If an accident is Your fault or not, does it matter?

This question is to educate you on the particular insurance company you’re talking to and how they evaluate your driving record, or what your driving record will be once you’ve had an accident. Some companies will evaluate you on only accidents that are your fault with damage more than a certain amount, say $850. Other insurance companies will hit you with a charge even if you’re the one who has been rear-ended. In some states, fault is not taken into account and is not considered an activity worthy of police time and attention-the result; everyone pays their own damages.

As with the previous question, “Which is insured first, the car or the driver?

The answer is going to vary with insurance company underwriting philosophy and state law. Also, similar to the last question, you’re going to have a hard time sorting between which information is company underwriting mumbo-jumbo and which is state law. Once again, a broker, representing many companies is going to be more familiar with the difference than any captive agent, only representing one insurance carrier.

The immediacy and confidence in delivering the answer is going to be a key indicator of a person’s time on the job, experience in the industry and of how knowledgeable they are; or aren’t. Note taking will be a key to delivering best possible comparison and ultimate outcome. Note taking is also a key test of patience. You shouldn’t strive to greedily take up a person’s time, but you shouldn’t feel as if they are holding themselves aloof, or are giving you the bum’s rush.

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You want to use this question to get the answer, but also to feel out their patience and willingness to educate you on what is, at the end of the conversation, your choice. Any representative who considers you unworthy of their time, should be considered unworthy of your business.

Every professional agent knows, an educated consumer is a great customer, and often a free-of-charge, walking, talking billboard for their business. A great insurance consumer knows that a patient-educating insurance agent is worth their keep, and a hearty endorsement because of their exceeding rarity in this world consumer-trampling, greasy rat race salespeople and their greasy rat race sales tactics.  The rare gem of an insurance agent is likely to be a broker.

And remember, as you conduct this tedium of sifting between the rats and gems, you still get what you give. Be persistent and insistent, but not rude or vulgar, you don’t need to sink to their level. You will not win them over and you will lose your dignity in the process, cursing them out is a lose-lose scenario, so just hang up or walk out and move on.

What difference, if any, do moving violations make?

Like the first two questions, you are trying to get a sense of each insurance company’s underwriting philosophy and interpretation of state law and the sense of the person you’re talking to and their patience, knowledge and professionalism. Remember, likeability is a nice to have, not a need to have.

Prior to the financial crisis, many people liked Bernard Madoff, but then came to regret that they had ever heard his name when the lost all they had “invested” with him in his largest to date Ponzi scheme. Likability is irrelevant, patient teaching is everything, and having a usable frame work for you to compare the answers from company to company and from agency to agency within an insurance company will help you extract the most value for the least premium and help determine between the gems and the rats.

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And remember, that some rats know how to make themselves appear gem-like, so go through all of the questions. Insurance is pretty boring, not entertaining, it’s OK if your patient-educating, knowledgeable gem is a bit of a snooze. And don’t mistake boring, or formal, for aloof, or impatient.

So, state laws and insurance companies vary, you want to take your bullet point notes and be detailed, without taking too much time, they have a job to do, and these questions in this order will help you stay organized and help you compare and contrast your options. Some insurance companies will not consider a minor “mover” (moving violation settled in) traffic court, to be a ratable offense-one that increases your rate, others will take a detailed look not only into moving violations, but into parking tickets as well to look for the aforementioned pattern of irresponsible behavior.

It is important to know the answer to this question

If you have no such violations, you may be subject to being told an outright lie, which once you’re issued a citation and your insurance policy subsequently renews. There is a way to guard against that, that is to demand a quote with a moving violation in your driving history. Ask them to play pretend. If they say they can’t move on.

If they quote the same number, note date, time and person’s name and be sure to ask for their state insurance license number. In the event your rates go up as the result of a moving violation, you’ll have all of the ammunition you need to go to the insurance carrier, the state department of insurance and the better business bureau to file the requisite non-disclosure/misrepresentation complaints.

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Some insurance agents reading this may be aghast at the last sentence, but they should know that misrepresentation has its consequences and punishing those engaged in it, even inadvertently out of inexperience, is good for the industry and honest professionals in it. Material non-disclosure or misrepresentation is a huge no-no, and the pros, those claiming to pros either know it, or should know it.

The better and more systematic your notes system, whether it’s an old-fashioned spiral notebook, a trendy Moleskin, a smartphone app, or traditional spreadsheet, the better your results will be. Take the notes that will help you.