Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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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 insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Mar 16, 2022

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What You Should Know

  • Gather all necessary information in order to file your insurance claim as soon as possible
  • Timelines for submitting claims vary by carrier, state, and collision type
  • You can file a claim even if no police report was made

If you must file a car insurance claim because of an accident, break-in, theft, or another type of loss, the sooner you can start the claims process, the better. Keep reading to learn how you can help ensure that your claim is handled promptly. Keep in mind, the sooner you receive your funds, the sooner you can repair your vehicle and return to your regular routine.

How to File a Car Insurance Claim

Car accidents are frightening for everyone involved. If you are involved in an incident, try your best to remain calm, and call 911 immediately for any emergency situations. Afterward, you will need to file a claim with your insurance company as quickly as possible.

After ensuring that everyone is safe, follow these steps to file an auto insurance claim:

  • First, examine the damage to your vehicle and, if feasible, take pictures.
  • Obtain the insurance information for the other driver.
  • File a police report (if mandated by your state).

Contact your insurance company and report the claim. When making an auto insurance claim, you’ll need to have the following items on hand:

  • The policy number
  • The time/date of the accident
  • The specifics of the accident
  • The police report number

After filing a police report and filing a claim with your auto insurance company, wait for instructions from the claims adjuster to check the vehicle and supply any documents requested by the insurance company or the claims adjuster.

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Common Questions About Car Insurance Claims

Common car insurance claims issues include whether to file a police report, what to do after an accident, how blame influences the claims procedure, and whether your rate will rise as a result of the accident.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the auto insurance claims process.

How long do you have to file an insurance claim?

Depending on your automobile insurance policy, the company may request that you make your auto insurance claims within a few days of the accident. 

A car accident’s insurance claim deadline is determined by:

  • The auto insurance company that covers you
  • The type of claim (bodily injury or personal property) 
  • State laws

You can always file a claim up until the state’s statute of limitations for the specific type of claim, and each state determines its own deadline. 

Most insurance providers simply tell you to make a claim “promptly” and don’t give you a specific timeframe for doing so. These time restraints may be included in the policy documents you receive from your auto insurer when you purchase a policy. Find out when your insurance company wants you to file a claim after a car accident by reviewing your policy.

Call your insurance company right away if you’re in a car accident. Waiting too long could affect your compensation since it becomes more difficult for your insurance carrier to assess damages or injuries caused by the accident and to determine who is to blame.

Does it matter who is at fault?

Fault is assigned in the vast majority of states. In those “fault” states, the person who caused the car collision must pay for the damages.  The other driver’s medical bills are covered by your bodily injury (BI) liability insurance and automobile repair costs are covered by your property damage liability. Each state’s claims payout terms will be different.

No-fault states require all drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. PIP only applies to injuries and not to property damage. Fault is always determined and will decide who gets dinged on their car insurance rates for the accident. 

You and the other driver involved will save time and effort by not filing a claim via one another’s insurance. You can discover which states are fault and no-fault states by viewing the Insurance Information Institute (III) graph.

Does filing a claim affect your insurance premium?

Auto insurance companies utilize your driving history to determine how much they should charge you for your policy. For example, insurers will charge higher premiums to drivers with a history of accidents, speeding tickets, penalties, and fines.

If you have a car accident where you are found to be at fault, your car insurance rates will likely increase. How much your auto insurance will increase will depend on the details of the accident and whether you have other tickets and violations listed on your driving record.

There are actions you can take to reduce the points related to a ticket or accident in some cases. For instance, the court may offer to let you take an approved defensive driving class. However, you cannot get the accident removed from your record, especially with the insurance company. If they paid a claim, they are not going to wipe that accident from your record. Insurance companies will use claims history and not just accidents that were reported to police or the DMV. 

Can you file a claim if there was no police report?

A police report is beneficial and can speed things up, but it is not always essential. State laws may vary as to whether or not you must file a police report. Check with your local authorities if in doubt.

Understanding the Car Insurance Claims Process

It is not difficult to file a car insurance claim. You may be able to expedite the claims process and get the money you need to fix your vehicle if you know what to expect. Ask your insurer whether they have a deadline by which you must report a claim and inquire about any other claim reporting requirements they may have.