You accidentally bump the car in front of you. Luckily, there’s not much damage. You pick up the phone to call your insurer. Wait a minute. Will filing a claim for this accident save you money or cost you in the long run?

Filing a claim may have consequences down the road. Too many claims could cause a non-renewal of your policy. Even a single claim could raise your insurance premium when you renew. Plus, you may not have to file a claim with your insurance company if you are not at fault. You can possibly get compensated by the other driver’s insurer.

Follow this guide to know when to file a claim, when to skip it, and what to do if someone else is at fault.


Do file a claim…

If there is bodily injury

You should always file a claim if someone is injured. Bodily injury coverage helps pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering for the driver and passengers in the other vehicle. In no-fault states, your own injuries are typically covered by your auto policy through a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim. (It differs from state to state.) Note that many injuries don’t show up immediately. Whiplash could take days or weeks to appear.

If there is major property damage

You should always file a claim if there is major property damage. With an auto insurance policy, property damage coverage helps pay for repairs for the other vehicle or for repair/replacement of property, such as a fence, damaged or destroyed in the collision. With home insurance, a personal property policy covers damage to your possessions. Other parts of your homeowner’s policy cover the home and other structures.

If you’re at fault and others are involved

Even if the damage seems minor, the other driver can sue you after the accident. That’s why it’s a good idea to file a claim for accidents where you are at fault and others are involved. Report the accident to your insurer so that they will be able to represent you. Your liability insurance will help to cover you. Your insurer will work hard to avoid a lawsuit. They will handle the claim and pay for damages/injuries for which you are legally responsible. If you purchased coverage for your car, they would repair that also, subject to your deductible. Importantly, don’t pay the other driver out-of-pocket for damage that you caused. That will work against you if you are sued since it appears you were at fault.


Don’t file a claim…

If it’s a single-car accident and nobody is hurt

If your car hits a tree or fence, and no one is hurt, it may not make sense to file a claim.

However, if you are at fault, you will have to pay for the damage/repairs to the tree/fence. In this case, your Property Damage coverage would apply and pay for damages you are liable for up to your policy limit.

Your collision will pay for repairs minus the deductible. If you don’t have collision coverage, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the repairs. If, however, your car hits a deer, your comprehensive coverage kicks in. Comprehensive coverage applies when something other than a collision causes the damage.

When damage is close to the deductible amount

If your deductible is $500, and repairs would be about that amount, it doesn’t make sense to file a claim. You’re responsible for the deductible amount, and you would get just a minimal check from your insurer.

When you hit a family member’s parked car

If it’s unlikely your family will sue you after the accident, and if the damage is minor, you can probably handle it without filing a claim. You can pay for the repair for your family member out-of-pocket.


If you’re not at fault

If the other driver has insurance

If the other driver is at fault, you can file a claim with his or her insurance company. That insurer can provide you compensation with no effect on your insurance policy. Note that it is possible for fault to be shared. You may have to file a claim with both your insurer and the other driver’s insurance company if that is the case.

If the other driver has no insurance

File a claim with your insurance company. Your collision coverage will apply if you are hit by an at fault uninsured motorist.  Your collision deductible can be waived if there is direct physical contact, and the owner or operator of the uninsured vehicle is identified by its license plate number. If you don’t carry collision, you can carry UMPD – uninsured motorist property damage.  This coverage has either a policy maximum or a special deductible.  Most states allow you to carry Collision or UMPD, but not both. Collision has a deductible but no policy limit.  UMPD has either a policy limit or a deductible. If you or your passengers are injured by an accident with an at fault uninsured/underinsured motorist, you can use your uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage, if purchased. 


Noteworthy tips

  • Take photos of damages. Try to take them before the cars are moved, especially in a parking lot accident. Make notes of the street, speed, and get ID from the other driver, i.e., license plate or driver’s license number.  Get information on “independent” witnesses (not your friends or family members). You may need them even if the other person says they are sorry.  People often change their story when it comes time to file a claim.  Police don’t often come to accident scenes any longer unless injuries, drugs, or alcohol are involved.
  • Even if you do not file a claim, make sure to file a police report. This is evidence that the accident occurred and could protect you from false claims late You typically file the report online now. Some states require you to file a report; check your state requirements.
  • Check out your car after an accident. Small leaks or damage could be present that weren’t immediately apparent. Knowing the extent of the damage may help inform you whether to make a claim.
  • Don’t delay your decision. You have limited time to file a claim, though most states allow 1+ years to make and settle an injury claim.
  • Buy a dashcam. It may be the only thing that proves what happened in the accident.

It’s always a good idea to read your policy and understand your coverage. If you have questions, we’re only a phone call away.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

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