Filing an auto insurance claim is my favorite thing to do... said no one, ever. But filing a claim after an accident is often necessary.

What Is an Auto Insurance Claim?

To file an insurance claim, you have to fill out the insurance claim application. Your insurance company will provide this form for your completion. A policyholder has to get the completed application for benefits to the insurance company before any money will go to the repair shop, hospital or the policyholder.

When Might You File a Claim?

The decision to file a claim after an incident is ultimately up to you. If you were the only one involved in the accident, such as backing into a pole, you may think you'll pay the repairs yourself and let it go. That's certainly your choice.

In some instances involving you alone, you may want to let your insurance company know about the damage. For instance:

  • You accidentally dent someone's car; for example, by opening your door into it.
  • You cause serious damage to someone else's car; for example, you back into them while pulling out of a parking space.
  • You cause an accident that hurts someone else; for example, you run a stop sign and hit another car.
  • You cause substantial damage to your own car; for example, you hit a patch of black ice and slam into a tree.
  • You cause damage to someone else's property; for example, you hit a cow in the road at night.

If the damage is substantial, or there is an injury to someone else, or damage to their car or other property, you could find yourself facing thousands of dollars in payments. In this case, it is probably best to contact your insurance company.

Filing a Claim with Your Insurance vs the Other Party's

There are two different types of insurance claims. If you file a claim on your own car insurance carrier, that's called a first-party claim. If the claim you file is with another driver's insurance, that's called a third-party claim.

Imagine the following scenario: you're involved in an accident in which the other driver is at fault. You want to receive all the claims money to which you're entitled, of course. The first thing you need to decide is whose auto insurance carrier to use when you file your claim.

A First Party Claim

If you have collision coverage included in your policy, you can file a claim against your own auto insurance policy after an accident. Your insurance company will pay for repairs, minus your deductible amount.

Your company will likely then ask the other person's insurance carrier to reimburse them for your claim. When the other company confirms that their policyholder was at fault, it will send payment to your insurance carrier, who will then refund your deductible amount. This process, called subrogation, usually takes about six months.

Pros:

  • you may feel more comfortable going through your insurance carrier than dealing with the other driver's carrier.
  • there may be a quicker resolution to the claim because your carrier won't have to determine fault before making payment.
  • if your policy includes rental reimbursement, you can get a rental car for use while yours is in the shop.
  • there should be no increase in your rates after a claim for an accident that wasn't your fault.

Cons:

  • you must pay the deductible amount out of pocket.
  • you may or may not receive reimbursement of the deductible.

If you decide to make the claim through the other driver's insurance, that company will investigate the accident to determine which driver is at fault. If they find their covered client was the cause, they will send an adjuster to estimate the damage to your car or property, or they'll ask you to get an estimate(s) from a repair shop(s).

They will then pay for your repairs and a rental car if you included that coverage in your policy. The other driver's insurance may or may not cover your medical bills. The third-party insurance company will only pay up to the limits of the at-fault driver's liability coverage.

Pros:

  • you don't have to pay the deductible out of pocket.
  • you don't have to wait for reimbursement of a deductible amount.
  • if you don't have collision coverage, this is the only way to get your damage covered.

Cons:

  • you'll have to file a claim with your insurance carrier if the at-fault person doesn't have liability coverage, or has limits that don't cover your medical costs.
  • you'll have to file on your own collision coverage if the at-fault driver's coverage won't pay enough to repair your car or damaged property.
  • if you must tap into your own collision coverage, you'll have to pay the deductible out-of-pocket.

Whether you decide to file with the other driver's insurance or your own, it's usually best to notify your own insurer about the accident. Later, if you must work through your own carrier, it just makes things easier.

Get the Best Rates

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