How To Start A Car Accident Claim

Accidents do happen. If you’re involved in one, it’s important to understand what you’re required to do to get compensation for injuries sustained or damages incurred as a result of the accident. To avoid costly mistakes, you should arm yourself with knowledge and know what a car accident claim entails. 

What To Do After An Accident

Irrespective of who is at fault, you should inform your insurance company immediately after a crash. To help substantiate your claim, if you’re in a position to; take pictures and videos of the accident scene including the injuries and damaged vehicles. Ask for the contact details of everyone involved, and their insurance information. 

Also, take note of the license plate numbers of all vehicles involved. If there’re witnesses at the scene, request for their contact information as well. Make sure you seek medical attention immediately. 

Necessary Documentation 

After the accident, you’ll be required to file a police report and proof of injuries or damage in the form of medical records and receipts. Police reports are crucial because they hold details pertaining to the accident and include a rough sketch of the scene of the accident, and location. Without a police report, the insurance company may deny that the accident ever occurred. 

After seeking medical attention, you’ll also be required to file an insurance accident claim with your insurer and the insurer of the responsible party depending on the circumstances of the accident. The claim will be the beginning of the process of being compensated for medical expenses incurred, wages lost, or damages sustained as a result of the accident. 

First Party Claims or Third-Party Claims 

Insurance claims are either first party or third party. A first party claim is that which you file with your insurer, while a third-party claim is the one you file with the responsible party’s insurer.  The type of claim you file will depend on the circumstances of the accident and the available insurance coverage for the party at fault. For instance, if the accident was self-involving, you will file a first party claim. On the other hand, if you were involved in an accident while a passenger in another person’s car, or you were hit by a car as a pedestrian, you’ll file a third-party claim.

Filing Your Claim With Your Insurer

Once you file your claim with the insurance company, a claims adjuster will be assigned to investigate the case and prepare an investigation report. The adjuster will:

  • Interview you to get your side of the story
  • Evaluate the police report
  • Visit the accident scene
  • Interview other people involved in the accident including eyewitnesses
  • Inspect your car for damages and take pictures
  • Request you to sign a medical release to enable them access to your medical records
  • Review your medical records, bills and proof of loss of wages

After evaluating all these information, the adjuster will determine who was at fault.

Negotiating With The Party At Fault 

No matter the circumstances of the accident, the insurance company will always want to file the claim on your behalf. It’s however advisable to work with an experienced car accident lawyer who’s well conversant with the requirements and process of a car accident claim. This way you’re likely to get a higher compensation paid out and your claim is less likely to be denied.

In a bid to negotiate a quick settlement, your lawyer may write a demand letter to the faulting party and their insurer detailing the facts of the case and why they’re liable to pay the claim. 

The demand letter should contain all relevant evidence, describe the sequence of events and detail your injuries. A medical report, and supporting documents for your injuries, expenditure relating to the accident and lost wages should be attached to the demand letter. The letter should also contain a monetary clause indicating the amount you expect to be compensated. 

Filing Your Claim In Court 

If negotiations do not bear fruit, then your lawyer will proceed to file your claim in court.

A lawsuit is commenced by filing a written document that contains a complaint for damages you incurred and the amount of money you’re expecting to receive as compensation. After filing your complaint, you’ll be required to testify in court by giving an account of the accident, and injuries and damages suffered. This information will be used at trial.

If parties do not seek an out of court settlement, the suit will go to full trial where it’ll be determined by court. If you prevail, the court will decide the amount of compensation you will receive based on what the court will deem as justified.


It’s however worthy of note that your claim may become time barred if you do not file it on time. It’s usually between two to three years from the date of the accident depending on your location. If this period lapses, you’ll have lost your chance to be compensated for your injuries and losses.