A small percentage of people who have an excessive number of tickets, at-fault accidents or a drunken-driving conviction may not be able to find regular car insurance on their own. In that situation, they'd need to contact their state insurance department to join their state's high-risk pool or a find a nonstandard insurer. Both choices mean higher premiums.
5. A minor accident could be a major problem.
A person involved in a minor accident like a fender-bender might not think that it's a big deal. He or she may even decide not to tell the insurance company about the accident, preferring to pay for any damages out of pocket.
"But what some people think is minor could turn out to be a lot bigger at the end of the day," says Siemienas. For example, that fender-bender could cause a personal injury that's not evident until a week after the crash.
If people delay reporting an accident to their insurance provider, the company may have a hard time investigating the accident thoroughly -- and finding evidence that would prove that the policyholder is not at fault.
"That's why I always recommend if you are involved in an accident with another individual, you should contact your insurance company and local law enforcement as soon as possible," Siemienas says. "The later you bring us in, the more difficult it makes it on our end to investigate the claim."
A delay in reporting the accident could also make it harder to collect damages from the other party if they are at fault. "If there's any doubt about the other side paying, it's better to let your insurance company know about the accident as soon as possible," law professor Sugarman says.
6. Know your next step if your policy is not renewed.
If you've filed a claim and your policy is not renewed, it may not be entirely your fault. Your insurance company could simply be reducing the number of auto policies that it writes in your geographic area, so even one small claim could make the company decide not to renew.
If you think your current insurance company is unfairly refusing to renew your policy, contact your agent and voice your concerns. If that doesn't help, go to your state insurance department to complain. If your car insurance contract states that your company offers arbitration, contact your local representative to start the process.
Even if you take these steps, it's still important to find another insurer that wants your business, says Sugarman.
"You can complain to the insurance commissioner, especially if there's some sort of impermissible pattern of behavior by the insurance company, but generally speaking, a company isn't required to keep you as a customer. The good news is, if your insurance company drops you, there's probably another one that would be glad to have you," especially if you have a fairly good driving record.
Regardless of which company insures you, make sure you have a policy if you drive a car. "Too many people carry way too little coverage," Sugarman says. "Carrying enough insurance not only gives you peace of mind, it protects you from getting in trouble."
This article was reported by Margarette Burnette for Bankrate.com.
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