Surprising Claims Car Insurers Won't Pay
Don’t wait until after a collision to find out what your automobile insurance policy actually does — and does not — cover
A drunk driver plowed into Bryan Mark's car last year, leaving it a total wreck. "I was lucky to walk away with just some bruises and cuts," says Mark, CEO of Bryan's Garage in Norwalk, Iowa. "It could have been much worse."
Financially, it was worse than he expected. The driver who hit him was uninsured. Mark was insured and thought he would be protected in the event of an accident.
"When another person is involved in an accident with me and they're uninsured, my insurance should pay for damage caused by that person," he says. But Mark says his insurance company denied his claim because the driver who hit him was uninsured.
"I had to pay for all the repairs myself, which ended up being quite expensive," Mark says. "This is unfair to me because I am the one who has been paying for insurance coverage."
"If a laptop, money, bowling ball, fur coat (or anything else) is stolen from a car, the only thing the car insurance will replace . . . is the glass that was broken."
Michael Orefice, a senior vice president of operations at Smart Financial, says insurance companies will pay to repair or replace a car hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver only if a policy explicitly includes coverage for accidents involving drivers without insurance. In addition, Orefice warns that only collision coverage (not liability insurance) covers hit-and-run accidents.
These are just some of the damages and losses you may not be aware that your auto insurance won't pay for unless you buy extra coverage. Others include:
Theft of Personal Items. If you need an incentive to remove valuables from your vehicle, consider this: auto insurance won't cover the theft of personal items. "If a laptop, money, bowling ball, fur coat (or anything else) is stolen from a car, the only thing the car insurance will replace — if and only if the person has comprehensive coverage on the auto policy — is the glass that was broken or any other damage to the car as a result of the break-in," says Earl Jones, an insurance agent in Concord, California.
To replace personal items stolen from a car, Jones says you would need to file a claim with the company that insures your apartment, condo or home.
Charlie Wendland, head of claims at Branch Insurance, agrees that personal items stolen from a vehicle are not covered by auto insurance, but by a homeowner or rental policy.
"Given the overlap between policies, bundling your home and auto policies can help you save money and ensure you have sufficient protection for all of your personal items," Wendland says.
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Ride-Hailing/Delivery Driving. If you use your private car to drive for a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft, pizza delivery, or anything along those lines, Wendland says your personal auto insurance won't cover accidents or other types of damage.
Orefice says you can get coverage through your insurance provider to cover ridesharing or delivery accidents. "It's a simple endorsement that must be added to your car insurance policy," he explains.
Flooding. Water can destroy your vehicle or render it unsafe to use, but flood damage is not routinely covered by auto or home policies, Wendland says. "If you live in an area where floods are common, you can purchase additional flood insurance through a licensed agent or insurer participating in the National Flood Insurance Program managed by FEMA," he says, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Charging Station Damage. If you're charging your electric vehicle at home and the charging station damages your car or truck, Orefice says your homeowner's personal liability insurance — not your automobile policy — will cover the cost to repair the car.
"If a public charging station damages your car, you must file a claim with the business or (its) commercial property insurance," he explains.
Repair Shop Damage. If you take your car to a shop for repairs, maintenance or other work, Orefice says your auto insurance won't cover any damage that may occur. Instead, you would have to file a claim against the repair shop's commercial insurance.
Rental Car After an Accident. If your car is being fixed after an accident that was your fault, don't assume your insurance will cover it. "If you do not have an added endorsement to your car insurance for a rental car, you may have to pay the cost out of pocket if you were at fault," Orefice says.
Pet Injuries. As a general rule, automobile insurance policies do not cover pet injuries caused during a vehicular accident; however, if the other driver is at fault, Orefice says pets may be covered. "If a pet dies in a car accident that was your fault, it will be treated as (a loss of) personal property, which can be claimed on a homeowners insurance policy, under the 'contents' portion," he adds.
"Driving a car that is not listed on your policy means you are not covered, not even if you have four other cars listed on the multi-vehicle policy and just forgot to add the fifth one."
Accessories and Add-Ons. If you install aftermarket parts to your car — custom rims or a sound system, for example — Orefice warns that your regular insurance policy won't cover their loss or theft, so you need an added endorsement to your auto insurance policy.
Damage from Government Vehicles. If a fire truck, snowplow or other government vehicle damages your automobile, your insurance won't pay to repair it. "You must file a claim against the city or state," Orefice explains.
Wear and Tear, Maintenance and Breakdowns. Auto insurance doesn't cover wear and tear on your vehicle and Orefice says you shouldn't expect to file claims on oil changes and new spark plugs either since general maintenance is your responsibility.
To be covered for mechanical breakdowns you need a mechanical breakdown insurance endorsement. "Otherwise," Orefice cautions, "you're on your own to pay for fixes." He goes on to explain that "towing charges are not covered if you have a mechanical breakdown, unless you have roadside assistance coverage."
Unlisted Drivers. Family members who are not listed on your policy — even if they live in your house — won't be covered if they crash your car, says Orefice. "Also, driving a car that is not listed on your policy means you are not covered," he cautions, "not even if you have four other cars listed on the multi-vehicle policy and just forgot to add the fifth one."
DUI Damage. If you cause a collision while driving under the influence, "only the damage you caused will be covered, and only to the other driver's car if you do not have collision coverage to take care of your vehicle," Orefice says. Insurance companies never cover fines, restitution or other levies ordered by a court.
Exceeding Coverage Limit. If damages to your car exceed the limit of coverage, your insurance company won't pay the extra — it's on you to come up with the rest of the funds. "It's important to keep this in mind when setting coverage limits; don't save a couple of dollars to find out you owe thousands," Orefice notes.