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Accidents happen, and assuming no-one was hurt, the most important issues in their aftermath might be their impact, if any, on your auto insurance rates for next year. Knowing what affect is likely can help you decide whether to make claim for a fender-bender or allow you time to brace yourself for a premium increase next year. Alternatively, you may want to take preemptive steps now to minimize a hike, such as enrolling in a defensive driving course.
Here’s how insurance companies generally determine whether a mishap will, in fact, be found “chargeable” to you and your record. Whether that finding actually raises your premium depends on a host of factors, including your driving record in other respects and if and when you have made other claims in the recent past.
The Claim’s Cost Is A Factor
The factors we found best determine whether you’ve had an accident that’s “chargeable”–as in one that will go on your record, and perhaps trigger a rise in your premium when you renew your insurance–begin with the mishap’s financial severity.
Our research finds that a claim needs to be at least $500 to be considered a chargeable accident with the major companies, but you should check with your company to confirm their threshold. Our research finds it to be $500 for some companies, and $750 for others–with those totals typically reflecting property damage including to the vehicles involved), liability coverage and collision coverage combined.
The Police Report Is Also Important
Insurance companies generally use accidents in which you are at least 50% at-fault to determine your quotes, and you can be sure most of them will increase your rates.
To do, they typically draw on the official report from police at the scene in your accident. Within that report is an officer’s objective analysis of the situation, including an opinion on whether a specific traffic violation was broken, or whether drugs or alcohol played a role. The report may even specify whom the officer thinks was at fault.
Fault Is Clear-cut For Some Accidents
As we noted, who is deemed at fault is generally the key to an accident’s “charge ability.” For a few types of accidents, there’s little or no gray area regarding fault. One such accident is a “rear end collision”. Highway laws generally say that a driver needs to maintain a safe stopping distance. Rear-ending someone is generally presumed to be a violation of that law, giving the person who was struck a legal reason to prove the other person’s fault.
Even so, while the majority of rear end collisions assign fault to the rear driver, there are instances where fault will not be assigned at 100%. If the front driver has a broken tail light, was distracted, the driver at the rear can point out those factors, which may result in the fault assigned to dip from full to partial, or even to none at all. Another claim that is hard to fight is a “left turn accident,” in which a driver making a left turn collides with a driver coming in the opposite direction. Rules of the road dictate that a driver waiting to make a left-hand turn must wait until traffic is clear, meaning you are almost always at-fault if you were the left-turning driver. Some exceptions will of course exist- including if the other driver was going over the speed limit, or they ran a red light.
Some Accidents Are Exempted From Fault
Car insurance companies may not assign fault to you for certain types of accidents. Those may include those in which a bird or animal struck the vehicle, a hit-and-run driver was involved, or the other driver was charged with a moving violation. Accidents that resulted from tire failure are also often exempt. You’re also generally off the hook if you’re a full-time firefighter or law enforcement officer of a municipality who had an accident while you were performing your duties.
injuredGo.com represents personal injury car accident victims.