Subrogation is a term that's well-known among insurance and legal companies but sometimes not by the customers they represent. Even if you've never heard the word before, it would be in your self-interest to understand an overview of the process. The more knowledgeable you are, the better decisions you can make about your insurance policy.
An insurance policy you own is a commitment that, if something bad happens to you, the business on the other end of the policy will make restitutions without unreasonable delay. If you get an injury while working, for instance, your company's workers compensation pays out for medical services. Employment lawyers handle the details; you just get fixed up.
But since ascertaining who is financially accountable for services or repairs is regularly a confusing affair – and delay in some cases adds to the damage to the policyholder – insurance firms usually decide to pay up front and assign blame after the fact. They then need a means to get back the costs if, when there is time to look at all the facts, they weren't actually responsible for the payout.
Let's Look at an Example
Your living room catches fire and causes $10,000 in house damages. Happily, you have property insurance and it takes care of the repair expenses. However, in its investigation it discovers that an electrician had installed some faulty wiring, and there is a reasonable possibility that a judge would find him accountable for the damages. The house has already been repaired in the name of expediency, but your insurance agency is out ten grand. What does the agency do next?
How Subrogation Works
This is where subrogation comes in. It is the process that an insurance company uses to claim payment when it pays out a claim that turned out not to be its responsibility. 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. Usually, only you can sue for damages to your person or property. But under subrogation law, your insurer is extended some of your rights for having taken care of the damages. It can go after the money originally due to you, because it has covered the amount already.
How Does This Affect Individuals?
For starters, if your insurance policy stipulated a deductible, it wasn't just your insurer who had to pay. In a $10,000 accident with a $1,000 deductible, you have a stake in the outcome as well – namely, $1,000. If your insurance company is unconcerned with pursuing subrogation even when it is entitled, it might choose to get back its losses by upping your premiums and call it a day. On the other hand, if it has a knowledgeable legal team and pursues them enthusiastically, it is doing you a favor as well as itself. If all of the money is recovered, you will get your full 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, based on the laws in most states.
In addition, if the total cost of an accident is over your maximum coverage amount, you may have had to pay the difference. If your insurance company or its property damage lawyers, such as criminal law defense lawyer Portland OR, successfully press a subrogation case, it will recover your expenses as well as its own.
All insurers are not the same. When shopping around, it's worth looking at the reputations of competing companies to find out if they pursue valid subrogation claims; if they resolve those claims without dragging their feet; if they keep their accountholders updated as the case continues; and if they then process successfully won reimbursements quickly so that you can get your losses back and move on with your life. If, on the other hand, an insurance company has a reputation of paying out claims that aren't its responsibility and then protecting its bottom line by raising your premiums, you should keep looking.
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