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Experiencing a car accident is stressful enough on its own. Add to that the possibility of medical bills, car repair bills, and the cost of renting a vehicle while yours is in the shop, and you’ll definitely feel overwhelmed. However, with rental car assistance or reimbursement, you may not have to worry too much about the latter. Here are 5 things you need to know about getting a rental car after an accident. 

It’s Not a Guarantee

Your ability to get a rental vehicle while yours undergoes repairs depends on a few different factors. First, do you even have this add-on in your policy? The add on that allows you to get coverage for a rental vehicle after an accident is called rental reimbursement coverage, and as an optional coverage, it is not automatically included in your auto insurance. However just because it’s optional does not mean you should go without it. 

Second, who was at fault for the accident? If it was deemed to be you, see the paragraph above. If you are not at fault, you will be dealing with the other driver’s insurance provider to handle the claim. The other driver’s insurance provider should give you a rental car that is comparable to the one that was damaged in the accident. 

The Loss Must Be a Covered Loss 

Rental reimbursement coverage cannot be used if your vehicle is in the shop for routine maintenance or any cosmetic work such as paint or other voluntary modifications. Even if it is in the shop for a few days, you cannot apply for rental reimbursement coverage in this instance. You also cannot utilize the coverage if you are taking a trip and renting a vehicle – unless you are renting a vehicle because your own is being repaired after an accident. As long as the loss is being covered by your auto insurance, you are free to use your rental reimbursement coverage. 

It’s Not as Expensive as You Think 

Car rental company Enterprise reported that the average American drives 3-4 different places per day, and the average length of time for a vehicle repair is two weeks. Renting a vehicle can cost upwards of $300 a week, depending on the size. However, a year of rental reimbursement coverage usually costs less than a single day of a rental car payment. Although there are limits, in the long run the benefits truly outweigh the costs.

It can be a glorious feeling to ride with the wind in your face and the sun on your back, but the fun can turn deadly in an instant if riders do not take the proper precautions. Motorcycle riders are overrepresented in traffic accident fatalities. Take the right precautions every time you ride your bike in order to protect yourself, your passengers, and your fellow drivers. Since May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we put together some guidelines to help riders stay safe every time you start up your engines.

Check Your Bike Before Every Ride

Before you get on the road, it is important to check that every aspect of your bike is safe and operational. This is especially vital for those who only use their motorcycle occasionally, but full time riders would do well to follow a strict safety routine as well. Always be sure to check for gas or oil leaks, test headlights and turn signals, brakes and fluid levels, and examine tires before you ride off. If you have a passenger, remind them to keep their feet on the foot rests at all times and to keep a tight hold on your hips, waist, or belt.

Protect Your Body Properly

You must always – ALWAYS – wear a helmet when you ride your motorcycle. There are no exceptions to this rule! NHTSA recommends wearing a helmet that meets DOT, Snell, or ANSI standards – these have been tested and certified to ensure maximum protection. There should be a label indicating certification on either the exterior or interior of the helmet. It is most important to protect your head, but the rest of your body needs protection as well. Cover your arms and legs with a tough material such as leather or heavy denim, and wear the right gloves and boots.

Don’t Take Risks on the Road

Many crashes involving motorcycles happen because a vehicle driver simply did not see the bike on the road. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times, leave ample room between your bike and other vehicles, and remain on the defensive when there are other drivers around you. Always obey traffic laws. Just because your bike is small and can move differently than a standard passenger vehicle, it does not mean you have an excuse to do whatever you please on the road. Following speed limits and traffic laws helps keep not only you, but also your fellow citizens safe.

Don’t Drink and Ride

It is never safe to use alcohol or drugs before driving a motorcycle. Just like driving a car, boat, or other craft, driving a motorcycle while impaired will seriously impact your ability to operate the bike, make decisions, and react to dangers. According to a 2017 study by NHTSA, 28% of motorcycle drivers who were involved in fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol. Do not ride your bike if you know you’re going to be drinking. It is never worth it to risk your life.

Having the right insurance also protects you as a motorcycle driver. Speak to your agent about motorcycle coverage and stay safe every time you ride.

April is distracted driving awareness month in the insurance world, and we at the Carnal Roberts Agency wanted to bring a different side of this topic to light on our blog this month. If you know the dangers of distracted driving, you avoid it. However as many of us know, you can’t control the actions of other people on the road. Here are a few useful tips for spotting – and avoiding – distracted drivers around you.

If You See a Driver Holding a Device, Get Away

Although in many states it is illegal to use handheld devices while driving, people will still do it anyway and make no effort to hide it. These people may have a phone held in front of their face, or they could be looking down. In either case it isn’t difficult to spot this distracted driver. If you see someone engaging in this kind of behavior in a car near you, the best thing to do is safely figure out how to get away. This could mean slowing down, changing lanes, or any other maneuver you feel you can safely perform. Do not let the distracted driver distract you, but do remove yourself from their path.

Watch for Swerving, Pausing, and Sudden Braking

You’re driving along and the car in front of you begins to waver back and forth across the lines. It could be accidental, but it is likely a sign of a distracted driver. It’s incredibly important to always leave plenty of space between your car and other cars, since the situation can turn dangerous in an instant if a car you’re too close to has a mishap. Similarly, be on the lookout for any car that lags behind after the light turns green. This is typically a sign that the driver’s eyes are not on the road, and this is a car you will want to avoid. Another common sign is if a car brakes suddenly to avoid hitting the car in front of them. This means they weren’t looking and did not notice the other cars slowing down. It can be difficult to avoid being rear ended by one of these distracted drivers, but always be on the lookout.

Practice and Encourage Distracted Driving Awareness

According to the CDC, nine people every day are killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving. Talk to your friends and family members (not just your children because adults drive distracted, too) about the dangers of distracted driving and how anyone can spot and avoid it on the road. Set an example for others by modeling safe driving practices yourself. You never know what can happen in a single instant. 

Spring break is known as a time for fun and relaxation. It’s a chance to get away from school (and work!) for a little while and spend time with the family. However the risks involved in taking a spring break trip cannot be ignored. This doesn’t mean you should spend the entire break keeping the family holed up at home, but it does mean you should pay attention to the following safety tips while on your trip.

Be Careful On the Road

Traffic sees a large increase during the spring break season. Be sure to drive the speed limit, make sure everyone is properly buckled in, and avoid distracted driving. Have the person in the passenger seat play the role of navigator so the driver is not constantly glancing at a phone or GPS. Local law enforcement will probably be increasing their rounds during this time, so it is especially important to obey traffic laws to stay safe and avoid violations – especially since this can raise your car insurance rates! For long trips in the car, you might want to consider adding roadside assistance coverage in case you experience any issues far from home.

Protect Your Valuables

While it’s true that renters and homeowners insurance policies can cover your valuables even if you bring them out of town with you, you still want to do everything you can to avoid filing a claim. Never leave them in plain sight in your car or hotel room. In fact, it’s a good idea to make use of the hotel safe, if available. Additionally, try not to bring high value items like jewelry, watches, and laptops or tablets. If you have to bring your valuables with you, be sure to check your limits of liability with your insurance agent before the trip to ensure you have all the coverage you need for the items you plan to take.

Refrain from Posting About the Trip on Social Media Until It’s Over

Many of our online “friends” might actually be more like casual acquaintances. You never know who could see your social media posts about being gone for spring break; anyone with bad intentions and your personal information could choose to take advantage of the situation. There have been numerous reports of homes being broken into after someone saw on social media that a family was away on vacation. Of course you want to share the amazing photos you’re taking and post updates on the fun times you’re enjoying, but it is safest to leave the posting for after you arrive back home.

Spring break is a wonderful time to get away from the everyday stresses of life. By following just a few simple safety precautions, you can keep your vacation from turning into a nightmare. Contact your agent at Carnal Roberts Agency to review the coverage that can protect you from the risks of traveling over spring break.

For some, it’s an easy question. You need commercial auto coverage when your business owns company vehicles – whether it’s one or an entire fleet. However this is not the only instance in which a commercial auto policy is recommended. If you often use your personal vehicle for work purposes, besides commuting, you just might need a commercial auto policy, too.

You Do Not Always Need a Commercial Auto Policy

As we previously stated, simply driving your own car back and forth to work is not a situation where you need to consider commercial auto insurance. Neither is giving rides to coworkers or taking your car out on a coffee run for the office.

What Kind of Use Might Necessitate Commercial Auto Coverage?

However, if you use your personal vehicle to transport tools or equipment to a job site, you should be considering a commercial policy. This is especially true if the tools and equipment are expensive and their damage or theft would put your company at risk. Another instance in which you might consider commercial auto coverage is if you use your own car to travel long distances for work, or to transport clients. Even a teenager who delivers food with his own car poses a liability to his company.

It Is Different for Rideshare Drivers

There is a slight exception in the case of rideshare drivers working for companies such as Uber or Lyft. Most commercial auto policies do not offer the coverage rideshare drivers require for their unique needs, although some insurers have started offering rideshare insurance.

It All Depends on Frequency

If you only occasionally use your own vehicle for work purposes, it is likely you will only need personal auto insurance. On the other hand, if your use of your own car for business needs is frequent and ongoing, you should talk to your agent about your options.

Commercial Auto Policy or Modified Personal Auto Policy?

Your insurance agent is equipped to advise you on whether you truly need a commercial auto policy for your own vehicle. Commercial auto coverage can be expensive, but it may be possible to modify your personal auto policy to take occasional business use into account. Otherwise, your Carnal Roberts independent agent can shop the market to find you the best quotes for commercial auto insurance.

Whether it’s a flat tire or a run-in with a winter storm, a vehicle emergency can really catch you off guard. The first step you should take in creating a road emergency plan is to give your insurance agent a call. Many insurance carriers offer roadside assistance services as a policy add-on, if it is not already part of your auto coverage. Often, available roadside assistance services will include towing, battery jump-start, flat tire change, fuel delivery, lockout service, and winching service. Your agent will be able to tell you if you can benefit from your auto insurance carrier’s roadside assistance coverage or assist you with adding it to your policy.

There is no such thing as being too safe, and you should still consider creating a car emergency kit in case your roadside assistance is delayed or unavailable for some reason. Here are some items you may want to include in your own kit.

Tools to Fix Your Vehicle

Say you get a flat tire. Perhaps your cell phone has died and you don’t have a car charger or you’re in an area with no cell service. In this case, you will not be able to contact roadside assistance, and it’ll be up to you to get out of the emergency situation. You can be prepared for this possibility by having a car emergency kit that includes items such as a properly inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench. It’s always a good idea to include jumper cables in your kit as well, and don’t forget a reflective vest and reflective triangles that will make you visible to passing cars as you walk around your vehicle making repairs.

Supplies to Prepare For Anything

Speaking of dying cell phones, your emergency kit should definitely include a car cell phone charger or even a portable charger. The latter, also called a power bank, is a device you “power up” at home and can use anywhere to charge your cell phone. These power banks can hold charge for several months if fully charged once and kept at room temperature. This may be an issue if you park your vehicle outdoors, but you can rectify the problem by regularly recharging your power bank and placing it back in your vehicle for storage. Consider also including a basic first aid kit, flashlight with replacement batteries, water bottles, and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as protein bars and nuts.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Even if your cell phone dies, a passerby may pull over and have a phone you can use. If this happens, you’ll want to be able to access phone numbers for your roadside assistance service, insurance agent, or an emergency contact. Have these numbers typed or written on paper that you can keep in your glove box instead of keeping them only on your cell phone.

Cold Weather Specific Items

If you live in an area with lots of cold weather, it’s a good idea to take this into account when putting together your emergency kit. A shovel and ice scraper are useful tools to have, cat litter helps provide tire traction, and you’ll likely need warm clothing and blankets if you are stuck for a period of time.

What Else Can You Do?

Practicing responsible car care is the best way to ensure your vehicle won’t get into any emergency situations. Unexpected situations do arise, but some emergencies can be prevented. Keep up with your vehicle’s maintenance and always keep a full gas tank. And remember – be sure to check with your Carnal Roberts agent first and foremost to find out about securing roadside assistance through your auto insurance carrier.

First, Remain Calm

If you believe your car has been stolen, your immediate response is likely to completely freak out. This is understandable, but there is a chance you could be mistaken. It is possible that your car was towed or even that your teenager took it without asking. Make a few calls to local towing companies to see if your car is with them. If you determine that your car was, in fact, stolen, you must still remain calm so you can follow the correct procedures.

Call the Police

This is your first step once you know your vehicle was taken. To report your car as stolen, you will need to provide facts that the police can use to identify your car. This information includes a detailed description of the vehicle including make, model and year, color, and any unique features such as bumper stickers or dents. You will also want to have your license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN) on hand to provide to police. If you don’t know these off the top of your head, consider keeping a note of them in your wallet or cell phone. It’s especially important to contact police right off the bat, since many carriers will not honor a claim unless a police report is filed first.

Contact Your Insurance Agent

After filing a report with the police, it is time to file a claim with your insurance. Only a comprehensive auto insurance policy offers coverage in the case of theft, but even if you do not have this policy it is a good idea to notify your Carnal Roberts insurance agent about the incident. By notifying insurance, you may still be able protect yourself against any damage that occurs to persons or property while the vehicle is in possession of the thief or thieves. You will want to have at hand the same vehicle information you provided to the police, as well as items such as the title, a list of the location of all keys to the vehicle, a list of any personal property that was in the vehicle, the police report number, and contact information for your finance or leasing company. You provide the information, and your agent will take care of the rest.

Final Steps

After taking the initial steps to report the theft to police and involve your insurance agent, you will want to tie up any loose ends by notifying other parties that have an interest in your vehicle. Your agent will likely take care of this, but you can also place a call to your finance or leasing company. Report the theft to the DMV as well.

You should continue working with your insurance agent to see about rental vehicle coverage, but the only thing to do once all these steps have been completed is to wait. Your car may be recovered, but unfortunately there is a chance it may not be. Your agent will be there by your side throughout the process, whatever happens.