Will My Rates Go Up If I Fix Car Damage from a Freeway Road Hazard Using Insurance?

Written by James Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

In insurance-industry parlance, "road hazards" can describe any number of objects that are foreign to the surface of a road. In the broadest sense, a road hazard is any object or substance that isn't asphalt, road paint or an authorized moving vehicle. Common types of weather-related road hazards include ice, snow and standing water. Common types of man-made road hazards include tires, metal objects, headlights, traffic cones, concrete blocks and other debris. Insurance adjusters may even describe such novel objects as animal carcasses, tree limbs and furniture as "road hazards."

Depending upon the speed at which you're traveling and the specific characteristics of the hazard, your car may sustain significant damage after striking a road hazard. In fact, fixed and moving foreign objects cause millions of car accidents every year. Many thousands of cars are totaled as a result of these collisions. Unfortunately, such accidents cause thousands of annual driver deaths. Although some of these incidents are caused by reckless, intoxicated or inattentive drivers, the majority are probably unavoidable.

If you're involved in an accident with a road hazard, you'll need to assess the circumstances surrounding the event. Most insurance companies group road-hazard accidents into two broad categories: "fixed" and "moving." Although the names of these definitions may vary by company and jurisdiction, the basic principle behind this classification system is simple: Moving road hazards are fundamentally different from stationary road hazards.

To determine whether your accident involved a fixed or moving road hazard, think back to the incident. Whereas fixed road hazards must be completely stationary at the moment of impact, moving road hazards can be moving at virtually any speed or angle. For instance, both a trash bin that blows across a city street in the wind and a deer that leaps across the surface of a highway can be defined as "moving" road hazards. By contrast, a deer carcass and a stationary trash bin would both be defined as "fixed" road hazards.

If your auto insurance policy contains a comprehensive coverage provision, your insurance company will pay for any damage that you incur during the course of a collision with a moving road hazard. This is because moving road hazards behave unpredictably and may be impossible to avoid. On the other hand, it's unlikely that your provider will pay for damages that you sustain in a collision with a fixed road hazard. If it does choose to do so, your premiums may increase after your policy's next renewal date.

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