Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • When you get into an accident, you may be liable for the damage that you cause to other vehicles and property
  • The only time a driver is liable to pay for third-party damages is when they are declared the at-fault party
  • If you’re in a single-car accident, there’s no harm in paying for your own repairs to avoid rate increases
  • It’s dangerous to settle a claim without insurance if you’re dealing with another party claiming damage or injury

You pay for insurance each and every month in hopes that you won’t have to use it. When the time comes where you must file a claim, you have that little voice in the back of your head that tells you not to make the call out of fear that your rates will go up.

It’s not uncommon to pay a surcharge after filing a claim but it’s also not a definite.

One way drivers attempt to avoid insurance surcharges is to handle their claims on their own without ever calling their insurer. This could help you save money over the next years, but you could still be surcharged even when you don’t file a claim.

There’s also the risk that the other party involved will still call your insurer even after you’ve already paid them cash.

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Paying for Your Own Damages


If you crash right into a barrier or some other type of light post and the only thing that’s damaged after the collision is your car, you have to ask yourself whether or not you should call your insurer to file a claim for the repairs.

When you don’t carry full coverage, the decision is easy. Basic auto insurance policies don’t provide any type of coverage to repair or replace your covered auto.

Since collision damages and other comprehensive-relate damages won’t be covered, you’re left to hire a mechanic and pay for the labor and parts all one your own.

It’s when you do have full coverage that you’ll have to assess the costs of filing a claim.

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Is it worth it to file a collision claim after a single-car accident?

If you do have collision coverage on your own auto policy and you’ve been on the bad end of a single-car accident, the decision whether or not to settle your own claim depends on a few different factors.

  • Cost of repairs
  • Cost of a new car
  • Cost of your deductible

One of the biggest factors is how much you’re going to have to pay out of pocket for all of the repairs. When you total a car, it’s not reasonable to assume that you could pay for a brand new car on your own.

The cost of repairs and cosmetic touch-ups isn’t all you should consider. In addition to these expenses, you’ll have to assess your coverage to see how high your deductible is.

If you’re trying to manage your premiums by carrying a $1,000 deductible, you can’t file any claims until the damage exceeds your deductible.

If it barely exceeds the portion that you have to pay for, it’s best just to pay the full invoice so that your rates don’t go up for a minor payout.

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How much will your rates go up after filing a collision claim?

If you’d rather hold onto your savings and file a claim, don’t forget that there’s a strong chance that you’re going to pay more for your coverage in the future.

When there’s a single-car accident, you’re the only driver who can be held accountable.

That means you’re automatically at fault for the damage.

Since you’re the at-fault driver, the collision claim that will be recorded on your claims record will be classified as at fault. In most states and with most insurers, an at-fault claim means your rate will be surcharged.

The surcharge can last as long as three years and may lead to a loss of discounts. The average surcharge for your first collision claim is 41 percent. It could be higher if you have other tickets and accidents.

Should you pay for your own comprehensive loss?


Comprehensive losses are usually those that don’t involve a collision. If your car is parked and a tree falls on it or it’s vandalized overnight, you do have the option to file a comprehensive claim.

It’s fair if you want to avoid filing a collision claim to keep your clean record but filing a comprehensive claim will generally have no effect on your rates.

In most states, comprehensive claims aren’t considered chargeable losses.

Since the damage occurs because of something that is out of your control, you won’t be surcharged or considered a high-risk client.

There are a few states that allow for a small surcharge if you’ve filed three or more comprehensive claims or one claim that exceeds $2,000.

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Should you settle an accident involving other claimants on your own?

If you’re in a multi-car accident, you have to consider more than just what you can afford before you settle your claim on your own.

You can still pay for your own damages if you’d like to, but you should always protect yourself by calling your insurer to file a claim for potential third-party losses.

If you are at the scene of an accident and you and the other party agree to handle everything under the table and away from the prying eyes of your insurer, there are no guarantees that this is how things will pan out.

The claimant, if you’re clearly at fault, could always call your insurer and proceed to file a claim without your knowledge.

Filing a Claim Protects You

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Choosing not to notify your insurer that you’ve been in an accident doesn’t afford you protection from lawsuits. You are bound by your contract to report claims in a timely manner.

If you hold off filing the claim and someone sues you, the insurer doesn’t have to defend you or pay for settlements.

Settling a claim on your own can be risky. In some cases, you could pay cash for someone’s damages and injuries and still be surcharged if the claim is reported to the DMV. It’s best to take the proper steps to file a claim for the protection of your assets.

Be sure that you have adequate limits. If you don’t, you should start getting quotes online for higher limits at a lower price. Enter your zip code into our free rate comparison tool today.