What You Need to Know About Subrogation

Subrogation is an idea that's understood in insurance and legal circles but often not by the policyholders they represent. Rather than leave it to the professionals, it would be in your self-interest to know the steps of the process. The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely it is that an insurance lawsuit will work out favorably.

Every insurance policy you own is a commitment that, if something bad occurs, the business that insures the policy will make restitutions in one way or another without unreasonable delay. If your vehicle is rear-ended, insurance adjusters (and the judicial system, when necessary) decide who was to blame and that party's insurance covers the damages.

But since determining who is financially accountable for services or repairs is usually a confusing affair – and delay in some cases compounds the damage to the victim – insurance firms in many cases opt to pay up front and figure out the blame afterward. They then need a method to get back the costs if, when all the facts are laid out, they weren't in charge of the expense.

Can You Give an Example?

You go to the Instacare with a deeply cut finger. You hand the receptionist your medical insurance card and he writes down your coverage details. You get stitches and your insurer is billed for the medical care. But the next morning, when you get to work – where the injury occurred – you are given workers compensation forms to turn in. Your company's workers comp policy is actually responsible for the payout, not your medical insurance. It has a vested interest in getting that money back somehow.

How Subrogation Works

This is where subrogation comes in. It is the method that an insurance company uses to claim payment after it has paid for something that should have been paid by some other entity. Some insurance firms have in-house property damage lawyers and personal injury attorneys, or a department dedicated to subrogation; others contract with a law firm. Ordinarily, only you can sue for damages done to your person or property. But under subrogation law, your insurer is given some of your rights in exchange for having taken care of the damages. It can go after the money that was originally due to you, because it has covered the amount already.

Why Does This Matter to Me?

For one thing, if your insurance policy stipulated a deductible, your insurer wasn't the only one who had to pay. In a $10,000 accident with a $1,000 deductible, you have a stake in the outcome as well – to be precise, $1,000. If your insurance company is lax about bringing subrogation cases to court, it might choose to get back its expenses by boosting your premiums. On the other hand, if it knows which cases it is owed and pursues them enthusiastically, it is doing you a favor as well as itself. If all ten grand is recovered, you will get your full $1,000 deductible back. If it recovers half (for instance, in a case where you are found 50 percent at fault), you'll typically get half your deductible back, depending on the laws in your state.

Furthermore, 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 real estate attorney Williams Bay, WI, successfully press a subrogation case, it will recover your costs in addition to its own.

All insurance agencies are not the same. When shopping around, it's worth measuring the reputations of competing firms to find out if they pursue legitimate subrogation claims; if they resolve those claims fast; if they keep their clients updated as the case continues; and if they then process successfully won reimbursements quickly so that you can get your deductible back and move on with your life. If, instead, an insurance firm has a record of honoring claims that aren't its responsibility and then covering its profitability by raising your premiums, even attractive rates won't outweigh the eventual headache.

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