I don’t know how many times I have heard that question when dealing with a potential uninsured or underinsured motorist claim but every time I hear it, I cringe. I become a little crestfallen.
Because it is not right that an insured should be concerned about their own carrier’s rates when using a product the insured has bargained and paid for. The only thing on their mind should be fixing the damage done. Don’t all insurance carriers sell piece of mind? Isn’t that what they advertise about?
Has anyone ever had their own insurance carrier tell them that submitting an uninsured motorist claim will not raise their rates?
Let me share a story of a case we recently signed up. A young lady, about 21 yrs old, was hit when a vehicle in front of her pulled an illegal u-turn and struck her in the city of St. Louis. It caused some damage to my client’s car but it also injured her shoulder pretty badly. It is likely a torn rotator cuff and she will need surgery at some point. A twenty one year old having torn rotator cuff is not a good thing.
The person that caused the crash is uninsured, which is against the law. However, EVERY SINGLE auto insurance policy in the State of Missouri has uninsured motorist coverage in it. It is required of every auto insurance carrier if they want to do business in this state—they have to provide uninsured coverage. Well, my client has insurance—great news for her because that means she has uninsured motorist coverage as well. Thank God.
My client lives with a relative and the relative provides the insurance on the car. My client is a listed driver. The relative calls me and says he heard about the claim and the fact his granddaughter selected me as her attorney. He says he also heard that we would be submitting a claim against his insurance. His immediate question: Why are you jacking up my rates?
I took a deep breath. I have had this question many times before but I have to control my annoyance when I hear it. What I really wanted to say was “My God , sir, your granddaughter is going to need surgery and you are worried about a couple bucks a month? !?!?!”
I said, “Sir, your rates will not go up. The Code of State Regulations Title 20 makes it illegal for an insurance carrier to raise your rates for claims made that are not your fault.” Here is exactly what the Code says, at 20 CSR 500-2:
“(3) In no event shall an insurer request an
increase in premium from any insured in connection
with any claim arising out of any
accident for which the insured was not at
The full text is available here: http://s1.sos.mo.gov/cmsimages/adrules/csr/current/20csr/20c500-2.pdf
I explained this to the man but he was still confused. And it is not his fault. It really isn’t. He has been bombarded over time that claims increase rates. It’s a message he hears over and over. What he doesn’t hear is that the rates cannot increase if the claims are not your fault. I told him that he has the right to request the reasons for his rate increases (if he does a get an increase) in writing from his carrier. I told him to exercise that right or find a new carrier. There are hundreds of auto insurance carries in this state and all are competing for business. If one threatens you with an increase, tell them good-bye. You will easily find another. Never be afraid to question your carrier. They work for you.
A very wise insurance coverage and defense lawyer once told me, “You are paying for uninsured motorist coverage every month whether you use it or not. Unless you just like giving free money to an insurance company, you best use that coverage when you can.”
Truer words were never spoken.