When a Not-at-Fault Claim Can Raise Your Insurance Costs

Upset woman sitting near wrecked front of car
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If you're in an accident and it's your fault, your insurance rate will increase. But even if the accident was not your fault, your insurance rate may increase.

Note that's "may" increase. There are some scenarios in which it can cost you.

Say you’re driving home from work one day, paying close attention to the road ahead and the drivers around you when suddenly another driver runs a stop sign and rams into the side of your vehicle.

Thankfully, no one is hurt, but your vehicle certainly is. You have good car insurance and know that you’re not at fault, so you carefully document the damage, exchange information with the other driver, and file a police report. Sounds good.

Then, you tell a friend about the accident and that friend cautions you to think twice about filing a claim with your car insurance because the company could jack up your insurance rate. Is that true?

Yes, it is, even though the other driver's insurance should cover the costs of repairing your vehicle. Some insurers will not increase your rate in this scenario. If yours does, it may be time to shop around for a new insurer.

The chart below shows the results of a study determining which auto insurance companies punish their customers for not-at-fault accidents.

The Good News

In almost all U.S. states, not-at-fault claims are filed against the at-fault vehicle owner's insurance policy (MI residents check here). If you are able to file against the at-fault party, you are less likely to see an increase in your insurance bill.

Even if you do need to file against your own policy, some insurance carriers still will not raise your rate for a not-at-fault claim. At worst, you could see a surcharge if you file three or more claims within a three-year period.

The Bad News

Let’s say that in the above scenario, the other driver fled the scene instead of calmly exchanging information with you. Unfortunately, some insurance carriers will raise your rates if you file a not-at-fault claim.

At least a not-at-fault claim should come with a smaller surcharge than an at-fault claim.

You might be amazed at the number of factors which can affect your car insurance rate. Filing an at-fault claim is a surefire way. But filing a not-at-fault claim can in some scenarios be used to raise your rate as well. This is one of them.

What You Can Do About It

If you file a not-at-fault claim and your insurance carrier raises your rate, it would probably be in your best interests to start shopping for a new carrier. New charges are applied on your insurance renewal date, so you should have some time between filing and actually paying for the surcharge.

Asking a prospective insurance company whether they surcharge for a not-at-fault accident is a great question when you’re calling around for quotes. It might even make you choose a slightly higher quote over a cheaper one from a company that could slap a surcharge on you down the road.

Think about it. Otherwise, if you have an accident and it’s not your fault, your first question will still be “how much is my insurance going to go up?”