The Independent Agent Advantage

What do I give up by not using a licensed independent agent to purchase insurance?

The disadvantage of not using a licensed agent to purchase insurance is that the policyholder does not receive as much, or often any, personal service. A licensed agent with whom there is direct contact can be vital when purchasing a product and absolutely necessary when filing a claim. Without an agent to act as your personal advocate during the claims process, you are left to take care of the details on your own. You may be unsure who to contact at the insurance company or who you can really trust to help you during the times in life when you need help the most. Without an agent you are on your own to absorb the frustration and expense of resolving your problems.

The disadvantage of not using a licensed independent agent to purchase insurance is that agents who only represent one insurance company can only offer insurance based on that one company’s policies and rate structures. As an independent agency we represent numerous insurance companies and are deeply familiar with the intricate differences between them. Therefore we are able to match your needs with the best company to meet those needs and your budget without having to sacrifice coverage in order to find affordability.

What’s the risk in not using an agent?

Many insurance companies that can be called directly as a customer fail to tell you that the “call center personnel” who will take your information and issue the policy ARE NOT licensed to sell insurance, therefore lacking the professional knowledge to guide you toward an acceptable level of protection. These companies are conducting business using a loophole within the law which allows the company to have one license while everyone else works without it. Going this route can place your financial future at risk because unlicensed personnel are trained to simply sell you a policy without being aware of what “real” protection means.

For instance, imagine you own a $150,000 home and your auto insurance policy’s liability limits are $50,000. When you purchased the policy you were told this was plenty of protection considering your state’s minimum requirement for liability is $20,000. Yet if you have an accident and are sued for $200,000 your policy is only going to pay out $50k, leaving you responsible for the remaining $150k. Since your home would cover the difference, a court judgment could force you into selling your home as a way to settle the suit. If your policy’s liability limits had protected you at a minimum of $200,000, the policy would be paying for the total suit.

Because direct writers are typically located nowhere near where you live, many won’t hesitate to sell you a policy with low liability limits as a way to simply make the policy cheaper while convincing you to buy it. Leaving you extremely vulnerable to financial disaster.

Looking for an agent with your best interests at heart? That’s exactly why we’re here.

 

Lightning and Summer Storms

Lightning storms are incredibly dangerous and more deadly than tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. When a storm is on the verge of striking your area, you need to know the steps to take in order to protect your family and home.

Use these tips to stay safe during a lightning storm:

  • Seek shelter in an enclosed building, if possible.
  • If you are in a car, stay inside and keep the windows securely rolled up.
  • Do not use a small shed, pavilion or lean-to as shelter—they do not provide enough protection.
  • Do not use a landline telephone during a storm. Instead, use a cellular or cordless phone that is not connected to the building’s wiring.
  • If you’re outside during a lightning storm, get as close to the ground as possible without placing your hands or knees on the ground.
  • Avoid seeking shelter near trees, metal fences, pipes or tall and long objects.
  • If you are swimming, boating or fishing, seek shelter on land immediately.

If someone you know is struck by lightning, contact emergency personnel immediately. A lightning strike can cause the heart to stop and a person to stop breathing.

If you have the proper medical training, administer CPR to victims who do not have a pulse and treat conscious victims for burns, fractures and other wounds.

Quick Tips for Safe RV Usage

Recreational vehicles (RVs) can be a fun way to see the country and spend time with your family. However, because they’re bigger and heavier than an average car, there are additional hazards that come with owning and operating an RV.

Many RV accidents can be avoided by following these helpful tips:

  • Know the weight capacity of your RV.
  • Perform a complete pre-trip inspection. Check the tire pressure, tread depth, headlights, tail lights, turn signals, belts, oil levels, hitch and other towing equipment, and windshield wipers before leaving.
  • Know the height of your RV and pay close attention to overhangs and clearance heights.
  • Watch your speed, especially at night and during dusk.
  • Slow down on blind curve areas of the roadway.
  • Use your high beams at night to see animals and other obstructions.
  • Always wear a seat belt.

Is Gap Coverage Right for You?

Guaranteed asset protection, or gap insurance is an optional automobile coverage that helps you transfer the financial risk if you are involved in an auto accident and you owe more for your vehicle than the amount that it’s worth. This is referred to as being “upside-down.”

Since a new car’s value drops significantly the minute it’s driven off the lot, if you are involved in an accident that totals your vehicle in the first few years you own your vehicle, you may find yourself owing the finance company more than the vehicle’s actual value. Gap insurance provides for the “gap” between the two amounts.

Is Gap Insurance for Everyone?

New vehicle financing options: If you took advantage of a zero percent down payment deal or put a small amount of money down, or stretched the life of your loan past 3 years, gap insurance is most likely a good idea. That’s because the vehicle typically depreciates considerably faster than you have actually paid down the vehicle’s loan.

Used vehicles: Gap insurance is typically not available for used vehicles. To cover your risk, it’s wise to put down an ample down payment and finance the vehicle for the shortest possible timeframe.

Leased vehicles: For those who lease a vehicle, gap insurance is considered an essential coverage because typically there is no trade-in and little cash put down to lease the vehicle. Similar to purchasing a vehicle, if the car is a total loss, you will owe the difference between what you have paid and what you owe on the balance of the lease.

Cost versus benefit: Gap insurance is offered for a nominal fee, which makes it a great value for anyone who finances or leases a new car.

We’re Here to Help

Depending on your vehicle’s make, model and loan terms, we can help you determine if gap insurance is the right choice for you. If you’re purchasing a new vehicle, contact us to learn about how gap insurance can complement your auto policy coverage options and keep you from getting caught upside-down!

Making Sure You Have the Right Auto Coverage

Dropping some of your coverage—like comprehensive or collision—to the lowest legal level can cut your premium, but it could also put you at serious risk.

An automobile insurance policy is designed to provide you with a level of protection against property, liability and medical costs if you are involved in an accident.

  • Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
  • Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
  • Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
  • Underinsured motorists coverage pays for property damage and bodily injury caused by another driver whose coverage is insufficient to cover damages suffered.

Selecting the correct liability limits is fundamental. 100/300/50 means you are covered for up to $100,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $300,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident and $50,000 in property damage per accident.

Many states have minimum liability limits of 25/50/10, although some states are higher or lower than this. While it may lower your premium, reducing your liability limits to minimum legal levels and dropping underinsured motorists coverage could open you up to substantial risk.

Collison Insurance – Know the Value of Your Car

Your policy will not pay for repairs that exceed the value of your vehicle. For this reason, if you are driving a vehicle that isn’t worth more than a few thousand dollars, it may not make sense to purchase collision coverage. BHC Insurance can help you determine whether or not collision insurance makes sense for you.

Top Ways to Save on Your Auto Premium:

  • Consider raising your deductible.
  • Keep up your good driving record.
  • Drive less to qualify for a low-mileage discount.
  • Drive a car with safety features such as anti-lock brakes and airbags.
  • Install an anti-theft device.
  • Ask about our multi-policy discounts.

We’re Here to Help

Accidents happen to cautious drivers, too, and having adequate insurance can save you from serious financial burden should one happen to you.

We can help you determine which automobile insurance coverage is needed and what limits you should consider for your policy.

Are You Prepared for a Home Break-in?

While it may be difficult to imagine it happening to you, home break-ins are a common occurrence. If an intruder enters your home, your property and the well-being of your loved ones are at risk.

In order to protect your home and family from an intruder, consider doing the following:

  • Put an emergency plan in place and discuss it with everyone in your household.
  • Take any measure possible to let the intruder know someone is home and aware of his or her presence.
  • Do not assume the intruder is unarmed. He or she may be concealing a knife or gun and could produce it at a moment’s notice.
  • If you have something immediately available you can use for defense, grab it, even if it is just a scare tactic.
  • Remain vigilant. Take note of the intruder’s physical characteristics and provide the most accurate description possible to the police if he or she gets away.

In addition to the above, consider arming your home with a security system. A security system may seem expensive, but knowing your family and possessions are safe at all times may make it worth the cost.

Remember Risk! Planning for Financial Stability

Obtaining the peace of mind financial stability brings starts with reviewing your current financial resources. This is important because your financial resources affect not only your ability to reach your goals, but your ability to protect those goals from potential financial crises. These are the resources you will draw on to meet various life events.

Start by calculating your net worth—this isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Your net worth is simply the total value of what you own: your assets, minus what you owe (your liabilities). It’s a snapshot of your financial health.

First, add up the approximate value of all of your assets. This includes personal possessions, vehicles, homes, checking and savings accounts, and the cash value (not the death benefits) of any life insurance policies you may have. Include the current value of investments, such as stocks, real estate, certificates of deposit, retirement accounts, IRAs and the current value of any pensions you have.

Now add up your liabilities: the remaining mortgage on your home, credit card debt, student and personal loans taxes due on the profits of your investments if you cashed them in and any other outstanding bills. Subtract your liabilities from your assets. Do you have more assets than liabilities? Or the other way around? If so, don’t beat yourself up. According to Forbes Magazine, a person with no debt and $10 in his or her pocket has more wealth than 25 percent of Americans.

Your aim is to create a positive net worth, and you want it to grow each year. Your net worth is part of what you will draw on to pay for financial goals and your retirement. A strong net worth also will help you through financial crises. Review your net worth annually as a good way to monitor your financial health. Websites like Mint.com help you keep track of your income, expenses and net worth on a daily basis.

Identify other financial resources. You may have other financial resources that aren’t included in your net worth but that can help you through tough times. These include the death benefits of your life insurance policies, Social Security survivor’s benefits, health care coverage, disability insurance, liability insurance, and auto and home insurance. Although you may have to pay for some of these resources, they offer financial protection in case of illness, accidents or other catastrophes.

Christmas Safety Reminder for Home or Office

For many of us, the holiday season is a time of joy, celebration and tradition. We look forward to hosting or attending festive gatherings or concerts. We travel near and far to share in the spirit of the season with family, friends and co-workers. We cook more, shop more and decorate more.

However, all that extra cooking, traveling, shopping, celebrating and decorating we do can post potentially serious hazards at home, in the office and on the road. Reports from leading safety organizations indicate that the time from Thanksgiving through the New Year is also one of the most dangerous for homeowners.

Whether you are planning or participating in the festivities, knowing the risks and how to help avoid injury, theft and damage to property through the holiday season are important however you choose to celebrate.

Fire Hazards
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home fires and home fire deaths peak between December and February.* Cooking is the leading cause of home fires year round, and the increased use of stovetops and ovens for preparing holiday meals can increase the risk. Holiday decorations and the open flames of fireplaces and candles used during the holidays can also pose a threat.

To help reduce the risk of fire, consider using non-flammable or flame-retardant decorations. If you decorate a Christmas tree this time of year, select a quality artificial tree and decorate with only UL-listed lights. If you choose to have a fresh tree, be sure to keep water in the stand at all times. According to the NFPA, even a well-watered fresh tree should be taken down after four weeks. If you celebrate using a menorah, consider lighting using dripless candles. Remember to keep decorations and trees away from candles, fireplaces and heaters. Never leave an open flame or stove unattended.

Decorative Displays
Decorating the home, office or yard is a popular way to get into the spirit of the season. Planning your displays carefully is important to help reduce the risk of fire, electrical shock, trips and falls, and property damage. If a ladder is to be used always use a fiberglass or wooden ladder as they do not conduct electricity should the ladder come in contact with an open power source. Be diligent about everything you do while decorating to help keep your family and friends safe when putting up, playing around or packing away your festive displays.

Winter Driving Safety
Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, shopping malls and holiday parties we go — all increasing our risk of having to drive in sometimes hazardous winter conditions.

Always check the weather before going out, and avoid driving in snowy, icy or other severe conditions if possible. Take a vehicle survival kit stocked with cold weather essentials on every trip, and try to keep your gas tank from getting far below the half empty level. Following your common sense and basic winter driving tips can help ensure you and your passengers reach your holiday destinations safely.

Consumer Protection Safety Commission, http://www.cpsc.gov/; Electrical Safety Foundation International, http://esfi.org/.

Insuring Your College Student

When your child leaves for college, it is a big event. One thing that you should think about is your insurance coverage and how it could change with your son or daughter away at school.

Protecting Your Student’s Belongings

Many homeowners policies consider a dorm room as an extension of your home, so items your child keeps there may be covered to some extent. However, if your child has expensive electronic equipment or furniture, you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage.

If your child lives off campus, his or her possessions may not be covered by your homeowners policy. In that case, you may want to consider renter’s insurance, which typically costs as little as a few dollars per month. Renter’s insurance will cover possessions in your child’s off-campus apartment or house as well as provide liability coverage if anyone is injured in the residence.

Changing Auto Coverage

If your son or daughter moves more than 100 miles away from home to attend school and does not keep a vehicle there, your car insurance premiums could decrease by as much as 30 percent.

Keeping Your Child Healthy While on Campus

Since 2014, children up to age 26 can stay on their parent’s employer plan even if they have another offer of coverage through an employer. This rule applies to all plans in the individual market and to new employer plans. It also applies to existing employer plans unless the adult child has another offer of employer-based coverage.

If you find your child does not have adequate coverage under your plan, you have a few options. Most universities have their own health plans, but some policies have low deductibles and low coverage maximums. It may be better to consider an individual policy for your student depending on his or her needs.

Count on Us

If you are sending a child off to college and haven’t looked at adjusting your coverage, contact us today to learn more. You could save money on your policies and protect your child from expensive incidents while away from home.

Boat Insurance for Smooth Sailing

You can insure just about any kind of vessel, whether you have a yacht, speed boat or personal watercraft like a JetSki. Every type of boat has the potential to be stolen or damaged, and can be involved in an incident that results in harm to another person or their property. Even if your boat is docked or stored in your garage, it can potentially be vandalized, damaged in a fire or storm, or stolen.

Many owners of small watercraft such as canoes, rafts and kayaks assume they will be covered under a homeowners or renters policy. This may be the case, up to a specified limit in your home policy. However, when it’s time to make a claim, you don’t want to be surprised to find out that this limit is not adequate to cover the value of your investment.

Be sure to consider the amount of coverage you would need to repair or replace each of your boats and recreational vehicles if damaged or stolen and ask your agent to help you get the right coverage for those items.

What Does Boat Insurance Cover?

The exact boat coverage you need depends on multiple factors. Small boat insurance is very different from yacht insurance, for example. However, for most types of boats, the three kinds of coverage in a basic boat insurance policy include:

  • Bodily injury liability for expenses related to the injury of another person
  • Property damage liability for expenses related to harming another person’s property
  • Physical damage for damage to your own property, including your boat and trailer.

You also may want to add additional types of coverage to your boat insurance policy in order to fully protect yourself and your property. Here are some examples of additional coverage:

  • Property coverage for equipment such as tools, life preservers, anchors and oars
  • Insurance for fishing equipment like your rods, lures, nets and tackle
  • Towing coverage when your boat becomes disabled and needs servicing
  • Medical payments coverage for hospital and funeral expenses for you or your passengers
  • Uninsured/underinsured boaters coverage if you have an accident with another boater whose insurance is not sufficient to cover damages

As with all insurance, the amount of benefit or reimbursement you have in the event of an incident is set at the time you buy your policy.

Grilling Safety Reminders For Your Summer BBQ

Though grilling is an extremely popular way to prepare food in the summer, it can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, gas and charcoal grills account for an average of 10 deaths and 100 injuries annually. Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association reports that an average of 8,900 home fires are caused by grilling each year.

This year, keep the following safety suggestions in mind when you go to fire up your grill:

  • Make sure your grill is at least 3 feet away from other objects including your house, trees and outdoor seating.
  • Remember that starter fluid should only be used with charcoal grills and never with gas grills.
  • If you suspect that your gas grill is leaking, turn off the gas and get the unit fixed before lighting.
  • Do not bring your grill into an unventilated or enclosed space such as the garage or inside of your home.
  • Do not let children and pets play near the grilling area when cooking until the grill is completely cool.
  • Allow time for your grill to completely cool down before storing or covering it after grilling.

Grill Your Food Thoroughly

Prevent food-borne illnesses by grilling your meat to the proper internal temperatures.

  • Steaks, Roasts and Chops – 145°F
  • Poultry – 165°F
  • Groud Poultry – 165°F
  • Ground Meats – 160°F

Summer Water Safety Refresher

Summer Water Safety Refresher

  • Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.
  • Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision.
  • Appoint a “designated watcher” to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
  • Equip doors and windows that exit to a pool area with alarms.
  • Install a poolside phone, preferably a cordless model, with emergency numbers programmed into speed-dial.
  • Post CPR instructions and learn the procedures.
  • Keep rescue equipment poolside. Don’t wait for the paramedics to arrive because you will lose valuable life-saving seconds. Four to six minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain damage or death.
  • Keep a first aid kit at poolside.
  • Install four-sided isolation fencing, at least five feet high, equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, that completely surrounds the pool and prevents direct access from the house and yard.
  • Maintain constant visual contact with children in a pool or pool area. If a child is missing, check the pool first; seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. Never allow a young child in a pool without an adult.
  • Don’t leave objects such as toys that might attract a child in the pool and pool area.
  • Never prop the gate to a pool area open.
  • Don’t rely on swimming lessons, life preservers, or other equipment to make a child “water safe.”
  • Never assume someone else is watching a child in a pool area.
  • Don’t leave chairs or other items of furniture where a child could use them to climb into a fenced pool area.
  • Don’t think you’ll hear a child who’s in trouble in the water; child drowning is a silent death, with no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble

Facts About Flash Floods

Flash floods occur as a result of heavy rainfall, rapid snow thaw, city drains overflowing or dam/levee failures. They occur quickly and unexpectedly, within 6 hours of the events that caused them. Here are more facts to give you an idea of how dangerous flash floods can be:

  • Every region in the United States can be affected by flash floods, especially low-lying areas: near river beds and coastlines.
  • Cities are more likely to be affected by flash floods due to the predominant impermeable surfaces, such as asphalt, and the lack of natural drainage systems.
  • The water from flash floods can reach a height of 20 feet, which can severely damage anything in its path.
  • Just 2 feet of floodwater moving at 9 feet per second (standard speed of flash floods) is enough to sweep vehicles away, move 100 pound rocks, uproot trees or level buildings.
  • Just 6 inches of rapidly moving floodwater can sweep someone off their feet.
  • Between 2004 and 2013, an average of 75 people have died from flash floods in the United States per year.
  • Nearly all who perished during flash floods tried to outrun the waters rather than going to a higher area.
  • Two thirds of the deaths claimed by flash floods occur in vehicles, when the drivers try to pass through the floodwater.
  • Flash floods can cause extensive structural damage: 12” of floodwater on a 2,000 square foot building can cause $50,000 worth of damage or more.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when a flash flood is imminent.

It’s Tax Season. It’s Also IRS Phone Scam Season.

Prepare Yourself for IRS Phone Scams

Your phone rings. When you check, the caller ID shows it’s the IRS calling. (Three letters that can give you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.) But you think to yourself: I don’t believe I owe any taxes. And I haven’t even submitted this year’s return. Why are they calling me? But it says it’s the IRS, so it must be them… right?

WRONG.

For a number of years scammers have been calling people across the country, spoofing the caller ID, claiming to be IRS officials, and demanding immediate payment of fines or back taxes. Their goal is to trick you into giving them personal information and/or get you to send cash.

So the REAL IRS has assembled a number of tips to help you understand what the criminals are doing and how to avoid becoming a victim of one of their scams:

  • Scammers try to scare you. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully you into paying a bogus tax bill, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest, deport, or revoke your license if they don’t get the money. (If they don’t get through to you, they may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email.)
  • Scams use caller ID spoofing. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use your name, address and other personal information (even your Social Security Number) to make the call sound official.
  • Cons try new tricks all the time. Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell you to mail a receipt for the payment you make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official-looking IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send you. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
  • Scams cost victims over $23 million. You probably think “I’ve heard this before; they won’t fool me.” But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts between October 2013 and November 2015. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam. The crooks get more sophisticated every year. The communications look and sound more real all the time too. And we’ll bet that a certain number of those 4,550 victims thought they wouldn’t be scammed either.

So to protect yourself, remember the following:

  • The IRS will NOT call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • The IRS will NOT demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
  • The IRS will NOT require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
  • The IRS will NOT ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • The IRS will NOT threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

Phone scams first tried to sting older people, new immigrants to the U.S. and those who speak English as a second language. But it has become such a profitable enterprise, the crooks now try to swindle just about anyone. And they’ve ripped-off people in every state in the nation. Stay alert. Don’t let the next victim be you!

Teens, Social Media and a Parent’s Liability

For many the high school experience comes with social pressures and obligations to fit in and belong, and sadly this can lead to exclusion and isolation of some students. At some point everyone probably said something in their teen years in the heat of the moment that they now wish could be taken back, but today’s teens face the added burden that if they convey those statements on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, their words could be around for a lot longer than just the heat of the moment.

In addition to hurt feelings, cyber bullying could potentially damage someone’s reputation. With college admissions offices and employers beginning to look up applicants on social networking sites, rumors and gossip have the very serious potential to damage someone’s ability to get into the college of their choice, or find a job. For parents, this could create a potentially serious exposure to a lawsuit if their children engage in cyber bullying.

Aren’t my kids covered under my insurance?

Generally speaking, any coverage a parent has through their homeowners or renters insurance policy also provides coverage to other residents of the household, including teenage children. Standard homeowners and renters policies include liability protection for bodily injury or property damage, which would pay for the costs to cover medical bills or repair/replacement costs if a child injured a friend in a pick-up basketball game or if they were at a friend’s house and accidentally spilled soda on a $13,000 oriental rug, subject to the policy’s deductible.

But what if a child were to post rumors about other teens online that implied negative information that could damage that person’s reputation? Interestingly, a standard homeowners or renters policy would not cover these instances.

What can be done?

In order to cover claims from that kind of situation, homeowners and renters policies must have what is called an endorsement- extra language that is inserted into the policy to expand coverage- in order to have liability protection extended to cover “personal injury”.

As insurance professionals we will be able to tell you if your current insurance policy already has this personal injury endorsement by reviewing it, and if it doesn’t, we would be able to help you get one. You may be surprised to find that this expanded coverage may not cost you much in additional premium. A personal injury endorsement will pay the costs up to the limits of your policy to defend you, pay a judgment or settle a case when legal action is brought against you or your children for defamation.

Make sure that if you’re a parent, you talk to your children about social media, how they use it and what’s expected of them regarding personal responsibility. It’s critical that they understand how their use of social media not only has the potential to hurt others, but that it could impact your family as well.

Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s use of social media, and there are various software programs available to assist those who want to closely monitor what their children do in social spaces for parents who want access to their children’s profiles. No matter what you choose to do, begin with treating others with respect as the best way to avoid this type of risk.

Be Aware of What Your Kids Are Doing Online

  • Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
  • Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
  • Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
  • Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
  • Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
  • Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, are being cyber bullied. Explain that you will not take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having.


Sources: stopbullying.gov | trustedchoice.com

Don’t Be Fooled: Auto Insurance State Minimums Probably Aren’t Enough

There are a wide variety of silly and somewhat funny things we can do from time to time, like telling people that dihydrogen monoxide is coming out of the sink (dihydrogen monoxide is the chemical name for water), but one thing you should avoid falling for as a consumer is being told that carrying only the state mandated minimum coverage is adequate auto insurance protection.

In an auto accident, drivers can be legally liable for their passengers’ injuries. While most states have mandatory minimum limits of liability required of all drivers, many of these requirements may not be sufficient in covering injuries sustained in an auto accident. In some states, this required amount may be as little as $25,000 per person and $50,000 total for all injuries in an accident – which may not be enough when you consider the severity of certain injuries and the number of passengers that could be involved. Remember that this limit also applies for all injuries caused by an accident for which you are liable, including passengers of other cars.

So what are the right limits? Like many answers… It depends. Everyone’s situation is different, but as an independent insurance agency we can help you understand what issues you should consider when evaluating what liability limits to purchase.

For Instance:

  1. How much would it take to compensate a victim? If you were to cause a severe, life altering injury to someone, consider how much money it would cost over time to compensate them. It’s likely higher than $25,000.
  2. What assets do you have and what is your net worth? Think about your home, your car, savings, investments, etc. Having adequate insurance to protect these assets is something you should consider.

Naturally you might wonder if increasing your liability limits will increase the price of your insurance premiums. While you’ll pay more for the additional coverage, it’s likely that it won’t be very much to raise your liability limits, and in the long run it offers you more financial protection. You may be able to offset some of those expenses by raising your deductible or through other discounts. This is where we can help identify the different options available to you.

There is no definitive rule of thumb for making sure you have “enough” insurance but it’s important that you feel comfortable with the amount you have, because nobody likes to be made a fool of when it comes to an insurance claim.



Source: trustedchoice.com

Was Your Home Loan Sold? Quick, Call Your Insurance Agent!

Do you have a mortgage? Yes? Then at some point in your home-owning life, you have received a letter telling you that your mortgage has been sold to another lender. There’s certainly nothing unusual about it when this happens, as home loans are sold every day in the United States. It is a very common practice. Typically, the letter tells you that nothing will change for you and – "you do not need to do anything."

WRONG!!! – You should contact the insurance agent that handles your home insurance.

Here’s Why: If your home insurance is part of your escrow then your agent needs to know and needs to change the Mortgagee endorsement on your policy.

Every year your insurance company sends a bill to the company that owns your loan. Your lender sends a check from your escrow account to pay for your Homeowner’s insurance for the next year. If your insurance company does not have the correct lender information the bill will be sent to the wrong company and the bill will not be paid. Believe it or not – that is not the big problem.

Here is the BIG PROBLEM. Your new lender wants to know you have insurance that will pay to replace your home in case of a total loss – they want to know they will get their money! If your new lender does not get a bill or see some form of proof that you have insurance – then the lender will put insurance in place for you. And guess what? The insurance the bank puts in place can cost up to THREE TIMES MORE than what you are paying now and that is just for your house and wouldn’t include insurance for all your belongings inside your home.

If this occurs the lender is simply going to pass the high-cost of this other insurance along to the home owner in the form of a much higher mortgage payment on your next statement, which can cause unnecessary panic and confusion.

The lesson – keep your Insurance Agent updated on any change regarding not only your home, but your lender as well. Your agent wants to be up to date and will appreciate the call and it’s a simple change that only requires a few moments to complete.

Home Inspections Before Winter Weather Comes

This time of year can be just great here in West Virginia. However, you won’t get much fireside snuggling done if your chimney clogs or your roof springs a leak. And while prepping your home for winter weather isn’t much fun, once you do it, your peace of mind can last all season long.

Here’s a handy checklist to make sure the weather stays outside where it ought to be.

Furnace Follies
If you have a forced-air furnace, visually inspect the outside of your system, the ducts, and other points attached to the unit. Repairing potential air leaks is easy to do with a little duct tape. It’s also a great time to clean or replace the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you can reach them, vacuum off the blower blades while you’re in there.

Winter Weather Stripping
A common source of heat loss and drafty spaces is faulty door or window weather-stripping. Check for drafts by holding a lit candle a couple of inches from the seam. If the flame moves (and you’re sure it’s not the dog breathing over your shoulder) you could have a leak. Typically these are easier to replace entirely than “spot repairing” and kits for doing so may be found at any hardware store.

Chim Chim Cher-ee
Creosote is the black, scaly deposit left behind in wood-burning chimneys. It slows airflow and is an enormous fire hazard. While the chimney is cool, take a flashlight and look for build-up past the damper (at the mouth of the flue near the base of the chimney). If you burn a lot of wood during the season–or very resinous wood like pine–cleaning the chimney is an annual must-do. This is one repair where hiring qualified professionals is best because they have the proper tools and experience to make sure it’s done right.

Stormin’ the Doors
Operational storm doors and windows prevent additional drafts and save energy costs. Make sure the hinges are lubricated and adjusted so they close properly. If you have interchangeable glass panels, make sure to install them instead of leaving the screens over winter.

Rain Gutter Braining
Clean gutters help prevent many cold weather problems from arising, such as basement flooding, siding damage, and door and window leaks. Clean gutters also help keep your foundation dry and repair-free. Plus, if your gutters are holding too much water they can pull free of eaves and fall off at any time, posing a hazard to your noggin.

Show Your Best Siding
In some cases you’ll need to hire a professional to make siding (or paint) repairs, but you can easily inspect for cracks and separations, peeling paint, or other damage that’s not difficult to repair yourself. Usually, a little caulk and some paint do the trick. But don’t leave it to chance–or leave it too long–because when water gets behind siding it’s expensive to repair as well as a health hazard.

Put a Lid On It
If possible, check your roof close up. You can use binoculars to inspect safely from the ground. Look for missing tiles, cracked shingles, and “bald spots”. If you have a composition roof past its warranty, make sure to check for brittleness, a sure sign it needs replacing. Also, if you notice lots of asphalt granules in your newly spotless rain gutters, it’s a sign your roof is eroding and needs replacing soon. Lastly, make sure to check the flashing around the edges of the roof for damage.

Taking just a few minutes this time of year to inspect your home for these common cold weather entry points and it will prevent more costly repairs, reward you with a lower energy bill, and help you have a relaxing holiday season.

5 Big Insurance Mistakes

TRYING TO SAVE MONEY? AVOID THE FIVE BIGGEST INSURANCE MISTAKES.

With far too many Americans out of work, and others forced to make ends meet with less money, many people are looking for ways to cut costs. There are smart ways to save on home and auto insurance; however, there are also mistakes that can result in being significantly underinsured.

When money is tight, it is extremely important to be financially protected against a catastrophe with the right amount and type of insurance by taking a few simple steps, it is possible to cut costs and still be protected should disaster strike.

Following are five of the biggest insurance mistakes that consumers should look out for:

Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding. 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.

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.

Selecting an insurance company by price alone. It is important to choose a company with competitive prices, but also one that is financially sound and provides good customer service.

A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies and ask friends and family for recommendations. You should select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.

Dropping flood insurance. 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. Many homeowners are unaware they are at risk for flooding, but in fact 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas.

A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to check whether it is in a flood zone; if so, consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a flood zone area, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance.

Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car. In today’s litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket—and those costs may be steep

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.

If you don’t own your home, neglecting to buy renters insurance. A renters policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to a disaster. 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 will generally provide surmountable savings.

Scheduling Under Homeowners

SCHEDULING ITEMS UNDER YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

Perhaps it’s the latest electronic gadget or large screen hi-def television, or new sporting goods gear or maybe a piece of sparkling jewelry. If you happen to receive or purchase a particularly expensive item, you may consider purchasing extra protection, just in case.

Why would I need to schedule valuable items?

The protection provided for personal property under the typical homeowners, condo or renters policy is very broad, and includes coverage for your furniture, clothing, and appliances. It only provides limited coverage for valuable items such as jewelry, silverware, furs, and art. It may not cover some types of loss that may be important to you, such as the stone falling out of your diamond ring, your china being accidentally broken or your rare coins being stolen.

What types of property can be covered?

Here’s a quick listing of some of the items typically covered:

cameras (video or still) and related equipment
china and crystal
coins (rare and current)
firearms
furs
golfer’s equipment
jewelry
musical instruments
personal computers
stamps (rare and current)
silverware
works of fine art, including paintings, etchings, pictures and other bona fide works of art (such as oriental rugs, statuary, rare books, manuscripts and bric-a-brac) of rarity, historical value or artistic merit.

If you own something of value that is not listed above, it may still be eligible for coverage.

How to Schedule Personal Property

The process for scheduling valuable personal property differs from one insurance company to another. The insurance company keeps copies of appraisals or recent receipts for the items on file. The dollar amount of the value of the items added determines the price of scheduled property insurance.

Scheduling items allows you to purchase better protection for your special property than would be available under the typical homeowners policy. In addition to being able to purchase higher limits of coverage, more perils are covered.