Tell me about Automobile Insurance.
The following information briefly explains the components of the personal auto policy (PAP), as well as the persons and events typically covered under such a policy.
Anatomy of the personal automobile policy (PAP)
Declarations page: Your PAP is a written contract between you and your insurance company. The policy’s declarations page contains accurate information concerning you (as the owner of the policy), the vehicles covered by the policy, and other identifying features.
Part A–liability coverage: Liability coverage insures you against injuries you cause to other people and damage you cause to other people’s property in an automobile accident. Liability claims for pain and suffering can be virtually limitless, so this is one area in which you definitely do not want to be underinsured. The PAP separates liability coverage into two parts: bodily injury coverage and property damage coverage.
Part B–medical payments coverage: Medical payments coverage (med pay) pays medical expenses resulting from an automobile accident up to a specified dollar limit. The purpose of “med pay” is to provide payment for immediate medical treatment for passengers of your car who are injured in an auto accident. Because of this, there’s no need to wait and find out who is at fault and ultimately liable.
Part C–uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: This coverage insures you against losses caused by someone who is completely uninsured or who has less than adequate insurance to cover the loss (underinsured).
Part D–coverage for damage to your auto: Part D coverage actually consists of two separate parts: collision coverage and comprehensive coverage. You can purchase either one or both of these coverages for each vehicle you own. In general, collision coverage insures you against damage to your vehicle caused in an accident. Comprehensive coverage insures you against all other physical damage to your car caused by such events as fire, theft, flood, and vandalism. These coverages can be written with or without a deductible (generally, anywhere from $100 to $1,000). The higher the deductible, the lower the premium, and vice-versa.
Part E–duties after an accident or loss: This part of the PAP deals with the specific procedures that must be follow in order to have your claim covered by the insurer. It contains a list of general and specific duties that must be complied with. It’s essential to follow these procedures carefully, since timely payment of your claim may depend on your doing so.
Part F–personal auto policy provision: Part F of the PAP contains various provisions that limit and qualify the coverage provided in other sections of the PAP. Such provisions are commonly referred to as disclaimers. If the conditions set forth in this section are not met, the insurer may be able to deny coverage of a claim.
In addition to these basic parts included in every policy, there are certain optional coverages which can be purchased at an additional cost.
What’s not covered
Exclusions: Your PAP identifies a number of events and situations that are specifically omitted or excepted from coverage. These are called exclusions. An example would be property damage and personal injury that you intentionally caused, or damage to a vehicle from normal wear and tear or mechanical breakdown.
Limitations: Your PAP also specifies certain caps on the dollar amounts of coverage you are entitled to receive under the policy. These are called limitations. Separate limits are generally set for liability, medical payments, uninsured motorists, collision, and comprehensive coverages.
It’s important to read your PAP so that you’re aware of all the applicable exclusions and limitations.
Individuals typically covered under a PAP
Named insured: One section of the declarations page identifies you as the named insured, meaning you are the individual who is primarily insured under the policy. As the named insured, you and your vehicles receive the most extensive coverage under your policy.
Spouses: Your spouse is generally entitled to receive the same coverage as you (the named insured) under your policy if he or she lives with you, even if he or she is not identified as a named insured on the declarations page of your policy.
Family members: Family members (as defined in your policy) are insured by your PAP as long as they own, use, or maintain the vehicle covered by the policy. In fact, family members generally receive almost the same extensive coverage that you do.
Other people: If your covered auto is involved in an accident, other people are insured under certain sections of the policy if:
- they were using the covered auto (liability coverage),
- they were occupying the covered auto (uninsured motorists and medical payments coverages),
- they are legally responsible for the actions of any other person insured under the policy (liability coverage), or
- they are entitled to recover due to any bodily injury suffered by you, your resident spouse, family member, or anyone using the covered auto (uninsured motorists coverage).
If a vehicle other than a covered auto is involved, other people are insured under your policy as long as:
- they are not the vehicle’s owner and they are legally responsible for the actions of any other person insured under the policy (liability coverage), or
- they are entitled to recover due to any bodily injury suffered by you, your resident spouse, or relative (uninsured motorists coverage).
Do I Have Enough Auto Insurance?
Here’s a piece of advice to consider when you buy auto insurance: Ask a lot of questions. Auto insurance often seems fraught with weighty terminology. If you’re unclear about the difference between comprehensive and collision, don’t fret; you’re not alone. It’s smart to ask us to explain the differences, much as you might ask your doctor to demystify medical terms.
Auto insurance blends several types of coverage into one policy. Typically, your policy will include some combination of comprehensive, collision, medical, liability and uninsured motorist coverage. Throw in the deductible amount, the vehicle’s value and personal data such as your age to arrive at the policy’s cost. Reduce the coverage amounts or raise the deductible and the cost of the policy goes down.
So what do you need? It depends on, well, your needs.
- Pays for the damage you cause to others if your car is involved in an accident. It also protects you from being cleaned out if you are sued following an accident.
- The greater your assets, the more you stand to lose.
- If you have substantial financial resources, you may need liability coverage that exceeds the coverage that you’ll get from an auto insurance policy.
- In that case, our personal umbrella policies can provide the extra liability protection you need.
- Covers damage to your car in an accident, should reflect the value of your vehicle.
- We can help you find the balance between the cost of collision insurance and the value of your car.
- It might not be worth paying $200 a year for collision insurance on a car that’s worth only $1,000.
- But if the car is worth a bit more, you probably want this coverage.
- Comprehensive coverage pays for your car if it is stolen, vandalized or damaged in some way other than in a collision.
- Provides for medical expenses to you and your passengers that are the result of an accident.
- The way you use your car may make a difference in the amount of medical coverage you need.
- For example, we might suggest more coverage for a parent who regularly takes a carload of kids to soccer practice than for a driver who expects to drive mostly solo.
- Pays when you’re in a wreck with someone who has no insurance. This last type of coverage is essential.
- A type of insurance coverage that covers the difference between the payoff of a leased vehicle and the amount covered by other insurance coverage, when a vehicle is damaged or stolen during the term of the lease. Most gap coverage requires that the lessee not be in default under the terms of the lease.
True protection comes from understanding your unique situation, and applying coverage accordingly. Consider these factors as you speak with us. Once you understand the language, you’ll be able to apply the best policy for your needs, and maybe even impress your friends with your mastery of the lingo.