Ways You May be Able to Affect Your Premium

ADJUST THE DEDUCTIBLE

A deductible is the amount of loss paid by the policyholder before any loss is paid by the
insurer. The larger the deductible, the lower the premium. A policy may have different deductibles based on the peril of the loss. Many insurers are selling homeowners insurance policies with percentage deductibles for storm damage instead of the traditional dollar value deductibles that are used for other types of claims such as fire damage and theft. One of the more common percentage deductibles is the hurricane percentage deductible, which applies to damage solely from hurricanes. Therefore a policyholder may have a $1,000 deductible for fire losses, but a 2% deductible for hurricane losses. Hurricane percentage deductibles can be very significant.

Dollar Deductibles – The dollar value the insured must pay before the insurance company will pay the remainder of the claim. With a policy that has a $500 standard deductible, for example, the policyholder must pay the first $500 out of pocket. Some insurers are selling policies with higher dollar deductibles for hurricane and earthquake damage. The higher the deductible for a given policy, the lower the premium, since the insured is bearing more of the risk.
Percentage Deductibles – Percentage deductibles are based on the home’s insured value. So if a house is insured for $100,000 and has a 2% deductible, the first $2,000 (or 2% of the insurance value of $100,000) of a claim must be paid out of the policyholder’s pocket. In many states, policyholders have the option of paying a higher premium if they would rather have a traditional dollar deductible instead of a percentage one, or if they prefer to have a lower percentage deductible. Percentage deductibles are sometimes mandatory. Note that with a percentage deductible, the dollar value changes as the insured value changes.

QUALIFY FOR DISCOUNTS

Discounts vary widely by state and insurer. It is recommended that homeowners check the
prices of multiple insurance companies before choosing a company to provide insurance
coverage. The following list of potential discounts is not intended to be complete:
1. Discounts may be offered for purchasing home and auto insurance from the same insurer.
2. Discounts may be available for homes with smoke detectors, burglar alarms, or dead-bolt locks.
3. Homes with sprinkler systems may also be eligible for discounts.
4. Discounts may be available for policyholders that are at least 55 years old and retired.
5. Sometimes insurers give discounts for long-term policyholders.
6. The extent to which the homeowner has protected the structure from windstorm may make the home eligible for      discounts for shutters, superior roof construction and connection, or other such mitigation techniques.
Take Care Of Your Home
1. Prior Loss – A “prior loss” is one that has occurred to the home prior to applying for
insurance. The current owner of the home may or may not have been the owner of the home
at the time of the loss. The treatment of prior losses varies widely by insurer. The treatment
also varies widely by state. In certain areas, insurers may surcharge policies that have had a
prior loss within a certain period of time.
2. Repair of Existing Conditions – Many insurers consider the existing condition of the
home when determining the premium for the policy and also the availability of certain coverages
or policies. Some insurers may provide a price break to policies where there has been
a recent roof renovation. Different roof types may also be eligible for a discount. Complete
renovations of plumbing or electrical systems may be eligible for lower premiums.
3. Post Event – It is the responsibility of the insured, and in the insured’s interest, to
reduce further loss once an incident has occurred. For example, if a window is broken during
a hurricane, the insured should cover the window to prevent rain from getting in the house.
The costs for these actions are usually covered by the insurer.

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Flood Facts

  • Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states.
  • Everyone lives in a flood zone.
  • Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a Federally backed mortgage, your mortgage lender requires you to have flood insurance.
  • Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property.
  • Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
  • A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
  • Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
  • New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
  • Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years. Compare that to a $100,000 flood insurance premium, which is about $400 a year ($33 a month).
  • If you live in a moderate-to-low risk area and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $129 a year, including coverage for your property’s contents.
  • You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it’s important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.
  • In a high-risk area, your home is more than twice as likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
  • Anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. People outside of high-risk areas file over 20% of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.
  • The average annual U.S. flood losses in the past 10 years (2001-2010) were more than $2.7 billion.
  • When your community participates in the Community Rating System (CRS), you can qualify for an insurance premium discount of up to 45%.
  • Since 1978, the NFIP has paid over $36.9 billion for flood insurance claims and related costs (as of 12/31/10).
  • Over 5.5 million people currently hold flood insurance policies in more than 21,000 communities across the U.S.
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Determining Your Auto Insurance Needs

When choosing auto insurance, you want thorough coverage for the best price.

There’s a lot to think about when you’re choosing auto insurance . In some states, to license your car you must carry liability coverage for damages incurred by others if you cause an accident, or no-fault coverage to pay for medical and related expenses for you and your passengers caused by injuries from a car accident, regardless of fault; or carry both. Without car insurance, you risk paying the full cost of:

  • Medical costs due to injury to yourself or others.
  • Repairing or replacing your car if it’s damaged or stolen.
  • Damage or injury from an auto accident with an uninsured driver.
  • Damage to your vehicle when it’s parked at your home or a public place.

So, how can you tell what amount of coverage is best for you? Consider your driving profile.

  • What kind of car do you drive? Coverage on your vehicle depends on its value. The less expensive the car, the lower the insurance premium you generally pay.
  • How much do you drive? Drivers who use their car for business and long-distance commuting normally pay more than those who drive less.
  • What’s your age, gender, and marital status? Statistics show accident rates are impacted by a driver’s age, gender, and marital status. If there are multiple drivers in your household, that can also affect your price. Parents can lower risk by keeping teens safer on the road.
  • Where do you live? Your location, and whether you’re a homeowner or renter, will affect your car insurance payment.
  • What is your driving record? Drivers with a history of accidents or chargeable motor vehicle violations (e.g. speeding ticket) generally pay more than those who are accident-free for several years.
  • What is your credit history?  Many insurance companies consider credit history when determining an individual’s rate.

Ask Your Agent

We can help you find insurance that meets your specific needs. Here are a few things to discuss when you talk:

  • How much can I afford to pay if my car is in an accident, damaged, or stolen?
  • What would my cost savings be if I raised my deductible?
  • Can I get discounts for taking safety classes or having multiple policies?
  • Will I save money if my car is stored in a garage, or if I belong to an auto association?
  • How much medical and liability coverage should I have?
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Spring Showers Bring Driving Safety Hazards

The snow and ice have melted and the hazardous road conditions are behind us. Or are they? Most people don’t consider or realize that wet roads can be just as slick as snow-packed or ice-covered roadways. In fact, rain is the most common adverse-weather condition. Despite this, drivers often overlook the dangers of driving in rain. The hazards associated with rain include:

  • Slippery road surfaces
  • Wet brakes
  • Reduced visibility
  • Traffic congestion

Compensating for these hazards by reducing your speed and increasing your following distance is essential. Also, watch for pools of water on the road. Hydroplaning occurs when tires ride above the road surface on a thin layer of water or oil. Speed, water, tire-tread depth, tire air pressure, and road surface characteristics are factors that influence whether a vehicle is at risk of hydroplaning. It’s possible for vehicles to hydroplane at speeds as low as 30 miles per hour or lower depending on various factors. Watch for other motorists who are speeding or exhibiting aggressive driving behavior, and who may be more likely to lose control of their vehicles. Turn on your lights to help ensure other motorists can see your vehicle.

Fog and smoke also can present a serious and unexpected hazard, sometimes greatly reducing visibility in just seconds. Many serious car and truck pile-ups have occurred as a result of thick fog or smoke. Watch for fog to accumulate in low-lying areas. The potential hazards of fog and smoke include:

  • Reduced visibility
  • Headlight glare
  • Sudden traffic congestion
  • Vehicles stopped on the roadway

When approaching fog or smoke, slow down to ensure there is enough space to stop safely if you encounter slowed or stopped traffic. Use your low-beam headlights. When visibility is severely reduced, consider parking in a safe place and waiting for conditions to improve.

It’s important to plan ahead and be prepared before you head out on the road. Are your windshield wipers working? Tires inflated properly? Head lights working properly? Remember to adjust your speed and following distance in all adverse weather conditions. Also, remember to never use your cruise control in wet or slippery conditions. Do not take chances when weather and road conditions deteriorate. Drive with caution and watch for other motorists who lack the skill or experience to drive safely. Most importantly, under severe conditions, finding a safe place to park and waiting for conditions to improve may be your safest option.

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Why You Need Flood Insurance For Your Home

As a homeowner, condo-owner or renter, you need flood insurance that protects your home and personal possessions. Whether your situation involves low, moderate or high risk for flooding, We can provide this coverage through the NFIP at the level that’s right for you.

In a low-to-moderate-risk area. You may be eligible for a preferred risk policy if your home is in a low flood hazard zone designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has limited flood loss history. This is simple, straightforward, and very affordable coverage.

In a high-risk area. Even if you live in a high flood hazard zone designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you can still get what you need from a standard flood insurance policy. Your rate is based upon the flood zone, the age and type of home, and the amount of coverage you choose. Whether you own a single-family home or a two-, three-, or four-family house, including condos, vacation or rental property; flood insurance offers you:

• building coverage that pays for damage to your dwelling and items such as the furnace and water heater;

• contents coverage for your furniture, rugs, appliances, and clothing (subject to limitations in basement areas);

• property protection that pays for sandbagging and other expenses for preventing flood damage; and

• clean-up reimbursement to cover costs of cleaning your home and removing debris after a flood.

By federal law, a flood insurance policy doesn’t go into effect until 30 days after its purchase. However, if you purchase your flood insurance policy in connection with your mortgage closing, the policy will be effective at the time of closing.

Affordable Protection

The cost of flood insurance is minimal when you consider the enormous expense of repairing or replacing your home and possessions after a devastating flood. To make it even more affordable, our carriers offers all of the NFIP increased deductible options which provide premium discounts.

Essential Coverage

Think you’re not at risk? Consider this:

• Approximately 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from low-risk areas.

• Six out of ten Presidentially declared disasters involve flooding.

• Flooding occurs in every state and can occur at any time of the year.

• Federal disaster relief is available only if a federal disaster is declared, which occurs in less than half of all floods. Flood insurance pays for your covered losses, even if a disaster is not federally declared.

• Federal disaster relief is usually a partial recovery in the form of a loan, with monthly payments that may be more expensive than the average annual flood premium.

• If you do not purchase and maintain a flood policy after you have received federal disaster assistance, you will not be eligible for future disaster relief.

Your Agent Is Working For You

So whatever your insurance needs, please don’t hesitate to call your agent. You’ll receive a free, no-obligation quote and helpful information. Talk with an agent about flood insurance today.

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Airbag Safety

Virtually all new cars have airbags, and they’re saving lives. They’re reducing driver deaths by about 14 percent,and passenger bags reduce deaths by about 11 percent.  People who use safety belts may think they don’t need airbags.  But they do. Airbags and lap/shoulder belts work together as a system, and one without the other isn’t as effective. Deaths are 12 percent lower among drivers with belts and 9 percent lower among belted passengers. But there also are problems with airbags. Inflating bags have caused some serious injuries and deaths.
Position Is What Counts
Serious inflation injuries occur primarily because of people’s positions when airbags first begin inflating.  Anyone, regardless of size or age, who’s on top of, or very close to, an airbag is at ri sk. Most airbag deaths have involved people who weren’t using belts, were using them incorrectly, or were positioned improperly. 

People without belts or using them incorrectly, especially passengers, are at risk because they’re likely to move forward during hard braking or other violent maneuvers before crashes. Then they’re likely to be very close to, or on top of, airbags before inflation begins.  Improperly positioned people at risk include drivers who sit very close to the steering wheel — 10 inches or closer— and infants in rear-facing restraints in front seats.
Understanding that airbag injury risk is related to position leads to a few simple steps that can eliminate the risks without sacrificing airbag benefits.
Kids in the Back
Don’t put a rear-facing restraint in the front seat. Starting with the first trip home from the hospital, put an infant in the center back seat.  Make sure the rearfacing restraint is tightly secured to the vehicle with an adult safety belt and the baby is buckled snugly in.
If there’s no choice but to put a baby in the front seat, then an on/off switch for the passenger airbag is essential.  But before you do this, remember the back seat is safer. Even without airbags, kids riding in back are much less likely to be killed. Now riding in back is even more important because it keeps children away from inflating airbags.
When babies outgrow their rear-facing restraints, they should graduate to forward-facing ones or booster seats attached to a vehicle’s back seat with an adult safety belt.  As kids later graduate to adult belts, proper restraint use still is essential. Don’t put the shoulder portion of a belt behind a child or under the arm. And don’t let a youngster do this either, because it compromises protection.  A lap belt should be positioned so it’s low and snug across a child’s hips, not up over the abdomen.

 Older kids should continue riding in a back seat. Only if there are too many children to put them all in back should a child be allowed to ride up front. Then make sure the seat is all the way back and the child is securely buckled and sitting back in the seat. Leaning forward to, for example, fiddle with radio dials can put a child at risk. If you worry about keeping a child sitting back, you may wish to consider getting an on/off switch for the passenger airbag.
Adults: Buckle Up and Sit Back
It isn’t your size, gender, or age that determines risk.  It’s position in relation to an airbag. Most adults can virtually eliminate the risk by buckling up. Neither short women nor elderly drivers are especially vulnerable if they use safety belts and sit at least 10 inches from the steering wheel.
Belted drivers potentially at risk of serious airbag injury are those sitting very close to the steering wheel.  But the same drivers would be at risk without airbags because they’re likely to hit the steering wheel hard —usually with the face — in a serious crash. They can reduce the airbag risk without sacrificing the benefits by sitting back and away from the wheel.
Most drivers, even short ones, can get at least 10 inches from the steering wheel and still reach the pedals. The problem often is that drivers sitting closer are leaning forward instead of sitting back in their seats. They need only sit back. The few who cannot get 10 inches from the steering wheel and still comfortably reach the pedals may wish to consider pedal extenders.
On/Off Switches for Airbags
The federal government has set criteria for the very few cases when airbag on/off switches may be needed to avoid injury risk. But getting a driver airbag switch makes sense only when someone — for example, a very short person — has tried various positions and cannot comfortably drive while sitting back and away from the steering wheel. A woman late in pregnancy who cannot get her abdomen away from the steering wheel also may wish to get permission for a switch based on medical need.  But remember that in a serious crash without an airbag, sitting so close to the wheel means a high risk of hitting it.

Most 1998 and later cars have redesigned airbags with less powerful inflators that reduce injury risk. In these cars, there’s probably no need to get an on/off switch for a driver airbag even if you cannot get 10 inches from the wheel. Still, it’s best to sit back and away from an airbag.
On the passenger side, there’s no significant airbag injury risk for belted adults sitting back in the seat. The risk for infants and children can be eliminated by ensuring they ride in a back seat, properly restrained. The back is safer anyway.
So should you even consider getting an on/off switch for a passenger airbag? Rarely — for example, when an infant with medical problems requires constant observation and the driver is the only other person in the vehicle. Then there might be no choice except to put the baby up front, and the airbag would present a risk. Of course, paying constant attention to a baby distracts from driving and involves its own risks.
Another group is parents who transport too many infants or small children to put them all in back and are concerned about keeping the child in front sitting back and away from the airbag. In this case, you may wish to get an on/off switch. If you do get one, remember to use it correctly. Remember to turn off the airbag when an infant or child must ride in front.
The decision about airbag on/off switches should be made with the facts in mind. Then it becomes clear that getting a switch rarely is necessary. Just take the simple precautions spelled out in this publication to eliminate the potential risk.
Future Is Advanced Airbags
The problem of serious inflation injuries isn’t going to be with us forever. Most new models have redesigned airbags, and future airbag technologies will reduce the risk even among people who have moved forward before airbags inflate. Sensors will detect rear-facing restraints and automatically switch off passenger bags. Inflation rates will be tailored to crash severity. More advanced airbags could recognize people’s positions just before inflating and reduce the force if someone is in position to be harmed.

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Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft and fraud are on the rise. Are you covered? Identity Fraud Expense coverage is available as an endorsement to your homeowners policy. Check with your insurance agent to learn more about the coverage options that may be available to you. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft ranked number one in terms of consumer complaints received by the agency during 2009. Identity theft is big business. If it happens to you, it can cost you not only aggravation and inconvenience, but money too!

The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers some tips to help prevent identity theft. Be especially careful when . . .

Shopping online. Use only secure sites and reputable retailers.

Throwing away trash. Shred bills and documents that include any of your personal or identifying information, such as your social security or account numbers.

Making purchases. Never throw away your sales receipts in public trash cans; always ask for a receipt for items purchased with a bank or credit card.

Traveling. Only carry the bank and credit cards that you absolutely need when traveling. And be sure to keep a copy of your account numbers and contact information for your bank and credit card companies in a safe place, in case you need to report a lost or stolen card.

Selecting passwords. Do not use easily accessed names or numbers, such as your mother’s maiden name or part of your address or social security number, in your passwords.

For more tips on preventing identity theft and fraud, be sure to check out the FTC’s website for consumers. Videos, publications, and an online “test your knowledge …” quiz are also included on the FTC’s site.

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Time for Spring Cleaning!

Spring has sprung in Florida, and many are gearing up for their annual spring cleaning chores. Although most of us think of it as a time to clean out closets and fill the yard with new blooms, it’s also a great time to do your own home insurance checkup. Consider including the following items on your “Honey Do” list this spring cleaning season:

  • Make sure your gutters and drains are clear, to help get ready for spring showers and summer storms.
  • Check the roof for curled or missing shingles, or cracked tiles. Have them replaced as needed.
  • Be on the lookout for leaking pipes, mold, or mildew as you are cleaning under sinks and behind toilets and appliances.
  • Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and be sure your alarm system works properly (if you have one).
  •  Check that fire extinguisher(s) are fully charged and working. Check to be sure all the windows open easily from the inside, and replace caulking as needed to prevent leaks.
  • In the laundry room, clean the dryer exhaust duct and vacuum under your dryer to help reduce the risk of fire.Check the hoses to your washing machine for leaks. Replace hoses at least once every five years.
  • Check the drip pans for your heating/cooling system to be sure the pans do not have standing water and are draining properly.
  • Check the locks on your swimming pool enclosure and replace them if needed.
  • Protect your electronic equipment by plugging them into UPS battery backups. While a little more expensive than standard surge protectors, UPS battery backups not only protect against power surges, but also provide safe, essential extra power for your electronics in the event of a power outage.
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Federal Pacific Electric Panels

Have you bought an older home?  Did you have a home inspection and it was determined that your home has Federal Pacific Electrical Panels?  Having trouble insuring the home with these type of panels?

Federal Pacific Electrical panels were a very common panel used in home from the 1950s through the 1980s.  Over time these panels have proved to have problems. They fail to trip when the switch is overloaded causing damage to the panel and often times fires in the homes. Insurance companies have paid a disproportionate amount of claims compared to other panels manufactured during the same time.

These panels were also involved in a class action lawsuit in New Jersey due to the failure of these panels. Experts advise the homeowner to replace the entire panel immediately. Even if the panel doesn’t have any problems at the moment, the inherent defects in the panel make it highly probable that if overloaded it will malfunction.  Cost of replacement can be from $800 to $3000 on average.  There is a wealth of information regarding this panel available online.

Replacing the Federal Pacific Electric panel will not only make the home more appealing to the insurance company but will give the homeowner peace of mind that their family and belongings are more secure with a replacement electrical panel.

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Flood Safety

 Floods can be devastating. But there are many things you can do, both before and during a flood, to increase your chances of survival and possibly minimize your damages.

 Steps to take today:

 Buy flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding. You should contact your agent about flood insurance. There is a 30-day waiting period for this policy to become effective, so don’t wait until the water is rising.

Make an itemized list of personal property, that includes furnishings, clothing, and valuables. Photographs of your home (inside and out) will assist your insurance adjuster in settling claims and will help prove uninsured losses, which are tax deductible. Put the list and photos in your safe deposit box at the bank.

Learn the safest route from your home or place of business to high, safe ground if you should have to evacuate in a hurry.

Keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order. Also keep extra batteries on hand.

People who live in frequently flooded areas should store materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber which can be used to protect property. Remember, sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building, since, when wet, the bags may create added pressure on the foundation.

 

When the flood comes:

 

Safety is the most important consideration. Since floodwaters can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to evacuate before the water level reaches your property.

Keep a battery-powered radio tuned to a local station, and follow all instructions for your area. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

When outside the house, remember, floods are deceptive. Avoid flooded roads, and don’t attempt to walk through floodwaters.

If, and only if, time permits, turn off all utilities at the main power switch, and close the main gas valve if evacuation is likely.

Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area and you are standing on a piece of dry wood while wearing rubber gloves and rubber-soled boots or shoes. Certainly, don’t log onto your computer!

Move valuable papers, furs, jewelry, clothing, and other contents to upper floors or higher elevations.

Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clear water in case regular supplies are contaminated. You can sanitize these items by first rinsing them with bleach.

Board up windows or protect them with storm shutters.

Bring outdoor possessions inside the house or tie them down securely.

If it is safe to evacuate by car, you should consider stocking the car with nonperishable foods (like canned goods), a plastic container of water, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, dry clothing, and any special medication needed by your family. Keep the gas tank at least half full, since gasoline pumps will not be working if the electricity goes off.

Do not drive where the water is over the roads. Parts of the road may already be washed out.

If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible. Floodwaters can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away. Many people have died while trying to move vehicles stalled in floods.

If you’re caught in your home by rising water, move to the second floor and, if necessary, to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight, and a portable radio with you. Then wait for help. Don’t try to swim to safety. Rescue teams will be looking for you.

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