Question: I was driving with the sun in my eyes, got into a sneezing fit and ended up hitting a parked car. Can I be held at fault by my insurer? I haven’t been driving long. Will my rates go up?
Answer: Yes, your car insurance company will normally hold you at fault for such an accident, and there is a possibility that your car insurance rates will go up at your next renewal period.
While there may be situations that are out of your control, such as the sun being is in your eyes, a sneezing or coughing fit, or having a spider drop into your lap, it’s your duty to remain in control of your vehicle. You’ll be held liable if you let a distraction get the better of you, lose control of the car and hit something.
Luckily it was just a parked car that you hit. Recently in the news there have been serious crashes that were the result of sneezing fits by a driver. One in ended in a fatality, and in another a truck driver took out 10 cars.
You didn’t mention a ticket, so I take it that if the police came to the accident scene the officer didn’t cite you. In some states, you can be cited with careless or imprudent driving after this type of car crash. Police and insurers see the situation as unfortunate but agree that even in the midst of a sneezing fit you are responsible to slow down and maintain control of your vehicle and maneuver it safely either in traffic or to the side of the road.
All in all, this is just an accident (an odd one), so it is covered by your car insurance policy, up to your limits.
The owner of the parked car can make a claim under your property damage liability coverage. If you have low liability limits and they are exceeded, then you’ll be personally responsible for any costs above your limit amount.
For your own car’s damages, you’ll need to have collision as part of your auto insurance policy to make a claim, and your deductible will be due. If the damage to your own vehicle is minor, check to see if the repair costs surpass your deductible amount before making a claim.
In general, for a first accident, rates can rise between 10 to 40 percent (or even more) depending upon your car insurance provider’s rating system. However, some insurers don’t raise rates on an accident if the claims are under a certain monetary amount and there were no injuries. If you have accident forgiveness as part of your policy, then your rate shouldn’t rise for this one, but your insurer will surcharge you for the next accident.
You’ll find out at your next renewal period if your rates have gone up, and how much, due to this sneezing-fit induced car crash. If your premiums have risen, go out and comparison shop with other auto insurance companies.
Car insurance companies rating systems take into account different rating factors and weigh them differently, so you very likely can find a car insurance company that will offer you cheaper car insurance rates -- by hundreds of dollars even.
To get your auto insurance premiums even lower, see if your area car insurance providers offer a discount for a driver training or improvement course. You said you’re a new driver, so a class like this should help you learn how to better deal with a sneezing fit while driving and could reduce your insurance rates as a bonus.