Reporting an Accident to Your Insurance Company

If you're involved in any kind of accident or incident that could lead to the filing of a claim, contact your own insurer right away.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Any time you're involved in any kind of accident involving property loss and/or injury, so that the filing of an insurance claim is possible—whether through your own insurance coverage or another party's carrier—you should contact your own insurance company and let them know about what happened. Read on to learn more.

When to Notify Your Insurer of an Accident or Injury

It's a good idea to get in touch with your insurance carrier within 72 hours of any incident that may prompt the filing of a claim. Your policy may contain details on any notification deadlines (or the policy may simply state that policyholders must notify the carrier of any injuries "within a reasonable time".)

What kind of incident should prompt you to notify your insurer? That depends, but there are a few scenarios when you absolutely should get in touch with your insurer (and indeed may be mandated to do so under the terms of your policy). For example:

  • You've been in a car accident where there were injuries (whether those injuries were to you, one of your passengers or drivers and passengers in other vehicles) and/or significant property damage. In this situation, you should contact your own car insurance carrier and let them know what happened, regardless of whether you were injured yourself, and whether or not you believe the accident was your fault.
  • A house guest or other visitor to your home suffers an injury on your property (whether a slip and fall, a dog bite, or any other injury). Here, you'll need to promptly report the incident to your homeowner's insurance carrier, whether or not you or anyone else eventually decides to file a claim related to the incident.

In addition to these two common scenarios, for a good rule of thumb when deciding whether to report an incident to your insurance carrier, ask yourself:

  • Is it possible that I might decide to file a claim under my insurance policy in connection with this incident? or
  • Is it possible that someone might decide to file a claim against me related to this incident, and that my coverage will kick in under this policy?

If the answer to either one of these questions is "yes," it's a good idea to notify your insurance company about the incident, and co-operate in any resulting claim investigation. (Learn more about how an insurance company investigates an injury-related claim.)

What to Expect When You Talk to Your Insurance Carrier

No matter who you talk to, whether it's your own agent who you've dealt with in the past or just an adjuster in the claims department, make sure you've provided all details relevant to the incident: who was involved, how the incident happened, who witnessed the incident, who was injured, what property was damaged, etc. The insurance agent will likely elicit this information from you in a series of questions. It's important to be as honest and as thorough as possible as to the specifics. Keep in mind, though, if you get a call from a possible opposing party's representative, it's best to refrain from giving too much information.

Before you hang up on this initial call, make sure to note who you're speaking with and get confirmation that the information you provided will be filed with the carrier's claims office. In the next few days, you should receive a formal letter documenting your claim. If you don't receive this letter, follow up with the claims office directly.

What happens next will depend on whether a claim is filed over the incident. That means either:

  • a claim filed by you, seeking coverage under your policy, or
  • a claim filed by another party, saying you were at fault for the accident, so that your coverage and the insurance carrier's duty to defend under the policy kicks in.

In either case, if a claim is filed, you'll need to co-operate with the carrier's investigation, and that may include allowing the insurance company to inspect your property or your vehicle for any damage, and/or letting the insurance company examine any medical records related to the nature and extent of injuries you're claiming.

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