Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 20, 2020

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Things to Remember...

  • If you are involved in an accident, you must file a claim
  • In December 2011, the Consumer Federation of America found that just during the December 2011 holidays, there were an estimated 325,000 auto accidents
  • According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance companies pay more than $150 billion each year in claims

Unfortunately, accidents are a fact of life, which is why most states make it mandatory to have some form of auto insurance. While it is important to get the best auto insurance at the lowest possible price, it is equally necessary to choose a company that makes filing an insurance claim an easy process.

The Consumer Federation of America found that just during the December 2011 holidays, there were an estimated 325,000 auto accidents. This statistic resulted in 200,000 to 225,000 auto insurance claims that were filed with American auto insurance companies.

In spite of the high numbers of claims in such a short period, many people are intimidated by the processes of claim filing. But if consumers were to educate themselves, they could avoid a lot of headaches and unnecessary red tape while getting the highest amount of compensation.

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Filing an Auto Insurance Claim

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 2010 saw 5.14 million automobile crashes. Almost 33,000 people lost their lives while 2.4 million were injured.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance companies pay more than $150 billion each year in claims. A large percentage of these claims are a direct result of auto accidents.

If you are in an accident and have auto insurance, you can start the process of payment for damages and injury with your insurance company. You are required to provide all the details including proof of loss, police report, medical and repair bills, among others.

When you make a claim, the adjuster examines your car to make an estimate of the damages and its cost of repair. The insurance company then mails you a check for the amount, which you can use for repairs.

However, if the claim goes beyond car body repair, the claims process can get lengthy and onerous. So it is important to follow all the steps set up by your particular insurance company very carefully. Make sure you have copies of all your documents and records.

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Understanding Your Auto Insurance Policy

It is very important that you look at the details of your insurance policy. You must know the coverage limits and exclusions listed in your policy. If you don’t understand something, talk to your agent.

Ask you agent about your liability coverage, your deductible or the amount you have to pay before the insurance company kicks in and whether your state has no-fault insurance.

Sometimes understanding the implications of your insurance policy might make you change your present coverage.

Research the Insurance Company

While you are comparison-shopping for affordable auto insurance, make sure you look at the auto insurance company. The price is very important in any decision when making a purchase; however, cheap insurance does not necessarily mean adequate insurance.

While researching your choice of companies, make sure you focus on issues such as customer service, claim processing time, complaints against the company among others.

Some outstanding resources are customer reviews and consumer group reports.

You can also judge the insurance company based on their financial information. The financial reports give an indication of how the insurance company is balancing its assets and liabilities. A recognized resource for consumers is A.M. Best.

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At the Accident Site

If you can, drive your car carefully to the shoulder. Call 911 and medical services if there are any injuries. Don’t move the injured people unless you are trying to get them out of harm’s way.

Protect the accident site and your car by setting up flares around any glass or damaged parts on the road. Call the tow truck to move your car but make sure that you get an appraisal from your insurance company before committing to any repair shop.

Make notes of the accident site and the people involved. Get their names, license numbers, insurance information, make and model of each car involved.

In addition, get the names and badge number of the attending police and medical personnel, as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses.

Give the police all the required details and make sure you get a copy of the police report, which will be required for any insurance claims you make.

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Timeliness

Call your insurance company or insurance agent as soon as possible, irrespective of fault. Ask them for clear directions about how to proceed.

Make sure you understand what forms are needed as well as supporting documents such as medical and auto repair bills.

Work with your insurance company and make sure you give them all the information they need including any legal papers you receive from the other party. Your insurance company will defend you in case you are sued or a claim is brought against you.

Furthermore, keep a record of all your expenses that were incurred because of the accident. From the police report to all your repair bills, as well as evidence of lost wages, home care, and medical/hospital expenses, you should keep copies in case they are needed later.

Things to Avoid in Auto Insurance Claims

Fraudulent claims. According to a recent report by NBC News an alleged $279 million auto insurance fraud scheme in New York, the penalties on the perpetrators were likely to be very high.

While the New York case is of gargantuan proportions, making any fraudulent or exaggerated claims will lead to heavy penalties. They are easy to detect and can lead to terminated coverage, fines, and even jail time. Avoid such actions!

Do not settle at the accident site. If the driver of the other car wants to settle accounts and pay you cash on the spot, don’t take his or her money.

It is likely that they do not want to get the authorities involved. This could lead to trouble later if you find extensive damage later, which costs more than you were given at the accident site. Without a police report, you will have no recourse.

Do not avoid making a claim. Unless the damage in the accident is minimal, you must make a claim. While this might take away your no-accident discount and put a mark on your claim record, you must be totally honest with your insurance company. This will work well for you in the long run.

An Overview

The Internet is an enormous resource for researching, comparing, and buying auto insurance. But before you commit to any insurance company, make sure you understand all the terms and conditions.

Drivers have a plethora of insurance types to give them peace of mind. While most states require drivers to buy a minimum amount of insurance, you can add a variety of additional options:

  • Comprehensive coverage that covers all non-accident related damages
  • Collision coverage that pays for crash-related damages
  • Uninsured/underinsured protection that comes into play in an accident with such drivers
  • No-fault coverage that pays irrespective of fault

Since insurance is expensive, it helps to get some discounts. Insurance companies offer many types of discounts that include good driver, good student, no-accident, safe-car, hybrids, and low mileage, among others. Certain professions such as teachers also get discounts because statistically, they are shown to be better drivers.

A clean record with no points, citations, or violations indicates that you are a good driver, and therefore, a lesser risk to insure.

Following traffic rules and speed limits will keep you and your family safe while allowing insurance companies to give you fantastic rates.

If you have teen drivers, your insurance costs are likely to skyrocket. So, before buying insurance for your teen drivers, do your homework. Make sure they take the appropriate defensive driving courses that will get them some discount.

Talk to them about safe driving. Safe driving includes no texting while behind the wheels, no drinking and driving as well as always wearing their seatbelts.

When you buy auto insurance, you expect to be protected by your insurance company at the time of an accident. You expect them to have clear guidelines, quick processing, and fair compensation.

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