NEW YORK (MainStreet) — After making a single claim, drivers pay an average of 38% more for car insurance, according to a new insuranceQuotes.com report. The hike is steepest in Massachusetts, where just one claim leads to an average premium increase of 67%.
Each state regulates the rates set forth by insurance companies and how often they can be raised.
Two other states also have high increases - California drivers pay 62% while New Jersey drivers face a 59% hike. Maryland has the lowest post-claim increase of 20%, followed by Alabama with 22% and Michigan of 23%.
A second claim puts an even deeper dent in Americans' wallets: a driver with two claims pays nearly twice as much for car insurance as a claim-free driver of 86%.
"The biggest lesson for consumers is not to file a claim unless absolutely necessary," said Laura Adams, a senior analyst at insuranceQuotes.com, which consumers with a free way to shop for and compare insurance quotes online. "Making a claim for a few hundred dollars doesn't make sense if your premium is going to skyrocket as a result."
All insurance companies examine the driver's history, but some states have tighter regulations on how often and how much a company can raise its rates.
After a claim is made, the increase usually lasts for three years, said Adams. Consumers should refrain from making small claims since the deductible can often wipe out any gains, she said.
"It shows people there is a serious financial consequence to making a small claim," Adams said. "It is not always in your financial interest to do it."
In addition to geography, the increases are also affected by the type of claim. Bodily injury and property damage (including collision) claims are the most expensive (up 42% and 41%, respectively). Comprehensive claims (for non-collision events such as theft) are the cheapest, barely moving the needle at a 2% increase.
Before making a claim, consumers can examine the financial outcome from the "Should I Make a Claim?" calculator, by clicking on insurancequotes.com.
insuranceQuotes.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to examine how claims affect car insurance premiums. Quadrant calculated rates using data from six large carriers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Assumptions included a $2,000 claim and policy limits of $100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage.
Jack Taylor, professor of retailing at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala. who teaches several courses on insurance, said paying 38% more after making even a single claim is no small amount.
He notes that drivers can protect themselves from seeing their rates spike by paying for smaller repairs themselves and ensuring they are a careful driver year-round.
"What's important is to avoid speeding and other moving violations that would illustrate a track record of higher-risk for the insurance company," he said. "Couple a few citations ahead of an accident claim and you're almost certain to see your rates go up or even have your policy canceled."
--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet,/i>