Have you ever had to make a car insurance claim? If you have, you know the process can be inconvenient and costly. If not, consider yourself lucky. Either way, there are things you can do to lessen the likelihood that you'll have to make a claim in the future. Following the rules of the road and driving defensively can reduce your chances of getting into a crash. Here are the six most common car insurance claims and how to avoid them.
1. Rear-end collisions
Rear-end collisions are the most common type of crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28 percent of all highway accidents are rear-end crashes.
You are usually at fault if you crash into the car in front of you. You should always maintain the correct stopping distance between you and the car ahead of you. For example, if you are traveling at 20 mph, you should maintain a distance of at least 67 feet between you and the car in front of you.
Don't tailgate. If the driver in front brakes for an emergency, you may not have room to stop.
Another cause of rear-end crashes is distracted driving. Dr. Tom Frieden of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, says, "Driving and dialing or texting don't mix. If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and stop before you use your cellphone."
2. Windshield claims
According to trade group, Property Casualty 360, U.S drivers make about 7.5 million auto glass claims every year. Windshields are often damaged in collisions and by falling or flying objects. You should avoid parking under dead or diseased-looking trees, as large branches can fall and shatter your windshield.
Other factors that can damage or shatter a windshield include:
- Road debris, including rocks and tire treads.
- Unsecured objects being transported in trailers.
Experts recommend that you should drive slowly on loosely surfaced or debris-filled roads to avoid damaging cars behind you.
In many cases, it is possible to repair a damaged windshield. If you see a chip on your windshield, get it repaired immediately to avoid a more costly repair down the line.
3. Parking lot accidents
There are no official statistics but experts estimate that up to 20 percent of all crashes happen in parking lots.
According to Nena Soto, an insurance agent in South Gate, Calif., "If you hit a parked car, you are fully liable. Since you are in control of your vehicle, it is your responsibility to make sure you avoid a collision."
To avoid getting into a parking lot crash, stay away from tight spaces and know how much room you need to maneuver. Don't park illegally. Be choosy about where you park, and park in large, well-lit spaces away from other vehicles.
4. Backing Accidents
Backing accidents are very common – according to the NHTSA, there are around 3 million backing accidents every year. And they can be deadly - according to KidsandCars.org, a nonprofit children’s safety organization, between 1991 and 2012, 1,126 children aged 15 and under died as a result of a backing accident.
You shouldn’t just rely on your rearview mirror as it only shows a portion of what is actually behind your car. Before you reverse, do a check over each shoulder to look for approaching vehicles and pedestrian.
If you are backing a large vehicle, get a spotter to watch for vehicles that pull up behind you. They can also assist with how much room you have available.
Stephanie Tombrello, a safety expert with SafetyBeltSafe USA, says you should walk around your vehicle before backing to make sure that the area you’re backing into is clear.
5. Car theft
FBI statistics show that 479,084 automobiles were stolen in the United States in 2012.
You should take precautions to reduce the chance that your car will be stolen, including:
- Don’t leave your car in deserted or crime-ridden areas.
- Always close your windows fully.
- When you leave your car, lock it and take your keys with you.
- Stow all personal items out of sight.
Car thieves don't always steal the flashiest or most expensive cars. For example, if you own a Honda Accord, your car currently holds the number one spot on the top 10 most stolen vehicles list. You can see if your car made the list of the top 10 most stolen cars by visiting the National Crime Insurance Bureau website.
6. Single-car claims
Not all crashes involve two or more cars – sometimes, a car will crash into an object or an animal.
Collisions with animals cause damage that can be claimed under comprehensive coverage. Be on the lookout for deer and other animals. There are about 1.5 million deer-car collisions every year, according the the NHTSA. Deer travel more frequently at dusk, dawn and during mating season, making them more difficult to spot near the road.
Many single-car accidents are caused by driving while tired. If you find that you are starting to to fall asleep while driving, pull over immediately and find a safe place to nap.