Car accidents can happen in a fraction of a second, rattling drivers and passengers alike. The consequences can also be traumatic for drivers unfamiliar with how to file a claim, what happens after a claim is filed, or how long it will take to resolve.
For most people, transportation is a necessity. When your car is damaged, it’s inconvenient and frustrating not knowing how long it can take to resolve a claim. While each auto insurance company has a slightly different process for handling claims, the general steps are largely the same. therefore, knowing what to expect can ease much of your anxiety if you are in a car accident.
Reading: How do car insurance companies pay out claims
what is a car insurance claim?
An auto insurance claim is a report drivers file with their auto insurance provider after a car accident. For example, you can file a property damage claim if you were in a car accident and damaged someone’s fence. Alternatively, if your vehicle is damaged in a hail storm, you can file a comprehensive claim. Auto insurance policies only cover the types of losses specified in your single policy. If your policy does not include comprehensive coverage, you will not be able to file a comprehensive coverage claim for this incident.
If you file an eligible claim that is approved by your insurance company, you will be responsible for paying any deductible required by the policy before receiving financial compensation from your insurance company to cover any damage or injury. If you’re not sure what your policy does or doesn’t cover, or what your policy deductible is, this information is usually found on the declarations page of your insurance policy. In addition, an insurance agent or claims adjuster can help you understand what your policy will or will not cover in the event of an accident.
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claims of origin versus third parties: what is the difference?
You or someone else can file a claim with your auto insurer.
A first party claim is when you file a claim with your auto insurance company for coverage under your own policy.
For example, let’s say you hit a deer that damages your car and you report it to your insurance company. you are making a claim for coverage under your policy.
A third-party claim occurs when someone else files a claim with your auto insurance company for coverage under your policy.
Let’s say you collided with another vehicle and an ambulance removed you from the scene due to injuries. he did not report the accident immediately because he was not physically able, but the other driver reports the accident to his insurance company. this is an example of a third party claim.
how to file a claim after you’ve been in an accident
There are several things you should do immediately after an accident. the safety of everyone involved is obviously the top priority. these are his other most important to-do’s on the scene:
safety first! if emergency personnel are present, take your initiative. if they are not, seek medical attention if necessary, and move yourself and your vehicle (if possible) out of harm’s way.
notify the police of the accident. depending on the severity of the accident, you may choose to call 911 or a non-emergency line. Even if the police don’t think it’s necessary to go to the scene, a police report can provide your insurance company with information that could help them process your claim faster.
Take photos of damage to vehicles or objects involved in the scene, such as a railing or fence. it’s a good idea to cover all your bases by taking photos from various angles.
contact your insurance company to report the accident
Depending on the extent of the resulting injuries you may have and/or the damage to your vehicle, you may not be able to drive home. If your vehicle is not drivable, you can call your insurance company from the scene of the accident, and they can often help you get your vehicle towed.
After an accident, it is important to notify your insurance company as soon as possible. this will allow them to start the process of getting your vehicle back on the road and cover any other expenses you may face due to the accident.
If you’re insured by clearcover, you’re in luck. Our claims process is among the fastest in the auto insurance industry. With Clear Claims™, our machine learning instantly validates coverage and determines eligibility for accelerated payment.
When you open your claim, through an insurance mobile app, online, or by phone, your insurance company will go through a series of steps to process the claim. An auto insurance claims representative will collect information to determine who is at fault or if drivers share responsibility for the fault.
These are some of the most common things your insurance company might request:
a copy of the police report
location, time of day and weather conditions
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contact information for other drivers, injured passengers and witnesses
vehicle damage estimates (if already obtained)
photos of car damage and scene
It is important to answer your claims representative’s questions as soon as possible and submit all documents promptly to expedite your claim. the claims representative will guide you through the claims process from this point on.
document damage to your vehicle
After you’ve notified your insurance company of the accident, you’ll likely need to take your vehicle to a body shop for repairs. Your insurance company may have a preferred list of providers they work with, but you can usually choose your own as well.
Before you entrust your vehicle to a repair shop, document all damage yourself. Your photos and documentation will help the claims representative create an estimate of the work that needs to be done, as well as the approximate cost.
wait for the insurance company to approve or deny the claim
Claims representatives evaluate claims based on the facts and how those facts match up with your insurance coverage. the representative may visit you in person, view the scene of the accident, or interview you over the phone. Some tech-savvy companies like clearcover can even process some claims through their app and involve little or no interaction with a claims representative.
The evaluation process of your claim is underway to determine if your claim will be approved or denied.
If your claim is denied, the insurance adjuster will tell you why. Possible reasons for insurance claim denials are:
the policy expired before the accident occurred.
false information was submitted or there was fraud.
the responsible driver was excluded from the policy.
the responsible driver does not meet the definition of a covered person and/or is excluded from coverage (for example, an unlisted driver).
the claim was less than your deductible amount.
drivers or passengers did not receive timely medical attention.
the loss was not covered by the policy (for example, an object fell and broke the windshield and there was no comprehensive or auto glass coverage).
The driver was fleeing from the police.
If the accident occurred during the effective dates of your policy and the cause is a loss covered by your policy, your claim will normally be approved.
receive your claim payment
Your insurance company must pay once your claim is settled. they can send you a payment directly. However, this is not always the case.
If you have a loan on your car and it’s considered a total loss, the payment will go to your lender because you technically own the car until you pay it off. If your car is worth more than the amount you owe, you will likely receive the difference once the loan is paid off.
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Sometimes your mechanic or auto body company will be paid by the insurance company instead of you. In some cases, your insurance company may make payment to you and the shop or mechanic. The company that is repairing your car may hold the check until the repairs are completed to ensure they get paid for their work. Either way, the different payment methods are intended to ensure customer satisfaction and minimize the fraudulent use of funds from an insurance claim.
how long does the claim process take?
For simple, uncomplicated claims, the claims process can be resolved in a few days or weeks. Alternatively, for more complex claims, the claim resolution could take several months.
Claims can take longer than expected for a number of different reasons:
the claim is very complex.
many people were involved in the accident.
there was a delay in submitting the claim.
The insurance company did not receive the requested documents in a timely manner.
there was an unexpected delay in meeting with the insurance adjuster (for example, you have an accident just before leaving town and can’t reach the adjuster until you return).
auto insurance claim payment frequently asked questions
The following section answers frequently asked questions about how companies pay auto insurance claims.
Who gets control of claims if I’m at fault?
The insurance company will issue payment to you, the mechanic or body shop, or the lienholder or tenant. Depending on the circumstances, the company may issue the payment to you and the lienholder, tenant, mechanic, or body shop. in that case, both parties must endorse the check.
how does my deductible affect my claim?
Whenever you file an insurance claim, you must first pay any required deductible. A deductible is an amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance company pays for damage to your car. the deductible amount will appear on the declarations page of your policy.
If my car is rented, will I get a payment from my insurance company?
If you rent a car, you may receive a check made out to you and the renter, which can delay claim payments. in this case, you may have to go to the bank or mail it to them to endorse it. You may also need to obtain proof from a dealer that the repairs have been completed satisfactorily. local banks may require you to bring the car in for repairs.
At clearcover, we like to keep things simple. If you lease your vehicle, we will generally issue payment to the vehicle owner and authorized body shop of your choice. issuing the payment in this manner eliminates the need to involve the lienholder, while ensuring that the vehicle is repaired.
what if my car is a total loss?
If your car is totaled after an accident, the check always goes to the owner of the vehicle, whether it’s you, the lienholder, the lessee, or some combination. in most cases, your car will be salvaged. Once any existing car loan is paid off, you can take the remaining claim payment funds to use toward the purchase of another vehicle.
can i use the auto insurance claims check to buy a different vehicle?
You may be able to keep your unrepaired car and purchase a new vehicle. however, the insurance company will usually deduct the salvage value of the damaged car from the final payment and give you the rest.
If the repair costs less than the estimate and you keep the rest, you will not be able to file a claim again for the same damages and doing so would be considered fraud.
Drivers who engage in fraud may be subject to a misdemeanor conviction resulting in fines or probation. If a court determines that you have committed a serious crime, it could result in significant fines or jail time.
get coverage you can trust from clearcover
Being involved in an accident is scary, and the last thing you want to worry about is being stuck without transportation. Fortunately, the claims representatives are ready to help and will guide you step by step through the claims process.
When you’re insured by clearcover, we make your claims process as seamless as possible. our machine learning technology allows us to provide some of the fastest payouts in auto insurance. Plus, our app is super easy to use and lets you file and track claims anytime, with just a few taps.
Opening a claim can be as simple as uploading photos of your vehicle to the clearcover app to get a virtual quote. if your claim is approved, the initial payment is usually sent directly to you.* it really is that easy. And if you have any questions during the process, help is always just a tap away! we always support you.
Take control of your coverage and see what you can save with clearcover. Get your free, no-obligation quote today.
*payment thresholds may vary by state. individual payments may vary.