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If you’re ever in a car accident, you’ll need to take steps immediately to protect yourself financially. Whether or not a car accident is your fault, you should:

  1. Call 911 if anybody involved in the accident has been injured. Even if no one has been hurt, you may also want to call the police if the cars are damaged to get a police report.
  2. Exchange insurance information with the driver.
  3. Take photos of your car – and if the other driver doesn’t object – their car, too. This will help with everybody’s insurance.
  4. Don’t play the blame game. It’s best not to point fingers. Let the car insurance companies figure this one out.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about what to do after a car accident that isn’t your fault.

Key Takeaways

  • The most effective way to deal with an at-fault driver’s insurance company is to get help from a personal injury lawyer.
  • Filing a claim with someone else’s insurance company is called a third-party claim. A claim with your own insurance provider is a first-party claim.
  • It’s vital to call the police after a car accident and gather as much information as possible at the accident scene to make the claim process easier.
  • You may need to inform the other person’s insurer that you’ve been in a crash with one of its policyholders; don’t assume the other driver will report the accident.
  • Some car insurance companies may demand authorization before proceeding with any vehicle repairs or injury treatments.

What should you do after a car accident that is not your fault?

Being in a car accident is a stressful experience, even when it isn’t your fault. Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

1. Gather information at the scene

The driver who crashes into your car is responsible for reporting the accident to their car insurance company. However, unless your insurance agent makes it clear that they’ll be contacting the other driver’s insurance company, you may also want to contact their insurer. Motorists who cause accidents are often reluctant to report them.


It’s vital to get complete information on the other party at the accident scene. Collect the following:

  • The other driver’s name and address
  • The other driver’s insurance company name and policy information
  • Statements and contact information from witnesses
  • Take pictures of the accident scene — most smartphone cameras are suitable. It is best to take pictures of the cars as they sit right after the accident. If you had to move due to safety concerns, take photos of each vehicle’s damage.

In addition, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a Wreck Check auto accident checklist you can print and keep in your vehicle.

Using a Google map satellite images of the intersection or accident area may also help explain how the accident happened. And, if you have a dashcam, be sure to find and save any footage of the accident so you can share it with the insurance company. That is especially helpful if the other driver doesn’t admit responsibility to their insurer.

2. Contact your insurance company

After a third-party accident, inform the other person’s insurer that you have been involved in a crash with one of its policyholders and make sure to relay only the facts of the accident. Even if you believe the other driver to be at fault, don’t say that. Instead, give the insurer the facts to show their driver is at fault and liable for your damages. You’ll be far more credible that way.

Although you may not have caused the accident, you should also contact your insurance company. It establishes your good-faith accident-reporting effort and can aid you if the other party’s insurer denies responsibility for the accident or their insurance was not valid at the time of the incident and you need to file a collision claim.

Sometimes, car insurance companies may demand that you obtain their authorization before proceeding with vehicle repairs and injury treatments. At a minimum, ensure that the insurance company has accepted liability before getting repairs. Make sure to get that authorization in writing or over email.

The at-fault driver’s insurer may tell you to seek payment from your own insurer because it has no evidence of its policyholder’s fault. Although most states have made it illegal for an insurer to deny claims without reasonably investigating the facts, you may not want to fight the other person’s insurance company. 

If you file a claim with your insurer, it will likely choose to fight the other insurance company for compensation. But if you decide to fight the at-fault driver’s insurer on your own, you’ll need a lawyer — especially if you’ve been seriously injured. An attorney can help you navigate insurance laws. But keep in mind that if you hire an attorney, they will take a cut of any settlement they help you get.

Sometimes, the insurance company will take its policyholder’s position, even if it contradicts the police report.

4. If all else fails, file a claim with your car insurance company

Even if you’re not at fault, you can file a claim with your insurance company for payment of damages and injuries — if you have the right coverages.

If you have collision insurance, file a claim with your own carrier. It will pay for the cost of repairs or total loss of your vehicle. If you take this approach, you will have to pay your collision deductible toward repairs. However, you may get that money back if your insurer can settle with the other driver’s insurance company.

If it turns out the other driver is uninsured and you have uninsured motorist coverage property damage (UMPD), you can file a claim for your vehicle’s damage. There is normally no deductible for UMPD claims.

How to deal with an at-fault driver’s insurance company

You take the same steps with an at-fault driver’s insurance company as you would your own — you give them the details of the accident and any necessary documentation. Ideally, however, you want to go with your own insurer first and let the insurers work everything out.

In most severe car accidents he most effective approach to handling the opposing insurance company is by getting help from a personal injury lawyer. These lawyers know a lot about dealing with insurance companies. They can help you talk to the other driver’s insurance and ensure you’re treated fairly.

How does car insurance work when you’re not at fault for an accident?

In a no-fault accident, you should collect the other driver’s information at the scene to claim their liability insurance. When you do this, the claim goes on their insurance record, not yours.

When you’re not at fault for an accident, your car insurance might still get involved initially to cover your expenses, like vehicle damage repairs or medical treatment bills, depending on your policy’s coverage. Your insurance company may then seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer through subrogation.

If you have collision insurance and medical payments coverage or Personal Injury Protection — MedPay and PIP help pay medical expenses after an auto accident that results in injury — tell your insurer about the accident. If the other driver doesn’t have insurance or has low limits, you can file a claim.

Should I file a claim with my insurance if I’m not at fault?

After a car accident, a common question is whether they should report the accident to their own auto insurance carrier, particularly when the accident was not their fault. And the answer to that question is: always.

Reporting an accident to your own auto insurance, even when it’s not your fault, has several advantages:

  1. Timely Assistance: Your insurance can help you promptly with repairs or other necessary assistance, ensuring your safety and addressing vehicle issues promptly.
  2. Coverage Access: By reporting the accident, you can access your insurance coverage, including benefits for medical expenses, property damage, and other costs related to the incident.
  3. Efficient Process: Filing a claim with your own insurer can streamline the claims process, making it more efficient and reducing potential delays.
  4. Subrogation: Your insurance company may pursue reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurance on your behalf, sparing you the hassle of dealing directly with the other party’s insurer.
  5. Peace of Mind: Reporting the accident to your insurance provides peace of mind, knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to address the situation and protect your interests.

Do you have to report an accident to your insurance if it’s not your fault?

Yes, it is generally advisable to report an accident to your insurance, even if it’s not your fault. Reporting ensures coverage for repairs, access to medical benefits, legal protection, assistance with third-party claims, and compliance with policy requirements. Check your policy or contact your insurer for specific guidelines.

What is a third-party insurance claim?

A third-party claim is when you file an insurance claim with another driver’s insurance company. In this situation, there are three parties: the other at-fault driver, the other driver’s insurance company and you. You are considered to be the third party.

In most cases, if you aren’t at fault in a car accident, the other driver’s state-mandated liability insurance coverage would pay for damage to your car, property and medical bills for injuries up to the policy’s limit. This is especially useful if your policy doesn’t have adequate coverage. In no-fault states, however, regardless of who is determined to have caused the accident, you’d file a claim with your own insurance company.

How does a third-party insurance claim work?  

A third-party insurance claim, also called a liability claim or not-at-fault insurance claim, uses the at-fault driver’s liability coverage to cover damages and car accident injuries. Third-party insurance claims can be made for medical bills, vehicle repairs, a rental car, and lost wages if you miss work due to the injuries caused. All these claims depend on two factors – the state where you are and the other person’s coverage. However, the third-party insurance claims work differently in states with no-fault insurance and states without no-fault insurance.  

If you are living in a state that offers no-fault insurance after a car accident, you can file a claim with your insurer for medical insurance. If a state does not offer no-fault insurance, you can file a third-party insurance claim for property damage and medical costs. 

It is important to remember that the at-fault driver’s policy will only support paying for your repairs up to their coverage limits. For example, assume your car is declared a total loss by the competing insurance firm and is valued at $50,000. If the other driver’s coverage limit is $40,000, you may be required to pay $10,000 out of pocket to replace your vehicle.

How to file an insurance claim against another driver

To initiate your claim, contact the other party’s insurance company using the details provided by their insured. Have information ready about the at-fault driver, their insurance coverage, and the incident itself.

If feasible, engage in a conversation with the other driver at the time of the accident and collect the necessary details for filing a third-party claim:

  1. The other driver’s name and contact number
  2. Information about their vehicle
  3. Auto insurance details (as found on their ID card)
  4. Their license and registration details
  5. Statements from any witnesses
  6. Photographs of the accident scene and vehicle damage
  7. The police report, if available

Do insurance rates go up after an accident caused by a third party?

Your car insurance rates aren’t necessarily going to increase at renewal time if you make a claim under your own insurance policy for an accident that wasn’t your fault.

Most state laws prohibit insurers from surcharging policyholders or raising their car insurance premiums for accidents in which they weren’t at fault. However, those laws do not preclude your insurer from dumping your policy at renewal time if you’ve made a few recent claims of any type.

How to deal with the following situations when you are not at fault:

Situation 1: Your car was hit and the driver’s insurance won’t pay

In the situation where your car was hit and the other driver’s insurance is not willing to pay, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Review the details: Double-check the information you provided to the other driver’s insurance. Make sure the accident details, photos, and any evidence are accurately presented.
  2. Contact your insurance: Reach out to your insurance company and inform them about the situation. They can guide you on the next steps and may provide coverage through your own policy if the other driver’s insurance doesn’t pay.
  3. Appeal or negotiate: If the other driver’s insurer denied your car insurance claim even though you’re not at-fault, you can appeal their decision by providing additional evidence or reasoning. You can also try negotiating with them and providing any relevant information that might change their stance.
  4. Consider legal advice: If negotiation and appeals don’t work, you might want to consult a legal professional who specializes in insurance claims. They can help you understand your rights and options, and assist with any legal action if needed.
  5. Uninsured Motorist Coverage: If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance (uninsured) or is underinsured, your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may come into play. This coverage can help you in situations where the other driver’s insurance falls short.

Situation 2: You’ve recently been involved in a car accident with a brand new vehicle, and it was clearly not your fault

Since your car is brand new, it’s important to discuss with your insurance company the specifics of your policy coverage, including any provisions for new car replacement or repairs. They can guide you through the claim process, arrange for an inspection to assess the damage, and advise you on repair options. If the other driver is clearly at fault, their insurance should ideally cover your repair costs. However, your insurance company can help facilitate this process if there are delays or disputes.

author image
Geoff Williams
Contributing Researcher

 
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Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and author in Loveland, Ohio. He has been writing about insurance and personal finance since the mid-2000s. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, The Washington Post, CNNMoney, Entrepreneur, Forbes.com and U.S. News & World Report.