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Subrogation is a concept that's understood in legal and insurance circles but sometimes not by the customers who hire them. If this term has come up when dealing with your insurance agent or a legal proceeding, it would be to your advantage to know an overview of how it works. The more you know about it, the better decisions you can make with regard to your insurance company.
An insurance policy you have is an assurance that, if something bad happens to you, the business on the other end of the policy will make restitutions in one way or another in a timely fashion. If your vehicle is rear-ended, insurance adjusters (and the courts, when necessary) determine who was to blame and that party's insurance covers the damages.
But since ascertaining who is financially responsible for services or repairs is regularly a confusing affair – and delay often increases the damage to the victim – insurance companies usually decide to pay up front and figure out the blame later. They then need a method to recover the costs if, when all the facts are laid out, they weren't in charge of the expense.
Let's Look at an Example
You go to the doctor's office with a deeply cut finger. You hand the nurse your medical insurance card and she records your coverage details. You get stitches and your insurer is billed for the medical care. But the next morning, when you arrive at your place of employment – where the injury happened – your boss hands you workers compensation paperwork to file. Your employer's workers comp policy is in fact responsible for the bill, not your medical insurance company. The latter has a right to recover its costs somehow.
How Subrogation Works
This is where subrogation comes in. It is the method that an insurance company uses to claim reimbursement after it has paid for something that should have been paid by some other entity. Some companies 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 extended 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.
How Does This Affect Individuals?
For starters, if you have 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 insurer is unconcerned with pursuing subrogation even when it is entitled, it might opt to recover its costs by ballooning your premiums and call it a day. On the other hand, if it has a knowledgeable legal team and goes after them enthusiastically, it is doing you a favor as well as itself. If all ten grand is recovered, you will get your full deductible back. If it recovers half (for instance, in a case where you are found 50 percent responsible), you'll typically get half your deductible back, based on the laws in most states.
In addition, if the total loss 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 accidental death lawyer Frederick MD, successfully press a subrogation case, it will recover your losses in addition to its own.
All insurers are not created equal. When comparing, it's worth looking up the reputations of competing firms to determine whether they pursue valid subrogation claims; if they do so without dragging their feet; if they keep their clients advised as the case proceeds; and if they then process successfully won reimbursements right away so that you can get your losses back and move on with your life. If, instead, an insurer has a record 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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