Cat in the engine: Covered?

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Question: My car recently broke down. Upon inspection, a dead cat (not mine thankfully) was found burrowed around the engine. My car insurance company's claims department said the damages aren't covered by my policy. I don't think this is fair since this isn't related to my negligence, isn't it more like an 'Act of God' or something?  

Answer: How awful. Motorists don't normally check their engine compartment for cats or other animals before driving, so we wouldn't categorize you as negligent in this situation -- but that doesn't mean your car insurance company will cover the mechanical damage done to your car. 

Whether an auto insurer will approve or deny such a claim ultimately depends upon the terms of the policy.

You're correct that comprehensive insurance coverage is what covers physical damage to your vehicle from incidents other than collision.   However, though the coverage name is comprehensive, the coverage really is not. Comprehensive coverage normally will address only specific perils that are defined in your auto insurance policy.

The exact perils vary from one auto insurance provider to the next, however; generally it includes coverage if your car catches fire or is vandalized or stolen. It also covers damage from windstorms, hailstorms and flooding. Some car insurance companies consider such weather events to be acts of God. They are unforeseeable and unpreventable.

A cat curling up by your engine compartment for warmth is not an act of God.

And while comprehensive is what covers your vehicle if you strike an animal, you didn't strike the cat.

Therefore, unless your policy says it will cover mechanical issues caused by animals (other than a strike) your auto insurer can deny your claim because the peril isn't listed on your policy.

You may have heard or read about others who have had similar damage from an animal in the engine compartment, or say a rodent chewing through electrical wires , that was been covered by comprehensive coverage.  This would be due to the terms of that person's policy.

Some auto insurance policies state under the comprehensive that coverages are "not limited" to the listed items.  This leaves these insurance companies a way to provide coverage for incidents such as yours if they have decided to do so according to their own internal claims rules.

I'd recommend you go back to the claims department and get details on why your claim was denied. 

Likely the denial was because the terms of your policy just didn't cover such a situation.  However, it could be that they found that while there was a cat in the engine compartment, the reason for the breakdown wasn't directly related to this.  Remember, mechanical breakdown on its own is never covered by a car insurance policy.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Insurance

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