See the state’s top insurance claims and how to handle them
There are all sorts of mishaps and accidents on Washington state roads that lead to car insurance claims, but some are more common than others. By considering the state’s top car insurance claims, you can learn something about insurance and how to respond if something similar happens to you.
We asked Michael Riley, director of sales for AAA Washington, to name the most frequent claim types that our agents see across the Evergreen State. Here’s what he told us.
Top 6 car insurance claims
1. Dings to the windshield
These happen all the time when rocks and bits of gravel get kicked up on the road and cause a dint in the windshield. Cracked windshields are the No. 1 car claim in Washington, Riley says.
How is it covered? Damaged windshields are typically covered by collision insurance, and you usually have the option to add zero deductible glass to any car policy. However, you should be careful how often you file car insurance claims as it can increase your insurance rates, according to Riley.
Options: Try having the windshield repaired. Some insurance policies include free windshield chip filling. But don’t delay in making the repair. If you wait to have a minor crack repaired, it can quickly turn into a spider web of cracked glass.
2. Parking lot accidents
Fender benders in parking lots are another common car insurance claim. Cars frequently back into poles and other cars, as well as bump into each other in the tight lanes between parked cars. Most often these accidents only result in minor damage to fenders and bumpers.
Options: Parking lot accidents usually result in cosmetic damage. It might not be worth filing a collision claim for a minor dent to an older car. You’ll likely have to pay a deductible of $500, $1,000 or more, and your insurance premium could increase the next time you renew it. Plus, many insurance companies offer a claims-free discount, and you could miss your chance to get that if you file a small car insurance claim.
“Insurance is designed to protect against large catastrophic losses that you can’t afford to pay for out of your savings,” Riley said. “You know, the big things that go wrong.”
3. Wildlife-vehicle collisions
This is another top car insurance claim. Like theft, vandalism, storms and other random events, collisions with deer and other wildlife are largely unavoidable. Unfortunately, they usually cause heavy damage to the vehicle or a total loss.
Car break-ins and the total theft of a vehicle are both top claims. You might be able to minimize your risk by installing lights and security cameras around a carport, but theft and vandalism are hard to prevent, especially if you park on the street.
5. Accidents with uninsured motorists
You may be surprised that more than a fifth of drivers in Washington don’t have valid insurance even though a minimum amount of coverage is required by law. Yet, uninsured drivers cause accidents all the time.
Normally, if you’re involved in an accident that isn’t your fault, the at-fault driver is responsible and the damage will be covered by their liability insurance. However, in the case of uninsured drivers, your only option is to file the claim under your own collision policy (assuming you have this coverage). Many drivers without insurance have limited means, so it is sometimes not worth the effort to sue an uninsured person for damages.
Tip: Consider getting uninsured/underinsured coverage, which will pay for some of the expenses if you are hit by an uninsured driver. A well-crafted car policy will cover both damage to your car and bodily injury.
6. Following-too-closely rear-end collisions
Rear-end collisions can happen when cars are moving at high speeds, or in slow traffic when the rear driver becomes distracted.
Trailing cars also frequently rear-end other vehicles when making right turns. In other words, the following car takes a right turn behind another right turning vehicle. The driver in the trailing car looks left to check for oncoming traffic and fails to notice that the vehicle in front of them has slowed or stopped resulting in a rear-end accident. These accidents can range from minor to serious.
Many mishaps and collisions are preventable, some are not. But, in all cases, apply this rule of thumb: If the damage to your car is cosmetic, consider ignoring it or pay out of pocket to fix it. Filing small car insurance claims might trigger premium increases and ultimately cost you significantly more than the few hundred dollars that it would cost to pay for the repairs on your own.
For more information about how specific car insurance claims work, contact a AAA Washington agent.
—Written by AAA Washington staff
—Top photo: AdobeStock