Entries Tagged 'Personal Insurance' ↓

Reduce Their Risk: Safety Tips for Teen Drivers

It’s time for a teen to get their driver’s license. Who is more nervous – the teenager or the parent? 

Parent anxiety during this rite of passage is understandable. According to the Insurance Information Institute, motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death among those age 15 to 20. 

Fortunately, teens and parents can take steps to improve safety on the road. If you have a teen behind the wheel, try these best practices. 

Choose a safe car: Sure, your teen will probably prefer to drive that sporty convertible, but giving a teenager the keys to a sleek, fast car will only encourage speeding and other unsafe driving habits. For a teen’s first vehicle, choose a car that is easy to drive and offers solid protection during an accident. Avoid small cars and SUVs, which are prone to rollovers.

Limit their risk: Consider following a graduated driver’s license (GDL) program. These are in place in some states, and parents can institute similar policies in areas where they aren’t required. Under these programs, teens’ driving privileges are restricted until the teen has gained experience behind the wheel. Restrictions may prohibit driving at night or with teen passengers. 

Emphasize safe habits: Talk with teens about risky driving behaviors. Explain the dangers involved with distracted driving caused by phone use, radio use, or conversations with passengers. Stress the importance of remaining focused while driving. 

Additionally, certain practices, such as enrolling teens in a safe driver program or using electronic devices to monitor their driving, may qualify you for insurance discounts. Contact our office to discuss what programs are available in your area.

Rented and Personal Vehicles: Are Your Risks Covered?

Are you familiar with hired and non-owned auto (HNOA) insurance? If your business involves vehicle use in any way, this coverage could be crucial for your operations. Here are the FAQs.

What is HNOA insurance?

Hired and non-owned auto insurance provides coverage if an employee uses a personal or rented vehicle for business purposes. 

If an employee in these circumstances is in an accident, the company for which they were driving could be held liable for damages. HNOA insurance covers this liability.

Who needs HNOA insurance?

Business owners may assume that if their employees don’t use company vehicles, they don’t have to worry about insurance coverage. This isn’t necessarily true. 

The employee’s personal insurance may not always cover the full liability, in which case the litigators may go after the business for which the employee was driving at the time. This makes it important for any business with exposure to this risk to maintain HNOA insurance. 

While HNOA insurance is most commonly associated with food delivery tasks, the need for HNOA goes beyond pizza and sandwich delivery. Home health care providers, consultants, contractors, and anyone else who uses their own vehicles or rented vehicles for business-related tasks or travel have HNOA exposure. 

Of course, a company with a fleet of inexperienced teens delivering dinners will have a higher risk than a small business with two professionals who attend occasional client meetings. Still, the risk is there, and it should be addressed.

What can business owners do to reduce HNOA exposure?

To reduce their risk, business owners can take several steps. First, they can conduct motor vehicle record checks on employees. This task can be completed twice a year to monitor employee driving. Second, business owners can establish guidelines for who is considered an acceptable driver. The employer can use driving experience, age, and driving records as parameters to set these guidelines. 

Modern technology allows for a third method that could be worthwhile for some businesses. This solution is telematics. Using this technology, an employer can monitor the activity of a vehicle and the driver’s performance. The data will reveal whether drivers speed, how they brake, and other information that can be helpful in determining risk. Because they are being monitored, employees may make greater effort to drive safely. Employers can also create reward programs based on telematics data to further incentivize safe driving among employees.

Is HNOA coverage provided by a standard commercial auto insurance policy?

Business owners who have a commercial auto insurance policy may or may not be covered for HNOA situations. Previously, this coverage was often a standard part of commercial auto policies, but the rising frequency and cost of litigation have forced many providers to make it a separate policy. Business owners should check with their carriers to see what coverage is included and what is available.

What’s the next step?

If you’re unsure about your HNOA exposure and insurance needs, contact our office. We can provide a quick review of your policies and risks and make sure you have appropriate coverage.

What Is Gap Insurance, and Do I Need It?

Have you ever purchased a brand-new car? It had that new-car smell. The odometer readout was near zero. The paint was bright and shiny. You were excited to drive off the lot and put the first miles on your untainted vehicle. 

Guess what else happened as you drove off that lot? The vehicle started depreciating. According to Kelley Blue Book, most cars lose about 20% of their value in the first year. 

This rapid depreciation could pose a problem for insurance claims. If your initial deposit on the car was small, the loan amount that you owe may be higher than the value of the car. 

If your vehicle suffers extensive damage or is totaled in its early years (before you have paid down that loan), your insurance coverage may not provide enough to pay off the vehicle. Why? A standard auto policy typically covers the depreciated value of the car. In other words, it will pay what the car is currently worth on the market when you make your claim. 

If this amount is less than what you owe on the car, gap insurance comes into play. It will cover this difference (the gap).

This extra coverage can be helpful in several circumstances.

Long-term financing: If you financed a vehicle for 60 months or longer, you might need gap insurance to provide adequate coverage.

Leasing: If you lease a vehicle, gap insurance is often required as part of the lease agreement.

Lost value: Some cars depreciate faster than others. If your model depreciates faster than average, gap insurance could prove useful.

Low down payment: If you put less than 20% down on the vehicle, this insurance will help cover the gap between the value and the balance of your loan that will most likely exist for a while.

Are you unsure whether you need gap insurance? Contact our office to review your current auto policy and determine whether this coverage makes sense for you and your vehicle.

Animal Invasion: Are you covered?

Your dog ate your couch. Birds destroyed your gutter. A family of raccoons overran your garage.

Will your homeowners insurance cover these animal invasions?

Yes and no. Here’s the scoop:

Infestation: If your home suffers damage at the hands (or legs) of insects, rodents, or vermin, the cost probably won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance. Whatever damage these unwanted guests cause, including nesting and infestation, is not usually covered. However, this varies by policy, so be sure to check with your insurance agent to confirm.

Destruction: If your personal property is destroyed by an animal, this usually does not fall under your homeowners policy coverage. If the animal damages the property itself, this is probably covered. So, if a bear breaks into your garage and mauls your tools, you might be on your own to replace your saw, but the damage Mr. Grizzly caused to the garage door should be covered.

Liability: Coverage for damages caused by pets varies based on where the damage occurs. If your cute kitten ruins your new loveseat, you’ll have to hold Fluffy responsible. Your insurance company probably won’t pay for that. But if you bring Fido to your friends’ house and he eats their loveseat, the liability portion of your policy will kick in and cover this damage.

Do you have concerns about potential animal-related damages? Let us help you review your policies and determine what specific coverage is best for you and available in your area.

Peer-to-Peer Home Rentals: Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you considering renting out your home, guest room, or basement? Peer-to-peer home rentals and services such as Airbnb have grown in popularity. Discovering the income potential in these opportunities may entice you to hand over your keys.

While this may be a good option for you, it’s important to first consider the insurance implications involved. Do you have the right coverage for peer-to-peer rentals? If a renter starts a fire in the home, will you be covered? Always consult with your insurance provider before pursuing any rental arrangements.

If you will be renting all or part of your property on a regular basis, your homeowner’s policy is likely insufficient. You may need business coverage, such as a hotel or bed-and-breakfast policy. Month-to-month home-sharing liability policies may also be available that suit your circumstances. On the other hand, if the rental situation is a one-time occurrence, you might be covered by your current homeowner’s policy, or you might be required to add an endorsement.

Either way, notify your carrier about your intent to determine whether your current coverage is appropriate. Your agent can help you make any changes needed to ensure you and your property are fully protected.

Additionally, if you are considering renting someone else’s peer-to-peer rental space, confirm your coverage with your carrier. Typically, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for stolen possessions and accidental injuries you cause to others. However, you should verify this with my office before making any rental agreements.

When it’s Time for Teenagers to Take the Wheel

He has matured past the tricycle phase, grown beyond the bicycle stage, and is ready to try his hand at something with an engine. Your teen says he’s ready to drive. Are you ready?

Whether or not you’re emotionally up for the task, you can at least prepare yourself financially. Take the following steps before your teen takes the wheel.

Assign for savings: Which car will your teen drive? If possible, ask your insurer to assign your teen to the car with the lowest value. Keep in mind that this must be the car that the teen drives. By linking your teen to the least-valuable car, you can save on insurance premiums.

Boost your coverage: If you currently have minimum liability insurance, consider increasing your coverage. You may be fortunate to have a responsible teen, but statistics are still stacked against him. Research shows that teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents than adults, and their chance of being held accountable for a crash is twice that of adults. You’ll be grateful for greater coverage if your teen has an accident that results in costly repairs or lawsuit payments.

Balance the cost: As you raise your liability, you may pay higher premiums. To balance this, consider raising your deductible. Higher deductibles typically result in lower premiums. You can apply this savings to your increase in overall coverage.

Make the call: As with any life changes that may affect your insurance, contact your agent to discuss what solutions are best for your new teen driver.

Car Sharing and Auto Insurance: What You Need to Know

More and more car owners are looking to their vehicles as sources of potential income. The family sedan is no longer simply a tool to get to work, and it does more than deliver pizzas.

Peer-to-peer car-sharing services have made it possible to “rent” a personal vehicle to other drivers who are seeking transportation. If you don’t drive your car every day, this can be a fairly simple way to earn a little extra cash.

However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind regarding car sharing and auto insurance. Using your vehicle in this way can greatly affect your coverage.

First, your policy may not cover your vehicle while it is being driven by other people under a car-sharing agreement.

Your carrier doesn’t have any information about who is driving your car or their driving record, so the coverage cannot extend to them. If someone is in an accident or your car is stolen while he or she is using it, you may not have coverage.

Second, you are making money with this arrangement. This puts your vehicle use into a business category, rather than personal. Again, this might negate coverage from your personal policy.

Due to these circumstances, car-sharing services typically offer their own auto insurance.

If you’re considering offering your vehicle for peer-to-peer car sharing, first consult with my office.

Someone here can advise you about your coverage and help you determine if this is a viable option for the use of your vehicle.

Do I Need Extra Insurance for Exterior Rebuilds?

You’re planning your next remodeling project. Perhaps you’re expanding your home to enjoy more living space. Maybe you’re replacing the 1990s siding. Whether your project is a minor exterior renovation or major roofing repair, it’s important the work is properly insured. This may or may not involve the purchase of additional insurance.

In dealing with a contractor: If you are planning to hire a contractor to perform the work, protect yourself and your property with proper coverage. For example:

  • Ask for proof of insurance. Examine dates and coverage carefully to ensure coverage is current and legitimate.
  • Ask to have your name added in writing as an additional insured on the contractor’s liability policy. Some contractors offer this free, but you may have to pay a small fee for this service.
  • Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage includes workers’ compensation. You don’t want to have to pay for injuries occurring to contract workers on your property.

By placing yourself as an additional insured on your contractor’s policy, you’re also covering the gray areas that include situations such as a roofer’s ladder falling over and damaging your neighbor’s property. The additional-insured documentation should protect you in these types of third-party cases.

For major projects, such as additions or new homes, you might want to consider purchasing temporary builders risk insurance. This will cover mishaps during construction.

Contact my office: Whatever type of project you’re planning, contact your insurance agent early in the process. Your agent can advise you on the best type of coverage to add. He or she can also make the proper adjustments to the value of your home.

If you are building an addition, for example, your home will be worth more than when your homeowners policy was originally written. Communicate with your agent to ensure you have appropriate coverage based on the new value of the property.

Do I Need Extra Insurance for Exterior Rebuilds?

You’re planning your next remodeling project. Perhaps you’re expanding your home to enjoy more living space. Maybe you’re replacing the 1990s siding. Whether your project is a minor exterior renovation or major roofing repair, it’s important the work is properly insured. This may or may not involve the purchase of additional insurance.

In dealing with a contractor: If you are planning to hire a contractor to perform the work, protect yourself and your property with proper coverage. For example:

  • Ask for proof of insurance. Examine dates and coverage carefully to ensure coverage is current and legitimate.
  • Ask to have your name added in writing as an additional insured on the contractor’s liability policy. Some contractors offer this free, but you may have to pay a small fee for this service.
  • Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage includes workers’ compensation. You don’t want to have to pay for injuries occurring to contract workers on your property.

By placing yourself as an additional insured on your contractor’s policy, you’re also covering the gray areas that include situations such as a roofer’s ladder falling over and damaging your neighbor’s property. The additional-insured documentation should protect you in these types of third-party cases.

For major projects, such as additions or new homes, you might want to consider purchasing temporary builders risk insurance. This will cover mishaps during construction.

Contact your insurance agent: Whatever type of project you’re planning, contact your insurance agent early in the process. Your agent can advise you on the best type of coverage to add. He or she can also make the proper adjustments to the value of your home.

If you are building an addition, for example, your home will be worth more than when your homeowners policy was originally written. Communicate with your agent to ensure you have appropriate coverage based on the new value of the property.

A Home Inventory Can Help You before and after a Disaster

If disaster struck, could you recall every item you own? And what you paid for it?

After a fire or a flood, a complete home inventory will help you verify your losses and settle insurance claims faster. It can also help you and your agent determine how much insurance you need. To prepare an up-to-date home inventory, follow these easy steps:

List it: Make a list of all your possessions. Walk from room to room, noting what each space contains. Include basic information such as the make and model and the cost. For major appliances, record the serial numbers. Don’t forget any items you have stored outside or off-site.

Document it: Keep sales receipts, contracts, and appraisals with your list. As you purchase new items, be sure to add them to this inventory. To stay organized, you may want to create an envelope system to group receipts based on type of item. Be sure to store your inventory and all receipts in a fire-safe box or in a safe deposit box to ensure it’s available after a disaster.

Picture it: For a thorough record of your belongings, take pictures. Capture entire rooms and/or individual big-ticket items. You may also want to shoot a video of your inventory. Walk through your home and describe the contents as you record them. These photos and videos can be extremely helpful when making an insurance claim.

Your insurance agent can be a great source of help when you’re creating your home inventory by providing tips, recommending inventory apps, and – most important – offering advice on the right coverage.