A quick call to your agent or insurance company will answer those questions, and you may decide against making a claim because the damage amount is lower than your deductible, or you discover it is not covered by insurance. You may hang up the phone and think the matter is closed. But your insurance company has likely recorded your call and the details of your damage, even if you never make a claim on it. And that five-minute call can dog you for seven years. That’s because many insurers report customers’ damage — even non-claim phone questions about “losses” — to ChoicePoint, which maintains the C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) database. Your C.L.U.E. report details losses reported on your property and losses reported on you (such as your liability for damage to others). Incidents stay on the record for seven years. Losses recorded by your own insurance company on its internal records could linger longer. One phone inquiry isn’t going to cause you trouble. But if you have a string of phone inquiries about damage, or phone inquiries combined with actual claims, you could get walloped with a higher rate at renewal time (depending on your company) or, even worse, have your policy nonrenewed by your insurer. Nonrenewal has its own set of problems. Now you’re forced to shop for new insurance while being dogged a bad claims history. If you can find a company to sell you a policy, you’ll probably be charged a high rate as a “risky” customer. State Farm, the nation’s largest insurer, says that there’s no impact on rates when existing customers call to ask about damage. But State Farm spokesperson Dick Luedke says if someone applies for a State Farm policy and he has a history of claims without payment from other companies, it could impact their application.
Damage controlUnfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it. “If it did happen, you can’t erase it,” says Bob Passmore of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, an industry trade group. If there’s incorrect information in your C.L.U.E. report, you are entitled to a correction. But if you made the phone call, and suffered the damage, insurers will keep a record of it.
If there’s incorrect information in your C.L.U.E. report, you are entitled to a correction.