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Does your car insurance cover oozing molten tar?

Des Toups

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CarInsurance.com

Hot asphaltTwo days before Thanksgiving, more than 150 cars became mired on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in gooey driveway sealant from a leaking tanker truck -- goop so sticky that many couldn’t move.

Even those who came to tow stranded motorists wound up disabled by the tarlike substance, which accumulated in massive, rapidly hardening globs on wheels, tires, wheel wells and fenders.

By the next day, more than 130 drivers had contacted the Turnpike Commission to report damage. Car insurance claims from motorists who inadvertently drove into the chaos will be handled by Travelers Insurance, which covers the truck’s operator.

Work crews dumped sand and cinders on the mess, then scraped it off the roadway with snowplows. While dozens of cars remain abandoned, the road remained open and holiday travel resumed.

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A happy ending, especially because the at-fault company is stepping up and accepting claims.

But just in case you ever encounter molten tar or other highway ooze that damages your car, here’s what CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner advises.

The stickiest auto insurance claims ever

If the culprit hasn’t been identified, your own car insurance policy would kick in. That means you would file a claim under your comprehensive coverage -- if you have it -- which covers damage to your car not caused by collisions. Your towing coverage would cover the emergency road service.  

Alhough comprehensive claims typically don’t increase your car insurance rates down the road, Gusner warns that repairs that mainly involve cleanup, like this one, might not exceed your deductible.

If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, Gusner suggests lodging complaints with the state highway department, which might have received other complaints and can help you track down the responsible party.

If the culprit is known and you do have comprehensive coverage, Gusner suggests filing claims against your own policy and letting your own car insurance company handle the matter, including getting your deductible back.  “Filing a claim through a business policy, especially when there are multiple claims involved, can be a pain,” she says.

Alas, your time and aggravation aren’t covered. Work-loss coverage applies only when there are injuries, and there’s no such thing as late-for-Thanksgiving insurance.

Yet.

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