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Personal auto insurance
Have you ever had a question about your auto insurance? We are here to answer your questions and help you make important decisions to be certain that you are properly protected.
We provide coverage for most types of vehicles. We also can coordinate your entire insurance program to include your home, business, and other property.
Bodily injury liability
This coverage applies to injuries that you, the designated driver or policyholder, cause to someone else. Both yourself and any family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else's car with their permission.
It's very important to have enough liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Definitely consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect assets such as your home and savings.
Environmental concerns, traffic congestion, convenience, desire to relieve driver stress, poor public transportation, lack or expense of parking are all factors that contribute to commuters forming driver groups or carpools. Parents use such arrangements to transport children to school, sports events, and extracurricular activities. It is also common for a student owning a car to carry classmates back and forth between home and school.
Regardless of the name, driver groups, share-the-ride arrangements, or carpools are a permanent part of the American scene. Typically, several drivers take turns assuming the responsibility for driving their companions. It's common for the turns to last a week and may be switched on a rotating basis. These people frequently live in the same area and work in the same office or plant. They may take turns driving or may regularly ride in one car and pay the owner a reasonable fee for gasoline, maintenance, and wear and tear.
The practice of a parent taking a group of children on an outing, to a “Little League” baseball game, and the like is commonplace. Other examples of group driving exposures are plentiful:
• Church group activities
• Book club members driving to their regular meeting or outing
• Coaches taking players to practices or games
• Employees traveling together to league games or practices, etc.
Liability Insurance Exclusion
Drivers involved in car pools and other group arrangements may wonder if the situation is covered under their auto policy. This concern is valid as many auto policies have restrictions. Typically, liability coverage under personal automobile policies does not apply to “liability arising out of the ownership or operation of a vehicle while it is being used as a public or livery conveyance.” (A public conveyance is a vehicle used indiscriminately in transporting the public without being limited to certain persons or occasions. A livery vehicle is one that is offered for rental.) There is slight variation in language among policies issued by various insurers, but the intent is the same: to exclude the use of a personal auto for transporting people or property for income. However, this exclusion does not affect coverage for car pool, driver group, or share-the-ride arrangements.
You have already learned that many drivers use different ride-sharing arrangements. The typical automobile insurance policy covers these arrangements because the driving exposure is essentially the same. The common policy exclusion that refers to “public or livery conveyances” is to prevent coverage for business situations. Using a car or SUV that is insured by a personal auto policy to transport people or goods for hire is unfair to insurers. The premium a company charges for personal use is inadequate to cover “public or livery conveyances” that are typically:
• Driven more miles
• Exposed to worse (i.e., high density) traffic situations
• Driven under more pressure to meet delivery schedules
• Exposed to poorer driving conditions
In other words, such use calls for more careful underwriting, different or special coverages, and a higher premium. However, group-driving arrangements are another form of personal use such as using a car for commuting, vacations, personal errands, etc. The result is that a “personal” premium compensates an insurer for most pool arrangements.
Are there other coverage considerations?
Yes. Car owners may worry if their insurance is affected if another member of a pool is driving their car. The answer is that any person using the vehicle with the car owner's permission is covered along with the car owner.
Persons who drive in carpools may want to discuss the details with their insurance agent. An insurance agent may recommend that you carry higher bodily injury liability insurance limits. Higher medical payments limits may also be in order. Providing full details can help an agent make sure that any fees involved in the arrangement represent coverage for the driver's operating expenses and not additional income.
In most instances, using a car in a typical share-the-ride arrangement or carpool will not affect the protection under the personal auto policy. The fact that passengers pay a small amount of money to help cover the expense of automobile operation is unlikely to eliminate their driver's insurance coverage since the car is not being used as a “public or livery conveyance.” However, any fees received by a driver from car pool passengers should only reflect a reasonable share of the gas and oil expense and depreciation on the car.
What if I lease a car?
If you lease a car, you still need to buy your own auto insurance policy. The auto dealer or bank that is financing the car will require you to buy collision and comprehensive coverage. You'll need to buy these coverages in addition to the others that may be mandatory in your state, such as auto liability insurance.
• Collision covers the damage to the car from an accident with another automobile or object.
• Comprehensive covers a loss that is caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as a fire or theft or collision with a large animal.
The leasing company may also require “gap” insurance. This refers to the fact that if you have an accident, and your leased car is damaged beyond repair or “totaled,” there's likely to be a difference between the amount that you still owe the auto dealer and the check you'll get from your insurance company. That's because the insurance company's check is based on the car's actual cash value which takes into account depreciation. The difference between the two amounts is known as the “gap.”
On a leased car, the cost of gap insurance is generally rolled into the lease payments. You don't actually buy a gap policy. Generally, the auto dealer buys a master policy from an insurance company to cover all the cars it leases and charges you for a “gap waiver.” This means that if your leased car is totaled, you won't have to pay the dealer the gap amount. Check with the auto dealer when leasing your car.
If you have an auto loan rather than a lease, you may want to buy gap insurance to protect yourself from having to come up with the gap amount if your car is totaled before you've finished paying for it. Ask your insurance agent about gap insurance or search the Internet. Gap insurance may not be available in some states.
Medical payments (PIP)
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder's car. At its broadest, personal injury protection, or PIP, can cover medical payments, lost wages and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs.
Property damage liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else's property. Usually, this means damage to someone else's car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings, or other structures your car hit.
This coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object, or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes. Collision coverage is generally sold with a deductible of $250 to $1,000—the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you're not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver's insurance company. If they are successful, you'll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals such as birds or deer.
Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $300 deductible, though you may want to opt for a higher deductible as a way of lowering your premium.
Comprehensive insurance will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. Some companies offer glass coverage with or without a deductible.
States do not require that you purchase collision or comprehensive coverage, but if you have a car loan, your lender may insist you carry it until your loan is paid off.
Uninsured & underinsured motorist coverage
This coverage will reimburse you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver.
Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when an at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage will also protect you if you are hit as a pedestrian.
Can I drive into another country?
Most personal auto policies provide coverage for driving in Canada. However, we recommend that you check with us before taking your car across the border.
Mexican law requires that you purchase separate liability coverage from a Mexican insurance company prior to operating your vehicle in Mexico. Your personal auto policy may provide some limited coverage but this coverage must meet the insurance requirements of the Republic of Mexico. Failure to purchase the proper Mexican liability insurance could result in a substantial fine if you are involved in an accident while driving in Mexico. Again, we suggest that you check with our office prior to taking your vehicle across the border.
What coverage is provided if I pull a trailer with my vehicle?
In most cases, if the vehicle pulling the trailer is covered under the policy, the liability coverage will be extended to the trailer if you own the trailer. However, physical damage (comprehensive or collision) must be purchased separately. You will need to review your policy for exceptions.
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