Guide to the Insurance Claims Process After a Car Accident

If you were to get into an accident while on the road, would you know the proper steps to take to make a claim? If not, we’ve highlighted some key information to help you get confident about the claims process — so you know exactly what to do in the event of the unexpected.

What to Do Right After an Accident

If you get into a car accident, first, if possible, move your vehicle to a safe location out of traffic — and make sure you don’t leave the scene! If you can’t move it, that’s okay. Turn off your engine and get out of the vehicle if you can. Then check if anyone is hurt and call 911 if they need medical assistance. Even if no one is seriously injured, you should call the police and report the accident.

Next, gather the correct information and details about the accident, so when it comes time to file a claim and work with insurance companies you have everything written down and pictures you can use as evidence.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t accept or place blame on the other driver. You’ll figure all that out later with your insurance company.
  • Take photos of the scene, including the other driver(s) involved, license plates, any damages done to their vehicle and yours, the direction each vehicle was traveling and traffic signs. These are all important details you’ll want to have on hand when dealing with insurance and filing a claim.
  • This one is extra important: Exchange information. You’ll want to share your name and insurance company with the other driver, and get the other driver’s insurance and contact information as well.

Capture as many details as you can by taking notes on your phone. Gather the following information:

  • Year, make, model, color of the other car
  • Driver and passenger names and ages
  • Exact location of the accident
  • The speed you were driving
  • Date and time of the accident
  • Weather conditions
  • Time the police arrive, as well as their name and badge number
  • Road conditions
  • Witnesses (get their names and contact information)

Find out more about what to do after a car accident — so in the event of the unexpected, you know how to confidently handle the situation.

Do I Need to Call the Police After a Car Accident?

Absolutely. You’ll want to notify the police right away — not only in case someone is injured, but the police report will be one of the main factors that insurance investigators use when assessing your claim.

Whose Insurance Do I Call After an Accident?

Usually, in simple rear-end or clear liability accidents where the at-fault driver accepts responsibility, you probably don’t need to call your insurance company — unless you were at-fault. In that case, the sooner you call, the sooner your insurance provider can help you get things back to normal.

Some states are considered “no-fault” states, which means if there is an accident, it’ll be your insurance that covers you up to a specified limit for personal injury, car damage and related claims, such as lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Likewise, the other driver, even if you were at fault, will be responsible for their damages and injuries.

Do you live in a no-fault state? Check your policy for the specifics to better understand how you’re covered.

What If the Other Driver in the Accident Doesn’t Have Insurance?

Typically, if you get into a car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance pays for the damages and injuries. But what if they are uninsured? That makes things a little more complicated, but here’s what you should know.

Almost every state legally requires you to have minimum amounts of specific car insurance coverages — so driving without car insurance for any period of time is considered illegal. But that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. That’s why uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is so important. If you get hit by a driver with no insurance or not enough liability coverage, your uninsured or underinsured insurance will kick in and help cover your medical expenses.

You do have the option to press charges against the driver and take them to small claims court. However, it might cost you more time and money to take them to court, so while it may not be ideal that your insurance company has to cover the liability costs for an accident you didn’t cause (your collision coverage would cover damages to the car), that’s what uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is for — it’s a safety net for unfortunate instances like these.

Also, consider the consequences if you don’t have car insurance in a state that requires it:

  • If you’re at fault, not only will you be paying out of pocket for any medical expenses or damages to your vehicle, but you’ll be responsible for paying for the other driver’s injuries and damages as well.
  • You could be sued by the other party for damage and injuries you caused them.
  • You could be issued a ticket, face jail time and potentially lose your license and registration.
  • You may have trouble finding affordable car insurance rates if you eventually do shop for a policy.

What Do I Need to File a Claim After an Accident?

According to, you’ll need to submit the following information to your car insurance company when filing a claim:

  • Policy number, which can be found on your insurance card
  • Date, time and location of the accident
  • Detailed description of how the accident occurred
  • Insurance and contact info of the other party involved
  • Name of the police department involved and the police report number

This is when you’ll use all that information you gathered right after the accident and why it’s so important to write down as many details as you can.

Until fault is determined, your insurance company will cover the cost for repairs and injuries — as long as you have the appropriate coverage, like collision or medical expense coverage. Make sure you keep the following in mind when getting repairs:

  • You may have to take your car to one of your car insurance company’s approved body shops for repairs, but you can get an estimate at any body shop. Check with your agent before committing your car to any shop so you know your insurance company will reimburse you.
  • Your adjustor (the person in charge of investigating your claim) may have you compare different quotes at several shops of your choice.
  • If you choose your own repair shop, you might have to pay the difference between the shop’s estimate and what your insurer decides is a fair price.

If your claim includes medical expenses from injuries that you or your passengers sustained in the accident, you’ll need to keep them and give them to your claims adjuster for evidence and reimbursement.

How Do I File an Insurance Claim After an Accident?

To file a claim, just give a call to your insurance company. They’ll typically walk you through the process and ask you for all the aforementioned information. Once your claim is filed, a claim representative will contact you to go over your claim and the process to follow. They’ll review your claim and work with you to accurately evaluate your claim. Finally, they’ll assess your claim and try to complete it as quickly as possible.

If you want to learn more about filing a claim with American Family Insurance, head to our claims overview page.

What If I Want to Make a Claim but Don’t Have a Police Report?

You can still file a claim even if you don’t have a police report. It’ll just take a little more work and it may take longer to process.

Any of the following information will be helpful when filing a claim without a police report:

  • Photographs of the accident scene and damage to the vehicle
  • Statements of the parties involved
  • Eyewitness statements
  • The weather and road conditions at the location of the accident

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

You’ll want to get the claims process rolling as soon as possible, so filing a claim should be done promptly. Usually, the state statute of limitations is only two to three years, but some insurance companies may only pay the costs of repairs for the year in which the accident occurred. Putting it off isn’t in your best interest since the longer you wait, the harder it may be to track down other people involved in the accident for interviews or other research related to the claim that’ll help your case.

Our advice? File the claim right away or at least contact your insurance agent as soon as you can after the accident.

How Does a Car Insurance Claim Work After an Accident?

Once your claim is filed, your company will assign a claims adjuster to investigate your case. The adjustor may do a number of things:

  • Review the police report.
  • Interview other parties involved and witnesses at the scene.
  • Visit the scene of the accident.
  • Inspect your car for damages and take photos of your car.
  • Probably ask you to sign a medical release form so they can look at your records.
  • Contact any medical providers to gather information in regard to your injury expenses.
  • Review medical records, bills and proof of wage loss.
  • In some cases, they may also look into your social media accounts to corroborate any of the details you provided.
  • Of course, they’ll interview you for your side of the story.
  • The adjuster will also determine who is at fault for the accident, and they’ll work with the other party’s insurance company to see how much they’ll pay out.

How Do I Know If I’m Covered by an Accident?

Want to make sure you’re properly covered if you get into an accident? Connect with an American Family Insurance agent to check on your car coverages — understanding how your car insurance covers you can give you peace of mind that you’re protected when you hit the road.

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