Best Way To Fill Car Insurance Claims
Once you file an auto insurance claim and if you are at fault your premium on the average can go up by $600-700 per year for the next three to four years. The question is when to report an accident and file for a claim and when not to file.
If the vehicle incurred damages or a driver is hurt you must reach out to your insurer. If the cost of the damage to the vehicle is less than the average increase of premium if a claim is submitted, do not use your insurance coverage.
For a period of three years, you are likely to pay a total sum of $1800-$2000 more on premium for an at-fault accident, hence you must weigh the claim against this number and the deductible you have to pay before deciding to use your insurance coverage.
A car insurance claim is a report you file after a collision with another vehicle or another circumstance resulting in damage to your vehicle. A claim usually results in payment from your auto insurance company, which kicks in after you meet your deductible.
Some quick post-collision reminders
According to Christin Wiley, a personal risk advisor based in Tennessee, it’s important to take a few financial steps in the wake of an accident.
“A couple little tips I tell my clients about filing accidents: First of all, I always suggest attempting to file a police report or an incident report, so that the other party won’t be able to come back after the fact and try to twist the truth (I’ve seen that done all too many times).
Second, I tell people to never discuss the details of the accident with anyone but the police and insurance company. It’s up to the police and insurance adjusters to determine the fault of the accident, not you. I have heard of too many people saying, “Wow, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do X…”
Get the police and your insurance involved, and keep your mouth shut. But, Wiley added, this isn’t always necessary, depending on the accident.
Wiley said she always tells her clients the same thing:
Check your insurance policy documents. “Many insurance policies state that you must notify the insurance company of anything that might lead to a potential claim. Also, there are many different state- and insurance company-specific time limits to filing a claim; so, always know of any applicable time limits.”
If anyone is injured in the collision, always file a claim.
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When not to file an auto insurance claim
1. If you damaged only your own vehicle
If you were involved in a single-vehicle collision and you emerged uninjured, the next steps are fairly straightforward. Any car insurance claim you file in this situation would be considered an at-fault collision claim. Depending on the value of the damage, an at-fault claim could increase your premium by $2,061 over the next three years.
Paul Moyer, an independent insurance agency based in Florida, elaborates:
“There are very many times that filing an auto insurance claim is a bad idea,” Moyer said. “It really has to do with the math of the policy.”
“I just had a client that backed into his own vehicle. He caused $1,500 maximum of damage and $1,200 minimum. His deductible was $1,000 so he had to pay that before the insurance would kick in anything. So his maximum out of pocket would be $500.
If he filed the claim his rates would also go up and he would probably end up paying back that amount over about 12-18 months and then just get penalized from there on out. This happens frequently in small accidents where a driver could do much better by just paying out of pocket.”
2. If the damage to another driver’s property is minimal
If there’s little to no damage to someone else’s vehicle or property, you might not need to file a claim. If you “kissed” a giant SUV without leaving any lipstick, so to speak, you might not need to involve insurance companies. In this situation, exchange information with the other party and ask if they will allow you to pay them for the damage out-of-pocket.
Three scenarios in which you should file a car insurance claim
While at times it might work in your favor not to involve your car insurance company after a crash, there are times when you should always file a claim:
1. If anyone is injured
If you, passengers in your vehicle, anyone in the other party, or any pedestrians are injured in a crash, you’ll need to file a claim — especially if there’s a chance you’ll be found at fault. Medical bills can add up, and not filing a claim can leave you open to litigation. If you wait to get sued before contacting your insurance company, your claims representative could deny the claim altogether.
2. If the fault is unclear
If you’re involved in a crash that results in property damage or injury, and the fault is in dispute, you’ll need to file a claim so that your insurance provider can represent you. Insurance companies deal with insurance companies, and yours will need to work with the other party’s insurer to assign responsibility and arrange payouts.
3. If you sustain a total or significant loss
If the value of damage exceeds your reasonable ability to cover the loss, file a claim through your collision coverage or your property damage coverage through your liability insurance. If you’re unsure of whether to file an insurance claim, follow our step-by-step guide:
- Get an estimate at a local mechanic for the repairs.
- Consult our State of Insurance guide to see how much an at-fault collision would raise your rates in your state. Remember to consider this value over a three-year time period.
- Compare the value of repairs to your total rate increase your deductible. If it is cheaper to file a claim, file a claim.
If you’re going to file a claim, do so as quickly as possible — at the scene of the wreck if you can. Once your claim is filed, the insurance adjuster will take care of reviewing important materials like the police report, witness accounts, and photos of the damages, and they will handle payouts to the other party (if applicable). If your car requires repairs, the insurance company will work with your repair shop.
Common reasons insurance claims are denied
Few things can be more frustrating — or more financially damaging — than having a car insurance claim denied. Large sums of money could be at stake if you don’t abide by your insurance company’s rules. While the following list is by no means exhaustive, it will give you an idea of some of the more common reasons for car insurance claims to be denied.
Lying to your insurance company is considered insurance fraud and can get you into all sorts of trouble. At best, it will lead to you getting dropped or having your claims denied. At worst, you could face serious legal issues.
Make sure you know exactly what your policy’s limits are and what your insurance covers. Your insurance company won’t pay beyond your policy limits, meaning that only carrying minimum liability coverage may not be the best idea. Similarly, you can’t expect your insurance company to fix your car after you hit a deer if you don’t have comprehensive coverage. A detailed list of your limits and specific coverages can be found on your policy’s declarations page.
If a driver explicitly excluded from the policy gets behind the wheel, insurance provides no coverage. Should the excluded driver be found at fault, the driver and policyholder could be held personally liable for all damages.
Waiting too long
After an accident, it’s important to act quickly:
- Report the claim in a timely manner. If you wait too long to report it, an insurance company can deny it as they won’t be able to properly investigate it. See our state-by-state list of claim validity durations.
- Seek medical attention related to a claim within a reasonable amount of time. If you don’t, you could face a denial.
Non-payment of premiums
If you don’t pay your premiums, you could lose your coverage. The amount of time that you have after missing a payment before your coverage is dropped is at your insurer’s discretion.
If you are found to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of a collision, your insurance company may deny your claim.
What to do if your auto insurance claim gets denied
If you have a car insurance claim you feel was unfairly denied, there are several steps you can take to appeal the decision. Your first step is available through your insurance company. Most reputable insurers usually have a process in place to appeal denied claims.
Should that fail, consult your state’s insurance commission. Many states have resources available to protect consumers. If that fails, you could involve an attorney.
What to consider: the bottom line with auto insurance claims
The decision to file a car insurance claim varies situationally. But there are circumstances that demand you file a claim. For example, if you or another party has suffered a significant financial loss or physical injury, you should involve your insurance company.
However, if the damage is minor or your vehicle is the only car involved, you might be better off getting an estimate prior to filing a claim. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.
If you’ve already filed a claim and are paying more for insurance than the averages we presented, consider this a good opportunity to compare car insurance quotes and find a new policy.
Frequently asked car insurance claims questions
Although car insurance claims are going to be very specific to the exact incident, there are some general questions we are able to answer. If we didn’t answer your specific claims question, feel free to submit your query to us directly. Our licensed agents will try to answer your question within 48 hours.
Q: Will a not-at-fault accident affect my car insurance rates?
A: Yes. Car insurance companies are in the business of predicting risk. They believe that the more accidents you have the more you will have. On average, a not-at-fault collision raised rates by an average of $98 per year in 2017. For more information on not-at-fault crashes and insurance, see here.
Q: Does getting in a collision while driving a company car affect my auto insurance policy?
A: This depends on whether an accident report was filed. If it was, it will show up when an insurance company runs a Motor Vehicle Report. Insurance companies typically do this when writing a new policy (and occasionally when renewing policies). For more information, see here.
Q: I backed into a pole in a parking lot. Do I need a police report to file a claim?
A: It depends. Filing a police report is a great idea if more than one vehicle is involved and the fault is difficult to determine. However, if yours is the only vehicle involved, it might not be necessary. View a more comprehensive answer here.
Q: If someone keyed my car and I file a claim, will that make my insurance rates go up?
A: This would most likely be considered a comprehensive claim, which won’t impact your rates as significantly as a collision claim. In order to justify filing a claim, the value of the damage should exceed your deductible. It’s worth getting an estimate of repair costs first. Learn more.
Q: How long do I have to file a car insurance claim?
A: First, it’s important to file a claim immediately after an accident. In theory, you have some time after an accident to file a claim — depending on your state and the type of claim. Although every state provides some cushion, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible to ensure claim payment.