how car insurance works after accident

How Car Insurance Works After Accident

Getting into a car accident can be a stressful and confusing experience. Dealing with injuries, vehicle damage, and insurance claims can quickly become overwhelming. Understanding how

car insurance works after an accident can help you navigate the process smoothly. This guide will walk you through what to expect from your car insurance company after an accident, how claims work, and tips for getting the most out of your policy.

Notifying Your Insurance Company

The first thing you should do after an accident is contact your car insurance company. Most policies require you to notify them within 24 hours of the incident. Call the claims number listed on your insurance card and be prepared to provide basic details like when and where the accident occurred.

The claims representative will walk you through the initial steps, which usually include:

  • Filing a claim report with basic details about the accident. Initiating the claims process to cover vehicle repairs, medical bills, and other accident-related expenses.
  • Reviewing coverages available on your policy. Arranging for your vehicle to be inspected at an approved repair shop.

If the accident resulted in injuries, property damage, or a totaled vehicle, make sure to get a police report for the insurance claim. Most companies will ask for the report number during the initial notification call.

Notifying Your Insurance Company
Notifying Your Insurance Company

How Insurance Adjusters Evaluate Claims

Once you’ve notified your insurer, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your case. The adjuster acts as an investigator, reviewing the circumstances of the accident and assessing damages. Here are some of the key things they will look at:

  • Police report – The official report will include important details like who was determined to be at fault and if any traffic laws were violated. This helps establish liability.
  • Statements from all drivers – The adjuster will interview you and the other driver(s) involved to compare accounts of what happened. Conflicting statements could raise questions.
  • Damage assessment – The adjuster will evaluate the extent of property damage and review any injury claims that resulted from the accident.
  • Photos/video – Having photos or video evidence of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and injuries can help the claims process.
  • Data recorder – Many modern vehicles have black box data recorders that capture driving data seconds before a collision. The adjuster may review this info.
  • Coverage and policy limits – The adjuster will confirm what coverages you have (collision, medical payments, etc.) and any claim limits under your policy.

By collecting and reviewing all pertinent information, the adjuster can then make a fair assessment of fault and damages owed. This is critical for deciding how much the insurance company will pay for your claim.

How Insurance Adjusters Evaluate Claims
How Insurance Adjusters Evaluate Claims

Determining Fault

One of the adjuster’s primary goals is to establish which driver was at fault for causing the accident. This will dictate who is responsible for paying accident claims. Rules for determining fault vary slightly by state, but generally:

If one driver clearly violated traffic laws or was driving recklessly, they will typically be deemed majority or fully at fault. With collisions in intersections, fault may fall on the driver who failed to yield properly.

  • Rear-end collisions are usually the fault of the trailing driver, since they should allow enough distance to stop. With merges and lane changes, the driver changing lanes unsafely often shoulders more fault.
  • If negligence on both sides contributed equally to the crash, fault can be split, with each insurer paying a percentage based on their driver’s responsibility.
  • In rare no-fault states, a driver’s own insurer pays their bills regardless of fault.

Your insurer will make an official determination of fault based on all available evidence. If you dispute their decision, you can contest it and provide documents or testimony supporting your position. However, the insurance company has the final say in most cases.

Determining Fault
Determining Fault

Collision Coverage Claims

If your vehicle sustained damage in the accident, collision coverage will pay for repairs or reimburse you if the car was totaled. Here’s how collision claims typically work:

The adjuster will first evaluate the extent of vehicle damage through an in-person inspection or photos. For repairable vehicles, an adjuster-approved body shop will write up an estimate for parts and labor costs. This is sent to the insurer.

You’ll have the option to select your preferred repair shop, though some insurers require using a shop they recommend. The insurance company will issue payment to the auto shop handling repairs, minus your collision deductible which you’ll pay out of pocket.

With a total loss, they determine the car’s pre-accident actual cash value and pay you that amount, minus your deductible. If you have a rental car reimbursement add-on, they will cover some rental costs during repairs.

It’s important to understand your policy’s collision deductible amount, which can range from $250 to $1,500. Also note that collision claims may cause your premium to increase upon renewal.

Collision Coverage Claims
Collision Coverage Claims

Comprehensive Claims

Comprehensive coverage will pay for damage to your car from non-collision incidents like theft, vandalism, falling objects, fire, or natural disasters. The claims process is similar:

  • You’ll report details like the date and location the damage occurred.
  • An adjuster will assess the repair costs or determine if it’s a total loss.
  • For approved repairs, you’ll pay the deductible and the insurer will pay the shop directly.
  • If totaled, they’ll pay you the car’s actual cash value minus the deductible.

Unlike collision coverage, filing a comprehensive claim generally doesn’t impact your insurance rates. But frequent comprehensive claims could still increase your premium down the road.

Comprehensive Claims
Comprehensive Claims

Liability Coverage Claims

Liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage that you cause to others in an accident. Here’s what to expect if someone makes an injury or damage claim under your liability insurance:

The other driver files a claim with your insurer seeking payment for medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repairs, etc. Your insurer verifies policy limits and any exclusions that might apply. The adjuster will investigate the claim, weighing factors like police reports, medical records, and fault determination.

  • If they determine you were liable for damages based on negligence, your insurer is responsible for paying legitimate claims up to your policy’s liability limits.
  • You may need to provide a recorded statement about the accident at the insurer’s request.
  • For large claims exceeding liability limits, the other party can sue you directly for additional compensation.

It’s important to have sufficient liability insurance in case you cause significant damages. Minimum required limits are $15,000 – $30,000 in most states, but experts recommend at least $100,000.

Liability Coverage Claims
Liability Coverage Claims

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects you when an at-fault driver has no insurance. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage comes into play when the other driver’s liability limits are insufficient to cover damages they caused. Here’s how these claims work:

File a claim with your own insurer, providing details on the uninsured or underinsured motorist. The adjuster verifies that the other driver lacks adequate insurance. You may need to provide proof that the police cited the other driver at fault.

UM claims work like collision coverage, paying for vehicle repairs or total loss. UIM claims mirror liability insurance, covering injuries and other losses up to your policy limits. Unlike regular claims, you pay no deductible for UM/UIM claims.

This coverage is optional but smart to consider given that over 1 in 8 drivers are uninsured. It provides a safety net when at-fault drivers can’t compensate you fully.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Disputing a Claim Denial

In some cases, your insurer may deny part or all of a claim after reviewing the accident circumstances and damages. Here are some potential reasons for denial and options if this happens:

Reasons for Denial:

  • Another driver was predominantly at fault based on evidence.
  • Damages exceed your coverage limits.
  • The incident falls under a policy exclusion for things like drunk driving.
  • You failed to cooperate with claim requirements.
  • There is suspicion of fraud.

Appealing a Denial:

  • Request a formal explanation for the denial in writing.
  • Submit any additional evidence supporting your version of events.
  • Point out relevant state insurance regulations that may apply.
  • Consult your policy to confirm you have the coverage in question.
  • File a complaint with your state insurance commissioner.
  • Finally, you may need to hire an attorney and sue your insurer.

Having a denied claim turned around can be challenging, but taking a methodical appeals approach can improve your chances of getting a reversal or compromise decision.

Disputing A Claim Denial
Disputing a Claim Denial

Tips for Navigating the Claims Process

Here are some helpful tips for smooth sailing after an auto accident:

  • Call your insurer immediately to start the claims process right away. Keep detailed written records of all conversations and documentation.
  • Save all related paperwork like accident reports, photos, estimates, invoices. Provide truthful and detailed statements to your insurer.
  • Take photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and injuries if possible. Get multiple repair estimates to negotiate the best payout.
  • Be responsive to all requests from your claims adjuster. Follow up frequently on the claim status. Ask questions if anything is unclear during the process.
Tips For Navigating The Claims Process
Tips for Navigating the Claims Process

At-a-Glance View of Post-Accident Insurance Claims Process


  • Contact insurer within 24 hrs
  • Provide basic accident details


  • Adjuster reviews police report, damages, statements
  • Determines fault based on negligence


  • Insurer issues payment for repairs/medical/liability costs
  • May dispute denial and provide additional evidence


  • Select preferred body shop
  • Insurer pays shop directly minus deductible

Medical Care

  • Use your health insurance or medical payments benefit
  • Track treatment costs for liability claim reimbursement

Follow Up

  • Keep detailed records throughout
  • Ensure repairs are completed properly
  • Settle injury claim with liable party’s insurer

Tips for Finding a Reputable Repair Shop

  • Ask insurer for recommended shops in network. Look for shops certified by ASE, manufacturers. Check online customer reviews on Yelp, Google, etc.
  • Ask friends/family for shop recommendations. Visit shop to inspect professionalism and organization. Look for at least 6 month warranty on work.
  • Confirm they use OEM parts when possible. Get written estimate upfront and understand costs. Review itemized invoice before paying.

Pros and Cons of Filing an Insurance Claim After an Accident


  • Covers cost of vehicle repairs/replacement
  • Pays medical bills through injury coverage
  • Liability insurance compensates other damaged parties
  • Rental reimbursement keeps you mobile during repairs
  • Adjusters help facilitate the claims process
  • Repairs your car to pre-accident condition


  • Out of pocket payment of your deductible
  • Potential premium increase after claims
  • No coverage if claim denied due to policy limitations
  • Repairs can take weeks depending on parts/shop availability
  • Too many claims may risk non-renewal by your

Here are more details on some of the topics you asked about:

Fault Determination in No-Fault States

In no-fault insurance states, the process for determining fault and handling claims is different than in traditional tort states. Here’s how it works:

In no-fault states, each driver makes a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Fault does not need to be officially determined, unless there are injuries that cross a specified severity threshold.

For minor soft tissue injuries, your own insurer pays medical costs and lost wages up to the state no-fault coverage limit, usually $10,000. For more serious injuries, the at-fault driver is identified and their liability insurance covers additional medical costs and other damages.

In these cases, traditional liability rules are used to determine fault based on negligence.

Common Policy Exclusions

Some common exclusions that could lead an insurer to deny a claim include:

  • Driving without a valid driver’s license.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
  • Using the vehicle for commercial purposes not declared.
  • Allowing an excluded driver to operate the vehicle.
  • Vehicle use in commission of a crime.
  • Damage caused intentionally by the policyholder.
  • Failure to cooperate with the claim investigation.
Common Policy Exclusions
Common Policy Exclusions

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims

Here are more details on how uninsured and underinsured motorist claims work:

UM covers injuries to you and your passengers if an uninsured at-fault driver has no insurance to pay damages. UIM kicks in when the at-fault driver has liability insurance, but their limits are inadequate to fully cover your losses.

In hit-and-run accidents with no identifiable at-fault driver, UM also pays for vehicle damage since there is no liability insurance available. The process starts by filing a claim with your own insurer under your UM/UIM coverage for compensation.

Insurer will verify there is little or no applicable insurance on the other side. Fault is determined through usual liability rules. Police report, witnesses often help establish hit-and-run fault. Your insurer then pays damages from your own policy up to your UM/UIM limits, minus any deductible.


How does insurance work when its not your fault?

If the accident is entirely the other driver’s fault, you will file a claim with their liability insurance company, not your own insurer. Their insurer is responsible for paying for your vehicle repairs, medical bills, lost wages, etc. Your rates should not go up. You should only need to pay your deductible upfront if you file a claim under your own collision coverage.

How much will my insurance go up after a claim?

Insurance rate increases after claims vary widely depending on factors like:

  • Your current insurer and policy details
  • Number and type of claims recently filed
  • Dollar amount of the claim
  • Your location, driving record, age, credit, and other factors

On average, filing a single claim can increase your rates by 10% to 30%, while multiple claims within a few years can increase rates by 40% or more. Higher risk drivers tend to see greater increases.

Best full coverage car insurance in Florida:

Some top insurers for full coverage auto insurance in Florida include State Farm, Progressive, Allstate, and Geico. Florida Farm Bureau also offers competitive rates. Compare quotes to find the right balance of premiums and coverage that fits your needs and budget.

Largest auto insurance companies in Canada:

The largest auto insurance providers in Canada are:

  • Intact Insurance
  • Desjardins
  • Aviva Canada
  • RSA Canada
  • Co-operators General Insurance
  • Wawanesa Mutual Insurance
  • Economical Insurance
  • TD Insurance
  • Johnson Insurance
  • RBC Insurance

These companies collectively hold over three-quarters of the total market share in Canada. Check with several providers to find the best rates.


In conclusion, understanding how car insurance works after an accident is essential for every driver. Car insurance is a financial safety net that provides protection in the event of unexpected accidents or damages. After an accident, the process typically involves several key steps:

  1. Reporting the Accident: It’s crucial to notify your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. Prompt reporting helps initiate the claims process and ensures that you receive the necessary support.
  2. Claim Investigation: Once you file a claim, the insurance company will conduct an investigation to assess the extent of the damage and determine who is at fault. This investigation may involve collecting evidence, talking to witnesses, and evaluating the policy details.
  3. Deductibles and Coverage: Your insurance policy will dictate the amount of money you need to pay out-of-pocket, known as the deductible. The remaining expenses will be covered by your insurance, up to the policy’s limits.
  4. Repair or Replacement: Depending on the extent of the damage, your insurance will either cover the cost of repairs or, in the case of a total loss, provide you with a payout based on the vehicle’s current value.
  5. Legal and Medical Expenses: Car insurance also covers legal and medical expenses resulting from the accident, including liability claims, medical bills, and potential lawsuits.
  6. Premium Impact: It’s essential to be aware that making a claim can impact your insurance premium. Your rates may increase, especially if you’re found at fault for the accident.
  7. Claims Settlement: Once the investigation is complete, the insurance company will offer a settlement, which you can accept or negotiate if you believe it’s inadequate.
  8. Resolution: After accepting the settlement, you can proceed with repairing your vehicle or covering any other costs related to the accident.

In summary, car insurance is a crucial financial tool that provides peace of mind and protection in the aftermath of an accident. Understanding your policy, promptly reporting accidents, and cooperating with the claims process can help streamline

the resolution and minimize the impact on your finances. It’s always advisable to review your policy regularly and consider any potential changes to ensure that you have the right coverage for your needs.

Remember that insurance is a partnership, and by fulfilling your obligations as a policyholder, you can maximize the benefits it offers during challenging times.

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