If you are aware of current events in the USA than you know of the catastrophic wildfires that wipe away timberland and communities every year in our country. It is a horrible, life changing event for survivors and most certainly, is shocking and confusing, as stress takes it's toll on the survivor's mental health and their decision making abilities.
We often see news reports of the victims who are spending what's left of their own money to stay in hotels and shelters, possibly unaware of the full role of their home's fire insurance.
Most homeowner's carry (fire) insurance. For the most part only those who have paid off their mortgage can (unwisely) decide to go without homeowner's insurance altogether. Renters without Renter's Insurance may also be left to self insure this loss on their own.
Most homeowners have Additional Living Expenses as part of their Homeowner's coverage. (ALE) covers hotel bills, restaurant meals, and others costs which are over and above your typical expenses, if you cannot live in your home. The good news is that ALE is calculated separately from rebuild and other allowances, so those other amounts remain untouched to help rebuild.
ALE does often have time limitations, generally measured in months. The dollar amount can typically be increased for a small increase in premium.
Around 2008 my family had to make use of ALE, as we were forced out of our home due to smoke damage. We lived for a month out of a hotel, having to eat all of our meals out as well. We accumulated a hefty bill and many hotel points, but the insurance covered our expenses. We were very grateful to have the coverage and can't imagine what life would have been without it.
If your home was made unusable due to a covered disaster, such as fire, call your agent or the 1-800 number for your carrier. Many insurance carriers have special teams set up, just for this purpose of helping their clients through this especially rough time.
Halloween is around the corner; so whether you are throwing a party or just giving out candy to the little monsters, now is a good time to search out possible hazards.
Halloween costumes can limit visibility and impair movement on their own, so any existing hazard, such as a raised sidewalk, broken stair, light, rail or whatever it may be, can more easily lead to an injury and a claim against you.
With this in mind, now is a great time to evaluate hazards that may present dangers to expected guests. It's also a great time to review your liability policy on your homeowner's or renter's policy.
New homes can enjoy a sizable insurance discount, the greatest discount for the first few years. Wouldn't you like to save even more money on insuring your home over the long run?
As you might expect, there are lots of ways to keep your home insurance from getting out of hand. Your best chance to take action is when you are in the planning stages of building a new structure. There are of course some improvements that can be retrofitted later, but they usually prove more costly.
Location, location, location are said to be the three most important considerations in the realtor's world of buying and selling homes but location does carry weight with future insurance premiums as well. For instance, building in a flood zone will add to your expense. The same is true if you build a home in a remote or difficult to reach location. This is mainly due to the response time of the fire department and the increased risk of wild fires. Other location considerations include loss claims due to crime, landslide risk, earthquake risk and the distance to the ocean or large bodies of water, among others. Strong storms, such as hurricanes and the risk of storm surge also factor into close ocean (or large bodies of water) proximity. Many insurers refuse to quote buildings within a 1 mile distance of the ocean and some will even decline any building structures within 3 miles of an ocean. Fortunately there are carriers that will write coverage either way, just fewer of them. There is only so much one can do to build in a safe place, but building on a hill, rather then a depression and building out of flood zones can go a long way in reducing your future insurance rates. Most lenders require the buyer to carry flood insurance in flood zones, so it's best to avoid this situation all together if possible.
The next thing to consider is the building materials and methods. Since there are too many to discuss here, I will cover just four of them.
In general, I have found that manufactured homes have fewer options for insurers, and fewer still when wood burning heat is included and unfortunately as the manufactured home ages (about 5 years+) additional carriers refuse to quote or insure them.
Stick-built construction is the most common home type in the US and thus is widely accepted by most insurers. Adding fire suppression, such as interior fire sprinklers can make an appreciable difference with your insurance premium. Adding fire resistant exterior siding, such as cement fiber planks or panels can also be a good move when it is time to reside your existing home. Adding a metal roof is often an insurance premium saver and a good move if you live in a forest or a heavily treed environment. Some insurers may charge more to cover a home with a metal roof, because of the perceived risk from hail damage or because of the value added to the rebuild cost, so be sure to check around and avoid insurers that surcharge you for self-preservation.
Making your home design complex, with unique roofing, window or decking features for example may also drive up the rebuild cost and your insurance premium along with it.
Energy efficient construction is becoming more popular, as people realize that they can cut future energy bills significantly, without adding a bunch of of money into the building costs.
There are many choices out there but many "net zero" or "zero net" homes seem to obtain most of their energy savings from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) or ICF construction. I know little about SIPS, but they are basically two larger OSB plywood pieces with foam insulation inside them, resembling an ice cream sandwich, that snap tightly together into a pre-configured position. From the online videos I have seen it appears that they are very efficient and assemble fairly quickly.
My personal favorite method and material is often referred to as Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF). These are foam blocks that are stacked (kinda like Lego blocks) to make your home's walls and then filled with concrete and rebar for strength. The interior and exterior have insulation built in from the beginning, which has a big impact on sound reduction and energy savings. These ICF homes also benefit from reduced fire insurance expense, as you might expect and a reduced risk from wind damage and pest damage (since there is no room for pests to crawl between the walls and nibble on wires).
Ultimately, building your home in a city, on a flat surface, out of a flood zone, with a solid, fire resistant home and flame resistant roof surface should go along way to save you money and stress. It's good to remember that one may eventually pay off the house, but one never pays off the insurance; so it makes sense to keep continual costs, such as energy costs and insurance down from the very beginning.
Consider the greatest hazards in your area and build to reduce your risks or exposures to those hazards.
If you would like more savings ideas give me a call or an email, I would be glad to help.
Prior to Life Insurance existing in the market place it was unfortunately common for the death of a young parent to result in desperate financial times for the surviving family and widowed spouse. Before Life insurance only the most successful business owners and the elite could afford to die and leave their family with financial stability to better cope with the future.
Unfortunately today, thanks to obstacles like (death) taxes from the state and Federal Government it is not uncommon for even successful, decades long family business to die (tragically) alongside the business owner. The grieving widow, family or business partner is often left with no choice but to liquidate and sell off the business or its remaining assets to pay the costly double tax.
While many successful family businesses end abruptly with the death of an owner, life insurance can serve as a useful barrier to help offset the (death) taxes and other costs; as well as serving as a welcome resource all its own.
Sometimes when there are more business owners involved in a business, money may be needed to help replace the lost talent, such as through a new hire, training or with the replacement of the deceased's ongoing financial commitments in the business.
Today, in the 21st century life insurance is available and affordable for most who want it. Parents now have a tool that will ensure that their family isn't placed in an especially financially awkward or desperate situation on their death. Afterall, the death of a loved one is by itself too much grief and shock to want to deal with.
The good news is that some upfront planning and action right now can help prevent a sad situation of losing a loved one to being even a sadder situation of losing a loved one and going into debt or possibly losing your home.
Through the miracle of life insurance a person who may be otherwise unsuccessful in making a fortune in their life (or keeping it) can now suddenly be able to leave a tax free fortune for their loved ones, by the simple purchase of life insurance. Families can use the money for funeral expenses, credit card debt, to pay off the mortgage, school or auto loans among many other important living expenses; or they may use the money to invest for their future.
If you are currently single, you can use life insurance money towards your own funeral/burial expenses in addition to leaving a legacy, by contributing to a cause you believe in.
The amazing thing about life insurance is that it doesn't take years to accrue the death benefit, like other investments. Life insurance payout is payable on one's death or even before one's death in certain situations and the death benefit from life insurance is also tax free.
If you currently do not have life insurance it is definitely worth considering. If you already have life insurance it may be time to review your premium. Life insurance rates have fallen sharply in the past years. I have already saved some of my clients large amounts of money by quoting them and moving them into new, more affordable policies while still maintaining the same death benefit value as their old life policies.
Driverless personal vehicles have been discussed in the media for quite some time, however I think the implication for commercial taxi use ups the ante significantly on the insurance liability question, when higher speeds are considered. I don't believe that cars should be driverless, just driver assisted.
First, the obvious question of who would feel comfortable letting an unmanned machine deliver you or a loved one across town or to the airport? Never mind that the potential hazards one faces in navigating hourly city traffic constantly change. When you include common variables such as inclement weather, accidents, fires, falling trees along with less common hazards of sinkholes, slides, power failures, flooded roads, civil unrest or mechanical breakdown, I would imagine the the probability of an inevitable accident would be very sobering, plus new worries such as computer viruses or worms. Not to mention (although I will) one could easily speculate that autonomous, driverless taxis could someday be the ideal tool of the future terrorist.
My concerns as a fellow driver and occasional pedestrian is what would be what would happen when the computer driven taxi strikes a pedestrian, cyclist or animal or becomes involved in a collision, regardless of who's at fault. Assuming no one (or no one of ability) is riding in the back, Will it somehow render aid or call for help or will it continue on its way ? If an accident occurs in a cell phone and satellite dead zone, will the machine be smart enough to move out of the dropped zone to make an emergency call, as a human driver would? How does such a car operate in such conditions? What happens if a driverless autonomous taxi hits a deer or other large animal? Will the machine leave the corpse in place as a hazard for other drivers or will it leave itself there, as a bigger danger for drivers to collide with?
I know that autonomous cars are a work in progress, as they have had their share of accidents already. People are not perfect drivers either, but the driver assumes the ultimate responsibility should anything go wrong and in most cases has the added ability to safely remove dangers for other drivers. So, we know that the autonomous cars can only work as well as programming and infrastructure allow; and this is by no means perfect. Just consider the sad state of modern day voice recognition systems in current cars, they are awful most of the time.
Would a terrible, infamous autonomous car accident just be chalked up to new technology and remedied with a new slightly less lethal firmware update? Will the human victim(s) be blamed in the end, with the new technology getting a pass? I'm pretty sure I don't want to be the victim behind the reason for that operating system upgrade.
No right-minded insurance company would cover this potential rolling catastrophe. I would expect that even LLoyds may be too cost prohibitive for this risk. In the end I would imagine that, if approved for use; the states may allow the company's to self insure their autonomous taxis, time will tell. In fact Volvo, has mentioned that they will need to accept the liability of their autonomous vehicles. In the end we may conclude that this autonomous technology may be most applicable in low speed, low trafficked, controlled city environments.
Let's hope that the term 'computer crash' won't now include auto victims.
Unfortunately, these days it's not uncommon to either have an insurance complaint yourself or know someone who has drawn the short straw, after making a claim. As an insurance customer myself, I have had claims that were not handled satisfactorily; by a carrier that I no longer support. As an agent I come across people all too often that should have received better service then what they got from their prior agent and prior carrier.
I think it's important for people to talk and have good communication with their insurance agent. I believe it's important to have an agent who will work to help you, when you need it most.
However, with that said, there are times when an agent can only do so much to assist with a claim or other insurance issue. When your agent has done all he or she can do or when you wonder if there is something more that might be done, give the Oregon Insurance Division a call. The OID has a consumer advocacy service to assist insureds with questions. The best part is that they are free of charge to use and the advice they give could be priceless.
The address is: www.Oregon.Gov/DCBS/Insurance/Partners
There number is 1-888-877-4894
Most people continue on with the same coverage limits year after year without much thought. The well known saying that "if it isn't broke...." may be practiced too often with regards to insurance, at least until a major disaster makes an appearance in your life or through someone you know.
That's human nature, we either typically don't question important issues or we downplay important issues when everything is on track. Many, while in this frame of mind just don't put much weight behind the significant contribution that insurance can provide. This holds true until the earth shakes, a flooding rainstorm parks itself too long in your neighborhood , a wildfire burns uncomfortably close or when someone you know is involved in a serious accident. Any of these possibilities may be the wake up call that makes you question your back up plan. Insurance is the backup plan for most people. The question is: how good is your plan B at protecting you, when you need it most?
Should you ever find yourself questioning how you can afford to guard against the big dollar events you may find yourself (even unknowingly) looking at the self insurance approach. One can prepare for the big events by self insuring more of your smaller risks and having the insurance company cover the larger risks.
Self Insurance is not a new kind of insurance, just a method of insuring. In a nutshell, when you chose to self insure you are choosing to accept more risk with the dollar amounts that you can cover out of pocket.
One example, with auto coverage may be to chose higher deductibles, if you can afford to pay a higher deductible you can more easily raise your coverage limits higher. For example, if you currently have 50/100/50 auto coverage with $100 deductible on comprehensive and collision and you could actually afford to pay $500 or $1000 in a pinch you may consider pushing your deductibles higher to lower your premium. The lower premium will in return help you better afford the option of moving coverage limits up to maybe 100/300/100 limits or higher. The cost savings won't be straight across savings, but these changes would offset some of the expense and make it more affordable for you to move up.
You may say, well I just don't want to pay more then $100 or $500 if my car gets crunched. Sure, nobody wants to pay more, but keep in mind that claims should be an uncommon scenario and paying your deductible should make you consider if you really want to make a claim. Ideally a claim deductible should be kind of a pinch to pay, however not a serious obstacle. The lower the deductible, the more likely you will claim, which in turn will likely increase your premium for the next 5 years. Self insuring would have you weigh the cost of the damage to repair your vehicle. If the cost is close to your deductible, it may be worth insuring yourself (paying out of pocket for) the damage yourself, or leaving it, rather then making a claim. As I have mentioned before, claims impact your record whether they are your fault or not.
In another example let's say you have high coverage limits and you have low deductibles, windshield replacement, loaner car, roadside coverage and so on. One may consider chopping some of the smaller things that you could handle on your own and instead add on an umbrella policy that would add a million dollars of liability coverage and additional coverages. The point here is that you may be able to sweat the umbrella policy costing you around $200 a year, but totally unable to pay a million plus dollars out on a liability suit.
Earthquake coverage and Flood insurance shouldn't be overlooked. There are things that you will want to cover on your own, but earthquake or flood damage isn't one of them. Both earthquake and flood insurance have different deductibles and coverage limits available. If you can't afford to cover everything, it is still better to cover some of the damage.
Disasters just happen at inconvenient times, one has two choices:
1. Do nothing and sacrifice everything later
2. Make a plan to deal with a disasters now, while it's affordable and possible.
Insurance was created to help people through the really big dollar events, the catastrophes that no one would be expected to cover on their own; the events that drive too many people to GoFundme or similar sites today. In my opinion, too many focus on the bonus items that actually make higher coverage limits more financially unobtainable, thus making people more vulnerable to the real disasters.
To self insure really means that you discriminate between coverage options that are nice to have but are not necessary, verses having coverage limits high enough to cover threats that could financially devastate you and your way of life. Life is all about getting your priorities straight, self insurance deserves deep thought next time you are up for renewal.
People frequently call to ask for insurance quotes for their home, auto, business and life insurance.
Before calling any insurance professional please first do so when you are in a good mood, patient and have time to answer all the questions. You're not ordering a pizza, there are many variables that will determine your quote. Bad or insufficient information will result in a bogus quote and may be a waste of your time and mine. Some missing information I can work around, just not the big things, like driver's license numbers from all the drivers and the vehicle information, for example.
Prior to the call make sure you are ready to answer questions with the needed information at your fingertips. Understand that independent agencies, such as NCI search several carriers with the information you provide. Having to shop several different carriers means that I may need slightly more information then a typical captive carrier, which will only search for one quote.
If you want an auto quote you can email or fax me your current insurance information to get an easy start on the following questions, see the contact page.
* If questions are not answered it may result in no quote being generated or the exclusion of certain carriers quotes.
Your Name (and other drivers in your household which will need insurance)
Your Address (Physical and Mailing address)
Previous Address (if you just moved in the last year)
Email Address (optional to email you the quote and possibly billing)
Desired Effective Date (discounts may apply, depending on when you want to start coverage)
Insured's date of birth
Diver's License number(s) of everyone to be insured in household
The original dates that diver's licenses were issued (it shows on the card or give best estimate)
Current insurance company
Length of time with that carrier (or best estimate)
Accidents of Moving Violations in the last 3 years (Think hard, some carriers will give a higher quote rate if you omit information here)
Annual Mileage (rough estimate)
Vehicle Year, Make and Model.
Vin # is most accurate and will be needed prior to policy beginning.
Coverage limits Money amount you want your insurance to stop protection at; Such as 50/100/50 100/300/100 or 250/500/250?
Comprehensive (to repair damage to your vehicle by non-fixed object collision accidents, fire, flood, theft or animal damage)
Collision (to your vehicle)
Liability (For damage or injury you do to others)
or Just Liability by itself ? (most anything can be fixed with duct tape, right?)
Social Security Number is optional for a quote but it really helps with accuracy for the credit check portion. For added security this can be sent in a different text or email that doesn't include your name or full name.
Interested in the Options?....
Ticket and Accident Forgiveness
Roadside Assistance Coverage
Rental Car Allowance
Theft & ID Protection
That may or not seem like a bunch of questions, but if you know all of this information you are ready to call, email or fax anyone for a quote.
I, and other insurance professionals will thank you for having your stuff together.
Lately, if you live in the Pacific Northwest you have probably heard the growing chatter on the long overdue and expected five minute long, 9.2 Cascadia Earthquake. I mentioned earthquakes in an earlier blog in 2014. It's looking like it's going to be ugly.
The news about the tsunami wave prediction has since gotten even worse and the government, which was once forecasting 35' tsunami wave height potential from the big Cascadia quake is now predicting 100 foot tsunami wave heights!
Not that I need to alarm you, because this news should alarm you enough, but it's important to remember that wave height on tsunamis is not just a crashing wave, but a flood of water (up to 60 miles long) at that height, behind the wave. Tsunami waves may continue for many hours after the first wave strikes.
So, you may be thinking that there isn't much you can do to protect yourself from this disaster. Or you may consider flood insurance to be too expensive, not necessarily. There are options.
The most common option people use to protect their home is through flood insurance, provided by the government (FEMA). Most people will typically try to cover their entire home's value, if possible up to $250,000 rebuild cost and $100,000 contents cost. Others, who are on a stretched budget can chose to insure less for less cost. The point here is that some coverage is always better then no coverage.
Another option for flood insurance is to procure coverage through a private insurance company, outside of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance provided through a private insurance company typically costs more; but one can also insure their home for more than than FEMA's flood coverage limit of $250,000 (on homes) and there is often no 30-day waiting period, like the government's flood program. One could also decide to insure against landslides and earthquakes with the same company, for a bit more.
My own house is at 100' elevation and near the hospital in Coos Bay, not a flood zone. After considering the projected 8'-14' elevation drop and the possibility for 100' tsunami waves, I found myself purchasing flood insurance (last night). It's good peace of mind knowing I have one less thing to worry about.
Remember your house is not protected from a major flood, unless you sought out and paid for a flood insurance policy. Don't assume that you are covered, unless you have proof that you are covered.
Like I said in my blog regarding earthquakes, please don't wait for quake or a tsunami warning to call your insurance agent, it's too late at that point! Insurance companies prohibit agents from selling insurance in these last minute situations. Think about it now, while I have your attention and if you are interested in avoiding future financial calamity from natural disasters feel free to give me a call (or your agent) now to get a quote.
While you are thinking about impending doom, please remember to stock up on your drinking water, food and emergency shelter supplies.
Did you know?
The intent of this blog is to periodically post some tidbits of knowledge that I have learned as an insurance agent to both educate and save