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Subrogation is a concept that's understood among legal and insurance companies but sometimes not by the people they represent. If this term has come up when dealing with your insurance agent or a legal proceeding, it is to your advantage to know an overview of the process. The more knowledgeable you are, the better decisions you can make about your insurance policy.
Every insurance policy you have is a commitment that, if something bad happens to you, the business that insures the policy will make restitutions without unreasonable delay. If your vehicle is hit, insurance adjusters (and the courts, when necessary) determine who was at fault and that person's insurance covers the damages.
But since determining who is financially accountable for services or repairs is often a heavily involved affair – and time spent waiting often increases the damage to the victim – insurance companies in many cases decide to pay up front and assign blame after the fact. They then need a method to get back the costs if, in the end, they weren't responsible for the payout.
You rush into the hospital with a gouged finger. You give the nurse your medical insurance card and she records your policy details. You get stitched up and your insurance company gets an invoice for the medical care. But the next morning, when you clock in at your workplace – where the injury occurred – your boss hands you workers compensation forms to turn in. Your workers comp policy is in fact responsible for the hospital trip, not your medical insurance policy. It has a vested interest in getting that money back somehow.
How Subrogation Works
This is where subrogation comes in. It is the way that an insurance company uses to claim reimbursement when it pays out a claim that turned out not to be its responsibility. Some companies have in-house property damage lawyers and personal injury attorneys, or a department dedicated to subrogation; others contract with a law firm. Usually, only you can sue for damages done to your person or property. But under subrogation law, your insurance company is given some of your rights in exchange for having taken care of the damages. It can go after the money originally due to you, because it has covered the amount already.
Why Does This Matter to Me?
For starters, if your insurance policy stipulated a deductible, it wasn't just your insurance company that had to pay. In a $10,000 accident with a $1,000 deductible, you have a stake in the outcome as well – to the tune of $1,000. If your insurer is unconcerned with pursuing subrogation even when it is entitled, it might choose to recoup its losses by upping your premiums and call it a day. On the other hand, if it knows which cases it is owed and pursues those cases enthusiastically, it is acting both in its own interests and in yours. If all is recovered, you will get your full thousand-dollar deductible back. If it recovers half (for instance, in a case where you are found one-half to blame), you'll typically get half your deductible back, depending on your state laws.
In addition, if the total cost of an accident is more than your maximum coverage amount, you may have had to pay the difference. If your insurance company or its property damage lawyers, such as living trust attorney Racine WI, pursue subrogation and succeeds, it will recover your losses in addition to its own.
All insurers are not created equal. When shopping around, it's worth contrasting the reputations of competing agencies to determine if they pursue legitimate subrogation claims; if they do so in a reasonable amount of time; if they keep their policyholders updated as the case proceeds; and if they then process successfully won reimbursements immediately so that you can get your money back and move on with your life. If, on the other hand, an insurer has a reputation of paying out claims that aren't its responsibility and then safeguarding its bottom line by raising your premiums, you'll feel the sting later.
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