Subrogation is an idea that's well-known among insurance and legal firms but often not by the policyholders who hire them. If this term has come up when dealing with your insurance agent or a legal proceeding, it is in your benefit to know the nuances of how it works. The more you know, the more likely relevant proceedings will work out favorably.
Any insurance policy you own is an assurance that, if something bad occurs, the firm that covers the policy will make good in one way or another in a timely fashion. If a storm damages your property, for instance, your property insurance steps in to repay you or facilitate the repairs, subject to state property damage laws.
But since determining who is financially responsible for services or repairs is usually a tedious, lengthy affair – and time spent waiting often increases the damage to the policyholder – insurance firms in many cases opt to pay up front and assign blame later. They then need a method to recover the costs if, when there is time to look at all the facts, they weren't in charge of the payout.
You are in an auto accident. Another car collided with yours. Police are called, you exchange insurance details, and you go on your way. You have comprehensive insurance and file a repair claim. Later police tell the insurance companies that the other driver was entirely to blame and his insurance policy should have paid for the repair of your auto. How does your insurance company get its money back?
How Subrogation Works
This is where subrogation comes in. It is the way that an insurance company uses to claim payment 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. Normally, only you can sue for damages to your person or property. But under subrogation law, your insurer is considered to have some of your rights for making good on the damages. It can go after the money that was originally due to you, because it has covered the amount already.
How Does This Affect Policyholders?
For a start, if your insurance policy stipulated a deductible, your insurer wasn't the only one that 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 timid on any subrogation case it might not win, it might opt to recover its losses by upping your premiums and call it a day. On the other hand, if it has a competent legal team and pursues them aggressively, it is doing you a favor as well as itself. If all $10,000 is recovered, you will get your full $1,000 deductible back. If it recovers half (for instance, in a case where you are found one-half responsible), you'll typically get half your deductible back, based on the laws in most states.
Additionally, 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 workers comp lawyer Austell GA, successfully press a subrogation case, it will recover your costs in addition to its own.
All insurance agencies are not the same. When comparing, it's worth measuring the reputations of competing companies to find out if they pursue winnable subrogation claims; if they do so fast; if they keep their clients advised 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 insurer has a reputation of honoring claims that aren't its responsibility and then safeguarding its profit margin by raising your premiums, you should keep looking.