Question: A spider dropped on my lap, startling me when I was driving, and I crashed into another car. Will my insurance pay for damages, and will it be listed as an at-fault accident? I never had an accident in 10 years of driving, and I don’t want this unusual event to tarnish my record.
Answer: Yes, your car insurance will cover damages to the car you hit – and your auto insurer will hold you at-fault for the incident.
As for the pesky spider, as much as we’d love to put the blame on him for startling you, it’s ultimately on you to stay in control of your car – even with distractions or surprises that may occur.
Your property damage liability will pay for the damages the other car sustained. If the occupants of the car that you hit were injured, then your bodily injury liability will be used. If you live in a no-fault state, then the other party would use their own personal injury protection (PIP) as their primary coverage for any medical expenses related to this auto accident.
Hopefully this was a minor accident and your liability limits will cover all damages and injuries you caused to the other car and driver. If not, then you can be held personally responsible for costs that exceed your liability limits.
As for your own vehicle, you’d need collision insurance coverage as part of your policy to make a claim, and your deductible will be due. I’d suggest that you get an estimate to find out the cost of repairs before making a claim. If the repair amount is less than your deductible amount, then there is no need to make a collision claim since your benefit will start only after your deductible amount is paid out.
An accident won't always increase your rates
Having one minor accident, doesn’t necessarily mean your driving record is tarnished. You’ll need to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to determine if the accident will be placed on your driving record, not all states do.
Your insurance company will note any claims on your C.L.U.E report, but that doesn’t always guarantee a rate increase at your next renewal period.
If you insurance company has an accident forgiveness program that you are eligible for, then this may keep you from being surcharged for this accident and allow you to keep any good driver discount you have. Even without an accident forgiveness plan, you may be able to avoid a rate hike if the total cost of all repairs is minimal (varies by insurer, but under $1,500 with some) and there were no injuries.
You’ll lose out on any accident-free or claims-free discounts you were receiving; however, it’s possible you can find other discounts that could help you lower your total premium amount. (See "Your guide to car insurance discounts")
At your renewal time, don’t be scared to shop around just because you now have had an accident. One accident in 10 years of driving may affect your rates with your current insurer, but not with others. Comparison shopping with several insurance providers will let you find the cheapest car insurance rates possible, which could save you thousands of dollars a year. (See "12 ways to double-check your savings")