Getting into a car accident is bad enough – you’re shaken, your vehicle is damaged, and worst of all, you or someone else may be hurt. Adding to the picture, you run the risk of having your auto policy premium increased even after just one accident, even when a driver has an otherwise impeccable record. A single claim boosts the premium by an average of 41% nationwide, according to a recent study by InsuranceQuotes.com. All this means that you’ve got yet another thing to think about after a crash: whether you should file a claim or pay repair costs out of pocket.
Accident – Another Person Involved
When you’ve had an accident and someone else is involved, you are better off filing a claim. If you’re at fault, and you hit another person or vehicle, he has the right to make a liability claim against you, and he could potentially sue. With insurance, you’re entitled to a legal defense and coverage of a judgment against you up to a certain amount.
Accident – No One Else Involved
Now let’s talk about when you’ve had an accident and no one else is involved, such as when you back into your garage door or hit a guardrail when you skid in the snow. You’re at fault, but the only car affected is yours. As long as you’re fairly sure there won’t be any lingering medical issues, you’re better off paying out of pocket if you can afford it.
When Do I File a Claim?
File your claim (call your insurance company) as soon as possible even if you’re far from home and even if someone else caused the accident. Your policy likely requires you to notify the insurance company within a reasonable amount of time after the accident.
If you don’t report within a certain number of days after the date of accident (per your policy), the company has the right to disclaim and won’t cover you or any claim made by the other person. Ask your agent how to proceed and what forms or documents will be needed to support your claim.
Do NOT do the following:
- Accept any money, because if you do, you forfeit your right to file a claim;
- Agree to forget about the accident, because later on, the other person may file a lawsuit against you.
Should I call my insurance company after a minor accident?
Yes. Regardless of fault, it is important to call your insurance company and report any accident that involved injuries or property damage. A common myth is that you do not need to contact your insurance company if you were not at fault. This is false, because there are several coverages on your insurance policy that you may want to use. In order to use any of these, you are required to notify your insurance company.
Is there a time limit to file an insurance claim?
Car accident insurance claims time limits depend on the insurance provider and the laws of your state. In Ohio, a claim for personal injuries needs to be filed within two years, and property damage claims must be filed within two years. The legal term for this filing deadline is a statute of limitations.