Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance
Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.
In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.
Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.
Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.
Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.
Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.
Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.
This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.
Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.
Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.
Spring has arrived, the weather is getting warmer, and that means pedestrians and cyclists are coming out of hibernation and they’re on the streets and sidewalks. It may be wet, which means lower visibility and slicker roads.
In order to prevent or appropriately handle pedestrian and cyclist collisions, keep the following in mind.
Driver Safety Tips
Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own set of safety rules, as a driver, you’re the one who would be held responsible in the case of an accident. So, keep the following list in mind when you’re driving through towns and cities.
● Drive slowly when crossing sidewalks or pulling into our out of driveways. You may cross paths with children or others who have the right of way.
● When turning at an intersection, first check for oncoming traffic, then check for cyclists and pedestrians before you turn.
○ When turning left, it’s especially important to check for oncoming cyclists, and to look to your left for pedestrians.
○ When turning right, be aware of cyclists coming behind you (they should be on your left, but may not always be) and to look for pedestrians crossing at the light.
● Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk; you may not see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.
● If you see a vehicle pulled over or parked on the side of the road, leave enough room for a door to open or a pedestrian to enter or exit the vehicle, just in case they do.
● Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you. Potholes or other road hazards can cause abrupt stopping or turning.
● When parallel parking, check your mirror before opening the door; approaching cyclists may not know you’re about to exit.
● If you can, fold your mirror in, especially on tight streets, when parallel parking so that cyclists have room to get by.
● Avoid distracted driving. Pedestrians and cyclists are already more difficult to see because they’re smaller than vehicles, so it’s up to you to stay focused on the road.
● Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast increases the likelihood that pedestrians and cyclists will misjudge the time it takes you to arrive at a crossing and the likelihood of an accident.
● Always use turn signals when turning or changing lanes so that other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists can see where you’re going.
● Always check your blind spot for cyclists.
● Only pass a cyclist when there is an open lane next to you; it is safe to pass a cyclist when it is safe to pass a vehicle.
When you’re having your car repaired after a collision, there are bound to be a lot of auto parts related terms thrown around. We’ve put together a list to help you understand some of them that are less common outside of the collision repair world.
Aftermarket Parts – Replacement parts for a vehicle that were not built by the original equipment manufacturer.
Basecoat – This is a layer of highly pigmented paint that goes over the primer and under a clear coat. It provides color, but requires the protection of a clear coat.
Body Filler – A material that is used to fill in dents on car panels.
CAPA – The Certified Automotive Parts Association, located in Washington D.C., exists to manage testing and inspection of auto parts used in collision repair.
Clear Coat – A top layer of clear paint (it contains no pigment) that protects and covers a pigmented basecoat.
Collision – The loss that occurs when a vehicle hits or is hit by another vehicle or moving object.
Competitive Parts – This is another term used for aftermarket parts.
Ferrous – This describes metal that contains iron.
Filter – A filter removes contaminates from a material. Your vehicle contains many kinds of filters, like an oil filter, a fuel filter, and an air filter.
Finish coat – Another name for a top coat, clear coat, or gloss coat. However it can also be flat, or without gloss.
Frame – The skeleton of the vehicle is called the frame. It is usually made of steel or other strong metals and holds things like the suspension system, the engine, and the body together.
Galvanized – A steel that is coated with zinc is galvanized.
LKQ – Like Kind and Quality describes an auto part that was salvaged from another vehicle – usually another of the same make and model, or one that uses the same exact part.
Panel – The outer parts of a vehicle. The painted surface that you see on a completed vehicle is made of different parts, each of these is called a panel.
Putty – A plastic material used to fill deep holes and wide gaps.
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturers make auto parts for new cars. If your vehicle is damaged and the part is replaced with an OEM part, it’s being replaced with a piece made by the same place that made the original part.
Substrate – An unpainted and uncoated panel.
Quality Recycled Part – An auto part salvaged from a yard.
Quality Replacement Part – Also called an aftermarket part, this is a new part that was not made by the original equipment manufacturer.
Having poor alignment can lead to a collision, and a collision can lead to poor alignment. There are many other things that can lead to both, but it’s important to understand how to identify, correct, and maintain proper alignment of your vehicle to keep it, and its passengers, safe.
Sometimes, after a collision, your vehicle can suffer damage that doesn’t directly affect alignment, but it can affect things that will rapidly decrease your alignment.
What is alignment?
Alignment, when used in terms of a vehicle, refers to how well the wheels line up with the steering wheel. Simply, poor alignment happens when the steering wheel is straight, but the tires are aimed to one side. There are varying degrees of misalignment depending on how vast the difference in direction is.
What causes poor alignment?
Poor alignment can be caused by many things, from a collision, especially one involving the front end of the vehicle, to a repair involving the parts surrounding steering, tires, suspension, etc. Over time, alignment will vary especially if tires aren’t maintained, roads are bumpy, or the car is accustomed to rough driving.
Why is alignment important?
● With properly aligned tires, it’s easier for the vehicle to navigate any road. You’ll save on gas and repair costs by maintaining alignment.
● Because a car with aligned tires doesn’t work as hard, it uses less gas, saving the environment.
● Tires that are misaligned tend to wear unevenly (uneven tires can also cause misalignment), which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner.
● Misaligned tires make the vehicle harder to steer and control, which can lead to accidents. Alignments make your vehicle much safer to drive.
How to identify alignment issues after a collision
If you’ve recently been in a collision that involved the front end of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as you have your vehicle repaired. Look for damage to the following systems as well, because they can cause poor alignment.
● As you drive, does the car pull to one side or the other when the steering wheel is straight? Alignment and steering are directly related.
● Do you hear a squealing noise during slow turns? Your wheel well, brakes, or steering and suspension system may be affected.
● Is your steering wheel off center?
● Does the steering wheel vibrate as you drive?
You may know that the engine has coolant, which is one of the fluids under the hood that needs to be regularly checked. But, do you know what the coolant does, or that it’s part of a cooling system within your vehicle? There are different kinds of cooling systems in vehicles today, including liquid cooled systems and air cooled systems.
What is coolant?
Water is a highly effective material when it comes to holding heat, but it’s freezing and boiling temperatures aren’t compatible with an automobile engine. So, coolant fluid was invented to improve on water’s usability.
Coolant liquid is usually a mixture of antifreeze and water. It is pushed through a series of pipes within the engine to bring the temperature down by absorbing the heat, and traveling to the radiator, where it is cooled.
How does a liquid cooled system work?
The engine and the cylinder head, which contains part of the combustion chamber, both contain a system of cooling channels, through which the coolant liquid flows. As it flows, it absorbs heat from the engine, moving it along the channels. Near the cylinder head, all channels come together into one outlet. At this point, a pump takes coolant from this system toward the radiator, where it is cooled by a fan, and sent back through the channels to continue cooling the engine.
The hotter the engine, the more coolant needs to be topped up in a water cooled system. It’s important to check your levels, especially if you notice the gauge on your dashboard shows that the engine temperature is nearing or reaching higher temperatures.
Most cars today use a liquid cooled system.
How does an air cooled system work?
Air cooled engines maintain the right temperature by allowing air to flow over the hot surfaces. The engine block and cylinder head in this kind of engine have large aluminum fins that reach outside of their containers that pull the heat from the engine and spread it over a larger surface, allowing it to cool faster as an engine powered fan pushes air hot air over them. This cools the fins and removes heat from the engine block, maintaining a safe and constant temperature.
Air cooled systems are more common in older vehicles.
How do I know if there is a problem with my coolant system?
The first way to identify a problem with your coolant system is to watch the temperature gauge on your dashboard. This lets you know if your engine is warmed up enough in the winter, or if it’s overheating, which may signal a problem with your coolant system.
The check engine light can also signal a coolant system error, so make sure to have it checked out if it turns on.
Check the coolant level in your vehicle regularly, or have it checked professionally. If you notice a coolant leak below your vehicle, you may have an issue!
How to Handle a Collision with an Uninsured Driver
Ideally, and according to the law, every driver in the United States would be insured. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, uninsured and underinsured drivers are on the roads, and you have no way of knowing when you’ll come across one.
What is an underinsured driver?
An uninsured driver is one who is on the road without auto insurance. An underinsured driver, however, is one that has insurance, but the limit isn’t high enough to cover the damage caused in an accident.
Every insurance policy comes with a limit to what the insurance company will cover, and individuals can choose the limit they want for their policy. But, if a driver is in an accident with an expensive car or a collision that causes a lot of costly damage, the limit may not be high enough.
How do I handle a collision with an underinsured driver?
The basics of a collision with an underinsured driver are the same as an accident with any other driver.
● Make sure you and your passengers are okay,
● Check on the driver and passengers in the other vehicle,
● If the other driver is leaving the scene, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, including:
○ phone number,
○ insurance information, and
○ license plate number.
● Call the police and ask if they have any requests before they arrive,
● Request an ambulance,
● Take photos of the scene,
● If possible, move the vehicles out of the way of traffic,
● Wait for the police to arrive and make an accident report,
● Contact your insurance company and your collision repair technician to take care of your car and make a claim.
The main difference between an accident with an underinsured driver and an adequately insured driver is that you’ll need to see if your insurance company will cover the costs that the other driver and his or her insurance company is unable to pay.
Do I have to pay?
Whether or not your insurance company will pay for the costs associated with your accident depend on your insurance policy. Many insurance companies offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so that when you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, your policy is intended to cover the costs, up to your limit.
The oldest among us may be the wisest, but sometimes, tasks that were once easy to tackle can be more of a challenge. It’s important to be careful driving in winter weather, especially with slick roads, low visibility, colder temperatures, and less daylight.
Keep Your Car in Shape
Your car needs to be prepared for the weather every time you drive it. That means it’s important to keep it well maintained. Are winter tires allowed in your area? They may help improve traction in the snow and ice.
● Check the tire pressure and treads regularly,
● Keep the gas tank at least half full,
● Change your oil regularly,
● Keep your windshield wipers in good shape and your wiper fluid filled,
● Have dashboard warning lights checked quickly,
● Have your battery inspected – they tend to wear out faster in cool weather.
● Keep your brakes in good working condition, and
● Check that all of your lights work.
Always Be Prepared
It’s also important that you are always prepared to drive. That means making sure that you’re comfortable driving in the current conditions, and that you have everything with you that you’ll need in case you do get stuck. In addition to a winter ice scraper, keep an emergency kit in your car with the following:
● Warm clothing,
● Non-perishable food,
● A cell phone, and
● Comfortable shoes.
You can also prepare by having your health and vision checked! Don’t drive after taking certain medications, or if you’re feeling tired or sick. Keep in mind that certain times of the day have more traffic, and it’s safer and easier to plan your travels around these times. That also makes it easier to stick to main roads that are likely to be less slippery and snowy.
Every time you get behind the wheel, do what you can to make this trip easy for yourself.
● Clear all the snow and ice off windows and mirrors to improve visibility as much as possible,
● Let your car warm up – it’s not good to drive a cold engine,
● Use your headlights, even during the day. They’re not just for you to see – they help other drivers see you better as well,
● Keep in mind that bridges tend to be icier and windier, and be alert, aware, and cautious,
● If the weather is bad and your journey is not an emergency, consider putting it off until conditions improve, and
Bring your cell phone with you in case of emergencies, but don’t use it while driving
If you’re in an accident, there are always certain steps you should take to maintain your safety, the safety of others involved, and the safety of other cars that may be approaching the area. But, in the winter, there are several factors that can require a change in the procedure.
● Winter daylight hours are shorter, weather is cloudier and precipitation is likely to impair visibility, so it’s important to make sure that you can be seen.
● Snow, ice, and other messy road conditions can make it hard for cars to stop when they do see you, so it’s important to leave extra space.
Whether you’re waiting for help after an accident or you’re just trying to make sure everyone is okay and clear the road, it’s important to keep the following in mind during a winter car accident.
No matter when you’re in an accident, it’s important to stay calm. The accident has already happened, and yelling at others isn’t going to change that, and in the winter, it’s extra important to keep safety in mind after an accident.
● It might not be safe to get out of your vehicle, so first, check your surroundings
● Turn on your hazards
● Check yourself for injuries, then check your passengers, and if possible, the passengers of other vehicles
Depending on the severity of the accident, you may be in shock and unaware of your own injuries or your surroundings. Call the authorities, even if you aren’t sure it’s necessary.
Stay Out of the Road
Pay attention to your surroundings. If and when it is safe for you to get out of your vehicle, pay attention. If possible, take photos and document the accident, and stay out of the road. If you can, move your vehicle off the road so that traffic can safely continue past you. Any obstacle in the road, even an accident, has the potential to cause accidents, especially when the roads are slippery and sight is limited.
If you can’t move your vehicle and you can’t get off the road, stay in your vehicle rather than next to it.
If you have them, put up flares, lights, reflectors, or brightly colored cloth to make yourself and your vehicle more visible. Make sure that if you’re around a curve, you place warning lights far enough back that cars can see them as they approach and not just as they hit the curve. Use your hazard lights!
If you have an emergency kit in your car, now is the time to use it. Stay warm, use your extra blankets and clothes, and stay in the vehicle if possible. If you need to run the engine, make sure your tailpipe isn’t clogged with dirt or snow – it could be after the accident.
You’ve probably heard of recalls and service bulletins on the news relating to various vehicles and auto parts over the years. Some of them are more dangerous than others, but it’s important to understand what these recalls and service bulletins mean, especially when they apply to your vehicle.
The most important of these warnings to understand are the safety recalls, because, of course, they have to do with your safety. Safety recalls come in two versions: mandatory and voluntary.
Mandatory Safety Recalls
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) is a government agency that is responsible for ensuring vehicle safety in the United States. When the NHSTA issues a recall, it’s called a Mandatory Safety Recall, and the vehicle manufacturer pays for any repairs or replacement parts. These recalls are generally for safety related defective parts.
Voluntary Safety Recalls
The manufacturer can also issue a safety recall, but these are called Voluntary Safety Recalls. These are for defective parts that could, potentially, affect safety, but not necessarily. These repairs or replacement parts are also paid for by the manufacturer.
When a vehicle has an issue that isn’t great, but isn’t going to affect the safety of its passengers or its ability to function properly, a technical service bulletin may be issued.
The bulletin will list the issue, the repair for the issue, and possibly, a change in procedure for handling the issue in the future. While a technical service bulletin will let consumers know what might be wrong with a vehicle, they also serve to notify dealerships of new issues and repair procedures. Because technical service bulletins are often issued only to dealerships, if you have your vehicle serviced at an independent repair shop, you may not be aware that such a bulletin exists for your vehicle unless you go looking for the information.
Repairs outlined in service bulletins may or may not be paid for by the manufacturer. Often, if the vehicle is still within its manufacturer warranty period, the manufacturer will pay, but if it’s not, the consumer is responsible for the cost.
Finding Service Bulletins and Safety Recalls
If you’re wondering whether a service bulletin or safety recall applies to your vehicle, search the NHSTA website! You can use your vehicle make, model, year, and VIN to search for alerts relating to your car, so that if there is an issue, you can have it taken care of as soon as possible.
Most drivers aren’t looking to get in a collision – they can be painful to your wallet, your property, and to any people who are involved. Unfortunately, the most common kinds of collisions are those when traffic is moving slowly, or not at all. These low speed, low impact accidents are called fender benders.
So, what causes fender benders, and how can we prevent them?
Rear End Collisions
Rear end collisions can happen anywhere, all they require is for one car to hit another from behind. They’re the most common kind of collision that happens in the United States, and they don’t have to happen at high speed to cause damage.
The best way to avoid a rear end collision is to pay attention! If your car is working properly, (make sure your brakes, brake lights, and headlights are working well!) avoiding a rear end collision is usually a matter of leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, and braking early enough.
Parking Lot Collisions
Parking lot collisions are similar to rear end collisions – they occur when vehicles are too close, and generally occur at low speeds. In a parking lot, one car may be parked during an accident!
Again, if your vehicle is functioning properly, the best way to avoid a collision is to pay attention. Parking lots may not have posted speeds, but generally 15 miles per hour is the fastest one should drive in a parking lot. The more vehicles, especially driving vehicles, and the more people are in a parking lot, the slower your speed should be. Make sure to go easy on the gas pedal, and pay attention to your surroundings in all directions.
Tips for Paying Attention While Driving
Paying attention is one of the first things they’ll teach you in driver’s education. To make sure you’re at your best, follow these tips.
Drive Sober – Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will likely impair your reaction time and your depth perception, meaning you’ll notice things later, react later, and misjudge their distance from you. This rule applies to both prescribed and recreational drugs!
Stay off the Phone – Cell phones are one of the main causes of accidents today! Driving slowly is not an excuse to split your attention between driving and using an electronic device, whether it’s built into your car or one you bring with you.
Use your Mirrors – Your mirrors are there to help you see what’s around you, so make sure to use them!