Home Buyers Insurance Guidelines

Courtesy of iii.org

The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the size of your house and your insurance company. From raising your deductible to making home improvements, here are some ways to save money while you adequately protect your home and assets.


Don’t skimp

Don’t shop price alone. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company in the event of an accident or other emergency. When you need to file a claim you?ll want an insurer that provides good customer service, so test that while you’re shopping, and choose a company whose representatives take the time to address your questions and concerns.

Raise your deductible

A deductible is the amount of money that you are responsible for paying toward an insured loss. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premium, so if you can pay above the minimum $500 or $1,000 deductible, for example, you may reduce the cost of your homeowners policy.

If you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for damage from major disasters, so be sure you take this into account when considering whether to raise your standard homeowners deductible.

Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer

Many companies that sell homeowners insurance also sell auto insurance and umbrella liability policies. If you buy two or more insurance policies from the same provider, you may be able to reduce your premium. To be sure you’re getting the best price, make certain any combined price from one insurer is lower than buying the coverages separately from different companies.

Make your home more disaster resistant

If you live in a disaster prone area, you will have more insurance options to choose from if you take certain preparedness steps? for example, installing storm shutters and shatterproof glass or reinforcing your roof. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. Consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage. These precautions may prevent excessive damage and the related work and stress involved in rebuilding.

Do not confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs

Your homeowners policy is based on the cost to rebuild your home, not its real estate value. While your house may be at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils, the land it sits on is not, so don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you’ll pay a higher premium than you should.

Ask about discounts for home security devices

Most insurers provide discounts for security devices such as smoke detectors, burglar and fire alarm systems or dead-bolt locks. As some of these measures aren’t cheap and not every system qualifies for a discount, consult your insurance professional for recommendations.

Seek out other discounts

Types and levels of discounts vary from company to company and state to state. Ask your insurance professional about discounts that are available to you?for example, if you’re 55 years old and retired, or you modernize your plumbing or electrical systems, you may be qualify for a price break.

Look into group coverage

Does your employer administer a group insurance program? Check to see if a homeowners policy is available. In addition, professional, alumni and business groups may offer an insurance package at a reduced price. Whatever the offer, do your homework to make sure it is a better deal than you can find elsewhere.

Stay with the same insurer

If you’ve been insured with the same company for a number of years, you may receive a discount for being a long-term policyholder. But to ensure you are getting a good deal, periodically shop around to compare your premium with the prices of policies from other insurers.

Review the value of your possessions and your policy limits annually

Review your home inventory and any upgrades to your house or condo. Make sure your homeowners or renters policy covers any major purchases or additions to your home and also check that you’re not spending money for coverage you don’t need. For example, if your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater and pocket the difference.

Another great way to save money on your homeowners policy is to take into account the cost of insurance while you’re shopping for a house and before you buy. These home buyers? insurance guidelines provide tips on the locations, types of construction and other factors that will help keep down the cost of your coverage.

Next steps: Here’s how to figure out how much homeowners insurance you need.

Get the Most From Travel Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

Before leaving on vacation, make sure you have adequate insurance. Vacations can sometimes cost thousands of dollars, so it is important to have the proper insurance protection in case the cruise or tour operator goes bankrupt or you need to cancel the trip due to illness or other unforeseen events.

There are four major types of travel insurance, although you can also purchase packages that offer several options, including Trip Cancellation, Lost Baggage, Medical, Dental, Emergency Evacuation, 24 Hour Traveler Assistance, Baggage Delay, Travel Delay, and Accidental Death Coverages. Some policies also have options for Collision/Damage coverage for rented cars.

1. Trip cancellation insurance

This would reimburse you if the cruise line or tour operator goes out of business. It would also provide coverage if you have to cancel the trip due to sickness, a death in the family or another calamity listed in the policy.

In addition, if you or an immediate family member becomes seriously ill or is injured during the trip most policies would reimburse you for the unused portion of the vacation.

The cost is generally five to seven percent of the price of the vacation, so a $5,000 trip would cost roughly $250 to $350 to insure.

Trip cancellation is very different from a Cancellation Waiver that many cruise and tour operators offer. Waivers are relatively inexpensive, costing approximately $40 to $60. They provide coverage if you have to cancel the trip, but they have many restrictions. They must be purchased when you book the trip and will usually not cover you immediately before departure (the time period most people cancel) or after the trip has begun. Most importantly, waivers are not insurance. Cancellation Waivers are not regulated by the state department of insurance, so if your tour or cruise operator gets into financial difficulty, you may not be able to collect.

2. Baggage insurance or personal effects coverage

This would provide coverage if your personal belongings are lost, stolen or damaged during the trip.

To insure $1,000 worth of personal belongings for a week, it would cost roughly $50 per year.

Before purchasing this type of coverage, find out how much insurance the airline or trip operator provides for your belongings.

Also, check your homeowners or renters policy. It will usually provide coverage for off-premises theft. Therefore, if your luggage is stolen, your insurer will pay to replace it, less the deductible.

If you are traveling with expensive electronic equipment, jewelry or sporting gear, it might be more cost-effective to purchase a floater or endorsement to your homeowners or renters policy. The cost to insure a $1,000 ring would be between $10 and $40 annually. This would provide full coverage for the item, anywhere in the world, usually for one year.

3. Emergency medical assistance

This provides insurance and medical assistance for travelers. It would cover you if you had to be airlifted off a mountain due to a skiing or hiking accident, or if you had to stay for a prolonged period of time in a foreign hospital. It would also provide coverage if you got seriously sick or were injured and needed to be flown home. Some commercial airlines require very sick passengers to travel on a stretcher with a doctor. This means that you might have to purchase 10 or more seats on a plane at a possible cost of over $10,000.

Before purchasing this type of coverage, check with your own health insurance carrier. Find out what type of coverage you have when traveling abroad and if there are any limits. Also, ask if the policy will pay to fly you home or to a country with first-rate medical care.

4. Accidental death

This provides a variety of coverages if you or a family member die on the trip. If you have a good life insurance plan or made other financial provisions for your loved ones, this may be duplicate insurance.

Your credit card company may provide travel-related services and coverage. You can also purchase travel insurance from either a travel agent or you can buy directly from an insurer that specializes in this type of coverage.

Cyberattack & Small Business Risk

Courtesy of iii.org
More than half of U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) experienced a cyberattack within the past year, yet only 14 percent of businesses felt prepared and protected, according to a recent white paper from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The white paper, Protecting Against #Cyberfail: Small Business and Cyber Insurance, examines how insurers are addressing the threat cyberattacks and data breaches pose to SMBs through a combination of innovative insurance products, risk management techniques and employee training.

“Insurers foresee substantial growth coming from the SMB segment, as these companies become aware of the possibilities of liability, especially a breach and resulting response costs arising out of the possession of private data,” said Sean Kevelighan, chief executive officer, I.I.I.

The vast majority of cyber insurance claims involved the loss, exposure, or misuse of sensitive personal data. About half (48 percent) of the data breaches of U.S. small businesses in 2016 were caused by either a negligent employee or contractor, according to the Ponemon Institute.
U.S. insurers reported collecting $1.35 billion in direct premiums written for cyber insurance in 2016, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Stand-alone cyber insurance policies accounted for $921 million of that total (68 percent), while the balance came primarily from endorsements on either a small commercial or businessowners policy (BOP).

Typical cyber-related policies cover the costs arising from either a cyberattack or a data breach, such as responding to lawsuits, repairing damaged infrastructure, and paying the ‘ransom’ demanded by cyber extortionists, among other potential exposures, such as business interruption expenses.

“Creating an affordable product that SMBs will be willing to buy is a key component in the insurance offering. Since different industry sectors represent different levels of exposure, pricing will vary depending on the type of SMB,” the white paper, co-authored by James Lynch, the I.I.I.’s chief actuary, and the I.I.I.’s Claire Wilkinson, a consultant, states.

The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its YouTube Channel.

Drunk Driving Holiday Risks

Courtesy of iii.org

Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 51 minutes in 2015.

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving. According to NHTSA 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2015, up 3.2 percent from 9,943 in 2014. In 2015 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities.

The definition of drunk driving had been consistent throughout the United States until March 2017. All states and the District of Columbia defined impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 percent. In addition, they all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. Generally the BAC limit in these cases is 0.02 percent. In March 2017, the governor of Utah signed a bill, effective December 30, 2018, that lowered the limit defining impaired driving for most drivers to 0.05 percent BAC, the lowest in the nation.

Anti-drunk-driving campaigns especially target drivers under the age of 21, repeat offenders and 21-to 34-year-olds, the age group that is responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other. Young drivers are those least responsive to arguments against drunk driving, according to NHTSA.

To make sellers and servers of liquor more careful about to whom and how they serve drinks, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or have case law holding commercial liquor servers legally liable for the damage, injuries and deaths a drunk driver causes. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws or have case law that permit social hosts who serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes to be held liable for any injury or death. (See chart below and Background.)

Recent developments

  • Latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that the 10,265 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2015 accounted for about one out of three highway deaths (29 percent) on U.S. roads. There were 9,943 such fatalities in 2014.
  • Ignition interlock systems require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer-like device to ensure the individual is sober before allowing the vehicle to start. According to a report released in January 2017 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, traffic fatalities have declined by 7 percent in states that mandate ignition interlocks for first-time drunken-driving offenders. The researchers studied traffic fatalities for about five years before states began passing interlock laws in the late 1980s through 2013, when all states required them under some circumstances. See Background, Repeat Offenders.
  • Drunk Driving by Gender: Latest NHTSA data show that 14 percent of women drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 (1,761 drivers) were alcohol-impaired, only 1 percentage point lower than in 2006. In comparison, 21 percent of male drivers involved in fatal crashed were alcohol impaired in 2015, down from 24 percent in 2006.
  • Drunk Driving by Age: According to data from NHTSA, in 2015 the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol impaired was highest for 21 to 24 year old drivers, at 28 percent, followed by 25 to 34 year old drivers, at 27 percent, and 35 to 44 year old drivers, at 23 percent. The percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes was 19 percent for 45 to 54 year olds, 16 percent of 16 to 20 year olds, 14 percent for 55 to 64 year olds, 9 percent for 65 to 74 year olds and 6 percent for drivers over the age of 74.
  • Drunk Driving by Vehicle Type: NHTSA data for 2015 show that 27 percent of motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes were alcohol impaired, compared with 21 percent of passenger car drivers and 20 percent of light truck drivers. Only 2 percent of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were alcohol impaired.
  • Social Host Liability: The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in February 2012 that social hosts could be held liable for off-premise injury to people caused by the drunk driving of a guest only if the host served alcohol or made it available. People who host “bring your own” parties are free from liability, even if the guest is underage. The court rejected an attempt by the parents of an injured 16-year-old to sue a party’s 18-year old host. The younger person suffered injuries in a crash in a car driven by someone who brought his own alcohol to the party. At issue was the fact that the driver, not the party host, supplied the liquor. Although the lawsuit contended that the host should be found negligent for allowing the driver to drink at her home, the court said that earlier rulings showed that hosts can’t be responsible for their guests’ drinking if they don’t control the supply of alcohol. Massachusetts law and court cases have held social hosts liable if they supply alcohol (See chart: STATUTES OR COURT CASES HOLDING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE SERVERS LIABLE).
  • Also in February 2012 the New Mexico Supreme Court said that circumstantial evidence of a driver’s intoxication was sufficient to support a jury finding that the driver was intoxicated, overruling a decision in a 2004 case. Evidence presented in the earlier trial showed that a driver who struck and killed a motorcyclist had a 0.09 percent blood alcohol content five hours after the crash. The owners of the gas station where the driver worked and consumed a number of beers bought at the gas station pleaded ignorance of the driver’s condition. The court ruled that the blood test results were enough to prove that the driver was intoxicated. The ruling holds liquor sellers responsible for liability where evidence is available under the existing dram shop law.

How to Lower Car Insurance Costs

Courtesy of iii.org” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>iii.org
One of the best ways to keep your auto insurance costs down is to have a good driving record.

Listed below are other things you can do to lower your insurance costs.

1. Shop around

Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers. (State insurance department phone numbers and Web sites can be found on the back cover.)

You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. It?s important to pick a company that is financially stable. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best (www.ambest.com) and Standard & Poor?s (www.standardandpoors.com/ratings) and consult consumer magazines.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others do not use agents. They sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

Don?t shop by price alone. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they provide information on consumer complaints by company. Pick an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions. You can use the checklist on the back of this brochure to help you compare quotes from insurers.

2. Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Car insurance premiums are based in part on the car?s price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. To help you decide what car to buy, you can get information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org).

3. Ask for higher deductibles

Deductibles are what you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim.

4. Reduce coverage on older cars

Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars. Or you can look it up online at Kelley?s Blue Book (www.kbb.com). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven?t changed.

5. Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer

Many insurers will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce the rates for long-time customers. But it still makes sense to shop around! You may save money buying from different insurance companies, compared with a multipolicy discount.

6. Maintain a good credit record

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Most insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. Research shows that people who effectively manage their credit have fewer claims. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don?t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.

7. Take advantage of low mileage discounts

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who car pool to work.

8. Ask about group insurance

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or from other associations. Ask your employer and inquire with groups or clubs you are a member of to see if this is possible.

9. Seek out other discounts

Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also get a discount if you take a defensive driving course. If there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at college without a car, you may also qualify for a lower rate.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts for the following:*

Antitheft Devices
Auto and Homeowners Coverage with the Same Company
College Students away from Home
Defensive Driving Courses
Drivers Ed Courses
Good Credit Record
Higher deductibles
Low Annual Mileage
Long-Time Customer
More than 1 car
No Accidents in 3 Years
No Moving Violations in 3 Years
Student Drivers with Good Grades

*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

The key to savings is not the discounts, but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.

Reviewed by:

Federal Citizen Information Center
www.pueblo.gsa.gov

National Consumers League
www.nclnet.org

Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA
www.csrees.usda.gov

FAQ FEMA & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

For those who do not have the right insurance, or who need help beyond their coverage, government programs can sometimes step in to help with post-disaster recovery. Here is a round-up of the most frequently asked questions about the disaster assistance offered by FEMA.


Q. How do I apply for FEMA disaster assistance?

A. You can apply at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or m.fema.gov, or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. If you have a speech disability or hearing impairment and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

Q. What happens after I apply for disaster assistance?

A. FEMA will mail you a copy of your application and a copy of Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program that will answer many of your questions.

  • If you do not have insurance: An inspector will contact you after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home.
  • If you have insurance: You need to file your insurance claim and provide FEMA with a decision letter (settlement or denial) from your insurance company before FEMA issues an inspection.
    • There is an exception for damages caused by flooding; if you have flood insurance, FEMA will issue an inspection before receiving a copy of your flood insurance decision letter to evaluate your eligibility for temporary living expenses since these are not covered by flood insurance.
  • About 10 days after the inspection FEMA will decide if you qualify for assistance. If so, FEMA will send you a check by mail (or direct deposit) with an explanation of what the money covers (i.e. rent or home repair).
  • If FEMA determines that you are ineligible for any reason, you will receive a letter and be given a chance to appeal. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of the determination. Read the letter carefully for the reason of ineligibility before filing your appeal.
  • If you get a Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan application in the mail, you must complete and return it to be considered for a loan or certain types of grant assistance, such as transportation, personal property, and moving and storage.

Q. Why didn’t I receive rental assistance when my home can’t be lived in?

A. If you cannot live in your home because of disaster damage and you did not receive rental assistance, please contact FEMA to check on your status. It could be that during the inspection you indicated that you were unwilling to relocate. If so, FEMA would not move forward to issuing a rental assistance check for you to move to another location.

Q. I received a rental assistance check, how do I find a new place to rent?

A. The FEMA Housing Portal is intended to help individuals and families, who have been displaced by a disaster, find a place to live. The portal consolidates rental resources to help individuals and families find available rental units in their area. This information can be accessed by visiting www.fema.gov and searching “Housing Portal,” or by calling 800-621-3362.

Q. Will my family get assistance faster if we each apply separately?

A. No. If two members of the same household apply for the same damaged home, FEMA assistance could actually be delayed. If more than one member of a household has applied, the additional registrants should call the FEMA Helpline, 800-621-3362 to withdraw their applications. Once this occurs, the original registration for the household can be processed for assistance.

Q. If I received a settlement from my insurance but still have additional needs, what can I do?

A. As soon as you receive an insurance settlement, you should provide a copy to FEMA and identify any unmet needs you have. Although FEMA cannot duplicate benefits that your insurance provided, FEMA may be able to assist you with lost essential items not covered by insurance and can also help you find resources through other recovery partners.

Q. Why did I get a different amount of home repair assistance than my neighbor?

A. Each survivor’s case is unique. There are several factors involved, including insurance status and the extent and type of damage found during the home inspection. If you feel that the assistance you received does not cover your needs ? for example, the funding you received for repairs are less than the estimates you’ve received from contractors and you have not yet met the FEMA maximum grant ? you can appeal.

Q. Will FEMA provide additional rental assistance beyond the initial assistance period if I still cannot return to my home?

A. Rental assistance can be provided for up to 18 months from the date of declaration while you are setting up your permanent housing plan. After your initial period of assistance, you will be sent a letter on how to “recertify” if you need additional rental assistance.

Q. Could FEMA assistance affect my Social Security benefits, federal taxes, food stamp (SNAP) eligibility, or Medicaid?

A. No. FEMA assistance does not affect benefits from other federal programs and is not considered taxable income.

Q. I’ve already cleaned up the damage to my home and made repairs. Is it too late to register once the work is done?

A. No. You may be eligible for reimbursement of your cleanup and repair costs, even if repairs are complete. The important thing is to document the expenses you incur. It is a good idea to take before-and-after photos for your records.

Q. If I received disaster assistance last year, could I get it again this year?

A. Assistance may be available if you also suffered damages from a previously federally declared disaster.

Q. My child is a U.S. citizen, but I am not. Can I apply for FEMA disaster assistance?

A. If anyone in an affected household is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien (a “Green Card” holder), they are eligible to apply for FEMA disaster assistance. If a minor child is eligible by these criteria, even when other members of the family are not, the family can file an application on the child’s behalf.

In this case, all identification documents have to be in the child’s name and Social Security number. The copy of the child’s Social Security card and birth certificate are acceptable verification. This information can be mailed to FEMA or brought to a Disaster Recovery Center.

Additional resources

For more information, visit the FEMA website.

Business Interruption Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

Business interruption insurance can be as vital to your survival as a business as fire insurance. Most people would never consider opening a business without buying insurance to cover damage due to fire and windstorms. But too many small businessowners fail to think about how they would manage if a fire or other disaster damaged their business premises so that they were temporarily unusable. Business interruption coverage is not sold separately. It is added to a property insurance policy or included in a package policy.

A business that has to close down completely while the premises are being repaired may lose out to competitors. A quick resumption of business after a disaster is essential.

  1. Business interruption insurance compensates you for lost income if your company has to vacate the premises due to disaster-related damage that is covered under your property insurance policy, such as a fire. Business interruption insurance covers the revenue you would have earned, based on your financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy also covers operating expenses, like electricity, that continue even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.
  2. Make sure the policy limits are sufficient to cover your company for more than a few days. After a major disaster, it can take more time than many people anticipate to get the business back on track. There is generally a 48-hour waiting period before business interruption coverage kicks in.
  3. The price of the policy is related to the risk of a fire or other disaster damaging your premises. All other things being equal, the price would probably be higher for a restaurant than a real estate agency, for example, because of the greater risk of fire. Also, a real estate agency can more easily operate out of another location.

Extra expense insurance

Extra expense insurance reimburses your company for a reasonable sum of money that it spends, over and above normal operating expenses, to avoid having to shut down during the restoration period. Usually, extra expenses will be paid if they help to decrease business interruption costs. In some instances, extra expense insurance alone may provide sufficient coverage, without the purchase of business interruption insurance.

Beware of After-the-Storm Scams

Courtesy of iii.org

Natural disasters (such as a flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado) sometimes invite another type of disaster: “Storm Chasers” who try to profit from others’ unfortunate circumstances. These profiteers take many forms – from workers posing as qualified contractors to “volunteers” trying to help only themselves to lawyers and public adjusters offering to take over your claim. If you start having second thoughts about anyone who has offered assistance after disaster strikes, here are some tips to get you back on course:

  • Never feel pressured to make a decision.
    While the need to recover quickly is understandable, do not succumb to a high-pressure sales pitch. If you’ve signed an agreement or contract, remember the Federal Trade Commission has rules protecting consumers that allow you to cancel a contract up until midnight of the third business day after entering into it. This applies to door-to-door sales contracts for more than $25, as well as sale contracts for more than $25 made at any place other than a seller’s usual place of business. Additionally, states have similar rules to help consumers having second thoughts on the contracts they’ve signed.
  • Think carefully about signing over your claim to an outsider.
    This may sound like a good idea, since it appears to free you from handling the details of disaster recovery. However, what often happens when a third-party (which can be a contractor or public adjuster) takes over your claim is that you lose control of it and repair costs may be greatly inflated, delayed or not in compliance with building codes. The desire to get the job done right the first time makes a good case for the homeowner to stay involved in the process.
  • Always deal with a licensed, insured contractor for both temporary and permanent repairs.
    Be certain to have a pro handle your job. Unlicensed individuals may actually cause more damage to your property. And, if they are injured on your property, they may hold you liable if they do not have their own insurance. You can request to see their license and verify it with state or county officials. Unlicensed contractors can be reported to your state’s licensing board. Keep receipts for temporary repairs, as your insurer will reimburse you for these expenses.
  • Know that your insurer is an on-call advisor to help you through every step of the claims process.
    Home and business insurance policies comes with claims services, so consult your insurer as soon as possible after disaster strikes. Disaster claims are handled based on the severity of damage, so those most impacted get priority. That is why it is important to provide an accurate preliminary account of the damage when you make the initial call to your insurer. Also, be sure to mention any circumstances that may necessitate expedited claims handling, such as special needs situations. Contact the department of insurance in your state if you have complaints.
  • Report the scam to local police and your state insurance department.
    These scams can happen to anyone, so don’t hesitate to contact authorities. Many states also have consumer affairs departments to assist you in answering questions, protecting your interests and filing charges, if necessary.

Additional Resources

Safety Tips for Cleaning Up After a Flood

Courtesy of iii.org

Cleaning up after a flood can pose health risks. You and your family should wait to re-enter your home until professionals tell you it is safe, with no structural, electrical or other hazards.

Before you start cleanup activities, contact your insurance company and take pictures of the home and your belongings. Remember, drying your home and removing water-damaged items is your most important step for preventing mold damage.

If your house has been flooded and you were not able to dry your home (including furniture and other items) within 24 ? 48 hours, you should assume you have mold growth. You may see or smell mold on clothing, drywall, furniture, cardboard boxes, or books, but it may also be hidden under or behind items like carpet, cushions, or walls.

Exposure to mold can lead to asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation, and allergic reactions. It can lead to severe infections in people with weakened immune systems, so it is important to ensure the mold cleanup is complete before reoccupying your home.

Keep in mind that standard home owners insurance policies typically exclude damage caused by mold, fungi and bacteria, unless it results from a covered peril, such as a burst pipe.

For more information, download the Homeowner?s and Renter?s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a coalition of federal agencies.

Please click on the file name below to view the article in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.

Download homeowners_and_renters_guide_june_24_2015.pdf

You can download Adobe Acrobat Reader, free of charge, from the Adobe website (https://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html).

A Week of Giving

Courtesy of iii.org

Each year, the insurance industry comes together for the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Week of Giving. During this eight-day international and industry-wide initiative, insurance professionals complete volunteer projects in support of community nonprofit organizations.

The IICF is a nonprofit organization that unites the insurance industry in helping communities and enriching lives through grants, volunteer service and leadership. For more than 20 years, thousands of insurance industry volunteers representing their own companies work together in the spirit of industry camaraderie to serve local communities. These projects include partnerships with hundreds of nonprofits and charities, focused in the areas of early childhood literacy; homeless and veterans causes; support of women, children and families; food insecurity; child abuse prevention; beach, river and community park clean ups; disaster preparedness and safety; and other important programs. In 2016, a total of 8,500 industry volunteers, in 115 cities, participated in the IICF Week of Giving. More than 21,700 hours of service, dedicated to 400 projects, were completed with nonprofits and community organizations across the United States and United Kingdom.

The 2017 Week of Giving runs October 14 ? 21. For more information? and to sign up as a volunteer ?go to www.weekofgiving.iicf.org.