Optional auto insurance helps motorists with car damage from pot holes and other winter hazards

NEW YORK – You drive across what seems to be the Grand Canyon of pot holes seriously damaging your car’s front end. Does your insurance policy cover the cost of the repairs?

That’s just one question being asked as consumers from Buffalo to New York City see their cars take a beating this winter. Pot hole-scarred streets, fallen tree limbs and other snow-related situations have taken a toll on many consumers’ vehicles.

“Consumers can help themselves by understanding what their policy covers and what is excluded from coverage. They should also know that they can turn to the Insurance Department if they need help with an automobile insurance issue they cannot resolve themselves,” Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.

Mandatory no-fault, liability and uninsured motorist coverages do not apply to damages to your own vehicle. Claims related to losses to your vehicle can generally be covered by optional collision and comprehensive coverages.

Here are some common ways that insurance can help motorists when winter gets the best of their cars:

* Pot holes – Damage caused by pot holes is covered under the collision portion of an automobile insurance policy. However, since collision coverage is optional, don’t look to your insurer to help you pay for damage caused by rough roads unless you’ve already purchased that option.
* Falling objects – Damage caused by falling objects, like ice, tree limbs or hail, is covered if your policy contains comprehensive physical damage coverage, which again is an optional form of coverage. Under comprehensive coverage, your insurer pays you, without regard to fault, for damage to your car from all causes, other than a collision. Besides protecting you from losses due to falling objects, comprehensive coverage protects against theft, fire, flood, windstorm, glass breakage or vandalism.
* Hitting a deer – Deer and other animals are often harder to see during winter’s shorter daytime hours. Damage caused by hitting or being hit by a deer or other kind of animal would be covered by your comprehensive physical damage coverage.
* Your parked car is hit by another vehicle – Your collision coverage would cover damages to your car. You may also be able to file a claim against the driver of the other vehicle.

Consumers will need to pay any deductibles that apply when filing claims for losses that are insured under the collision or comprehensive physical damage provisions of their policies.