If you've been driving for a few years or more, you may have already been involved in a minor at-fault fender-bender or other auto accident. It's likely that your insurance company helped pay to repair both your vehicle and the other(s) involved in the crash -- and your insurance rates may have risen dramatically as a result of this negative mark on your driving record. However, if a natural disaster causes you to crash your car through no fault of your own (like sudden hail that prevents you from seeing the vehicle in front of you, or a gust of wind that drives your vehicle into an adjacent one), you may feel these penalties are unfair. Read on to learn more about how some auto insurance policies deal with natural disaster-caused crashes, as well as what you should do to protect your rights if an earthquake, flood, tornado, or other act of God leads you to crash your car.

Will your insurance cover natural disaster-related damage?

Not all insurance policies cover expenses incurred due to a natural disaster -- and even for those that do, the question of coverage often comes down to what the vehicle was doing at the time of the accident. For example, if you have a comprehensive insurance policy and your vehicle is damaged during a fire, flood, or other disaster (while stationary), you should be able to have your losses fully covered. If you have collision insurance only, your costs may be covered without penalty only if another vehicle crashes into you during the natural disaster. If your vehicle was responsible for the crash (even if you couldn't have prevented it), you may end up with points on your insurance policy that can increase the amount of premium you'll pay at your next renewal. 

For those who live in no-fault insurance states, the issue of fault is moot -- your insurance company will pay to repair your car after it collides with another during a natural disaster, whether you or another driver were responsible for the accident. The other driver's policy will cover his or her repairs. The eventuality of paying for vehicle repair or replacement is usually priced into the cost of a no-fault auto insurance policy, and you may not wind up dealing with substantial price increases during the months after your claim.

What should you do to protect your rights if you've been involved in an auto accident because of a natural event?

If you had comprehensive insurance from a provider like Harris Insurance Services at the time of the accident you should be covered, even if you were deemed at fault. This type of scenario is one reason it is so important to purchase this optional coverage, as you never know when you may find yourself in a situation beyond your control while driving. However, if you haven't already invested in this coverage, there are some things you can do to minimize the blow to your wallet while making an insurance claim. 

If your state permits the theory of contributory negligence in personal injury and insurance claims, you may successfully be able to argue that the other driver was at least 50 percent responsible for the accident. If this theory is successful, it's unlikely this driver will be able to collect from your insurance policy -- allowing you to pay only the premium increase associated with the repair of your own vehicle. For the few states with "pure contributory negligence" rules, establishing that the other driver was even 1 percent at fault can be enough to eliminate any potential claim against your policy by the other driver.

You may want to request that your insurance company's attorney pursue this theory when negotiating costs with the other driver's insurance company. In some cases, your insurance company may even need to file a lawsuit on your behalf against the other driver to establish negligence.