How Accidents Affect Auto Insurance
An accident affects car insurance in different ways depending on certain details of the accident, as well as each insurer's underwriting guidelines. Not always will there be a negative impact on the policy premium; however, rates may be increased or a policy may be non-renewed if an accident is classified as chargeable. Motorists who see inflated premiums following accidents may want to compare quotes to see if a cheaper rate is available.
Accidents are classified based on a few factors:
- Was the accident at-fault? - If a policyholder is not considered to be at fault, most likely the rates will not be increased. In the other hand, being at fault in an accident will impact rates depending on the company's underwriting guidelines. It may cause a policyholder to lose their good driver discount which ranges in the area of 20%. If there was only one vehicle involved, usually the accident will be considered to be chargeable unless it was caused by some kind of debris on the road or by a collision with nature's objects such as a falling tree, an animal etc. To determine fault, a police report will usually indicate the at-fault party. Without a police report, insurance companies may investigate through witness reports and driver statements. Usually, if both drivers are found liable or 50% at fault, both drivers would be considered at-fault.
- Were there any injuries involved? - Whether or not there were injuries involved will also have different impacts on rates. If one was at fault but there were no injuries, it would have less of an impact than if there were. A "letter of experience" from a carrier will indicate whether there were any bodily injury payouts. Sometimes the police report may be acceptable proof of no-injury; however, not all companies will accept it since persons may not feel injured until a couple days later.
- Was the accident as a result of a collision with an emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance or police car? If there was a collision with an emergency vehicle, sometimes it will be considered non-fault because those type of vehicles sometimes disobey traffic regulations in order to rush to an emergency situation. In that case it shouldn't have an impact on rates.
- Were any drivers under the influence? If a driver involved in an accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it will be considered a "major violation" and may cause a bigger impact on premiums since it will be in conjunction with a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated).
- Was the amount of damage under $750 in damage? An accident may be dismissed or non-chargeable if the property damages were under a certain amount, usually $750 in damage; however, the amount may vary within carriers. Usually when there is insignificant damage to the vehicles (fender benders), no injuries are involved and rates are not impacted.
- How long ago was the accident? If an accident occurred more than three years ago, usually it will be not be considered chargeable since guidelines usually dismiss them after a certain time. Check with the insurer to see how long until they dismiss them.
- Was there a citation issued? Usually the driver who receives a citation when involved in a accident will be considered to be at fault for breaking traffic laws. This, however, does not apply for violations such as "unregistered vehicle" or other non-moving violations.
- How many accidents within the past 3 years? The number of accidents one is involved in also determines impact. Multiple accidents within a certain period may cause non-renewal and significant rate increases.
The best way to find affordable rates, even with tickets or accidents, is to compare auto insurance from multiple companies in order to narrow down the company who will insure for less.
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