Man looking over his auto insurance claim

When Should You File an Auto Insurance Claim?

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Maria Neira
April 29, 2020

An auto insurance claim is filed when someone wants to be compensated by an insurance company after an accident. Here are a few things to know about the claims process and whether or not you should file an auto insurance claim.

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What to do right after an accident

If you're in a serious auto accident, especially one involving injuries, contact the police immediately and remain at the scene. The police will fill out a report detailing what happened and who they determine is at fault for the accident. Everyone involved in the accident as well as any witnesses will be asked questions.  

If you end up filing an auto insurance claim after an accident, the adjuster will rely on information in the police report to determine the at-fault party and which insurance company will ultimately pay for the damages.

Call your insurance company

You should contact your insurance company to file an auto insurance claim as soon as possible after an accident. The representative taking the information will let you know what exact steps to take and what further information the adjuster will need. They can help you arrange to have your car towed as well, and address any other immediate needs.

After you file your insurance claim, an adjuster will handle the rest of the process. This will include your insurance adjuster working with the other adjusters involved, body repair shops and so on. If there are injuries involved, there may be multiple adjusters handling your claim. You will need to work with the other party's insurance company if they will be covering the claim.

When not to file an auto insurance claim

An auto insurance claim doesn't always have to be filed after a car accident. There are some situations where filing a claim doesn’t make sense or isn’t a smart move financially. 

Situation A: If you are the only person involved in the accident and you don't have collision coverage, there's no reason to file a claim with your insurance company. You need to have collision coverage on your policy to pay for any damage to your car. With no collision coverage, it’s up to you to cover the costs for any necessary repairs.

Situation B: If you do have collision coverage and you are in a single-car accident that causes minor damage and do, you may not want to file an insurance claim. First, get a few estimates for repairs from local body shops. If the damage is less than your deductible, there isn't any reason to file a claim. If the damage is more than your deductible, you need to consider whether filing a claim will cost you in the long run.

READ MORE> Comprehensive vs collision: What's the difference?

When to file a claim

You should always file a claim if you are in an accident and there are any injuries involved. This is especially true if you could be found at fault for the accident. Medical bills can quickly become overwhelmingly expensive. If you don't promptly report an accident involving injuries, you may even have your claim denied.

Situation A: You should file an auto insurance claim if there's another party involved. The two insurance companies will work out who was at fault and assign responsibility for which company will pay for the damages. 

Some people try to work out a deal with the other party that doesn't involve the insurance companies. However, this can result in the other party down the line claiming they were injured or had more extensive car damage than was initially thought.

Situation B: If either vehicle in a multi-car accident sustained major damage, you need to call your insurance company. If you're not sure how extensive the damage is, you can get estimates from local body shops before you call. 

If it's obvious it's going to be a lot of money to repair the damage, contact your auto insurance company's claims department as soon as possible. 

Consider the difference between your collision deductible and the amount of damage before ultimately deciding whether filing a claim makes sense.

What to know about filing a claim

If you make a claim, your auto insurance rates may go up when your policy renews depending on the situation. Your auto insurance company may have accident forgiveness, in which case your rates may not go up. However, consider whether using your accident forgiveness on a minor accident is worth it.

To find out how much your rates would go up after an at-fault accident, ask your agent for guidance. It may be that it would save you money in the long-term to not make a claim on your insurance policy if your insurance company increases your rates for the next three years. 

If your rates are going to increase, it’s a good time to shop for new insurance. Compare insurance quotes to see if you can save money on your auto insurance.

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