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Barbecue in the road! Am I covered?


Question: My husband was driving on the freeway and swerved to avoid running over what looked like a metal barbecue, but alas he couldn’t avoid hitting it. Would this be considered an accident covered by our car insurance?  The damage is pretty bad to the front of the car.

Answer:  Lucky that neither of you were injured, and fortunately this is considered an accident and should be covered by your car insurance policy -- if you have the right coverage.

An accident is typically defined by car insurance companies as an unexpected, unforeseen event that results in a loss.  A barbecue on the freeway certainly falls under this definition.

When you cause damage to your vehicle, even if it’s unavoidable in a situation such as this, your property damage liability coverage won’t cover it.  Liability coverages only cover others that you may damage, not your own damages.

To be able to claim damages to your own car, you need physical damage coverages of collision and comprehensive.

It can be confusing to determine which of these coverages, collision or comprehensive, an accident will go under. Your car insurance company’s claims representative or claims adjuster can easily help tell you what to file the claim as.

Our experience with hundreds of accident scenarios over the years tell us this would be a collision claim because you collided with the barbeque after it had already fallen onto the roadway.

If instead the barbeque had flown off the back of a pickup truck right onto the hood or windshield of your car, this would have been a comprehensive claim.  Items that are considered “flying missiles” are covered under comprehensive, while objects you collide with are covered by collision coverage.  (See “You hit what? The Crash-o-matic” for more information on what insurance coverage is used for different types of claims)

Even though this accident could hardly be considered your husband’s fault, your collision coverage deductible will be due.  This is the amount you chose, at the inception of your policy, to pay before your collision coverage would start up.

Making a claim could affect your future insurance rates.  It depends upon if state laws allow not-at-fault accidents to be rated on by car insurance companies and then your own auto insurer’s rating guidelines.   The amount of the claims you make is also taken into consideration for rating purposes. 

This means even if this accident didn’t affect your rates but you were in another accident in the near future and had to make a second claim that having a couple of claims in a short period of time could cause your rates to rise.

For this reason, I recommend that car owners pay out-of-pocket for minor damages to their vehicles and save claims for major damages.  You stated your front-end damage is pretty extensive, so likely it will be worth it to file a claim if you know the cost of repairs will be much more than your deductible amount.  If your rates do rise due to this accident, or other rating factors, then simply shop around to see if you can get cheaper car insurance rates elsewhere. 

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