Whether purchasing a new policy or determining if a loss is covered under an existing policy, it helps to have a basic understanding of how auto insurance works. Here is a brief explanation of some common auto insurance concepts and coverages that you can use to determine if you have the protection you need.

Collision coverage pays for car damage caused by a collision with another car or an object. This type of coverage is typically required by finance companies.

Comprehensive coverage pays for losses caused by something other than a collision, such as theft, vandalism, falling objects, fire and weather (wind, hail, etc.). This type of insurance coverage is also known as Comp or Other-Than-Collision coverage.

Liability insurance covers damage to others for which the insured is responsible. There are two main types of auto liability coverage, both of which are generally required by state law. Bodily Injury (BI) Liability insurance covers damages resulting from injury or death, such as medical and funeral expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering. Property Damage (PD) Liability insurance covers damage to the property of others, such as cars, mailboxes, trees and fences. Liability coverage does not pay for the insured’s own bodily injury or property damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP or No-Fault) insurance pays for injuries sustained in an auto accident. In addition to the insured, PIP may also cover family members, passengers and household residents. PIP insurance generally provides benefits for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses and other similar expenses, regardless of who is at fault. The requirement to carry PIP insurance and the benefits that must be paid by an insurance company vary by state.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage pays for an insured’s bodily injury and/or property damage that is caused by an uninsured motorist. UM insurance allows an insured to collect from his or her own insurance company. Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage is a similar type of coverage that pays for an insured’s bodily injury and/or property damage caused by a motorist with insufficient insurance.

Stacking is a way to increase a policy’s uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage limits. If UM or UIM coverage is stacked, then the policy’s limits will be multiplied by the number of vehicles covered under the policy. For example, an insured with UM limits of 50/100 ($50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident) and three covered vehicles can essentially increase her UM limits to 150/300 by electing to stack her coverage. The manner in which an insured must accept or reject the stacking of limits is often governed by state law.

Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) insurance pays the difference between the current outstanding balance on a car loan or lease and the actual cash value of the car. This coverage can prove valuable when the amount owed on the car is more than the value of the car when it rendered a total loss after an accident. This would be the case, for example, when a new car is totaled the day after it was purchased and driven off the dealer’s lot.

Deductible is the amount an insurance company will deduct from the loss before paying up to the policy’s limits. Though insureds typically have options when choosing a deductible, state laws and finance agreements often have specific deductible requirements.

Coverage Limit is the amount an insurance company will pay in the event of a claim. Those who purchase only the minimum coverage limit required by their state’s law are probably underinsured. Coverage limits of $100,000/$300,000 are generally recommended.

If you would like more information about comparing and obtaining personal and commercial auto insurance coverage, please contact us.

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