Don’t be at Fault: How to Prevent Insurance Hikes

Category: Auto Insurance. Written by Grant 

Next to a visit to the dentist, getting into a car accident ranks as one of the most aggravating experiences to be in. Police reports, repairs, injuries and even court appearances make life miserable enough, but the coup de grace is learning that your insurance rates have been jacked up.

Figuring out whether or not your insurance rates will go up as a result of an accident can often be confusing. As a general rule of thumb however, if the accident report or your insurance company finds you at fault, you are almost guaranteed to have your rates bumped up. If you are not at fault, your insurance company evaluates your driving history and can still raise your rates if they determine you to be an “at risk” driver. Generally, your rates will not rise if you have a clean driving record and are not at fault.

In order to not be at fault, not only is defensive driving required, but fault-aware driving. Defensive driving will help you avoid accidents to begin with, but fault-aware driving will

1) Car Malfunctions

If your car malfunctions for any reason (brakes go out, engine stalls, steering locks, etc) and you hit another vehicle, you will be at fault. Keeping your car well maintained and in good working shape is a crucial aspect of car ownership; not only because of safety reasons, but legal and financial ones. If your car brakes fail because you skimped on replacing your brakes, then your insurance rates are certainly going up. Even if your brakes were in good working condition and failed, your insurance rates will still go up – though you should probably contact a lawyer because you might have a case against your car maker or the last person to work on your brakes.

2) Fender Benders

Ah, the fender bender – the leading type of accident all around the world. Insurance companies have tons of experience with fender benders and have come to the conclusion the driver in the rear is at fault, unless they can prove otherwise. The reasoning for this general assumption is that the driver in the rear should be able to avoid hitting the car in front if driving safely and at a reasonable speed. That means if the guy in front of your car stops his car to gawk at an accident and you hit his rear fender, you’re going to be at fault unless you can prove that the crash was unavoidable (good luck). Even in a pile up situation, each driver is often responsible for hitting the driver ahead of them.

The best way to avoid the dreaded fender bender is to give adequate space between you and the car in front, looking out for other drivers that suddenly change lanes and keeping your eyes out on the road.

3) Don’t Speed

Just like drinking and driving don’t mix, neither does speeding and police reports. If you are found speeding during the course of an accident, it will definitely be mentioned in the police report and likely put you at least somewhat at fault, no matter what. Even if you in your own lane and a driver pulls into you and side swipes your car, he can claim that he never saw you coming due to your excessive speed. Speeding ruins your credibility on police reports, which is the prime source of facts for your insurance company.

4) Don’t Trust Turn Blinkers

Just because another driver has their turn blinkers on, it doesn’t mean you can trust their actions. Example scenario: you are waiting to pull out of a parking lot, other driver signals to turn into the lot, you pull out and are hit by the other vehicle, who apparently wasn’t intent on turning after all. This situation happens all the time and is a insurance nightmare waiting to happen, because moving traffic has right of way. If you turned out and were hit, you would be predominantly at fault.

In fact, this exact situation happened to me earlier today and included an impatient truck waiting behind me that honked because I wanted to wait for the driver on the street to turn into the lot first. As the truck driver happily honked away, the guy on the street flew right past, totally oblivious that their turn signal was on. If I hadn’t been in front of that truck driver, his day would have probably been far worse than it already was, apparently.

Keep your eyes and senses sharp when you are at intersections, stop signs or passing, because these are also common situations where misreading someone elses’ blinkers can put you at fault.

5) Phantom Damage

Phantom damage sounds quite like a hit from a ghostly truck, which isn’t too far from the truth as far as your insurance provider is concerned. Phantom damage is when the actions of another vehicle cause you to damage your car, even though you both don’t collide. Examples are a semi-truck running you off the road or an oncoming driver that forces you to swerve into a barrier.

Phantom vehicle damage is hard to prove because by nature of the event, the other car is probably lone gone by the time you’ve realized what’s happened. Without the other driver’s insurance information, you’ll have to tap into your own insurance and likely have your rates go up.

Unfortunately, there’s little to no recourse in these situations. Phantom damage is a nasty creature because it comes down to letting the other at-fault driver hit you or avoiding being hit and being at fault for crashing your own car. The unfortunate case is that between hitting another car head-on at 60mph or swerving into a ditch, common sense says you preserve your body before your wallet. Your only hope is to have witnesses in the car (non-family members) or around the scene of the accident to vouch for your actions.

6) Don’t Immediately Take Responsibility After an Accident

After an accident, you should say as little as possible while exchanging insurance and drivers information. Don’t accept or take responsibility for causing an accident, even if you think you are at fault. For example, you may think you are at fault for hitting a parked car on a tight roadway; where the truth might be that the car was parked illegally and dangerously close to the street. Perhaps you were pulling out of a parking spot and suddenly bumped a car, who police later found was speeding. For these reasons, exchange only the relevant information with other drivers and give only the facts to police and investigators. They’ll be the judge of who is at fault or not.

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