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Auto and Homeowners Insurance Information
What is auto insurance?
Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy.
Most consumers believe auto insurance is something you are forced to buy when you own a car. The “must have” in order to obtain a driver’s license, renew your car license plates and so on... When in reality, auto insurance is so much more when done appropriately.
There are several parts to an auto insurance policy. Let’s explore them…
· Liability– this would be the “must have” required by the state of Texas. Did you know the limits are adjustable? Let me explain… the State of Texas requires you carry the lowest limits of 30/60/25. However, at CMI of Texas, we strongly recommend starting at limits of 50/100/50. Read below to understand…
- The first number (up to $30,000) is the total your policy will pay out PER PERSON medical in the car you hit. The second number, (up to $60,000) is the TOTAL MEDICAL your policy will pay for the entire accident. The third number, (up to $25,000) is the amount your policy will pay for PROPERTY DAMAGE. This could include the car you hit/totaled, the mailbox you destroyed or the fence you went through.
· Personal Injury Protection / Medical Benefits- covers you and anyone in your car for up to the dollar amount shown on the declarations page if you are injured in an automobile accident. Your health insurance carrier in Texas CAN DENYcoverage if your damages are related to an automobile accident. This coverage is VITAL.
· Comprehensive / other than collision– We refer to this coverage as the act of God coverage. Things such as windshield breakage, fire, theft, vandalism, hail damage, flooding… hitting an animal… anything out of your control. Minus your deductible.
· Collision – The coverage for your car when you cause an impact. It pays to repair your car minus your deductible.
· Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist- This coverage comes into play 76% of the time in Texas. It pays exactly as liability above only for YOU when someone hits you that does not have insurance, or maybe they don’t have ENOUGH insurance. Let's explain.
- Let’s assume you drive a Chevy Tahoe valued at $65,000 and someone runs a red light and totals your Tahoe. Let’s also assume the responsible party only carries the minimum required liability limits of 30/60/25 as discussed above. Clearly, $25,000 is not enough to replace the Tahoe valued at $65,000. Therefore, your UNDERINSURED motorist coverage would pay the remaining $40,000 or up to the limit on your declarations page. This example is the exact reason CMI of Texas recommends starting at 50/100/50.
· Loss of use / Rental– This coverage provides you with transportation should your car be involved in a comprehensive or collision loss. This coverage is sometimes misunderstood… It does not provide a rental car for maintenance issues or simply renting a car.
Auto insurance can be purchased in 6-month intervals or an annual policy depending on the carrier.
Why do you need auto insurance?
It's really all about protecting yourself financially.
- If you're in an accident or your car is stolen, it costs money, often a lot of money, to fix or replace it.
- If you or any passengers are injured in an accident, medical costs can be extremely expensive.
- If you or your car is responsible for damage or injury to others, you may be sued for much more than you're worth.
- Not only is having insurance a prudent financial decision, many states require you to have at least some coverage.
Misconceptions surrounding auto insurance
· Full coverage covers me completely.
- FALSE – Not all policies include ALL the coverages. In addition, the limitations of the coverages can vary from carrier to carrier. Remember, auto insurance is not a “replacement” policy. They are paid as actual cash value – meaning – what your car is worth at the time of the loss.
· When I ask for full coverage, I am getting all the coverages discussed above.
- FALSE – Not all agents quote ALL the coverages . Make sure you review exactly what coverages are being offered.
- Some agent’s definition of full coverage is liability, comprehensive and collision.
· When I ask for liability only, my quote includes underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.
- FALSE – Most agents will only quote liability when you ask for liability only. Another way of saying this would be “only what the state requires me to have”.
- **** underinsured/uninsured motorist is NOT required by the state; however, you MUST sign to reject this coverage.
· I don’t need PIP or Medical coverage – I have coverage at work.
- FALSE – again, your health plan can deny the coverage due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident. You may be able to go to the doctor and use your benefits. However, you will soon receive a letter in the mail asking you to verify if your injuries were sustained in relation to an accident.
As you can see, auto insurance can protect you from the unexpected. It was designed with you, the consumer in mind.
Questions to ask your agent
Your Independent Agent is an advocate for finding auto insurance that meets your specific needs. Here are a few things to consider as you prepare for the discussion:
- How much can you afford to pay if you get in an accident? (To keep premiums low you may want to have a higher deductible and be willing to pay more for repairs.)
- What is the insurance company's level of service and ability to pay claims?
- What discounts are available? (Ask about good driver, multiple policy and student discounts.)
- What's the procedure for filing and settling a claim? (Ask who to call and what happens after you file a claim.)
What is Homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance provides financial protection against disasters. A standard policy insures the home itself and the things you keep in it.
Homeowners insurance is a package policy. This means that it covers both damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or members of your family cause to other people. This includes damage caused by household pets.
Damage caused by most disasters is covered but there are exceptions. The most significant are damage caused by floods, earthquakes and poor maintenance. You must buy two separate policies for flood and earthquake coverage. Maintenance-related problems are the homeowners' responsibility.
Why do you need homeowners insurance?
It is really all about protecting yourself financially if something unexpected happens to your home or possessions. That's important because chances are your home is likely one of your largest investments.
- If your home was destroyed by fire or damaged by a natural disaster, you'd need money to repair or replace it.
- If a guest in your home is injured, liability protection and medical coverage help pay expenses.
- If you are a victim of theft and vandalism, it can reimburse you for your loss or pay for repairs.
- If you are still paying for your home, your lender will require insurance.
It is important to know that homeowners insurance is meant to cover unexpected damage, not routine maintenance. Ask your agent to talk about what is covered and be sure to read your policy so you know exactly what's included and what is not.
Things to consider and questions to ask your agent
Here are few things to discuss with your agent that will influence your decisions.
- How much will it cost to rebuild my house and replace my belongings if they are damaged or destroyed? (Ask your agent to talk you through your home's features and the things you own so you can make an informed decision about coverage.)
- Does the insurance company have a good reputation for customer service? Is it known for paying claims fairly and promptly?
- What discounts are available? (Ask about multiple policy, security system and fire resistance discounts.)
- What's the process for filing and settling a claim? (Ask who to call and what happens after you file a claim.)