5 Reasons NOT to Buy Maine Car Insurance at a Dealer

Some car dealers now offer Maine car insurance at the time of purchase. Dealers like this because it increases their closing rate and their profits.

If you already have insurance, making a snap decision to change when buying a new car at a dealership is probably a bad choice. Here’s why.

What’s the Rush?

The salesperson may create a sense of urgency about insurance. However, there’s no rush. If you have an insurance policy with collision coverage on at least one vehicle, your policy probably automatically covers the new one until you can contact your insurance company or agent. Dealers know this; it’s been that way for decades.

Why Add Pressure?

Car buying is already a stress. Why add more? Most of us don’t make our best decisions under pressure. Moreover, you’re making a big financial commitment and choosing between expensive options on the fly. Don’t let the salesperson force you to make unnecessary snap decisions. That includes insurance.

A “Good Deal” May Not Be

First, many new cars have high-end safety features that help reduce insurance costs. Therefore, some don’t cost any more to insure than the ones they replace. So, if you get a quote at the dealer, and were pleased to see it wasn’t as much as you expected, it may still be more than your current insurance company would charge.

You Can Mess Up Your Other Insurance

Your current policy might have benefits you’ll lose. For instance, a home/auto bundle discount. Or a multi-vehicle discount. Or accident forgiveness, or some other perk. You could lose those if you make a snap decision to insure your new vehicle at the dealer. In conclusion, you might pay more – not less.

You Can End Up With Worse Insurance

First of all, most people don’t know what insurance they have. For example, the liability limits and deductibles on their policy. If they make snap insurance decisions at a dealership, they can end up with inadequate coverage.

In conclusion, if the insurance quote from your dealer is really a better value, that won’t change in a few days. Take your time. Make your insurance decisions on your schedule – not the salesperson’s. Above all, whether you switch insurance or not, you’ll have peace of mind that you made the right choice after a thoughtful decision.

Need An Insurance Quote for a New Car?

Do you live in Southern Maine? Want a quote to insure your new car? Call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. Or, get up to 5 Maine auto insurance quotes in 10 minutes on our website. We offer a choice of Maine’s top insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Relocating to Portland Maine? We Can Help

During the COVID pandemic, many people are relocating to the Portland Maine area. 2020 has been a banner year for people moving here.

Looking for a safer, more affordable place to live, work and play? A desirable place to raise a family? A slower pace? Portland offers all of this. So do nearby suburbs like South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Falmouth, Cumberland and Westbrook.

Portland Maine is Safe

Through November 2020, Maine successfully managed the public health aspect of the COVID pandemic. Cumberland County had about 1/3 the infection rate of the rest of the country: 11,500 cases per million. Rural Maine had even lower rates.    

Maine is a safe place to live even after COVID time. Maine’s crime rates are among the lowest in the nation. Our roads are safer, too: traffic deaths are about 10% below national average.

Maine: Room to Spread Out

The Portland Maine MSA is home to about 250,000. That’s 390 people per square mile. Even Portland, the state’s largest city, only has about 3,000 people per square mile. Portland is the ideal size for a small city: about 70,000 people.

Like the outdoors? Sailing, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, cycling and beaches are all a short distance from home.

Prefer to be entertained? Portland has choices. Live music venues, theatres, professional sports teams, museums and more.

Portland Maine’s Foodie Culture

Portland has a national reputation for restaurants, breweries, distilleries and food. The proximity of local farms and seafood adds to its farm-to-table culture. Portland was Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year in 2018.

COVID restrictions limit indoor restaurant dining in 2020. But it’s too much a part of Portland’s identity to disappear. The restaurant scene will be vibrant again.

We Can Help You Settle Here

Whether you’re buying a house or a condo or renting an apartment, our agents can help with insurance. We’ll send proof of renters or hazard insurance to your landlord or lender. We can provide you with the insurance card which you need to register your vehicles in Maine.

First time homebuyer? We make the insurance part easy. A 10-minute phone call is all it takes to start. Or, you can compare Maine insurance quotes online at our website. When you’re ready for help, Noyes Hall & Allen agents are known for responsiveness and knowledge. We’ve earned great customer reviews.

Call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

Insurance for Low Mileage Maine Drivers

Many Mainers drive less than they did a year ago. By many accounts, we are logging about 30% fewer miles than this time last year. Should insurance companies reduce your car insurance rates as a result? Maybe. But it won’t happen automatically.

Here’s why.

2020 Driving Trends Affecting Car Insurance

Driving data indicates a dramatic change in behavior in Spring 2020. We all know why.

  • Fewer Miles Driven (but not by everyone).
    Many people are not working, or working from home. That means they’re driving less, and not as far. But essential workers and others continue to commute. Some people actually drive more than before, replacing lost income with new gigs.
  • What Rush Hour?
    With many offices closed, usual morning and evening congestion has almost disappeared. Those who are are driving do so at different times of day, spreading out road usage. That means less risky driving behavior such as hard stops and quick acceleration.
  • Increased Speeds
    With more open space on the road, average vehicle speed increased. Faster speeds and clearer roads can mean fewer but more serious crashes.

Is Your Car Insurance Priced Right?

You might deserve lower car insurance rates. But it won’t happen automatically.

Insurers probably won’t reduce rates across the board. That’s because they don’t know who’s driving less than before.

Car insurance often classifies usage into 3 categories:

  • Pleasure use – used around town and for personal errants. Not driven to work.
  • Commute – either short (less than 15 miles one way) or long (more than 15).
  • Business – such as a traveling sales person, trade contractor or other extensive use.

You may deserve lower car insurance rates.
But it won’t happen automatically.

Imagine two Scarborough neighbors. One commutes 7 miles on I-295 into their Portland office every day, parking on the street. The other drives 2 miles to teach at a local school, parking in the school lot. In the summer, the teacher doesn’t commute at all.

They’re rated the same, even though their drives are much different. The Portland worker pays too little, while the teacher overpays.

Customized Rating – Gaining Acceptance

New technology allow insurers to customize car insurance prices as never before. It’s called Usage Based Insurance, or UBI.

Using smartphones, customers share driving data with their insurance company. The insurer compares them to other customers. Safer drivers pay less; riskier ones might pay more. Insurance companies have their own brand for UBI: Progressive Snapshot; Safeco RightTrack; Travelers Intellidrive, and so on. Each one has slightly different features.

In prior years, consumers hesitated to share this data, often citing privacy concerns. That changed in 2020. Many are looking for ways to save money in this time of economic hardship and reduced driving. Almost 50% of people who responded to a JD Power 2020 survey were willing to try Usage Based Insurance (UBI).

Are Customized Insurance Rates Right For You?

Think you’re paying too much for Maine car insurance based on your driving? Interested in learning more about Usage Based Insurance? It’s not for everyone.

A Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent can help you decide if it’s right for you. We offer a choice of many of Maine’s top auto insurers, with and without UBI. Call our team in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

How to Compare Car Insurance Quotes

Everyone seems to recommend shopping car insurance periodically. Rates do change frequently. The company that was the best value years ago might no longer be.

Car insurance is a big item in many budgets. Saving 5 or 10% can mean $100 or more. So what’s the best way to shop for car insurance?

Step 1: Gather Information from Your Policy

You’ll need:

  • Vehicle description, including VIN;
  • Driver information (dates of birth, license numbers);
  • Details about claims, accidents or violations in the last 5 years;
  • Current coverage limits and deductibles.

Step 2. Decide Where to Get Your Quotes

You have 3 basic options for insurance quotes:

  • DIY – go online or call an 800 number. You’ll get one quote at a time from a company like GEICO or Progressive. You’ll need to call a few agents to get comparison quotes.
  • A company agent, like Liberty Mutual, State Farm or Allstate. You’ll still get only one quote. That means you’ll have to call several to compare. But unlike the DIY option, an agent will be able to offer custom advice and answer your questions.
  • An independent agent, like Noyes Hall & Allen. They provide custom advice and answers like a company agent, with the added convenience of quotes from several insurers at once.

Comparing quotes from different car insurance companies isn’t easy. Each company’s presentation looks a little different. Some may not offer the coverage limits you asked for. And they may not even tell you that it’s not the same.

Step 3: Compare Car Insurance Quotes

This 6:40 video explains what to look for, and what to watch out for.

Help With Maine Auto Insurance Quotes

If you live in Maine or are moving to the Portland Maine area, a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent can help. We represent many of Maine’s top auto insurers. We can explain coverage and price differences to help you find the best insurance value. We’re independent and committed to you. Call us at 207-799-5541, or start an online insurance quote in 10 minutes.

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.

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.

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.

What to do if You Have an Accident

Car crashes can be a devastating event, leaving you feeling shocked and confused. Having the right information before you ever have an accident can give a better grip on the situation. The Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland, ME have experts that can provide you with information about auto insurance and what to do if you have an accident.

Assess Any Injuries

When you are first struck by another vehicle, you may feel a little disoriented. If the accident is a minor fender bender and you have neck or back pain, it is crucial that you don’t move until you are seen by a registered EMT or paramedic. You can cause further injury if you delay medical treatment. Check to make sure that your passengers are also uninjured.

Move Over Safely

If it is at all possible, move your vehicle to a safe location out of the way of moving traffic. If your car is too damaged, turn on your hazard lights and then call 911. If you are not injured, safely look at the damage to your car and the other vehicles involved. Many people take photos of the damage with their cellphones. This can be helpful in the claim process.

Get Information from Others

Gather your insurance card and driver’s license. Get the same information from the other drivers involved as well as their license plate numbers and type of vehicles. Try to do this before the police come, if it’s safe to do so. Although the police will gather this info and create a police report, these can take days to be available. It is essential to document everything you can. Over time, your memory from a traumatic event is less reliable than photos.

Have Enough Auto Insurance

Before you are ever in an auto accident, make sure your insurance is up to date. In Portland, ME, the professionals at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance can help you stay safe with the right kind of coverage for your vehicle. Contact us to get a quote.