How to File an Auto Insurance Claim
If your car is damaged in a collision, it’s important that you know what to do, what your responsibilities are and how your insurer can help you.
- What happens following a collision
- How your insurer helps
- How to document your claim
- Why you need to keep your claim information
What happens following a collision
Regardless of whether you decide to file a claim, it’s important to promptly report the collision to your insurer within 48-72 hours.
To start, process and complete your claim, your insurer will:
Ask you questions about the event
Determine fault for the collision
Request that you complete a written declaration – known as a “proof of loss”
Advise you on how to get the damage evaluated by a claims specialist or adjuster
Assess the extent to which your policy covers the loss or damage. For example:
if your car is stolen or vandalized, you will only be compensated if you purchased comprehensive, specified perils or all perils coverage
depending on your policy, you may be eligible for a rental vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired
Provide you with settlement terms and conditions
Request your approval to proceed
How your insurer helps
Depending on the extent of coverage provided by your policy, your insurance provider can support you in a number of ways if you experience a loss situation.
They may authorize repairs to your vehicle if it is damaged and repairable. Your insurer may suggest repairs be carried out by their preferred shop(s) to ensure they can confirm the quality of the work.
If damage is major and cannot be repaired safely, or the cost of repairs is more than the value of your car before it was damaged, your insurer may declare it a “write-off”. This means the car is a total loss and your insurer will provide you with a settlement.
If you’re injured, you may be entitled to benefits. Your insurer will help you through the process of claiming benefits.
How to document your claim
Things can change rapidly and unexpectedly in the aftermath of a collision. This is why taking photos and making a detailed record at the scene of an event is so important.
Once it’s safe to do so at the site of a collision you and any other driver(s) involved should take photos and immediately document:
date, time and specific location where the event occurred;
drivers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, drivers’ license numbers, vehicle registration and insurance information;
contact information of anyone who is injured or potentially injured, involved in the incident, or a witness;
all details about any injuries, potential injuries or property damage;
specific information about the collision – how it happened, speed, weather and road conditions and anything else you think may be important;
if witnesses are available, their description(s) of the accident – what happened before, during and immediately after;
if a police officer attends the scene, note their name and badge number.
Don’t authorize repairs to your vehicle – other than those needed to prevent further damage – until your insurer inspects the damage or consents to the repairs. Your insurer will decide whether to repair or replace your vehicle or pay for the damage. Your insurance company may provide a list of preferred vehicle repair shops.
Why you need to keep your claim information
While a collision may seem minor, it could still result in a lawsuit against you months or years later. Therefore, it’s important to document and store your claim information.
Each province and territory sets their own guidelines for the length of time during which legal action may be taken against you after a collision. You should always keep all your claim documentation for this timeframe, which is known as the statute of limitations. Your lawyer can confirm how long you should keep your supporting documents such as joint reports, photos, proof of loss, police report number, towing bills, etc.