If you're in an accident caused by another driver, you can file a third-party insurance claim with their auto insurance company. If your claim is successful, their car insurance coverage would pay for repairs to your damaged vehicle.
In order to file a third-party claim, you have to know the at-fault driver's name, auto insurance policy number, phone number, and details about the accident. Then, you can work with your own insurance company to file the third-party claim — or you can do it yourself through the other driver's insurance company.
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What is a third-party insurance claim?
When you’re in a car accident that isn’t your fault, you can file a third-party insurance claim to cover the costs of your damage or injuries. You don't file a third-party claim with your own insurance company. Instead, you file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s company, and their car insurance will pay for the damage they caused.
If the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough auto insurance coverage (or isn’t insured at all), you'd have to use your own insurance after filing a third-party claim. In this situation, your own insurance company would cover the leftover expenses for your injuries and damaged property as long as you have uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. Your insurance company would then take the at-fault driver and their insurance company to court to recoup their costs in a process called subrogation.
If you’re the one who caused the accident, you wouldn’t make a third-party claim. Instead, the other driver whose car you damaged can file a third-claim through your car insurance for the cost of their repairs or injuries. If the other driver's damage exceeds your liability coverage limits, you would have to pay the rest out of pocket.
What is third-party insurance?
Third-party insurance, also called PLPD insurance or liability coverage, pays for damage you're responsible for after an accident. It protects you from paying for the cost of others' injuries and damaged property by yourself.
Third-party liability coverage is required in most states, though each has different rules for the amount of coverage you have to buy. First-party insurance — like comprehensive or collision coverage — isn't required by any state laws, even though lenders usually mandate it for vehicles financed with a loan.
How to file insurance claim against other driver
After an accident caused by another driver, you should make sure that you and your passengers are safe and call emergency services. Then, once it's clear that you and anyone else who was in your car are no longer in danger, you can start the process of filing a third-party claim.
During this entire process, it's important to avoid admitting guilt or saying you're sorry to the other driver for the damage. Even if it’s clear you weren't at-fault, implying you were can make it difficult to make a successful third-party liability claim.
1. Gather information at the scene
Gather personal details and contact information from the other driver (or drivers) while you wait for first responders to arrive. You'll need their information to file a third-party vehicle insurance claim. You can ask the other driver to exchange information yourself, or wait for the officer assigned to your call, but you’ll want:
Names and phone numbers
Insurance policy numbers
License plate numbers, makes, and models of every car involved
Photos of the damage and of the scene of the accident
The location and description of the accident, including what led up to it and the weather
Names and contact information of witnesses
The responding officer's contact information and badge number
You should also ask the responding police officer for a copy of the police report, since you’ll need it to file a claim. You may have to request it from the responding officer’s police department after the fact.
2. Contact your own insurance company
You should contact your own insurance company as soon after the accident as you can, even if you weren't at-fault. If the accident was serious enough that you exchanged insurance information with the other driver, you should tell your insurer about it to avoid breaking your policy’s rules.
Contacting your own insurance company may also make the claims process easier. When you file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver, your insurance company may work with the other driver's insurer on your behalf.
3. File a third-party liability claim
After you tell your insurance company about the accident and pass along details about the other driver, the accident, and the extent of the damage to your car, you can file a third-party claim. Your insurance company will let you know whether you should file a claim yourself, or whether they’ll do it for you.
The easiest way to file a third-party car insurance claim yourself is by using the other driver's insurance company's online claims portal. The other driver's company will assign you a claims adjuster and begin the process of figuring out who was at fault, verifying the information you gave, and settling your third-party claim.
4. Work with a claims adjuster
During the third-party claims process, the other driver's insurance company may assign your case to a claims adjuster. This person's job is to determine fault by investigating the accident and figure out how much you’re owed. The claims adjuster will ask you about the crash, including your description of the events that led up to the accident. Writing down an account of the accident can help you during this process.
If the other driver is found to be at fault, the claims adjuster estimates the cost of repairs after inspecting your vehicle. You may also have to provide an estimate for these costs by taking your car to a repair shop.
5. Receive your settlement for damages or dispute the offer
If your third-party claim is successful, you’ll receive a payout — also called a settlement offer — from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
If the third-party claim you made isn't successful or you think the settlement offer is too low, you can dispute the judgment or try to negotiate a different offer. Each company has its own process for settling claims disputes. You may have to resubmit evidence, write a letter to the office of your state's insurance commissioner, and sit for additional testimony.
Third-party insurance claims in no-fault states
While most states allow you to file a third-party claim against an at-fault driver to cover the cost of your repair bills and injuries after an accident, there are 12 no-fault insurance states that work a little differently.
In those states, you still file a third-party claim with the other driver’s company for the cost of damage to your car, but you file claims for your injuries with your own car insurance company, even if the other driver was at fault. Your personal injury protection (PIP) is what covers your medical bills after an accident, which is why PIP is required in no-fault states.
In some no-fault states, you still make third-party insurance claims for your injuries if you were seriously injured in an accident, but you wouldn’t rely on the at-fault driver’s coverage to step in.