You might think you’re in the clear if you didn’t cause your recent car accident in Tampa Bay. After all, you weren’t at fault – so why should you suffer any penalties or consequences for the collision?
Unfortunately, Florida law leaves the decision to raise your insurance premiums up to the insurance company, whether you were at fault or not. In most cases, you’ll find your rates do rise after an accident, even when someone else hit you. Talk to a Tampa car accident attorney for assistance negotiating with insurance companies after a car accident.
Why Do Insurance Companies Raise Rates After Accidents?
Purchasing car insurance means receiving benefits and protections in the event of a car accident, depending on your coverage. Insurance companies are risk-averse. The initial price of your car insurance policy and premiums depends upon how much of a risk you pose to the company.
If you have a history of fender benders and speeding tickets, for example, the insurer would charge you more for coverage. There are many factors that could increase the cost of insurance – including your involvement in non-fault accidents.
Only two states in the country prohibit car insurance companies from penalizing policyholders with increased premiums after non-fault accidents: California and Oklahoma. In these two states, not-at-fault penalties don’t exist. However, this is not the case in Florida.
After a non-fault crash in the Sunshine State, you will almost always see an increase in your insurance premiums in the form of a penalty. Insurance companies raise rates after accidents regardless of fault because they now view you as a higher crash risk. To offset your increased risk to the company, it might decide to impose an extra surcharge.
How Much to Expect Your Insurance Rates to Rise After a Non-Fault Accident
It might not seem fair that your insurance costs could increase when you had nothing to do with causing an accident, but this is simply the reality of car insurance in Florida. While there’s no guarantee you’ll see a price hike, a study by the Consumer Federation of America found that the nation’s largest insurers increase costs even when policyholders do nothing wrong. According to the study, different insurance companies tend to increase premiums by different percentages:
- Allstate: 4.8%
- Farmers Insurance: 11.1%
- GEICO: 14.4%
- Progressive: 16.6%
Progressive is guilty of charging their customers the most for non-fault accidents, while State Farm seemed to benefit the policyholders most in this area with 0% premium increases. The amount your insurer might penalize you can also depend on your demographics.
The research shows that drivers with lower incomes pay more for insurance on average, including when it comes to paying for non-fault-accident penalties. The average surcharge for a non-fault accident is $99 for higher-income drivers, but $264 for moderate-income drivers.
It can be difficult to estimate how much your insurance costs could increase after another driver in Florida causes your car accident, since it is largely up to the insurance company. Call your insurance company and ask if your rates would increase if you weren’t at fault for an accident.
If so, consider switching to State Farm, which never penalizes not-at-fault drivers. Let your current insurer know that you find the practice unfair, as a push from consumers might help bring about a change in the insurance industry.
How to Avoid Premium Increases After a Non-Fault Accident
There are ways you might be able to avoid penalties and rate increases after an accident you didn’t cause. First, you must understand Florida’s no-fault car insurance laws. Under this law, you must seek primary recovery through your car insurance, regardless of fault for the accident.
This is in contrast to fault states, in which the at-fault party’s insurance company will pay for damages. Thanks to the no-fault law, your own insurance company will pay for your property damage and medical bills, even if you didn’t cause the accident. This can lead to premium increases, since your insurance company had to pay.
Special Circumstances Can Provide a Work-Around Florida's No-fault Law
You might be able to keep your insurance rates the same if you work around Florida’s no-fault law and file your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company instead of your own.
You can do this in limited circumstances – only if your injuries meet the state law threshold of “significant disfigurement, broken bones, permanent body organ or member limitation, significant body function or system limitation, or full disability for 90 days.” If this is the case, you could bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and potentially avoid impacts to your insurance policy.
Note that Florida’s no-fault insurance system does not apply to vehicle damage claims. If you didn’t suffer any injuries, only property damage, file your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Property-damage only insurance claims might circumvent your insurer, and therefore not result in premium increases.
To learn more about your insurance policy and your rights after a non-fault car accident, or for help filing your insurance claim, talk to the Tampa car accident attorneys at Bulluck Law Group.