Should I File a Car Accident Insurance Claim?

December 08, 2014

You return to your parked car to discover that someone has dented your rear bumper. There’s no note on your windshield, and the offending driver is nowhere to be seen. The thought runs through your head “Should I file a car insurance claim?” offers helpful auto & car accident claims advice below.

This is a tough call. While it stings to pay for damage someone else caused, if you file a claim your premiums may go up. Here are seven questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to figure out if it’s worth it to file a car insurance claim.

First, a few caveats: You should report all accidents involving other drivers to the police and to your insurer, even if you don’t end up filing a claim. You should not, however, ask your insurance agent for advice on whether you should file a claim. Why? Your agent may be obligated to report that you asked about a claim, raising your rates whether you end up filing or not.

1. Was another vehicle involved in the accident?

Fender BenderIf a collision involves another driver, you should file a car insurance claim. Even if the damage appears minor, it may be costly to fix, and there could be injuries involved. If you don’t report the accident immediately, Consumer Reports warns, your insurance company will be limited in the protections it can offer.

What if the at-fault driver asks you not to file a claim and instead offers to pay for your repairs out of pocket? You may feel inclined to shake on it, but beware: these private arrangements rarely work out. You may even find yourself the victim of fraud.

2. Was anyone injured in the accident?

If you think you sustained an injury in a car accident, it’s vital to file an insurance claim. Visit a doctor immediately and document your injuries in photos and in writing. You may need to hire a personal injury attorney as well. If there’s a possibility that another driver or passenger was injured, you should report the incident to your insurer to help protect you from high-dollar personal injury lawsuits.

If you’re involved in a single-car collision and you feel reasonably sure you’re unhurt, then you may choose not to file a claim.

3. Have you filed other recent car insurance claims?

If you file one car insurance claim, it’s probably no big deal from your insurer’s perspective. If you file several, your insurer will label you a high-risk driver and may even cancel your coverage. Two at-fault claims in a 12-month period could increase your premiums by 86 percent or more.

4. Have you had any recent speeding tickets?

It seems unfair, but if you file a car insurance claim when you’ve had recent moving violations, your insurer may raise your rates.

5. Do you have accident forgiveness?

A number of insurers offer accident forgiveness, which means they won’t raise your rates because you’ve had an accident, even if you’re at fault. If you have this benefit, you can file a car insurance claim without worrying about a rate increase. However, if you’re a crash-prone driver and you have accident forgiveness, you may want to avoid filing a claim on a fender-bender so you can save this benefit for a more serious accident.

6. Was the damage caused by weather or an animal?

Deer with oncoming CarIf you have comprehensive coverage, you can probably file a claim without seeing a rate increase if your vehicle was damaged by:

  • Hail, wind, lightning or other weather
  • Natural disasters
  • Vandalism
  • Hitting a deer or other animal

7. Is the cost of fixing the damage lower than your deductible?

Say you back into a telephone pole and damage your rear bumper. Get an estimate for repairs before you submit a car insurance claim. The cosmetic damage may cost about $500 to repair — and if your deductible is $500, you’re essentially paying the full price. In this situation, filing a claim will only give your insurer an excuse to raise your premiums. A good rule of thumb is filing a claim only if the damage exceeds $1,000.

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