On the surface, car insurance can seem fairly straightforward. You buy a policy, and if you get into an accident, it comes to your aid – at least in most scenarios.
However, once you start digging deeper, a lot of questions can pop up. As an insurance agent, I always encourage people to dig deeper so they can better understand the process of purchasing insurance, filing a claim and more. Because the more you understand, the better you can select the coverage you need.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions people typically have about car insurance so we can shed light on some important issues.
Does auto insurance cover the car or the driver?
An auto insurance policy can include many different types of coverages, so the answer is: It depends. Some coverages are for the car and others for the driver and passengers. Let’s look at some of the different types and what they cover (your own policy may differ):
Bodily Injury Liability
This is a type of coverage that most states require drivers to carry. When the actions of your driving result in injuries to others, whether it’s a bicyclist, a pedestrian, the driver of another car or a passenger in another car, this coverage may help with their medical bills. It may also help cover the cost of lost wages and pain and suffering of the injured party, as well as your legal fees if the injured person decides to sue for damages. This coverage typically follows you, the policyholder, from vehicle to vehicle. So if you are driving a non-owned auto that doesn’t have liability insurance, your policy will follow you while driving that vehicle. It also covers anyone that you give permission to drive your vehicle. We have saying about this: when you lend your car, you lend your insurance. I have to put in an insurance alert – you should always check the terms of your policy, since terms and wording can vary by company and by state.
Collision and Comprehensive
These two coverages are vehicle-specific. Collision is for vehicle damage sustained in an auto accident – your vehicle, that is. Comprehensive is for damage your vehicle sustains in other incidents, such as fallen trees, lightning, fire, theft and vandalism, as well as cracked windshields.
Whether these coverages follows your vehicle into other countries, such as Mexico and Canada, is something you’ll want to check with your insurance agent.
Property Damage Liability
This is another auto insurance coverages that most states require drivers to carry. It is vehicle-specific and may apply when you damage someone else’s property, such as a car or building, with your vehicle. So, if you back into your neighbor’s picket fence or boat trailer, this coverage will help pay to repair your neighbor’s damaged property. Ditto if you collide with another vehicle – this coverage is for damage to other vehicles, not your own. It may also help pay for any legal fees associated with the claim.
Does a police report always determine blame in a car accident?
It depends on the statutes in each state. In most cases, if a police report is available and it states who is at fault, the insurance carriers will abide by that. There could be extenuating circumstances, however, that affect the decision of the carriers involved.
Can my insurance company check my driving history?
Yes, insurance companies can and will review your driving history via both a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report and a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR). The former details your claims history over the past five years, and the latter lists any driving offenses. The information on these reports can affect how much you pay for car insurance. While they can receive these reports annually, most only do it periodically.
I hope this helps with some basic auto insurance information. As always you should check with your insurance professional about specific questions or coverage issues you may have.