Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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UPDATED: Oct 19, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • If you live in a state that operates auto personal injury claims under tort law, you have the right to collect under a third-party insurance policy under certain circumstances
  • In most states, third-party claimants can collect under the other party’s insurance when they are not at fault for the loss
  • In the few states with a no-fault system, all drivers would make claims for their personal injury under their own insurance policy
  • A driver’s Bodily Injury coverage will pay for medical bills and their Property Damage coverage will pay to repair the other driver’s vehicle and real property
  • If you’re involved in an accident and you’re not to blame for the collision, you can contact the other insurer directly to file your claim but it’s not recommended

After the shock of an auto accident sets in, it’s important to take care of business as soon as possible. If you’re injured, you should seek medical treatment and if your car is damaged, you should tow it to a repair shop. But after you’ve exchanged information with all of the drivers involved, who should you contact to handle your claim? Compare car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

You should never leave it to the other party to report a claim. No matter how honest the other party seems, it’s in your best interest to report the claim on your own. While third-party claims are the most common type of claims reported in the United States, drivers are protected when they call their own insurer. Here’s what you need to know so that you’re protected:

What is the difference between a third-party claim and first-party claim?

All insurance policies include third-party liability coverage. This is the mandatory coverage that pays for the damages of others and not necessarily to the insured. Other full coverage policies include both third-party coverage and first-party coverage as well.

When you’re filing a third-party claim, you’re making a claim to cover your damages under someone else’s insurance policy.

If you’re filing a first-party claim, you’re contacting your insurance company and making a claim to cover your damages through coverage options like:

  • Comprehensive
  • Collision
  • Uninsured Motorist Protection
  • Uninsured Motorist Property Damage
  • Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection

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Examples of Third-Party Claims

There’s a number of different ways that you can file a third-party claim. As long as the claim is against someone else’s insurance, it’s not going to be a first-party claim. Just remember that you can have a third-party claim and still deal with your own insurer. Here are a few of the prime examples of claims that fit the ‘third-party’ classification:

  • You were in an accident and the other party was deemed at-fault for injuries or damage
  • You were a passenger in a vehicle and need to file a claim for injuries against the driver’s insurance
  • You were driving your car for work and need to file a claim under the employer’s liability insurance
  • You were operating a company vehicle and need to file a claim for injury under the commercial auto policy

Your Duty to Report Losses to Your Insurer

Contrary to popular belief, you’re not supposed to go directly through a third-party insurer when you’re filing an accident claim. Under the Personal Auto Policy contract, it specifically says that it’s your duty as a policyholder to report any losses that you have to your insurer. This is true regardless of the type of loss you have.

Since you’re legally obligated under your contract to tell your insurer when you have a loss, it’s important to contact your claims department in a timely manner following the incident. Failing to report the claim, even when you’re not at fault, could put you at risk of being ineligible to collect under your own insurance if the other party’s policy isn’t active or they try to deny fault after the fact.

Why is it risky to notify the other insurer instead of your own?

Not only are you obligated to report your claim to your own insurer, it’s in your best interest to call your insurer first. Insurance companies are in business to protect their own clients, even if their clients are obviously at fault for the loss.

Contacting your insurer ensures that you have a company looking out for you just like the other party does.

Some third-party adjusters might use the things that you’ve said and translate them to mean something completely different. If you say you’re fine when the adjuster asks you how you are today, they might use this in the claims file to mean you’re not injured. You didn’t mean that, but the phrase could be misconstrued.

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What are bad faith tactics?

Even though bad faith tactics are frowned upon in the insurance industry, some claimants fall victim to their because they don’t know what to look for. When you call your company, the adjuster won’t try and trap you into the ‘fault’ box by asking you leading questions. Instead, they’ll ask questions strictly for informational purposes.

Instead, they’ll ask you to make a statement and they will use the details that you’ve given to communicate with the other adjuster. It’s your insurer’s duty to defend you and vice versa. Having an adjuster on your side is really what you need for the best claim outcome, even if you’re filing a third-party claim.

How does fault affect who pays for losses?

Fault has a dramatic affect on how claims are handled, especially when there’s damage to your vehicle. Not every state handles fault allocation the same. In some states, when a party is 51% or more to blame for a loss, their insurer will pay for the damages through their third-party liability coverage.

In other states, when there’s any comparative fault or contributory fault, the driver can’t collect for injury. This isn’t as common because drivers generally share fault in accidents. Check to see how fault is handled in your state before you assume that you have a claim to file.

What happens in no-fault states?

There are 12 no-fault states in the US. These states don’t use fault to determine who pays for injury claims. Instead, drivers carry their own Personal Injury Protection to pay for their medical bills and rehab expenses. In these states, you file a first-party claim for injury.

Property Damage claims are typically still third-party claims even in no-fault states.

You should always call your own insurer to make a claim against someone else’s insurance. If you’re not happy with how your claim was handled, it’s time consider switching carriers. Before you make the switch, price the cost of insurance premiums through some of the larger and more respected providers. Simply enter your information in an online rate comparison tool and you can shop the car insurance market in a matter of minutes. Enter your zip code in our FREE tool below to compare car insurance rates now!