A quick post-crash guide to reading your car insurance policy

Even if you were not at fault, most people involved in serious crashes find that they need to access their own car insurance coverage.

Here’s what to do.

What to look for in your car insurance policy

In your auto insurance policy, look for the “Policy Declarations” page.

This is a summary of your policy, including:

  • Policy number and dates;
  • Types of coverage;
  • Deductibles; and
  • Policy coverage amounts.

Most insurance carriers provide a condensed version of your policy online, similar to the Policy Declarations page.

The Policy Declarations page is the quickest way to understand your benefits after a collision.

Look for Personal Injury Protection, Collision Coverage, and Liability Coverage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) 

PIP pays for initial medical expenses, wage loss, and other costs.

This coverage is mandatory in Oregon insurance policies, but not in Washington.


Car Insurance Policy PIP Coverage Section


If you have PIP—or Medical Payments coverage—you will want to give this information to your doctors and medical providers.

PIP may also cover wage loss, household assistance, and other expenses.

Note that there may be a separate insurance adjuster for PIP; you can confirm your benefits with the PIP adjuster, and ask what type of documentation you need to provide to access your benefits.


Collision Coverage

This policy add-on covers your property damage: it may be the fastest way to have your vehicle repaired or replaced after a crash.

Find Collision coverage in car insurance policy

If the other driver was at fault, your insurance will likely seek reimbursement from the adverse driver’s insurance company for these costs.

You will be responsible for your deductible.

Liability Coverage

Washington and Oregon require all drivers to have a minimum auto insurance policy with $25,000 in coverage for death or injury to another person, and $50,000 in coverage total.

But, if the driver that caused the crash is uninsured, or their insurance doesn’t cover all of the costs and damages, then you may need to rely on your own Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM).



This is some basic information, which is not intended to provide you with any legal advice or opinions. You should annually talk with your insurance broker to review your coverage and make any necessary adjustments to your policy.


Organizing information for car crash insurance claim


There are a few simple things you can do to help make the insurance claims process easier.

See Tips on managing post-crash car insurance claims


  1. Kylie Dotts September 13, 2017 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Being able to pay just a deductible instead of having to pay for an entire car or extensive repairs would be a big help. Knowing that even though you were in an accident and your vehicle is not functioning but that you will still receive some kind of reimbursement because of the crash would be comforting. That’s why auto insurance coverage would be something really good to have.

  2. Ken Hwan June 11, 2018 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    I really appreciated the advice on how to find my Uninsured coverage in an accident. Recently my wife and I were involved in a pretty major car crash and the other driver did not have any car insurance, even though he was at fault! My wife and I weren’t sure what our next step should be with our insurance, but your advice for Uninsured coverage put us in the right direction!

  3. […] How to read and understand your car insurance policy after a crash […]

  4. Rhianna Hawk October 17, 2018 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    My husband and I are getting new auto insurance for our brand new BMW’s, and so we’re looking more closely at what options we have in terms of insurance this time around. You’ve really helped break down the different factors in the insurance for us, particularly your explanation of liability coverage and how you mentioned how a driver at fault would need to rely on the UM/UIM as opposed to the general coverage. We’ll be sure to discuss that in further detail with the insurance agents, but I think I understand a little bit better how liability works and why it’s so important to avoid being declared at fault in an accident.

  5. Lillian Schaeffer January 24, 2019 at 12:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for letting me know the importance of collision coverage. I want to purchase my first car, and I need to make sure I have good enough insurance to cover it. I’ll definitely keep collision coverage in mind so I can get that critical category taken care of.

  6. Angela Waterford April 24, 2019 at 4:06 am - Reply

    It’s interesting to know that the policy declarations page is the easiest way for me to know what will be covered by the auto insurance I want to get. I suppose I should look at the collisions coverage as well so I’ll know what benefits I’ll get from the policy. This way, I can make an informed decision if I’ll need to make adjustments to it in the future.

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