When to file and when not to file.

  • It is crucial to file a claim for major property damage and bodily injury.
  • A claim might not be worth it for car accidents when no one is injured.
  • A poor driving record could increase your auto insurance premiums for up to three years.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

Your driving record is a key element that determines how much you pay for

car insurance

. A bad one can really cost you dearly. Premiums can increase by almost 50% after an at-fault accident claim, according to an analysis of Zebraan insurance comparator.

Multiple accidents and serious traffic violations could even cause an insurer to disqualify you from renewing your policy. According to the Insurance Information Institute, increased premiums resulting from an accident generally stay on your file for three years after the claim.

In general, it’s better to report an accident to your insurance company than not to, especially if another party is involved. But there are times when not filing a claim makes more sense than filing one.

When to file a car insurance claim

Some of the main factors to consider when deciding whether or not to file a claim include whether it’s property damage or personal injury, what type of coverage you have and even the relationship between the parties involved, explains Falen Coxpersonal injury attorney at Cox, Rodman and Middleton.

Here are some scenarios in which you should almost always file a car insurance claim:

When only your car is damaged and needs major repairs

File a claim if your car is badly damaged in a single-vehicle accident. Collision insurance will pay for your repairs minus the deductible. If you don’t have collision coverage, you’ll have to pay for the repairs out of pocket.

Even if your vehicle is operational after an accident, it is still important to at least report it to your insurance company even if you choose not to file a claim. A repair shop could fix cosmetic issues like a dented bumper or fender while missing hidden damage like a bent frame that can cause problems later. You also have a limited time to file a claim, so be sure to contact your insurer immediately after the accident.

When you damage someone else’s car

If you damage someone else’s vehicle in a collision and are at fault, you should still file a claim.

At the scene of the accident, exchange information including names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance details, driver’s license and license plate numbers. Be sure to take photos of all documents and report the accident to the police or highway patrol. Notify your insurer as soon as possible.

Most states require liability coverage, which protects you from lawsuits and will cover at least some of the damage – bodily injury or physical injury – for which you are responsible. Even if the damage seems minor, not making a claim and declaring an accident is risky.

“If someone else involved in the accident is suing you weeks or months later, failure to report the incident will make it more difficult for your insurer to gather evidence to represent you,” the statement says. ‘Insurance Information Institute on its website.

when someone is hurt

“You should almost always file a personal injury claim,” says Cox. If more than one person is involved in the accident, obtain each person’s identity and insurance information. Liability coverage will cover bodily injury if you are at fault.

Several states have time limits for filing injury claims, typically 30 days, according to Dan Ferrara, a licensed agent at Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Some physical injuries may not be obvious at the scene of the accident. For example, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may not realize that the accident has made it worse until you receive medical attention. If you haven’t filed a claim within your policy’s timeframe, you may have to pay for the treatment out of pocket, according to Cox.

Always file a claim after a major accident. If you are responsible for bodily injury, your liability insurance will likely cover the other party’s medical expenses. If you are not at fault, file a claim anyway, even if you do not suffer immediate physical injury.

When You May Not Need to File a Claim

While filing a claim for damages caused to others is always encouraged, there are instances where you might consider not filing a claim. Here are a few:

When you only have minor damage to your vehicle

If a minor accident only involves you and your car, a claim might not be necessary. For example, let’s say you return to your mailbox, which leaves a small dent in the bumper of your vehicle. You can choose not to file a claim because risking a premium increase might not be worth it.

If you don’t have collision coverage, you won’t be able to file a personal property damage claim anyway. Also note that minor low impact crashes can leave hidden damage on your vehicle. You can choose to have your car inspected to make sure you are not missing anything before deciding to waive a claim.

When your claim is less than the deductible

If the cost of the repair is less than your insurance policy deductible, it’s probably not worth filing a claim. For example, if your deductible is $1,000 and there is no property damage, or the damage is less than the deductible, consider paying for the damage outside of your insurance company. Let’s also assume that a claim slightly exceeds your deductible. In that case, you can choose to foot the bill if you can afford it, Ferrara says.

You can waive filing a claim if you hit another family member’s parked car and the cost of the repair is less than the deductible. However, you should never make private settlements with a stranger instead of reporting an accident or filing a claim, Cox warns.

Some states require drivers to report accidents to the police. You should always notify your insurance company of the accident. Although your insurer will note the accident, you are not obligated to file a claim, Cox says.

If the damage is minimal and you are not at fault

As mentioned, you can choose not to file a claim if the accident was minor and only involved you and your vehicle, as your rates could increase. If you are not responsible for an accident, you can also choose not to file a claim. If the damage to your vehicle is minimal, you may want to pay for the repairs yourself. Even if you’re not at fault, filing a claim could still increase your premium, Cox says.

While filing a claim to cover damage to your vehicle is always an option, it may not be your best financial bet. Be sure to read your auto insurance policy carefully and understand the pros and cons of doing so depending on the circumstances.

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