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Laura Berry

Former Insurance Agent

Former Insurance Agent

Joshua Adamson

Joshua is a copywriter at Obrella who for more than 10 years has been creating content about insurance, health care, and more. He helps companies explain complex insurance subjects in simple ways so that customers can make smart buying decisions. He spends way too much time binge-watching Netflix, loves the outdoors and has a cat who tolerates him.

UPDATED: Nov 29, 2023

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I was in an accident that wasn’t my fault. Do I have to file a claim with my insurance?

when to file a car insurance claim

Auto insurance is designed, at minimum, to cover damages by accidents you cause. That’s why nearly every state requires liability insurance. But whose insurance covers the damages if you’re in an accident and it’s not your fault?

Theoretically, you should be able to contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company and deal with them directly. But this is not always the best course of action. Here are a few situations where you should and shouldn’t file a claim with your insurance company.

When to File a Claim

Sometimes, filing a claim with your insurance company is best to protect your own finances or to speed up the repair process. In situations like these, it makes sense to contact your insurance company.

  • Required by Your Insurance Policy — Auto insurance policies are contracts, and some policies require you report all incidents, whether you’re at fault or not. Read over your policy documents carefully to find out whether or not you’re required to file a claim. 
  • Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance — An estimated one in eight drivers on the road are uninsured. If you are in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, you need to file a claim with your insurance company for repairs. This is one of the reasons it’s important to have uninsured motorist coverage.
  • The Other Company Argues the Claim — Not all claims are cut and dry. If a police report wasn’t filed and no fault was assigned to the accident, the other driver’s insurance company might be reluctant to pay the claim or pay any medical bills. By filing a claim with your insurance, your car will be repaired and your bills paid. Your insurance company will also fight to recover the costs associated with the accident, including your deductible, which is a process called subrogation.
  • You Live in a No-Fault State — There are 12 states in the country with “no fault”  auto insurance laws. No-fault laws require you to use your own insurance to cover medical expenses and lost wages up to a certain limit, regardless of whose fault the accident was. This is designed to reduce litigation and make the claims process faster. The terms of no-fault laws vary from state to state, so check with your insurer to find out the amount they cover.

When to Think Twice About Using Your Insurance

In cases like the following, it doesn’t always make sense to file a claim with your insurance.

  • You Don’t Have the Right Coverage — Depending on your coverage, your insurance may not cover your damages, even if you aren’t at fault. For example, if you don’t have collision or comprehensive insurance and you’re rear-ended in traffic, filing a claim with your insurance company would not cover your damages because of your policy limitations. Making sure you have the right insurance coverage could allow you to make a claim and save you out of pocket money. 
  • You Can’t Afford Your Deductible — One of the easiest ways to lower your insurance rate is to raise the cost of your deductible, or the amount you pay out of pocket to file a claim. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, you will still need to pay your deductible if you file a claim with your company. Although you will likely be reimbursed after the subrogation process, if you don’t have the money to pay for your deductible, you may need to wait for the other driver’s company to cover repairs.
  • You Don’t Want a Rate Increase — This is one of the biggest reasons people hesitate to file a claim with their insurance company. Most companies won’t increase your insurance rate if the accident was not your fault. A number of insurance companies also offer accident forgiveness programs that promise your rates won’t increase after an accident. Technically, however, your insurer can legally raise your rates if you’re involved in an accident and you file a claim, even if you weren’t the one at fault. As a general rule, the more claims you file, the more your rates will increase because your insurance company will consider you a higher risk. Check your policy to find out what you can expect. 

Navigating through insurance after an accident can be a hassle, even if you weren’t at fault. When in doubt, let an Obrella expert help you understand the best steps to take. Give us a call at [mapi-phone-link /], and we’ll help you understand your options.


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