Wednesday, 20 February 2002

Car Insurance

Vehicle insurance (or auto insurance, car insurance, motor insurance) is insurance people can purchase for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. Its primary use is to provide protection against losses incurred as a result of traffic accidents. An insurance company may declare a vehicle totally destroyed ('totaled' or 'a write-off') if it appears replacement would be cheaper than repair.

UK Car Insurance

In 1930 the UK government introduced a law that required every person who used a vehicle on the road to have at least third party personal injury insurance. Today UK law is defined by the The Road Traffic Act which was last modified in 1991.

The Act requires all motorists to be insured against their liability for injuries to others (including passengers) and for damage to other persons' property resulting from use of a vehicle on a public road or in other public places. This is called Third Party Insurance. It is an offence to drive your car, or allow others to drive it, without at least Third Party insurance whilst on the public highway, on private land no such legislation applies.

The insurance certificate or cover note issued by the insurance company constitutes legal evidence that the vehicle specified on the document is indeed insured. The Law says that an authorised person, such as the police, may require a driver to produce an insurance certificate for inspection. If the driver cannot show the document immediately on request, then the driver will usually be issued a HORT/1 with seven days, as of midnight of the date of issue, to take a valid insurance certificate (and usually other driving documents as well) to a police station of the driver's choice. Failure to produce an insurance certificate is an offence.

Insurance is more expensive in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK.

Motorists in the UK are required to display a Vehicle excise duty disc in their car when it is kept or driven on public roads. This helps to ensure that most people have adequate insurance on their vehicles because you are required to produce an insurance certificate when you purchase the disc. However it is a known practice for some people to purchase insurance to gain the certificate and then to cancel the insurance and gain a full refund within the statutory 14 day cooling off period.

The Motor Insurers Bureau compensates the victims of road accidents caused by uninsured and untraced motorists. It also operates the Motor Insurance Database, which contains details of every insured vehicle in the country.

Auto Insurance in the United States

The consumer may be protected with different coverage types depending on what coverage the insured purchases.

In the United States, liability insurance covers claims against the policy holder and generally, any other operator of the insured’s vehicle, provided they do not live at the same address as the policy holder and are not specifically excluded on the policy. In the case of those living at the same address, they must specifically be covered on the policy. Thus it is necessary for example, when a family member comes of driving age they must be added on to the policy. Liability insurance sometimes does not protect the policy holder if they operate any vehicles other than their own. When you drive a vehicle owned by another party, you are covered under that party’s policy. Non-owners policies may be offered that would cover an insured on any vehicle they drive. This coverage is available only to those who do not own their own vehicle and is sometimes required by the government for drivers who have previously been found at fault in an accident.

Generally, liability coverage does extend when you rent a car. 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 may not 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 transaction is processed using one of their cards. These benefits are restrictive in terms of the types of vehicles covered.