Continuing Snowstorm Conditions Stress Car Insurance Needs

Smashed windshieldIt was a “herculean” task for drivers digging themselves out of last week’s snowstorm that swung through much the U.S. And they’ll have to prepare for more of the same.

According to The Associated Press, the upcoming “polar vortex” is expected to follow up Winter Storm Hercules with a punishing set of icy conditions that will, among other things, create “dangerous driving conditions.”

That was obvious advice for any driver involved in a recent wintertime pileup in Pennsylvania involving dozens of cars.

Drivers can be caught in crashes because of icy conditions or they can emerge from their cozy homes to find their vehicle damaged by a night’s worth of sitting in a blizzard—either way, there is car insurance advice for cold weather that they can take advantage of so they can get back behind the wheel as soon as possible.

And don’t think that you can avoid car-related mishaps (and the ensuing need for auto insurance) by just keeping your car off the cold road.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), winter storms account for the third-biggest cause of catastrophe-related insured losses, behind hurricanes and tropical storms.

This week’s polar vortex is dumping punishing conditions on so much of the U.S. that the III noted that residents in southeastern states, who are among those “unaccustomed to frigid weather,” should take “reasonable steps to protect themselves and their property.”

How a Pileup Gets Sorted Out

The Telegram, reporting from Massachusetts during last month’s wintry conditions, said that a massive pileup on the Interstate 290 had wide insurance implications for the dozens of drivers involved in the crash.

And similar pileups continued during Winter Storm Hercules.

With Massachusetts authorities officially attributing the cause of the I-290 pileup to “weather and road conditions,” those drivers with vehicle damage would turn to their collision coverage. If the drivers have it, it should coverage their damages, minus any deductible.

But each car insurer could also impose a premium surcharge that would inflate policyholders’ future auto insurance bills.

In that case, policyholders still have options. They can take protests against surcharges to their respective state regulators and inquire about appeal processes. Or they can wait on the issue and see if the widespread nature of car crashes due to icy conditions (like polar vortices and Winter Storm Hercules) leads insurers themselves to nix surcharges for drivers in impacted areas.

Before a policyholder’s problems with their premiums reach that pitch, there are ways for that policyholder to snare “the auto insurance settlement they deserve,” according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The CFA offers this guide for consumers seeking the best settlement possible that includes the handy tip that the choice of car repairer is up to the policyholder, not the insurer.

Collision Coverage

The need for collision coverage becomes much more likely in inclement weather that lessens a driver’s control over his or her vehicle. So say a policyholder’s vehicle slips on icy roads and flips over or collides with another vehicle (e.g. a pileup crash), or stationary structures like guardrails or lamp posts—collision coverage will be that policyholder’s go-to part of his or her policy, minus their car insurance deductible.

Comprehensive Coverage

The need for comprehensive coverage becomes more likely in inclement weather that can drop itself right onto a driver’s vehicle. So say a policyholder spends the night in his or her comfy home but finds in the morning that their vehicle has: a crushed windshield from blocks of ice that took a dive from a rooftop (seen in this linked video); a tree branch that is sticking out of their cracked car window (pictured above); or is gone entirely (linked below). Comprehensive coverage will be that policyholder’s fallback part of their policy, minus the deductible.

Comprehensive coverage applies to that last example because oftentimes, especially in cold weather, drivers leave their engines running while on errands. Unfortunately, opportunistic thieves look for that exact situation to jump into the car and make off with a “puffer theft.”

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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