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.

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How to Handle an Out of State Road Trip Car Accident

Car accidents are stressful at any time of the year, in any weather, no matter where you’re driving. But during the summer, with so many more drivers on the road, driving in unfamiliar places, an out of state car accident is much more likely!

Do you know what to do when you’re in an accident out of state? Do you know if your insurance covers you when you’re out of state? What about finding a new auto repair shop, or visiting a doctor?

Auto Insurance Check-Up

Before you embark on a road trip, call your auto insurance company to verify that they cover you where you’re going. Most policies cover you in the 48 contiguous states. Your insurance company can provide you with out-of-state policy details.

Traffic Laws Check-Up

Do a quick google for the states you’ll be driving through and verify that the traffic laws are the same. It is unlikely that they’ll be much different, but some states do have varied laws. Keep an eye out for road signs while you’re there!

Document your Accident Thoroughly and Immediately

You are in a new place, you’re not a local, and it won’t be as easy for you to get information and documentation later as it would if you were home.

● Call the police and make a police report. Make sure to get a copy or have one sent to you as soon as possible.
● Get the contact and insurance information from the other driver and make sure it is accurate. Write down their license plate number and vehicle make and model.
● Take photos of the scene, including the street signs, the vehicles, the location, and any people who are nearby.
● Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get witness statements, names, and contact information.
● Write down what happened as best as you can remember it.

Do you need a doctor?

If you need to go to the hospital, go. If you are concerned that you might need to see a doctor, do it now. Don’t risk your health because you are in an unfamiliar place.

Consider a Lawyer

If you think you might need a lawyer, you’ll need one in the state where the accident occurred. You can ask for references or you can ask a lawyer in your home state for a referral, but don’t give an official statement to anyone except the police if you’re considering a lawyer, even if an insurance adjuster shows up.

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Common Collision Repair Myths

Hopefully, repairing your car beyond general maintenance isn’t something you have to do too often, if at all. Car accidents can be serious, dangerous, and expensive. But, if you do have to repair your vehicle following a collision, these are three common and false ideas floating around that we’d like to clear up before you make any decisions.

Myth #1: You have to use the body shop your insurance company selects.

This is probably the biggest myth in the repair industry, and insurance companies may perpetuate it. You can choose to use a recommended repair shop, and you (and your insurance company) might get a great deal out of that decision. However, you never have to use the repair shop your insurance company recommends.

Legally, you have the right to choose your own repair shop. It doesn’t hurt to ask for suggestions and do some research online. If you want, you can ask your insurance company for suggestions. They may have an agreement with one or more repair shops that dictates certain things about repairs to speed up the process and lower the price for them, which may or may not be in your best interest.

Myth #2: To have your car fixed like new, you have to take it to the dealer.

These days, the dealership isn’t the only place where you can get original parts for your vehicle. Original parts, called OEM (original equipment manufacturer parts) are those made by the same equipment manufacturer who built the parts your vehicle was made with when it was new. Your other option is aftermarket parts, which may be used, or they may be new, but made by a different manufacturer.

Most shops will offer both options, so it is possible that your vehicle can get the same repairs at the dealership and at another body shop.

Myth #3: The insurance company pays for all damages.

This completely depends on your insurance policy. There are many different kinds of policies available to you, and it’s always a good idea to discuss your policy with your insurance company before committing to any repairs.

For example, collision coverage should cover damages caused by a collision, but it won’t cover damages that existed prior to the collision. If your vehicle was damaged for another reason, like vandalism or bad weather, you’ll need comprehensive coverage in your policy, not just collision coverage. In some states, your vehicle damages may be covered by the other party’s insurance policy instead of your own.

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How do Seat Belts Keep us Safe in a Collision?

Research from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belts save about 13,000 lives in the United States annually. The NHTSA also reports that over 2,500 lives of crash victims could have been saved if they had been wearing seat belts.

Why are seat belted passengers considered to be safer than unrestrained ones? According to the NHTSA, “During a vehicle crash, being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas being completely thrown out of a vehicle is almost always deadly.”

A Brief History of Seat Belts

In the United States, the first seat belt patent was issued in 1885 to Edward Claghorn of New York City. The first modern seat belt, called a three-point seat belt, was invented in Sweden and introduced to the automobile by Volvo in 1959.
Seat belts were required in every automobile by 1968, but wearing them is still not mandatory in every state.

How Seat Belts Work

The basic idea of a seat belt is simple. Wearing a belt keeps passengers from being ejected from a vehicle in a crash. When a vehicle stops abruptly, its passengers will also stop. The life saving difference is where on the body a force is applied to stop the person, and how suddenly it is applied. For example, stopping by hitting your head on the windshield is much more likely to cause injury than stopping because a seat belt forces the center of your body to stay in a cushioned seat.

As seat belts have developed over time, there are several different kinds.

● A 2-point seat belt, also called a lap belt, has only two attachment points, one near each hip.
● A 3-point seat belt, also called a lap/shoulder belt, includes a lap belt and a shoulder belt and has three attachment points, one near each hip and one over a shoulder.

Today’s seat belts are three-point seat belts, which spread the stopping force across the pelvis and upper body. Because three point belts spread the force across more of the body than two point belts, they minimize the strength of the force in one area, minimizing injury.

Remember that seat belts are designed for adult sized bodies, which is why child safety seats are so important in the case of an accident. Child car seats allow the force of an accident to be spread across an area appropriate to keep a child safe.

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The Evolution of Automobile Safety

On September 13, 1899, Henry H. Bliss became the first person to die in an automobile accident in the western hemisphere. Although he wasn’t in the vehicle at the time, his death set into motion a series of improvements to automobile safety that still continue to evolve today. These are some of the safety features that have developed over the last 118 years.

Speedometers became available in 1901 in the Oldsmobile. Today, they are standard in every vehicle.

Safety Glass Windows help to prevent injuries by broken glass in the case of a collision. They were introduced by Cadillac in 1924.

Turn Signals like those we use today were introduced by Buick in 1940. They signaled in the front and back of the car and turned off automatically after a turn.

Dashboard Padding was introduced in 1947, but wasn’t widely used until the mid 1950s.

Seat Belts were introduced in 1950, and by 1956 they were offered as an optional safety piece by several manufacturers. New York was the first state to require seat belts in the front seat in 1962, and by 1964, they were required across the United States. Seat belts still are not required in every state, although every state except New Hampshire has required them since 1995.

Headrests were required for front passengers in 1969 to protect people’s necks in the case of a rear-end collision.

Safety Door Latches that prevent doors from opening during a collision were added in 1955.

Drivers Education didn’t exist until 1955 either, when Michigan became the first state to require a course of driver’s ed before anyone under 18 could have a license.

Safety Standard Enforcement didn’t start until 1967 when the first Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards were introduced. They regulated protruding knobs in the passenger area, hazard lights, brakes, and additional padding and impact absorption.

Airbags weren’t used until 1974, when GM introduced the first one, and weren’t a standard across the industry until 1998!

The first side impact airbags were used in 1994.

Child Safety Laws didn’t exist until 1978, when Tennessee introduced the first one in the world. Since 1985, every state in the U.S.A. has had laws regarding child safety seats.

Modern Safety Features include things like electronic stability control, adaptive headlights, emergency brake assist, blind zone warnings, and lane departure warnings. While none of these are standard in the United States today, many of them are standard or basic options from many vehicle manufacturers.

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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.

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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

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What to do if Your Car Floods

Spring is here, water levels are rising, and more vehicles, pedestrians, and animals are out on the roadways, Whether you live in an area that floods often or you’re involved in an accident that lands your vehicle in a body of water, it’s important to know how to safely use your vehicle following high water.

How much water is too much water?

Generally, if the bottom of the vehicle is splashed, it’s okay. But, when the vehicle is submerged in water deeper than half the height of the tires, it’s time to check for water damage. The lower to the ground your vehicle sits, the more susceptible to water damage it is.

Immediately following submersion…

The best way to remove your vehicle from the water is to tow it – avoid starting a wet or water damaged vehicle.

First, check around the tires for any debris that may be lodged in the wheel well and could damage the vehicle during towing.
Your vehicle is likely repairable if the water didn’t reach the bottom of the doors. If the water reached the bottom of the dashboard many insurance companies will consider it totaled.

Once you’ve removed it from the water…

Vehicles, especially modern vehicles, are equipped with an electrical system, computers, filters, and other systems that may or may not be closed off to water in a flood.

Check fluids – If you notice that the oil or other fluids are at noticeably higher levels than normal, or if there is water obviously in the container or system, it will need to be completely drained and replaced.

Check filters – Your vehicle has filters for a reason, but things like the air and oil filter won’t filter out water, or work correctly if they’re wet.

Check the electrical system – If the engine looks okay to start, start with checking lights, the stereo, windows, and air conditioning. If anything is working incorrectly, there may be electrical damage, which could be dangerous.

Start drying the interior. – Mold can grow quickly on the interior of a vehicle, so let it air out, and if necessary, get a wet-vac or hot air dryer to remove moisture.

Does my insurance cover flood damage?

Flood damage is usually covered if you have comprehensive coverage on your car, but it’s not covered under collision damage. Depending on the policy you have, it may or may not be covered.

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Collision Repair Paint Terms

Basecoat – The basecoat is the first layer of paint, and is usually highly pigmented, or strongly colored. A basecoat/clear is a type of paint system in which the basecoat offers the color, and gloss and durability are provided by an additional coat.

Clear Coat – The clear coat is the top layer of paint which usually has no pigment, or no color. Its durability and gloss are to protect the pigmented layer it covers.

Chip Guard – Usually added to panels that are lower on the body, the chip guard exists to protect these parts of the vehicle from sharp stones.

Coat – A coat is a layer of paint.

Direct Gloss – This is a kind of paint that contains pigment, but requires no top or clear coat. It contains pigment, gloss, and it’s durable on its own.

Enamel – This topcoat is a layer of paint that forms a film during the drying process.

Gloss – Gloss describes how well a painted surface reflects light, like a mirror. The level of gloss can vary depending on the paint.

Masking – Masking is a temporary process where the areas that aren’t being painted are covered to protect them from excess paint.

Pigment – Pigment is what gives paint color. When mixed in, pigment can be mixed to create new colors of paint, but it is always separate from the paint – pigment is insoluble.

Primer – A primer is the first layer in a painting system, and it can be applied to an unpainted surface. Its job is to protect the unpainted surface, called a substrate, and prepare it for the application of paint.

Primer-Sealer – A primer sealer is a combination of a primer and a sealer. It does the job of both: it seals the surface below, usually one that has previously been painted and then sanded off, and it preps the surface for the application of new paint.

Sealer – A sealer is like a primer for previously painted surfaces. It helps to seal in old sanded down paint, and provide a surface adequate for new paint.

Substrate – This is a name for an unpainted surface.

Tint and Blend – This process involves mixing color and paint in attempt to recreate an existing color, and then adding the paint to the surface and blending it to match.

Tinter – Tinter is a colored pigment or paint used to adjust the color of paint so that it matches the goal color.

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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.

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