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What covers a car flipped by a tornado?


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Question: We just experienced a severe tornado and my car was flipped and mangled, while I was driving and had passengers in the car. We suffered mild injuries and my car is damaged. Am I covered?

Answer: What a terrifying event; I'm glad you were able to make it out without life-threatening injuries.  As for your injuries and damaged vehicle, it depends upon what types of car insurance coverages you have as part of your policy if you'll be covered or not.

Comprehensive insurance covers severe weather damage

For your vehicle's damages, you must have comprehensive coverage to make a claim.  Comprehensive insurance covers your vehicle for damages that are the result of severe weather or "acts of nature."  This includes damage done by wind, hail, hurricanes and, yes, a tornado that picks up your vehicle, flips it and brings it back down mangled. 

Comprehensive is a wise choice to have on a vehicle because it also covers your vehicle for theft, vandalism and striking an animal. 

If you have comprehensive insurance on your vehicle, I recommend making a claim immediately. If there was a lot of destruction in your area, then you want to be at the front of the line for an insurance adjuster to start processing your claim. Your deductible will be due, even though you were not at fault.

If your car is severely damaged, then it's likely it will be declared a total loss. This means your car insurance company will not repair your vehicle but pay you its actual cash value -- the worth of the vehicle the second before it was damaged by a tornado. 

If this is the case, I advise you to try to calculate the value of your vehicle so that you can negotiate properly with the insurance company. (See "Get the most for your totaled car.")

If you don't have comprehensive coverage, then, unfortunately, you'll have to pay out-of-pocket to repair -- or replace -- your vehicle.

MedPay or PIP covers injuries

As for the injuries you and your passengers sustained, you need to have medical payments (usually referred to as just MedPay) or personal injury protection (PIP) as part of your policy to be able to make a claim with your car insurance provider.

MedPay and PIP both normally will pay, up to your limit, for reasonable medical expenses related to an auto accident for both you and passengers in your vehicle. However, if your passengers have their own PIP coverage (on their own auto policy) usually it will be primary instead of your coverage.

And while MedPay and PIP will pay for medical expenses, typically PIP will cover items such as lost wages and loss of essential services that MedPay does not.  

If you have either of these coverages, read through your policy and speak to your car insurance company, if necessary, to verify what is covered and if you have a deductible or co-payments (PIP usually does, MedPay usually does not).

If you only have bodily injury liability on your policy, then you're, unfortunately, out of luck for making a medical claim. It only covers those that you injure outside of your vehicle.

Hopefully you have the right coverages in place for your injuries and vehicle. If you don’t, then it's time to review your policy and determine if you should add comprehensive and either MedPay or PIP so if an event like this occurs again you'd be covered.

What if a car is flipped by a tornado and lands on my car? Am I covered?

Typically, in this case, comprehensive insurance would cover your car if damaged by another vehicle being blown and landing on your car. In this situation, since tornado winds are picking up a car and flipping it, it would be comprehensive -- the car that flipped became a flying missile and it was due to an "act of nature" that the accident occurred. If instead, say you were driving on a freeway and a person lost control somehow and flipped and landed on your vehicle, it would be collision (or you could go after the other party because the driver was negligent).

However, insurer's terms vary so if your car is damaged by another car flipping and landing on it, in some cases your auto could be covered under collision instead.

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