Auto Liability Insurance
For the best coverage and pricing, contact the specialists at ITR.
For the best coverage and pricing, contact the specialists at ITR.
Automobiles are categorized into classifications for insurance purposes, and one of the primary classifications is commercial auto. Within commercial auto insurance, vehicles are further classified by weight or vehicle type, but each insurance company is allowed to set its own classification standards as long as they meet state law.
Commercial auto liability will consist of at a minimum BI-Bodily Injury coverage and PD-Property Damage coverage. Let ITR help you navigate through commercial auto liability insurance.
Learn more about each type of insurance coverage
Liability coverage is offered for bodily injury (BI) or property damage (PD) for which the insured driver is deemed responsible. The amount of coverage provided (a fixed dollar amount) will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Whatever the minimum, the insured can usually increase the coverage (prior to a loss) for an additional charge.
An example of property damage is where an insured driver (or 1st party) drives into a telephone pole and damages the pole, liability coverage pays for the damage to the pole. In this example, the drivers insured may also become liable for other expenses related to damaging the telephone pole, such as loss of service claims (by the telephone company), depending on the jurisdiction. An example of bodily injury is where an insured driver causes bodily harm to a third party and the insured driver is deemed responsible for the injuries. However, in some jurisdictions, the third party would first exhaust coverage for accident benefits through their own insurer (assuming they have one) and/or would have to meet a legal definition of severe impairment to have the right to claim (or sue) under the insured driver’s (or first party’s) policy. If the third party sues the insured driver, liability coverage also covers court costs and damages that the insured driver may be deemed responsible for.
In some states, such as New Jersey, it is illegal to operate (or knowingly allow another to operate) a motor vehicle that does not have liability insurance coverage. If an accident occurs in a state that requires liability coverage, both parties are usually required to bring and/or submit copies of insurance cards to court as proof of liability coverage.
In some jurisdictions: Liability coverage is available either as a combined single limit policy, or as a split limit policy.
A combined single limit combines property damage liability coverage and bodily injury coverage under one single combined limit.
For example, an insured driver with a combined single liability limit strikes another vehicle and injures the driver and the passenger.
Payments for the damages to the other driver’s car, as well as payments for injury claims for the driver and passenger, would be paid out under this same coverage.
A split limit liability coverage policy splits the coverages into property damage coverage and bodily injury coverage. For example, if an insured driver with a split limits strikes another vehicle and injures the driver and the passenger, payments for the other driver’s vehicle would be paid out under property damage coverage, and payments for the injuries would be paid out under bodily injury coverage.
Bodily injury liability coverage is also usually split into a maximum payment per person and a maximum payment per accident.
The limits are often expressed separated by slashes in the following form: “bodily injury per person”/”bodily injury per accident”/”property damage”. For example, California requires this minimum coverage:
Another example, in the state of Oklahoma, drivers must carry at least state minimum liability limits of $25,000/$50,000/$25,000. If an insured driver hits a car full of people and is found by the insurance company to be liable, the insurance company will pay $25,000 of one person’s medical bills but will not exceed $50,000 for other people injured in the accident. The insurance company will not pay more than $25,000 for property damage in repairs to the vehicle that the insured one hit.
In the state of Indiana, the minimum liability limits are $25,000/$50,000/$10,000, so there is a greater property damage exposure for only carrying the minimum limits.
Generally, liability coverage purchased through a private insurer extends to rental cars. Comprehensive policies (“full coverage”) usually also apply to the rental vehicle, although this should be verified beforehand. Full coverage premiums are based on, among other factors, the value of the insured’s vehicle. This coverage, however, cannot apply to rental cars because the insurance company does not want to assume responsibility for a claim greater than the value of the insured’s vehicle, assuming that a rental car may be worth more than the insured’s vehicle.
Most rental car companies offer insurance to cover damage to the rental vehicle. These policies may be unnecessary for many customers as credit card companies, such as Visa and MasterCard, now provide supplemental collision damage coverage to rental cars if the rental transaction is processed using one of their cards. These benefits are restrictive in terms of the types of vehicles covered.
Full coverage is the term commonly used to refer to the combination of comprehensive and collision coverages (Liability is generally also implied.) The term full coverage is actually a misnomer because, even within traditional full coverage insurance, there are many different types of coverage, and many optional amounts of each. “Full coverage” is a layman’s misnomer that often results in drivers and vehicle owners being woefully underinsured. Most responsible insurance agents or brokers do not use this term when working with their clients.
One common misconception in the United States is that vehicles that are financed on credit through a bank or credit union are required to have “full” coverage in order for the financial institution to cover their losses in case of an accident. While most states do require additional coverage to be purchased, some such as Pennsylvania only require Comprehensive and Collision to be purchased in addition to liability and not “full” coverage.
Vehicles purchased with cash or paid off by the owner are generally required to only carry liability. In some cases, vehicles financed through a “buy-here-pay-here” car dealership—in which the consumer (generally those with poor credit) finances a car and pays the dealer directly without a bank—also only require liability coverage.
Collision coverage provides coverage for vehicles involved in collisions. Collision coverage is subject to a deductible.
This coverage is designed to provide payments to repair the damaged vehicle, or payment of the cash value of the vehicle if it is not repairable or totaled.
Collision coverage is optional, however if you plan on financing a car or taking a car loan, the lender will usually insist you carry collision for the finance term or until the car is paid off.
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) is the term used by rental car companies for collision coverage.
Comprehensive, also known as other than collision, coverage provides coverage, subject to a deductible, for cars damaged by incidents that are not considered collisions.
For example, fire, theft (or attempted theft), vandalism, weather, or impacts with animals are types of comprehensive losses.
Additionally, the majority of insurance companies list “Acts of God” as an aspect of comprehensive coverage.
By definition, it includes any events or occurrences that are beyond human control.
For example, a tornado, flood, hurricane, or hail storm would fall under this category.
Uninsured/Underinsured coverage, also known as UM/UIM, provides coverage if an at-fault party either does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance. In effect, the insurance company pays the insured medical bills, then would subrogate from the at fault party. This coverage is often overlooked and very important.
In Colorado, for example, it was estimated in 2007 that 24% of drivers did not carry the state minimum liability limits required by law. Unfortunately, this number goes up significantly during recessions. In some areas, it is estimated that 1 out of every 3 drivers doesn’t carry insurance. Usually the limits match the liability limits. Some insurance companies do offer UM/UIM in an umbrella policy.
Some states maintain unsatisfied judgment funds to provide compensation to those who cannot collect damages from uninsured driver. Typically, the payout is not more than the minimum liability limits and the negligent driver remains responsible for reimbursing the state’s fund. In the United States, the definition of an uninsured/underinsured motorist, and corresponding coverages, are set by state laws.
In some states it is mandatory. In the case of underinsured coverage, two different triggers apply: a damages trigger which is based on whether the limits are insufficient to cover the injured party’s damages, and a limits trigger which applies when the limits are less than the injured party’s limits.
According to a 2009 survey by trade association Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 29 states have a limits trigger while 20 states have a damages trigger.
Another variation is whether a particular state requires stacking of policy limits of different vehicles or policies.
Loss of use coverage, also known as rental coverage, provides reimbursement for rental expenses associated with having an insured vehicle repaired due to a covered loss.
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