Driving with a cracked or broken windshield can impair a driver’s vision and possibly contribute to causing an accident. Federal regulations set by the U.S. Department of Transportation state the minimum requirements for windshield conditions and visibility in the country and require each state to enforce the obligations. The regulations require the center of the windshield to be free of damage and define the center area as that above the steering wheel as far as one inch from each side and two inches from the top. There may be a single crack in the space if it has no intersecting cracks.
Each state has its own Department of Transportation and may set regulations that go beyond those of the national requirements. Many states leave it up to law-enforcement officers to determine whether a windshield’s damage creates visual impairment. Some states also regulate the way in which insurance companies deal with windshield replacement and repair, and most state laws have regulations concerning insurance companies using aftermarket or used replacement windshields.
Because of the high cost of insurance, many vehicle owners choose to carry only liability coverage on their autos to meet their states’ minimum insurance requirements, and those policies pay only for damage to other vehicles. People must have current auto insurance policies that cover comprehensive damage to their vehicles in order to qualify for windshield replacement or repair with no deductible. Some insurance companies have certain policies that include comprehensive coverage but require policyholders to purchase additional coverage if they want the option of free windshield replacement or repair.
Known as Zero Deductible States, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts and South Carolina require insurance companies to allow those with comprehensive insurance on their vehicles to pay for and add windshield replacement with no deductible to their policies. Policies in Massachusetts and Florida must fully cover only windshields, but those in South Carolina and Kentucky must cover replacement of other glass as well.
Insurers in New York may offer auto policies that do not have deductibles for glass, and companies in Minnesota must offer their customers coverage for full-glass replacement, but the coverage is optional. People in Massachusetts who have comprehensive insurance coverage can choose to purchase policies with either free windshield repair or replacement or with $100 deductibles for windshield coverage. In Connecticut, customers can pay for optional, full-glass insurance coverage, which covers broken windshields and other safety glass with no deductible.
Insurance companies in other states often offer policies similar to those in states with no deductible and provide windshield repair or replacement without cost to their policyholders as well. Even if their policies do not specifically mention windshield repair or replacement with no deductible, policyholders should inquire about no deductible or reduced deductible if they have damaged windshields. Insurance companies realize that it is less expensive to repair a crack or hole while it is small rather than to wait until it spreads over a larger area of the windshield. They also know that their customers are more likely to take care of damaged windshields quickly when they are aware that the insurers will pay the total charges.
You can find more information about each state in State-by-State Information.
How the Process Works
Insurance companies generally do not consider windshield damage a claim on a policy and do not raise premiums for those who get windshield replacement with no deductible.
Most insurance companies prefer that policyholders report windshield damage to their insurance agents as soon as possible, and some companies have websites where people can report claims online. In either case, claims representatives work with the customers to determine that they have the correct insurance coverage and then arrange for glass repair or replacement.
However, many glass companies want people with damaged windshields to contact their repair shops before making claims with insurance companies. The glass companies usually verify coverage, file claims, handle necessary paperwork and deal with insurance companies, but customers usually need to communicate with their insurance representatives as well to confirm certain information.
Many states require insurance companies to allow their customers to decide which auto-glass shops complete the windshield replacement or repair on their vehicles. In states without that requirement, some insurance companies want policyholders to use body shops within the insurers’ networks or different auto-glass shops that accept the insurance companies’ pre-determined prices. Most insurance companies allow their policyholders to choose their repair shops if the customers agree to pay for any differences in cost.
Many auto-glass shops send technicians to their customers’ homes or workplaces to complete windshield repairs or replacements as a convenience for the customers, and most shops complete the jobs within 48 hours of their initial orders.
Regulations describe the glass in automobiles as safety devices, and it is usually a violation to drive with impaired vision or poorly functioning safety devices. Therefore, it is important for owners to repair or replace damaged windshields as quickly as possible after incidents occur.