What is a third-party claim?

A third-party claim is a claim filed by someone other than the policyholder or insurance company. If you're in a car accident that someone else causes, you can file a third-party claim with the other driver's insurance for your covered accident-related expenses. If you have liability coverage, as most states require, it's in place to cover third-party claims others may file when you're the at-fault driver.

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Third-party insurance claim procedure

You're responsible for kicking off the third-party claim filing process when you're in an accident caused by another driver. While you won't be filing the claim with your insurance company, call your insurer as soon as possible to report what happened. Often, they'll file the claim with the driver's insurance company for you, after working with the other insurer to determine fault. If you file the third-party claim yourself, you may be able to create an account with the at-fault party's insurance and access their online claim portal, where you'll file and track the progress of your claim. Otherwise, simply call the other party's insurer to file your claim using the information their insured gives you regarding their auto insurance.

To get started, be prepared to provide some information about the driver who caused the accident, their insurance, and the accident. If at all possible, talk with the other driver when the accident occurs and gather the information required to file a third-party claim:

  • The other driver's name and phone number
  • Their license and registration information
  • Their vehicle information
  • Their auto insurance information (from their ID card)
  • Photos of the accident scene and vehicle damage
  • Witness statements
  • Police report

If a police officer doesn't come to the scene, consider filing an accident report with the local police department so there's a record of what happened.

After you file the claim, the at-fault party's insurer will likely assign an adjuster to investigate the accident, determine who was at fault, and provide an initial estimate of the repair costs. If the adjuster determines that the other driver was at fault, they will either send you a check for the cost of the repairs or pay the body shop directly, up to the other driver's coverage limits. If you live in an at-fault state, the at-fault driver's insurance can also cover injury costs up to their bodily injury liability limits.

How does a third-party insurance claim work?

A third-party insurance claim is sometimes called a liability claim; if you need to file one, the at-fault driver's liability coverage kicks in to cover damage and injuries. Almost every state requires drivers to carry liability coverage, but minimum coverage amounts vary by state.

Depending on your state and the other party's coverage, third-party insurance claims can be filed for medical bills, vehicle repairs, a rental car, and lost wages if you have to miss work because of your injuries. What and how much the other person's insurance covers depends on their coverage and limits.

Pro tip:

Your state's minimum auto insurance requirements may not be enough to protect you if you cause serious injuries. When purchasing insurance, choose coverages and policy limits that can sufficiently protect your assets if you're in an accident. Learn more about how much car insurance you need.

At-fault vs. no-fault third-party claims

If you live in an at-fault state, the insurance of the person responsible for the accident can help pay for property damage and bodily injury. If you live in a no-fault state, the driver's insurer will only cover property damage. To get coverage for your injuries in a no-fault state, you must file a claim with your insurance company. If you have medical payments coverage or personal injury protection coverage, it can help pay for your lost wages and medical bills beyond what your health insurance covers, up to your limits.

What if you're in an accident with an uninsured driver?

Although nearly every state requires drivers to have car insurance before they get behind the wheel, approximately one in eight drivers was uninsured in 2019, according to the Insurance Research Council. If the person responsible for the accident is uninsured or has policy limits that are too low to cover your property damage and injuries, you can file a claim with your own insurance. That's what uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is for, but your medical payments coverage or personal injury protection coverage may also provide some coverage.

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