If you were involved in a car accident in Florida, your insurance carrier could raise your insurance rates. But not because you filed a claim against your insurance policy. In fact, because Florida is a no-fault, drivers seeking to recover compensation after an auto accident are required to first file a claim against their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. In order for the insurance carrier to raise your rates, they must be able to show that you were “substantially at-fault” for the accident.
Florida Statute §626.9541 states, in part:
“Imposing or requesting an additional premium for a policy of motor vehicle liability, personal injury protection, medical payment, or collision insurance or any combination thereof or refusing to renew the policy solely because the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident unless the insurer’s file contains information from which the insurer in good faith determines that the insured was substantially at fault in the accident.”
This means that if you file a claim against your PIP coverage and the insurer raises your rates, without showing that you were substantially at-fault, they have broken the law and you can fight the rate increase. Or you could simply shop around and find another insurance provider. However, keep in mind that if your insurer raises your rates after an accident, that information will be shared with other insurance companies, who may charge you higher rates as a result. If your insurance company has or is threatening to raise your insurance premium, without just cause, give us a call. We can help sort through the confusion and make sure you know your legal rights. And when necessary, we will fight to protect those rights for you.
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What if I am Not At-Fault – Can My Rates Go Up?
We would love to tell you that your rates will not increase if you are not at-fault. But that is not true. If your driving history shows several accidents in the previous 3 years, your insurance company could raise your rates or even cancel your policy altogether – even if the accidents were not your fault! According to Florida Statute §626.9541(1)(o)(3.c):
- If you were involved in two accidents in the past 3 years that were not your fault, your insurance carrier cannot cancel your policy.
- If you were involved in two accidents in the past 3 years and one was your fault, the insurance carrier is still prohibited from not renewing your policy.
- If you were involved in three accidents within the past 3 years, your insurance carrier can cancel your policy – regardless of who was at-fault for any of the accidents.
When Can the Insurance Carrier Raise My Rates?
While the determination of fault is a key factor in whether your insurance company can raise your rates, there are other circumstances which permit a rate hike.
They can also raise your rates for the following non-accident events:
- If the insured has committed two non-criminal traffic violations within an 18-month period.
- If the insured has committed three non-criminal traffic violations within a 36-month period.
- If the insured received a traffic violation as a result of speeding more than fifteen miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
What Does “Substantially At-Fault” Mean?
The term “substantially at-fault” is not defined in the Florida Statute. However, the courts as well as insurance adjusters consider any fault greater than 50% to be “substantially at fault.”
Let us look at two scenarios.
You are driving and are struck from behind by another driver. The other driver was ticketed for the traffic violation, and you did not receive a citation from the police. As required by Florida’s no-fault doctrine, you file a claim with your insurance company against your PIP insurance policy for compensation. Likewise, the other driver filed a claim with their insurance company, who found their driver to be 100% at-fault. In this situation, if your insurance company tried to raise your rates, they would be in violation of the law, and in breach of the terms of your policy.
However, using that same example, if you were driving without brake lights, the insurance company may determine that you were more than 50% to blame for the accident. In this case, you would be substantially at-fault, and your insurer is well within its rights to raise your premiums after the accident.
Raising Insurance Rates for Policyholders Who Were Substantially At-Fault
If you were substantially at-fault for the accident, the insurance company will see you as a higher risk, and since insurance companies are risk-averse, they will raise your rates to account for the increased risk. There are several other factors insurance companies review that can affect your rates.
Additional Factors That Impact Your Insurance Rates
The most commonly reviewed factors that insurance companies consider when determining your car insurance premium include:
- driving history
- credit score
- zip code
- history of making claims
Insurance companies will consider your driving record when calculating the cost of your car insurance policy. Drivers who are considered higher risk based on their driving history are charged a higher premium, even if they have been considered a safe driver in the past. If new claims indicate you have become a riskier driver, your insurance carrier could raise your rates.
In Florida, insurers use your credit score to determine your insurance costs. A driver’s credit score is one of the most significant factors that influences average auto insurance rates in Florida. A driver with an excellent credit score typically saves money on auto insurance premiums. A driver with a poor credit score pays an average of $2,093 more per year in Florida than people with an excellent credit score.
Your ZIP Code
Where you live can have a significant impact on your rates. If you live in an area that is densely populated, it is considered high-risk for traffic accidents. If you live in an area with a higher rate of crime, you can expect to pay higher rates. Auto insurance rates vary from city to city.
New or first-time drivers, regardless of age, are considered high-risk drivers. Young drivers, under the age of twenty-five, will pay a much higher rate for auto insurance. A 16-year-old new driver buying their own policy pays an average of $4,913 in Florida. While a 40-year-old will pay only $2,208 on average. Once drivers reach age 25, car insurance rates drop by nearly 33%.
History of Making Claims
Your insurance company will share your claims history with other insurance companies, letting them know if you have a history of making repeated claims or if you have made multiple claims in a short period of time.
After an Accident: Factors that Impact Insurance Rate Increase
After an accident, your insurance company will review your current risk rating, which was initially determined with your first policy. In addition to your driving history, the insurance carrier will also consider the following, as it relates to the current accident claim:
- Severity of the Accident
- Were injuries sustained?
- Who is at fault?
Severity of the Accident
No two claims are alike. There is such a difference between a minor fender bender and an accident in which a vehicle is totaled. The severity of an accident is determined based on whether there were injuries, and the total cost of the claim, and is a critical component when it comes to determining if insurance premium will increase.
Were Injuries Sustained?
Car insurance rates are slightly higher after an at-fault accident with injuries compared to an accident with only property damage. In Florida, your rates could increase anywhere from 22% to 77% depending on your insurance company. State Farm has the lowest increase (22%), on average, while you can expect a tremendous jump in your rates, 77%, if you have coverage through Geico.
Who was at-fault?
As discussed earlier, your insurance rate could increase after an accident if you were found to be at- fault. After you file a car insurance claim, (or a claim is made against you) an adjuster is assigned to your case to assess the damage and determine who is responsible for the accident.
If you are not liable for a car accident, your insurance rates should not increase. Rates should only increase when you are at-fault for an accident that causes injuries or other damages. For example, the following situation should not result in an increase in your insurance rates:
- You were the victim of a hit-and-run accident
- Your car was hit by another vehicle when it was legally parked
- Your car was rear-ended by another vehicle
- Your car was T-boned by another vehicle
- Your car was side swiped by another vehicle
- A collision with an animal or damage caused by falling or flying objects
Be aware that your insurance company may require documentation that supports that you were not at-fault for the accident. You may be asked to provide a copy of the police report, a statement from the other driver’s insurance company showing they accept fault for the accident, the other driver’s written statement, a statement from you about what happened, and any other evidence to support that you were not at fault.
Is Florida a No-Fault State?
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. This only applies to payments for your medical bills if you are involved in an injury-related accident, no matter who is at fault. Who caused the accident is what is relevant to whether your insurance rates will go up.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
Hiring an attorney is probably not needed just because your insurance company raised your rates or canceled your policy after an auto accident. However, if the insurance company refuses to pay your claim for compensation or attempts to pay less than you are entitled to, you should consider speaking to a lawyer. Having an attorney on your side can help ensure you are not found to be “substantially at-fault” for the accident, which keeps your insurance premiums down.
We are experienced Florida personal injury lawyers who can help you get the fair compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. We pride ourselves on providing our clients compassionate, honest, and dedicated legal counsel. As one of Florida’s leading personal injury firms, we have helped countless car accident victims recover compensation.
Our lawyers at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. understand how devastating an unexpected accident can be, especially if you have sustained injuries. Let us handle all of your legal proceedings so that you can prioritize your recovery.
Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation or call (727) 381-2300.