How Do I File a Car Insurance Claim?
A car accident may take you by surprise, but what comes next is fairly routine. Find out more about what to know and have on hand to help you file an auto claim.
Quick Take: Tips for filing an auto claim
- Be sure to get the name, contact and insurance information of the other parties, witnesses and any police involved at the scene. Take lots of pictures of the cars and any damage.
- Consider writing down or recording your account of the accident, along with witness accounts.
- File a claim as soon as possible after a car accident.
- Even if you don’t think you’re at fault, you may want to contact your insurer to report the claim.
- You may want to keep an accident checklist in your glove compartment to reduce stress and as a reminder of key requirements in the event of an accident.
Q. I’m a careful driver and have never had a serious collision, but I know accidents can happen and I like to be prepared. If I’m in a car accident, how do I file an insurance claim? Is there anything I should know to make the claims process go smoothly?
We posed this question to Patrick Lufrano, a Insurance Holdings® agent based in Northridge, California. Here’s what he had to say about how to file an insurance claim in the event of a car accident.
A. It’s great to hear you drive safely, but you’re right -- accidents can happen to even the most careful drivers. If you find you’re involved in a fender bender, there are definitely a few things you can do to help make the claims process easier on yourself. I can provide answers to a few questions I often hear about how to file a claim.
“What should I do at the scene of a car accident?”
As challenging as it may be after such an unsettling event, there are many things to pay attention to at the scene of the accident. It’s extremely helpful if you exchange names, contact numbers, proof of insurance and other identifying information with the other driver. To help ensure accuracy, you might want to use the camera on your cellphone to take pictures of the other person’s driver’s license, insurance card and license plate. You may also want to take pictures of the following:
● Any damage to any of the vehicles involved (it helps to include a picture of the make/model of each vehicle).
● The intersection or location where the accident happened.
● Your perspective of the accident, including the direction your vehicle was facing.
Consider taking pictures of the entire vehicle, including the parts that aren’t damaged. You never know when pictures like these may prove useful during the claims process.
If anyone witnessed the accident and is willing to stick around to provide their information, get names and phone numbers. A witness account of the accident may be useful in the claim process.
You may also want to write down your version of events as soon after the incident as possible, so you don’t forget anything. If it’s easier, you can record a voice memo in your phone.
“Should I contact the police for a minor fender bender?”
Even if no one was hurt in the accident, you should always contact the police and file an accident report. Depending on where you live and the circumstances, the police may not come to the scene unless someone has been injured in the accident. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason – for example, the other party is acting aggressive or not being forthcoming with their contact or insurance information – make that clear when calling the authorities.
“Where do I start my claim?”
First, check with your insurer to find out if there’s a preferred process for filing a claim. These days, many insurance companies allow you to file a claim in different ways. At IHL®, for example, you can start your claim online or via a mobile app. You can also call the claims department, or you can work with your agent directly and they can help guide you through the process.
“What information should I have when I file a claim?”
In order to make the claims process easier, you’ll want to gather a few different pieces of information to have on hand, including your driver’s license number, your insurance account number, information you collected about the other party at the scene of the accident and witness information, if any. When you file your claim, you’ll be asked to describe the accident. It usually helps the claims adjuster if you are as specific and as detailed as possible.
“If the accident wasn’t my fault, which insurer should I consider filing the claim with?”
You have the choice to file the claim with either your insurance company or the other insurer. If the other party is at fault and you file a claim with your own insurer, you will likely have to pay out of pocket for your deductible until liability is determined. If the other party is found liable, your insurance company will work with the other party’s insurer to attempt to get your deductible back. It’s not necessary to do things this way, but you may want to consider it. If you choose not to file a claim with your insurer, you are relying on the other party’s insurance to process the claim and accept liability.
Car accidents are stressful and filing a claim can feel overwhelming. You may want to make a list of everything you need to remember and keep that list in your glove compartment. In the event of an accident, you can follow your list and gather all the necessary information without adding additional stress.