Frequently Asked Questions
The Automobile Insurance Policy
What is auto insurance? Auto insurance is a contractual agreement between an insurance company and an insured (policyholder). In exchange for a premium, the insurance company promises to provide bodily injury liability coverage, property damage liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage.
What are the different parts of the auto policy? The first section of the policy is the “declarations page,” which lists what coverages are in effect and the dollar amount of coverage. The next section of the policy includes the actual contract language, which clearly describes the insurance company’s rights and responsibilities as well as the policyholders.Your policy may also contain a third section called the endorsement section, which changes or modifies the policy. Certain general provisions are required by law, but policies can be very different. It is important to read any policy issued to you as soon as you receive it. If you have questions, contact your insurance agent or company for clarification.
Who does the auto policy cover? The personal auto policy provides coverage to the named insured, spouse and other relatives living in the home as well as anyone to whom the named insured has given permission to operate the vehicle.
Physical Damage Coverage
What does collision coverage provide? Collision coverage pays for physical damage to your vehicle caused by your vehicle colliding with an object, including another car or if it overturns. In the event of an accident, collision coverage will pay to repair your vehicle up to the amount equal to the value of the vehicle before the accident. Your own insurer will pay for such damage even if the collision is your fault. Collision premiums are based on the make and model year of your car. You should evaluate the current market value of your car and your ability to afford a similar car should it be destroyed before you purchase this coverage. You may not need this coverage if your car has decreased in value or if you can afford to replace it.
What does comprehensive coverage provide? Comprehensive (also called other than collision) coverage pays for damage to your vehicle resulting from fire, vandalism, water, hail, glass breakage, wind, falling objects, civic commotion, or hitting a bird or an animal. Damage from striking a deer is a relatively frequent accident in Wisconsin. It is important to know that most policies cover hitting an animal under comprehensive, not collision, insurance. Comprehensive coverage also pays if your vehicle or parts of it, such as a battery or tires, are stolen. Flood damage to your car is also covered if your auto insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage. If you carry collision without comprehensive, you are not covered for flood damage.
How is the deductible for comprehensive or collision coverage applied? Deductibles for comprehensive or collision coverage are applied for each occurrence. A deductible is the dollar amount that you have to pay toward the loss before the insurance company begins to make payments on the loss. For example if you suffered a comprehensive loss (a deer hit) and that same day suffered a collision loss (a shopping cart hit your vehicle), your policy allows the insurer to apply two different deductibles.
If I have my car financed, do I need to purchase auto insurance? If you do finance the car, the financial institution (lender) will require that you have car insurance. The terms of your loan will most likely require you to provide comprehensive and collision insurance. This is because the lender considers your vehicle collateral for the loan. If your policy lapses, the bank will force coverage (obtain a policy) and add it to your loan. Forced coverage provides protection to the bank, not you, for their interest in the car and nothing else. The cost of this insurance is much higher than you would pay if you bought your own policy through a standard carrier.
The Claims Process
Can I require the insurance company to replace my car? The personal auto policy is not a replacement policy. Coverage for your car is based on actual cash value. The actual cash value (ACV) of your car is based on the value of your car at the time of the accident, taking into account its current market value. Therefore, the insurance company’s obligation is to repair the car based upon its actual cash value not its replacement cost.
What is meant by aftermarket parts? Auto repair shops may use aftermarket and/or used parts when repairing or replacing a damaged part (i.e., bumpers, bumper covers, and associated bumper parts, etc.). Aftermarket parts are produced by companies other than the original equipment manufacturers (known as OEM parts). Auto insurance contracts do not generally specify what parts will be used. You may request that aftermarket parts not be used to repair your vehicle, but you are responsible for any repair costs that exceed the final claim settlement negotiated with the insurance company. The insurance company is totaling my car.
How can I make sure I get what its worth? An insurance company totals a car if repairs would cost more than it is worth. An insurance company will use various sources to value your car, including, but not limited to the National Automobile Dealers Association Used Car Guide (“Blue Book”) or the CCC Information Services, Inc., guide. The company’s offer, therefore, might not recognize your car’s condition, special features or value on the local market. A company is more likely to raise its offer if you can show that your car would sell for a higher price in your area. Keep the lines of communication open. Get several used car dealers’ to write price quotes for a similar automobile. Newspaper used-car ads also can build your case. Remember these quotes and ads provide asking prices and the actual value or sales price could be lower. The other driver’s insurance company wants me to sign a release on my injury claim.
How long can I delay this? Sign the release when you are satisfied with your total settlement. Get a letter from your doctor estimating the cost and length of your future medical treatment. You may, of course, consult an attorney before accepting a settlement. You have three years after the accident, under Wisconsin law, to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit.
What affects the price of auto insurance? When determining the rate for an auto insurance policy, insurers separate drivers into categories called classifications. Drivers are classified based on a number of different characteristics including, but not limited to, age and gender, marital status, where the vehicle is garaged, driving record, make and model of vehicle, prior insurance coverage and annual miles driven. History has shown that drivers with certain characteristics, such as a poor driving record, have a greater chance of being involved in an accident, and the drivers in those classifications must pay higher rates. While some of the classification criteria (such as age and sex) are out of your control, others, such as driving record and type of vehicle driven, are within your control.
Can the driving/accident records of my child and/or spouse have an impact on my ability to buy auto insurance? Yes, the driving record of any licensed driver in the household will affect the decision of the insurance company to insure your vehicle(s). It can cause you to be turned down for insurance coverage or to pay higher insurance premiums.
How much will my insurance cost? Premiums or the amount you pay for insurance can vary. The type of car you drive, your driving record, your age, your sex, where you live, and how much you drive usually affect the cost.
Is there a way I can reduce my premiums? Every auto insurer has its own package of special discounts to attract particular types of customers. Most insurance companies provide discounts for at least some of the following: accident-free drivers discount; a package discount for insuring your home and auto with the same company; multiple auto discount; good student discount; nonsmokers discount; and passive restraint discount (for vehicles with air bags or automatic seat belts). You may also consider higher deductibles for your comprehensive and collision coverages.