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Advantages of an Independent Insurance Agent

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Does a Professional Independent Agent Offer You?

More Choices

Your local independent insurance agent can offer you more options so that you can find the policy that fits you. That's because they represent several companies, not just one. Unlike internet companies, or an agent representing only one company who will try to make your needs fit their single solution, they will shop and compare, to find the solution that fits your needs.

Money Savings

Because your independent agent is comparison shopping on your behalf, you can be confident that you are getting the best coverage at the best price available. They are working on your behalf, to make sure that the policy is right for you, not a company.

Personal Assistance

An independent agent gets to know you personally, and is there when you have questions, life changes or need to file a claim. They will conduct regular reviews to make sure that your policy remains the best coverage and price based over time.

Local Connection

Your independent agent lives and works in your community. Doing business locally supports your economy and your neighbors.

Tags:  advantages  benefits  consumer  independent insurance agent 

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Most Preventable Deaths Occur in July & August

Posted By Sally Davisson, Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Summer is here and it’s a great time to enjoy the great outdoors and new activities, but it can also be a risky time of year. Take time to help educate your insurance clients about warm weather dangers and increase public awareness about preventable accidents.

A recent National Safety Council (Council) analysis indicates that more preventable, accidental deaths occur during the two months of July and August than during any other two-month period of the year — a trend that includes:

  • Drowning.
  • Pediatric vehicular heatstroke.
  • Pedestrian deaths.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Gun-related fatalities.

‘Hot car deaths’ now it’s own category

The Council has added deaths by month — and data around some of the issues influencing these deaths — to its Injury Facts interactive online database of preventable injuries and deaths. While the Council has tracked preventable injury and death data for 98 years, this is the first time NSC has made “Hot Car Deaths” its own category — something the Council does when emerging issues become critically important for the public to understand.

“Unfortunately when we look at accidental deaths, summer is not the carefree period we’d like it to be,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council. “The numbers underscore the need for public awareness. We hope Injury Facts can help people understand the biggest risks to their safety and take the steps needed to ensure no one gets hurt.”

Take inventory of your own safety risks

Noteworthy issues to pay attention to for the next few months include:

  • Drownings: Swimming, playing in the water or falling in the water claimed 656 lives in July alone in 2016, a 108% increase over the yearly average and their highest level that year. In total, 3,786 people died in 2016 from drowning (In this instance, “drowning” relates to deaths involving non-transport activities and does not include drownings from boat-related incidents). Injury Facts now breaks down all preventable deaths by month so people understand the biggest risks facing them as we move through the calendar year.
  • Hot car deaths: Eighteen children have died this year after being left in a hot car, and that number is increasing almost daily. On average, 37 children younger than 15 die this way each year. Aside from adding “Hot Car Deaths” as its own category for the first time, Injury Facts is updating in real time the statistics, locations, vehicle temperatures at the time of death and other information.
  • Pedestrian fatalities: Pedestrian deaths start to increase in late summer and continue a steady increase through the end of the year. Since 2009, pedestrian deaths have risen sharply, totaling 7,330 in 2016, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. For the first time, Injury Facts shows where pedestrian fatalities tend to occur, what the outdoor lighting condition was like at the time of the death and what day of the week the incident occurred.
  • Disaster deaths: There were 44 deaths associated with excessive heat in July and August in 2016 — the most common disaster of those months. Injury Facts breaks down the data by month on an interactive table. Categories include floods, excessive heat, fire and winter storms.
  • Gun-related fatalities: Accidental shooting-related deaths have remained steady in recent years, totaling about 1% of all firearm fatalities. By contrast, homicides by gun jumped 7% from 2015 to 2016, and July and August are peak months. More than 2,600 people were fatally injured by a firearm during that two-month period in 2016. For the first time, an interactive chart on Injury Facts breaks down the data by gender, age and year, and the split between intentional and unintentional deaths.

 Injury Facts is the Council’s 98-year-old compilation of preventable death and injury that has transitioned to an online, interactive portal in order to expedite the flow of critical safety information to the general public.

Tags:  consumer  info  insurance  safety 

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Are Your Clients Insured for Summer Fun?

Posted By Denny Jacob, Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Across the country, many individuals are setting plans in place for the arrival of summer. From cross-country road trips to surfing at the local beach, the summer likely means more travel and outdoor expeditions. While it’s easy to get distracted by all the fun in the sun, there are a number of insurance risks and needs consumers should consider first.

Many people go on vacation or travel around the world during the summer. But even extensively planned trips can be disrupted by an unforeseen incident, like losing your luggage. Others sprinkle in some time to try their hand at extreme sports like hiking or rock climbing. Even taking the family boat out to sea can create some risky exposures.

Summer should be a time of fun and relaxation, but that doesn’t mean insureds should be any less diligent about their exposures. Minimize your exposures and maximize your protections with these four tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). With these in mind, you’ll be sure to have a safe and memorable summer.

Tags:  consumer  homeowners  insurance  summer 

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Unusual Risks of Pool Ownership

Posted By Susan Massmann, Wednesday, June 6, 2018


The yin and yang of summer are a hot, steamy day and the cool, refreshing water of a swimming pool. Floating languidly at the local swim club or at a friend’s house could cause one to desire a pool of his own, but several insurance considerations should come into play before installing an in-ground attractive nuisance.

Property losses
Many of us first think of the liability issues involved with pool ownership, but pools are also subject to some complicated property losses. For example, in Bozek v. Erie Ins. Group, 46 N.E.3d 362 (Ill. App. 2015), the insured’s pool heaved out of the ground.

The pool had been emptied to clean debris, and then three and half inches of rain fell. Because the weight of the water in the pool did not exceed the uplift forces of the water pressure in the soil, the pool lifted upward, damaging it beyond repair and taking out the surrounding concrete slab.

The Bozeks had a Homeowners policy with Erie Insurance Group that provided $89,000 in coverage for damage to the pool. However, when the Bozeks presented a claim to the insurer, Erie denied coverage based on the anticoncurrent causation clause in the policy. The insureds alleged that Erie improperly denied coverage. In the Bozeks’ view, the anticoncurrent causation clause dictated that, because a failure of the pressure-relief valve in this instance (a covered event), preceded the increase in hydrostatic pressure (an excluded event), the loss was covered.

Point in time
The court looked to the point in time that the cause contributed to the loss, not the point in time that the cause came into existence. Here, the court did not look at the point in time when the valve failed, it looked at the point in time that the failed valve contributed to the loss, and the failed valve and the hydrostatic pressure contributed concurrently to the loss.

The covered event here did not lead to a separate or different loss. Indeed, without a separate loss, the Bozeks’ interpretation of the anticoncurrent causation clause would lead to an untenable result. The failed pressure valve did not cause any loss until it converged with the excluded event.

Put another way, said the court, prior to the excluded event, there was no loss for which coverage could conceivably vest. Neither the uplifted pool nor the damaged concrete occurred until the hydrostatic pressure acted upon the sides of the pool. The two causes contributed concurrently to this loss and so, the anticoncurrent causation clause plainly precluded coverage.

Falling debris hazards
When pools aren’t popping out of the ground and causing damage, they may have things falling into them, also causing damage. A few questions we have received from FC&S subscribers involved hazardous materials finding their way into pools.

First up is an insured with an Insurance Services Office (ISO) HO 00 03 04 91 homeowner’s policy. The neighbors were having a roof replaced, and during the contractor’s removal of the shingles, the asbestos from the shingles migrated into the insured’s in-ground swimming pool and caused damage.

Because the pool was an “other” structure, coverage was provided on an open perils basis. The form contained an exclusion for faulty workmanship, repair, and construction of part or all of any property on or off the residence premises. The faulty work did not have to apply to the insured’s property — the policy merely said any property, on or off premises. While there was an ensuing loss provision that could provide coverage, asbestos is a pollutant and is not covered unless caused by a coverage C named peril, which was not the case here. Coverage for the asbestos in the pool would be excluded.

Light-fixture explosion
Another question involved a commercial property loss and provided a different outcome. A mercury-vapor light fixture above a swimming pool in the insured’s building exploded, releasing material into the pool that necessitated the draining, cleaning, and testing of the pool at a considerable expense to the insured.

The agent believed that coverage was provided for this loss in its entirety, less the deductible, under the ISO Causes of Loss — Special form, CP 00 10, under its exception to the pollution exclusion. The insurer, on the other hand, argued that the only coverage available for this loss was on the ISO Building and Personal Property Coverage form, CP 00 10, under the additional coverage for pollution clean up and removal, which limits coverage to $10,000.

Physical loss or damage to property?
The first item to consider was whether there was direct physical loss or damage to the property. The mercury polluted the water and necessitated the draining, cleaning, testing, and refilling of the pool. Assuming that more than the water was damaged — that mercury traces had to be removed from the pool itself — then the loss met the policy requirement of direct physical loss to property.

Dispersal or release of pollutants is excluded under the special causes of loss form unless that dispersal or release is itself caused by any of the specified causes of loss. Explosion, which was the cause of loss in this situation, is one of the enumerated specified causes of loss. Therefore, the pollution exclusion did not apply to this loss.

Because in this particular case, the pollution was caused by one of the specified causes of loss (explosion), the damage arising out of that explosion should be covered in full.

The answer may be different, however, if the water in the pool were considered to fall within the category of property not covered. Pool water would not typically be considered as part of this category, but would be viewed as personal property of the insured.

Court interpretation
Should the pool water be considered property not covered, the pollutant cleanup additional coverage would apply since that additional coverage applies to cleanup of land and water. While it may seem a stretch that water in a swimming pool is what the policy drafters intended, “water” is not a defined term so could be subject to court interpretation. If a court were to determine that the pool water fell within the category of property not covered, only the $10,000 of pollutant cleanup coverage would be triggered.

When not popping out of the ground or becoming polluted, swimming pools are a welcome relief for sweltering summer days, but they also bring their own set of potential losses.


Tags:  homeowners  insurance  pool 

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Protect Boaters and their Vessels this Boating Season

Posted By Danielle Ling, Wednesday, June 6, 2018


As warmer weather approaches, professionals at Travelers are helping boaters understand ways to avoid damage to their vessel this summer by sharing the most common and costly boating incidents.

Based on boat insurance claims the company received from 2014 through 2017, collisions are the most common cause of loss, making up a third of all claims. Wind and mechanical breakdown are the second and third most common causes of loss, respectively. The costliest types of claims are due to fires, boats sinking and lightning strikes.

Todd Shasha, managing director of personal insurance, boat and yacht, at Travelers says that perhaps the most reassuring takeaway from this data is that many of the top causes of damage are largely preventable. 

Looking at the summer ahead, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, consumer spending on boats is up for the sixth straight year, which means there will likely be more traffic on the water. “No matter how many years of experience you have, it’s always good to brush up on the latest boating rules and technology to help you stay safe,” Shasha says.

As the 2018 boat-buying season kicks into gear, Travelers recommends taking these steps to protect yourself and your investment:

  • Familiarize yourself with your boat’s navigation and safety equipment.
  • Always navigate within marked channels to avoid running aground or hitting submerged objects near the shoreline.
  • Stay alert when approaching objects such as mooring fields, navigational buoys and marine traps set in the water. Be aware that after a storm, high tides may have carried debris into the water.
  • If a storm is approaching, if at all possible, haul out your vessel and remove objects that could become airborne.

Boaters may benefit from reviewing their insurance coverage and talking to their agent to ensure they are properly covered.

For more on boating safety, visit Travelers’ website for a wealth of helpful information on safety precautions and preparedness tips for boaters.

Tags:  boat  insurance  watercraft 

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Help Client Protect their Homes this Summer

Posted By Fran O'Brien, Wednesday, June 6, 2018


For many of your clients, summertime means getting away for a much-desired vacation.

It may also mean traveling to a second home or leaving a winter home and returning to a primary residence. Whatever the scenario, summer can be like the movie “Home Alone” with a twist — instead of your clients, it’s actually the house that will be left alone.

Insurance advisors can serve clients well by identifying some of the risks to unoccupied homes and pointing out steps necessary to mitigate them.

Burglary, of course, is the biggest risk, and modern home security systems provide unparalleled safety and peace of mind. Still, no matter how sophisticated the security system, clients still have a critical role in making sure their home and its contents remain safe.

Summertime security do’s and don’ts

Here are some important summertime security do’s and don’ts that may be worth reviewing with clients:

Don’t broadcast your whereabouts. Remind clients not to reveal their plans or itineraries on social media and not to provide running online commentary of their travel activities. To be sure, your clients’ best friends are not the ones to worry about, but criminals lurk online and are all too eager to burgle a home when they know its residents are away.

In the same vein, remind clients to warn their children not to share vacation or travel plans with friends. One last old-fashioned bit of advice — don’t leave voice messages on home or cell phones that say when you’ll be away.

Make a home look occupied. Since looks can be deceiving, clients should be reminded to make their home appear as if they are in it. Here’s a checklist:

  • If a car or cars are normally left outside, have someone periodically drive them or park them a bit differently.
  • If there’s a swimming pool, keep the water in it circulating.
  • Make sure that lawn mowing and watering continue as scheduled.
  • Put a hold on mail and newspaper deliveries.
  • Use timers on exterior lights to go on and off at the usual times.

Secure the home and its contents. Security systems can only do so much; clients should take a few extra safety precautions when they plan to be away:

  • Add security lights with motion sensors to scare off potential burglars.
  • Close all window latches and put a secondary blocking device such as a wooden dowel in place to ensure windows cannot be opened.
  • Let the security company know when the home will be vacant.
  • Disconnect the garage door opener and lock it manually to protect it from criminals who can crack the electronic code.
  • Move fine jewelry to a safe or bank safety deposit box.
  • Don’t leave house keys in an obvious place inside or outside the home.
  • Lower the volume or shut off the ringer on telephones so they can’t be heard outside.
  • Make sure fine art, expensive electronics and other valuables aren’t visible through windows.
  • Put fresh batteries in smoke detectors so they remain operable and don’t beep while homeowners are away.
  • Use a deadbolt to secure doors.

Minimize the potential for damage. When your clients are away, problems that ordinarily can be easily averted or remedied are liable to spiral into calamities. Some steps clients can take to avert potential disasters include:

  • Shutting off water lines.
  • Making sure a sump pump in the basement is working properly.
  • Making sure washing machines, dryers and dishwashers are turned off.
  • Unplugging small appliances and electronics to prevent damage from a power surge.

Since a watchful pair of eyes is often the best defense, remind clients to ask a trusted neighbor to look in on things while they are away, and to have the neighbor alert your clients — and the police — if there is anything suspicious. A house-sitting arrangement may be worth considering for a particularly long absence.

Tags:  homeowners  insurance  summer 

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9 Vital Homeowner Maintenance Tips

Posted By Jayleen R. Heft, Monday, May 21, 2018

Prevent Costly Damage & Losses


When you own a home, it’s important to understand the main purpose of homeowners’ insurance is to protect you from major risks like fires, hail, explosions, theft and wind storms. What it doesn’t cover is flooding, earthquakes or everyday wear and tear — or poor maintenance.

Here are nine home maintenance tips that could save your homeowners’ insurance clients money, future headaches and keep them safe:

  1. Caulk where needed. Caulk is cheap and can help keep moisture out of crevices to avoid water damage and mold. Caulk can help weatherize your home to keep cold air out in the winter and keep cool air in during the summer. Go through your house and look for any spots where the caulk could use an update or a crevice could use some new caulking.

  2. Clean clothes dryer and lint trap & exhaust duct. A common cause of dryer fires is failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can gradually build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct. 

  3. Inspect & repair the roof. Check your roof early for signs of wear or damage. Look for missing, damaged and aging shingles. If its age or an unresolved maintenance issue are to blame for your leaking roof, insurance likely won't pay to repair the leak or resulting damage.

  4. Test & clean the sump pump & pit. Sump pumps are also found in basements, and are the last line of defense against floods, condensation build-up and water from drains. Water damage due to sewage and drain backups generally requires additional insurance coverage beyond a standard policy.

  5. Inspect & clean chimneys yearly. Unclean chimneys are a leading cause of structure fires according to the National Fire Protection Association. Improper cleaning can also lead to other serious issues, including potential for carbon monoxide, fumes and possibly soot to enter home living spaces.

  6. Clean & maintain gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters can cause water to flow down the sides of the home and pool around its foundation, often leading to some major issues like uneven floors, cracks in walls and interior water damage. This type of claim, also known as seepage, is a maintenance issue and often is not covered under your home insurance policy.

  7. Check for termites every couple of years. To prevent termites get your home inspected by a professional periodically. Once the termites spread they can cause some major structural damage, and that can cost thousands of dollars to treat and fix. Catch them early and you can limit the damage.

  8. Regularly maintain pipes & plumbing. Homeowners' insurance does not cover pipe degradation to old age or poor care. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have any necessary repairs made immediately. Also, know the location of the main water shut-off valve in your home. A damaged hose or a burst pipe can send water racing into your home. Being able to locate and shut off the main water supply quickly will save stress, money and time.

  9. Inspect your deck. There's been an increase in the number of decks that have collapsed, fallen apart or otherwise failed, according to the North American Deck and Railing Association. In most cases, simple upkeep could have prevented these incidents, which tend to happen when decks are packed with people.

Tags:  homeowners  insurance  maintenance  tips 

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Insurance Basics for New Homeowners

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 21, 2018


You're a first-time homebuyer, and you've searched for the perfect house for months. The homeowner accepts your offer, and now you have to learn about a topic that might not be as fun as home-shopping, but it is vital -- home insurance.

Your mortgage lender will likely require you to carry some level of home insurance. Don't rely on the most basic coverage. Make sure that your home insurance protects you from financial disaster.

If you're buying your first home, you may have experience with condo or renters insurance. There are some similarities with home insurance, such as personal property coverage, but there's a lot more to home insurance. That's because there is a lot more to lose when you own a home.

In this guide, we will take you through what home insurance covers and give you tips, so you're a home insurance expert. By the end of this article, you should be more confident about buying your first home insurance policy.

What homeowners insurance covers

The most basic home insurance policy usually covers at least five coverage areas:

Other important information to know about homeowners insurance policies:

Dwelling coverage

The dwelling portion of home insurance covers your home and attached structures, such as a garage. Home insurance will cover you if you need to file a claim for a "covered peril." Covered perils include:

  • Fire and smoke damage
  • Windstorms
  • Hail
  • Lightning strikes
  • Vandalism and malicious destruction
  • Theft
  • Damage from a vehicle
  • Damage caused by the weight of snow, sleet or ice

Dwelling coverage isn't just for the physical structure. It also covers wiring, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems.

Other property

Other property insurance covers structures on your property that aren't attached to your home. Other property includes a detached garage, a shed, or a fence.

Personal property coverage

Personal property coverage, also called contents coverage, covers the property within your home, including:

  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Appliances
  • Clothing

You can choose replacement value or actual cash value for your personal property. Here are the differences:

  • Reimbursement value reimburses you the full amount to replace items if they are stolen or damaged; actual cash value reimburses you the amount the items are worth now after years of depreciation.
  • Replacement value is more expensive than actual cash value.

Let's say a burglar steals your five-year-old flat-screen TV. If you have replacement value coverage, your insurance company reimburses you the money to buy the same type of new TV. Actual cash value gives you what your five-year-old TV is worth after five years of use.

If you have expensive items, you may need a separate endorsement for valuables. You add an endorsement, also called a rider, to your insurance policy to protect valuable property. An endorsement can include jewelry, fine art, guns, and sports memorabilia.

When requesting a home insurance quote, ask whether you should add your expensive items under a separate endorsement.

Home liability insurance coverage

Liability insurance covers you for visitor injuries on your property. Liability insurance covers not only a legal settlement but also your legal fees (up to your liability limit).

According to Donald Griffin, vice president of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCIAA), many liability insurance policies will cover you even if an incident happens away from your home.

He recommends buying an excess liability or an umbrella policy that offers coverage of $1 million beyond your home insurance and car insurance policy coverage. These policies are relatively inexpensive, often costing $200 to $300 per year.

"You don't want to lose your home because you failed to buy an insurance policy," says Griffin.

Medical payments also helps to pay for guests who are injured in your home, and you should know the difference between medical payments and liability insurance. Medical payments pays out, typically in limits of $1,000 or $5,000, for injuries regardless of who is at fault, and is for minor incidents.

Additional Living Expenses (ALE)

ALE, also known as loss of use coverage, covers you if your home is damaged and you have to live somewhere else while it's repaired. ALE coverage includes paying for hotel rooms and meals while you're displaced.

If a fire damages your home, you can make a claim for ALE coverage by submitting paperwork documenting your living expenses.

The ALE standard for most homeowner insurance policies is a benefit worth 20 percent of your home's replacement value. When you get a home insurance quote, find out if the policy specifies any limitations or exclusions on ALE.

Buy insurance for your home's replacement cost

One of the most common first-time homebuyer mistakes is: confusing a house's market value with its replacement cost. Your home insurance coverage should cover the cost of rebuilding your house.

"With an existing home, look at the replacement cost rather than the market value," says Griffin.

Going the replacement cost route is often less than what you paid for your home; if you're insuring your house for its market value, you may be over-insuring it. Over-insuring also means overpaying. You have enough fees and charges as a new homeowner -- you don't need to overpay for insurance.

Most home insurance companies use software to determine the replacement cost. The software allows them to enter your home's features and calculate the cost of replacement. Also, most policies include coverage for up to 125 percent of the replacement cost.

You don't want to overpay, but you don't want to underpay either. You might be tempted to purchase less coverage. In that case, you might take on too much risk by inadequately covering your home. Learning how to calculate your home replacement or value is important, and typically can be done by using online tools, calculating it yourself or by hiring an appraiser.

Find out what your policy doesn't cover

Read the exclusions section of your home insurance policy. Understanding what the insurance won't cover is just as important as knowing what the insurance will cover - before you have to make a claim.

You also don't want to file a claim for damage that your policy doesn't cover because it will go onto your claims record. So, in that case, you won't get reimbursement, and it could lead to higher rates because you filed a claim.

For instance, an insurance company might not provide windstorm insurance if you live near the ocean. In that case, they may exclude coverage. You can buy additional windstorm insurance if your policy does not cover you. This type of insurance has a separate deductible, in addition to home insurance.

Home insurance discounts

Home insurance companies provide dozens of discounts, and you may qualify for many of them.

Some of the most common discounts are:

  • Bundling (also called multi-policy)
  • Loyalty
  • Claims-free
  • Security system
  • Automatic payment

Check insurance companies' websites to get a list of discounts. Do you qualify for any?

Bundling insurance policies is an easy way to save money on your insurance. Insurers give discounts if you bundle policies, which means getting multiple insurance policies from the same insurer.

You can bundle home, auto, renters, motorcycle, and some companies even offer life insurance.

When shopping for home insurance, you may have to balance discounts. You may find one insurer has a generous bundling discount, but another insurer may offer more discounts for which you qualify.

Rather than focusing on the number of discounts, ask insurance companies for full quotes. That way you can compare annual insurance premiums side by side.

How credit score influences your insurance rate

Insurers in nearly all states use credit scores as a factor when determining home insurance rates. What does credit score have to do with insurance? Insurance companies believe that a person's credit history is a glimpse into a person's risk.

In other words, insurers believe that people with poor credit are more apt to file claims.

Get a CLUE Report

Insurers base your rates on both your claims history and your home's claims history -- before you even lived there.

You should request a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) Report for your new home to see the claims that the homeowner filed. Insurance companies are all about preventing risk. If they see that the home had multiple claims in the matter of a few years, you will pay higher rates. An insurer may even decline coverage.

Choose a homeowners insurance deductible

The deductible is what you have to pay for repairs if your insurance company approves your claim. It's your share of the repair cost.

The higher the deductible, the lower the insurance premiums. If you have a $500 deductible, you're going to pay more on your premiums than if you have a $2,000 deductible.

Going with a higher deductible will save you money. It will also reduce your home insurance claims. That’s why it’s important to know the trade-off you’re making – and be comfortable with it -- when choosing a home insurance deductible.

Let's look at an example: a pipe bursts and dumps a few gallons of water on your floor before you quickly turn off the water to your home and call a plumber.

You get an estimate and find that you will need to have the floor and ceiling repaired. It will cost about $700.

Your deductible is $1,000. In this case, you wouldn't file a claim because your deductible is more than the needed repairs.

The same goes for if the damages cost slightly more than your deductible. It's not worth filing a claim if it raises your rates, costs you more in the long run through higher premiums and it goes onto your claims record.

Home insurance doesn't cover flood damage

One of the biggest home insurance misconceptions is about flood coverage. Home insurance does not cover for flood damage.

Instead, you need to buy a separate flood insurance policy to cover you for damages caused by outside flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which the Federal Emergency Management Agency oversees, runs the flood program.

Flood insurance covers:

  • The structure
  • Electrical and plumbing systems
  • Carpeting and flooring
  • Appliances
  • Personal property, such as furniture, small appliances, rugs, clothing, furniture, and electronics
  • Valuable items, such as artwork and jewelry, up to $2,500

Flood are the number one natural disaster in the United States. Mortgage lenders usually require homes in risky food areas to have flood insurance. This type of insurance is also a good idea for homes in low-to-moderate flood areas. About one-quarter of flood-related claims come from low-to-moderate flood areas.

You can see the flood map for your area by typing in your address on the FEMA Flood Map Service Center page.

One good thing about flood insurance -- you don't have to shop and compare insurer rates. You can buy flood insurance by NFIP or licensed brokers. NFIP bases the cost of flood insurance on the risk of the area and home. Regardless how you buy flood insurance, you will pay the same rates because costs vary by house -- not by the company.

Flood insurance costs on average $700 annually. But you'll pay much less (about $150) if you live in a low-to-moderate flood risk area.

Do you need earthquake insurance?

Homeowners insurance does not cover earthquake damage.

If you live in an active earthquake area, you need to get either a separate earthquake insurance policy or a home insurance endorsement.

You can buy earthquake insurance from private insurance companies. California also has policies through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).

Earthquake insurance covers:

  • Damage to your home and attached structures
  • Personal property, such as furniture, clothing, and electronics
  • Additional living expenses (ALE)

Earthquake insurance has a separate deductible. The deductible is a percentage of the value of your dwelling and personal belongings. Earthquake deductibles are not a dollar amount like regular home insurance policies.

Earthquake deductibles can range between 2 and 20 percent of your dwelling coverage limit depending on risk.

Much like home insurance, earthquake insurance costs vary greatly by company and state. It's a good idea to get at least three earthquake insurance quotes from insurance companies.

Only go with trusted insurers

You want to make sure you're comfortable with whichever insurance company you choose.

Just because one insurer will give you the best rates doesn't mean that's the one for you.

Griffin reminds new homeowners that it is important to choose a financially stable insurance company. Financial strength ratings are available from A.M. Best, for example.

"Remember," he says, "you are buying a promise from that insurance company that they will be around when you need to make a claim."

Shopping for home insurance

Before getting home insurance quotes, you'll need to answer these questions:

  • What is your deductible? The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. But you will want to be able to afford the deductible if you have  to file a claim.
  • Do you want replacement cost or actual cost value for your contents insurance?
  • What is the claims history for your new home?
  • Should you bundle your policies? What other discounts could you get?
  • Do you need an insurance endorsement for expensive items?
  • Do you need umbrella insurance?
  • Should you get flood insurance?

Once you get the answers to those questions, it's time to shop. Don't just go with your car insurance company or your family's insurer. You can start there, but get quotes from at least three insurance companies.

Compare quotes. Investigate each company's record by reviewing financial and customer service ratings.

Once you compare rates and review insurance companies' reviews and customer service ratings, you are ready to choose the right insurance company and coverage for you.

To give you an idea of how much homeowners insurance costs, here are rates for major companies, by state and coverage levels. Additionally, you by using's tool, you can see average home insurance rates by ZIP code for 75 coverage levels. You'll also see the highest and lowest rate fielded from up to six major insurers, so you can compare prices and be sure you don't overpay.

Rates in Your State

A local independent insurance agent can compare pricing between multiple reputable companies. Also, you'll be dealing with an experienced professional, not a web service, who can help you understand exactly the types of coverage and pricing for your individual situation.


Tags:  basics  consumer  homeowners  information  insurance 

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Backyard Danger! Swings, Slides & Other Play Things

Posted By Jayleen R. Heft, Monday, May 21, 2018


Far too often, fun and games on the backyard play set or at the community playground can lead to injuries and even death. Are your clients protected?

Now that springtime is here, playground season is in full swing. Are the kids in the backyard and at the local playground safe?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that far too often, fun and games on the backyard play set or at the community playground can lead to injuries — and even death.

In a new playground equipment report issued by CPSC, it found that from 2009 to 2014, nearly 1.5 million injuries associated with playground equipment were treated nationally in emergency departments.

Homeowner liability

If your insurance clients have a backyard swing set or other play equipment, the Insurance Information Institute recommends homeowner policyholders consider increasing liability coverage through an umbrella policy in case someone is injured while playing on an insured’s property. Standard homeowners’ policies usually provide $100,000 to $300,000 worth of liability coverage.

Most insurance companies offer a personal catastrophe liability (PCL) policy that adds an extra $1 to $5 million to homeowners’ liability limits for about $200 more per year.

It’s not unusual to hear of $1-million, $2-million, and even $10-million liability judgments against individuals. If someone is injured in a client’s backyard, they could be hit with such a judgment. Accidents and injuries aren’t predictable, and once a client is the target of a liability lawsuit, it’s too late to get coverage.

In order to encourage a fun and safe summer, following is an overview of where play equipment injuries happen, data about the types of injuries sustained and a helpful list of some playground safety recommendations to share with insureds:

Where playground injuries happen

Playground injuries take place in various locations. The top four places for play equipment injuries are:

1. Home (66 percent).

2. Restaurant (26 percent).

3. Park (3 percent).

4. School (2 percent).

Playground fatalities

The No. 1 cause of fatal playground incidents? Hanging or asphyxiation.

From 2009 to 2014, CPSC staff completed investigations of 34 deaths associated with playground equipment. Of the 34 investigated deaths, 19 involved hangings and other asphyxiations. Five of the 19 hangings and asphyxiations occurred on slides, and another five occurred on swings, including two that occurred on a rope swing.

Four deaths involved composite play structures, and two occurred during while using zip lines.

Of the 19 deaths involving hangings and other asphyxiations, 12 involved a second product. In three cases the second product was a jump rope, in four other cases the second product was a rope, and in two cases the second product was clothing with a drawstring.

Neck & head injuries

The next most common type of investigated death involved neck and head injuries. Of the 34 investigated deaths, eight involved head and neck injuries. Three of the head and neck deaths were on swings, and two others involved composite play structures.

There were two investigated deaths related to drowning. In both cases, the child fell or slid down a non-pool slide into a swimming pool.

Play equipment causing injuries

Monkey bars and swings account for the majority of the total play equipment injuries resulting in emergency department-treated injuries, although slides account for one-fifth of the injuries.

Here’s the breakdown of playground equipment linked to the most injuries, according the the CPS:

1. Monkey bars or playground gyms (34 percent).

2. Swings or swing sets (25 percent).

3. Slides or sliding boards (21 percent).

4. Other playground equipment (9 percent).

5. Not specified (9 percent).

6. Seesaws or teeter totters (2 percent).

Injuries from playground equipment

The two most common reported emergency department diagnoses from playground accidents are fractures and contusions/abrasions, which together account for 51 percent of the incidents. Fractures alone account for more than one-third of the emergency department-treated injuries.

Here’s the breakdown of reported injuries:

1. Fractures (34 percent).

2. Contusions and abrasions (17 percent).

3. Lacerations (15 percent).

4. Strains and sprains (13 percent).

5. Internal organ injuries (9 percent).

6. Other/not stated (6 percent).

7. Concussions (2 percent).

8. Dislocation (1 percent).

9. Dental injuries (1 percent).

10. Hematomas (1 percent).

The two most commonly injured body parts are the arm and head, which together accounted for 59 percent of all injuries. The leg and face were  injured 31 percent of the time.

1. Arm (41 percent).

2. Head (18 percent).

3. Leg (16 percent).

4. Face (15 percent).

Playground safety tips

  • Always supervise kids and make sure kids use playground equipment appropriate for their age.
  • Never attach ropes, jump ropes, pet leashes or strings to playground equipment; children can strangle on these.
  • Make sure children’s clothing does not have any drawstrings as they can catch on slides and other equipment.
  • Make sure surfaces around playgrounds have 9-12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.
  • Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  • Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
  • Don’t let kids play on slides/surfaces that are burning hot. The weather does not have be 100 degrees in order for equipment to heat up and cause burns. If it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child’s bare skin!

Tags:  children  dangers  homeowners  safety 

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Moving Out? Don't Forget to Pack Insurance

Posted By Denny Jacob, Monday, May 21, 2018


The biggest life events often require extensive planning. This is especially true if you’re planning on moving. One day you’re wondering what to take and what to leave behind, and before you know it, all your items are packed and it’s time to move on.

Amid the flurry of things to consider when you’re moving, it’s easy to forget how this will impact your insurance. You may have to drive to work now, which will directly affect your auto insurance. Your new home may have fewer exposures now that you’ve moved away from the coast, for example, and so your homeowners’ insurance will now reflect that.

May is National Moving Month and there are many questions that will pop up if you’re planning on moving soon. Jason Hargraves, managing editor at, shared some key insights on the subject.

To hire or not to hire

This is often the quintessential question at the heart of moving: Should I hire movers or do it myself? Some do a bit of both and rent a U-Haul for the bigger items while packing smaller items in a car to save time.
“With hiring movers, you have some built-in insurance that comes with that. Most moving companies are required to have some sort of insurance, either by federal law or state law. They have to offer that to you,” says Hargraves. “And so that would be the easy way to do it. If you were moving by yourself with your friends, your coverage may be a little more complicated.”

If you’re moving your stuff on your own, get in a car accident and your stuff catches on fire, your homeowners’ insurance may cover it. But if your stuff just gets damaged in an accident on the road, it wouldn’t necessarily pay for it.

“You have to remember that your stuff is only gonna be covered during the move normally for the kind of coverage you have inside your home,” says Hargraves, adding that it is mainly is for fire and theft.

But there is some gray area where you might have some coverage. If you’re going to move yourself, Hargraves advises talking to your agent first and explain what you’re moving, how much your stuff is valued at and work with them to find out exactly kind of coverage you have. Additionally, don’t be afraid to shop around if you don’t feel your homeowners’ insurance isn’t up to snuff.

Where you’re moving to matters

If you hire movers, do they cover 100% of the costs in the case of an accident? Hargraves says it depends if you’re moving to a new state or relocating within a state.

“If you’re moving from one state to another state, the federal government gets involved and they mandate what insurance the moving company has to offer you,” says Hargraves. If you’re moving from New York to New Jersey, for example, a moving company has to offer you one of two types of insurance: a released value policy or a full value policy.

If you’re moving within the state, whether it be down the street or across town, that’s where it gets a little tricky because each state has its own rules when it comes to moving, moving companies and what insurance they have to offer. Along with contacting your agent about a state’s rules, you can also shop between movers based on what kind of insurance they offer.

Moving is often seen as the start of a new beginning. Things change, your lifestyle changes, and your coverage needs change as well.

“It’s a change of life scenario, much like getting married, so I think people should look at the time to evaluate all your insurance coverage and see if it’s meeting your needs,” says Hargraves.

Tags:  homeowners  insurance  moving  tips 

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