Homeowner's insurance claims can really cost you

Even filing just one claim could boost your homeowner's insurance by several hundred dollars a year, although it varies widely by state, according a report released on Thursday by insuranceQuotes.com.

The average increase for one claim is 9%. While Texas prohibits a premium hike after the first claim, homeowners in Wyoming face an average increase of 32%, the report found. After Wyoming, the biggest increases were in Connecticut (21%), Arizona (20%), New Mexico (19%) and California (18%). At the other end, after Texas, the lowest increases were reported in New York (2%), Massachusetts (2%), Florida (3%) and Vermont (4%).

"Homeowners need to be really careful when filing claims," Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com's senior analyst, said. "Even a denied claim can cause your premium to go up. Make sure to know your policy's specific guidelines and only file a claim when absolutely necessary. Winning a small claim could actually cost you money in the long run."

A second claim can be particularly costly. The average premium increase is 20%, insuranceQuotes.com said. The highest increase nationally after a second claim, the site said, is Michigan at 71%.

Not all claims are created equal. Liability claims are the costliest, insuranceQuotes.com said. Just one liability claim will raise the average policy by 14%. That's followed closely by theft, vandalism and fire, the site said. The least costly to file are medical claims, the report found.

Citing data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the report said the average annual cost of a homeowner's policy nationally is $978 a year.

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    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.