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Will my policy pay if I run over construction debris?


Question: While on a road trip, I drove through a construction zone and something went airborne (part of a sign post or barrier) and got under my car.  This caused a flat tire and damage to my muffler and catalytic converter.   Will a claim to my insurance company cover this? 

Answer:  I hope the incident didn’t ruin your road trip.  Good news, though: If you have physical damage coverage on your car insurance policy, then the collision portion should pay for the damages to your vehicle from this road hazard, minus your deductible amount.

Auto insurance companies will say that you collided with the construction debris when you ran it over and thus the damage underneath your car to the catalytic converter and other parts of the exhaust system should be covered by your collision coverage

If the object had continued airborne and, say, damaged your hood or roof, then it would’ve been considered a flying missile and the claim instead would go under your comprehensive coverage with most insurers.

The tire that was flattened in this incident may or may not be covered by your insurer; it will depend upon the terms of your policy.  Some car insurance policies don’t cover tires if you run over something, unless you have towing and labor coverage.

If your damages appear extensive and will cost more than your deductible amount, then your next step should be to make a claim with your auto insurance carrier.

If the damage instead is minimal and beneath your deductible amount, then there is no need to make a claim since your collision coverage benefits don’t start until the cost of repairs exceeds your deductible.

Even if the damage is above your deductible amount, you might think about paying to fix the car yourself, if you can afford it, since collision claims can cause many auto insurance providers to raise your premiums.

If you only use your physical damage coverages for expensive repairs, then you can save money by choosing a higher deductible, and keep your claims to a minimum.  The more items listed your claims history report, the riskier you’ll appear to car insurance companies, which will result in higher auto insurance rates.  (See "How much will raising your deductible save you?")

If you have only the state-required liability coverages of bodily injury and property damage on your policy, then you have no coverage on your car and will be unable to make a claim with your auto insurance company.  You’ll have to take care of the repairs personally, unless you have the insurance information of the company whose construction materials you ran over and want to make a claim against them.

From our experience, though, unless you have proof of the construction company’s negligence and independent witnesses that saw the construction material do the damage to your vehicle, it’s difficult to get a claim approved by a construction company’s insurance provider.

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