With car insurance, it’s hard to make any statements that apply to all situations. And, that holds true for how car insurance companies process auto claims. So much depends on the individual insurer and the particular situation.

But, here are some general guidelines about filing an auto claim. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you were in an auto accident (with no bodily injuries) and you chose to file your property damage claim with your insurance company.

Auto Claims: The Starting Point

Your first step would be to contact your carrier with your auto claim. Some insurers require you do this online, while others opt for the phone route. With a few, you can choose either method.

If you decide to file online, you’ll go to the claims filing page of your car insurer’s site. While there, you may be asked to provide a user name and password, or perhaps give your policy number.

No matter which method you choose, you’ll likely need to provide the following information (with some variations):

  • Policy number (can be found on your insurance card).
  • Date of the accident.
  • Location of the accident.
  • Description of how the accident occurred.
  • Name, address, license plate, and insurance information for the other party involved.
  • Name of the police department involved (if applicable).
  • Police report number (if applicable).

The Investigation Phase

After filing the claim, a representative from your company should follow up you with shortly.

During this period, your insurer will determine if your policy covers your claim. If it doesn’t, the rep will tell you. If it does, you’ll likely be asked for additional information about the accident. (Part of this depends on how much information you provided when you filed the claim.)

You may be asked to obtain and submit a copy of the police report. That’s assuming you contacted the police, which you should always do, even for minor accidents. Your insurer may also interview any witnesses to the accident.

Your insurer may send one of its claims adjusters or inspectors to evaluate your vehicle, and provide a repair estimate. Or, it may ask you to visit one of its approved body shops for a quote, or tell you to obtain a couple of estimates from shops of your choice and have them submitted for review.

Keep in mind you have the right to choose your own body shop. But, if your insurer feels the shop charged too much for the work performed, you may need to pay the difference.

Some auto insurance companies will offer to have your car towed or handle your rental car accommodations, if either are needed. Of course, this also depends on the types of coverage you carry.

Once you tell your carrier which shop will perform the repairs and your claim has been approved, the final phase can begin.

The Repair Phase

After your car is in the shop for repairs, all you can do is wait for the phone call telling you the car is ready. But, don’t forget you’ll need to pay your deductible no matter which shop you choose.

Once you have your car, be sure everything looks and works to your satisfaction. If it doesn’t, contact the body shop immediately and get the issue resolved.