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How to File an Insurance Claim: What You Need to Know (2024)


What Is an Insurance Claim?

When you make an insurance claim, you make a formal request to be compensated for damages covered by your insurance policy. There are many types of insurance, including life insurance, homeowners insurance and medical insurance. Each type requires policyholders to file claims to receive reimbursement. This article will specifically explain car insurance claims.

The type of claim you file will depend on your circumstances and, if you’re filing after an auto accident, who is at fault. Those factors will determine what part of your policy covers your financial loss. For example, if your car is considered a total loss after a wreck, your payout will likely come from your collision insurance. If you’re injured in an accident, you’ll likely see a payout from your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

Keep in mind that filing a claim is likely to raise your insurance premium when it comes time to renew your policy.

What Is the Auto Insurance Claims Process?

If your car gets damaged due to vandalism, a natural disaster or an accident, you’ll need to file a car insurance claim. We’ve listed the steps you’ll need to take below:

File a Police Report

Depending on the situation, you may need to call law enforcement after the accident, theft or otherwise damaging event. The authorities will investigate, and the police report will create a detailed narrative that your insurance company will use to determine if you’re eligible for a payout.

Collect Information and Document Damage

Your insurance provider will need as much information as possible to decide whether or not to cover your claim.

 Below is a list of what to provide your insurer when filing a claim:

  • Medical bills for treatment you received after a car accident
  • Names, contact information and insurance information for all drivers involved
  • The vehicle information (make, model, year and VIN) and license plate numbers for all cars involved
  • Photos and/or video of the property damage — documented before you move your car
  • Any eye witness information you can gather

Review Your Coverage and Notify Your Insurance Provider

Before you file your claim, check your policy to make sure you’re familiar with what’s covered, what limits that coverage has and what your deductible is. This will help you avoid filing a claim for something that isn’t covered or a repair that would cost less than your deductible.

Once you’ve looked at your contract, contact your insurance provider. Your insurance agent will ask for the details of the claim and direct you to an online portal or a mobile app where you can fill out a claim form.

It’s best to file your claim as soon after the incident as possible. Filing immediately helps you keep track of all the details. There may also be time limits on filing your claim depending on your provider and policy.

Here’s a table showing ways to file claims with the top car insurance providers

Insurance CompanyClaims Phone NumberFile a Claim Online
USAA800-531-8722USAA website or mobile app
Geico800-841-3000Geico website or mobile app
State Farm800-732-5246State Farm website or mobile app
Progressive800-776-4737Progressive website or mobile app
Travelers800-252-4633Travelers website or mobile app
Erie Insurance800-367-3743Erie Insurance website
Liberty Mutual800-225-2467Liberty Mutual website or mobile app

Work With a Claims Adjuster

Once you’ve filed a claim, your provider will assign an insurance adjuster to assess the damage and interview eyewitnesses and any other parties involved in the incident. The adjuster will determine how much the insurance company will pay toward your claim.

The adjuster will review the costs of likely repairs and any necessary medical procedures. They’ll also determine whether a deductible must be paid and give an estimate of any covered repairs or replacement costs. The adjuster will present all of this information to you in the form of an appraisal, which you’ll look over and either accept or contest before the claim can be paid out.

If the adjuster finds that the claim happened outside of what’s stipulated in your policy, they may deny your claim. This will leave you on the hook for any repair costs. If you’re not happy with the appraisal, you have the right to file a dispute. You can ask your insurance provider for a second appraisal, hire a public adjuster or retain an attorney.

When To File an Auto Insurance Claim

You’ll want to file a claim if your car was damaged or if you’ve suffered an injury as a result of a wreck.

To Get Clarity About Who’s at Fault

If you get into a collision with another driver and it’s clear they’re at fault, your damages and injuries should be covered by the other party’s liability insurance. If you’re at fault for the accident, you’ll need to file a claim so the other driver can receive a payout from your provider.

If it’s not clear who’s at fault, each party involved should file their own claim. Their respective insurance companies will investigate to determine who’s at fault.

Your Car Is a Total Loss

If the cost of repairs is higher than your vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV), it’s considered a total loss. If your car is totaled, you should file a claim under your collision insurance policy to receive a claim payment for the ACV minus your policy’s deductible.

If you have a gap insurance policy and an outstanding balance on your auto loan, you may be eligible for a claim payment. You may also file for a total loss under a comprehensive insurance policy if the damage was caused by something other than a car collision, like a fallen tree.

You Live in a No-fault State

In Puerto Rico and the 12 states below — known as no-fault states — the law requires drivers to file injury claims with their own car insurance providers no matter who’s at fault for an accident.

FloridaKentuckyMinnesotaNorth Dakota
HawaiiMassachusettsNew JerseyPennsylvania
KansasMichiganNew YorkUtah

Someone Is Injured

Filing a claim when you or another party are injured during a car accident could help you avoid paying expensive medical bills out of pocket. If you’re at fault and the other driver is injured, you’ll file a claim with your liability insurance policy. If you’re injured and the other party is at fault, their liability policy would compensate you.

The Other Driver Is Uninsured or Underinsured

If you get into an accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance or has a policy that can’t offer much or any compensation, filing a claim with your uninsured motorist coverage will help you cover the cost of damages.

When Not To File an Auto Insurance Claim

It’s important to know that insurance companies keep records of all claims filed even if they’re not paid out. Filing many small claims in a short period of time, regardless of whether they’re accepted, can cause your premium to increase.

When considering filing a claim, check your policy to make sure the damage is actually covered. Next, consider whether the cost of repairs or replacements is significantly higher than your deductible. If, for instance, you have a $500 deductible and repairs will cost $800, it may not be worth having a $300 claim on record.

Will Filing a Claim Affect My Premium?

Yes, filing a claim will usually cause an increase in your insurance premiums, especially if you’re filing a claim on an accident that was your fault. The increase will vary from company to company.

Recommendations for Car Insurance

When you’re shopping for auto insurance coverage, we recommend comparing car insurance quotes from multiple providers.

Travelers: Best for Most Drivers

In our roundup of the best auto insurance providers, Travelers comes in first place. The insurer is one of the largest on the market, and holds an A rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as well as an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best.

Our Travelers insurance review found that the company’s average rates are typically 26% lower than the national average for good drivers. 

State Farm: Best Customer Experience

State Farm is the biggest insurance provider on the market. The company has a reputation for affordable rates, as good drivers pay an average of about 21% less than the national average with State Farm.

The company holds an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best and an A- rating from the BBB. In addition to auto insurance, State Farm offers health insurance, boat insurance, home insurance and more. Customers can receive discounts for bundling their policies.

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