Q. My vehicle is affected by the Takata airbag recall. Does my insurance provide any coverage?
A. The short answer: not a lot, although some aspects may be covered by your policy. Read on!
In late 2014, news broke that Takata-manufactured airbags in some vehicles may pose a danger to occupants when deployed. Rather than softening the impact, the airbags may eject dangerous shrapnel into the vehicle's cabin. This defect has caused injuries and, in some cases, death, prompting what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls the "largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history."
Our Perspective newsletter included helpful tips to avoid buying a used vehicle needing recall work. Nevertheless, the huge scope of the recall makes it likely that many of the affected vehicles are owned and driven by PEMCO customers. Defective-airbag danger increases in regions with high humidity, so our Pacific Northwest customers may feel an urgency to get their car fixed. Unfortunately, a shortage of parts and mechanics is causing delays in scheduling repairs with dealerships, compounding owners' unease.
My blogs aim to address questions we receive from customers, and I also aim to get the word out on safety issues in general – so tell your friends and family! The airbag questions we commonly receive: is there coverage for damage or injuries resulting from faulty Takata airbags? Does the policy provide rental car coverage while the vehicle awaits repairs? And will the policy protect me while driving a rental or loaner car?
Regarding coverage for damage or injuries, I'll defer to our agents' advice when potentially complex claim situations arise: call us so we can discuss specifics. Just having a faulty airbag in and of itself does not constitute damage or a loss, so in those instances you should continue working with your dealer on warranty repairs. But if you've been involved in an accident where your airbags deployed, an experienced PEMCO claims adjuster can help determine what's covered.
Since a shortage of parts and labor has delayed getting the warranty work performed, many owners are in a pickle. They're forced to choose between driving an unsafe vehicle or finding alternate transportation. While dealerships can provide loaner cars, they may not explicitly tell you that up front, or there may be snags along the way that hamper getting into a substitute car. As a result, some owners have asked PEMCO if we'll cover a rental car during the interim. Unfortunately, rental car coverage does not apply in this situation. You'll need to continue working with your dealer to arrange for a loaner car.
There's one aspect that your insurance can help with: coverage is provided while operating a rental or loaner car while your insured vehicle is being serviced or repaired, subject to the coverage you've chosen. This includes the time your vehicle sits dormant awaiting the scheduled repair. It's the same coverage that applies to your vehicle, so if you're unsure of the coverage you purchased, review it with a PEMCO representative. If you need additional coverage to satisfy the rental agreement or dealer-supplied loaner, that coverage should be added to the vehicle being repaired. You also have the option to purchase, at your expense, additional insurance from the rental car company.
This recall is a messy one, no doubt. If you lucked out and don't own one of the millions of vehicles affected, you've been spared plenty of time and hassle. But if you're affected, don't delay getting your airbag fixed. Your safety, and that of your passengers, depends on it. Check out Jon's article for help determining if your vehicle is affected.