Q. What Should I Do at the Scene of an Accident?

1.  Immediately stop at the scene.  Call 911 if there are injuries. Call the police. In some areas police authorities may not come to every accident scene. They may consider factors such as the severity and location of the accident (e.g., some police authorities will not come to the scene if the accident is on private property). However, you should attempt to notify the police. You should also be aware that most policies require notification of police within a specified time period if the accident is a hit and run.

2.  Obtain names, addresses, telephone numbers, and driver’s license numbers from all drivers. Obtain license plate(s) and vehicle identification numbers. Ask to see driver’s license(s) and vehicle registration(s) to verify that the information is accurate.


3.  Obtain names, addresses, and telephone numbers of other passengers and any witnesses.


4.  If you have a camera, take photographs of the damage, the position of the cars, and the accident scene (e.g., traffic controls, visual obstacles).


5.  If the owner of a damaged car or damaged property cannot be located, leave a note with the names and addresses of the driver and owners of the involved cars.

Notify your agent and/or your insurance company immediately.


6.  If anyone is injured or the vehicle damage exceeds $750.00, you must report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days. Failure to notify the DMV may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.


Q. Should I Purchase LDW/CDW When Renting a Vehicle?


1.  Loss Valuation. The Personal Auto Policy (PAP) covers the lesser of the “actual cash value” of the vehicle or the amount “necessary” to repair or replace the damaged property. The rental agreement may very well contractually obligate you to reimburse the rental company for the “full value” of the vehicle. The PAP also does not pay for any “betterment” (increased value of new parts replacing old ones) of the vehicle, nor any “diminution” of value (if the market value of the vehicle after repairs is less than that before the accident).


2.Loss Settlement. As implied above, there may very well be disagreement over the value of the vehicle or the amount charged for labor and materials to repair it. Your auto policy’s Appraisal clause may be invoked with its accompanying costs. More importantly, the insurance company has the right to “…inspect and appraise the damaged property before its repair or disposal.” However, the rental company, unlike you, is not contractually obligated to the insurer…it may choose to make the repairs immediately, potentially resulting in a lack of PAP coverage because of failure to comply with this contractual condition. In any case, purchase of the CDW usually allows the renter to “walk away” without the headaches involved in adjusting an auto claim.


3. Loss Payment. The rental agreement may require immediate reimbursement for damages, and it is customary practice for the rental company to charge your credit card. This can create a significant debt, “max” out the card’s credit limit (perhaps shortening a vacation or business trip), result in litigation, etc.


4. Loss Damage Waivers (LDW). Rental agreements often make the renter responsible for any loss in value beyond normal wear and tear, regardless of the cause and regardless of fault. In order for your PAP to respond, you must insure at least one vehicle for both collision and other-than-collision (often called “comprehensive”) coverage. If not, your policy will not respond to rental car damage and loss of use claims.


5. Indirect Losses. You will most likely will be responsible for the rental company’s loss of rental income on the damaged unit. Your policy has limited coverage for these charges.


6. Administrative Expenses. The rental contract may make the insured liable for various “administrative” or loss-related expenses such as towing (e.g., one insured was charged for a 230-mile tow), appraisal, claims adjustment, storage, etc. Some of these expenses may not be covered by the PAP.


7. Other Insurance. The PAP says that it is excess over: (1) any coverage provided by the owner of the auto, (2) any other applicable physical damage insurance, and (3) any other source of recovery applicable to the loss—travel policies, credit card coverages, etc. The potential controversy over who pays what is obvious and can result in litigation. In addition, keep in mind that many states have statutes, proprietary policy forms, and/or case law precedents that may govern this and other rental car exposures


8. Excluded Vehicles & Territories. The PAP normally does not provide physical damage coverage for motorcycles, mopeds, motor homes, or other vehicles that are not private passenger autos, pickups, vans, or trailers.  In addition, use of covered vehicles is limited to the U.S., its territories and possessions, Puerto Rico, and Canada (the rental agreement may also exclude operation outside a specific geographical area). If you rent a trailer (U-Haul, camper trailer, etc.), coverage is limited to $500.


9. Excluded Uses & Drivers. The PAP may have limitations on use of vehicles that are not otherwise excluded by the rental agreement CDW or LDW. Also, the PAP may include an exclusionary endorsement for certain drivers or may apply only to designated individuals—the CDW will probably also only apply to certain individuals, but operators for which no PAP coverage is available may be afforded protection under the rental agreement by adding them as designated drivers.


Q.  What can I do to prevent Identity Theft?

1.  Do not give out personal information such as account or credit card numbers on the phone or over the internet unless you have initiated the contact.  Identity thieves could pose as bank officials, Internet providers or credit card company representatives.  Remember – those with a right to this information (such as your bank) should already have it and shouldn’t need to request it over the phone.


2.  Report lost or stolen checks immediately and properly store canceled checks.  Examine new checks to be sure that none were stolen during shipment and store them in a safe and secure location.   Destroy unused financial solicitations before discarding them.  Also destroy financial documents such as statements or receipt before discarding the.


3.  Guard your automated teller machine (ATM) number and treat your receipts with care.  Leaving them behind or throwing them in the trash could leave them vulnerable to thieves.


4.  Make sure your mailbox is secure and promptly remove mail after delivery.  Identity thieves often raid mailboxes to obtain credit card offers and financial statements.


5.  Contact the major credit-reporting companies at least annually to review their file.  A copy of their credit report is available for a small fee.

The three major credit bureaus are:

  •      Equifax:  (800) 685-1111
  •      TransUnion:  (800) 916-8800
  •      Experian:  (888) 397-3742

Steps to Report Identity Theft:

  •      Contact your bank or credit union to protect your accounts.
  •      Contact your credit card companies
  •      Contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline:  (800) 269-0271
  •      Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  Identity Hotline:  (877) IDTHEFT or (877) 438-4338