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How to File a Car Accident Claim

When you are driving on California highways, or anywhere for that matter, there is always the risk of getting involved in an accident. Driving in itself is a risky proposition, so it is important to know how to file a car accident claim.

Whether it is a small scrape or an accident involving a major injury, it is important to know the steps you need to take immediately after. Ideally, the first thing you should do is file a police report, after which you can file for a claim with your insurance company and also with the other party’s insurer. The claim would ensure that you get compensated for the damages, medical expenses, and even the lost wages. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about filing an insurance claim after a car accident.

Before filing a car accident claim

If you were involved in a collision, you would have to stay close to the site of the accident, but you must ensure your safety in the process as well. According to California law, the drivers involved in a car accident should always stop at the site, even if the accident was a minor one. Whether the accident was with a moving vehicle, stationary object, pedestrian, or anyone else, you are legally obligated to stay at the site to exchange information with the other person or driver. If you drive away from the spot, it can be considered a hit-and-run case, which comes with worse consequences. You should also refrain from admitting guilt or responsibility for the collision during this part, as this will be settled during the claims process.

The first thing you would have to do is notify the police or the highway patrol. It is important to reach out for help quickly if you were hurt or were in a situation that was potentially dangerous. You can either call 911, or the contact number for emergencies in California. If you are not injured, you are technically not required by California law to call the police. Calling the police is always recommended by car accident lawyers and insurance companies, as it makes the process of filing any claims easier. If you were involved in an accident that led to injuries or the death of a person, it is essential to call the police.

You would also have to get your vehicle towed. Most insurances also come with a towing cover. To claim this, you can choose one of the following options –

1. Filing a towing claim immediately: Your insurance company can also arrange a tow for you if you were involved in an accident. The insurer will arrange for the car to be towed to the salvage yard or repair facility. The costs for the same can be settled during the process of filing accident claims. If you have roadside assistance, however, you will be able to file a claim immediately, which will help avoid reimbursement and paperwork later on. Always check the rules related to towing stated in the car insurance policy, so you know how to go about with the towing process.

2. Pay upfront and get the reimbursement later: If you/the police had to call a towing company, you can pay for it up front and save the receipts for later. The receipts will be useful for potential reimbursement later on when the process of filing car insurance or roadside assistance claims takes place. You will also be eligible for reimbursement if the other party involved in the accident is found to be at fault.

how to file a claim

Filing a Car Accident Claim

If you or someone with you is injured during a car accident, you can file a car accident claim for the damages. You will also want to file a car accident claim if you injured someone else, damaged their vehicle, or caused damage to someone’s property. If you are still wondering what circumstances warrant a claim, here is a list of reasons –

  • You are not able to come to a conclusion as to whose fault it was.
  • If the other driver rear-ends your car.
  • If the rocks crack the windshield of your car
  • If any tree falls on the car.
  • If you reverse into someone’s garage, which damages your car as well as the garage.
  • If the catalytic converter or the vehicle itself is stolen.

Before you file a car accident claim, it is important to make sure that you fully understand what is covered in the insurance policy, and what parts are deductible. To protect your case, you should discuss your case with the insurance provider. When you file a car accident claim, make sure you write down the claim number assigned to you. This will help in tracking the claim online so that you can know how it is progressing.

You can file the claim with your own insurer or with the other driver’s insurance company. Here is how you can do it –

1. Filing a car accident claim with your own insurer

When you file the car accident claim with your own insurer, everything from reimbursement to the repairs will be managed by your insurance company. Your insurance provider can help you in covering medical bills and car repairs, however, a deductible might be required before that. Insurance companies actually prefer that you file a claim with them in case of an accident, especially if the other driver holds you at fault. In ‘no-fault’ cases too, you can file the claim with your own insurer for any medical expenses.

If you file a claim and the other driver is found at fault, your insurance provider will reimburse or pay for the car repairs. Thereafter, your insurer will begin negotiations with the other driver’s insurance company to get reimbursement for the car repairs. As for the reimbursement of a portion of your deductible (or all of it), it is dependent on the specifics of the accident, your insurance policy, and the state law.

If you decide on making the repairs yourself, you can choose to report the incident to the company rather than filing a claim. If you own the vehicle and do not want to repair it, there is no need to file a claim in this case either. It is best to inform your insurance company, however, if the other driver does not have enough insurance/denies responsibility.  

2. Filing a car accident claim with the other driver’s insurer

If you are confident that the other party was at fault, you can consider filing a third-party insurance claim with the other party’s insurance company. When you file a claim in such a case, you will not be required to pay a deductible. In this scenario, an adjuster is sent by the other party’s insurer to determine the damages, so that he can offer a settlement for the claim. If you are not happy with the offer, you have the option to file the claim with your insurer, who will then work out the final payment together.

Things Required for Filing a Car Accident Claim

You can file a car accident insurance claim over the phone, or even online. If you were involved in a minor accident, with little to no injuries, you have the option to file a claim on the insurer’s website too. The information required for starting the claim is dependent on the situation and the insurer. In most cases, it is the job of the insurance companies to investigate who was at fault legally. They also examine whether the injuries or damage are a result of the accident or anything else. At the end of it, the total cost of auto repairs and physical injury is calculated.

Here are some of the things that the insurance company will inquire about –

  • Your date of birth, zip code, insurance policy number, and other identifying information.
  • Contact information and car insurance number of the other driver.
  • A recorded or written statement explaining your version of the event.
  • Statements recorded from witnesses’ interviews.
  • Any other documents or information, like police reports, driver information, witness information, receipts, photos, etc.

After filing the car accident claim

After you have filed a car accident claim, you need to complete a few more steps to resolve the case fully.

1. Police Report Filing

As stated earlier, it is always best to call the police when you get involved in an accident. If you did not file a report before making the claim, you usually have around 24-72 hours to file the report.

2. Coordinate with Insurance Adjuster

You would also have to coordinate with the adjuster when he/she comes to investigate the accident. Their job is to inspect the car, interview the witnesses, analyze the police reports, gather the medical expenses and damage estimate, etc. After all the details have been collected, the adjuster makes an offer for the settlement of the claim. You can negotiate with the adjuster if you feel the medical expenses and the car repair will be more than the offer.

When you are dealing with the adjuster, here are a few things that should be kept in mind –

  • Be present during the adjuster’s visits
  • Do not make any kind of permanent repairs in the care until the inspection is completed by the adjuster.
  • If you had to make any temporary repairs, save the receipts for them.

3. Schedule the car repairs

The last thing that you have to do is take your car in for repairs if required. You can either choose a shop of your choice, or one suggested by the insurer. The insurance company can ask you to provide the estimate for repairs if the damage was only minor. An adjuster would not be sent in this case. You will then be provided with the claim settlement for the repairs. This amount can be paid to the repair shop directly, or sent to you in the form of reimbursement. In case your car is beyond repair, the insurer might send you a check for the car’s value as it exists today.

car insurance claim form

FAQs about Car Accident Claims

Here are the answers to some of the common questions about the car accident claim process –

FAQ #1: Can I file a car accident insurance claim after a few days?

The time limit for filing a claim varies on the type of claim, the insurer, and also the state. According to the Statute of Limitations in California, the time limit for filing car accident claims has been set as 2 years from the date of the accident, if it involved bodily injuries. If the accident resulted in damaging the property, this time limit is set as 5 years.

FAQ #2: When not to file a car accident claim?

If you caused damage to your own car and decided not to get it fixed/fix it yourself, then you do not have to file a car accident claim. Another scenario in which you can choose not to file a claim is when the deductible is more than the damage.

FAQ #3: How much time does it usually take for the settlement of a car accident claim?

The time it takes to obtain the final settlement of the car accident claim depends on the situation, negotiations and the investigation carried out by the insurance company. While some claims can be settled in a matter of hours, other cases might require weeks or months to get fully resolved.

FAQ #4: Can I file a bad faith claim against the insurer?

If you feel that the insurance company has violated the state law or the contract, you have the option to file a complaint about the same with the California Department of Insurance. The state regulators can help you in getting additional payments and refunds. You can also consult a accident attorney to file a bad faith claim.

Contact Krasney Law For A Consultation Today!

With this, we have covered everything you need to know about filing car accident claims. If you are dissatisfied with the final settlement of your claim, you can reach out to Krasney Law for legal help. Our experienced Temecula car accident lawyers will be able to resolve any issues you might be facing in the claim filing and settlement process. If you have any questions or doubts, you can contact us today!