Question: I took over car insurance from my parents last week. This week I hit a patch of black ice and messed up the side of my car in the parking lot of my apartment complex. If I report the accident and have auto insurance pay for repairs, will my rate definitely go up? There is no ticket involved and no other car involved.  I don’t want my rates to rise, but I want my car fixed. 

Answer: Car insurance companies typically have a monetary threshold that must be reached for accidents to be surcharged. If this is your first accident and you otherwise have a clean driving record, it’s possible it won’t affect your rates if the claims paid out are low enough.

But whether your rates will rise is purely up to the rating system of your current car insurance company, as governed by state laws. Ultimately, you’ll have to find out from asking your agent or looking at your insurer’s surcharge schedule.

In some states, it’s the state instead of the insurance company that decides the monetary threshold for a surcharge. For example, in New York a surcharge isn’t permitted if the total damage by an accident is less than $2,000 and there were no injuries.  However, if you have two or more accidents within a three-year period, even if each is under the $2,000 amount, it can cause your rates to rise. 

Fault also makes a difference to car insurance companies.  While you didn’t receive a ticket, a single-car accident is likely to be considered your fault for losing control of the car – even though icy conditions were involved. 

Since you just recently started your car insurance policy and are a young driver who doesn’t have years of driving experience without accidents, probably you don’t have options on your policy like accident forgiveness or vanishing deductible that could help you.

To get your car fixed using your car insurance, you will need to have collision coverage.  If you only have liability coverage and not collision, then you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for all repairs to your vehicle. 

If you hit a pole, wall, fence of some other object to damage the side of your vehicle and that object were damaged, you may find that the owner may place a claim against your property damage liability coverage.

Remember that collision insurance coverage comes with a deductible amount; thus, I recommend before filing a claim for your car’s damage that you get an estimate of the repair costs.  You may find that it will cost less than your deductible amount, in which case a claim does not need to be made.

If your car’s repair costs are much more than your deductible, go ahead and make the collision claim since you need your car fixed.

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Penny Gusner
Consumer Analyst/Insurance Expert

Penny has been working in the car insurance business for more than 10 years and has become an expert on procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has seen it all, and working with from its inception, she researches the routine and the bizarre with equal enthusiasm. She has three very active children and a husband with a zeal for quirky cars.