How to have a safe, not spooky, Halloween

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Halloween is SPOOKY! Halloween is SWEET! Halloween should be SAFE!

And we have grabbed a few tips from the Insurance Information Institute on how to have a safe and secure Halloween.

1. Remove any leaves and brush (wet or dry!)  from your home’s walkway to avert slips and falls.
2. Make sure your home is well-lit so those little monsters can see how to safely get to the candy.
3. c647c5431e7250c29403a4cce8afb2dc.jpgKeep your pets away from trick-or-treaters. Pugs in bumble bee costumes are cute, but they may not find a whole bunch of excited kids as cute. Keep them inside or secured away from visitors.
4. Use battery-lit instead of traditional candles, which pose a fire risk. We know, they don’t make the pumpkin smell as good. But you’ll be okay with that if Jack gets knocked over and there isn’t a fire.
5. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a bad trick. So be sure to set your home security system if you’re not going to be in your house on Halloween.

tricktreat.jpgAnd remember, standard homeowners insurance policies provide liability protection from common Halloween risks, such as trick-or-treaters who trip and fall on your property. If an incident at your home results in a lawsuit, the liability portion of your homeowners insurance policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents.

Liability limits generally start at about $100,000, although many homeowners choose to purchase liability protection coverage totaling somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000. Moreover, standard homeowners insurance policies cover losses incurred due either to theft or vandalism, the I.I.I. notes.
And as always, be sure you understand your insurance policy or speak with a trusted agent if you have questions or concerns about how to have more treats than tricks when it comes to insurance this Halloween!

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

pets_insurance[1]Do you have a loved dog or cat…or some other house pet that you want to get insurance for? If so, you’re not alone. U.S. pet owners spent more than $1 billion on insurance for their pets last year. That is a jump of 23% in money spent on covering pets. It is estimated that 1.8 million dogs and cats are covered by insurance now, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Often times, owners are promised affordable, lifetime health care for their pet, but that may not always be the case.

“A two-month Consumers’ Checkbook investigation found that most accident and illness plans end up being neither affordable nor lifelong, according to an article published by the Washington Post. Here are some important takeaways from the Washington Post article: (read the full Washington Post article here)
Price hikes: Most buyers sign up for insurance when their pets are young and monthly premiums are lowest. But four or five years later, the premiums most companies charge start to rise — purely because the pets get older. Sooner or later, the price may become unaffordable.
Costs can outweigh benefits: In a study done by Checkbook, insurance was a worse deal when the cat or dog were lucky to have only low to moderate health problems, and a better deal when they suffered lots of medical problems. But the problem with spending so much to insure against disaster is that the odds of calamity are fairly long. Every six seconds a pet owner faces a vet bill of $1,000 or more, according to PetInsuranceQuotes.com, an online marketplace. Pet insurers also cite this statistic. That sounds scary, but in a country of 185 million cats and dogs, that’s about a 3 percent chance over a year.

Tips for buying pet insurance:
Before buying, learn how your premium will increase as your pet ages by using the insurer’s online quote engine. First, get a monthly premium quote using your pet’s age; then get quotes for the 10 or 12 ensuing years. Multiply each age’s monthly premium by 12; then add up all the resulting annual premiums to estimate what insurance will cost over that period.
Understand what’s not covered. A leading complaint to regulators is claims being rejected for conditions or treatments not covered by the policy. No policy covers preexisting conditions, and some conditions that are covered may be considered preexisting if they develop up to a year after you enroll. If your pet is ill or injured, the diagnostic exam is often not covered by many plans, even though the treatment is covered. Follow-up exams for that covered condition are often not covered, either. Those $50 to $100 exam fees amount to a hidden added deductible.
Avoid claim rejection for a preexisting condition by insuring your pet when it’s a puppy or kitten — before it has a chance to develop a preexisting condition (but don’t forget the caveat above). You can typically enroll when your pet is 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Forget add-ons for wellness, preventive and elective care. When Checkbook added up the lifetime costs of Woof’s routine care, about $2,400, and used that information to compare Nationwide’s Major Medical illness and injury plan with its Whole Pet with Wellness plan, it found that adding wellness coverage was a poor deal. Total lifetime Whole Pet premiums for the dog were much higher — almost $11,400 more — almost five times the dog’s lifetime wellness costs.
Consider accident-only policies, which cover injuries but not illness and can be considerably less expensive. ASPCA would charge Woof $35 a month for its accident-only plan, a price that doesn’t increase with age.
You must pay premiums every month, but you may or may not have to pay deductibles and co-pays, depending on your pet’s health. So it may be worth it to cut your premium costs by increasing your deductible, reducing the percent reimbursed, and choosing an annual limit of only $5,000 or $10,000 instead of unlimited. These are standard insurance cost-reduction tactics, but be aware that they shift more of the risk of future vet bills to you.

Save Money – But Don’t Make These Mistakes!

Insurance can seem expensive, but when a disaster strikes insurance becomes a lifeline to getting your life back on track.

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When shopping for insurance, you may be tempted to reduce your coverage or drop important coverages altogether with the goal of saving money. But be careful, you could end up being dangerously underinsured and have to pay a substantial amount in the event of a disaster. In the end, you didn’t save money, you lost money.

Here are the five most common mistakes people make when it comes to insurance. This information was provided by The Insurance Information Institute

The mistake: Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding.
Why you shouldn’t: When real estate prices go down, some homeowners may think they can reduce the amount of insurance on their home. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, not the sales price of the home. You should make sure that you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace your belongings—no matter what the real estate market is doing.
A better way to save: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your premium payments.

The mistake: Selecting an insurance company by price alone.
Why you shouldn’t: It is important to choose a company with competitive prices. But be sure the insurer you choose is financially sound and provides good customer service.
A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies (some well-known ones: A.M. Best, Moody’s), and ask friends and family members about their experiences with insurers. Select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.

The mistake: Dropping flood insurance.
Why you shouldn’t: Damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies. You may not be aware you’re at risk for flooding, but keep in mind that 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas. Furthermore, yearly weather patterns—spring runoff from melting winter snows, for example—can cause flooding.
A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to determine whether a property is situated in a flood zone; if so, you may want to consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a designated flood zone, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance. Additional information on flood insurance can be found at FloodSmart.gov.

The mistake: Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car.
Why you shouldn’t: The minimum is just that—the least you can get away with by law. So buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket later. And if you are sued, those costs can jeopardize your financial well-being.
A better way to save: Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars worth less than $1,000. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.

The mistake: Neglecting to buy renters insurance.
Why you should buy it: A renters insurance policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to an insured disaster, such as a fire or hurricane. Equally important, it provides liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue.
A better way to save: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer, such as renters, auto, and life will generally provide savings.


Remember: shop around for an insurance agent and find one that is trusted and is in good standing with the state. Always discuss your needs and financial abilities with the agent. And ne sire tp read your policy completely before signing it.


 

Back to School Tips for All Ages


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It is back to school time here in South Carolina, and if you’re like many families, that means getting back into a routine. Routines are a great way to make sure your life runs smoothly, but you are also at risk at becoming complacent to actively staying safe when you do the same thing five or more times a week – like driving your kids or yourself to and from school! Once you get the routine down, you might start doing things on “auto pilot” instead of paying attention to things around you.

Pay attention to the road

1. Driving to school? Be aware of school busses. You must always stop when traveling behind a bus with flashing amber or red lights. If you are traveling in the opposite direction of a bus and you see red lights flashing, you must stop as well.
2. When should you stop for a bus? You must stop for a bus when you are on a four lane road and behind a stopped bus. If you are coming from another direction, you do not have to stop, but should slow down and proceed with caution.
3. Keep your eyes on the look out for pedestrians. If you do not stop for a bus, and a child is injured, you will be fined over $1,000 with an additional 6 points added to your license.
4. School Zone means you must drive carefully. Always be on the lookout for zone signs, signals and crossing guards.
5. Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to drop off rules at school. Drop students off in designated areas only.
6. Be a good example and wear your seatbelt. Don’t start your car until you hear a click from everyone’s seatbelt! Buckling your seat belt is the law – it also is smart and safe. Studies show that using a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a vehicle collision by 50%.
7. You’ve got a lot going on, but put the phone down. It can wait. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting. Is that work email worth risking you and your kid’s lives? No.
8. Make sure your child knows where to wait on the bus, and that they are on time. Students should be waiting at the bus stop approximately 5-10 minutes ahead of their scheduled pick up times. This allows drivers to adjust to new routes and schedules. Students should wear bright colors which helps with visibility with drivers. Students must stand at least 12 feet from the road. Remind your child how to practice safety while waiting on the bus!
9. Make sure your child only crosses streets at designated crosswalks, street corners and traffic controlled intersections. Drivers may be distracted, but if your child is paying attention, it could save their life.


Your kid heading off to college?


College can be very expensive, but without the right type of insurance, you could find out too late that an accident or theft isn’t covered under your current insurance policies. In order to prevent this from happening, there’s one vital “to-do” to add to your list: review your insurance coverage.
Although policy language varies from one policy to the next and there are never “one-size-fits-all” situations, use the following general guide to understand how your child’s move back to school may affect your insurance coverage:

Homeowners Insurance Considerations

Personal property coverage: Most homeowners policies provide 10 percent of personal property coverage for property owned by an insured that is at a residence other than the insured’s. For instance, if you have $100,000 worth of personal property coverage, your homeowners insurance policy will typically provide up to $10,000 worth of coverage for your student’s property if they are living in a dormitory – provided that the damage is caused by a covered peril and the student meets the definition of an insured. Certain items like jewelry or expensive electronics may require special coverage, or a “rider.”
Liability coverage: Homeowners insurance policies typically exclude damage to property rented to an insured, so in most cases, damage to a dorm room or apartment would not be covered.
Renters insurance: If your student rents an off-campus home, your policy may not provide coverage for their property, so don’t forget about renters insurance. It’s important to understand that landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the renters’ possessions.
Ensuring adequate coverage: It’s a great idea to keep an inventory of the items your student is taking to school, along with photos and receipts when possible, to ensure that you have sufficient coverage for all of his/her belongings.
Auto Insurance Implications

Coverage without a car at school: If your student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, you should keep them listed on your auto policy. Fortunately, if your child is attending school far away from your home, such as 100 miles away, you may qualify for a distant student discount.
Coverage with a car at school: Typically, a car registered to parents and listed on their policy will be covered if used by a listed student away at school. However, you should make sure that your insurance carrier writes coverage where the college is located, and understand that a change in the vehicle’s principal location could result in a change in premium.
Driving a friend’s car at school: Students will generally be covered while driving a friend’s car if the students are listed on their parents’ auto policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle.
Coverage discounts: In addition to the aforementioned distant student discount, your student may qualify for a good student discount. To qualify for this discount, most insurance carriers require that the student be enrolled in at least four courses per term as a full-time student at an accredited college or university, and meet certain academic qualifications. Drivers under the age of 21 who complete a driver education course may be eligible for an auto insurance discount as well.


 

What is Accident Insurance?

Personal-accident-insurance-Standalone-or-add-on-rider-which-is-better[1]Simply put, accident insurance is a form of insurance policy which offers a payout when people experience injury or death due to an accident. This type of insurance does not usually cover negligence, acts of God, or natural disasters, and the policy may include restrictions such as caps on total payouts or restrictions on payouts for activities deemed risky. Many insurance companies sell accident insurance, which can be purchased as a standalone policy or bundled in to an existing insurance policy.

Like other forms of insurance, buying accident insurance is, in a sense, a bet. The consumer pays the insurance company a premium hoping that an accident will not occur, and the insurance company writes a policy hoping that it will not have to pay out.

This type of policy can be a good idea for people who: lack adequate health care coverage (ensuring that they will be able to access medical treatment after an accident); or for  families who would suffer financially if the sole breadwinner died (offers more financial security).

Accident insurance policies have payouts which vary, depending on the severity of the injuries. Some include very specific language about amounts which will be paid out in the event of losing particular extremities, for example. The payout is designed to cover medical care along with pain and suffering. If an accident causes permanent disability, the payment may be structured to provide funds for the accident victim to live on. In the event of a death, the benefits are paid out to the listed beneficiary on the policy.

When shopping for accident insurance, people should ask about premiums and what types of accidents and events are covered. Get to know the company’s reputation before you buy a policy as some companies cover more than others and some delay payments until they are satisfied that a customer really does meet the terms for a payout. For people who need money to deal with immediate expenses, this can be a problem.

One of the most common types of accident insurance is car accident insurance which is purchased by drivers to protect themselves and others in the event of an accident. Other examples include: travel accident insurance policies (must be purchased before your trip), and customizable insurance plans for people who work in particular industries (such insurance can be costly, reflecting the increased risks to the insurance company. A telephone lineman, for example, will be more expensive to insure than a desk worker).


To be sure you fully understand what your policy does or does not cover, as when considering any insurance policy, it is best to talk with an insurance agent that you know and trust before making any choices about buying accident insurance. 


 

 

 

 


 


 

Having a Plan: Disaster Evacuation – Five Things to Know

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Some catastrophic events come with a warning, others you may only have a matter of minutes to evacuate or you may have to evacuate in the imediate wake of a disaster. It is important to have a plan in place that you can execute without hesitation when the time comes.

Do you know what you would take? How about where you would go? This five-step plan, curtesy of Insurance Information Institute can help get you and your family on the road to safety. *

1. Arrange your evacuation ahead of time

Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your evacuation. (You can store this and other vital information in the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s mobile app. It will change the way you prepare for emergencies. The SC Emergency Manager mobile app is downloadable from the App Store and Google Play)

  • Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
  • Map out your primary routes and backup routes to your evacuation destinations in case roads are blocked or impassable. Try to have a physical map of the area available in case GPS satellite transmissions are down or your devices run out of power.
  • Pre-arrange a designated place to meet in case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation. Make the location specific, for example, “meet at the big clock in the middle of town square” not “meet at the town square”. Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person for your family.
  • Put all evacuation plans in writing along with pertinent addresses and phone numbers and give them to each member of the family. Note that many home printer inks are NOT waterproof, so take appropriate precautions to ensure legibility.
  • Listen to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

2. Plan what to take

Many families choose to have a “go bag” ready with some of these critical items. Consider packing the following for an evacuation.hurricane-43880_1280

  • Prescriptions and other medicines
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
  • Special equipment for infants or elderly or disabled family members
  • “Comfort items,” such as special toys for children
  • Computer hard drive and laptop
  • Cherished photographs
  • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)
  • Important documents
  • Items for your pets

3. Create a home inventory

Making a home inventory and having it handy will be useful if you need to apply for disaster aid. It will also:

  • Help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions.
  • Speed the insurance claims process, if necessary
  • Substantiate any losses for income tax purposes.

4. Gather important documents

Keep the following important documents in a safe place that you can easily access and take with you in the event of an evacuation. And while for most of these you’ll need an original, it’s a good idea to make digital copies and keep them with you on a thumb drive, as well:

  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Drivers license or personal identification
  • Social Security cards
  • Insurance policies — homeowners, auto, life and any others
  • Recent tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Wills and deeds
  • Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
  • Financial information such as bank, savings and retirement account numbers and recent tax returns
  • Home inventory

5. Take the 10-minute evacuation challenge

evacuation-sign-1738375_1920To ensure that you and your family are fully prepared for a sudden evacuation, do a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.

 

*Credit for content goes to III, FEMA, SCEMD and resources at the SCDOI.

How does getting paid work after making a claim?

Money-Insurance1[1]Insurance is here to help out with expenses after a disaster strikes and many policy holders want to know how quickly they can expect to receive their payout after they file a claim.

And while processing times do vary from company to company and are dependent on the type of claim, Insurance Information Institute (III) has provided a good overview of what you can expect. 

The initial payment isn’t final
In most instances, an adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer you a certain sum of money for repairs, based on the terms and limits of your homeowners policy. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount, not the final payment.
If you’re offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later, if you find other damage, you can reopen the claim and file for an additional amount. Check your policy to know how long you have to reopen claims.

You may receive multiple checks
When both the structure of your home and your personal belongings are damaged, you generally receive two separate checks from your insurance company, one for each category of damage. If your home is uninhabitable, you’ll also receive a check for the additional living expenses (ALE) you incur if you can’t live in your home while it is being repaired. If you have flood insurance and experienced flood damage, that means a separate check as well.

Your lender or management company might have control over your payment
If you have a mortgage on your house, the check for repairs will generally be made out to both you and the mortgage lender. As a condition of granting a mortgage, lenders usually require that they are named in the homeowners policy and that they are a party to any insurance payments related to the structure. Similarly, if you live in a coop or condominium, your management company may have required that the building’s financial entity be named as a co-insured. This is so the lender (and/or, in the case of a coop or condo, the overall building), who has a financial interest in your property, can ensure that the necessary repairs are made. When a financial backer is a co-insured, they will have to endorse the claims payment check before you can cash it. Depending on the circumstances, lenders may also put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed. Show the mortgage lender your contractor’s bid and let the lender know how much the contractor wants upfront to start the job. Your mortgage company may want to inspect the finished job before releasing the funds for payment to the contractor. If your home has been destroyed, the amount of the settlement and who gets it is driven by your policy type, its specific limits and the terms of your mortgage. For example, part of the insurance proceeds may be used to pay off the balance due on the mortgage. And, how the remaining proceeds are spent depend on your own decisions, such as if you want to rebuild on the same lot, in a different location or not rebuild at all. These decisions are also driven by state law.

Your insurance company may pay your contractor directly
Some contractors may ask you to sign a “direction to pay” form that allows your insurance company to pay the firm directly. This form is a legal document, so you should read it carefully to be sure you are not also assigning your entire claim over to the contractor. When in doubt, call your insurance professional before you sign. Assigning your entire insurance claim to a third party takes you out of the process and gives control of your claim to the contractor. When work is completed to restore your property, make certain the job has been completed to your satisfaction before you let your insurer make the final payment to the contractor.

Your ALE check should be made out to you
Your check for additional living expenses (ALE) has nothing to do with repairs to your home. So, ensure that this check is made out to you alone and not your lender. The ALE check covers your expenses for hotels, car rental, meals out and other expenses you may incur while your home is being fixed.

Your personal belongings will be calculated on cash value, first
You’ll have to submit a list of your damaged belongings to your insurance company (having a home inventory will make this a lot easier*). Even if you have a replacement value policy, the first check you receive from your insurer will be based on the cash value of the items, which is the depreciated amount based on the age of the item. Why do insurance companies do this? It is to match the remaining claim payment to the exact replacement cost. If you decide not to replace an item, you’ll be paid the actual cash value (depreciated) amount for it.

To get replacement value for your items, you must actually replace them
To get fully reimbursed for damaged items, most insurance companies will require you to purchase replacements. Your company will ask for copies of receipts as proof of purchase, then pay the difference between the cash value you initially received and the full cost of the replacement with an item of similar size and quality. You’ll generally have several months from the date of the cash value payment to purchase replacements; consult with your agent regarding the timeframe. In the case of a total loss, where the entire house and its contents are damaged beyond repair, insurers generally pay the policy limits, according to the laws in your state. That means you can receive a check for what the home and contents were insured for at the time of the disaster.

We couldn’t have said any of this better than III did. The SCDOI gives credit to III for the information in this blog post. Please click their link to visit the original post and to access some excellent links.

*This link was added by the SCDOI. The link takes you to the Home Inventory Checklist by the NAIC.