Subrogation is a term that's understood in insurance and legal circles but often not by the people who hire them. Rather than leave it to the professionals, it would be in your self-interest to know the steps of the process. The more you know, the more likely it is that relevant proceedings will work out favorably.

Any insurance policy you hold is a promise that, if something bad occurs, the firm on the other end of the policy will make good without unreasonable delay. If you get injured while working, for instance, your employer's workers compensation insurance pays out for medical services. Employment lawyers handle the details; you just get fixed up.

But since determining who is financially responsible for services or repairs is usually a heavily involved affair – and time spent waiting in some cases increases the damage to the victim – insurance companies often decide to pay up front and figure out the blame later. They then need a path to recoup the costs if, when all is said and done, they weren't actually responsible for the expense.

Let's Look at an Example

You are in a vehicle accident. Another car crashed into 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 should have paid for the repair of your auto. How does your 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 reimbursement when it pays out a claim that turned out not to be its responsibility. Some insurance firms have in-house property damage lawyers and personal injury attorneys, or a department dedicated to subrogation; others contract with a law firm. Under ordinary circumstances, only you can sue for damages to your person or property. But under subrogation law, your insurance company is given some of your rights in exchange for having taken care of the damages. It can go after the money originally due to you, because it has covered the amount already.

How Does This Affect Me?

For one thing, if your insurance policy stipulated a deductible, your insurance company wasn't the only one who had to pay. In a $10,000 accident with a $1,000 deductible, you lost some money too – namely, $1,000. If your insurance company is unconcerned with pursuing subrogation even when it is entitled, it might choose to get back its expenses by increasing your premiums and call it a day. On the other hand, if it has a capable legal team and goes after those cases enthusiastically, 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 50 percent at fault), you'll typically get $500 back, depending on the laws in your state.

Moreover, if the total cost of an accident is more than your maximum coverage amount, you may have had to pay the difference, which can be extremely spendy. If your insurance company or its property damage lawyers, such as criminal law defense attorney Portland OR, pursue subrogation and wins, it will recover your costs in addition to its own.

All insurance agencies are not the same. When shopping around, it's worth looking up the records of competing companies to find out whether they pursue legitimate subrogation claims; if they do so with some expediency; if they keep their customers advised as the case proceeds; and if they then process successfully won reimbursements immediately so that you can get your funding back and move on with your life. If, instead, an insurer has a reputation of honoring claims that aren't its responsibility and then protecting its profit margin by raising your premiums, you'll feel the sting later.