Home

Insurance Dictionary

Insurance coverage can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. To help you make informed decisions about your insurance coverage, take a look at some of the common insurance terms and definitions. Still have questions? Review these frequently asked questions or contact your ERIE insurance agent.


Accident report form 

If you’re involved in an auto accident, the police officer on the scene produces this document, which is also known as the police report. This report has important details about the accident that will be useful to the insurance claims adjuster and it assists with processing and evaluating your claim.

Here are just a few details you’ll find in the report: Location of the accident, people who were involved in the accident, their account of what caused the accident, outcomes of the accident such as damage to vehicles and other property, weather conditions, extent of injuries (if any) and whether citations were issued.


At fault

When someone’s involved in an accident, the insurance company has to figure out who caused it and how other drivers (if there were any) played a role. In the end, the insurance companies assign a percentage of fault to each driver. The insurance companies investigating the claims use these percentages to determine how much each insurance company pays to cover the costs of the damages.


Claim

If you're involved in a car accident, or something else happens that damages your car, one of the first things you'll do is report it to your insurance company — that's filing a claim. This begins the process so you can get reimbursed for your loss.


Claims adjuster

Once you file a claim, the insurance company representative you’ll be working with is the claims adjuster. You can expect the claims adjuster to contact you, explain the process and then begin his or her investigation of the claim. It’s helpful to keep your information about your policy and claim in one place and within reach throughout the claims process.

When the investigation is completed, the claims adjuster will make a settlement, which is the amount the insurance company will pay for the loss. Their goal is to help you understand the process, and make sure you and any other individuals involved are fairly compensated.


Collision coverage

Collision coverage helps you cover the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle after it is damaged in a collision. Most drivers end up paying a deductible, so check your policy or ask your agent to find out what your up-front expense would be. Collision insurance is often required by lenders, but once you own the vehicle, it may be optional. Talk to your agent to find out if collision coverage makes sense for you.


Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage helps you pay for damages caused by theft, fire, vandalism, a falling tree and other things that are covered in your policy. Your auto lender may require you to carry comprehensive on your automobile policy. But once you own the vehicle outright, this coverage is optional.


Covered loss

The types of accidents, damages and situations that are covered by your insurance policy. If you have any specific concerns or questions about what is covered and what isn’t, be sure and talk to your agent so you understand how your automobile policy works for you.


Deductible

The deductible is how much money you’ll be paying out of pocket before insurance kicks in. Let’s say you crash your car into a tree, causing $1,200 in damages to your car. Your policy has a $500 deductible. That means you would pay the first $500 toward the repair bill and the insurance company would pay for the remaining $700. Many people opt for higher deductible plans in exchange for lower premiums.  


Endorsement

An endorsement is when a change is made to an existing insurance policy. What often triggers an endorsement are life changes, which include: marriage, moving, buying a new vehicle, adding a driver to your family or removing a driver. When events like these happen, it’s always a good time to review your insurance policies and make sure you have all the coverage you and your family need. Endorsements could also mean a coverage part. For instance, if you purchase Roadside and Rental, the Roadside and Rental coverage will be attached to your policy.


Exclusions

Exclusions are specific situations that your insurance company will not cover. It’s important to understand the exclusions included in the policy. For example, if you work for a rideshare company, you will want to talk to your agent about whether you need additional insurance to cover your needs.


Gap Insurance

If you’re paying on a car loan or a lease, your car may be valued for less than what you owe. So, if your car is totaled in an accident, gap insurance helps you pay off your loan or lease, minus the deductible.


Independent agent, independent agency

Many insurance agents work directly for one specific insurance company. Some, however, are independent agents. Independent agents may represent multiple insurance companies. Their goal is to help you find the best policy that meets your insurance needs.


Liability coverage

Let’s say you caused an accident and were found at fault. Perhaps you rear-ended a car stopped at a traffic light, or perhaps you lost control of your car on an icy road. Your liability will cover the costs of the damage you caused the other vehicles and property, as well as injuries to other people involved in the accident. In most states, liability coverage is mandatory. Property damage liability won’t cover damage to your own vehicle. That’s where collision coverage comes in.


Medical payments coverage

If you are hurt in a car accident, this coverage pays for your medical expenses, even if you were found at fault. It also covers injuries suffered by other passengers, as well as any funeral expenses.


Motor vehicle report (MVR)

This report includes information your state has on your driving record. Your insurance company will review it because it gives them one indication of how likely you are to file a claim in the future. This report includes your license status, driving class and restrictions. This report also notes any traffic citations (speeding tickets), accidents and convictions (e.g., driving under the influence.)

Having a number of citations and convictions on your motor vehicle report can have an impact on what you pay for insurance. Maintaining a clean driving record is one factor that could keep your auto insurance costs down.


Premium

The premium is the amount you pay to keep your insurance coverage in effect.


Policy

The policy is the written agreement between you and the auto insurance company. This document details what is covered by your policy (see: “covered loss”) and what isn’t covered by your policy (see: “exclusions”). It also details what your premium costs are. If you have questions about your policy and what it covers, be sure and talk to your agent.


Road service

Breakdowns, lockouts, flat tires, dead batteries — these are all situations that can keep you from getting where you need to be. If you add road service protection to your auto insurance policy, help is just a phone call away. With it, you can get a tow, a battery jump, help with your tires, gas delivery and more.


Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage

Let’s say you’re hurt in an automobile accident that was caused by another driver. Ideally, their bodily injury liability policy would have you covered. But what happens if the driver’s bare-bones policy has no bodily injury coverage? What if the other driver has no auto insurance? Worse, what if it was a hit-and-run and the driver can’t be identified? That’s where your underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage kicks in. (In a hit-and-run situation, some states require physical contact and then it would be considered uninsured driver).


Vehicle identification number (VIN)

The vehicle identification number is your car’s serial number. It has 17 characters containing numbers and letters and it’s assigned by the manufacturer. This code reveals information about your car’s make, model and year. You can locate your vehicle’s VIN in a number of places: on the dashboard, printed on the sticker inside your door jamb, on your title documents and on your auto insurance policy.

The vehicle identification number is your car’s serial number. It has 17 characters containing numbers and letters and it’s assigned by the manufacturer. This code reveals information about your car’s make, model and year. You can locate your vehicle’s VIN in a number of places: on the dashboard, printed on the sticker inside your door jamb, on your title documents and on your auto insurance policy.