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Frequently Asked Questions

Auto Insurance

Home Insurance

Auto Insurance

What's credit got to do with it?
An insurance score provides an assessment of your insurance risk at a particular point in time.  The Score is developed from specific credit information that reflects credit management patterns such as collections, bankruptcies, outstanding debt, length of credit history, types of credit in use and the number of new applications for credit.  Keep in mind, insurers are only interested in how well you handle your assets rather than how much money you make or whom you owe.
Is my insurance company allowed to automatically include my son/daughter on my policy?
An insurer is permitted to consider all resident operators of an insured vehicle in the rating of an automobile policy, including a child, although he/she may only have a learner's permit.  This is because insurers are permitted to use classifications that reflect a possible exposure for liability on the part of the insurer, in the event that bodily injury or property damage occurs due to that child's operation of the vehicle.  Such a "limited use" classification, however, reflects the reduced likelihood of an incident due to "occasional" operation by a youthful driver, and is rated lower than if that person were the "principal operator".  In addition, children living away at school (over 100 miles) are generally eligible for a reduced rate.
Why are auto insurance rates higher for younger drivers?
Insurance rates are based on the average experience of a group of persons with similar characteristics (classification).  Young drivers historically have had poorer loss experience (both in the frequency of accidents and the cost of those accidents) than older drivers.  By charging young drivers higher rates, those drivers pay their fair share of insurance costs and older drivers are not asked to subsidize them.  In addition, rates are generally higher for males because, consistently, female drivers incur fewer and/or less severe claims than males.
Am I protected by my insurance when I drive a rental car?
Your motor vehicle liability insurance policy covers you for bodily injury and property damage liability, as well as no-fault, when you drive a rental vehicle.  However, this coverage is provided on an "excess" basis, which means that your policy will cover you if the amount of damage or loss exceeds the insurance coverage provided by the rental vehicle company.  If the vehicle was rented in New York State, the rental vehicle company must provide the minimum required coverages (see above "How much insurance must I carry?").

A rental vehicle company may hold a renter responsible for damage to, or loss of, rental vehicles, including loss of use. However, your motor vehicle liability policy may provide this coverage, subject to certain exclusions in the policy and certain other exceptions (See Collision Damage Waivers (or Optional Vehicle Protection) and Rental Vehicle Coverage: Some Questions and Answers.).  It is important to know that you as a renter may be held fully responsible for damage to a rental vehicle unless an "optional vehicle protection" is purchased from the rental vehicle company, or you have insurance coverage under your motor vehicle insurance policy or through your credit card.
Can my insurance company raise my premium due to an accident or traffic ticket?
Yes, unless you have Accident Forgiveness.  Such an increase is known as a surcharge.  Surcharges are based on the fact that a driver who has previously been at fault in one or more accidents, or has a record of traffic convictions, has an increased likelihood of being involved in future accidents.

Insurers "classify" drivers according to such criteria as age of driver, geographical location, mileage and type of vehicle.  To further refine those classifications, many insurers use "merit rating plans", a point system in which increases are applied according to an individual driver's record (traffic convictions and accidents).

Surcharges are applied to liability (bodily injury & property damage), collision and no-fault (PIP) coverages, and are only allowed for:

1. accidents involving bodily injury, or losses to property in excess of the accident reporting threshold ($1,000), where the insured driver is at fault, or

2. convictions for certain violations which are chargeable under the Insurance Law.

A surcharge is used as a tool to properly price the exposure the insurer is writing, and not as a means to recoup payment made under a claim.  The total dollar amount paid as the result of a claim does not affect the surcharge.  An insured being surcharged for a particular accident will pay the same amount regardless if the damages were (for example) $2,000 or $50,000.
What discounts can I get on my car insurance?
There are a number of available discounts to help reduce the cost of an individual's auto insurance policy. Some of these are:

- Accident prevention course.
- Automatic seat belts or air bags.
- Factory installed anti-lock braking system (ABS).
- Anti-theft devices (such as alarm systems or ignition "cutoff" devices, certain electronic-tracking devices, or qualifying identifying window glass etching).
- Participation in a Combat Auto Theft (CAT) Program.
- Factory-installed daytime running lamps (DRL).
- "Careful Driver" or "Accident-Free".
- A "Multi-Policy" or "Account" discount.
- Driver Training (for operators under age 21)
- Multi-Car
Why do some cars cost more to insure than others?
Each vehicle is assigned a rating symbol that is used in determining the premium you pay for comprehensive and collision coverage.  Some of the factors that determine the rating symbols are frequency of theft, availability of parts, how the vehicle holds up in crashes, average cost to repair vehicle, engine size and how frequently a certain vehicle is involved in an accident.

Home Insurance

Why is the cost to insure my home higher than what I paid for it?
The cost to rebuild an existing home is higher due to several factors; The increased cost to building materials, materials are unique and specific to the home, and labor is higher due to the fact the contractor must hire more employees to rebuild your home in a shorter time than if you contracted with him months in advance.  In addition, the state law allows a contractor to add 10% profit and 10% overhead.  The reason being, rebuilding a home is less predictable because of the unknown associated with reconstruction.
What is Guaranteed or extended replacement cost?
This policy offers the highest level of protection.  A guaranteed replacement cost policy pays whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the fire or other disaster–even if it exceeds the policy limit.  This gives you protection against sudden increases in construction costs due to a shortage of building materials after a widespread disaster or other unexpected situations.  It generally won't cover the cost of upgrading the house to comply with current building codes.  You can, however, get an endorsement (or an addition to) your policy called Ordinance or Law to help pay for these additional costs.  A guaranteed replacement cost policy may not be available if you own an older home.

Some insurance companies offer an extended, rather than a guaranteed replacement cost policy.  An extended policy pays a certain percentage over the limit to rebuild your home.  Generally, it is 20 to 25 percent more than the limit of the policy.  For example, if you took out a policy for $100,000, you could get up to an extra $20,000 or $25,000 of coverage.

Even though a guaranteed/extended replacement cost policy may be a bit more expensive, it offers the best financial protection against disasters for your home.  These coverages, however, may not be available in all states or from all companies.
If a tree falls on my house from my neighbor's yard, who pays for the damage?
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.

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