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Maintain a good driving record and credit history.
If I lend my car to a friend, is he or she covered under my insurance?
Most policies will cover drivers who have permission to use your auto. But check your policy, or ask your agent, to see if the conditions or limits of your policy will change for drivers who are not regular operators of your auto.
I have an older car whose current value is very low - do I need insurance?
You should always have bodily injury and property damage. In most states you're legally required to carry a minimum amount.
Insurance for comprehensive and collision is not required by the state, but may be required if the vehicle is financed or leased.
Consider what would happen if the car was stolen or seriously damaged in an accident:
Can you afford to replace the car it if it is damaged beyond repair?
If your car is damaged but not totaled, how much can you afford to spend on repairs?
Without comprehensive, you can't buy rental reimbursement coverage, which pays for a rental car or other transportation expenses until your car is repaired or replaced.
My son has his learner's permit and is starting to drive. I want to add him to my policy but it will triple the premium! Do I have to add him?
Most companies do not charge for a person with a learner's permit or require the learner be named on a policy (but some do).Once your son gets his permanent license, he must be covered under your auto insurance, unless he won't be driving. Newly licensed drivers are involved in more accidents than more experienced drivers, so their rates are considerably higher. For his protection, and for the protection of your financial assets, you may want to review your insurance limits and coverage. Your son's premiums can be kept lower if he maintains at least a B average in school, keeps deductibles high, and if he drives an older, standard model car (rather than a sports or luxury car).
I plan to buy a new car. Do I need coverage for this car before I drive it off the lot?
Your new car must be insured before you drive it off the lot. If you have a policy in force, the new car will be automatically covered for 30 days. However, if you cover a new car under an existing policy without notifying your insurance company, some companies may change some of your coverage limits until they have received notice from you about the new car, and decided they want to insure it. When you buy a car, new or used, is a good time to review your coverage and check prices among competing companies. Start by getting quotes for the year, make and model of the car you plan to buy. If you're considering more than one make and model, checking the price of insurance may help you decide. Although two cars may seem the same, the repair costs may be dramatically different, and that will have a significant impact on your insurance costs. And, if you are financing the car, you will be required to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage by your lender or lessor.
Learn More About Auto insurance. Read Glossary.
Devices designed either to reduce the chance an auto will be vandalized or stolen, or assist in its recovery. Examples include car alarms, keyless entry, starter disablers, motion detectors, parts of the vehicle etched with the Vehicle Identification Number, and recovery systems.
A form of insurance that protects against losses involving autos. Different types are available depending on the needs and wants of those buying policies. Examples of coverage types include: bodily injury liability, property damage liability, medical payments, and collision and comprehensive coverage for physical damage to the insured's vehicle.
Basic Auto Policy
Although still used today to insure substandard risks, two-wheel motorized vehicles, and commercial autos, the Basic Auto Policy has been primarily replaced by the Personal Auto Policy, which combines both physical damage coverage and liability insurance for claims arising out of the ownership or use of a vehicle.
Bodily Injury Liability
Legal liability for causing physical injury or death to another.
This covers loss to the insured person's own auto caused by its collision with another vehicle or object.
Combined Single Limit
Bodily Injury and Property Damage coverage expressed as one single amount of coverage.
That portion of the premium paid to the agent as compensation for the agent's services.
Continuous Coverage or Continuous Liability Insurance
Continuous coverage refers to the length of time you have maintained insurance on your vehicle.
This refers to the individuals (named insured, spouse, resident relatives, etc.) insured under a policy contract.
Customized Equipment/Special Equipment
Items not included in standard insurance options available for cars. These may include extra electronic equipment, special paint or exterior items, or amenities added to the inside of a van or truck.
The amount an insured person must pay before the insurance company pays the remainder of each covered loss, up to the policy limits.
Optional coverage that broadens the definition of a covered auto to include non-owned vehicles the insured person operates.
State accredited educational course that consist of at least 30 hours of professional classroom instruction.
State accredited training course that consists of at least six hours of behind-the-wheel professional instruction.
The portion of a premium that has been "used up" during a policy term. With a one-year policy, half of the total premium has been earned after six months.
Effective Date/Inception Date
The date that coverage begins on an insurance policy.
The date your coverage ends. There is usually a time of day associated with this date, for example, an expiration date of 5/1/2002 at 12:01am. This means your coverage ends one minute after midnight on the date listed.
Family Automobile Policy
Now replaced by the Personal Auto Policy, the Family Auto Policy was a package policy in which both liability and physical damage protection to an insured's vehicle was offered under one policy.
reflect a rating organization's opinion on the financial strength and ability to meet ongoing obligations to policyholders. The ratings organizations most commonly identified with the insurance industry are AM Best, Standard & Poor's and Moody's.
First Party Benefits
This pays policyholders and others covered by the policy in the event of injury, no matter who caused the accident. The benefits can include medical expenses, loss of income, funeral and death benefits. This may also be called Personal Injury Protection.
If you are making lease or loan payments and you experience a total loss, there may be a difference (gap) between the market value of your vehicle and what you still owe on it. This optional coverage pays the difference.
Good Student Discount
A premium discount for students with high scholastic grades. Some statistical research has shown a relationship between good grades and safe driving.
Hit and Run
An accident caused by someone who does not stop to assist or provide information.
Lapse in Coverage/Policy Lapse
A point in time when a policy has been canceled or terminated for failure to pay the premium, or when the policy contract is void for other reasons.
Your lender is the institution to which you make car payments.
Your lessor is the institution to which you make your lease payments.
This pays for medical and funeral expenses incurred in an auto accident, regardless of fault. It will also cover injuries sustained by passengers in your car, or while you're operating someone else's car (with their permission), in addition to injuries you or your family members incur when you're pedestrians.
A discount offered by some insurance companies for those with more than one vehicle insured on the same policy. In some cases, if you drive a company car insured by your company, your own insurance company may give you the multi-car discount.
Any person, firm or corporation designated by name as the insured person(s) in a policy. Others may be protected by policy definition even though their names aren't on the policy, such as other drivers operating (with consent) the named insured's covered auto.
Named Non-Owner Policy
A policy endorsement for one who operates any non-owned automobile on a regular basis, such as driving a car provided by one's employer.
Many states have enacted auto accident compensation laws permitting auto accident victims to collect directly from their own insurance companies for medical and hospital expenses regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Although there are many legal variations of no-fault insurance, most states still allow people to sue the negligent party if the amount of damages exceeds a certain state-determined threshold. (see "Threshold Level.")
Any vehicle that is not owned, borrowed, or leased by the insured, and which is used primarily for a business purpose.
Per Occurrence Limit
This refers to the cap amount an insurance company will pay for all claims arising from a single incident. In an automobile accident, it comprises bodily injuries sustained by all parties. When Bodily Injury coverage is purchased in split limits, the second limit is the "per occurrence" limit: e.g. $100,000(per person)/$300,000(per occurrence)
Per Person Limit
This refers to the cap amount an insurance company will pay for any one person's injuries arising from a single incident. In an automobile accident, it comprises bodily injuries sustained by each person. When Bodily Injury is purchased in split limits, the first limit is the "per person" limit: e.g. $100,000(per person)/$300,000(per occurrence)
Personal Auto Policy
The most common auto insurance policy sold today. Often referred to as "PAP," this policy is written in simple wording and provides coverage for liability, medical payments, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and physical damage protection.
Damage to your covered vehicle from perils including (but not limited to) collision or upset with another vehicle object, fire, vandalism and theft.
The written documents of a contract for insurance between the insurance company and the insured. Such documents include forms, endorsements, riders and attachments.
The period of time in which a policy is in effect. (For example, six months or one year).
Any risk considered to be better than the standard risk on which the premium rate was calculated.
Private Passenger Automobile
A four-wheeled motor vehicle that is subject to motor vehicle registration and used for private personal use.
Pro Rata Cancellation
Termination of an insurance contract before the policy expiration date on which the premium returned to the insured person is adjusted in proportion to the amount of time the policy was in effect.
The process of keeping an active policy in force through the issuance of a renewal policy.
This optional coverage will reimburse you for a rental car if your vehicle is disabled due to a covered loss. This coverage will pay all or part of your rental car costs.
Safe Driver Plan
A rating system that assigns points for traffic convictions and certain accidents. Similar to a merit-rating plan, each point increases the surcharge percentage to the baseline rates.
Short Rate Cancellation
A policy termination in which the refunded premium is not proportional to the amount of time remaining in the policy period due to the fixed expenses incurred by the company. The insured will generally pay more for each day of coverage than if the policy had remained in force throughout the entire policy period.
Any insurance coverage with separately stated limits for different types of coverage. Example: an automobile liability policy of 100/300/50 provides a maximum of $100,000 bodily injury coverage per person, $300,000 bodily injury coverage per accident, and a property damage limit of $50,000 per accident.
Stacking of Limits
The application of more than one policy limit to the same loss or occurrence. In some jurisdictions, courts have required stacking of limits when multiple policies, or multiple policy periods, cover an occurrence. For example, Uninsured motorist bodily injury limits of $100,000/300,000 on two policies owned by the same person may be added together to pay a loss. In this event, the total amount of coverage available for an accident would be $200,000/600,000.
The length of time for which a policy or bond is in force.
Under some no-fault insurance laws, the threshold level represents the degree of injury a claimant must establish before being allowed to sue the negligent party. The threshold may be verbal (regarding the severity of the injuries) or a dollar amount ($10,000), or both. For example, with a threshold of $5,000, an injured person may sue if his/her injuries and other economic damages (rehabilitation expenses, loss of income, etc.) exceed $5,000.
A private wrong or harm (other than a breach of contract) committed against another, resulting in legal liability. A tort is either intentional or accidental (negligent). Automobile liability insurance is purchased to protect one from suits arising from unintentional torts.
One who commits a tort.
Towing and Labor Costs
This endorsement, which is added to the physical damage coverage, provides reimbursement up to a specified limit to tow your vehicle or pay for on-site labor costs.
Subject to a daily and maximum dollar limit, this coverage (under the physical damage portion of an automobile policy) pays for transportation expenses incurred by the named insured only in the event of theft of an entire covered auto. Coverage generally begins after a stated minimum waiting period.
Underinsured Motorists Bodily Injury
coverage (which must be offered in most states) pays for a covered person's bodily injuries of which a person with not enough insurance is legally liable.
Uninsured Motorists Property Damage
Liability coverage pays for property damages caused by uninsured drivers.
The portion of your premium remaining on your policy term. For example, with a six-month premium, at the end of the first month of the premium period, five-sixths of the premium is unearned by the insurance company.
Unsatisfied Judgment Fund
Some states have established laws to reimburse those injured in auto accidents that have been unable to collect from the responsible party.
This refers to the primary function or purpose in which you intend to operate your vehicle. For example, if you primarily drive your car to and from work, the usage is considered "commute; "if you're self-employed and you primarily drive to see customers, the usage is considered "business;" if you're retired, your usage is considered "pleasure."
VIN Vehicle Identification Number
A Vehicle Identification Number is a 17-digit alpha-numeric code that provides valuable information concerning the vehicle's serial number, make, model, options, and year in official records (like a Social Security number for your car).
Whole Dollar Premium
Generally, insurance premiums are rounded to the nearest dollar; an amount of 51 cents or more being rounded up to the next dollar, and any amount less than that being dropped
Learn More About Insurance fraud
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), property and casualty insurance fraud accounted for $24 billion in illegal claims - about 10 percent of all claims in 1999. The III also said that figure is likely to increase, since fraud occurs more frequently during times of economic downturn.
The stakes are high - the penalties for committing fraud include jail time and stiff restitution fees. But that is apparently not stopping an increasing number of people from committing various types of fraud. Also, public attitudes are changing. The III found in a recent survey that 40 percent of respondents thought it was okay to overstate the dollar amount of their insurance claims to make up for the money they had paid in premiums. The findings represented a sizable increase over the past eight years in the number of people who deemed such behavior acceptable.
Fraud is prevalent partly because there are so many ways to commit it. Among the most common: Inflating claims; lying or misrepresenting on insurance forms or applications; submitting false claims for damage or injuries that never occurred; and staging fake accidents or thefts.
The multitude of possible ways for fraud to occur means there are many people at points along the way who have the opportunity to be dishonest.
Two new state laws there are designed to reform the current system and improve those numbers. One requires clinics that treat accident victims to get a state license and charge state-approved fees for treating victims. Another new Florida law requires that police accident reports be available only to those personally involved in an accident immediately after the accident (previously, ambulance chasers were obtaining reports to solicit business).
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, NAIC, recently launched a Web site designed to give consumers a user-friendly resource for researching insurance companies, learning about industry news and making complaints.
The NAIC is made up of insurance regulatory officials from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and four U.S, territories. Its objective is to protect consumers and contribute to the financial stability of the insurance industry through its legal, actuarial, financial, computer and research services as well as its economic expertise.