When it comes to auto insurance claims, car fires are relatively rare. But if you’ve ever seen a vehicle engulfed in flames, you know it can be a frightening scene.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), there are about 200,000 vehicle fires each year in the United States – causing nearly $2 billion in property damage and claiming hundreds of lives. Since car fires can happen at any moment (and escalate quickly), being prepared on how to react will provide the best chance of protecting yourself and your family.
Here’s what you need to know about how car fires get started – and what you should do if you ever encounter one.
Why do cars catch on fire?
There are a few common causes of vehicle fires. They include:
- Mechanical failure: According to the NFPA, mechanical failures and malfunctions are the leading cause of vehicle fires. This could include the failure of an electrical component, like faulty wiring or a bad battery. Or it could be caused by a broken line that carries gas or oil to your vehicle’s engine.
- Collisions: During a collision, damaged vehicles can leak fluids that become fuel for a fire. While NFPA data shows that accidents account for only 5% of car fires, they are responsible for 63% of car fire deaths. This is because an accident can make it difficult to exit the vehicle– due to injuries sustained during the collision and/or damage to the car itself.
- Poor maintenance:. Older vehicles account for three-quarters of highway vehicle fires caused by mechanical or electrical failures. Often, issues like oil leaks and other neglected maintenance tasks are to blame.
What should I do if my car catches on fire?
A car fire can engulf your vehicle in a matter of minutes, so time is of the essence. If you find yourself in a vehicle that catches fire, follow these steps.
- Pull over. Get your vehicle off the roadway and come to a complete stop as soon as possible.
- Shut off the engine. Turning the vehicle off will stop the flow of gasoline to the engine. It also disables power to many of your car’s electrical components.
- Get out of the car. Everyone in your vehicle should get out immediately. Once you leave, stay at least 100 feet from the car and do not return to get any personal items – your safety is more important than anything you may have left behind.
- Call 911. Another motorist may have already called for emergency services. But you should always call yourself to ensure a fire truck is on its way.
What if the flames are coming from someone else’s ride? Read our related article on what to do if you witness a car accident.
Should I try to put out a car fire?
If your car is on fire, you may be tempted to put it out yourself. While it may be possible to stop a fire with a Class B or Class C fire extinguisher, most safety experts advise it’s best to just keep your distance and leave the job to the professionals. (Read our related blog story on what to know about fire extinguishers.)
Opening your car’s hood or trunk can cause a sudden increase in airflow to the fire – which will make matters worse. And many of your car’s components (such as airbags, gas shocks, fuel tanks and batteries) can explode during a fire, sending dangerous shrapnel in your direction.
What kind of damage can a car fire cause?
A fire can cause extensive damage to your vehicle in a short amount of time. According to the NFPA, about two-thirds of all car fires start in the engine compartment. That means there can be significant damage to your engine, transmission and electronic systems. The heat from the flames causes substantial paint damage. And smoke can cause irreparable damage to your interior and ventilation systems.
Due to the extent of all this damage, most cars that catch fire are considered a total loss by insurance companies. Learn more about how a car is determined a “total loss.”
Will my auto insurance cover a car fire?
A car fire can be covered by your auto insurance. But it all depends on the type of coverage you have, as well as the circumstances of the fire.
If your car catches fire because of an auto accident, then the damage generally can be covered under your collision insurance. However, if a car fire occurs for reasons not related to an accident – for example, a lightning strike or vandalism – that’s when comprehensive insurance can cover the damage.
Once your car is paid off, both of these coverages are optional. Questions about your specific policy? Talk to your local ERIE agent.
How can you prevent a car fire?
Of course, the best way to protect yourself from a car fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips:
- Maintain your vehicle. Nearly every fluid in your car is flammable. So don’t ignore that oil leak. Have your car regularly serviced by a professional mechanic and always get it checked out if it doesn’t seem to be running properly. (Related: What’s a Multi-Point Inspection, And When Do I Need One?)
- Be careful when transporting fuel. Whether you’re getting gasoline for the lawn mower or grabbing a new propane cylinder for the grill, it’s important to transport it safely. Gas should only be stored in a sealed, approved container. And fuels should never be carried in the passenger area of your vehicle.
- Watch where you park. The catalytic converter in your car’s exhaust system can reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. So avoid parking in areas where something flammable, like dry grass or loose paper, can come in contact with the exhaust.
A Better Day Starts Here
No one pencils a car mishap in their calendar. But when you experience an unlucky break, that’s when we shine. Brighter times are ahead when you call on Erie Insurance, because it’s our job to help you handle the unexpected and get things back to normal. Get in touch with a local ERIE agent in your neighborhood today for a free, no-obligation auto insurance quote.
Posted on 14 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
Car keys are one of the top items people lose the most. How do you keep track of yours?
Our recent survey of more than 2,300 respondents shows us where people commonly keep their keys (and how they find them if they go missing.)
Check out the infographic below to see the results.
Consistency is key
If you frequently lose your car keys, it’s time to pick a spot and stick with it. At the end of the day, we all face some sort of brain fatigue, which can cause us to forget where we placed those keys. Make a plan, stick to it and always have a spare set.
Lose your keys and then find them on the car seat with the door locked? Check out our blog story on what happens next if you lock your keys in the car. If you are looking to replace more than just your set of car keys, find out if a new car or a used car is better for you.
Be Ready for Anything with Auto Insurance from ERIE
Make sure your auto insurance has the coverage you need, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. Find out all the extra protection that comes with an ERIE auto policy. If you are unsure what your auto insurance can cover – and what it can’t – ask your agent. Or you can find a local ERIE agent near you.
Posted on 13 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
What Happens To Your Student Loans If You Pass Away?
The short answer: It depends on the type of loans you have.
- Federal loans: Loans issued directly to a person through the U.S. Department of Education are discharged (“forgiven”) upon that person’s death, once the required documentation is submitted. Read more specifics about federal student loans at StudentAid.gov.
- Parent PLUS loans: As a type of federal student loan, these are also discharged upon death. This includes death of the student, or death of a single parent to whom the loan is issued. (If the loan is issued to two parents and one dies, the surviving parent is still responsible for repaying the loan.)
- Private loans: Here’s where it gets tricky. Loans issued by private organizations such as banks, credit unions or state-affiliated organizations each have their own terms and conditions for how debts are handled after death. Generally speaking, though: Many private student loan debts become the responsibility of the estate. If you have private student loans, check with your individual lender to understand your personal obligation.
What About Cosigners and Spouses?
Could your parents or spouse be stuck paying your student loans after your pass away? Here’s what to know:
Cosigners and Student Loans
A cosigner is someone who is equally responsible and legally obligated to repay a loan if the student borrower does not pay the loan on time. Having a cosigner with a good credit record – such as a parent – often allows a student to borrow at a lower interest rate.
If the student borrower who took out the loan passes away before it’s paid off – the cosigner is responsible for the outstanding debt. This is especially true for private loans: While federal student loans may let a borrower’s cosigners complete paperwork releasing them and the estate from the debt, many private student loans do not.
Spouses and Student Loans
What if you’re married? Does your student loan debt become the responsibility of your surviving spouse?
That depends on your state and your unique situation. Here are some things to consider:
- Are they federal or private loans? Per the examples above, federal student loans are discharged after the borrower’s death. Private loans may become the responsibility of the estate.
- Do you live in a community property state? Nine U.S. states are considered “community property states”: Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Washington. In these states, spouses jointly own everything they earned or acquired during their marriage – even if one person makes (or spends) more than the other. This applies to debts incurred during the marriage, too, such as private student loans.
- Did you cosign on your spouse’s loans? You have an obligation to the loan in every state if you cosigned.
- When did you take out the loans? In a community property state: If your spouse took out student loans before you got married, you’re typically not responsible for paying them if your spouse passes away.
- Still not sure if you or your spouse might be responsible for a loan? Check out Student Loan Planner’s article on the topic for more detailed information.
This is not legal or financial advice. For questions about your unique situation, consult a lawyer or financial planner.
Consider Life Insurance For Student Loans
A financial hardship will only make the devastation of losing a loved one that much more stressful and difficult. That’s why life insurance for student loans is something cosigners should consider.
To get an idea of how this plays out in real life, read the stories of families dealing with this unfortunate and costly situation in this article from CNN Money.
A life insurance policy can provide the funds needed to eliminate or reduce a student loan debt in the event the student or graduate passes away before the debt is satisfied.
Also: Remember life insurance is most affordable when you’re young and healthy. If you get covered now (with student loan debt in mind), you can have a policy in place to cover other financial obligations (like a mortgage or raising a family) that evolve as you age.
Here are three options to consider from Erie Family Life:
- Term Life: A term life policy is great protection to purchase at a young age — and it's usually the most affordable life insurance option. You also have the option to convert a term policy to a permanent policy later in life — even if a health condition that normally precludes coverage develops later.*Learn more about term life from Erie Family Life.
- Whole Life: A whole life policy, sometimes called a permanent life policy, lets the young adult accumulate cash savings throughout their entire lifetime. Plus, the new premium can be guaranteed for life. Learn more about whole life insurance from Erie Family Life.
- Guaranteed Insurability Option (GIO) rider: Not every insurance company offers a GIO rider for term life. If you get a life policy with the Guaranteed Insurability Option rider when you’re young, you’ll already have the option to purchase additional life insurance in place should you develop a medical condition later in life (which might otherwise impact your ability to get covered)**. Learn more about the GIO rider and how it works.
To learn more about the protection and peace of mind life insurance for student loans can offer, talk to your local ERIE agent.
Amanda Austin, Marie Turko and Abby Badach Doyle contributed to this story.
*The term policy and conversion privilege must be in effect at the time of conversion. Subject to age and plan limitations.
**Guaranteed Insurability Option rider is subject to underwriting approval. Not available on all plans. Issue ages 0-40. The opportunity to add coverage is available when certain qualifying life events occur. Talk to your Agent for rider specifics, option dates, availability, terms and conditions. Additional cost applies. The original purchase of GIO rider is subject to underwriting.
A college degree is a necessary ticket to many careers – but it often comes with a steep price tag.
On average, class of 2019 college graduates borrowed $30,062 in loans, according to data reported to U.S. News. Meanwhile, the collective student loan debt in the United States is around $1.7 trillion.
Those numbers are concerning for college students, graduates and their families – especially parents who may have co-signed on private student loans.
Dealing with debt is one of the last things anyone wants to think about while they’re grieving. That’s why it helps to understand the financial ramifications of your student loans ahead of time – including how they could impact your family’s finances and credit if you’re gone.
It’s an uncomfortable question, but a common one: If I pass away unexpectedly, what happens to my student loan debt?
For personalized advice for your unique situation, consult a financial adviser or a lawyer. Generally speaking, here’s how it works.
Posted on 12 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
We’ve all seen the pictures on TV and social media of people stocking up on water before a natural disaster.
Many times, store shelves usually full of water and other necessities are bare. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure you and your family have clean, fresh and safe drinking water should you ever need it.
Water Storage for Emergency Preparedness
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you store water.
- Know your quantities. According to the Water Quality and Health Council, families should store at least one gallon of water per person, per day. The average person should drink at least two quarts of water every day. Children, nursing mothers, elderly family members and people in warmer climates may need more. It’s a good idea to also reserve water for personal hygiene and food preparation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing water to last a minimum of three days. As a tip, one case of bottled water is about 4.6 gallons of water.
- Store your water in a cool, dark place. It’s important to keep stored water away from heat and light, which could cause the containers to leak. Don’t store water near substances like gasoline, kerosene or pesticides, as vapors from these materials could penetrate the plastic.
- Check the date. The safest, most reliable source of water in an emergency are bottles of water from a commercial source. Most commercially bottled water will have an expiration date on the bottles. Usually, they are good for up to one year. If you bottle your own water from the tap, the preparedness pros at Ready.gov recommend that you replace this water every six months.
- Use the right containers. If you’re bottling your own water containers, it’s important to use soft plastic, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers with a tight-fitting lid. (Pro tip: Camping supply stores usually have these in stock.) Never use a container that has previously held toxic substances or substances that could breed bacteria (such as milk jugs).
- Keep it clean. When using your own containers, it’s necessary to thoroughly clean each before you fill up. Ready.gov recommends washing them first with regular dish soap and water. Then, give each container a sanitizing rinse using a ratio of one teaspoon of non-scented liquid chlorine bleach per quart of water. (The CDC recommends using bleach that contains 5-9% sodium hypochlorite.)
- Have a backup plan. If you run out of your stocked water supply, there may be additional sources of water in your home, including melted ice cubes, as well as water from canned goods such as fruit and vegetable juices. According to the Water Quality and Health Council, you should never use water from radiators, hot water boilers, waterbeds and swimming pools or spas.
Keep these tips in mind when planning your water storage. Natural disasters can happen in all areas across the country, and it’s important to have a plan in place for disaster safety.
More Emergency Preparedness Tips
Your Erie Insurance agent can help you find the right homeowners insurance coverage to help weather the storm. (From hail to hurricanes, ERIE has your back.) For more information about disaster preparedness, read these related articles from our blog:
- 5 Customized Emergency Kits to Weather Any Disaster
- 31 Must-Have Items for Your Home Emergency Kit
- Pet Protection Tips to Weather a Natural Disaster
- How to Survive a Power Outage
- Q&A: Does My Insurance Cover Tornado Damage?
- Hurricane Prep Checklist: 28 Things to Do Before a Hurricane
Posted on 7 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
If you’re approaching your 65th birthday and starting to research options for Medicare, navigating through all of your new health care choices can be overwhelming. In addition to enrolling in a Medicare plan to meet your anticipated needs, you’ll also have to decide if a Medicare Supplement plan is right for you.
At Erie Insurance, we’re here to help. Here are some things you should know when considering a Medicare Supplement plan.
WHAT IS A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN?
Medicare Parts A and B provide insurance coverage for health-related expenses, but they don’t cover all of the health care costs you may have. A Medicare Supplement plan, sometimes called “Medigap,” is a private insurance policy that can help pay for some of the health care costs that Medicare doesn’t cover. This can include out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.
With health care and out-of-pocket costs for Medicare participants on the rise, a Medicare Supplement plan can help set your mind at ease.
WHAT DOES A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN COVER?
Medicare Supplement plans are designed to help pay for the costs that you would normally pay out of your own pocket. But the costs and benefits will depend on which Medicare Supplement plan you select.
Erie Family Life offers four supplemental insurance plans designed to meet your needs and fit your budget. They include:
- Plan A: This plan includes basic benefits to help with copayments for services covered under Medicare Parts A and B.
- Plan B: Available only in Pennsylvania, this plan provides the same benefits as Plan A but also pays your Medicare Part A hospital deductible.
- Plan F: This plan offers the most coverage of all our Medicare Supplement plans. It covers all out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses covered by your Medicare Supplement insurance. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, this plan will no longer be available to those becoming newly eligible for coverage.
- Plan G: Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, Plan G will be the go-to plan for new Medicare enrollees. It includes the same basic benefits as Plan F, including Part B excess charges and Foreign Travel Emergency coverage.
- Plan N: This is our middle-of-the-road coverage offering. Under Plan N, you’ll pay a lower premium in exchange for taking on a small annual deductible and some copayments. It covers your Medicare Part B copays, as well as your hospital deductible, copays and coinsurance.
- Wisconsin only: Basic Plan with riders available
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN?
You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan policy if you are age 65 or over and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. The one-time Open Enrollment period, which begins on the first day of the month an individual is 65 or older and enrolled in Part B provides for guaranteed issue. Individuals under age 65 eligible for and enrolled in Part B; are not eligible for guaranteed issue unless they have lost or are losing creditable coverage. In some states, Medicare Supplement insurance policies are available to people with disabilities who are under the age 65.
HOW DO I ENROLL?
Your agent can help answer questions and determine which plan and pricing best meet your needs.
ERIE® Medicare Supplement insurance products and services are provided by Erie Family Life Insurance Company. Go to erieinsurance.com for company licensure information.
*The policy has exclusions, limitations and terms under which the policy may be continued in force or discontinued. For costs and complete details of the coverage, contact your ERIE agent or refer to the government guide Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People With Medicare. In Wisconsin you will receive "The Guide to Health Insurance for People in Wisconsin."
Eligibility for insurance coverage will be determined at the time of application based on applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.
ERIE Medicare Supplement insurance is not available in the District of Columbia and New York. Life insurance not available in New York.
Medicare Supplement policy forms for Tennessee: EFLMS3003 9/17 (A) TN; EFLMS3009 9/17 (F) TN; EFLMS3014 9/17 (G) TN; EFLMS3019 9/17 (N) TN.
Maryland: Medicare Supplement policies are available to disabled individuals under the age of 65.
Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the Federal Medicare program. This is a solicitation of insurance. An agent (or the company) may contact you.
Posted on 22 September 2021 | 9:00 pm