What If You Have Multiple Insurance Claims?

Beware of Multiple Car Claims

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Whether due to an unexpected series of storms that leave your car riddled with hail twice, multiple small accidents in short succession, or just bad luck, you may be caught in a situation where you have multiple incidents that might require repairs -- and require filing a claim with your insurance company. Understanding the claims process and how multiple insurance claims will affect you will empower you to make tough decisions.

Take the time to learn about car insurance claims before you need to file so that you are prepared for what’s ahead.

Back-to-Back Claims

It really does not matter if you have two car insurance claims within the same week or a year apart: all claims made within a three-year period are considered “multiple claims” on your claim history by your insurance company. 

Multiple Claims and Deductibles

Multiple claims that occur really close together always bring up questions about deductibles. For instance, say you have been procrastinating on getting your cracked windshield replaced and now a deer has run into the side of your vehicle. You want to save time (and address both issues) by having both your windshield and the damage caused by the deer repaired at the same time. Unfortunately, even though both are comprehensive claims, they are separate incidents. You will have to pay two deductibles if your policy is set up with a deductible on comprehensive coverage.

Normally, when your vehicle is damaged at two separate times by two separate causes, your full deductible will apply to each occurrence. However, it is possible for exceptions to be made in the case of storm damage. If your car is damaged by hail and a tree branch falls on your vehicle during the same storm, your insurance company might be willing to charge a single deductible because the same storm caused the damage.

Does the Type of Claim Matter when it comes to Multiple Claims?

Absolutely. What matters in this process is not only how frequently you have filed claims but what type of claims you are filing. Consider who is at-fault and the amount of damage before filing a claim. It can make a huge difference in your decision to file.

Typical Guidelines for Preferred Insurance Carriers

• At-Fault Claims: Two at-fault claims caused by the same driver within three years can be grounds for non-renewal by many preferred insurance carriers.

•  Claims: In most states, claims you file against another driver are not seen by your own insurance carrier because the claim is filed against the at-fault party’s policy. The rules change in the state of Michigan because of its complicated no-fault law -- in this state, even claims made against another party are filed against your car insurance policy. Most preferred carriers surcharge for three or more claims filed within a three-year time period.

• Comprehensive Claims: Typically, multiple comprehensive claims do not affect your insurance rate, but filing three or more in three years could make your rates go up. It really depends on how your insurance carrier treats comprehensive claims.

Some insurance carriers charge for all comprehensive claims, although most still do not. Read your policy for specifics.

How to Avoid Multiple Claim Penalties

• Be Careful: The worst claims to file are at-fault claims. Minimize distracted driving, stay off the roads when the weather is bad, park your car in a garage or under a carport, and keep your car in tip-top shape.

• Pay for Claims Yourself: Obviously paying for damage to your vehicle out of pocket is not what you want to do. However, sometimes it is the cheapest overall option. One claim is stressful enough; throw in multiple claims and you could really be pulling your hair out. The best advice is to deal with one at a time. Evaluate the costs of paying for damage yourself vs. filing a claim, both short and long term, and remember that multiple claims in a short period of time could signal to insurers that you are high-risk, causing a rate increase.