Insurance

Ask an agent: questions about claims

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When it comes to insurance, things aren't always in black and white. Some aspects are confusing, and you need a little expert advice. Usually, the first thing you should do with questions about specific situations is to ask your insurance agent. But if you don't have one or you're wanting an impartial third party, you've come to the right place. 

Welcome to Ask an Agent. In this column, we're sharing some of the questions we get asked a lot, answered by The Zebra's licensed insurance agents

Today, we're covering common questions we've gotten about claims. After all, when damage happens you need to know when and how to file them

Question 1: Is hitting a tire in the road a comprehensive claim?

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I was driving behind an SUV and didn't have time to swerve out of the way of a tire on the road. I tried to run over the tire in the middle of my car, but it was blown up and stretching across the whole lane. My right side tires hit a piece of it and part of the tire smashed my grill breaking some of the bumper and the fog light. It also did some damage under the carriage too. I now have a damaged bumper, grill fog light and probably tires that need to be re-balanced and aligned. I've never had a claim on my car before and my deductible is low. Should I claim comprehensive on this incident or will it raise my rates too much pending on how much it is?

-Crashed in Colombus

 

This accident would actually be paid out under your collision coverage because you collided with the tire. Because you only damaged your own vehicle in this single-vehicle collision, it would also be considered an at-fault collision claim. As you mentioned, what you should think about is the rate increase you will probably receive after filing a claim. On average, an at-fault accident raised premiums 43% in Ohio in 2021. Because of this, I recommend the following:

  1. Get an estimate for the repairs prior to filing a claim.
  2. On average, an at-fault collision claim raised rates in Ohio $432 per year. You should think about that rate increase over three years as that's how long you will typically be charged. (For readers not in Ohio, check out how violations and accidents affect insurance premiums where you live in our 2022 State of Insurance report.)
  3. Compare the $432 (or $1,296 over three years) plus your deductible to the out-of-pocket expenses. If it's cheaper to file a claim, file a claim.

If you do find it is cheaper to file a claim, take a peek at our guide on how to file and what you can expect. Keep in mind, most insurance companies require you to report any incident involving your vehicle, even if you decide to not file a claim. It sounds like there is quite a bit of damage, so I'd get estimates for the damages, that way you will have all of the information you need to make an informed decision. Good luck!

 

Question 2: Can I group multiple accidents into one claim?

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Okay, so here's what happened. I backed into a pole last night and damaged my rear panel and bumper. My car also has minor scratches and scuffs on the front bumper from a totally unrelated accident last year. Would it be possible to just pay one comprehensive deductible for all these damages?

-Second Slip-up in Sacremento

 

Unfortunately, you would be filing a collision claim which would be categorized by your insurer as an at-fault accident. This will likely cause your rate to increase. And since you have damage to two different areas of your vehicle that came from separate incidents, your insurance company will require that you file two seperate claims, leaving you subject to two deductibles. I would recommend getting a few repair estimates before contacting your company to see if you can afford the repairs yourself or if it is worth the cost of two deductibles.

Question 3: Can I file a claim with my insurance company if I've already paid for repairs to my vehicle?

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I was involved in an accident with another car, and I was ticketed for no insurance and reckless driving. I assumed I had no insurance at the time, since I received a cancellation notice from my insurance company for non-payment, so I did not contact them to report it. I paid over $4,000 for repairs to my car, and I received a letter from the other driver's insurance company for $4,000 in damages to their vehicle. I did end up paying what I owed to my insurance company the day after the accident to reinstate my policy, but I still did not report the accident. Later I found out that I was insured at the time of the accident since, I assume, there was a grace period before it was cancelled for good. Do I just go ahead and pay the other driver's repairs out of pocket? What would happen if I called and explained the situation to my insurance company?

-Justified in Jacksonville

 

I have good news for you! Even if you have paid for the repairs on your vehicle, your insurance company should cover the damage you caused to the other driver if your policy was active at the time of the crash. I would recommend not paying the other party anything until you've contacted your company to start the claims process. It is also possible that you may be reimbursed for your own damage, but you would have to provide proof of the damage before the repairs were made and your collision deductible will likely be subtracted from any payout you receive. Having as many pictures as possible from the accident scene and all of the paperwork associated with your repair will help your case in getting reimbursed.

 

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Do you have a question you'd like to annoymously ask one of our agents? Shoot us a message here, and we'll get back to you shortly! 

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Susan MeyerSenior Editorial Manager

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebra a year. She currently specializes in producing research-focused content for The Zebra's Resource Center on topics related to auto and home insurance, personal finance and smarter living in the 21st century.

Susan's work has been cited by the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm, BuzzfeedCBS, Yahoo, Entrepreneur and Business Insider.