Auto Insurance

Introduction to Auto Insurance

What is Auto Insurance?

When you buy an auto insurance policy, you are actually buying several individual coverages. Each coverage protects you against different types of losses. A brief description of the six basic coverages is provided here.

  • Bodily Injury Liability* pays for the other person’s medical expenses, rehabilitation, funeral costs, and other covered costs if you or your family are at fault in an auto accident. It also pays for settlement of lawsuits and your legal expenses.
  • Property Damage Liability* pays when you or your family members damage other property in an accident. It pays for repair, replacement, or the cash value of the other owner’s property. It also pays for your legal expenses.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP or No-fault)* pays for medical expenses, rehabilitation, funeral expenses, lost wages, and in-home assistance for you and your passengers injured in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Passengers who own their own cars collect under their policy.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection* pays you or your passengers for medical, rehabilitation, and funeral costs. It also pays settlements of lawsuits resulting from an accident caused by an uninsured, underinsured or hit-and-run motorist. You and your family are covered as pedestrians or when riding your bike.
  • Collision pays for the repair of your car in a collision or rollover.
  • Comprehensive pays for damage to your auto resulting from windstorm, fire, hail, etc.

* These four coverages are required in Kansas.

Coverages Required in Kansas

Kansas law mandates that every automobile insurance policy sold in the state must have these minimum coverages:

  • Liability coverage
    • $25,000/person for bodily injury
    • $50,000/accident for bodily injury
    • $25,000/accident for property damage
  • Personal injury protection (PIP or No-Fault)
    • Minimum amount required by law:
      • $4,500/person for medical expenses
      • $900/month for one year for disability/loss of income
      • $25/day for in-home services
      • $2,000 for funeral, burial or cremation expense
      • $4,500 for rehabilitation expense
    • Survivor Benefits: Disability/loss of income up to $900/month for one year
    • In-home services up to $25/day for one year
  • Uninsured/Underinsured
    • $25,000/person
    • $50,000/accident

How Your Rates Are Determined

Generally speaking, two factors govern what you pay for auto insurance: underwriting and rating

Underwriting is when an insurance company considers your application for auto coverage, it will take into account a number of different factors about you and your driving habits. Just because you apply with a certain company does not mean you will be provided coverage by that company. If approved for coverage, some of the factors that will influence your premiums are driving record, where you live, your car make and model, how much you drive, gender, age, and prior insurance coverage.

After completing the underwriting, the insurance company will place you in one of the three basic categories of drivers listed below. Each company adopts its own rating system for deciding whether to insure a person. Those with the lowest risk factors (least likely to have a claim) will receive the lowest rates.

Preferred— This category is intended for drivers that companies consider to be the best risks, which usually means the safest drivers. These drivers usually have clean driving records over the past three to five years. They are given the lowest rates.

Standard— This category is intended for moderate risk drivers. The rates are higher than the preferred rates. These drivers are usually driving family-type cars and have a reasonably clean driving record.

Non-standard— This category is intended for drivers that companies consider to be high risk. Usually, drivers in this category have the highest rates. These drivers may include under age 25 drivers with less driving experience, drivers with tickets or accidents, drivers with a poor premium payment history, and drivers with a reckless or drunk-driving history.

Tips For Lowering Your Premium

  • Shop around and compare prices.
  • Maintain a good driving record.
  • Take the highest deductible you can afford on collision and comprehensive coverage.
  • On cars with a market value of less than $3,000, consider carrying only liability coverage.
  • Pay your premium well in advance of the due date. No grace period applies to automobile insurance.
  • Review your policy periodically and update coverage accordingly.

For parents of teen-aged drivers: If your teenagers don’t own cars, name them on your policy as occasional operators of your least expensive cars. They may be named as an occasional driver if they don’t drive to and from school or work. If they do own cars, cover them under your policy. This would also qualify you for a multi-car discount. It is important that you report actual driving habits to the company. It’s not uncommon to have juveniles automatically assigned to your most expensive car.

Check into discounts for a driver’s education course or good academic record. If the young driver goes to school more than 100 miles away—without a car—another discount may apply.

Young singles on their own: Avoid high performance or “turbo cars.” A turbo engine can add more than 10 percent to your premium.

Older people: Take a defensive-driving course that’s approved by the State Board of Education or National Safety Council. You may earn a 5 to 15 percent discount off your premium. Call our Consumer Assistance Toll-free Hot Line (1-800-432-2484) or refer to our website for more information.

Ask About Discounts

Ask your agent or company if you are eligible for any discounts. Here are some discounts you should ask about:

  • Two or more cars on a policy
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Course (companies required by law to offer this discount)
  • Driver Education Courses
  • Good student drivers under age 25
  • Mature driver (between 50 and 65 years of age)
  • Airbags, anti-lock braking system, and other safety equipment
  • Anti-theft devices
  • Low mileage
  • Carpooler
  • Clean driving record
  • Accident-free record
  • Auto/home insurance on the same policy or with the same company

Auto Insurance Shopper’s Guide

When you purchase auto insurance, your policy combines multiple individual coverages that protect against a specific type of loss. You must provide proof of insurance when: registering or renewing your vehicle tags, requested by law enforcement, or in an accident. View and download a copy of our Auto Insurance Shopper’s Guide for more information.

Filing a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim

If you are involved in an automobile accident, there are some general rights and responsibilities you have as an insurance consumer.

Who to Contact to File a Claim

  1. Contact your insurance company or agent/agency about any motor vehicle accident regardless of fault. You should notify the insurance agent or company while the details are fresh in your mind. If you report a claim by telephone, follow up in writing. Cooperate with the insurance company’s investigation.
  2. If you feel the other party is responsible for damages to your motor vehicle or other property, you will need to contact their insurance company or agent to file a claim.
  3. The insurance agent or company’s representative will be able to inform you of the proper procedure to take … such as, whether to obtain estimates from local repair shops or from the insurance company’s claim representative.
  4. If you suffer any injuries and you are a titled owner of an insured motor vehicle, you should notify your own insurance company because your coverage under your Kansas No-Fault PIP benefits would be primary for any medical expenses incurred by you, regardless of fault.
  5. Be sure to keep good records of any communication with an insurance company during a claims process, including dates.

Claim Investigation Time Frames

In Kansas, an insurance company has an obligation to investigate a filed claim, whether first or third party, within 30 days from when it was reported. If the insurance company needs additional time to conduct an investigation, it shall every 45 days thereafter send to the insured or claimant a letter setting forth the reasons additional time is needed to conclude the investigation. It is in the best interest of the insurance company to investigate any claim promptly so that valuable evidence is not lost or destroyed. However, there are no provisions requiring an insurance company to settle your claim within a certain period of time.

When a Motor Vehicle is Declared Totaled

Kansas law provides for prompt, fair and equitable settlements when determining the fair retail market value of a damaged motor vehicle. If an insurance company decides a motor vehicle will cost more to repair than its fair retail market value, then they will declare it a total loss. When determining its fair retail market value or actual cash value (ACV), sources such as professional dealer association used car guides may be utilized.

When a Motor Vehicle is to be Repaired

  • Estimates – Insurance companies do not have to settle a claim based on the highest estimate of repair. If a company believes the estimates are too high, they have the right to check with other repair facilities. The insurance company’s offer needs to cover the actual repair costs to restore the damaged motor vehicle to pre-loss condition. However, if they direct a claimant to a specific repair facility for actual repairs, they are giving an implied warranty on that repair facility’s workmanship.
  • Repair – The insurance company can repair a vehicle with other than original manufactured parts, commonly referred to as aftermarket parts. In addition, the company may also repair your vehicle with used or salvaged parts provided they are of like kind and quality. If the insurance company decides to repair the damage to your motor vehicle, they should issue the claim settlement check in your name and not to the repair firm unless you signed an authorization for the repair firm’s name to also appear on the check. If it is a first party claim and a lienholder is named on your insurance policy, the insurance company should also include the lienholder’s name on the claim settlement check.

Seeking Damages for Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering lawsuits may be filed only under certain conditions. In Kansas, you are prohibited from seeking damages for pain and suffering under the at-fault party’s bodily injury coverage unless your medical bills are $2,000 or more, or unless the injury consists of one of the following:

  • Permanent disfigurement
  • A fracture to a weight bearing bone
  • A compound, comminuted, displaced or compressed fracture
  • Loss of a body part
  • Permanent injury
  • Permanent loss of bodily function
  • Death

If you recover damages and there is any duplication of the payment your company made to you under the Personal Injury Protection benefits, you are responsible for reimbursement to your insurance company.

Rental Motor Vehicles

If you are in a motor vehicle accident and the other party is determined to be at fault or legally responsible for your damages, you are entitled to a rental motor vehicle or the reasonable compensation for loss of the use of your motor vehicle while it is being repaired. If the insurance company considers your motor vehicle a total loss, you may be entitled to reasonable compensation for the loss of the use of your motor vehicle. Once the insurance company establishes a fair retail market value or actual cash value of your motor vehicle and makes a reasonable loss settlement offer to you, then the insurance company may withdraw further payment for a rental motor vehicle.

If you are renting a motor vehicle from a rental car company, your insurance policy with your personal automobile insurance company may or may not automatically provide required liability insurance protection while you are driving the rental motor vehicle.

We suggest you get in writing from your insurance company and/or agent/agency that your insurance coverage under your personal policy of insurance extends to cover mandatory liability insurance protection while you are operating a rental motor vehicle. If not, we suggest you purchase such extended liability insurance protection from your insurance company or from the rental car company.

In addition, you would be responsible for any physical damage caused to a rental motor vehicle while in your possession. Again, determine and get in writing from your insurance company as to whether or not your insurance policy covers the physical damage of the rental car company’s owned vehicle while in your possession on a short term lease. If not, we suggest you purchase such coverage from your own insurance company or from the rental car company. The rental car company refers to their physical damage coverage as Collision Damage Waiver. Unfortunately, it is extremely expensive when purchasing it from the rental car company.

Sound Reproducing Equipment

Sound reproduction equipment that is permanently installed in the opening of the dash or console for which the equipment was originally designed by the manufacturer is covered under comprehensive coverage. You may be able to purchase, for an additional premium charge, coverage for customized sound reproduction equipment. If you have questions regarding the coverage provided by your insurance policy, contact your insurance agent/agency.

Motor Vehicle Accident Checklist

Involvement in a motor vehicle accident can leave you feeling confused, shaken, angry, or scared. There are some things you can do at the accident scene to help you get a claim processed properly. We suggest you keep this list in the glove compartment of your motor vehicle(s) to assist you should you ever be involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Contact the Kansas Department of Insurance

In the event of a motor vehicle accident, you should always contact your insurance company or agent/agency first because many problems are resolved at that level. However, if you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve the problem with any insurance company or agent, you may contact the Kansas Department of Insurance at:

Should it be necessary to file a written complaint with the Kansas Department of Insurance, be sure to include the following information to speed processing of your inquiry:

  • Include your name, address and daytime phone number.
  • State your case by giving a full explanation of the problem and what type of insurance is involved.
  • Provide the name of the insurance company, policy number, or claim number.
  • Supply copies of documentation you have to support your case.
  • State what has been done to resolve your problem including who you have talked with and what you were told.
  • Keep a copy of your letter to the Kansas Department of Insurance for reference.

While the Kansas Department of Insurance has recovered millions of dollars for Kansas consumers, the Department cannot force any insurance company to pay a claim if the company, in good faith, believes as a matter of law or fact, that it does not owe the money in question. You may wish to hire legal counsel if a company persists in denying what you believe is a valid claim.

When do I need a lawyer and how do I find one?

See the Kansas Bar Association’s Kansas Lawyer Referral Service for information, or call 1-800-928-3111.

Accident Prevention Courses

Kansas law requires auto liability insurers to provide for a reduction in premiums if the principal operator of a covered vehicle successfully completes a motor vehicle accident avoidance course, or at least four hours in duration, utilizing a nationally recognized driver training curriculum or a curriculum approved by a state or federal agency. The Kansas Department of Insurance does not approve curriculum. Contact your insurer to inquire into which courses they will accept.