Volume 23, Issue 4
Evaluating Your Homeowners Insurance
As a homeowner, you may be familiar with the protection your homeowners insurance policy offers for the structure of your home and its contents. However, you may be surprised to discover the extent to which a standard policy may protect against bodily injury and property damage you or a family member may cause others.
In general, a standard homeowners insurance policy provides coverage in four areas: the structure of your home, your personal belongings, liability claims, and additional living expenses in the event you are temporarily unable to live in your home because of a fire or other insured disaster.
The comprehensive personal liability portion of your homeowners policy covers everyone in the family, including pets, against personal injury or property damage to others due to negligence on or off the premises. This coverage may range from $100,000 to $500,000 or more, and it ordinarily includes no-fault coverage for medical expenses as a result of injuries. In the event legal action is taken against you, damages related to covered claims are covered up to your coverage limit and legal fees are typically covered without limit.
For additional liability protection, you may want to consider a personal umbrella policy, which expands the liability coverage you already have through your homeowners and/or automobile insurance policies, and protects you in some other circumstances, as well. Most umbrella policies offer coverage in $1 million increments.
Weathering a Storm
Basic homeowners insurance policy coverage also protects against certain weather-related disasters. Keep in mind that, to recover in full (up to the coverage limit) for damage resulting from a covered incident, many policies require a dwelling coverage limit of at least 80% of the replacement cost of the home. Here are some natural occurrences
that are generally covered by a homeowners insurance policy:
- Wind, Lightning, and Hail. Damage to your home and property caused by winds associated with thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes; lightning; or hail is generally covered. You may ask, “What happens if one ofmy trees falls down and damages my neighbor’s house?” In some cases, your homeowners policy may pay to remove the debris and repair any damages the falling tree caused, just as it may pay if your postal carrier were to fall on your icy walkway and become injured. Your policy generally will pay (within specified limits) for losses to your own property, as well as for other losses you might be held liable for.
- If part of your roof were to collapse under the weight of snow, sleet, or ice, your homeowners policy will generally pay for any necessary repairs.
Some weather-related risks or other natural disasters are excluded from coverage. You need to review your policy carefully for these potential hazards under “policy exclusions.” Typical exclusions include the following:
- Flood and Sewer Backup. Most homeowners policies do not cover damages caused by flood or sewer backup; however, you may be able to add sewer backup coverage to your policy by special endorsement. Flood insurance, in particular, may be required if your home is located within a declared “flood zone.” The only way you can protect your home and belongings from flood damage is with a policy backed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The average flood insurance policy costs approximately $600 per year.
- Earthquakes, Landslides, Mudslides, and Tidal Natural disasters that occur in coastal areas are excluded from most homeowners policies. These hazards generally affect individuals in only certain geographic areas. Give us a call to see if separate coverage for one or more of these risks is available where you live.
Additional Living Expenses
In the event covered damage to your home prevents you from living there, your homeowners policy will cover your substitute living expenses, such as hotel bills or apartment rent, and restaurant meals. A limit usually applies, equal to a certain percentage of the coverage on your house, but increased coverage may be available at an additional cost. A timeframe for repairs may also apply. To help ensure the reimbursement process goes as smoothly as possible, keep expenses reasonable and save all receipts.
Your homeowners insurance provides important protection for you and your family. We would be happy to review your coverage with you. Please feel free to give us a call.
For Your Information Defend Against Accidents
Although you may have taken a driver education course to help teach you how to drive you may want to consider taking a defensive driving course. The purpose of a defensive driving course is to help teach you how to avoid a collision. The National Safety Council (NSC) has various resources that can help you locate this type of course in your area. You can obtain this information by visiting the NSC at www.nsc.org.
Spring-Cleaning Year Round
The term spring-cleaning may bring to mind visions of washing windows and floors. However, regardless of the weather outside, the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends some steps that homeowners should take once a year to help ensure their homes are protected from the perils of severe weather. For example, the IBHS suggests cleaning gutters and downspouts annually. For a complete list of measures you can take, check out their website at www.ibhs.org.
If you suffer from heart disease, or live with someone who does, you may be interested in learning about the automated external defibrillator (AED). The AED is a device that can help save lives with the proper training. If someone suffers a heart attack, an AED can be used to give a shock of electricity to the victim and has the potential to make heart attacks less fatal. Family members who act quickly, and are trained to use an AED, may be instrumental in saving the lives of their loved ones. For more information on AED training, log on to www.redcross.org.
Guarding Against Dangerous Gases
You can’t see them, you can’t taste them, you can’t even smell them, but they may be in your home. Both carbon monoxide and radon can be a danger to you and your family. Similar to lead, carbon monoxide and radon enter the bloodstream through breathing, and high levels of ingestion can cause serious health problems.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas produced by items commonly found in homes. Gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters, chimneys, and space heaters items that bum fuel-produce CO. If your home is not ventilated properly, or if these items are not properly maintained, you and your family may be exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu or even the common cold, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and chest pain. Because these symptoms are present in many common illnesses, it may be difficult to suspect exposure to CO poisoning. If left untreated, CO poisoning may lead to permanent damage to organs such as the heart, and overexposure may be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2015) reports that every year more than 400 Americans are fatal victims of “unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.”
If you have not already done so, consider contacting your local utility companies to inspect any equipment you suspect may be faulty or that might contribute to the air quality of your home. The following steps can help minimize exposure to CO poisoning:
- Install a CO safety detector to prevent CO
- Allow fresh air into your house regularly through open windows and/or screen doors.
- Have your chimney inspected and cleaned once a year to ensure the flue is clear.
- Wait until your garage door is open before starting your
- Check that your gas stove is completely turned off when it is not in
Another deadly gas that may be lurking in your home is radon. Like carbon monoxide, radon is invisible to the eye and undetectable by smell or taste. According to the National Cancer Institute (NIH), it is a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking. Radon is responsible for between 15,000-22,000 deaths from lung cancer annually in this country.
Radon gas is produced as uranium decays, and it is prevalent in soil and rock, which decay underground. Any building below three stories should be tested for radon. The following are a few facts to help you better understand radon and its effects:
- Radon makes its way into a home through openings such as foundation cracks and porous
- Radon may be present in your water supply.
- High levels of radon affect an estimated 8 million homes in the S., and radon has been found in all 50 states.
- Even if your neighbor’s home has normal levels of radon, your home may not have equally normal
If you are wondering whether or not radon may be present in your ho‘me, you can test for it by purchasing either a short-term test kit or a long-term test kit that remains in your home for more than 90 days. When you purchase a test kit you will want to check that it has been cleared through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help ensure accurate results.
Education Is the Best Protection
Fighting a danger you may not even know is in your home is a frustrating battle. Educating yourself and your family can help you win it. For more information about carbon monoxide and radon, visit the Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.gov or the American Lung Association at www.lungusa.org.
Did You Know
Is Your Home Safe?
If the home you own or are contemplating purchasing was built between 1940 and 1960, you may want to consider the possibility that it could contain lead paint. If exposed to high levels of lead paint, health hazards ranging from problems as minor as sleep disorders, to those as severe as brain damage, may arise. (Source: National Safety Council, 2015.)
Don’t Be Under Pressure
When you think about the maintenance to your vehicle you may think of an oil change, or a tune-up. But, do you think about your tires? If not, you may want to start. According to the most recent survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only about 25% of vehicle owners are properly ensuring that the pressure in their vehicle tires is the appropriate amount.
Holidays usually bring parties and celebrations. Unfortunately, if someone drives drunk, then too much celebration may be the cause of a tragedy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2015) reports that every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. Furthermore, the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $59 billion.
Appraising Your Prized Possessions
Television shows featuring auctions and appraisal fairs have ushered the art of appraising into the limelight with fascinating stories-an ancient artifact unknowingly passed down from generation to generation, a rare trinket picked up at a yard sale, or an historic relic found tucked away in the comer of the attic. If you know you own expensive items, such as antiques or artwork, or even think you might, consider having your valuables appraised for insurance purposes.
An appraisal is an expert valuation of property. Appraisers, practitioners of valuation, are professionals trained to provide far more than a guess at an object’s worth; they assess value based on formal methodology and comply with standards and codes of conduct generally practiced in the field. An appraisal can help you make informed coverage decisions, as well as provide you with professionally prepared documentation should you need to validate your property’s worth in the event of a loss.
Coverage Makes a Difference
Current appraisals are particularly useful when you own expensive items such as furs, jewelry, gold, sterling silver, and antiques. Homeowners policies generally limit coverage for these expensive items, but appropriate protection may be available at additional cost.
To broaden and increase coverage for expensive items, consider a scheduled personal property endorsement, which broadens the coverage of the basic homeowners policy by listing items supported by recent bills of sale or appraisal. Blanket coverages may also be available as part of a homeowners policy. With this coverage, homeowners pay an extra premium to increase the per-item and aggregate benefit without the need for appraisals or bills of sale. The best approach, either blanket coverage or scheduling items separately, depends on the possessions involved and the specifics of your policy.
You spend much of your life working and saving to attain financial stability and desired possessions. Why not take the time to meet with a professional appraiser and one of our qualified insurance professionals to help ensure that your treasures are protected?
When you buy disability insurance, you buy it according to your income level. The more money you make, the larger the benefit of your policy. But you also have to figure that your income will rise as you get older. For this reason you want a future increase rider or automatic increase rider. These riders allow you to keep your policy but increase the amount of your benefits based on your increased earnings as you grow older.
When you buy your insurance, certain factors will affect your price. You will pay less for the insurance if you decide to replace 50% of your income instead of 80%. You also pay less if you opt for a longer elimination period. The insurance company factors in your current health and may exclude preexisting conditions. Women and smokers may pay more for disability insurance because they make more claims than non-smoking males. If you are in a high-risk job, your policy may cost you more.
Disability insurance policies can be confusing. It is always best to sit down with a professional insurance agent to discuss the terms of the policy together and to ask questions until you completely understand the details of the policy quotes being presented.