Why Do I Have To File a Claim on My Car Insurance?
When we start representing a client against another driver who has caused injuries to our client as a result of an auto accident, we immediately send a letter out to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In the letter, we ask the insurance company for a declaration page of the at-fault driver’s insurance (O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28).
This is important because it tells us pretty quickly if the at-fault driver has valid insurance coverage on the vehicle that caused injury to our client. The insurance company is also supposed to provide us with the amount of liability coverage that their insured has on the vehicle they are driving.
This information is very important because it immediately notifies us if there is valid insurance coverage and the amount. Most times, we receive a response from the insurance company that their driver does have valid coverage, but often the liability coverage is only $25,000.
Unfortunately, sometimes $25,000 in liability coverage is not sufficient to cover the medical bills and pain and suffering that someone suffers as a result of an auto accident.
In order to protect our client, we always immediately send a letter to our injured client’s auto insurance to notify them that the insurance claim may be an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. We send this letter immediately for two reasons:
- Most insurance companies in their insurance contract say that you are required to notify them immediately of any potential claims. If they are not notified immediately, they may not have to provide coverage.
- The other reason that we notify the insurance company of a potential claim is that it’s important to know the amount of uninsured motorist coverage that an injured client has available in the event the value of his or her claim exceeds the limits of the at-fault driver.
This information is very important because it lets us know the amount of money potentially available to the injured client, and also what may be a fair settlement for the client, or in the event that the case goes to trial.
So, to answer the question a client has about whether they have to file a claim on their own insurance, it’s important for them to know at the outset of the case -we are writing a letter to their insurance company to notify them of a potential uninsured motorist claim or underinsured motorist claim, but we are not really filing a claim – we are just putting them on notice of a potential claim. It is important to understand the difference, and important to know that putting the insurance company on notice of a potential claim should not cause your insurance rates to go up.
Will My Auto Insurance Premiums Go Up?
Often, when clients come in to see me. they ask if their insurance premiums will go up if they are in a car accident caused by another driver and they report the accident to their (the client’s) insurance company.
In general, your premiums should not go up if another driver caused the accident. The rationale for this is that since you did not cause the accident, you should not be considered any greater risk for causing accidents in the future. Insurance companies are most concerned about risk, so if they see you as a driver that has caused an accident in the past, you are more likely to cause accidents in the future, so they will increase your premium.
Sometimes, folks are forced to call their own insurance company to have their vehicle repaired or totaled out under their collision coverage, so they can get the money for another vehicle. They do not want to be without a vehicle for any length of time. This is generally okay because your insurance company that pays to repair your vehicle will get reimbursed from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Since there is no financial loss to your insurance company, they should not increase your premium.
However, sometimes insurance companies will use any excuse to increase your premium. So, you should really watch them on this. If they look to increase your premium because of an accident where you are not at fault, it might be time to drop that insurance company. I would strongly suggest that you shop around for insurance coverage. Most car insurance companies will not seek to increase your premiums if you are not at fault in causing an accident. If your insurance company increases your premium because another driver has caused an accident to your vehicle – shop around – you may be able to find cheaper rates elsewhere.
Disclaimer: It is important to note that this is general information, and should not be considered “legal advice.” I have been handling personal injury cases for many years, and can offer general answers to common questions, but please do not construe anything on this website to be legal advice about YOUR CASE. Each case is different! An attorney can only give legal advice when he or she understands the facts involved in your case.