Insurance Blog
Friday, 04 August 2017 03:02

Auto Claims After a Car Accident

Auto insurance is meant to protect you by covering your bills after an accident. However, the amount of compensation can vary greatly depending on the type of claim that’s made by insurance carriers and the value of your vehicle. The decision to have your vehicle repaired or declared a total loss directly impacts how much you receive.


Determining a Claim

If you’re in an accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will analyze the approximate value of your vehicle before the accident as well as the cost to repair it afterward. Typically, the pre-accident value of your vehicle is determined by finding its actual cash value. This value is found by taking the price of a similar replacement vehicle in your area and then subtracting any pre-accident depreciation, such as your vehicle’s mileage and history.

If the cost to repair your vehicle is less than its actual cash value, insurers will usually opt to compensate you for the repairs. However, if the cost is too high or if the vehicle can’t be restored to a safe condition, insurers may declare it a total loss.


Total Loss Claims

If your vehicle is declared a total loss, you’ll be compensated with the full actual cash value of your vehicle, minus any applicable policy deductible. 

However, if a financed or loaned vehicle is declared a total loss, the insurer will pay the remaining balance to the finance company first. Here’s a breakdown of the two most common scenarios that occur when a financed vehicle is declared a total loss:

  • The actual cash value of the vehicle is greater than the remaining balance of the loan. In this scenario, the insurer pays off the loan and then gives you the amount by which the actual cash value exceeds the loan balance.
  • The actual cash value of the vehicle is less than the remaining balance on the loan. In this scenario, you are responsible for the difference between the actual cash value and the remaining loan balance.

Repairs and Diminished Value Claims

Getting a check for the full cost of your vehicle’s repairs may seem like a best-case scenario. However, repairs can substantially reduce your vehicle’s value. Even if it drives better than ever after being repaired, the fact that it was in an accident will taint its history and lead to a lower price if you ever choose to sell it. However, you can file a diminished value claim against an insurance carrier to try to recover any value that’s lost as a result of repairs.

Most states and insurance contracts prevent policyholders from bringing diminished value claims against their own insurers. However, if another driver is at fault for an accident and his or her insurance pays for your repairs, you may be able to use a diminished value claim to recover any lost value.

Because few vehicles are appraised immediately before they’re involved in an accident, it can be hard to prove that value has been lost after they’re repaired. Here are some tips you can use before and after an accident to prepare yourself for a successful diminished value claim:

  • Check third-party websites to get an approximate value for your vehicle’s make and model.
  • Take your vehicle to a pre-owned dealership after an accident for an appraisal. You can then ask for a letter that shows that your vehicle’s lower-than-average value is due to its repairs or accident history.
  • Keep documentation about any repairs or enhancements to your vehicle. These documents can help show a more detailed history of your vehicle when determining its value.
  • Contact us at (508) 358-5383 for more information about diminished value claims and to discuss the specifics of your situation.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A CAR ACCIDENT

If you are in a car accident, you can contact our agency directly to report claims during regular business hours. You can also file a claim anytime. Visit our auto insurance claim reporting page to find your insurance company contact information, and report the acccident directly to your company.


DOWNLOAD A MASSACHUSETTS CRASH REPORT

Download the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report form and follow the instructions for submitting the form by mail to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

When Should You File a Report

  • You should file a report if you’re the operator of a vehicle involved in a crash where the damage to any one vehicle or property is over $1000, or if there is an injury to any person, even if a police officer was on the scene. You should file the report within 5 days of the date of the crash.

When Should You NOT File a Report

  • You should not file a report if the crash occurred on a private road, driveway, private parking lot or other private way.

Why this Report is Important

  • Data from this report is used for many purposes including:
  • Identifying locations with a large number of crashes.
  • Improving dangerous highways and intersections.
  • Developing highway safety public information programs.
  • Developing programs to save lives and reduce highway injuries.

Be Prepared

There are few things more dangerous and stressful than getting into an accident. Contact us at (508) 358-5383, and we will provide you with a variety of resources.

Published in Auto Insurance

Car Rental

From our Trusted Choice friends

As the summer holiday season approaches, millions of Americans will take to the roads to visit family and friends. Since many will make the trip in a rented car, it’s an appropriate time to discuss one of the most frequently asked questions of agents and brokers all over the country: “Should I buy the insurance from the rental car company?”

Following are a few considerations when mulling this important decision:

Damage Waiver & Your Personal Auto Policy  

First, the good news: In many cases, a personal auto insurance policy will cover damage to a rented vehicle. That said—don’t get too comfortable! There are other costs associated with damage to a rented vehicle that the policy will not cover. For this reason, careful consideration should be given to purchasing the damage waiver offered by the rental car company.

On your personal auto policy, “Collision” insurance covers your vehicle for damage resulting from a collision with another object. “Comprehensive” (sometimes called “Other Than Collision”) covers your vehicle for theft, vandalism, falling objects and other causes not resulting from a collision. If you have a car loan, your lender will require you to purchase both. If you pay the loan off, the choice to purchase collision or comprehensive—and both or neither—is up to you.

Your personal auto policy will only cover damage to the rental car if you have the appropriate coverage type on at least one vehicle you own. For example, if you damage the rental car in a collision, you must have “collision” coverage on at least one vehicle covered by your personal auto policy. But if the rental car is stolen, vandalized, or damaged in any way not resulting from a collision, you must have “comprehensive” coverage on at least one vehicle covered by your personal auto policy. The key point: If your personal auto policy excludes the coverage type that damages the rental car—and you reject or violate the damage waiver—you will become personally responsible for paying all costs related to the damaged rental car out of your own pocket! In contrast, the damage waiver usually offered at the rental counter will cover the damaged rental car regardless of what’s covered by your personal auto policy.

Limitation in Your Personal Auto Policy

What else could you possibly owe the rental company following an event or crash? These include administrative fees and the depreciated value of the vehicle after repairs—neither expense is covered by your personal auto policy. In addition, most personal auto policies only pay up to the actual cash value (ACV) of the damaged vehicle. If the contract requires the damaged rental’s replacement, the ACV payout may not be sufficient to cover the entire expense.

Again, in contrast, the damage waiver will cover all such expenses.

Also, the rental contract likely will require you to pay the rental company’s “loss of use.” These are expenses they incur resulting from the inability to earn income from the damaged rental. This cost could be hundreds of dollars or more. Some personal auto policies will pay a limited amount for this expense (such as $20 per day or $600 total). Others will not cover it at all.

In contrast, the damage waiver will pay the full cost of the rental company’s loss of use.

No Claim Necessary

If something happens to the rental car, purchasing the damage waiver gives the rental agency management of the process. This will allow you to avoid filing a claim and possibly help keep the cost of your insurance from going up. It also will keep your deductible in your pocket.

Limitations in the Damage Waiver

Don’t forget that the rental car company’s damage waiver is a contract. It will include a list of restrictions that, if violated, may terminate the waiver and leave you personally responsible for paying the costs associated with the damaged rental car. Examples of such restrictions may include:

•             Damage to rental while driven by someone not specifically named on the contract.

•             Damage to rental while driven on unpaved roads.

•             Damage to rental while it’s being occupied by more passengers than available seatbelts.

•             Damage that occurs while pushing or towing.

This list is only a sample; the typical damage waiver may include additional restrictions.

Moreover, the car rental company’s loss damage waiver covers “diminished value,” the economic reduction in value of a repaired auto due to it having been damaged. Almost all auto policies and many credit card coverages exclude diminished value. What’s the impact to you? If you don’t take the damage waiver, you could get hit with a diminished value claim of $1,500 or more, depending on your type of damaged rental car.

Damage Waiver Covers Vehicle Damage Only

Perhaps the most important fact to remember is that the damage waiver only applies to damage to the rented vehicle. It is not a substitute for liability, medical payments, uninsured motorist, personal injury protection, and any other personal auto insurance coverage.

Other Products Offered by Rental Company 

In addition to the damage waiver, most rental car companies offer a few optional insurance-type products. For example, some may offer a liability enhancement that gives you the option to increase the liability limits you already carry on your personal auto insurance policy. Depending on your available auto liability insurance, this option may be worth consideration.

Others may offer options such as accidental death, trip cancellation, or damaged luggage insurance during the rental period. Such options vary by company and may provide insurance dollars you cannot get elsewhere. However, they should not be purchased without first reviewing your current home, health and auto insurance policies as there may be duplication.

Conclusion

In light of the information above, you should seriously consider—and probably buy—the damage waiver from the rental car company. Deciding whether to purchase other products from the rental firm, however, depends largely on the insurance already available to you from other sources. For assistance in determining coverage you already have and comparing it to the rental company’s options, call your Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent today.

Business Travel Note: When you rent a car on a business trip, that’s an entirely different set of decisions, so again please talk with your agent.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 21:40

Driving Tips for Pothole Season

Pothole

Potholes and poor road conditions aren’t just an inconvenience, they are an expensive and dangerous result of harsh winters. Winter wrecks havoc on our roadways. The cycle of freezing and thawing, and snow, sleet, and rain, bring Springtime potholes that can do significant damage to your car. Severe potholes have led to accidents which may impact your insurance rates, as premiums are determined by past claims, accidents and driving violations. Here are important tips to keep in mind. 

Make sure you contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agents to make sure you have the right amount of coverage.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has repaired more than 1,300 potholes this winter, including 210 on the MassPike from Springfield to Weston in the last two months, and now the agency is asking the public to report more of these pavement craters.

MassDOT has expanded its online and telephone pothole information system to all areas of the state.

Potholes can be reported through MassDOT's Pothole Hotline number at 857-368-6999.  Potholes can also be reported to MassDOT by calling 857-DOT-INFO (857-368-4636) or 877-MA-DOT-GOV (877-623-6846) or by contacting MassDOT online at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/ContactUs.aspx#Contact.

Pothole Driving Tips

  1. Properly inflated tires hold up better against potholes than tires that have too much or too little air.
  2. If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down before you hit it. But don’t brake directly over a pothole, which can actually cause more damage.
  3. When driving over the pothole, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
  4. Use caution when driving over a puddle of water because it might be a pothole in hiding.
  5. Report potholes to MassDOT.  


And, if you have hit a pothole and notice any of these problems, take your car to a repair facility to have it checked for damage by a professional.

 

Report Potential Damage  

  • Bulges or blisters on the tire sidewalls.
  • Dents in the wheel rims.
  • Undercarriage damage, including fluid leaks and wear that could lead to rust.
  • Odd noises coming from the exhaust system due to dents or punctures.
  • The car pulling toward the left or right, instead of going straight, which could indicate an alignment problem.
  • Uneven tire wear, which could indicate an alignment problem.

 

Published in Auto Insurance

Student Car Insurance

5 Little Known Ways College Students Can Save Money on Car Insurance                                                               

You might think you have your act together when it comes to student car insurance. College life is hectic and money is always short. To lighten the load, you did your homework to get the best possible rate. Or did you? Sure, your GPA is great, but there are other factors too. Knowing them could allow you to shave dollars from your premium and keep precious cash in your pocket. This is what goes into determining your car insurance rates.


5 Factors That Influence Auto insurance Rates for College Students

Besides your age, gender, and grades, the biggest factor that influences student car insurance is whether you take your car to school. That is because where you keep your car and how much you drive it is one of the primary ways insurance companies determine how likely you are to get into an accident.

You will need to carefully evaluate where you live and how much you drive before you decide if you’ll drive your car to school. Here are some other things to consider:

infographic about 5 factors of auto insurance for college students

1. Location. This could be a big one. If your school is in a more rural area, you will pay lower rates. Urban areas and big cities always carry higher insurance rates. The reason is relatively simple. More cars on the road, more obstacles like pedestrians, and narrow through streets all mean there is a much greater potential for you to be involved in an accident. States like New York and New Jersey have the highest car insurance rates, whereas states like Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Maine are among the lowest (Bankrate.com). There may be a bit of relief, though. If you happen to live within 3 miles of your school or job, you could qualify for a mileage discount.

2. Type of Car. Your sports car might look good on campus, but in the long run, the student car insurance rate could eat you alive. If you can, go for a larger vehicle. They are more substantial, usually made of steel, and much easier to repair. They also carry lower premiums. It may seem like insurance companies pick and choose which models to charge higher premiums for, but the law and their reasoning are sound. Sports cars are always higher because they have a large claim history (drivers like to go fast and are often involved in wrecks) and they have a much higher chance of being stolen. This is why driving a minivan may not be sexy, but is a great choice if you want a lower insurance rate. Also, newer cars like sedans and compacts give you better rates, since they require much less maintenance and have better safety features.

3. Credit History. Insurance companies will examine your credit history as a predictor of your likelihood of getting in an accident. A good credit rating could save you around $1,000 per year in premium costs. If you have a poor rating, expect a higher premium.

4. How Much Driving You Do. This one is cut-and-dried. If you can prove that you will be driving much less, then you could save a bit on your premium. To further compound the savings, try to stay on your parent's insurance plan if possible.

5. Driving Record. This is the most important factor by far. You are young and full of potential. You are also squarely in the high-risk category. Even a speeding ticket will make your insurance rate skyrocket, simply because you are already in a category with a higher risk. Make sure your driving record is as clean as possible so you can get the best rate.

Finally, consider getting a huge break on your insurance by leaving your car at home. Doing so can save you thousands of dollars. The best way to accomplish this is by trying to remain on your parents’ insurance policy. Most insurance companies will allow you to stay on your parents’ policy if you:

  • Are under 25 years old
  • Attend a college or university within 100 miles of your home
  • Attend a college or university more than 100 miles from home, but drive your vehicle only when you are home for school breaks

The number of miles that you drive in a year also heavily influences how much you will pay for car insurance. If you keep your car at home rather than at school, you will drive less. If you must bring your car to school, use mass transit as much as possible, live on campus if you can, and consider carpooling where possible. Restaurants and other entertainment options are not beyond the scope of possibility if you take advantage of public or mass transit. Besides, you are there to learn after all, right?


What Discounts Are Available to College Students for Car Insurance?

As a student, you may be eligible for several discounts.

Resident Student Discount. This echoes what was mentioned previously. Choosing a school that is far away and only driving when you’re home on break is a dream come true for your insurance company. They will usually give you a nice break for this, since there's much less chance for you to be involved in an accident.

Early Signing Discount. This is something you can take advantage of, but it is time-sensitive. If you're shopping for new car insurance before your current policy has lapsed, there are insurers that will give you a discount for not procrastinating.

Multiple Policy Discount. If you need other types of insurance, consider using the same insurance company for them. For instance, if you need renters insurance, getting both your renters insurance and auto insurance policy from the same company will make you eligible for a discount.

Other discounts that college students might be eligible for include:

  • Good student discount
  • Safe driver discount
  • Pay-in-full or automatic payment discount
  • Driving school discount
  • Anti-theft discount
  • Safety equipment discount
  • Data tracking discount

Ask one of our Trusted Choice agents about these discounts when you shop for your policy.


What Car Insurance Coverage Is Necessary for Students Away at College?

Even for students away from home, good car insurance is a necessity. While you’ll want to buy the most affordable student car insurance available, you shouldn’t limit your coverage to your state’s bare minimums. This could leave you at risk if an accident occurs with one of the nearly 13% of uninsured motorist roaming the roads. In some states, that's as high as 25%, according to the Insurance Research Council.

infographic young drivers alcohol percentage

Remember, you can be the most responsible driver to ever hit the road, but that still won’t protect you from the actions of those around you. According to recent statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 33% of drivers 21 to 24 years old were involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents. This is the highest of any age group. Furthermore, consider the fact that 18% of all college-age drivers report driving under the influence at some point in time, while just over 37% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were reported to be binge drinkers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The bottom line: Just because you might be responsible doesn't mean everyone else is. At the very least, you must carry your state’s mandated minimum liability coverage. But is that enough? Not likely.

To ensure you are protected, auto insurance for college students should include the following types of coverage with appropriate coverage limits:

  • Collision coverage is protection for physical damage to your vehicle when it hits or is hit by another vehicle or object, such as a tree.
  • Comprehensive coverage pays for losses from almost all other types of damage to your vehicle other than that resulting from a collision, such as theft, fire, vandalism, weather, birds or animals, glass breakage and so on.
  • Medical payments coverage, or personal injury protection, helps pay for medical, dental and funeral expenses for you or your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are in an accident involving a hit-and-run driver or a driver who does not have auto liability coverage. It takes the place of liability insurance that the other driver should have, but does not.
  • Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if another motorist is at fault for a collision but does not have enough insurance to cover your losses.

How Do College Students Find the Best Car Insurance Rates?

The best car insurance for you as a college student will provide protection not only for liability risks, but also for injuries, collisions and other types of risks to you and your vehicle. And it will provide all of those things at a price that that isn’t burdensome.

First, contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker (BWP agents. Your agent should be able to find quotes from numerous reputable insurance companies so that you can find the combination of coverage and price that best suits your needs and budget. When comparing quotes, make sure that the coverage and limits are the same for each quote. It doesn’t pay to compare apples to oranges.

Our local BWP Trusted Choice® agents can help you find the student car insurance you need, and will help you save money by finding all of the discounts that you are eligible for.  

Published in Insurance Tips

While waiting for your vehicle replacement part/s, you may choose to rent a car if one is not available from your dealership. Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers about your insurance coverage while renting a replacement vehicle.

Q: If I am involved in an accident with the rental car would any loss of use or administrative fees be covered under the collision or comprehensive coverage?

A: Loss of Use and admin fees are not covered under an Auto Policy. The insured can check with their carrier to see if they may have coverage through an enhancement endorsement.  Loss of Use is charged by the Rental Company. If there is an accident with the Rental Car and the car is being repaired, the Rental Company can charge “Loss of Use” for the amount of time that vehicle is not available to be rented. Loss of Use is charged regardless of who’s at fault for the accident.

Published in Blog

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