If you’ve been involved in an auto accident and wondering what to do, you might be considering whether it’s worth it to file an insurance claim. There are several variables that will factor into your decision as the accident may have an affect your car insurance rates. CBS Money Watch shows that drivers who make just one claim end up paying an average of 41 percent more for car insurance.
An increase in rates typically depends on:
Who’s to blame
The severity of the accident
Your driving history
Beyond that, filing a claim for an accident might depend on the type of coverage you have. Do you carry collision and comprehensive insurance? Both coverages are specific in what type of accidents they will cover, from a tree branch falling on your car to totaling your vehicle in a multi-car collision. You may have purchased accident forgiveness, which depending on your carrier and the facts of the accident, wouldn’t result in an increase in premium. But even if you don’t carry full coverage car insurance, you might be able to file a third party claim under the other party’s insurance if it’s determined you’re not at fault for the accident.
The above illustrates that you can file a claim, not whether you should file a claim. If you’re involved in an accident, you might want to pay out-of-pocket for any damages (or be paid out of pocket by the responsible party). Some drivers prefer to handle it themselves and leave insurance out of it.
Before going this route, we recommend reviewing your insurance policy. It may have a stipulation that you’re required to notify them of any incidents. Remember, an auto accident could result in a legal matter, and the other party could file a claim without your knowledge. Providing your insurance company with the proper information allows them the opportunity to review the incident, and if necessary, defend your position. In some instances, you might want to file an insurance claim for informational purposes. You’re not requesting a monetary payout for any damages, but you want the incident on record from your perspective in case any future claims or challenges might arise.
Also, consider fraudulent claims. It’s not pleasant to think there are people out there who take advantage of minor accidents, but it happens. An informational claim can help combat fraud and prevent anyone from taking advantage of your insurance policy, which could result in a surcharge on your policy.
If there are no other parties involved, you might decide not to file a claim. For example, say you’re backing out of your driveway and clip your fence. If you’d rather take care of it on your own, it might not be worth filing a claim. You’re not going to sue yourself. However, we do recommend having the damage looked at and an estimated repair cost done as soon as possible. What might look like minimal damage to a rear bumper and appear to be nothing more than a few hundred bucks in repair could be a lot more than it seems. A 2007 study by the Insurance Information Institute of Highway Safety found that low-speed impacts resulted in extensive bumper damages. A lot of modern bumpers have sensors and cameras in them, resulting in higher repair costs. A lot of these costs are “hidden” until the repair actually begins. In other words, once the auto body shop removes the bumper, it’s common for them to find additional damages, sometimes thousands of dollars worth. If a significant amount of time passed since you originally caused the damage and brought it in for repair, it may be too late to file a claim.
Injuries are another reason to submit a claim. You might not have collision or comprehensive coverages, but minimum coverages have liability coverage for bodily injuries. Even if you or any other parties involved do not report injuries at the scene of the accident, that doesn’t mean injuries didn’t occur. After an accident, there’s often a rush of adrenaline and disorientation. Some don’t recognize they’re injured until much later. There are some symptoms that are delayed, sometimes for several days. If you experience any symptoms that may be related to an auto accident, in addition to seeking medical attention, you’ll want to notify your insurer as well.
If the accident is strictly physical damage (no injuries), you’re at fault and you can afford to pay for the damages and want to avoid a surcharge, then it might make sense for you to take care of it on your own. The general rule of thumb is to involve your insurance company, even if it’s for informational purposes. Remember, you are a customer and they have resources which may be helpful for you, even if you’d prefer to pay out-of-pocket. Make an informed decision. Ask them about the surcharge schedule and how filing a claim might affect your rates.
There are stories of insurance companies raising rates for simple inquiries about filing a claim, as being involved in an accident might have an effect on your risk factor. You shouldn’t be penalized for calling your carrier and inquiring about a potential claim, particularly if you’re not seeking payment. Most insurance companies encourage dialogue between their agents and customers. However, if you’re not satisfied with your carrier or they raise your rates, you may be able to dispute it. You can also compare car insurance quotes and consider switching to another carrier if you don’t believe you’re being treated fairly.