All these rules go out the window in many cases if the person borrowing the car happens to be a relative who resides in the same household as the owner. You should read your policy carefully to see what type of coverage applies to you.
Remember these two things: First, always exercise caution when it comes to lending your car. Second, if you're ever in doubt about whether you or another driver is covered in any given situation, please call us.
Rental Cars: Should you purchase rental agency coverage?
If you have collision and comprehensive ("other than collision") coverages on your own car, you are most likely covered if you're traveling in the United States, its territories and possessions or Canada (for example, travel in Mexico, the Bahamas or Europe would not be covered). Most policies (except business policies) cover any rental car that you drive at no additional premium. Business cars frequently require an extra premium to afford the same coverage. Give us a call before you leave for your "fun in the sun and/or snow" to confirm your coverage.
Cellular Phone Coverage
Since many of us now have cellular telephones, we thought it might be worthwhile to highlight a few points regarding how insurance applies to this technology:
If a cellular phone is stolen from your car (or along with your car if it is stolen), is the phone covered by your auto insurance?
No, it is not unless the phone is permanently installed and powered by the car's electrical system.
Is your portable cell phone covered by your homeowners or renters insurance?
Sometimes it is, but coverage is subject to the policy provisions and deductible in your homeowners or renters policy.
Can you buy broader coverage for your portable cell phone?
Yes, most companies offer a special, broader coverage for portable cell phones that can be added to a homeowners or renters policy. Call us for details.
What if you lease a portable cell phone?
If you lease a phone, check with the company you lease the phone from to see what (if any) coverage they may provide. You may then want to check with us to compare coverages and cost.
Lease Loan Gap Coverage
If you are thinking about leasing or buying a car, you might consider adding Lease Loan Gap (LLG) Coverage to your auto policy. LLG Coverage is an extension of your auto's physical damage coverage.
Ordinarily, your comprehensive and collision coverages provide you with up to the actual cash value (the vehicle's cost minus depreciation) in the event of a total loss. When you sign a lease or loan agreement, you may be obligating yourself for an amount higher than the vehicle's actual cash value.
At a cost of approximately 5% of your current comprehensive and collision premiums, LLG Coverage protects you from out-of-pocket expense when such a "gap" occurs. Although there are some limitations, LLG Coverage will pay up to your lease or loan amount if your car is stolen or if the cost of repairs is greater than its salvage value. Contact our office and we'd be happy to discuss this coverage further.
Note: Some car manufacturers may provide gap coverage as part of the lease agreement --- check your particular contract for details.
New Car Selection: Safety Counts
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has published a shopping guide for those wanting to buy a new car based upon safety features. While the guide does provide specific car lists (from station wagons to sports cars) it also reveals some overall safety basics to keep in mind.
Vehicle size - Quite simply, bigger means safer. According to the shopping guide, "People in small vehicles are injured more often and more severely than those in large vehicles." In relation to their number on the road, small vehicles account for more than twice as many occupant deaths as large vehicles. Small sport utility vehicles have the highest death rates of all, in part because of their greater involvement in fatal rollover crashes. "While utility vehicles and passenger vans might go head-to-head in a popularity contest, passenger vans have good on-the-road crash experience --- similar to that of station wagons."
Air bags - Serving as a buffer between vehicle interiors and occupants' heads and faces, air bags provide automatic protection in frontal crashes. The Institute advises that although "the speed and force of air bag inflation may occasionally cause minor injuries such as abrasions, this slight risk is far outweighed by the benefits." This type of injury can be reduced by selecting a seat position that is not too close to the steering wheel.
Safety belts - Remember, the more comfortable the safety belt, the more likely you are to always use it. Even though shoulder belts allow some forward movement, automatic crash tensioners and/or belt webbing grabbers can reduce the chance of an occupant hitting the steering wheel or dashboard in a serious frontal crash.
Antilock brakes - Especially designed to avoid skidding and loss of control, antilock brakes automatically pump several times a second. Drivers need to become familiar with the difference in braking style as antilocks require heavy braking pressure to activate this safety feature.
Head restraints - Required in the front seats of all new passenger vehicles, head restraints prevent occupants' heads from snapping back in a rear-end crash. Look for a fixed head restraint or an adjustable restraint that is designed to protect tall and short people even in the "down" position. Avoid a poorly-designed adjustable restraint that would only protect the shortest occupants.
Built-in child seats - Several cars and vans offer built-in child safety seats as options.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Do I Really Need It?
You're driving your son to soccer practice when you are rear-ended at a stop sign. Dealing with the initial trauma of the accident and injuries and the subsequent disruption of a period of medical recovery and the inconvenience of car repairs is bad enough. What if the injuries are serious? And what if the at-fault driver has no insurance? Where do you turn?
This is where your Uninsured Motorists (UM) Coverage comes into play.
What is UM Coverage? Uninsured Motorists coverage is defined as coverage that "pays the policyholder and passengers in his/her car for losses sustained by reason of bodily injury ... caused by the owner or operator of an uninsured automobile or a hit and run driver."
What is the difference between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Coverage? Underinsured Motorists Coverage covers you and passengers in your car for "losses unpaid because sufficient bodily injury liability limits are not available from the policy of an at-fault driver." In other words, Uninsured Motorists covers you if the wrongdoer has no insurance while Underinsured Motorists covers you in the event that the wrongdoer has some coverage but not enough.
Many people wonder if UM is really necessary. After all, isn't liability insurance mandatory? How can there be any uninsured drivers out there? The problem is not everyone obeys the law. A recent study showed that of over 11 million registered drivers, 7% of those drivers convicted of moving violations in a recent six-month period were found to have no insurance. That's a frighteningly high number!
Others question the necessity of UM in light of the fact they have very comprehensive medical coverage. In the event of an accident with an uninsured driver, they assume their own medical coverage will fully protect them. Yes, medical insurance would likely cover most medical expenses. But it will not generally compensate the injured person for lost wages, disfigurement, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and changes in quality of life. For a person permanently disabled following an accident, even things such as modifications to make a home and a vehicle more accessible can cost tens of thousands of dollars. UM can compensate the victim in these broader areas.
There are ways insurance dollars can be saved, but paring down or going without UM is one we strongly discourage. The largest claim in our agency history is not a huge fire loss or a big liability settlement. It is, you guessed it, a UM claim.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage
It is estimated that one out of every 20 motorists is driving uninsured. Although this figure represents only 5% of today's drivers, uninsured motorists are responsible for approximately 13% of all auto accidents. If you become involved in an accident with an at-fault driver of an uninsured motor vehicle there are coverage options available to ensure that you are adequately protected: