How to Report an Accident to Insurance: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Report an Accident to Insurance: A Step-by-Step Guide

May 09 2024

It is estimated that there are over 5 million auto accidents a year in the US, of which over 1.5 million resulted in injuries. What’s more, these figures are only for reported crashes – it stands to reason that numerous car accidents happen and go unreported. As such, the chances of you experiencing an auto accident at some point in your lifetime are extremely high. When this happens, you need to know what to do following the incident. More specifically, you must understand how to report an accident to insurance.

It’s something many people do not understand, which is perfectly reasonable. Nobody intends to get involved in car accidents, so why would you know how to report an incident to your insurance provider? We’ve created a step-by-step guide that will teach you everything to do in a situation like this. You’ll learn how to report an accident to insurance, as well as what to do in specific cases – like a hit and run.

Before doing any of this, it’s important to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of a road incident. This will help you when reporting to your insurance provider, and it also ensures everyone gets the help they need.

What To Do After A Car Accident

As soon as the accident happens, make sure you switch off your engine and check your passengers. See if anyone is hurt before getting out of the car. If a passenger is injured – and the car is safe – it is best to leave them there and call 911 for medical assistance. If they’re injured and can move by themselves, then it is okay to help them get out of the car and sit in a safe place to await the medical team.

Following this, you should check with the other driver to see if they are okay as well. Again, if they need help, call 911 immediately.

When you’re sure that either a) everyone is physically okay, or b) there’s medical help on the way, you should follow these next steps:

  • Move your car to a safe location on the side of the road and turn your hazard lights on (if it is not safe to move your car or it won’t start, turn on the hazards and place your small warning triangle a few feet behind the wreckage).
  • Ensure you wait at the scene and do not admit fault for the accident – if you admit fault, it will make it harder for you to submit an insurance claim.
  • Call the police – you need to report auto accidents to the police. Even if it’s a minor car accident, having a police report will help during insurance claims. It provides insurance companies with documents detailing the incident, including information from the scene. It speeds everything along and can make your life easier, so always call the police!
  • Exchange information with the other people involved – This will include insurance information (company name & policy number), and personal information (names, phone numbers, email, addresses, etc.). Don’t just get this information from the other driver; try to take it from other passengers in the car and any witnesses. Having the contact details of a witness will be extremely useful when you’re filing claims.
  • Take photos of the accident to gain evidence of all damages caused to both you and the other car.

After following these steps, you should wait for the police and emergency services to arrive. From here, the police will ask questions for the report, so be sure you explain what happened in as much detail as possible. When they’re happy that they’ve got all the information, you can be on your way.

Provided you and your passengers are healthy – and your car is drivable – you can drive home after an accident. If your car is unsafe to drive, be sure to call and wait for roadside assistance.

Reporting An Accident To Insurance: Steps To Follow

When you are safely home, you should plan what to do next. Ideally, you need to report the accident to an insurance company as soon as possible. It helps speed things along and ensures you get the claim processed and paid out with fewer delays.

You’ll notice we said “an” insurance company rather than “your” insurance company. This is because it depends on a couple of factors:

  • Who was at fault for the accident?
  • What are the insurance laws in your state?

In states with no-fault insurance laws, the insurance policyholder is indemnified by their own insurance company for financial losses, regardless of how these losses were caused. In layman’s terms, you can’t technically be at fault for any auto accident. Even if you drove the car into a wall and damaged the vehicle, a no-fault state will mean your insurance provider has to cover the claim.

For states with “normal” insurance laws, you will contact either your insurance company or the other individual’s. It depends on who is at fault for the accident. Here, you will encounter two types of insurance claims:

  • First-party insurance claims – This is when you are at fault, and you have to contact your insurance provider.
  • Third-party insurance claims – This is when you are NOT at fault, and you must contact the other party’s insurance provider.

At this point, you know who to contact – but what should you do next? Here are the important steps to follow when reporting an accident to insurance:

Step 1: Understand Your Insurance Coverage

If you need to make claims via your insurance company, understand the level of coverage available. Check your insurance policy to see what is covered – most will cover damages to either your vehicle or other road users/property. However, the level of coverage can differ greatly.

Auto insurance with minimum coverage will only cover you up to a certain point. They may not cover any damages sustained to your vehicle but will cover the cost of damages you caused to other drivers or properties.

Moreover, you must consider the maximum amount of coverage your insurance provider gives you. This will be the maximum they will pay out in damages. It varies from provider to provider, and there can be different limits depending on whether you have liability coverage, bodily injury coverage, etc. In general, it’s estimated that most auto policies cap at around $300,000 for liability coverage. This should be more than enough to cover you in any auto accident.

Step 2: Gather The Information You Took At The Scene

As stated earlier, you should gather as much information as possible at the scene of the accident. When you eventually contact an insurance company, you’re going to need the other driver’s details. This is the same for first-party or third-party insurance claims, as well as claims in a no-fault state.

The main information required will include:

  • Both you and the other driver’s full name
  • Both driver’s insurance policy numbers
  • The date of the accident
  • Both sets of driver’s licenses
  • Information about the accident
  • Photos or videos taken at the scene
  • A police report number

Gathering all of this information now will make life easier when you contact an insurance company. You can simply hand it all over without needing to hang up the phone or take time to find the information.

Photos/videos and a police report number aren’t essential – you can report the accident without them. Nevertheless, they do add weight to the claim and provide extra information for insurance companies. This will make sure you get the right amount of compensation to cover any repairs/medical bills.

Step 3: Get In Touch With The Insurance Provider

Finally, you can contact the insurance provider to kick the claims process into action. Most insurance companies will let you contact them over the phone to discuss auto accident claims. Some will have online portals where you can submit your claims and report incidents. Choose whichever method is the easiest for you – in our opinion, online claims are easier as it lets you fill in the information yourself and upload evidence. This guarantees that there are no errors and everything is perfectly in place.

When you contact the insurance company, you will need to provide all of the information listed above. They will also demand an explanation of the incident. Write factually – try to avoid adding in opinions or anecdotes, and definitely do not admit blame. Be honest the entire time too, and only provide the information they have asked for.

Step 4: Await The Outcome

With your accident reported to insurance, you have to wait for an outcome. Insurance companies will review the incident and take all the supplied evidence into account. They may contact the other party during this too, to get their side of the story.

Following the review process, the insurance provider will decide whether to accept or deny your claim. In either instance, we strongly recommend consulting a personal injury lawyer. For denied claims, a personal injury lawyer can help you take legal action to get any compensation you believe you deserve. If your claim was accepted, you should still speak to a lawyer to see if the settlement check is fair. Often, insurance providers will offer extremely small settlements as they want to pay the bare minimum. A personal injury lawyer can survey your incident and explain how much you deserve to be paid.

From here, you can either take legal action or report back to the insurance provider stating that you want more compensation. Sometimes, the threat of legal action is enough to get them to up their settlement.

After all of this, you can put the whole incident behind you and get on with your life. Use the money gained via your insurance claim or legal settlement to cover any repairs to your vehicle/property, or personal injuries.

While the step-by-step guide is over, we appreciate that you may have other questions relating to auto accidents and insurance reports. With that in mind, please review our frequently asked questions to see if your concerns have been covered:

How Do You Know Whether To Submit A First-Party Or Third-Party Insurance Claim?

Generally, it depends on the accident. If another driver or individual was involved, it’s always a good idea to submit a third-party claim. For accidents that happen on your own, go down the first-party route. If you’re in an accident involving more than one individual or you’re unsure whose insurance provider to contact, you can speak to your insurance provider and they’ll explain what to do.

How Do You Report A Hit-And-Run To Insurance?

A hit-and-run accident is when someone flees the scene immediately after the incident. As such, you’re unable to exchange information. You have two options in this scenario to report the accident:

  • Try to obtain information about the other driver to submit a third-party insurance claim – this can involve recording their license plate and looking it up online, or asking any witnesses if they saw the license number.
  • Report the incident to your insurance provider – a first-party claim may be necessary if you can’t get any info about the other car/driver. Some insurance policies will cover hit-and-run accidents, and you can make a claim.

What Should You Say When Reporting An Accident To Insurance?

Obviously, you must provide a breakdown of the accident, but the insurance company might ask other questions. Here are some pointers on what to say (or what to avoid saying) during the report:

  • Stick to the facts and only give out specific information requested by the insurance company – never volunteer information!
  • Don’t provide any details of injuries – explain that you were injured, but do not diagnose the injury or explain its details to the insurance provider.
  • Be honest about everything – if you can’t remember something, then admit that. Never lie or try to twist the truth after an accident as it can impact whether a claim is successful.

Get Legal Help Following A Car Accident

We’ve explained how to report an accident to insurance, but the truth is that these things rarely go to plan. They can take much longer than expected and regularly lead to undesirable outcomes.

If you’d like help following a car accident, the Law Office Of Cary Woods II is more than happy to help. Having an experienced car accident lawyer by your side will help you navigate the insurance claims process to guarantee you get what you rightfully deserve.

To learn more about our services and how we can help, contact us here.