Q. I am renting a car on my upcoming vacation. Will my Massachusetts automobile insurance policy provide the coverage I need?
A. Your MA auto policy will provide the same coverage for your rental private passenger auto as it does for your own vehicle. This however does not mean that your policy provides adequate coverage for the rental. Your policy does not provide coverage if the rental vehicle is damaged and cannot be used. The rental company is losing income for the time the vehicle is not able to be rented. The rental company, as part of their contract, may require you to be responsible for this lost income. Your policy does not provide this coverage. Another provision of your policy is that it will repair or replace an automobile at actual cash value, not replacement cost. Actual cash value takes into account depreciation for the age of the vehicle, while replacement cost is the amount it would cost to purchase the vehicle today. The rental contract may require you to be responsible for replacing or fixing the vehicle at the full retail value. Some major credit cards offer rental car coverage when you pay for the rental with their card. You may find the coverage offered by the credit card company to be in compliance with the rental car contract. The rental company will offer their insurance to you for a nominal fee. This insurance should provide for the potential coverage issues at question. The best way to cover you is to purchase whatever insurance the rental company offers.
Q. Who can I let drive my vehicle?
In Massachusetts, if you have a personal automobile policy, anyone who is not a customary operator may drive your vehicle occasionally without being listed as an operator on your policy. Household members are required to be listed as operators because they are most likely to have regular use of the vehicle. If an unlisted household member is operating your vehicle and has an accident, the insurance company may withhold payment for some coverage’s like collision, if additional premium would have been owed had they been listed, due to an inexperienced operator class or a higher rating step under the Safe Driver Insurance Plan. This same rule applies to anyone who has been given regularly furnished use of your automobile even if they are not a household member. When operators of your vehicle have an auto policy of their own, in MA, they can be “deferred” operators, which means there will not be an additional charge on your policy regardless of their driving class or history.
Q. Can my insurance company deny a claim for damages to my auto if the principal place of garaging listed on my application is false?
A. Yes. If you or someone on your behalf gives false, deceptive, misleading or incomplete information on any application and if such information increases the insurance company’s risk of loss, your company may then refuse to pay claims under any or all of the Optional Insurance Coverage’s of the policy. Such information includes the description and place of garaging of the vehicles to be insured, the names of the operators required to be listed and the answers given for all listed operators. In the event that you have moved since you filled out your initial application, promptly notify your insurance company and the Registry of Motor Vehicles of your new address.
Q. If a tree on my property gets blown over, will my policy pay for the removal of the debris?
A. If you have a tree that falls due to a windstorm and hits your home causing damage, your homeowner’s policy will pay a limited amount for the removal of the debris as well as for the repair of the structure subject to your policy’s wind deductible. If your tree hits your neighbor’s home, fence or other property, causing damage, your neighbor’s homeowner’s policy will most likely pay for the removal of the tree, as well as damage to their property, subject to their policy deductible. You are not legally responsible for damage caused by an act of God, such as wind. Therefore, the liability section of the policy does not apply, because there is no liability. If the tree falls into your yard or the neighbor’s yard but does not damage any covered structure, neither policy will pay for the removal of the tree debris. Most insurance companies offer a special endorsement that can be added for an additional premium that provides debris removal coverage even if the tree has not damaged a covered structure.
Q. Will my insurance policy pay for damage from water seeping through my basement walls?
A. Standard homeowners, renters and condominium policies do not cover water damage due to the seepage of water through walls or the floor of a basement. There is no endorsement available to add this coverage. A National Flood Insurance Policy covers seepage even if the flood water has not touched the house if there is a general condition of flooding in the area and flood was the proximate cause of the seepage.
Q. Is there anything I can do to lower my homeowner’s insurance premium?
A. You can save money by increasing your policy deductible. Installing deadbolt locks, smoke alarms, burglar and fire alarms that alert local police and fire stations. This may qualify you for additional discounts. Some insurers also offer discounts if you insure your home and automobile with the same company. You can also ask your agent to check current premiums with the other companies (s)he represents. Rates are not uniform, and change regularly.
Q. What is a personal umbrella policy and do I really need one?
A. Personal umbrella policies increase your liability coverage over and above your auto and home liability limits. For example, if you are involved in an accident which is your fault and you are sued for an amount which exceeds your auto bodily injury liability; your personal umbrella could pick up the excess amount less your deductible. The same theory would apply on your home policy limits. In short, yes, we do recommend that everyone have a personal umbrella policy. Please contact us for more information.