Fender benders and the like are an anticipated part of life, and though you’re protected with auto accident insurance, you may still have concerns about what’s going to happen to your insurance rates when you file a claim. Will your rates go up, and if so, how much? Will your policy be canceled? What if the accident wasn’t your fault? What if it was? There are no simple answers to these questions, as the process of establishing auto insurance premiums is very complex, and each accident is analyzed using many variables, including fault, history of accidents, moving violations and auto insurance claims, as well as age, car type and much more.
- Not your fault: If the accident is not your fault, it’s the first in which you’ve been involved, and your driving history is free of moving violations and/or insurance claims, you may have no premium increase at all.
- Your fault with property damage: If the accident is your fault, but it resulted in property damage only, you will probably not lose your good driver discount. It may, however, trigger an increase in your premium.
- Your fault with bodily injury: If you are at fault and someone is injured you will most likely lose your good driver discount and could see a 20 to 25 percent premium increase.
- Non-renewal & cancellation: Your insurance company may also decide not to renew your policy if your driving record gets markedly worse or you have several auto accident claims. Different insurers have different rules about what constitutes an unacceptable driving record, but there are a few accidents, such as those caused by drunk driving, that will probably trigger a non-renewal from virtually every insurance company.
Practices vary from company to company, but in general, an insurer will increase your premium by specific percentages for each chargeable claim made against your policy above a specific dollar amount. A chargeable claim is one the insurer considers primarily your fault. The percentages and ceilings vary from company to company. These increases generally stay on your premium for three years following the claim.
Save Money & Time
Some accidents may involve little damage and will be under your deductible, so you may be inclined to circumvent the process of filing an auto accident insurance claim and just fix the damage on your own. This is a mistake that could cost you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, because what seems like a little fender bender could turn into an injury claim. By reporting the accident, you are now protected against future claims because your insurance company will now have a record of the damage and will be able to defend you in the event that you are sued. With all the insurance companies we represent, our clients have the option to arrange for repairs at a trusted facility and can take usually advantage of the company’s pricing discounts. In most cases, the reporting of this fender bender will not affect your premium and it will end up saving you money in the long run.
Don’t Do It Alone
Insurance professionals can spot red flags and are trained to deal with people and resolve problems, which takes the adversarial component out of the equation. When people try to adjust their own claims, they are an involved party and it often gets emotional.
The process of filing an auto accident insurance claim is regulated by the state’s Department of Insurance; however, in a competitive auto insurance market, great service from the claims department can set an insurance company apart from the pack.
To protect the rights of the insured, most states have adopted a model of the Unfair Claim Settlement Act, which are laws passed by state legislatures to regulate the behavior of insurance companies with respect to the payment of claims. In Florida this law recognizes that insurance companies are in an advantageous position compared to policyholders. The legislation evens the playing field, so to speak, between insurers – who are very knowledgeable in their fields and in the business of making money – and policyholders, who may find themselves in vulnerable positions when purchasing policies and navigating disputes.
The bottom line is never make assumptions when you’ve been in an auto accident and do not try to be your own claims agent. If you’ve been in an accident, contact your insurer, get the dialogue going and the process started on what needs to be done to protect your needs and get you and your vehicle moving again.
EMERGE INSURANCE AGENCY