What happens if my car is damaged while I am away?

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Whether you’re in the military, have a job that requires extensive travel or simply like to journey abroad, you may sometimes need to leave your vehicle behind for several weeks or months. Unfortunately, accidents can happen even if your vehicle is left parked in your driveway or garage, and having those repairs completed can be very difficult if you do not arrange your policy appropriately in advance.

What Can Happen to a Vehicle That’s Left Parked?

Although a parked vehicle has less chance of being involved in a collision than one that you’re driving every day, there are still plenty of things that can happen to it:

— The vehicle could be damaged by hail or other weather events
— It could be vandalized or broken into
— It could be stolen
— The vehicle may slip out of gear and roll into another vehicle
— The car could catch fire, especially if housed in a garage
— Someone could hit it while it’s parked, especially if it’s parked on the street

Because of these risks, it’s a good idea to maintain at least minimal amounts of insurance coverage on your vehicle even if you’ll be leaving it parked for several months. If the car will not be used for a substantial amount of time, you can contact your insurance company and have the vehicle put on a storage-only policy. That will reduce the amount of your premiums while the car is not being used without sacrificing coverages.

A storage-only policy usually focuses on comprehensive coverage, protecting it against theft, vandalism and weather. It might be a good idea to maintain at least a little bit of liability insurance and collision coverage just in case something unexpected happens, like the car slipping out of gear and rolling into someone else.

What Happens if My Vehicle is Damaged While I’m Gone?

If your stored vehicle sustains damages while you’re away from home, you may need to wait until you return home to complete the repairs and file the claim. Of course, this can be very inconvenient, so it’s a good idea to arrange to have someone take care of your insurance and other affairs while you’re out of the country, especially if you’ll be gone for a long time.

The easiest way to ensure that you vehicle’s repairs will be handled while you’re away is to make sure that someone else is listed on your insurance policy. If someone is listed as a driver on the insurance policy, they should have the ability to file a claim and have the vehicle repaired on your behalf, although they will not be able to cash checks or sign a title over for a total loss.

If you want to leave someone with even more control over your vehicle in your absence, it might be worthwhile to obtain a power of attorney. This will allow them to act legally on your behalf to complete the claims process and repair your auto.

Should I Always Have Someone Else Handle My Claim if I’m Gone?

Of course, you may not be comfortable with the idea of someone else having control of your auto insurance policy while you’re away. It may be a better idea to simply wait until you return to the country to handle the repairs of your vehicle.

If you’ll only be gone for a few weeks and don’t mind returning to a damaged vehicle, this can be a wise choice. If you’ll be gone for several months or a year, however, you may return outside of your insurance company’s statute of limitations, making filing a claim impossible. You may also have need of a fully-functioning vehicle when you return, especially if you have no alternate transportation.

You may also attempt to handle the claim long distance over the phone or online. Some insurance companies make it easy to file claims online or with a phone call, so you may be able to handle the claim from overseas while you’re deployed or away on business. You will still probably need to appoint someone to bring your vehicle to inspections, drop it off at the repair shop or handle other physical business matters, however, so be sure you have someone that you trust back home to take care of these aspects of the claim.

When preparing to leave home for an extended period of time, your car insurance is generally not the first thing on your mind, but you should make it a priority. By modifying your coverages to cover damages that may occur while you’re gone and setting up a trusted friend or family member to handle claims in your absence, you can ensure that your vehicle has ample protection against the unknown even while you’re away from the country.

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