Monday, August 29, 2011

Flood Damage: Are you covered?

Is my home insured for damage that may result from flooding caused by a hurricane or other storm?

Not necessarily. Generally, coverage provided by a standard home or business policy does not include damage caused by flooding or mudslides. It is important to note this type of damage could be extremely destructive to your property and without insurance you could be devastated financially.

How can I get insurance coverage so I’m protected for flood damage from a natural disaster?

First, contact our agency. We have access to comprehensive information and we can help you determine if you need flood insurance. Throughout the United States, more than 20,000 communities participate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, which offers flood insurance. An NFIP policy typically includes coverage for: removing contents; sandbagging (to reduce damage); repairing flood damage and rebuilding; clearing away debris and mud; and compensating for personal belongings
and business inventories.

How much protection can I get?

You can obtain flood coverage up to $250,000 on your home, $100,000 on its contents and $500,000 for businesses.

Is flood insurance really necessary?

That is a question you should discuss with our agency. However, you should know that lending institutions may require flood insurance as a condition of securing a mortgage, home improvement loan, home equity loan, commercial loan, etc. Flood insurance also is a prerequisite for receiving federal disaster assistance when property is located in a special hazard area.

It is important to note that not only high-risk areas are prone to flooding. Flooding can occur anytime and anywhere. One-quarter of NFIP claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

Can I buy flood insurance at any time?

Yes, but in most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period between the time flood insurance is purchased and the time coverage is in force.

How can I prepare for a catastrophe such as flooding?

Along with obtaining flood insurance protection, you should heed storm warnings and follow evacuation procedures such as boarding up windows and storing outside items inside; shutting off utilities; and preparing an emergency kit that contains food and water, a portable can opener, clothing, blankets, flashlights, first-aid supplies and a battery-operated radio.

Also, maintain a current household or business inventory of your property and possessions and keep it in a safe place such as a safe-deposit box. An up-to-date inventory will prove useful when filing your insurance claim.

Flood facts

On the eastern coast of the United States, flooding occurs mainly during hurricane season, which runs primarily from June through October. Hurricanes affect coastal and inland areas. These areas can be inundated by torrential rains that result in widespread flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 75 percent of households located in federally designated special flood hazard areas carry no flood insurance.

Looking for Flood Insurance?
Call us 888-565-2212 for a quote or visit our website to get a
Flood Quote

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top 10 Insurance Tips for Hurricane Season

By Ted Besesparis, PIA

2011 is predicted to be an active hurricane season. Don’t be caught unprepared! The steps below will help you minimize hurricane damage and get back on your feet if you are struck.

Just like hurricanes come in many shapes and sizes, so do insurance policies. The frequently asked questions included here provide information about what policies usually cover, along with some tips on filing claims. To find out about your coverage, consult your policy and contact your professional insurance agent.

Frequently asked questions
1. I have reported my claim, now what should I do?
You should take all steps necessary to prevent further damage—securing property, temporarily boarding windows and roof, drying out carpets and personal property, etc. If the insured does not do this and further damage results, it may not be covered.

You should not undertake any permanent repairs, nor dispose of any damaged property before an adjuster has been able to see the damage. When there is water damage to the contents of a home, you should remove water-soaked contents such as carpeting and furniture, however you should not dispose of such items before an insurance adjuster sees them. You can place such items outside under a tarp. In the case of perishable items (i.e., food) that must be disposed of, first take photographs of that property to substantiate the claim. If you do not, some damages may not be covered.

You should retain all receipts for emergency repairs and for items which might qualify under additional living expenses (such as water, ice, rental charges at another location if the home is uninhabitable, etc.).

2. Is there anything I can do to speed up the claims process?
Although the adjuster will contact you as soon as possible, priority will be given to the most severe losses. Also be aware that larger claims will be settled in stages, not all at once. While waiting for the adjuster, there are a number of things you can do:
· You may wish to secure a
repair estimate (preferably at
least two) for the adjuster to

review. This will help the
adjuster with the settlement

· Take pictures of the damaged property. If you have pictures of the property before the loss, these should be provided to the adjuster.

· Make a list of all damaged property, including a description, age, original cost, place of purchase and estimated replacement cost. Any receipts or canceled checks for these items also should be included.

3. What if my home is so damaged I can’t stay in it?
Under most homeowners and dwelling forms, coverage is provided for additional living expenses. If the home is uninhabitable due to a covered peril and you must temporarily relocate, most policies will reimburse for the reasonable expenses incurred over and above your normal living costs. For example, it would probably cover all reasonable housing expenses since you will be paying a mortgage payment, but would only cover food expenses over and above what the policyholder normally would pay for food.

It is imperative that you retain all receipts for these expenses in order for them to be considered as a part of the loss. The expenses must be in line with normal living costs and must be a necessary and direct result of the loss.

Most policies limit recovery under additional living expenses to a percentage of the amount of coverage on the home itself.

4. What coverage is there for trees that are down?

There is no coverage under standard dwelling and homeowners policies for damage to trees by “weather perils” (such as wind). However, if the tree falls and causes damage to some other type of covered property (such as a house or fence), the damage to the house or fence would be covered. Separate windstorm coverage can be purchased as an added endorsement.

5. Power was out for five days and the food in my freezer and refrigerator spoiled. Is it covered?

Generally, most residential policies do not cover food spoilage resulting from power outages due to the “power failure” exclusion. A small number of companies provide some very limited coverage (i.e., $250-$500) as a coverage enhancement. Aside from this, coverage is generally not available.

6. When power finally came back on, a power surge damaged some of my electrical equipment. Is it covered?

Most homeowners policies provide coverage as “sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current”; however, coverage does not apply to loss of transistors, computer chips and similar items. Therefore, damage from a power surge would not be covered for property such as televisions, VCRs, computers or similar items.

7. The adjuster was here last week and I still haven’t gotten my check. How long is this going to take?

After the adjuster has visited the insured, he must complete detailed paperwork on the loss, which is subsequently submitted to the carrier for review. After everything has been checked, the carrier will issue the claims draft to the insured. If the adjuster is carrying a heavy claim load, there is often quite a delay in completing the paperwork by the adjuster, since they generally must do this at night, as well as the delay at the company as it deals with thousands of claims to review at one time. Often, an insurance agent can check with the adjuster to find out exactly when the paperwork was submitted to the carrier. If the papers have been sent in, the company also may be able to provide a status report.

8. I’ve just received my claim check and it’s not enough.

If the check is for a lower amount than the insured expected, it is usually due to policy terms that require settlement on an actual-cash-value basis with replacement cost being paid at the time repairs or replacements are actually completed. Check with your agent or company.

9. What is the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost coverage?

If the policy indicates that settlement will be on a replacement cost basis, then payment will be made for the actual cost to repair or replace at today’s prices, limited only by the total amount of coverage that was purchased. If the adjustment basis is actual cash value, settlement will be made by determining the replacement cost at today’s prices and subtracting from that amount a reasonable amount for depreciation, age or obsolescence. Some policies provide coverage for the home on a “guaranteed replacement cost” basis. In this situation, the carrier will pay whatever it costs to repair or rebuild the home, regardless of policy limits.

10. I was told I was ‘underinsured.’ How can this be?Too often, homeowners neglect to review their homeowners insurance. Changes to your home such as the addition of a room or an increase in your home’s value may affect your coverage. Call your professional insurance agent for the best advice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is a Hurricane Deductible?

Weather, weather everywhere...what's going to happen next? I know what you are thinking...fires, rain, tornados, now earthquakes, and oh comes Irene...a hurricane. With so much going on, you might be asking am I covered? What is my deductible? How much damage do I have to have to put in a claim? The answer to all of this depends. Comforting, I know.

Well with Irene knocking at our door like that unwanted relative you knew was coming but you hoped you could ignore, let me clarify a few things for you as far as insurance definitions go. Specifically speaking, the differences between a Hurricane deductible and a Wind deductible.

When Is Hurricane Season Anyway?

The Atlantic Hurricane season officially starts from July to October, but can range anywhere from June all the way through November. During this time, every costal state from Florida to Maine could potentially be affected by these named storms.

What is the Difference Between a Wind Deductible and a Hurricane Deductible?

Depending on the policy you have, there are two different kinds of deductibles.

1.) Hurricane Deductible - A Hurricane deductible is as it states, soley from damage from a Hurricane. Some companies use a specific "mile-per-hour" wind speed while others state that the Hurricane would have to be designated by the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center.

2.) Wind Deductible - A wind deductible is more stringent in that it applies to any wind damage, not specific to a Hurricane or a particular "mile-per-hour" wind.

How Do I Know What I Have and What the Triggers are?

For New York State, a Hurricane or wind deductible is mainly applicapable to the downstate counties - ie. Suffolk, Nassau, the five boroughs, Westchester, and sometimes Putnam, Rockland & Orange Counties. Check your policy or call your agent to be sure what the triggers are (ie. when these specific deductibles would apply) and what the % of your deductible is. For these deductibles, they are often higher than your main deductible. For example, if you have a $1000 deductible on your homeowners policy but you may have a 5% Hurricane deductible. Depending on the trigger the company sets, if you have a house valued at $500,000, your hurricane deductible would be $25,000 instead of your normal $1000. In some cases with certain companies you can "buy-back" coverage to lower your deductible. It is important to check your policy so that you are prepared as far as what your deductible would be and what the triggers are based on your carrier.

Where Can I Get More Information?

Hurricane deductibles as of 9/1/2009 by company can be viewed on the New York State Department of Insurance Web site at in the Homeowners Resources Center under "Windstorm Deductibles".

If you are unsure of what your policy contains or when to put in a claim, contact your agent or your insurance company. They can review your coverages and make any changes necessary so that you are not only prepared, but are comfortable with the insurance you are purchasing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ten Things All Car & Truck Drivers Shoulds Know About Motorcycles

  1. Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don't "recognize" a motorcycle - they ignore it (usually unintentionally)

  2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car's blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you're changing lanes or turning at intersections.

  3. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

  4. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

  5. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

  6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle's signal is for real.

  7. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don't expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

  8. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can't always stop "on a dime."

  9. When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle - see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.

  10. If a driver crashes into a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian and causes serious injury, the driver would likely never forgive himself/herself.