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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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You spend most of your adult life trying to avoid having a car accident. Unfortunately, the average driver will have an accident every 17.9 years.
Based on the average, drivers will have between three and four accidents in their life. This means that you’re left dealing with at least a handful of claims through your insurer when you file a first-party claim.
Since not all auto insurance claims can be avoided, it’s important that you take the time to learn how filing a claim against your policy can ultimately affect your policy in the future. Claims may not stay on your insurance record for the rest of your life, but they don’t go away after they’re closed and settled either.
Before you file a claim that can tarnish your perfect record, here’s what you need to know about your claims record:
When will filing a claim affect your rates?
You shouldn’t always shy away from filing a claim through your insurer. After all, you’re paying for insurance to help you cover expenses when you have a loss that can affect you financially. Before you file any type of claim, it’s in your best interest to learn when a claim does and doesn’t impact your rates.
In most cases, when you have a loss, the insurer will investigate the event to try and declare who caused the accident.
If you’re at fault in the accident, the insurer has the right to surcharge your premiums for a given period of time. You won’t be surcharged for a claim that’s made after a non-fault accident or a comprehensive loss.
How long can you be surcharged because of your claims record?
If you get into a single-car accident that’s quite obviously your fault, you may try to pay for your vehicle repairs on your own just to avoid having to pay a surcharge. Whether or not this is a good idea depends on how much your repairs will cost and how much the claim will raise your rates.
When you’re assessing how much your premiums will be inflated after a claim, you can’t just consider the average increase for one year.
Surcharges don’t only last a year, they can last as long as three years after the claim is fully investigated. The rate increase might fluctuate, but estimating the total increase over three years can help you make a judgment call when it comes to filing a claim.
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How long do comprehensive and non-fault claims stay on your record?
Having a single no-fault loss on your record won’t immediately affect your rates but that loss could lead to a premium increase if one turns into three. With most carriers, comprehensive and non-fault accidents sit on your claims record for three years without hurting your good reputation.
It’s not until you have three or more non-fault claims that the insurer will start to get a bit suspicious.
Some might call three non-fault losses in a three-year period bad luck, but the insurer feels like you contribute to this and will put you in a higher risk class. If you were in a preferred class, you’ll go to standard. If you’re a standard risk, you’ll go to high risk.
If you switch carriers, can your new carrier surcharge your policy?
It only seems fair that the insurance company that had to payout after your claim would have the right to surcharge you, but that’s not how the insurance industry works. When you have a loss, it doesn’t matter which insurance company pays you.
As long as there’s a chargeable claim on your record, the carrier that you’re insured through is allowed to charge you for it. You may be able to save money switching to a new company, but don’t assume that running from your old carrier will wipe your claims record clean.
Do claims disappear after the three-year period is up?
When the three years is finally up and you’re considered a driver with a clean record, the claim can still appear in your records.
It won’t impact your current rates, but it can be used to make underwriting decisions for more than three years in some states. This is why carriers send claims information to a Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange database that all companies can access.
Having a loss is scary, but the idea of paying 30 percent more for your insurance for three whole years is scary too. Make wise claims decisions when you have a loss. If you’re not happy with the surcharge that’s been applied to your policy, get instant rate quotes online and compare insurance through the best carriers in a single sitting.