The short answer is yes. Many people who have been in a car accident caused by another driver worry that their premiums will be raised if they open a claim with their own insurance company. But Ohio law (R.C. 3937.22) is clear that an insurance carrier may not increase rates if the accident is not their insured’s fault.
The at fault party
Most people want the at-fault party and their insurance company to pay for all damages caused by the negligent driving. After all, its only fair and just that the person at fault should be responsible. And, indeed, it is the law that the at-fault driver must pay for all damages caused his or her negligent driving. If you sustain property and/or personal injury caused by the negligent driving of another, by all means you should make a claim against that person and their automobile liability carrier.
Why then should I involve my own company?
Two reasons: the first is for additional coverage and the second is because of subrogation which we will explain below.
Most people pay monthly premiums for several coverages that help after a car crash regardless of who is at-fault. Those coverages may include:
- Comprehensive property coverage- Even if the accident is not your fault, your own carrier is required to pay for the damage to your car (and any property inside it) minus a deductible. If your vehicle is totaled, your own carrier may value your vehicle higher than the at-fault driver’s company. Furthermore, if the at-fault driver’s insurance company is slow to respond to a claim, as so often happens, your own carrier may resolve the claim much faster than the other driver’s carrier. Finally, you may have rental car coverage, which an at-fault carrier does not. So, for property claims it is often advantageous to use your own insurance company.
- Medical payments coverage- The at fault driver’s insurance company is responsible by law to pay any medical bills you incur as a result of the accident. But, that company will not pay medical bills as you incur them. It will only pay your bills with a single, lump sum payment in final settlement of the claim. Because, as we all know, almost all medical providers want their money up front, they won’t allow you to use the other driver’s insurance claim number to satisfy the bill, not knowing how long it will take for payment or if it will be contested. With most doctors, then, you must use your own insurance to obtain medical treatment. However, if you have purchased medical payments coverage with your own auto company, as many of us do, you can use it for quick reimbursement of your co-pays and deductible payments.
- Uninsured/Underinsured coverage- many at-fault driver’s carry very limited or no liability injury coverage. If the value of your injury claim, which includes your medical bills, lost wages and pain/suffering, exceeds the at-fault driver’s liability, you can use your own company to recover fair value for your injury claim.
If you have been paying your insurance company for these coverage, it makes sense to use them. Again, if the accident was not your fault, your company cannot raise your rates if you elect to use these coverages. And, by not using them, you are essentially allowing your company to take your money for free.
The second reason to involve your own company is that even if your company pays you under these coverages, it has the right by law to get its money back from the at-fault driver’s carrier. This is called subrogation. Subrogation allows your auto insurance carrier the ability to recoup money it pays you when the crash was someone else’s fault.
In short, it is almost always necessary to open a claim with your own company, even when you are not at-fault. A claim with your own company may allow you to recover faster and be more fully compensated. By law your premiums cannot be increased as a result of the claim. In fact, your company may recoup all of its payments from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.