The reason we have car insurance is because it is a legal requirement first of all. In order to drive, you need a driver's license, vehicle registration and car insurance. There are basic car insurance plans to fit every budget. If your vehicle is being paid by a car loan, then your bank may tell you what the dollar requirements are for personal injury, etc. Your job may dictate what the liability limits are that you need to carry. There is a lot involved in learning about and dealing with your insurance company. Patience is a virtue when dealing with your insurance company.
The most important thing you can do is to use a company with a good reputation. None of us want to have an accident, so you try to be a defensive driver, but accidents happen. Someone will clip you at an intersection, or bump you while parked at the grocery store or even hail damage can occur as your car sits in your driveway. When it is time to place a claim, you need to be calm and rational. There is no need to call your insurance company and scream at them, they didn't cause the damage. They are the people you are dependding on to get things taken of, so you need to be calm, provide the information they require and then be patient. If they ask you 10 times for your claim number, give it to them 10 times.
Once you notify your insurance company that you have been in an accident, they will most likely send you to a local claims adjuster who will go over your vehicle and determine what needs to be accomplished to get it back in shape. At that point the adjuster will show you his results, tell you how much the claim will pay and any other information that is relevant to your case. At that point he may hand you a check for the repairs, or it may be mailed to you.
Once you have the check in your hand, then it is your responsibility to get the vehicle repaired. If you decide to keep the money and not have the repairs made, then that is your decision. You cannot go back later and try again for another claim for the same damage. If you do not get the vehicle repaired you may cause even more damage down the road.