The first step to getting the most from your auto insurance is to choose your insurance company wisely. Barbara S. Williams offers tips and hints for choosing the right company, and what common “gotchas” to look out for in insurance contracts. Be sure to educate yourself before signing on the dotted line, and show the insurance companies that you mean business.
Before an Auto Accident: Getting the Most from Your Insurance Company
It’s easy to forget that insurance companies are in the business of making money – they are not in the business of looking out for your individual interests. So if it’s up to you to look out for yourself, what should you keep in mind when shopping for insurance? There are some steps you can take to protect yourself ahead of time, so that you have the right insurance in place and the right coverage – should the worst ever happen. Finding the best insurance company Make sure that you shop around for the best deal – get competitive quotes from multiple insurance companies, and read the terms and limitations very carefully before you choose. Not all companies are the same, and not all policies are the same. In order to find the best insurance company in your area, ask around! Find out from your friends, family, coworkers and even your local repair shop which companies they recommend. This isn’t a time to slack – make sure you do your homework. Visit the Virginia Bureau of Insurance to find information about insurance companies that do business in Virginia. You can also view companies’ complaint records, which may save you from doing business with a disreputable company. You can also check consumer satisfaction by reviewing survey results from J.D. Power and Associates. Finally, check out a company’s financial strength by checking their A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s ratings. What kind of coverage do you need? Each state mandates minimum coverage. In Virginia, you must hold either minimum insurance coverage or pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle (UMV) fee. The minimum coverage required is:
- Bodily injury or death of one person $25,000
- Bodily injury or death of two or more persons $50,000
- Property damage $20,000
Insurance companies recommend that you purchase the most liability insurance available (which should come as no surprise to you) – however you should take into consideration your own assets when choosing coverage levels. If you do not have many assets, a lower liability level may suit you just fine. However, if you have a lot of assets you would be better served with more liability insurance, so that you don’t risk losing your assets if the insurance does not cover all costs for an accident that you cause. When deciding on coverage amounts, also keep in mind your own driving record – if you tend to be accident prone, you may want to consider more comprehensive coverage, so you aren’t left without coverage should you get into another accident. Collision and comprehensive insurance are also available, which covers damage to your vehicle – like if you run into a telephone poll or if your car is stolen. Collision and comprehensive insurance is often required by lease agreements, and you may also want it if you purchase an expensive vehicle – for which repairs or replacement would be costly. Finally, consider purchasing gap insurance for a new car – and shop around for the best deal. Gap insurance covers the difference between what you owe on the car and what the insurance company will pay out, if you are involved in an accident or theft. Without this kind of insurance, you could be stuck paying thousands of dollars for a car you can’t even drive. Read your contract closely Make sure you read your contract closely. Know exactly what is covered, and what isn’t. Ask questions if you don’t understand anything. Make sure that you retain your right to sue the insurance company. You don’t want to be taken advantage of – find out if the contract you’re going to sign forces you to arbitration and gives up your right to sue. If the insurance company insists on this clause, you may want to cross them off your list. Also, decide if you are okay with being forced to use aftermarket parts in your car should a repair be needed – many insurance companies save money by requiring the use of these less expensive parts (as opposed to “original equipment manufacturer”, or OEM parts). If you are not okay with this, don’t agree to it in your contract. Alternately, some insurance companies will allow you to use OEM parts for repairs, however they do ask that you pay for the price difference. If you do agree to use aftermarket parts, be sure that they’ve been approved by the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA). When making your decision, also think about safety. Consider the type of repair being made – cosmetic repairs can be made with non-OEM parts, while repairs that are integral to the functioning of the car might better be made with OEM parts. Finally – decide whether or not the resale value of your car matters to you. Aftermarket parts can reduce the resale value of your car, and if you lease – it could invalidate the terms of your lease. Be careful when switching companies Switching companies? Make sure you give your insurance company sufficient notice – and notify them by a phone call and in writing. If you simply stop paying your premiums, it could end up on your credit report, and could also make getting new insurance difficult. If you switch insurance companies, be very careful that there is no lapse in coverage. Make sure your new policy takes effect as soon as your old policy lapses. If you aren’t careful, you could get into an accident between when your old policy ends and your new one begins – and you won’t have any insurance at all. The bottom line is that there are a number of insurance companies vying for your business. As a savvy consumer, you should do your homework and investigate a number of companies and policy options before making a decision. This first step – choosing the right company – can save you a great deal of stress and heartache down the road, so don’t skimp on the research. Barbara S. Williams is committed to helping people suffering from a serious automobile accident. If a negligent driver has injured you or someone you love in a vehicle accident, please contact Barbara S. Williams today. She will work with you to ensure that you are treated fairly and get what you deserve, so you can better recover from your traumatic ordeal. Please contact us today to discuss your case at absolutely no cost, and take your first step towards justice.
Barbara Williams, P.C.: Shielding the Injured from the Injustice of Insurance Companies In: Sterling, Herndon, Ashburn, Cascades, Countryside, Front Royal, Winchester, Berryville, Frederick County, Luray, Page County, Clarke County, Shenandoah County, Warren County