Doing Insurance Business Safely and Remotely

Right now, staying apart is staying safe. That includes when you buy insurance, file a claim, and repair vehicles or property.

Insurance is more necessary than ever. People value stability in uncertain times. Insurance delivers. You can do your insurance business in a low-contact, safe manner. You don’t have to sacrifice personal advice and service. Here’s how.

GET NO-TOUCH INSURANCE QUOTES

  • Get insurance quotes online. Most insurance agencies and companies offer online auto and home insurance quotes. Enter information about your vehicles and property and get quotes back. A good independent insurance agency can deliver several quotes at once. That helps you compare.
  • Get advice, not just quotes. It’s hard to know if you’re asking for the proper coverage online, or to compare the quotes you receive. That’s why most people prefer to consult an agent before they actually buy a policy. A tech-savvy insurance agent should be available by text, video or real-time chat as well as phone and email.

BUY INSURANCE REMOTELY

  • Read and sign documents electronically with e-mail, text and e-signature. These tools allow you to read and sign applications from anywhere. All you need is a computer or mobile device.
  • Use contactless payment. Most insurers accept credit cards or electronic checks using your bank account info. No need to leave home and go to the insurance office.

AVOID INSURANCE PEOPLE COMING TO YOUR HOME

Many insurers allow customers to complete a self-inspection. That usually involves answering questions about your home’s systems and emailing pictures.

In case of a claim, avoid an insurance company appraiser’s visit. Email or upload photos of your damage to the insurance adjuster.

CONTACT-FREE INSURANCE SERVICE and PAYMENTS

  • Use mobile apps. Most insurers have them. Download and use them to request changes, check on billing, make payments and file claims.
  • Don’t want to use an app? You can do many of the same things over the phone, email, video or text chat with your agent.

GET VIRTUAL INSURANCE COVERAGE REVIEWS

Modern tools allow you to meet virtually with your Insurance agent. They can even share documents with you by video. You can get personal service and answers to your questions quickly and safely, without leaving home.

DOWNLOAD INSURANCE DOCUMENTS

You don’t have to go into the insurance office to get policy documents. Here are some other ways:

  • Your insurance company’s app. Get documents on your mobile device.
  • Register for an insurance company account. Set one up and download the documents to your computer.
  • Use your agency account. Tech-forward insurance agencies offer online access. These allow you to view your policy information and download insurance documents.
  • Ask your agent to email or text your document to you.

FILE CLAIMS FROM THE SCENE

  1. Report online. Use your insurer’s mobile app to start a claim. Or register for a free account with your insurance company, and file online.
  2. Call the insurance company directly to report your claim.
  3. Call your agent who can explain your coverage, answer questions and help you file a claim.

DON’T SACRIFICE PERSONAL SERVICE

One advantage of having a local agent is that we know you and live where you do. That’s more important than ever in this era of physical separation.

Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance is a forward-thinking agency. We’ve invested in tools and ideas to provide personal advice to you easily and safely. Do you prefer text, video, phone, or a combination of all? Any way, you can get a local agent’s trusted insurance advice without venturing to our office.

Are you looking for a Maine insurance agent who can serve you safely in uncertain times? Call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. Or visit noyeshallallen.com.

Stay safe!

Is Skunk Spray Covered by Insurance?

A Portland, Maine woman recently had an unwelcome guest. A skunk snuck into her home and sprayed 4 times inside before police could remove it. What a mess! The home and everything in it must be deodorized.

Does Home Insurance Cover Skunk Spray?

Will home insurance cover the cost to remove the smell? It depends on whether you bought “off the shelf” coverage or upgraded. It also depends whether your insurance company uses the latest edition of the coverage form (spoiler alert: in this case, the latest is NOT the best).

Skunk Spray Damage Coverage in Basic Homeowners Policies

The most common home insurance form is the ISO HO 00 03. Many Maine insurance companies use it. It’s tried and tested over decades. Insurance people call it “HO-3”.

Insurance Services Office (ISO) updates the form periodically. Each insurer decides which edition to use. In Maine, some insurers still use the 1991 version. Many use the 2000 edition. A few have adopted the 2011 edition.

Before the 2011 edition, “off the shelf” HO-3 policies covered skunk spray damage to buildings. Damage to contents was not covered by the basic policy.

The 2011 edition excludes “discharge or release of secretions by any animals”. Even building damage is no longer covered for skunk spray in the 2011 form.

Which Homeowners Policy Edition do You Have?

Your insurance policy should list coverage forms. The first two letters are the coverage type – “HO” for homeowners. The next four digits are the form number. Basic homeowners are 00 03. Condo policies are 00 06. Renters policies are 00 04. The final four digits are the month and year of the edition. For example, HO 00 03 05 11 is the 2011 edition of the basic homeowners policy.

Can You Buy Extra Insurance for Skunk Damage?

We recommend “open perils” coverage for contents. That covers skunk spray damage on the pre-2011 forms. Ask your agent if you’re eligible for that.

Unfortunately, we know of no way to add skunk spray coverage to the 2011 edition of the policy. The exclusion in the 2011 form denies coverage for skunk spray to both building or contents. You can’t buy it back. That stinks (sorry, we couldn’t help it).

What if a Skunk Sprayed My Vehicle?

You may have purchased “other than collision” coverage on your auto insurance policy. Some people call this “comprehensive” coverage. Most common auto insurance policies in Maine cover damage by animals. That includes skunk spray. So, if a skunk gets into your car and sprays, you probably have coverage. As long as you purchased “other than collision” coverage.

Action Items:

  • Check your property insurance policy’s coverage form and edition date
  • Ask your agent if you have “open perils” coverage. If not, get a quote to add it if you’re eligible.
  • If you’re on the 2011 homeowners form, ask your agent for a quote with a company that uses one of the older editions.

Do you live in the Portland Maine area? Have questions about home, condo, renters or auto insurance? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you. We offer a choice of many of Maine’s preferred insurance companies. One of them is likely a good fit for you.

What Happens When a Vehicle is Totaled in Maine?

When a crash or disaster seriously damages your vehicle, it’s stressful and confusing. If the damage is bad enough, an insurance company might declare your vehicle a total loss. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often to most of us. What does it really mean when your vehicle is totaled?

What Does it Mean When a Vehicle is Totaled?

A vehicle is a total loss when the cost to repair it exceeds a percentage of its value. The calculation method and ratio vary state to state. Some states use a flat percentage of the vehicle’s value as a threshold. Other states add the salvage or scrap value of the vehicle. That’s called the formula method. In general, it’s easier to total a vehicle using the formula method. That’s because the salvage value is added to the value of the vehicle before calculating the percentage.

Maine uses the formula method. Maine law considers a vehicle a total loss if the damage plus the scrap value exceeds 75% of the value.

For example:

Vehicle’s pre-loss Value Repair Cost Salvage Value Repair + SalvageTotaled?
$5280$3150$500$3650NO
$5280$3650$750$4400YES

My Car’s Worth More than the Repair Estimate. Why is it Totaled?

When an insurance company totals your car instead of paying the repair cost, they sell the salvage. The scrap value is considered part of the value of your vehicle. If it’s cheaper for the insurance company to pay you the value of your car and recover the salvage, they will. If it’s cheaper for them to repair your vehicle, they will do that.

In Maine, if the cost to repair plus the scrap value exceeds 75% of your vehicle’s value, the insurance company can total it.

Why 75%? Insurance companies know there’s often hidden damage after a serious loss. When the repair shop removes outer damaged parts, more damage is revealed. That increases the repair cost from their original estimate. So, insurance companies use 75% to provide a safety factor. That way, they’re not paying more to fix your vehicle than it’s worth.

Why Nicer Cars Are Easier to Total

High end cars cost more to fix. Their salvage value is also higher. So, the nicer your vehicle, the easier it is to reach the 75% threshold. A newer vehicle with a lot of cosmetic damage (e.g. hail) may have no mechanical issue and still be totaled. That’s because many expensive mechanical parts are still good, increasing the scrap value.

What Happens When My Vehicle is Totaled in Maine?

If your Maine vehicle is totaled, you essentially sell it to the insurance company. They pay you the pre-damage fair market value of the vehicle. You sign the title over to the insurance company. They keep the salvage value after selling it. Usually, it’s sold at auction.

Can You Keep Your Vehicle in Maine After It’s Totaled?

You can buy your unrepaired vehicle back from the insurance company for its salvage value. You still sell the vehicle to the insurance company by signing over the title. They pay you the pre-damage value of your vehicle, minus the salvage value. They sell you a Maine salvaged title for the salvage value.

Can I Drive a Vehicle With a Maine Salvaged Title?

No. Once there’s a salvage title, all of the work on the repair estimate MUST be done before you can drive the vehicle. You and the repair garage must complete and submit Form MVT-103 to Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

When the State of Maine approves your vehicle repairs, it issues a rebuilt title. A rebuilt titled vehicle is worth less than one with a regular title.

Many insurance companies will not offer comprehensive or collision coverage for a vehicle with a rebuilt title. That’s because it can be difficult to assess the fair value of the vehicle.

The Insurance Company Wants to Total My Vehicle. Do I Have to Accept That?

You have the right to get your own repair estimate and choose your own body shop. Can you find one that will repair your vehicle for less than the threshold? Your insurance company might agree and pay the repair cost. Remember: in Maine, the 75% threshold includes the scrap value of your vehicle.

Once an insurance company totals your vehicle, you have a salvage title. You must repair the vehicle to drive it.

What if the damage is mostly cosmetic, and the car drives fine? You have the option to withdraw your claim and avoid a salvage title.

An Example of Withdrawing a Claim

Assume that a hailstorm pounds your vehicle. Dozens of dents on the hood, roof and trunk; a broken windshield. But the vehicle drives fine, and the dents don’t bother you. You could withdraw your insurance claim and pay to repair your windshield “out of pocket”. Although your vehicle may not look great, you might be able to drive it for many more years.

What if you withdraw your claim and don’t repair the body damage? Your insurance company will probably remove comprehensive and collision coverage. That’s because they wouldn’t pay for future damage; they already consider it totaled. Makes sense.

If you switch insurance companies, it’s important to declare the prior damage to them. The new insurance company will likely exclude comprehensive and collision coverage, too.

Questions About Maine Auto Insurance?

Do you live in Southern Maine and have questions about your auto insurance? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you. We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred auto insurance companies.

Insurance Lessons I Learned When a Motorcycle Destroyed my Car

by Kayla Bachelder, Concierge Agent, Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance

A couple of years ago, my mother in law gave me her 2006 Toyota Camry. Barely 6 months later, the car met its demise. Totaled by a motorcycle. The man who hit me head-on was lucky enough to walk away with his life. His bike, and my Camry: both totaled.

Even though I work in insurance every day, I learned a lot about car insurance from my auto accident .

  • Think twice before dropping collision coverage
    As your vehicle gets older, it’s tempting to drop collision coverage to save money. I figured that if the Camry was ever totaled, I would probably just get another new vehicle instead of paying the deductible to “fix” it. 

    But keeping the collision on my older vehicle was one of my best decisions. Without collision coverage, I would have waited months for the motorcycle owner’s insurance to pay the claim. I submitted the collision claim to my insurance company. Two days later, I had the money for a new car in my bank account. This allowed me to immediately go out and shop for a car with a large down payment.

  • Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.
    The night of the accident I was filled with adrenaline. I was in hysterics. I did after all just collide with a man on a motorcycle. I couldn’t comprehend at that time that he had run into me. I thought I had run into him.

    I told the police, paramedics and firefighters that I was ok. I refused an ambulance. The next morning, I woke in severe pain. I could barely turn my head from side to side. I had to have physical therapy for weeks and was out of work for a few days due to a concussion.

    Get checked out after a motor vehicle accident. You never know what may be going on with your body!
     
  • Rental vehicle coverage is a lifesaver
    After the accident, I had no car. My husband still had to go to work. I still had to go about my regular life. Being without a car for even two days was life changing!

    Some insurance companies quote $20 a day rental coverage. Maybe they think the lower price increases the likelihood of a sale. Some even quote no rental coverage at all!  Be careful. If you drive an SUV or large truck you might only be able to afford to rent a sub-compact. That too, my friends, will be life changing.

  •  Be careful who you let drive your vehicles
    The man who hit me was not driving his own motorcycle. Yes, the accident will be on the driver’s Motor Vehicle Report. But the claim was paid out by his friend’s insurance company. You can imagine what a large accident involving injuries and two totaled vehicles did to his insurance rates.

  • We are lucky that Maine requires auto insurance
    Vehicle owners are required to show proof of insurance to register a vehicle. This means that almost all vehicles on the road are insured. Of course there are a few out there that sneak around without it.

    What would have happened if the driver didn’t have any insurance? My Maine auto insurance includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Yours does, too. This helps cover you when another driver doesn’t have insurance and causes an accident. We live very close to the New Hampshire border where they don’t need to carry insurance! Scary! If an uninsured driver hits you, your UM coverage will pay your medical expenses, lost wages, and more.  

What to Do After an Accident

Here are some things you can do to help yourself, your claim adjuster and your insurance agent. If you can’t do these, don’t worry about it. The most important thing is to stay safe and healthy.

  1. Take photos of the damage if you can. The night of my accident became a blur. I couldn’t take photos, but because the police were involved, they took many photos.
  2. Get as much information as possible at the scene. Ask for the other driver’s name, address, phone number and insurance information. If police respond, get the officer’s name and the police report number. These are all helpful for your insurance company. If you can’t get all this information, don’t stress about it. Your agent can still help.
  3. Calm down before driving away. Being in an accident, even a small fender bender can really shake up your nerves. If you need to park your car and get a ride from someone else, do it.
  4. It’s OK to get damage appraised before deciding whether to make a claim. Just don’t get it fixed first! One exception: immediately report an accident in which someone is injured. Do not delay.
  5. It is never too late to call in a claim. Did you hit a pothole that was much deeper than you thought? Did you notice the damage to the side panel a week later? That’s ok, you can still call it in. Your independent agent can help you decide whether you want to make a claim.

WARNING: did you buy your policy from a company agent (who works for only one insurer)? Or from an insurer’s web site or 800 number? When you call those companies, you’re speaking directly to the insurer. As soon as you mention an accident, they make a claim record on your policy. Even if you’re only looking for advice. Even if you decide not to make a claim, it’s on your record. That can increase the price you pay for insurance in the future – even if that insurer never pays a dime. That’s a good reason to work with an independent insurance agent.

Have Questions About Maine Auto Insurance?

Live in Southern Maine? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you. We write policies for multiple insurance companies but represent you. That means we can give you advice that’s best for you, not the insurance company. It also means that we offer a choice of Maine’s preferred insurance companies.

Looking for Maine auto insurance quotes, but not ready to talk to an agent just yet? You can compare Maine car insurance quotes from as many as 5 insurance companies in 10 minutes on our web site.

Should You Buy Car Insurance at the Dealer?

Some new car dealers offer insurance quotes as part of the car-buying process. It seems very convenient: one-stop shopping. Sign an extra document, make another down payment, and drive away with insurance!

Is it smart to buy insurance at the same time you’re buying a new car? You’re already making financial decisions: which vehicle to buy; whether or how to finance it; whether to purchase extended warranties and other options. Why not just add insurance at the same time?

When You Should Buy Insurance at the Car Dealer

You have no insurance now, and you’re driving the new one off the lot. You can’t drive off the lot without insurance. It takes time to buy insurance if you’re starting from scratch. If the dealer connects you with an agent you trust at a price you can afford, and they can insure you immediately, it makes sense.

When Not to Buy Insurance at the Car Dealer

Any other time. Here’s why: no one makes their best decisions in a hurry. And there’s really no rush.

  1. Your current insurance probably automatically covers your new vehicle. Better to get the price from your current insurer and get other prices if you want. You’re in control, and under no pressure.
  2. The car dealer’s agent will quote coverage that meet the dealer’s requirements. They want to protect the car loan. But what about your needs? Ask an agent you trust what coverage they recommend, and why. Ask follow up questions and decide at your convenience.
  3. Who will you call for insurance service or follow up questions? Is the car dealer’s insurer using a distant call center or online platform? Will you ever be able to talk to the same agent twice?

How to Compare Insurance Prices on Your New Vehicle

To find the best insurance value for your new vehicle, you have two choices:

  • Call or check various insurance companies online yourself; or
  • Contact an independent insurance agent. They represent many different insurance companies and can compare programs for you.

If you live in the Portland Maine area and recently purchased a vehicle, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland. We’re independent and committed to you. We offer a choice of 10 of Maine’s A-rated auto insurance companies. If you’re not ready to talk to an agent, get up to 5 insurance quotes online in 10 minutes on our website.

Auto Insurance Combined Single Limit vs. Split Limits

When buying car insurance, choosing proper coverage limits is very important. Uninsured motorist and liability insurance limits are the most important of all.

Understanding Insurance Policy Liability Limits

Auto insurance policies cover bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) liability in an at-fault accident. BI reimburses others for medical treatment, missed work, pain & suffering and related expenses. PD pays to fix or replace autos, structures and other property that you damage.

In Maine, uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) is important coverage. It protects YOU and people in your household or vehicle. What if you’re in a crash where someone else is at fault? They have little or no insurance. UM pays your medical bills, lost wages, pain & suffering and more. In Maine, UM limits match BI liability limits except in very rare cases.

Link to video explaining different types of Maine auto insurance liability limits - split limits vs. combined single limit.
This 4:00 video explains the different types of auto insurance liability limits.

Split Liability Limits

Split limit liability policies are easy to identify. They have separate limits for bodily injury and property damage. They also slice BI coverage into a limit per person and per incident.

If your policy limits are 100/300/100, you have a split limits policy.
In an at-fault crash, your policy will pay $100,000 max per person. It will pay $300,000 max for all injuries you cause. You have the same limits for injuries uninsured people cause to you. A 100/300/100 policy also pays $100,000 max to fix vehicles, buildings and other property you damage.

The Most Common Insurance Shopping Mistake

Many insurance shoppers think 100/300 UM limits give them $300,000 of protection. They actually have about 1/3 of that. Here’s why: most vehicles on the road have 1 person in them. If you crash into another vehicle injuring a single occupant, your policy pays only up to $100,000.

That sounds like a lot. It’s not. A few days in ICU with surgeries, CAT scans and other tests can easily cost more than $100,000. Accident victims often collect pain and suffering settlements, too. What happens if your insurance isn’t enough to pay for the injuries you’re responsible for? Your personal assets are at stake.

Remember that your UM limits are the same as your liability limits. If you’re hit by an uninsured driver an you have 100/300 limits, your medical bills may exceed your insurance.

Auto Property Damage Limits

Don’t forget that third number: 100/300/100 means you have $100,000 max of property damage coverage. That could include:

  • Vehicles (including commercial or public vehicles)
  • Buildings
  • Street signs, telephone poles and other roadside items

With the cost of vehicles, it’s easy to imagine causing more than than $100,000 damage in a multi-car accident. The cost of driving into the front of a building can easily top that.

Combined Single Limit to the Rescue

Combined single liability (CSL) is just what it sounds like. There are no sub-limits for bodily injury per person and per accident and property damage. Just a big, round number. If you buy a $300,000 combined single limit policy, you have a pool of $300,000 to pay for all the damages you cause.
It’s all available for property damage if no one’s injured. It can pay for one seriously injured person.

Even more important, $300,000 of UM coverage pays up to that amount of YOUR medical bills following a crash with an uninsured at-fault party.

Which is Cheaper: Combined Single Limit or Split Limits Auto Liability?

Most discount insurers sell split limit policies. Because they have “gotcha” sub-limits, the insurance company can charge lower premiums. They know that they are unlikely to pay the high “per accident” limit on the policy.

In the real world, most split limits policies have MUCH less coverage than a combined single limit policy. Very rarely, you see generous split limits like 500/500/250. A policy like that would be even better than a $300,000 CSL policy. Most split limits policies have MUCH lower limits. Unsuspecting buyers, lulled into complacency by the “per accident” limit, think they’re fine.

A Good Insurance Agent Can Help

If you’re shopping for Maine car insurance and confused by all the options, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland. We offer a choice of Maine’s top insurance companies. We can compare price and coverage to find the best value. Best of all, we provide personalized professional advice, at no extra charge! Call us at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

How to Reduce Car Insurance Costs for Maine Teen Drivers

Car insurance is expensive for teenagers in Maine and everywhere else. Parents worry about their kids’ driving. So do insurance companies. For good reason.

Statistics show that new drivers are the most likely to have an accident. Experience matters. Newly licensed teenagers often need more driving time to learn to anticipate and avoid hazards. Even after they gain experience, teens judge risk differently than adults.

Will my teenager be a good driver?

Some drivers are better than others. It’s hard to predict. Even responsible teens and honor roll students can be terrible drivers. We all know that being tentative on the road can be almost as dangerous as aggressive driving.

We know these factors increase the likelihood of crashes for all drivers:

  • distracted or tired driving; 
  • alcohol or drug use; 
  • late night driving; 
  • traveling in unfamiliar areas; 
  • quick stops and starts. 

How much will it cost to insure my teen driver?

Modern auto insurance pricing is sophisticated and secretive. You and your neighbor may be the same age. You may drive identical vehicles. Have similar commutes and accident records. You could still pay very different prices for car insurance. How much insurance you buy obviously affects the price you pay.

So do;

  • credit scores;
  • how long you’ve been a customer of that insurance company;
  • how long you’ve lived in your home;
  • whether you bundle your home and auto insurance.

Rate complexity makes it almost impossible to predict exactly how much your new driver will add to your insurance costs. Years ago, agents could easily do “what if” quotes. No longer. Today, they need detailed information about each driver and vehicle. Your agent may be able to estimate the cost close to the time you’re adding a new driver.

How can I tell if my teenager is driving safely?

A generation ago, parents relied on neighbors and friends to report if their teen drove recklessly around town. Now, mobile apps can track where, when and how your teen drives.

Your teen probably won’t be pleased to know that you monitor them. But driving data can also bring peace of mind to teens and parents. Because they track location, mobile apps can request roadside assistance or direct tow trucks or first responders.

Many telematics apps feature a scorecard so teens can compare their driving to their peers and improve. Some parents use these scorecards to coach their teens.

Can I assign drivers to certain vehicles on my car insurance?

Some insurance companies consider your teen to be a principal operator if you have a vehicle for every driver. If you have more drivers than cars, many insurers allow you to name one driver as an occasional operator. Principal drivers cost more than occasional ones. Makes sense. 

Some insurance companies let you assign drivers to vehicles. Others use a “blended rate” method. In a blended rate scenario, you can’t assign your 2018 Mercedes to you and your 2000 Honda to your child.

Whether your insurance company uses blended rates or not, more vehicles mean higher premiums.

Recently, a top Maine insurer introduced a new way for parents to save money on teenage car insurance. They let you designate vehicles that your child never drives. You pay a lower rate to insure those vehicles. But, if your child does drive one, you’ll pay a big deductible in case of a crash.

How can I reduce the cost of insuring my teenage driver?

Check with your agent. Each insurance company files their own rates with the Maine Bureau of Insurance. Some insurers charge more than others for young drivers. Some use blended rates, others assign vehicles. 

Discounts vary by insurer, too. Maine auto insurance companies commonly offer discounts for:

  • Honor roll or dean’s list students
  • Driver training classes
  • Students living away at school without a vehicle.
  • Monitoring via mobile app
  • Specialized online driving courses for teen drivers

Get Auto Insurance Quotes for Your Teenage Driver in Maine

Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland offers a choice of many insurance companies. Get several quotes with one phone call to 207-799-5541. Or request a Maine auto insurance quote online. We can help you find the best value and fit for your family. We’re independent and committed to you.

How Much Will My Car Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

Most insurance companies in Maine surcharge insurance rates after you’ve had an at-fault accident. That’s because people who’ve had one accident are statistically more likely to have another. So should you pay for auto damage after a small crash yourself, instead of making an insurance claim? Here are some things to consider before you decide.

Is My Auto Accident Considered “At-fault”?

In Maine, unless another party is 100% at fault you may share some fault in the crash. Some examples of 100% at fault could be:

  • running a red light or stop sign;
  • hitting you while your car was legally parked
  • changing into your lane and sideswiping you.

“At fault” doesn’t have to mean 100% at fault. Even if the other party is mostly at fault for the crash, you are still partially responsible. If your insurance company pays to fix your vehicle, and isn’t reimbursed by another insurer, they may charge you for an “at fault accident”.

Is My Accident Damage Below the Insurance Company’s Threshold?

Some insurers don’t charge for minor at-fault accidents with no injuries. Common thresholds are $1,000 and $1,500 of total damage to all vehicles. If your damage is below that amount, they’ll simply pay your claim and not surcharge your future rates.

Do I Have Accident Forgiveness?

Several insurers allow you to avoid a surcharge for your first accident. Most charge extra for that option. Every insurer uses different rules and calls this coverage something different. It’s commonly known as “accident forgiveness”. Some insurers only forgive the accident if you have no violations in the last several years. Interested in accident forgiveness? Ask your agent to compare their offerings. There are no standard terms.

How Much Will My Insurance Increase After an Accident?

If your accident is:

  • “at fault”
  • above the company’s threshold
  • and not subject to accident forgiveness

 your rates will increase at your next auto policy renewal.

How much? That depends on:

  • How much you’re already paying. Surcharges are usually a percentage of premium. So, they more you’re paying, the higher your surcharge would be.
  • How many other accidents you’ve had. Most insurers charge a higher percentage for each accident within the 5 year experience period. If this is your second, it will cost more than the first did.
  • How long the insurance company surcharges for accidents. Many surcharge for 3 or 5 years. Some charge more the first year and decrease the surcharge each year until it’s gone.

Based upon what we see, following an accident, your insurance rates can increase anywhere from 7% to 20%.

Decreased Transparency in Insurance Rates

Insurance companies used to provide rate manuals to their agents. The manuals showed accident surcharge factors and told us how they were applied. Most insurers no longer provide this information. To agents, or even to their underwriters. Rating has also become much more complex.

Insurance companies now calculate custom rates for each person, instead of grouping similar people. Your agent can no longer predict the exact effect an accident will have on your future insurance costs. Even the insurance company underwriters are in the dark. They can’t answer questions any better than agents can. It’s far from ideal.

We’re Here to Help

At Noyes Hall & Allen, we recommend that our clients buy accident forgiveness if they want maximum stability. This helps keep insurance costs predictable. Most good drivers appreciate that. For answers to your Maine auto insurance questions, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of several insurance companies, so we can help you find the best fit. We’re independent and committed to you.

What Should You Do If Your Car is Stolen?

No one wants to wake up or walk out to a parking lot after shopping and discover their car has been stolen. Unfortunately, this is a situation hundreds of thousands of people find themselves in each year. If your car has been stolen, you may find yourself wondering what to do, or what order to do things in. Here is some information from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance, serving the greater Portland, ME area. 

File a Police Report

After your car has been stolen, the first thing you will want to do is file a police report. This ensures your vehicle is listed as stolen, which may help the police to locate it faster. It also helps to protect you in case the individuals who took your car causes damage to other vehicles or property with your car. 

Contact Your Insurance Company

Once your car has been reported stolen with the police, you will want to contact your insurance company. Let them know that your vehicle has been reported stolen to the property authorities, and if you have it, provide them with the police or case number. The insurance company requires you to wait a period of time before they will pay out on a stolen car claim, so starting the clock as soon as possible is essential. 

Unfortunately, not every insurance policy covers your car if it is stolen. If you are looking to learn more about auto insurance, find out what coverage you have, or increase your coverage in the greater Portland, ME area, let Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance help you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your auto insurance coverage. 

Whose Car Insurance Should You Use after an Accident in Maine?

You’ve been in a crash. You think it’s clearly the other driver’s fault. Should you use your own Maine auto insurance policy or go against the other driver’s insurance company? This is an issue we discuss with several clients a month. The answer and the process can be complicated.

Maine is a Modified Comparative Negligence State

Comparative negligence means your settlement in a claim can be reduced if you were partly at fault for the crash. Modified comparative negligence in Maine means that if you were less than 50% responsible for the damages, you can still recover some damages from the party that was more at fault than you. But if you were 50% or more responsible, you cannot collect damages from another party. You have to rely on your own insurance, or pay the loss yourself.

Example: You’re stopped in a line of traffic. One of your brake lights is burned out. Another driver, traveling too fast, can’t stop in time and rear-ends your vehicle. Your missing tail light could be determined to have contributed to the accident – let’s say 5%.  The other driver’s speed and inattention is determined to be 95% at fault. They cannot collect any damages from you, but you can collect 95% of any medical costs and the cost to repair your vehicle.

Who Determines Who’s at Fault in a Car Accident?

If liability isn’t completely clear, insurance company adjusters usually negotiate payment of damages. They use police reports, statements from the people involved and Maine state law to determine relative fault. If the two parties can’t agree, one or more can file a lawsuit. Liability can then be determined through the courts, if the dispute lasts that long.

Should You Use Your Own Car Insurance if You’re Not at Fault?

If you’ve bought collision coverage for your vehicle, you have the option to file a claim with your own insurer. If not, then you have no choice but to go against the other driver’s policy.

If you file a claim on your own policy, your insurance company will pay to repair or replace your car, less your deductible. If you purchased rental reimbursement, they also pay to rent another vehicle while yours is not drivable.  If the other driver is 100% at fault, their insurance pays to repair your vehicle, rent a replacement while it’s not driveable, and your related medical bills.

Now, back to the process of deciding whose insurance to use.

Using Your Insurance: PRO

  • You KNOW you have insurance. You can never be sure about the other driver, even if they presented a policy number or insurance card at the accident scene.
  • You haves some clout with your own insurer. You are their customer.
  • The process is often faster, because you’re not arguing about whose fault the accident was. You are probably able to reach a settlement faster.
  • You have an agent to help you through the process (assuming that you bought your insurance from a person and not an 800 number or web site).

Using Your Insurance: CON

  • You’ll have to pay your deductible up-front to have your vehicle fixed. There’s no guarantee you’ll get that back. If your company is successful in collecting from the other party’s insurance (a process called “subrogation“), they will refund your deductible.
  • You may not have purchased rental coverage. Even if you did, it has a daily dollar limit and a maximum dollar limit.
  • The subrogation process takes time; even if your company successfully subrogates against the other insurance company, you will probably have to wait for weeks to get your deductible back.
  • If your insurer isn’t successful in subrogation, they may count your accident against you. This could raise your rates down the road.

Using The Other Party’s Insurance: PRO

  • You collect directly from their insurance company. You do not have to pay a deductible, because you’re using their liability insurance.
  • If you need to rent a replacement vehicle while yours is unavailable, there is no daily or maximum dollar limit. As long as the vehicle is a reasonable replacement for what was damaged.
  • Your insurance company won’t count the accident against you, because it was “not-at-fault”.

Using The Other Party’s Insurance: CON

  • The other party may not have insurance – even if they presented an insurance card at the accident scene. And, even though it’s mandatory. They may have not paid their premium or canceled their policy.
  • They may not have ENOUGH insurance. Maine only requires drivers to carry $50,000 per person for injuries to other parties and $25,000 property damage. If you’re tooling around in a modest late model vehicle, $25,000 may not be enough to replace it if it’s totaled.
  • The other insurer may not readily accept liability. Some companies “play nicer” than others (we won’t name names here). Some are notorious for denying liability, no matter how clear-cut it may seem. This can drag out the whole process of getting you and your car back on the road, making it longer and more inconvenient than it needs to be.
  • A police report may be necessary to prove who’s at fault, especially if your story and the other party’s don’t match. Some police departments are very quick to prepare accident reports and make them available. Others can take several days or weeks. Meanwhile, you need to have your car fixed.
  • Your agent won’t be able to help as much as in a first party claim. They may be able to offer advice, but since they probably don’t represent the other company, they have less influence with them.

Should You Notify Your Insurance Company Even if You File a Claim with the Other Insurer?

This is good practice, for a few reasons:

  • If the claim with the other company doesn’t go well, you can expedite the claim with yours.
  • If the other party claims that you were at fault, your insurance company knows about the crash and is prepared to defend you.
  • Your insurer will know about the accident. When it shows up on your motor vehicle record, they won’t charge you if you’re not at fault.

What To Do?

As you can see, it’s not a simple decision, and it depends greatly on the circumstances of your individual case. That’s just one reason why buying insurance from an agent – a knowledgeable advocate – is a smart decision. If you bought your policy from an 800 number or the internet, you won’t have a trusted advisor to help you decide which way to go with your claim.

If you live in the Portland Maine area and are looking for an insurance agent who can answer auto insurance questions and help you with the process, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred insurance companies. We can help you find the right fit. We’re independent and committed to you.