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How to File an Insurance Claim

Nobody wants to file an insurance claim because it means life has taken a turn and thrown a punch. Yet, insurance is there to provide a cushion when things don’t go your way. An accident, injury, property damage, or worse can all trigger an insurance claim. When the worst happens, here’s what to do:

  1. Take Care of Urgent Needs First

  2. File a Report

  3. Document the Details

  4. Contact your Insurance Company

  5. Meet with an Adjuster

Take Care of Urgent Needs First

Insurance claims of all kinds are precipitated by an event like an accident or storm. There’s no need to be on the phone with your insurance company while buckets of water pour into your home through a hole in the roof. Start by getting help for any urgent needs. That could include medical attention for injuries or a roof repair company to seal off your home until repairs can be made. Either way, if your claim starts with a crisis, first take the appropriate steps to ensure everyone’s safety.

File a Report with Local Authorities

While a police report is not always required, it can almost always be helpful. Car accidents involving another vehicle or pedestrian need to be reported by law in most states. Even if you hit a deer, it’s a good idea to get the details on record.

Document the Details

Regardless of whether you file a police report or not, you’ll want to document the event details while they are fresh in your mind. Take a few moments to record detailed notes and gather the information you will need to file a claim. This includes details like:

  • Name and Contact Information of Individuals Present

  • Insurance Policy Numbers

  • Year, Make, and Model of Vehicles Involved

  • Detailed Description of Accident or Event

  • Photos from All Sides/Angles

  • Detailed Notes from Conversations

  • Physician Reports

  • Medical Bills

  • Detailed Documentation of Missing or Damaged Belongings

  • Receipts or Other Proof of Cost

Contact Your Insurance Company

Once the chaos has passed and you have collected the necessary information, it’s time to get in touch with your insurance company and start the claims process. Your agent is your best resource when something happens. They can make sure your claim is filed and processed in a timely manner. However, you probably don’t even have to call your agent. Most insurance companies offer greater accessibility through call centers and apps which make it easy to file a claim whenever it’s convenient for you. Time limits vary by policy, but you should generally have at least 30 days to file a claim.

Meet With an Adjuster

Once your claim is in the system, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to assess and process the claim. This process looks different depending on the company, policy, and event. As you can imagine, a fender bender with less than $1K in damages may not be handled the same as a house fire which costs several hundred thousand dollars. It’s important you cooperate with requests and next steps as the adjuster processes your claim. They may require an inspection, have additional questions, or ask that you obtain estimates for repairs. Keep in mind, there is a ticking clock on your claim and prompt communication and resolution are necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions about Filing a Claim

While the process is clear enough, many people find they have questions come up when it’s time to file a claim. Maybe you’ve heard that filing a claim can make your rates go up or that you’ll have to pay a hefty deductible to get coverage. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common questions that pop up when filing a claim.

When Should You File a Claim?

You may be surprised to learn not every accident or ‘policy event’ requires a claim to be filed. Generally speaking, insurance is there to cover gross losses you cannot otherwise afford to pay out of pocket. For example, if someone is injured in an accident and receives medical bills, you’ll need to file a claim. It may also be a good idea to file a claim when the accident results in significant damages, but it is unclear who is at fault.

However, if you are involved in a minor accident with no injuries and the damage to your vehicle is less than your deductible, it doesn’t make sense to file a claim. Similarly, if your home sustains minor damage and the cost of repairs is a wash with your deductible, you may also want to avoid potentially increasing your premiums.

Does Filing a Claim Make Your Insurance Premiums Go Up?

It depends on many factors, including the insurance company and policy. With some companies, a comprehensive claim for damage caused by road hazards will not affect your rates. Other companies may also offer accident forgiveness programs that provide good drivers a ‘pass’ as long as they haven’t had any other claims. Outside of these programs, the answer is generally yes. If you file a claim and receive compensation from your insurance company, your rates may go up. They may also increase based on market conditions, your credit score, and if you get too many traffic violations.

What Is a Deductible and How Much Do You Have To Pay?

A deductible is an amount the policyholder is required to pay before coverage kicks in for a policy event. Depending on your policy, a deductible can be as low as $100 or as much as several thousand dollars. Some policies will also waive deductibles for certain events like windshield replacement.

The Bottom Line on Filing An Insurance Claim

There are a few misconceptions when it comes to filing a claim. That confusion sometimes stands in the way of policyholders utilizing their coverage when a policy event happens. Although the claims process is fairly simple, it often requires the steps noted above along with your cooperation. Your CIIG agent can help you navigate the claims process to make sure you receive the coverage and service you’re entitled to.


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