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What Is a Car Insurance Photo Inspection?

After a car accident, you must make an insurance claim to recover damages. Once you file an insurance claim, the auto insurance company will ask you to do certain things to open an investigation on your claim. One of the main tasks is to get a photo inspection.

Read on to learn about how a photo vehicle inspection works.

Types of Car Insurance Photo Inspections

When an insurance company requires a photo inspection, there are two possible reasons:

  • For a pre-insurance photo inspection
  • As a car accident claims inspection

Pre-Insurance Photo Inspection

Some states require a photo inspection before issuing an insurance policy to protect the insurance company and yourself. The photo inspection creates a record of the physical condition of the vehicle.

In addition to taking photos of your vehicle, the inspector likely will record your vehicle identification number (VIN), odometer reading, the vehicle's condition, options, and accessories. A pre-insurance photo inspection can help you get a reduced cost of automobile physical insurance coverage.

Car Accident Claims Inspection

If you've been in a car accident, you must file a claim with the insurance company. A claims adjuster will be assigned to your case to investigate your claim. The insurance company may require a photo inspection to determine the amount of damages.

Car Accident Claims Inspection Process

Insurance companies handle the claims inspection process differently. Some insurance companies will have their claims adjuster go to the accident scene or your home to inspect the vehicle and take photos. Other companies will give you an option during the claims process of taking your vehicle to an approved body shop, choosing your repair shop, or getting quotes to compare different repair shops.

Regardless of the inspection location, all claims inspections aim to get an accurate estimate of your vehicle's damages. In minor accidents, the inspector will mark any dents or scratches and take photos of them. If any parts of your vehicle need to be replaced, the inspector will also take photos of those parts. The photos will then be sent to the claims adjuster assigned to your case.


Below, we have put together some of the most frequently asked questions about car insurance photo inspections.

1. What is an at-fault accident, and how does it affect my insurance premium?

In an at-fault accident, the driver is determined to bear primary responsibility for the event. Different states apply varying laws to determine fault, including contributory and comparative negligence rules. These rules affect your right to and the amount of any recovery.

Once it's established that you're the at-fault party in an accident, this can have significant implications for your insurance premium. Typically, being at fault increases your premium at your next renewal because insurers view you as a higher risk. The extent of the increase depends on the accident's severity, your driving record, and your insurance company's policies.

2. What does collision coverage entail, and how is it connected to a photo inspection?

Collision coverage is an aspect of auto insurance that covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if it's damaged in a collision, whether with another vehicle or an object or due to flipping over.

After an incident that requires the use of collision coverage, your insurance company may require a photo inspection. This is a detailed photographic record of the vehicle's condition. It helps determine the extent and cost of damages incurred in the collision. The photos provide visual proof of the damage, which aids the adjuster in the claim process.

3. Why is an inspection report important to my insurance claim process?

An inspection report is a critical document in your insurance claim process. It records the condition of your car at the time of the inspection, noting any minor and significant damages. This report aids in the verification of your claims. It prevents discrepancies between your claims and the actual damage sustained by your car. It also helps protect you and the insurance company against fraudulent claims, where damage could be exaggerated or falsified to receive higher compensation.

4. What are the inspection requirements set by my insurance provider?

The specific requirements for a vehicle inspection can vary widely. Typically, an inspection involves a thorough physical examination of the vehicle. This examination can include photographing the car from various angles, recording the odometer reading, and verifying the VIN. Some providers may also check for any pre-existing damage and document the overall condition and maintenance of the vehicle.

5. How does insurance fraud occur, and how does it affect my premium?

Insurance fraud is a deceptive activity where individuals provide false information to an insurance company to gain benefits or compensation they aren't entitled to. This can range from inflating the severity of damage claimed after an accident to faking an entire accident.

Unfortunately, fraudulent claims affect everyone, not just the insurance companies. They result in higher overall costs for insurers, which often are passed on to policyholders as higher premiums.

6. Is it necessary to provide my policy number and driver's license during a photo inspection?

Yes, during a photo inspection, you generally need to provide your policy number and driver's license. These pieces of information allow the insurance provider to verify your identity and confirm that you hold an active policy with them. This ensures that the claim and subsequent proceedings are associated with the correct policy.

7. What are inspection stations, and what role do they play in the insurance claims process?

Inspection stations are authorized centers where vehicles can be inspected for insurance purposes. These facilities may be run by the insurance company or an independent third party approved by the insurance company. At these stations, professionals conduct a detailed examination of the vehicle.

This can include:

  • Checking the car's physical condition
  • Recording the odometer reading
  • Verifying the VIN
  • Taking photographs

8. Are there state laws that require a photo inspection for a new car?

Requirements for photo inspections vary widely from state to state. Some states may require photo inspections for new cars, but it is not a universal requirement. However, regardless of state laws, your insurance carrier may have its own set of rules and could require a photo inspection before insuring a new car.

9. What happens if my car is deemed a total loss following an accident?

Suppose your vehicle is declared to be a total loss after an accident. In that case, the cost of repairing the car exceeds a certain threshold of the vehicle's actual cash value (ACV), as determined by your insurer. In such a situation, instead of paying for repairs, your insurance company will pay you the ACV of your vehicle before it was damaged, minus any applicable deductible. You can use this payment to replace your vehicle.

What Happens Next?

After the photo inspection, the claims adjuster will use the motor vehicle photos to determine the repair cost, including labor fees. The adjuster will send you a written estimate containing breakdowns of the repair costs.

If you're unsatisfied with the estimate, get independent repair estimates on your own and appeal to the claims adjuster. If you can't reach an agreement with the insurance company, you should consider hiring an attorney.

Learn More About Car Insurance Photo Inspections From a Lawyer

Photo inspections may reveal only obvious physical damage. Therefore, insurance companies may not be able to document the full extent of the damage, especially hidden damage.

Negotiating with a claims adjuster can be frustrating for a motorist. If you believe you are entitled to more compensation than is being offered after an auto accident, contact a local car accident lawyer today.

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