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 29, 2022

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Just What's Essential

  • An insurance claim is a request to have an insurance company compensate for specific damages or losses
  • Before filing for a claim, review the policy thoroughly to check if the claim is covered to avoid an increase in premiums
  • Make sure to gather as much evidence beforehand to prove your claims

If you’ve ever made big decisions like buying a home or car, you’re probably familiar with insurance. It’s essentially a safety net protecting you from potential damage or losses due to unforeseen events. Though you have to pay a certain amount to cover the policy, you can consider it an investment for important things like your house, car, health, and other things.

While the general concept of insurance is familiar to many, the actual insurance claims process isn’t as straightforward. Naturally, you’d rather not have anything bad happen. However, if something happens unexpectedly, be prepared and know how to handle a claim with your insurance company.

We know how important it is that you get the correct compensation for your insurance claim. So to help you out, here’s a guide outlining how the process works and what you should do in such instances.

What is an insurance claim?

An insurance claim is essentially a request sent to your insurance company after experiencing a loss or damage. Once you file your claim, you formally notify the company to take action since you believe the circumstance is covered in your policy.

Some of the most common claims include accidents and car or homeowner’s insurance damages. For example, if a windstorm damaged part of your house, you can file a claim to cover the repair costs in the affected areas.

That said, insurance coverages vary significantly by company and policy. Thus, it’s important to review your coverage to verify what’s included in your policy. This way, you can avoid running into problems later on.

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When to file an insurance claim?

Generally, you would file an insurance claim after experiencing a covered loss, but remember that filing a claim could increase your rates. However, you shouldn’t think twice about filing a claim with another driver’s insurance company if that driver caused an accident that hurt you or your car.

Can I cancel an insurance claim after filing one?

Most insurance companies will allow withdrawing or canceling your claim even after filing one. Most of the time, It happens in car insurance claims when someone files before getting a quote for the damages. If they later find out that the repair costs will be lower than their deductible, they may cancel their claims.

The claim will still be placed on record with a $0 payout in case of cancellation. It shouldn’t negatively impact your premiums, provided that there aren’t several claims in a short time.

Will my insurance premiums increase from filing a claim?

Filing a claim doesn’t necessarily result in an automatic increase in premiums. In general, this only happens in cases where you’re at fault for the accident, such as in a car crash. Also, the exact stipulations and rate increases will vary from one company to another, so make sure to read up on this before reporting any claim.

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What to do when losses are less than the deductible?

Insurance companies keep records of all the claims you report — big or small. Thus, there are times when it’s worth reconsidering filing a claim. If you’re sure that the damage or loss is less than the deductible, it makes more financial sense not to file. Also, by filing, you may be classified into a higher-risk category.

Steps in the Insurance Claims Process

The insurance claims process may seem overwhelming, given all the steps involved. However, the key is to be prepared and stay organized, which is possible if you are familiar with how the process works.

Contact the Police and Document the Incident

If your case involves a vehicle accident or crimes like theft and malicious activities, start by calling the police to relay the events. Then, you may need to head over to the station to file a report in more severe incidents. If this happens, make sure to note the police report number for record purposes.

Aside from this, you should also document all damages and losses. These will help prove the claim more easily. Regardless of the case, don’t forget to take photos and videos of the scene before moving anything. For example, if you’re filing a car accident claim, try to get a good shot of the surrounding area and all vehicle damages and injuries.

Report the Claim to Your Insurance Company

The next step will be reporting the claim. Most insurance companies allow online reporting, but if handling a larger claim, it’ll be best to call the company instead. Before doing this, make sure you go through all your information to get everything ready. Generally, these are the details you’ll need to file your claim:

  • Insurance policy number
  • Personal details
  • Date of incident
  • Details of other parties involved, if any
  • Police report number, if applicable
  • Medical bills for injuries, if any
  • Additional proof of damage or loss

Prepare for the Insurance Adjuster

After reporting, the insurance company will review the details to check its validity. This process often takes a while since they’ll verify the events and look through the supporting documents. Then, in most cases, insurance companies will send an adjuster to evaluate the extent of the damage and determine how much the payout should be.

The insurance adjuster will essentially be the main contact person through the process. They’ll go through all the facts and ask for clarification if needed to get a full picture of the claim. In some cases, such as in homes damaged by weather conditions, they may also visit the scene to inspect the situation.

Review the Settlement

After the lengthy assessment process, the adjuster will decide whether to accept or reject a particular claim. Common reasons for rejection include the policy clearly stating that it doesn’t cover your claim or you didn’t provide sufficient evidence to prove your claim. Because of this, you must review your policy beforehand and gather as much information to support your case.

The insurance company will send a settlement offer if the claim is accepted. Make sure to read the document thoroughly since you can’t retract your decision after accepting the offer. If you aren’t satisfied with the proposed compensation, you can file a dispute by hiring a public adjuster to represent you.

Receive the Payment

Once you’ve finally settled and agreed on an amount, your insurance company will send you the total payout minus your deductible.

Generally, the deductibles are applied whenever you file for a claim, except if state regulations say otherwise. For instance, the Florida Association of Insurance Agents mandates that hurricane deductibles are applied per season or time instead of per storm.

How long does the claim process take?

Each claim varies significantly, so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific time frame. To give an estimate, smaller or more minor cases take around one to two weeks to be completed. However, the more complex your case gets, the longer it’ll take to resolve. Some cases can take months or even years to complete since larger amounts are often paid in several checks.

When filing an insurance claim, it’s critical to stay organized. The best way to ensure a smooth process and maximize payout is to read your policy beforehand and gather all the evidence. This way, you can avoid getting rejected and increase the likelihood of getting adequate compensation for the damage and losses sustained.

The Bottom Line

The insurance claims process can be difficult to understand at first. However, being prepared can go a long way in ensuring that you get compensation when it matters.

Given that car accidents and injuries are one of the top reasons people file claims, you must have comprehensive coverage. Make sure to compare car insurance companies first to find the most suitable policy. It may take some time, but ultimately, it’s one of the most effective ways to save money on car insurance.