Gianetta Palmer is a writer for CarInsurance101.com, copywriter, and essayist. Her work has appeared in EverydayHealth.com, Healthline, and The Dyrt Magazine. She is the author of Scrunchie-Fried and writes a lot about car insurance in her spare time.

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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If your vehicle sustains damage as part of a covered auto accident, you may want to file a claim with your car insurance company to repair that damage. Full coverage auto insurance protects against damage caused to your vehicle caused by a collision, weather damage, vandalism or other types of loss. Usually, you will be responsible to pay a deductible amount toward your damage; the rest of the repair cost will be covered by your car insurance company.

In some situations, you may not want to file a claim for your vehicle’s repairs. The damage may be lower than your deductible, or you might be trying to avoid a rate increase. Whatever the reason, you do not necessarily have to file an insurance claim in order to have your vehicle repaired. In most situations, however, it’s a wise idea to report the accident to your auto insurance company whether or not you intend to use them for repairs.

Why you should contact your car insurance company?

Whenever an auto accident occurs, your car insurance company is likely to learn about it even if you don’t file the claim. If police come and file a report, your insurance company will likely obtain that information when your policy renews along with other information about your driving history such as tickets. Similarly, if another person’s insurance company files a claim about the accident, your insurance will probably be notified.

It’s always a good idea to report the claim to your insurance company before they find out in another way. The company will determine your future rates based on this claim information, so it’s always wise to share your side of a story. In some cases, failing to report an accident could have adverse consequences for your insurance.

Calling your car insurance company does not obligate you to pursue a claim. In most cases, your car insurance rates will not be affected by a claim unless a payment is made against your policy.

When you should file a claim

There are some circumstances when you should always file a claim, even if you’re not sure that you want to pursue for damage to your vehicle:

If you are making payments on the car

If you have a lien holder, you are required to repair any damage the vehicle sustains even if the damage is very minor. To be on the safe side, you should always file a claim for damage sustained to a vehicle that you are leasing or making payments on. This will allow you to provide proof of repairs to your lien holder.

If there were injuries in the accident

Even minor injuries can lead to extensive medical expenses, and the sooner your insurance company knows about the accident the sooner it can begin covering these costs.

If the damage is major

Even if you don’t have the coverage to repair your vehicle, you should still contact the insurance company in the event that your car becomes totaled. The company will need to remove the vehicle from the policy and may have some paperwork for you to fill out.

If you are at fault

Any time you cause damage to another person’s vehicle or property, you should always file a claim even if your car has no damage. Failure to report this type of accident can lead to you being sued or sent to collections for money you owe.

When you don’t need to file a claim

Sometimes, filing a claim is unnecessary. In these situations, you may want to repair your vehicle out of pocket:

If the damage is not a covered peril

If your damage is caused by mechanical failure or wear-and-tear, your insurance company will not cover the damage.

If you don’t have the proper coverage

If you’re involved in a single-car collision and only carry liability coverage, your insurance would not be able to pay for the damage.

If the damage is less than your deductible

Once you receive an estimate, if it costs less than your deductible or just slightly more, you probably do not need to file a claim.

Any time you are involved in an auto accident, you must abide by the state laws regulating drivers in your area. For most drivers, this means filing a report with the DMV any time you are in an accident that causes damage to another person’s property. Even if you are not at fault, it’s a wise idea to contact your car insurance company to see if there is any paperwork you need to fill out to stay in compliance with your state laws.