Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

Full Bio →

Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident car insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one car insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider. Our partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about car insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything car insurance-related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by car insurance experts.

In a nutshell...

  • When you have a car accident, it’s important that you quickly notify your insurer that there was an incident
  • Insurance Claims that are paid out to you by your own car insurance company are called first-party claims
  • When you file a claim for covered benefits against the other driver’s insurance, it’s called a third-party accident claim
  • You should always get the other driver’s name, driver’s license number, license plate number, and policy information.
  • It’s best to file your claim through your own carrier to protect yourself against common shady claims tactics

It’s important to take all of the right steps after you have an accident. Just one misstep and you could be forced to deal with claims delays or paying for your repair shop costs all on your own.

This is why anyone who has a license should know what to do after an accident before they ever have one.

Collecting all of the right information is crucial when you’re involved in a crash with two or more cars. If you forget to ask for a single piece of information, your claim could drag on for months.

Before you have an accident, make sure you have the insurance coverage you need for the protection you want. Enter your zip code above to compare top insurers side-by-side.

After you leave the scene, you have to make a huge decision regarding how you’ll file your insurance claim. If you’re not sure which company you should contact after your accident, here’s what you should know for the best possible outcome:

What is a first-party claim?

When you carry an auto insurance policy, you’re required under your state’s vehicle code to carry insurance. The state mandates the type of coverage that you have to have and the minimum limit of insurance that you must carry.

Typically, the state only requires you to carry third-party coverage to pay for third-party damages.

You have the choice to add first-party coverage options to your policy for more money. In select states, you’re required to carry some first-party medical coverage to help you pay for medical bills.

If you file a claim against your own auto insurance policy to cover either your medical bills or your repair costs, it’s called a first-party claim.

FREE Car Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What is a third-party claim?

If you’re filing a claim for your own damages, it could still be classified as a third-party claim.

When you have a third-party claim on your hands, it means that you’re filing a claim against another driver’s policy to pay for your vehicle repairs, property damage and replacement, or your medical bills. You’ll be compensated by the other party’s insurance provider.

You should always have an accident checklist in your glove compartment so you don’t forget to jot down the right information. If you forget to get driver information, vehicle information, or insurance information, it delays the whole claims process.

Here’s a list of the information that you need:

  • Driver name
  • Vehicle owner name
  • Address and phone number
  • Insurance company
  • Policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle year, make, and model with a description
  • Name and number for witnesses
  • Photos of the scene and damage
  • Police badge number of officer at scene or accident report number

FREE Car Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Are you allowed to contact the other insurer instead of your own?

When you have an accident and you speak with the other driver, you’re given an opportunity to collect the other driver’s information. One of the things you always need to ask for is the driver’s policy number.

If you have this, you might be tempted to call the carrier and file a claim. You’re free to contact the other insurer directly, but it’s in your best interest to inform your insurer first.

If you read through your insurance contract, it says that you’re required to file a car insurance claim within a reasonable amount of time following the accident. Drivers who are injured and recovering are likely be given more time to file your claim.

In most states, there’s a statute of limitations of two to three years for personal injury protection and claims.

A reasonable period is up for interpretation when you have a damage loss. This deadline is why you need to pick up the phone to file your claim as soon as possible so the insurer has no valid reason to deny your claim.

Why is it best to file your claim through your own auto insurance company?

If you’re worried about filing a claim through your own insurer, you might want to contact the other carrier first to hide the incident from your company. Doing this, even when you’re not at fault for the accident, can affect your ability to collect money.

One of the main reasons that you should tell your insurer about the accident before you even consider calling the other company is because your carrier will assign an expert insurance claims professional to your file.

Instead of having to call the other carrier to explain your side of the story, you’ll make a statement to your own claims adjuster and they will speak on your behalf.

FREE Car Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What are the risks of contacting a third-party insurer directly?

If you still don’t want to file a claim through your own insurer, consider the risks. The industry works in very specific ways.

A claims adjuster that investigates claims represents their employer. They will make decisions that are best for the insurer at all costs. If it’s possible, the insurer will try to deny the claims.

When you talk to the other company directly, just one sentence can be twisted to have a different meaning. That could be the difference between a non-fault claim and an at-fault claim.

If the carrier doesn’t try to deny your claim, they could make you a low-ball offer or draw your claim out so that it’s different to pay your bills.

Most people want to file a claim through the third-party carrier to avoid a rate increase. What you don’t know is that if you’re not an at fault driver, you don’t have to worry about a rate increase on either end.

Filing a claim with the other company will potentially do you more harm than good. Work with your insurer to help them investigate the loss. After the loss is settled, shop around online for instant auto quotes to find a better deal. Try our comparison tool today!