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All Posts in Category: Auto Insurance

Corona Virus

8 Questions About Coronavirus and Auto Insurance

Corona VirusA lot of questions are being brought to the forefront during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. And not surprisingly, inquiries about car insurance are among them.

If I’m not driving, do I really need insurance? What could happen to my car if I’m not driving it as often? Will the cost of my auto insurance be impacted?

Good news: At ERIE, you get your very own local insurance agent who can help answer any questions about your specific policy. (Been a while? Schedule a quick phone call for a no-obligation coverage checkup.) For the latest news about how ERIE is responding to the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Information Center.

As for those other head-scratchers? Here are some things you might have wondered about your auto coverage in the time of the COVID-19.

CAR INSURANCE AND CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  1. I’m not driving. Should I cancel my policy? While it may be tempting, canceling your auto insurance ‒ even if you’re not driving your vehicle ‒ is never a good idea. It can leave your car vulnerable in the event of a fire, theft or other damage that could be covered by comprehensive insurance. And a lapse in coverage also may make insurance more expensive when you decide to insure the vehicle again. Canceling your auto insurance might also subject you to fines from your state’s department of motor vehicles, or even be illegal. If you’re looking for ways to save, contact your local ERIE agent to talk through your options and learn about any available discounts.
  2. Is ERIE offering discounts to auto insurance customers?  To support our customers during this challenging time, ERIE is providing $200 million in dividends (relief payments in New York) directly to our personal and commercial auto insurance customers with policies in force as of April 1, 2020. This immediate relief represents about 30% of two months’ related auto insurance premiums. There’s no need to call your ERIE agent or request a check – eligible customers were sent a check in May. (Questions? Ask your local agent.) Learn more about our customer dividends, announced April 21, 2020.
  3. Is ERIE lowering rates for customers, since people are driving less? For long-term, steady and stable relief, we’re lowering auto insurance rates for personal and commercial customers. Pending regulatory approval, rate reductions will vary by state and will be based on individually purchased policies and coverage options. Once approved, premium adjustments will take effect at the time of renewal and the estimated total will provide an additional $200 million in financial relief to ERIE customers.Learn more about our rate reductions, announced April 9, 2020.
  4. How can I keep my car in good shape when I’m not driving it? Batteries. Fuel. Tires. There are a lot of things you need to consider if your vehicle is going to stay parked for a while. Get quick tips for safe car storage in this related article.
  5. How can I stay socially distant if I’m in a car accident? Accidents happen… even when there’s a pandemic. In the event you get in a car accident, stay calm and follow CDC guidelines for social distancing as much as you’re able. U.S. News & World Report suggests you do the following:
    • Share information from a distance. Put documents like your driver’s license, insurance information and registration on your vehicle’s hood so the other driver can take a photo of your information (and vice versa).
    • Think digital. Be sure to exchange contact information, including email addresses, too.
    • Take photos. Take a lot of photos that thoroughly document the scene of the accident. You may end up submitting them to your insurance company since it’s possible that police may not come to the scene. (Many police departments are taking accident reports by phone or online.)
  6. Will coronavirus impact my ability to file a claim? Our commitment to resolve your claim quickly and efficiently never waivers. You can continue to report claims by reaching out to your local ERIE agent or by calling us 24/7 at (800) 367-3743. Our claims teams are ready to meet the needs of our customers and claimants while taking steps to mitigate exposure to the coronavirus in line with best practices provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit in-person contact.
  7. I’m in a tough spot financially and can’t pay my bill. What are my options? Contact your local ERIE agent to let them know and discuss what’s best. Your local agent, as well as ERIE’s Customer Care team, may be able to assist with delaying payment dates, adjusting installments, changing pay plans or waiving penalties and fees. Some billing requests, including deferring payments and nonpay cancellations, can also be requested through erieinsurance.com/help or through your ERIE Online Account.
  8. I’m not driving my car right now. What should I know about lending my car to friends or family? If you own a car, chances are you’ve let a friend or family member borrow it at least once. But did you know that if there’s an accident, it’s your auto insurance policy that typically would have to pay? Ask your agent to explain how coverage works when you lend your vehicle, particularly if you have any excluded drivers on your policy. (The ability to exclude drivers varies by state.) Read more about the pros and cons of lending your car before handing over the keys.

Being “Above all in Service” has driven every decision we’ve made as a business since 1925 – and we still operate that way today.

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Locked Keys in Car

I Locked My Keys in the Car… Now What?

Locked Keys in Car

Locked Keys in Car

You walk into work and realize you left your coffee in the car. But when you go back to grab it, the door is locked — and your keys are sitting on the driver’s seat.

If you’ve been driving for very long, chances are something similar has happened to you. You can’t go anywhere until you and your keys are reunited. So how do you get back behind the wheel and on with your day?

Here are some tips to help ensure you’re prepared in the event of a lockout.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU LOCK YOUR KEYS IN THE CAR

A lockout can happen to anybody.And while there’s no shame in calling for help, it doesn’t make paying a tow truck or locksmith any easier. After all, the last thing you want is an unexpected bill because of an honest mistake.

But with a little preparation, you can have a backup plan ready to solve the problem yourself. So don’t let one forgetful moment ruin your entire day. Try these methods to MacGyver your way back into your vehicle:

  • Keep a spare key. The quickest, easiest backup plan is to have access to a spare key. Stash a spare in your wallet or purse. Leave a copy with a friend or loved one who can come and save the day. Or consider concealing a door key somewhere on or under your vehicle using a magnetic “hide-a-key” box. If hiding a key, make a copy — don’t use an original. A copied key will allow you to unlock the door, but won’t start the ignition on most modern vehicles equipped with an anti-theft security system.
  • Unlock the car remotely. If you can’t get in on your own, many automakers now offer remote assistance services. Each manufacturer markets its own brand of service (such as OnStar, Sync, Blue Link or mbrace). But they’re all capable of unlocking your vehicle via satellite. If your vehicle has a connected car system, just call the number provided by your automaker to remotely unlock the door. Since some services are subscription-based, it’s always worth checking to see if this option is available and enabled before you really need it.
  • Remember your code. If you’re driving a car with a keypad entry, you may be in luck. Just enter your code and you’ll be inside with the push of a button. This technology can be found on most Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles manufactured over the past 20 years — but it’s not widely used by other makes and models.
  • Make your phone a key. Many new cars with remote assistance services also include smartphone capabilities. It may be an expensive feature, but it can turn your phone into a spare key with nothing but an app. Ask your dealer for details or check out your automaker’s website to see if and how you can utilize this high-tech option.

WHO SHOULD YOU CALL FOR HELP?

If you can’t get into the car on your own, you’ll need to call for help. There’s no need to worry. It just might take a little longer to unlock the door, since you’ll have to wait for assistance. If you’re not sure who to call, here are some services to add to your contacts:

  • Roadside assistance: If you’re an Erie Insurance customer, our Emergency Roadside Service Coverage can save the day. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and only costs about $5 per vehicle per year.1 Just call 800-FOR-ERIE to get connected directly with Agero, our nationwide service partner.
  • Towing companies: If you don’t have roadside assistance, you can call a towing company directly. Call the company of your choice or dial 411 to find services near you. Most tow companies can help unlock your vehicle. But if not, they can always tow your car to someone who can.
  • Locksmiths or dealerships: Locksmiths can always help in the event of a lockout. But they’re especially useful if you’ve lost your key and need a replacement. Since most modern vehicles use keys with a security transponder chip, it takes specialized equipment from a locksmith or auto dealer to make a replacement key. Just have your vehicle identification number and proof of ownership ready. A professional locksmith service can get pricey. But if you’re an ERIE customer, there’s good news: our comprehensive coverage can help reimburse your locksmith services up to $75, and if you purchased Emergency Roadside Service Coverage, ERIE will reimburse you for reasonable locksmith expenses.

CAN I CALL THE POLICE TO UNLOCK MY CAR?

One way to get back into your car is to call your local law enforcement authorities. However, keep in mind that locking your keys in your car doesn’t typically qualify as an emergency. Police officers are concerned with public safety, so generally, life or property has to be at risk for them to respond.

If a child is locked in the car or you’re in danger, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, you can try to call a local non-emergency number for help. But if the coast is clear, expect them to respond to more urgent calls or recommend a tow truck.

HOW TO PREVENT A LOCKOUT

Although anti-theft features have become more sophisticated, locksmiths have no shortage of calls every year to help people break into their own vehicles. Of course, the best way to make sure you and your keys don’t end up on opposite sides of the door is to keep them on your person.

But that may be easier said than done. So here are a few tips that can help make all the difference:

  • Always lock doors from the outside. Some vehicles won’t lock if your fob is still inside. But manually locking the door while you’re in the car could override that feature. Always lock the doors from the outside to reduce the risk of trapping your keys inside.
  • Take the key with you. If your engine is running, some security systems may automatically lock the doors assuming you’re getting ready to drive. Before you step out, turn the engine off and immediately put the key in your pocket.
  • Use a lanyard or keychain. A lone key is easy to lose, but lanyards and keychains make them much easier to keep track of. Attach a lanyard or chain to your keys to make them more noticeable.
  • Buy a carabiner. Attach a carabiner to your belt loop or bag and keep your keys within reach. You’ll have a place for them on your person no matter where you are, while building a habit of keeping your keys in a safe place.

GET BACK ON THE ROAD

Locking your keys in your car can ruin your day – or lighten your wallet – if you’re not prepared. When you’re stranded, it helps to have someone you can count on to help ease the stress.

At Erie Insurance, our promise is simple: to be there when you need us. With our Emergency Roadside Service, we can help with lockouts, flat tires, mechanical breakdowns, dead batteries or even a tank of gas. It’s an optional coverage that’s easy to add to your auto insurance policy and doesn’t cost a lot. You can also purchase the coverage with ERIE’s Roadside & Rentals bundle, which includes rental car expense coverage.

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Parking Lot Accidents

How Does Insurance Cover Parking Lot Accidents?

Parking Lot AccidentsParking lots can be crazy places. Whether you’re at the mall, the grocery store or even just grabbing a quick coffee… all those cars coming and going can up anyone’s chances of being in a parking lot accident.

Which may lead you wonder: How does insurance cover parking lot accidents? Let’s walk through a few common scenarios.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I HIT SOMEONE ELSE’S CAR IN A PARKING LOT?

Accidents happen. That’s why having the right auto insurance can give you peace of mind.

If you do hit a car in a parking lot, here’s what to do next:

  • Don’t leave the scene. If you drive away without telling anyone, that’s considered a hit-and-run. You could face a whole other set of legal issues if a security camera or witness spots you in the act. So do the honest thing and stick around.
  • Get out of harm’s way. Even a simple fender-bender can block traffic or scatter broken glass. Make sure you’re a safe distance from anything dangerous and be mindful of the flow of traffic. If needed, put your hazard lights on to alert nearby drivers.
  • Try to locate the car’s owner. Ask a store employee to page the owner of the car over the loudspeaker.
  • Leave a note. It’s the right thing to do… and potentially even the law. Not leaving a note is considered a hit-and-run in the vast majority of states, even if the damage was just a small scratch. Keep it simple and polite. Include your name, contact information, and a brief explanation of what happened. Leave it in a secure spot where it won’t blow away.
  • Consider calling the police. If the damage is serious, they can help you file an incident report and track down the car’s owner.
  • Call your insurance agent. When you’re with ERIE, you don’t have to go it alone. Your local ERIE agent is there to answer questions and help you understand what’s covered.

Remember, policy conditions might require you to tell ERIE or your agent about the incident – even if you decide not to file a claim. Learn more about what to do when accidents happen.

SOMEONE HIT MY PARKED CAR. NOW WHAT?

An at-fault driver’s auto insurance should cover the property damage they caused to the other vehicle. Hopefully, they left a note and you can get in touch without too much fuss. Unfortunately, some people won’t do the right thing. If you return to a dented or dinged car with no indication of who did it, you can ask around to see if there were any witnesses. If there aren’t any, ask the store if they have security cameras.

If the incident is a hit-and-run—or if the at-fault driver has no auto insurance or not enough insurance—you’ll have to rely on your own auto insurance to cover the damage. That’s assuming you purchased optional collision coverage on your own vehicle.

Also, uninsured motorist property damage coverage that is available in some states protects your car if it’s struck by a hit-and-run driver. (A deductible may apply.)

Just keep in mind that you’ll likely need uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This insurance coverage is optional in some states and mandatory in others. It covers you and your passengers’ damages if you’re injured by a hit-and-run driver, an uninsured driver or a driver who doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Whether it’s a simple fender-bender or something more serious, remember – your local ERIE agent is there to help answer questions and provide advice.

WHAT HAPPENS IF TWO CARS HIT EACH OTHER AT THE SAME TIME?

There is usually an at-fault driver when there’s a parking lot accident. But there are some cases where an accident is two drivers’ fault—for instance, two people may back out at the same time and hit each other. What typically happens in these cases is that each driver files a claim with their own insurance company.

HOW TO PREVENT PARKING LOT ACCIDENTS

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep you, your car and others safe. Get our list of tips for how to avoid a parking lot accident.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. But when you’re with ERIE, you have your own personal insurance advisor – your local ERIE agent – when they do. Learn more about auto insurance or find a local ERIE agent in your area.

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Fact or Fiction? Debunking Deer Collisions

Debunking Deer Collisions – Fact or Fiction

Watching deer in their natural habitat can be an enjoyable, peaceful experience. But encountering one on a roadway? That’s a different story.

If it’s happened to you… you’re not alone. More than 1.5 million drivers are involved in deer collisions each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, causing nearly $1 billion in vehicle damage. (Learn how auto insurance can help you if you hit a deer.)

We’ve already shared tips on how toavoid hitting a deer if one jumps in front of your car. But what about those common bits of folklore that everyone seems to have heard about deer collisions? Is there any truth to those?

Below are six common myths you may have heard… along with some facts to back them up.

  • Myth: Deer are more active at sunrise and sunset.Status: True. While deer can—and do—cross the road at all hours of the day, dusk and dawn are their peak hours of activity. Deer are “crepuscular” animals. That’s a fancy way of saying they move the most during twilight. So if you’re driving as the sun is rising or coming home from work at dusk… be especially careful.
  • Myth: You’re more likely to hit a deer in the fall. Status: True. Nearly half of all deer/vehicle collisions happen between October and December. Not coincidentally, deer mating season and peak hunting days also fall between these months. As deer are running from hunters or looking for a mate… odds are they’ll cross a road somewhere in between.Related:Top 4 Fall Driving Hazards (And How to Handle Them)
  • Myth: Deer whistles can prevent collisions.Status: False. Deer whistles attach to your vehicle and are said to emit a frequency that alerts deer of your presence and send them running away. Despite anecdotal evidence – we all probably know someone who swears by their deer whistle! – no credible study has proven them to be effective. One research study at the University of Georgia found that no matter how loud or high-pitched the whistle, the sound isn’t enough to alter the deer’s behavior. Tried-and-tested technology like crash avoidance features might give you more (or… less?) bang for your buck.
  • Myth: Hitting a deer isn’t that dangerous.Status: False.  Nobody wants to face the repair costs of a deer collision. But in many instances, these crashes cause more than just inconvenience. In 2016, the IIHS recorded 189 deaths from collisions with animals. It’s important to note that the most serious injuries occur when a vehicle leaves the roadway—so know when to swerve, and when to stay in your lane.Related:When is a car considered totaled… and what happens when it is?
  • Myth: More deer are present at “deer crossing” signs.Status: True. If you encounter a deer crossing sign, it’s there for a reason.  Signs are installed in areas with high deer populations and a history of deer collisions. Additional factors that can lead to crashes, such as road conditions and visibility, also inform where deer crossing signs are placed. (And before anyone asks: The signs, of course, are for people to read… not the deer.)
  • Myth: If I hit a deer, I can take home the meat.Status: It depends. If you have a taste for venison, you may be tempted to make the best of an unfortunate situation by taking the unlucky animal home with you. But first, check with the authorities – it’s usually the body that regulates hunting in your state, such as the Game Commission or the Fish and Wildlife Division. (Here’s a helpful list, organized by state.) In some states you’re free to take the animal, but not before filing a police report or applying for a special permit or tag. In other states, it’s downright illegal.

Does my auto insurance cover hitting a deer?

Deer-vehicle collisions are covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance, which is an optional coverage you can choose to add on. (Learn more about understanding your auto policy.) An insurance professional like a local Erie Insurance agent can help you customize an auto insurance package that fits your needs and budget.

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Auto Deductible

How to Choose an Auto Deductible

Auto DeductibleThere are many choices you need to make when it comes to choosing the right auto insurance. When it comes to customizing your policy, one of the biggest decisions is what deductible amount you will choose.

WHAT IS A DEDUCTIBLE IN AUTO INSURANCE?

Your deductible is the amount of money you will have to pay toward fixing or repairing your car before your insurance kicks in. Deductibles typically only apply to collision and comprehensive coverage. (There may be other cases where you could have a deductible – for example, uninsured motorist property damage – so ask your agent about all coverages with deductibles.)

Here’s an example scenario: Let’s say you’re involved in an accident and the repair estimate from the auto repair shop is $2,000. If you have a $500 deductible, you will be responsible for paying $500 and then your insurance will take care of the remaining $1,500.

Most people choose a deductible between $100 and $1,000, although they could possibly be as low as $0 or as high as $10,000, depending on the coverage and applicable state laws. Your agent can help  explain your options so you can pick an amount that’s comfortable for you.

DOES ERIE INSURANCE OFFER A DIMINISHING DEDUCTIBLE?

Yep, we have that! Read more about how the Erie Auto Plus* endorsement can help with a diminishing deductible (and a lot more) for about $30 more per year.

DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO PAY MY DEDUCTIBLE AFTER AN ACCIDENT?

If you’re deemed at fault for an accident, you typically pay the deductible under your own policy. If another person damages your vehicle and they are deemed at fault, their insurance would typically pay for your damage in its entirety. In that case, you wouldn’t be responsible for paying the deductible under your own policy.

HOW DOES YOUR DEDUCTIBLE AFFECT YOUR PREMIUM?

Generally, the higher your deductible, the lower your insurance premium (which is just a fancy word for price). The lower your deductible, the more you will typically pay for your insurance premium.

Related: What Determines the Price of My Auto Insurance?

Not sure what to pick? No worries – your ERIE agent is here to help.

Your agent can offer you multiple quotes with different deductibles. They can also explain how changing your deductible can affect your annual premium – or show you the cost savings between different options over multiple years. Ultimately, they want you to fully understand your options and feel confident about your decision.

Let’s take a look at the basics.

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE

It’s all about your budget – and your comfort level with risk. Here are some things to consider about deductibles when you talk with your agent:

  1. Your budget: Ask yourself: What’s the amount of money I would be comfortable paying if I need to repair my vehicle? The lower your deductible, the less you will have to pay out of pocket if you have to file a claim, but your overall car insurance premium will be higher.It works the opposite way, as well.  If you have a high deductible, you will have a lower car insurance premium – but you’ll pay more out of pocket if you file a claim. This decision comes down to personal preference and what you can afford within your current budget.
  2. Drive time: Think about the amount of time you spend driving on a daily or weekly basis. If you’re in your car a lot – or driving in more accident-prone areas – you might be exposed to more risk than someone who drives less.
  3. Value of your vehicle: The more expensive the vehicle, the more it costs to insure. In that scenario, a high deductible could help you save on your premium. However, if you have a car loan, some lenders stipulate that your deductible should not exceed a certain amount. Check with your lender to be sure.

See also: Find Out the One Insurance Add-On Every New Car Needs

One final tip: Whatever deductible you choose, it’s smart to have that amount of cash on hand in your emergency fund. That way you’re financially prepared if you end up having to file a claim.

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Lending My Car

Am I Covered When I Lend My Car to Friends or Family?

If you own a car, chances are you’ve let a friend or family member borrow it at least once.

After all, there are plenty of reasons to hand over the keys. Maybe you needed a relative to pick up your kids from school. Or you’re helping someone get to work after their car broke down.

But did you know that in the event of an accident… it’s your auto insurance policy that typically would have to pay?

“By far, the number one misconception about loaning out your vehicle is that if you let your neighbor borrow your car, an accident should go on his insurance because he was the one driving,” said Dave Freeman, vice president and regional underwriting officer at Erie Insurance. “But in private passenger auto insurance, the coverage typically follows the vehicle, not the driver.”

Let’s break it down.

DOES MY CAR INSURANCE COVER OTHER DRIVERS?

If you’re an ERIE customer, insured drivers include:

  • Resident relatives: Most ERIE personal auto policies provide coverage to the named insured, their spouse or domestic partner and any other resident relatives. So if someone is a member of your family and lives in your home, they’re automatically an insured under your policy unless excluded.
  • Domestic partners: If someone lives with you but isn’t a relative, they are not named insureds under your policy. However, if you’re living with a domestic partner, they can be added to your policy as a named insured but only if your relationship is the long-term, committed type – you share domestic responsibilities and have joint financial obligations. All you have to do is call your agent and let them know. They’ll send out a short driver questionnaire and check your partner’s driving record to determine eligibility.Related: What Insurance Do You Need When You Move in Together?
  • Someone with permissive use: If you loaned out your car to a friend or neighbor, your ERIE policy generally will cover them – as long as you gave your permission. If they are a regular and repeated user of the car, they should also have coverage. The only exception is if a driver has been specifically excluded on your policy.

Finally: If someone else is regularly driving your car, it’s important to let your agent know.

Chances are, anyone you let borrow your car will fall into one of these three categories. But just because someone is covered doesn’t mean loaning your car is risk-free.

LOANING YOUR CAR: CONSIDER THE PROS AND CONS

Here’s the good news: If the driver falls into one of the three categories above, and the loss is covered under the terms of your policy, your insurance can help pay for the damage – even if you weren’t the one driving.

But here’s the tricky part: Depending on the situation – and the specifics of your policy – you might get stuck paying a surcharge on your auto insurance premium for an at-fault accident, even if you weren’t the one driving at the time. (Every policy is different, so ask your ERIE agent if this applies to you.)

Related: What Determines the Price of My Auto Insurance?

According to Freeman, most people don’t think about these ‘what if’ scenarios before lending their car.

“When you loan someone your car, you’re putting your name out there as a responsible party,” he explains. “You’ll be protected within the limits of your auto policy, but there’s always a chance of something happening that exceeds them.”

For instance, if your neighbor runs a stop sign and causes significant injuries and property damage, you could be responsible for paying any amounts owed above the limits on your policy. That means you could be sued for your neighbor’s negligent actions because they were using your vehicle. Liability in these situations varies by state, so check with your ERIE agent if you have specific questions.

And then, there’s the question of what actually constitutes “permissive use.” For example, maybe your daughter goes off to college and lets her friend borrow a car that’s in your name – but you, as the named insured, didn’t give permission. Is her accident covered? The answer could vary based on case law in each state.

Related: Whose Insurance Pays When My Friend Crashes My Car?

If you do have to file a claim, rest easy. Your ERIE agent can help you understand the ins and outs of your policy, and our award-winning claims service gives you prompt and personal attention to get back to normal.

“At ERIE we look for a reason to pay a claim, not a reason to turn one down,” said Freeman. “We want to find a way to pay your claim if the coverage is available. After all, that’s why you bought a policy.”

So here’s the moral of the story: Always make sure you understand your liability before loaning out a vehicle.

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