In the life of a car owner, there will inevitably come the day when your smooth, shiny ride gets a scratch. Whether this is a ding from a shopping cart at the grocery store, or a more significant issue from a car accident, you may be wondering if the damage is covered by automobile insurance.
The answer to that question may be more complicated than it seems. There are many factors to consider, including your personal insurance plan, how the damage came about, and how serious the scratch is.
In this article, we will give you a few important questions to ask before deciding if you should file a claim.
What Type of Insurance Coverage Do You Have?
This is the first question you'll need to ask to determine if your auto insurance covers scratches. Every plan and every company will have varying degrees of coverage. The easiest way to find out this information is to call your car insurance provider directly or read over the paperwork provided with your personal insurance plan.
You should investigate these three main categories of coverage if your vehicle sustained a scratch:
- Comprehensive Coverage
This typically covers damage done to your car that occurred due to circumstances outside of your control, like hail storms, vandalism, or any damage done to the vehicle when you were not driving.
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If another vehicle or motorcycle causes the damage to your car, and they don't have insurance (or they do, but their liability limits aren't enough to cover the damages), this coverage may help in those circumstances. Some states require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and in others it is optional.
- Collision Coverage
Whether you or the other motorist involved is at fault, this coverage may help pay for the costs of any damage done to your vehicle. Rogue shopping carts may, surprisingly, fall under this category.
How Did the Scratch Occur?
Once you have discovered what your insurance plan covers, you will have to determine if the cause of the scratch falls under one of those categories. For example, if you were in a storm where high winds were present, and a broken branch hit your car and caused damage, you could file a claim with your insurance company under your comprehensive coverage. If you were rear-ended, and your bumper was scratched as a result, this could fall under your collision coverage.
If you are in an accident in which the other motorist is at fault, it is important to take a breath, remain calm and obtain the necessary information from the other party. This will include their full name and address as well as the name of their insurance company and policy information. Be sure to take pictures of the accident and the damage done to both vehicles. Ask for contact information and statements from any witnesses.
If you don't know how the scratch occurred, this can cause issues in obtaining compensation. It's a good idea to talk with your insurance company and assess if you should file a claim. Often, you can look over and discuss the damage with the claim adjuster. They may be able to determine the likely cause of damage if they have been working in their field for a long time.
Is It Worth Filing a Claim?
Depending on the damage to your vehicle, and how the damage was caused, consider weighing the potential costs of filing a claim versus fixing the damage yourself. Some scratches can be deep and significant, while others are superficial. It is important to remember that when filing a claim, you are still required to pay the deductible.
The deductible is what you must pay out of pocket before the insurance company covers the rest. While health insurance has annual deductibles, you must pay your personal car insurance policy's deductible in full each time you file a claim.
The typical deductible for comprehensive or collision coverage can fall anywhere between $500.00 to $1,000.00. If your deductible is set at $500.00, and the damage done to your vehicle is assessed at $2,000.00, that means you will pay the $500.00 and the insurance company will cover $1,500.00.
If the estimated cost of the damage done to your vehicle is less than your deductible, don't file a claim. Your insurance company won't pay for any of the expenses to repair your vehicle. More importantly, all claims made with your insurance company are recorded in your claims history, and additional claims over time can cause your rates to rise, resulting in higher premiums.
Evaluating the Damage
When determining whether to file a claim or fix the damage yourself, assess the damage to your vehicle. There are five layers to your car’s paint:
If your scratch has removed color from your car but the base metal isn’t visible, you have a “color coat scratch” that can be fixed at home. If the scratch is so deep that the base metal is showing, you may wish to consider getting the damage fixed by a professional, especially if the scratch is deep or covering a large area of your car’s surface.
Once bare metal is exposed, rust can develop in only a few days if left untreated. If the damage isn’t extensive and you want to fix it yourself, you have many options for doing so. A quick search on the internet can supply you with the information you need to repair your scratch at home.
Finding a scratch on your car or being involved in an accident can be a stressful and scary situation. Thankfully, insurance often covers significant damage to your vehicle, and minor damage can be fixed at home with minimal expense. Either way, after gathering information and deciding on the best course of action, your car will soon be scratch-free and ready to get back on the road!
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