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Auto Insurance Claims: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

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Auto Insurance Claims: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

Most drivers in the United States (including 96 percent of drivers in Massachusetts) have invested in auto insurance. The mere act of purchasing car insurance doesn’t guarantee that you know how to handle a car insurance claim, though.

Do you know what to do if you get into an accident, are a victim of theft, or have to file an automobile insurance claim for any other reason? If not, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve created this guide to teach you everything you need to know about how auto insurance claims work.

Read on to have all your most pressing questions answered, as well as some you might not have ever thought of.

What Is an Auto Insurance Claim?

Let’s begin with the basics. An auto insurance claim is a report that a person files after they’ve been involved in some kind of accident. It could be a collision with another vehicle or another situation that causes damage to the car. For example, if someone keyed your car or if you crashed into a lamppost, you would still need to file a claim.

How Do Auto Insurance Claims Work?

In theory, the way that auto insurance claims work is pretty straightforward. After you’ve been involved in an accident, you will reach out to your insurance company, explain the situation, and begin the process of filing a claim.

In most cases, filing a claim will result in you receiving a payment from your auto insurance provider to help cover the cost of the damage. This payment is available after you’ve met the deductible for your specific insurance policy.

When to File an Auto Insurance Claim

There are quite a few situations in which it makes sense to file an auto insurance claim. The following are some of the most important ones to keep in mind:

  • Another driver is involved (you hit them, or they hit you)
  • There’s a risk of serious damage or injury to you or your car (even if it doesn’t seem apparent right away)
  • There’s a risk of serious damage or injury to another driver or their car (even if it doesn’t seem apparent right away)

In any of these situations, it’s best to get in touch with your insurance provider. Your liability insurance will protect you from a lawsuit and will prevent you from getting hit up for additional money months after the accident (which could happen if you tried to settle it without getting the insurance company involved).

When Not to File an Auto Insurance Claim

There are also certain situations in which it might not be wise to file an insurance claim. For example, if you only have liability insurance and are involved in an incident that only affects you and your car, your policy won’t cover the damage.

If the damage to your car is minimal (and no other driver is involved), it might also not be worth it to call your insurance company. This is especially true if the cost of the repair is less than your deductible.

How to File an Auto Insurance Claim?

Let’s say you were in an accident that involved another person, and you want to file a claim. How do you go about doing this? What steps do you need to take?

When an accident occurs, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible (call them from the scene of the accident if you can)
  • If your insurance provider has a mobile app, use the app to jumpstart the claims process.
  • Ask about specific policy requirements (e.g., the time limit for filing claims, the time limit for resolving claims disputes, etc.)
  • Provide all of the information requested by your insurance provider and fill out all forms they send to you carefully.

Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident is never easy. The claims filing process is pretty simple, though, especially if you’re working with a reputable insurance provider.

What Will I Need to File an Insurance Claim?

When you file an insurance claim, you’ll need to provide some basic information, as well as documents related to the incident. Here are some things that you’ll need to share with your insurance provider after the accident:

  • The name and contact information of the other driver or drivers involved
  • Photos of their driver’s licenses, if possible.
  • Copies of their insurance policy numbers
  • The year, make, and model of all vehicles involved, as well as license plate numbers.
  • Photos of the damage to your vehicle, from all angles and sides
  • Detailed notes of the conversations you had with the other drivers or accident witnesses

If you were injured, you’ll also want to make sure you have copies of your physician reports and medical bills handy, too.

What to Expect After Filing a Car Insurance Claim?

After you’ve filed a claim, a car insurance adjuster will submit a report for your insurance company to review. From here, you’ll likely receive a settlement. This is the amount of money the company agrees to give you to cover the cost of the damage done to your property.

It’s important to note, too, that in many cases, your car insurance premiums will go up after you’ve been involved in an accident and filed a claim. The average increase is 44.1 percent, according to a study published earlier this year.

Ask Questions About Your Insurance Coverage

When you’re getting ready to begin the automobile insurance claims process, it’s important to talk to your insurance provider and ask some questions about your insurance coverage. Here are some specific subjects you might want to ask about:

Your Deductible

A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket before your insurance will kick in and help to cover the costs associated with your claim. If you don’t know what your deductible is, it’s important to ask about that early on in the filing process. That way, you won’t be met with any unpleasant surprises later regarding how much you have to pay for repairs.

Transportation Expense Coverage

Transportation expense coverage refers to the specific amount of money that the insurance company will pay for various transportation expenses. This includes the cost of a rental car while your car is being repaired.

How Long You Have To Submit A Claim

In most cases, there are time limits that you’ll need to keep in mind when filing a claim. It’s important to move quickly after you’ve been in an accident, and failure to do so could make it harder for you to get the compensation you deserve.

Talk to your insurance provider about the deadlines associated with your claim, including when you need to submit information or photos related to your accident. This will help you to stay organized, ensure you don’t miss any dates, and avoid having your claim thrown out.

What to Do if Your Auto Insurance Claim Is Denied

In some cases, your auto insurance claim might be denied. If this happens, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Contact your insurance agent right away to find out why your claim was denied
  • Request a dispute and try to settle the matter with mediation, rather than getting an attorney involved right away (this is expensive and time-consuming)
  • Consider hiring an independent claims adjustor who will work with the mediator and the insurance company to come to an agreement

In the end, you may need to hire an attorney who can represent you and help you settle your case. However, it should be a last resort because of the time and expense associated with this option.

Most Common Reasons for Insurance Claim Denial

Why do insurance claims get denied? There are many reasons why your claim might be denied, but the following are some of the most common:

  • Coverage limits
  • An undocumented driver drove the other vehicle
  • Unpaid premiums
  • Unapproved car customizations (to the engine, fuel systems, etc.)

Your claim could also get denied if you were involved in an accident while you were using your personal vehicle for work purposes. When you insure your vehicle, in most cases, it’s for personal use only. You’ll need to disclose if you’re going to be using the vehicle for any other purposes when you’re signing up for insurance coverage.

How Do I Know What I Am Covered for After an Accident?

To avoid finding yourself in a situation in which your claim gets denied, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of your insurance coverage. Review your insurance policy with care, and be sure to read the fine print when you’re signing up for a policy.

In an ideal world, you’d know all of this information before you’ve been involved in an accident. If you’ve already had an accident, though, it’s not too late to look at your policy and figure out what is covered and what isn’t.

You can also talk to your insurance agent and ask for their guidance too. They’ll be able to provide insight into your situation and help you figure out what you’re covered for before you move forward.

How the Company Determines Damages and Cost of Repairs

Insurance companies have a very specific process that they follow when determining damages and the cost of repairs to your vehicle. Some factors they consider include:

  • The extent of the damage caused by the accident
  • The cost of parts, labor, and paint
  • Taxes associated with repair costs

After you’ve filed a claim and it’s been accepted, you’ll likely receive an estimate of what the repairs will cost. This is just an approximation, though, and the total costs might be higher or lower.

Can You File a Car Insurance Claim Without a Police Report?

You don’t have to have a police report when filing your car insurance claim. It can help to have this report, though, as it provides evidence of what happened at the scene and gives a lot of details with regard to who was at fault and how much damage was caused.

If you don’t have a police report, you’ll need to provide other forms of evidence to back up your claim. This includes images of the damage caused to your vehicle, the other vehicle (or vehicles), and the scene of the accident in general. You might need to provide witness accounts, too.

Can I Pay for Repairs While Waiting for a Claims Payout?

If you want to take care of the repairs without waiting around for a payout from the insurance company, you may do so. You can then use the money from the payout to reimburse yourself, so to speak, for the cost of the repairs.

If you do proceed with repairs instead of waiting for the insurance company’s payout, you might not have a lot of wiggle room with regard to the total cost of repairs. For example, if the repair costs are higher than the payout, it might be harder for you to negotiate and get everything covered.

What to Expect After Your Claim Is Completed

When your claim is completed, you’ll receive a settlement and be able to get your car repaired. This isn’t always a quick process, though, although most insurance companies do their best to provide you with payment as soon as possible.

In many cases, you’ll need to get a rental car to drive while yours is in the shop. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of a rental car for at least a few days (the duration is based on the estimated time it’ll take to repair your car). Be sure to find out what your specific policy covers before seeking out a rental so that you know what to expect.

What If You’re Not Satisfied with Your Claim?

If you’re not satisfied with the settlement you receive after you’ve filed a claim, you can file a dispute and ask the insurance company to reevaluate it.

The process moving forward from here is similar to filing a dispute if your claim is denied. You’ll need to talk to a representative from the insurance company. You might need to work with a mediator and independent auto insurance adjuster to agree on the settlement. As a last resort, you might need to hire an attorney as well.

Conclusion

Auto insurance and auto insurance claims processing are definitely overwhelming subjects at first. Hopefully, though, we’ve been able to provide some information in this guide that is helpful and clears up your confusion.

Keep in mind that the speed and simplicity of the auto insurance claim filing process are influenced, largely, by the insurance provider from whom you purchased your coverage. If you’re looking to get quality coverage at an affordable price, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about our insurance options or to get a free quote.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about auto insurance claims? Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions we receive on a regular basis:

What Is a Compulsory Deductible?

A compulsory deductible is a fixed amount put in place by the insurance provider. It must be paid compulsorily (hence the name) by the insurance policyholder any time they file a claim and is based on a number of factors, including the car’s make and model.

Would the Insurance Company Pay the Total Cost of Repairs in the Case of Its Own Damage Claims?

In most cases, the insurance company will cover the total cost of repairs to the vehicle, minus your deductible cost. If you’ve already met your deductible, they will likely pay for all repairs with no out-of-pocket costs to you.

What Happens When the Car Is Damaged Beyond Repairs?

If your car has been totaled and damaged beyond repair, it’s up to the insurance provider to decide whether or not they’ll pay for it. In some cases, it’s not worth it to them to do so. Instead, they might declare it a loss and then pay you the car’s book value, which you can then put toward a replacement.

Why Are Both Car Keys Needed at the Time of Theft Claims?

If you file a theft claim, you’ll need to present both car keys. This helps to prove that the theft is not due to your own negligence. As an added bonus, providing both car keys when filing a theft claim also shows that you are not attempting to defraud the car insurance company.

How to Claim Car Insurance for Theft Claims?

If your car has been stolen, the claim filing process is similar to the process of filing a claim for an accident. Instead of reporting damage to your car, though, you’re reporting a theft.

When you contact your insurance company, you’ll need to provide additional information. This includes a copy of the police report, a description of your car (including the year, make, model, and license plate number), and your car’s title.

Will a not-at-fault Accident Affect My Car Insurance Rates?

As you now know, a car accident can cause your insurance rates to go up. This is the case even you’re not considered to be at fault for the accident.

At the end of the day, auto insurance premiums are based on risk. If you’ve been involved in an accident, even if you didn’t cause it, you’re still considered a risk to the insurance company and will have to pay more as a result.

Who Do I Report My Claim To?

When you need to report a claim, you’ll contact your insurance provider. In general, it’s best to work with your own insurance company, rather than the other driver’s insurance provider.

When you report the incident to your own insurance provider and the other driver reports it to theirs, the insurance companies can then work together to sort things out.

Does Getting in a Collision While Driving a Company Car Affect My Auto Insurance Policy?

If you get into an accident while driving a company car, you’ll work with your company’s auto insurance provider. Their insurance protects you from a third-party lawsuit, and you shouldn’t have to pay for any damages yourself.

Your personal auto insurance policy likely won’t be affected. The lines can get blurry, though, if you’re using the company car for personal matters (like if you make an unplanned stop on your way to or from a job).

I Backed into a Pole in a Parking Lot. Do I Need a Police Report to File a Claim?

If you’re involved in an incident that only involves you and your vehicle, you don’t need to file a police report. You can file a claim if you want to (some people might choose not to, depending on the extent of the damage or their coverage), but you won’t need a report to proceed.

If Someone Keyed My Car and I File a Claim, Will That Make My Insurance Rates Go Up?

When you file an insurance claim, your premiums are likely to go up. However, the increase for something like your car being keyed is likely to be minimal. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it or if you’d rather get the repair taken care of on your own.

If Insurance Declares a Car Is Totaled, Who Gets the Car?

In most states, if your car is totaled, you can still keep it. If it’s fully insured, the insurance company will pay you the car’s pre-crash value, minus the deductible, as well as the amount the company would have received if they sold the car to a salvage yard.

Who to Contact if You’re Not Satisfied with Your Claim?

If you’re not satisfied with your claim, start by reaching out to your insurance agent. From there, they can direct you to the proper parties and let you know what steps to take next.

What Can an Attorney Do to Assist in a Case Involving Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers?

Situations involving uninsured or underinsured drivers (which make up 13 percent of all motorists) can get complicated quickly. An attorney can represent you and help you navigate the case to get a fair settlement for the damage caused by the other driver.

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