Beginners Guide: How To Claim Car Insurance

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Accidents happen. Whether your vehicle was lost, stolen, or damaged, you can follow the same basic steps to report the accident and claim your car insurance. Get to know these steps before an accident happens so that you can focus on responding to the situation. If you have difficulty claiming an insurance payment, you can contact an attorney to assist you with the process.

Document the Scene

Immediately after an accident, make sure that both drivers and any passengers are okay. Seek medical attention if needed. Once safety is assured, you can start gathering details for your claim.

Gather contact information from everyone at the scene. You need the other driver’s name, phone number, and insurance information. You should also write down the license plate number for the other car and make sure that the driver is the registered owner. If the owner is someone else, ask for their phone number as well.

Witnesses are important to your claim, especially if the other driver has fled or is unconscious. Both passengers and bystanders count as witnesses. Write down phone numbers and briefly jot down their accounts. It’s useful to know who came forward with what information and when.

Police involvement is helpful after a car accident but not always necessary. If the police are called, they will gather contact information and assess the details of the scene. Make sure to ask for a copy of the police report and forward it to your insurance agent.

Take photos of both vehicles at the scene of the accident. This will help verify your claim and ensure that you are not held liable for additional damage to the other driver’s car. Both drivers should take their own set of photos and file separate claims with their own insurance agents.

Finally, even if you’re not obviously injured, you should still schedule an appointment with your doctor. Soreness and other symptoms of an injury may not develop until a few days after the accident. Your doctor will be able to assess the extent of any injury and provide a medical certificate to your insurance agent.

Before leaving the scene, you should already have or should have requested the following documents:

  • Contact information for all parties involved.
  • Insurance information for both registered vehicle owners.
  • License plate numbers and models for both cars.
  • Photos of both cars and any damage sustained.
  • A detailed police report.
  • Certificates of medical examination for any injured parties.
  • Receipts for any repairs or expenses that occur because of the accident.

Call Your Insurance Agent

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Contact your insurance company immediately after the accident. You may want to call them before you leave the scene to see if they need additional documentation. Once you have all of the necessary documents, you can file a claim report. Your insurance agent will file this report for you with the information you provide.

This report will include the nature of the incident and the date and time at which it occurred. Be very clear with the type of damage you are reporting as this will add to the authenticity of your claim.

You will need to provide your policy number. This is usually located on the insurance card that you are required to keep in the vehicle. You can also find it on other documents from your insurance agency, or your agent may be able to look you up in their system.

Finally, the agent will ask for copies of all documents that you have gathered so far. Be ready to provide photos, police and medical reports, and witness accounts. You will also need to make photocopies of your driver’s license and the identification of any passengers in the car. If they don’t have driver’s licenses, you can use state identification, birth certificates, or passports.

Remember that your insurance agent has the insurance company’s best interest in mind. Be honest with your account, but make sure that you fully understand your policy before you make any definitive statements. Do not admit fault if you were not at fault for the accident. Consider contacting a lawyer if you feel unfairly pressured by your agent.

Many insurance companies have a mobile app that will let you file a claim. These services let you upload photos and documents and access your policy information. Take advantage of this method if it is convenient for you.

Contact a Lawyer

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Legal counsel isn’t always necessary, especially for minor accidents. You should contact a car accident lawyer under the following circumstances:

  • The accident has resulted in a serious injury or death.
  • The fault of the accident has come into question.
  • The police report is inaccurate.
  • Your insurer questions or denies your claim.
  • Another attorney, representing either the insurance company or the other driver, is involved in the case.
  • You are unsure of your rights and would like a legal consultation.

Insurance agents are obligated to look out for the employer’s best interest. Even if you pay your premiums and file your claim correctly, the agency may attempt to deny your claim. This is known as insurance bad faith. If you feel pressured by your insurance agency, this site recommends contacting an attorney. You have a right to have your claim processed in a fair and legal manner. Most lawyers offer free initial consultations, so don’t be afraid to call if you think you have a case.

Process Your Claim

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Your insurance company will evaluate and process your claim report. An agent may come to inspect your vehicle and verify the damage. Processing can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. If you don’t hear back after a day or two, follow up with your agent to check the status of your case.

Your insurance company will only pay for repairs from one of their accredited mechanics or dealerships. Wait to receive a Letter of Authority and a list of potential mechanics before proceeding with repair work. If you need your vehicle repaired immediately, speak with your insurance agent to see what your options are.

If all goes well, your claim will process smoothly and you will receive a check in the mail. If your claim is denied, or if the case becomes more complicated, you may want to seek legal counsel.

These are the initial steps to filing a car insurance claim. Some cases become complicated and may require months of phone calls and follow-ups. Document every step of the process, file your claim as soon as possible and seek legal counsel if you become confused.

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Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post,, and Yahoo Small Business.