Is My Auto Insurance Policy Ready for Winter in Montana?

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Winters in the Treasure State have the potential to be extremely cold and wet, which could lead to hazardous driving conditions and accidents. According to the state's Department of Transportation, there were at least 1,200 accidents reported in 2010 that took place on wet, icy or slushy roads. Because motorists are required to follow specific financial responsibility laws, policyholders typically have to pay for damages or injuries that they are responsible for.

The National Weather Service estimates that Montana experienced an average of about 27 winter storms and three blizzards annually between 1999 and 2010. If motorists lose control on icy roads or are hampered by poor visibility and strike another automobile, they may be considered financially responsible for any resulting damages. Although all Montana auto insurance policies must include bodily injury and property damage liability of 25/50/10, these minimum limits could be easily exceeded, especially in an accident involving multiple cars.

Raising liability limits above the minimums required by the state is typically a cost-effective way for residents to better prepare themselves for possible financial repercussions after causing an accident. Drivers should especially consider getting more than the required $10,000 in property damage liability. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the average cost of a new car in 2009 was roughly $28,000. If one's liability coverage is exceeded, then any remaining expenses may still have to be covered by the policyholder out-of-pocket.

This required car insurance, however, only pays for other people's damages that a motorist is responsible for, which still leaves the policyholder vulnerable to the cost of repairing his or her own vehicle. To insure against accident damages to the policyholder's own car, collision insurance should be purchased. This should cover damages caused by a driver's losing control on the road and hitting a tree or another object, in addition to collisions with other cars.

On Jan. 20, 1954, the temperature in Roger's Pass dropped to -70 degrees without the assistance of wind chill, which is one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in the lower 48 states. In conditions this cold, there are a variety of damages that could happen to a car that may be covered by adding comprehensive coverage. Hail damage, glass damage and damage from falling tree branches-among other types-would all be covered under the comprehensive portion of a policy.

Montana stateBefore winter weather rolls in, Montana drivers are encouraged to reevaluate their plans and consider purchasing policy additions to be better prepared. This may include adding such things as roadside assistance or rental car coverage if it is available. Drivers are also encouraged to exercise caution when traveling in stormy conditions in order to avoid potential accidents. Being involved in a collision is likely to stay on a motorist's driving record for at least three years, especially if the policyholder is considered at-fault. This may raise premium prices or make it more difficult to purchase inexpensive automobile insurance in the future.