Home Repairs-A New Idea

Courtesy of iii.org

You’ve heard of preferred providers for health insurance policies. They are considered mutually beneficial because insured people get medical services at a reduced rate and the provider gains business since more patients are directed there. Auto insurers have used that model for decades. They have networks of pre-approved auto body shops to repair cars involved in crashes. Because most people don’t know the best place to unbend a fender bender, this is a proven formula for piecing a car back together. Similar programs also exist when a home or business suffers damage. Many insurers have managed repair programs for filing property claims to get damage repaired promptly and correctly ? and to help control claims costs.

The most important thing to understand about controlling claims costs is the consumer benefit. Insurance is the cost of claims. If the cost of claims is controlled, then the price you pay for insurance is controlled. It is NOT about paying less on the settlement amount of the claim; it is about paying what is owed and what is necessary at a fair price.

When a homeowner has a claim and their insurer offers a managed repair program, the repairs are done through a contracting company that has been vetted, approved and overseen by the insurer. Use of a managed repair contractor saves the homeowner time (“Time is money”) and the hassle of taking a chance on an unknown and unproven repair company. Many times, the insurance company also backs up the workmanship of their approved contractors with a stronger guarantee or warranty than what one would find if going directly. It’s about customer satisfaction.

Managed repair programs are optional (although an insurer offering a premium discount for signing up for one may allow you to change your mind only at renewal time ? not in the middle of a claim).

There is a lot to like about this managed repair concept, if you understand how it works and whom it benefits. Saving money on homeowners insurance is more than a concept. It’s the goal.

Watercraft, Insurance and You

Courtesy of http://www.insuringflorida.org/the-right-insurance-keeps-your-boat-afloat/

Living in Florida means boating season never ends. With the right insurance protection, your boating days can be as carefree as a day at the beach. The type of insurance coverage you get depends upon the boat.

If you have a small boat, such as a canoe or kayak, you may have coverage under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of the home’s insured value. That amount of coverage includes the small boat, motor and anything you may use to tow it. It does not typically include liability insurance.

Extra liability coverage for boaters makes good sense. Some insurers exclude liability coverage for jet-skis under standard property insurance policies because of the high rate of accidents and injuries. Check with your insurer to see what’s covered and ask about additional protection that you can purchase through an endorsement. If you own a jet-ski or plan to rent one, check out ourjet-ski safety video.

People who own small boats need to “go large” on safety. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2013 Boating Statistics, eight of 10 boaters who drowned were in vessels of less than 21 feet. And, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Alcohol use is the leading contributor to boating accidents, along with operator inattention and inexperience. Not unlike the statistics for highways.

To cover physical loss for larger boats (and those valued above $1,000), you need broader coverage. With a watercraft policy or an endorsement to your existing homeowners policy, you’ll be covered for every type of loss or damage to your boat, including theft. There are a few coverage exceptions (such as normal wear and tear). Many boat owners choose a discounted package that covers the boat, motor and trailer.

Some people may decide to go without insurance on their boat because it’s paid in full, so no lender is “forcing” them to get coverage. That’s always an option, I guess, if you can afford to sink your investment. Back in 2004, when Florida experienced multiple hurricanes, you probably saw images of boats slammed together near marinas or flung into streets by high winds, resting a block from the ocean. I remember talking to a woman after Hurricane Ivan who said she had just sunk $10,000 into remodeling her yacht, which was found smashed to bits in a parking lot. “That’s not covered under my homeowners insurance, is it?” she asked. She knew the answer before asking the question, and now so do you.

Continued-Unclaimed Life Insurance

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/article/unclaimed-life-insurance-benefits

3. The life insurance company might not be able to find the policy’s beneficiaries (legitimate claimants). There might be one or both of two problems in this scenario. The first is that the descriptions of the beneficiaries might be insufficiently precise for the life insurance company to locate them. This would be the case, for example, if the beneficiary designation says “my wife” or “my children” without naming them specifically and, ideally, providing a Social Security number and a current address for each one.

Be sure to provide detailed personal identification information about every beneficiary to each life insurer from whom you have coverage for death benefits so that, when the time comes, they can be easily located and their identity confirmed. The other problem is that, even if the company knows who it is looking for, it may be very difficult to track down a beneficiary, especially as it may be many years, or even decades, since the policy was taken out. Keep in mind that, for privacy reasons, until the death occurs, the life insurer cannot even respond to a beneficiary’s inquiry as to whether they are a beneficiary or not.

4. Beneficiaries might not know that a life insurance policy exists under which they are beneficiaries. It may come as a surprise, but sometimes beneficiaries do not know that they are covered by the insured’s individual or group life insurance policy. The insured may have a variety of reasons for keeping this information secret from the beneficiaries, but an unfortunate consequence is that the benefits could end up unclaimed because no one actually realized that they could make a claim. It is wise to tell the beneficiaries of your life insurance (both individual policies and group coverages) that when you die they will be entitled to death benefits. Also provide them with the name and home city and state of the life insurance company and the policy number.

5. The original life insurance company no longer exists (it might have merged, changed its name, moved to another state) and cannot be located by the insured, owner or beneficiaries. The name of the company that sold the original life insurance policy may have changed, possibly making it more difficult for the beneficiary to locate the insurer in order to make a claim. Life insurance companies are not any different from companies in any other industry in this respect?but the multi-decade length of the contract can transform this type of normal corporate development into an extra hurdle for beneficiaries. Some will not know where or how to look for the new insurer, leaving the benefits unclaimed when the insured dies.

Typically, an insurer that is changing its name or location will notify its policyholders of such a change. Keeping a record of any notices regarding changes to the name, location or contact information for your life insurance company, will make it easier for your beneficiaries to make a claim. If a family member dies and you are unable to locate his or her life insurance policy, we have tips available: How can I locate a lost life insurance policy?

Understanding Life Insurance-Unclaimed

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/article/unclaimed-life-insurance-benefits

Sometimes life insurance benefits are left unclaimed after a policyholder dies. This is an unfortunate problem under any circumstances, but especially now, when many people are struggling financially. What is more, this is an easily preventable outcome. To ensure that your life insurance benefits do not go unclaimed it is important to understand why this might happen. There are five major reasons; we will examine each in turn.

1. The life insurance company and the policy’s owner and/or insured might have lost track of each other. The main mode of contact between you and financial institutions (banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, investment management companies, etc.) is by “snail” mail. As with anyone with whom you wish to keep in contact after you move, you must tell them your new mailing address or they will lose track of you. The U.S. Post Office will only forward first-class mail for a year to a forwarding address, and the sender is not aware that the mail is being forwarded to a new address as the Post Office does not inform the financial institution of the change. So if you move you should immediately inform every financial institution directly of your new mailing address, including your life insurer(s). Of course, the same principle applies to other forms of communication: tell the life insurance company of new phone numbers (cell and land line), email address, fax number, etc.

2. The life insurance company might not know that the insured has died. Life insurance companies typically do not know when a policyholder dies until they are informed of his or her death, usually by the policy’s beneficiary. Even if a policy is in a premium-paying stage and the payments stop, the insurance company has no reason to assume that the insured has died.

Moreover, there are policies that have benefits called cash values, with an Automatic Premium Loan (APL) feature. An APL policy borrows money from the cash value to pay a premium due if the money does not come in by the end of the grace period; thus preventing an unintended lapse of the policy, which would have the disastrous effect of loss of the entire death benefit should the insured die after premiums due were not paid. Under an APL, the policy would continue in full force until all of the cash value had been borrowed, at which time it would lapse.

Also, many policies are in a stage in which no premiums are due. Some life insurance is bought with a single premium or a small number of premiums due (such as 10 or 20 annual payments), but the insured might live a long time after the premium payments end. Thus the life insurance company would stop sending premium notices after all premiums were paid. Moreover, there is no master list of who is alive and who is dead. The Social Security Administration has the closest thing to such a list?a file on its income beneficiaries (those receiving retirement or disability income from Social Security) to record those who are alive and who have deceased, so as to avoid making payments that are not legitimate?but this does not cover everyone. Millions of people, in fact, are not covered by Social Security (federal employees, state employees in four states, railroad employees, etc.), and therefore would not appear on this list.

Employers who sponsor group life insurance to active employees will notify the life insurer if a covered employee dies. And, it is possible that the deceased would also have individual life insurance policies with the same company that issues the group policy, but this becomes less likely when people switch jobs but do not switch individual life insurers. So remember to provide your beneficiaries with the name of, and contact information for, your life insurance company, so they can report your death and file a claim. to be continued…

Updates on Flood Insurance Changes

Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program – NFIP (888-379-9531) and from a few private insurers.

The NFIP provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for personal possessions. The NFIP policy provides replacement cost coverage for the structure of your home, but only actual cash value coverage for your possessions. Replacement cost coverage pays to rebuild your home as it was before the damage. Actual cash value is replacement cost coverage minus depreciation so that the older your possessions are, the less you will get if they are damaged. There may also be limits on coverage for furniture and other belongings stored in your basement.

Flood insurance is available for renters as well as homeowners. You will need flood insurance if you live in a designated flood zone. But flooding can also occur in inland areas and away from major rivers. Consider buying a flood insurance policy if your house could be flooded by melting snow, an overflowing creek or pond or water running down a steep hill. Don?t wait for a flood season warning on the evening news to buy a policy?there is a 30-day waiting period before the coverage takes effect.

Excess flood insurance is also available from some private insurers for those who need additional insurance protection over and above the basic policy or whose community does not participate in the NFIP. Depending on the amount of coverage purchased, an excess flood insurance policy will cover damage above the limits of the federal program on the same basis as the federal program?replacement cost for the structure and actual cash value for the contents.

Excess flood insurance is available in all parts of the country?in high risk flood zones along the coast and close to major rivers as well as in areas of lower risk?wherever the federal program is available. It can be purchased from specialized companies through independent insurance agents, or from regular homeowners insurance companies that have arrangements with a specialized insurer to provide coverage to their policyholders.

Do You Need Motorcycle Insurance?

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/press-release/spring-is-motorcycle-season-and-time-to-check-your-bike-has-the-right-insurance-coverage-031816

Marking the start of spring, motorcycle enthusiasts gathered this month at a rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, and will do so again in June in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. But do they have the right insurance coverage? Motorcycle insurance is a must for any avid biker, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“Auto insurers often offer motorcycle insurance coverage as either a stand-alone policy or an endorsement to a personal automobile policy,” said Michael Barry, vice president, Media Relations, at the I.I.I.

Like auto insurance, some coverages are required for motorcyclists; others are optional.

  1. Required coverages: Most states require motorcyclists to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, to cover bodily injury and property damage costs caused to other people involved in an accident. In addition, uninsured/underinsured (UI/UIM) motorist coverage is recommended, or even required, in many states as part of a motorcyclist’s policy to cover expenses for damage were caused by another driver who either does not have insurance, or whose insurance is inadequate.

    The mandatory minimum limits for these coverages in states where they are required for motorcyclists are generally similar to those required for automobiles.

  1. Optional coverages:
    a) Collision?covers damage resulting from a collision with another vehicle, an object or as a result of flipping over.

    b) Comprehensive?covers damage caused by events such as fire, flood, falling objects, theft or vandalism.

    c) First-party medical coverage?covers your own medical expenses if they were incurred in an accident while operating your motorcycle.

    c) Emergency road service?covers towing and roadside assistance costs.

    d) Accessories and customization?covers the repair or replacement of accessories, like helmets and safety jackets, and customized equipment added to the motorcycle after purchase, such as exhaust pipes, saddle bags, and seats.

Beyond the types and amount of coverage purchased, several factors will also affect how much you pay for motorcycle insurance, including:

  • Your age and driving record
  • Where you live
  • The model, make and horsepower of your motorcycle
  • Where you store and drive your motorcycle

Florida Hit & Run Accidents

Courtesy of http://www.insuringflorida.org/hit-and-run-crashes-still-problematic/

Hit-and-run crashes in Florida are holding steady; it is the same challenging problem it always has been. The Florida Highway Patrol reports more than 92,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015. Those crashes brought 19,000 injuries and 186 fatalities. More than half of those fatalities were pedestrians.

Why do people run away from a crash scene? More often than not, they have had too much to drink and should not have been behind the wheel. Or, they may have a suspended license or let their auto insurance lapse, which is illegal, by the way.

Florida law requires drivers to stop immediately for any car crash in which there is injury to another person. Violating this law is a third degree felony punishable with up to a five-year prison stint (and a mandatory minimum of four years).

Owning up to your mistakes has always been the honorable thing to do. That doesn?t mean it?s always the easy thing to do. But it is ? and always will be ? the right thing to do.

Spring is Here-Motorcycle Insurance!

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/article/motorcycle-insurance. Choosing the right insurance policy is much like choosing the right motorcycle. You want it to fit your needs and lifestyle, but at the same time be within your budget. Although most states require you to carry a minimum amount of liability coverage, other types of coverage are usually optional. Always ask your insurance agent or company representative which laws apply in your state.

In order to find out what coverage is best for you, it is important to understand all theoptions available.

Liability coverage

Liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage that you may cause to other people involved in an accident. It doesn’t cover you or your motorcycle. Find out if your coverage includes Guest Passenger Liability, which provides protection in the event that a passenger is injured on the motorcycle. Whether or not this is included depends on the laws of your state and the company issuing the policy.

Collision coverage

Collision insurance covers damage to your motorcycle if you are involved in an accident. Your insurance company pays for damages, minus your deductible, caused when you collide with another vehicle or object. Collision insurance usually covers the book value of the motorcycle before the loss occurred.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage pays for damages caused by an event other than a collision, such as fire, theft or vandalism. However, just like collision coverage, your insurance company will pay for damages, minus your deductible, and will cover only the book value of the motorcycle.

Keep in mind most comprehensive and collision coverages will only cover the factory standard parts on your motorcycle. If you decide to add on any optional accessories such as chrome parts, a custom paint job, trailers or sidecars, you should look into obtaining additional or optional equipment coverage.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Uninsured/underinsured Motorist Coverage covers damages to you and your property caused by another driver who either doesn’t have insurance (uninsured) or doesn’t have adequate insurance (underinsured) to cover your damages.

This coverage typically pays for medical treatment, lost wages and other damages. If your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage includes property damage, then your motorcycle would also be covered under the same circumstances. Check with your insurance professional to see if property damage is included or needs to be purchased separately.

Tips for the cost-conscious rider

Many factors can play a role in determining what your insurance costs will be such as your age, your driving record, where you live and the type of motorcycle you own, or being a graduate of a rider-training course.

  • Many companies offer discounts from 10 to 15 percent on motorcycle insurance for graduates of training courses, such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) rider course. Riders under the age of 25, usually considered a higher risk, may see some savings by taking this course. It?s also a good idea for cyclists who have already had accidents.
  • Maintaining a good driving record with no violations will also help reduce your premiums.
  • In many northern states, riders may save money by buying a “lay-up” policy. With a lay-up policy, all coverage except comprehensive is suspended during winter months.
  • Find out what discounts your insurance representative offers. Multibike discounts for those insuring more than one bike, organization discounts, if you?re a member of a motorcycle association, and mature rider discounts for experienced riders, are just a few possibilities. Discounts can range anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent, depending on the company and your state. Availability and qualifications for discounts vary from company to company and state to state.
  • Keep in mind that the type, style (such as a sports bike vs. a cruiser) and age of the motorcycle, as well as the number of miles you drive a year and where you store your bike may also affect how much you pay for your premium.

Women Business Owners & Insurance

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/press-release/what-do-women-business-owners-want-credible-accurate-insurance-advice-022616

Women have made great strides in the business world in the past few decades. And business insurance is essential to protecting their hard-earned capital, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Forty years ago women owned just 5 percent of all small businesses in the United States. Today, they own one-third, generating nearly $1.5 trillion in revenue and employing over 7.9 million people. Between 1997 and 2015, the number of women-owned firms increased by 74 percent, according to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. And the majority of new women-owned firms launched in 2014 were owned by minority women.

“Whether launching a new business, growing your business or competing in the global marketplace, it is essential that women business owners get the right type and amount of coverage,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I. “Without adequate insurance, a natural catastrophe, employee lawsuit or even the death of a business partner could destroy what they’ve built,” she warned.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the I.I.I. recommends the following six strategies to ensure that your business is financially protected:

1. Assess your risks. What business property, including inventory and equipment, do you own? Do you have employees? What is the nature of your business? This basic snapshot will help an insurance professional provide recommendations about the type of coverage your business needs.

2. Find the right insurance professional. When shopping for insurance most business owners use an insurance broker?you’ll want to find one who is familiar with the risks of your specific business. A qualified broker can help collect all the necessary information and paperwork to apply for a policy, and comparison shop among several options and quotes. Here are some tips for finding the right fit: Finding the Right Insurance Professional for Your Business.

3. Compare rates. As a general rule, you’ll want to get business insurance quotes from at least three different companies. Try to find policies that offer similar coverage so that you can clearly compare prices.

4. Evaluate insurers, policies and services. When purchasing business insurance, price is just one consideration. Make sure a potential insurer is reputable and in good financial condition. In addition, review and compare policies in depth. Does one policy have exclusions that another does not? In the case of litigation, does the insurer provide an attorney or reimburse you for an attorney you choose?

5. Lower your premiums. Choosing a higher deductible can lower your premiums significantly and insurers will often lower your rates for putting in place programs to minimize losses from fire, theft and employee and customer injuries. This is particularly important for start-ups that are low on initial capital.

6. Review your risks and insurance policies annually. Talk to your insurance professional prior to renewing you coverage each year to determine what adjustments should be made to your business insurance policies. If your business is expanding, you have purchased or replaced equipment or have started working with vendors internationally, you may have new liabilities that require higher insurance coverage.

Don’t Overlook These Coverages

Life insurance is vital to any business?both personal and for the company. Should you die prematurely, a personal life insurance policy can replace your income from the business and protect your family. In the event an owner, partner or key employee dies, life insurance will take care of your business.

Another key coverage is disability insurance. More than twice as many people will be disabled during their career as will die before they retire. “Income protection for small business owners is critical for the long-term security of the owner and the company if they cannot work due to an injury or illness,” said Worters.

Flood Insurance & You

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/flood-insurance A full moon and high winds caused significant tidal flooding during last weekend’s east coast blizzard.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. However, flood coverage is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

Congress created the NFIP in 1968 in response to the rising cost of taxpayer-funded disaster relief for flood victims and the increasing amount of damage caused by floods. The NFIP makes federally backed flood insurance available in communities that agree to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. The NFIP is self-supporting for the average historical loss year. This means that unless there is a widespread disaster, operating expenses and flood insurance claims are financed through premiums collected.

The NFIP provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and up to $100,000 for personal possessions. Private flood insurance is available for those who need additional insurance protection, known as excess coverage, over and above the basic policy or for people whose communities do not participate in the NFIP. Some insurers have introduced special policies for high-value properties. These policies may cover homes in noncoastal areas and/or provide enhancements to traditional flood coverage. The comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy includes coverage for flood damage.

A 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute found that 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. This percentage has been at about the same level every year since 2009. The percentage of homeowners with flood insurance was highest in the South, at 21 percent, compared with 20 percent in 2014. Eleven percent of homeowners in the Northeast had a flood insurance policy, which is unchanged from 2014. Nine percent of homeowners in the West had a flood insurance policy, compared with 8 percent in 2014, while 10 percent of homeowners in the Midwest had flood insurance, compared with 7 percent in 2014.

  • As of October 2015, 79 insurance companies participated in the Write Your Own program, started in 1983, in which insurers issue policies and adjust flood claims on behalf of the federal government under their own names.
  • As of August 2015, 67 percent of policies covered single family homes, 21 percent covered condominiums, and 6 percent covered businesses and other non-residential properties. Two- to four-family unitsand other residential policies accounted for the remainder.
  • Superstorm Sandy,which occurred in October 2012, resulted in $8.0 billion in NFIP payouts as of October 2015, second only to 2005?s Hurricane Katrina with $16.3 billion in payouts.

Superstorm Sandy was the second costliest U.S. flood, based on National Flood Insurance Program payouts as of June 2015. The figures below are preliminary, as claims are still being processed.