Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • A car insurance policy consists of several different policies rolled into one
  • Each portion covers different circumstances
  • If you elect comprehensive coverage, a tree falling on your car would most likely be covered under this portion
  • Car insurance is legally required, with only a few exceptions, in every state
  • Not obtaining auto insurance coverage can lead to many serious and lasting consequences

Understanding your insurance coverage is an important part of being a responsible driver. Making sure you have the required insurance types and amounts can help protect you both financially and legally.

Using a car insurance price comparison tool online can help ensure that you are paying the best price possible for the coverage you need.

Try our FREE online quote tool and compare auto insurance rates to get the best price! Enter your ZIP code above to get started!

Types of Auto Insurance Coverage

Too many drivers on the road today do not understand their auto insurance coverage or even know what they are covered for.

Not understanding can lead to a lot of uncertainty and even unnecessary worry when accidents and other unexpected circumstances occur.

Although at first glance, auto insurance coverage can seem overwhelming it doesn’t have to be.

Your policy is like several mini-policies rolled into one.

Each part applies in different circumstances, though some can be used simultaneously.

Here is a breakdown of the typical coverages offered on a typical auto insurance policy:

– Property and Bodily Injury Liability

Nearly all states in America require drivers to carry liability insurance.

Liability simply covers the damages that you are responsible for when it comes to other people’s property or their medical and funeral expenses up to the limits of your policy.

It is vital that drivers understand that liability does not cover your own damages.

– Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist

Even though car insurance coverage is a legal requirement, some drivers, for various reasons, still do not get coverage or enough coverage.

If you are in an accident and an uninsured driver is at fault or you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, your uninsured motorist coverage will kick in.

This coverage is legally required in some states.

In the event that the other responsible party does have insurance but not enough to cover all of your damages, your underinsured motorist policy will cover the difference up to your policy limits.

– Medical Expenses or Personal Injury Protection

Also known commonly as med pay or PIP, this coverage is required in no-fault states.

Personal Injury Protection pays for your own medical expenses and lost wages.

If you need to hire help around the house, such as a babysitter or a housekeeper, in light of your accident, you may also be able to file a med pay claim.

Most experts recommend at least $5,000 in PIP coverage.

– Collision

Collision coverage is similar to property liability, however, it covers your own damages in an accident.

Collision is an optional coverage that must be elected. You will need to select a deductible and policy limits with collision coverage.

If you do not have collision coverage, you may possibly need to pay for your own property damages out of pocket, especially if the damages were your own fault.

– Comprehensive

While collision coverage applies when you are in an accident with another vehicle or hit a pole, tree, or another structure, comprehensive coverage pays for other damages caused to your car.

Events that are covered under a comprehensive policy are like:

  • Natural disasters
  • Flooding
  • Hail
  • Fires
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Hitting wildlife

Like collision, you will choose a deductible and your policy limits. Collison coverage is also optional. If you lease or finance your vehicle, you are most likely required to have both collision and comprehensive coverages.

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– GAP Insurance

If you lease a vehicle, this coverage is probably already rolled into your lease. If it is not, you are probably contractually required to obtain your own.

GAP insurance pays the monetary difference between what your car insurance company gives you as the fair market value of your car and what is still owed on your lease or loan if your car is totaled in an accident.

Since a car’s value can quickly depreciate, this coverage can be essential to peace of mind and financial well-being for some drivers. If you did not put a down payment on your car or you rolled negative equity into your loan, it is wise to at least consider gap coverage.

– Rental Car Coverage

Waiting for an insurance adjuster to look at your vehicle or waiting for your car to be fixed can cause difficulty when you need your vehicle to get to and from work, school, or other events.

When you are in need for a vehicle is where rental car coverage comes in. You can elect this coverage on your policy.

You generally select the amount covered per day for a rental car up to 30 days.

Depending on your auto insurance coverage, you may pay the rental car company directly and get reimbursed or your auto insurance company may pay the car rental company directly.

– Roadside Assistance

Many car insurance companies offer roadside assistance. If you run out of gas, lock your keys in your vehicle, get a flat tire, or experience a breakdown, you then have someone you can call for help.

If you drive a newer vehicle, this coverage may not be necessary. However, it is good to have for peace of mind.

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If a tree falls on my car, does insurance cover it?

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Although not extremely common, many cars have been damaged by downed trees. This could happen due to an old or diseased tree, high winds, heavy snows, or other weather events.

It could happen in your own driveway, while parked on a side street or even while parked in a public area. If you have the appropriate coverage, your auto insurance claim will likely be covered.

In the event of a tree falling on your car, you would rely on a comprehensive policy.

If you have not elected this coverage, you may be out of luck, unless you can prove that the owner of the property the tree was located on was negligent.

If you have comprehensive coverage, your auto insurance carrier may still go after the property owner but you will not be involved in that part. You simply file your claim and deal with your insurance company directly.

It is important to note that if you drive into a tree or some limbs, this would fall under your collision policy and not your comprehensive policy.

If you were to severely damage someone else’s trees or shrubs in an accident by running onto their property, it would likely fall under the property damage liability portion of your auto insurance policy.

Auto Insurance Is Legally Mandated

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With only a few exceptions, auto insurance is required no matter where you live in the United States.

Coverage requirements and types will vary by state, however, every driver must be covered.

There are good reasons for these requirements but they are mainly in place to protect all drivers from the financial consequences of accidents.

What if I do not meet the legal requirements for auto insurance coverage?

While it can seem like the only person you would be hurting by not obtaining the proper auto insurance coverage is yourself, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When some drivers choose to forgo insurance, rates can go up for everyone as car insurance companies have to pay out more for damages.

Even still, consider the consequences you could face if you do not have the proper auto insurance coverage:

  • Fines
  • Imprisonment
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Suspension of your car registration
  • Community service

Each time you are caught without insurance coverage, whether it be that you are in an accident or stopped by law enforcement, these consequences can increase. If it happens enough times, you may have your driver’s license or car registration revoked for a long period of time.

Having no auto insurance can also increase your future car insurance premiums.

If you have questions about your auto insurance policy, be sure to discuss them with your insurance agent or a customer service representative. Since full coverage can be pricey, use an online price comparison tool to help you pay the best available rates.

Start comparing auto insurance rates by using our FREE online quote tool! Enter your ZIP code below!