The Auto Insurance Claim Filing Process
1. Move All Vehicles and Individuals to Safety
Suppose the accident is minor and there are no immediately apparent injuries. In that case, it’s important to clear the scene by moving all vehicles, drivers, and passengers to the side of the road.
If a vehicle cannot be moved, drivers should remain inside their vehicles with their seatbelts fastened. If you have them, make sure to set out cones, flares, or warning triangles and turn on your hazard lights.
Related: What to Do After a Car Accident?
2. Gather Pertinent Information
The auto insurance claim filing process begins before you even reach out to your insurance carrier. In other words, here’s some of the information you’ll need to obtain at the scene of the accident:
- License plate details for each vehicle involved;
- Make, model, and color for each vehicle involved. If you have a camera handy, take a few pictures, which you can then pass along to the claims adjuster assigned to your case;
- The other party’s insurance card (company name and policy number);
- The other party’s name, address, and contact information. You can also obtain these same details from any witnesses to the accident;
- The accident’s time, date, and location, including brief details regarding what happened (it’s easy to forget these details due to the chaos and confusion following a collision).
You’ll also want to file a police report. It’s unlikely that the authorities will respond to the scene of an accident unless there are injuries, so you might need to file one in person at the police station. Many State Department of Motor Vehicles also host police report forms on their website, which you can download and complete when the time is right.
IHS Pro Tip: Don’t ever admit fault, whether to other drivers or the police, even if you think your actions caused the accident. This is something your insurance carrier will decide after carefully reviewing the facts surrounding the incident.
Related: How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault For a Car Accident?
3. Contact Your Insurance Company
The next step is to reach out to your insurance carrier and file a formal claim. While you might want to wait until you get home to call, time is of the essence, so you can even contact them from the scene of the accident if you feel sufficiently calm and comfortable.
This is also an excellent time to inquire whether your auto insurance policy covers you for the particular loss, including costs related to towing or a temporary replacement rental car.
Related: Do You Need Rental Car Coverage?
Keep in mind that most insurers offer mobile apps that allow you to report your claim, upload photos of the accident, and submit documentation for towing and glass claim reimbursement. Some of the more advanced options also allow you to find your deductible, schedule appraisals, and reserve a rental vehicle.
Related: 5 Auto Insurance Apps to Help Make Your Life Easier
4. Stay On Top of Requested Documentation
Following your filing, your insurance carrier will likely have you fill out a “proof of claim” form, which you’ll need to complete and return as quickly as possible.
Ensure that you also maintain organized claim-related records, including additional forms, bills, notices, and the dates, times, and details regarding anyone you speak with at the insurance company.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re unsure about something related to your claim, make sure that you don’t hesitate to contact us here at IHS Insurance Group or the state insurance department.
5. Brace Yourself for a Potential Rate Increase
Many insurance companies use multivariate rating systems, which is a fancy way of saying that any activity—including not-at-fault accidents—can potentially increase what you pay for auto coverage.
However, in most instances, claims adjusters won’t be able to tell you how much of a rate increase you might expect. The good news is that you can often contact your carrier’s customer service department, who can quote your renewal to see if an accident will increase your premium and by how much.
If an accident does impact your premium, it can continue to do so for up to five years. Thankfully, as long as you don’t gain any additional activity, its impact will decrease with each annual renewal.
Is it Always a Good Idea to File an Auto Insurance Claim?
Given the fact that any accident can impact what you pay for auto insurance, is it always a good idea to file a claim?
The short answer is: yes. But why?
In a nutshell, filing a claim establishes that the accident occurred, provides the claims department with your version of the incident, makes it easier for the adjuster to piece together the evidence and determine fault, and can help prevent the other party from falsely claiming damages (such as bodily injury).
And ultimately, if you and the other driver still decide to pay for your own damages, the claim data will show that the insurance company paid nothing, and it won’t impact your premium.
Do You Have Questions About Filing an Auto Insurance Claim?
Whether you’re a current or future client, IHS Insurance Group has highly-trained agents on standby to answer all your auto coverage-related questions, including those about the claims process. Contact us today!
Need a FREE Quote or have questions regarding Auto Insurance Coverage? We have three convenient ways to reach us:
- If you prefer to talk to a licensed agent directly, please call (866) 480-5063.
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We look forward to speaking with you!