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 7, 2022

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Just What's Essential

  • You can start the property damage claims process with one phone call
  • Some car insurance companies allow you to track claims online
  • Collision insurance claims require a deductible before receiving a payout

Did you have your first accident recently? One of the most frustrating parts of filing insurance claims is dealing with the technicalities of the claims process.

If you’re not sure what the process is, it can stress you out. Don’t worry – we’re here to show you how to handle property damage claims for car insurance.

Read our guide to learn about various types of property damage claims, why car insurance companies recommend higher coverage levels, and how property damage claims work for commercial businesses.

What is the property damage insurance claims process?

The property damage insurance claims process is a series of steps to get your car repaired through an insurance company. Each insurance company is different, but the claims process is the same for most companies.

Preferably, you should make car insurance claims over the phone, but you can also file them on an insurance company’s mobile app.

You’ll also need to know what type of property damage claim to file. For example, a driver at fault in a car accident can’t file a property damage liability insurance claim, but they can file a collision insurance claim.

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How do you start the property damage insurance claims process?

You can start your property damage insurance claim by contacting your insurance company. However, a little more goes into the car insurance claim process.

Step 1 – Call Your Car Insurance Company

If you’re in an accident, you need to make a few phone calls. First, call law enforcement to mediate the accident. Police can establish who was at fault in a car accident and record the incident for the state authorities.

While you wait for the police, contact your insurance company and tell them you were in an accident. A representative will ask for your name, address, policy number, and driver’s license to verify your identity.

Step 2 – Identify Your Property Damage Insurance Claim

Police officers can issue a report showing which driver is at fault. If you were not at fault, you would need to file a liability insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

You’ll have to file a collision insurance claim if you were at fault. Comprehensive insurance covers accidents that don’t involve collisions.

Therefore, you’ll need to make a comprehensive coverage claim for incidents related to unforeseen accidents such as storms, floods, fires, animal damage, and vandalism.

Step 3 – Provide More Details to the Claims Agent

You’ll need to make copies of the police report, take photos of the property damage, and sign documents related to your claim.

Start looking for estimates after you follow up with the insurance company covering your property damage costs.

Step 4 – Get Repair Estimates

Most insurance companies require at least two estimates for property damage. To expedite the estimate process, go to a repair or body shop that frequently takes requests from your car insurance company.

Step 5 – Receive Your Property Damage Insurance Claim

After the insurance company approves the estimates, it will provide a claim check to you or the repair shop. The claim won’t be issued until the deductible, if any, is paid.

Property damage insurance claims don’t have a deductible through liability insurance, but collision and comprehensive coverage do.

The first payment you receive isn’t final. If it takes more to repair your vehicle, the insurance company will cut another check. However, the amount can’t exceed the coverage limit listed on yours or the at-fault driver’s policy.

Do you need a higher coverage level?

Property damage insurance claims have a limit. For example, if someone hits your car, their liability insurance will cover you, but if your damage was $28,000 and the at-fault driver has a $20,000 limit for property damage, you’ll be stuck paying the difference.

You can sue the other driver for the remaining balance, but there’s a way to avoid court battles.

Drivers can avoid this situation by raising their coverage limits above the minimum requirements when buying a car insurance policy. It costs more to increase your coverage level, but you won’t be insufficiently covered.

You can’t control what others do. Therefore, we recommend adding uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This protects you from incidents where you’re not at fault, the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, or the driver doesn’t have an adequate coverage limit.

Is there a time limit for property damage insurance claims?

Yes, there is. The property damage claim time limit is often called the statute of limitations. Each state has a different length.

Let’s look at a complete list of the statute of limitations by state.

Statute of Limitations for Filing Property Damage Car Insurance Claims by State
StateProperty Damage Statute of Limitations
Alabama2 years
Alaska6 years
Arizona2 years
Arkansas3 years
California3 years
Colorado3 years
Connecticut3 years
Delaware2 years
Florida4 years
Georgia4 years
Hawaii2 years
Idaho3 years
Illinois5 years
Indiana2 years
Iowa5 years
Kansas2 years
Kentucky2 years
Louisiana1 year
Maine6 years
Maryland3 years
Massachusetts3 years
Michigan3 years
Minnesota6 years
Mississippi3 years
Missouri5 years
Montana2 years
Nebraska4 years
Nevada3 years
New Hampshire3 years
New Jersey6 years
New Mexico4 years
New York3 years
North Carolina3 years
North Dakota6 years
Ohio2 years
Oklahoma2 years
Oregon6 years
Pennsylvania2 years
Rhode Island10 years
South Carolina3 years
South Dakota6 years
Tennessee3 years
Texas2 years
Utah3 years
Vermont3 years
Virginia5 years
Washington3 years
Washington D.C.3 years
West Virginia2 years
Wisconsin3 years
Wyoming4 years
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Louisiana has the shortest property damage claim time limit, but Rhode Island’s limit lasts a decade.

These statutes also apply to the commercial property damage insurance claims process. We recommend that you file your insurance claims immediately.

Is the commercial property damage insurance claim process the same as personal car insurance?

No, it isn’t, but it’s similar. Commercial property damage claims go through the same steps, but the coverage amounts are much higher, and some claims move much faster.

Do property damage car insurance claims cover personal items?

No, they don’t. Car insurance follows the insured vehicle but not the driver or their personal items. You’ll need to purchase a separate insurance policy to cover your personal items, such as laptops or phones.

What are car insurance claim secret adjuster tactics?

Some believe that insurance adjusters are using methods and tricks to pay out as little as possible. It’s uncommon for a car insurance adjuster to try and manipulate the numbers to save money. However, adjusters are known to choose the cheapest of three estimates before a claim is paid out.

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Property Damage Insurance Claims Process: The Bottom Line

Property damage insurance claims are straightforward. The process can take a few weeks before anything is paid out to you.

That’s why we encourage drivers to opt out of receiving a paper check in the mail. Payments work much faster when sent electronically. Let your insurance company send your claim to the repair shop to avoid any complications.