How do I make a car insurance claim when not at fault?

Report the incident to the police and gather as much info as you can, including the other driver's auto insurance details and pictures of both cars.

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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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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 and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • When you have an accident, it’s important to notify your insurance company of the incident in a timely manner regardless of who’s deemed at fault
  • Your insurer requires you to call the claims department and inform them of a loss even if you’re sure you’re not negligent. The requirement is in place to keep the company in the loop and also to ensure that you’re practiced from bad faith tactics
  • When you file a claim through your own insurer, the claims adjuster who is assigned to your claim will record your statement and communicate with the other claims adjuster who represents their policyholder
  • If you file a third-party claim with the other party’s insurance without notifying your insurer, you don’t have a professional claims expert to represent you. This could put you at risk of accepting a low offer because of the way that you worded a statement

When you get into an accident, the fault determination has a lot to do with which auto insurance company takes care of the benefits.

Being not at fault for a collision typically means that the other party’s insurance company will pay for your repair bills and your medical bills as long as the amount is below the driver’s third-party liability limits.

If you’re definite that you’ll be found not at fault for your most recent accident, avoid the temptation of keeping the claim a secret from your carrier.

So many drivers choose not to file a claim against their policy out of fear that their rates will skyrocket because of an incident that was beyond your control.

Before you start to handle the claim on your own, here’s what you need to know.

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Consider What Type of System Your State Operates Under

If the other driver is at fault, you’d think that it’s just common sense that they are liable for your medical bills. While this is the case in most states, it’s not the case in states with their own no-fault systems.

In these states, you can only collect for damage claims under the other person’s policy.

In the United States, there are two types of insurance systems: fault states and no-fault states.

In fault states, also called tort states, you can file a claim against the other driver’s Bodily Injury coverage when you’re not to blame.

In no-fault states, the accident-related medical bills that you sustain are covered under your own policy regardless of who’s to blame.

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Contact the Police to File a Report to Safeguard Yourself

Not all companies will ask you to submit a police report when you’re filing your claim. Since you don’t have to call the police to arrive at the scene of a minor accident, you might not have a report to accompany your statement.

Taking the extra step can truly protect you as the claim is being investigated.

One thing that all insurance experts will tell you is that you should never admit fault or make statements that can be misconstrued at the scene of the crash.

If the other guy made the mistake of apologizing for hitting you, it’s easy for the fault to be determined right at the scene.

They will later realize that this apology cemented the fact that they were to blame so they may change their statement after the fact.

Get the Officer’s Information While You’re Still at the Scene

If you have a police report, you can avoid the disputes that make claims settlements drawn out and stressful.

Since you probably can’t get the whole report at the scene, jot down the officer’s badge number and the department that they work so that you can give the insurer this information.

The claims adjuster will then run the report so that they can review it.

Contact Your Insurance Company to Start the Claims Process

When both you and the police agree that you’re the innocent party, you can call the other company to file your claim. It’s best to avoid doing this because you can easily make a statement that will affect how much you’re compensated and how quickly the claim is processed.

Even though you’re filing your claim through your carrier, it will still proceed as the at-fault driver’s company.

You will give your insurer all of the information that they request and then the claims adjuster will help guide you through the process.

Even better, the adjuster will contact the other carrier to initiate the claim and share statements so fault can officially be allocated.

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What type of information must you give when you’re filing the claim?

It’s important to collect as much information as possible whenever you have an incident that will turn into a claim.

The police report will contain some information, but you need other details because the company will do their own research to determine fault.

The report helps, but the company does look at the damage, the scene, and actions to determine who pays. Giving the most accurate information that paints the big picture is crucial if you don’t want fault to be passed on to you.

Here’s some information you’ll need to start the process when you call your claims department:

  • The name of the driver
  • The name of the vehicle owner
  • The car’s insurance company contact information and policy number
  • Contact information for passengers and witnesses outside of the car
  • Pictures of all of the damage to both cars
  • Location of your vehicle after the accident

What are the drawbacks of contacting the other driver’s insurance first?

If you decide that you want to take care of things by working directly with the other driver’s claims department, there are some risks that you should know about.

The adjuster that you speak with represents their client and will try to find discrepancies in your statements to push fault on you.

The company will also talk to their client to see if their statement matches, which delays the process. If you get a low-ball offer, you don’t have an adjuster to help you negotiate unless you work with your company.

It’s better to let the company you pay handle all of this.

If you’re not happy with the service that you received through your carrier when filing your claim, you should consider switching.

Make sure to get instant quotes for coverage with large competitors and then you can research claims satisfaction to choose the best carrier.

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