If you can avoid auto claims, it will save you a bundle on your insurance. The rates you pay are based, in part, on your past driving and claims history. While no one wants to have an accident, they do happen on occasion. That’s why we call them accidents, after all. Auto insurance is an important part of protecting yourself and your assets.
Even more, it can save you time and injury if you can keep your car and its occupants safe. Here are 10 of the most common auto insurance claims and tips on how you might avoid them.
The Auto Claim: Rear-End Crash
A rear-end crash is one of the most common accidents on the road, and one of the most avoidable. Outside of inclement weather and poor road conditions, most rear end accidents are a result of following too closely or not paying attention when driving.
The easiest way to avoid this type of collision is to put down your phone when driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2019 there were 50,930 drivers involved in fatal accidents where a driver was distracted resulting in 36,096 deaths.
In March 2016, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognized that 20 national automakers will be adding automatic braking to all their new cars by 2022. This new safety feature will help “prevent crashes and save lives” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. More than 10 automakers have gotten a jump start on adding automatic breaking to their new cars, well before the 2022 deadline.
The Auto Claim: Windshield Damage
Windshield chips and crack claims take a top spot on this list, yet many drivers don’t believe this type of damage is avoidable. While you can’t make rocks and pebbles stay on the ground, you can take steps to avoid the most common situations where windshield damage takes place.
Most chips and cracks come from rocks thrown up in the air by large trucks, snow removal equipment and other debris from the road. If you can keep your distance from these trucks and situations, you are doing your windshield and your wallet a favor.
For example, if you live in an area with dirt and gravel roads, keep your distance when trucks turn on or off of an unpaved road. In areas with frequent snow and ice, leave plenty of room between yourself and all other cars. If you see plows ahead, add extra distance as plows often drop gravel on the road to help improve traction on potentially icy roads.
The Auto Claim: Stolen Catalytic Converter
Across the nation, law enforcement is reporting a dramatic increase in the theft of catalytic converters from personal vehicles. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there were fewer than 1,300 such thefts reported in 2018. That number jumped to more than 14,000 in 2020.
Hybrid vehicles, trucks and SUVs are popular targets. Because a hybrid car doesn’t use the gas engine as often, the catalytic converter retains more of its precious metals. Trucks and SUVs can also be targets because it’s easier for thieves to slide underneath the vehicle where the converter is located.
Take these steps to help prevent theft of your vehicle’s catalytic converter:
- Park your vehicle in your home garage or another secured parking area. If you don’t have a home garage, install motion sensor lights in your driveway or park in a well-lit, highly visible area with security cameras.
- If you have a high-riding vehicle, like a truck or SUV, back into parking spaces near lower profile cars, fences, bushes or other obstacles to make it more difficult to access underneath your vehicle.
- Set your car alarm to respond to vibrations, if you have one.
- Purchase a specialized clamp or shield to protect your catalytic converter. Talk with a trusted mechanic or dealership to determine if one is right for your vehicle.
- Talk to your local body shop about etching your vehicle’s VIN on the catalytic converter. VIN etching can help police identify the owner and aid in a criminal investigation. It can also alert metal recyclers that the catalytic converter may have been stolen.
The Auto Claim: Damage to a Parked Vehicle
Have you ever returned to your parked car to find that it’s been nicked, dented or scratched? While you can’t always avoid parking lots, you can take some steps to protect your vehicle and the items inside it.
If you have a garage, that is the safest place to park. When away from home, avoid parking too closely to other cars. Try to park away from tight corners, turns and driveways where someone may bump or scrape your car when passing by.
The Auto Claim: Theft to a Parked Vehicle
No matter where your car is parked, there is always a risk of a break in. By taking a few precautions when leaving your car, you can lower the chance of a thief getting in. Never leave your valuable items in view when you park your car. Put them inside consoles within your car, a closed off trunk or take them with you. When parking, make sure you are in a well-lit area, especially at night.
The Auto Claim: Backup Accident
Backup accidents are more common than you think. Whether you’re pulling out of a shopping plaza, or even backing out of your own driveway, an accident can occur easily. That’s why the NHTSA now requires all new cars to have a backup camera, something we started seeing in all 2019 models.
Many cars today are already equipped with backup cameras. The best step you can take to avoid a backup accident is to get a camera equipped vehicle. You can also buy a backup camera kit for your car for around $70 to $300 depending on the features you want.
To avoid a disastrous back up accident, there are a few tips you can follow:
- Before getting into your car, take a look around to take in traffic and other surroundings
- When backing out, go the shortest distance possible
- Back out slowly, using brakes and mirrors until you’re fully out of the spot
- Reverse in a straight line
- Stay off handheld devices when backing out to avoid distraction.
The Auto Claim: Single Car Crash
According to a report from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, 53% of fatal crashes in 2019 were single-vehicle. This statistic translates to over 19,000 deaths. Again, outside of weather-related incidents, the majority of these crashes are avoidable. These crashes cause immense traffic jams or even can contribute to more accidents.
Drowsy driving is a factor that can lead to single car crashes. Drivers falling asleep behind the wheel are incredibly dangerous. According to a study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in five fatal crashes in the United States involves a drowsy driver. Younger drivers are more likely to drive when drowsy than older, more experienced drivers, according to the survey results.
Road rage can also cause a single car crash based off of an immediate reaction. A study by AAA found that almost 80% of drivers “expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage … at least once in the past year.”
New technologies exist to ensure cars stay in the correct lane, even if the driver nods off, but it will be a long while before that reaches the majority of cars on the road. In the meantime, never risk driving after drinking, drug use or any time there is even a remote possibility you won’t be able to safely reach your destination. Also talk to your doctor and check your medications to see if it’s ok to drive while taking them.
The Auto Claim: Hail damage
“Hail Alley,” where Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming meet, averages seven to nine hail days a year, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Frequent damage includes plenty of vehicles with broken windshields, dented hoods and water damage.
Using your garage for extra storage might seem like a great way to add more space to your home, but it may not be worth it if it means your car will be unprotected when the bad weather hits. You are best off parking where your car is covered if possible in the summer thunderstorm months no matter where you live.
The Auto Claim: Personal Injury
Back and neck injuries are very common with car accidents. Even a minor fender bender can lead to whiplash, back and neck pain and other minor injuries. At higher speeds and intersections, injuries get more serious.
The best way to avoid injuries is to follow traffic laws and always wear your seat belt. As a general rule, the newer the car, the safer it is. Over time, the government and car makers introduce new safety standards and technologies, like backup cameras and crash avoidance systems. If you have the means to drive a newer, safer car with top safety ratings, upgrading is one of the best options you have to help prevent injury in the event of an accident.
The Auto Claim: Crash at Intersection
Busy and confusing intersections are ripe for a crash, but they can happen at any intersection at any time. Never take it for granted that other drivers will obey traffic signals and be alert when approaching an intersection.
When preparing to go after stopping at a red light, take a moment to look for other drivers speeding to make it through a yellow light. If you are that driver approaching a light that turns yellow, make the cautious decision and hit the brakes. This will not only save yourself but even pedestrians walking near the scene.
The Federal Highway Administration works with cities, states, insurance companies, transportation experts and other concerned citizens to make intersections as safe as possible. But at the end of the day, it falls on us as drivers to make the best decisions to help everyone reach their destination safely.
Take the Steps to Stay Safe
As a driver, you have the power to drive safely and take steps to avoid these common insurance claims. If you do, you will help make sure you and your family are safer along with everyone else on the road. As a bonus, safe driving and avoiding claims may lead to car insurance savings.
Every time you get behind the wheel, you are responsible for both safe driving and defensive driving. Knowing what to look out for, like cognitive distractions, best prepares you to end every journey with a safe arrival.