When you got your first car, you probably simultaneously purchase your first auto insurance policy. You may have done so without much thought. Perhaps you purchased the most affordable policy with the coverage your lender required. If so, you should take the time to learn a little more about how car insurance works, so you can better understand the policy you own.
Types of Car Insurance
Understanding how your car insurance works begins with understanding the different types of coverage and which ones your policy has. All car insurance policies have liability coverage. This is coverage that pays the costs of injuries or damage you cause to someone else or another vehicle in an accident. Most states require this by law.
Collision coverage is another common type of coverage. It pays for damage to your vehicle in a collision, even if you were entirely at fault, or if you gave someone else authorization to drive your vehicle.
Comprehensive coverage covers other types of damage to your vehicle. For instance, theft, vandalism, natural disasters, or damage caused when your vehicle is parked would be covered under a comprehensive policy. Many lenders require collision and comprehensive coverage on vehicles that have loans on them.
These are the three basic types of coverage. You may choose to add medical payments coverage, which pays medical bills of people in the vehicle if they are injured in an accident, even if you cause the accident. You may also choose personal injury protection, which is a similar type of policy but also covers lost wages and other expenses. Uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage is also popular. This coverage will pay for repairs to your vehicle if someone driving without car insurance causes the accident. Each states have certain requirements on the amount of insurance drivers must have, so check with your insurance agent to ensure that your policy meets these requirements.
Basic Policy Terms
Your car insurance policy has a deductible. This is the amount you must pay out of your own pocket for covered expenses before you will receive any insurance money. Raising your deductible can lower the cost of your premium. Your insurance provider builds deductibles into the policy to keep you from making a very small claim that will cost them a tremendous amount to process and pay.
Insurance policies also have limits or policy caps. For instance, your insurance policy may cover up to $20,000 in damage to your vehicle and $50,000 in medical coverage. Each state has minimum required coverage amounts, but these minimum amounts are typically very low when compared to the amount that you might need after an accident. Make sure that your insurance policy has adequate coverage. Keep in mind that the lower the policy caps are, the lower the cost of the insurance will be. You want to choose a policy that balances well between a generous policy cap and an affordable premium.
How Insurance Pays After an Accident
If you are in an accident that causes damage to your vehicle that should be covered by your insurance policy, you will submit the information about the accident and the damage to the insurance company. They will send a claims adjuster to survey the damage and provide you with instructions on how to get an estimate on the cost of repairs. Once you have the estimate, the insurance company will send you a check to use to pay for the repairs on your vehicle.
If the accident caused an injury that required medical attention, your medical bills will be sent to the insurance company. Many insurance providers will pay in one lump sum when your treatment is complete. Keep in mind that the insurance provider will only pay up to the policy cap, and you will be responsible for any deductible on the policy.