Personal Insurance Questions

Q: My teenager just got a driver's license and the insurance rates are through the roof. Do I have to add him to my policy? Do I have any other options?

A: It usually makes good financial sense to add your teen as a driver to your existing policy, but only after he gets a permanent license. In addition, if you're driving an expensive car, it might make more financial sense to buy your teen a safe, older vehicle and get him a policy of his own.

Q: What should I do if I just had an auto accident?

A: You should inform your insurance agent right away. Make sure you have a copy of the police report and the other party's (or parties') insurance information.

Remember, just because you inform your insurer of an accident doesn't mean you're making a claim.

Q: Which coverages pay for damages to my vehicle?

A: Depending on what kind of damage your car suffers, one of your physical damage coverages ­ comprehensive or collision insurance ­ will pay for the damages.

If your car is hit by a deer or other animal, stolen, catches on fire, or is vandalized, your comprehensive coverage will kick in. If you crash into something and crunch your car, your collision coverage will kick in.

Both of these coverages are optional and, of course, adding them to your policy will raise your insurance premium.


Q: What can I do to protect myself against uninsured drivers?

A: Purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can protect you against uninsured drivers. In many states, UM coverage is required by law.

UM coverage will pay for medical bills and pain and suffering if you are hit by an uninsured driver. In some states, UM property-damage coverage is available. If your car is crunched by an uninsured driver and you have UM property-damage coverage, you'll be able to get your car fixed under this coverage, rather than using your collision coverage.

Generally speaking, UM property-damage coverage carries a lower deductible than collision coverage.

Q: What is an SR-22?

A: SR-22 is a form that shows that you have auto insurance. It is required by the state for drivers who are high risk. Here are some of the reasons a state might require you to file an SR-22 form:

  • DUI (drunk driving)
  • Serious moving violations such as reckless driving
  • Racking up a lot of highway points in a short period of time
  • Being pegged as a habitual traffic offender
  • Causing an accident while uninsured.

Regulations vary from state to state, but high-risk drivers usually have to carry SR-22 insurance for three years.

More insurance companies are now willing to sell policies to drivers who have SR-22 status; however, those policies are going to be more costly than a standard auto policy.

Q: Can I insure my parents' home for them?

A: No. You have to own the property that you insure. However, there are two ways for you to take charge of paying for the insurance premiums on your parents' home. Your name can be added to your parents' homeowners insurance policy as an additional insured, and then their agent could request that the bills come directly to you. Or, you could ask that the bills simply be mailed to your address.

Q: I heard something about a "home warranty." What is it and where do I buy one?

A: Home warranties aren't insurance, but some insurance companies are starting to sell them. A home warranty will cover repair costs on things in your home - such things as your refrigerator and other major appliances, or your air conditioning. You do need to have everything in good working order before purchasing a home warranty.

Q: If a tree falls on my house from my neighbor's yard, who pays for the damage?

A: Generally, the insurance responsibility lies with whoever's property is damaged. In other words, if a tree falls on your home, no matter where the tree came from, your insurance company should pay for your home repair.

An exception would be if the damage occurred as a result of negligence; for instance, if the tree was dead before it fell, and you had proof that your neighbor knew the tree was dead. Under those circumstances, the damage becomes your neighbor's liability.

As a rule, state insurance officials suggest that you file a claim with your insurance company and let them deal with it.

Q: Do I need to buy flood insurance?

A: If you want your belongings covered against damages caused by a flood, the answer is yes. Basic home insurance policies never cover damage from flooding because it's second only to fire as the most widespread of natural disasters.

Because flood damage happens so frequently, most insurance companies won't even consider writing flood coverage. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) underwrites the overwhelming majority of flood policies in the United States. While most people should at least think about getting flood insurance, it is true that some people need it more than others.

Q: We're going to be building a house. How do I insure it while it's under construction?

A: Basically, you just need a standard homeowners policy. You should make sure to tell the company or your agent that the house is currently under construction, though. An endorsement will be added for theft of building materials during the course of construction.

Q: Will filing one claim on my homeowners insurance cause my rates to go up?

A: Nope. In fact, a spokesperson for one insurance company even laughed at the thought of one claim increasing someone's premiums. You'll have to file a second claim to push your rates up.

Q: I have a dog that bit someone once. Will that affect my chances of getting homeowners insurance?

A: While having a dog with a history of biting doesn't automatically disqualify you from getting a homeowners policy, it can make it more difficult. You might end up having to get a policy that excludes coverage for anything your dog does.