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Laura Berry

Former Insurance Agent

Former Insurance Agent

Joshua Adamson

Joshua is a copywriter at Obrella who for more than 10 years has been creating content about insurance, health care, and more. He helps companies explain complex insurance subjects in simple ways so that customers can make smart buying decisions. He spends way too much time binge-watching Netflix, loves the outdoors and has a cat who tolerates him.

UPDATED: Dec 11, 2023

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When You Should (and Shouldn’t) File an Auto Insurance Claim

When should you file a claim

We wish this was a cut and dry answer, but whether or not to file a claim hinges on a number of factors. If you’re in an accident, here are a few things to remember:

Reporting isn’t the same as filing a claim.

We can’t stress the importance of reporting an accident enough. You should always report your car accidents to your insurance company—and the police too. If you fail to do so, you can get into trouble if your insurance agency finds out down the line and refuses to supply coverage or drops you completely. When you report a claim, all you’re doing is alerting your agent about the incident. Then, you can decide whether or not you want to file a claim. Getting police support at the scene of an accident can also protect you in the case of legal action from the other driver. All facts will be recorded, so you will have a document to reference and a credible witness if need be.

File a claim if the damage outweighs the deductible.

If the side mirror of your car is swiped off by a hit and run driver, you get a small dent in your bumper, or your have any other minor accident, it will most likely make more sense to pay out of pocket. That’s because small cosmetic claims like this typically cost about $100-$200 and most deductibles start at $250. A deductible is the amount you’re responsible for paying before your auto insurance kicks in, so if it’s less than the claim amount, you’ll have to pay for it yourself anyways.

Don’t file if you’ve already filed multiple claims in a short period of time. 

On average, drivers file collision claims once every three years and a comprehensive claim once every 10 years. Since risk is calculated to assess your auto premium and using stats like these, filing claims in short succession will cause you to look like an irresponsible, fraudulent, and/or high-risk driver. Obviously, if bad luck strikes and you need the financial assistance, do it. But if the accidents you’re filing for are the other driver’s fault, you should be able to file through their insurance and leave yours out of it anyways.

Filing may not be necessary if your car is older and still safe to drive.

A clean driving record for 36 months or more can help you maintain lower premiums. If you drive an older vehicle that is only cosmetically damaged and is still safe to drive, skipping a claim could benefit you.

Cosmetic damages are often very expensive to fix—in the thousands. This could surpass the value of your car and cause the insurance agency adjuster to label it “totaled.” In the case of it being totaled, you will only receive what your insurance company deems as the value of your car. If this happens, you can file and put your claims money toward a new car for financial assistance. However, we think it makes sense to skip filing if you’re planning on driving your car into the ground or trade it for parts when the time comes to get a newer one.

Don’t despair. Your rates won’t always go up if you file a claim.

Plans like Accident Forgiveness can help you out in the case of an incident where you need to file a claim. If you’ve been a responsible driver and haven’t filed many claims, you could be pardoned.

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