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Automobile Insurance and Claims

What to do if you’re in an automobile accident:

According to the latest statistics by the National Safety Council, one in eight licensed drivers is involved in an automobile accident each year. Whether or not you become one of those unfortunate drivers involved in a collision, the following information can help you lessen the headaches and expense of an accident. In case of an accident:

  • Don’t leave the scene.
  • If vehicles are operable, move them to the shoulder and out of the way of oncoming traffic.
  • Call for medical assistance if there are any injuries.
  • In many areas, you have to call the police. Get the officer’s name, badge number, police station address, and phone number. Ask when the accident report will be filed, its case and report number, and how you can get a copy.
  • Take careful note of the date and time of the accident, the street and city, weather and road conditions, direction and speed you and other drivers were going, and how the accident occurred.
  • Take photos of the damages if a camera is available.

What you need in your glove compartment:

  • Your insurance card
  • Your vehicle registration
  • List of emergency numbers
  • Medical card listing medication allergies and/or any specific health condition you have that would require special attention

Homeowners Insurance and Claims

A homeowners insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. You should understand the policy before a loss occurs. Review your policy with your insurance representative so you’ll know what’s covered.

When filing your claim:

  1. Report any burglary or theft to police.
  2. Phone your agent or company immediately.
  3. Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage.
  4. Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company.
  5. Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles.
  6. Perform any other duties specified in your policy.

Insurance Glossary

ACTUAL CASH VALUE

A form of insurance that pays damages equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus depreciation.

ADDITIONAL LIVING EXPENSES

Extra charges covered by homeowners policies over and above the policyholder’s customary living expenses. They kick in when the insured requires temporary shelter due to damage by a covered peril that makes the home temporarily uninhabitable.

ADJUSTER

An individual employed by a property/casualty insurer to evaluate losses and settle policyholder claims. These adjusters differ from public adjusters, who negotiate with insurers on behalf of policyholders and receive a portion of a claims settlement. Independent adjusters are independent contractors who adjust claims for different insurance companies.

AGENCY COMPANIES

Companies that market and sell products via independent agents.

AGENT

Insurance is sold by two types of agents: independent agents, who are self-employed, represent several insurance companies, and are paid on commission, and exclusive or captive agents, who represent only one insurance company and are salaried or work on commission. Insurance companies that use exclusive or captive agents are called direct writers.

ARBITRATION

Procedure in which an insurance company and the insured, or a vendor, agree to settle a claim dispute by accepting a decision made by a third party.

BINDER

Temporary authorization of coverage issued prior to the actual insurance policy.

BODILY INJURY LIABILITY COVERAGE

Portion of an auto insurance policy that covers injuries the policyholder causes to someone else.

BOND

A security that obligates the issuer to pay interest at specified intervals and to repay the principal amount of the loan at maturity. In insurance, a form of suretyship. Bonds of various types guarantee a payment or a reimbursement for financial losses resulting from dishonesty, failure to perform, and other acts.

COBRA

Acronym for “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.” A federal law under which group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees must offer continuation of coverage to employees who leave their jobs and their dependents. The employee must pay the entire premium. Coverage can be extended up to 18 months. Surviving dependents can receive longer coverage.

COINSURANCE

  • In property insurance, requires the policyholder to carry insurance equal to a specified percentage of the value of property to receive full payment on a loss.
  • For health insurance, it is a percentage of each claim above the deductible paid by the policyholder. For a 20 percent health insurance coinsurance clause, the policyholder pays for the deductible plus 20 percent of his covered losses. After paying 80 percent of losses up to a specified ceiling, the insurer starts paying 100 percent of losses.

COLLISION COVERAGE

Portion of an auto insurance policy that covers the damage to the policyholder’s car from a collision.

COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE

Portion of an auto insurance policy that covers damage to the policyholder’s car not involving a collision with another car (including damage from fire, explosions, earthquakes, floods, and riots), and theft.

CROP-HAIL INSURANCE

Protection against damage to growing crops from hail, fire, or lightning provided by the private market. By contrast, multiple peril crop insurance covers a wider range of yield-reducing conditions, such as drought and insect infestation, and is subsidized by the federal government.

DECLARATION

Part of a property or liability insurance policy that states the name and address of policyholder, property insured, its location and description, the policy period, premiums, and supplemental information. Referred to as the “dec page.”

DEDUCTIBLE

The amount of loss paid by the policyholder. This is either a specified dollar amount, a percentage of the claim amount, or a specified amount of time that must elapse before benefits are paid. The bigger the deductible, the lower the premium charged for the same coverage.

DEPRECIATION

Loss in value of an assset; value of damaged item at the time of loss.

ENDORSEMENT

A written form attached to an insurance policy that alters the policy’s coverage, terms, or conditions. Sometimes called a rider.

EXCLUSION

A provision in an insurance policy that eliminates coverage for certain risks, people, property classes, or locations.

EXPERIENCE

Record of losses.

EXPOSURE

Possibility of loss.

EXTENDED COVERAGE

An endorsement added to an insurance policy, or clause within a policy, that provides additional coverage for risks other than those in a basic policy.

EXTENDED REPLACEMENT COST COVERAGE

Pays a certain amount above the policy limit to replace a damaged home, generally 120 percent or 125 percent. Similar to a guaranteed replacement cost policy, which has no percentage limits. Most homeowner policy limits track inflation in building costs. Guaranteed and extended replacement cost policies are designed to protect the policyholder after a major disaster when the high demand for building contractors and materials can push up the normal cost of reconstruction.

FLOOD INSURANCE

Coverage for flood damage is available from the federal government under the National Flood Insurance Program, but is sold by licensed insurance agents. Flood coverage is excluded under homeowners policies and many commercial property policies. However, flood damage is covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy

GUARANTEED REPLACEMENT COST COVERAGE

Homeowners policy that pays the full cost of replacing or repairing a damaged or destroyed home, even if it is above the policy limit.

INFLATION GUARD CLAUSE

A provision added to a homeowners insurance policy that automatically adjusts the coverage limit on the dwelling each time the policy is renewed to reflect current construction costs.

INLAND MARINE INSURANCE

This broad type of coverage was developed for shipments that do not involve ocean transport. Covers articles in transit by all forms of land and air transportation as well as bridges, tunnels and other means of transportation and communication. Floaters that cover expensive personal items such as fine art and jewelry are included in this category

LIABILITY INSURANCE

Insurance for what the policyholder is legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury or property damage caused to another person.

LIMITS

Maximum amount of insurance that can be paid for a covered loss.

LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE

Long-term care (LTC) insurance pays for services to help individuals who are unable to perform certain activities of daily living without assistance, or require supervision due to a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease. LTC is available as individual insurance or through an employer-sponsored or association plan.

LOSS

A reduction in the quality or value of a property, or a legal liability.

LOSS OF USE

A provision in homeowners and renters insurance policies that reimburses policyholders for any extra living expenses due to having to live elsewhere while their home is being restored following a disaster.

LOSS RATIO

Percentage of each premium dollar an insurer spends on claims.

LOSS RESERVES

The company’s best estimate of what it will pay for claims, which is periodically readjusted. They represent a liability on the insurer’s balance sheet.

MEDICAL PAYMENTS INSURANCE

A coverage in which the insurer agrees to reimburse the insured and others up to a certain limit for medical or funeral expenses as a result of bodily injury or death by accident. Payments are without regard to fault.

MULTIPLE PERIL POLICY

A package policy, such as a homeowners or business insurance policy, that provides coverage against several different perils. It also refers to the combination of property and liability coverage in one policy. In the early days of insurance, coverage for property damage and liability were purchased separately.

NAMED PERIL

Peril specifically mentioned as covered in an insurance policy.

NOTICE OF LOSS

A written notice required by insurance companies immediately after an accident or other loss. Part of the standard provisions defining a policyholder’s responsibilities after a loss.

OCCURRENCE POLICY

Insurance that pays claims arising out of incidents that occur during the policy term, even if they are filed many years later.

PERIL

A specific risk or cause of loss covered by an insurance policy, such as a fire, windstorm, flood, or theft. A named-peril policy covers the policyholder only for the risks named in the policy in contrast to an all-risk policy, which covers all causes of loss except those specifically excluded.

PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION COVERAGE / PIP

Portion of an auto insurance policy that covers the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car.

PERSONAL LINES

Property/casualty insurance products that are designed for and bought by individuals, including homeowners and automobile policies.

POLICY

A written contract for insurance between an insurance company and policyholder stating details of coverage.

PREMIUM

The price of an insurance policy, typically charged annually or semiannually.

PROOF OF LOSS

Documents showing the insurance company that a loss occurred.

REPLACEMENT COST

Insurance that pays the dollar amount needed to replace damaged personal property or dwelling property without deducting for depreciation, but limited by the maximum dollar amount shown on the declarations page of the policy.

SALVAGE

Damaged property an insurer takes over to reduce its loss after paying a claim. Insurers receive salvage rights over property on which they have paid claims, such as badly damaged cars. Insurers that paid claims on cargoes lost at sea now have the right to recover sunken treasures. Salvage charges are the costs associated with recovering that property.

SCHEDULE

A list of individual items or groups of items that are covered under one policy or a listing of specific benefits, charges, credits, assets, or other defined items.

SUBROGATION

The legal process by which an insurance company, after paying a loss, seeks to recover the amount of the loss from another party who is legally liable for it.

TOTAL LOSS

The condition of an automobile or other property when damage is so extensive that repair costs would exceed the value of the vehicle or property.

UMBRELLA POLICY

Coverage for losses above the limit of an underlying policy or policies such as homeowners and auto insurance. While it applies to losses over the dollar amount in the underlying policies, terms of coverage are sometimes broader than those of underlying policies.

UNDERINSURED MOTORISTS COVERAGE

Portion of an auto insurance policy that provides additional coverage if the insured is involved in a not at fault accident and the at fault parties limits of liability aren’t high enough to cover the insured medical bills.

UNDERWRITING

Examining, accepting, or rejecting insurance risks and classifying the ones that are accepted, in order to charge appropriate premiums for them.

UNINSURED MOTORISTS COVERAGE

Portion of an auto insurance policy that provides additional coverage if the insured is involved in a not at fault accident and the at fault party doesn’t have auto insurance.  This coverage will cover medical expenses only.

VANDALISM

The malicious and often random destruction or spoilage of another person’s property.