How to File an Insurance Claim Against Another Driver

If you’re in an accident where another driver was at fault, gather evidence, medical bills, and repair cost estimates, then contact their insurer to file a claim.
Written by Amy Bobinger
Edited by Sarah Gray

1. Collect evidence that the other driver was at fault

As soon as possible
after an accident
, get yourself—and your vehicle, if possible—to a safe place. Then, if you’re able, begin collecting evidence about what happened. 
  • Take photos of the scene of the accident, including where the vehicles were located, any damage to the cars, skid marks on the road, weather conditions, and traffic signs. 
  • If the police arrive, write down the officer’s name and badge number so you can follow up and get a copy of the accident report.
  • Get the other driver’s information, including their name, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance policy number.
  • Write down the contact information of any eyewitnesses.
  • Stay safe: Don’t go into the road to take pictures of the accident scene! 

2. Notify your own insurance company that you were in an accident

Even if you don’t intend to file a first-party claim with your own insurance company, you should still notify them about the accident right away. Your insurance company may be willing to help you with the claims process to collect from the other driver’s insurance company. 
Additionally, if the other insurance company doesn’t offer enough to cover your damages and you need to file a claim under your own collision coverage, you may only have a certain amount of time to let your insurer know about the accident.
Whether you file a claim with your insurance company or they assist you with a third-party claim, one of the conditions of your insurance agreement is that you must fully cooperate with your insurance adjuster—so be sure to work with them!

3. Gather medical bills and certified estimates of the damage

When you file your third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance company, they’ll expect a clear picture of what you’re asking them to pay. Keep track of all of your medical expenses, including lost wages if you have to miss work due to your injuries. Also, get repair estimates from 2–3 certified repair shops. 

4. Contact the other driver’s insurance if necessary

Gather all of the information you collected about the accident, then look online for the insurance company’s customer service or claims handling phone number. 
When you reach a representative, let them know that you need to file a third-party claim because you were in an accident with one of their drivers.

5. Be prepared to wait

If the auto accident was clearly the other driver’s fault, their insurance company may be eager to settle with you. That means they’ll make an offer, and if you accept, the case will be closed and you likely will not be able to seek further damages from the other driver.
If fault is less clear, the other driver’s insurance company will probably request an investigation to try to prove that their policyholder was not responsible for the accident. This can take time, so don’t count on a speedy payout. 
YOUR ROLE IN THE ACCIDENT MAY BE QUESTIONED
In some states, if the insurer can prove that you were even partially at fault for the accident, you can’t collect any payment for damages from the other driver.
Read More

6. Sue the other driver as a last resort

If you can’t collect from either their insurance or your insurance, you may be able to take the other driver to court. If the damages are less than about $3,000 (the exact amount varies by state), you can sue them in small claims court, which may be faster than going through a traditional lawsuit.
Just keep in mind that if the other driver doesn’t have many assets, you may not be able to collect, even if they’re found responsible for the damages.

Don't delay filing suit

There’s a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit after a car accident—usually 2–4 years, depending on the state where the accident happened.

What will another driver’s insurance cover?

Insurance companies may vary on how they handle third-party insurance claims, but here are some of the expenses they may reimburse you for:

Property damage

Property damage liability is a standard coverage included in almost all car insurance policies. With this coverage, if another driver causes an accident, their insurance will pay to repair or replace your vehicle, up to the driver’s policy limits.

Liability coverage limits vary by state

Each state has insurance laws that set a minimum property damage liability limit. In some states, that limit is as low as $5,000—meaning if you live in one of those states and you’re in an accident with a driver who only has the state-minimum liability insurance, the most their insurance company will pay for your vehicle damages is $5,000. 

Medical bills

In many states, bodily injury liability is also a standard insurance coverage. In those states, an at-fault driver’s insurance will pay for medical bills resulting from an accident, including doctor and hospital fees, pain and suffering, and lost wages if you miss work for your injuries.
The state liability limits for bodily injury are set on a per person and per accident basis. This means that while the insurance company will pay up to a set amount for all of the injuries caused in a single accident, each individual involved in the accident will only be eligible to collect a certain amount under a bodily injury liability claim.

Some states limit bodily injury claims

In no-fault states, drivers are required to carry coverage—personal injury protection, or PIP—that will pay for their own injuries after a car insurance, regardless of who was at fault. In those states, you may only be able to sue the other driver (or their insurance company) for medical bills if the accident resulted in very serious injuries or fatalities.

Rental car

In some cases, the other driver’s insurance company will pay to arrange alternate transportation for you while your vehicle is in the shop for accident-related claims. However, this may vary by the provider, so you may need to double-check when you file your claim.
If the other company does not reimburse you for a rental car but you’ve purchased rental reimbursement coverage, your own insurance will cover your rental.

In some cases, it may be better to file under your own insurance

You may want to avoid filing a claim with your own insurance company because you don’t want your insurance rates to go up, but a not-at-fault accident claim won’t always increase your rates—and there are situations where going with your own insurance company can get you a better payout.
  • If you live in a no-fault state: As we mentioned, no-fault states require you to file bodily injury claims under your own no-fault insurance—typically known as personal injury protection (PIP). You can still file a property damage claim with the other driver’s insurance.
  • If you have your own medical coverage: PIP and medical payments coverage (MedPay) are available in some at-fault states. If you have this type of insurance, it may be faster and simpler to have your medical expenses covered if you go through your own insurer.
  • If the other driver is underinsured: If the driver’s coverage limits are too low to cover all of your damages, you may be able to file a bodily injury claim if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) or a property damage claim if you have collision coverage.
  • If you want the process to be faster: Navigating the other driver’s insurance can sometimes be time-consuming, but filing a property damage claim under your own collision insurance will likely be faster. You will need to pay a deductible, but that may be reimbursed later by the other insurance company.
Even if your rates do go up after an accident-related claim, you may be able to help bring them back down by shopping around for a new car insurance company. Some insurers are more forgiving of accidents—especially if you weren’t at fault. 
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FAQ

How does insurance work when it’s not your fault?

If you’re in an accident that’s not your fault, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Depending on the coverage included in your auto insurance policy, you may also have the option to file under your own insurance.

What are some tips on filing an auto insurance claim?

Before you file a claim, gather as much evidence about the accident as possible, including the name. driver’s license number, and insurance information of the other driver, photos of the accident scene, and the name and phone number of any witnesses.

Do you need a police report to file an insurance claim?

If the police weren’t called to the scene, you won’t need a police report to file the claim. However, if the police were called, a police report can be valuable evidence, so include it if one is available.

How long does an insurance company have to settle a claim?

The exact amount of time a car insurance company has to settle a claim varies by state. Some states do not have a set requirement, but all states do require insurance companies to pay in a prompt and reasonable time frame.

Does the insurance company have to pay off my car loan?

A car insurance company does not have to pay off your car loan, even if your car is declared a total loss. They only have to pay the actual cash value of the car. If you owe more on your car than it’s worth, invest in gap insurance to ensure the difference will be paid. 

How long do you have to file a car insurance claim?

The amount of time you have to file a car insurance claim can vary by state and by insurance company. However, in all cases, the sooner you can file, the better—your claim may be denied if you wait too long.

Who do I have to call after a car accident?

If an accident is a hit-and-run or results in serious injuries, call the police right away. You should also notify your car insurance company of the accident as soon as possible afterward.

Will the other driver’s insurance company pay for my rental car?

Many insurance companies will pay third-party claims for a rental car, but ask when you contact them just to be sure.

What if I don’t agree with the amount the other driver’s insurance company offers me for damages to my vehicle?

If you disagree with a settlement offer in a third-party insurance claim, you can reject the offer or request an appraisal.

Can I reopen a claim with my insurance company if I’m not satisfied with the other company’s offer?

In many cases, your insurance company will still allow you to file a claim with them even if you started the process of filing a claim with the other insurance company. However, ask your insurance agent how much time you have to file a claim.

Meet our experts

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Amy Bobinger
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Licensed Insurance Agent — Expert Insurance Editor
Expert insurance writer and editor Amy Bobinger specializes in car repair, car maintenance, and car insurance. Amy is passionate about creating content that helps consumers navigate challenges related to car ownership and achieve financial success in areas relating to cars.
Amy has over 10 years of writing and editing experience. After several years as a freelance writer, Amy spent four years as an editing fellow at WikiHow, where she co-authored over 600 articles on topics including car maintenance and home ownership. Since joining Jerry’s editorial team in 2022, Amy has edited over 2,500 articles on car insurance, state driving laws, and car repair and maintenance.
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Sarah Gray
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Licensed Insurance Agent — Expert Insurance Writer and Editor
Sarah Gray is an insurance writer with nearly a decade of experience in publishing and writing. Sarah specializes in writing articles that educate car owners and buyers on the full scope of car ownership—from shopping for and buying a new car to scrapping one that’s breathed its last and everything in between. Sarah has authored over 1,500 articles for Jerry on topics ranging from first-time buyer programs to how to get a salvage title for a totaled car.
Prior to joining Jerry, Sarah was a full-time professor of English literature and composition with multiple academic writing publications.

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