I am routinely asked the question, “I was involved in a motor vehicle accident. It was not my fault. Do I report the claim to my insurance company or the at-fault insurance company? I do not want my rates to increase.”
The answer is YES.
You should report the claim to your insurance company AND the at-fault insurance company.
Reporting the claim preserves your legal rights by putting the appropriate parties on NOTICE of the accident.
That being said, you can choose to pursue a property damage claim through EITHER your insurance company OR the at-fault insurance company; you can pursue a bodily injury claim through the at-fault insurance company (if coverage is available) AND possibly your insurance through an uninsured motorist claim.
How to report a claim from a car accident?
If you were injured in any manner as a result of the accident do NOT disclose any information concerning your injuries (including type of injuries or level/degree of pain) over the phone to any insurance adjuster.
Simply advise them that YOU ARE INJURED AND PLAN TO VISIT A DOCTOR. When reporting a claim you only have one obligation: REPORT THE ACCIDENT (i.e. time/place/insurance information) … no more, no less.
When you file your PIP claim (see below) some insurance companies (such as GEICO, State Farm, Allstate) will require you to list your injuries and the doctors you have treated with. You should complete that document with the help of your personal injury attorney.
NEVER (1) discuss your current or past injuries; (2) advise the insurance adjuster that you are NOT injured (as injuries could have a delayed onset (i.e. low back injuries); (3) admit liability (even in jest); or (4) provide your social security number to the insurance adjuster.
Either insurance company could use this information against you if/when you make a claim for damages.
Once you report the claim, politely hang up the phone – you are not required to answer any additional questions. From there on out, your personal injury attorney will handle all correspondence/interaction with both your insurance company and the at-fault insurance company.
You can speak with the PROPERTY adjuster only as it relates to setting up a time to value the damage to your vehicle and/or other PROPERTY damage questions. Refrain from answering any other inquiries – especially inquiries relating to your injuries or liability.
If you are unsure whether you should answer the insurance adjuster’s questions, direct the adjuster’s phone call to your personal injury attorney.
Provided the at-fault driver purchased adequate property damage insurance and liability is not in question, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay for the repairs to your vehicle.
That being said, the at-fault insurance company has no “motivation” (i.e. vested interest) to expedite the claim and as such could “drag their feet” when sending out an adjuster to value the damage.
The at-fault insurance company’s adjuster may also minimize your damage, especially frame damage that may be difficult to detect and dispute the mechanic’s bills and/or an approved mechanic.
You will not have to pay any collision deductible, however.
If you pursue a claim through your insurance company, your insurance company will pay for the repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company has “motivation” (i.e. vested interest) to expedite the claim as you paid for their insurance and they want to make you happy.
There is a less of a chance your insurance company’s adjuster will minimize your damage or dispute the mechanic’s bills and/or approved mechanic. This is because your insurance company will seek to “subrogate” the at-fault driver’s insurance (i.e. make them financially whole) for paying out a claim that was their insured’s responsibility.
Subrogation is quite common between insurance companies.
You will have to pay your collision deductible, however.
Most insurance companies will seek reimbursement of your collision deductible from the at-fault insurance. Additionally, your personal injury attorney can also seek to have the at-fault insurance company reimburse you for your collision deductible expenditure.
If/when you receive reimbursement for your deductible is on a case-by-case basis.
Will my insurance premium increase?
IF THE ACCIDENT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, FLORIDA LAW PROHIBITS YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY FROM RAISING YOUR RATES FOR FILING A PIP CLAIM, PROPERTY CLAIM, OR MEDICAL PAYMENTS CLAIM (Florida Statute, 626.9541).
This information is surprising to many of our personal injury clients who are under the false belief that filing a claim through their insurance company will automatically raise their rates.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of reasons your insurance company can increase your rates at any time (also known as an increased surcharge). Some of the reasons include: speeding ticket(s), adding a young driver to your policy, your age, poor credit, a new job, a friend wrecks your car, you are now single, the amount of the property damage claim, etc.
All that being said, your involvement in an automobile accident that is not your fault can not be considered when determining a rate increase.
Of note, when your insurance company receives notice of the accident (regardless of whether you are the at-fault driver), they (likely) will recalculate their risk parameters as a result of “new” information – again, your involvement in the accident cannot be used as factor.
In the event your insurance company decides to raise your premiums (or worse, fails to renew your insurance), they will point to another reason (unrelated to the accident) for the increased surcharge.
Unfortunately, insurance companies can manipulate the parameters when deciding who fits their “risk” profile to issue a policy and at what premium. As such, whether you file a claim with your insurance or not, just the fact that you were involved in an automobile accident could have negative repercussions on your insurance.
Of note, it is my understanding that your insurance company will become aware of your accident even if you file the property damage claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance and not through your insurance.
Your insurance company will certainly become aware of the accident if you are injured as result of filing a PIP claim. See below.
Barring any exclusion, the first $10,000.00 of benefits will be paid by your own insurance company through your personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. PIP benefits cover a percentage of past medical bills (80%) and lost wages (60%).
After you exhaust your PIP benefits, your personal injury attorney will next attempt to seek recovery of your medical bills (past and future), lost wages, and pain and suffering (if your injury is of a permanent nature) through the at-fault insurance company.
If the at-fault insurance company tenders their insured’s limits (i.e. pays out $25,000.00 on a $25,000.00 bodily injury policy), the personal injury attorney can then seek recovery from your insurance company, provided you have purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
You can only seek to pursue your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage benefits subsequent to the exhaustion of the at-fault’s party’s benefits – if any.
The Plantation personal injury attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin are familiar with motor vehicle accident claims and the different types of automobile insurance available for recovery. Before speaking with any insurance adjusters after an automobile accident, please call to speak with one of our experienced accident and injury attorneys – the consultation is free.