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A black box. Also known as event data recorder it is traditionally associated with airplane accidents because it helps the investigators to determine what went wrong. But the technology is no longer limited to aircrafts. In fact, you most likely have a black box beneath your seat or behind the dashboard in your car. Almost all new cars are already equipped with one of these small devices and if you drive a car that is not older from 5 years, you most likely have one yourself. If you are not sure whether your car is equipped with a car black box or not, you can check the owner manual. The data from the car black box is a reliable record of the driver’s actions few seconds before the accident and is an important piece of evidence when there are no witnesses of the accident or/and the drivers are blaming each other for causing the collision. It records various data depending from one car to another, most often the speed, turning, braking, accelerating, decelerating, etc. about five seconds before the collision. However, those five seconds are usually enough to get the necessary information about the events that led to the accident. Even more, the data from the car black box has been also used as evidence in the courts and had a major influence on the outcome of the trial.

It is vitally important to contact an experienced Personal Injury Attorney as soon as possible after your accident in order to preserve as much evidence as possible.

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clue-report-320x240

One of the best kept consumer secrets out there is the little-known CLUE report, which is made available to insurance companies on every single insurance consumer. I found this great information for my friends on the Blog 20somethingfinance.com by G.E. Miller. The CLUE report is the insurance-world equivalent of a credit report on insurance consumers and can have a profound impact on your personal property and auto insurance rates. However, despite its importance, only 1% of consumers said they were very familiar with the CLUE report and only 17% had ever heard of it. If you don’t know what a CLUE report is and how it can be used against you – I strongly recommend you read on.

Crusading for vulnerable consumers has become a deeply passionate pursuit of mine, so I decided to dig in to and find out answers to the following questions (and even ordered my own report in the process):

  • what is a CLUE report?
  • what information is reported?
  • when is information reported?
  • can your CLUE report be used against you to charge higher rates?
  • how far back do CLUE report claims and inquiries go?
  • when should you check your CLUE report?
  • how can you dispute any incorrect information?
  • how can you get a free CLUE report?

Hopefully you find this CLUE report overview helpful.

What is a CLUE Report?

CLUE is an acronym for the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange database, where insurers provide and obtain information regarding your insurance claims history. A CLUE report is a registered trademark of and generated by LexisNexis, an insurance consumer reporting agency (similar to credit reporting agencies like TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, but for insurance instead).

There are actually 2 types of CLUE reports:

  1. CLUE Property Claims Report (i.e. for homeowner insurance claims)
  2. CLUE Auto Claims Report

The reports cover your personal property and personal auto claims history and are used by insurers to document your claims and inquiries and determine your risk profile, which impacts your insurance premiums.

What Information is Included in CLUE Reports?

The following information is contained in CLUE reports for each insurance consumer:

  • name
  • date of birth (partially edited out for security reasons)
  • Social Security Number (completely edited out for security reasons)
  • policy holder
  • policy number
  • gender
  • claim number
  • claim date
  • driver’s license, vehicle make and model, VIN# in the CLUE Auto Claims Report
  • description of the covered property and/or address of property in the CLUE Property Claims Report
  • type of claim
  • amount of claim
  • loss status
  • possible related claims
  • list or record of companies that have inquired about your loss history in the last two 2 years
  • your inquiry history (if submitted by insurer)

When Does an Insurer Contribute to a CLUE Report?

Insurers report to LexisNexis in the following scenarios:

  1. when they pay a claim
  2. when they set up a possible claim
  3. when they formally deny a claim
  4. when they receive an inquiry into a possible claim (not all submit this)

Inquiry history is key. If you call your insurer merely to inquire about damage and whether you should file a claim, a notation will get made. LexisNexis advises insurance companies not to report claims information when you contact them to simply ask a question about coverage or your deductible. However, they often do. This could come back to haunt you if someone asks you for a copy of your report later, you want to change policies, or have another claim later on.

Can your CLUE Report be Used Against you to Charge Higher Rates?

Unfortunately, yes. Insurers will typically request a CLUE report when you apply for new coverage or request a quote. The company will use your claim history and/or the history of claims at a specific property to decide if they will offer you coverage and how much in premiums you’ll pay for that coverage. Past claims are used as an indicator of future claims and to determine your risk profile. If you’ve had auto or personal property claims, you will typically pay more for future coverage.

Here are just a few of the ways your CLUE reports can be used against you:

  • Inaccurate information can be included in the report.
  • Fraudulent insurance claims made by others in your name may be included in your report.
  • Any recent claims against the property that you are purchasing can increase your rates on that property.
  • A report may use information other than claims data to rate you as a risk – even if the company doesn’t pay a claim. For example, a loss may fall below your deductible and the claim is denied or you are advised not to submit a claim. Even simple phone calls to inquire can be used against you.
  • Even when repairs are made and the property is restored to the original condition or you are not at fault in an accident, the CLUE report can include information about the claim.

All of this information in the report can affect the premiums you pay as well as whether you are insured at all if you are deemed to be a high enough risk. Scary, right?

How Far Back do CLUE Report Histories go?

Given the impact on insurance premium rates, one would naturally wonder how far back CLUE report claims and inquiries go. In other words, what is the historical lookback period for CLUE reports? CLUE reports typically contain up to seven years of claim history. According to LexisNexis,

“If you have not filed a claim against your auto or property insurance policy in the last 7 years, you will likely receive a clear report.”

When Should you Check your CLUE Report?

After researching CLUE reports in depth, here is when I plan to review mine (and others) for accuracy (note: you’re entitled to one of each report for free once per year):

  1. Once a year prior to policy renewals.
  2. Whenever I go shopping for a new insurance plan.
  3. Whenever I am in a car accident and make a claim.
  4. Whenever I look to purchase a new home, I will check my CLUE Property Claims Report and ask for a copy from the property owner of the property I am looking to purchase. In some states, sellers are legally required to disclose any damage or repairs – but that doesn’t mean they will. And getting a report from a third party to confirm is a smart move in case they are withholding information.
  5. Whenever I sell a home (if I have a good record to show, this can be a selling point).

How to Dispute your CLUE Report

CLUE report errors are possible can have a costly negative impact on your insurance rates. Errors can range from a simple error in data entry or information reported by insurer to fraudulent claims made in your name. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone’s mistake or fraudulent activities. Thankfully, there is a means to dispute incorrect information in your CLUE report. LexisNexis has the following to say about filing CLUE report disputes:

Upon receipt of your dispute, we have 30 days to conduct a reinvestigation of the information disputed and to record the current status of the information on your file or, in some instances, delete the information from your file. We will provide you with notice of the results of our reinvestigation no later than 5 business days after the completion of the reinvestigation. This notice will be provided to you by mail.

You can dispute by contacting LexisNexis by phone at 888-497-0011 or mail at LexisNexis Consumer Center, P.O. Box 105108, Atlanta, GA, 30348.

If the matter isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you have the right to add a statement summarizing the nature of the dispute, which will appear in future CLUE reports. If you still don’t get results, you can contact your state insurance commissioner or file a complaint with the FTC.

 

How to Get a Free CLUE Report

Similar to how you can get one free credit report per year from each of the major credit bureaus (tip: you can also get free updated TransUnion and Equifax credit reports from Credit Karma any time) – you can click here to order your free CLUE report online, which is probably the easiest way to obtain your CLUE report.

You can also order by mail, or call LexisNexis toll free: 866-312-8076, Monday – Saturday, 24 hours/day, Sunday: 10:00 am to midnight EST. Ordering online is easiest.

You can get one free CLUE Property Claims Report and one free CLUE Auto Claims Report per year – and they can be ordered separately or together at the same time.

 

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20121213hitandrun1

When you are the victim of a hit and run accident, you likely feel angry and confused, and it can be unclear how to get compensation for your damages and injuries. However, there are steps you can take to create a smoother experience, should you be in this unfortunate situation.

Gather as much information as you can to help police and your car insurance company identify the other vehicle. Try to find and get contact information for any witnesses.

If you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and/or collision coverage, your provider may cover the damage in a hit and run and compensate you or any of your passengers for any injuries.

 

What Is a Hit and Run Accident?

A hit and run accident is any accident in which a driver intentionally leaves the scene without providing contact information.

Examples of hit and run accidents include:

  • A car hits you and speeds off.
  • A driver hits your unattended parked car and leaves no contact information or way of collecting damages.

What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident

While you’ll likely be feeling immense stress if you’re a victim of a hit and run, it will help to stay as calm as possible and gather as much information as you can.

Having more information:

  • Increases the chances that the police will catch the driver who hit you.
  • Helps your car insurance company make decisions about your claim.
  • First, get as much information as you can about the car that hit you, such as:
    • Make,
    • Model,
    • License plate number.

Finally, take the following steps before leaving the scene:

  • Write down the time and location of the accident.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene.
  • Take pictures of your car, especially if another car’s paint is visible on it. (This will help you prove that you are not attempting to defraud your insurance company.)

If the hit and run occurred when you were away from your parked car, jot down as much information as you can, such as:

  • Time,
  • Location,
  • Damage.

Who Pays for Hit and Run Damage and Medical Care?

This depends on certain factors, including whether the fleeing driver was identified and what state you live in.

Payment for hit-and-run claims usually comes through your own car insurance. In most states, the coverages in question are uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage, which essentially act as the at-fault (in this case, hit-and-run) driver’s liability coverage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury helps pay for injuries caused by a hit-and-run accident, while uninsured motorist property damage covers damages to your car.

The good news is that these coverages are relatively affordable, and they offer significant financial protection from the uninsured (or hit-and-run-committing) drivers up to the limits you select.

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

Sources:  dmv.org and esurance.com

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Savage Stallion is not only a great name for a rock band, but a common cause of injury here in Horse Country.  Recently we represented a woman who was bitten by a passing stallion on a local trail.  Negligence on the part of the owner often plays a role in a dog bite or animal attack. Laws vary by county, so if you have been bitten or attacked, it’s important to seek legal advice right away. If there is an injury, seek immediate medical attention. It’s not always possible to know just by looking at the animal if it is sick, and you want to guard against the chance of infection and other disease from a bite or related injury. If you have been bitten by a dog or injured by a vicious animal, do not admit fault.

According to www.webmd.com, animal and human bites may cause puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes, or crushing injuries. Most animal and human bites cause minor injuries, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to care for the wound.

Most animal bites occur in school-age children. The face, hands, arms, and legs are the most common sites for animal bites. Since most bites occur in children, be sure to teach children to be careful around animals and that an animal could hurt them. Young children should always be supervised around animals.

Dog bites occur more than any other animal bite and are most frequent in the summer months. The dog is usually known to the person, and most injuries result from the dog being teased or bothered while eating or sleeping. Boys are bitten about twice as often as girls. The arms, head, and neck are the most likely areas to be bitten in children.

Cat bites usually cause deeper puncture wounds than dog bites and have a high risk of bacterial infection because they can be hard to clean adequately.

Exotic pet bites, such as from rats, mice, or gerbils, may carry illnesses, but rabies is not usually a concern. The bites from some pets, such as iguanas, are at risk for infection but do not carry other serious risks.

Livestock, such as horses, cows, and sheep, have powerful jaws and can cause crushing bite injuries. Infection, tetanus, and rabies are possible risks.

Wild animal bites may occur while hunting, camping, or hiking. Infection, tetanus, and rabies are possible risks.

Adult bites that cause a wound to the hand can be serious. A clenched fist striking another person in the mouth and teeth can cut or puncture the skin over the knuckles. This is commonly called a “fight bite.” Underlying tissues may be damaged, and an infection can develop.

Bites from children are:

  • Usually not very deep.
  • Not as forceful as adult bites.
  • Not too likely to become infected.
  • Not damaging to underlying tissue.

When you have a bite:

  • Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure.
  • Determine if other tissues, such as blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, or internal organs, have been injured.
  • Determine if treatment by a doctor is needed.
  • Clean the wound to prevent bacterial infections, tetanus (“lockjaw”), and viral infections, such as herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
  • Determine the risk for rabies and the need for treatment to prevent the disease.
  • Determine if you need a tetanus shot.

Have you been the victim of a dog bite or animal attack as a result of someone else’s negligence? It is important that you contact legal counsel as soon as possible. The preservation of evidence needed to prove your claim is of utmost importance and may be lost or destroyed if not preserved immediately.

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senior-woman-looking-for-low-back-pain-relief-380x250
My office often gets calls from accident victims that felt fine immediately after the accident and by a week later are in some serious pain.  Vehicle accident injuries can be late-appearing. Here’s how to protect your health and your legal rights.

 

Almost any car accident is a traumatic event. From catastrophic collisions to fender-benders, there is a lot of force involved when a vehicle hits (or is hit by) something. Often, when people are in a car accident that seems minor, they do not notice any injury symptoms right away. This happens for a variety of reasons. In this article, we’ll help you understand the importance of monitoring your injuries following a car accident — for your physical well-being and to protect your legal rights.

Shad Withers, writing in the legal blog Nolo.com, had some really good advice that I would like to pass on to my friends.

 CAR ACCIDENTS ARE EXCITING

Not “exciting” in the fun sense, more from a physiological perspective.

Sometimes athletes get injured during a game, and they continue to play without noticing the injury until the game is over. That is because their bodies are generating adrenaline and endorphins. These two chemicals operate to super-charge our bodies and even block pain.

Most car accidents will create a similarly heightened level of excitement. Your body will generate adrenaline and endorphins, which means you feel increased energy and (possibly) a lack of pain. Just because you feel fine immediately following a car accident, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are fine. Once the release of those chemicals subsides, the pain from any car accident injuries could start to set in.

SOFT TISSUE INJURIES AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT

A soft tissue injury refers to damage done to parts of the body other than bone. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments are considered “soft tissue.”

Car accidents, even low-speed ones, generate a lot of force. Drivers and passengers often come to a sudden stop right along with the vehicle in a car accident; or they may get thrown around the passenger area. This places a lot of stress on joints and other vulnerable areas of the body.

Perhaps the most common — if not the most recognized — type of soft-tissue injury is “whiplash.” This refers to an injury to the neck muscles when the head is suddenly, and forcefully, thrown forward and then back.

Soft tissue injuries typically result in pain, swelling, and reduced mobility, but these symptoms may not show up immediately. They can take days, even weeks, to manifest. In addition, soft tissue injuries are not visible on an X-ray. This makes them more challenging to diagnose and document. Getting proper medical treatment is the key first step, at or even before the first sign of pain or discomfort (more on this below).

CONCUSSIONS AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT

Your brain is well-protected by your skull and the fluid inside of it. However, if you strike your head, or your body is violently jolted, your brain may strike the inside of your skull with great force. If this happens during the course of a car accident, you may sustain a concussion.

Concussions can be very serious, and the symptoms do not often show up immediately. Sometimes the symptoms are obvious (such as disorientation or even loss of consciousness), but they can also be more subtle. Here is a list of concussion symptoms:

  • clouded thinking
  • inability to concentrate
  • difficulty remembering new information
  • headache
  • blurry vision
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • lack of energy, and
  • abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping more than usual or less than usual)

If you exhibit any of these signs following a car accident, you may have a concussion; and you should seek medical attention.

SEE A DOCTOR AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT

Following a car accident, you should see a doctor if you feel any level of pain and discomfort. It may even be a good idea to get checked out even if you feel fine. Your doctor will be in the best position to determine whether you sustained any serious injuries in the accident. Your doctor can also give you advice on monitoring symptoms of potential injuries, including the sorts of red flags to watch out for.

If you end up making any sort of injury claim after the accident, it’s crucial to be able to document the fact that you sought medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the insurance adjuster is going to argue that you couldn’t have been all that injured.

DO NOT SETTLE RIGHT AWAY

Following a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you and try to get you to sign a release of any claims you might have. The insurance company may even offer you a sum of money to entice you to sign the release.

You should wait until you have been fully evaluated by a medical professional before signing anything the adjuster puts in front of you. You should also wait long enough to make sure all injuries from the car accident have fully manifested themselves. Your doctor can help you determine how long this needs to be. If you sign a release, and an injury shows up later, you cannot then go back to the insurance company and ask them to pay for your medical treatment. You waive your legal right to pursue that compensation when you sign the release.

If you’ve suffered significant injuries after a car accident, or you just want to make sure the claims process goes smoothly, you may want to talk with an experienced attorney. Learn How an Attorney Can Help with a Car Accident Claim.

My staff and I are always happy to answer questions about your accident you may have free of charge. And if we can’t help you, we may be able to point you in the right direction.

Stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

 

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What is GAP Insurance and why should I add this coverage to my automobile policy?
GAP insurance or “guaranteed auto protection” is a coverage that you may purchase for your already existing automobile insurance policy. This coverage will pay for the difference between your vehicle’s actual cash value and the amount that you still owe to the bank or finance company at the time of loss. Insurance companies will only pay what your vehicle is worth at the time of loss (actual cash value) and if the vehicle is depreciated they will deduct that amount. Therefore, you could end up paying for the difference of the amount you owe on your car loan and the car’s current estimated value. As a result, you may want to purchase GAP insurance in order to protect your investment.
Over the years I have had many clients who were injured in auto accidents in Florida and time and time again my clients assumed that their comprehensive and collision insurance will pay for their vehicle damage. These clients were surprised to find out that at the conclusion of the case they did not receive full compensation in their property damage because they did not purchase GAP insurance. So do your research and contact your insurance company and request a quote for GAP insurance coverage before you really need it!

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women-motorcycles-jeans-brunettes

So, how do motorcycle insurers come up with their rates, anyway?

Believe it or not, they base their premiums on sound statistical data that helps them determine the likelihood of you filing a claim (and costing them money). Insurance companies consider a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Vehicle type
  • Marital status
  • Accident history
  • Driving record (moving violations)
  • Annual mileage
  • Credit score

In general, those who are younger than 25, female, married, live in a rural location, don’t ride much, drive a safe but inexpensive bike, and have a clean driving history and great credit are treated to the best rates.

Motorcycles are fun and fuel efficient. That’s not news to anyone who’s ridden one. But neither is the fact that they’re also way more dangerous than a car. The cold reality is that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). And nearly half of all motorcycle deaths are the result of single-vehicle crashes.

The numbers are even scarier for older riders, who are increasingly taking up or returning to motorcycling after many years. Because of slower reflexes, weaker eyesight, more brittle bones, and other disadvantages, riders over 60 years old are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger ones.

Still, many enthusiasts enjoy a lifetime of riding without injury. The key to optimizing your odds is to be prepared and avoid risks. Keep in mind that 48 percent of fatalities in 2010 involved speeding, according to the IIHS, and alcohol was a factor in 42 percent. Eliminate those factors and you’ve dramatically reduced your risk and hopefully, your rates.

Be safe out there friends!

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no see zones

Ready to hit the road this summer? There’s nothing fun about driving next to an 18-wheeler. They’re big and they have a frightening tendency to drift in and out of your lane more often than you’d like. But sharing the road with a big rig need not be a nightmare — there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself and your friendly neighborhood truck driver.

Michael Taylor, transportation special programs developer for the Tractor Trailer Training Program at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., says the top five pet peeves truckers had with fellow motorists are:

1) Riding in a trucker’s blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots to the right and rear of the vehicle. Smaller blind spots exist on the right front corner and mid-left side of the truck. The worst thing a driver can do is chug along in the trucker’s blind spot, where he cannot be seen. If you’re going to pass a truck, do it and get it over with. Don’t sit alongside with the cruise control set 1 mph faster than the truck is traveling.

2) Cut-offs. Don’t try to sneak into a small gap in traffic ahead of a truck. Don’t get in front of a truck and then brake to make a turn. Trucks take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average passenger car, and you’re only risking your own life by cutting a truck off and then slowing down in front of it.

3) Impatience while reversing. Motorists need to understand that it takes time and concentration to back a 48-foot trailer up without hitting anything. Sometimes a truck driver needs to make several attempts to reverse into tight quarters. Keep your cool and let the trucker do her job.

4) Don’t play policeman. Don’t try to make a truck driver conform to a bureaucrat’s idea of what is right and wrong on the highway. As an example, Taylor cited the way truck drivers handle hilly terrain on the highway. A fully loaded truck slows way down going up a hill. On the way down the other side of the hill, a fully loaded truck gathers speed quickly. Truckers like to use that speed to help the truck up the next hill. Do not sit in the passing lane going the speed limit. Let the truck driver pass, and let the Highway Patrol worry about citing the trucker for breaking the law.

5) No assistance in lane changes or merges. It’s not easy to get a 22-foot tractor and 48-foot trailer into traffic easily. If a trucker has his turn signal blinking, leave room for the truck to merge or change lanes. Indicate your willingness to allow the truck in by flashing your lights.

By taking simple common-sense steps to protect yourself and your family when driving near large trucks, traffic fatalities will continue to drop. Over the years, the trucking industry has improved the quality of truck drivers by making it more difficult to qualify for and keep a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Mandatory drug testing has also been instituted. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the following data in 2008. The intoxication rate for drivers involved in fatal accidents was:

27% for motorcycle riders- 23% for light truck drivers (pickups and SUVs, that is)-23% for passenger car drivers-1% for truck drivers

Still, more work must be done to combat tightly scheduled deliveries, overbearing stacks of paperwork and driver fatigue caused by federal regulations that work against the human body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Should you, or someone you know be injured or killed in an accident with a big rig, make sure to contact an attorney that specializes in these types of accidents and make that call as soon as possible to preserve your rights.

Stay safe out there friends, Marianne

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images

We often forget that our auto insurance policies are contracts. Besides paying your premium on time, you should abide by your car insurance company’s rules.

But how can you abide by the rules when you don’t even know what they are?

Here are 10 common scenarios that Penny Gusner for Insure.com wrote about recently. If any of these hit close to home, quickly fix the issue before you get in a pickle.

  1. You haven’t added a licensed teen to your policy.

No one wants to raise their hand and offer to pay more for car insurance. But insurers are permitted to consider all household residents when they price a policy, including a teen. Withholding information about your teen driver from your car insurance company is a big no-no.

And insurers have ways of finding out. They can pull reports that identify “hidden” household members. One such report from LexisNexis looks for “undisclosed” newly licensed drivers between ages 15 and 25.  If your insurer finds out about your licensed teenager this way, it can revise your premiums to include the young driver, or decide it doesn’t want your business anymore.

If your insurer doesn’t find out about your teen until there is an accident, it still might cover the incident.  That would be a lucky outcome, but you’ll back premiums based on the teen driver. Or, your auto insurance company may say it’s not covering the teenager and is dropping your policy because of your failure to inform it.

  1. You let your adult child take your car with her when she moved to another state.

Sure, it’s so much easier to put off a call to your agent and let your child move away with a family car. But when your car is being driven and garaged in a new area, the risks of you as a customer have changed. Car insurance companies expect to be informed about these changes.  If your daughter were in an accident, your insurer could say you concealed vital information about the vehicle’s location, deny your claim and cancel the policy.

If you want to do things the right way, add the child’s name to the car’s title.  Then your child can buy insurance for the car in her own name and using her new address. This will also allow your child to register the car in her new state, which most states require.

  1. You sold your car to your son but still carry the insurance on it.

Uh oh. In general, you can’t carry insurance on a car in which you don’t have an “insurable interest.”  Typically, those with an insurable interest are the car’s owners, lienholders and co-signers – meaning those who would be affected financially if something happens to the car.

Since you are no longer the car’s owner, it’s time for the new owner — your child — to buy car insurance for the vehicle.  If he’s still a minor, you may have to be on the policy with him.  Minors typically must have a parent or guardian involved in the auto insurance contract.

You could face problems submitting a claim if you have failed to tell your insurance company about the ownership change. Or worse, the car insurance company could say you hid the change as a scheme to get lower car insurance rates, which would qualify as insurance fraud and a reason for it to deny claims and cancel the policy.

  1. You want to finance and insure a car for a relative who lives out of state.

Auto finance companies want evidence that the car loan is in the same name as the insurance policy. Since you’re not the primary driver of the car, nor is the car at your residence, it is difficult, if not impossible, for you to insure the car.

You should contact the finance company to see if it will allow your relative to be the “named insured” on a policy.  If it agrees, your relative has the hurdle of finding an insurance company in her state that will permit her to insure a car she doesn’t own.  If she can find such a company, then she still has to list you and the finance company on the insurance as owner and lienholder, respectively.

If you carry insurance on the car without telling your insurer about the situation and your relative wrecks the vehicle, it’s very likely the accident wouldn’t be covered.  Your car insurance company is likely to call you out for misrepresenting who was driving the car and where it was located, and cancel the policy.

  1. You lend your car to a friend for a few months and don’t notify the insurance company.

Your car insurance policy typically will cover a friend who drives your car occasionally, but it’s a different story when you loan your car out for a long period. The car is now housed someplace other than your residence, and someone else is acting as the primary driver of the car — both circumstances your car insurance company wants to know about.

If your insurance company’s rules allow, you may be permitted to add your friend as a driver to your auto policy, but most car insurance companies don’t want to add a person outside of the household.  If that is the case, your friend should consider insuring the car.  Some insurance companies will allow someone to insure a car that he doesn’t own, as long as the owner is listed on the policy.

If your friend crashes your car, your insurer can deny claims because you concealed pertinent information about the “real” driver and vehicle location. That can leave you and your friend on the hook for damages he caused.

  1. You sold your car and the buyer is making payments but you’re still carrying the title and insurance.

Don’t keep your name and insurance on a car that another person possesses!

First, as the owner – because your name is still on the title — you have vicarious liability for the actions of the person driving the car that you “sold.”

Second, you’re paying for insurance but any claims might not be covered. Your car insurance policy normally covers cars and drivers of your household, not others.

If you’re in this situation, you should sign the title over to the new party. He can easily get insurance once he registers the car — and you will no longer be held responsible for his actions. To protect your interest in the car, make certain you’re listed as the lienholder on the car’s title and auto insurance policy.  That way you’ll be notified if he tries to sell the car or drop car insurance.

  1. You’re delivering pizzas with your personal vehicle

Most personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage if you use the vehicle to deliver items, whether it’s pizza, newspapers, packages or medical supplies. Insurance companies see unsavory risk in delivery drivers because they are constantly on the road.

If you want to be paid to deliver items, you should change to a business-use or commercial car insurance policy. If you don’t and you get caught driving for deliveries, you’re on your own to compensate others for damages they sustained — and the damages to your own vehicle.

  1. You let an “excluded driver” drive your car.

Big mistake. When you put a named-driver exclusion on your policy it meant that the person listed is not covered under any circumstances and shouldn’t be driving your car.

So if that person gets behind the wheel of your car, even in an emergency, and causes an accident, you and the driver will be the ones to pay for any resulting injuries or property damage.

Hide your keys from any excluded driver in order to lower your risk of financial disaster.

  1. You bought a new car weeks ago and haven’t told your insurer.

If you traded in a vehicle, then your car insurance policy likely extends the same exact coverage to your new car for a limited time. This means if you bought only liability on your old car, your new car would only have liability coverage.

The deadline for informing your insurer about the new car varies by insurer, but is typically 14 to 30 days.

Don’t bet on having automatic coverage, either; some car insurance companies don’t give you any.

And if you’re adding a car rather than replacing one, you should buy coverage for it before driving it off the lot.

If you’re outside the insurer’s automatic coverage period, or there is no extended coverage on your new car, and you’re in an accident, your insurance company won’t help you. You’ll be paying out-of-pocket for damages you do to your own car or others.

  1. You haven’t told your insurance company that your live-in girlfriend drives your car.

Insurance companies hate it when you “forget” to tell them about a driver who lives with you or regularly uses your car. Insurers can’t charge you correctly if they don’t know about all licensed household members, including a girlfriend or spouse.

If you recently got married or moved in with someone, let the insurance company know immediately and have the person added to your policy as a driver. If you fail to do so, don’t be surprised if claims are denied if they cause an accident, or if you’re asked to pay back premiums based on the additional driver.

If your car insurance company believes you were intentionally hiding the driver – say your girlfriend has a bad driving record — then it may say you committed fraud by means of misrepresentation. This means your car insurance company can cancel your policy.

 

 

 

 

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So you’ve had an accident and your insurance company wants to “total” your car, motorcycle or truck.  What does that mean and what should you be aware of?

If your car is totaled and you have comprehensive and/or collision coverage, an insurer will pay you the full market value of your car or the limit of the policy, less your deductible if you are at fault. Cars typically are totaled when the cost of repairs approaches 65 percent of the car’s market value. The damage threshold varies by insurer, however, and may be established by state insurance regulators. To know for certain, you should contact your insurance company.

If you believe your totaled car is worth more than your adjuster thinks, you may be able to change his or her mind. Adjusters are experts at analyzing the used-car market to determine what your damaged car was worth before the accident. However, in some cases vehicles may be more valuable because they were kept in exceptionally good condition.

In such cases, you should be prepared to show your maintenance records and explain the steps you have taken to keep the car in top shape, says Robert Hunter, insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America.

“You can say ‘Look, it has been garaged, here are my service records, it is not an average car,'” he says.

Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, says cars that have been customized may be more valuable than vehicles that have not been upgraded.

However, modified engines and other special features may not count if you failed to tell your insurer about them before the vehicle was damaged. If they weren’t written into your policy, the insurer is under no obligation to consider their added value, he explains.

“If you soup up the engine and put on different exhausts, if you put in a really expensive radio, you need to let your insurer know,” he says.

When you hire an accident and injury attorney, routinely these negotiations will be handled by them, at least they are in my firm.

Be safe out there friends!

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