Car Insurance Protection Important as Winter Storm Advances

Car getting towed out of snowy ditchA deep freeze has coated much of the U.S. in recent months.

And with more of Winter Storm Pax forecasted this week, drivers should know how to deal with icy conditions that can cause major damage. Georgia insurance regulators reported that last month’s snow storm caused $10 million in insured losses.

Protection from wintry weather is pretty simple when it comes to car insurance: the comprehensive and collision coverage portions of your auto insurance policy should address most kinds of damage that you, or someone driving your car with your permission, cause because of weather-related conditions.

Last month, Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN) reviewed how car insurers deal with the major pileups often caused by icy conditions.

But there’s a lot more to being prepared for the chance that the cold causes a vehicle crash or breakdown. OAIN reviews that here:

Check the Car, Check the Trunk

Most service calls to Allstate Roadside Services in 2013 were about “mechanical problems” with a vehicle that required it to be towed to a repair shop, according to a review of incoming call data.

Being stranded in snow is especially tough, so Allstate issued an advisory with a list of “tips if you break down in bad weather” and items to “make sure your car is ready for the road.” Allstate also provided this page about “weathering the storm” that dumped snow on drivers across the nation.

A recent survey from State Farm also addressed vehicle preparation during harsh weather. According to the survey, few drivers carry the items in their trunk that are essential to dealing with common emergency situations during bad weather:

  • Hazard triangle (with reflectors) or road flares
  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Spare tire
  • Blankets and extra warm clothing
  • Cell phone and charger
  • High-calorie, non-perishable food
  • Road salt or cat litter to help with tire traction
  • Brightly colored distress sign or “Help” or “Call Police” flag
  • Candle/matches, lighter, and/or flashlight
  • Tarp for sitting or kneeling in the snow for exterior work like a tire change

Last week, when dozens of states were struck with harsh winter conditions, an advisory from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) outlined advice for drivers after a crash:

  • Stay calm.
  • Get immediate help if anyone is hurt.
  • If possible, move your vehicle out of traffic to a safe place. Use your emergency flashers to alert oncoming cars.
  • Call the police to report the accident.
  • Secure and conceal any valuables before exiting your vehicle.
  • Write down the other driver’s name, address, phone number, vehicle make, license number, insurance company and insurance policy number. If possible, get witnesses’ names, phone numbers and addresses.
  • Avoid discussing who was at fault at the scene of the accident. Exchange insurer and contact information only.
  • Examine the damage to any vehicles involved.
  • Contact your insurance company immediately to report the claim. If possible, take pictures of any damage to vehicles as it may help with the claims process.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) released a similar advisory on Wednesday about auto insurance coverage during winter storms.

A Review of Car Insurance Coverage

Expect the best but prepare for the worst. And according to Allstate, part of winter storm readiness is preparing for the worst: a crash.

“No matter where you’re going, auto insurance is a crucial part of your trip,” Allstate said in its advisory. “Before you take that first turn out of your driveway, take a moment to learn the parameters of your policy.”

To that end, state regulators have pitched in their fair share of advice during this icy season.

A tip sheet from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department issued this week outlined the “auto insurance coverage [that] pays for damage you, or someone driving the car with your permission, may cause to someone else’s property due to ice, snow and slippery roads.”

Oftentimes, iced-over roads can mean “damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car may hit,” according to Pennsylvania regulators:

  • Damage to your car resulting from colliding with another car, object, or as a result of flipping over is covered if you carry the optional collision coverage of your policy. It also covers damage caused by potholes.
  •  If you opted to carry comprehensive coverage on your auto policy, damage to your car caused by heavy wind, flooding, falling ice or tree limbs is covered.

In addition, regulators in Oregon, where drivers are in a “big thaw” after inclement conditions, have a handy Q&A about winter weather and car insurance. Among the questions covered are:

  • Question: Is it my fault if I slide through an icy intersection?
    Answer: “You may be responsible any time your vehicle is out of control. Key issues will be whether your actions were reasonable and prudent.”
  • Question: My neighbor’s tree fell and damaged my daughter’s car. Do they have to pay?
    Answer: “Only if they were negligent. You would have to prove that there was something wrong with the tree and that the neighbor knkow about the problem and failed to act.”

 

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com 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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