The fastest way to increase your car insurance premium is to file a claim. NBC News reported that a study found filing a single at-fault claim could raise your rates by 38%, and filing two claims in a year could increase your premium by 50%
The same study also revealed that not all the insurance claims are the same. Insurance companies treat claims differently for a wide variety of reasons. What was also discovered was that persons who understand the claims process can avoid paying more.
Unfortunately, most drivers don’t learn anything about an insurance claim until they file one. They learn the hard way when they get the bill from their insurance company.
Insurance Claims Basics
Here are a few basic facts about insurance claims every driver needs to know:
- Insurance claims fall into two broad categories: at-fault and no-fault. At-fault means that the insured is responsible for the accident. No-fault means that somebody else is responsible. Generally, insurers only raise rates for at-fault claims. Something to be aware of is that at-fault claims are not allowed in all states. Some states mandate no-fault insurance in which all drivers are equally responsible; that raises the rates for everybody.
- Beyond no-fault and at-fault, there are three kinds of claims. The most expensive is the bodily injury or liability claim, which results when somebody is hurt in an accident. This is the most expensive kind of claim because it involves medical costs and personal injury attorneys. A bodily injury claim can raise your premium by as much as 40%. The other kinds of claim are damage claim (for damage to the vehicle) and comprehensive, which involves theft or damage to the vehicle when it is parked. Generally, damage and comprehensive claims don’t raise your insurance premiums.
- Filing more than one insurance claim will raise your rates even more. Insurance companies regard a series of claims as a pattern of dangerous behavior that makes you a bad insurance risk.
How to Keep Your Premium from Going Up
There are some ways to keep claims from raising your premium. These ways include:
- Only file a claim when you really need to. If the damage is minor, consider paying for repairs out of pocket and not reporting it. A good rule of thumb is to not report claims for under $1,000.
- Drive safely. Insurance companies are more likely to forgive claims for those that have a good driving record. Studies also showed that insurance companies were more likely to raise rates for those with a history of tickets or dangerous driving.
- Consider changing your insurer. There are some insurance companies that forgive first-time accident claims. Note: Those companies usually only forgive claims from those with a good driving record.
- If you have to file the claim, tell the insurer you’re thinking of switching to another company. Many companies will make adjustments to keep good customers.
- If you get into an accident that involves bodily injury, get as much information about it as possible, including the police report. Find out if you were at fault or not, and make sure you have evidence proving it. Generally, no-fault accidents will not affect your insurance even if the other driver is uninsured.
- Think carefully before filing a claim. Many people get themselves into trouble by filing a claim immediately. If damage is minimal or nobody is hurt seriously consider not filing.
- When you get a new insurance policy, get one with accident forgiveness.
An insurance claim is not the end of the world, but it can cost you a small fortune in the form of higher premiums. That means you need to be very careful how and when you file insurance claims.
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