Combine icy, snowy roads with motorists who aren't used to these conditions
and the risk of car crashes increases.
You can reduce the risks by making sure your vehicle is ready for winter weather
with good tire treads, traction devices (studs, snow tires and chains), working
windshield wipers and good brakes. Also, it's important to decide whether
to drive and how fast to drive based on road conditions. Finally, winter is
a good time to review your insurance.
Don't wait until your car slides through an icy intersection or a tree falls
on your truck to find out whether you are covered for any losses. For example,
motorists with collision insurance get reimbursed for damage to their vehicle
in a crash. Drivers with comprehensive coverage get reimbursed if a tree falls
on their car. However, Oregon law doesn't require these types of coverage
and some people with older vehicles don't have this coverage. It's up to you
to decide what insurance you need.
Here are some typical vehicle insurance questions motorists ask this time
Q: What should I do if I have an accident involving another driver?
A. Before an accident, understand your insurance policy. To find
out what is covered, call your insurance agent or company; find your last
renewal billing; or look on the "Declaration"
page at the front of your insurance policy. This page lists each vehicle
and the type of coverage you have. In an accident:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Most policies require
prompt notification of a claim.
- Exchange information. If you have a camera or a camera cell phone,
take pictures of the accident scene and damage to all vehicles involved, even
if it is a one-car accident. If you don't have a camera, sketch how the accident
occurred. Get the other driver's name, address, phone, vehicle license number,
driver license number, insurance company name and insurer's phone number.
Ask witnesses for their names and phone numbers.
- Call the police. Depending on the circumstances, an officer may not
come to the scene.
- File an accident report if the accident causes any injury or death
or causes more than $1,500 damage to any vehicle and a vehicle is towed
from the scene. Check with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
for details: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/driverid/accidentresp.shtml.
The insurance company has up to 45 days to investigate the accident to determine
the extent of liability (who is responsible for what share of the damages).
Q: I slid into another car and damaged my car and the other vehicle.
Am I covered?
A: If you have collision coverage, your insurance will cover damage
to your vehicle after you pay the deductible. If you don't have collision
coverage, damage to your vehicle won't be covered. However, if you are
determined to be responsible, your required liability insurance will cover
property damage and/or injuries to the other vehicle and its occupants
up to the limits of your policy.
Q: What if I slide through an icy intersection? Is that my fault?
A: You may be responsible any time your vehicle is out of control.
Key issues will be whether your actions were reasonable and prudent.
Q: What if someone in my car is injured?
A: Oregon law requires your insurance policy to provide a minimum
of $15,000 personal injury protection coverage to take care of reasonable,
accident-related medical expenses as well as some other costs such as
wage losses or funeral expenses. This coverage is available regardless
of who is at fault in a crash.
Q: What is the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage?
Comprehensive insurance covers you for physical damage other
than collision. This includes losses from fire, theft, hail,
falling objects, vandalism, animal collisions and floods. After you pay
the deductible, comprehensive insurance will reimburse you if rock chips
shatter your windshield, for example. Collision is defined as colliding
with another object or overturning. Neither type of insurance is required
Q: Will my car insurance cover a rental vehicle while my car is being
A: Your auto insurance does not automatically cover the cost of
a rental car. However, you may purchase rental reimbursement coverage;
it is relatively inexpensive. If you have this coverage at the time of
an accident, it will pay for a vehicle while yours is being repaired.
Q: I have lots of relatives visiting. What if one of them drives my
car and we get into an accident?
A: Auto insurance coverage follows the vehicle, so your car will
generally be covered while your relative is driving, the same as if you
were driving. For example, if your family member slides off an icy road
and you don't have collision coverage, there would not be coverage for
any damage to the car itself, no matter who was driving. In addition,
keep in mind that your premiums might increase due to the accident.
Q: What if I take someone else's car (with their permission) to the
store because it was the last one in the driveway, and I accidentally
back it into the neighbor's car parked across the street?
A: The existing auto insurance policy on the borrowed vehicle would
provide primary coverage. If no coverage exists, your auto insurance policy
might provide coverage. Talk with your insurance agent or company to find
out if your auto coverage will extend to a friend or family member's car
you plan on operating.
Q: What if I loan my car to a family member who does not live in my
house and they get pulled over for driving while intoxicated?
A: Your automobile coverage will not be affected if another driver
is simply ticketed for a driving violation. However, if the person has
an accident while intoxicated, the company might non-renew your policy
or charge a higher premium.
Q: During the recent cold weather, a tree fell on my daughter's car.
The insurance company told her that her claim is not covered. How is this
A: Comprehensive insurance covers this type of damage and she apparently
does not have this type of insurance. While we are required to carry liability
insurance to pay for damage we cause to others, Oregon law doesn't require
us to buy insurance to protect our own property.
Q: The tree that fell and damaged my daughter's car belonged to a
neighbor. Do they have to pay?
A: Only if they were negligent. You would have to prove that there
was something wrong with the tree and that the neighbor knew about the
problem and failed to act.
Q: Where can I get help understanding my insurance?
A: Your insurance agent or company can explain your policy and
what to do following an accident. If you have a dispute with your insurer,
call the Oregon Insurance Division's consumer advocates at 1-888-877-4894.The
advocates can explain the claims handling process and how to file a complaint
if you feel your insurance company isn't handling your claim correctly.
Their help is free.