How Auto Insurance Claims Work

Understanding how auto insurance claims operate can play a vital part in policyholders’ financial lives, so knowing how they function will enable you to make more informed decisions when filing claims after an accident.

No matter if it is for repairs, total vehicle payout, or other compensation. Insurers follow specific rules and timelines when processing car insurance claims; discover how best to navigate this process using these helpful tips from WalletHub.

What Happens After an Accident?

After being involved in a car accident, drivers often find themselves left bewildered as to their next steps – especially if their vehicle has been damaged. As soon as possible afterward, it’s essential that drivers determine if any injuries exist before calling 911 if necessary. Exchange insurance information with other drivers involved as soon as possible as well as document the scene by taking photos/video/taking notes as soon as possible afterward. Keeping important documentation such as registration cards, proof of insurance certificates and the name/number of their auto insurance professional nearby can make filing claims easier later on down the line.

Once you contact your insurer, an adjuster will be assigned to investigate. They’ll arrange an inspection of your vehicle and interview any witnesses as well. When speaking with the insurance company about what occurred, it’s best to remain neutral and stick to facts rather than speculate about what may have transpired. Many insurers provide mobile apps which enable policyholders to quickly report an accident and upload evidence quickly and conveniently.

As soon as an adjuster assesses your situation, they’ll give an initial estimate on how much it will cost to repair or replace your vehicle if totaled. Their estimation takes into account your collision or comprehensive coverages as well as any deductible amounts and the current market value of your car.

Adjusters will also determine who is at fault in an accident, using state negligence laws and specific details of the incident as criteria for their determination. Fault can fall on both drivers involved; each may receive compensation up to their limits of coverage; should an uninsured or underinsured motorist cause injuries, then your own policy’s underinsured motorist coverage could step in and cover for expenses not covered by this other person; similarly if injured by such someone.

Filing a Claim

No matter the reason for filing a car insurance claim – an accident, theft, medical expense reimbursements or legal fees depending on your policy are all among the many possible scenarios to file one. Simply put, claims are simply requests for financial compensation – they can cover expenses such as property damage, medical costs, lost wages due to missed work and legal fees, as well as lost wages as required.

As soon as an incident occurs, contact your insurer immediately and provide as much detail about it as possible, such as details regarding coverage options or photographs of damage. It would also be prudent to take photos of the scene.

Your insurer will then assign an adjuster who will conduct the investigation of your claims. They’ll review evidence, examine your vehicle and speak with witnesses if needed to establish fault – in addition to checking with repair shops to get an estimate for cost of repair of your car.

When should you file a Claim In general, accidents or events should be reported immediately–preferably within a few days–to your insurer; the exact timeframe may differ depending on state and insurer regulations or requirements; please check your policy or consult an insurance agent for guidance.

If you are unhappy with how your insurance company handled a claim, or their handling thereof, you can file a formal complaint to your state’s department of insurance. Some states require auto insurers to respond quickly to customer concerns and offer adequate compensation when claims arise.

Filing too many claims can increase premiums over time, so take great care when selecting your coverages. Switching providers could result in cheaper car insurance rates with less hassle in the future; look for insurers that provide customer care representatives or ombudsmen as this will assist in handling disputes between their clients and them.

Negotiating a Claim

While some states provide protections for policyholders from insurance companies, determining fault in an accident and agreeing on how much is owed for damages is often left up to insurers’ discretion. Therefore, it’s essential that policyholders come prepared when engaging in negotiations over car insurance premiums, since you will likely need to present demand letters and supporting documents during negotiations.

At all times during negotiations after an accident, it’s essential that you remain calm and confident. Insurance adjusters are expert negotiators; they’ll use your lack of experience against you by pressuring you into accepting low offers. By building a solid case backed by evidence and documentation, however, you can bypass such tactics and negotiate a fair settlement for yourself.

Before beginning negotiations, it is wise to come up with an estimate of your damages that fully reflects what they owe you. While you should keep this figure private from insurance adjusters, having one in mind acts as an anchor that prevents them from pushing you toward accepting an amount below what is due.

Maintain any medical documents that detail the severity of your injuries to support any claims for medical expenses, lost wages and other economic losses. It would also be wise to gain knowledge about both parties’ insurance policies. This way, both parties can understand how much compensation may be awarded against one another.

At the end of the day, it’s wise to have an emergency savings account or credit card on hand that you can use if your insurance provider delays paying out on time. Deductibles are an integral component of every policy and help keep premiums affordable; however, they can quickly add up.

State laws dictate the timelines for processing claims by insurers; if your insurer is being slow in responding, check with their state’s insurance department to see if there are any laws protecting you or reach out directly to them for solutions to speed up their processing time. You could also contact them and inquire as to any ways they might expedite it further.


Assuming everything goes as planned, your settlement offer should arrive in weeks or months. Before accepting it, make sure it adequately represents all your losses, such as medical treatment and lost wages; pain and suffering compensation should also be included; it may be difficult to put a price on emotional distress following an accident, but having proof can help negotiate more reasonable offers from defendants.

Once your claim has been filed with an insurance provider, an adjuster will be assigned to manage your case and ascertain its value and provide compensation based on your policy terms.

Be careful during negotiations to stay composed. Do not get carried away by being too chatty, providing too many details of the accident that aren’t essential, or divulging unnecessary details about how it happened; doing so could make an insurance company suspicious of your claim and lead to its denial.

Insurance adjusters often attempt to offer low initial settlement offers as a test to see whether you will settle without fighting back. Therefore, having a predetermined figure that fully represents what you believe you deserve and that cannot be compromised can help protect yourself in negotiations.

If the initial settlement offered to you falls below what is acceptable, a demand letter laying out why this amount does not reflect your injuries and losses may help negotiate for more favorable terms. Negotiation skills from your attorney will come in handy at this stage.

Insurance companies typically prefer to settle car accident cases out of court rather than risk the potential repercussions of going to trial, since it’s faster, less costly, and easier for them to process and pay out settlements this way. But if they refuse a reasonable offer or deny your claim altogether, you have recourse in taking them to court – depending on where you reside you may even qualify to file in small claims court, where filing fees tend to be minimal and hearings generally take place quickly.