Wham! A car rear-ends you as you sit idling at a red light. Crunch! Someone whips out of their driveway when you clearly had the right of way. It’s their fault and their insurance company is going to pay … aren’t they? Or maybe you both backed up at the same time and were both at fault. The insurance company should pay at least their own policyholder’s claim, right?

Insurance can be tricky when trying to determine who’s at fault in an accident and who should pay. Here are some tips for dealing with another driver’s insurance company.

1. Get the other driver’s information

After any accident, you want to trade information with the other driver, including their drivers license number, insurance information, and license plate. Take photos of any damage, as well, and write down whatever you can remember so that you have an accurate accounting of the situation. If there are others in your car, or bystanders who stop, ask them to provide an eyewitness account and get their contact information as well so you can track them down if you need to.

2. Get the police involved

Without a police report, it’s your word against theirs. Even if the accident seems minor, or obviously the other motorist’s fault, it’s always smart to have a police report to corroborate your story. There could be more damage than what initially appears or you could be injured and not yet know it.

3. Contact your insurance company first

Even if you believe the damages aren’t your fault, you should always let your insurer know that you were in an accident because the other motorist’s insurance company may call yours and you want them to be aware.

4. Then contact their insurance company

You’ll also want to report the accident to their insurer. The other party might be dragging their feet, so contacting them will get the ball rolling for the investigation to begin.

5. Let the insurance companies work it out

Once the incident has been reported, it’s up to the insurance companies to hash out who’ll pay. You might have to pay your deductible first in order to start the process of repairing your car, but if it’s confirmed you weren’t at fault, you’ll receive this back (or a portion of it if you’re determined to be partially at fault) from the other insurance company in a process known as “subrogation.”

If you’re an Esurance policyholder, our claims agents are here for you 24/7. Find out everything you need to know about the claim process.

Insurance 101 | Car safety

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.