A question I will delve deeper into later this week is the one: "Why blog?" But hey, I don't want to get too existential or too far ahead of myself. One of the biggest benefits of this blog has been that I get to soak up the knowledge of my readers, who, by definition, have more experience than I do. Although I consider myself a blogging jack-of-all-trades: perhaps the only guy out there who can write about his dog's anal glands, giant tomato hornworms, ETF mechanics, high frequency trading, and a conversation with Treasury, I need my readers' help, and I ask you for it now! Specifically, if you're involved with auto insurance or have ever filed a claim with your auto insurance company for an accident where no one else was involved (ie, you skidded off the road into a tree), then this one is for you.
Last night, my soccer team had our playoffs in an adjoining town. Of course, up here, "adjoining town" means a 20 minute drive, and last night the roads were about as bad as I've ever seen them, even on the highway. Before our semi-finals loss, I texted my wife: "Roads are terrible." And after the game, I urged my teammates, "Guys - PLEASE drive safely - the roads are AWFUL." Somehow, still, I managed to be the one spinning out and crashing my car on the way home. Crash may be an overstatement - I was going about 35 mph on a road that's normally 65mph, but had signs for "45MPH Winter Conditions." The road was flat out awful, and I was in the left hand lane, a mile before my left hand exit. The right hand lane looked better, but I didn't want to switch, as I though the toughest part was the strip of snow and slush between the two lanes, where I would be most likely to lose control. I'm driving the official NH State Car, by the way - Subaru Forester, 2010, all wheel drive.
Anyway, I'm driving along, thinking "Don't crash the car," a mile from the exit, when all of a sudden: FUCK. It's over. I'm sliding diagonally toward the right late, and I have no chance. STOPPPPP - but no - it's not stopping. I'm sliding on black ice/slush, and the guard rail will be mine. I somehow hit the guardrail with my front right corner, and then, quickly, my right rear corner. This was my first accident ever! I put it in park, hit the hazards, and noticed a car behind me instantly coming to a stop. I got out to assess the damage, and the guys behind me came running up to make sure I was ok, explaining that they'd just done a triple 360 in front of an 18 wheeler up the road. I assured them I was ok, and continued home - the car was still drivable, with damage to both the front and rear right bumpers, front headlight, and rear quarter panel.
Today, I took it to a body shop and got an estimate - $4k - while my wife and I debated if we should eat the cost or submit a claim ($500 deductible + potential rate hikes). We didn't want to submit a claim and have our rates go up - or have a claim like this make any future serious claim (ie, where someone else is injured) cost us much more. Eventually, I got a hold of my account manager who told me that in an accident like this (we were speaking HYPOTHETICALLY, of course), as long as they don't have to pay out damages for property or medical bills to someone else, my rates don't change. I pestered him with questions: "but you will have to pay for my property." "Yes." "And I won't lose my safe driver discount or preferred rate, or be assessed a surcharge?" "No, not in an accident like this where no one else was involved."
I got him to put that in writing, which is obviously not a legal doc, but he wrote:
"If your accident is not at fault and we are not paying out for damages to someone else’s property or injuries, generally there are no impact on the rates.
If you are at fault in an accident and we have to pay for injuries or damages to property, then you may experience a potential loss of safe drivers discounts, loss of preferred ratings and potentially a surcharge to your policy."
Now, obviously, a guy like myself who can read and comprehend immediately worried "what about if it's NOT a "no-fault" accident and they don't pay out damages to someone else? That could be the description of this accident - I have no idea - I mean, I was going well below the posted speed limit, but if it's not my fault, whose fault is it? That's not really covered in his email, but the email isn't a policy statement or legal doc anyway, so I proceeded and filed a claim. I am hoping that I can get them to label this no fault based on the weather conditions, my speed, and my record (perfect!), but that's where I ASK THE AUDIENCE. (Basically, I just want to make sure that my account manager is correct when he says that my rates won't go up based on this event.)
My account manager also told me that if I filed a claim for this, it wouldn't effect any future claims in terms of making their impact on my policy cost more severe. The first thing I don't understand is, obviously, if I skid off the road once a month, my insurance company isn't going to just eat the cost every time without raising my rates - so how does that jive with what my guy told me?
My wife thinks that this story will end with them jacking up my rates at renewal time, and me going into a rage (and she's right, I will, if that happens). What say ye, my readers who have experience in this area?
note: I'm pretty much looking specifically for those of you who have filed auto insurance claims in similar circumstances: ones where the damage was covered by collision insurance, and where there was not another car involved. I can't wait to hear your stories in the comments - I hope I'm not about to get screwed (ie, that I won't see my rates increase when my policy comes up for renewal)...