What insurance agents need to know about commercial auto claims
All auto insurance policies aren’t created equal. If your clients are using any type of motor vehicle in their business, you already know that their personal auto insurance policies just aren’t sufficient. Instead, they need to have a commercial auto policy in place to fully protect the business and its owners and employees from liability—as well as to cover the cost of physical damage.
Commercial auto insurance is a type of insurance policy that provides coverage for vehicles used in a business setting, such as delivery trucks, company cars, and buses. Traditionally, we think about commercial auto insurance in the context of a fleet of vehicles, let’s say, a pizza delivery chain that provides cars for its employees to make deliveries.
But the need for commercial auto insurance applies to all sorts of businesses and situations that might not seem obvious to your clients. For example, a pharmaceutical rep who uses their own car to get from one doctor’s office to another all day for meetings may need a commercial auto policy.
Before selling a commercial auto policy to a small business owner, it’s important for insurance agents to understand the specific risks commercial auto insurance can cover. Understanding the nuances of a commercial auto policy will also help when it comes to advising your clients through the commercial auto claims process.
Types of commercial auto insurance claims
Commercial auto claims involving physical damage to one or more vehicles
One of the most common types of claims made under commercial auto insurance policies is for physical damage to a vehicle. Most often we think of this as damage sustained in an accident (a collision) but physical damage can also include damage from vandalism or natural disasters. Not all policies include coverage for all perils, so it’s important to review the details with your client before a policy is purchased.
When making a claim for physical damage, the policyholder must provide evidence of the damage, such as photographs or repair estimates. Car accidents can be scary and overwhelming so remind your client that the first thing they need to do is make sure everyone involved has the medical attention they need.
Once everyone has received the care they need, your client should document as much information about the vehicles and individuals involved in the accident as possible. Having detailed documentation could help speed up the claims process allowing your client to receive compensation for damages sooner. In many cases, the best thing to do is for the driver of the car to call 911 and get a police officer to issue an official report. This can be helpful documentation for the commercial auto claims process.
Commercial auto claims involving liability
Another common type of commercial auto insurance claim is for liability, that is, who is responsible—not just for repairing damage to a vehicle—but compensating injured parties. Liability coverage helps to protect the policyholder against claims made by third parties for damages or injuries sustained in an accident involving one of the business’s vehicles. Commercial auto liability coverage can even help protect your business from the financial impact of your own employee suing if they were involved in an accident with a company vehicle while performing their job.
Liability coverage helps to cover the costs your business incurs if you’re found liable for an accident, or the costs of defending your business against that liability. This can include legal fees, medical payments, and damages that a court awards to the injured party.
Filing a claim for commercial auto insurance under liability coverage looks a lot like the process of filing a claim for physical damage. These two types of coverage often go hand-in-hand, since an accident that caused physical damage is likely to also cause other types of liabilities the responsible party needs to pay for. Documentation and quickly reporting the accident to your client’s insurance carrier are key to getting the claims process kicked off smoothly.
Other commonly covered expenses with commercial auto insurance
While every policy is different, it’s common for commercial auto policies to include coverage for medical expenses, lost income, and rental car expenses. These losses are above and beyond just the cost of fixing the damaged vehicle.
- Medical expense coverage helps to cover the costs of medical treatment for injuries sustained in an accident involving a business’s vehicle.
- Lost income coverage helps to replace lost wages if an employee is unable to work due to an injury sustained in an accident involving a business’s vehicle.
- If an accident causes significant damage to a company vehicle, rental car coverage can help to cover the costs of renting a replacement vehicle while the one involved in the accident is being repaired.
Once again, remind your clients of the importance of prompt reporting and thorough documentation if they have any type of commercial auto claim. They’ll need to save all medical bills related to an accident and document the time they had to take off work for their recovery, including showing proof of lost wages.
Proper documentation is key to a frictionless commercial auto claims process
You might have noticed a theme here. In every example, for all types of commercial auto claims, documentation is a vital element. As an insurance agent, it’s important to understand the various forms of documentation required to process commercial auto claims.
Your small business insurance clients need to know what to do if an accident happens in a commercial vehicle. And it’s even more critical that every one of their employees who drives a company vehicle is also familiar with what to do. You can go above and beyond as an insurance agent by helping your clients remember and communicate these concepts to their employees. For example, you might provide a checklist they can keep in their commercial vehicles that lists each type of documentation they should get if they’re involved in an accident.
By working closely with policyholders to ensure that they have the necessary coverage and by helping them to understand the claims process, you can help to protect their business by reaching claims settlement quicker and receiving payment sooner. Educating your small business clients on the nuances of commercial auto claims can also help ensure that they are prepared before an accident involving a company vehicle occurs.