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Understanding Your Auto Coverage

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

You know if you have a car, you need auto insurance. However, you’re probably not thinking about what kind of coverage you have until you need it. From protecting your car, to protecting your passengers and any prized possessions along for the ride, it’s good to know your policy has you covered for life’s little mishaps.

Say your daughter forgets your car is parked right behind her in the driveway or a deer doesn’t wait his turn to cross the street, we’ll make sure you’re back on the road as soon as possible. In the moments after an accident, so many things are happening that you may feel overwhelmed. Thinking about what you auto policy covers shouldn’t be one of them.

Common Coverages
Depending on your state’s requirements for auto insurance and what limits and options you pick, your auto policy can include up to six common coverages.

You Cause an Accident and Someone Gets Hurt: If you cause an accident and other people are injured due to your negligence, bodily injury liability coverage is what protects you against their claims for damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. (Talk to us to learn more and to determine what limits are best for your situation.)

You Need Medical Treatment: If you or others covered on your policy are injured in an accident while occupying your vehicle, there’s a coverage that reimburses for medical treatment. It’s called medical payments coverage or personal injury protection.

Not Enough to Go Around: Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (optional in some states) is for your protection. If you are injured by a hit-and-run driver or a driver who does not have auto liability insurance, you’re covered by uninsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage pays when the other person doesn’t have enough coverage to cover the entire cost of your injury claim.

Financial Security Blanket: Comprehensive (or “Comp” for short) insurance provides financial protection for your car from loss to due to fire, theft or damage not caused by a collision (for example, hitting that deer we mentioned earlier).

Crash Helmet: Collision coverage is used when your car collides with another car or object, or flips over. So if you have a newer vehicle, are on a lease or still owe on your car loan, you would definitely want comp and collision.

To take a look at your current coverage, contact Melendez Insurance.

How Do I Know Which Deductible to Choose?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Two hands holding a white paper fortune tellerYou choose a deductible—which is the amount of money you pay before insurance kicks in—for both your auto and your home policies. Your deductible can be as little as $0 and as high as $10,000 (with lots of options in between).

If you choose a lower deductible, you can generally expect to pay more in premium. Some people prefer to keep a high deductible and pay less in premium, while others prefer lower deductibles and higher premiums.  It often comes down to your personal preferences and financial situation.

A better way to choose your deductible

Good news: you have an insurance agent who can help you select a deductible that best fits your needs. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you talk with us about deductibles.

  • Make sure you have enough money to cover your deductible. Whether your deductible is $50 or several thousand dollars, it’s important to have enough cash on hand to cover it. You’ll want to have enough money to cover the combined cost of your home and your auto deductibles. That’s because if something like a fire damaged or destroyed your home and your car, you may need enough cash to pay both deductibles.
  • Check with any lenders to see if you must meet a minimum deductible. If you have a car loan or a mortgage, your lender may say that your deductible can’t go above a set dollar amount.
  • Think about what you’d be willing to pay out of pocket. When you file a claim, it’s possible that it may cause your premium to increase. For this reason, some people opt to pay lower-dollar claims out of pocket. Think about if—and how much—you’d be willing to pay to avoid a possible rate increase, then use that information to help choose your deductible.
  • Consider different deductibles for different risks. More good news: some carriers give you the option of choosing different homeowners deductibles for wind or hail, fire or lightning, theft or vandalism, water, and named storm.  This option is known as by-peril deductibles, and it gives you more control over your deductible. For instance, if you feel the risk of water damage in your area is low, you may opt for a higher water deductible that will let you save on your premium. On the flip side, if you live in an area at risk for hurricanes, you may choose a lower deductible for named storm.
  • Check in with us every year. Your deductible is not set in stone, and you can raise or lower it as your life changes. Your insurance agent can give you solid advice and make the change for you.

What Road Salt Does to Your Car

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

roadsaltdoestocarThe Chicago Winter is here. And with it comes difficult driving conditions like whiteouts and black ice.

Road salt definitely helps makes the roads safer. A study conducted by Marquette University found that de-icing winter roads with salt reduces accidents by 88 percent and injuries by 85 percent. Each year, state and local agencies spend more than $2.3 billion on snow and ice control operations.

Yet there are some definite downsides to road salt when it comes to your car. Read on to learn exactly how road salt works—and what road salt does to your car.

How road salt works

Salt—a.k.a. sodium chloride in scientific terms—lowers the melting point of water. So while water normally freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water needs colder temperatures in order to freeze when it’s exposed to salt. The more salt you add, the lower the temperature needed to freeze water is.

The water that results after salt is applied to ice is known as “brine.” This water needs a temperature lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit in order to freeze. If there’s a lot of snow and ice on a road, the brine will seep into the bottom layers, breaking the bond between the ice and the road. The remaining snow and ice will then float along the top of the brine, making it easy for any passing traffic to break it up for good.

What road salt does to your car         

While road salt is doing good things for road safety, it’s doing something very different when it comes into contact with your car.

Salt creates chemical reactions that can corrode your car. This is especially true if you have any exposed metal on your car.

Two car parts that are especially susceptible to corrosion and rust are the brake and fuel lines. That’s because they’re close to the undercarriage of the car, which takes the brunt of the road salt damage.

So what’s a motorist to do? Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true ways to help protect your car from road salt damage.

  • Take measures in the fall. Give your car a good wash and wax. For the best protection, apply a wax sealant over your wax.
  • Have any scrapes, chips or rust spots repaired before the first snow falls.
  • Refrain from driving behind trucks spreading ice or brine.
  • Get regular car washes. Spray your car down at least once a week if you live in a snowy area. Invest in a wash that cleans the undercarriage of the car at least every few weeks or after a heavy bout of snow and/or ice hits your area.
  • Give an older car some extra TLC.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that cars are especially susceptible to corrosion after being exposed to road salt for eight years or more.
  • When spring arrives, consider a thorough exterior detailing job.

One way you can protect your car in any season is with the right auto insurance. Talk to an insurance professional at Melendez Insurance to learn more about getting the right coverage at the right price.

8 Things Your Car Needs in Winter

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

173670653_coolant-e1418849405887Hello, it’s me—the faithful friend who ferries you all over town. What your car needs in winter is also what you need. When I can do my job well, your driving experience will be easier, safer and more pleasant.

Here is what your humble car needs in winter:

1. A maintenance plan review. Your owner’s manual will list what kinds of maintenance you should schedule after a certain number of miles or years. I think you left your manual in the glove compartment. (If so, good luck finding it among all those takeout menus and tissue packets!)

2. A battery test. Winter takes a toll on batteries. And I don’t want us to get stuck somewhere—especially without what I talk about in tip number seven.

My recommendation? Have a pro check my battery with a quick test to see if it’s up to the task of winter driving. Good news: Many auto supply stores will do this for free.

3. A tire check. Worn tires aren’t safe for either of us, so take a look at the old rubbers. (And if you haven’t put on my snow tires yet, let’s get moving already!)

4. A coolant check. Coolant (a.k.a. antifreeze) keeps your radiator and engine working smoothly. An inexpensive tester from an auto shop can let you know if I have enough.

5. Some air in my tires. Everything good with the tires? Then check out my air pressure. Cold air often causes tire pressure to drop—and that can make tires unsafe and reduce your fuel efficiency. (Bet you didn’t think I cared about your bottom line!)

6. A test of my wipers. There’s nothing worse than windshield wipers that leave behind blurry streaks. If that’s the case, it’s time to invest in new wipers. Now is also a good time to top off the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter washer fluid that won’t freeze.

7. An emergency kit. I hope we never have to use it, but you never know. That’s why it’s critical to have a fully stocked emergency kit.

8. A spiff up. Salty roads are tough on me, so spray me down once in a while. I also wouldn’t mind a little vacuum. Food crumbs and pet hair are not becoming on me.

Thanks a million for thinking about what your car needs in winter. I always knew we made a good team.

Too Little Liability Insurance Creates a Big Risk

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

PCL-Web-art_1I’m a safe driver. I don’t do risky things. Someone I know would never sue me.

Sound like something you’d say? When it comes to truly terrible events, many people have an “It can’t happen to me” mentality. This belief is not only false—it’s also dangerous.

“Believe me when I say a catastrophic event can happen to anyone,” says Scott Brown, a supervisor in the Erie Insurance Claims Department with 38 years of experience. “Most of the serious cases we see involve simple negligence, not recklessness.”

A few examples

Many of the catastrophic cases Scott has seen over the years involve cars. Surprisingly, most do not involve alcohol or drugs.

“Everybody believes they are superior drivers, but we all make mistakes on the road,” says Scott. “Anything from a momentary distraction to poor weather can contribute to an accident.”

Accidents can have major repercussions if you injure someone else. The same applies if you hit an expensive vehicle like a brand-new luxury car or a commercial truck.

Serious accidents also happen at home due to simple negligence. Some of the most common cases Scott has seen include pool drownings, burns and falls.

Considering the consequences

Beyond the emotional toll serious accidents have on you, there’s also a serious financial impact.

If you injure someone or damage their property, a court could very well hold you liable for the costs a victim incurred. Those costs can soar into the millions quickly, especially if a person needs extensive medical treatment or long-term physical therapy.

“The general rise in healthcare costs, along with the fact that our society is growing more litigious, is contributing to a rise in medical claim costs,” he says.

An accident that causes a serious injury to someone else could easily exceed an average person’s auto liability insurance limits. If your limits are exhausted, personal assets like your wages and savings could be at risk. In some states, even your retirement savings and home could be up for grabs.

How to protect yourself

Basic liability insurance limits on your auto and home are typically $100,000 or $300.000. That’s enough for many situations, but not all. In fact, it won’t even cover the average jury award for vehicular negligence verdicts. (That currently stands at $531,858—and half of all awards are higher than that.)

In those cases, a Personal Catastrophe Liability (PCL) policy could be a lifesaver. A PCL policy, also commonly known as an umbrella policy, provides an extra layer of liability protection over and above both your auto and homeowners policies. It covers you (or a covered family member) if you’re sued because of an accident.

Beyond protecting hard-earned assets, PCL also helps ensure you do the right thing when the wrong thing happens. Unfortunate situations sometimes happen. By having the resources to help compensate someone for their injuries and inconvenience, you’ll have the means to help them.

Not just for millionaires

Many people mistakenly believe that only high‑net‑worth individuals need a PCL policy.

In reality, liability risks are everywhere, and they have the potential to financially derail people of modest means as well as multimillionaires. (Experts recommend you cover at least one to two times your exposed net worth.)

Insurance certainly can’t stop bad things from happening. But it can help ensure that an accident doesn’t leave you, your family and possibly even a victim high and dry. Melendez Insurance can tell you more about the protection and peace of mind the right liability insurance offers.