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When Do I File an Auto Insurance Claim?

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People often have questions about when to file an auto insurance claim after an accident. When a vehicle suffered damages or a driver was injured, most people know they should speak to their insurer. But an auto insurance claim isn’t necessary after all car accidents. There are some situations where you’re better off not filing a claim or using your insurance coverage. 

In general, you should look at the cost of the damage vs. the possible rate increases. If the cost of the damage is less than the rate increase you would likely incur after a claim, you’re better off not using your coverage in most situations. Rate increases can vary depending on where you live and the details of the accident. Usually, you will be penalized for about three years after an at-fault accident. In some cases, a rate increase could cost you hundreds of dollars a year in extra payments.

There are some things to remember immediately after an accident.

It’s usually a good idea to at least attempt to file a police report or an incident report. This makes it harder for the other party to say something different later on. It’s best if you don’t discuss the details of the accident with anyone but the police and insurance company. They are the ones who determine the fault of the accident, not you—and not the other driver. Arguing in a parking lot with the other party is rarely productive, and when things get heated, people can say things they don’t mean. On the other hand, some people end up apologizing when they weren’t at fault, and those words can come back to haunt them when dealing with the insurance company, or if they end up in court.

If possible, it’s best to just exchange contact and insurance info with the other driver and keep discussions of the accident to a minimum, or avoid it altogether.

Also, take a look at your insurance policy documents. Some insurance policies say you have to notify the insurance company of anything that might lead to a potential claim. Additionally, there are various state- and insurance company-specific time limits for filing a claim, so it helps to be aware of any applicable time limits. Be sure to take pictures of the damage to both vehicles as your insurance company will likely need them if you do file a claim.

If anyone is even slightly injured, you should definitely file a claim.

When Should I Not File a Claim?

There are a couple of situations when you’re probably better off not filing a claim:

 1: If The Only Damage Was to Your Own Vehicle

When you get in a one-car accident and you’re not injured, filing a claim is generally not a good idea. Any claim you might file would be considered an at-fault collision claim, which would likely lead to an increase in your rates. There are also deductibles to consider—often the damage isn’t that much higher than the deductible, and you could end up paying hundreds more a year in higher insurance rates.

On the other hand, if you managed to total your own car, you may find it worthwhile to file a claim and suck up the higher rates to get your car replaced. It’s important to consider the math of the damage, the deductible, and the likely rate increases for your area before filing a claim.

 2: If the Damage to Someone Else’s Vehicle is Minimal

If there’s only a small amount of damage to someone else’s vehicle or property, you may not need to file a claim. Small scratches or dents often aren’t worth the raised insurance rates, either. If this happens, exchange information with the other party and ask if they will let you pay for the damage out-of-pocket.

These are some scenarios where you should file an insurance claim:

 1: If Anyone is Injured

Any time that you, passengers in your vehicle, anyone in the other vehicle, or any pedestrians are injured in an accident, you will need to file a claim—especially if you think there’s even a slight chance you’ll be found at fault. Medical bills get expensive fast, even for injuries that don’t seem all that serious—a broken ankle can cost tens of thousands of dollars to treat. Failing to file a claim may leave you open to litigation. If you don’t contact your insurance company until after you’ve been sued, your claims representative might decide to deny the claim entirely. Then you’ll be completely on the hook for the other party’s expenses.

 2: If Fault is Unclear

When you’re in an accident that leads to property damage or injury, and fault is in dispute, it’s important to file a claim so that your insurance provider can represent you. Insurance companies work with other insurance companies to settle disputes and determine who should pay. Yours will have to work with the other party’s insurer to determine responsibility and set up payouts.

 3: If You Suffer a Total Loss or Significant Loss

When the value of the damage is beyond your reasonable ability to pay for the loss, you should file a claim through your collision coverage. You can also file a claim on your property damage coverage through your liability insurance. If you’re unsure about whether to file an insurance claim, take the following steps to help you figure it out:

  • Obtain an estimate at a local mechanic for the repairs.

  • Find a Florida state insurance guide and find out how much an at-fault accident would increase your rates. Then multiply that value by three years.

  • Compare the estimated cost of repairs to your total rate increase and your deductible. If it is cheaper to file a claim, file a claim.

Don’t waste time. If you do file a claim, you want to do it as fast as possible—at the scene of the accident, if you can. After your claim is filed, the insurance adjuster will take time reviewing important documents like the police report, witness accounts, and photos of the damages, and they will take care of payouts to the other party, if necessary. If your car needs repairs, the insurance company will work with your repair shop.

What If My Insurance Doesn’t Cover All My Bills?

In some cases, you may be seriously injured by another driver’s actions. Your or their insurance may not cover all your medical bills, nor will they cover lost wages from the time you had to take off work to recover, or your pain or suffering. If this happens, you may want to talk to an injury lawyer to learn if you have a case.

If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a traffic accident, you do have rights and you need an advocate who is ready to protect those rights. Speak with an attorney today from the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A.

We offer a free, no-obligation consultation. You can meet with an attorney now to discuss your case and see if you qualify for compensation. Call us now at 954-677-0155 or request more information online.

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