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Car Insurance Claims: The Complete Guide

This guide will teach you the process of how to make a car insurance claim. Filing a claim starts by calling your insurance company and including your policy number, your name and address, and the date and time of the car accident. You may have a follow up call with your car insurance claims adjuster.

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Jul 30, 2020

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YearBodily Injury
Claim Frequency
Bodily Injury
Claim Severity
Property Damage
Claim Frequency
Property Damage
Claim Severity
Collision
Claim Frequency
Collision
Claim Severity
Comprehensive
Claim Frequency
Comprehensive
Claim
Severity
20140.87
$16,6423.35$3,2895.93$3,1692.79$1,572
20150.91$16,7453.72$3,4846.01$3,3772.72$1,679
20161.00$16,1413.85$3,6956.12$3,4462.76$1,749
20171.10$15,2703.97$3,6616.13$3,4282.85$1,1813
20181.11$15,7853.89$3,8416.11$3,5743.02$1,833
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Heading out on the open road in search of adventure makes it easy to feel that sense of freedom that comes with car ownership.

Things can get pretty tough if you are ever involved in a car accident though.

Filing a car insurance claim after an accident can be a confusing process as well.

It can be even more frustrating if you don’t have the right car insurance provider in your corner. That’s where we come in.

How do you make an insurance claim? We’re here to help you sort through the chaos that can often accompany car insurance claims by giving you all of the information you need upfront.

Table of Contents

The Car Insurance Claims Process: An Overview

If you have ever had to file a car insurance claim then you know that the outcome of the claim can be dependant upon many factors.

Some of these factors can include:

  • The number of parties involved
  • The damages or injuries incurred
  • The type of medical treatment or repairs that are necessary

The timeline of your claim also depends on these things. It is possible to shorten the time it takes to settle out your claim though.

Keep reading to find out about all of the things that you can do to make the overall process easier and faster for yourself.

When Should You File a Claim?

The first step to having a successful outcome for your car insurance claim is knowing when to file a claim in the first place.

In fact, some damages and even injuries might be better handled without filing a claim.

These types of arrangments work best for incidents such as when you own both cars involved in the accident or if your cousin backs into your car when leaving the family barbeque.

If you are the only person involved in the accident it might not be a good idea to file a claim either because your out-of-pocket expenses could be considerably lower than the overall costs that might occur courtesy of a rate hike because you filed a claim.

If you are involved in a car accident with a stranger and/or the damages or injuries are severe then filing a claim is your best bet.

You should be careful trying to negotiate private arrangments with unknown parties before and after filing a claim as well as this could impact your claim’s overall outcome.

Credit Karma also notes that:

If you try to reach a financial agreement with another driver on your own, you could run the risk of being sued later if the other driver discovers that the damage to their car was more extensive than they believed.

If you are at all unsure of whether or not you should handle things on your own then you should definitely contact your agent and file a claim to protect yourself against future losses.

How Do You File a Claim?

What information do you need to file a claim? Once you have determined that filing a claim is the best option you will want to know what your next steps are.

Typically the process begins with the initial phone call to your agent informing them of your involvement in an accident.

You should call your agent or insurance provider immediately after you have notified the proper authorities.

Contacting your agent by phone might not be necessary if your car insurance provider has a mobile app though.

Whether you begin the process by phone or through an app there are a few important details that will be required to get your claims process started.

These details may include:

  • Your policy number
  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • The names and addresses of all parties involved
  • And the date, time, and location of the accident or incident

Before you file a claim you should also know whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state.

The main difference between these two types of car insurance systems is who will be responsible for paying for the damages.

If you live in an at-fault state like North Carolina then the party who is determined to be at fault will be responsible.

If you live in a no-fault state like Florida then each party is responsible for his or her own.

at fault vs no fault

Once you know whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state you will have a better understanding of whether your claim will be handled through your car insurance company or theirs.

No matter who will be ultimately responsible for paying for the damages and injuries you should always file with your car insurance provider first and let them handle any interactions between you and the other party.

What is the Difference Between Limits and Deductibles?

Some of the questions that you might want to ask your agent when filing your claim will inevitably involve the terms limits and deductibles.

These terms are defined as follows:

  • Limits are the maximum amount of money that a car insurance company will pay out per type of claim.
  • Deductibles are the amount of money that you are responsible for paying toward an insured loss.

So how does each of these contribute to your car insurance claim?

Limits determine how much of the financial losses resulting from an accident are the responsibility of your car insurance provider versus how much you will be responsible for.

These amounts will vary by the amount of each type of coverage that you have purchased.

For instance, if you have purchased $10,000 in property damage liability coverage then your car insurance provider will only pay out $10,000 for each property damage claim filed against your policy.

Deductibles tell you how much money you will need to pay out of pocket before your car insurance provider will pick up the rest of the costs.

This means that if you have $10,000 in property damage coverage with a deductible of $1,500 then you will need to pay out $1,500 towards the damages before your car insurance provider will pick up the rest of the costs up to a maximum of $10,000.

How Do Your Settle Out Your Claim?

Once you have filed your claim, all repairs have been made, and all doctor visits have been concluded it will be time to think about settling your claim.

A big part of settling your claim will be understanding the different types of settlement documents involved and how each might apply to your particular claim.

Two of the most common types of settlement documents are property damage loss waivers and property damage liability release forms.

Property damage loss waivers are typically part of real estate ventures but they can be used in the settlement of car insurance claims.

In this instance, property damage loss waivers are usually used for companies who have fleet cars and they release the company from any financial responsibility for damages or injuries inflicted on third parties by their fleet drivers.

Property damage liability release forms work in a similar fashion except that they do not release the company from incurred losses before an accident happens.

Instead, property damage release forms are the final step in the settlement process and once you sign one you are agreeing to never file another claim or lawsuit regarding the incident again.

It is critical that you read this form carefully before signing it in order to make sure that it does outline the agreed-upon terms in a clear and correct manner.

It is also good to know that, according to NOLO:

If you’ve filed an injury claim with an insurance company, or brought a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused your injuries, you’re free to reject any settlement offer you receive.

No matter which forms you use you should always keep track of all documentation.

You should also keep track of any expenses related to your car insurance claim that you incur in order to ensure proper reimbursement.

Knowing things like the value of your claim and which types of questions that you should be asking insurance agents, adjusters, and attorneys can really help you maintain an advantage when filing and settling your car insurance claims.

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How Car Insurance Companies Determine Fault

If you live in an at-fault state then determining who is at fault in the accident is critical to the determination of whether or not your claim will be accepted or denied.

If you live in a no-fault state it is just as important to car insurance companies that the at-fault party be determined so that each car insurance provider will ultimately only be responsible for paying out their portion of the claim should it go into litigation.

What you do or say at the scene of the accident, how each car is positioned after the crash, and even the weather and light conditions can all be used to determine who was at fault and to what degree.

There are also some things that you can do to help ensure the chances of overall success when filing an insurance claim no matter who is at fault. Keep scrolling to find out more.

What to Do or Not to Do At the Scene of an Accident

The time immediately after a car accident can be very confusing and scary.

During this time frame, a lot of people make mistakes that they don’t even realize will cost them later when they go to file a car insurance claim.

Some of these mistakes include:

  • Moving an injured person unnecessarily before help arrives
  • Apologizing for causing the crash
  • Accepting money for the injuries and/or damages which could result in a forfeiture of your right to file a claim later
  • Telling the other parties how much car insurance coverage that you have
  • And agreeing to not contact the authorities

You should always contact the authorities after an accident. The only exception to this rule might be if you and your spouse have had a fender bender with each other in the driveway.

While you are waiting for help and/or the authorities to arrive it is also helpful to note the following:

  • The name and address of all parties involved
  • The license number of all parties involved
  • And the weather conditions, light conditions, and time of day that the accident occurred.

You should also take pictures of the accident scene before the vehicles involved are moved if you can safely do so, and you should never admit fault.

When calling your agent you should also be sure to have your policy number, personal information, and any relevant information that you have collected within your reach.

While on the phone you should be asking about the following things:

  • What the time limitations for filing your claim and/or resolving disputes about your claim are
  • If you are eligible for a rental car while your car is being repaired
  • Who is responsible for collecting estimates for damages
  • Where you should submit medical and damage claims information
  • If you are covered for particular types of damages
  • And when you should expect your car insurance provider to contact you back

Filing a claim by phone is not always possible, and sometimes if you call your agent from the accident scene this list of relevant questions might not be the first thing on your mind.

Just make sure that you are asking these things in any subsequent communications that you might have with your agent via phone, mail, or email.

You should also make sure to ask the investigating officer when and where you will be able to obtain a copy of the accident/incident report.

How to Obtain a Car Accident/Incident Report

Before you leave the scene of an accident a law enforcement officer or car crash investigator will usually give you their car.

Most of the time this car will have the accident/incident report number on it as well as any relevant information relating to the official who is handing it to you.

If you do not receive a business card, a copy of the accident/incident report, or any other contact information for the officials who are on the scene investigating the accident then you should ask one of them for this information before you leave.

Sometimes this is not always possible though if you leave the scene in an ambulance.

If, for any reason, you are unable to get the information regarding how to obtain an accident/incident report before you leave the scene of your accident there are other ways to get this information for your car insurance provider.

The first way is to determine which law enforcement officials are responsible for handling car accidents with the jurisdiction of where your crash occurred.

Accidents and incidents occurring outside of the city limits usually fall in the jurisdiction of state troopers and local sheriff departments.

When accidents or incidents happen within city limits then they usually fall into the jurisdiction of the city police departments.

If you have an accident within the city limits it is not always necessary to know which precinct handles the particular block where the incident occurred.

Most of the precincts are linked and they can either direct you to the right precinct or give you a copy of the accident or incident report right there.

Once you have determined which jurisdiction your accident/incident occurred within you can simply go down to the local law enforcement office or log into their website, pay a small processing fee, and receive a printable version of the necessary documentation.

The accident/incident report will contain information that is necessary for filing your car insurance claim such as:

  • A description of the scene
  • The contact information for all parties involved
  • And a list of citations that might have been given

All of these things become a part of the process that insurance providers use to determine fault and establish who is financially responsible for each component of the car insurance claim.

What Information to Collect From the Other Party(s)

Although it is always a good idea to limit the interaction that you have with the other party involved in the car accident without your agent or attorney present there are a few pieces of information that you should trade with them.

This information includes:

  • Names and addresses
  • The name of your car insurance providers
  • And both of your policy number

If you cannot collect this from the other party at the scene you can always find it on the accident/incident report.

You should also take note of the license plate numbers and makes and models of all vehicles involved.

This can help you ensure accuracy when reviewing any future paperwork regarding the incident.

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How Car Insurance Companies Calculate the Value of Your Car

When it comes to the value of your car you might think that it is priceless.

The reality is that a lot of things go into determining just how much your car is worth.

Each of these factors also helps car insurance providers, adjusters, and your attorney decide just how much to pay you for damages and/or a total loss. Keep reading to find out more.

What Types of Damages Are Eligible to File a Claim For?

The types of damages that are eligible for claim filing really depend on the types of coverage that you have included in your car insurance policy.

If you have the minimum coverage types of bodily injury and property damage liability that most states require then your policy will only cover damages that you inflict on others for example.

If you have collision though you can file a claim against your car insurance company for any damages sustained as a result of colliding with another object.

Comprehensive coverage will also payout for eligible occurrences of vehicle theft, vandalism, or damages occurring as a result of a natural disaster.

Having GAP insurance could help you make the difference between what you owe on your car and what it is worth in the event of a total loss as well.

Personal injury protection is another good coverage type to have, as is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Both of these coverage types can help you make ends meet in the event that you are involved in a car accident with someone who cannot financially cover all of the losses that they have inflicted.

How to Choose a Repair Shop

Once you know what your insurance policy will cover and you have begun the claims process it will be time to start making some decisions about who you trust to repair your car.

Be aware that when it comes to medical treatment AND repairs you are the one who gets to choose where you go to receive services.

In fact, many states have laws that prevent or prohibit car insurance providers from directing their clients to specific vendors.

Consumer Reports offers the following tips to get you started when looking for a reputable repair shop:

  • Make sure that that the shop and/or its mechanics have the proper certifications
  • Collect as many estimates as you reasonably can
  • Ask friends and family for their recommendations
  • Ask each potential shop about warranties or guarantees offered for their work
  • If possible, try to find a shop that specializes in your make/model

Because you will be spending a considerable amount of time between the repair shop and your house or place of business you will also want to make sure that it is conveniently located.

When choosing a repair shop you should also consider the ones that are recommended by your car insurance provider.

These shops have usually been investigated by your car insurance company and have been found to be the cheapest and most reliable ones in your area.

There might also be less paperwork involved if you choose a repair shop that has been recommended by your car insurance provider.

Ultimately the decision about which shop to choose is up to you though so never let anyone pressure you into thinking that things are out of your hands.

You also have a choice in whether your repair shop uses after-market or generic parts to repair your vehicle but you may be forced to cover the difference if your car insurance provider has a preference.

Aftermarket and generic parts are those “replacement parts that are not made by the original equipment manufacturer.”

This doesn’t always mean that these parts will be cheaper or of less quality though. In order to know for sure, you should do some research on the type of part before agreeing to its use in your repair.

You can also choose whether or not you want your vehicle repaired at all.

What If You Need a Rental Car?

If the damage to your vehicle is too extensive you might find yourself out of a car for a considerable length of time.

Sometimes this can be prevented by procuring a rental car.

Some car insurance policies have rental cars included as part of particular coverage types, while other car insurance providers might make you purchase a separate rental car insurance add-on.

You can find out which case applies to you before you are ever involved in a car accident by contacting your agent.

Your agent can tell you if you have rental car coverage, what the limits are on that coverage, and if there are any deductibles that must be met before your policy will pay out the rest of the expenses.

Before you file a claim for the reimbursement for car insurance you should also find out if the at-fault party will cover these expenses.

If you live in an at-fault state and the person who is deemed to be at fault has rental car reimbursement coverage you could save yourself some money in the long run by filing your rental car expenses with their company.

What If You Are Uninsured/Underinsured?

Being underinsured can cause you a whole host of problems when filing a car insurance claim.

It can also mean the difference between having your claim accepted or denied, or whether or not you can choose between aftermarket parts or those made by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Being underinsured can also put your personal assets like your house, boat, or even your retirement at risk if you are ever sued as a result of a car accident.

Being uninsured can also make your life harder if you are ever involved in a car accident.

Specifically, NOLO notes that:

It’s not usually worth it to file a personal injury lawsuit against someone who caused your car accident but carries no insurance unless you’re fairly certain that the person has significant assets, or there’s some other way of satisfying a court judgment in your favor.

In order to avoid future financial ruin then you should take the advice from experts such as Kiplinger who asserts that:

You should carry as much liability coverage as you can comfortably afford because damage claims today are sometimes settled for millions.

You can avoid any of these problems by making sure that your policy meets your state’s minimum requirements for car insurance and by considering additional coverage such as uninsured/underinsured motorists.

In short, paying a little more upfront could save you from financial ruin in the long run.

What If the Other Party is Uninsured/Underinsured?

According to CBS, the number of uninsured motorists is on the rise.

If you find yourself involved in a car accident with a driver who is uninsured/underinsured and you have these types of coverages then your chance of filing a successful claim is greatly increased.

If you don’t have these additional coverage types then you may be left paying for the entire cost of the bodily injuries and property damages inflicted upon you by someone else’s carelessness.

You might be able to recoup some of these costs by filing a claim with your car insurance company and who can assess which types of damages might be covered under your policy.

There is also a chance that you can hold the uninsured/underinsured party responsible by filing a personal injury lawsuit against them.

This can be a timely and costly process though so if their assets do not total the amount of losses and damages incurred by you then it might not be worth the trouble.

What If Your Car is Totaled?

If your car is totaled and your claim is accepted then typically your car insurance provider will pay you for its blue book value or the value of your vehicle based on information gathered from local dealerships regarding your make and model.

You should know that the value of your car might also be determined based on the following factors:

  • The mileage
  • Tire conditions
  • And any previous body or frame damage that was present before the accident occurred

The total loss process is a bit different than the typical claims process. One thing it has in common though is that the terms for settlement are always negotiable so never accept the first offer.

Understanding how total loss payouts work before you ever find yourself in that unfortunate position can really save you a lot of headaches.

Doing your research regarding the actual pre-accident value of your vehicle can also go a long way towards maximizing your payout amount.

Having GAP insurance can also help you make up any differences between what you might owe on your vehicle and what you are being offered in a settlement.

Why Some Car Insurance Claims are Denied

Even if you think that you have crossed all of your “T”s and dotted all of your “I”s before filing your car insurance claim you still might get a denial letter.

In fact, a lot of people get denied the first time that they file a claim.

A denial letter is not the end of the line though when it comes to filing a car insurance claim. Keep reading to find out why.

Causes for the Denial of Claims

Some of the most common reasons that your claim might be denied include:

  • The determination by the car insurance provider that the car accident was avoidable
  • The lack of a complaint or treatment by medical professionals at the time of the accident
  • A medical exam fails to find any injuries
  • You had a pre-existing condition before the accident occurred.

You should be aware that how you deal with your car insurance adjuster could impact your ability to have your claim accepted.

No matter how you and the claims adjuster get along, or who is determined to be at fault, you should never take the first denial of your claim as the final answer.

Sometimes you just need to have your claim reassessed and other times you might just need to file additional paperwork.

The point is that you will never know until you ask your agent about the reason for your denial and try to refile your claim.

What to Do If Your Car Insurance Claim is Denied

If your car insurance claim is denied then there are a few steps that you can take.

The first of these is to make sure that you are not being denied based on policy exclusions.

For instance, if you do not have comprehensive coverage and you are trying to file damages incurred by motor vehicle theft you will find out very quickly that your coverage does not extend to cover such a thing.

You should also make sure that your policy has not lapsed which is another common reason why claims are denied.

Failing to notify your car insurance company in a timely fashion can also result in a denial of your claim so you should be sure to contact them as soon as possible after a car accident.

If you find that all of these things are in order then you should contact your agent concerning the denial and find out what the specific issues are.

Your agent might need you to submit additional documentation or a particular form in order to proceed with your claim.

If you have reached an impasse with your car insurance provider then it might be time to involve legal representation though.

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Your Rights and Responsibilities When Filing a Car Insurance Claim

You should keep in mind that you are an active participant in the overall claims process.

This means that you will be responsible for making sure that any repair shop that you choose offers guarantees in their work.

You are also responsible for making sure that they are only billing you for damages that were actually caused by the accident or incident involved under your claim.

Keeping good records of all communications and transactions that are part of your car insurance claim can make all of this easier on you.

Good record-keeping involves maintaining copies of all of the necessary paperwork and logging all interactions between all parties so that you can keep the facts straight in case your claim escalates into a lawsuit.

Record keeping is only part of the process though. Keep reading to find out more.

Filing in a Timely Fashion

Making sure that you supply your car insurance provider with all of the relevant information that they need in a timely manner is also your responsibility.

Take a look at what the statute of limitations for filing a car insurance claim is in your state.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Insurance Claim

StatePersonal InjuryProperty Damage
Alabama2 years2 years
Alaska2 years6 years
Arizona2 years2 years
Arkansas3 years3 years
California2 years3 years
Colorado3 years3 years
Connecticut2 years3 years
Delaware2 years2 years
Florida4 years4 years
Georgia2 years4 years
Hawaii2 years2 years
Idaho2 years3 years
Illinois2-3 years5 years
Indiana2 years2 years
Iowa2 years5 years
Kansas1 year2 years
Kentucky1 year2 years
Louisiana1 year1 year
Maine6 years6 years
Maryland3 years3 years
Massachusetts3 years3 years
Michigan3 years3 years
Minnesota2 years6 years
Mississippi3 years3 years
Missouri5 years5 years
Montana3 years2 years
Nebraska4 years4 years
Nevada2 years3 years
New Hampshire3 years3 years
New Jersey2 years6 years
New Mexico3 years4 years
New York3 years3 years
North Carolina3 years3 years
North Dakota6 years6 years
Ohio2 years2 years
Oklahoma2 years2 years
Oregon2 years6 years
Pennsylvania2 years2 years
Rhode Island3 years10 years
South Carolina3 years3 years
South Dakota3 years6 years
Tennessee1 year3 years
Texas2 years2 years
Utah4 years3 years
Vermont3 years3 years
Virginia2 years5 years
Washington3 years3 years
Washington D.C.3 years3 years
West Virginia2 years2 years
Wisconsin3 years3 years
Wyoming4 years4 years
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The two most common types of car insurance claims to be filed are bodily injury and property damage liability claims.

According to Enjuris:

Property damage boils down to replacement value, cost of repairs, loss of use, sentimental value.

In contrast, bodily injury claims handle physical injuries to drivers and passengers involved in car accidents.

No matter which type of claim you are filing you must be sure to do it within the time allotted by your state’s insurance guidelines or risk forfeiting your claim altogether.

Waiting to file your claim could also result in diminishing returns when it comes to your settlement ward amount.

Contacting the State Commissioner

If you have filed a claim and been denied several times it is possible that your car insurance provider might be operating in bad faith.

Repair shops and medical professionals might also be dealing with you in bad faith in an attempt to defraud your car insurance provider.

In either event, you should contact your state’s insurance commissioner for assistance.

NAIC has compiled a list of insurance commissioners by state that can help you determine who to contact to do just that.

If you can’t find what you need on the list of insurance commissioners from NAIC you can look through the Insurance Information Industry’s Industry Directory provided below.

State Web LinkPhysical Contact Information
Alabama201 Monroe Street, Suite 502
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
United States

Phone: 334-269-3550

Jim L. Ridling, Commissioner of Insurance
Alaska550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1560
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3567
United States

Phone: 907-269-7900

Lori K. Wing-Heier, Director of Insurance
Arizona2910 North 44th Street, Suite 210
Phoenix, Arizona 85018-7269
United States

Phone: 602-364-3100

Germaine L. Marks, Director of Insurance
Arkansas1200 West 3rd Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201-1904
United States

Phone: 501-371-2600

Allen W. Kerr, Commissioner of Insurance
California300 South Spring Street, South Tower
Los Angeles, California 90013
United States

Phone: 213-897-8921

Dave Jones, Commissioner of Insurance
Colorado1560 Broadway, Suite 850
Denver, Colorado 80202
United States

Phone: 303-894-7499

Marguerite Salazar, Commissioner of Insurance
ConnecticutP.O. Box 816
Hartford, Connecticut 06142-0816
United States

Phone: 860-297-3900

Katharine L. Wade, Commissioner of Insurance
DelawareThe Rodney Building, 841 Silver Lake Boulevard
Dover, Delaware 19904
United States

Phone: 302-674-7300

Karen Stewart, Commissioner of Insurance
District of Columbia810 First Street NE, Suite 701
Washington, District Of Columbia 20002
United States

Phone: 202-727-8000

Chester A. McPherson, Acting Commissioner
FloridaThe Larsen Building, 200 East Gaines Street
Room 101A
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0301
United States

Phone: 850-413-3140

Kevin McCarty, Commissioner Office of Insurance Regulation
Georgia2 Martin L. King Jr. Drive, West Tower, Suite 704
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
United States

Phone: 404-656-2070

Ralph Hudgens, Commissioner of Insurance
Guam1240 Route 16
Barrigada -- 96913
United States

Phone: 671-635-1817

Artemio B. Llagan, Director of Insurance
HawaiiP.O. Box 3614
Honolulu, Hawaii 96811
United States

Phone: 808-586-2790

Gordon Ito, Commissioner of Insurance
Idaho700 West State Street, P.O. Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0043
United States

Phone: 208-334-4250

Tom Donovan, Acting Director of the Department of Insurance
Illinois320 West Washington Street
Springfield, Illinois 62767-0001
United States

Phone: 217-782-4515

James A. Stephens, Acting Director of Insurance
Indiana311 West Washington Street, Suite 300
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2787
United States

Phone: 317-232-2385

Stephen W. Robertson, Commissioner of Insurance
Iowa330 Maple Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0065
United States

Phone: 515-281-6348

Nick Gerhart, Commissioner of Insurance
Kansas420 South West Ninth Street
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1678
United States

Phone: 785-296-3071

Ken Selzer, Commissioner of Insurance
KentuckyP.O. Box 517
Frankfort, Kentucky 40602-0517
United States

Phone: 502-564-3630

Sharon P. Clark, Commissioner of Insurance
Louisiana1702 North Third Street
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802
United States

Phone: 225-342-5423

James J. Donelon, Commissioner of Insurance
Maine34 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0034
United States

Phone: 207-624-8475; 800-300-5000 (In State)

Eric A. Cioppa, Acting Insurance Superintendent
Maryland200 St. Paul Place
Suite 2700
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
United States

Phone: 410-468-2090

Al Redmer Jr., Insurance Commissioner
Massachusetts1000 Washington St.
8th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02118
United States

Phone: 617-521-7794; 888-283-3757 (In State)

Daniel R. Judson, Commissioner of Insurance
MichiganOttawa Building, 611 West Ottawa, 3rd Floor
Lansing, Michigan 48933-1070
United States

Phone: 517-373-0220

Annette E. Flood, Director of Insurance
Minnesota85 7th Place East, Suite 500
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101
United States

Phone: 651-296-4026; 651-296-2488; 800-657-3602 (In State)

Mike Rothman, Commissioner of Commerce
Mississippi1001 Woolfolk State Office Building, 501 North West Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39201
United States

Phone: 601-359-3569

Mike Chaney, Commissioner of Insurance
Missouri301 West High Street, P.O. Box 690
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0690
United States

Phone: 573-751-4126

John M. Huff, Director of Insurance
Montana840 Helena Avenue, Suite 270
Helena, Montana 59601
United States

Phone: 406-444-2040

Monica Lindeen, Commissioner of Insurance
NebraskaTerminal Building, 941 O Street, Suite 400
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-3639
United States

Phone: 402-471-2201

Bruce R. Ramge, Director of Insurance
Nevada1818 East College Parkway,
Suite 103
Carson City, Nevada 89706
United States

Phone: 775-687-0700

Scott J. Kipper, Commissioner of Insurance
New Hampshire21 South Fruit Street, Suite 14
Concord, New Hampshire 03301-7317
United States

Phone: 603-271-2261

Roger Sevigny, Commissioner of Insurance
New Jersey20 West State Street
P.O. Box 325
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
United States

Phone: 609-292-5360

Kenneth E. Kobylowski Acting Commissioner of Banking and Insurance
New MexicoP.O. Box 1269
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-1269
United States

Phone: 505-827-4601; 800-947-4722 (In-State)

John G. Franchini, Superintendent of Insurance
New York25 Beaver Street
New York, New York 10004
United States

Phone: 212-480-6400

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Insurance Designate
North Carolina1201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1201
United States

Phone: 919-807-6750; 800-546-5664 (In-State)

Wayne Goodwin, Commissioner of Insurance
North DakotaState Capitol, 600 East Boulevard, Dept. 401, 5th Floor
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0320
United States

Phone: 701-328-2440

Adam Hamm, Commissioner of Insurance
Ohio50 West Town Street, Third Floor, Suite 300
Columbus, Ohio 43215-1067
United States

Phone: 614-644-2658

Mary Taylor, Director of Insurance
OklahomaFive Corporate Plaza, 3625 NW 56th St
Suite 100
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73112
United States

Phone: 405-521-2828

John Doak, Commissioner of Insurance
OregonP.O. Box 14480
Salem, Oregon 97309-0405
United States

Phone: 503-947-7980; 888-877-4894; 503-947-7984 (Consumer Protection)

Laura N. Cali, Comissioner of Insurance/Chief Actuary
Pennsylvania1209 Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
United States

Phone: 717-787-2317

Teresa D. Miller, Acting Insurance Commissioner
Puerto RicoB5 Calle Tabonuco, Suite 216
PMB 356
Guaynabo -- 00968-3029
United States

Phone: 787-722-8686

Ramon Cruz-Colon, Commissioner of Insurance
Rhode Isalnd1511 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island 02920
United States

Phone: 401-462-9500

Joseph Torti III, Superintendent of Insurance
South CarolinaPO Box 100105
Columbia, South Carolina 29202-3105
United States

Phone: 803-737-6160

Raymond Farmer, Insurance Commissioner
South Dakota445 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, South Dakota 57501-3185
United States

Phone: 605-773-4104

Larry Deiter, Director of Insurance
Tennessee500 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 660
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0565
United States

Phone: 615-741-2241

Julie Mix McPeak, Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance
Texas333 Guadalupe Street
Austin, Texas 78701
United States

Phone: 512-463-6164

David Mattax, Commissioner of Insurance
Utah3110 State Office Building
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6901
United States

Phone: 801-538-3800

Todd E. Kiser, Commissioner of Insurance
Vermont89 Main Street, Drawer 20
Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3101
United States

Phone: 802-828-3301

Susan L. Donegan, Commissioner of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration
Virgin Islands#18 Kongens Gade
St. Thomas -- 00802
United States

Phone: 340-773-6459

Gregory Francis, Lieutenant Governor/Commissioner
VirginiaP.O. Box 1157
Richmond, Virginia 23218
United States

Phone: 804-371-9694

Jacqueline K. Cunningham, Commissioner of Insurance
WashingtonInsurance Building, P.O. Box 40256
Olympia, Washington 98504-0256
United States

Phone: 360-725-7100

Mike Kreidler, Insurance Commissioner
West Virginia1124 Smith Street
Charleston, West Virginia 25301
United States

Phone: 304-558-3354

Michael D. Riley, Insurance Commissioner
Wisconsin125 South Webster Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53703-3474
United States

Phone: 608-266-3585; 800-236-8517

Ted Nickel, Commissioner of Insurance
WyomingHerschler Building, 106 East 6th Avenue
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002
United States

Phone: 307-777-7401; 800-438-5768

Tom Glause, Commissioner of Insurance
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Filing a Complaint Against Your Car Insurance Company

Knowing who your state insurance commissioner is and how to contact them can come in handy if you need to file a complaint against your car insurance provider.

It can also be useful is reporting fraud.

Both of these processes have specific guidelines and paperwork that are necessary in order to file these things with your state.

The best way to know what the requirements are for filing a complaint against your car insurance provider is to visit your car insurance commissioner’s website or visiting their office in person.

Can You Sue Your Own Car Insurance Company For Denying Your Claim?

If you feel that your claim was denied without cause and you can’t find satisfaction from contacting your state insurance commissioner you can always sue your car insurance provider.

While the precise practices of each car insurance company can vary from state to state, each provider must follow the terms of their contract and act in good faith.

This means that insurance companies must refrain from some of the following practices according to Find Law:

  • An inadequate investigation of or a delay in the investigation into the claim
  • Denying a claim without explanation or with inadequate explanation
  • A refusal to pay a claim where liability is clear within reason
  • Failing to approve or deny a claim within a reasonable timeframe
  • A failure to defend you in a liability lawsuit adequately when it is obvious that at least one of your claims was potentially covered
  • Denying a claim based on an application misstatement after the period of contestability has past

If you feel that your car insurance provider has acted in one of these ways you might be able to pursue a bad faith tort lawsuit.

When pursuing a lawsuit against your car insurance provider you should always keep good records and document every communication between yourself and the insurance company.

YOu should also keep track of all receipts, pictures, and expenses that you have incurred as a result of your car insurance provider’s bad faith practices.

You should never pursue a lawsuit against your car insurance provider without legal representation.

Having an attorney can help you both negotiate the legal jargon and understand the laws that govern car insurance claims and the actions of car insurance providers.

When Do You Need an Attorney to Handle Your Car Insurance Claim?

Hiring an attorney is not just useful if you should ever need to file a lawsuit against your car insurance provider.

Sometimes it is best to consider legal representation when trying to negotiate claims that have a lot of parties involved, or where the bodily injuries and property damages have high dollar amounts.

Keep reading to find out how to pick an attorney that is right for you.

Things to Look For In an Attorney

According to Find Law “car accidents are the leading cause of personal injury claims in the U.S.”

Find Law also asserts that:

Accidents resulting in serious injuries or even death are best handled by an experienced injury lawyer.

This is good advice since one mistake when filing your car insurance claim could cost you thousands if not millions depending on the size of the claim.

So what should you look for in a good personal injury attorney?

The first thing that you should be looking for is compatibility.

Lawsuits and car insurance claims can sometimes stretch on for a long time. This means that you will need to find an attorney who you get along with since the two of you will be spending a good deal of time together.

You should also look into the attorney’s litigation record to see how often he or she has been able to settle out of court.

Settling out of court can save you a lot of money when it comes time to either payout to a third party or get paid by the at-fault party in your case.

Once you know that you are compatible with your attorney and that they have a good litigation record you will want to consider the convenience of their location and their years in practice.

You should also consider their disciplinary record and their trial experience just in case your claim does end up in court.

If your attorney of choice does not want your case don’t worry.

You can rest assured that there is one out there who will eventually prove to be a good fit for you and your claim.

Once you do find the right legal representation you should be aware that most personal attornies work on a contingency basis which means that they will take their fees out of your final settlement amount.

Questions to Ask Potential Legal Representation

When seeking a personal injury attorney you will want to ask them a specific set of questions that will help you better understand if they have the ability to litigate your case.

Some of these questions might include:

  • What are the types of cases that they have litigated in the past?
  • How long have they been working in the field in which you need representation?
  • Have they ever been to court or do they just settle out-of-court cases?
  • What does their settlement and/or verdict record for settling and trying cases look like?
  • Who will actually be handling your case?
  • What are their credentials?

Knowing how experienced your attorney is and what their credentials look like can really help you save a lot of time and money once your claim begins the litigation process.

What Is a Demand Letter?

A demand letter is a legal document written by either you or your attorney that lays out the reasons that you think that the other party owes you money.

If you are crafting your own demand letter then a few things that you will need to include are:

  • A review of the history of the dispute
  • A request for a specific resolution
  • And a statement that makes it clear that you will pursue legal action if your demands are not met

You should always be polite when writing your demand letter. You should also strive to make your demand letter look as professional as possible.

How Litigation Works

Litigation begins with a demand letter being sent to the at-fault party but it doesn’t end there.

Once the party has been informed of your intention to seek damages the other driver will have a time period in which they must answer the complaint.

The next component of litigation is the discovery phase where both parties will gather evidence and request information from one another.

Depositions and interviews are usually conducted during this phase.

The last step in the litigation process before a settlement is reached is to take it the case to court.

You should be aware that settlements can be reached at any point during the litigation process, and your case will only end up in court if all parties involved cannot reach an agreement.

Once a verdict is reached the case is concluded and the claim is permanently closed.

Litigation Vs. Mediation

There are several ways for parties involved in car insurance claims to reach an agreement.

Two of the most common are litigation and mediation.

Litigation occurs when parties cannot reach an arrangement so the case/claim ends up in court.

Mediation happens in front of a neutral third party rather than in open court.

Find LAw points out that there are advantages to mediation over litigation such as time and money saved and the ability to work through your grievances in an environment that is open and confidential.

Mediation is a useful way for parties to protect their privacy by keeping their private legal matters in a confidential arena.

Whereas the cost of litigation usually falls on the at-fault party, mediation costs are typically split between all parties involved.

How Car Insurance Claims Affect Your Rates

There is no way around it; if you file a car insurance claim your car insurance rates will most likely go up.

This can happen for several reasons. Keep scrolling to find out what some of these reasons might be.

Why Your Rates Might Go Up After You File a Claim

Investopedia points out that:

The greater the number of claims filed, the greater the likelihood of a rate hike.

It is not just the number of claims that you file that can impact your rates though.

Your rates can also increase based on the size of your claim or the type of claim that you are filing.

Having previous tickets, DUIs or accidents can also bee seen as mitigating circumstances that will lead to a rate hike for you regardless of whether or not you were at fault for the particular accident that you are now filing a claim for.

If you do decide to file a car insurance claim you should be aware that “filing a claim often results in a rate hike that could be in the 20-40 percent range” according to Investopedia.

Best Companies for People Who Have Filed a Claim or Have Infractions

When it comes to how much your rates could increase based on the type of offense you have on your record not all companies are created equal. Take a look.

Offense TypeAllstateAmerican FamilyFarmersGEICOLiberty MutualNationwideProgressiveState FarmTravelersUSAAAverage
Clean record$3,819.90$2,693.61$3,460.60$2,145.96$4,774.30$2,746.18$3,393.09$2,821.18$3,447.69$1,933.68$3,123.62
With 1 accident$4,987.68$3,722.75$4,518.73$3,192.77$6,204.78$3,396.95$4,777.04$3,396.01$4,289.74$2,516.24$4,100.27
With 1 DUI$6,260.73$4,330.24$4,718.75$4,875.87$7,613.48$4,543.20$3,969.65$3,636.80$5,741.40$3,506.03$4,919.62
With 1 speeding violation$4,483.51$3,025.74$4,079.01$2,645.43$5,701.26$3,113.68$4,002.28$3,186.01$4,260.80$2,193.25$3,669.10
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As you can see from the data above, having just one accident can end up costing you around $1,000 more in premiums each year no matter who you choose as your car insurance provider.

Knowing which companies charge more for each type of claim or incident that you might be involved with could help you save a lot of money when shopping around for your car insurance policy.

Tips For Lowering Your Rates After Filing a Claim

If you have filed a car insurance claim and you have seen your rates increase as a result there are a few tips that can help you lower your overall car ind=surance costs.

The first is to ask about any discounts that you might be eligible for.

Some of these might include”

Another tip is to find out if your car insurance provider participates in any type of accident forgiveness program.

If you don’t qualify for any discounts and your car insurance provider does not have an accident forgiveness program then enrolling in a safe driver course might help you lower your rates.

If all else fails you might be able to get a lower rate by changing car insurance providers altogether.

Enter your zip code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

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Making The Car Insurance Claims Process Less Frustrating

Spending some time to get to know the types of coverages that your policy includes and the coverage amounts included in it can go a long way towards making your overall claims process easier and more efficient.

Keeping good records, tracking phone calls, email communications, and other third party interactions in a notebook can also help you keep everything straight and prevent costly mistakes when filing and processing your car insurance claim.

Knowing the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can also help you avoid some of the hassles associated with filing car insurance claims. Take a look.

Do You Have to File a Police Report?

You do not have to file a police report although you should be aware that if you don’t you are raising the possibility that your claim might be denied. Filing a police report can act as official proof of just what happened so it is always a good idea.

What Should You Do After Total Loss Accident?

The first thing that you should do after any car accident is to contact your car insurance provider. The next step is to locate your vehicle’s title. Having the vehicle title handy can help you speed up the settlement process.

Is a Single-Car Accident Handled Differently?

If you have been involved in a single-car accident then you should know that these are usually considered at-fault accidents. This means that you could end up paying an at-fault surcharge if you file a claim.

How Do Car Insurance Companies Determine Total Loss?

Car insurance providers determine total losses by assessing the pre-accident value of your car first. Usually, if the damage totals more than 75 percent of the vehicle’s value then it is considered totaled.

What If Someone Borrows Your Car and Has an Accident?

If your friend borrows your car and wrecks it then your car insurance policy will usually cover it depending on the type of accident and the coverage types included in your policy. You should do a policy check-up before letting anyone borrow your car just to be sure what may or may not be covered if they act carelessly behind the wheel of your car.

Do You Have to Pay For Repairs Out-Of-Pocket?

Before you pay anything out-of-pocket you should look at what the total damages are versus the size of your deductible. If your deductible is higher then it might be a good idea to just pay for the repairs yourself.

We hope that you have found everything that you need to make filing your car insurance claim easier. If you have any more questions just stop on in.

Ready to compare rates? Just enter your ZIP code below.

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About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

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