You’re driving your new car on LBJ freeway in Dallas, headed to D/FW Airport to catch a flight out of town. You smell smoke and notice people are looking at you funny and maybe even waving as they pass. Your car loses power but you’re able to locate a safe place to pull over. Your car’s on fire! You grab your cell phone, dial 911, and wait for the Dallas Fire Department to arrive.
Something like this happened last week in the Seattle area. A Tesla Model S struck a large piece of metal that fell off a tractor trailer and impaled one of the car’s batteries. This resulted in a fire starting in the battery area beneath the passenger compartment before it travelled to the engine area.
This doesn’t just happen in Tesla’s as many people in the media prognosticate on what happened, why it happened, and what could keep it from happening again. Earlier this year, Terry Box, the auto writer for the Dallas Morning News, was driving a 2013 Dodge Ram Longhorn Edition pickup truck. Texans love their trucks and this was definitely worth loving; leather interior, 20 inch wheels, Hemi V-8 and more. It went up in flames and smoke in a matter of minutes, all $54,335 of it in a freak incident due to a faulty fuel line and / or pump.
What kind of car insurance would you need to cover either vehicle? Both vehicles are near total or total losses due to fire; the Tesla’s fire was caused by striking road debris while the Dodge truck’s was due to a fuel leak. These two claims end up being different types of claims:
- The Tesla’s fire would be categorized as a collision because it struck the road debris.
- The Dodge Ram’s fire would be categorized as a comprehensive claim because it didn’t strike anything that resulted in a fire.
A collision occurs when two or more vehicles collide whether both are moving or one is parked and hit. A collision also is the usual assignment when a car strikes an object such as a bucket, tire tread, or a metal object that punctures a battery. In the case of the Tesla incident, there are factors that will go into determining whether the accident was at fault or not at fault, but either way, the car is covered under the collision coverage.
Comprehensive coverage applies to most everything else that’s not a collision. In Texas that means hail storms, a tree falls on your car, a rock chip to the windshield, a deer runs in front of your car, or even a pickup truck spontaneously bursting into flames. Terry Box’s truck fire would be categorized as a comprehensive claim because it didn’t strike anything. There is no fault to assign when a comprehensive claim occurs, but as long as the policy has comprehensive coverage, the claim would be paid.
Most car insurance policies have two deductibles: comprehensive (other than collision) and collision. These typically are what most people refer to as having full coverage, especially collision coverage. The collision and comprehensive deductibles come in different levels, $150, $250, $500, $1,000. Generally speaking, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium while the lower the deductible, the higher the premium. Of the two deductibles, the collision is weighted the heavier of the two.
The key in either case is to have enough property damage coverage, whether on liability and uninsured motorists, to protect your vehicle in the event of a total loss. That way, if you have a fire, regardless of how it starts, you’ll be covered!
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