Understanding Your Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance is a legal requirement for drivers in most states, but understanding an auto insurance policy is not an easy task. It’s important to know what your coverage includes now whether you’re choosing a new policy or you have one that you’ve never (or rarely) used, before you’re in an accident, so we’ve put together a basic explanation to help you get started.

Liability Coverage

Generally, liability coverage is the minimum required insurance. It covers accidental damage to property or personal injury caused to an accident to the other party involved in a crash but not for you, your vehicle, or your passengers.

Injury and property damage can include medical expenses, lost wages, property in addition to a damaged vehicle, or court costs, depending on your policy.

Collision Coverage

When your vehicle is damaged in a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit.

Comprehensive Coverage

If your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit. Comprehensive coverage includes things like vandalism, theft, floods, or storm damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Sometimes, PIP is required by law. It covers your medical costs if you’re injured in an accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver and they can’t afford to pay for things like your medical costs or repair bills out of pocket, this covers it. It’s meant to cover what the other driver’s liability insurance would have covered if they had it.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage covers what the other driver’s liability insurance is unable to cover. If the other driver is underinsured, it means that the money they owe you is beyond their policy limit, and this policy kicks in there to make up the difference.

Other Kinds of Insurance Coverage

There are many kinds of auto insurance coverage available, and you can often choose to combine them in personalized ways. Your insurance provider can help you to understand them better!

If you are in an accident, remember that your insurance policy may or may not cover the cost of the damage, and the other driver’s insurance may or may not, depending on the policies and on the accident. However, your insurance company can never tell you where to have your vehicle repaired – that’s always up to you.

How to Avoid Rear End Collisions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 30 percent of all automobile accidents in the United States is the rear end collision. That’s nearly one third of all accidents!

There are many ways you can take action now to prevent a rear end collision from happening. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorites.

Leave more space between you and the car in front of you

This is the number one way to avoid rear end collisions! The more space you leave, the more time you have to react to sudden braking and the more room you have to stop your vehicle before it hits the one in front of you.

Check your mirrors often

You should already be checking your mirrors every 6 seconds or so, as well as every time you stop or brake. Pay attention when you stop; is the vehicle behind you stopping as well? If not, you may be able to give them extra time and space to do so.

Focus on driving, don’t be distracted

Distracted driving is another top cause of collisions of all kinds. Keep your eyes on the road and you’re more likely to notice the brakes in front of you, the car cutting you off, or the driver who doesn’t see you.

Brake slowly

When you’re coming up to a stop sign, a red light, or another obstacle, begin braking early (without riding the brakes) and stop slowly so the person behind you can see that you’re slowing down and has time to react.

Make sure your brake lights work

Brake lights are a safety feature and it’s important that they’re working properly. Without them, the car behind you cannot tell (easily) that you’re braking, and you are more likely to get rear ended.

Pay attention to the driving conditions

Yes, you need to brake when the car in front of you brakes. But if the roads are icy, it’s deer season, children are playing nearby, there are bicyclists on the road, construction is happening… it’s important to leave extra room, adjust your driving habits, and be ready for sudden braking.

Keep your view clear

No, you cannot see everything that the driver in front of you can see. But, you can leave enough space between you and the large vehicle in front of you to see around it, or, you can pass so that your view is clearer.

Safe Child Car Seat Practices in a Car Accident

According to the CDC, car accidents are the number one cause of death and injury in children. AAA reports that when compared with seat belt use, using safety restraints specifically designed for children, like car seats, can reduce the risk of injury by up to 82 percent. The older a child is at the time of an accident, the less difference a child safety seat makes, but the difference is still significant up to certain heights and weights.

To ensure your child is safe, safecar.gov recommends the following four steps:

1. Find the right car seat based on age, weight, and height. There are four main types of safety restraint systems for kids: an infant car seat, a forward facing car seat, a booster seat, and a seat belt.
2. Make sure it is correctly installed. Sometimes this can be tricky, so make sure to read the instructions carefully.
3. Register your car seat online. 4. Receive recall notifications (if any exist) and take the necessary steps to keep your child safe.

But, what happens when you’re in an accident? Hopefully, if you’ve followed the above steps, your child is safe. But does a car seat need to be replaced after an accident?

If you’ve been in an accident, it’s time to inspect your car seat, do some research, and make an informed decision.

Do Car Seats Really Need to be Replaced Following an Accident?

One of the basic rules of car accident and child safety has always been that after an accident, always replace your car seat. But as car safety and car seat safety has improved, this rule has become fuzzier.

The NHTSA says that in some instances, yes, it should be replaced, while in others, it’s not necessary. They recommend that child safety seats and boosters are replaced after a severe r moderate crash, but after a minor crash, it’s not always necessary.

So, what defines a minor crash?

  •   The car was able to be driven away from the site of the accident,
  •   The door nearest to the child safety seat was not damaged in the accident,
  •   The vehicle occupants suffered no accidents,
  •   The airbags did not deploy in the accident, and
  •   There is no visible damage to the child safety seat.

If the accident did not meet all of these requirements, it was probably severe enough that the child safety seat needs to be replaced. However, always make sure to look at the safety seat for obvious signs of wear or damage! Your child’s safety is not worth the risk.

Avoiding Accidents in the Rain this Summer

When you think of the worst driving conditions you’ve experienced, what is the first thing to come to mind? Snow, hail, icy roads, driving at night, fog, bright sun on the horizon in front of you… the list is long. Did rain make the list? Believe it or not, according to a report on USA Today, rain is the deadliest of poor driving conditions in the United States.

Unfortunately, rain is a pretty common condition in much of the United States, especially during the summer. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reported that annually, rain causes ten percent of vehicle crashes, which is over 573,000 crashes.

Why is rain so deadly to drivers?

One reason rain causes more deaths and car accidents than icy roads and snow is that rain is so common, drivers assume they’re accustomed to driving in it, and they are less likely to drive cautiously in rain than in other conditions.

Another reason is that while snow and ice create an obvious slick layer on the roads, many underestimate just how slippery wet roads can get. Especially after a long dry spell, roads may have a buildup of oil, leaving rainwater to sit on top of the road and slide off the sides, which makes hydroplaning and slipping much more likely.

The third reason rain can be so dangerous is reduced visibility. Fog obviously lowers visibility, but it is also necessary to drive slowly, use your lights and signals, and be cautious in the rain.

How can you stay safe on the road in the rain?

Many of these rain related accidents are preventable, but it’s necessary to understand how to drive safely in the rain.

Use your headlights.

Using your headlights is not just a way to help you see the road better, it’s also a way for other cars to see you better.

Remember that hydroplaning is a real problem.

Whether it hasn’t rained in a while and the roads are oily, you’re in the middle of a downpour and the water is piling up, a heavy rain has just let up and the road hasn’t drained yet, or it’s an old road that isn’t draining properly, there are a lot of reasons why there may be enough water on the road for your car to lose contact. Be aware, and drive accordingly, even if you think its safe.

Don’t use cruise control.

The more control your have over your vehicle, the better.

Slow down.

Speed limits are the maximum you should be driving on a road in perfect conditions, so when the weather is bad, you should be driving slower.

Steps in the Collision Repair Process

If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.

The Accident

At the accident, make sure you do the following:

  • Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
  • Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
  • Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
  •  Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.

Towing

If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.

Estimates

An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.

Repair Appointment

Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.
The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.

Car Pick-Up

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.

Why Are Accidents so Common in the Summer?

It may seem like there are reasons why each season is more full of car accidents than any other, but the truth is that the changing of the seasons leads to more accidents than anything else. Each season brings new weather and changes in the behavior of people, plants, and animals, all of which can affect things like visibility and the safety of road conditions. So, what changes in the summer can make accidents more likely than at any other time of the year?

School is Out!

When school gets out for the summer, it means there are lots of youngsters running around, whether they’re behind the wheel or playing outside. Younger children and their families may be walking in neighborhoods, playing at parks, and kicking balls that end up in the street, so watch out for extra distractions. Older kids, on the other hand, may be old enough to get behind the wheel, populating the road with a higher number of inexperienced and easily distracted drivers.

Construction Season Begins

The more road construction there is, the more likely it is that drivers are taking unfamiliar detours, temporary signs and signals are in place, and traffic lanes are shut down. Keep your eyes peeled for these new road rules that you (and other drivers) may not be used to.

Summer Heat

The heat of the summer can bring all kinds of changes, from overheating cars and an increase in tire blowouts to more motorcycles and bicycles on the road. Keep an eye out for hard to see cyclists! Summer heat is also more damaging to your vehicle, so make sure that your tires are properly inflated and your fluid levels are where they should be.

Vacation Season Begins

Summer is the most popular tourist and vacation time of the year all over the world. The chances are higher now that there will be foreign drivers, out of towners who don’t know the local roads, people relying on GPS navigation systems and trying to operate phones while driving than at other times. Keep an eye out for distracted or lost drivers, and make sure not to drive distracted!

Vacation season also means people are more likely to stay up late, drink more alcohol, and let loose. Driving under the influence is never a good idea, but keep an eye out for those who start earlier in the day or who may be tired from the night before.

The Cost of Repainting a Vehicle after a Collision

After a collision, your car may have suffered dents and scratches, among other things. When it’s been put back together and runs like new, does it look like new? At the very least, does it look (and run) like it did before the accident?

If the answer is no, it may be due to the paint job. Although your car can run safely without a proper paint job, it can be annoying to look at, and it can lead to a faster buildup of rust when the paint isn’t applied properly.

Estimates and Totaled Vehicles

When you take your vehicle to the repair shop, the first thing they’ll do is look at the damage and give you an estimate as to what it will cost to complete all repairs. Estimates aren’t always 100 percent accurate, which is why they’re called estimates, but they should include the cost of repainting the vehicle.

If the cost of the repairs is more than the value of the vehicle, it may be considered totaled. That means that if the cost, including the paint job, of returning the vehicle to its pre-accident condition is higher than its value, your insurance company may recommend not repairing it.

What does insurance pay for?

As always, your insurance company will pay for damage that is covered in your insurance policy, so it’s important to understand your policy. However, the following may give you an idea of what insurance will pay for.

If you want to have your vehicle repainted due to general wear and tear, rust, or peeling, it is unlikely that your insurance will pay for it.

If you are in an at-fault accident and you have collision coverage, your insurance company will likely pay for exterior paint. This may only cover the areas that were damaged, and not the entire vehicle.

If you are not at fault in an accident, the other party’s insurance carrier should pay for damage. If they are not insured or are underinsured, you can either take them to court, pay it yourself, or if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, that portion of your policy may cover the cost of a paint job.

If your paint is damaged due to non-collision incidents, like weather damage or vandalism, your insurance company may pay for a paint job under a comprehensive package if you included it in your policy.

What is the average cost of repainting a vehicle?

Repainting a vehicle isn’t cheap, especially if you want it done well. Averages range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so it can significantly change the cost of an estimate.

Car Battery Care and Maintenance

Your car battery provides electrical power to many things on your vehicle, from heated seats to your turn signal and lights. In order to get the most out of your battery, it’s important to take care of it, check on its performance, and do what you can to prolong its life.

If your battery fails while you’re out, your car won’t start, meaning you could be left with costly towing and an urgent need for a new battery. To care for your car battery, keep the following in mind.

Day-to-Day Battery Maintenance

There are a few things you can do on a regular basis to help maintain your battery and keep it in good working condition.

  • Every time you turn off the engine, make sure to unplug any electronics, turn off all accessories, and turn off inside and outside car lights.
  • Keep the battery in cooler locations rather than warmer ones. Generally, cooler temperatures are kinder to the battery.
  • During the colder months, make sure to run your vehicle for at least 30 minutes, preferably on the highway, so that it runs and the battery charges.
  • Check your battery regularly (maybe once a month). Are the terminal connections clean and tight? If the terminals are corroded, scrub them with a solution of baking soda and water.

Spring Battery Care

Spring is the time to check that your battery has survived the cold weather! Have it checked, but know that if it survived the winter, it is likely to survive a mild summer. If it’s weak, but not quite ready to be replaced, or if your summer is exceptionally hot, make sure to test it again in about 3 months, and replace it before temperatures drop again.

Summer Battery Care

Although cooler temperatures are harder on your battery charge, warm temperatures are not good for your battery. High temperatures outside mean even hotter temperatures under the hood of your car, right next to the engine. The higher the temperature, the faster corrosion occurs. Too much heat can lead to lower battery capacity, more difficulty starting the engine, and a shorter battery life. It’s important to check your battery regularly so that you’re not left with a dead one on a summer trip!

Springtime Pedestrians and Cyclists

Spring has arrived, the weather is getting warmer, and that means pedestrians and cyclists are coming out of hibernation and they’re on the streets and sidewalks. It may be wet, which means lower visibility and slicker roads.

In order to prevent or appropriately handle pedestrian and cyclist collisions, keep the following in mind.

Driver Safety Tips

Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own set of safety rules, as a driver, you’re the one who would be held responsible in the case of an accident. So, keep the following list in mind when you’re driving through towns and cities.

  • Drive slowly when crossing sidewalks or pulling into our out of driveways. You may cross paths with children or others who have the right of way.
  • When turning at an intersection, first check for oncoming traffic, then check for cyclists and pedestrians before you turn.
  • When turning left, it’s especially important to check for oncoming cyclists, and to look to your left for pedestrians.
  • When turning right, be aware of cyclists coming behind you (they should be on your left, but may not always be) and to look for pedestrians crossing at the light.
  • Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk; you may not see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.
  • If you see a vehicle pulled over or parked on the side of the road, leave enough room for a door to open or a pedestrian to enter or exit the vehicle, just in case they do.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you. Potholes or other road hazards can cause abrupt stopping or turning.
  • When parallel parking, check your mirror before opening the door; approaching cyclists may not know you’re about to exit.
  • If you can, fold your mirror in, especially on tight streets, when parallel parking so that cyclists have room to get by.
  • Avoid distracted driving. Pedestrians and cyclists are already more difficult to see because they’re smaller than vehicles, so it’s up to you to stay focused on the road.
  • Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast increases the likelihood that pedestrians and cyclists will misjudge the time it takes you to arrive at a crossing and the likelihood of an accident.
  • Always use turn signals when turning or changing lanes so that other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists can see where you’re going.
  • Always check your blind spot for cyclists.
  • Only pass a cyclist when there is an open lane next to you; it is safe to pass a cyclist when it is safe to pass a vehicle.

How to Handle a Collision with an Uninsured Driver

Ideally, and according to the law, every driver in the United States would be insured. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads, and you have no way of knowing when you’ll come across one.

What is an underinsured driver?

An uninsured driver is one who is on the road without auto insurance. An underinsured driver, however, is one that has insurance, but the limit isn’t high enough to cover the damage caused in an accident.
Every insurance policy comes with a limit to what the insurance company will cover, and individuals can choose the limit they want for their policy. But, if a driver is in an accident with an expensive car or a collision that causes a lot of costly damage, the limit may not be high enough.

How do I handle a collision with an underinsured driver?

The basics of a collision with an underinsured driver are the same as an accident with any other driver.

  • Make sure you and your passengers are okay,
  • Check on the driver and passengers in the other vehicle,
  • If the other driver is leaving the scene, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, including:
    -name,
    -phone number,
    -address,
    -insurance information, and
    -license plate number.
  • Call the police and ask if they have any requests before they arrive,
  • Request an ambulance,
  • Take photos of the scene,
  • If possible, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic,
  • Wait for the police to arrive and make an accident report,
  • Contact your insurance company and your collision repair technician to take care of your car and make a claim.

The main difference between an accident with an underinsured driver and an adequately insured driver is that you’ll need to see if your insurance company will cover the costs that the other driver and his or her insurance company is unable to pay.

Do I have to pay?

Whether or not your insurance company will pay for the costs associated with your accident depend on your insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so that when you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, your policy is intended to cover the costs, up to your limit.

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