How to file a remote car insurance claim without leaving your couch

When possible, you should start a car insurance claim at the scene of the accident. But if you’re at home when the damage happens, you can still file an online or mobile claim without ever needing to leave your living room.

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Kara McGinleySenior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance ExpertKara McGinley is a former senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she specialized in homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Forbes Advisor, Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN,, and elsewhere.

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Car accidents can be scary and overwhelming. In addition to all your immediate concerns about you, your passengers, and the other people involved, there are a lot of factors after the accident that you need to consider — including filing a car insurance claim as quickly as possible.

Car insurance is essential financial protection in case you get into a car accident that leaves you liable for damage or bodily injury to someone else or their property. Your auto policy will also protect you if your car gets stolen or damaged by another peril. You can typically buy an auto policy online or over the phone.

It is becoming more and more common to do most things — be it shopping for insurance or buying groceries — totally remotely and from the comfort of our own homes. This is especially true now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most car insurance companies are adapting company protocol policies because of COVID-19, which means if you need to file a car insurance claim you are probably going to be doing it remotely. As always, you should still try to start a claim at the scene of the accident by contacting your insurer over the phone, online or through a mobile app.

Key takeaways

  • You can file a claim online, over the phone, or through your insurance company’s mobile app

  • If you need to file a claim remotely, you should do so as quickly as possible. Most insurance companies require you to report accidents as promptly as possible

  • Filing a car insurance claim through an app or online should not affect how long it takes for your claim to settle

How to file a car insurance claim remotely

The first thing you should do after getting into a car accident is get to safety. This means pulling your car over to the side of the road and standing far away from oncoming traffic. The next thing you should do is call 911, this is important to do even if no one seems hurt. Police will make sure everyone is safe and document a police report, which will be useful when filing your insurance claim.

More information you can gather at the scene that you will need when filing a car insurance claim:

  • Names of everyone involved in the accident

  • License plate numbers of all vehicles involved

  • Time and location of the accident

  • Names and badge numbers of reporting police officers

  • Car insurance policy numbers of everyone involved

  • Photos or videos of the damage

  • Police report

Most insurers make it easy for you to at least start a claim right from the scene of an accident. But if you cannot file the claim at the scene or if the damage to your car occurred at your home, you can file the claim from the comfort of your couch. Many insurance companies require you to report accidents promptly, which can be vague. You should check your insurance policy for any stipulations when it comes to your claims timeframe. Depending on your insurance policy, you may have 24 to 72 hours to file a claim.

If your insurance company has a mobile app or website, then you will likely have the option of reporting the accident to them through your phone or computer. This means you can report the accident, input all the necessary information, upload photos and videos of damage , and file a claim all without having to leave your home.

If your insurance company does not have a website or mobile app, you should call your insurer to report the accident and begin filing a claim over the phone.

Getting an appraisal from an auto body shop is often a part of the claims process, but if you’re unable to get the damage to your car evaluated in person, many insurers make it possible to estimate the cost of damage remotely as well. Ask your car insurance company about your options: They may make it possible for you to video chat with an adjuster or walk you through how to take enough photos to complete the process remotely.

The method by which you file car insurance claim should not affect the timeliness of the claims process. How long your claim will take to settle depends on the kind of car insurance claim you are filing, how many people are involved (and if there is bodily injury), and how long repairs take and cost. Your insurer may have a simple way for you to track the status of your claim online or through an app, so you can follow along with the timeline.

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How to contact your insurance company remotely

If you’re used to speaking with an insurance agent in person at your local office but you’re unable to get there in person, don’t panic. Insurance companies have actually made it quite easy to contact them without ever having to leave your couch. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, insurers are finding and adapting new ways to make contacting your insurance company remotely easier and safer for both customers and insurance agents.

There are a few ways to contact your insurance company remotely:

  • Call your insurance agent or company over the phone. If you can’t go to your local insurance agency in person — whether it’s because there’s a global pandemic or you’re late for work or because it’s after business hours — most insurance companies have a 24/7 hotline where you can reach them.

  • Through your insurance company’s website or mobile app

  • Email or live chat option on your insurer’s website

Type of car insurance claims

Car accidents can cause a variety of damage, which means there are a number of categories your claim may fall into. When you log-on to file a claim, your insurer may have a separate process for a glass claim or a roadside assistance request rather than a collision.

  • Roadside assistance claims, if your car breaks down or you need it towed after an accident

  • Glass claims, if there is damage to your windshield or windows

  • Medical bills and personal injury, if the accident resulted in bodily injury

  • Physical damage, if there is damage to the body of your vehicle

  • Total loss, if the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage of your vehicle’s value (also known as “totaled”)