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I'm Scared My Insurance Rates Will Go Up

Drivers are often anxious, nervous and frustrated after a car accident. Often, they worry post-accident about injuries, medical bills, property damage, and car repairs. Insurance headaches add to the mix with a claims process to navigate and premium rates that may rise. On average, if a driver insures one vehicle with an insurer and there is no first accident forgiveness, he or she can expect a 40 percent increase in premium after an accident—or if it is a two-car policy, a 20 percent hike (read more about DUI and insurance premiums).  Is there a way to avoid the rise in premium post-accident? Is there a preferable way to alert an auto insurer to occurrence of an accident?

Should the Auto Insurer Be Told About a Car Accident?

Absolutely, yes. In nearly every instance, an auto accident (whether involving one or more cars) is significant enough in auto repairs to warrant involving the insurance company. The most minor of scratches or bumps may be the occasional exception. In the majority of cases, however, auto insurance companies mandate that their policyholder clients report car accidents. That reporting must happen immediately. The insurer will want to learn general facts and information on how the auto accident happened. Policyholders should be advised they have the legal right to talk to an attorney, if they feel their interests will be better handled and addressed through such a consultation and conversation.

Is There a Preferable Way to Alert an Auto Insurer of an Accident?

First, reporting should be done immediately post-accident. As soon as medical needs, safety of people and vehicles involved, and law enforcement investigation efforts are addressed, insurance issues should be a top priority. Policyholders should be organized with insurance cards, policy numbers, and important insurance agent or broker phone numbers close at hand in wallets, purses, or glove compartments. Information should be conveyed calmly, clearly, accurately, and thoroughly to the insurance company. It is best to focus and rely on notes, pictures, and specific questions asked, rather than speculation, guessing, and emotional venting in conveying information to the insurer.

Generally, the insurer will adopt a helpful posture and take up the cause of the policyholder. If, however, a driver notes any change in attitude, tone, or course of dealing with the insurer, or if the insurance company retains its own lawyer, it is appropriate for the policyholder to seek independent legal representation—without hesitation.

Should a Driver Contact the Other Driver's Auto Insurer Post-Accident?

Probably not. It is prudent to contact a personal injury attorney before initiating any conversation with another driver's insurance company. It is not advisable to provide any statement to another driver's auto insurer. The other insurer will likely use the statement to put a different spin on how the accident transpired and to find inconsistency, admission of fault, or basis of liability (partial or full). It is far too easy to fall into the trap of the unwary by saying too much to the insurance company and jeopardizing future claim recovery.