Getting into a car accident can be a scary experience — even if no one is seriously injured, it can leave you feeling shaken up. And then after the accident, you have to go through the hassle of filing a claim, either with your auto insurance or with the other driver’s.
After you’ve followed all the most important initial steps after an accident, you’ll start the claims process. If it’s not immediately clear who was at fault in the accident, or if you were the at-fault driver, you should aim to do most of the communicating with your own insurance company.
There may be situations in which the other party’s insurance company contacts you to ask you some questions about the accident — but in general, it’s best to keep your communication with the other driver’s insurance as limited and straightforward as possible. However, if the other driver was clearly at fault, you can go ahead and file a claim directly with the other party’s insurance. This is what’s called a third-party claim.
In general, you should aim to communicate through your own insurance provider
If the other party’s insurance contacts you, ask your own provider whether it’s advisable to give them a statement
If you’re filing a third party claim, however, you’ll go directly through the other party’s insurance
Who do I have to call after a car accident?
If you’ve just been in a car accident, you should first get to safety and check yourself and passengers for injuries. If possible, move your car away from the flow of traffic and turn on your hazards. Next, you should call 911, even if no one appears hurt. First responders will evaluate everyone’s condition, and you’ll need the resulting police report when you file a claim.
After you’ve called 911, follow these simple steps to help you stay safe and begin the claims process.
Collect information and call your insurance company. Gather all the info you can, including everyone’s names and contact information, the license plate numbers, and insurance provider names and policy numbers. Next, you should contact your insurance company to let them know you’ve been in an accident, and to give them as much information as possible.
Document the accident. Take photos of any damage to cars or other property, diagram the accident and photograph the location of the accident.
File a claim. You’ll want to start the claims process as soon as possible. You can likely file a claim online, through a mobile app or over the phone. You’ll be assigned a claims adjuster, whose job it is to investigate the accident and determine what your insurer will cover.
What to do if the other party’s insurance company contacts you
When you file a claim, your insurance adjuster will begin looking into the accident to determine who was at fault and what damage will be covered. The other party’s insurance may be doing the same thing, and it’s possible that the other driver’s provider will reach out to you and ask for a recorded statement. In general, it’s best to go through your own insurance company as much as possible and avoid speaking with the other party’s insurance unless your own insurer advises it.
In the event that your insurer advises you to go ahead and speak with the other party’s insurance, keep your statement brief and stick to the facts, don’t speculate about who was at fault or about any of the other circumstances of the accident.
You may also want to consider hiring a lawyer and speaking to the other party’s insurance through your legal representation. This can give you an advocate in the process.
How do you file a third party claim?
If your car or property is damaged by another driver and they’re at fault, you’ll need to file what’s called a third-party claim. This requires working directly with the other party’s insurance. Before you file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance, you’ll want to have any relevant information at the ready, much like you would if you were filing a claim through your own insurance. Make sure you have:
The other driver’s full name and insurance policy number.
A copy of the police report about the accident.
Any photos you took of damage to your vehicle and the scene of the accident.
Records of any injuries you or your passengers sustained, including medical bills, doctor contact information, dates and times of appointments, and X-rays.
It’s standard to file a third-party claim with the other party’s insurer, but you can still contact your own insurance company and let them know that you’re going through the process. They should be able to answer any questions you have and let you know what you should be expecting from the other insurer.
Frequently asked questions
What should you not say to your insurance company after an accident?
When speaking with your insurance company after an accident, you should be honest about what happened. The more documentation of the accident that you have, like pictures of the damage or scene of the accident, the more straightforward your claims process will be. When speaking to another driver’s insurance company after an accident, make sure you’re direct and stick to the facts — you don’t want to speculate about what happened or leave anything open to interpretation. You may also want to talk to your insurer first as they may handle the correspondence with the other carrier directly.
Should I contact my insurance company if I’m not at fault?
It’s usually a good idea to contact your insurance company after an accident or collision regardless of who is at fault. Your insurer may be able to advise you on how to file a third party claim, and they might even handle communicating with the other driver’s insurance company for you.
Will my insurance go up if someone hits me?
If you are not at fault for the car accident, your rates probably won’t go up, although they still might. If the other driver is at fault for the accident, you’ll file a third party claim and their insurance will cover the damage. However, the claims adjuster will investigate your claim, and if it’s unclear who was at fault or it’s found that you were driving recklessly, your rates will likely go up. If the accident was a hit-and-run, your insurance may cover the damage, but it’ll depend on the specifics of your policy.