We live – and drive – in a pretty fast-paced world, and every time one gets behind the wheel there’s an opportunity for mishaps and accidents. However, many accidents are simply minor bumper dents and paint scuffs, and getting your auto insurance company involved can end up being ten times the headache of the accident itself. Let’s take a look at small accidents and try to figure out if it’s worth calling your car insurance company when one takes place.
The Upsides to Getting your Insurance Company Involved
The main upside to informing your insurer when you are involved in a small accident is that they will be there for you in case the other driver decides to file a lawsuit. Even if you barely scraped someone else’s car, they may see it as an opportunity to bring home a fat check by faking an injury. By informing your auto insurance company ahead of time, you can help mitigate some of the risk and they can tell you exactly what to do.
Calling your insurance company when you’re in a small accident also prevents you from having to pay out anything larger than your deductible for the other driver’s repairs. If you caused a fender bender with an expensive car like a Mercedes or Ferrari, you know that the body work is going to be insanely expensive to repair. With instances like this, you sometimes need to bite the bullet and just pay for the repairs.
And Now, the Downsides of Informing your Insurance Company
The most obvious downside is that your insurance premiums are likely to rise the next time you renew your auto insurance. It’s even possible with some insurers and policies that they will rise immediately, so make sure that you’ve fully read the fine print.
If you report the accident to your auto insurance company and they have to pay out a claim to the other driver, you’ll almost certainly lose any safe driving or accident-free discounts that you have built up with your insurer as well. This can end up costing far more over time than just paying for the other driver’s repairs, so keep this in mind.
Finally, if you’re frequently involved in small accidents and they are all reported to your car insurance company, you can expect that they will look to move you to a higher risk category. This may change everything from your premium rates to the types of coverage you are allowed to purchase.
In a Small Accident, Always Check with the Other Driver
If you know you’re at fault in a small car accident, it’s best to check with the other driver to see what they want to do. Many times, drivers won’t want to get their auto insurance company involved either, as it’s simply too much of a headache. If you’re up front with the other driver and offer to pay for the damage yourself, most drivers will be happy with this.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this approach. First, in today’s lawsuit happy society, if you’ve caused an accident that is grounds to sue – such as a rear-ender where the driver can make a whiplash claim – you might be better off calling your insurance company. Also, don’t give out any more information than absolutely necessary to the other driver to prevent them showing up at your house or doing something strange. Your name and phone number is sufficient; if they want more, they can copy down your license plate number themselves.
Do a Cost versus Benefit Analysis for Yourself – What is your Cost Limit?
Give some thought ahead of time of what your cost tolerance is for small accidents. Can you afford to pay $1000 for the other driver’s body work or other repairs, or can you really only afford $250? If you have some idea of your cost tolerance in mind, you can make a better flash decision when you’re in the accident situation.
Keep in mind that you’re going to have to pay any deductibles that you have on your auto insurance for collision if you get your insurance company involved, so factor these in to your cost vs. benefit analysis. If you’re guaranteed to pay a $1000 deductible just for reporting the accident but you can afford to pay $2000 to avoid losing your discount – it may be worth your time to pay for the repair costs out of pocket.
Does your Insurance Company Allow for Minor Accidents?
The final piece of the puzzle is to find out if your auto insurance company allows for a minor accident here and there without affecting your insurance premiums or any rate deductions that you may have. Some insurers will allow for one small accident every few years without having a negative impact on your insurance, but those insurers are of course few and far between. Check with your insurance company today to find out if you have any freebie accidents – this isn’t something you want to be dealing with when you call in to report a claim!
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- Autos.com’s article titled “Auto Insurance Claims for Small Accidents” – What to do in the event of a small car accident
- eHow’s guide titled “Should I Report My Accident To The Insurance Company?”