Comprehensive Vs. Collision Auto Insurance Claims

by Mary Jane Freeman
Comprehensive and collision insurance may be bundled together.

Comprehensive and collision insurance often work hand-in-hand. When you add collision coverage to your auto insurance, this covers damage caused in a vehicle accident. Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, covers damage not caused by an accident, but rather by unexpected life events, such as theft or vandalism.

What Collision Coverage Protects

A car insurance policy with collision protection covers damage caused by an accident. The damage can be the result of a collision with another car or object, or from the car rolling over. Coverage pays for replacement and repair costs. Many insurance carriers require drivers to sign up for both comprehensive and collision insurance in order to have collision insurance, but drivers can often have comprehensive insurance without also signing up for collision coverage.

Comprehensive Coverage Protects Against the Unexpected

In contrast to collision insurance, comprehensive coverage protects against damage that results from events other than those normally recognized as an auto accident. This includes such things as natural disasters, falling objects, fire, and even hitting an animal, such as a deer. Comprehensive coverage is not mandatory, but many finance companies will require a driver to obtain it as a condition of vehicle purchase or lease.

Claims Process

Regardless of the type of coverage a driver has, the claims process is usually the same or similar among insurance companies. After an accident or other event, the insured driver calls his insurance carrier to report the incident. The carrier will ask a variety of questions, such as the date and time of event, parties involved, damage incurred, and description of what happened. If the carrier determines an inspection is necessary, the carrier will schedule one with a claims adjuster or similar personnel. Once the carrier reaches a determination, a representative contacts the driver with a damage estimate. If the car can be repaired, the driver can send his vehicle for repairs and the carrier will pay for the expense above the deductible. If the car cannot be repaired, or if damage exceeds the car's value, the carrier will typically write the car off as a loss and issue a payment for the car's current market value, or for the maximum amount of the insurance policy if the limits on the policy are less than the car's value.

Impact of Deductible

When a driver signs up for auto insurance, including comprehensive and collision coverage, he must choose a deductible. This is the amount of money a driver must pay before the insurance company will foot the rest of the bill for any repairs or replacement costs. Deductibles can range from no money at all to several thousand dollars. For example, if a car is vandalized with damages totaling $2,500, a driver with comprehensive coverage and a deductible of $1,000 will be required to pay $1,000 before his insurance carrier will cover the remaining $1,500 balance.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

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