Subrogation and How It Affects Policyholders

Subrogation is an idea that's well-known in insurance and legal circles but rarely by the policyholders who hire them. Even if you've never heard the word before, it is in your self-interest to comprehend the steps of how it works. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make with regard to your insurance policy.

An insurance policy you hold is a promise that, if something bad occurs, the business on the other end of the policy will make good in one way or another without unreasonable delay. If a hailstorm damages your home, for instance, your property insurance steps in to pay you or enable the repairs, subject to state property damage laws.

But since ascertaining who is financially responsible for services or repairs is typically a time-consuming affair – and time spent waiting in some cases compounds the damage to the victim – insurance firms usually decide to pay up front and assign blame later. They then need a mechanism to get back the costs if, when all is said and done, they weren't responsible for the expense.

Let's Look at an Example

You head to the doctor's office with a deeply cut finger. You hand the receptionist your medical insurance card and he writes down your coverage information. You get stitches and your insurer is billed for the expenses. But the next afternoon, when you get to work – where the accident occurred – your boss hands you workers compensation forms to file. Your workers comp policy is actually responsible for the costs, not your medical insurance policy. It has a vested interest in getting that money back in some way.

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 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 self or property. But under subrogation law, your insurer is considered to have some of your rights in exchange for making good on the damages. It can go after the money originally due to you, because it has covered the amount already.

Why Should I Care?

For a start, 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 – namely, $1,000. If your insurance company is lax about bringing subrogation cases to court, it might opt to recoup its expenses by upping your premiums. 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 $1,000 deductible back. If it recovers half (for instance, in a case where you are found 50 percent to blame), you'll typically get $500 back, based on the laws in most states.

Moreover, if the total price of an accident is over your maximum coverage amount, you could be in for a stiff bill. If your insurance company or its property damage lawyers, such as insurance claims attorney Tacoma, WA, successfully press a subrogation case, it will recover your losses as well as its own.

All insurance agencies are not the same. When comparing, it's worth researching the reputations of competing companies to find out whether they pursue winnable subrogation claims; if they do so with some expediency; if they keep their clients advised as the case goes on; 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 company has a record of honoring claims that aren't its responsibility and then covering its income by raising your premiums, you'll feel the sting later.

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