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A review of coverage could save you money

Posted by on Aug 15, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on A review of coverage could save you money

While motorists have little control over escalating fuel prices, you may be able to save money by simply reviewing your auto insurance policies. Use these tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to help understand standard policy terminology — which may help cut costs in your coverage.

An Auto Insurance Policy

The policy you receive from an auto insurance company will have several parts.

  • The declarations/information page includes the policy number, the effective dates, the details of the cars covered on the policy, the lienholder (if you have a loan on the car), the coverages, coverage limits, your premium, risk classifications and any discounts or surcharges. It is also going to list where the car is garaged and contact details for your company and agent, if you have one. The coverage names, limits and descriptions will vary depending on the state.
  • The personal auto policy or policy form. This will be several pages long and will detail in specific language what is covered, how those coverages are defined, the conditions of the policy and if there are any exclusions. This may also include state exception pages that revise/change/modify the policy form. Some companies customize their policy forms to match the coverages in a specific policy, while others list all available coverages. Your declarations/information page details which coverages were purchased.
  • At least one copy of an insurance card should be included as proof of coverage. Keep this in the car.

What to Look for on a Declarations or Information Page

Go here to see an example declarations/information page.

1. Personal Information – Verify the address listed on the policy is correct. Parking your car in a garage, or even parking it off the street can mean lower premiums. Notify your agent if there has been parking changes since the policy was written.
2. Year, Make, Model, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – How much you pay is heavily based on the car you drive so make sure this information is accurate. If your declarations or information page is wrong, it could also cause problems if you file a claim. Do not get caught by increases when trading in your car. Call your agent for a quote before you buy.
3. Lienholder Information– If you obtained a loan to purchase your car, the lienholder will likely require that it be listed on the policy. If you have paid off the loan, call your agent to have the lienholder removed. Your agent or insurance company may ask for a copy of the new title (without the lienholder listed) or other proof you paid off the loan.
4. Coverages – For an overview of your coverage choices go to InsureUonline.org and click on your life situation. The auto tab includes explanations of the different coverages and some tips on evaluating your auto insurance needs. You can also download the NAIC Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance here.
5. Collision – The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. However, since this is the amount you have to pay if the car is damaged in an accident, make sure you will be comfortable paying the amount.
6. Comprehensive – This is sometimes referred to as “Other Than Collision” coverage. It is possible that removing the comprehensive and/or collision coverage from a policy could save some money. Before you decide to cancel comprehensive coverage weigh the value of the car and the cost to replace or repair it against what you would save in premium costs.
7. Premium – The amount of premium you are charged generally depends on a number of factors. You can find out more about the factors your company may use to determine your premium here. If you have questions about how your insurer determines your rates and what steps you can take to improve your risk profile, contact your insurance agent or insurer.
8. Discounts – When looking at your declarations or information page, you may see discounts listed at the bottom of the page. Typically, the company has included any discounts in the premium amount listed. Check the list of discounts to see what was included in your overall premium. Check here for a list of discounts typically available. If you think you are eligible for a discount you are not receiving, review with your insurance agent or insurer.
9. Agent Contact Details – If you have an agent, their name and contact information will likely be listed on your policy. You can always contact your insurance company directly if you have any questions.

Other Things to Know About Your Auto Insurance

When it comes to the premium you pay for auto insurance, you should also check.

  • Drivers – The individuals listed as drivers on your policy may or may not be listed on the declarations or information page, but these people can make a big difference in how much you are paying for insurance. The driver considered the highest risk by your insurance company will generally be used to figure your household premium. Review who is listed as the principal driver on each vehicle to ensure you are correctly rated.
  • Driving record – A speeding ticket or an accident can increase your premium from term to term. However, after a period of time those violations will fall off your record. It is a good idea to know what is on your driving record and how long it might affect your premium. Talk with your agent if you have a ticket or accident that is several years old.
  • Claims history – When you apply for a policy or when a current policy is renewed, it is normal for an insurance company to check the driver’s claims history. For new customers, companies often run a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.), Colossus, or similar report. This information is used to help determine the cost of insuring your vehicle. Ask your agent or insurance company how long claims will adversely affect your premium.
  • Credit history – In some states, a credit-based insurance score can be used as a factor to determine your premium. It is a good idea to check your credit report occasionally to ensure the information is correct. If there is incorrect information, check with the credit reporting company about how to amend it and then ask for a review of your premium.

More information

To make the best auto insurance choices for you and your family, understand your options. Call your state insurance department or go here for more information,

August 2011

Credit-Based Insurance Scores: How an Insurance Company Can Use Your Credit to Determine Your Premium

Posted by on Aug 14, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Credit-Based Insurance Scores: How an Insurance Company Can Use Your Credit to Determine Your Premium

You probably know that your credit score can be a factor on whether you receive a loan for a house or a car, how much interest you pay on your credit card debt or even your employment prospects. But many people do not realize their use of credit can also affect how much they pay for insurance. In most states, insurers can use your credit-based insurance score to determine your premiums. However, a regular credit score and your credit-based insurance scores are not the same. To help you better understand how insurers determine your premiums, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers this primer on credit-based insurance scores.

What is a Credit-Based Insurance Score?

A credit score is a snapshot of your credit at one point in time. Credit-based insurance scores were introduced in the early 1990s and use certain elements of a person's credit history to predict how likely consumer is to have an insurance loss, as research shows there is a correlation between credit characteristics (credit-based insurance scores) and insurance losses. According to FICO, a major company that generates credit-based insurance scores, approximately 95% of auto insurers and 85% of homeowners insurers use credit-based insurance scores in states where it is a legally allowed underwriting or risk classification factor.

How does it differ from your regular credit score?

A regular credit score looks at many different factors to determine how likely you are to repay a loan or a line of credit. A credit-based insurance score looks at some, but not all, factors in your credit history to determine how you are likely to manage your risk exposure.

What kinds of insurance can my credit affect?

Not all states allow the use of credit-based scores in determining premiums. Some states only allow it as a factor for property insurance like auto and homeowners insurance. Other states allow it to be used with any type of insurance. Check with yourstate insurance department to find out what the law in your state allows.

How can an insurance company use your credit-based insurance scores?

An insurance company can only use your credit-based insurance score as one factor in its underwriting process. It will be considered with several other factors that vary by insurance type. For example, with auto insurance other factors could be your zip code; the age of the operators; the make, model and age of the car; and even the miles you drive annually. You can ask your insurance company if a credit-based insurance score was used to underwrite and rate your policy and which risk category you were placed in after you receive a quote.

What kind of information goes in to my credit-based insurance scores?

There are several different companies that create credit-based insurance score reports for insurers to use. FICO looks at five general areas it believes will best determine how you manage risk. This is the breakdown of what it considers and how much the information generally weighs in figuring your credit-based insurance score:

  • Payment History (40%) – How well you have made payments on your outstanding debt in the past
  • Outstanding Debt (30%) – How much debt you currently have
  • Credit History Length (15%) – How long you have had a line of credit
  • Pursuit of New Credit (10%) – If you have applied for new lines of credit recently
  • Credit Mix (5%) – The types of credit you have (credit card, mortgage, auto loans, etc.)

What information is not considered for a credit-based insurance score?

A credit-based insurance score cannot employ any personal information to determine your score, so these details are not used:

  • Race, color, national origin
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Income, occupation or employment history
  • Location of residence
  • Any interest rate being charged
  • Child/family support obligations or rental agreements
  • Certain types of inquiries of your credit report like account review inquiries, employment inquiries, promotional inquiries from credit companies, etc.
  • Whether or not a consumer is participating in credit counseling of any kind
  • Any information not found in the credit report

How can I improve my credit-based insurance score?

Improving your credit-based insurance score is just like improving your regular credit score. Make payments on time. Pay bills, taxes and fines/fees as agreed. If you are behind on payments, catch up and stay current. Keep balances on credit cards as low as possible.

Where can I check my credit report and get more information about improving my credit-based insurance score?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACT Act) allows consumers to obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (EquifaxExperian and TransUnion). You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com to check all three reports annually without paying a fee or being asked to buy other products. If you find errors on your credit report, contact the credit reporting company to have them corrected – errors could affect your credit-based insurance score.

It is also important to understand your state's law on the use of credit when underwriting an application or renewal. Contact your state insurance department for that information and tips for how to control your auto insurance rates.

June 2012

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Taking steps to be protected after an accident

Posted by on Aug 12, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Taking steps to be protected after an accident

Take steps to protect yourself, your property and your identity

In an automobile accident, you are concerned first about your safety and secondly about your vehicle. Likely, the last thing on your mind is protecting your identity. In fact, a recent survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) suggests that, after an accident, many Americans do not really know what information they should share with the other driver. You need only provide your name and vehicle insurance information, which should include the name and phone number of your insurance provider. Sharing personal information such as your address and phone number may put your privacy and identity at risk.

According to the July 2012 survey:

  • Thirty-eight percent of consumers believed they should share their driver’s license number with the other driver — one in six would even allow the other driver to photograph the license as a convenient way to exchange information.
    • So what’s the risk? Many retailers accept driver’s license information to verify your identity over the phone. In fact, your license number is the most common way to confirm your identity after Social Security number and date of birth.
  • Twenty-five percent of consumers surveyed said they would share their home address.
    • Actually, your home address gives identity thieves the physical location of your mail or garbage, the first place criminals often look for personal financial information. And, now a stranger knows where you live, possibly putting your personal safety at risk.
  • Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents believed they are required to share personal phone numbers.
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    In fact, sharing your phone number is not necessary.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. TheFederal Trade Commission estimates nearly nine million consumers have their identities stolen each year, disrupting finances and damaging credit histories and reputation. Knowing what to share helps keep property and identities safe.

The survey also found that consumers were unsure about other auto accident best practices. For example, nearly 20 percent of respondents believe the only reason to call police after an accident is if someone is injured. However, filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.

New WreckCheck® App for Smart Phones

To take some of the guesswork out of a tense situation, the NAIC has developed WreckCheck®, a new, free mobile app for iPhone® and Android® smartphones. The new app outlines what to do immediately following an accident and walks users through a step-by-step process to create their own accident report. The app directs them to capture photos and helps document and share only what is necessary to file an insurance claim. Users can even email their completed reports to themselves and their insurance agents.

No smartphone? NAIC offers a downloadable accident checklist and tips for staying calm, safe and smart on the road.

For more tips and tools to make sure you are protected in case of an auto accident, visit www.insureuonline.org.

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Dealing with the claims process: What to know

Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Dealing with the claims process: What to know

What Consumers Should Know When Faced with A Loss
Important, but sometimes difficult, filing a claim can be one of the most frustrating processes during a crisis or following a major disaster. Delays in the claims process was the No. 1 complaint of insurance consumers in 2007, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). It is critical that at these times, you are prepared with the information your insurance company needs. To help you avoid problems getting your claims paid, the NAIC offers these tips:

Know Your Policy
Understand what your policy says. The policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. Know what's covered, what's excluded and what the deductibles are.

File Claims as Soon as Possible

Don't let the bills or receipts pile up. Call your agent or your company's claims hotline as soon as possible. Your policy might require that you make the notification within a certain time frame.

Provide Complete, Correct Information

Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.

Keep Copies of all Correspondence

Whenever you communicate with your insurance company, be sure to keep copies and records of all correspondence. Write down information about your telephone and in-person contacts, including the date, name and title of the person you spoke with and what was said. Also, keep a record of your time and expenses.

Ask Questions

If there is a disagreement about the claim settlement, ask the company for the specific language in the policy that is in the question. Find out if the disagreement is because you and the insurance company interpret your policy differently. If this disagreement results in a claim denial, make sure you obtain a written letter explaining the reason for the denial and the specific policy language under which the claim is being denied.
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Don't Rush into a Settlement

If the first offer made by an insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate to get a fair settlement. If you have any questions regarding the fairness of your settlement, seek professional advice.

Auto and Homeowners Claims
Auto and homeowners policies might require you to make temporary repairs to protect your property from further damage. Your policy should cover the cost of these temporary repairs, so keep all receipts. Also, maintain any damaged personal property for the adjuster to inspect. If possible, take photographs or video of the damage before making temporary repairs.

Other Tips for Filing Auto or Homeowners Claims:

Don't make permanent repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before the damage is inspected.
If possible, determine what it will cost to repair your property before you meet with the claims adjuster.
Provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made to your property.
Ask the claims adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
Accident and Health Claims

Ask your physician to provide your insurance company with details about your treatment, medical conditions and prognosis.

If you suspect a provider is overcharging, ask the insurance company to audit the bill and verify whether the provider used the proper billing procedure.

Contact Your State Insurance Department

If you have a dispute with your insurer about the amount or terms of the claim settlement, you should contact your state insurance department for assistance.

Go to www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm for a link to your state department Web site.

For more information about auto, home and health insurance options, and tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family, go to www.insureUonline.org.

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How credit scores can affect your insurance

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on How credit scores can affect your insurance

You probably know that your credit score can be a factor on whether you receive a loan for a house or a car, how much interest you pay on your credit card debt or even your employment prospects. But many people do not realize their use of credit can also affect how much they pay for insurance. In most states, insurers can use your credit-based insurance score to determine your premiums. However, a regular credit score and your credit-based insurance scores are not the same. To help you better understand how insurers determine your premiums, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers this primer on credit-based insurance scores.
What is a Credit-Based Insurance Score?

A credit score is a snapshot of your credit at one point in time. Credit-based insurance scores were introduced in the early 1990s and use certain elements of a person's credit history to predict how likely consumer is to have an insurance loss, as research shows there is a correlation between credit characteristics (credit-based insurance scores) and insurance losses. According to FICO, a major company that generates credit-based insurance scores, approximately 95% of auto insurers and 85% of homeowners insurers use credit-based insurance scores in states where it is a legally allowed underwriting or risk classification factor.

How does it differ from your regular credit score?

A regular credit score looks at many different factors to determine how likely you are to repay a loan or a line of credit. A credit-based insurance score looks at some, but not all, factors in your credit history to determine how you are likely to manage your risk exposure.

What kinds of insurance can my credit affect?

Not all states allow the use of credit-based scores in determining premiums. Some states only allow it as a factor for property insurance like auto and homeowners insurance. Other states allow it to be used with any type of insurance. Check with yourstate insurance department to find out what the law in your state allows.

How can an insurance company use your credit-based insurance scores?

An insurance company can only use your credit-based insurance score as one factor in its underwriting process. It will be considered with several other factors that vary by insurance type. For example, with auto insurance other factors could be your zip code; the age of the operators; the make, model and age of the car; and even the miles you drive annually. You can ask your insurance company if a credit-based insurance score was used to underwrite and rate your policy and which risk category you were placed in after you receive a quote.

What kind of information goes in to my credit-based insurance scores?

There are several different companies that create credit-based insurance score reports for insurers to use. FICO looks at five general areas it believes will best determine how you manage risk. This is the breakdown of what it considers and how much the information generally weighs in figuring your credit-based insurance score:
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  • Payment History (40%) – How well you have made payments on your outstanding debt in the past
  • Outstanding Debt (30%) – How much debt you currently have
  • Credit History Length (15%) – How long you have had a line of credit
  • Pursuit of New Credit (10%) – If you have applied for new lines of credit recently
  • Credit Mix (5%) – The types of credit you have (credit card, mortgage, auto loans, etc.)

What information is not considered for a credit-based insurance score?

A credit-based insurance score cannot employ any personal information to determine your score, so these details are not used:

  • Race, color, national origin
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Income, occupation or employment history
  • Location of residence
  • Any interest rate being charged
  • Child/family support obligations or rental agreements
  • Certain types of inquiries of your credit report like account review inquiries, employment inquiries, promotional inquiries from credit companies, etc.
  • Whether or not a consumer is participating in credit counseling of any kind
  • Any information not found in the credit report

How can I improve my credit-based insurance score?

Improving your credit-based insurance score is just like improving your regular credit score. Make payments on time. Pay bills, taxes and fines/fees as agreed. If you are behind on payments, catch up and stay current. Keep balances on credit cards as low as possible.

Where can I check my credit report and get more information about improving my credit-based insurance score?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACT Act) allows consumers to obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (EquifaxExperian and TransUnion). You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com to check all three reports annually without paying a fee or being asked to buy other products. If you find errors on your credit report, contact the credit reporting company to have them corrected – errors could affect your credit-based insurance score.

It is also important to understand your state's law on the use of credit when underwriting an application or renewal. Contact your state insurance department for that information and tips for how to control your auto insurance rates.

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Auto Insurance: Are you covered?

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Auto Insurance: Are you covered?

Are you covered?

Financial challenges have forced many consumers to make lifestyle changes to adapt to the current economy. From changing jobs to moving to a different house to downsizing vehicles, Americans have made decisions that impact unexpected areas of their life – like car insurance.

Check out these factors to see if you’ve made any decisions that could affect your auto coverage.

Economic choices that may affect your auto insurance costs

  • YOU MOVED – Whether by choice or necessity, many consumers relocated because of the economy.
    • Where you live could impact your premium, depending on a number of factors about the area.
    • Moving to another state can affect costs as states vary in their coverage requirements.
  • CHANGED CARS – If you chose to purchase a less expensive car or pay off a current vehicle, expect car insurance rate changes.
    • The make and model of your car affects your premium. Be sure to get quotes from your insurance company before signing the paperwork.
    • If you pay off a current vehicle, you may be able to select a higher deductible or eliminate your collision coverage.
  • SWAPPED JOBS – Many consumers have been impacted by a job loss while some have created flexible work situations or relocated for a new position.
    • Perhaps you now have a shorter commute after turning to an occupation you can do from home. A shorter commute could mean lower insurance payments.
    • Stopping payment or canceling car insurance could have devastating financial consequences if you are in an accident. Additionally, this decision will likely result in higher costs if insurance is reinstated in the future.
  • DRIVING LESS – According to the NAIC survey, almost 40 percent of consumers are driving less, choosing instead to carpool, walk or take public transportation more frequently.
    • Check with your insurance carrier for a low mileage discount.
    • Some companies also offer pay-as-you-drive pricing in select states.
  • DAMAGED CREDIT SCORE – Whether consumers have fallen behind on bills or made a purchase they could not afford later, financial decisions that affect your credit score may impact insurance rates.
    • Having poor credit can result in higher premiums or, in some cases, the inability to secure insurance through some
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Understanding Auto Insurance

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Understanding Auto Insurance

Auto insurance is an important purchase. Understanding what your policy covers is essential to ensuring you will have the necessary insurance protection when a loss occurs.

Who Needs Auto Insurance?

Automobile accidents can cause great financial and economic insecurity. Financial loss may include property damage, medical bills, and legal costs if a lawsuit arises. Anyone who owns a car should purchase auto insurance so that these important financial protections are provided. Most states either require the owner of a vehicle to purchase insurance or provide proof of financial responsibility. In addition, your auto lender may require you to purchase auto insurance to protect them against damage to a financed vehicle.

Liability Coverage

Most auto liability insurance policies contain three major parts: liability insurance for bodily injury, liability insurance for property damage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

  • Bodily injury liability insurance does not protect you or your car directly. If you cause an accident in which other people are injured due to your negligence, this insurance protects you against their claims for damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • Property damage liability insurance pays for any damage you cause to the property of others, such as damage to another vehicle, fence, or tree caused by a collision.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage protects you directly. This coverage pays if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver or a driver who does not have auto liability insurance. This coverage, in effect, takes the place of the liability insurance that the other driver should have purchased but did not.Underinsured motorist coverage applies when the other driver is at fault and whose limits of liability are lower than the damages you sustained. Your underinsured motorist coverage will pay you an additional amount up to your policy limits. Uninsured and underinsured coverages may provide coverage for both bodily injury and property damage losses combined, or you may be required to purchase separate coverage for bodily injury and property damage.

When purchasing liability coverage, you will need to determine the amount of coverage needed to protect yourself if a loss occurs. Coverage is often sold with a per person and total per loss maximum amount. For example, 100/300/50 coverage means that you have coverage of $100,000 bodily injury liability insurance per person, $300,000 total bodily injury liability insurance per accident, and $50,000 property damage liability per accident.

Some states have no-fault laws – meaning there is no need to determine who is at fault to receive payment for injury claims. Each party would seek recovery from his/her own insurer instead of bringing a lawsuit. No-fault does not completely eliminate the risk of you being sued. However, no-fault laws do place restrictions on when a suit can be brought forward. There are two typical types of coverage provided under a no-fault system. These coverages are Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Residual Bodily Injury Liability Coverage.

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage will pay you, your relative or any other person riding in your car a minimum amount per person for injury regardless of fault. The level of benefits varies widely among states. Coverage typically includes medical expenses, rehabilitation expenses, work loss benefits (loss wages), funeral expenses, and survivor’s loss benefits.
  • Residual Bodily Injury Liability Coverage will protect your family and anyone else while in your car with your permission in the event you are sued because of injuries caused to others. No-fault laws usually have certain thresholds that, if exceeded, open the possibility of a suit. These thresholds can be based on a specific dollar amount, clearly defined injuries, and/or a death resulting from an accident.

Coverage for Your Car

There are two types coverage that you can choose to purchase to protect your car.

  • Collision Coverage pays for physical damage to your car as a result of your auto colliding with an object, such as another car or a tree.
  • Comprehensive Coverage pays for damage to your auto from almost all other losses other than collision. Covered losses under comprehensive coverage include the following: theft, fire, vandalism, weather related losses such as hail, water (flood), falling objects, damage caused by a bird or animal, and glass breakage.

When purchasing collision or comprehensive coverage, you will need to determine what your deductible should be. A deductible is the amount of money you agree to pay prior to the insurance company making any payment on a loss. Typical deductible amounts are $250, $500 or $1000.

Other Optional Coverage

Depending on what you want to protect against and how much money you want to spend, there are several other types of coverage which you may purchase. These include:

  • Medical Payment Coverage (MPC) pays for the medical and funeral expenses for you or others injured or killed in an accident while riding in or driving your auto. This coverage also often extends to insureds that are struck by a vehicle while acting as a pedestrian. Covered expenses include hospital, surgical, chiropractor, dental, and funeral expenses. This might duplicate benefits provided by your health insurer.
  • Rental reimbursement coverage or transportation expenses pay for a rental car if your vehicle is damaged by a covered loss. This coverage is usually purchased with a daily and total maximum. For example, $20 per day up to a total of $600.
  • Towing or Emergency Road Service coveragepays the cost of towing your car to a repair shop.

What To Do In Case Of An Accident

If you are in an accident, you should:

  • Remain calm.
  • Telephone the proper authorities and inform them of any injuries. Regardless of the circumstances, report the accident to the police.
  • Check for any injuries and administer first aid if necessary.
  • Record the name, address and phone number of the other driver. Always write down the make and license number of all vehicles involved.
  • Collect the names, addresses and phone numbers of all passengers and witnesses.
  • Take photos of the accident scene if possible.
  • Do not admit fault.
  • Ask the investigating officer how to obtain a copy of the police report.
  • Notify your agent or insurance company immediately.

Key Points to Remember When Considering an Auto Policy

  • Your auto insurance policy will financially protect you up to your policy limits for auto damage or injuries resulting from an auto accident.
  • Be aware of the types of coverage offered and what is required in your state.
  • Review your auto policy and stay informed on what and whom your auto policy will cover.
  • Know your state’s minimum amount of liability coverage required, and decide what amount is best for your situation.
  • The state in which you reside will have either a tortor no-fault system in place.
  • Know how to file a claim with your insurance company.
  • When an accident occurs, know what to do to protect yourself and others around you.

 

Comparing Online Auto Quotes: Savvy Shopping Can Save Time and Money

Posted by on Jul 17, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) suggests checking your insurance policies once a year to ensure the coverages are right for your life situation and that you are getting the best deal possible. Turn on a television, read a magazine, or even run a Google search and you are sure to be bombarded with websites offering to help you save money on auto insurance. Getting quotes online can be convenient, so if you are considering doing your insurance comparison online this year, the NAIC has a few tips to make the experience safe and easy.
Decide Which Coverages You Need

Auto insurance needs are unique to a person’s life situation and may change over time. One of the best things to do before comparison shopping is to brush up on the coverages found in auto insurance policies. To review some of the basics, check out the NAIC’s consumer education website InsureUonline.org. If you plan to use current coverages as a guide, learn more about your declarations/information page here.

A few coverage options that should match up quote to quote:

  • Liability Limits – Liability covers the other driver in an accident, so your needs are based on the assets you have to protect. Evaluate your situation and choose a limit accordingly. Most states have a minimum required liability limit which you can find out by contacting the state insurance department.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – PIP pays medical expenses, rehabilitation expenses and lost wages for you or your family following an accident. No-fault states require PIP coverage. Your state insurance department knows if PIP must be purchased.
  • Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) – In some states UM/UIM are required. This coverage pays if you or family members are injured or your car is damaged by another driver up to the limit on your policy. The state insurance department can confirm this requirement. Whether or not it is required, UM/UIM coverage may be offered. Most companies will not allow UM/UIM limits higher than liability.
  • Deductibles – Comprehensive and Collision coverages pay for damages caused in a covered accident. Both coverages may not be required, but adding either requires the selection of a deductible. This is the amount you have to pay if the covered car is damaged in an accident, so evaluate how much you can afford to pay in the future. Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the policy premium. Find out more about the difference between comprehensive and collision for your life stage at Insure U.
  • Optional Coverages – These can be anything from rental car coverage to towing services. Check for any deductibles (or co-payments) that may be apply. AAA or other auto club memberships may already include some of these coverages.

Get Your Information Together

To get a rate you will need specific information to fill out the forms. Be prepared to share information from:

  • Your current auto insurance policy
  • The driver’s license of all drivers
  • The car’s registration

Before You Start Answering Questions

There are a variety of sites that offer auto insurance quotes. Some rate for a specific company while others let you fill out one form and get quotes from several companies.

A few things to know about getting information online:

  • Because of coverage requirements, it is not easy to get online quotes in all states.
  • Some websites will send the information to an agent in your area to quote and write the policy.
  • Not all websites provide immediate quotes. In some cases a company representative will call to confirm the information before providing a rate. In this case, ask to have the information emailed for your records.
  • If all the quotes do not have matching coverages/limits, contact the companies and ask for a revised estimate using matching coverages/limits.
  • Some websites are authorized to make coverage available immediately, while others cannot, even if you have made a premium payment.
  • Once you have made a payment for the policy, you should have access to a temporary identification card to keep in your car. Permanent cards and a copy of the policy should come in the mail within 60 days. Some insurers will issue the policy electronically if you mutually agree to communicate this way.

Completing the Quote Request

Complete disclosure is required, as the relationship between you and your insurer is one of mutual trust. Here are a few things that require close attention:

  • Drivers/Operators – Include all drivers in the quote. If you fail to include household drivers and they are behind the wheel in an accident, the company could cancel or non-renew the coverage going forward or charge additional premiums.
  • Driving Record – Generally, insurance companies ask for three years of driving history and will use a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) to check the driving records of all named drivers. It may also use a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.), Colossus, or similar report to check claims histories. Some companies rate your premium by measuring at-fault accidents and traffic violations (often called risk classification factors). Further, MVRs do not always reflect fault. Check all quotes for discounts or surcharges based on driving history and risk classification factors.
  • Credit Rating – In most states it is legal for insurers to use credit-based insurance scores as a risk classification factor in pricing a policy. Check with your state insurance department to see if it is legal. Review your credit reports (you have three) for errors before getting a quote.

Do Some Investigating

The lowest quote may not always be the best choice, so before making a payment, do some homework.

Start by talking with friends and family about their auto insurance experience. If they are insured by one of the companies you are considering, ask about their best and worst experiences.

Then, check with your state insurance department to verify that the company and agent (if you are dealing with one) are licensed in your state. You should also inquire about complaints made against the company. The company’s complaint ratio will show how the company stacks up against other auto insurers in your state.

More Information

Get smart about your insurance needs and take the guesswork out of buying an auto insurance policy. This consumer alert is a good reference when shopping around. If you are still looking for more information or tips on how to save money, go to InsureUand choose the life stage that best fits your situation. You can also download the Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance.

Four questions to get the right auto insurance

Posted by on Jul 11, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment

Using the right tool for a job is key to success in any profession. Experts say the same principle applies when selecting an auto insurance policy. Having the right type of policy can help ensure that you, your employees and your business are all protected in the unfortunate event that one of your vehicles is involved in an accident.

If you’re a business owner and you or your employees use a vehicle for business-related deliveries or to carry certain materials to and from a job site, you may need a commercial auto insurance policy that’s tailored to more closely suit the needs—and risks—of a business vehicle operator.

Here are some questions that can help you determine if you might need a commercial auto policy instead of a personal auto policy, courtesy of :

• Do you need more liability coverage than your personal auto policy provides? Generally, a commercial auto policy provides higher limits of liability, but less or no coverage in areas that are typically not associated with commercial auto risks.

• Do you need special coverage for situations associated with con-ducting business? Commercial auto policies also usually offer certain coverages—such as hired and non-owned auto coverage and coverage for towing a trailer for business use—that are not available with personal auto policies.
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• Do you need to list any employees as drivers? You can do this with a commercial auto insurance policy.

• Do you use your vehicle for business purposes? If you use your vehicle for things like pizza or newspaper delivery, catering, door-to-door consulting service, landscaping or snowplowing service, logging business, day care/church retreat van service and/or farm-to-market delivery, you might need a commercial auto policy.

Full Circle  is an independent insurance agency – with trained, licensed insurance professionals who offer personal service and advice. We can help match you with the type of policy that best suits your personal auto insurance needs.

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