A car crash can be a frightening and traumatizing experience that can shake your physical and emotional wellbeing. But as you work through the stress of that day, you’ll soon find other challenges to face as you file your car crash claim, seek medical care, and negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement.
The claim filing process can be confusing as you deal with an insurance company interested in minimizing any payouts. The good news is that this guide is here to help you navigate the process. Read on to learn more about the fundamentals of the car accident claim process, from what happens after a car crash to how and when you may need to file an automobile claim.
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Types Of Claims
After an accident, one or both drivers may file a “first party” car crash claim with their own insurance company based on their type of coverage. They might also file a “third party” claim with the other driver’s insurance company to recover their losses. You typically file a claim when:
- You (or a passenger) are injured in a car accident.
- There was substantial damage to your vehicle after the accident.
- It’s unclear who was at fault for the accident.
- You experienced monetary losses from the accident, but you can’t afford to pay them out-of-pocket.
- You were forced to take time off of work due to the accident.
There’s a difference between an insurance claim and an insurance settlement. With a claim, you make a legal demand for compensation from the insurance company for your losses. A settlement is a financial resolution that you and the insurance company (insurer) agree upon to resolve your claim for damages. If you aren’t able to settle with the insurer, you may also be able to file a case in court to recover economic and non-economic damages, which is separate from the insurance claim process.
Types Of Damages
Economic damages help someone regain their original condition before the accident and typically involve payments for such things as lost wages or past and future medical costs. In contrast, non-economic damages are more punitive and are rewarded for things like “pain and suffering.”
The amount you may recover through a settlement or in court will often depend on several factors, such as:
- Whether you or another driver caused the accident.
- The percentage of fault for all drivers (depending on the laws of your state you may be prevented from recovering based on your percentage of fault).
- The type of car insurance that each driver possesses.
- The amount of coverage for the automobile policy.
- The amount paid for medical bills and future medical costs.
- The amount of any property damage.
- Any lost or future lost wages resulting from the accident.
- Any “pain and suffering” experienced as a result of the accident.
How To Claim Insurance After A Car Accident
With an understanding of the key terminology used in car crash claims, here are the steps you will likely need to take if you’re filing a car crash claim.
1. Fill Out A Police Report Immediately After The Crash
To ensure that you have the best chance of substantiating your claim, you need to fill out a police report immediately after the accident. Although your state may not always require a police report, it’s usually a good idea to obtain one. Police reports are unbiased accountings prepared close in time to an accident. A police report can:
- Provide detailed information about the precise location, date, and time of the accident, and how many people were involved.
- Mention if any drivers, passengers, or pedestrians were injured.
- Provide identifying information and statements about any witnesses.
- Provide solid documentation of any sustained damages or injuries which can be used as evidence to support your claim.
2. Gather Relevant Evidence To Substantiate Your Claim
A police report is helpful, but it should not be the only source of evidence you rely on. You should make sure you gather information on your own to support your claim, including:
- A written assessment of the events leading up to the accident.
- Any photos of the accident scene, injuries, and damaged cars.
- Contact information for other drivers or witnesses, including their name, address, phone number, driver’s license details, insurance information, license plate, and their employer’s name and address.
- Receipts from any medical procedures or treatments.
- Car repair estimates and receipts.
- Proof of any lost wages after the incident.
3. Have An Attorney Review Your Case
Once you have the information mentioned above, it would help to have an experienced car accident attorney review the facts of your case. They can point out strengths and weaknesses as well as likely options and outcomes. If you end up hiring an attorney, they can also:
- Conduct research to help you determine a fair and equitable settlement.
- Gather additional evidence to prove your claim.
- Fix any errors in your claim that might be grounds for denial.
- Inform you of any important deadlines.
- File your car crash claim on your behalf.
- Negotiate with the adjuster/insurance claims agent reviewing the claim to determine liability and eligibility for payments on the policy.
- Represent you in court and fight to enforce your legal rights.
4. Submit Your Claim
Now that you understand how an attorney can help with the review process, it’s time to submit your claim for processing by:
- Contacting your insurance company to inform them of the accident.
- Filing your claim online, via phone app, or over the phone.
- Submitting any relevant evidence to support your claim (photos, police reports, witness statements, etc.)
- Communicating with the insurance adjuster.
- Reviewing any settlement offers with your attorney.
- Asking your attorney to accept, deny or counter any offers.
- Accepting the settlement or appealing if the adjuster denies your claim.
- Filing a lawsuit in civil court if an agreement can’t be reached.
How Long After An Accident Can You File A Claim?
Typically, you should file your car crash claim as soon as possible after the accident. The usual timeframe to file a car crash claim is within 48 hours of a crash, but the exact claim time limit will depend on your insurance company and the type of claim you plan to file. Personal property damage claims and bodily injury claims may have different deadlines. The question “how long after an accident can you file a claim” should be addressed in your car insurance policy, so be sure to look there to determine your time limits.
What To Do If You Can't Reach A Settlement With The Insurance Company
If you can’t reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, you may still have the ability to file a lawsuit. If you do so, it must be filed before your state’s statute of limitations lapses. The clock starts running on the date of the accident, but there are situations where a statute of limitations might be extended or not apply. This varies by state and an attorney can determine if it might apply to your case.
Do You Have More Questions About The Car Crash Claim Process?
Getting compensated for injuries and damages to your car isn’t easy. Simplify the process by working with an experienced car accident attorney who can advocate on your behalf. Get started with a free no-obligation case review.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.