How to File a Car Insurance Claim

Car accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of their driving proficiency or the caution they exercise on the road. From seasoned drivers to novices, the risk of being involved in a car accident looms ever-present due to factors such as adverse weather conditions, mechanical failures, or the negligence of other drivers.

The car insurance claims process is a safety net that protects drivers from this unpredictability and helps them recover from unforeseen accidents and damages. Whether it's a minor fender-bender or a major collision, the claims process provides a pathway for individuals to seek financial restitution, repair, or replacement for their vehicles.

Unexpected incidents on the road can leave drivers feeling overwhelmed and unsure of their next steps. In this article, we'll guide you through the ins and outs of filing a car insurance claim so you can hit the road with peace of mind.

Process for Filing a Car Insurance Claim

Immediately following a car accident, stay calm, move to a safe location, call 911, take photos if possible, and exchange information with the other drivers. Car accidents are scary, but filing a car insurance claim shouldn’t be. To file a claim, do the following:

Provide Information To Your Insurer

In the event of an accident, documentation serves as tangible evidence to support your claim and ensure fair compensation. To provide your insurer with full context, you should try to collect:

  • The names, contact details, insurance, and vehicle information of all involved parties
  • The names and badge numbers of the police officers who responded to the accident
  • The names and contract details for all witnesses
  • The location and time of the accident
  • Weather conditions at the time of the accident
  • Photos of any vehicle damage
  • Photos of any property damage
  • Photos of the scene of the accident
  • A copy of the accident report

Review Your Auto Insurance Policy

To successfully submit a claim, you need to understand your car insurance policy and what it covers. Here are a few aspects of your policy to know—or ask—about when filing a claim:

Your Deductible

A car insurance deductible is the amount of money a policyholder agrees to pay out of pocket towards the cost of damages before their insurance coverage kicks in. For instance, if a policy has a $500 property damage deductible and the insured files a claim for $2000 in property damages, they would be responsible for paying the initial $500, with the insurance company covering the remaining $1500.

Deductibles vary depending on the insurance policy and can affect premium rates—the higher the deductible, the lower the premium, and vice versa.

Rental Car Coverage

Rental car coverage is an optional add-on to car insurance policies that provides reimbursement for the cost of renting a replacement vehicle while your car is undergoing repairs after an accident. Typically, rental car coverage has a daily limit and a maximum total reimbursement amount, so carefully reviewing policy details is essential. While not mandatory, rental car coverage offers peace of mind and convenience, especially during times of unexpected vehicle downtime due to accidents or repairs.

Gap Insurance

Gap insurance, often offered as an add-on to car insurance policies, provides additional financial protection for drivers who have leased or financed their vehicles. In the event of a total loss due to theft or an accident, gap insurance covers the difference, or "gap," between the actual cash value (ACV) of the car and the amount still owed on the lease or loan.
This is particularly valuable because standard insurance policies typically only cover the vehicle's current market value, which can depreciate rapidly, leaving drivers responsible for paying off any remaining balance out of pocket. Gap insurance ensures drivers aren't left financially burdened by the shortfall between the insurance payout and the outstanding loan or lease amount, offering peace of mind and financial security in the face of unexpected losses.

Get Help From an Insurance Adjuster

An adjuster's role in the claims process extends beyond estimating damages; they serve as liaison between policyholders and insurance companies, working to negotiate settlements that align with policy terms and coverage limits. Their knowledge in insurance policies and regulations allows them to interpret complex policy language and determine the extent of coverage applicable to your claim.

Adjustors evaluate the extent of damage to your vehicle, providing an accurate assessment that serves as the basis for your insurance claim. Their skillsets enable them to identify both visible and underlying damages that may not be immediately apparent, ensuring that all necessary repairs are accounted for in the estimation process. This helps expedite the resolution of your claim with the insurance company by establishing clear documentation of the damages and associated costs. By engaging with an adjuster promptly, you can ensure that your claim is processed efficiently, maximizing the likelihood of receiving fair compensation for the damages incurred.

Repair or Replace Your Car

After an accident, the process of getting your car replaced or repaired begins with thorough documentation of the scene, including photographs of the vehicles involved and any damage sustained. Promptly notify your insurance provider and give them all relevant details about the accident. An adjuster will then assess the damage, providing an estimate for repairs or replacement. It's crucial to be present during this inspection to ensure accurate documentation and address any questions the adjuster may have.

Once the assessment is complete, review the estimate provided by the adjuster. Then, work with authorized repair shop or dealerships to complete the necessary repairs or obtain a replacement vehicle.
Maintaining open communication with both your insurance provider and the repair shop throughout the process is essential to address any concerns and ensure a smooth resolution. Your insurance company may pay the auto shop directly, or they may pay you instead.

By diligently following these steps and staying proactive in the claims process, you can expedite the repair or replacement of your vehicle, minimizing disruptions and getting back on the road safely and swiftly.

File a Car Insurance Claim with the GEICO Mobile App

Reporting a claim online is fast and easy using the GEICO mobile app. Check out our auto repair page to learn more about how GEICO Auto Repair Xpress® works.

Filing a Car Insurance Claim FAQs

  • How does insurance work when it's not your fault?

    When you're involved in a car accident in which you're not at fault, you would file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company. Their liability coverage should cover your damages, including vehicle repairs, medical expenses, and any other losses incurred as a result of the accident.

    The at-fault driver's insurance company will investigate the accident, assess liability, and determine the extent of coverage provided under their policy. Once liability is established, they will settle your claim and compensate you for your damages.

    If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may need to rely on your own insurance coverage for compensation. Under such circumstances, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) included in your policy can step in to cover your damages.

    Whether or not you're at fault, it's crucial to document the accident scene thoroughly, gather witness information, and cooperate with both your insurance company and the at-fault driver's insurance company to facilitate a smooth claims process and secure fair compensation for your damages.

  • What happens if I'm at fault in a car accident?

    If you're found at fault in a car accident, your insurance company will typically be responsible for covering the damages to both your vehicle and any other vehicles involved, as well as any injuries sustained by other parties.

    Depending on your insurance policy and coverage limits, your insurer will handle the claims process, including assessing the damages, determining liability, and negotiating settlements with the other parties involved. It's essential to cooperate fully with your insurance company, provide accurate information about the accident, and comply with any requests for documentation or statements.

  • What happens if you get involved in an accident in a no-fault State?

    Some states are at-fault states and others are no-fault states. In no-fault states, drivers involved in car accidents are typically required to turn to their own insurance companies for compensation, regardless of who is at fault. Under no-fault insurance systems, each party's insurance policy covers their own medical expenses and damages up to the policy's limits. No-fault systems often have thresholds that must be met before a party can pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for additional damages beyond what their insurance policy covers.

    Note that "no-fault" does not mean you can never be at-fault for an accident, rather the term "no-fault" refers to how insurance claims are handled rather than determining fault in an accident. Faults may still be considered in certain situations.

  • What to do in a minor car accident with no damage?
    Even in the case of minor car accidents, it's important to file a claim with your insurance company. While the damage may seem insignificant initially, it could lead to more significant issues down the line. Additionally, filing a claim ensures that you have proper documentation of the incident, which can protect you if the other party decides to file a claim or pursue legal action later on.
  • How long do you have to file a car insurance claim?
    The timeframe for filing a car insurance claim varies by state, insurer, and claim type, but it's best to report accidents promptly for accurate, efficient processing.
  • How to get a car repair estimate.

    A car repair estimate is a detailed assessment of the damages sustained in a car accident that outlines the necessary repairs and associated costs. It's essential to obtain an estimate to understand the extent of damages and ensure fair compensation from insurance companies.

    To start the process, contact your GEICO insurance agent or check the estimate online through your GEICO App. Provide all relevant information about the accident. After the claim has been reported estimates can be scheduled online or via phone. When you get your vehicle inspected and repaired through the GEICO Auto Repair Xpress® we guarantee the work as long as you own the vehicle.

  • How long do I have to repair my car after an accident?
    The timeframe to repair your car after an accident varies depending on insurance policies and the severity of damages. Some policies may have specific deadlines, while others may allow more flexibility. It's crucial to communicate with your insurance company and adhere to any time constraints outlined in your policy. Prompt repairs prevent further damage and ensure roadworthiness, but extensions may be available under extenuating circumstances.
  • Who pays for my rental car after an accident?
    In the event of an accident in which you are not at fault, the at-fault driver's insurance may cover the cost of a rental car during your vehicle's repair. If you have rental car reimbursement coverage on your policy, you're covered regardless of fault within your policy's limits. Be sure to contact your adjuster to understand your coverage details.