Question: My car was damaged in a big hailstorm a few months ago. Then someone scratched my vehicle a few weeks ago, and now there is some damage to the hood from falling tree branches from the hurricane (superstorm) that just blew through. Can I put all of the damages on the same claim, or do I have to file separate claims for each item?
Answer: Your car was damaged in multiple incidents, so you have to file multiple claims. Car insurance companies don’t allow you to lump different damages into one accident claim unless all of the damages were sustained due to the same incident.
For instance, if a hail damaged your car’s roof and that same storm caused a tree branch to break your car’s window, then both damages to your vehicle would be covered under one claim.
What you have in your situation is hail damage from a few months ago, damage from a vandal from a few weeks ago, and then storm damage from Hurricane Sandy. All three types of damage should be covered under your comprehensive insurance coverage, but the events that caused your damages took place at different times, so is each counted as its own incident and claim.
Waiting to make claims isn’t typically recommended since it can cause issues. First, you’ll need to make sure you can still file a claim for the earliest damage done. State laws and insurance company guidelines vary, but in general you’ll have a year from the date of an incident to make a claim.
Next, you‘ll have to explain why you waited to report the damage to your auto insurance provider. And if the damages from the hailstorm, vandal and hurricane overlap, your claims adjuster may have a difficult time determining what damage is from what incident and thus it may take longer to settle your claims.
Also, by waiting you now will be making three claims at once, which means you will also have three deductible amounts due --and that can add up to a lot of money coming out of your pocket.
You may have heard that comprehensive claims don’t normally raise your auto insurance premium, which is usually true, however, the number of claims you have affects your car insurance rates.
Two or three claims in a couple of years is usually considered a lot and can raise your rates. Making three claims at the same time may permit your car insurance company to increase your rates or instead non-renew you at the end of your policy period due to the elevated risk (after all, you just filed three claims).
Paying for some of the repairs on your own may be a wise choice, leaving your auto insurance for the most costly accident damage. Car insurance is for the big things, not the little ones. Otherwise, it would cost even more.