Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. Benji is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Mar 16, 2022

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What You Should Know

  • Not every accident necessitates filing a claim with your insurer
  • State law determines how long you have to file a claim
  • Filing a police report is not always a requirement, but you must if there are injuries or a fatality

If you get into a car accident, injury or shock may follow. Once you ensure that everyone you are with is safe and receives adequate treatment, the next step is to collect details from all parties involved. Below, we will explain what to do with it and how to tackle the car accident claim process that follows.

What is a car insurance claim?

A car insurance claim begins with a statement you supply to your auto insurance provider following an accident. Filing a claim allows you to pay for repairs to cover any collision-based losses. The claims process may differ depending on the insurer and the type of coverage you have.

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How to File an Auto Insurance Claim

Filing an auto insurance claim involves several steps. To begin, you should obtain a copy of the police report, which will list details of the accident, including:

  • The cars and individuals involved
  • The names and contact numbers of those involved
  • The police officer’s name and badge number
  • The date and time of the accident
  • The road conditions at the scene of the accident

Usually, you will have a copy of the police report sent to you by email. In some cases, you may be required to go to the police station to obtain one. 

The next step is to notify your insurance company. You can inform them as soon as you finish with the police or the other driver. However, assembling the police report, photos, and other documentation and forwarding copies to the insurance company can expedite the claim’s process. Regardless, keep copies for your records.

Your insurer will take your statement and request any related documentation or photos needed. The agent will review your policy with you, including your coverage, rental car options, and medical claims. 

If the accident involves damage to your vehicle, a claims adjuster will be sent to examine your vehicle. The adjuster will estimate the cost of repairs. You can opt to use the repair shop recommended by the insurer or one of your choosing. If the repairs turn out to be more expensive than what was estimated, the garage may notify your insurer on your behalf for a resolution. 

Your claim remains open until the repairs are made, medical compensation is paid, and once all qualified out-of-pocket expenses are covered.

Does it matter who is at fault?

Depending on your state, you may have no-fault or at-fault insurance coverage. 

If you live in a no-fault state, your insurance company will handle your injury claim, while the other party’s insurer is responsible for paying for damages. On the other hand, if your accident occurred in an at-fault state and the other driver is found responsible, you may file a claim with the other driver’s insurer. In any case, your insurance may increase following a claim.

Should you always file a claim?

Filing a claim following a car accident seems logical, but it isn’t always necessary. 

First, if your deductible is high, then filing a claim may mean you won’t recoup any of the cost. In this case, paying for the repairs out of pocket is a sensible approach.

Second, if filing a claim automatically raises your insurance rates, consider whether it is worth it. 

However, if your policy includes an accident forgiveness provision, one that won’t penalize you for filing a claim, then you can proceed. Keep in mind, though, there are limits according to your policy, such as a payout amount. Also, this provision covers only your first accident.

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How long do you have to file an insurance claim?

Filing an auto insurance claim should be a quick process. Even so, two factors usually determine how long you have:

  • If your state requires filing a claim within a certain number of days. For instance, if you live in New York, you have 30 days to file a no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) claim.
  • When not defined by state law, the deadline listed in your auto insurance must be followed. Typically, your insurer wants you to file as soon as possible. However, this may not be possible if you or someone you love was severely injured. 

Does filing a claim affect your insurance rates?

Filing a claim with your insurer may raise your rates for a few years. However, your state may limit how much rates may increase from year to year. If you are not certain, check with your insurer.

Can you file a claim if there was no police report?

You can file a claim without a police report in most cases. However, a police report is required in some states if there were injuries or fatalities.

Regardless of whether a police report is filed or not, your insurance company will want several things from you. This includes photos of the accident scene, comprised of vehicles involved, any stationary objects hit, and images of the surrounding area showing skid marks and such. The names and contact information of the other drivers and other witnesses will also be required.

We recommend getting a police report even for a small accident. This is important if one of the parties claims injury later, such as whiplash or some other bodily trauma.  

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Car Accident Claims Process: The Bottom Line

We recommend filing an insurance claim immediately. Once filed, your insurer has 30 days to respond. Usually, insurers take action quickly to move you through the claims process quickly.

Lastly, if you would like to update your insurance coverage, obtain a quote to weigh your options.