Filing a claim after an at-fault accident will likely increase your car insurance rates
It’s hard to predict exactly how much your rates will rise after a claim, but it may be as much as 40%
Even a not-at-fault claim can raise your rates
There are things you can do to lower them again, including shopping for new insurance or completing a driver’s education course
No one wants to have to file a car insurance claim, but accidents happen, and the reason you have car insurance in the first place is to pay for damage and injuries after a car accident.
If you follow all the appropriate steps, and you have sufficient car insurance coverage, your insurance will cover the costs of the other driver’s repairs or medical bills after an at-fault accident.
If you have collision coverage to protect your own vehicle, your repair bills may be covered too. But will your car insurance rates definitely increase after an accident?
The truth is that making an at-fault claim or having a claim made against you is very likely to significantly increase your car insurance premium.
The exact amount is difficult to predict, and will depend on the severity of the accident, but even making a claim for a not-at-fault incident can impact your rates. Here’s what you need to know about how claims can affect car insurance costs, and what to do if your rates go up.
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Say you’re driving to work and you look down for a moment, not realizing the driver in front of you came to a stop. If you were to slam on the brakes too late and rear-end them, it will likely be determined that you’re the at-fault driver in the accident, meaning your car insurance will step in to cover their costs.
After any accident, be sure to follow all the right steps to make sure everyone is safe and every party has all the necessary information to resolve their claims quickly.
And don’t panic — this is exactly what car insurance is for. As a quick refresher, here are the basic components of what’s typically referred to as a “full coverage” car insurance policy:
|Coverage Type||What It Does|
|Bodily injury liability||The part of your liability coverage that pays for medical bills if you've injured someone in an accident|
|Property damage liability||The other part of liability coverage, covers the cost of property damage you've caused in an accident|
|Personal injury protection||Covers medical expenses for you or your passengers after an accident|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist||Covers the costs if you're in an accident caused by a driver with little or no car insurance|
|Comprehensive||Covers damage to your car that happens when you're not driving|
|Collision||Covers damage to your car after a car accident, no matter who was at fault|
After an at-fault accident, your property damage liability coverage will pay for any repairs the other driver needs as a result of the accident, up to your coverage limits.
And your bodily injury liability coverage will pay the other driver’s medical bills, up to your coverage limits. (Don’t forget that you’re responsible for any expenses beyond your coverage limits, which is why you want to set them relatively high in the first place).
If you have comprehensive and collision coverage, damage to your own vehicle may also be covered after you pay your required deductible. So your insurance has worked just as it should — but how much will your rates increase?
When your current policy term is up for renewal, and you’ve had an at-fault accident and filed a claim during that time, you’ll likely be notified that your rates are increasing. The amount by which they’ll increase depends on a few factors.
First, there’s the severity of the accident. You may see a higher rate increase for an accident that cost $20,000 in damage than a fender bender that cost $1,500 to repair. There’s also your past driving history: If you’ve had other at-fault accidents in recent years, or any driving violations, your rates may increase much more than if this is your first at-fault accident in a decade.
Insurance companies calculate premiums based on how much of a risk they think you’ll be to insure, and the specifics of an at-fault accident will matter when they’re figuring out your new rates.
Still, the costs could be significant — one report found costs could increase as much at 41% after just one claim. So you could potentially be looking at a rate increase that would cost you hundreds more per year.
The good news is that accidents don’t stay on your record forever. If you’ve filed a claim, your rates may go up when it’s time to renew your policy. But car insurance companies generally only take the past three to five years of your record into account while calculating your rates.
That means that, after a certain amount of time has passed, an accident will “fall off” your record, and won’t be a factor in your insurance premiums any longer, as long as you’ve kept a clean driving record in the time since the accident.
➞ Learn more about how long an accident affects your insurance
One way to insure your rates won’t go up after a claim is to invest in accident forgiveness. Accident forgiveness is an optional policy add-on offered by most major car insurance companies. It’s sometimes included in your rates as a loyalty perk, but with most companies, you can include it in your policy for an extra, usually minimal surcharge.
Accident forgiveness is essentially a guarantee that your rates won’t go up after your first at-fault accident. It can be a good buy for drivers who are willing to pay a little extra for peace of mind. However not everyone is eligible for accident forgiveness — it’s usually only available to drivers who already have a spotless driving history. That means, ironically, that the drivers who would most need accident forgiveness might not qualify.
➞ Learn more about accident forgiveness
Your car insurance can also step in in cases where you’re not at fault. If you’re in an accident caused by another driver, or your parked car is hit, you may still need to file a claim with your insurance company, which will work with the at-fault driver’s insurance to cover your losses.
And, as unfair as it seems, having a not-at-fault accident can also raise your rates, but probably not by as much as an at-fault accident. It all goes back to the way car insurance companies calculate risk — having any accidents on your record, even if you weren’t responsible for them, can make you riskier to insure in the eyes of the provider, meaning higher rates.
What about comprehensive claims? If your car is damaged by extreme weather, fire, flood, vandalism or theft, you can file a comprehensive coverage claim, which covers damage to your car in all those scenarios.
But will your rates still increase? The answer is, it depends. Some car insurance companies may not raise your rates for comp claims under a certain amount, some may raise your rates minimally because of a comp claim.
So your car insurance rates have gone up after filing a claim, now how can you get them back down again? There are a few ways to lower your car insurance rates:
Most major car insurance companies offer a range of discounts that can help you save on car insurance costs. You’re probably already getting some discounts with your current insurer, but see if there are any others you can qualify for.
Most insurers offer a discount for taking a defensive driving course, which could help knock a little bit off your premiums if they’ve gone up after a claim.
Shopping around for new car insurance coverage is one of the most reliable ways to save money on insurance costs. If your current insurer informs you that your rates are going up, it might be worth getting some quotes from other insurers to see if you could be getting the same coverage for less. An independent broker can help you compare quotes and ensure you’re getting the right amount of coverage for your needs.
As we mentioned above, accidents don’t stay on your record forever. If you’ve just filed a claim for an at-fault accident, your rates may increase, but once a few years pass that accident will no longer affect your rates.
Be sure to do everything you can to maintain a clean driving record going forward so you won’t have to file any more at-fault claims or have claims filed against you.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
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