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6 Unexpected Things Your Auto Insurance Covers — Who Knew?

car travel with petsEver wonder what might happen to your car if it were caught in the middle of a riot? Or what if a meteorite descended from space and landed on your hood while driving to visit the in-laws?

Well, there’s good news for drivers who may encounter these and other strange circumstances — auto insurance just might come to the rescue.

Sure, when most of us buy car insurance we probably do so thinking it will help ease the financial burden of repairing our vehicle after an accident.

But most comprehensive auto policies actually cover a whole lot more than mere repairs, including everything from reimbursing lost wages to paying for acupuncture therapy, pet injuries and even damage caused by sneaky rodents.

Now keep in mind that every individual auto policy is different, and there’s no guarantee every insurer will cover every circumstance listed below. Nonetheless, here are six lesser-known instances where drivers can take advantage of the outer limits of car insurance coverage.

Injuries to pets

While not commonly thought of as accident victims, your pets can get injured in a car accident just as easily as their human counterparts. And treating our pets for injuries is anything but cheap, which is why some policies now include coverage that can help with the medical costs and recovery of your four-legged friends.

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“Many companies are now starting to offer accident coverage for your pets,” says Nick Braun, an independent insurance agent. “The basic idea is that if you get into an accident and your pet needs emergency care or surgery, it’s going to be covered under your auto policy. It’s becoming a popular add-on and can be a real life saver if your dog or cat suffers injuries.”

Braun says most auto insurers don’t charge extra for pet coverage in a comprehensive policy and the typical coverage limit is between $1,000 and $2,000. There’s just one catch: most policies will only provide coverage if the accident was not your fault.

fighting_squirrelRodent damage

Whether you keep your car in a garage, in your driveway, or parked on the street, rodents have a maddening ability to get inside and cause substantial damage.

And whether they’ve chewed up some of the wiring, made a nest of important documents in the glove box, or left behind pellet-sized reminders of their presence, the damage can wind up costing a substantial amount of money.

According to California-based insurance agent Jeremy Schaedler, drivers should look for a clause in their policy that includes the phrase “other than collision” to find out whether or not an insurer will cover the cost of damage left behind by mice, rats, squirrels or rabbits.

“This is a very common question for folks out here in California,” Schaedler says. “For instance, a very common thing out there is damage from mice chewing on a car’s electrical wires. And the damage from that can be surprisingly expensive.”

Lost wages

Even minor accidents can lead to injuries that prevent us from going to work. But if you find yourself laid up following an accident, you may not have to worry about the money you’ll lose by staying home and healing.

The key to recovering lost wages after an accident is making sure you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) on your auto policy. In short, PIP is an extension added to your car insurance that not only covers lost wages, but also a wide range of medical expenses, including acupuncture and physical therapy.

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Justin Elsner, a Washington-based attorney who specializes in insurance, says the extent of PIP coverage will vary from state to state.

“For example, drivers with PIP in Washington can be compensated for lost wages, medical bills, funeral benefits, and even essential services like paying someone to mow your lawn or clean your house while you’re physically unable,” Elsner says. “Talk to your insurance agent about what PIP benefits apply to your state.”

police in riot gearRiots

It may sound like a far-fetched scenario for many, but getting caught in the middle of extreme civil unrest can potentially wreak havoc on your vehicle.

“If your car is in the wrong place at the wrong time during a riot or demonstration, some plans offer coverage for any damage that occurs as a result,” says Wayne Cohen, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in automotive law. “Of course every policy is different and coverage is going to vary, so find out what sort of riot damage is covered before you find yourself in the middle of one.”

Falling objects

Whether it’s golf-balled-sized hail, a swiftly descending bird, a meteorite, or a piece of jet engine broken lose in mid-air, most comprehensive auto policies will pay for any damage sustained from falling objects.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “If a satellite, meteor or asteroid falls on your car, coverage is provided under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

“And if falling debris causes an auto accident, the liability portion of the policy would come into play.”

Rental cars and roadside assistance

Braun says most insurers will offer both roadside assistance and rental car reimbursement for a small additional fee.

“Towing and roadside assistance usually cost an additional $25 to $50 per year, and rental coverage costs an additional $20 to $75 per month, depending on the type of vehicle you want to rent,” Braun says. “So if you own an Escalade and want to rent an Escalade while your car is getting repaired, that’s going to be closer to $75 a month. But if you total your car and need a rental for a long period of time, it’s money well spent.”