How to File a Car Insurance Claim

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How to File a Car Insurance Claim

When filing a car insurance claim, you’ll need the information of all parties and the date and time of the accident. You may also see a rate increase of about 45%.
Written by Liz Jenson
Edited by Kianna Walpole
If you experienced recent damages or losses that are covered under your
car insurance
policy, it’s time to contact your insurer to file a claim. To get the claims process started, you’ll provide detailed information about the accident as well as your personal information.

How to file a car insurance claim

When filing a car insurance claim, there are three basic steps you’ll follow every time:
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Gather information:
Collect basic information like your insurance policy number, the date and time of the accident, and damage assessments. You should also gather evidence at this phase, including any photographs, video footage, an accident report, or eyewitness accounts.
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Contact your provider:
Some insurers allow you to file a claim via their
mobile app
, but you may need to call your provider’s claim number. During this stage, you’ll reiterate what happened to your insurance provider. Make sure to provide as much context and detail as possible.
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Follow provider instructions:
Once you’ve notified your insurance provider about the situation, you’ll receive further instructions about how to proceed. Typically, this will include things like working with an adjuster and choosing a repair shop.
Depending on the exact situation, however, the claims process may vary. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of car insurance claims.

Filing a claim after an accident 

If you’ve been in a car accident and need to file a claim with your
collision insurance
, start by documenting everything you can about the scene of the accident and the damage to your vehicle. In some cases, you may also need to file a police report.
Once you have all the important information—such as names, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, photographs, and witness statements—make sure to follow these next steps:
Confirm your policy details: Look up the deductible on your collision coverage, as well as your insurer’s
time limit for filing a claim
. It can also be helpful to review the types of coverage that are included in your policy.
Work with the insurance adjuster: Your insurance company will assign an adjuster to investigate your claim and assign fault. They will assess damages to your vehicle to determine your payout, and may also interview witnesses to the accident.
Repair or replace your vehicle: Once your adjuster has examined your vehicle and determined the estimated repair costs, it’s time to get your car fixed. Your insurance company may provide you with a list of approved repair shops, but you have the legal right to bring your car to any body shop you choose. If your vehicle is declared a total loss, your insurer will pay for a new vehicle up to the actual cash value (ACV) of your old car instead of paying for vehicle repairs.
Depending on the severity of any related injuries and vehicle damages, you may also need to contact law enforcement and file a police report. 
After an accident of this nature, you’ll generally receive a reimbursement check from your insurance company for the amount of your claim (minus your deductible). However, some insurance providers may choose to pay the mechanic directly, so it’s a good idea to ask your insurer which method they will use.
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What about not-at-fault accidents?
If you were involved in an accident in which you were
not at fault
, you may choose to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s
bodily injury
property damage liability insurance
. This process is very similar to filing a claim with your own insurance company. Like in a collision claim, you’ll either receive a check from the other driver’s insurance company or the insurance company will pay your repair shop directly.

Filing a claim for a stolen vehicle

Comprehensive coverage
claims for stolen vehicles are different from accident claims. If your car has been stolen, here’s what to do:
Contact law enforcement immediately
. Without a police report, your auto insurance provider won’t cover your claim. Filing a police report will also start the process of potentially locating your vehicle.
Contact your insurance provider. Tell your insurer that your vehicle has been stolen as soon as possible. You’ll need to provide a copy of the police report as well as other vehicle information, such as mileage, upgrades, any personal property stolen with the vehicle, and the location of all keys.
Work with the claims adjuster. Your claims adjuster may ask you to complete additional forms or provide more information. Follow their instructions as you move through the process.
Purchase a new vehicle. Your comprehensive car insurance coverage will finance up to the stolen car’s ACV minus your deductible. This might not be enough to replace your vehicle with the same model, so you may need to
shop around for a new car
If your stolen vehicle is recovered after you receive your payout, it becomes the property of your car insurance company. If you haven’t received a payout yet, you can stop the claims process and keep your car. Either way, you’ll need to contact your provider as soon as possible if your car is found.

How to file a claim in a no-fault state

In a
no-fault state
, the process filing injury claims is slightly different because you’ll need to contact your no-fault car insurance rather than the other driver’s auto insurance provider. 
You’ll be filing a
personal injury protection (PIP)
medical payment (MedPay)
claim through your car insurance company, which means documenting any medical bills you receive after an accident and working with an insurance adjuster.

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Filing a claim can raise your car insurance rates

On average, drivers see a car insurance rate increase of 45% following an
at-fault car accident
. These rate increases usually last for three to five years, depending on your provider and how fault was assigned after the accident. 
Here are the average rate increases for these
major insurance companies
after an at-fault auto accident. Use this information to see how an at-fault accident may impact your insurance premiums.
Insurance company
Monthly rate
Monthly rate after accident
Total increase (%)
But keep in mind, these are average rate increases—and they don’t have to remain this way. For help with finding affordable car insurance after a car accident, many drivers turn to an insurance broker like
In just a minute, Jerry pulls personalized quotes from over 55 top insurance providers to help you find the coverage you need after a crash without the steep rate increases.
Once you’ve found your ideal plan, you can begin securing your policy. The entire process, from start to finish, usually takes about 1–2 hours. 


How do insurance companies pay out auto claims?

Insurance companies will pay out auto claims up to your policy limits directly to you or directly to the repair shop of your choice. If you’re curious about your insurance specifically, you can ask your provider which payout method they use.

Is there a time limit to file an auto insurance claim?

There is a
time limit to starting the insurance claims process
. In most states, that limit will be between two and six years. However, you should check your state laws to learn exactly how long you have to file a claim after an accident.

Can I choose my own repair shop for a car insurance claim?

Your insurance provider is legally obligated to allow you to choose your own repair shop. If the shop of your choice is more expensive than the company repair shop, however, you might have to make up the difference with an out-of-pocket payment.

Meet our experts

Liz Jenson
Liz Jenson is an insurance writer who specializes in general automotive and insurance topics. Liz’s mission is to produce informative and useful content to help car owners make smart choices when buying cars and car insurance. Since joining Jerry in 2021, Liz has written nearly 4,000 long- and short-form articles on topics including state-specific insurance recommendations, common car insurance questions, and deep dives into vehicle model details.
Before they came to Jerry, Liz was a full-time student at Indiana University, Bloomington working on a double major in English and French.
Kianna Walpole
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Expert Insurance Writer & Editor
Kianna Walpole is an insurance writer and editor with a comprehensive background in consumer behavior and online publishing. With experience in car insurance, maintenance, and repair, she is dedicated to building informative content that helps customers reduce costs while achieving the best service. Prior to joining the Jerry editorial team, Kianna worked as a junior editor in the content marketing industry, using consumer data and key insights to create and edit content for an array of large-scale clients in the real estate, cybersecurity, and healthcare industries.

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