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“When should I file an insurance claim?”
This is a common question we receive at our insurance agency. Sometimes, it is not always the best option to file a claim. If you continually file claims, even claims that result in a $0 payout from your insurance company, your insurance rates may increase.
Here are a few things to consider before filing a claim:
1) Look At Your Deductible
Before you file a claim, check your policy and make sure the damages are more than your deductible. If the damages are less than your deductible, filing an insurance claim can place a “negative mark” against your policy, even if the insurance company does not pay out anything. If the accident was your fault, the claim can hurt your rates, and you could lose a claim free discount.
For example, you hit a pole in a parking garage that damages your bumper. This is considered an at-fault accident. Your collision deductible is $1000 and the cost to repair your bumper is $800. If you file a claim, your insurance company will not pay for the repair because the cost is less than your deductible, but the at-fault accident will still show on your insurance record. In this example, you should not file a claim.
Another example: you discover a crack in your windshield. If your comprehensive deductible is $500 and the cost to repair your windshield is $300, your insurance policy will not cover the repair. The damages must be more than your deductible ($500). If you file a claim when the damages do not meet the deductible, you will receive no compensation from the insurance company. Comprehensive claims are less likely to affect your insurance rates than at-fault accidents, but if you file a lot of comprehensive claims, your rates could go up.
Many people assume it is expensive to replace a broken windshield, but in most cases, the cost to replace a windshield is less than your comprehensive deductible, so it’s usually best to not file a claim and pay for the windshield replacement yourself. For windshield chip repair (not replacement), a reputable repair person will bill the insurance company directly, and there is no deductible.
2) Get an Estimate of the Damages
If the repair is less than your deductible, it’s always a good idea to get several estimates before choosing a provider, especially when it comes to glass replacement. The glass business is very competitive and repair estimates are all over the board.
Homeowner claims can be costly, but homeowner deductibles are usually higher than auto deductibles, so it’s still a good idea to get an estimate from a reputable contractor before filing a homeowner claim, especially with roof claims.
For example: you think you have hail damage to your roof. The best course of action would be to hire a reputable roofer to give you an estimate of the damages. If the damages are less than your deductible, it is best to pay for the repairs out of pocket and not file a claim. If the estimate is more than your deductible, go ahead and file a claim, but make sure the roofer is reputable and check references.
Many people assume that if their neighbor has damage to their roof after a storm, they must also have the same roof damage.
I can’t tell you how many times I have received calls from customers saying they wanted to file a claim for hail damage to their roof because their neighbor had filed a claim and was getting a new roof. All roofs are not the same and hail does not damage property equally. If your neighbor’s roof was older than your roof or made of a different type of construction, it could be damaged in a storm, whereas your roof could withstand the storm. We’ve all seen pictures after a tornado blows through a neighborhood of one house destroyed and another spared on the same street.
Before you file a claim on any of your insurance policies, always check your deductible and get an estimate on the damage before filing a claim. There are exceptions, of course. If a guest is hurt at your home or in an auto accident, you should file a claim immediately. It’s best to notify your insurance company right away about bodily injury and liability claims.
If you have any questions about your insurance, give me a call! I’ll be happy to answer any questions.