Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com, says most car accidents can be avoided. A frequent cause of claims is driver distraction. With devices like GPS tools, BlackBerrys and iPhones competing for your attention, you may find yourself multi-tasking when you should be keeping your eyes and your mind on the road.“People are just inattentive nowadays, it seems,” Gusner says. “They are texting when they get in their car. They are trying to answer the phone. Most things people do [to cause accidents] seem to be preventable.”
Fortunately, your auto insurance policy often covers damage that’s due to your own bad judgment.
Read on for eight self-inflicted car insurance wounds and how your insurance will help you out – or not.
My wife backed out of the garage and hit my car in the driveway. Can we make a claim on our liability policy?
You can’t make a claim for yourself on your own liability coverage. However, Rick Ward, director of auto claims for MetLife Auto & Home, says you typically would be covered if you have a collision policy. Unlike basic liability coverage, which pays for the harm you cause to others, collision coverage pays to repair your own car in the event of an accident.
Often, insurance companies that hold the policies on both vehicles in this type of accident will waive one or both of the deductibles.
Tully Lehman, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California (IINC), says that in such cases where the drivers have different insurance providers, the company representing the driver who backed into the parked car likely would cover the damages.
“It is the responsibility of the driver backing out of the driveway to make certain that the path is clear,” explains Lehman.
Another car hit my door as I was opening it. Whose insurance pays?
In this case, insurance adjusters would look very closely at the nature of the damage to determine who was at fault, says David Snyder, vice president and associate general counsel for the American Insurance Association (AIA).
“Where the damage is may signal who is at fault,” he explains. “If the damage is on the outside of your door, most people would conclude the other car hit your car. But if the damage was to the inside of your door, it means you had your door open before the other car hit it. There would be some liability on the person who opened the door.”
I crashed into my own garage door. Will I need to make a collision claim for my car and a home insurance claim for the garage door?
There is no way to consolidate the two claims, says Snyder. “If you want to collect from your insurance company you have to make two claims.”
On the bright side, you may have to pay the deductible for just one policy if you use the same insurer for both home and auto insurance. For example, MetLife would waive one of the deductibles for its customers under most circumstances, says Ward.
I smashed my hand in my car door. Can I make a bodily injury claim on my car insurance?
The answer most likely is “yes,” says Snyder. Personal injury protection (PIP) and medical payments (MedPay) coverage pay the medical bills for you and your passengers following a mishap, no matter who is at fault.
In no-fault states such as Pennsylvania and New York, MedPay and PIP are the primary sources of health insurance coverage when you’re injured in an auto accident. If you live in a state without no-fault insurance and have MedPay or PIP on your auto policy, you should use it first to pay accident-related medical expenses. Your health insurance company may deny coverage until you exhaust MedPay or PIP benefits.Think twice before simply using your health insurance to avoid the hassle of a car insurance claim. “A lot of clinics will ask, ‘Did this happen in your car?’ says Ward.”They will forward [the bill] to your auto insurance.”
I left my engine running while I ran into a store, and somebody stole my car. Will comprehensive insurance pay my theft claim?
The answer in most cases is “yes,” says Ward. Even though it’s your own darn fault, “there is coverage for that under your comprehensive theft coverage.” An obvious lack of good judgment normally won’t prevent you from collecting, he adds.
You probably will have to pay your deductible, but here is some relief: “If a thief steals your car and damages it, it is covered by comprehensive coverage while it is out of your control,” says Ward.
I left my emergency brake off and my driverless car rolled down the driveway and across the street, into my neighbor’s tree. Will my car insurance pay for the damage to my car and what about the damage to the tree?
Again, it’s your own fault, isn’t it? But auto insurance companies generally pay under such circumstances, says Snyder.
Ward notes that in most cases your policy “will pay for the damages less your deductible.” He also says it would cover damage for the tree under your physical damage liability, up to the limit of the policy.
I crashed a car while on a test drive. Whose insurance pays?
Lehman says the insurance company representing the dealership would be on the hook for any damages you cause while test-driving a car. Your own insurer would not be obligated to pay.
That’s because insurance follows the car, not the driver.
If you’re on a test drive and someone else hits you, their insurance will have to pay, notes Lehman.
My daughter crashed her Little Tikes Cozy Coupe into my car, scratching the door. Can I make a comprehensive claim?
This is one car accident that probably won’t be covered by your auto policy. Be prepared to reach into your own pocket or settle up with your child. Unless your daughter carries a liability policy for her toy car, you’re probably out of luck, says Lehman.
“Can you make a claim?” he asks. “Sure, but the likelihood of damage exceeding your deductible — if one applies — is highly unlikely.”