Will a claim raise my rates if the accident is not my fault?

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Question: Will your insurance go up if you have accident, even if it is not your fault?  For instance, what if your car is damaged by debris that falls off a car in front of you on the freeway?

Answer: Whether your car insurance rates will go up after a not-at-fault accident really varies by insurance company and by state. One accident may not cause your rates rise, but if you have been in multiple accidents, even if you were not at fault for each, your auto insurer may increase your premiums or not renew your policy.

Many states have insurance laws and regulations that keep auto insurance companies from surcharging you (raising your base rate) if you are not at fault in an auto accident or if it's a comprehensive claim, since these types of claims are rarely your fault.

When debris falls off a car and hits your car's hood or windshield, some insurers will consider it to be a flying missile covered under your comprehensive coverage; thus it's not likely to cause your rates to rise.

If instead the debris fell off and you didn't avoid it in the roadway but ran it over, then it would normally go under your collision coverage . This type of claim could possibly raise your rates, if it were found to be a "chargeable accident" according to your state and insurer's guidelines.

Of course, if the person whose car the object fell off of stopped and you put the claim through their property damage liability coverage, it's doubtful that your rates would be affected.

Some states don't allow a surcharge unless certain conditions are met. For example, in Massachusetts to be surcharged you must be found at least 50 percent at fault and claim payments of more than $500, in excess of any deductible paid, must be paid out under your liability or collision coverage. New York doesn't allow surcharges due to a comprehensive claim against your policy or if the total damage of the accident is less than $2,000 and there were no injuries but does allow a surcharge if you have two or more accidents under $2,000.

The number of accidents you are involved in can make your insurer see you as a higher risk, even if you are not at fault.  An insurer may find you to be a good driver but live in a high-risk area and so your rates rise.

Contact your insurance company to find out how this or any type of claim might affect your rates or the renewal of your policy.  You can also contact your state's insurance regulator to get information on the state's insurance laws regarding surcharges.

If your rates do go up due to a not at-fault accident, then shop around. By comparison shopping for car insurance, you may find an insurer that doesn't rate an accident the same way and thus save money.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Insurance

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