Choose an Insurance Agent that is Right for YOU!
It’s Not Just a Quote, It’s a Relationship
Shopping for insurance? You may think you’re simply looking for an insurance policy. But, perhaps, what you’re really looking for isn’t a “what” but a “who” - someone you can trust to guide you through the plethora of insurance choices, rather than trying to make sense of all the options yourself online. That someone is an insurance agent, but there are countless agents out there – not to mention different types. So, how do you choose? Use these four steps to select the type of agent that’s right for you and find one you want to work with to purchase, review and manage your policies on an ongoing basis.
1. Know the Types of Insurance Agents
Some insurance agents represent only one insurance company. These are known as direct, or captive, agents, and they are direct employees of the company whose policies they sell. Any policy he or she sells will be from that company, and that company only.
An independent insurance agent, on the other hand, represents a number of different carriers, oftentimes as an employee of a local agency in your community. An independent agent isn’t restricted by what any one carrier offers, so he or she has more flexibility to help you explore a broader range of options. .
2. Get Recommendations
The best way to predict what kind of service you can expect from an agent is to find out what kind of service he or she has provided in the past. Ask for recommendations from family, friends and neighbors, and then ask for more details.
- What does your friend or co-worker like about that agent?
- Have there been any problems or complications?
- Was the agent helpful, attentive and friendly?
- Was the agent knowledgeable, answering all questions satisfactorily?
- Most importantly, were the agent and the company he or she represents dependable, timely and supportive through the process of resolving a claim?
3. Research the Agency and Agent
Once you have a few recommendations in hand, it’s time to research your prospective agents, the agencies where they work and the companies they represent. Here are a few places to check:
- The website of your state’s Department of Insurance. Here you can likely see any complaints, investigations or disciplinary actions against agents, as well as ensure they have an active license. You can likely look up information about various carriers, as well.
- Local chambers of commerce or the Better Business Bureau.
- The agency’s own website, which should outline their services, the types of insurance they offer and the carriers they represent.
- Online reviews, such as on Google and Yelp, for the agency.
4. Interview the Agent
Your research paid off, leading you to an agent in your area who seems like a good match for you. Now’s the time to ask some tough questions to be sure. Tell the agent what you’d like to insure, and ask how he or she would be able to help. If you or a friend has gone through difficult insurance experiences before, ask how he or she would deal with a similar situation. Ask if he or she gets involved in the claims process, or ask any of those other questions you’ve always wondered about insurance. Pay attention to whether the agent offers specific examples or speaks in generalities, as well as to whether he or she is talking about insurance in a way that makes sense to you. You can also ask for references. A prospective agent may be able to give you a quote at this point. But, what you really want is a sense of how well you could work with this person. Is this someone with whom you can communicate easily and in whom you can place your trust? Because, when you’re shopping for an insurance agent, you’re not just looking for an attractive quote. You’re looking for a good working relationship that can endure through new cars or homes, fender benders, storm damage and much more.
Renter's Insurance - It's more than just protecting your "stuff"!
Clients often think they don’t need renters insurance — “Nothing I have is worth that much,” they’ll say, or “I don’t have a lot of stuff.” That’s how most people think of renter’s coverage: protection for stuff, and nothing more. After all, it’s inexpensive and it doesn’t even cover the structure itself. So how important can it be, especially if you don’t think you have anything valuable to protect? Plenty important, because you have more to protect than you realize. You just have to stop thinking only about “stuff.” Here are three key financial protections a renters policy provides:
Loss of use coverage. What would you do if a fire or other issue forced you out of your home? You’d have to find a temporary place to stay, maybe even for months — which might cost you more than your normal rent. Loss of use helps cover that and other additional expenses.
Personal liability protection. If someone trips and injures themselves in your unit, they could sue you. If your dog bites one of your guests, they might file suit, too. Yes, lawsuits happen — even among friends. Renters insurance can help cover legal expenses and even judgments against you. (Some dog breeds may disqualify you from coverage, so be sure to inform your agent of all dogs in the household.)
Personal property coverage. Wait, doesn’t this mean your stuff? Well, yes. But really, this coverage protects your finances. Even if you don’t think you have anything valuable, take a minute and mentally add up everything you own (note that if you do have any high-value items, such as jewelry or heirlooms, you may need additional coverage). Now imagine how much it would cost to replace it all. It’s probably a higher number than you thought — and that’s why renters insurance is so important.
Home Pool Safety
Millions of us enjoy warm weather every year by swimming in our backyard pools and relaxing in hot tubs. Tragically though, over 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools each year. The American Red Cross suggests owners make pool safety their priority by following these guidelines:
- Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
- Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm’s reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses.
- Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear. Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.
- Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR certified courses.
These tips may seem simple and obvious, but if followed properly they can and will save lives!
What You Need to Know About Fallen Trees and Insurance Coverage
It’s the time of year when the temperatures warm and the flowers bloom, putting us all in a chipper mood. But, it’s also time for thunderstorms, which most often occur in the spring and summer months, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
With spring in full bloom and summer right around the corner it’s the ideal time to review what your homeowners insurance, and even your car insurance, may or may not cover when it comes to damage from fallen trees.
Here are five important things to keep in mind:
1. Your homeowners insurance likely covers tree removal and damage repairs for your home and other insured structures, such as fences.
A tree falls on your property and damages one or more insured structures. What now? Your homeowners insurance will likely help with the cost of removing the tree and repairing the damage. That’s once you pay your deductible, of course. Examples of covered incidents can include strong winds knocking a tree over onto your roof or lightning striking a tree, causing it to fall on your fence.
However, if a tree falls due to neglect, you may not receive any coverage. So keep your trees in good shape, and ask your neighbors to do the same.
2. If there’s no damage, there’s likely no insurance coverage.
You may assume your homeowners insurance will cover the removal costs of any fallen tree, but that isn’t always the case. If a tree falls on your property without damaging any insured structures, you will likely need to cover the costs of tree removal yourself.
3. Your city or municipality may clean up trees that fall into the street, but you may still have reason to file an insurance claim.
Check with your city or municipality to determine who’s responsible for removing a tree that falls into the street. If your city takes responsibility, it may only be for the portion that’s in the street. Any of the felled tree that’s left on your property will be your responsibility. Your insurance may help if an insured structure was damaged in the incident.
4. You may have coverage even if a tree falls from your neighbor’s property.
When a fallen tree damages your property, your homeowners insurance may pitch in no matter who owned the tree. Depending on the circumstances, your insurance carrier may attempt to recoup some of the costs, including your deductible, from your neighbor’s insurance. This may occur, for example, if the neighbor was negligent in caring for the tree before it fell.
5. Your car insurance may cover damage to your vehicle from a fallen tree.
If a tree falls from your property onto your car, it’s your car insurance and not your homeowners insurance that will likely help cover the cost of repairs. But, the tree doesn’t have to be from your property. You likely have coverage if a tree falls on your car, no matter from where. What may not be covered? The cost to remove the tree from atop your car.
Of course, every insurance carrier handles fallen trees differently. It all depends on the specifics of your policy and your coverage limits, as well as the specifics of your situation. If you need to file an insurance claim for a fallen tree, use the tips below.
Take photos: Photos taken from many angles and vantage points help to establish the extent and cause of the damage. Be careful not to go near fallen trees that are entangled in power lines, however. And don’t climb onto an unstable surface to get better photos.
Provide as many details as possible: If, for example, a neighbor’s tree was neglected and fell onto your property, causing damage, be sure to tell your carrier. If a storm caused the tree to fall, be sure to provide details about the severity of the weather.
Be prepared to pay your deductible: If you experience a covered loss due to a fallen tree, you will be responsible for paying the appropriate deductible.
Your homeowners insurance, or car insurance, covers damage from a fallen tree in many instances. But, it’s important to know when you’re covered and when you’re not. So review your policy with your local insurance agent and ask plenty of questions about when a fallen tree is covered by your insurance and when it isn’t.
Renting a Car - What your Auto Insurance Covers?
You’re standing at the rental car counter with a long line behind you. You got a great rate on a car for the week, and you’re ready to go on vacation with the family. Then, you’re handed a clipboard with an intimidating rental car contract filled with confusing insurance options. Suddenly, you wish you’d spent less time packing and more time researching rental car insurance.
Here’s your chance to be prepared at the rental car counter so you can be on your way faster, and you’ll keep the people in line behind you happy.
I have car insurance. Do I really need to buy their coverage, too?
This is the most common question when it comes to renting a car for domestic travel. The answer is: it depends. You want to make sure you’re covered, but you also don’t want to pay for unnecessary duplicate coverages that could double the price of your rental.
The first step is to check your auto insurance policy, or contact your Independent Insurance Agent to see what type of coverage for rental cars may already be included in your personal auto insurance. If you carry comprehensive and liability coverage on your personal car, coverage typically will extend to your rental car. If you’re renting a car of similar value to your personal car, in all likelihood the insurance coverage will be adequate for the rental vehicle. Now if you’re off to a blowout beach weekend in a slick set of wheels like a Corvette Stingray and you’re leaving your 2008 Subaru Forester at home, the extra coverage offered by the rental company might be a good idea.
You should also check with the credit card company—the credit card that you’ll be using for your car rental. If there are any gaps in coverage with your personal auto policy, the credit card company could provide secondary coverage.
Understanding the Rental Car Insurance Options
Rental car agencies typically break out their extra insurance offerings into four sections:
Liability coverage is intended to help protect you if you injure someone or damage their property while driving. If you have sufficient liability coverage through your own auto insurance, you may not need to buy extra coverage from the rental agency.
Collision/loss damage waiver (also known as an LDW or CDW) isn't technically insurance. If you damage the rental car, this waiver may help cover the cost of repairing it. The waiver typically excludes coverage for damage caused by speeding or driving on unpaved roads.An LDW may duplicate your existing coverage if you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your own car. However, if you've dropped collision or comprehensive coverage from your policy, and you don't purchase the waiver, you would likely have to pay for damage you cause to the rental car. Additionally, a rental agency could charge you for "loss of use" of the car (lost rental income) while the car is in the shop being repaired. Your own auto policy typically won't reimburse you for that. Be sure to read your car rental agreement carefully to clarify what kinds of charges you could incur if you were to damage the vehicle.
Personal effects coverage may help cover your personal belongings, such as your laptop or clothing, if they're stolen from the rental car. If you have renters or homeowners insurance, the personal property coverage on that policy typically helps cover your personal items through what's known as "off-premises coverage." Off-premises items are usually only covered up to a certain percentage of your personal property coverage. The deductible on your homeowners or renters insurance will apply. Check with your agent about the limits of your coverage.
Personal accident insurance may help pay your and your passengers' medical bills if you're injured in a rental car accident. If you have health insurance, medical payments coverage or personal injury protection on your car insurance policy, you may already have coverage comparable to what the rental company offers. Medical payments coverage and personal injury protection (not available in all states) may help pay for medical bills due to a covered car accident.
Now you know... The next time you rent a car you will be prepared when they hand you that annoying clipboard and put the high pressured sales pitch on you! Knowledge is the key!