Do personal injury claims affect car insurance?

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Things to know...
  • If you have filed a personal injury claim following a car accident, it may be taken into consideration when determining your premium
  • A “third-party claims” payout after an auto accident is known as a “bodily injury claim”
  • Filing a claim for your own injuries after a car crash could impact your rates if you were at fault
  • The surcharge for an injury claim on your record could be higher than the surcharge for a non-injury claim
  • You can expect to pay a surcharge rate for three years from the date your injury claim is closed

A high-speed car crash can significantly affect your body, even if you feel okay in the days following the incident. The extent of injuries you feel depends on how the kinetic energy is transferred throughout your body and where it dissipated during the crash.

Most of today’s cars are manufactured with certain structural elements that are designed to crumple in the event of an accident. This crumpling allows the car, not your body, to absorb this kinetic energy as much as possible.

However, some of the energy may still make its way into your body, which is why so many occupants sustain injuries in high-speed crashes.

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What happens to your body in a car crash?

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You can absorb a certain amount of kinetic energy without sustaining significant injuries. The same concept applies to boxers who can sustain round after round of punches without being knocked down.

However, there is a threshold for how much your body can take, and when you’re in a car traveling at a high speed, that threshold is always exceeded.

If you’re wearing a seatbelt, your collarbone will start to absorb most of the energy immediately upon impact. Most vehicle occupants fracture their left or right collarbone.

From there, your ribs will break as they attempt to absorb the rest of the energy as it flows down your body. Broken ribs may impact the following organs:

  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Lungs
  • Other delicate organs

What about internal injuries?

At first glance, someone might appear to be fine after a fender-bender. Unfortunately, many people will classify the severity of the victim’s injuries based on how he or she looks on the outside.

For example, some people walk away from a car crash without so much as a scratch, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t injured.

A victim may have bumps, bruises, broken bones and lacerations following an accident, but the internal injuries are often much more serious.

For this reason, many car insurance agents recommend that the injured party see a healthcare provider after a crash, even if he or she feels fine.

How do you file a claim for your injuries?

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If you feel sore after a car crash or you have lacerations, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to make sure there aren’t any serious complications.

When you visit your physician, the other party’s insurance company will cover the cost of the visit and any medications, treatments or therapies your doctor recommends as long as the other party was deemed at fault for the incident.

If the other driver wasn’t at fault or he or she doesn’t have insurance coverage, you will need to depend on your own provider for coverage. Many insurance agents stress the importance of purchasing additional protection for this reason when you are considering buying a policy.

Your own insurance policy will pay for:

  • Personal injury protection, or PIP, which pays for your disability expenses, loss of income, medical care, and other expenses if you suffer personal injury. However, PIP is only available in states with an add-on no-fault option or in no-fault states.
  • Medical payments coverage, which pays for your visits to your doctor, medical care, and other related expenses when you’re injured, regardless of who is at fault for the accident or your condition. It is similar to PIP, but it doesn’t cover the loss of services, funeral expenses and lost income; it only pays for your medical bills.

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Will filing a personal injury claim affect your premiums?

If you need to file a personal injury claim against either the other driver’s policy or your own, it’s important to prepare yourself for the potential impact it will have on your premium.

A $700 annual insurance policy can double in the blink of an eye for the same level of protection. Educate yourself about when your insurance company can penalize you and when it can’t.

Whether or not your claim directly affects your rates will depend on who is responsible for the incident, which is why claims investigations are critical.

Always cooperate with the claims adjuster and do whatever you can to help the representative show that the collision was not your fault.

What happens if the other driver is at fault?

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Once the claims adjuster concludes his or her investigation, the fault will be allocated. In some cases, the other driver is 100 percent responsible for the incident while in others, the fault is shared.

If the other driver is at least 51 percent at fault, your record will indicate that the case is a “not-at-fault” claim.

It doesn’t matter if you need to collect $100,000 in uninsured motorist benefits or if you file $55,000 worth of medical payments.

As long as the investigation determines the other driver is at fault, you can’t be charged extra or turned away for an insurance policy solely because of the claim.

What happens if you are at fault?

If you sustained a personal injury and you are determined to be the negligent driver, your only option is to collect under your own insurance policy.

As long as your policy contains first-party coverage, you will receive some protection to help pay for your medical care. However, filing a claim for personal injury may affect your rates when it comes time to renew the policy.

What happens if you’re responsible for someone else’s injuries?

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If you walk away from an accident without a scratch, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but there are no guarantees that the other driver will be as lucky as you.

Even if he or she appears fine, there is always the chance that he or she could turn around and try to come after you for compensation for their injuries in the following weeks or months.

If you are at-fault for the crash and the other driver files a personal injury claim against you, you will be surcharged. A surcharge is a penalty that is incorporated into your future policy renewals if you have been convicted of a moving infraction or after you’ve filed a claim.

Although the amount of the surcharge will vary, the surcharge itself will remain on your policy for up to three years.

How much will your policy increase if you file a personal injury claim?

When you go from having a spotless driving record to a blemished one, your auto insurance rates are bound to increase. Adding an injury claim to your record if you already have accidents or tickets could actually lead to a loss of safe-driving discounts or a full policy termination.

There’s no set number to determine your policy increase after a personal injury claim, so it’s important to request a quote through your insurance company to see how much the surcharge will be.

Your provider will calculate this based on your driving record, past claims, and other personal rating factors.

Keep in mind that personal injury claims will only have an effect on your premiums if you are determined to be at fault for the incident.

If you have already filed a bodily injury claim with your insurance company within the past 12 months and you received benefits from this claim, you may consider shopping around to determine how much your rates will be affected by filing an additional claim.

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