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: Nov 17, 2021

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The Lowdown

  • You need certain information and documentation to file an auto insurance claim
  • Some auto insurance companies will allow you to start the claim insurance process online
  • Auto insurance rates may increase after filing a claim

It is crucial for drivers to know how to file an auto insurance claim. If you are in an accident or your vehicle is damaged, you need your auto insurance to pay for the damages. However, each company will vary on how to file an auto insurance claim.

While some companies let you start a claim online, others will require paperwork to be submitted first. Your auto insurance company should have a clear process for you to follow.

If you have to file an insurance claim, shop around to make sure you are still getting the lowest rates possible. Each company weighs your claim differently and charge different rates.

Keep reading to learn how to file an auto insurance claim. Before you begin, enter your ZIP code to compare free quotes from auto insurance companies near you.

What are the steps to file an auto insurance claim?

When filing a claim, insurance companies will have different procedures. You will need to follow the insurance claim process for your insurer. However, there are some general steps that apply to all auto insurance claims.

If your vehicle is damaged in an accident, the most important thing is safety. Make sure you and any other vehicles are safely out of the roadway. Next, call the police and an ambulance if necessary.

If your vehicle is damaged from something other than an accident, you will still need to follow these steps.

You will also need the proper information to file a claim. You will need the other driver’s information as well as the police report. Take pictures of the vehicles if possible.

Next, speak with your auto insurance company about how to make a claim. Following a specific process will be necessary.

You also need to find out if there is a time limit to file an auto insurance claim. Your timeframe will depend on your auto insurance company and the rules in your state.

Some car insurance companies allow you to start the claims process online or through an app. Others will want you to submit paperwork by email or fax.

Your auto insurance company will speak with you about your deductible. You will also be asked if you have rental car coverage. Then, you will be connected with an insurance adjuster to evaluate the damage to your vehicle.

It’s vital to file your claim accurately. According to the Insurance Information Institute, misrepresenting or inflating your claim represents insurance fraud.

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How does filing an auto insurance claim affect your rates?

Many different factors affect your auto insurance rates. These factors include your age, gender, credit score, and where you live. However, your driving record is one of the most significant factors that affect auto insurance rates.

If you have accidents on your driving record, auto insurance companies view you as risky to insure. Therefore, they will charge you higher rates.

This table shows the average rates from top companies for drivers if they have one accident.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates for Drivers with One Accident
CompanyAverage Annual Rates with Clean RecordAverage Annual Rates with 1 Accident
Allstate$3,819.90$4,987.68
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75
Farmers$3,460.60$4,518.73
GEICO$2,145.96$3,192.77
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,396.95
Progressive$3,393.09$4,777.04
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01
Travelers$3,447.69$4,289.74
USAA$1,933.68$2,516.24
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One accident can increase your rates by around $80 a month. Multiple accidents will make those rates skyrocket.

If you have at least one accident on your driving record, consider taking a defensive driving course. Not only will you learn safe driving tips, but many auto insurance companies will also give you a discount.

What auto insurance coverage do you need for your claim to be paid?

In order for the damage to be covered, you have to have the correct coverage on your car insurance policy.

Most states require you to carry at least a minimum amount of liability coverage. Liability insurance pays for damages to another car if you cause an accident.

Drivers should consider adding collision and comprehensive coverages as well.

Collision insurance pays for damages to your car if you cause an accident. This includes accidents with another vehicle or object like a tree or fence.

Comprehensive insurance covers damages not related to an accident. Examples of damages covered by comprehensive coverage include:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Falling debris (such as hail)
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Wind
  • Hurricanes

Knowing the difference between collision and comprehensive coverage saves time. It also prevents unwanted surprises in the event of an accident.

For example, if you hit a tree, your collision coverage will pay. However, if a tree limb falls on your car, your comprehensive coverage will pay.

In order to be fully protected, both collision and comprehensive coverages may be needed.

If your vehicle isn’t worth much or if you have the ability to pay for damages out of pocket, you might want to avoid filing an insurance claim. Not only will it keep your rates lower, but the repair process can be faster as well since you don’t have to wait for an adjuster.

How to file an auto insurance claim: What’s the bottom line?

Filing an insurance claim can be easy, depending on your auto insurance company.

However, you will still need important information. You will need to submit a claim form before your car accident insurance kicks in.

Each auto insurance company will look at your claim differently. Shop around to find the best coverage with the lowest rates.

Now that you know how to file a claim on auto insurance, enter your ZIP code. Compare rates from companies near you for free.