Read the fine print: common contract pitfalls
As with most professional or financial services, the final step in purchasing auto insurance is placing your signature on the contract. It’s important to ensure that you both read and understand all of the details that can be found in the contract paperwork, including the miles of text that we have all come to know as the “fine print”. Yes, this information is typically pretty boring and difficult to fully understand but you are signing a legal document, so it’s worth fully digesting so you know what the terms of your relationship are with your auto insurance provider. In this article we’ll discuss the fine print on an auto insurance policy and some tips for understanding the information contained within.
Why It’s Important to Read your Entire Policy
Reading through the fine print on your auto insurance policy is something that you’ll need to do at least once. If you don’t completely understand the terms of your auto insurance policy, you may end up leaving yourself financially or legally liable should you cause an accident, injury or property damage sometime down the road. By knowing what your legal responsibilities are, you can avoid any issues and ensure that your auto insurance works to mitigate your risk.
There are countless minor incidents and crashes that end up in a courtroom because one of the parties didn’t fully understand what their auto insurance covered and what was expected of them in case of an accident. It only takes a few minutes to get through, but reading that fine print can save you major headaches later.
Pay Attention to Specific Dates and Requirements
One of the major areas to pay attention to in the fine print on your auto insurance policy are any specific dates or deadlines to file paperwork, claims and the like. For instance, you may end up in a minor automobile accident in which your insurer agrees to pay off some small claims – but only if your paperwork is complete and sent in by a certain deadline. Or, you may have dates attached to your policy term or renewals which might be important in keeping your auto insurance up to date.
It’s best to highlight or otherwise mark off any dates that you are going to be responsible for to ensure you don’t miss them. Holding up your part of the deal is part of maintaining a good relationship with your insurance provider, so make sure you don’t miss any dates or deadlines!
Highlight anything that is Unclear or Confusing
When you sit down to go through your agreement, make sure you have a pen or a highlighter handy so that you can highlight areas of the fine print that are unclear or confusing. There is a lot of standard, common-sense material inside of the fine print that most people understand immediately, so you can skim through these areas to save yourself a bit of time.
After you’ve finished going through the fine print and highlighting the confusing points, you now have some distilled questions that you can either research the answers to or ask your auto insurance agent to answer.
Purchasing without Understanding is Risky
It’s tough to stress this enough: your auto insurance documents and all of the fine print contained in them are a legally binding contract between you and your insurance provider. Simply signing away without fully understanding the terms of your car insurance agreement is risky, and can leave you facing difficulties later on should you end up in an accident or dealing with a crash-related injury.
The job of your auto insurance agent or a customer service representative at your insurance company is to help you understand the full depth of your agreement and answer any questions that you may have. Don’t hesitate to get someone on the phone to go through the fine print in your auto insurance agreement and to make 100% sure that all of the major points are clear.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!
The final important point is that while you should definitely be aware of the terms of your auto insurance agreement, you also need to understand that much of what is in there is standard legalese that can be found in most contracts or agreements. Try not to stress out about the very fine details and points that you are confused about; spend a few minutes on the phone or in person with an experienced auto insurance agent and they will be able to set you straight.
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