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Although a car accident may seem like a huge disappointment, you may not need to worry, at least not yet. Your focus should be on the immediate issue, which is safety. Make sure no one has any serious injuries. The first few moments after a collision are the most critical.
As your mind shifts to the claims process, try to remain as calm as possible and go into business mode. Get information from everyone at the scene. This should include any bystanders who can act as witnesses on your behalf. Speak with the law enforcement officer in detail and find out where you can go to pick up the police report.
Do not speculate on what just happened or why, as it is the job of the experts to determine where the fault lies. If you know you obeyed the laws and have no part in causing the accident, you should be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Under most circumstances, your car insurance provider will not hold you responsible.
No-Fault Claims vs. At-Fault Claims
One of the biggest mistakes people make after a car accident is admitting they caused the crash. In many instances, this may be true, especially if the accident is a rear-end collision. Nevertheless, you need to pull yourself together and just talk about the events leading up to the moment of impact. You are not under any obligation to assess damages, estimate costs, or determine blame.
If you are at-fault, your car insurance rates may increase, yes, this is a fact, but you must present the proper documentation and await the verdict first. The only time this does not apply is when a major violation, like a DUI is apparent. Even then, you still have the right to remain silent.
If you are not at-fault for an accident, the outcome may be positive. Aside from the inconvenience of the deductible, you should have minor out-of-pocket expenses.
The difference in automobile insurance rate increases after a car accident starts with the reason for the incident. To figure this out, you must file a claim. Your car insurance company will require specifics and every state has variations.
For instance, the Illinois Department of Insurance governs this state and sets the standards. If you reside here, be prepared to produce the following information:
- Copies of any legal paperwork – Any papers you receive resulting from the accident, including tickets or citations.
- Proof of your loss – This is a sworn testimony that describes the incident, including the date, what occurred and why you were driving the vehicle during the time of the accident.
- Copies of bills – If you sustained injuries, you need to present the doctor’s diagnosis forms and charts. You also need to provide copies of the car repair bills.
- Law enforcement documents – They include the police report and citations for court appearances.
- Ownership papers – If you own the vehicle, this is the title. If you lease or finance the vehicle, provide them with the agreement or contract.
- Oath documents – These usually mean tax forms or medical bills that you have already paid, like emergency room fees. They may require you to visit their medical facility to confirm the level of injury.
Points from Accidents May Cause Increases
If you receive a ticket from the officer on the scene, you may have a few problems with your car insurance company. The type of violation plays an important role in assessing fault. In addition to the cause of the collision, you may see one or more points on your license. This will definitely work against you.
Car insurance companies like safe drivers.
Insurers reward good driving histories with lower annual premiums. Unfortunately, this may be bad news if you get a ticket for following too closely. These points remain on your license for at least three years. Depending upon where you live, the more points you accrue, the more your car insurance rates increase as well.
In New York, drivers receive three points for increased speeds of just 10 miles over the limit. If you receive a ticket for following too closely the number of points increase to four and reckless driving is five.
These are three of the main reasons behind most car crashes and the car insurance industry does not take kindly to seeing these violations on a driver’s history. Even if you receive a ticket for failure to wear your seat belt during the accident, which carries zero points in New York, you can still see an increase because of the risk factor.
Prior to the accident, your car insurance company naturally assumed you wore your seatbelt as a part of the National Safety Council primary and secondary laws. However, after seeing the citation themselves, they may readjust your risk factor and place you in a different category. If this happens, you can say goodbye to your low rates.
Surcharges are your penalty for causing a car accident. Your state dictates the amount the car insurance companies charge, however most are excessive. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation explains how they assess surcharges in their state.
According to their regulations, if an automobile insurance company finds their customer to have over 50% of the blame in a car accident, they can receive a surcharge. This applies when the claim reaches $500 or more.
If this is your first at-fault accident, your surcharge may cost an extra 10% and dependent on your policy terms it may be higher. Any additional at-fault accidents can increase the surcharge amounts to 20% to 40% of your current premium rate.
In addition to paying a higher premium, they place the incident on the policyholder’s record. This means even if you decide to switch companies, they can also impose a surcharge for your risky behavior.
After approximately 20 days of the payment to the insured for the claim, the notice will arrive in the mail. The description of the accident as well as the surcharge amount appears on the notice.
If the policyholder was not the person who caused the accident, the driver at the time of the accident receives a notice too. Should this occur, it may be wise for the policyholder to submit an appeal. The car insurance company may amend the surcharge to the driver only.
However, it is important to note that you must continue to pay the surcharge until you receive a decision from the Board of Appeal. If they reverse the decision to hold you responsible, your car insurance company must issue a credit to your account. They also have the option to send you a refund.
Do Not Rely on Accident Forgiveness Policies
Accident forgiveness policies are all the rage lately and everyone seems to want to jump aboard. Unfortunately, this kind of coverage usually only applies to elite drivers. To qualify, you must have a spotless driving record and you need to put in a few years of loyal service. Most auto insurance providers require between three and five years of clean driving and timely payments.
New customers, however, may catch a break if they apply to the right company at the optimal time. For example, some Nationwide Car Insurance customers can take advantage of this option during the application process.
Just like all car insurance companies, Nationwide uses the driving record of their applicants to assess risk. However, if they find some to have very low risk characteristics, they may decide to take a chance.
This leads to many happy customers, until they find out all of the facts. The truth behind accident forgiveness is it does not work in most scenarios. There are specifics involved and every policy varies.
Plainly speaking, it will protect you from an increase in rates if you have an accident. Unfortunately, it will not prevent your car insurance company from reviewing your history again come renewal time.
This means they may increase your premium after the first policy expires. In addition, if you have more than one accident, they can simply decide not to keep you as a customer.
The Type of Claim Matters More than You Know
The type of claim you file when you have an accident also influences your current auto insurance rate. To understand this, you should first remember that there are several levels of coverage involved with one policy.
Liability and collision coverage protect your wallet and your car.
Claims under liability and collision are usually due to accidents where the auto insurance companies must judge fault. When this occurs, the odds of you receiving an increase are high.
Adversely, comprehensive coverage deals with damage that has nothing to do with how you drive. A car accident does not fall under comprehensive coverage, only issues like vandalism and theft. These are no-fault incidents because you have no control over outside interference.
Since you still need to file a claim to repair your vehicle, you should always remember that the likelihood of your rates going up is very low with comprehensive claims. Most times, these claims can settle in a few days and you can go back to living your life.
Forget Frivolous Accident Claims
Frivolous accident claims are usually the kinds that do not affect other people or their property. They can include minor scrapes and fender benders. Maybe you were driving too fast in poor weather and slid off the road and into a tree.
Perhaps you did not judge the distance between your car and a parking garage and damaged your side mirrors. While these types of issues are definitely a bother, you may want to reconsider filing a claim.
Even the smallest claim that your car insurance company does not pay much for can damage your credibility with them and cause an increase in your rates. This is because over time these minor claims can display certain patterns in their eyes.
They may begin to think of you as a risky driver who makes unnecessary errors. Although you may not cost them much money with these small infractions, a major accident is possible.
Instead of paying a deductible and waiting for minor repair approval from your auto insurance provider, you should think about putting a few dollars in an account for these issues. When something comes up and you need to fix a small ding, you can go ahead and pay for everything yourself.
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