Smart SpendingSmart Spending

I had to abandon my car in the snow!

An early storm brought hazardous winter driving conditions to a large swath of the country. Will your insurance cover you in these 7 common scenarios?

By MSN Money Partner Oct 31, 2011 1:12PM

This post comes from Barbara Marquand at partner site on MSN MoneyWith blizzards and ice storms wreaking havoc across the country, slippery conditions led to problems for drivers from Texas to Maine.


Before the next storm hits, learn how your car insurance coverage applies to common winter driving hazards.


I had to abandon my car! Before leaving your stuck car, call for emergency roadside service, says Mary Bonelli, senior vice president of public information for the Ohio Insurance Institute. The charges would be covered if you have roadside assistance through your car insurance, or membership in a roadside-assistance program, such as AAA. In addition, some car makers, such as Lexus and Acura, provide emergency roadside assistance as part of a warranty package for new-car buyers.


Of course if conditions are treacherous, you could be in for a long wait. Hundreds of motorists abandoned vehicles on Chicago's famous Lake Shore Drive in a blizzard that dumped almost 2 feet of snow on the city last winter.


And if bad goes to worse and your car is vandalized after you leave it behind, comprehensive car insurance would apply, Bonelli says. Comprehensive insurance is an optional coverage that pays for losses due to theft, vandalism, natural disasters and other factors unrelated to traffic accidents. You'll have to pay your comprehensive coverage deductible, however.


I hit a curb. Collision coverage, which is optional, pays for damages to your car resulting from a collision with another car or object -- or as a result of flipping over.


"In this instance, the curb would be considered an 'object' by most insurers and, as such, hitting a curb would come under collision coverage," says Michael Barry, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. The same goes for potholes.


However, it might be worth getting an estimate or two for repairs before filing a claim, Bonelli says. "If the loss is close to your deductible, you wouldn't likely file it." Post continues below.

I slid down an icy hill and hit parked cars along the way. Do whatever you can to contact the owners of the parked vehicles. "Leave notes on their cars with your insurance information and then get their license plate numbers," Barry says.


Your collision coverage would pay for damage to your vehicle, and your auto insurance liability coverage would pay for damage to the other cars.


If the situation were reversed and someone hit your parked car but did not leave information, your uninsured motorist coverage would pay for the damage, Bonelli says.


I got towed. Auto insurance coverage will not apply if your vehicle was parked illegally when it was towed, Bonelli says. Whether the local jurisdiction makes you pay towing fees depends on the situation. After the blizzard, the city of Chicago did not give citations or charge motorists to claim vehicles that were towed from Lake Shore Drive.


Call your roadside-assistance provider if you need a tow in order to avoid having the city tow your car away.


I couldn't get into my car because the lock was iced shut. Again, call your roadside-assistance provider, whether that service is through your car insurance company, car dealer or motorist club. "There's a chance this would be covered through these services or even OnStar," Bonelli says.


I got in an accident, but police are responding to injury-only crashes. Exchange information with the other parties involved and then file an accident report with local law enforcement after the weather has cleared, the Ohio Insurance Institute recommends. Some local agencies require you to complete forms in person, while others offer online filing services. Your insurance company will ask whether you filed an accident report when you call to report the claim.


My car was stolen when I left it running in the driveway to warm up. You're better off braving the cold than letting the engine warm up in the morning while you finish your coffee inside. Besides tempting thieves, you also could get a ticket in some jurisdictions, such as Ohio, where it's against the law to leave a car running unattended.


Still, comprehensive insurance would cover the loss -- even if you made stealing the car easy.


Remember, though, if you decided to pass on comprehensive and collision coverage to save money, loss from theft would not be covered, nor would damage from vandalism, natural disaster or damage to your car that's your own fault.


Review your policy or contact your insurer or agent if you're not sure how auto insurance coverage applies to winter driving quandaries. "That way you know what you're up against and can take proactive measures," Bonelli says.


More on and MSN Money:

Nov 1, 2011 6:26AM
Correction:  Uninsured motorist coverage in all the states I've lived in only covers damage to your car if the person who hit your car does not have insurance.  If someone hits your car and doesn't leave any identification, you must file against your insurance.
Nov 1, 2011 8:30AM
Correction (part 2):  Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, as offered on most auto insurance policy's, is intended for Bodily Injury type exposures of the policy holder ...NOT for the vehicle itself.  If your car is damaged by someone who does not leave a note or does not have insurance then coverage for that is either through your Collision coverage or Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD).   Just keep in mind, that if you have Collision coverage on your car, then you do not need the UMPD.  
Nov 1, 2011 10:34AM
Very good Agent Arnie.  You probably sell a lot of auto insurance.  Shame on people who hit and run on a parked car - they think they are getting away with something - but it will all catch up with them in the end.
Nov 1, 2011 11:00AM
Agent Arnie needs to brush up on his P&C knowledge. If you file under collision, not only does it go against you as a chargeable At Fault claim (which will increase your insurance premiums with your current carrier), that claim will follow you for the next 5 years. You must be a Nationwide agent. If you don't have UIM/UMPD you are only going to end up paying for someone else's responsibilities for years to come.
Nov 1, 2011 10:31AM
UM can cover both BI and PD, you just have to make sure that you have both on the policy.  It is better to file under UM PD if your car is in a hit and run or the person at fault doesn't have enough to cover the damages.  You normally have a $250 deductible that is reimbursed to you once the insurance company collects from the violator.  It is also better to file on UM rather than collision because you will get a point on your record and as a result get higher premiums for a collision claim.  
Nov 1, 2011 10:54AM
Agent Arnie, unless things have changed I have had Uninsured Motorist cover damage to my car. And as I currently carry it the policy states that it will cover damage to my vehicle.
Nov 1, 2011 9:25AM
John G, you are incorrect.  As agent Arnie says Uninsured and Underinsured Insurance covers bodily harm.  Not the vehicle.  Where I disagree with Arnie is him saying if you have collision you don't need  it if you have collision.
Nov 1, 2011 9:21AM
Jim M  -  why don't you move out of your parents basement?
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.