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How to File a Car Insurance Claim

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    How to File a Car Insurance Claim

    Car accidents are scary, chaotic, and painful. In the aftermath of a collision, your first thought is likely, “How badly am I hurt?” While it’s critical to seek medical treatment for your injury claim from car accident,  the property damage and car insurance claiming is also important.

    Filing a claim with car insurance early can put you in a better position to maximize your settlement and ensure that there is little reason for the car accident insurance company to deny it. Sometimes, another party involved in the car accident could contest the claim's validity.

    If you need help getting a fair settlement after your car insurance claim, contact Lehmbecker Law of Seattle to explore your legal options.

    What Is a Car Insurance Claim?

    how to file a car insurance claim

    A car accident insurance claim is a request for compensation from the driver to their insurance carrier to cover the cost of repairing the damage to their car and paying their medical bills after a collision.

    Although the details of processing the claim vary a little between insurance companies, the essentials of how to file an insurance claim for a car accident are essentially the same.

    6 Steps for Filing a Car Insurance Claim

    Carefully following each of these steps for how to file a claim with car insurance will help you successfully complete the settlement process.

    1. Contact Your Insurance Company

    Your first step in filing a car insurance claim is to contact your insurance company. Collect any paperwork pertaining to the accident, including:

    • The police accident report;
    • Medical bills from your accident injuries;
    • Any quotes from an auto mechanic.

    Grab your insurance policy, too, as it will have the instructions for how to file a car insurance claim.

    2. File a Police Report

    how to file a claim with car insurance

    Washington law requires a Motor Vehicle Collision Report for any accident with bodily injury or property damages in excess of $1,000.

    If you called the police, the responding officer will make the report and file it; if not, filing the report is your responsibility. A police report is critical evidence, as it contains witness accounts and other significant details.

    3. Review Your Policies’ Coverages and Deductible Selections

    You can make a car insurance accident claim for injuries you sustained, any harm that came to a passenger, or damage sustained by your vehicle, even if there were no serious injuries. Depending on the type of claim you make and the terms of your insurance coverage, you could be entitled to payments for medical expenses, wage loss, vehicle repair, and other compensation.

    Additionally, the car crash claim may be opened with your own insurance company (first-party claim) or against another person’s insurance company (third-party claim). If someone else struck your vehicle with theirs, you should still consider opening a claim with your insurance company, which owes you several duties that the other driver’s insurance company does not. You can still pursue damages from the other driver’s insurance. The type of insurance and the amount of coverage the other driver has, however, could affect the payment of your claim.

    4. Work with Your Insurance Adjuster

    After you file a claim, your insurance carrier assigns an insurance adjuster to process it. Their job is to investigate the claim and determine whether:

    • It is valid;
    • The damage is covered under your policy;
    • Another party caused the accident and is, therefore, responsible for the damages.

    When the adjustor contacts you, simply state the facts and avoid long narratives or any “explanation.”

    All communications with the insurance adjuster will be used as part of the claims evaluation process, including determining who is at fault.

    If you are filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company and don’t know how to file an auto insurance claim against someone, a Seattle car accident lawyer can guide you through the claims process.

    5. Get Your Car Repaired

    how to file an auto insurance claim against someone

    Your insurance company may have a list of preferred auto repair shops, but you are not required to go to a particular mechanic. However, there are benefits to going to your insurance-authorized body shop. The insurance company pays them directly.

    And if there is damage beyond their initial estimate, the additional repairs will usually be approved more quickly.

    One drawback to using an insurance-approved mechanic is that insurance companies usually only authorize repairs and replacements using original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. These parts are the same as those in your original vehicle but can vary in quality.

    6. Finalize Your Insurance Payout

    Once your car is repaired, your insurance company will either pay the mechanic directly or cut you a check (it’s then your responsibility to pay the mechanic). Next, you sign a release agreeing not to pursue further claims from the accident.

    The process is usually the same for how to file an insurance claim if someone hit your car, except that you will be dealing with the other driver’s insurance company and not your own.

    When to Submit Your Car Insurance Claim in Washington State

    Right after a car accident, you are probably hurt and may be waiting to see a specialist to determine the extent of your injuries. But don’t wait too long to file the claim.

    How long to file a car insurance claim may vary, so make sure to check your policy carefully to determine the deadline. Most insurance companies require you to notify them within 10-30 days of the accident; if you don’t, you could invalidate your policy.

    A dedicated insurance agent can help ensure your claim and all accompanying paperwork are filed on time and correctly. Or most auto insurance companies have an online filing option. Either way, you will need:

    • Your insurance policy number;
    • The name, insurance information, license plate, and driver’s license number of the other driver;
    • The date, time, and location of the accident.

    You may also need to indicate if the police were called and which officer responded.

    Tips for Filing a Car Insurance Claim

    how to file an insurance claim if someone hit your car

    Lehmbecker Law firm offers several tips to help you file a car insurance claim, but don’t forget, if you aren’t getting the resolution you deserve, give us a call!

    Check into Rental Cars

    You need transportation until you find a permanent solution, so don’t hesitate to find a rental car in the meantime. Rental car coverage can often be covered by the at-fault party’s insurer (assuming they are insured). This is because the time frame for vehicle damage completion is long, often longer than a month, after which first-party coverage often maxes out. If you’ve already started the process with your own insurance, speak to your attorney about transferring it to the at-fault party’s insurer.

    Wait on Repairs Until You Meet with the Adjuster

    If you repair your car before the adjustor values the repair needs, you may not receive full compensation. Unless delaying a repair would cause more damage to the car, you should always wait for the adjuster to inspect the damage. If you must repair the car right away, take photos or videos of the damage.

    If You Don’t Think You’re Being Treated Fairly, Do Something About It

    Insurance companies typically try to settle a claim for as little as possible, as fast as possible, if they don’t deny a claim outright. If you’re concerned about how your carrier or the other party is handling your claim, you can appeal their decision, seek a second opinion of your claim’s value, or hire a car accident lawyer.  

    Don’t Delay Getting Treatment for Your Injuries

    how to file a insurance claim on car accident

    Many common car accident injuries can lead to serious health complications left untreated. Others may be “hidden” injuries that don’t present specific symptoms immediately.

    Prompt medical treatment after an accident reduces your chances of lifelong health complications, but many people may hesitate to see a doctor because they’re worried about how to pay for it.

    What Happens After Your Claim Is Submitted?

    Once you know the basics of how to file a car accident insurance claim and submit your claim, you should receive a claim or confirmation number. That can be used to check on the status of your claim. You may be contacted to answer more questions or provide further documentation, and the insurance company may send someone out to take a look at your vehicle and assess the level of damage done to it.

    You may also be asked to submit pictures of the damage, medical records from the incident, a copy of the police report, and other pertinent information. The faster you provide information, the faster your claim can be processed in the majority of cases. Again, before signing any documentation or giving a statement to another driver’s insurance, you should always consult with an attorney.

    Common Reasons Insurance Companies Deny Auto Claims

    how to file a car accident insurance claim

    Even if you follow all the right steps to file an auto insurance claim, you may still end up with a less-than-satisfying result from the insurance company. Common reasons an insurance carrier will deny your claim include:

    • The accident could have been prevented by defensive or more responsible behavior;
    • You missed the window to file a claim;
    • You delayed medical care, and the insurance company contests that the accident caused your injuries;
    • The accident could have been avoided if you had fulfilled your duty of care;
    • Neither party was to blame — it was a true accident.

    Insurance companies may use your own words against you to deny your claim. When you speak with the insurance adjustor, you may have unwittingly provided some “reasonable doubt” reason for them to believe you shared most of the responsibility for the accident.

    When talking to the insurance company, stick to the facts, and when in doubt, refer all communications to your Seattle car accident lawyer.

    What Should You Do If Your Claim Is Denied?

    If your claim was denied, you may request the specific reason in writing. Sometimes, you may have made an error because you did not know how to file an insurance claim on car accidents; other times, there may be inaccurate information that led to the denial.

    If you still don’t have a satisfactory resolution, you may benefit from seeking legal advice.

    A Seattle Auto Accident Attorney Can Help You with Your Property Damage Claim

    Sometimes, despite the clear-cut evidence that the other driver was at fault, an insurance company may deny your claim. Other times, the issues may be murkier, and both insurance companies contest the liability of the drivers involved.

    If you aren’t getting the settlement you deserve, an experienced Seattle accident lawyer can help you recoup your losses and hold the at-fault driver accountable.

    Get Maximum From Your Car Insurance Claim

    Let our attorneys guide you through the process for maximum compensation.

    Request Free Consultation

    Larry A. Lehmbecker
    Firm Founder, Larry Lehmbecker, has nearly 40 year’s of experience fighting for the injured in Washington State. He is always eager to share his knowledge to help those in need.
    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today
    Our attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience to help ensure you get the proper treatment for your injuries
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    How long do I have to file an insurance claim?

    The length of time you have to file a claim varies according to your insurance carrier’s policies, but most require you to report within 30 days. However, Washington law requires the insurance adjustor to complete their investigation within 30 days of the claim’s filing date.

    What is insurance subrogation?

    Insurance subrogation is the right of an insurance carrier to request reimbursement from the party responsible for an accident for any expenses paid to their clients. If your insurance company paid your claim and your car accident lawyer proved that the other driver was responsible, your insurance company may demand the at-fault driver’s insurance company pay them back.

    How do I get a car repair estimate?

    Getting a car repair estimate is fairly simple — just bring your wrecked car to an auto body shop. However, not all mechanics are created equal; to get a better idea of the extent of your car’s damage after a wreck, you may want to get two or three estimates.

    How long do I have to repair my car after an accident?

    You probably shouldn’t repair your damaged car until after the insurance adjustor examines it to assess the damage and repairs needed. Once that’s completed, you may have to comply with your insurance carrier’s deadline to complete the covered repairs.