Quick Guide to the Auto Accident Claims Process


The article should include details about the insurance claim process and its ease with an attorney.

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Fitter examining damage during car accident claim process

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Fitter examining damage during car accident claim process

A car accident can be a frightening and traumatic experience that can affect your physical and emotional well-being. But as you work through the stress of this day, you’ll soon find other challenges to face as you file your car accident claim, seek medical attention, and negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement. .

The claims filing process can be confusing when dealing with an insurance company interested in minimizing payments. The good news is that this guide is here to help you navigate the process. Read on to learn more about the basics of the auto accident claims process, from what happens after a car accident to how and when you may need to file an auto claim.

In this article:

  • Types of complaints
  • Types of damage
  • How to apply for insurance after a car accident
  • How long after an accident can you file a claim?
  • What to do if you can’t reach a settlement with the insurance company
  • Do you have any other questions about the auto accident claims process?

Types of complaints

After an accident, one or both drivers can file a “first party” car accident claim with their own insurance company depending on their type of coverage. They can also file a “third party” claim with the other driver’s insurance company to recover their losses. You typically file a claim when:

  • You (or a passenger) are injured in a car accident.
  • Your vehicle suffered significant damage after the accident.
  • It is not known who was responsible for the accident.
  • You suffered financial losses as a result of the accident, but you cannot afford to pay for them out of pocket.
  • You were forced to miss work because of the accident.

There is a difference between a insurance claim And one insurance settlement. With a claim, you make a legal demand for compensation from the insurance company for your losses. A settlement is a financial resolution that you and the insurance company (insurer) agree to settle your claim damages. If you are unable to settle with the insurer, you can also file a lawsuit in court to recover economic and non-economic damages, which is separate from the insurance claims process.

Types of damage

Economic damages help restore a person to their original pre-accident condition and usually involve payments for things such as lost wages or past and future medical expenses. In contrast, non-economic damage is more punitive and is rewarded for things like “pain and suffering.”

The amount you can recover through a settlement or in court will often depend on several factors, such as:

  • Whether you or another driver caused the accident.
  • Fault percentage for all drivers (depending on your state laws, you may be prevented from recovering based on your fault percentage).
  • The type of auto insurance each driver has.
  • The amount of automobile policy coverage.
  • The amount paid for medical bills and future medical expenses.
  • The amount of any property damage.
  • Any lost or future lost wages resulting from the accident.
  • Any “pain and suffering” felt as a result of the accident.

How to apply for insurance after a car accident

With an understanding of the key terminology used in auto accident claims, here are the steps you will likely need to take if you are filing an auto accident claim.

1. File a police report immediately after the accident

To ensure you have the best chance of substantiating your claim, you should file a police report immediately after the accident. Although your state may not always require a police report, it’s generally a good idea to get one. Police reports are unbiased accounts prepared shortly after an accident. A police report can:

  • Provide detailed information on the exact location, date and time of the accident, and the number of people involved.
  • Mention if drivers, passengers or pedestrians were injured.
  • Provide identifying information and statements about any witnesses.
  • Provide strong documentation of any damage or injury suffered that can be used as evidence to support your claim.

2. Gather relevant evidence to support your claim

A police report is helpful, but it shouldn’t be the only source of evidence you rely on. You must ensure that you collect the information to support your claim yourself, including:

  • A written assessment of the events leading up to the accident.
  • All photos of the accident scene, injuries and damaged cars.
  • Contact details of other drivers or witnesses, including their name, address, telephone number, driver’s license details, insurance information, license plate and name and address of their employer.
  • Receipts from any medical procedure or treatment.
  • Car repair quotes and receipts.
  • Proof of any lost wages after the incident.

3. Have a lawyer review your case

Once you have the information mentioned above, it would be helpful for a car accident lawyer to review the facts of your case. They can point out strengths and weaknesses as well as options and likely outcomes. If you end up hiring a lawyer, they can also:

  • Conduct research to help you determine a fair and equitable settlement.
  • Gather additional evidence to prove your claim.
  • Correct any errors in your application that could be grounds for refusal.
  • Notify you of all important deadlines.
  • File your auto accident claim on your behalf.
  • Negotiate with the adjuster/insurance agent reviewing the claim to determine liability and eligibility for payments on the policy.
  • Represent you in court and fight to enforce your legal rights.

4. Submit your claim

Now that you understand how a lawyer can help you with the review process, it’s time to submit your application for processing by:

  • Contact your insurance company to inform them of the accident.
  • File your complaint online, via the phone app or over the phone.
  • Submit any relevant evidence to support your claim (photos, police reports, witness statements, etc.)
  • Communicate with the insurance adjuster.
  • Review all settlement offers with your attorney.
  • Ask your lawyer to accept, decline or counter any offer.
  • Accept the settlement or appeal if the adjuster denies your claim.
  • Filing a lawsuit in civil court if an agreement cannot be reached.

How long after an accident can you file a claim?

Generally, you should file your car accident claim as soon as possible after the accident. The usual time frame for filing a car accident claim is 48 hours after an accident, but the exact time frame for filing a claim will depend on your insurance company and the type of claim you plan to file. Property damage and bodily injury claims may have different timelines. The question “how soon after an accident can you file a claim” should be addressed in your car insurance policy, so be sure to look there to determine your time limits.

What to do if you can’t reach a settlement with the insurance company

If you cannot reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, you may still have the option of filing a complaint. If you do, it must be filed before your the state statute of limitations expires. The clock starts running on the date of the accident, but there are situations where a statute of limitations may be extended or may not apply. This varies by state and an attorney can determine if this may apply to your case.

Do you have any other questions about the auto accident claims process?

Obtaining compensation for injuries and damage to your car is not easy. Simplify the process by working with an auto accident attorney who can litigate on your behalf. Start with a free and non-binding case study.

Legal disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have any legal questions, you should seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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