The property damage claim starts by being contacted by a claim adjuster of the insurance company of the party at fault. They will ask you about the accident at issue, what happened, where your car is, and they may or may not offer to set up a rental car for you at that time, though you do have a right to one. They will also attempt to get a recorded statement from you to use in the future in order to discredit or minimize your claim. Do not give them an oral, written, or recorded statement.
Once the property damage claim is opened by the insurance company, the adjuster will then ask to inspect your vehicle to determine whether it can be repaired or will be deemed a total loss. If the car is deemed repairable, they will then issue you a check for the cost to fix it. Their estimate typically is lower than what most car repair facilities will charge once the car is disassembled, though the insurance company is legally required to supplement all additional work. It is your right to take your car to the shop or dealership of your choice, and you do not have to go to one of the insurance company’s “preferred shops” which they often highly encourage. Be proactive during this process. Make sure all damage was repaired properly, including mechanical damage, and do not hesitate to complain if you discover problems.
If the value of your car is too low in relation to the cost of the repair, your car will be deemed a total loss, and you will be paid the fair market value of the vehicle. Do some research to learn about whether the settlement offer is fair and reasonable under NADA guidelines. It is always helpful to provide the insurance company with documentation showing any upgrades or custom improvements which add value to your vehicle. Sometimes, if you are not being treated fairly, it even makes sense to hire an appraiser to determine the true, fair market value.