When You Should File a Claim… and When You Shouldn’t

It’s an inevitable risk of driving that no one likes to think about but many have to face: a car accident. Whether you’re behind the wheel or riding as a passenger, accidents can stressful, scary, and confusing. No matter who’s at fault, collisions can bring up a lot of questions, and it can be baffling to figure out if, when, and how to involve your insurance carrier. Luckily, there are simple guidelines that can help guide you through the decision-making process.

When-to-File-a-Claim-and-When-Not-to

When You Should File a Claim

Trying to handle an accident on your own can be risky. Even if the other party involved seems nice enough and offers to pay for damages out of pocket, there’s no way to verify their personal information or accountability without the intervention of an insurance carrier.

In many scenarios, filing a claim will go a long way in protecting you and your wallet. Before you make any decisions, be sure to read and have a solid understanding of your policy-many policies state that you must notify the insurance company of any issues that may lead to a potential claim.

That said, you should always file a claim in these situations:

  • You injure someone. Even if the person says they feel fine or that they’ll settle the situation privately, it’s important to notify your insurance carrier. The injuries may be far more serious than you realize, and can result in big medical bills down the road.
  • You damage someone else’s car. Damage can sometimes be much more extensive than it seems at first glance-without involving your insurer, you could be on the hook for sky-high costs.
  • It’s not immediately clear who’s at fault. If there’s any question at all about who’s to blame for the accident, then a claim is necessary. That way your insurance company can deal with the other party’s insurance company and save you the headache of divvying up costs.
  • You accidentally do major damage to your own car.Any kind of accident, vandalization, or weather-related damage that results in hefty repair or medical bills requires a claim – even if no one else was involved (or you don’t know who the culprit was).
  • You’ve been hit and run. Even if you don’t know the driver responsible, you can still file a claim with your own insurance company in the event of a hit and run. Depending on the type of coverage you have, you may qualify for some help with repair and medical costs, even if the other driver isn’t found.

When You Shouldn’t File a Claim

  • When there’s little to no damage to the other person’s car. If you just barely tap another car while attempting to parallel park, it’s probably not necessary to file a claim, but if you leave any mark whatsoever, you’ll likely need to trade personal information with the other party.
  • When you can afford to fix it yourself. If you back into a pole or hit your own garage door, it’s unfortunate, but not necessarily claim-worthy. If you’re totally sure the minor ding won’t result in any lasting issues, you’re probably better off paying the money out of pocket to avoid an increase in your coverage rate.

The bottom line is that It’s risky to handle an accident on your own. Your insurance company is there to have your back in situations just like these. Ready to switch to a more affordable carrier? Metromile may be the perfect fit- get a free quote today and see how much you could be saving.


Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.