Your Weird Car Insurance Questions, Answered

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Would your car insurance protect you in these odd scenarios?

Reading most car insurance policies could knock out even a hyperactive toddler amped up on coffee in 60 seconds flat. I've actually read through many of them, and believe me, it's not easy. But there's some important stuff buried in there about what your policy covers and what it doesn't. And if you don't want to slog through all those pages yourself, you have to find another way to determine what kind of coverage you need.

So I'm here to talk you through some of the finer points of car insurance by answering some questions about some rather unusual claims.

A turkey attacked my car. Is that covered?

Before you roll your eyes and say how ridiculous that is, it actually happened to me a few weeks ago. I went to my front door to investigate some mysterious banging outside and found a monster tom puffed up and facing down his reflection in my rear bumper, ready to fight to the death. Fortunately, I was able to chase him off before he did any real damage.

In my case, it would've been covered if he'd scratched my car because I have comprehensive coverage. This type of car insurance coverage handles all types of vehicle-wildlife interactions. You don't need this type of insurance by law in any state, but your lender will require it if you have a lease or a loan on your car.

Even if you don't need to have it, it's usually a good idea. In addition to covering damages from wildlife encounters, comprehensive coverage also covers loss from theft, vandalism, and natural disasters. You never know when a hailstorm is going to punch a hole in your windshield. Or when a turkey's going to mark your vehicle as public enemy No. 1, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

A mattress flew out of the back of my truck and hit another car. Will my insurance cover that?

This one is another semi-autobiographical story. It actually happened when my family was helping me move into a new place a few years back. Fortunately, in our case, the mattress just rolled down the highway a little and didn't actually hit anyone.

If it had, the unfortunate driver's claim would've been covered by our liability insurance. This is the coverage that all states require drivers to have, and it comes in two types -- bodily injury and property damage. Bodily injury coverage pays for medical bills if the other driver or their passengers are injured. Property damage coverage pays to fix up their car and any other property you may have damaged in the accident.

At least that's how it works in at-fault states. In no-fault states, each driver files bodily injury claims with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault. You have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage that pays for your medical expenses. But the driver at fault would also have to file a claim for the damage to the other vehicle.

I ran over my neighbor's ferret. What does my insurance cover?

I've had pets that were run over, though not ferrets, and it's not fun. As a driver in this situation, you should definitely stop and give your insurance information to the owner. As for whether or not you're held responsible, that's a legal matter and you'll have to talk to a lawyer to sort that out.

If you are found responsible, your liability coverage should take care of the vet expenses and any damage done to anyone else's property. If the accident resulted in some damage to your car -- for example, if you swerved off the road and into a tree while attempting to avoid the animal -- that would be covered under collision coverage. Similar to comprehensive coverage, this isn't required by state law, but most lenders require you to have it.

Collision coverage pays for repairs to your car following an accident, even if you were at fault. If you don't have this coverage, you're paying for the full cost of repairs on your own, so it's risky to go without.

How to ensure you have the right insurance coverage

If you don't want to go through your car insurance policy line by line to figure out what's covered and what isn't, you can always put in a call to your insurer to find out. They may also be able to advise you on how much car insurance you need and what kind of coverage you should consider if you're looking to up your policy limits or purchase a new policy altogether.

At a minimum, you need liability coverage, though how much you're required to have varies by state. Your lender, if you have one, will also require collision and comprehensive coverage, as discussed above. You may also need to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in your state, and it's wise to have it even if you don't need it. This protects you if you're hit by a law-breaking driver without insurance or a driver with too little coverage to pay the full cost of your claims.

There are tons of other things you could add to your policy, like roadside assistance, gap coverage, and accident forgiveness, but these are totally optional. You'll have to decide if they're right for you before you purchase your policy. And again, don't be afraid to reach out to a car insurance company and ask if there's something you don't understand about its coverage, no matter how strange your question may be.

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