Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Auto Insurance Basics

Back to Basics-Car insurance

    Have you tried to read your insurance policy and just given up? It can be very confusing! But I am going to try to simplify it for you. Over the next several weeks I will attempt to simplify each type of insurance, begining with Car insurance:

    Every policy should have a Declarations Page
This page “declares” who you are, what cars you have insured, your coverage choices and how much you are paying for this policy period.

    There are 2 types of coverage on your auto policy: Coverage that protects the other party and coverage that protects you.

Coverage that protects the other party:

Bodily Injury Liability: protects you from having to pay medical costs, lost income and funeral expenses of other people involved in an accident that is your fault.
Property Damage Liability: protects you from paying for the repair or replacement of the other person’s car.

            There is no deductible for liability coverage. You have many amount options for this coverage. The state minimum in Texas is $30,000/$60,000/$30,000. This means you are covered for $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident and $30,000 for property damage. I would suggest higher liability limits than the state minimum. If you cause an accident and the liability claim is 75,000, and you have state minimum coverage, you will pay the additional $15,000 out of pocket. It is not expensive to increase your liability limits. Ask your agent to explain your options.

Coverage that protects you:

Uninsured/Underinsured Bodily Injury: covers your injuries (or death) in case the responsible party has little or no insurance. It also covers those riding in your car.

Uninsured/Underinsured Damage: covers damage to your car or property in case the responsible party has little or no insurance.  There is a state mandated $250 deductible in Texas for Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage.

Medical payments: covers medical or funeral expenses if you or anyone in your vehicle are injured in an accident.

Personal Injury payments: covers medical or funeral expenses and possible lost wages if you or anyone in your vehicle are injured in an accident.

Collision Coverage: pays for damage to your car if you hit another car or something else (like a tree or a building).  You must pay a deductible. Deductible amounts determine the cost of this coverage. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium.

Comprehensive Coverage: (also called Other than Collision) pays for damage to your car if something other than a collision occurs. This could be fire, theft, hit by an
Animal (yes, the animal hit your car!) The same type of deductible rules apply to Comprehensive as they do to Collision. They are two different deductibles though.

Optional Coverages that protect your car:

 Towing: pays for towing and some basic roadside assistance, depending on the carrier and towing option you choose.

 Rental Reimbursement: pays for the cost of renting a car while yours is being repaired after an accident.
Loan/Lease Gap Insurance: pays the difference between what you owe and the total value of your car if it is totaled in a claim. This is only valid if you have a new car (less than 3 years old).

So there you go. There are many options to consider in Auto insurance, but they don't have to overwhelm you. If you have any questions, please contact your agent. That is what they are there for. If they cannot answer your questions, please contact us. 

Have other questions? Need a quote?
    * Call us  877-987-8683  

    * Visit brockmanpremierins.com 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Home Insurance Basics

Back to Basics-Homeowners Insurance

   Have you tried to read your insurance policy and just given up? It can be very confusing! Our goal is to help you understand your insurance policy.
    Every policy (regardless of type) should have a Declarations Page, commonly referred to as the “Dec Page”. This page “declares” who you are, what property you have insured, your coverage choices and how much you are paying for this policy period. You will get a new one for each policy period.

There are 2 basic types of coverage on your Home insurance policy: Coverage that protects you and coverage that protects the other party.

Coverage that protects you:

Coverage A- Dwelling Value:  The dwelling value is set at or above the estimated replacement cost of the home. This includes the cost to haul away debris, the materials and contractor’s overhead & profits. This coverage can be written at Actual Cash Value (the value to rebuild the home minus depreciation based on the age of the home) or at Replacement Cost (value to rebuild the home at today’s quality and price). I suggest Replacement Cost policies. Many people ask us to match the coverage to what they bought the house for. Remember- Insurance is meant to make you whole again after a loss. The Dwelling Value isn't isn't based on how much it would cost to buy your home again. It is based on what your carrier is willing to pay out if you had to build your house from the ground up.

Coverage B- Other Structures: This covers buildings SEPARATE from the house, such as a pool, fence, storage shed, detached garage, etc. This usually defaults at 10% dwelling value. It can be lowered to save money or raised to increase coverage.

Coverage C- Personal Property:  Covers your contents of the home. This can also be written at ACV or Replacement cost coverage. If you have a total loss to the home, the carrier will write you a check for the total personal property, regardless of whether you have RC or ACV coverage. If you have a partial loss such as a small fire or theft, they will only give you the coverage you have paid for; meaning if you have ACV coverage, your 8 year old TV will only be covered for the value of an 8 year old TV. If you have Replacement Cost, your coverage will cover the cost of a new TV.

Loss of Use:  This provides reimbursement for reasonable increases in living expenses (such as a hotel room or apt) due to a covered loss, if your home is uninhabitable. There is usually a set amount as well as a set time period. Once the home is inhabitable again, you are expected to move back in (Regardless of how much you are enjoying the hotel!)

Deductibles:  This is the amount you pay out of pocket when you file a claim for a covered loss. There are 2 main types of deductibles;

            Wind/Hail Deductible: This covers your home in the case of high winds or hails, usually seen during severe storms. 

            All Other Perils Deductible: This covers your home for the remaining perils listed in your policy, such as fire or theft. Keep in mind, home insurance policies do not cover floods. You will have to buy a separate policy for flood insurance.

Coverage that protects the other party:

Personal Liability: This covers you if someone is injured on your property due to your negligence.  It can help pay for their injuries and any legal costs. We had a neighbors dog bite a visiting child once. The child is fine, but there were some medical costs and their Liability on their Home Insurance policy paid it in full.

Medical Payments: This will provide reasonable and necessary medical expenses to a guest on your property injured in an accident. If the UPS guy trips and falls and needs medical attention, this would cover minor needs, like ER and stitches.

Insurance coverage can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be!

Have other questions? Need a quote?
    * Call us  877-987-8683  

    * Visit brockmanpremierins.com

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cyber Safety

Are You Shopping Online Safely?

Chances are you shop online. Studies show 79% of Americans shop online. Nearly 25% of online buying occurs between Nov. 1 and Dec 31. People who have traditionally shopped "Black Friday" deals are waiting to shop "Cyber Monday" deals at home. (Dec 2 this year!) I worked in retail for 15 years, so I would rather shop online than ever go into another store! It is convenient to shop online, but risks can outweigh the convenience if you do not shop safely! 

Beware of online Hazards

Hidden fees
Many retailers will claim free shipping, then tell you it is only after your spend a specific dollar amount.  Or they add in "extras" like the software to run the laptop. 
Counterfeit items
It is rather easy to put items for sale online now. Everyone is doing it! Just because you see it on the internet does not mean it is real. Remember if the price seems too good to be true- it probably is! Shop for specific brands on their own site.
Shipping issues
One time my sister in law ordered my niece's entire Christmas online and nothing showed up before Christmas! I ordered a laptop one time that just never came in. (after 3 phone calls they finally refunded my money!)
                                                          Identity theft (This is very common these days!)
Did you know if someone steals your debit card number, they can empty your bank account in record time? I have had people open credit cards in my name, take loans out in my name. These scams can be hard to fight (and prove!).
Fake reviews
If a site has all 5 Star reviews, be wary. No one has a perfect score when it comes to public opinion. Even the best of sites has upset some customer at some point. If it looks perfect- I would guess they are padding their reviews.   

What can you do to protect yourself and still shop from home? 

* Shop at websites you know and trust- check to see if it is a secure website. If it is secure the URL will begin with https, not http. (The "s" stands for secure!)
* Avoid using public wi-fi (identity theft!)
* Create strong passwords - many sites will tell you if your password is strong. Do not use obvious passwords like your birthday, your child's name or your pet's name. You might want to see if a Password Manager is something that would work for you.
* Beware of sites with deals that look too good to be true.
* Be wary of third party sites. 
* Pay by credit card online- not by debit card.
* Check out a company's social media to see if it is real, engaging and what customers have to say. (One of the perks of social media today)
* Research the company before you buy from it. Make sure it's real, and well respected by previous shoppers.
* Keep/print receipts. Pay attention to your statements. Verify all of the charges on a timely basis so you can dispute fraudulent charges quickly.

Shop smart- if you do not feel good about a site, move onto another site. Ask family and friends who may have ordered from a site you are looking at about their experience. Online shopping is convenient, until it's not. Be careful and pay attention to the possible risks!

Have other questions? Need a quote?
    * Call us  877-987-8683  

    * Visit brockmanpremierins.com

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

When should you update your insurance?

Is It Time to Update Your Home Insurance Policy?

I don't know many people who enjoy talking to their insurance agent. There are few out there, but most of the time people want to put a policy in place and not have to deal with the process again. This is great. Low maintenance clients are our favorite kind! But there are conversations we need to have with you. Many people do not realize how changes in their lifestyle or their home can affect their home insurance policy. 

Marital Status

Did you get married? or are you now single? These changes can affect your rates. If you got married, you will want to put your spouse on your policy. If something happens to you and you are incapacitated, if your spouse is not on your policy, they cannot file claims or make decisions about the policy. If you are now single, you will want to remove your (previous) spouse from the policy so they may not make changes or decisions about the policy. Being married will usually lower your rate a little bit. Most carriers consider married couples to be a more stable risk. I know we all know people that would not be true of, but carriers compile several types of statistics to determine risk. 

High End Purchases

You have a certain amount of coverage for your Personal Property on your policy. If you buy a large screen TV or a high end computer system, you may be exhausting that coverage amount. Many carriers offer options to increase the personal property amount.  It is a good idea to keep receipts and take photos of any high end purchase for verification in case you file a claim. Home policies will cap the amount of coverage for jewelry, so if you buy a new piece of jewelry, you may need to change your coverage. You can add a "Schedule Personal Property" endorsement that will cover a specific piece of jewelry. You need to get a certified appraisal, including a photo to verify the value of the jewelry. The carrier can write the additional coverage for the exact amount of the piece. It would not be subject to the policy deductible and will ensure you are fully covered.

Home Improvement

Remodeling/adding onto your home can increase the 
Replacement Cost on your Dwelling value.

The dwelling value is what the carrier determines it would cost to rebuild your home from the ground up in the case of a catastrophic loss. This can includes remodeling the kitchen or bathrooms, adding a pool, changing out plumbing. Not everything will affect your dwelling value, but talk to your agent about any changes you are planning. 

Pet Changes

Have you adopted a dog recently? Some dog breeds are prohibited by carriers (Pit Bulls and German Shepherds for example). Your dog may not be a problem, but statistics show that certain breeds are more aggressive and more likely to bite. Carriers do not want to pay out those claims so they make them ineligible. If you have an ineligible dog breed, your carrier may cancel your policy outright or they may exclude liability coverage for anything that has to do with the dog. If you do not disclose the dog, they may deny a claim because of fraudulent information on the policy.

Home Security Systems

Have you added a monitored alarm system? Turned your home into a "Smart Home"? These can save you money on your policy. Now I believe having a monitored alarm system is a very good idea, but it will not save you the same money you will spend installing and maintaining the system. You add a security system for one reason- security. And no, the system that notifies you on your iphone is not a monitored alarm. It must be monitored by a certified alarm company 
that notifies the police and/or fire department. 

When you are coming up on your insurance renewal it is a good idea to keep these things in 
mind. If you have made any of these changes, be sure to let your agent know so that you will be sufficiently covered. Also let them know any contact information changes. We have had people move, change phone numbers and email addresses and then act completely shocked when we don't know about the changes. Agents do not know you have made these changes unless you tell them! You can email or call into your agent; just let them know!

Have other questions? Need a quote?
    * Call us  877-987-8683  
    * Visit brockmanpremierins.com

Monday, October 28, 2019

Winterizing Your Home 

Can Save You Money!

A little work now can save you when winter hits.

Install Weather stripping and Caulking

Stand in front of your window and door frames. Do you feel any cold air coming through? If so, you have found a place you will want to seal better. Home insulation will make a big difference in your energy costs. Seal these spots with caulk or weather stripping. You may want to consider using an insulating film on windows. It isn't only about keeping cold air out. You want to prevent the warm air from getting out also.

Buy a Programmable Thermostat

Newer homes come with these, but older homes may need to replace them. You want to program the thermostat to turn down when you are not in the house and come back on right before you return. (especially if no one is at home during the work day!) This can save you quite a bit of money!

Run Ceiling fans in reverse 

Heat rises, so reversing your ceiling fans to turn clockwise will push the hot air down. This will circulate warmer air through the room which will lower the time the heater will kick on.
This one was a new one for me! 

Install a "Chimney Balloon"

You can lose quite a bit of heat through your chimney flute. You can insert a chimney balloon and blow it up until it fills the chimney walls. If you want to use the fireplace, simply let the air out and pull the balloon down. Re-insert it when you are done using the fireplace.

Turn Down the Water Heater Temperature

Most water heaters are set up at 140 degrees, but you can reduce the temperature to 120 and save money on water heating costs. Experts suggest running your hot water for 3 minutes and testing the temperature. Do this on 2 different days to see if the temperature is consistent. If it is over 140 on both, you could lower your water heater temperature.

Insulate Water Pipes

You should always insulate outdoor faucets and pipes. You also want to look at pipes that may be exposed indoors as well (basement, attic, under sinks). You can wrap them with a towel and tape or buy foam covers at a hardware store. This can save you thousands of dollars on avoidable damage from burst pipes! If you leave town for the holidays, drip a couple of your faucets to keep the water flowing so it won't freeze.

Most of these fixes are inexpensive and can save you money for years to come!

Have more questions? Need a quote?
* Call us  877-987-8683  

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Dog Bite Liability

The Dog Days of Insurance

"What do you mean, they won't insure me because of my dog?" 
We hear this one often. "It's my dog. I take care of him/her
What business is it of the carrier? "

Why does my insurance carrier care what type of dog I have?

Dog Bites

Dog bites are why your carrier cares and why they get to decide what breeds they will/will not insure. 

These statistics might surprise you:
* Over 17,000 people were bitten by dogs in the US last year.
* The average cost per claim is $39,017.
* There were 39 dog bite fatalities in the US in 2017.
* Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than 1/3 of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars in 2018,  $675 million.   (Insurance information Institute)

Some dog breeds are considers higher risk dogs, such as Pit bulls and Rottweilers. This doesn't mean all Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are aggressive, risky dogs. But statistics show they are more likely to be aggressive than other breeds. Most Home insurance carriers have a list of "Aggressive" breeds they will not insure. Some carriers will not insure the home at all if there is an ineligible dog breed living in the residence. Others will exclude Liability on the dog. So if the dog bites someone, the carrier will not cover any of the claim payout. Most of us don't believe our dog could bite someone. And chances are your dog won't. But these are dogs and they are never fully rational or tame. So you need to plan accordingly and so do the carriers.

Personal Experience

Years ago, our next door neighbor had a Great Dane, Duke. Duke was an awesome dog. He got out one time and I went to pick him up for my neighbor. He walked straight up to me and laid his head on my shoulder. (Yes he was that tall and I am that short!) My point is, he was the sweetest dog. A gentle giant. One day their ten year old son was playing video games with a friend. The friend leaned down in front of Duke and Duke bit him. The child's head fit all the way in Duke's mouth. There were bite marks on his face and on the back of his head. The insurance carrier immediately put $100,000 in claims reserves in case the child needed surgery. The child didn't require surgery and the bites were taken care of with a few stitches and glue. Now the child is fine- no permanent damage, thank God. And we found out a little later than he had been taunting Duke by taking his chew toy away from him. The lesson here is that even the sweetest dog will defend himself (and his toys!). You never know what might set a dog off.  The Doctors said he had to be a very gentle dog who was not trying to hurt the child because a dog that size could have easily killed the child had he intended to hurt him.  It didn't cost our neighbors any money because they had the right coverage. But they had to get rid of Duke which broke all of our hearts. 

The Dog Owner is Responsible

As the home and dog owner, you are responsible. You can also be brought up on civil and criminal charges if your dog attacks someone and you are found to be liable.
If you look at the medical and court costs, the carrier can payout out thousands of dollars for a single claim. Be sure to let your insurance agent know about your dog. You want the dog listed on your policy so if there is ever a claim, you will be covered. Now if you have an "ineligible" dog breed, you may not be able to get liability coverage for your dog. But there are different options you should be able to discuss with your agent.

And that is why your carrier cares what type of dog you have.

Have more questions or want a quote?
* Call us at 877-987-8683  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Teen Drivers

How scary is it?                   

It's Teen Driver Safety week! So we need to talk about our young drivers. According to the CDC, six teens, ages 16 to 19, die every day from motor vehicle injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash. As a parent of teenagers, those are very scary numbers!

The National Safety Council says that at least half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before they graduate from High School. Half! They strongly suggest parents drive with teens even after they get their license. Teens who drive with their parents in the car decrease the probability of causing a crash. So I know for many parents it seems a very stressful and harrowing experience to be a passenger in their child's care, so think of it as a way to pass your experience and knowledge onto your young drivers.

When people call in about adding their teenager to their policy, we tell them part of the reason it is so expensive to add a teen driver is because of the risk associated with new drivers. It isn't a matter of if they will get into an accident. It's a matter of when they will.

Inexperienced drivers struggle with judging the space needed to change lanes in traffic, driving safely in poor weather conditions and making turns safely. Your child may be a very conscientious driver, but it isn't just their driving you have to worry about. More experienced drivers know how to drive defensively. They know to look at how others are driving to avoid accidents. New drivers assume everyone else will drive the same way they will. 
* For additional tips on good driving habits, read about TeenSafe

Have other questions? Need a quote?
    * Call us  877-987-8683  
    * Visit brockmanpremierins.com