It's the time of year when drivers in cold winter weather states navigate an obstacle course while getting around town. It's smart to avoid pot holes if at all possible, but sometimes you just don't see them until it's too late ... and you've damaged your car. If your lucky, you only knock the wheels out of alignment, but you can also damage the tires, wheel rims, suspension system and undercarriage. Ouch that sounds expensive....and it is!
Beware of filing a claim under your insurance policy though. Several times over the last couple of years I've had clients call me for an auto insurance quote. I ask (Clyde, just because he has to have a name) if he's had any 'at fault' accidents in the last 5 years. Clyde proudly declares "No! I've never caused an accident in my whole life." Clyde is very proud of himself for good reason!
Before I can validate a premium for a quote, I run a report called a CLUE report which lists all Clyde's prior auto insurance claims. There I find a "collision claim" on Clyde's insurance record which causes the price on my quote to increase significantly. What happened? Clyde has the "Pot Hole Blues."
The scenario possibly went down something like this: Clyde took his car into a repair shop to have 'pot hole' damage repaired. The very nice and well intentioned repair person asked Clyde for his auto insurance carrier name and policy number. The repair man tells Clyde not to worry...as long as Clyde carries 'collision' coverage on his auto insurance policy, all he needs to pay is his deductible. And as an added service, the shop will call Clyde's carrier and file the claim for him. Clyde is elated! It's a win-win situation for both of them. The repairman locked in a nice repair job and Clyde is relieved to know someone else will pay for his car damage because it really wasn't his fault anyway. And he feels justified filing a claim, because he's paid his premium all these years and finally he gets a payback.
The problem is this: Most insurance carriers consider "hitting a pothole" (or any debris laying in the road) is considered to be an 'at fault' accident and can increase your auto insurance rate for 3-5 years depending on the carrier.
My advice to my blog-watchers is this...before filing a claim for any car damage, call your agent first because that person can give you valuable information to make a good financial decision. Most agents are happy to run through the 'what if' scenarios with you.
Find out if there is indeed coverage all for this type of incident. Review your deductible amount, and ask if you file a claim....will your policy be surcharged.... and will an 'at fault' accident be placed on your CLUE report. Some carriers have a 'payout' threshold that has to be breached before they will surcharge a policy for an 'at fault' claim. This is good information for you to have prior to filing , because many times a policy surcharged for 3-5 years is much more expensive than just paying for the damage 'out of pocket. And once the claim is filed, it could possible show an as 'at fault' accident even if they carrier doesn't pay out on the claim.
Knowledge is power!
Until Next Time,
Tina Kiel, CIC
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