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My 16 year old son backed our van into his grandmother's car last night, causing minor damage to one door on her car, though nothing noticeable on our van. I estimate that it will cost a few hundred dollars to fix, likely placing it below our deductible, though I have heard that property damage claims like this may be exempt from deductibles. I would like to discuss this with my insurance agent to decide the most economical way to proceed. However, I am concerned that this discussion may cause them to raise my rates, even if no claim is filed. Can they do this? Would I have any recourse if they did, besides just changing companies?

  • 3
    Are you sure you're not obliged to tell them about it anyway? – Ganesh Sittampalam Nov 8 '17 at 20:48
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    Might be, I don't know. That's part of the problem. Kinda weird to be asking them "So, hypothetically, if we were to have a minor accident--not saying we did--are we obligated to tell you even if we don't file a claim?" – techturtle Nov 9 '17 at 1:55
  • Read your contract (or call the agent and ask for a copy of it, if you don't have it already) – Ganesh Sittampalam Nov 9 '17 at 5:39
  • I bet they can, just fix it out of pocket. It really is impossible to know without a bunch more of information. – Pete B. Nov 9 '17 at 11:57
  • Liability claims (that is, when you are liable for damage to another party) are not subject to a deductible. Deductibles only apply to damage to your own vehicle (collision or comprehensive coverage) where your insurance is paying you; this is intended to shift some burden to you and to keep you from making (many) small claims for minor things. – Istanari Nov 9 '17 at 13:17
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The estimate we got from the body shop was a lot more than we expected, so we just went ahead and filed a claim. Since "what happens if we don't file a claim" was no longer an option, I talked with my agent about these questions, so here's what I found.

  • Because this was only damage to one car, not ours, it was a liability property damage claim, and therefore no deductible for us.
  • I was under no obligation to them to report the claim, though I am responsible for the accident (financially either they or I have to handle it).
  • Had I called to discuss possibilities, they would not have adjusted our rates as a result.
  • If I start a claim and close it at any time before a payment is made, it will not change our rates.
  • There will likely be an increase in my rates, but if and how much will depend on what the repairs cost.

Nota Bene: This is for one insurance carrier, and may even vary from policy to policy, but I think it is likely to be similar with most US insurance companies.

  • Thanks for adding an answer, that's good information. The last bullet is interesting, though. I would have thought that your rates were based on the probability of future accidents and that the cost of the prior accident would be irrelevant. Whether you hit a Bentley or a Yugo, your changes of a future accident are the same. Perhaps they're trying to make up for additional costs that they did not factor into their risk analysis, though. – D Stanley Nov 9 '17 at 21:54
  • @DStanley They presumably have an actuarial figure for the "expected cost of damages caused by a 16-year-old" (averaged over Bentleys and Yugos). My guess is in a totally fair world, the premiums should only rise if there is evidence to suggest that actual claims will exceed this expected value... so the value of this claim could play a part, but, I would say, only if there is other evidence that this is not an "expected" claim (e.g. if this was the fourth such claim in as many months; over the "average" of a 16-year-old). – TripeHound Nov 10 '17 at 8:21

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