Before you buy a used car, be sure you know the vehicle's history. I.I.I. gives you tips on how to identify a flooded car so you can protect yourself from purchasing a lemon.
Trees and Insurance
If a tree falls and hits your house, are you covered? The short answer is, yes. The coverage is quite straightforward: if a tree hits a home or other insured structure, such as a detached garage, standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and the contents in it. This includes trees felled by wind, lightning or hail.
It does not matter whether or not you own the tree; if it lands on your home, you can file a claim with your insurance company. After a hurricane or windstorm, trees, shrubs and branches can become projectiles capable of traveling significant distances and can cause considerable damage to property. In most cases, an insurance company is not going to spend time trying to figure out where a tree or other item originally came from.
In some situations where the felled tree was located on a neighbor’s property, the policyholder’s insurance company may try to collect from the neighbor’s insurance company in a process called subrogation. This sometimes occurs if the tree was in poor health or not properly maintained. If the insurer is successful, you may be reimbursed for the deductible.
If a tree hits an insured structure, such as your house or garage, there is also coverage for the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500 to $1,000, depending on the insurer and the type of policy purchased. If the fallen tree did not hit an insured structure, there is generally no coverage for debris removal. However, some insurance companies may pay for the cost of removing the felled tree if it is blocking a driveway or a ramp designed to assist the handicapped.
Standard home insurance policies also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vehicles not owned by the resident, vandalism and malicious mischief. Coverage for these disasters is generally limited to up to 5 percent of the amount of insurance on the structure of the house. Generally, most insurers will limit the coverage to about $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant. Trees and plants grown for business purposes require a separate business insurance policy.
We invite you to contact our agency with any questions about coverage. We will be glad to perform a no-obligation review of all your insurance needs.
Five Tips to Protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Property
Hurricane season runs through November 30.
To prepare for a hurricane and other disasters, the I.I.I. recommends the following five tips.
1. Buy enough insurance
A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions and can speed the claims process. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for aid following a disaster.
4. Prepare an Evacuation Plan
Plan ahead and practice so that your evacuation is safe, smooth and fast. In an emergency you may have only a few minutes to gather your important papers and leave your home, possibly for good. Have the following ready to go:
(Tips from IBHS)
Prepare a business continuity plan. Having an emergency plan in the event of a natural disaster will help your business quickly recover.
You realize your flood insurance policy is about to expire and you’re on the fence about renewing: It hasn’t flooded in your area in years (or ever). And you really could use that extra money to buy something you really want.But wait!
DON’T. RISK. IT.
FACT: Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, affecting every region and state, including yours.
FACT: Flood insurance can be the difference between recovering and being financially devastated.
FACT: The damage from just one inch of water can cost more than $20,000.
FACT: If you allow your flood insurance policy to lapse for either more than 90 days, or twice for any number of days, you may be required to provide an Elevation Certificate (if you don't have one), and you may no longer be eligible for policy rate discounts you might have been receiving prior to the policy lapse. It's important to talk with your insurance agent before canceling or not renewing the policy.
FACT: You can file a flood claim even if there is not a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
FACT: Flood damage is not typically covered by homeowners insurance.
FACT: No home is completely safe from potential flooding devastation—why risk it?
FACT: If you live in a high risk flood zone, and you've received federal disaster assistance in the form of grants from FEMA or low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) following a Presidential Disaster Declaration, you must maintain flood insurance in order to be considered for any future federal disaster aid.
FACT: Storms are not the only cause of floods. Flooding can be caused by dams or levees breaking, new development changing how water flows above and below ground, snowmelt and much more.
FACT: Too often, Americans are caught off guard by the emotional and financial costs of flood damage.
Flood insurance helps more: Check out your state's flood history with FEMA's interactive data Visualization Tool. Roll your cursor over each county to see how many flooding events have happened. The tool allows you to compare how much FEMA has provided in terms of federal disaster aid (through it's Individuals & Households Program) after Presidential Disaster Declarations to the amount the National Flood Insurance Program has paid to its policyholders. It's easy to see having flood insurance provides a lot more help for recovery.
To renew your policy, call your flood insurance agent. If you don’t have your insurance agent’s contact information, call the National Flood Insurance Program’s Help Center at 1-800-427-4661.
As the start of the college school year begins, students who move out of the house or off campus may want to consider purchasing renters insurance.
According to Insurance Commissioners, renters insurance can cover the loss of computers, tablets, musical instruments, jewelry and much more in the event of theft, fire or some other unforeseen disaster.
If your college student is moving away to school with expensive computers or other valuables, buying renters insurance is a smart move. The landlord may have insurance on his building, but that won’t cover replacement of a tenant’s possessions.
Answers to these common questions about renters insurance:
Q: What does renters insurance cover?
A: The possessions of anyone who rents a residence, whether it’s an apartment, house, manufactured home or condominium. Renters insurance protects personal property, such as furniture, electronics, and clothing. It also provides liability protection for the policyholder should someone be injured or sustain damage to their property while visiting the policyholder’s residence.
Q: My neighbor accidentally started a fire that destroyed the entire apartment building, including my unit. Will his insurance cover my personal belongings?
A: His liability insurance may cover your belongings, but only if it is determined he was negligent in causing the fire.
Q: Won’t the landlord’s insurance cover my personal belongings?
A: In most cases, no. The landlord’s insurance may cover you if you can prove liability on the part of the landlord.
Q: If the pipes in my apartment burst, through no fault of my own, wouldn’t the landlord be responsible for replacing my belongings?
A: Maybe. If the pipes burst as a result of negligence on the part of the landlord, the landlord may be liable. However, negligence can be hard to prove.
Q: My roommate has renters insurance; won’t that cover all my belongings as well?
A: No. The policy only protects the person named in the policy or a relative living with that person.
Consider discussing the needs of your student with one of our insurance agents who can tailor a renters policy to your individual needs. Everything from property damage caused by fire, hail or smoke, to liability suits brought by guests slipping on stairs or in the bathroom can be included in a policy.
Bicycling is increasingly popular, both as a sport and as a means of transportation. And bicycles can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars for a basic bike to thousands of dollars for specialized racing bikes. Whether you use your bicycle to commute to work or simply like to cycle around the block with your children, it is important to understand the rules of the road and protect your financial investment with the proper insurance.
Bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane or other disaster listed in your policy.
If you are purchasing a new bike, keep the receipt and call your insurance agent or company representative immediately. If you own a particularly expensive bicycle, you may want to consider getting an endorsement that will provide additional coverage. Your insurance agent or company representative can review your coverage options with you.
There are two types of coverage for personal property:
To make filing a claim easier, the I.I.I. suggests the following:
Maintaining Underlying Coverages
Umbrella insurance only works properly when the primary (underlying) coverages are maintained. In fact, the obligation to make sure proper support remains in place is part of the umbrella insurance contract. It is found in the policy’s “Maintenance of Underlying Coverage” provision.
The provision typically refers to the policy’s schedule or declarations where all of the applicable underlying coverage is listed. The underlying (also called primary) coverage typically consists of:
Of course, there are consequences when the insured person fails to comply with the provision, either by dropping or changing (lowering) listed coverage. Whenever a change in coverage occurs, the insured is also obligated to inform the umbrella insurer; though that only warns the insurer, but does not affect the consequences.
In either case, the umbrella responds to a loss in the same manner as if the listed coverage still existed. Therefore, the insured bears the total financial obligation for a loss until the loss amount reaches beyond the level where the original coverage was supposed to apply. If it doesn’t affect the consequences, you may wonder why the insurer requests notification. For two good reasons: one, they can ask you to remedy the situation or face terminating your umbrella coverage; two, they will be warned to review any loss situations you report so they can monitor the situation and, perhaps, take steps to protect their interest.
If you have taken the step to buy extra coverage to protect yourself and your assets, be sure to comply with all that is required of you. If you have questions, discuss your situation with one of our professional insurance agents.
A Guide to Making a Policy to Protect Your Best Friend
If you have a dog, cat, or other pet, you probably visit the veterinarian on a fairly regular basis. As those vet’s bills can really add up, a number of companies sell insurance for all types of animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, exotic birds, reptiles, potbelly pigs and various rodents.
Pet health insurance policies are similar to human health insurance policies in that they include annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays and caps. Cost of coverage is based typically on the animal’s age, health profile and the level of care you choose. Generally, older animals cost more to cover—and some companies have age limits. Also there may be exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and some insurers will deny coverage to certain breeds that are prone to hereditary conditions (e.g. hip dysplasia).
There are three types of pet health coverage available.
Traditional health insurance is available in three levels of coverage:
a. Basic Coverage
This is the least expensive option; it provides the lowest reimbursements for procedures, and will help pay for accidental injuries, poisonings and illnesses (including cancer). These policies typically include an annual deductible, caps on reimbursements per accident or illness as well as on total reimbursements per policy term.
b. Comprehensive Coverage
This coverage is costlier than Basic, but offers more generous benefits—reimbursements for accidental injuries, emergencies and illnesses, and coverage for office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, X-rays and lab fees. These policies feature lower annual deductibles and cap reimbursements per accident and illness, as well as on total reimbursements for the policy term.
c. Pet Well Care Protection
This type of plan reimburses for preventive care, including physical exams, flea and heartworm prevention and vaccinations. While there is no deductible for well care, there is a nominal deductible for other medical services.
There are two other types of insurance available from veterinarians and other businesses not regulated as insurers: HMO, which offers reduced rates prices on vaccinations, spay/neuters, dental cleaning, routine check-ups, and other services.
And Discount Plans, which offer savings on a range of products and services—from pet supplies to surgery and hospitalization—but only when purchased from a network of participating vendors.
Beyond health coverage, there are also other types of insurance protection for pets.
Life and Theft Insurance
Life and Theft coverage is designed to insure the lives of highly valuable, and is typically purchased by zoos, and the owners of championship cats, dogs, horses and police dogs. The policy reimburses owners of stolen animals, and pays a death benefit if an animal dies during transport or other covered events.
Homeowners and Renters Insurance
Check your homeowners or renters policy to see what coverage they provide for pet owners, including:
Trucking operations face unique transportation risks presented by instances of bobtailing and deadheading. A tractor that is traveling on the road without a trailer is considered to be bobtailing.
Example: Joe drops his trailer at Fran’s bakery and then heads to Doug’s Plumbing supplies to pick up a trailer. In between the two customers, he is bobtailing.
Any time a tractor is pulling an empty trailer, it is considered deadheading.
Example: Mary ran a load of apples from Saginaw to a processor in Grand Rapids but has no pickup in Grand Rapids and returns to Detroit with an empty trailer. She is deadheading between Grand Rapids and Detroit.
If you are an independent trucker operating for hire with a trucking operation; you have a concern. Once an independent trucker has completed his job, the insurance coverage provided by the trucking operation ceases. Bobtail and deadhead situations are two of the most common times when an independent trucker is operating outside the trucking operation’s coverage.
An independent trucker may buy a Commercial Truckers Policy and gain full-time coverage. However, this is expensive and creates an issue of duplicate protection. Another option would be to buy a Commercial Business Auto policy and add a coverage option with wording that eliminates double coverage.
Example: Lucy has a tractor-trailer unit and normally does contract work with ABC trucking. She decides to pick up some extra money by carrying a load for a friend without going through ABC. During the job, she collides with another vehicle. With this endorsement, there is no coverage because she was operating as a business. If she had just helped a friend, there would be coverage and if she had contracted through ABC, ABC’s policy would have handled the loss.
Under the above option, coverage does not apply to a loss involving anyone who is in the business of transporting property for hire and who is responsible for the named insured’s conduct as an insured. This is the portion of the wording that removes the chance of duplicate coverage.
Example: Lucy contracts with ABC Trucking to deliver a load of fruit. The weight shifts and the trailer fishtails. Before she regains control, she strikes two sedans, demolishing both vehicles. ABC trucking cannot ask for coverage under Lucy’s policy because they are in the business of transporting property for hire and they are also responsible for Lucy’s conduct.
While insurers are typically quite open to providing the additional coverage to handle the extra needs of independent truckers, some avoid operations involving vehicles that regularly travel to areas where the insurer does not operate. For advice on whether your firm has unprotected trucking-related exposure to loss, be sure to discuss your situation with one of our insurance professionals.
Re-evaluate your risk profile at least once a year to ensure your existing homeowners policy provides the protection you and your family needs. Plan to review your policy at the same time each year with one of our insurance professionals.