When should I always file an insurance claim?
When you purchase auto insurance, you are obligated to report any accidents that occur to your insurance company. This ensures that they have the most accurate representation of your driving habits so that they can set your rates accordingly; it also enables you to receive compensation for your damages if you have the appropriate coverage on your policy.
Nevertheless, sometimes people may want to avoid filing a claim so that they can prevent their rates from increasing. Damages could be very minor or they may not have the coverage necessary to pay for the repairs. For example, if you do not carry comprehensive coverage and someone vandalizes your car, there is no reason to file a claim with your auto insurance.
While filing a claim may not always be necessary, you should always call your insurance agent or claims department when the following situations occur:
1.) An Accident Damages Someone Else’s Car or Property
If you are at fault for damages, you are responsible for covering the cost of repairs whether your insurance pays for them or not. Failure to report a claim for an accident that you can can lead to lawsuits and even a suspended license. Even if you don’t know who owns the property that you damage, you should still file a claim; you might still be linked to the damage and could receive a summons for it many months later.
2.) Anyone Sustains Injuries
Even if the injuries are apparently minor, always establish a claim if anyone involved in the accident is injured. Injuries that appear minor may become more serious later, and even a minor injury can lead to an expensive medical bill. You may be held liable for another person’s medical expenses, and you could be sued if your insurance doesn’t cover them. It’s also a good idea to report your own injuries. Although you may not have injury coverage on your policy, your health insurance may not pay for accident-related medical expenses unless your car insurance has denied the claim.
3.) Liability is Unclear
If you’re in a rear-end accident, a collision with a parked car or hit a fixed object, the liability is clear-cut. Similarly, if you hit a fixed object, you will be found at fault. Other claims, however, are not clear-cut even if the facts seem to be very straightforward. If the accident occurred in an intersection, involved changing lanes, backing up into each other or any other details, go ahead and file a claim even if you didn’t sustain damage. This will protect you in case the other person’s insurance finds you at fault for the accident.
4.) The Vehicle is Under Lease
If you’re leasing your vehicle, you will need to repair any damage that it sustains prior to turning it back in. If you wait until the lease is up to file the claim, you may miss the insurance company’s statute of limitations. All leased vehicles require full coverage insurance, so the claim should be covered if it was caused by any kind of covered peril.
5.) You’re Driving a Borrowed or Rented Vehicle
Any time an accident occurs in a vehicle that you do not own, you should always file a claim with your insurance company. This is true even if the owner of the rented vehicle has also filed the claim with their own insurance. You do this because some insurance companies have exclusions written in them that prohibit them from handling claims that could be paid for by another insurance company. By filing with your own company, you can generate a denial letter that will allow the other party’s insurance to handle the claim. Alternately, your insurance may be found responsible for the damage and can pay for the repairs directly for you.
Even if you do not contact the insurance company to report damage, you should be sure to notify the DMV and submit an SR-22 form showing proof of insurance. Failure to report the incident could lead to a suspended license if someone else reports your involvement and there is no claim on record for the damage. It’s your responsibility to file this paperwork, which you can find online or obtain from your insurance company.
Ultimately, once the accident has been reported it’s up to you to decide whether or not to file a claim. In certain situations, however, it’s always wise to file with the insurance company even if you don’t have coverage if they fall into one of these previous categories.