Jo, a single mom, was at church; she was late, so she parked at the back of the parking lot. During the service, one of the attendants came and asked for her car keys. She didn’t think anything about it; she just figured she had parked wrong in her haste to get into church. When the service was over, she was very surprised.
Ahead of her, Jo saw flames and smoke billowing into the air, coming from the back of the parking lot. To her right, coming toward her down the street, was her car, the passenger door smoldering. Halfway up the street, the passenger door burst into flames. The car pulled into the front parking lot and the attendants rushed over with fire extinguishers to put out the fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Jo learned someone had pulled in next to her and this person’s car caught on fire in the firewall/front driver’s brake area, catching itself and Jo’s car on fire. As she was gathering insurance information from the other driver, tires were exploding into the air, flames and smoke continued to soar and her little old car, on which she only had liability, smoldered.
Incredible? Wait. Another church member brought Jo home and she immediately called the other person’s insurance company, who gave her a claim number and told her someone would call on Monday. She also called her own insurance company, who told her that, because she only had liability on the car, the other person’s insurance would have to cover it.
Monday morning, Jo called the adjuster, only to be informed that, because the other person hadn’t intentionally caused their car to blow up, it was an accident, so there would be no coverage for Jo’s damages. Astonished, Jo said, “Isn’t that what insurance is for, accidents?” The adjuster said there’s a difference between a traffic accident, where negligence of one party can be determined, and a “true” accident, where things just happen and insurance companies only cover for negligence-type accidents. The adjuster suggested she sue the other party.
Jo called her own insurance agent, who agreed with the first adjuster; her own company wouldn’t cover it, even if she had comprehensive coverage and agreed her only option was to sue the other driver.
Jo didn’t want to sue another church member and couldn’t afford to fix her car, so she drove around almost a year with her charred front passenger door. Then, while she was on a business trip, church members got together and fixed her car, for which she says she will be eternally grateful.
The lesson> Don’t assume your home or car insurance pays for everything or anything. Check your coverage. Make sure you know exactly what is covered and what’s not. If you don’t understand the policy, find someone to explain it to you in terms you can understand. If it’s not what you thought you were paying for, switch.