How Do Car Insurance Claims Work?

One of the most common reasons for stress in the world of auto insurance is the dreaded “claim”.  Having operated in the auto insurance world for a long time I can attest that most of this stress is caused by a lack of knowledge, communication, or very poor untimely communication.  I find that most people will be reasonable even if things don’t go exactly as they wish as long as they have solid, timely and, pertinent information. This is not an easy fix since insurance claim adjustors are working on several claims at once and their time is usually stretched pretty thin. Not making excuses for them, but some are better than others regarding the communication factor. 

Basic Insurance Claims Process

Alrighty, so today I’m going to discuss the “very basic” insurance claim process, some in’s and out’s, what to expect, and not to expect along the way.  Now, I could not possibly get into every aspect of every claim scenario in a reasonably short, “easy read” blog. But I will try to cover the most basic and common operating procedures to relieve some auto insurance claim stress. 

First, to discuss claims we need to assume that the insurance company we have filed a claim with is:

  • assuming liability,
  • they have accepted that they are responsible for the damages their insured has caused,
  • and now they will be working to provide “indemnity” to the damaged party.

Stay with me here, it’s gonna be a tad bumpy.

Indemnity is the theory used to remedy a loss in the world of insurance.

Indemnity very basically means this,….

Let’s say I had 5 fresh apples in my Scooby-Doo backpack as I was skateboarding home from work one day. But on the way, a very mean skateboard-hating Granny purposely stuck her cane between my wheels and I took a big digger!

Grandma with cane sitting at bench looking at her smart phone.

All my apples, and pride, were smashed. So… 

There were witnesses,… blah blah blah, and it’s deemed that Grandma is responsible or “liable” for my damages. That’s where Indemnity comes in, what were my damages? My damages were my five fresh apples that are now smashed. So for me to be “indemnified” I would need to receive five fresh intact apples. Not 3 fresh apples and two more with bites out of them, not 5 rotten apples. No, five fresh apples. Not 4 fresh apples, and not 6 fresh apples. The insurance company’s job is to bring me back as close as possible to where I was before the loss. Indemnity. That is the goal of “paying a claim.” 

There are two categories that almost all claims are filed under:

  • Bodily Injury and,
  • Property Damage,

and they are handled separately. 

Automobile Property Damage Claims

Let’s start with Automobile Property Damage claims. We can file a claim for damage to a vehicle or other property caused by the operation of a motor vehicle.

A Better Choice Insurance Auto

First, we contact the company and file a claim, usually over the phone. The claims representative will have lots of questions about what happened. Once they have the information the claims rep, will give a claim number and some heads up on what will happen next. (Before the “virus” most companies would still send an adjuster out to look at the damage whether it’s a vehicle or some other property. These days companies are trying to be safe and have many ways to make this work. Sometimes they will ask you if you can get estimates for the damages yourself.)

Either way, the original estimate is rarely the final number. The adjuster’s job is only to verify that the actual damage matches the information on the claim. Once the repairs begin the mechanic or contractor will have the ability to request what are called “supplemental payments” in addition to, or above the original estimate amount if needed. Lots of times you don’t know the entirety of the damage until you begin to do repairs. 

I cannot express how important this one is. It is ultimately up to you who you let repair your auto or property, CHOOSE WISELY! Once the claim check has left the insurance company you are relying solely on the mechanics or the contractor you have chosen. The insurance company is not responsible for delays to repairs caused by your shop or contractor.

I have had clients call me complaining about their insurance company and claim, lots of times when I get involved and do some research I learn it is not the insurance company causing the issue at all. Instead, it is the shop not being honest with their client or some other issue.

Some companies have a preferred list of mechanics they will provide you, and sometimes these preferred mechanics will give guarantees on their work.

But again, who repairs your vehicle is totally up to you. You cannot blame the insurance company for any delays caused by the shop, or for the workmanship of those repairs. That is your responsibility as the owner of the vehicle/property. Choose your repairman or woman wisely. 

Bodily Injury Claims

Bodily Injury claims are more involved and usually have many more variables. However, they start out the same with a call to a claims person at an insurance company.

The big issue in these claims, and most any claim, is that the company has agreed that the insured is liable for the injuries in question. Once the liability has been established the process is fairly straightforward, you get medical attention and the company pays your medical costs up to the limits on the policy being used.

The actual medical procedures and healing process are different for everyone and each bodily injury claim will be unique. Healing is not an exact science. Unfortunately, this is where even a seasoned, experienced insurance agent is limited in what they can do.

The doctors and medical professionals pretty much have it from here, but you need to be an advocate for yourself in these situations. Don’t settle until you feel you have recovered fully or are as “medically healthy” as you can be after the incident. 

Yep, pretty simple stuff, right? Ha!

Have you ever experienced an insurance claim?

Above I have explained the “no dispute claim” everything is cut and dry, liability has been established and the process flows well.

But what if things do not go smoothly?

What if there is a dispute regarding who was at fault?

What if you have not received a call in over a week?

What if there is a dispute on the value of a total loss vehicle?

What if an insurance company is dragging it’s feet?

How long should you expect for certain aspects of the claim to be completed?

These are very valid questions. Do you have an agent you can count on to get you those answers? 

This brings me to the entire point I wanted to write about. Unfortunately, many agents choose not to get involved in claims because the claim is handled by the insurance company, not the agency. That’s fine, we as agents do not have the time or resources to handle claims at the agency level anyway, and, it’s not our job.

However, when I insure someone I feel responsible to give them everything I’ve got when they need me. This means I will get involved in a claim if I’m asked to do so. I will call companies and repair shops for my clients. I will be in my client’s corner so to speak. I do all of this to relieve stress for them. I have been doing this for over twenty years. It’s much easier for me to make that call than for my clients to make it.

I’ve seen 100’s of claims through to completion and know what is normal and what isn’t normal. I have spoken to many claim adjusters and am comfortable with the process. I have gotten clients what they’ve asked for simply by being nice and asking the adjuster for it. I have been working with the same several companies for many years and have a relationship with them. I can take a lot of the stress off my clients by simply being involved.

I do not have magical powers nor can I work miracles. However, I will fight for my clients the best I can to make things right.

By the way, believe it or not, most claims go smoothly and my clients are satisfied with the result and never have to call me at all. We write insurance with great companies. I won’t write insurance with a company that does not consistently take care of my clients.

We were the top producing agency in the state for a company that we used to write with. They left a dozen of my clients hanging after a hail storm and we never wrote another policy with them. Our clients come first here at A Better Choice Insurance Agency.

Of course, there are many, many more aspects of claims and issues that come up in a claim situation. Why anyone would want to play that game alone, or with an agent in another state, or worse yet using “online insurance” and no agent, I cant imagine.

Hopefully, there are no issues and you don’t need help with your claim. But if you do, are you confident your agent will go to bat for you? Are you confident they have your best interest at heart and more importantly, do they have the knowledge and experience to get you results? 

You pay good money for your insurance in Colorado. Just make sure you get your money’s worth. I recommend finding a licensed, experienced agent who you can trust and who cares about their clients.

Give one of the agents here at A Better Choice Insurance a chance to prove that we care about you and your family. Look at our Google reviews. You won’t be sorry. 

Thanks as always for reading, have a great day!

John Walker | Owner & Insurance Agent | A Better Choice Auto Insurance
John Walker | Owner & Insurance Agent | A Better Choice Auto Insurance

Please call us at 719-667-1301 if you have any questions about insurance, we’d love to help you out.


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