Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • When your car is registered, you’re must comply with insurance laws in the state where it’s registered
  • Your required to have insurance to pay for third-party damages
  • Your coverage must be valid at the time that your accident occurs for your claim to be covered
  • If you no longer have a car after the accident, you can cancel your insurance and your claim will still be accepted

Accidents happen at the worst time. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your way to your wedding, you’re driving to your child’s graduation celebration, or you’re headed to a job interview, there’s always a possibility that you could be blindsided by another driver and unable to steer clear of colliding.

No matter how an accident happens, it’s the steps that you take after you exit the wreckage to safety that matter the most.

You never want to sit in a damaged vehicle longer than you have to, especially not to file a claim. It’s best to deal with the other driver and the authorities while you’re at the accident scene.

After doing this, you’ll call your insurer and get the help you need.

Make sure you have the coverage you need at a price you can afford. Enter your zip code above to begin comparing car insurance quotes.

Why should you contact your insurer after an accident?

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Insurance companies aren’t psychic. The carrier has no real way of telling there’s an accident unless you notify them. Not everyone wants to file a claim on their policy after a crash.

There are drivers who’d like to self-insure for the small losses just so that they can avoid rate increases. Even drivers who fall into this class have a duty to notify the insurer.

The reason that you have a duty to notify your insurer of an accident is simple. You’re expected to tell the carrier whenever there’s a risk that a claim could be filed.

If you’re in an accident with a tree and there’s no damage to any property other than yours, it’s fine to handle everything by yourself without making a phone call. If, however, you collide with property owned by someone else, you have a duty to call your insurer in a reasonable amount of time.

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What could happen if you don’t call your insurer?

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If you don’t contact your insurer after an accident, it doesn’t mean that the other party won’t. One of the standard practices after a crash is for all of the drivers involved to exchange information.

You’re required by law to be honest and provide the information that the driver needs to file a claim and recoup some money. Insurance information is on this list.

You should always give your company a heads up so the agents aren’t caught off-guard when they get a call from the other driver or their insurance claims representative.

If you’ve failed to file a claim by the time that the third-party carrier starts handling the investigations, it doesn’t bode well for you. It doesn’t just look bad, it delays the entire investigation process.

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How long should you wait before you call your insurer?

The contract says you should call the company in a reasonable amount of time after you have an accident. This is a very broad requirement that can be a cause for confusion. Your definition and the insurer’s definition of reasonable may be very different.

One of the reasons for the broad definition is because there are scenarios where you may be physically unable to report the accident or file a claim with detailed information for a while. If you’re recovering from injuries, you’ll be given a little more leniency.

If, however, there weren’t any immediate injuries, you should call your insurer within a few days so that the details are fresh in your mind.

Some companies suggest waiting to talk to a third-party insurer on your own because you may make statements that could be used against you. If you have any soft-tissue injuries, those could take a couple days to manifest.

What is the process after the accident has been reported?

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Liability claims resulting in injury, damage claims, and first-party claims are all handled differently.

You need to be aware of how the claims are handled before you assume that you’re done dealing with everything after you’ve notified an agent of your accident and made the necessary statements.

All claims have to be investigated. Investigations for claims that end in injury may be more thorough than those that end with just some minor damage. The adjuster on the file will speak with the other company to compare statements.

After the damage is estimated, the scene is inspected, and police reports are reviewed, a fault determination will be made and settlements will be offered.

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Will my insurance company pay for the damages when a claim is filed?

If you’re declared at fault and the other party is filing a claim for damages, your insurance carrier will pay up to the limits on your insurance for the reasonable accident-related expenses.

The only time the insurer won’t pay is when it’s found to be a fraudulent claim or when your policy was inactive at the time of the accident.

If you have your own damages that you need to file for, you’ll file a first-party claim against your insurance. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have coverage.

You have to carry the right first-party coverage for your bills to be paid. Here are some examples of coverage that you need:

  • Comprehensive – damage claim after a fire, theft, vandalism or another non-moving claim
  • Collision – damage claim after you’re at-fault in an accident
  • Medical Payments – claim to cover immediate medical expenses

Can I cancel my insurance after I file?

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You have to have active coverage at the moment the accident happens but after that, you can cancel your policy if you’d like. If you don’t have coverage elsewhere, it’s best to wait before canceling.

IF the car is totaled, wait until you get total loss paperwork before you request a backdated cancellation.

Having insurance will give you peace of mind after a very serious accident. If you’re leaning on your insurance company for help and they don’t impress you, you can cancel the policy and switch carriers.

Just be sure to compare premiums online and keep coverage active on a car that you own at all times. Try our free comparison tool today!