Question: A Christmas tree fell off somebody’s car. I came around the corner on the highway and hit the tree and then drove over it, causing a lot of damage to my car. The person who lost the tree did not stop. I have full coverage. Will my insurance cover it? Will my insurer raise my rate because this unavoidable accident happened, and if so, how much?
Answer: Yes, your full car insurance coverage covers your car running into a tree, even if it’s a Christmas tree that has fallen off a vehicle and into your path.
It’s unfortunate that the person who was negligent and lost the tree didn’t stop so you could have made a property damage liability claim against their policy, but luckily you carry collision coverage, so you will be covered for this event.
You collided with the tree and then ran it over, so this is why it falls under your collision coverage and not comprehensive coverage. If the tree had fallen off the roof of another vehicle, or the bed of a truck, and shot into your vehicle’s hood or roof, then it may have been considered a “falling missile” and categorized as a comprehensive coverage claim.
Even though this accident wasn’t your fault, your collision coverage deductible will still be due, and the accident may cause your car insurance rates to rise.
While you see this as an unavoidable event, state laws and insurance company rating systems vary on if any type of collision claim is fair game for a rate increase. In some states, you can’t be surcharged if you’re not at fault, but in other ones, you can.
If your state allows collision surcharges when you aren't at fault in an accident, then it would be up to the rating system of your auto insurance company to determine if your premiums will rise.
Insurance companies have their own underwriting guidelines to determine the kind and number of accidents during a specified period will cause a driver to be considered more of risk and thus pay higher rates.
If this is your first accident and claim, then it may not raise your rates, or it may raise them 10 to 40 percent (an average amount for a first accident, though it varies greatly). If you’ve already had two or more accidents, then this not at-fault accident could make your rates go up 100 percent or more.
Your car insurance provider may also use a monetary threshold to determine if claims should cause a rate change. For example, if their threshold is $1,000 and your claim exceeds that amount, they will look at it and likely raise your rates at your next renewal period.
The best way to find out if a claim for this accident will affect your rates is to contact your agent and discuss your insurer’s rating system and surcharge schedule.