Lawsuit Info Center / Car Accident Claims

Car Accident Claims

Car Accident Claims Guide

Driving is something that nearly all of us do daily. While we are aware of the possibility, few of us imagine getting into a car accident. For those that have never been involved in one, process can be traumatic and confusing. Even after the accident, many people find themselves confused about the car accident claims process.

The car accident claims process is full of procedures and deadlines. Failing to comply with these procedures or missing a deadline can have disastrous consequences for your car accident claim.

In this Guide to Car Accident Claims, we will discuss:

  • What to do following an auto accident .
  • What to expect when filing a car accident injury claim.
  • Timeline of a typical car accident claim.
  • Understanding insurance policies and how they can affect your claim.
  • How to navigate filing a claim with specific auto insurance companies.

What to do Following a Car Accident

If you get into an auto accident, the most important thing is to ensure that all parties involved are safe. If anyone requires medical attention, seek it immediately. If you can, pull your car over to a safe spot on the road. Call the police and wait for them to respond to the scene.

The police officer will help gather the information that you will need for the car accident claims process. There are some instances where the police may not be called. For example, a minor fender bender that does not constitute a reportable accident under the auto accident laws in your state. But it is a good idea to call the police following the crash.

You will need to collect the other driver’s information. This includes the other driver’s insurance information and contact information.

It is also important to collect the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. Use your cell phone to take photos. Photograph damages to the vehicles, license plates, and the accident scene.

If the police report to the scene, record the officer’s name and badge number. On handwritten police reports, this information may be illegible. You will need this information for the insurance claims process. It is also important to obtain a copy of the police report.

The procedure for requesting a police report varies by jurisdiction. Check with the police department that responded to determine the procedures to request a copy of the police report.

Car Accident Settlement

What Do I Need to Start the Car Accident Claims Process?

There is some basic information that you will need to start the car accident claims process. This includes:

  • The names of any other drivers
  • Your insurance policy number if you will be reporting the accident to your insurance company
  • The other driver’s insurance policy number if you will be filing a car accident claim with his or her insurance company
  • Driver’s license numbers for all drivers
  • The date, time, and location where the accident occurred
  • A brief description of what happened
  • The names and phone numbers for any witnesses to the accident

Have this information ready when you call the insurance company. The insurance company may request documentation from you, such as photographs or medical records. It is a good idea to maintain detailed records of all medical bills. Make sure to them in a safe place until the car accident claims process is complete – you may need them.

When to Report a Car Accident to the Insurance Company

Insurance policies state when policyholders must file an insurance claim. If you do not have a copy of your policy, you can likely access your policy online. You can also request a copy from your insurance agent or car insurance company.

Most insurance policies state that you should report the accident promptly after it happens. Others may require you to report the accident to the police within a set time. For example, within 24 hours after the car accident.

After reporting the accident, victims have time to file car accident claims. Many policies give accident victims several years to file their car accident claims. But once you file your claim, you will likely only have several weeks to submit supporting documentation. Again, it is important to check your policy to ensure that you do not miss these deadlines.

Note that deadlines in the car accident claims process are different from the statute of limitations. Every state has a statute of limitations that sets a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The deadline can range from a year to 6 years or more from the date of the accident. If you do not file a lawsuit by the deadline, you will likely forfeit the right.

Missing the deadline for the car accident claims process or statute of limitations can have disastrous consequences. Consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to ensure that you understand your rights and options.

Filing Car Accident Injury Claims

Your car insurance policy will list the specific procedures for filing car accident claims. As a general matter, you can likely report the accident through your insurance provider’s website, mobile application, and/or telephone. Even if you plan on filing a third-party car accident claim with the other driver’s insurance company, you should still report the accident to your insurance company.

Once you report the accident the insurance company will assign a claims adjuster. The claims adjuster will help walk you through the car accident claims process and will investigate the accident.

The adjuster will determine who was at fault for the accident and calculate your damages. The insurance company will likely make an offer to settle your claim. You can also send the insurance company a demand letter.

A demand letter is a formal request to settle your claim. The letter details your damages and lists an amount that you are willing to settle for. The insurance company could accept your offer or make a counteroffer. If the insurance company is unwilling to settle your car accident claim you can file a lawsuit.

car accident settlement timeline

Basic Types of Car Insurance Coverage

There are several basic types of car insurance coverage that are relevant to a car insurance claim. These include:

  • Liability coverage
  • No-fault or PIP coverage
  • Collision and comprehensive coverage
  • Underinsured/Uninsured motorist coverage

Liability Coverage

Liability coverage is the most basic form of car insurance and the most relevant to the car accident insurance claims process. Drivers in almost every state must buy liability insurance above the specified minimum coverage amounts. Liability coverage pays protects the at-fault driver from personal liability. It will pay for damages such as the victim’s medical costs, lost wages, property damages, and pain and suffering.

In at-fault states, victims typically file car accident claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Note that the at-fault driver can be personally liable for damages that exceed the insurance policy’s coverage limits. For this reason, many drivers choose to buy liability coverage above the minimum amounts required under law.

No-Fault or PIP Coverage

There are a dozen states that have no-fault car accident laws. In no-fault states, drivers buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Drivers in these states file car accident claims with their insurance companies regardless of fault.

PIP coverage pays for the driver’s and injured passengers’ medical expenses. Depending on the type of UM coverage that the driver has, the insurance company may pay out claims for bodily injury and/or property damages.

But even in no-fault states determining fault may become an issue. Car accident injury claims that exceed PIP coverage may allow the victim to file a lawsuit. This is known as “stepping outside” of no-fault.

If the at-fault driver has liability coverage, the insurance company will step in to defend the lawsuit. But if the driver does not have insurance, he or she risks being personally liable.

Collision and Comprehensive Coverage

Collision insurance pays car accident claims involving damage to your vehicle. Car accident insurance claims under a collision policy cover the costs of repairs or the costs of replacing the vehicle. Collision coverage is optional under state law, but finance companies often require vehicle owners to have coverage as a condition for making the loan.

Another form of coverage that many drivers choose to buy is comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage applies to car accident claims for damage to your vehicle that was not caused by a collision. For example, your insurance company will cover the costs of repairs or replace your vehicle if it is damaged by fire, theft, or falling objects.

According to NAIC data, 78% of drivers buy comprehensive coverage while 74% buy collision coverage.

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Underinsured and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects you if the other driver does not have insurance or enough insurance. UM also protects drivers from a hit and run when the identity of the other driver is not known. Victims file UM car accident insurance claims with their own insurance companies.

Guides to Car Accident Claims Departments of Major Auto Insurers:

The car accident claims process can vary depending on which auto insurance company you’re talking to.

In order to help you maximize compensation and avoid mistakes when talking to the at fault driver’s insurance company, we’ve assembled guides to help you navigate the car accident claims process for most major auto insurance companies:

Car Accident Settlement

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accident Claims:

The law enforcement agency that took the report will not send the report to your insurance company, but once you have a copy of the report you can and should do so.

Using the police report as evidence in your car accident claim is an easy way for the insurance company to verify who was at fault in the car accident. After a police report is filed, the details of the accident will be accessible by the Department or Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The DMV will also share reports and details of the accident with an insurance agency upon request.

So while the police report won’t be sent to your insurance company for you, if it clearly shows that the other driver was at fault, you should definitely send it in yourself, as it could help you get a larger car accident settlement.

While often used interchangeably, in some areas or jurisdictions they can have varying meanings. When filing a car accident claim, it’s important to know at least the broad definition of each. 

An incident report is a statement from a victim of a car accident or a crime. A 911 call or non-emergency call to a police station or paramedics can be considered an incident report.

A police report is a detailed description of a car accident or crime as written by the officer who responded to the scene. As these are are sworn statements written and signed by government officials, generally the police report is the one used in car accident settlement negotiations. However, recordings of 911 calls and other, less formal incident reports are also utilized by insurance claims adjusters and juries when trying to uncover the facts of the case, determine who was at fault in the crash, etc.  

If you pay for auto insurance, you can always file a claim with your auto insurance company to get your medical bills paid and get your car fixed. However, this is different from collecting a car accident settlement claim from an at fault driver where you’ll likely be paid for missed work, pain & suffering, and more. The type of payout you get from your own auto insurance company is different from what you would get if you were injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. The payout from your auto insurance company if you were found at fault will be smaller, and will likely raise your insurance rates substantially, in comparison to a car accident where you weren’t found at fault and are able to collect from the other driver’s insurance company.

If you were at fault in the accident, there’s a good chance that you’ll also have a claim filed against you by the other driver to pay for their medical expenses, lost income, and property damage. While you shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket outside of your deductible (this is, after all, why we pay for auto insurance in the first place), but your insurance rates will probably go up quite a bit as a result. Depending on the circumstances (for example, you had a drink at dinner before the accident happened or you were texting and driving before the accident)

Generally, if you are injured as a result of an accident that was your fault, you will not be able to make a claim for compensation with another driver’s insurance company unless another party was also partly to blame for the accident. If this happens you might qualify for some compensation for the injuries you suffered in the auto accident that were not caused by your own negligence, especially in states that have comparative negligence laws.


If you become involved in a car accident, I’m sure there are a million things running through your mind. If you sustain any personal injury due to the accident, one thing you have to know is that there is a timeframe you have to file a claim by and that is called statute of limitations.

Each state has different laws therefore, statute of limitations vary from state to state however, generally a car accident claim for a personal injury statute of limitations runs after two years. This means you need to file a personal injury claim before the two year mark after the accident occurs. Some people aren’t aware that there are statute of limitations to file property damage claims as well. As stated earlier, each state varies when it comes to statute of limitations but generally you have three years to file for property damage.

This does not mean that you need to have the auto accident settlement resolved, it simply means you need to have the claim filed before the deadline. If you attempt to file a claim once the statute of limitations has run, the court will not accept your claim. Steps immediately following the accident should include, filing a police report, seeking medical attention and contacting a personal injury attorney so they can help you file a claim for the accident. Do not make the mistake of waiting. Even if you file a day late passed the statute of limitations, the court will still deny it. 

The first step you need to take after becoming involved in a motor vehicle accident is to file a claim with your insurance company. Call your insurance company to report the accident immediately, regardless if the accident was your fault or not. Once you make contact with your insurance company, you will be assigned an agent who will help you along with the process. Be sure to file a police report so they can have one to keep on record. The agent assigned to your claim will send you all the required documentation such as a Proof of Claim form along with any billing information. You may also need to attach the police report which is why it’s always a good idea to make one immediately following the accident. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent any questions you may have. If your car is completely totaled, you may have some questions like, how much money you can get for your vehicle. You might also have questions about renting a car while your vehicle is in the shop for repair. There will be some type of deadline to complete filing your claim as well as a deadline to submit any billing. 

Filing a car accident claim with an insurance company in order to receive compensation for personal injuries or property damage may sound like a headache but is actually not complicated when it comes to negotiating with the insurance adjuster as long as you are prepared. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to begin the settlement with a low-ball figure so this is where the negotiating begins. You do not have to accept their first offer if you know your damages are worth more than the offer. You can ask the adjuster to explain in a letter exactly why they came up with this offer and respond with a counter offer with an amount you believe you claim is worth. Be sure to know what your insurance policy covers and get an estimate on damages to your vehicle. If negotiating with the adjuster is going around in circles with no end in sight, it would be wise to hire an attorney so they may handle the rest of the negotiating for you.

Just like claiming personal injuries after a car accident, there is a time limit to file a claim with the insurance company. Each timeframe is different depending on each states laws as well as the insurance providers. However, there is a general timeframe for filing claims for personal injures and property damage. Personal injuries need to typically be filing within a two-year timeframe and usually need proof of medical treatment. And property damage needs to be filed within a three-year timeframe. If you do not file these claims within these timeframes this means the statute of limitations has expired and you can no longer receive compensation for these issues. This does not mean your claim needs to be settled within the statute to limitations however, it must be filed within the timeframe in order to file a claim.

After the accident, be sure to collect all the necessary information including driver’s licenses, insurance information, pictures of the accident and eyewitness statements. Once you have exchanged insurance information with the other party involved, you need to report the accident to your insurance company regardless of whether it was your fault or not. They will ask a series of questions and a play by play of how the accident happened. It is important to provide them with the other party’s insurance information along with the rest of the information gathered from the accident.

In the unfortunate event you become involved in a car accident, there is typically one party involved that is found to be at fault. So, what happens next if you are not the at fault party? Following an accident, you must always check for injuries, report the accident to the police and insurance companies, get examined by a medical professional to check for injuries and contact motor vehicle accident attorney. By reporting the accident immediately after it happens, the police can document everything exactly how it happened and determine who was at fault. If you were not found to be at fault, the party that was determined at fault is responsible for the damages. In some occasions the insurance company for the faulted party will deny coverage and that is when it’s crucial to contact an attorney so you may sue the other drivers insurance company.

Driving on the road can be scary. You never know how experienced other drivers around you are. If you drive, odds are that you will become involved in an accident at some point in your life. After the collision things may seem tense and stressful, but it is your job to follow the steps necessary to file a claim with your insurance company so you may be compensated for the damages caused by the accident. If you are injured or have property damage to your vehicle, it would be wise to file an insurance claim immediately. After all the stress of an accident, things may seem complicated and confusing when it comes to the insurance claim process. If you decide to hire an attorney who concentrates in accident claims, they may help speed up the process and will help file the claim for you.

A claim investigator is like a mini detective looking to either prove the claim to be fraudulent or provide proof that the claim is valid. In order for the investigator to conduct a proficient investigation, they must be thorough and ask a serious of questions to collect the necessary evidence. When investigating a possible fraudulent matter, it is typical for the investigator to ask questions and gather personal information such as:

  • Who was involved?
  • What happened?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Why did the accident occur?
  • Is that all you can recall?
  • Would you be able to include any other details?
  • Criminal history
  • Financial records and bank statements
  • Telephone records

Simple questions like “who, what, where, when and how” are generally asked to begin the interview along with some follow up questions. Follow up questions can either be straightforward asking about any details that may have been left out, or if the investigator senses fraud, the investigator may request bank statements.

If you have ever been in an accident and filed a claim with your insurance company, you may have heard of an insurance claims investigator. A claims insurance agent or investigator may either work with your insurance company or may be hired as an independent consultant. Basically, the insurance claims investigator will investigate and analyze facts of a claim to decide whether the case is substantial or not. The purpose of an insurance investigator is to rule out any claim that may be fraudulent or provide evidence that the claim is credible. Insurance claims investigators must be proficient in interview/communication skills. They must also be capable to think outside the box due to scammers attempting to swindle insurance companies and provide fraudulent claims. Steps the insurance investigator will take during this process include:

  • Locating the claimant who will participate in the insurance claim to gather information regarding the accident. Oftentimes, the claimant will file a claim and become difficult to track down.
  • Interview process, which will include interviewing the claimant as well as witnesses.
  • Gathering more evidence including photographs, collecting items, measuring items relevant to the investigation.

After you’ve been involved in an accident, it can be a stressful situation. Not only are you dealing with a damaged vehicle, but it’s possible you’ve sustained injuries as well. It is important to file a car insurance claim immediately to ensure you are provided with compensation for the damages. The thought of waiting for insurance companies to complete your claim may seem like a headache but the reality is most organizations have a target date within 30 days to pay your claim. Although most claims can be settled within those 30 days, some States have laws that require insurance companies to complete the process in a certain length of time, which may be shorter or longer than 30 days.

  • California insurance companies must take action within 15 days and accept or deny the claim within 40 days after collecting proof. Once the claim is accepted, payment from the insurance company must be made within 30 days.
  • New Jersey insurance companies must pay their insured party within 60 days of receiving proof.
  • Texas insurance companies must pay their insured party within 15 days after receiving proof however; they have the option to file an extension of up to 45 days.

At the scene of the accident, it is always a good idea to call your insurance provider however; there are some instances where it is not necessary to file a car accident claim.

  • Single car accident- A single car accident always means that you are determined to be the at-fault party. There was no one else involved therefore you are solely responsible. If you do not have collision coverage your insurance policy is not responsible for the damages.
  • Costs of repair are low– If you can afford the costs of repair it might be a better option in comparison to deductible costs.
  • No damage- Often times, small fender benders result in little to no damage to either car. It would be wise to exchange information just to be careful however, not necessary to file an auto accident claim.

There is a time limit to file a claim for a car accident. The statute of limitations in car accident cases is governed by state law, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In most states, drivers have as few as 1 year or as many as 5 years to file a lawsuit or car accident settlement against another driver that caused their injuries.

Each State has it’s own rules and regulations regarding Statute of Limitations, meaning each State’s law determines how long the claimant has to file. Typically there is a 2 or 3-year time limit to file a car accident claim. Property damage and personal injury Statute of Limitations also vary in length of time.

It’s never a good idea to wait too long although, in some cases such as personal injury claims the victim may not experience injuries for days or weeks, such as in cases of delayed whiplash after a car accident. Some side effects may not even develop until after the time limit has passed. It’s highly recommended that you contact your insurance company shortly after the occurrence in order to file a claim to be certain no time limit will restrict you from possible compensation.

Auto accidents are devastating and can cause an overwhelming amount of stress regardless if you are the at-fault party or not. Being the at-fault driver of a collision can truly add to the worry of the circumstance. Aside from dealing with personal property damage and injuries, additionally the at-fault driver is responsible for the other party’s damages as well. So how does car insurance work if you are at-fault?

  • Insurance rates go up– If you are found at-fault or cited for the accident, your insurance policy will likely raise in cost.
  • Damage liability– If you have purchased a collision coverage, your insurance provider will cover the cost of damages to your vehicle however, in collision coverage does not cover damages to the vehicle of the other party involved. Your liability insurance portion of the policy is what covers the other party’s property damages.
  • Accident forgiveness– If you have accident forgiveness as part of your policy, this will allow your insurance rates to stay the same and avoid an increase regardless if you at the at-fault driver.

Car accidents can leave you frazzled and confused. In the midst of all the chaos, one thing you should never forget to do is contact your insurance company immediately. You’re already paying for car insurance, why not put it to use in the unfortunate event of an accident. Negotiating with insurance agents and filing claims can be just as exasperating as the collision. Stay calm and patient. The process may go quicker than you think especially if you have collected evidence and followed the proper steps following the accident. Here are some necessary steps to follow after being involved in a collision:

  1. Contact the police– your insurance company will likely ask you to provide a police report.
  2. Contact your insurance company– contact your insurer to report the mishap at the earliest opportunity. They will ask you a series of questions regarding who was driving the car, who was injured, location and time of the collision, essential descriptions of the collision, which car on the policy was involved etc.
  3. Gather vital information regarding the accident– once you’ve contacted your insurance company, they will assign an adjustor to your case. The adjustor will conduct an investigation. Be proactive and provide your adjustor with photos from the scene, contact info from other parties involved, inspection evidence from both cars for damage and witness information.
  4. Contact your medical insurance if injuries are present– claims can be influenced due to the severity of any injuries.
  5. Follow up with your insurance adjustor – Make sure the story you’ve told the adjustor and the story they have on file match up. This is important because the adjustor will determine who the at-fault party is with the given facts.

When you are in a car accident where the other driver was to blame, you probably filed a claim with the other person’s insurance company. But settlement negotiations are stalled. You cannot seem to get the claim settled for what your attorney thinks it is worth. Should you settle out of court, or file a car accident lawsuit?

There is one major reason to file a lawsuit after a car accident: Money. Plaintiffs do not file lawsuits unless necessary most of the time. If you and your attorney do not think the insurance company will make a fair settlement offer, then it is time to consider a lawsuit.

How far apart the plaintiff and defense should be before filing suit will depend. Lawsuits are usually filed in car accident cases where there is strong disagreement on your pain and suffering. There is no exact calculation possible for your pain and suffering; there are only educated guesses. Sometimes the plaintiff and defense will come to very different conclusions about what your pain and suffering is worth.

For example, say you and your attorney value your auto accident settlement at $40,000 to $60,000. The insurance company offers $50,000. Most attorneys would advise you to settle immediately; it is not worth filing suit over only $10,000. An offer of $38,000 would probably be one to take the settlement as well. But if the insurance company low balls you with a $20,000 offer, a lawsuit is probably in order.

Unfortunately, when you become involved in an accident even if the accident was not your fault, it may affect your insurance premium. According to Car & Driver magazine, filing a claim for a car accident that wan’t your fault adds an average of 10% to your annual premium. This is often the case in rear end collision settlement claims, where the car in front is almost never at fault, but can still see large premium increases. This will vary from each insurance company as well as what state you are in, so it’s usually helpful to do some research, ask your insurance agent, or even speak to a car accident lawyer about your situation.

It’s hard to wrap your head around why insurance rates would go up due to the negligence of others but insurance rates will go up depending on how risky of a driver you are. The more accidents you are involved in whether or not it was your fault, the higher your rates will increase. You can think of it like health insurance. If you are a healthy, young adult with little history of illness it is most likely your health insurance won’t cost very much.  However, an older adult with health complications is considered high risk and will typically result in higher insurance rates.

Since car insurance is about risk, the more mishaps you have, the higher likelihood that you will be associated with more auto accidents, or accidents that will result in them having to pay out high average car accident settlements, will usually end up resulting in higher insurance premium rates, regardless if you were at fault or not.

However, there are ways to avoid having an auto accident claim on your record raising your insurance rates. Even if the accident is not your fault, call police and file a police report for the car accident (if property damage or personal injury was incurred). Although this doesn’t keep insurance companies from increasing your premiums after filing a car accident claim, it at least provides proof that you have nothing to hide in terms of responsibility for the accident.

Another strategy is to contact your insurance company regardless if you are at fault or not. You can explain the situation in person or online and ask if they will waive the increase in premium for this incident only. If it was not your fault, your insurance rates should remain relatively low. If it’s hard to get an answer over the phone, contact your insurance company in writing.

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