January 10, 2022

Guide to Auto Insurance Claims

Do you know your state’s laws regarding auto insurance claims?

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As with all insurance, you purchase auto insurance to protect yourself from losing money in the event of any auto-related theft, injury, or property damage. To cover the expense of any of those incidents, you must file a claim with your auto insurance provider, which reimburses you for the resulting financial expense. However, the claims process isn’t always the most transparent, and it differs based on the state where you live.

We’ll help you brush up on your state’s laws so you can get reimbursed as soon as possible, whether it’s under property damage coverage, comprehensive coverage, or another policy type.

Auto Insurance Claims

What is an insurance claim? An insurance claim is a documented request filed to your insurer to reimburse you for any expense that your insurance policy might cover; it’s usually submitted as a form. You’ll send the form, which details the incident that caused the expense, to the insurer, which will review the details to determine whether the company will cover the incident.

If you’re wondering how long car insurance claims take, keep reading to see your state’s statute of limitations below.

How Do Car Insurance Claims Work?

Here’s how car insurance claims work:

  1. You file a claim with your insurer.
  2. Your insurance company determines if it will cover the claim based on your policy.
  3. If the claim is covered, you’ll first pay the deductible amount included in your policy.  That’s how deductibles work; you have to pay them before your insurance kicks in. Learn more about auto insurance deductibles here.
  4. Once you’ve hit your deductible, your insurance provider will reimburse you for any leftover costs.
  5. If your claim isn’t covered, you’ll have to pay for your repairs or replacements out of pocket, which will not count toward your deductible.

Why Claims Matter

  1. More claims means higher premiums. Auto insurance claims matter because events like accidents affect the cost of auto insurance. Of course, if you’re at fault in the accident, your auto insurance premiums may rise, but the insurance company needs to know this information in order to determine your rates. Even before you file a claim, insurance providers use your likelihood of filing a claim to determine your premium costs. People with bad credit, for example, often get worse rates for car insurance than those with good credit, as they’re more likely to file claims.
  2. Get reimbursed. Maybe your car is being repaired and you need a rental car. Maybe you drove into a pothole and needed to get your tire repaired; how do you actually benefit from your auto insurance? Claims bridge the gap between the insurer and the insured, allowing you to take advantage of your policy and get claims covered. Not all claims are covered, however. Your insurance provider will determine if the policy covers the incident, such as damages from vandalism, as well as who is at fault in a multi-car accident. If the claim is covered, they will give you a payment based on your policy, premiums, and the value of your car.
  3. Document your car’s damage history. Even if you’ve gotten repairs or replacements, getting into an accident will affect your car’s resale or trade-in value, so claims act as physical evidence of your car’s past.

Key Insurance Claim Terms

Before we tell you what to expect while filing an auto insurance claim, let’s define some key terms.

  • First-party claim: If you file a claim with your insurance company, that’s a first-party claim.
  • Third-party claim: If you’re filing a claim with someone else’s insurance company, that’s a third-party claim.

What to Expect When You File a Car Insurance Claim

Each insurance provider has an obligation to its policyholder, so if someone hits you and you file a claim with their insurer, that company will investigate the claim and offer you a settlement. Here’s some more information about the insurance claims process.

First, you’ll request a claim and the company will send you all the necessary documents. You’ll need to provide information such as who was at fault, the damages and/or bodily injuries, and whether they were related to the accident directly. The insurance company also might make you get several repair estimates, either in network or out of network (except, with the latter, you may have to pay the difference if it’s more expensive than in-network options).

With third-party claims, you won’t have to pay your deductible. Rather, you’ll have to sign a “release for damages” agreeing to the amount you’ll get from the other driver and their insurance provider.

NOTE

If bodily injury claims are ongoing, you may have to wait to get reimbursed for property damage claims as well.

However, if the other insurer denies your claim, you also have these options:

  1. File a claim under your policy.
  2. File a suit in small claims court.
  3. Hire an attorney and let the judge and jury decide who was at fault and how much is owed.1

With first-party claims, you can file a claim as you would any other claim, paying the deductible first if you haven’t reached it yet.

When to File

How long you have to file your claim depends on your state’s statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage claims. The average is three years for personal injury claims and four years for property damage claims. That being said, we recommend filing a claim as soon as you can after an incident to speed up the reimbursement and repair processes.

State Statute of limitations for personal injury claim (in years) Statute of limitations for property damage claim (in years)
Alabama 2 2
Alaska 2 2
Arizona 2 2
Arkansas 3 3
California 2 3
Colorado 3 3
Connecticut 2 2
Delaware 2 2
District of Columbia 3 3
Florida 4 4
Georgia 2 4
Hawaii 2 2
Idaho 2 3
Illinois 2 5
Indiana 2 2
Iowa 2 5
Kansas 2 2
Kentucky 1 2
Louisiana 1 1
Maine 6 6
Maryland 3 3
Massachusetts 3 3
Michigan 3 3
Minnesota 2 6
Mississippi 3 3
Missouri 5 5
Montana 3 2
Nebraska 4 4
Nevada 2 3
New Hampshire 3 3
New Jersey 6 6
New Mexico 3 4
New York 3 3
North Carolina 3 3
North Dakota 6 6
Ohio 4 4
Oklahoma 2 2
Oregon 2 6
Pennsylvania 2 2
Rhode Island 3 10
South Carolina 3 3
South Dakota 3 6
Tennessee 1 3
Texas 2 2
Utah 4 3
Vermont 3 3
Virginia 2 5
Washington 3 3
West Virginia 2 2
Wisconsin 3 6
Wyoming 4 4

States have exceptions to their statutes of limitations, and there are also some universal exceptions across the U.S., such as in these cases:

  • The defendant has left the state.
  • The defendant is a minor (under age 18).
  • The defendant is legally incompetent.
  • The defendant is legally unfit to stand the trial.
  • The defendant is imprisoned; you’ll have to wait until they’ve made parole to file a claim with their insurance provider.
  • The defendant is dead, in which case you’ll have to make a claim against their estate.
  • The defendant is either at war or on active military duty; you’ll have to wait until they’re no longer embattled or have returned from war.
  • Both sides have entered a tolling agreement, meaning they agree to waive the statute of limitations to minimize court costs.
  • The case is an example of equitable tolling, meaning that the plaintiff couldn’t reasonably have discovered the cause of actions within the statute of limitations. However, this most likely won’t apply to car insurance claims, but instead to home insurance claims of asbestos.

Other factors could reduce the length of the statute of limitations, like car accidents involving:

  • Government entities such as government employees, which may reduce the window for filing a claim to only six months.
  • Dram shop laws, meaning the state has laws that make bars liable for allowing drunk people to drive. If you live in a state with dram shop laws and your accident involves driving under the influence, the window for filing a claim could shorten to 60 days.2

FYI

Every state has dram shop laws except for Virginia, South Dakota, Nevada, Maryland, California, and Washington, D.C.3

How to File

Here’s how to file an insurance claim after an incident.

  1. Collect the following information:
    • Vehicle information of everyone involved
    • Insurance information of everyone involved
    • Contact information for everyone involved
    • Location, weather, and time of day for the incident
    • Photos of the damage
    • Copy of the accident report
    • Names of any officers you deal with
    • Badge numbers of any officers you deal with
  2. Ask your agent if your policy covers the incident.
  3. The agent will send over an insurance adjuster to assess the damage and determine fault, estimating the auto repair cost. As an alternative, you can get an estimate directly from a repair shop, which will then send that information to your insurer. From there, your insurer will decide how much it will cover.
  4. If your claim is covered, you’ll pay your deductible first.
  5. If you have rental reimbursement coverage, you can get your car insurer to pay for a rental car while the damage to your car is being repaired.
  6. Wait for your insurance provider to send your reimbursement money.4

What to Do at the Scene of the Accident

While preventing accidents isn’t entirely possible even with the best defensive driving skills, you can help yourself and others stay safe after an accident by being prepared. Take these steps if you’re in an accident:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road or another safer space, if you can.
  2. Ask everyone involved in the accident if they are physically OK.
  3. Call emergency services like the police. If there are any injuries, call the hospital as well.
  4. Visually assess the damage and photograph it.
  5. Stay at the scene. If you can’t, leave the other people involved your name, address, insurance information, and phone number.
  6. If you can stay the scene, gather information from everyone involved, including witnesses, such as the following:
    • Names
    • Contact information
    • License plates
    • Car registration information
    • Insurance identification numbers
    • Makes and models of the vehicles involved
    • Location
    • Time of day
    • Weather conditions
  7. If the police can’t come to the scene, file an accident report with your local police department; you’ll need a police report to file an auto insurance claim.
  8. File a claim with your insurance provider as soon as possible, even at the scene if it’s safe.

Claim Contact Information by Company

Not sure how to file a claim with your insurance provider? Use the contact information below.

Company Phone number Email URL Mailing address
21st Century 888-244-6163 claimsdocuments@farmersinsurance.com www.21st.com/contact-21st-century-insurance.htm P.O. Box 268994

Oklahoma City, OK 73126-8994

Medical/PIP documents involving FL, NJ, NY: P.O. Box 268995

Medical/PIP documents involving all other states: P.O. Box 268993

AAA Enter ZIP code to find claims number:

www.aaa.com/stop/

None www.aaa.com/stop/ The Auto Club Group Claim Department

P.O. Box 9001

Royal Oak, MI 48068-9826

AARP 800-243-6860 None https://www.thehartford.com/aarp/car-insurance/how-to-file-claim The Hartford

P.O. Box 14219

Lexington, KY 40512

Allstate 800-255-7828 None www.allstate.com/auto-insurance/auto-claims-info.aspx Allstate Insurance Company

P.O. Box 660636

Dallas, TX 75266

Amica 800-242-6422 None www.amica.com/en/customer-service/contact-us.html Amica Scan Center

P.O. Box 9690

Providence, RI 02940-9690

Autopom 800-654-8455 info@autopom.com www.extended-vehicle-warranty.com/mercury-insurance-claim/ Autopom Office

22651 Lambert St., Suite 102

Lake Forest, CA 92630

Bristol West 800-274-7865 None www.bristolwest.com/home/claims Bristol West Claims Service

P.O. Box 258806

Oklahoma City, OK 73125-8806

Carchex 877-227-2439 None www.carchex.com/auto-warranty/how-to-file-a-claim/ Carchex

118 Shawan Road, Suite 210

Baltimore, MD 21030

Carshield 800-531-1925 ClaimsDocs@americanautoshield.com americanautoshield.com/report-a-claim/ 1597 Cole Blvd., Suite 200

Lakewood, CO 80401-3418

Clearcover 855-444-1875 None clearcover.com/claims/ None
Concord Maine: 800-482-7443

Massachusetts: 800-422-5246

New Hampshire: 800-888-6050

Vermont: 800-660-3838

None www.concordgroupinsurance.com/claims/report-a-claim Concord Corporate Office

4 Bouton St.

Concord, NH 03301

Dairyland 800-334-0090 None www.dairylandinsurance.com/auto/claims None
Direct 800-403-1077 None www.directauto.com/claims/make-a-claim Direct Auto Insurance Claims Department

P.O. Box 1623

Winston Salem, NC 27102

Endurance 877-414-0134 None www.endurancewarranty.com/learning-center/company-resources/best-practices-for-filing-a-claim-with-endurance-warranty/ Endurance Corporate Headquarters

400 Skokie Blvd., Suite 105

Northbrook, IL 60062

Erie 800-367-3743 None www.erieinsurance.com/support-center/claims/auto Erie Branch Claims Office

P.O. Box 13002

Erie, PA

16514-3002

Esurance 800-378-7262 None www.esurance.com/file-a-claim-online Esurance Customer Service

P.O. Box 5250

Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5258

Farmers 800-435-7764 None www.farmers.com/cmp/s/filealoss?SO=01 Farmers Customer Service

6301 Owensmouth Ave.

Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Foremost 800-274-7865 None claims.bristolwest.com/cmp/s/filealoss?SO=04 None
GAINSCO 866-424-6726 None www.gainsco.com/customers/report-a-claim/ GAINSCO Inc.

P.O. Box 199023

Dallas, Texas 75219-9023

GEICO 800-841-3000 None www.geico.com/claims/ None
GMAC 800-468-3466 Claims@NGIC.com claims.nationalgeneral.com/report None
Good2Go 800-727-6664 Claims@good2go.com mypolicy.good2go.com/account/login# Good2Go Auto Insurance

P.O. Box 1930

Blue Bell, PA 19422-0479

Infinity 800-334-1661 customer.service@ipacc.com www.kemper.com/claims/report-a-claim Infinity Insurance

200 E. Randolph St., Suite 3300

Chicago, IL 60601

Kemper 888-253-7834

For California customers:
800-508-5833 (formerly Alliance United)

800-234-3606 (formerly Kemper Specialty California)

None www.kemper.com/claims/report-a-claim/report-a-claim-auto Kemper Claims

P.O. Box 2855

Clinton, IA 52733

Lemonade 844-733-8666 (for claim emergencies) carclaims@lemonade.com www.lemonade.com/car None
Liberty Mutual 800-225-2467 None fileaclaim.libertymutual.com/ Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston

100 Liberty Way

Dover, NH 03820

Mercury 800-503-3724 None www.mercuryinsurance.com/claims/auto-claim.html Mercury Insurance

1700 Greenbriar Lane

Brea, CA 02921

MetLife — Farmers Auto Insurance 800-435-7764 None www.farmers.com/cmp/s/filealoss?SO=01 Farmers Insurance Customer Service

6301 Owensmouth Ave.

Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Metromile 888-595-5485 None claims.metromile.com/ None
Nationwide 800-421-3535 None claimsselfservice.nationwide.com/claims/index.html#/file-claim None
Omega 877-850-0443 contactus@omegaautocare.com www.omegaautocare.com/claims/ None
Plymouth Rock 844-346-1225 None efnol.plymouthrock.com/#/login Plymouth Rock Assurance

P.O. Box 55165

Boston, MA 02205

Progressive 800-776-4737 None www.progressive.com/claims/auto-process/ None
Protect My Car 844-256-4762 None blog.protectmycar.com/claim-protect-my-car None
Root New claims: 866-980-9431

Existing claims: 866-489-1985

None www.joinroot.com/claims/ Root Insurance Claims Department

80 E. Rich St., Suite 500

Columbus, OH 43215

Safeco 800-332-3226 None fileaclaim.safeco.com/ None
State Farm 800-732-5246 None www.statefarm.com/claims/file-a-claim None
The General 800-280-1466 None www.thegeneral.com/car-insurance/basics/claims/ None
Toco 855-298-8626 info@tocowarranty.com www.tocowarranty.com/file-a-claim Toco Warranty

8501 Fallbrook Ave., Suite 225

West Hills, CA 91304

Travelers 800-252-4633 None www.travelers.com/claims/report-claim None
USAA Shortcut mobile number: #8722

210-531-8722 or

800-531-8722

None www.usaa.com/inet/wc/auto-insurance-claims USAA

9800 Fredericksburg Road

San Antonio, TX 78288

How Fault Affects Car Insurance Claims

Fault matters, as the person at fault will have to pay for the damages. In some states, people might share fault, and each could pay for a percentage of the cost. It all depends on the state’s negligence laws, which we’ve outlined below.5 But before we get to your state, let’s cover the types of negligence laws.

  • Contributory: If you’re at fault in any way, you won’t get any money from your insurance company.
  • Pure comparative: The share of your fault determines your recovery, so you’ll pay a percentage of the property damage and bodily injury costs.
  • Modified comparative: If you’re found 50 percent or more at fault, you won’t get any money from your insurer.
  • Slight-gross negligence comparative: You can only recover money from your insurer if you displayed “slight” negligence as opposed to the “gross” negligence of the other party. South Dakota is the only state with this type of negligence law. An example would be a driver running a red light and hitting a pedestrian who is jaywalking. While the driver practiced gross negligence of the law, the pedestrian only practiced slight negligence, so the driver would pay for the pedestrian’s medical costs.6

Negligence Laws by State

It’s a good idea to check the type of negligence laws in your state to see how much you’ll pay after an accident.

State Type of negligence laws
Alabama Contributory
Alaska Pure comparative
Arizona Pure comparative
Arkansas Modified comparative
California Pure comparative
Colorado Modified comparative
Connecticut Modified comparative
Delaware Modified comparative
District of Columbia Contributory
Florida Pure comparative
Georgia Modified comparative
Hawaii Modified comparative
Idaho Modified comparative
Illinois Modified comparative
Indiana Modified comparative
Iowa Modified comparative
Kansas Modified comparative
Kentucky Pure comparative
Louisiana Pure comparative
Maine Modified comparative
Maryland Contributory
Massachusetts Modified comparative
Michigan Modified comparative
Minnesota Modified comparative
Mississippi Pure comparative
Missouri Pure comparative
Montana Modified comparative
Nebraska Modified comparative
Nevada Modified comparative
New Hampshire Modified comparative
New Jersey Modified comparative
New Mexico Pure comparative
New York Pure comparative
North Carolina Contributory
North Dakota Modified comparative
Ohio Modified comparative
Oklahoma Modified comparative
Oregon Modified comparative
Pennsylvania Modified comparative
Rhode Island Pure comparative
South Carolina Modified comparative
South Dakota Slight-gross negligence comparative
Tennessee Modified comparative
Texas Modified comparative
Utah Modified comparative
Vermont Modified comparative
Virginia Contributory
Washington Pure comparative
West Virginia Modified comparative
Wisconsin Modified comparative
Wyoming Modified comparative

Types of Car Insurance Claims

These are some of the many types of car insurance claims:

How to Prepare for Accidents

Next time, be prepared in case you get in an accident.

  1. Keep your car’s proof of insurance, the leasing agent’s name, the registration, and your family’s medical information (including their allergies and doctors’ names) in your car.
  2. Also keep orange cones, flares, and emergency signage in your car to make sure you don’t get even more hurt after an accident.
  3. Keep a pen and paper in your car to write down information in case your phone runs out of battery or is damaged and you can’t use your provider’s mobile app.
  4. Make sure you have appropriate auto insurance coverage.8

Recap

Have more frequently asked questions about auto insurance? Read our complete auto insurance guide or keep reading the FAQs below.

FAQs

The subject of car insurance claims is vast, so naturally, you had even more questions for us to answer.

What happens when you make a claim on car insurance?

After you make a claim on car insurance:

  1. Your insurance provider will investigate the claim and determine a settlement.
  2. If the claim is covered, you’ll pay your deductible first (if it’s not already paid).
  3. After you’ve paid your deductible, you’ll get reimbursed for repairs, medical costs, etc.

Is there a time limit on car insurance claims?

There is a time limit on car insurance claims that varies by state. The average statute of limitations for personal injury claims in the U.S. is three years, while the average for property damage claims is four years.

However, there is a pretty wide variance. For personal injury claims, the statute of limitations ranges from one year in states like Tennessee to six years in New Jersey. For property damage claims, the range is two to 10 years; Rhode Island is the state with the longest property damage claim statute of limitations (10 years).

While there are some exceptions for minors and incarcerated people, here are the general statutes of limitations by state:

State Personal injury claims statute of limitations (in years) Property damage claims statute of limitations (in years)
Alabama 2 2
Alaska 2 2
Arizona 2 2
Arkansas 3 3
California 2 3
Colorado 3 3
Connecticut 2 2
Delaware 2 2
District of Columbia 3 3
Florida 4 4
Georgia 2 4
Hawaii 2 2
Idaho 2 3
Illinois 2 5
Indiana 2 2
Iowa 2 5
Kansas 2 2
Kentucky 1 2
Louisiana 1 1
Maine 6 6
Maryland 3 3
Massachusetts 3 3
Michigan 3 3
Minnesota 2 6
Mississippi 3 3
Missouri 5 5
Montana 3 2
Nebraska 4 4
Nevada 2 3
New Hampshire 3 3
New Jersey 6 6
New Mexico 3 4
New York 3 3
North Carolina 3 3
North Dakota 6 6
Ohio 4 4
Oklahoma 2 2
Oregon 2 6
Pennsylvania 2 2
Rhode Island 3 10
South Carolina 3 3
South Dakota 3 6
Tennessee 1 3
Texas 2 2
Utah 4 3
Vermont 3 3
Virginia 2 5
Washington 3 3
West Virginia 2 2
Wisconsin 3 6
Wyoming 4 4

How do car insurance companies pay out claims?

Car insurance companies pay out claims by reimbursing customers for their costs. Sometimes, though, in-network service providers such as repair shops, mechanics, and rental car companies will bill the car insurance company directly.

Can a car insurance company refuse to pay a claim?

Yes, a car insurance company can refuse to pay a claim if the policy doesn’t cover it. That means the insured person will have to pay for any costs out of pocket. Take these steps if you want to appeal the claim:

  1. Call your insurance agent and ask about the appeals process.
  2. If you go through the process and your appeal is denied, contact your state’s department of insurance for help.
  3. You can also file a complaint with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Citations

  1. Filing a Claim with Another Driver’s Insurance Company. Illinois Department of Insurance. (2022).
    https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/Insurance/Consumers/ConsumerInsurance/Auto/Pages/filing-an-auto-claim-with-anothers-insurance-company.aspx

  2. Car Accidents: Statutes of Limitations. Enjuris. (2022).
    https://www.enjuris.com/car-accident/statutes-of-limitations.html

  3. Dram Shop Laws and Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents. Justia. (2022).
    https://www.justia.com/injury/negligence-theory/dram-shop-laws/

  4. What To Expect When You File A Car Insurance Claim. Allstate. (2019, Oct).
    https://www.allstate.com/tr/car-insurance/how-to-file-auto-insurance-claim.aspx

  5. How Is My Automotive Insurance Claim Affected If I Was Partially at Fault? HG.org Legal Resources. (2022).
    https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/how-is-my-automotive-insurance-claim-affected-if-i-was-partially-at-fault-35269

  6. UNDERSTANDING SOUTH DAKOTA’S SLIGHT/GROSS RULE. Wilka, Welter, and Ash LLP. (2015, Aug 19).
    https://wilkawelterashlaw.com/2015/08/19/understanding-south-dakotas-slightgross-rule/

  7. State By State Negligence Laws. The Law Offices Of Maloney And Campolo. (2020, Feb 14).
    https://www.maloneyandcampolo.com/state-negligence-laws/

  8. What to do at the scene of an accident. Insurance Information Institute. (2022).
    https://www.iii.org/article/scene-accident