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Nine Most Common Auto Claims and How to Avoid Them

How to Avoid 10 of the Most Common Auto Insurance Claims

Michael Kelly, Eric Rosenberg

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.

Tip:

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.

Do you have any tips for safe driving or keeping your vehicle safe that you’d like to share with our readers? Add them to the comments.

31 Responses to "How to Avoid 10 of the Most Common Auto Insurance Claims"
    • Maureen Phillips | October 26, 2021 at 9:27 pm

      Defensive Driving

      The first thing my father taught me at age 16 was to drive defensively. Always be aware of the vehicles around you and notice anything unusual about the vehicle and the driver. Be prepared to act quickly. And, this was long before cell phones – which is an additional problem.

    • Susan Connell | October 16, 2021 at 7:08 am

      These are great reminders and are valuable tips

    • neida d taylor | October 15, 2021 at 7:49 am

      With so many people buying on line and having groceries deliverd to their home, I have noticed these drivers are distracted on their phone trying to find their destination of delivery, I find this dangerous. This happens in my senior citizen community all the time. We have limited movement, when we are on a wheelchair, walker or just taking our daily walk. some of these drivers are not paying attention.

    • Kurt Angersbach | October 14, 2021 at 11:06 pm

      I have seen many people with their wheels turned in the direction they want to go at a traffic light while waiting to make that turn.
      Bad idea.
      If someone hits you in the back even slightly, they will push you right into oncoming traffic for possible head-on collision.

    • Larry | October 14, 2021 at 6:01 pm

      Use the turn signal first BEFORE braking to make a turn. There’s nothing more frustrating (and at times dangerous) than to be following a driver who brakes first, and then signals, only to discover they are making a routine turn. Why is the vehicle in front of me braking? A road hazard, emergency vehicle, animal…pedestrian? So, let’s “signal” our intentions prior to braking, for a turn, so the driver behind us may react appropriately.

    • Theresa Lord | October 14, 2021 at 4:39 pm

      Please encourage drivers to use their direction signal, when turning! I see fewer and fewer drivers using them. Also, please urgently encourage drivers to turn on their lights in the early evenings. These are so important for safe driving.

    • Doug | October 14, 2021 at 4:10 pm

      Sorry, however windshield pitting is NOT always avoidable. As we travel down the road especially where we live, the wind will sand blast the front end of a car driving down the highway. You can hear the sand crashing into the glass…. Funny, AAA used to allow us one windshield per year on our vehicles since we lived in the mountains, and they KNEW what the conditions were like…

    • Susan Reid | October 14, 2021 at 3:55 pm

      Why do some drivers tailgate? Some will even flash their lights as if they think that will make another driver go faster. They seem to think that getting close behind another car will convince that driver to break the speed limit to accommodate them. This seems very dangerous.

    • Tim Kinsella | October 14, 2021 at 2:51 pm

      How avoidable is it when a Tractor trailer on the Turnpike passes you and upon returning to the lane in front of you throws up a rock that puts a chip in your windshield. This is exactly what happened to me last week while returning from a small vacation. What do I do now? Wait for it to crack and then have it replaced or go to Safelite and try and have it repaired or hope and pray it does not progress to a crack for fear of turning it in to my insurance co and wait for my rates to go up.

      • Debbie Durie | October 17, 2021 at 8:34 am

        I agree with you 100%! As much as we pay for insurance you would think that insurance companies would come up with something that if you did have to turn in a claim for your windshield you would not have to worry about your insurance going up . Think of the money you spend a year and never had to use your ins.

    • rick mason | October 14, 2021 at 2:21 pm

      All these ideas are great and if you follow them and have no claims for the year or none in the past 10 years they still increase your premium each year for what ever reasons they can find.

    • Mike Moore | October 12, 2021 at 6:59 pm

      Thanks for the reminder. Turn signals left on or not used add to the confusion.

    • Sharon Daniels | October 12, 2021 at 2:45 pm

      I purposely stop before I get in my car and look around my neighborhood for people and cars and animals. Then before I back up to start my journey I spend a minute or two planning my route and thinking about dangerous spots. Praying doesn’t hurt either.

    • Ronald Shultheiss | October 12, 2021 at 2:34 pm

      If your car is not equipped with a parabolic mirror on the driver’s side rearview mirror, you can purchase a stick-on one for about $3.00 at an auto parts store. By getting used to using this device you can avoid cars in your blind spot in the next lane and you can use it to merge into traffic on a freeway without having to turn your head to look backwards thus taking your eyes off the front and possibly running into the back of the car ahead of you that might stop suddenly.

    • Roger Senske | October 12, 2021 at 2:06 pm

      Living in Arizona where stones are used as landscaping material, it is extremely hard to avoid windshield dings. I just got one even though I was way back from the nearest car in front of me. Your advice is still good though.

    • soma | October 12, 2021 at 10:16 am

      If you drive your friend’s car, your friend’s car insurance covers you. Insurance follows the car.

    • Nancy Bock | October 11, 2021 at 9:56 pm

      I am very aware of all of these tips, but it’s always good to review.

    • Colby Thresher | October 10, 2021 at 9:15 am

      Very good points of safety, but I have one point you might adjust.😇
      I have driven for over 60 years in Alaska, Minnesota, and all New England states in winter and have yet to see a highway truck spread gravel. I believe sand or melting materials is more accurate. If it were gravel I would have lost hundreds of windshields!!

    • Michael David Brereton | October 8, 2021 at 10:09 pm

      To help avoid someone hitting me from behind I very often pull over or get off the road to allow them to pass so I can proceed more safely.

    • Richard Collings | October 8, 2021 at 9:33 pm

      When stopping behind another vehicle, stop far enough behind so that you can see where the rear wheels touch the pavement. That gives you room make an emergency get away should someone makes an attempt to carjack your vehicle.

    • Harold Harker | October 8, 2021 at 1:56 pm

      Many intersection accidents take place when drivers miscalculate the time remaining on their green light and then speed up to beat the red light rather than slow down in anticipation for the change to yellow.

      The downside to prematurely slowing down while still on a late green light in anticipation for a light about to turn yellow is that it can anger many drivers who are following you and are in the habit of trying to beat the yellow and red lights. This in itself can be a cause for road rage with some drivers.

      One of the best features many traffic lights now have at intersections is the lighted numerical declining count-down indicting exactly how many seconds are remaining on your green light before it changes to yellow. Every lighted intersection should have this feature. I would imagine this feature is saving many lives from the drivers who are in the habit of their “guess-n-floor-it” light change techniques.

    • Darrell Vigil | October 8, 2021 at 1:06 pm

      Back up cameras are not full proof. Some have extra features, Some are basic with just a picture of behind the vehicle only.

      Please also use your rear view and side mirrors. This has helped me avoid potential accidents.

      • Martine Pastorcic | October 12, 2021 at 12:14 pm

        In Colorado this summer an amazing number of skid marks ex. I-25. Many unreasonable drivers honking if you go speed limit on mountain roads ie hair pins…with no guardrails. I drove Porsche for 30 years, never left any skid marks.
        Only road where people were decent drivers the “Trail Ridge Road” that crosses over the Rockies!!!

        Marked speed limits in highways making no sense ex 75mph next to a warning about deer-elks crossing??!!

        Many drivers going clearly unsafe speeds, ie driving as if nothing unexpected can ever happen and expecting their cars to handle and brake as well as a Porsche.

        Best defensive tactics: drive when lower traffic…

        Truck drivers: Amazon, Walmart clearly the best. Some others speeding, aggressive=tailgating, and many idiotic unprofessional maneuvers. Truck drivers Now are not the professionals they were 30 years ago. Some are public dangers.

        Some trucks do not seem to be able to tell you are not going the speed they are. As they are getting closer they could very easily let themselves boxed in by some other i… who is trying to pass them as they are too close from you. Basically you have to baby sit these drivers and keep an eye behind possibly turn on emergency flashers for a second making sure they pass when they have room. Are they texting or something?
        Am I supposed to trust their brakes??…or assume they will lend back in reality on time??
        Some of these guys do not belong on the road. A lot of these trucks have no company name on them, barely a licence plate.

    • EDWARD W ROBINSON | October 8, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      DON’T TRUST PEOPLE USING TURN SIGNALS AT INTERSECTIONS, I HAVE SEEM TOO MANY PEOPLE PUT THEM ON AND DON’T TURN, WAY TOO MANY TIMES!

    • BRUCE ROBERT BONINE | October 8, 2021 at 12:30 pm

      I am so very surprised that people believe that ALL WEATHER TIRES are actually good in the snow. They are not. The most important reason to put snow tires on is the IMPROVE YOUR STOPPING ABILITY and CORNERING ABILITY. The way to judge a snow tire is to review the reports on snow tires in Car Magazines and in CONSUMER REPORTS. The TIRE RACK website also includes good information about snow tire performance.

      STOPPING ABILITY on Ice and Snow is the most important criteria to review.

    • Paul Graham | October 8, 2021 at 11:55 am

      Use extreme caution at a 4 way stop
      I’ve seen numerous drivers blow through their stop sign

    • Baddodge | August 28, 2021 at 5:31 pm

      As a professional driver the company said always back into a parking spot. They did a study that 70% of all accidents were from backing out of a spot. When you leave your site isn’t impaired by other cars.

    • Franklin White | June 23, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks for explaining how you can save money on your insurance bundle by avoiding auto claims. I have never gotten into a wreck before. I’ll follow your tips and talk with an auto insurance company to see if I can save money because of my good driving.
      https://www.zimmerinsure.com/auto-insurance.html

    • Roy Stewart | January 26, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Believe Taking The Hartford`s Auto Safe Driving Course is important so as to keep up on current driving Laws and being Pro-Active in avoiding involvement in ANY Auto accident weather you are in the Right or Not – You can`t control “other drivers” actions – You can be a defensive Driver and be Proactive in being aware of your surroundings and considerate of other drivers around you. It is a “No Win” situation all around when involved in a collision regardless of who is the “At Fault Driver” – Courtesy cost nothing and goes a long way

    • Marcella | May 31, 2018 at 6:55 am

      What type of car insurance do i need if i don’t even own a car, but if i were to drive a friends car???

      • Extra Mile Staff | May 31, 2018 at 1:50 pm

        Hi Marcella, that’s a great question. You’re only required to carry car insurance if you own a car but it’s important to make sure you’re protected under your friends insurance while driving their car. We recommend that you call your friends insurance provider to see if you’re protected as a driver under their policy. We hope this helps!

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