Hurricanes What to Do

Courtesy of iii.org

Hurricanes are violent and dangerous to your family and your home. When a hurricane threatens to bear down, make sure that you know how to batten down your hatches and protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.


When it’s hurricane season

Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. But don’t wait until a warning?take steps to prepare in advance for a potential hurricane?it’s the best way to protect your family, your home and your business.

For more preparedness tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and evacuation planning advice to cover a variety of disasters, get the I.I.I.?s Know Your Plan app. It’s a great tool to help get you and your family?including pets?organized and ready to act more quickly if a hurricane or other emergency strikes.

When a hurricane watch is issued

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of a hurricane within a 24-36 hour period. At that time, you should:

  • Purchase any emergency supplies that you don’t already have on hand. Hit the stores early, as items such as batteries, candles and flashlights will get snapped up quickly.
  • Prepare your yard by removing all outdoor furniture, lawn items, planters and other materials that could be picked up by high winds. If you haven’t already, remove weak branches on plants and trees. Lower antennas and retractable awnings.
  • Fully charge your cellphone.
  • Fill your car’s gasoline tank.
  • Jot down the name and phone number of your insurer and insurance professional and keep this information handy in your wallet or purse.

When a warning is issued

A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in 24 hours or less, which means a storm is imminent.

  • Stay informed of the storm’s progress by listening to the radio or TV. Even better, listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Install hurricane shutters, board up or otherwise securely shutter large windows and draw drapes across windows and doors.
  • Get off the boat?never remain on a boat during a hurricane! Check mooring lines of boats in water.

If evacuation becomes necessary

Hopefully, you’re fully prepared with an evacuation plan. Also remember:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute?shelters might be full or the roads might be jammed. If you have pets, consider traveling before an evacuation is ordered?otherwise, you might be ordered by officials to leave your pet home.
  • Take along survival supplies from your list.
  • Keep important papers with you at all times, including your home inventory and make sure you have the name and phone number of your insurance professional.
  • Take warm, protective clothing for the whole family in case you get stuck.
  • Lock all windows and doors on your home. Don’t compound hurricane damage with the threat of possible looters.
  • Keep all receipts for anything that might be considered to be an additional living expense (ALE) in the event your home is destroyed or damaged and rendered uninhabitable.

If you remain at home during a hurricane

Stay indoors. Don’t go out even during the brief calm when the eye of the storm passes over as wind speeds can increase dramatically in seconds.

  • Stay away from windows and glass doors and move furniture away from exposed doors and windows.
  • Stay on the downwind side of house. If your home has an “inside” room, stay there during the height of the hurricane.
  • Keep the television or radio tuned into information from official sources.

After the hurricane, beware of the dangers that remain

The storm may have passed, but it likely has created new dangers.

  • Beware of outdoor hazards like loose or fallen tree limbs, loose signage or awnings that are in danger of breaking off and falling.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines, and report them immediately to the proper authority.
  • Walk or drive extra cautiously as washouts may weaken road and bridge structures.
  • In the event of a power outage, throw out food that may be spoiled.
  • Boil municipal water before drinking until you have been told it is safe.

If your home is damaged

Notify your insurance professional as soon as possible of any losses. If you had to relocate, let your representative know where you can be contacted. In addition:

  • Make temporary repairs?if they can be made safely?to protect property from further damage or looting; for insurance purposes, keep all receipts for materials used.
  • Get written estimates for any proposed repair jobs and use only reputable contractors. Be especially careful of building contractors who want huge deposits up front or encourage you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs. Ask for their references and check with the Better Business Bureau on complaints.
  • Gather any other receipts for expenses that will be covered by insurance or will be tax deductible.

Additional resources

Red Cross Hurricane Safety Checklist

Next steps: If you’ve been hit by hurricane that’s a declared national disaster, learn about FEMA assistance.

How to Make a Car Insurance Claim

Courtesy of iii.org

1. Call your insurance professional as soon as possible — even from the scene of the accident—regardless of who is at fault. Even if the accident appears minor, it’s important to let your insurance company know about the incident and to find out whether your auto insurance policy covers you for the particular loss.

2. Use a mobile app to jumpstart your claim. Many insurers now offer apps that allow you to report a claim, check the status, upload photos, check your deductible, schedule an appraisal, reserve a rental car and request reimbursements for towing and glass claims. Some apps even allow you to notify the insurance adjuster what happened by visually re-creating the events and circumstances of your car accident.

3. Find out what documents are needed to support your claim. Your insurance company will require a “proof of claim” form and, if you filled one out at the scene of the accident, a copy of the police report. Your insurer may have a feature on its website that allows you to monitor the progress of your claim.

4. Understand the timing of your claim. To avoid missing a critical claim deadline, ask:

  • Does my policy contain a time limit for filing claims and submitting bills?
  • Is there a time limit for resolving claims disputes?
  • If I need to submit additional information, is there a deadline?
  • When can I expect the insurance company to contact me?

 

5. Find out whether or not your policy pays for a rental car if your car needs to be in the shop for repair, and learn about the estimate and repair process as it relates to claims.

6. Supply the information your insurer requests. Fill out the claim forms carefully. Keep thorough and organized records of anything related to the claim, including the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak with at your insurer and copies of any bills related to the accident. Contact your adjuster, your insurance professional or your state insurance department if you have any questions.

More Need to Know: Flood Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

National Flood Insurance Reform

 

In 2012 the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed in an attempt to make the federal flood insurance program more financially self-sufficient by eliminating rate subsidies that many property owners in high-risk areas receive.

But in March 2014 Congress rescinded many of the rate increases called for by the Biggert-Waters Act. The new law reduced some rate increases already implemented, prevented some future increases and put a surcharge on all policyholders. The measure also authorized funds for the National Academy of Sciences to complete an affordability study.

The 2014 law prevents any policyholder from seeing an annual rate increase exceeding 18 percent. It calls on the flood program’s administrator, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to “strive” to prevent coverage from costing more than 1 percent of the amount covered. In other words, if the policy offered $100,000 of coverage, the premium would not exceed $1,000.

The 18 percent cap will result in refunds in some cases. Refunds began in October 2014. FEMA has a fact sheet on who is eligible for refunds.

The law also reinstates a practice known as grandfathering, meaning that properties re-categorized as being at a higher risk of flooding under FEMA’s revised maps would not be subject to large increases.

It also ends a provision in Biggert-Waters that removed a subsidy once a home was sold. People who purchased homes after Biggert-Waters became law will receive a refund. Many lawmakers in coastal states were concerned that the higher cost of flood insurance would have a negative impact on the real estate industry. The subsidy will now be covered by a $25 surcharge on homeowners flood policies and a $250 surcharge on insurance for nonresidential properties and secondary (vacation) homes.

According to data from FEMA, most current flood insurance policyholders (81 percent, or 4.5 million) pay rates based on the true risk of flood damage and so were not affected by Biggert-Waters or the subsequent rollback. Properties most affected by the rate hikes were in high-risk flood zones; were built before communities adopted their first Flood Insurance Rate Map; were second homes; or are second homes that have not been elevated. Others affected include businesses and those who live in homes that have been repeatedly flooded.

In June 2014 Florida enacted a law that encourages private companies to offer flood insurance. The legislation permits four types of flood coverage – a standard policy, which resembles National Flood Insurance Program coverage, and three enhanced policies. To encourage market growth, the law allows insurers to file their own rates until October 1, 2019. After that, rates will be subject to regulatory approval.

Flood Resilience

Disaster resilience refers to the ability of communities to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to adverse events.

Some of the best practices for community flood resilience recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency include: a comprehensive disaster recovery plan; green infrastructure techniques; land conservation in river corridors; restoring wetland vegetation; discouraging development in frequent flood areas; adapting flood resistant building codes; and coordinating with neighboring jurisdictions to implement a watershed-wide approach to storm-water management.

Urban planners and engineers around the world are developing innovative flood solutions such as amphibious housing, porous roads and sidewalks, and use of satellite data for more frequent flood alarms.

A 2017 National Institute of Building Sciences href=”http://www.nibs.org/page/mitigationsaves”>study found that for every dollar invested in riverine flood mitigation the return was $7 in cost savings.

Flood coverage in other countries

The system in the United States is unique in that for the most part the government underwrites the coverage and private insurers act as administrators bearing no actual flood risk.

In other developed countries, there are two basic methods of providing flood insurance. Under the first, the optional system, insurers extend their standard policy to include supplemental coverage for flood damage on payment of additional premium. The coverage tends to be expensive because only those most likely to be flooded, and therefore to file claims, purchase it, a situation known in the insurance industry as adverse selection. Among the countries with optional coverage are Germany and Italy.

The other method is “bundling.” Under this system, flood coverage is combined with coverage for other perils such as fire and windstorm, thus spreading the risk of flood losses across a large geographical area and greatly increasing the percentage of the population covered for flood damage. Countries that have adopted this method include the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan. In addition, in some countries such as France and Spain there are government compensation programs for major disasters, including flooding, that take effect when the cost of a disaster reaches a certain level.

In 2014 the United Kingdom launched Flood Re, a not-for-profit reinsurance organization to take on flood risks that primary insurers do not want. If an insurer calculates that the flood risk of a particular policy exceeds the flood premium, it will cede that risk to Flood Re. The insurer will pay the claim, then seek reimbursement from Flood Re. In all likelihood, Flood Re’s losses and expenses will exceed its premium. Additional funding will come from a levy raised from insurers by market share.

Spotlight on Flood Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, causing billions in economic losses each year. According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), 90 percent of all natural disasters in the United States involve flooding.

There is no coverage for flooding in standard homeowners or renters policies or in most commercial property insurance policies. Coverage is available in a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

Recent developments

  • ?NFIP reauthorization: Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. Congress must reauthorize the NFIP by no later than November 30, 2018. In the unlikely event the NFIP’s authorization lapses, claims would still be paid but the NFIP would stop selling and renewing policies (more details here.)
  • Hurricane Harvey: Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm on August 25, 2017 and then turned into the single biggest rain event in U.S. history. Harvey’s floodwaters have caused multiple deaths and billions of dollars in property damage in Texas. Harvey made a second landfall in Louisiana on August 30th. As of January 24, 2018, $7.9 billion in closed claims have been paid out to Texas and Louisiana flood insurance policyholders, according to FEMA.
  • NFIP Reinsurance: In September 2016, the NFIP began a reinsurance program to put it in a better position to manage losses incurred from major events by transferring exposure to reinsurers. In January 2017, FEMA expanded its September 2016 placement and transferred $1.04 billion of the NFIP’s financial risk to 25 reinsurers in a program to be in force through January 1, 2018. The NFIP recovered the entire $1.04 billion from Hurricane Harvey’s floods. The NFIP returned to the private reinsurance market for 2018, paying $235 million for $1.46 billion coverage from a single flood event.
  • NFIP policies and premiums: The number of policies in force has been declining from the high point of 5.7 million in 2009 to 5.1 million in 2016. The 2016 level is about the same as in 2005, the year of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. NFIP earned premiums fell 3.0 percent to $3.33 billion in 2016 from $3.44 billion in 2015. In 2016, 59,332 claims were paid, compared with 25,798 claims in 2015 and 213,515 in 2005. The cost of claims was $3.70 billion in 2016, compared with $1.03 billion in 2015 and $17.8 billion in 2005.
  • Private flood insurance: Flood insurance had long been considered an untouchable risk by private insurers because they did not have a reliable way of measuring flood risk. In recent years insurers have become increasingly comfortable with using sophisticated models to underwrite insurance risk, and modeling firms are getting better at predicting flood risk. In 2017 private insurers reported their flood insurance premiums separately for the first time. FM Global had 54 percent of the market share (based on 2016 year-end premiums). And the top three companies held almost 81 percent of the market share. Direct premiums written for all companies totaled $376 million.
  • Low flood insurance take-up rates: A 2016 Insurance Information Institute survey found that 12 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy, down from 14 percent in 2015. A McKinsey & Co. analysis of take up rates for flood insurance in areas most affected by the three Category 4 hurricanes that recently made landfall in the United States — Harvey, Irma and Maria — found that as many as 80 percent of Texas, 60 percent of Florida and 99 percent of Puerto Rico homeowners lacked flood insurance. Some of the reasons cited for lack of coverage is that it is too expensive, that homeowners are not aware they don’t have it; and that people underestimate the risk of flooding.

Background

The National Flood Insurance Program: Before Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act in 1968, the national response to flood disasters had been to build dams, levees and other structures to hold back flood waters, a policy that may have encouraged building in flood zones.

The National Flood Insurance Act created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was designed to stem the rising cost of taxpayer funded relief for flood victims and the increasing amount of damage caused by floods. The NFIP has three components: to provide flood insurance, floodplain management and flood hazard mapping. Federal flood insurance is only available where local governments have adopted adequate floodplain management regulations for their floodplain areas as set out by NFIP. More than 20,000 communities across the country participate in the program. NFIP coverage is also available outside of the high-hazard areas.

The law was amended in 1969 to provide coverage for mud flows and again in 1973. Until then, the purchase of flood insurance had been voluntary, with only about one million policies in force. The 1973 amendment put constraints on the use of federal funds in high-risk floodplains, a measure that was expected to lead to almost universal flood coverage in these zones. The law prohibits lenders that are federally regulated, supervised or insured by federal agencies from lending money on a property in a floodplain when a community is participating in the NFIP, unless the property is covered by flood insurance. The requirement for flood insurance also applies to buildings that receive financial assistance from federal agencies such as the Veterans Administration. However, because the initial mortgage on the property is frequently sold by the originating bank to another entity, enforcement of this law has been poor.

Legislation was enacted in 1994 to tighten enforcement. Regulators can now fine banks that consistently fail to enforce the law, and lenders can purchase flood insurance on behalf of homeowners who fail to buy it themselves, then bill them for coverage. The law includes a provision that denies federal disaster aid to people who have been flooded twice and have failed to purchase insurance after the first flood.

Buildings constructed in a floodplain after a community has met regulations must conform to elevation requirements. When repair, reconstruction or improvement to an older building equals or exceeds 50 percent of its market value, the structure must be updated to conform to current building codes. A 2007 NFIP study on the benefits of elevating buildings showed that due to significantly lower premiums, homeowners can usually recover the higher construction costs in less than five years for homes built in a “velocity” zone, where the structure is likely to be subject to wave damage, and in five to 15 years in a standard flood zone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that buildings constructed to NFIP standards suffer about 80 percent less damage annually that those not built in compliance.

How it works: The NFIP is administered by FEMA, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Flood insurance was initially only available through insurance agents who dealt directly with the federal program. The direct policy program has been supplemented since 1983 with a private/public cooperative arrangement, known as “Write Your Own,” through which a pool of insurance companies issue policies and adjust flood claims on behalf of the federal government under their own names, charging the same premium as the direct program. Participating insurers receive an expense allowance for policies written and claims processed. The federal government retains responsibility for underwriting losses. Today, most policies are issued through the Write-Your-Own program but some non-federally backed coverage is available from the private market.

The NFIP is expected to be self-supporting in an average loss year, as reflected in past experience. In an extraordinary year, as Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, losses can greatly exceed premiums, leaving the NFIP with a huge debt to the U.S. Treasury that it is unlikely to pay back. Hurricane Katrina losses and the percentage of flood damage that was uninsured led to calls for a revamping of the entire flood program.

Flood adjusters must be trained and certified to work on NFIP claims. NFIP general adjusters typically re-examine a sample of flood settlements. Insurers that fail to meet NFIP requirements must correct problems; otherwise they can be dropped from the program.

What’s in a typical policy: Flood insurance covers direct physical losses by flood and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by heavy or prolonged rain, coastal storm surge, snow melt, blocked storm drainage systems, levee dam failure or other similar causes. To be considered a flood, waters must cover at least two acres or affect two properties. Homes are covered for up to $250,000 on a replacement cost basis and the contents for up to $100,000 on an actual cash value basis. Replacement cost coverage pays to rebuild the structure as it was before the damage. Actual cash value is replacement cost minus the depreciation in value that occurs over time. (Excess flood insurance is available in all risk zones from some private insurers for NFIP policyholders who want additional coverage or where the homeowner’s community does not participate in the NFIP.) Coverage for the contents of basements is limited. Coverage limits for commercial property are $500,000 for the structure and another $500,000 for its contents.

To prevent people from putting off the purchase of coverage until waters are rising and flooding is inevitable, policyholders must wait 30 days before their policy takes effect. In 1993, 7,800 policies purchased at the last minute resulted in $48 million in claims against only $625,000 in premiums.

Flood Risk: As with other types of insurance, rates for flood insurance are based on the degree of risk. FEMA assesses flood risk for all the participating communities, resulting in the publication of thousands of individual flood rate maps. High-risk areas are known as Special Flood Hazard Areas or SFHAs.

Flood plain maps are redrawn periodically, removing some properties previously designated as high hazard and adding new ones. New technology enables flood mitigation programs to more accurately pinpoint areas vulnerable to flooding. As development in and around flood plains increases, run off patterns can change, causing flooding in areas that were formerly not considered high risk and vice versa.

People tend to underestimate the risk of flooding. The highest-risk areas (Zone A) have an annual flood risk of 1 percent and a 26 percent chance of flooding over the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage, compared with a 9 percent risk of fire over the same period. In addition, people who live in areas adjacent to high-risk zones may still be exposed to floods on occasion. Since the inception of the federal program, some 25 to 30 percent of all paid losses were for damage in areas not officially designated at the time of loss as SFHAs. NFIP coverage is available outside high-risk zones at a lower premium. to be continued…

Car Insurance & Road Rage

Courtesy of iii.org

Road rage incidents are not only dangerous, they are exempted from coverage by many auto insurance policies. Understand your risks and take precautionary measures to avoid being a victim—or a cause—of aggressive driving accidents.


Crowded highways and traffic backups at times cause drivers to lose control and become extremely aggressive. Road rage is a real problem that can lead to serious accidents or even incidents of violence on the road.

It’s important to realize that road rage is listed as an exemption in many auto insurance policies. This is because any damage or liability stemming from aggressive driving isn’t considered an accident but rather as having been caused by risky behavior.

Rather than risk paying the consequences of road rage—one of which may be not having your auto insurance claim paid—it’s best to avoid a dangerous and costly aggressive driving incident in the first place.

If you encounter an aggressive driver on the road…

 

  • Stay as far away as possible. Slow down or change lanes if need be, let the driver pass you and give yourself room at intersections to drive away.

 

  • Record a description of the car and note the license plate number if possible so that you can report him or her to the police for the sake of everyone’s safety.

 

  • Do not engage with or challenge the offender in any way. Ignore the driver’s rudeness and don’t give into the temptation to react in kind or you might escalate the risky behavior.

 

  • Put your safety first. If an aggressive driver starts to follow you, keep your doors locked, and head to the nearest police station. Never stop and confront an aggressive driver.

 

If you have a short fuse yourself stay cool and…

 

  • Leave plenty of time to get where you need to go. When you’re in a hurry, your patience is short and you are much more likely to become aggravated.

 

  • Remember other drivers are not annoying you on purpose. People make mistakes or they might be driving more slowly for a reason—they might be lost, or their sight might be impaired by sun glare.

 

  • Don’t use hand—or single finger—gestures other than a wave to someone who lets you into your lane.

 

  • Don’t tailgate slow drivers. Hanging on another car’s back bumper is dangerous. If the car in front of you has to stop short and you rear-end it, the accident would be considered your fault.

 

  • Don’t honk your horn insistently. Leaning on your horn is a bad practice. While it might make you feel better to express your frustration in a traffic jam, it won’t make anyone go any faster, it’s annoying to other drivers and passengers and it increases everyone’s stress level, which may lead to more aggressive behavior.

 

  • Never stop to confront another driver. It could lead to a dangerous situation for all concerned.

Automobile Insurance Tips for 2018

Courtesy of iii.org

The basic personal auto insurance mandated by most U.S. states provides some financial protection if you or another driver using your car causes an accident that damages someone else’s car or property, injures someone or both.

But to make the best decisions about purchasing other types of auto insurance coverage you might need, you’ll want to understand what’s covered, what’s not covered and what’s optional. In addition to understanding types of coverage, you’ll also want to consider coverage amounts.

Why? Because state-required minimums may not cover the costs of a serious accident, so it’s worth considering purchasing higher levels of coverage.

Here’s a rundown of the types of coverage available—some are required; others are optional; all are priced individually (a la carte) to let you customize coverage amounts to suit your exact needs and budget.

Mandatory coverage

Nearly every state requires car owners to carry the following auto liability coverage:

  • Bodily Injury Liability — This covers costs associated with injuries and death that you or another driver causes while driving your car.
  • Property Damage Liability — This coverage will reimburse others for damage that you or another driver operating your car causes to another vehicle or other property, such as a fence, building or utility pole.

Frequently required coverage

Many states require that you carry the following coverage:

  • Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) — Provides reimbursement for medical expenses for injuries to you or your passengers. It will also cover lost wages and other related expenses.
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage — Reimburses you when an accident is caused by an uninsured motorist—or in the case of a hit-and-run. You can also purchase under insured motorist coverage, which will cover costs when another driver lacks adequate coverage to pay the costs of a serious accident.

Even if these types of coverage are optional in your state, consider adding them to your policy for greater financial protection.

Optional coverage

While basic, legally mandated auto insurance covers the cost of damages to other vehicles that you cause while driving, it does not cover damage to your own car. To cover this, you need to purchase the following optional auto insurance coverages:

  • Collision — This optional coverage reimburses you for damage to your car that occurs as a result of a collision with another vehicle or other object—e.g., a tree or guardrail—when you’re at fault. While collision coverage will not reimburse you for mechanical failure or normal wear-and-tear on your car, it will cover damage from potholes or from rolling your car.
  • Comprehensive — This provides coverage against theft and damage caused by an incident other than a collision, such as fire, flood, vandalism, hail, falling rocks or trees and other hazards—even getting hit by an asteroid!
  • Glass Coverage — Windshield damage is common, and some auto policies include no-deductible glass coverage, which also includes side windows, rear windows and glass sunroofs. Or you can buy supplemental glass coverage.

Mind the gap… insurance

If you lease or finance your vehicle, auto dealers or lenders will likely require you to purchase collision and comprehensive. But keep in mind that collision and comprehensive only cover the market value of your car, not what you paid for it—and new cars depreciate quickly. If your car is totaled or stolen, there may be a “gap” between what you owe on the vehicle and your insurance coverage. To cover this, you may want to look into purchasing gap insurance to pay the difference. (Note: For leased vehicles, gap coverage is usually rolled into your lease payments.)

Who is covered—and when?

Your auto policy will cover you and other family members on your policy, whether driving your insured car or someone else’s car with permission. Your policy also provides coverage if someone not on your policy is driving your car with your consent.

Your personal auto policy only covers personal driving, whether you’re commuting to work, running errands or taking a trip. Your personal auto policy, however, will not provide coverage if you use your car for commercial purposes—for instance, if you deliver pizzas or operate a delivery service. Note, too, that personal auto insurance will generally not provide coverage if you use your car to provide transportation to others through a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft. Some auto insurers, however, are now offering supplemental insurance products (at additional cost) that extend coverage for vehicle owners providing ride-sharing services.

Learn More: Check out this handy infographic on the types of required and optional drivers insurance coverages.

Do You Need Boating Insurance?

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Insurance can provide limited coverage for property damage for small boats such as canoes and small sail boats or small power boats with less than 25 mile per hour horse power under a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of the home’s insured value and generally includes the boat, motor and trailer combined. Liability coverage is typically not included?but it can be added as an endorsement to a homeowners policy. Check with your insurance representative to find out if your boat is covered and what the limits are.

Larger and faster boats such as yachts, and personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave runners require a separate boat insurance policy. The size, type and value of the craft and the water in which you use it factor into how much you will pay for insurance coverage.

For physical loss or damage, coverage includes the hull, machinery, fittings, furnishings and permanently attached equipment as part of either an actual cash value policy or on an agreed amount value basis. These policies also provide broader liability protection than a homeowners policy. But there are distinct differences between the two types of policies.

Actual Cash Value policies pay for replacement costs less depreciation at the time of the loss. In the event of a total loss, used boat pricing guides and other resources are used to determine the vessel’s approximate market value. Partial losses are settled by taking the total cost of the repair less a percentage for depreciation.

Agreed Amount Value basis policies mean that you and your insurer have agreed on the value of your vessel and in the event of a total loss you will be paid that amount. Agreed Amount Value policies also replace old items for new in the event of a partial loss, without any deduction for depreciation.

Physical damage exclusions might include normal wear and tear, damage from insects, mold, animals (such as sharks), zebra mussels, defective machinery or machinery damage.

Boat insurance also covers:

  • Bodily injury?for injuries caused to another person
  • Property damage?for damage caused to someone else’s property
  • Guest passenger liability?for any legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission
  • Medical payments?for injuries to the boat owner and other passengers
  • Theft

Most companies offer liability limits that start at $15,000 and can be increased to $300,000. Typical policies include deductibles of $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1000 for medical payments. Higher limits may be available. Additional coverage can be purchased for trailers and other accessories. Boat owners may also consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy which will provide additional protection for their boat, home and car.

Boaters should also inquire about special equipment kept on the boat, such as fishing gear, to make sure it is covered and verify that towing coverage is included in the policy.

Boat owners should also inquire about discounts for the following:

  • Diesel powered craft, which are less hazardous than gasoline powered boats as they are less likely to explode
  • Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers
  • Ship-to-shore radios
  • Two years of claims-free experience
  • Multi-policies with the same insurer, such as a car, home or umbrella policy
  • Safety education courses, such as those offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, or the American Red Cross.

Boat Safety

There are thousands of recreational boating accidents per year. Contributing factors to these accidents include traveling too fast for water or weather conditions, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to follow boating rules and regulations, carelessness and inexperience.

To prevent boating accidents, we offer these safety suggestions:

Care and protection of vessel

  1. Check weather forecasts before heading out.
  2. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  3. Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.
  4. Carry one or more fire extinguishers, matched to the size and type of boat. Keep them readily accessible and in condition for immediate use.
  5. Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell.
  6. Consider additional safety devices, such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.

Care and protection of crew and guests

  1. Make sure that every person on board the boat wears a life-jacket.
  2. Know and obey marine traffic laws, the “Rules-of-the-Road.” Learn various distress signals.
  3. Keep an alert lookout for other watercraft, swimmers, floating debris and shallow waters.
  4. Pay attention to loading. Don’t overload; distribute the load evenly; don’t stand up or shift weight suddenly in a small boat; and don’t permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales.
  5. Don’t operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Skippers can obtain free advice and boating-safety courses from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Upon request, the auxiliary will conduct a Courtesy Marine Examination (CME) on your boat, checking electrical and safety equipment and fuel hoses. Boats meeting safety standards are awarded the CME decal “Seal of Safety.”

Business Preparations for Hurricane Season

Courtesy of iii.org

No business is totally immune from disaster. Every year, businesses temporarily shut down?or close forever?because of a disaster such as a flood, fire or hurricane. Forty percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent fail within one year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to mitigate the impact of a disaster on your business. In addition, carrying adequate insurance coverage can help your business get back on its feet quickly.

Disaster preparation

Households?especially in areas prone to hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes?often prepare for disasters by storing extra supplies, having an evacuation plan, and learning about emergency resources. Businesses similarly want to prepare, with a focus on restoring your operations as soon as possible and minimizing your losses. To prepare adequately for a disaster, take the following steps:

  • Develop a formal written plan?Sometimes called a “Disaster Recovery Plan” or “Business Continuity Plan,” this document should detail how your business will respond to and recover from a disaster, including temporarily relocating your business. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed a National Preparedness Standard for developing a plan. Some businesses also develop specific plans to protect and recover their information technology (IT) infrastructure. In today’s era of cloud computing, it is increasingly easier to back up data offsite.
  • Train employees?Share your Disaster Recovery Plan with employees, assign responsibilities, and offer training so that your workforce can help your business recover. You may also want to conduct drills to assess and improve response.
  • Store emergency supplies?Keep flashlights, a first-aid kit and a battery-powered radio on hand at your business. Depending on its location, you may even want to store food, water and blankets. As feasible and needed, consider stocking equipment that can help your business return to operations, such as a generator.
  • Maintain key information offsite?To get your business up and operating again after a disaster, you’ll need to be able to access critical business information. In addition to backing up computer data, keep an offsite list of your insurance policies, banking information and the phone numbers of employees, key customers, vendors and suppliers, your insurance professional and others. You’ll also want to maintain an inventory of your business equipment, supplies and merchandise; you may want to photograph items as well.

Disaster response and recovery

After a disaster, you’ll want to put your Disaster Recovery Plan into action. Read the Insurance Information Institute’s “Best Practices for Filing a Business Insurance Claim,” which details several steps to control damage and recover costs. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, take the following actions as appropriate:

  • Secure your building, boarding up entry points if necessary.
  • Make temporary repairs, especially to minimize further damage, such as placing a tarp over a hole in your roof.
  • Relocate salvageable equipment and property to a safe, protected location.
  • Inspect your property and keep a detailed list of damages; take photos to document damage.
  • Clean up your property, taking care to wear safety gear such as gloves and protective eyewear. If feasible, save damaged property in case it needs to be inspected by your insurance adjuster.
  • Contact your insurance professional and your insurer to begin the claims process.
  • Keep receipts of all expenses related to the disaster.

Once you’ve secured your property and taken other immediate steps, you can begin to focus on making your business operational once again. You should lay the groundwork for restarting operations in your Disaster Recovery Plan. Issues to consider include:

  • Location?Should you open a new temporary location or can you operate from your home or use the facilities of a partner or even friendly competitor?
  • Communications?How will you communicate with your employees, customers, vendors and suppliers?
  • Insurance claims?In addition to filing a property claim, you’ll want to file a business interruption insurance claim, if you carry this type of coverage. This insurance will help you cover costs of relocating as well as lost income.

Insurance Considerations of Airbnb

Courtesy of iii.org

Before you consider renting out your home, your guest room—or even your couch—first contact your insurance professional so you fully understand the financial risks and can take the proper precautions. Here’s some general information to jumpstart your insurance conversation.

If you are considering renting out your home, your guest room or even your couch your first step should be to contact your insurance professional. Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb can be a great way to bring in extra money and are increasingly popular; however, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Peer-to-peer home rental

Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb are increasingly popular and can be a great way to bring in extra money. However, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

If you are doing the renting

If you are the one using a peer-to-peer network to rent a space from someone else, check your own homeowners or renters insurance policy. In most cases, if your personal possessions are stolen or damaged off-premises, you can simply file a claim with your own insurer. And if you accidentally injure someone, you should also be financially protected.

Occasional home rental

There may be times when a major event in an area—the Super Bowl, say, or a graduation at a major university—depletes local hotel space. In these cases, it’s fairly common for people to rent out their home or part of it for the extra cash it brings in.

Many insurance companies take this situation into account when creating a homeowners or renters policy and, with sufficient advance notice, will extend your coverage to the renter on a one-time basis. Other insurance companies may require the purchase of an endorsement to the policy to provide broader coverage for the renters in your home.

In both cases, be sure to let your insurance company know ahead of time, so you can be prepared.

10 Reasons to Review Your Coverage

Courtesy of iii.org

Coverage needs change as circumstances in our lives change; an annual insurance review will ensure you have the proper coverage for your needs and budget.


Our insurance needs change as circumstances in our lives change, which is why we recommend doing an annual insurance review. When you’re reviewing your insurance coverage, these ten questions can help you figure out whether you may need to talk to your insurance professional about making a change to your coverage.

1. Have you gotten married or divorced?

If you have gotten married, you may qualify for a discount on your auto insurance. Couples may bring two cars into the relationship and two different auto insurance companies, so take the opportunity to review your existing coverage and see which company offers the best combination of price and service.

If you are merging two households, you may need to update your homeowners insurance. And you may want to consider increasing your insurance for any new valuables received, such as wedding gifts, and for jewelry, such as wedding and engagement rings.

After getting married, it is important to review your life insurance needs. If one spouse is not working, he or she might be dependent on the working spouse’s income; if so, reviewing life and disability insurance coverage is prudent. The spouse who is not working outside the home should also consider having a separate life insurance policy because, in the event of premature death, the services he or she provides for the household would need to be replaced, and that could prove costly to the surviving spouse. Moreover, even if both spouses are working, couples often make financial commitments based on both incomes so the loss of one spouse’s income due to death or disability could be financially devastating without adequate insurance.

In the other hand, if you got divorced over the past year, you will probably no longer be sharing a car with your former spouse and have likely moved to a different residence. If this is the case, you should inform your insurer as you will need to set up separate auto and homeowners policies.

2. Have you had a baby?

If you have recently added a child to your family, whether by birth or adoption, it is important to review your life insurance and disability income protection.

If you are planning for your life insurance to match your survivors’ expenses after your death, the new child will no doubt add to those expenses, requiring more life insurance to keep your family secure. If you plan to save for your child’s college education, life insurance can assure completion of that plan. And if you keep your current life insurance policy, don’t forget to update the beneficiary designations to include the new child.

3. Did your teenager get a drivers license?

It is generally cheaper to add your teenagers to your auto insurance policy than for them to purchase their own. If they are going to be driving their own car, consider insuring it with your company so you can get a multi-car discount. And choose the car carefully—the type of car a young person drives can dramatically affect the price of insurance. You and your teens should choose a car that is easy to drive and would offer protection in the event of a crash.

Also, encourage your kids to get good grades and to take a driver training course. Most companies will give discounts for getting at least a “B” average in school and for taking recognized driving courses.

If your teenagers move at least 100 miles from home—for example, to go to college—you can get a discount for the time they are not around to drive the car (assuming they leave the car at home).

4. Have you switched jobs or experienced a significant change in your income?

If you had life and disability insurance through your former employer, and your new employer does not provide equivalent protection, you can replace the “lost” coverage with individual policies.

In the case of an income increase, you may have taken on additional financial commitments that your survivors will depend on. Make sure to review your life and disability insurance to ensure it is adequate to maintain those commitments.

If your income decreased, you may want to cut your life insurance premiums. Term life insurance is a good option, as the premium rates are very reasonable. And if you already have two or more policies you might be able to replace both with a single policy at a lower rate because you may reach a “milestone” amount of insurance. (For example, at many life insurance companies, $500,000 of insurance costs less than $450,000 because of the milestone discount.) But don’t drop existing life insurance until after you have a new policy in place.

5. Have you done extensive renovations on your home?

If you have made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, enclosing a porch or expanding a kitchen or bathroom, you risk being underinsured if you don’t report the changes to your insurance company. An increase in the value of the structure of the home may require an increase to your homeowners insurance coverage limits.

And don’t overlook new structures outside of your home. If you built a gazebo, a new shed for your tools or installed a pool or hot tub, you should speak to your insurance professional.

If, as part of a renovation, you purchase furniture, exercise equipment or electronics, you may need to increase the amount of insurance you have on your personal possessions. Keep receipts and add any new items to your home inventory.

6. Have you decided to buy a second home?

If you are searching for a vacation home or a second home you might retire to, make sure you research the availability and cost of homeowners insurance before you commit to the purchase.

The very factors that make a vacation home seem ideal, whether it is a waterfront property or a mountain retreat, can often introduce risks that make it costly and difficult to insure, such as proximity to the coast and the likelihood that it will be vacant for long periods of time.

In the event you have already bought a vacation home, don’t skimp on the insurance. The risk of theft or disaster is just as significant, if not more so, in a second home as in your primary residence.

If your new property is close to the water, be sure to ask about flood insurance. Damage to your home or belongings resulting from flood is not covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as some private insurers, and is generally sold though private agents and brokers. You can ask your insurance professional whether your home is at risk for flood, or enter your address on the NFIP website to find out whether your home is in a flood zone. If you have a very valuable home, some homeowners insurers offer excess flood coverage over and above that provided by the NFIP policies.

7. Have you acquired any new valuables such as jewelry, electronic equipment, fine art, antiques?

A standard homeowners policy offers only limited coverage for highly valuable items. If you have made purchases or received gifts that exceed these limits, you should consider supplementing your policy with a floater or endorsement, a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy, such as accidental loss. Before purchasing a floater, the items covered must be professionally appraised. Keep receipts and add the new items to your home inventory.

8. Have you signed a lease on a house or apartment?

If you are renting a home, your landlord is responsible for insuring the structure of the building, but not for insuring your possessions—that is up to you. If you want to be covered against losses from theft and catastrophes such as fire, lightning and windstorm damage, renters insurance is a good investment. Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes liability, which covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home, or elsewhere, by you and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court.

Regardless of whether you are a renter or an owner, you will have the following options when it comes to insuring your possessions:

  • Actual cash value pays to replace your home or possessions minus a deduction for depreciation.
  • Replacement cost pays the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home or replacing your possessions without a deduction for depreciation.

Think carefully about what your financial position would be in the aftermath of a disaster, and make sure you have the type of policy that is right for you.

9. Have you joined a carpool?

If you are a frequent carpool driver, whether it is to work, or ferrying kids to school and other activities, your liability insurance should reflect the increased risk of additional passengers in the automobile. Check with your insurance professional to make sure your coverage is adequate.

10. Have you retired?

If you commuted regularly to your job, in retirement your mileage has likely plummeted. If so, you should report it to your auto insurer as it could significantly lower the cost of your auto insurance premiums. Furthermore, drivers over the age of 50-55 may get a discount, depending on the insurance company.