The last thing you want to worry about after a car accident is an increase in the cost of your premiums. You’re likely dealing with injuries, or even the loss of a loved one, with medical expenses that you can’t pay, and the inability to work. On top of all of that, you may worry that your insurance company might jack up your rates.
The fear of increased rates, however, should not prevent you from seeking the legal help you need to pay for injuries you didn’t cause. Any rate increases you might experience will usually pale compared to the financial recovery you will obtain from filing a claim. Further, if you are not at fault in an accident and your insurance rates increase, any decent insurance broker should be able to find multiple carriers that wouldn’t be foolish enough to penalize you.
Dealing with insurance companies can be one of the most frustrating aspects of a car accident claim—however, a skilled car accident lawyer can protect your rights throughout the claims process, and more importantly, help you recover compensation for any injuries or damage sustained in an accident.
Illinois Is a Fault State
Illinois is a tort liability state, which means that you claim an accident on the at-fault driver’s insurance. In our experience, most insurance companies will not increase your rates if the accident is not your fault, especially for your first accident.
Thus, your car accident lawyer will contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company as soon as possible—and typically your own, too, because you will want to give notice to your insurance carrier of a medical payment claim and a potential uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.
Car Insurance May Not Increase
The amount of any increase depends on how an agency performs a study and which insurance companies give information. For example, Bankrate, Insure.com, and CarInsurance.com said that insurance premiums in Illinois increased an average of 30 percent, or about $347, after an accident. NerdWallet, on the other hand, states that insurance premiums in Illinois go up by 52 percent after an accident.
Those increases, however, typically accrue to the person who caused the accident, not the victim. Even so, over a lifetime, a premium increase like those above are nothing compared to the cost of hospitalization, let alone a catastrophic injury like a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. Don’t let the unfounded fear of a rate increase prevent you from seeking the help of a skilled car accident lawyer.
Most insurance companies have a surcharge schedule, which means unless the insurance company agrees to waive those charges when an accident is not your fault, you might see an increase in your premiums. Thankfully, this is rarely the case: In reality, insurers rarely penalize you for an accident that was not your fault.
If your insurer attempts to raise your rates due to an accident caused by another party, an insurance broker can help you find a different (and maybe better!) insurer. You could end up saving money from being shopped around—even from your pre-accident premium—while pursuing compensation to pay for your accident-related expenses.
Insurance surcharges are a different matter, however, for customers that cause accidents. Some insurance companies, such as Geico, use a sliding scale based on points. For example, if you get four points and someone filed a claim against you alleging bodily injury and property damages, the insurance will hit you with a 32 percent increase on your premiums. Geico adds 20 percent if the accident claim includes personal injury protection coverage. Your Geico premiums will increase by 25 percent if you file a claim under collision.
If you feel the surcharge that your insurance company charges is too high, or that your insurer is penalizing you for an accident that was not your fault, you may file a complaint with the state, which will then review the surcharge to ensure that it doesn’t violate public policy. More importantly, if you disagree or are unhappy with the terms your insurer offers, an insurance agent can help you evaluate different options and/or different insurers.
How to Decrease Accident Insurance Rates
Considering the scope of potential damages in a car accident (whether medical bills or auto repairs), you should make a potential increase in insurance rates the least of your worries.
That said, if your insurance went up because you filed a claim against your insurance policy—perhaps because a hit-and-run driver injured you and you couldn’t find the responsible party—you can also decrease your rates by:
- Increasing your deductible. However, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay that much more out of pocket if you file another claim against your insurance. Instead of a $500 deductible, you might increase it to $1,000 or even $2,500. You can avoid getting into a pinch if you set aside the amount of the deductible in a savings account.
- Filing as few claims as possible. If you crack your windshield, you might consider paying cash for the repair instead of filing a claim against your insurance. Pay for other small claims yourself, including dent repairs or other minor things, such as replacing a bumper.
- Shopping for a new policy. An insurance agent you trust can help with this. It’s a great way to save money.
After a Car Accident
Insurance companies review police reports to help them determine fault for an accident. However, the police report might not provide accurate information. After a car accident, if you can, take the following steps to help protect your interests:
- Get the other drivers’ contact, registration, and insurance information.
- Ask any witnesses for their contact information.
- Take plenty of pictures of the accident scene, including distance and close-up photos.
- Take your time giving your version of the accident to the police officer to make sure you provide a proper recounting.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible if needed. Some injuries take hours or even a couple days to manifest. Do not delay treatment.
- Let your attorney contact your insurance company to let them know that you were in an accident, or, while not recommended, you can contact them yourself and give them very basic accident information and provide your lawyer’s contact information. Even your own insurance company may try to twist your statements to place the fault on you in an attempt to deny a claim.
- Have your car accident lawyer contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to file a claim. Never tell the at-fault driver’s insurance company anything about the accident, since you may pursue this insurance company to pay your claim. Refer them to your car accident lawyer if they contact you. Do not give a written or recorded statement.
- Contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation. Let your attorney discuss the accident with the insurance companies, as many adjusters to try to trap people into admitting fault or twisting statements to make it look like an accident was your fault.
Ultimately, never let concerns about potential premium increases dissuade you from pursuing a claim. An attorney can help ensure you recover full compensation for any damages sustained in an accident, as well as future costs. An increase in insurance expenses should not be a significant factor when evaluating the scope of a car accident claim—and always seek the counsel of a trusted attorney following a car accident.