Car insurance is expensive enough for even the best drivers. Add a ticket or an accident to your record and your insurance premium only goes up from there.
But what if you have tickets and accidents on your record that aren’t actually yours? Yep, that’s right.
So, what can you do to “right” this “wrong?” Well, first, you must be certain they’re actually reporting in error.
What Should Be on Your Reports?
A common misconception among insurance consumers is that a not-at-fault accident will NOT show up on your reports. This is simply not the case. Your C.L.U.E. report will return an accident whether it is your fault or not.
In fact, your insurer will likely raise your insurance premium for being in an accident that was caused by another driver and paid for by their insurance company. The thought process goes like this; you are partially at-fault for being involved in the first place.
Different states look at this differently, but there are two concepts at play here. One is “comparative negligence” and the other is “contributory negligence.” In the former, it is possible that you are negligent to a degree for the cause of your accident.
For example, someone may have been speeding and hit you from behind, but you may have been partially negligent by not signaling your turn into the grocery store, which didn’t allow the speeder enough time to slow down. In the insurance world you are partially at fault and charged accordingly.
An example of contributory negligence would be crossing the center line of traffic briefly, and as a result, being struck by a drunk driver. While the drunk driver, by all reasonability, should be the one who “pays” here, you technically contributed to the accident by making a simple mistake.
In a state that recognizes contributory negligence, you may not be able to collect for damages, because in the eyes of the law, you were partly to blame.
Of course, this ideology is going the way of the horse and buggy, as juries tend to find it as ridiculous as it sounds!
But in either of these examples, there is going to be an accident reported by C.L.U.E. and you will likely be charged for it.
Great, What About Blatant Errors?
OK. You’re not talking about an accident for which you might have been partially responsible…you’re talking about an accident for a different “Mike Smith,” who lives in a state on the other side of the country that you’ve never stepped foot in. This is certainly a different deal and needs to be corrected.
There are a few ways to correct these errors. First, you have to determine which report contains the discrepancy.
While your insurer or insurance agent will be able to tell you, just remember that motor vehicle driving infractions (i.e. speeding tickets) will show up on your MVR report and accidents will display on your C.L.U.E. report.
How to Get a Ticket Removed – MVR
We’ll start with the more difficult of the two. Your MVR history is tracked by the department of motor vehicles in your state. This means you will be contacting the appropriate state agency to dispute the finding.
You may be advised to contact your State Department of Insurance and “file a claim” to start the process of the state researching and correcting the error. If it’s not completely obvious that “they’ve got the wrong guy,” the process may be slowed. Remember, this is a governmental agency, so don’t expect anyone to knock them self out to resolve your issue.
Tip: Be patient and nice with everyone you speak to or you may end up on the merry-go-round of leaving unreturned messages on 10 different people’s voicemails. Also, it’s best to call VERY EARLY in the morning between Tuesday and Thursday, as the average person will be calling on Monday or Friday.
How to Get an Accident Removed – C.L.U.E
You may simply contact Choice Point or LexisNexis – the companies who compile this data for the C.L.U.E. report – if you feel there are errors on your report.
Either of these companies will contact the insurer on your behalf and give them up to 30 days to clear up the discrepancy. If the insurer doesn’t respond within this time frame, the accident will be removed.
Different states may have different resolution options here. You’re going to be happy if the process doesn’t involve the State Department of Insurance (see above).
The EASY WAY
Many insurers who are preparing premium quotes for you will simply accept a “Letter of Experience” from the insurer you were with at the time of the inaccurate accident. In reality, this is likely where the error occurred and the insurer should be the one helping you resolve the matter.
The Letter of Experience is simply a document prepared by the previous insurer that states you did not have an accident (or at least that particular accident) during the policy period in question.
You must call or write the previous insurer or agent and ask for the “LOE” for the policy term where the accident is reported. They’ll know what you’re talking about.
Keep in mind that your current insurer or agent may not be in too big of a hurry to help you, as it will be evident you are shopping your insurance and considering switching insurers. You may have to be persistent here.
You will also want to verify that you have not been paying a higher premium with your prior insurer as a result of these inaccurate reports. If you were, demand to get a return premium check for the difference.
If the insurer you’re trying to obtain a quote from will not accept this letter, you may just want to move on to an insurer who will. Would you want to be insured by a company that doesn’t make things as easy as possible for you?
Why Do I Have to Fix It?
Again, a fair question, and again, life ain’t fair. Insurers are often huge companies with tens of thousands, or even millions of clients, which have millions of insurance claims per year.
And just like errors on our credit report or with our personal banking accounts, we’re the ones on the hook to prove ourselves right…and the “almighty reports” wrong. The odds are stacked against us.
As discussed above, you may simply contact the insurer you were with when the report in question was prepared. It’s likely their “fault.” Keep in mind you are already paying them in the form of premium, so the least they can do is resolve errors they may have made regarding your driving records.
You certainly shouldn’t expect the insurer preparing your new insurance quotes to help you. There is no guarantee you are going to purchase a policy from them, so why would they spend time (i.e. money) helping you get your house in order?
There is also a little bit of built in protection against insurance fraud here. While you may be the most honest person on the planet, there are plenty of people out there who aren’t and are looking to cut their insurance costs any way possible, including lying about their previous driving history.
Everyone and their grandmother would be disputing claims if an insurer was responsible for figuring it all out. Insurers all over the U.S. would have to hire thousands of people (this is a multi-billion dollar industry) to play detective in claims history disputes, many of which would be bogus.
So if you think insurance is expensive now…imagine what it would cost if the expense of thousands of additional employees were brought on to resolve these matters. Remember, profit margins are already set; any additional operating expense is passed on directly to us as insured.
Why Does This Happen and How Often?
TTAI is not aware of any particular statistic that shows how often errors occur on these reports, but they certainly happen and they are not particularly rare.
Insurance agents typically claim that it doesn’t happen all too often, which is of no solace to you if you’re reading this post. You can blame your fellow man and technology for the errors.
The information contained in these reports is keyed into a computer by a person at some point. People make mistakes every day. Chalk it up to modern life, where you’re a faceless account number in a giant computer system.
Finally, consider the fact that there are millions of insurance claims each year and you won’t be shocked that errors such as these occur from time to time.