPDATED: Jun 2, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 2, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • A car insurance claim is a request for reimbursement or compensation to cover expenses for damages or injuries after a car accident
  • You should file a car insurance claim after an accident or other incident that causes damage to your vehicle or injuries to you or your passengers, but you must ensure you have proper coverage
  • When you file a claim, make sure that you gather the proper evidence and documentation to show which driver is at fault

If you own a car, chances are that you will have to file a car insurance claim at some point in your life. Car insurance claims are made after accidents or other incidents that cause property damage or injuries, as long as you or the at-fault driver has proper coverage.

Read more below to learn how to file a car insurance claim and how insurance claims work.

If you’re looking for a car insurance company with an easy car insurance claims process, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above.

What is a car insurance claim?

A car insurance claim is a way to request reimbursement or payment to cover expenses for damages or injuries after a car accident. There are many different ways that damages and injuries can occur, so you must ensure you have coverage for the types of accidents and damages.

Most states require that drivers carry liability insurance, which covers damages that you cause to another person’s property or injuries that you cause to another person. Therefore, other drivers or their insurance company can file a claim with your insurance company if you cause an accident that results in damages or injuries. Likewise, you can file claims with another driver’s insurance company if they are responsible for damages or injuries.

Suppose you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM). In that case, you can file claims with your insurance company if you are in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages or injuries.

In addition, if you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage or medical payments (MedPay) insurance, you can file claims with your insurance company if you or your passengers experience injuries during an accident, regardless of who is at fault.

Finally, you can file an auto insurance claim after an accident or situations that are out of your control (such as weather events, vandalism, hitting an animal, etc.) if you have collision or comprehensive coverage that covers damages to your vehicle.

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When should you file a car insurance claim?

You should file a car insurance claim after your vehicle is damaged or you sustain injuries from a car accident. However, as we stated above, you must make sure you have the correct type of car insurance for the accident that is occurred.

Each type of insurance will cover a different kind of damage, and some will cover only certain people. For example, liability insurance covers damages and injuries to other people, while PIP or MedPay insurance will cover injuries only to the policyholder and their passengers. 

In addition, if damages are caused by something other than a car accident, such as natural disasters or theft, you must have comprehensive coverage that covers such incidents to be able to file a claim with your insurance company.

How do you file a car insurance claim?

The process for filing an insurance claim is relatively simple if you have an insurance company that provides good customer service and easy claims processes. The main steps to filing a claim include:

  • Gathering documentation
  • Contacting your insurance company
  • Receiving your claims payout

Let’s take a look at each of these steps in more detail.

Gather Documentation and Evidence

Gathering documentation is essential to make sure you have evidence that supports your side of the story. For example, when you are in an accident, begin by calling 911 if there is property damage or injuries to file a police report, which your insurance company may require. Then proceed to do the following:

  • Take pictures of the accident, including other vehicles that were involved.
  • Write down the other drivers’ names, phone numbers, license plate numbers, car makes and models, insurance companies, and policy numbers.
  • Also, take down any details you can remember from before, during, and after the accident. 

Avoid apologizing to other drivers or accepting blame for the accident, and don’t tell anyone your coverage limits. You should also avoid a physical altercation or any other type of physical contact unless you feel that you must intervene to help an injured person who cannot wait for medical assistance. In addition, do not accept cash or settle privately unless you plan not to file a claim with your insurance company.

Contact Your Insurance Company

After you’ve gathered all of the documentation you need, contact the insurance company or insurance agent.

While the insurance claims process is similar for most types of insurance, the most significant difference will be which insurance company you should file a claim with depending on fault. If you are at fault for an accident, you can file a claim with your insurance company if you have coverage for your damages and injuries. However, if another driver is at-fault, you should file a claim with their insurance company.

Many insurance companies allow you to file a claim online. Still, you may choose to contact an insurance agent who can give you more personalized support throughout the car insurance process.

After you file your claim, your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to your case to help you determine the value of the damage or injuries. Some claims adjusters will come to see the damages in person, and others will have you bring the vehicle to a repair shop to get quotes for repairs. 

Each state has a statute of limitations for filing claims that is listed below:

Statute of Limitations by State
StatePersonal Injury Statute of LimitationsProperty Damage Statute of Limitations
Alabama2 years2 years
Alaska2 years6 years
Arizona2 years2 years
Arkansas3 years3 years
California2 years3 years
Colorado3 years3 years
Connecticut2 years3 years
Delaware2 years2 years
Florida4 years4 years
Georgia
2 years4 years
Hawaii2 years2 years
Idaho2 years3 years
Illinois5 years2 years
Indiana2 years2 years
Iowa2 years5 years
Kansas1 year2 years
Kentucky1 year2 years
Louisiana1 year1 year
Maine6 years6 years
Maryland3 years3 years
Massachusetts3 years3 years
Michigan3 years3 years
Minnesota2 years6 years
Mississippi3 years3 years
Missouri5 years5 years
Montana3 years2 years
Nebraska4 years4 years
Nevada2 years3 years
New Hampshire3 years3 years
New Jersey2 years6 years
New Mexico3 years4 years
New York3 years3 years
North Carolina3 years3 years
North Dakota6 years6 years
Ohio2 years2 years
Oklahoma2 years2 years
Oregon2 years6 years
Pennsylvania2 years2 years
Rhode Island3 years10 years
South Carolina3 years3 yearas
South Dakota3 years6 years
Tennessee1 year3 years
Texas2 years2 years
Utah4 years3 years
Vermont3 years3 years
Virginia2 years5 years
Washington3 years3 years
Washington D.C.3 years3 years
West Virginia2 years2 years
Wisconsin3 years3 years
Wyoming4 years4 years
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Make sure you take any necessary steps before the statute of limitations runs out.

Receive Your Payout

The time it takes for your insurance company to process a claim will vary by insurer and state. However, most states have a limit on how long the company has to contact policyholders with a decision. You can contact your state’s insurance department to see how long it could take to receive compensation.

You should also be aware that some claims are denied based on the type of coverage and coverage limits. For example, if expenses exceed your coverage limits, you may not receive enough to cover the total cost of damages or injuries.

After learning how much your insurance company intends to pay out, you can choose to negotiate if you are unhappy with the decision. If negotiations still don’t give you the result you desire, you can consider hiring a lawyer for further action.

When should you not file a car insurance claim?

Here are a few reasons you would be unable to file a car insurance claim:

  • You cannot file a claim if your coverage type doesn’t cover a specific incident. For example, if you are at fault in an accident and only have liability coverage, you cannot file a claim for your vehicle’s damages or your injuries.
  • In addition, it will not be worth it to file a car insurance claim if the costs of an accident are less than your deductible. Deductibles indicate how much you must pay out of pocket for each claim before your insurance company will cover any expenses. Therefore, if the costs are less than your deductible amount, the insurance company will require you to pay for them.
  • Lastly, you may want to consider not filing a claim if you can afford to pay for the damages so that you can avoid increases in your insurance rates.

If you are looking for affordable car insurance that makes filing a car insurance claim fast and easy, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Car Insurance Claim

Will your insurance rates increase if you file a claim?

In some cases, you may see an increase in your car insurance rates after filing a claim. In addition, if you’ve had multiple claims, have a bad driving record, or were at fault in an accident, you are likely to see a more considerable increase in your rates.

Some insurance companies have an accident forgiveness program that will allow you to file one claim without increasing rates. Even if your company doesn’t have accident forgiveness, you will likely see only a tiny increase in your rates if you haven’t made any other claims in the past.

Can you file an auto insurance claim if there isn’t a police report to accompany it?

In most cases, you will need a police report to file a car insurance claim. Insurance companies often require police reports for evidence and details regarding who was at fault for an accident. However, you can speak with your insurance company to see if there is a way to file a claim without one.

How can you file a claim against someone else if another driver was at fault?

The only difference in the claims process if someone else is at fault, is that you will have to contact the other driver’s car insurance company rather than your own. Otherwise, the claims process should go the same as it would if you were filing a claim with your own insurance company.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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