Q: What should I know about keeping costs down when I buy auto, homeowners or umbrella insurance policies?
A: To receive discounts and reduce premiums, you can generally get the best overall coverage and the best overall price by purchasing auto, homeowners and umbrella insurance from the same company and the same agent. Make sure your agent gives you comparative quotes from various companies for various limits. This allows you to see the full picture and make an informed decision. It is important to review your insurance coverage with your agent every year. Your needs as well as the price of insurance may change if you buy a new vehicle, have speeding tickets or claims (or claim-free years), or if your teenager starts to drive.
Q: What is “umbrella coverage?”
A: Umbrella coverage is a separate policy or coverage that significantly increases your liability and uninsured/underinsured policy limits. It operates above and on top of your regular auto and homeowners policies, and because it only comes into play on very substantial claims, it is relatively inexpensive.
Q: What should I know about “state minimum coverage” for auto insurance?
A: You should be aware that the state minimum insurance limits are the minimum limits you need to avoid driving illegally. In the event of an accident, however, the “state minimum coverage” can leave the victim and the person at fault largely unprotected—leading to incomplete recovery of damages and, sometimes, bankruptcy. For your own protection, it is wise to purchase insurance coverages well above the state minimum limits.
Q: Can I rely on advertising when choosing an insurance company?
A: No. Good ads do not necessarily equal good insurance companies. Some very entertaining ads come from companies with poor claims practices. To determine which companies have the best claims records, talk to an attorney who deals with claims or ask an independent insurance agent (one who can sell more than one brand of insurance) to recommend companies known for good customer service.
Q: What about buying insurance online?
A: When you purchase insurance online without an agent, you may not get what you expect, and you may not be able to determine if the coverage you’re buying is adequate until you need to use it. When dealing with a claim, having an agent who is accessible and represents your interests can be invaluable.
Q: If I forget to renew my driver’s license expire, will I still have insurance coverage when I’m driving?
A: The Bureau of Motor Vehicles has a 90-day grace period after your license expires before you have to retake the driver’s examination. However, many insurance companies today include provisions that require the insured to have a “valid” license, and they do not extend coverage on an expired license, even within the 90-day grace period. It is essential that you renew your license before it expires. If it does expire, don’t drive until your license is renewed; you may not be insured.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by attorney Stuart F. Cubbon of Cubbon & Cubbon Co., LPA in Toledo.