How to File a Car Insurance Claim


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Step 1: Understand your policy

Before a loss, sit down and carefully read your insurance policy. Call your agent or company if you have any questions about what is or is not covered.

Step 2: Exchange information

If you are involved in an accident, get the other driver's name, address, phone number, insurance carrier, and insurer's phone number. Be prepared to give the same information about yourself to the other driver. You can find insurers’ telephone numbers on the proof-of-insurance cards that should be carried on your person when operating a motor vehicle.

Step 3: Identify witnesses

Ask witnesses to the accident for their names and phone numbers in case their account of the accident is needed.

Step 4: File an accident report

Contact local law enforcement officers to have an accident report prepared. If law enforcement is not reachable, accident reports and detailed instructions are available at all police departments, sheriff's offices, your local Department of Motor Vehicles office, and on your local Department of Motor Vehicles’ web site.

Step 5: Notify your insurer

Contact your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. An insurance adjuster will review the accident report to determine who caused the accident. If the accident was not your fault, you can have either your insurance company or the at-fault driver's insurance company handle the repair or replacement of your vehicle. If you use the other driver's company, you will not have a claim on your automobile policy and you will not have to pay a deductible.

Step 6: Do not release insurers too early

Do not relieve your insurance company of its responsibility until the damages are settled to your satisfaction. For example, have your insurance company handle the claim if the other party's insurance company questions its policyholder's negligence or offers an unacceptable settlement.

Step 7: Consider these settlement factors

Bodily injuries: You may be entitled to a monetary settlement for injuries caused by another at fault (liable) party. It can take several days for some injuries to become apparent.

Damages: The insurance company is responsible to pay for the reasonable cost of repairs to your vehicle. An insurance adjuster will assess the damage. Usually, insurance companies and auto body shops negotiate disagreements about what should be repaired. If you disagree with their conclusions, you have the right to obtain another appraisal at any auto body shop.

Appraisal clause: Most car insurance policies include an appraisal clause, which can be used to help settle disputes about physical damage claims between you and your insurance company. (The appraisal clause does not apply for claims you file with the other party's insurance company. ) If you cannot reach an agreement with your company, you or your insurer can initiate the appraisal clause. Your appraiser and your insurer's appraiser then select an independent umpire to try to resolve the dispute. Check your policy or ask your agent or insurance company for more information about the appraisal clause.

Matt McWilliams is one of the co-founders of HometownQuotes.Com, an online insurance quotes web site . He is originally from Pinebluff, NC and attended Middle Tennessee State University. He is considered an expert in the field of online insurance shopping and finding new ways to help consumers save money on their insurance. For more information visit


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