If you’ve ever seen an accident, you may have heard the term car fire thrown around. However, many people don’t understand what that actually means, or whether their insurance will cover the cost of replacing the vehicle or paying medical bills resulting from injuries if this happens to them. Here’s everything you need to know about car fires and insurance to make sure that if your car catches fire in the future, you’re prepared to get the most help possible.


The get off the road rule
If your vehicle catches on fire, pull off to a safe place as soon as possible. Don’t hang around to watch or take pictures. Pull over, turn off your engine and get out of your car—this is especially important if you are worried about carbon monoxide poisoning, because even with windows open, that smoke can build up in a closed space. And don’t forget: pulling over in an unsafe area can lead to its own problems!


Fire extinguishers vs. water
If you live in a dry area, using water on a car fire is likely to result in an explosive—and dangerous—reaction. If your car catches on fire, never use water to put it out. Instead, grab a handheld ABC extinguisher (air-based) or BC extinguisher (foam-based) from your trunk, then follow these steps to put out your flaming vehicle.


Call your insurer
After your car has been damaged in an accident, it’s a good idea to call your insurer to find out what’s covered. Getting specific information beforehand will help you know whether or not you need to pay for repairs up front, file a claim with your insurer or if someone else is responsible for paying for damages.


Take photos and video
First, take photos of every part of your car that could be considered damage from a fire. Next, don’t forget to snap video clips as well so you can record a voiceover detailing how quickly your vehicle went up in flames. Then, look over your state laws to see if there are any specific requirements for reporting damaged vehicles or filing an insurance claim. If not, call up your auto insurer as soon as possible after getting out of harm’s way.


Get an estimate from a mechanic
If your vehicle catches on fire, it’s a good idea to get an estimate from a mechanic before you file a claim with your insurance company. That way, you can avoid having your claim denied. And if you do decide to make a claim, make sure you know how much your deductible is—and be prepared to pay out of pocket until that amount is met.


Temporary repair it if possible
If your car is still on fire, call 911 and get out of the vehicle immediately. You can try to put out small fires yourself, but larger ones should be left to professionals. Once you’re safe, call your insurance company as soon as possible so they can give you information about what to do next.


File an SR-22 form with your state DMV
This form is filled out by your insurance company. It verifies that you have liability coverage. The SR-22 form can sometimes be bundled with your auto policy. In that case, you may not need to go to your insurer directly, just check with your agent first. If you do need to fill out an SR-22, contact your state’s DMV for more information about obtaining one.


Know your deductible amount
The amount you pay out-of-pocket for a covered claim before your insurer picks up a portion of your costs. For example, if you have $500 in collision coverage, then when you file a claim for an accident that caused $700 worth of damage to your vehicle, you’ll pay $200 out-of-pocket (your deductible). Once you’ve paid that amount, however, your insurer will pick up 100% of repair costs. Other common types of deductibles include medical coverage and property loss.