You need to report your property damage claim to yours and to the at-fault party’s insurance companies as soon as possible. You should have received the at-fault party’s insurance information at the accident scene. If you do not have it, call the police officer or department that investigated the accident and request a copy of the police report or DI-9, which will contain this information.

The at-fault party’s insurer will assign an adjuster to the property damage claim. Be sure to write down the contact information for each adjuster and claim number for each claim. You will need this information repeatedly throughout the claims process.

In most cases, your property damage claim will get resolved before your bodily injury claim. You will need to take the car to a collision repair shop to get a repair estimate. The adjuster can provide you with a list of preferred shops that routinely process property damage claims with that insurer. Allow one to two weeks for repairs depending on the extent of the damage. You will owe a deductible, usually $1,000, and the insurance company will pay for the cost of repairs above the deductible. Most auto insurance policies also cover car rental costs for up to 30 days.

If the repairs exceed the value of the car, then your car is “totaled.” The insurance company will then pay you book value for the car. Obviously, the older your car, the less damage it takes to total your car. If you purchased your car within 1-2 years, you may lose some purchasing power when shopping for new car. This is because new cars depreciate or go down in value the most during the first two years. The insurance company does not pay you back for the amount owed on the car but only what the car is worth at the time it is totaled. This is where gap insurance can help. Gap insurance is something you may want to consider when purchasing a new car, especially when the car is worth over $25,000. Gap insurance pays you the difference between book value at the time of the car and the amount that is still owed on the car. This can mean thousands of dollars.