How to File an Automobile Insurance Claim After an Accident

//How to File an Automobile Insurance Claim After an Accident

How to File an Automobile Insurance Claim After an Accident

When you are involved in an auto accident, you may experience a variety of damages. An accident victim may sustain bodily injury and incur out-of-pocket expenses for property damage, medical expenses, lost income, and other losses. Follow these steps to ensure your insurance claim is filed properly.

6 Steps for Filing an Automobile Insurance Claim After an Accident

  1. Seek Medical Treatment for Bodily Injury
  2. Notify Your Insurance Agent of the Car Accident
  3. Contact an Auto Accident Attorney
  4. Schedule an Inspection with a Repair Shop
  5. Keep Detailed Records of all Out-of-Pocket Expenses and Losses
  6. Notify  the Other Party’s Insurance Provider of Your Car Accident Claim

To recover compensation for personal injury claims, you will need to file an automobile insurance claim with the other party’s liability insurance provider. In this article, we discuss several issues related to filing an automobile accident insurance claim.

1. Seek Medical Treatment for Bodily Injury

If you do not go to the hospital by ambulance after the auto accident, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. After a car crash, it can be easy to dismiss aches as sprains and strains that will heal with time. However, those aches and pains may indicate serious bodily injury.

The only way to know for sure if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident is to be checked by a physician. Furthermore, a delay in medical care may be used by the insurance provider to deny your insurance claim. 

The insurance company may argue your injuries must not be as severe as you claim because you did not need to see a doctor for several weeks after the car accident. They may also try to deny your automobile insurance claim stating that the injuries did not occur in the crash because you did not seek medical treatment right after the car crash.

2. Notify Your Insurance Agent of the Car Accident

Even though you may not be at fault for an auto accident or motorcycle accident, you need to contact your insurance agent to report the crash. Your insurance policy likely requires you to report all accidents to your insurance provider, regardless of fault for the accident. Failing to report the car accident could prevent you from receiving certain benefits under your insurance policy. If you have questions, a personal injury attorney can help you handle this step in the claims process.

If you have no-fault insurance coverage, you may receive compensation for some medical bills and loss of income. However, you must file this automobile insurance claim through your insurance agent because you are the insured–even though you may not have contributed to the cause of the auto accident. 

When you notify your insurance agent of the car accident, it is best to avoid providing a statement or signing any documents until you meet with a personal injury attorney. You should be able to tell your agent what happened without making a formal written or recorded statement. If your insurance agent pressures you to make a formal statement, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights and what is in your best interest. 

3. Contact an Auto Accident Attorney

Your personal injury attorney provides legal counsel and guidance so that you avoid some of the mistakes and pitfalls that people without an attorney make when filing an automobile accident insurance claim. The steps you take as you prepare to file an automobile insurance claim can significantly impact your ability to recover full compensation for your property damage and bodily injury. 

It is important to avoid some of the tactics used by some insurance companies that are intended to gather information to use against you. If you are unfamiliar with filing an insurance claim after a car accident, hiring a car accident attorney can be extremely beneficial for you.

Some of the important steps that your attorney takes in preparing to file an automobile insurance claim include:

  • Obtain a copy of the police report or accident report and review the report for errors or mistakes.
  • Conduct an accident scene investigation to gather and preserve evidence.
  • Reconstruct the accident with the assistance of experts to determine fault.
  • Verify liability insurance coverage for all parties involved in the accident.
  • Interview and obtain statements from eyewitnesses.
  • Request and review all medical records and statements.
  • Review and calculate a diminished value claim in addition to other liability insurance claims.
  • File a notice of claim with the insurance company for the liable party and handle all communication with the insurance company.
  • Work with economic and medical professionals to determine future damages, if applicable.
  • Prepare and send a demand settlement package as part of the automobile insurance claim.
  • Negotiate with the claims representative to obtain a fair and just settlement amount.
  • Prepare and file a car accident lawsuit, if necessary.

Even if you decide not to hire a personal injury attorney, it is wise to consult with an attorney. Schedule a free consultation for accident victims so that you can get the information you need to best proceed with your insurance claim.

4. Schedule an Inspection with a Repair Shop

A property damage claim can be settled separately from a bodily injury claim. It is important to settle the property damage claim so that you can have your car repaired or replaced as soon as possible. 

The insurance provider for the other driver may send an adjuster to your home or to where your motor vehicle is located to inspect the vehicle. The company may also direct you to schedule an inspection appointment with a repair facility. 

If possible, obtain at least three estimates for the repairs to your motor vehicle. By comparing the estimates, you can identify any damage that the claims adjuster may have overlooked or failed to note on the inspection report. Also, ask for a written statement confirming that the repair shop will use new parts instead of aftermarket parts or used parts to make the repairs. You should also question the auto body shop about guarantees for work performed before you choose a facility to have your car repaired.

If your motor vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company should pay you an amount equal to the fair market value of the vehicle. The fair market value is the amount your vehicle would have been worth if you sold it in an “as is” condition before the accident. If you are concerned that the insurance company is paying you less than your car is worth, contact a personal injury lawyer before settling the property damage claim. An attorney can evaluate the offer for the total loss of your motor vehicle to determine it is a fair offer. 

5. Keep Detailed Records of All Out-of-Pocket Expenses and Losses

Your financial damages make up a significant portion of the value of your automobile insurance claim. However, you must include proof of the out-of-pocket expenses and losses in your settlement demand. 

Therefore, keeping detailed records of all expenses and losses related to the auto accident, your injuries, and your recovery is very important. A personal injury lawyer can work closely with you to document your losses and damages. It helps to maximize your compensation if you provide records for out-of-pocket expenses outside of medical bills and lost income.

For example, receipts for over-the-counter medications, medical supplies, and medical equipment may be included in your insurance claim. Travel expenses may also be included, but you need details such as the name of the doctor or medical provider you visited, the date of the visit, round trip mileage, and receipts for any other expenses, such as meals and overnight lodging. Another example of an expense that might be included in an auto accident claim is paying someone to help with household chores you cannot perform because of your injuries. 

Using a notebook or other ledger to record out-of-pocket expenses and costs related to your claim is the easiest way to maintain detailed records. An envelope affixed to the inside of the cover is useful for holding receipts and other proof of the expense.

6. Notify the Other Party’s Insurance Provider of Your Car Accident Claim

If the insurance company for the other party has not contacted you regarding your claim, you need to notify the company of your automobile insurance claim. However, you should not consent to a written or recorded statement or sign any documents without discussing your case with a personal injury attorney. 

The claims representative assigned to your case does not work for you. His job is to gather evidence to reduce the company’s liability for the claim. In other words, the claims representative is working to pay as little as possible to settle your claim. The claims agent is not a bad person, but he is simply doing his job. His loyalty is with the insurance company. For this reason, you need a car accident attorney on your side to protect your best interests.

Your personal injury attorney protects your best interest by preventing a claims representative from using various tactics to gather information to use against you. Your attorney handles all communication with the insurance company for you. You do not need to worry about anything other than your recovery and your health.

What Happens After I File an Automobile Insurance Claim?

Accident Investigation


When you file your automobile insurance claim, it may seem as if nothing happens for a long time after your property damage claim is settled. However, it is during this time that your personal injury attorney is conducting a comprehensive accident investigation to gather and preserve key evidence to prove the other party caused the accident. 


When you file your automobile insurance claim, it may seem as if nothing happens for a long time after your property damage claim is settled. However, it is during this time that your personal injury attorney is conducting a comprehensive accident investigation to gather and preserve key evidence to prove the other party caused the accident. 

Fault may be difficult to prove in certain accidents, including multi-vehicle accidents, collisions involving commercial vehicles, distracted driving accidents, or accidents involving government entities. While you are recovering from your injuries, your accident attorney can be working diligently to obtain evidence to hold the other party responsible for your damages.

Maximum Medical Improvement


While your attorneys investigate the car accident and gather evidence, you’ll continue to be treated by your physicians and medical professionals as you recover from your injuries. It is extremely important that you do not settle your automobile accident claim until you reach maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is the point at which your doctor states that your condition will not improve with further medical treatment. At this point, your doctor provides a prognosis that includes details about any permanent impairments or disabilities you sustained because of the automobile accident. This is vital information that can significantly impact the value of your insurance claim. 

If you sustain permanent impairments or disabilities, you may receive compensation for the impairment. You may also be entitled to compensation for future loss of income and ongoing medical expenses because of the disability. However, if you settle your automobile accident insurance claim before you know the full extent of your injuries, you may receive much less for your claim.

The claims representative understands the situation. For that reason, the insurance adjuster may pressure you to settle the claim quickly before you speak with a personal injury lawyer. He may even try to convince you that hiring an attorney will cost you money you could keep in your pocket. The insurance company can save money by paying a smaller amount now than paying a larger amount after you complete treatment, and discover you sustained a permanent impairment because of the crash. Do not fall for this insurance tactic. Always consult with a personal injury attorney before accepting any settlement for your automobile insurance claim. Likewise, always consult with an attorney before signing any documents for the insurance company.

Preparing a Settlement Demand Package

When you reach maximum medical improvement, it is time to forward a settlement demand package to the insurance provider. If you retain an attorney, they have been working on this package for many months. The package includes information about your injuries, damages, and losses. It contains a concise statement regarding the facts of how the accident occurred and why we allege the other party is responsible for causing the collision. The package may also contain copies of proof of medical bills, lost wages, and injuries.

Within the settlement demand letter, your lawyer includes a detailed breakdown of the value of your claim and the amount you will accept to settle the automobile insurance claim. If the insurance company consents to the settlement terms, it can issue an insurance claim check that can be cashed after you sign the forms releasing the company and all other parties from further liability. 

However, in most cases, the claims adjuster will make a counteroffer to settle the claim. Your attorneys begin aggressive negotiations with the adjuster to arrive at an amount that is fair. The settlement amount is based on many factors other than the value of your claim. Your lawyer considers all relevant factors when advising you whether or not you should accept the settlement, but it is ultimately your decision whether to accept a settlement offer.

Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit


Most auto insurance companies settle accident claims before a lawsuit is filed. If the insurance provider in your case refuses to negotiate a fair amount to settle your auto accident claim, your lawyer may advise you to file a car accident lawsuit.

Your attorney may be working on your case to prepare it for trial. The legal team you hire should be prepared to file a personal injury lawsuit at any moment during the case to protect your rights and best interests. Once a lawsuit has been filed, there is little for you to do before trial. You may be required to provide a deposition or submit to an independent examination by an automobile insurance medical claim physician. You have the right to have your physician present during this examination.

The case may settle before trial. Some insurance companies recognize that the evidence is against them during the process of preparing for trial. Therefore, they agree to settle the case before we go to trial. When you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your car accident claim, you do not need to worry about these matters. Your legal team will take care of everything for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Automobile Insurance Claims

How long do you have to file a claim after an accident?


The laws in your state dictate how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance provider. You typically do not have a specific deadline for filing an automobile insurance claim with the other party’s insurance company. However, in no-fault states, you are filing your claim with your insurance agent so that you may have a deadline. You need to review your insurance policy and contact an attorney if you have concerns or questions.

Filing an insurance claim is different from filing a lawsuit. Each state has a statute of limitations that restricts the time you have to file a lawsuit for a car accident. Some states have very short deadlines for filing lawsuits. You lose the right to recover compensation for your claim by failing to pursue litigation remedies before the deadline in the statute of limitations expires.

Therefore, the best way to protect your right to receive money for an injury claim is to contact an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney monitors these deadlines so that you do not lose your right to hold the negligent party responsible for the crash liable for your damages.

Are you required to provide a recorded statement about the claim?


You should consult with an attorney before providing a recorded statement about your automobile insurance claim. Something you say in your statement could be very harmful to your case. You may not even realize what you are saying can be misconstrued and used against you.

A claim representative may tell you that he cannot process your claim without a recorded statement. This assertion is not true. Contact a personal injury attorney immediately if you are pressured to provide a recorded or written statement regarding the auto accident or your injuries.

How does your insurance company decide whether to repair your vehicle or declare it a total loss?


If possible, the insurance company will pay to have your car repaired. However, in some cases, the insurance company may decide that the car is a total loss. Typically, an insurance provider deems a motor vehicle a total loss when the costs to repair the property damage exceeds the vehicle’s actual cash value. The actual cash value (ACV) is adjusted for the vehicle’s age, condition, mileage, equipment, features, and resale value in the local market. 

Many states require an insurance company to consider the motor vehicle a total loss if the total loss threshold exceeds a specific percentage. For example, if a vehicle is worth $20,000 and the cost to repair the damage to the vehicle is $18,000, the total loss threshold is 90 percent ($18,000 divided by $20,000). If state laws require a total loss for thresholds of 75 percent or above, the car would be a total loss at 90 percent.

Some states allow insurers to use a total loss formula to determine if the vehicle is a total loss. The insurer adds the repair costs to the vehicle’s salvage value. If the total exceeds the ACV for the vehicle, the insurer declares the vehicle a total loss.

A personal injury lawyer who handles car accident claims understands the state laws related to car accident repairs. Your attorney carefully reviews how the insurance company calculates ACV and the total loss threshold to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of by the insurance provider. It is crucial that you receive fair market value for your vehicle if it is a total loss.

What type of information do you ask for when you report a claim?


When you report a claim to an insurance company, there is some information you want to request and note for future reference. If you file an automobile insurance claim directly with the liability insurance provider, you should ask for the following information:

  • Name and contact information of the person who takes the initial claim;
  • Name and contact information of the claims representative or insurance adjuster assigned to your claim;
  • Your claim number;
  • The amount of liability insurance coverage under the insured’s policy;
  • How will the company settle the property damage claim; and,
  • Will you receive a rental vehicle while your car is in the repair facility?

If the other person is at fault, will I have to pay anything out of pocket?


In an at-fault insurance state, the person who causes an auto accident is responsible for the damages arising from that accident. However, you will not receive any money for your claim until your claim is settled. As discussed above, an insurance adjuster may use the fact that you are receiving thousands of dollars in medical bills and you have been out of work to pressure you to accept a quick settlement without consulting with an attorney. Do not fall for this insurance tactic. You are likely receiving a much lower amount than your claim is worth.

You may be required to pay co-pays for medical treatment if you do not have health insurance to cover the entire cost of treatment. However, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you arrange for a medical lien so that you can continue receiving treatment without paying the medical provider. The provider will receive payment for services when the claim is settled. 

Whether you receive full compensation for your insurance claim depends on numerous factors. For example, the driver who caused the crash may have minimum liability insurance coverage. If so, there may not be sufficient insurance coverage to pay your claim in full. However, if you have underinsured motorist coverage under your insurance policy, our car accident attorneys can help you file a claim for the remaining value of your accident claim.

Partial fault is another factor that impacts your out-of-pocket costs for an accident. If you are partially at fault for the crash, state laws may require a reduction in your compensation based upon the percentage of fault assigned to you for the crash. This is another reason to hire a personal injury attorney early in your case. Insurance companies attempt to blame accident victims for part of the car accident to lower the amount it must pay for the automobile insurance claim. An experienced car accident lawyer can fight the allegations. 

Our entire legal team at Acadia Law is dedicated to reducing your out-of-pocket expenses given the facts in your case and the applicable state laws governing personal injury claims. Learn more about how to file an automobile insurance claim from a trusted nationwide car accident attorney. The personal injury lawyers of Acadia Law Group have decades of combined legal experience handling auto accident claims throughout the United States. Contact our office for a free consultation by calling 1-800-653-4600 or begin your free case review online.

2019-03-06T18:19:40+00:00