Factors That Influence Your Car Insurance Rates

To drive legally all drivers in the United States must carry some form of car insurance. For many people, one of the most confusing aspects of car insurance is understanding how their rates are determined.

The first factor that goes into determining your car insurance rate is the level of coverage you receive. In most states, liability car insurance is the only required form of insurance. However, this insurance does not cover you fully in the event that you are hit by an uninsured motorist, if your car is stolen, or if you car is vandalized. To have these incidents covered, you will need to have collision and comprehensive coverage. To have these levels of coverage, you will pay more than someone would pay if they only had liability.

The second factor that goes into determining your rate is your driving history. For starters, records have shown that younger and inexperienced drivers are far more likely to be involved in an accident than more seasoned drivers. Because of this, drivers that are under the age of 25 will always have a higher rate than older drivers. For people of all ages, driving history also has a large impact on car insurance rates. An individual who has multiple at fault accidents, moving violations, or driving related arrests on their driving record will pay more for insurance than someone who has a clean record. Most negative marks on your driving record will clear up after about 5 years.

Another factor that goes into determining your car insurance rate is the type of car that is being driven. All insurance carriers have information that shows the rate of accident, theft, and damage for every make and model of car. Cars that are more likely to be stolen or involved in accidents will result in higher insurance rates. Furthermore, cars that are worth more money and more expensive for the insurer to repair or replace will have higher rates.

The location of your residence is another factor that goes into determining your rate. Cars that are stored in areas that have high rates of crime, accidents, or automobile theft will come with high rates. Furthermore, if you car is parked on the street or in an unsecured spot, your rate will be higher than if the car was parked in a secured garage. The location is also important because those who drive further to get to work will spend more time behind the wheel which increases their chance of having an accident.

Surprisingly, a driver’s credit score and marital status are also factors that go into determining a car insurance rate. Both of these factors have been historically correlated with higher rates of insurance claims being filed. People that are married or have better credit historically are cheaper to insure than single people with bad credit.

Get the Motorcycle Insurance You Need without Sacrificing Coverage

Motorcycle owners may be a risky bunch by nature, but when it comes to motorcycle insurance, it is not a good idea to indulge that tendency. If you own a motorcycle, you need to have sufficient insurance coverage in place. Fortunately, there are some proven strategies motorcycle owners can use to trim their insurance costs, without sacrificing the coverage they need.

Ride Carefully – Keep Your Driving Record Clean

Perhaps the most effective thing you can do to keep your motorcycle insurance rates low is to be a careful and proactive rider. Keeping your driving record clean can significantly lower your insurance rates, so be sure to take safety into account each and every time you ride.

If you are a new rider, consider enrolling in a safe biking course. You can often find these courses at your local community college. Many insurance companies provide discounts for riders who successfully complete a safety course, so it may be worth your time and effort.

Choose Your Motorcycle Carefully

Some motorcycles seem to be irresistible to thieves and if you own one of these models you may end up paying the price. Before you shop for your bike, be sure to check theft records. Don’t forget – you can also contact us for a rate quote before buying your motorcycle.

Install an Anti-Theft Device on Your Motorcycle

Installing an anti-theft device can also reduce your premiums. Alarms make it that much harder for thieves to make off with your bike. Not only do they protect your motorcycle from theft, but they can lower your insurance costs at the same time.

Ask About Discounts

By having your homeowner’s, auto and motorcycle insurance with the same company, you may be eligible for a multi-policy discount. Be sure to ask your agent about any discounts that may be available.

In addition to multi-policy discounts, many insurance companies offer additional discounts for everything from a college degree to a safe driving record. Just like with your car, you may be eligible for additional discounts if you keep your motorcycle in a garage where it is safe from thieves and from the forces of nature.

Raise Your Deductible

Another excellent way to lower your monthly motorcycle insurance premiums is to raise your deducible. Deductibles and premiums move in opposite directions, so the higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premium. You can make this work for you by funneling the difference into a separate savings account that you can use to cover unexpected expenses in the event of an accident.

Don’t Forget the Risks of Car Sharing

If you live in an urban area, owning a car can be both expensive and a hassle. Finding a parking spot may rival finding Osama Bin Laden in its difficulty. Paying for parking can leave a major hole in your wallet. Due to the sheer number of drivers on the road, insurance costs tend to be higher in large cities. Fuel economy suffers during city driving because of the relatively slow speeds and frequent stops. Consequently, many city dwellers are saying no to car ownership and relying on alternatives. Mass transit remains an essential option, but a relatively new idea is taking hold in U.S. cities: car sharing.

According to CarSharing.net, at the beginning of 2010 there were 27 car sharing programs in the U.S., serving 388,000 members and sharing 7,500 vehicles. They go by names like Zipcar, Car2go, City CarShare, and Community Car. The programs charge an annual membership fee and may charge an application fee; Zipcar, for example charges a $50 annual fee and a $25 application fee in the Washington, D.C. area. A separate fee applies for each use of a car (for example, $30 for a four-hour reservation), which covers gas, insurance, and a specified number of miles. When a member needs a car, she reserves one by phone or online; the program directs her to a parking spot where she will find the car. She unlocks the car (Zipcar issues a “zipcard” to members, allowing them to unlock the vehicle by holding the card up to the windshield); the keys are inside. She uses the car and returns it to a designated parking spot by the end of her reservation time.

The types of people likely to use a car sharing service include:

  • Those who normally use public transportation but who need their own vehicle on occasion
  • Those who own one car and occasionally need a second
  • Those who own cars but occasionally need a larger vehicle
  • Those who can’t afford to buy a car but can afford the membership fees
  • Those who want to avoid the inconvenient parts of car ownership, such as maintenance, fees, and storage costs
  • Environmentalists concerned about the pollution that comes with car ownership

A person using a car sharing service takes risks similar to those she would take while renting a car. She may incur legal liability for injuring someone or damaging another’s property while using the car. She may suffer injuries in an accident, resulting in medical expenses and lost income. She may damage the vehicle and become responsible for repair costs. The car sharing service provides liability insurance, but the borrower has no guarantee that the amount of insurance will be enough to cover all the damages. Also, that insurance may not apply if she lets an unauthorized person drive, such as a “designated driver” during a night on the town. If she does not own a car, she may want to buy a named nonowner auto insurance policy, which will cover liability, medical, and uninsured or underinsured motorist losses over and above what the car sharing service’s policy provides. Also, certain umbrella liability policies may cover damage to a borrowed vehicle if the car sharing service’s policy does not pay. A professional insurance agent can identify insurance companies that offer these types of coverages and explain the differences in coverage and cost of the various policies.

For people living in areas where it is available, car sharing may be a very sensible alternative to owning a car. Like any special service, it carries certain risks. However, by making some simple arrangements ahead of time, drivers can take advantage of these services and be confident that they’ve limited their financial risks.

Steer Clear of Car Break-Ins

One Saturday, Jenny stopped by the mall for some afternoon shopping. The parking lot was packed, but she found a space at the very back of the lot. After she ate some lunch and shopped for a few hours, Jenny strolled back to her car—only to find that her passenger window was broken, and her laptop and iPod were missing. Her heart plummeted into her stomach, and she wasn’t sure what to do.

If you’ve ever walked into a parking lot or your own driveway to discover a thief has broken into your car, you’re probably all too familiar with that terrible sinking feeling. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to stop car robbers in their tracks. These criminals go for the simple jobs, so they usually choose vehicles that are parked in remote areas and have valuables in plain view.

Don’t make yourself an easy target. Follow these five easy tips to steer clear of car break-ins:

Tip #1: Choose your parking spot carefully.

Car thieves generally target vehicles that are parked in remote areas so they don’t run the risk of getting caught red-handed. That’s why you should always park in a busy, well-lit area where your car is easily seen from the store or restaurant. Try to avoid parking between two larger vehicles or up against bushes, dumpsters or fences.

Tip #2: Hide your loot.

If you were to peer into your car windows right now, what would you see? A hand-held GPS attached to the windshield? An iPod plugged into your radio? A camera on the passenger seat? A laptop in the floorboard?

If so, you’ve made yourself an easy target for car thieves. Car robbers would be salivating over a car with so many treasures in plain view. That’s why you should hide all of your electronics, shopping bags and valuables under the seats or lock them in the trunk—or better yet take them into the store with you!

Tip #3: Lock the doors and roll up the windows.

This may seem like a no-brainer—but police departments across the nation receive countless reports every year from drivers who have items stolen from their unlocked cars. Even if you’re just running into the store for a minute to pay for gas or pick up your pizza, you should always roll up the windows and lock the door. (If you like to take your dog for rides, have an extra key made. That way, you can roll up the windows and keep the air conditioning on for your pup while you run into the store with your second key.)

Tip #4:  Don’t store your home address in your GPS.

You’ve probably heard the horror stories or read the elaborate sensationalized email forwards about car thieves who steal GPS devices from cars. Once they snatch the device, they find the driver’s address stored under “Home.” They then rush to the house and clear out the place.

Although it sounds like the stuff of urban legends, this has actually happened to some drivers. And it’s entirely possible that this kind of thing could happen again. That’s why you should not store your home address in your GPS device. Instead, store the address of a nearby intersection or even your neighborhood grocery store under “Home.” Better yet, take your hand-held GPS device with you instead of leaving it in the car.

Tip #5: Install a car alarm.

The last thing a car thief wants to do is draw attention to himself. That’s why car alarms are so effective. If your car starts beeping and wailing as soon as they try to break into it, they won’t stick around for very long. Many car alarm systems also come with a “panic button” for your key fob—which could come in handy if a suspicious stranger approaches you while you’re entering your car.

When it comes to protecting your car from break-ins, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take these five simple steps, and you’ll be much less likely to become a car thief target. If a thief does break into your car, report the theft to your local police department immediately.

Make Sure You Know What Your Condo Insurance Policy Covers

Despite the slump in the real estate market in recent years, many people find condominiums an attractive alternative to owning a separate dwelling. Typically, the condominium association is responsible for much or all of the building’s maintenance. The selling price may be more affordable than free-standing homes in the same neighborhood. The structure may be younger and in better condition than separate dwellings in the same price range. For these reasons, owning a condo makes sense for many. Those who choose condos over separate dwellings, however, need to understand the proper way to insure their investments. While similar in many ways to homeowner’s insurance policies, condominium unit owner policies have some significant differences.

The most obvious difference is the subject of the insurance. A homeowner’s policy insures against damage to a house and other structures on the property, such as an unattached garage or a fence. A condominium policy insures against damage to the condo unit, including alterations, appliances, fixtures, and improvements in it and parts of the real property that the condominium agreement makes the responsibility of the unit owner. Therefore, the subject of the coverage is much more limited in a condo unit owner’s policy.

Unlike a homeowner’s policy, a condo policy does not cover structures that the owner rents or holds for rent to a person who is not a tenant of the building. However, there is coverage if the rented structure is a private garage. The policy also does not cover structures from which anyone conducts a business or which store some types of business property.

Another difference has to do with trees. A homeowner’s policy provides a small amount of coverage for removing a downed tree that has damaged an insured structure or that is blocking a driveway or ramp for a handicapped person. The condo policy covers removal of an owned tree only if the insured person is the sole owner of it; if all the unit owners in the building share ownership of the tree, the policy does not provide coverage. Also, it does not cover a tree that has not damaged the structure and is blocking a ramp or driveway.

An important difference is in the range of perils the policy covers. A homeowner’s policy provides “special” causes of loss coverage on the dwelling, meaning that it covers all perils other than those the policy specifically lists as not covered. In contrast, the condo unit owner’s policy covers the unit only for those perils that the policy lists as covered. It is possible that a loss covered by a homeowner’s policy would not be covered by a condo unit owner’s policy.

If the building in which the condominium unit is located becomes vacant for more than 60 days, the policy ceases to provide some coverages. For example, it will not cover losses caused by vandalism or malicious mischief, accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam, or glass breakage that occur after 60 days of vacancy.

If the unit owner’s personal property such as household appliances is damaged, the insurance company will pay the difference between the cost to replace it and the amount by which it has depreciated. Property that is part of the building, such as carpeting, awnings, and outdoor equipment, are covered for their replacement cost without depreciation. However, the owner must repair or replace the damaged items within a reasonable amount of time; otherwise, the company will deduct an amount for depreciation.

Coverage for additional perils and for replacement cost on personal property may be available for an additional premium. A professional insurance agent can help identify companies that provide the needed coverage at a reasonable cost. With the right combination of coverage and price, the new owner can enjoy her condo unit in financial security.

New Pool = Check Insurance Coverage

You’re having a new pool installed in your backyard, and you can’t wait to dive into a summer of swimming fun.  Of course, you may be so busy buying water wings, noodles and floats that you forgot to take care of one very important detail: your insurance. Now is the time to take a close look at your homeowner’s policy to see if you have sufficient coverage for your new pool.

Your first step should be to give your insurance agent a call right away and let them know you have a new pool. If you neglect to inform them of this important fact, it could cause problems down the road if someone is injured in your pool.

Here are a few insurance facts to keep in mind as you get ready for your pool opening:

Your pool is separate from your home

Homeowner’s insurance generally provides coverage for damages to your home and “other structures” on the premises. As far as your insurance company is concerned, your pool is considered a separate entity from your house—which means it is covered under the “other structures” portion of your policy, along with detached garages, sheds and gazebos.

With most homeowner’s policies, the maximum amount of insurance coverage for these other structures is 10 percent the amount of coverage on your home. In other words, if your insurance policy covers $100,000 on your home, the coverage you would receive for your pool and other structures would be $10,000 combined.

If you spent wads of money on a fancy new pool, $10,000 may not be enough to cover serious damages to it. Plus, if you have a shed and a detached garage in addition to a new pool, keep in mind that this amount will have to cover damages to all three structures. You may decide that you need to purchase additional insurance.

The type of pool damages your insurance will cover varies depending on your specific policy. Be sure to read the fine print and figure out exactly what your policy covers. Most policies do not cover damage caused by freezing, thawing, pressure or weight of ice water. Therefore, if you live in a particularly cold area, be sure to properly protect and “winterize” your pool before the colder months hit.

Protect yourself against pool liability issues

Insurance can also protect you against liability issues related to your pool. Obviously, there are serious dangers associated with pools, including injuries and drowning. As a matter of fact, about 45,000 swimmers are injured and 300 people drown in backyard swimming pools every year.

Although the liability portion of your homeowner’s policy will protect your assets if someone sues you, it may not be enough. Most homeowner’s policies pay up to $100,000 in coverage each time a person makes a legitimate civil claim against you for an injury that occurred on your property. When you install in a pool, you are increasing the chances that someone could be seriously injured or even killed on your property—and $100,000 may not be enough such a tragedy.

Therefore, you should consider purchasing additional liability coverage after you install your new pool. First of all, find out if you can purchase higher liability coverage limits on your existing homeowner’s policy. You may be able to increase your coverage from $100,000 to as much as $300,000 for a minimal premium.

However, this still may not be enough for a pool owner. You should also consider purchasing what’s known as a personal umbrella policy. This type of policy offers a higher level of liability coverage and ensures that you and your family will be protected if someone sues you for damages. Umbrella policies typically pay up to a predetermined limit, which is usually $1 million, for liability claims made against you and your family.

Call your insurance agent and discuss how you can protect yourself from liability issues relating to your pool.

Follow pool safety rules

Another way you can protect yourself from liability issues is to create a safe swimming area and make sure everyone who takes a dip follows your pool rules. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not install a pool diving board or slide. (Many insurers will not even cover pools with these items because they are far too risky.)
  • Install a secure fence around the pool.
  • Never leave small children unsupervised near the pool, even for a few seconds.
  • Do not allow anyone who cannot swim into your pool.
  • Keep children away from pool filters. The suction from these filters can cause injuries or trap them at the bottom of the pool.
  • Do not swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
  • Do not allow people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to swim in the pool.
  • Check the pool regularly for glass, bottle caps and other hazards.

Keep a secure cover on the pool during the off-season.

Is Your Home Protected Against Devastating Flooding?

Don’t wait until the weather forecast calls for prolonged heavy rains before buying flood insurance. While this practical insurance can be purchased anytime, the policy does not take effect for 30 days. As the most common natural disaster in the country, flooding ruins millions of dollars of homes and property every year. Even so, flooding is not commonly covered in your typical homeowner’s insurance policy, making it necessary to purchase additional coverage for this costly, devastating disaster.

If you are in a high-risk flood zone, a federally regulated lender will require a would-be borrower to buy flood insurance in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. To satisfy the lender, flood insurance must be purchased in an amount that sufficiently covers the loan.

A homeowner should also buy flood insurance if he or she resides in a flood plain with no failsafe controls, such as a dam. Flood policies even pay off if the President does not declare the area a federal disaster area, which can prove to be invaluable. Because the nation’s Chief Executive Officer rarely issues such a declaration, protecting yourself is extremely important. Besides, you have to repay the federal aid you receive for home repairs related to a natural disaster so providing your own protection is the only way to ensure financial recovery suffered from flooding.

Not all homes qualify for flood coverage. For instance, flood insurance for beachfront or ocean-side property may not be available for the obvious reasons.

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) reports that more than 20,000 communities have agreed to tighter zoning and building measures to control floods. Residents of these communities can buy flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which FEMA oversees. As of 2009, NFIP had 5.7 million flood policies inforce nationwide.

Premiums for flood insurance vary widely, depending primarily on individual risk. In determining price, flood insurance underwriters consider several factors including the property’s elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and whether the dwelling has a basement. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters.

Make Certain to Insure the Finer Things in Life

Do you own high value insurables such as coin collections, jewelry, furs, and collectibles? If so, it may be wise to develop a well-thought out strategy regarding the risk of loss or damage to the finer things in your home.  Most homeowner’s policies limit the amount of coverage for luxury items, and an additional specialized policy may be required.

These specialized policies or “floaters” are designed to cover valuable items at a pre-determined dollar amount as scheduled in the policy. If you prefer, your insurance company might be willing to cover your high value items on a blanket basis at an agreed upon value per type.  For instance, if you own quite a bit of fine jewelry, and you are comfortable with insuring all of it on an aggregate basis, you might agree upon $100,000 as the coverage amount.  If your home is decorated with antiques and you own fine china, check to see if your policy includes accidental breakage and if it needs to be scheduled.  Under a typical homeowner’s policy, such breakage would not be included.

One of the benefits of a floater is that it usually does not include a deductible, so you are covered from the very first dollar of loss.  Furthermore, floater policies are often written on an “all-risk” basis.  As such, unless the peril is specifically excluded, losses are covered for all perils regardless of whether or not they are named.  Another attractive feature of floaters is “mysterious disappearance” coverage.   Although many policies, especially inland marine policies, do not include mysterious disappearances of items, these floaters often will.  As you may surmise, mysterious disappearance involves a loss where the cause is unknown.   

The way you approach risk management will be a key element in the process of insuring your valuables.  If you show a strong commitment to minimizing loss, most insurers will take your loss prevention strategies into consideration when pricing your coverage.   For example, if you have a Monet hanging on your living room wall, and no alarm system, you should expect to pay a high price for coverage.

Some insurers will help you formulate your risk management plans by assisting you with the inventory process. It may be necessary to coordinate a third-party appraisal – a vital element of the risk management and insurance processes.  In many cases, insureds underestimate the value of their own property, and consequently underinsure the property.  A knowledgeable appraiser can offer assistance in assessing the value of your property, and can provide mandatory documentation of the value if you experience a loss.

Below are some guidelines to ensure proper coverage:

1.      Take inventory of your most valuable items.  Don’t forget about less obvious valuables such as the autographed Pele soccer ball sitting on your book case. It may be worth more than you think!

2.      Schedule an appraisal of special items, and be prepared to enlist the services of more than one specialist.  For example, you wouldn’t hire the same appraiser for the Pele soccer ball as you would for a piece of antique jewelry.

3.      Discuss the possibility of floaters with your insurance agent.  Learn what coverage and limits are available, and compare the coverage to your basic homeowners’ policy in order to fully measure the value of the additional coverage.

4.      Ask your agent what services they offer, in addition to the coverage they provide.  If they can help you in the conservation and preservation of your valuables, and if they bundle these services in a cost-effective manner, it may create a win-win situation.  If you take advantage of all your agent has to offer,  they will also benefit from a loyal client who will hopefully be with them for many years to come.

Why Condo Owners Need Insurance

If you own a condominium, you may think you don’t need insurance protection. Think again. Although your condominium association offers a “master” insurance policy that covers the building and commonly owned property, this insurance probably does not protect your upgrades, furnishings and other belongings.

That means if a burglar breaks into your condo, a fire causes smoke damage to interior walls of your unit or a visitor falls and hurts himself inside your home, you will not be covered by your condominium’s general insurance policy. This is exactly why you need your own condo owner’s policy. This personal coverage could protect you in the event of theft, damage and personal liability situations.

Every condo is different

Before you purchase condo insurance, you should find out exactly what is covered by your condominium association’s master policy. Generally, these policies cover only the structure of the building, but it varies depending on your state and particular condominium. It’s important to do your homework and find out exactly what is and is not covered so you can make sure your personal policy covers the rest.

What kind of coverage do you need?

The type of coverage you need greatly depends on your unique situation. However, you’ll definitely want to protect yourself against theft, damage and personal liability incidents. Depending on where you live, you may also need flood insurance or other special coverage.

A professional insurance agent can help you figure out exactly what kind of coverage you need. You may want to ask yourself the following questions as you decide on the details of your insurance policy:

  • What parts of the condo am I responsible for according to my condo association’s bylaws?
  • How much would it cost to replace or repair my condo?
  • How much are all of my personal items worth?
  • Do I have especially valuable items in my condo, such as jewelry, antiques, fine art or collectibles?
  • Do I run a business out of my home or often work from home?

You should also think about liability coverage. Unfortunately, we live in a lawsuit-happy society today. So, if a visitor falls down your stairs and breaks his leg or slips on some water in the kitchen and throws out her back, they may ask you to pay for medical expenses, lawsuit costs and other compensation awards. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your insurance policy includes liability protection.

Don’t skimp

Whatever you do, don’t assume that your condo association has you covered. This assumption could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. Do some research and find out exactly what kind of protection your association’s insurance policy provides. You’ll probably discover that it’s not nearly enough to protect your personal property and belongings.

An expert insurance agent can help you determine exactly what kind of coverage you need. She may be able to offer you special discounts if your condo has smoke detectors and central station burglar and fire alarms. You could also save by purchasing a home and auto insurance package through the same insurer.

After the Accident – Working with the At-Fault Driver’s Insurer

You have just emerged from a car accident, but the good news is that you are not at fault. Now comes the task of successfully dealing with the other driver’s insurance company. In order to begin, you must collect certain details at the site of the accident from the at-fault driver: their name, address and phone number, the name of their insurance company, their policy number, their claims number and their insurance company’s address. With this information you can begin the process by making a phone call to the company in question.

Now, it is the responsibility of the at-fault driver to tell their insurance company about the accident; unsurprisingly, many of them are reluctant to do so. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to make the call in case they do not. During the call, tell the insurance company that you were involved in an accident with one of their policyholders and also inform them of any property damage or personal injuries, if any. At this stage, it is only necessary to report the simple facts of the accident without telling them who was at fault. Your opinion is not necessary in order for the police to determine who was at fault, and for the insurance company to follow the police’s recommendation.

When you are involved in an accident, and you believe that you are not at fault, it is best to contact your own insurance company anyway. This is important because it establishes your own good faith. It is especially important if the other party or their insurer denies that they are responsible for the accident, because this can help you. The insurance company of the at-fault party is completely responsible for reimbursing you for any damages to either your person or your property. Nevertheless, there are certain strictures that must be followed in all situations.

The most important rule is never take the law into your own hands, under any circumstances. After you have informed both your insurer and the other party’s insurer, ask for an authorization for car repairs from the at-fault driver’s company. You will be asked to get an estimate of the necessary work from a local garage that you may choose. The majority of states only allow insurance companies to recommend garages and not only declare their services valid at one of their choice. Make the estimate known to the insurer as soon as possible.

Typically, this is an uneventful process, but sometimes the at-fault driver’s insurer can inform you to seek payment from your own insurer due to lack of evidence. Therefore, obtain the police report as soon as possible and notify your insurer at once. The report will clearly spell out who is at fault for the accident; taking a copy to the at-fault driver’s insurance company will probably clear up any remaining misunderstandings. As a matter of fact in most states it is against the law for the insurer to deny a claim when the liability is “reasonably clear.”

Immediate Steps to Take After an Auto Accident

A car accident is always traumatic for any driver. Even if the damages are relatively minor, and both parties are uninjured, you may find yourself panicking over what to do next. There are important steps to take following any crash, no matter how severe.

Since car accidents involve insurance companies, both drivers need to collect the necessary information. They can do this by following six basic steps. This article will outline these steps and make their priorities clear.

1) The most important thing is to stay calm at all times. Letting the emotions get out of control will only make the situation worse, and make it harder to take care of the things that need to be done.

2) After remaining in control, the driver must make sure that they and their passenger(s) are okay and unharmed. While it is important to move as far off the road as possible, it is also important if not more so to remain at the scene of the accident. If the driver or one of the passengers can do so, wave oncoming traffic into the other lane or warn traffic with hazard lights and flares, if available.

3) Alert the appropriate authorities by calling 911 right away. If a cell phone isn’t readily available, flag down a passing car and ask them to call.

4) The driver must contact their insurance company regardless of whether they were at fault. The sooner the insurance company knows, the sooner they can start working to resolve the claim. Both drivers should call their respective companies and report the accident, even if one of them was at fault.

5) For legal reasons, the driver must not admit fault to anyone. All those involved with the accident should only talk about it with the police and their insurance companies.

6) Finally, collect the information from all parties, which means that each driver must collect information from any witnesses. Most importantly, each driver should get the name of the other’s insurance company and their policy number.

Discourteous Driving Can Be Deadly

Basic decency during driving can seem hard to come by these days. “Road rage” refers to the ability of perfectly sane people to become angry maniacs when behind the wheel of a car. On average, at least fifteen hundred people including men, women and children are killed or injured each year in America due to aggressive driving. Aggressive driving such as tailgating, cutting off other vehicles, and giving the one-finger salute are unfortunately quite common in the United States.

In fact, the problem of discourtesy when driving is responsible for as much as thirty percent of all traffic collisions. Drivers routinely ignore the basic rules of driving, engaging in overtly aggressive behaviors even to the point of murder. One of the most important situations where discourtesy results in injuries or death to other drivers is in right-of-way situations. Whenever two vehicles are driving along a path that puts them at odds with one another, the problem of right-of-way becomes boiled down to who goes first.

Right-of-way is always granted by the other driver, but the problem becomes exacerbated when drivers do not follow the rules concerning right-of-way. Unfortunately, being legally right does not mean being safe. Drivers who cede their right-of-way to the other driver might actually put themselves at risk.

Consider a common situation where, in congested traffic, a driver wants to be let in to the neighboring lane and the driver gives it to them. Before doing so, the driver must check for traffic coming from the rear. If there are two or more lanes going in the same direction, the driver also has to be aware of drivers passing him on the left, since the other driver could pass into that left lane. Other drivers who are not aware of the first driver may not understand that they are yielding their right-of-way.

Drivers must also remember to consider alternate routes. Sometimes avoiding left turns altogether can be the best choice. If a driver has missed a turn and needs to get back to the intersection, performing a U-turn might actually be very dangerous.

When you head it on the road today set an example, so that other drivers can be reassured that there is at least someone who is attempting to drive responsibly.

Parents Shape Teens into Responsible Drivers

Besides graduation day, the day a teenager gets their driver’s license is one of the most important days of their lives. It’s something they’ve looked forward to for years, that feeling of freedom once they hit the open road. Unfortunately, parents don’t always share the same vision. As your child begins to get behind the wheel, there are some things you can do as a parent to help maintain your child’s safety, and your sanity.

Kids learn from the examples they are given, which means that children can pick up on their parents’ bad driving habits. On the other hand, if you come to a complete stop at stop signs and consistently wear your seat belt, there’s a good chance your child will follow suit. Safe and responsible driving is just another thing parents pass down to their children.

Department of Education statistics show that students perform better in school when their parents are involved in their education. This holds true for driver’s education, as well. Parents who understand the process of getting your license and keep updated on what their child is learning in driver’s ed can offer more relevant advice and create opportunities for their child to practice necessary skills.

Teenagers also need a framework for understanding what consequences exist when drivers are not safe and responsible. Parents must help their teen driver understand that getting tickets and into accidents will raise their insurance premium and put their driving privileges into jeopardy. Furthermore, unsafe driving can lead to life-changing injuries to themselves and others. Most insurance providers offer some sort of “good student” discount, which is a good way to tie in school performance with driving.

Sometimes, all the preparation in the world cannot prevent an auto accident from happening. This is why parents must also advise their teen on what to do if they were to get into an accident. Tell your child to immediately call the police and then call home after an accident happens. Also, have your child keep a pen and paper in their glove box alongside other important documents, to take down the names and addresses of those involved and witnesses to the accident. Finally, be sure to remind them that they should never admit fault to the accident with anyone other than the police and their insurance company.

If the threat of rising insurance costs isn’t enough to encourage your teen to drive safely, then maybe some sobering statistics will show them the way. An accident study from the National Safety Council has determined that nearly 50% of the traffic deaths in the U.S. are connected to drinking alcohol, with 16 to 24 year olds making up half of that population. Even more shocking, injuries from traffic accidents is the leading killer of young people aged 6 to 27. On the brighter side, wearing your seatbelt and driving a car equipped with air bags nearly doubles your chances of surviving a serious accident.

Remember that driver’s education doesn’t stop once your child gets their full permit, it’s an ongoing process. The more knowledge you share about defensive driving and the dangers of getting behind the wheel after drinking, the more they will practice responsible driving in their own lives. Believe it or not, your teen will take your words to heart, which can help you worry less after you fork over the keys.

Have You Tested Your Home’s Fire Alarms Lately?

A recent study from the National Fire Protection Agency, or NFPA, found that around 95% of U.S. homes have one or more smoke alarms installed throughout the house. Unfortunately, that same study revealed that the number of homes with nonfunctioning smoke alarms vastly outnumbered the amount of homes with no alarms at all. This shows that many homes are relying on broken and battery-less alarms to save their lives in the event of a fire. By following the advice of experts and maintaining a testing schedule, you can make sure your alarms will be ready when you need them the most.

Fire safety begins with purchasing the right type of smoke alarm, as dictated by your building code’s power requirements. The common types that are required vary from standard battery-operated alarms to ones that are wired into the home’s electricity. For individuals who have difficulty hearing, smoke alarms with flashing lights and devices called “bed shakers” are used along with audible alarms. Always purchase alarms that have been listed or approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), or a similar independent tester.

How Many is Safe?

The NFPA publishes the Life Safety Code 101 to inform people of the regulations and best practices when it comes to fire safety, and in this case, the amount of smoke alarms to install. It recommends having at least one alarm on each floor, including basements and attics, and within 15 feet of bedrooms. Place smoke alarms inside of bedrooms if family members usually sleep with the door closed. Remember, the strategic placement of smoke alarms is just as important as keeping them powered.

The building codes that govern homes built in the last few years are significantly trying to improve residential fire safety. Most require hardwired alarms that are interconnected, meaning that all alarms will sound if one detects smoke or intense heat. Also, the new codes require the installation of smoke alarms in every bedroom of the house.

Installing the usual store-bought smoke alarm is really quite simple and will require only a drill and a screwdriver. Hardwired and interconnected alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician. Battery back-up should also be used with electrically powered alarms, as well.

Fire safety experts offer more installation advice:

* When installing a wall-mounted alarm, locate it between 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling.

* Ceiling-mounted alarms should be installed more than 6 inches away from any wall.

* On sloped and vaulted ceilings, located the alarm at the highest point.

* In open stairways, alarms should be placed near the top of the staircase.

* In closed stairways, like basement steps, the alarm should be placed at the bottom of the staircase.

* Do not install alarms in drafty areas of the house, like near windows, ceiling fans, or forced-air registers.

If you have any questions about installing fire alarms, call or email your local fire department. They will be happy to help you better protect your home against fires and show you the optimal places to install your smoke detectors.

Choosing a Home Improvement Contractor with Confidence

Whether you’re looking to do to some major remodeling or if your home just needs some basic repairs, deciding on a contractor for your home improvement project can be difficult. It’s certainly not a decision you should make in haste.

Most homeowner’s insurance policies include four basic types of coverage:

* Repairs to the home because of damage caused by specified disasters

* Replacement of items lost due to theft or damaged by specified disasters

* Liability coverage

* The cost of temporary housing in the event that a specified disaster causes significant damage to the house

While all these protections are equally important in the long run, when it comes to home improvements, your liability coverage will take the forefront. This form of protection will insure you against any injury claims made by uninsured workers, as well as property damaged during the project. Liability protection will also pay for the cost of your legal defense in any related court cases and will cover any money awarded to injured workers, as defined by the terms of your policy.

Of course, your home insurance shouldn’t come into play if you’ve selected a highly qualified contractor to get the job done. Before you make the hire, set up an interview so you can ask some of these questions:

* How long has the business been around?

Businesses that have withstood the test of time generally do good work and have enough customer reviews to back it up. Look for reviews on the internet and use a consumer protection agency, like the Better Business Bureau, to check up on their complaint history. Remember to take internet posts with a grain of salt, and that BBB records don’t always tell the whole story.

* Do they hold a state license?

Most states license plumbers and electrical contractors, but just 36 states have a license or certification for contractors and home remodelers. You can find out what types of contractor’s licenses are available in your state by contacting your local building department. If your state requires home contractors to be licensed, do not hire anyone without seeing proof of their licensure.

* Are they bonded and insured?

Only hire a contractor who carries insurance that covers against damages to your property, personal liability, and worker’s compensation coverage. If you hire an underinsured contractor, your insurance will be making up the difference if something should happen.

* Will subcontractors be used during the project?

Subcontractors are not necessarily a bad thing, just make sure to meet them first so you can check out their credentials. Subcontractors are also a good source of honest information about the prime contractor. A little known fact for many homeowners is that a “mechanic’s lien” can be placed against your home if the contractor does not pay their subcontractors, so ask them if the contractor makes prompt payments. While negotiating the terms of your home project, ask the contractor and all subcontractors to sign a lien waiver or release statement that keeps subcontractors from coming after your money if bills go unpaid.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning to homeowners to help spot disreputable contractors and scammers are out there looking for your business. Here are a few telltale signs of a shady contractor:

* Goes door-to-door soliciting business

* Wants the names and phone numbers of your friends who may need service

* Offers a discount for using “leftover materials”

* Only takes cash payments

* Unable to get the proper building permits

* Has an unlisted phone number

* Considers your project a “demonstration job”

* Uses high-pressure and intimidating sales tactics

* Offers guarantees without any paperwork to back them up

* Wants the payment up-front and in full

* Offers financing through a “personal friend” of the contractor

Remodeling can make you feel like your home is brand new and can add thousands to its resale value, but without doing your homework before hiring a contractor, you could be left regretting your decision for years to come.

Apples to Oranges: Not All Auto Insurance Policies Are the Same

When it comes to auto insurance policies, there are countless options on the market. However, not all policies are created equal. While you may be tempted to buy the insurance policy with the lowest price tag, this choice could end up costing you untold amounts of money in the long-run.

It’s extremely important to read the fine print and understand the differences between the various auto insurance options available to you. Here are a few tips for choosing the best policy:

Know your limits

Some auto insurance policies are quoted with extremely low limits, leaving their policyholders dangerously under-insured. In some states, the recommended liability limits are as low as $25,000. This meager amount often doesn’t come close to the actual worth of the policyholder. As a matter of fact, some experts say that up to 50 percent of U.S. drivers do not have enough auto insurance coverage.

It’s important to make sure that you aren’t one of the thousands of under-insured drivers. Otherwise, if you are in a car accident, you could find yourself forking out your hard earning money—even though you have auto insurance!

When you’re on the market for a new auto insurance policy, be sure to explain your specific needs and financial situation to your insurance agent. A true professional can run a detailed assessment of your risk profile to ensure that you receive the proper amount of liability coverage.

Covering the gap

Oftentimes, auto insurance policies don’t cover the full replacement value for your car if it is totaled. While the carrier may pay for the total losses based on the actual cash value of your vehicle at the time of the accident, many carriers don’t pay the full replacement cost of your original car purchase. In other words, you are not protected against the depreciation of your car with these policies.

If you have this kind of policy and your car is totaled, you’ll end up paying the difference out of your own pocket for a comparable vehicle. This is known as the “replacement gap” in the industry.

However, there are some auto insurance policies that can help you avoid this gap. Many of these policies cover the full purchase price of your car, including taxes and license fees if your car is totaled within the first year after purchasing. Oftentimes, these carriers will even waive your deductible. Then, every year after the first year, your car’s value is determined by Blue Book, the auto industry’s standard vehicle pricing guideline.

Get customized

If your family has more cars than drivers, you may be able to get a discount if you choose the right carrier. Many families who own a recreational vehicle or “work truck” end up paying higher premiums. However, many of these cars aren’t driven on a regular basis—and therefore shouldn’t carry such high rates.

If you find yourself in this situation, try to find an insurance carrier that offers customized rates and deep discounts for rarely driven vehicles. A reputable insurance agent can help you find the best policy for your particular needs.

Read the fine print

When you first obtain auto insurance, you may notice that a few items are not covered by the policy. While this may not seem like a big deal at the time, these uncovered items can really stack up when you’re in an accident.

For example, many policies require that you only take your damaged vehicle to “in-network” repair shops. This can end up costing you a pretty penny and a lot of hassle after an accident. If you want to avoid these kinds of headaches, be sure to find a carrier that allows you to choose your own repair shop without paying a penalty fee. Read the fine print and make sure the policy covers all the items that are most important to you.

Work with a pro

At some time or another, most of us have received phone calls from insurance “sales representatives” trying to sell us auto insurance. These salespeople, who often work from phone scripts, don’t truly understand all the ins and outs of auto insurance—much less what kind of policy your unique situation requires.

This is why it’s so important to work with a professional independent insurance agent when purchasing auto insurance. Such an agent can guide you through the details of each different policy and recommend the most appropriate option for your distinctive needs.

As you work with an independent insurance agent, be sure to discuss your net worth, your opinions about asset protection and what you expect when it comes to handling insurance claims. This will ensure that the agent pinpoints the best policy that meets all of your needs and fits your preferences.

Insure Home Improvement Projects to Ensure Success

Although we all understand the importance of homeowner’s insurance, many homeowners never think about insuring their home improvement projects. Before you invest a boat load of money in home renovations, it’s critical that you insure your project. Otherwise, you could leave yourself vulnerable to some serious financial stress.

Before you don your hard hat and get to work on that home improvement project, take these four simple steps to make sure you’re protected:

1. Give your insurance agent a call.

There are so many things that can go wrong during a home improvement project. For example, what if your beautiful new kitchen cabinets are stolen from your backyard before you’ve had a chance to install them? What if a rainstorm causes damage to your floors during a major re-roofing project?

Your plain vanilla homeowner’s policy may not cover any damage done to your home during renovations. This is why it’s so important to call your agent and find out what’s covered during the construction process. You may find that you’ll need to change your insurance coverage temporarily until the renovations have been completed.

Tell your insurance agent exactly what kind of home improvement project you have planned. He or she can walk you through your short-term coverage options to make sure you’re fully protected.

You probably won’t need any additional insurance coverage if the project is relatively small. For example, if you’re simply switching out a couple of appliances in your kitchen or replacing fixtures in your bathroom, there’s probably no need to call your agent. However, if you’re spending more than $25,000 on a home renovation, you should definitely call.

2. Work only with insured contractors.

If you’re planning on hiring a contractor to work on your home renovations, you’ll need to look for more than just an experienced company. You’ll also want to make sure the company has general liability insurance as well as workers’ compensation for its employees. Ask the contractor for a certificate of insurance to confirm their coverages.

While you may be tempted to hire a cheaper contractor who lacks insurance, remember that you’re taking a huge risk in doing so. If something goes awry during the project, you could be stuck with a hefty bill. On the other hand, when you hire an insured contractor, you will not be held liable if a worker is injured during the project. Plus, you’ll be covered if the contractor causes any damage to your home during the project.

3. Obtain the proper permits.

Depending on where you live, you may need to obtain building permits before you begin your home renovations. Typically, permits are required if you are altering the structure of your home, such as adding on a room or a deck. Contact your city or county government offices to find out whether or not your home improvement project requires a building permit.

If a building permit is necessary, you or your contractor will need to apply for the permit and adhere to the specified building codes. Once the job has been completed, a building inspector will come by to check out the renovations and ensure that everything is up to code.

It’s extremely important to obtain the proper permits when necessary. If you add a room to your home and it does not meet your local government’s building codes, your insurer may not cover the extra room.

4. Update your insurance policy.

Once you have finished your home improvement project, contact your insurer to determine how much value the change has added to your home. This is extremely important. If you do not notify your insurance company about an expensive addition, you’ll be grossly underinsured if something happens to your home.

Cover Your Classic with Collector Car Insurance

Do you dream of making heads turn as you cruise around town in a beautifully restored vintage roadster? Have your eye on a classic convertible that brings back fond memories of your high school days? Whether you’re planning to buy a sporty 1960’s classic or a rare vintage vehicle that was produced more than 100 years ago, you’ll need to find the right insurance to cover your unique dream car.

A car you can appreciate

Unlike modern cars, restored classic cars actually appreciate in value as they grow older. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t cover one of these unique vehicles with standard car insurance.

If you total your daily driver, your car insurance company pays you only the actual cash value (ACV) of the car. When insurers calculate this amount, they include the car’s depreciation in the formula. Because new cars are worth a little less every year, you rarely receive the full amount that you paid for the car.

Because classic or antique cars increase in value each year, you’ll need to cover it with special collector car insurance. Such a policy will cover the full value of your vehicle if it is totaled.

Defining a classic

The first step to finding the right insurance policy for your special car is determining if it actually falls into one of the collector car categories. While car enthusiasts sometimes disagree about the precise category years, here’s how these cars are typically defined:

  • Veteran or Antique cars were manufactured before 1903.
  • Vintage cars were manufactured between 1903 and 1933.
  • Classic cars are often a source of controversy among car collectors. Some say classics are vehicles manufactured before 1973 while others say they are at least 20 years old.

If your dream car falls into one of these categories, you should definitely try to cover it with a collector auto insurance policy.

The requirements

Of course, you’ll have to prove that your collector car meets a certain set of standards before an insurance company will agree to cover it under a collector car policy. Every insurer has a different list of prerequisites, but here are some of the most common requirements:

  • Your vehicle must be at least 19 years old and in good or restored condition.
  • The car must be stored in a fully enclosed and locked building.
  • You must mainly use the car for exhibitions, car shows and other such activities. It should not be your primary mode of transportation.

Surprisingly affordable

Many car enthusiasts are surprised to learn that collector auto insurance is relatively inexpensive. One reason the coverage is so affordable is because most insurance companies limit the number of miles you can drive your car each year—usually between 1,000 and 5,000 miles. After all, the less time you spend on the road, the less likely you are to have an accident.

Depending on your state and the insurance company you choose, your coverage options will vary. This is why it’s so important to do your homework and discuss all your options with a professional insurance agent.

Once you chose a policy, be careful to complete all the insurance paperwork as accurately as possible. One small mistake could lead to delayed payment or even denied claims if your car is damaged.

Endorsement or Separate Policy: What’s the Best Way to Insure Your Motorcycle?

As the weather warms up, more and more riders will be hitting the streets with their motorcycles. Whether you’re a weekend rider or a hardcore road warrior, you want to be sure your valuable bike is covered for any contingency.

As a motorcycle owner, you are faced with the decision of whether to insure your bike by adding an endorsement to your auto insurance policy, or by buying a separate policy. It’s important to understand the differences between the two so you can choose the option that best suits your needs.

An endorsement is a document that is added to a basic policy either at the time the policy is purchased, or during its term, which becomes part of the policy and increases the coverage provided by that policy. If you insure your motorcycle by adding an endorsement to your auto insurance, you will only have one insurance bill to pay to cover both your car and your bike.

However, there are certain disadvantages to insuring your motorcycle this way. In most cases, you cannot customize your insurance with an endorsement. You are locked in to the same coverages, limits, and exceptions for your bike that apply to your car. That’s why it is important to discuss with your insurance agent what a motorcycle endorsement covers and how it’s covered before you add it to your auto policy.

Your insurer may offer you the choice of purchasing separate coverage for your motorcycle. While motorcycle insurance does vary by state and insurance company, one thing remains the same; your driving history and credit score may impact your eligibility. Riding a motorcycle is a higher risk activity than driving a car; if you have a number of tickets or accidents on your driving record, you may be considered too high a risk for the insurance company to extend separate coverage.

If you qualify, there are certain advantages to having a separate policy. Because these policies are created specifically for motorcycles, they offer more coverage options. For example, a motorcycle policy allows you to choose higher liability limits than you have on your auto insurance.

One of the great things about owning a bike is the ability to personalize it, but many of these customizations aren’t covered unless you purchase a separate motorcycle policy. Typically, a basic motorcycle policy will extend coverage for custom parts and equipment up to a specific limit, such as $1,000. If your custom accessories or parts are worth more than the basic policy limit, it’s a good idea to purchase additional coverage to cover those parts in case they’re ever damaged. Also, be sure to ask for a list of the specific custom parts that are covered, and any exclusions that may apply.

Keep in mind that although you will be paying a separate premium for motorcycle insurance, you may qualify for discounts. Many insurers offer discounts for multi-motorcycle policies, mature drivers, and insuring both your auto and motorcycle with the same company. In some instances, you can receive a discount for attending safety training programs, or for becoming a certified motorcycle safety instructor.

Ten Ways to Lower the Cost of Your Homeowner’s Insurance

While most states don’t legally require you to carry homeowner’s insurance, just about every mortgage lender is going to require proof of coverage for the term of your loan.  Regardless of whether you are required to or not, homeowners should carry insurance on their homes because it’s often the largest asset they own. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s too expensive. You can find the right amount of coverage to suit your needs at affordable rates if you follow these guidelines:

  1. Shop around – Talk to a number of insurers, and ask about rates and services offered, especially when it comes to handling a claim.
  2. Raise your deductible – A deductible is the amount of money you are responsible for paying in the event of a loss. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Keep in mind that if you live in an area susceptible to natural disasters, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain types of damage.
  3. Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs – The land your house sits on isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire or any other peril covered in your homeowner’s policy; so don’t include its value in deciding how much coverage to buy.
  4. Buy your homeowner’s and auto insurance from the same insurer – Some insurance companies will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.
  5. Make your home more disaster resistant – You may be able to reduce your premiums by adding storm shutters, or reinforcing your roof. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.
  6. Improve your home security – You can usually get discounts for installing a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Some companies will cut your premium by 15 to 20 percent if you install a sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings the police and fire station nearest you. Before you buy such a system, find out if your insurer offers a discount, and how much it will save on premiums.
  7. Ask about other discounts – If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent from your insurer because you are at home more. Being in the house a lot means you are less likely to be burglarized, and more likely to spot a fire before it gets out of control.
  8. Maintain a solid credit record – Insurers use credit information to price homeowner’s insurance. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.
  9. Stay with the same insurer – If you keep your coverage with a company for several years, you could receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder.
  10. Review your policy once a year – You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home, but you don’t want to spend money for coverage you no longer need.

Auto Coverage for Your Teen’s Part-Time Job

It’s a rite of passage when a teenager gets their first part-time job. As their parent, you’re happy because hopefully they’ll learn how to manage money and develop some measure of responsibility. Unfortunately, a positive experience for your teen could become a negative one for you if they use the family car to perform their job.

For many teenagers, getting a part-time job means delivering pizzas or newspapers, working as a crew member for a landscaping company, or driving for a van service. One of the requirements for employment is that they have their own means of transportation, but what if that transportation is your family car?

Even though your car is insured under a personal auto insurance policy, if your child gets into an accident at work you could be surprised with a claim denial. For this reason, it’s important that you immediately notify your carrier when your child starts driving the family car for work. The insurer will likely charge you an extra premium, but it’s a small price to pay should your child get into an accident on the job. You should also find out whether there are any policy exclusions that might be applicable.

Many insurance carriers are reluctant to cover your teen if they use the family car for these typical part-time jobs because they often carry a great deal of risk. These jobs require the car be driven to different locations and at various times of the day and night. Because there are so many variables, it becomes extremely difficult for the insurer to adequately price the policy to cover the risk they are underwriting.

You may find that you have to purchase a commercial auto policy, which could be more expensive than your personal automobile policy. A commercial policy provides coverage for situations encountered while conducting business that aren’t normally covered under personal auto policies.

Although it may cost more, a commercial auto insurance policy is worthwhile if your child intends to stay at their job for any length of time. Many students keep the same part-time job throughout their high school and college years because it fits their schedule. If that is the case, be sure that your teen is covered during the time they are employed.

Renter’s Insurance Is a Must Have for Apartment Dwellers

Many renters assume that because they don’t own their dwelling they have nothing at risk. In fact, a 2006 survey by the Insurance Research Council found that only 43 percent of people who rent their dwellings said they had renter’s insurance.

Although renters may not face the same level of risk as homeowners, they still have to protect themselves in the event a disaster strikes. Your landlord probably carries insurance, but this only protects the building – not the contents of your individual apartment or home. Renter’s insurance protects your personal property in case of fire, smoke damage, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage resulting from burst pipes, sprinkler systems, or malfunctioning heating/cooling systems.

The amount you receive if your belongings are damaged or stolen depends upon whether your policy is for “actual cash value” or “replacement cost.” Actual cash value coverage pays you what your property was worth at the time it was damaged or stolen, minus your deductible. Replacement cost coverage pays what it actually costs to replace what you lost, minus the deductible.

While protecting your personal property is an important reason to carry renter’s insurance, there are other equally important reasons you should never rent an apartment without it. Renter’s insurance provides you with liability protection in the event someone slips and falls while in your apartment. If this happens to you, you are covered up to the policy’s liability limit for an award in a court judgment and for your legal expenses.

In some instances, apartments are rendered uninhabitable because of fire, burst pipes, or another disaster. If the event is a covered peril under your policy, renter’s insurance will cover any additional living expenses you incur until you can move back into your place. However, there are certain limitations. Generally, the maximum amount you can receive is between 30 to 50 percent of the total value of the policy, depending upon your coverage. Your insurer will usually continue to pay while your home is being repaired or rebuilt, or until you find suitable alternative living arrangements. Some insurers cap the amount of time you can receive this benefit at 12 months, while others cover you for what they consider a reasonable length of time.

Finally, renter’s insurance can protect you in the event you cause unintentional damage to your landlord’s property.  In most instances of renter-caused damage, the landlord’s insurance company will pay for the repairs, but will seek reimbursement from the liable tenant. In this scenario, your renter’s insurance covers you for the reimbursement amount.

If you are currently renting an apartment and don’t have renter’s insurance, call your agent to discuss purchasing coverage. Your agent can show you how simple things like raising your deductible, or installing smoke detectors and burglar alarms, can help you get great coverage at an affordable rate.

Know Your Auto Insurance Needs If You Plan to Lease

While approximately 80 percent of car buyers either pay cash or finance their purchase, you’re considering joining the other 20 percent who are willing to forgo ownership and lease their next set of wheels. Perhaps you’re self-employed and able to deduct your lease payment as a business expense. Or maybe you’re trying to step up to a luxury model for less upfront cash.

Whatever your reason, if you do decide to lease, keep in mind that the amount of insurance protection you need will likely be more than if you decided to purchase. When you lease, your vehicle belongs to the leasing company. They want to ensure their investment is covered should you have an accident that damages or destroys the vehicle, or if the vehicle is stolen. They will also want you to carry sufficient liability coverage in case you are found to be at fault for an accident. This not only protects you from financial disaster, but also covers the leasing company if they should be held partly responsible in a lawsuit. While all 50 states have different requirements, on average, the minimum liability insurance coverage for most states is about one quarter of what leasing companies usually require.

You will also be required to maintain collision and comprehensive coverage, which pays for damages resulting from fire, theft, vandalism, civil riot, and collisions with animals. While you generally have a choice of deductibles, your lease contract may stipulate a dollar cap on the deductible amount. 

Your lease contract may also include what is known as “gap insurance.” If you wreck your car, this insurance pays the difference between the outstanding balance on your lease and the claim payment from the primary insurer.

After a major accident in which your car is badly damaged, the insurer has the option of “totaling” the car and paying you or the leasing company the actual cash value of the car, or repairing it. Without gap insurance, if the car is totaled, even after the leasing company receives the claim proceeds from the insurer, you may still not have satisfied your lease contract.

If your lease contract does not include gap insurance, you should consider purchasing it on your own. Otherwise, you could find yourself paying for a car you no longer drive in addition to paying for a replacement vehicle.

If the insurer decides to repair your car, make sure the repairs won’t cause problems for you at the end of your lease. Most lease contracts stipulate that you’re responsible for “excess wear and tear.” This phrase makes you responsible for any damage to the car, even that which was previously covered by your insurance.

To avoid repercussions resulting from the repair of your vehicle, be sure that all of the paint matches, the tires match, and that repairs were completed with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. If the car isn’t returned to the leasing company in its expected condition, you may be responsible for the cost of additional repairs.

Ways to Reduce Your Motorcycle Premiums

Buying insurance coverage for your motorcycle can be expensive as bikes present a higher risk than automobiles. They’re more susceptible to accidents caused by bad weather and poor road conditions. They are also less visible to other drivers, and less stable than cars.

In spite of this, you want to be sure you have sufficient coverage for your bike, because you‘ve likely invested a lot of money in it. To help you find the best coverage for the best rates, the Insurance Information Institute offers the following tips:

  • Get seasonal coverage – Most bikers aren’t road warriors who consistently ride their bikes all year long. If you store your bike for several months out of the year, there’s no need to fully insure it. Many insurers offer seasonal policies that cover your bike for six to nine month periods of actual usage.
  • Take a motorcycle-safety course – Some states require these courses before they’ll issue a motorcycle license. Even if your home state doesn’t require it, you may be eligible for a 10 to 15 percent discount on your policy for completing one. Before signing up for a program, it’s a good idea to contact your insurer. Some companies only recognize certain programs. If you’ve been riding for a while, you might be able to get a discount for taking a refresher course.
  • Increase deductibles – A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay before the coverage kicks in. The higher your deductible, the lower your premiums. When choosing a deductible, make sure you can afford to pay out-of-pocket for any costs that are incurred before your insurance kicks in.
  • Ask about multiple bike discounts – If you’ve got more than one bike, or live with someone else who rides, you can usually get a discount. Likewise, it might be worthwhile to insure your motorcycle with the same company that covers your car.
  • Install anti-theft devices – If you financed your bike, you’ve probably taken out comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive protects against theft, fire, and other damages not caused by an accident. Some companies offer a discount on comprehensive coverage if you utilize an anti-theft device.
  • Maintain a good driving record – Insurance companies analyze your driving history to determine rates. How you drive a car usually indicates how you’ll ride a motorcycle. If you’ve only recently obtained a driver’s license, you might want to wait a year or two before getting a motorcycle. If you maintain a good driving record, your rates will be lower once you’re considered an “experienced” driver.

Ride with a group – Membership in a motorcycle club, such as the American Motorcycle Association, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, Harley Owners Group or Retreads can also save you some money on your the insurance premium.

Is Your Home Hazardous to Your Health?

Home is where the heart is—but it may also be a danger zone. It turns out that harmful substances found in everyday household items can be hazardous to your health.

According to recent studies, older people and young children are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of these products. However, a new study shows that a high degree of environmental awareness may help Americans reduce their exposure to hazardous products. That’s why it’s important to do your homework and understand which products carry a high risk.

Here are a few of the potentially hazardous household products you may want to avoid. While you may not be able to cut these things out of your life altogether, you should try to limit your exposure to these items:

Cleaning products

Many cleaning products contain substances like ammonia and chlorine bleach—two substances that can be extremely toxic. Ammonia is known to trigger to asthma, and chlorine bleach is a lung irritant that can be fatal if swallowed. Additionally, some cleaning products include a substance called glycol ethers, which is used to dissolve dirt. When absorbed in the skin this chemical can cause nerve damage.

Be sure to wear rubber gloves if you are cleaning with any of these products, and keep the room well ventilated. You may also want to wear a mask so that you don’t breathe in the fumes. If you want to avoid these cleaners altogether, you could try using hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar or baking soda instead.

Paint products

The fumes from paint and paint solvents, including turpentine and mineral spirits, can be harmful to your health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Aging Initiative, when these items are used improperly, the fumes can stress your lungs and heart and even contribute to an irregular heartbeat. This is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contained in these products.

Be sure to use and store these types of products in a well ventilated area. You may also consider buying VOC-free paints, which are available in some stores.


The EPA says that people who have weakened hearts or lungs should avoid exposure to pesticides because it could lead to arrhythmia or heart attacks. Additionally, some studies claim that there could be a link between exposure to pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Research suggests that certain people carry a gene that makes them more susceptible to Parkinson’s—and when these people are exposed to pesticides, it could trigger the disease.


Believe it or not, the shirt on your own back could be contributing to health problems. Many permanent press fabrics and older flame-retardant and water-repellent materials contain formaldehyde, which can irritate your upper respiratory system. Clothing companies aren’t required to list these chemicals on their labels. However, experts suggest that you stick with untreated clothing made from natural fibers like cotton.

Nonstick pans

As wonderful as these pans are for stick-free cooking, they can also be harmful to your health. At normal cooking temperatures, these pans aren’t dangerous. However, if you leave an empty nonstick pan on a burner for an extended amount of time, it can release 15 different toxic chemicals, including two carcinogens.

Carpet pads and old furniture stuffing

A flame retardant known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers used in some carpet pads and stuffing in older furniture and mattresses can be unsafe. Some studies show that this substance can affect the thyroid gland as well as the nervous and reproductive systems.

If you own an older couch or mattress, make sure that no stuffing is exposed. If there is some stuffing hanging out of a rip in your old couch, seal the rip properly to reduce your exposure.

Is Your Golf Cart Properly Insured?

People are increasingly using golf carts for more than just golf. Many homeowners use them around their properties or even to travel to neighboring properties. For example, a couple may own a vacation home in a gated community located in a rural waterfront area. They have a golf cart that they use on the roads within the community to shuttle between their neighbors’ homes. The cart may suffer damage in some way or even be destroyed in a collision or fire. Also, it may injure another person or damage someone’s property; for example, it could roll over a person’s foot if the user has not parked it correctly. If something like this occurs, the cart’s owners need to have proper and adequate insurance.

Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover liability for injury or damage caused by use of a golf cart under specific conditions. They cover use of a cart while the user is playing golf on a golf course. They also cover her while using a cart for other leisure activities permitted by the golfing facility, while traveling to or from the golf cart storage area at the course, and while crossing public roads to get from one part of the course to another. Finally, it covers her while the cart is inside a “private residential community” that includes her residence, if the community has authority over the roads and has permitted the use of golf carts on those roads. For example, the gated community may designate certain roadways for golf cart use. If the vacation home is in that community, she has coverage for injury or damage she causes with her golf cart while on those roadways.

The policy will provide coverage for damage to a cart the policyholder owns only if she uses it to service her residence. Most people with golf carts use them for other purposes, so the homeowner’s policy offers little protection. However, a policy change (called an “endorsement”) can supplement it. The Owned Motorized Golf Cart – Physical Loss Coverage endorsement covers golf carts designed to carry four passengers or less and not designed or modified to go faster than 25 M.P.H. on level ground. It covers damage resulting from a wide variety of causes, including fire, theft, vandalism, and others; collision coverage is available as an option. The insurance company will pay for the cost (above the deductible) of repairing the cart or the cost of replacing it minus depreciation.

Another alternative is to ask for coverage to be added to an auto insurance policy. The Miscellaneous Type Vehicle Endorsement covers golf carts, and the policyholder can choose to cover the vehicle for some or all of the coverages that apply to cars on the policy. This coverage may be much broader than what the endorsement to the homeowner’s policy provides. For example, the auto endorsement can provide uninsured motorist coverage and No Fault coverage (if the policy is purchased in a state with a No Fault insurance law). However, not all auto insurance companies offer this; an insurance agent should be able to give advice on which companies will do so. It may be necessary to buy a separate policy for the golf cart if the auto insurance company declines to cover it.

Like any other type of machinery or equipment, a golf cart can offer great convenience, but can also involve the user in an accident. The financial costs of an accident can be significant. A homeowner who owns a golf cart should speak with an insurance agent about getting the insurance protection that makes the most sense for her.

Consider Four Key Areas When Buying Homeowner’s Insurance

You buy homeowner’s insurance to protect your biggest asset, so it’s important to purchase enough coverage to suit your needs. By looking at a few key factors, you could end up saving yourself a lot of money and heartache should you ever have to make a major homeowner’s insurance claim. Be smart and ask yourself the following four questions when considering how much coverage to purchase.

How much will it cost to rebuild?

When you’re figuring out the cost to rebuild your home, use current construction prices. Don’t add in the cost of the land, and don’t base your cost estimates on how much you originally paid for the house.

Even though your mortgage lender may require you to have homeowner’s insurance, you still may not be adequately protected. In most cases, the policy limit is the amount owed on your mortgage, which may not be enough to rebuild at current prices.

To estimate the amount of insurance you need, multiply the total square footage of your home by the building costs per square foot. You can get information about local building costs by calling your real estate agent or home builders association.

You should select an extended replacement cost policy for several reasons:

  • It pays for your home to be repaired with materials that are similar in kind and quality to what was originally used.
  • There is no deduction for depreciation or wear and tear.
  • If the demand for materials and construction workers exceeds the supply because of a widespread disaster, and prices skyrocket, an extended replacement cost policy will pay whatever is necessary to restore your home to its original condition.

How much will it cost to replace my personal possessions?

Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover your personal possessions for 50 to 70 percent of the total coverage amount on your home.

Conducting a home inventory will help you determine if this is enough. Create a detailed list of everything you own and how much it will cost to replace these items should they be stolen or destroyed. If you feel you are underinsured, ask you agent about increasing the coverage limits for your possessions.

Will I have any additional living expenses as a result of an insured disaster that damages my home?

When a disaster strikes, you may be forced to live somewhere else while your home is being repaired. Standard homeowner’s policies covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are living away from home. In addition, if you rent out the property that was damaged, this coverage will reimburse you for any rent you would have received from tenants while the home is being repaired.

Additional living expenses coverage varies among companies. The standard is 20 percent of the total amount of coverage on your house. There are also policies that cover unlimited additional living expenses for a specific period of time.

Ask your insurance agent to tell you how much coverage you have and how long the coverage stays in effect. If you don’t feel you have sufficient coverage for additional living expenses, consider increasing it.

How much coverage do I have in the event I am named in a lawsuit for bodily injury or property damage caused to others?

The standard homeowner’s policy covers you, your family members, and your pets in the event of injury caused to others. The coverage extends to both the cost of defending the case in court and any damages you are required to pay.

The majority of homeowner’s insurance policies provide $100,000 worth of liability insurance; however, you can get higher amounts. Conventional wisdom says that homeowners should carry at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of liability protection.

Changing Driving Habits Can Lead to Car Insurance Savings

Most Americans are driving less in order to save money on gas. However, decreasing the time you spend in your car can actually make you eligible for another savings opportunity, paying less for your car insurance. If you’ve cut back on your driving, it’s a good idea to contact your agent.

Consumers who are making greater use of public transportation or participating in car pools should contact their insurance company, because significantly reducing the number of miles driven each week could lower the cost of their auto insurance premiums.

Many companies offer low mileage discounts to motorists who drive fewer than 7,000 miles a year. Even though each insurance company calculates rates differently, they all consider how many miles a motorist drives because the risk of an accident increases the more time you spend behind the wheel.

However, decreasing the risk of accidents isn’t the only benefit to driving less. The money you can potentially save on premiums is significant. A motorist who drops from the average of 15,000 miles driven per year to 8,000 miles could qualify for a 5 percent premium discount. A driver who goes from 15,000 miles per year down to 5,000 could possibly receive a 15 percent discount. Keep in mind that your insurance carrier may ask for an annual odometer reading to calculate annual mileage.

The Insurance Information Institute noted some other ways drivers could save on auto insurance rates. SUV and truck owners who exchange their vehicles for a more fuel-efficient car might also reduce their auto insurance costs. Premiums are generally lower for a $30,000 mid-size sedan than for a large $60,000 SUV. Besides sticker price, an insurance company will determine the coverage rate for an individual vehicle based on factors such as the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood that it will be stolen.

Drivers can also lower their auto insurance premiums by taking a higher deductible, maintaining good credit, and dropping unnecessary coverages. If you insure your boat, RV, or motorcycle with the same company, you may qualify for an extra discount on your auto coverage.

Your Mortgage Balance: The Wrong Way to Determine Your Insurance Needs

Although the housing market is in the midst of a prolonged slump, some experts believe prices are still higher than they should be. At least in the short term, homebuyers will take out large mortgages against their homes. Unfortunately, the mortgage amount sometimes brings the lender into conflict with the homebuyer’s insurance company. For example, the mortgage may be for $200,000, but the insurance company may be willing to insure the home for only $175,000. The lender will often threaten to not hold the closing if the borrower does not buy an insurance amount equal to the amount of the mortgage. This obviously leads to a very anxious homebuyer who has many other things to worry about. Who is correct here?

Most insurance policies provide coverage for the home on a “replacement cost” basis. This means that, if a covered cause of loss damages the home, the company will pay the cost to repair or replace it without deducting any amounts for depreciation. However, the company will pay the least of:

  • The amount of insurance covering the building;
  • The cost of replacing the damaged portion of the building with materials of similar kind and quality and for similar use; or
  • The necessary amount actually spent to repair or replace the damaged building.

Assume that a fire completely destroys the home mentioned previously. The homeowner bought $200,000 coverage to equal the mortgage amount. The most the insurance company will pay is $200,000 (the amount of insurance) or the reasonable cost of labor and materials to rebuild the house, whichever is less. If the contractors can rebuild it to a state reasonably similar to its prior state for $175,000, that is the amount the company will pay.

The mortgage, however, is based at least in part on market value. Market value reflects what someone is willing to pay for the house and related structures (garage, swimming pool, gazebo, etc.) and the land they sit on. The price someone is willing to pay for a building may be very different from the cost to rebuild it, because that price contemplates factors (school district, proximity to workplaces and shopping or bodies of water, etc.) that have no relationship to the cost of labor and materials. In addition, market value includes the value of the land, something no homeowner’s insurance policy covers, since land does not burn, explode, or otherwise suffer insurable damage.

While it is understandable that the lender wants to see its investment protected, requiring a borrower to insure up to the mortgage amount helps no one other than the insurance company. The lender and the homeowner will never collect more than the cost of rebuilding no matter how much more insurance the homeowner buys. The insurance company, however, gets to collect the premium for $200,000 worth of coverage but will never have to pay out more than $175,000.

Many states have laws or regulations that prohibit mortgage lenders from requiring borrowers to buy amounts of insurance greater than the cost of replacing the house. Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia are just some of the states that restrict lenders’ insurance requirements. New York’s regulation, for example, prohibits mortgage lenders from requiring a borrower to “obtain a hazard insurance policy in excess of the replacement cost of the improvements on the property as a condition for the granting of a mortgage loan.”

Homeowners should review the amount of coverage on their homes with their insurance agents at least annually. The importance of having enough coverage continues long after the home purchase. However, it is equally important not to buy more coverage than necessary.

Smaller Cars Present Big Safety Problems

Rising gas prices are forcing consumers to give up their SUVs and pickups in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. On the one hand, this shift will greatly reduce the number of rollover incidents, a risk that accounts for 25 percent of all traffic fatalities each year. On the other hand, some experts, such as those at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, feel that the growing number of smaller cars on the road poses even greater risks. That’s because over 40,000 people were killed on U.S. roads in traffic-related accidents in 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A little less than 18,000 of those victims were riding in passenger cars at the time of the accident.

Certain design features of smaller cars place their occupants at greater risk in the event of a crash. These cars are lighter and more flexible, which means they bend more easily upon impact. In fact, when a small car hits a fixed-object like a telephone pole with its front-end, especially at a high speed, it can cause such a deep intrusion, that the engine can be pulled from its mounts, and hurled through the firewall towards the occupants.

To prevent this hazard, automakers are learning how to make smaller cars stronger. The first priority is to find ways to maximize the amount of energy they can absorb in crashes, so that they will be less resistant to severe damage upon impact. One method is to design these cars using higher-strength steel. The other alternative is to use materials like aluminum and forged alloy. While these materials have the strength of steel without the weight, the downside is they are far more expensive. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the learning curve for developing these structural changes is extremely long, which means that it will be a quite some time before these improvements are available to the public.

Although they have design flaws that make them vulnerable in high-speed collisions, smaller cars have some features that actually give them an advantage over larger vehicles. Smaller cars are more likely to avoid accidents than heavier ones because they can stop more quickly and are easier to maneuver. They are also equipped with collision avoidance technologies that are designed to prevent the car from becoming involved in a traffic accident.

You’ve Been in a Car Accident-Do You Need a Lawyer?

You’ve probably seen countless TV ads for lawyers who help car accident victims “get the money they deserve.” Critics often refer to these attorneys as “ambulance chasers,” accusing them of preying on accident victims.

However, sometimes it’s necessary to work with a lawyer to resolve car accident issues. Unfortunately, most drivers don’t know when they should contact a lawyer after a car crash. Do you really need to dial up an attorney every time you get into a little fender bender? What if you are seriously injured?

For example, let’s say a vehicle slams into your car as you drive through an intersection. You wake up in the hospital with a lawyer at your bedside pestering you to sign a contract with him. Soon after, the other driver’s insurance company calls urging you to settle with them. Should you sign the contract with that bedside lawyer? Or should you go at it alone, spending weeks or even months arguing with the insurance company until you get the money to cover your medical bills and vehicle damage?

Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not you should retain a lawyer involved after an accident:

  • Hire a lawyer if you have to stay overnight in the hospital or if you suffer from any serious injury as a result of the accident. This could include permanent scarring, loss of a limb or loss of bodily function (such as excessive back or neck pain or a knee injury). You should also hire an attorney if you require long-term care as a result of your injuries.
  • If you simply don’t want to negotiate with the driver’s insurance companies, you should consider contacting a lawyer.
  • You may also want to consult with an attorney if the police report does not clearly state which driver is at fault.
  • If you are not seriously injured, do not require a visit to the hospital and the police report clearly states who is at fault for the accident, it’s probably not necessary to contact a lawyer.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer, don’t simply go with the first lawyer who chases down your ambulance or shows up in your hospital room. Find a lawyer who you feel is trustworthy and experienced, or contact an attorney recommended by a friend or family member. If the lawyer seems desperate and pressures you to sign a contract, you may want to look elsewhere. Don’t discount free legal help—oftentimes, these can be the most dependable lawyers.

Also, don’t believe the television commercial hype that accident lawyers can win you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although a lawyer may be able to get you a relatively large sum of money, remember that a large portion of that will go toward legal fees.

If you decide not to hire a lawyer, you’ll be on your own when it comes to dealing with insurers. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • After the accident, be sure to get a copy of the police report.
  • Call your insurance company as soon as possible. Your agent can give you advice about what steps to take next and help cover your expenses if the other driver doesn’t have insurance.
  • Take thorough notes and keep a record of everyone you talk to and when you spoke with them. This includes insurance representatives and doctors.
  • Be sure to get a claim number from the insurance company, and include that number on any correspondence with the insurer.
  • If the other driver is at fault, get his insurance information and call the company immediately. Tell his insurer that you want to file a third-party claim. They will probably ask you to describe the accident—remember to be very careful with your description. Simply state exactly what happened, and do not make any assumptions. If you change your story, they may try to claim you are at fault.
  • If an insurer pressures you to settle your medical bills at the same time you settle your auto claim, do not give in unless you are certain your medical treatment is final. Once you settle your medical claim, you will be responsible for paying any future medical bills associated with your accident injury. Depending on the laws in your state, you may have three years or more to settle a personal-injury claim.

Hopefully, you will never have to walk through these steps—but it’s wise to be prepared for any type of accident.