Individuals purchase automobile policies hoping that they would never have to use them. Unfortunately there are unavoidable situations that can arise and cause traffic accidents where a policy provider will need to be called upon. Following a traffic accident, a motorist must file an auto insurance claim in order to obtain compensation from an insurer for any injuries and/or property damage that were caused as a result of the incident. There are a few steps that are involved in the claims process that consumers may want to further understand.

Once a claim is filed with a car insurance company a representative will contact the claimant to get additional information, such as details regarding the accident. After this point, a claims adjuster is generally assigned to the case to complete an investigation and to evaluate the validity of a claim and help reach a settlement. Adjusters also evaluate the damages and/or injuries resulting from accidents to help determine a settlement amount.

The majority of traffic accidents are minor and settling a claim can be cut and dry and taken care within a short period of time. For example, a collision involving only one party such as a policyholder backing into a pole or fence will be simpler to determine fault since no other party was involved, but if multiple parties are involved the process can take quite a bit of time and be much more complex.

When there is more than one party involved in an accident and more than one driver, settling a claim can become a little more difficult for adjusters, especially if there are injuries involved. First, fault must be established to determine which party's carrier will be responsible for compensation. The adjuster would need to contact and collect statements from the individuals involved such as drivers and passengers, and any witnesses that may be available to provide information. If injuries were involved, there will usually be a police report taken by the officer that arrived on the scene, this can usually help determine fault.

After fault is established, the next step taken is the processing and payment of the claim. The adjuster will evaluate the damages caused to the vehicle and offer an amount to repair or replace it through the collision portion of a policy. If the other party is at fault the amount offered will be no greater than the limit of the property damage liability limit of their policy; any amount exceeding the insured's auto insurance coverage would need to be recovered either directly from the other party or a legal action may need to be taken.

The amount paid toward injuries is dependent on the type of policy a motorist carries and the extent of the injuries. Individuals who reside in No-Fault states are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP), which covers the cost of the insured's injuries up to the policy limit; if the cost of medical care exceeds the amount they may need to file a lawsuit to seek compensation if the other party was at fault and does not carry bodily injury liability (some states only allow lawsuits to be filed under certain circumstances such as broken bones, disfigurement or death).

Individuals residing in states that require motorists to carry bodily injury liability will receive compensation under that portion of the at-fault driver's policy up to the limits purchased. Similarly, any additional payments needed to pay the cost of the claimant's medical care exceeding the limits of the policy would need to be paid by the insured or the injured individual(s) may need to take legal action to obtain compensation.

Settling a claim for minor fender benders can be done quite quickly and easily, but traffic accidents involving multiple parties and/or injuries can be a little more complicated. It is advisable for consumers to understand how the claim process will work in their particular case by contacting the state insurance regulator, since each state has different laws, and speaking to a representative from their insurer to fully understand how the carrier handles claims.