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What To Do When Filing An Auto Insurance Claim

Having a car accident can range from being a minor inconvenience to one of the most traumatic experiences of your life.  Being prepared for the aftermath is important.  The last thing you want is to be dealing with heavy costs and an insurance company that makes your benefit claims difficult, or realizing that you should have done something later on that you didn’t do.  

So you had the bad luck of being involved in an accident.  Now what?  Where do you go from here?  Before anything happens, it’s important to make sure you’re insured with a reputable insurance company and for the appropriate amounts.  If you are, read on for a useful guide on how to file an auto insurance claim when (and if) you need to.  

When Should I File An Auto Insurance Claim?

This depends on what kind of accident you were involved in, and whether you were at fault or not.  If the accident is your fault and the damage to the other car is minor, you may want to see if the other driver is willing to allow you to pay for their repairs out of pocket.  This will allow you to avoid a hike in your insurance premiums.  

If you are not at fault, you will want to file a claim as soon as possible if you have damage or injuries you cannot afford to pay out of pocket, or that you don’t think the other party can or will cover.   

If the other driver was at fault for the accident:

You will need to immediately exchange insurance information with the other drive, and any other drivers that were involved.  Once you leave the scene of the accident, you can call their insurance provider and file a claim with their liability insurance.  If the damage was significant, you may be eligible for a diminished value claim, so be sure to ask about that too.  Take photos at the scene of the accident, of your car, any damage, the other car, the angle you are at, and anything else that may be helpful for the insurance provider to see while considering your claim.  Since the accident wasn’t your fault, you will not need to pay for the damage.  

If you were at fault for the accident: 

You’ll still want to assess any damage to your car, as well as any damage done to the other driver’s car.  You will want to take photos in this case as well, as it will help your insurer determine how many damages you are responsible for when assessing your case. You want to make sure you’re not going to be held responsible for any more damage than you actually caused. 

If the damage to your car is minor and doesn’t require much money to fix or doesn’t need to be fixed at all in order for your car to still be drivable, consider whether you want to file a claim at all.  The cost to repair the damage might be less than your insurance deductible anyway, and filing a claim will raise your premiums.  You’ll want to avoid this if possible. 

If the damage to your car is more than this, you’ll want to file a collision insurance claim with your auto insurance provider to pay for repairs. If you don’t have collision insurance though, you’ll be stuck for the cost of repairs out of pocket.  This is why having that insurance is highly recommended, as it may cost less to pay for that per month than it would to either pay for major repairs or a new car altogether.  

What if I got hurt?

Again, if the other driver is at fault you’ll want to file a claim via their liability insurance coverage, under “injury liability”.  If you have more comprehensive coverage yourself, you may also want to subsidize your claim with your own PIP (Personal Injury Protection), or Medical Payments Coverage if you have it.  This might be necessary if your bills end up being more than their coverage provides. 

You might also want to let your health insurance provider know you’ve been injured, and see what costs they can cover as well.  Whether the accident was your fault or not, you’ll likely want to file these claims if you can to help you pay for medical costs and avoid having to afford the bills yourself. 

What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

Well, in short, that stinks. It’s also illegal in almost every state. In this case, you’ll want to file a claim through your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, if you have it.  This may be a good reason to consider having it.  Otherwise, there’s really not much anyone can do to help you with compensation for your costs, unless you want to go through the rigamarole of taking them to court and suing them.    

Considering all the different scenarios you’ll want to be prepared for, having the right insurance counts.  Make sure you’re not caught unprepared in the event of an accident by getting the right insurance for you today.