Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years Laura Walker

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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The term “state of emergency” is a loosely-used phrase which most people understand to apply during a severe weather or natural disaster event. In reality, the term is a legal one, referring to the right of an official to close businesses and public services.

Most often, this term is used by the President or a state governor declaring a “state of emergency” to persuade people to stay indoors or to observe local regulations regarding travel.

However, other powers under state of emergency declarations include the power to close businesses, roads, and bridges and to regulate commerce and prices to prevent gouging after a disaster has occurred.

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Auto Insurance During a State of Emergency

If you have car insurance, your insurance company cannot legally suspend your coverage due to a state of emergency declaration. The declaration has nothing to do with your individual coverage; rather, it refers to the state of affairs of the local or state government and the attempts of officials to keep the public safe.

Depending on the type of auto insurance you have, you will be covered in a variety of circumstances. It is important to understand which insurance forms cover various scenarios, so you will know if you are protected in your particular circumstances.

Liability Insurance

First, most states require some form of liability insurance, usually in the form of bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Liability insurance generally does not pay for any damage to your own vehicle; rather, it pays for damages caused by your vehicle.

Suppose that a tornado struck your property and your car was pushed into a neighbor’s fence. In this case, your property damage liability would pay for the neighbor’s fence, but not the damage to your car.

Similarly, if someone was injured by your car being picked up and thrown by a tornado, your personal injury liability would pay for their medical bills, but not to fix your car.

Collision and/or Comprehensive Insurance

If you want to have protection for your own car, you must invest in collision or comprehensive coverage, or both. Each type of coverage addresses different issues with your automobile, and each is necessary for a different purpose.

Collision insurance pays for damages caused if you drive your car into a tree, or if you leave your parking brake off and your car rolls downhill into a stop sign, for example.

Collision is designed to pay for damages you cause to your vehicle; your liability insurance will not pay for this. The other person’s insurance will not pay for it, either, if you are at fault in the accident.

If you were involved in a disastrous weather event, for example, and you drove your car into something, causing significant damage, you would be liable yourself for the damages unless you had collision insurance.

For a state of emergency situation, it may be even more important to have comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive insurance covers damages to your car caused by any cause other than a collision.

In fact, comprehensive is often referred to by insurance companies as “other-than-collison,” or OTC, coverage. But you could also call it state of emergency car insurance.

It will cover damages to your car from a flood, tornado, fire, theft, or any other event which might occur during a weather emergency or natural disaster.

When you choose collision and comprehensive coverage, it is also important to think about how high to set your deductible. Many people opt for high deductibles in order to keep their premiums lower. This is a good strategy if you have the cash to pay for the deductible amount.

Keep in mind that during a state of emergency, your cash reserves can be quickly depleted simply due to immediate costs, such as food, hotels, and gas. This can severely restrict your funds for paying high deductibles.

If you live in a tornado- or flood-prone area, or one in which hurricanes are a possibility, it may be well worth the cost to keep your deductibles lower so that you will have access to your coverage with a minimum cash outlay.

In the alternative, if you keep high deductibles, be sure to have a cash reserve set aside strictly for the purpose of meeting these deductibles, so that you can have damages repaired immediately.

State of emergency situations are stressful for all involved, even before you begin to factor in the cost of damages to your vehicle. Having the right coverage is vital, and having access to your coverage by being able to meet your deductible obligations is important.

Planning ahead for possible disastrous situations will make the reality of the situation much easier to bear.