Why You Need Auto Insurance
To Comply With Florida Law
Most states have auto insurance requirements and Florida is no different. If you drive without insurance, you could be fined, and your vehicle could be impounded.
The fine for driving without auto insurance is $150 to $500 depending on the number of offenses. In addition, a person found driving without insurance will have their driver’s license, registration, and license plate suspended.
Your Lender Requires It
If you have a car loan, most lenders require you to have insurance to protect their interest in your car. If you let your insurance lapse, your lender will likely have your car insured. The premium may be much higher (and the coverage much less) than a policy you would buy on your own. The lender can require you to pay this higher premium until you get your own auto insurance.
To Protect Your Assets
Auto insurance can provide bodily injury and property damage liability coverage for accidents that happen to others for which you are responsible. Liability insurance also will pay the cost of an attorney to protect you if you’re sued. The state-required minimum coverages are usually not enough to fully protect you and your assets. Auto insurance also may cover the cost of accident-related repairs to your insured car, as well as your accident-related medical bills and lost wages.
How We Determine Your Premium
Many factors affect the premium you pay, including which insurance company you choose. Every insurance company uses different methods to rate their risk of insuring you and charge different premiums for similar coverage, but the following are generally the main items that will affect your premium.
- Your driving record, and the driving records of others covered by your insurance policy, during the last three to five years.
- Your age, gender, and marital status. People under 25, males, single people and families with young drivers in the household tend to have more accidents and therefore pay higher premiums. Accident rates (and premiums) also tend to increase for people over age 65. Insurance companies can base premiums on all insured drivers in your household, including those not related by blood, such as roommates.
- Where you live. Urban areas usually have more accidents and auto thefts than in rural areas.
- Your prior insurance coverage. Most insurance companies will charge you more if you don’t have auto insurance when you apply for coverage. Some also charge you more if you currently have only the state-required minimum amounts of coverage.
- The limits you choose for liability coverage.
- The deductibles you choose for comprehensive and collision coverages.
- Your credit-based insurance score. Those with better scores often pay lower premiums. Some states restrict the ways insurers can use credit-based insurance scores and several states ban their use. If you’ve had a hardship which may have hurt your credit history, ask your insurer if it will consider a life event exception.
- The type of vehicle you drive. Generally, you’ll pay more for insurance, particularly for comprehensive and collision coverages, if your vehicle is newer or more expensive. Sports cars and high-performance vehicles also cost more to insure because they’re involved in more accidents and thefts and cost more to repair. If you drive a large SUV or truck, which can cause more serious damage in an accident, you could pay more for liability coverage.
- Vehicle use, including your annual mileage.
- Previous claims. Most insurance companies report your auto claims to one or more private nationwide claim databases (such as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange—CLUE). Insurance companies use these databases to see the claims you’ve submitted in the past. You have a right to a free copy of your CLUE report.
Filing a Claim
Read your policy! It’s your guide to the types of losses that will and will not be covered and to filing claims. How often you file a claim and the types of claims you file often affect your premium and whether your insurer will renew your policy. If the cost to repair the damage is not much more than your deductible, you may want to pay for the repairs without filing a claim.
To file a claim, call the phone number on your proof-of-insurance card as soon as possible. Ask about forms or documents you’ll need to support your claim. Each state has its own laws about the claims process, and both you and your insurer will need to follow those rules.
The insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to assess the damages and determine the payment. These adjusters may be employees of the company or independent contractors. You should cooperate with the adjuster’s investigation of your claim. The adjuster will probably want to meet with you to inspect the damage. Jot down notes and keep track of the dates of any conversations you have with your agent or adjuster.
If you, the insurer and the claims adjuster disagree, first try to resolve the differences with your insurer. Your agent may be helpful. It also might help to have your auto repairer meet with you and the insurance adjuster.
Don’t feel rushed or pushed to agree with something you aren’t comfortable with; your insurer doesn’t have the last word. Ask questions and ask the adjuster to provide a written explanation of his decisions.
If you and the insurer still disagree about the claim handling or settlement, you should ask for help from the consumer services personnel at your state insurance department. If you disagree about the value of the claim, check your policy for an appraisal clause.
Another option is to hire an attorney or a public adjuster. A public adjuster isn’t an attorney or a government employee. Those states that allow public adjusters require them to be licensed and to follow certain guidelines. If you have questions about public adjusters in your state, contact your state insurance department.
Losing Your Insurance
There’s a big difference between an insurance company canceling your policy and not renewing it.
Cancellation means either you or your insurance company stop the coverage before the policy’s normal expiration date. You can always cancel your policy for any reason.
In most states, when you’re a new policyholder, your insurance company can cancel your policy for any reason, but only for a limited time (typically 60 days). After that, there’s a limited number of reasons a company can cancel you, typically only if you don’t pay your premium or if you were dishonest on your application.
If your insurance company cancels your policy, it must give you advance notice. The number of days’ notice varies by state. If you or the insurer cancels your policy, the company may refund part of your premium.
Non-renewal means the company refuses to renew your policy after it expires. The expiration date is on your policy. Insurance companies generally have the right to not renew your policy. If your company chooses to not renew your policy, it must give you notice before your policy expires; the number of days (typically 30) varies by state. You should ask the insurer for the reason, which state regulation may limit. You also may choose to not renew your auto policy.
If your insurance is canceled or non-renewed and you don’t agree with the insurance company’s explanation, contact your state insurance department for advice.