Will making a claim increase my car insurance premiums?
In Pennsylvania, car insurance premiums must be approved annually by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. The premiums charged by an insurance company are composed of two different types of charges – “rates” and “surcharges.” The rate is the amount you are charged based on the risk associated with insuring you as assessed by the insurance company using their actuarial or statistical tables. These take into consideration things like your age, your driving experience, the type of vehicle you drive, your geographic area, the number of miles you drive in a year, etc. Your “rate” is determined based on where you objectively fit in the insurance company’s rate scheme based on your risk profile. A “surcharge” is an additional amount charged by your insurance company to specifically insure you based on your particular driving or claims record. Every driver who falls within the same risk category will have the same insurance rate, but not all will have the same surcharges. This is how car insurance premiums can differ from person to person.
If you’re involved in a car accident, you may be afraid that making a claim to your carrier will increase your car insurance premiums. While this is true in some circumstances, Pennsylvania law controls when an insurance company can apply a surcharge to a car insurance premium. If your accident does not fall within one of the recognized surchargeable incidents, your premiums will not increase as a result of an accident. Your rate may change if your insurance company applies for a rate increase, or if you change your coverages, but you will not be assessed a surchage unless your accident fits within the permissible categories of surcharges.
Your insurance company can apply a premium surcharge to your policy for certain moving violations, license suspensions, and at fault accidents. The surcharge for each incident can remain on your policy for up to three years after the event occurred. If you cause an accident, and your insurance company pays damages to the other party for repairs to their vehicle or for personal injuries, your insurance company can apply a surcharge to your policy. However, if you are not at fault for an accident, and you make a claim to your insurance company for property damage, medical expenses, or underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company cannot increase your car insurance premiums by applying a surcharge. A accident where you are not at fault but suffer losses or damages payable by the no fault portions of your auto insurance will not increase your car insurance premiums.
Many people injured in accidents caused by others are afraid to bring a claim against their own insurance company for fear of having their insurance canceled, not renewed, or premiums increased. The coverage available to you under your policy is coverage that you paid to be able to access if you were injured by the negligence of another driver. The insurance company cannot take any negative action against you if you access this coverage that you paid to have available to you.