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Auto Insurance Information
Many insurance companies use the Texas Personal Automobile Policy, a standardized policy form that offers eight types of coverages. Companies may sell other policies that the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has approved. Some of these policies have more limited coverage. The following summary can help you understand the eight basic auto coverages. Please note that your coverage may be different depending on the type of policy you buy. Contact us for a review of your policy if you aren't sure what coverage you have.
1. Liability Coverage
What it pays: The following expenses, up to your policy's dollar limits, for the people in the other car involved in an accident that you or someone covered by your policy caused:
- medical and funeral costs, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering;
- car repair or replacement costs; and
- car rental for the other driver while their car is being repaired.
Liability insurance also pays your defense costs, including attorney fees if someone sues you because of the accident. If you are arrested following an accident, liability insurance will pay up to $250 for bail.
Who it covers:
- You and your family members. (Family members include anyone living in your home related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption. This includes your spouse, children, in-laws, adopted children, and foster children.)
- Other people driving your car with your permission.
- Family members attending school away from home.
- Spouses living elsewhere during a separation.
You and your family members might be covered when driving someone else's car – including a rental car – but not a car that you don't own but have regular access to, such as a company car. Some policies provide only liability coverage when you drive a car you don’t own. Physical damage coverage for damage to the non-owned vehicle might not transfer. Ask your agent before renting a car or driving a car you don’t own or lease.
Some policies – called named driver policies – won't cover people who live with you, including family members, unless they're specifically named in the policy. For these policies, the declarations page must list the names of the people the policy covers.
2. Collision Coverage (for damage to your car)
If you still owe money on your car, your lender will require you to have collision coverage.
What it pays: If the insurance company decides your car can be fixed, it will pay you the cost of repairs. If the company totals your car, it will pay you the actual cash value of your car. Actual cash value is the current value of your car, minus depreciation. Whether the company decides to repair your car or total it, you’ll get only up to the dollar limits of your policy. Your policy’s dollar limits are shown on the declarations page of your policy.
Who it covers: You, your family members, and anyone else insured under your policy.
3. Comprehensive Coverage (other than collision)
If you still owe money on your car, your lender will require you to have comprehensive coverage.
What it pays: The cost of replacing or repairing your car if it’s stolen or damaged by fire, vandalism, hail, falling objects, or an event other than a collision. Your policy won't pay to replace a stolen car unless you report the theft to police and there is usually a 48 hour waiting period for theft claims to be settled. This allows time for the vehicle to be located.
Payment is limited to your car's actual cash value, minus your deductible.
4. Medical Payments Coverage
What it pays: Medical and funeral bills resulting from an accident.
Who it covers: You, your family members, passengers in your car, and other injured people, including bicyclists and pedestrians, regardless of who caused the accident.
5. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage
What it pays: Similar to medical payments coverage, plus 80 percent of lost income and the cost of hiring a caregiver for an injured person.
Who it covers: You, your family members, and passengers in your car, and other injured people, regardless of who caused the accident.
Your insurance company will automatically give you PIP coverage, but you may reject it in writing if you don’t want it. The company must offer you $2,500 in PIP coverage, but you can buy more from most companies.
6. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage
What it pays: Your expenses from an accident caused by an uninsured motorist, a motorist who did not have enough insurance, or a hit-and-run driver. Also pays for personal property that was damaged in your car.
There is a mandatory $250 deductible for property damage. This means you must pay the first $250 of the expenses yourself before the insurance company will pay.
There are two types of UM/UIM coverage:
- Bodily injury UM/UIM pays for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and permanent or partial disability. There is not a deductible with this type.
- Property damage UM/UIM pays for auto repairs, a rental car, and damage to items in your car.
Who it covers: You, your family members, passengers in your car, and others driving your car with your permission.
Insurance companies must offer UM/UIM coverage. If you don't want it, you must reject it in writing.
7. Towing and Labor Coverage
What it pays: Towing charges when your car can't be driven. Also pays labor charges, such as changing a flat tire or jump-starting your battery.
8. Rental Reimbursement Coverage
What it pays: A set daily amount for a rental car if your car is stolen or being repaired. Your company only pays for rental reimbursement if your car was damaged by something that your policy covers, such as fire or theft.
Factors that Affect Your Premium
Insurance companies use a process called underwriting to decide whether to sell you a policy and what rate to charge you. Companies must file their underwriting guidelines with TDI and update them each time they make a change. The factors companies typically use to set premiums include:
- Your age and, for younger drivers, your marital status. Men under 25 and unmarried women under 21 have the highest rates.
- Your driving record and claims history. A good driving record can save you money. Insurance companies will charge you more if you have accidents or tickets on your driving record. Companies may also charge more for major convictions like DWI/DUI, some driving violations, and accidents that cause injury. Some surcharges are mandatory and will apply to your premium for up to three years.
- Where you keep your car. Rates are typically higher for people who live in cities because they have more accidents and auto thefts than people who live in rural areas.
- Your car's type. Collision and comprehensive rates are highest for luxury, high-performance, and sports cars. Rates may also be higher for cars that damage easily or cost more to repair.
- Your car's primary use. Your rates will be higher if you drive your car to and from work or for business.
- Your credit score. Companies often use your credit score to decide if they want to sell you a policy and at what cost. A company can't refuse to sell you a policy, cancel, or nonrenew your policy based only on your credit. Quoting insurance does not affect your credit score and does not show up as a 'hit' on your credit.
- If you drove uninsured in Texas. Companies may charge more if you were without insurance for more than 30 consecutive days in the prior 6 months. This is referred to as a 'Lapse' in coverage.
What to Do after an Accident
- If possible, move your car so you're not blocking traffic. Don't stand in the roadway or in a dangerous place.
- Call the police if someone is injured or killed, you can't move your car, or there was a hit-and-run driver. Your uninsured motorist coverage only pays for a hit-and-run accident if you report it to police.
- Get the other driver’s:
- telephone number,
- license plate number,
- driver’s license number;
- insurance company (be sure and get the exact and complete name of the company, not the insurance agent), and
- insurance policy number.
- Give the other driver the same information about you.
- Get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident.
If the other driver refuses to tell you the name of their insurance company, get a copy of the police accident report. The accident report may list the other driver's name and insurance company.
We never recommend exchanging money at the scene to cover damage you caused. That person can still file a claim against your policy.
Get Help from TDI
For insurance questions or for help with an insurance-related complaint, call the TDI Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 or visit their website at www.tdi.texas.gov