Addressing Florida’s Rising Tide of Flood Exposures

In the past five years, all 50 states have experienced some type of flooding. Flooding has led to disasters throughout the decades, and this year, it is expected to become unprecedented yet again. Despite a long history of flood-related disasters and predictions for the future, many Americans have little or no insurance coverage to protect their homes and personal property from damage caused by floods.

Climate research firm States at Risk estimates 3.5 million people in Florida are at risk for coastal flooding, yet many homeowners don’t purchase insurance coverage because of a lack of education or because they rely on antiquated mapping systems that provide a false sense of security.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has 1.7 million policies in Florida, more than any other state. Still, only about half of homeowners inside high-risk areas had insurance against flooding before Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017.

The Draw of the Coastline

Population growth along the U.S. coastline continues to increase steadily. The 2000 U.S. Census indicated that 48.9 percent of Americans live within 50 miles of a coast, including saltwater tributaries and the Great Lakes. Experts predict that this percentage will continue to rise. The American Community Survey (2011-2015), estimates that 26 percent of Florida residents live in the combined 100-year and 500-year flood plains as indicated by NFIP. The risk of damage from flood water is real and growing in a large percentage of the U.S. and even more so in Florida.

The risk of damage from flood water is real and growing in a large percentage of the U.S. and even more so in Florida

In addition to an increased number of residents living near water, other factors have heightened flood exposure chances.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion caused by warming of the ocean (since water expands as it warms) and increased melting of land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets. Adding to the pressure from the increased water levels are the sinking coastlines. As we draw water from below ground, the land sinks to fill the void.

The nonprofit Sea Level Rise Organization predicts that this pattern will pick up pace and the same level of rise that previously took 60 years will now occur in just 20 years, placing an additional 1.1 million people at risk. The Florida peninsula is clearly in the cross hairs of the rise in tides, and the effects are exacerbated by the flat terrain.

The Gap in Coverage Versus Risk

Regardless of the media coverage and barrage of data on the rising impact of flood waters, the Insurance Information Institute’s 2018 PULSE survey estimates that only 15% of Americans purchased an NFIP policy. The lack of participation is due to several factors.

The process to obtain insurance through NFIP is just one of the obstacles limiting the program’s market share. With good reason, NFIP was implemented with certain restrictions. Some of the roadblocks include a 30-day waiting period to activate coverage, limited protection ($250,000 on the dwelling) and reduced coverage and claims settlement terms. The cumbersome process to secure NFIP protection causes delays and often results in the client not following through.

2019 Private Flood Insurance Report

The Flood Insurance Protection Act of 1973 imposed restrictions on lenders as a method to force residents living in a flood plain to secure coverage when buying a home with a mortgage. Of the more than 200,000 Texas homes damaged in Hurricane Harvey, 75 percent were not in the 100-year flood plain according to an article in the Houston Chronicle. These victims responded that they did not buy flood insurance because their mortgage company did not require it.

Prior to the most recent amendments through the Biggert-Waters Act, lenders could not accept private insurance as proof of coverage. With the increase in storms and the financial stresses that the NFIP faces ($25 billion in debt), Congress has taken steps to ease these limitations and expand private insurance solutions. The key to effective transfer of risk through insurance is a larger number of clients participating. With only 15% of Americans purchasing flood insurance, the predictability of the results become more difficult.

Private Flood Market Booms in Florida

Florida has taken the lead in fueling the growth of a private flood market for its constituents according to Lisa Miller, former Deputy Insurance Commissioner of Florida and current lobbyist for the admitted market.

In the recent Risk Management and Insurance Review article, “Two New Developments Hold Promise for the Private Flood Insurance Market,” Miller describes the growth. While most states have no private flood market, Florida residents have access to 30 markets as a result of 2014 legislation written to encourage expansion of the private flood insurance market.

According to Miller, the statute has succeeded in giving Florida residents outlets for coverage and affordable rates by increasing participation and improving the catastrophe modeling. The private flood market has garnered the attention of the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL), which is working on revamping the model legislation for private flood using the statute in Florida as the foundation for new language.

21st Century Solutions for a 21st Century Problem

The NFIP is in desperate need of modernization. Congress has tweaked the program over the course of the last 50 years, but we continue to rely on 1970’s data and processes. Implementation of technology and analytics would improve the client experience and the underwriting results.

Community awareness and strategic planning are first steps towards better protection from the threats. Billy Grayson, executive director for the Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance at the Urban Land Institute, recognized the cities of Miami and Miami Beach for proactive efforts to address the impact of climate change at the 2019 Sea Level Rise Conference. Both towns have committed city resources toward infrastructure improvement and loss mitigation plans to combat the rising tides.

Preventing and reducing loss is a far better investment than paying claims post-loss. However, this requires not only an understanding of the issues but also the discipline needed to make long-term investments.

Advances in technology have become crucial in assessing a homeowner’s true risk and loss prevention. Firms such as Florida-based Coastal Risk Consulting and California-based CoreLogic can precisely map topography using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to model water inundation and storm surges and assess risk by location. Damage from recent flooding validated this methodology.

Modeling allows for adjustment of insurance rates by individual risk as opposed to the more archaic process of calculating rates for blocks of homes situated in a flood zone mapped by FEMA in the 1970s. This information is more easily implemented in the rating of private insurance than the current NFIP.

In addition to modeling, CoreLogic and Coastal Risk Consulting, among others, stress the importance of loss control and mitigation. From floats designed to protect your vehicles, to flood gates and sea walls, the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” holds true.

If we hope to protect clients from the increasing risk of flood exposure and damage, the insurance industry must recognize and meet the challenges of the changing environment and landscape. We must educate homeowners, utilize the most relevant data and mapping technology and strive to prevent losses for the sake of our clients and our communities.

About Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a SVP of USI Insurance Services in Valhalla, N.Y. He began his insurance career in 1985 with General Accident Insurance and has served in various roles with regional and national brokerages. Kane also serves as president of the Board of Trustees for the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). He can be reached at: Jim.Kane@usi.com.

Resource: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2019/07/24/533723.htm

FEMA: Beware Of Scam Artists Who Target Vulnerable Areas After A Disaster

Part of being prepared for disaster is knowing how to protect yourself from criminals who prey on people in vulnerable situations.

Illegal activity such as price-gouging may begin before a disaster even strikes, and scams continue for years in forms including rental fraud, contractor fraud and fake charities. Follow the tips below to protect yourself and your family.

* Building Repairs: Before starting work, get a contract in writing, and request three days to review it. Be aware that it is illegal to require full or partial payment before disaster-remediation work in Texas. You should also verify your prospective contractor’s insurance, ask for references from past customers and use the Better Business Bureau and Internet search engines to research their companies. It is also best to get multiple estimates, avoid out-of-town businesses and never trust someone claiming to be a “FEMA-certified” contractor — there is no such thing. For more information on averting contractor fraud, visit https://go.usa.gov/xEVgp.

* Home Rentals: Before you rent a home or apartment, search the Internet for the information in the listing. If you find the same information with a different name, it may be a scam. Also beware of ads that are vague or lack detail. Never wire money, and never pay rent or a security deposit before you’ve visited the home, met the landlord and signed a lease. To learn more about averting rental scams, see https://go.usa.gov/xEEKM.

* FEMA Imposters: Never let someone into your home without a FEMA-issued photo ID. If you get a call about FEMA assistance, don’t provide any personal information except your FEMA-issued registration number. FEMA workers at your home will never ask for money.

* Fake Charities: Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and don’t give to telemarketers. Phony nonprofits may try to sound real by using names similar to actual charities. A list of charities approved by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance can be found at www.give.org.

* Price Gouging: It is illegal to excessively raise prices on essential goos and services because of severe weather. If you witness price gouging, please notify the Texas Office of the Attorney General at 800-621-0508, consumeremergency@oag.texas.gov or www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

* Promises, Promises: Never pay up front for promise of future benefits like debt relief, credit, loans, prizes and job offers. For more on this and several other types of fraud, go to https://go.usa.gov/xVBgt.

All types of potential fraud should be reported to your local law enforcement agency. Please also inform FEMA by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585, and contact the Texas Office of the Attorney General by calling 800-621-0508, emailing consumeremergency@oag.texas.gov or visiting www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

For additional information on Hurricane Harvey and Texas recovery, visit the Hurricane Harvey disaster web page at www.fema.gov/disaster/4332, Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMAHarvey, the FEMA Region 6 Twitter account at www.twitter.com/FEMARegion6 or the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at https://tdem.texas.gov/.
Resource: https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/survivor-beware-scam-artists-target-vulnerable-areas-after-a-disaster#.XYEqiy5Kjcs

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Jewelry & Valuable Items?

Homeowners policies may provide limited coverage amounts for jewelry or valuable items, based on the type of item and cause of loss. Valuable items coverage may provide the protection you need for your valuable possessions in the event of covered loss from, for example, theft or fire.

What Does Jewelry Insurance Cover?

Jewelry insurance covers valuable items from jewelry to collectibles, if these items are stolen or damaged in a covered event. A homeowners policy may not cover, or provide enough coverage, for those valuable items. Jewelry and valuable items coverage can help to give you peace of mind.

Consider Valuable Items Coverage For:

  • Jewelry and engagement rings
  • Silverware, china and crystal
  • Antiques
  • Fine art
  • Stamp and coin collections
  • Bicycles
  • Trophies
  • Sound equipment (recorders)
  • Sports equipment (archery, camping, fishing, skiing)
  • Wedding gifts
  • Cameras
  • Computers
  • Musical instruments
  • Golf Equipment
  • Furs
  • Guns
  • Pedigreed dogs
  • Garden tractors
  • Political campaign collections
  • Watches

Travelers Offers Two Types of Jewelry and Other Valuable Items Coverage

Personal Articles Floater

This itemized coverage can give you some peace of mind knowing your belongings and jewelry may be covered at the time of a loss. Offered as protection just for valuables, policies can be purchased separately. There is no deductible for most classes or types of property and the coverage insures against many risks. This is beneficial for more expensive articles, like an engagement ring or a watch, that may not be covered or with values that exceed coverage that might be provided by a homeowners policy.

Valuable Items Plus Insurance Coverage

Available as an add-on coverage to homeowners insurance, a valuable items plus endorsement can offer higher limits on certain types of valuables and expanded protection. Unlike the personal articles floater where items are individually listed, the valuable items plus endorsement provides blanket coverage that affords protection for a class of property collectively, such as jewelry insurance coverage, up to a certain amount. This coverage insures against many risks.

Protecting your valuables from loss may be an affordable option depending on your needs. Whether you just need coverage for your jewelry or want insurance for multiple valuables, Travelers offers multiple options. So you can add on and choose the coverage that fits your needs.

Resource: https://www.travelers.com/home-insurance/coverage/jewelry

How to Choose Car Insurance in 4 Steps

Because there are so many companies selling car insurance, sorting through all the choices to find the right policy for you and your family can be a challenging task. With each carrier claiming to offer the best value, it’s easy to feel confused. At first glance, all of the policies may look the same, but there are important differences you may need to consider. Your goal should be to find one that includes all the benefits you need at a competitive price.

Follow these four steps for finding the best car insurance policy for you:

1. Determine the Level of Coverage You Need

The cheapest policy may not be the one you need. Inexpensive plans may not provide collision coverage, which pays to fix your own car following an accident. They may not offer comprehensive coverage, which covers damage to your car not caused by auto accidents, such as natural disasters, theft or vandalism.

The nonprofit Insurance Information Institute notes that all states except New Hampshire require property and bodily injury liability coverage.1 A policy that offers only the minimum amount of liability protection required by law may save you money, but it probably won’t cover the legal claims that can stem from serious accidents involving property damage or injuries.

Remember that not everyone’s insurance needs are the same. For example, if you’re leasing a car, you may need gap insurance. If the car is totaled, gap insurance covers the difference between the actual cash value of the vehicle and the outstanding balance on your lease.

2. Review the Financial Health of Car Insurers

Everyone wants a good deal on their auto insurance policy, but low rates won’t do you any good if the company you choose isn’t around to pay its claims. Online reports from independent ratings companies, such as A.M. Best, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, can help you determine your insurer’s financial health, says Investopedia.2

Each ratings agency uses its own standards for evaluating insurance companies and their financial health.

3. Compare Several Car Insurance Quotes

You can shop for insurance by going online, using the telephone or working directly with insurance agents. A report by Bankrate says getting multiple quotes is important because prices for the same level of coverage vary greatly.3 That happens because insurance prices are based on risk. Each carrier has its own formula for measuring the policyholder’s risk for filing claims.

Some insurers rely heavily on insurance scores to determine how likely policyholders are to file claims. Other companies may give more weight to the type of car you drive and how expensive it would be to repair following an accident.

Where you live also can be a factor in determining what you pay for car insurance. If your ZIP code has a higher-than-average rate of car accidents, your insurance costs could be higher.

4. Ask About Discounts

Many insurance companies offer discounts, notes MarketWatch.4 If you have a teen with good grades on your auto policy, he or she may qualify for a reduced insurance rate. Some insurers offer discounts to drivers who meet annual low-mileage thresholds or take driver education classes. If your car has an anti-theft device, that also could qualify you for a discount.

Be sure to ask to request a list of all available discounts. It could make a big difference in how much you pay for your policy.

Article: https://www.travelers.com/tools-resources/car/insuring/how-to-choose-car-insurance-in-4-steps

5 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Natural Disasters, Catastrophes and Income Loss

Lena Requist
Entrepreneur |Speaker | Educator

Disasters can strike businesses at any time and take almost any shape: A flood takes out a startup’s servers. A founder is imprisoned. A tornado destroys the office building. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a PR scandal or something else altogether, not being ready can add another level of devastation to an entrepreneur’s life.

I know this firsthand. My company, ONTRAPORT, endured the Santa Barbara fires and aftermath that started in late 2017 and ravaged into this year. We also had shifts on our accounting team that resulted in me trying my hand at accounting (not my forte). Needless to say, 2018 has been a year of unexpected change and destruction — both of my team’s physical surroundings and our “usual” way of doing things.

Alongside our CEO, Landon Ray, I debated: “What do we do as leaders of this company and leaders in our community?” It all boiled down to a question that wasn’t so simple to answer: What kind of emergency preparedness should you have in place so when stuff hits the fan, you’re ready to execute?

Stuff hits the fan

The fires and mudslide in Santa Barbara were crazy acts of nature that resulted in evacuations as people’s health was put at risk with the toxic air. Twenty-three people died in what’s been called “the worst disaster in Santa Barbara history.” It was a scary and traumatic experience as people were spread out, unsure of the status of people they cared about.

Before we knew how bad things were going to get, we still knew that the only way to keep our company up and running was by being proactive. We’d created an emergency plan years ago, so when the fires started, I immediately pulled the plan out at 6 a.m. because I had already lost power at my house and knew we were going to lose power in the office. We weren’t in the evacuation area yet, but we needed a generator before they sold out.

We made sure to buy the right masks for everyone after we researched how to stay safe with declining air quality. Unlike most homes in Santa Barbara, our office had air conditioning, so we ordered HEPA filters. And when we realized that wasn’t going to be enough because the air quality had become hazardous, we rented a ranch in Los Osos, two hours away. At that point, we evacuated and couldn’t return to the office. We told people to work where they could — about half came to the ranch, while the rest went to other areas with their families and loved ones.

Related: 5 Steps for Managing Disaster Recovery for Your Business

When safe places no longer feel safe.

We heard stories from others in the area that their employers wouldn’t pay them because they couldn’t work. I get that this was an emergency, and business owners have to make business decisions. We also had some employees who couldn’t work: Our coffee and meal program employee couldn’t take care of people’s food because they weren’t in the office.

In the same vein, our childcare center wasn’t taking care of people’s kids, but we knew that, just like our meal program provider, we had to pay them so they could in turn pay rent. Those are the decisions you have to make as an employer; they go a long way toward building trust with people. Treating people well isn’t just a short-term investment but a long-term one, too. We wanted people to feel really taken care of.

And that applied to the employees who could still work as well. We set the ranch up with Wi-Fi, VPN, laptops and docking stations. We tried to close every loophole that could prevent us from offering customer support, prevent our marketing team from implementing campaigns or stop our engineers from fixing bugs or working on the development of new features on schedule.

How to prevent a disaster from getting bigger

Not every employer can move things around the way we did — but a lot of entrepreneurs can do better than they’re currently planned for. It’s all about remaining thoughtful in how you handle the disaster facing you, and there are some smart ways to do that.

1. Make your priorities known.

The only thing more demoralizing for employees who are going through a situation of disastrous proportions is feeling as if they’re means to an end. Servers, process documents and computers can all be replaced; people can’t be. Make it clear that their safety is the most important thing.

We sent daily morning and evening emails or messages through our ONTRApeeps social media community to keep everyone connected and make sure people were safe. Every day, we also sent updates on the fire situation based on the information we were receiving so our team knew we were staying informed on a situation that directly impacted their lives and livelihood.

Related: First Things First: The 5 Secrets to Prioritization

2. Plan ahead to stay open.

While some businesses are built to be hands-on entities — say, massage therapy or tutoring services — most entrepreneurs can make plans to keep working when disaster strikes. We proactively placed our servers for customer work in different locations so customers wouldn’t see disruptions, and we created redundancy with Amazon and Google Web Services. Creating tech stopgaps can save your business.

3. Look at what your state provides.

Our state had disaster recovery funds, and employees who didn’t get paid could apply for unemployment during that time. Knowing what state benefits are available can be life-saving for both your business and your employees. Go the extra step to prepare the paperwork for affected employees so they can simply submit it if they’d like to access the benefits. Be informed ahead of time.

4. Always have three people who know how to do a job.

Not every entrepreneur has three employees. However, every entrepreneur can ensure processes are documented so anyone can follow them. When we ran into issues on the accounting side, many employees asked if they could help, but because some processes weren’t documented, we couldn’t take them up on their offers. Enforce documentation updates — if you don’t, you’ll be the one cleaning up the debris.

5. Do what you can to help.

Our company did Valentine’s Day candy grams as a fundraiser for affected families, raising several hundred dollars through people buying handmade cards from our HR team. We went together to dig out houses and hosted a bucket brigade of 300 people at our office to show our support. We couldn’t afford to provide housing or write huge checks, but we did what we could.

No one is immune from disaster, but everyone can prepare for disasters so their impact is limited. Entrepreneurs have a lot to lose when disaster strikes, and not being ready ensures that the devastation takes on new proportions. Planning ahead for the inevitable will save not just your sanity, but also your company.

Article source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/309853

Tesla to Offer Its Own ‘More Compelling’ Insurance Product

Tesla owners face high insurance premiums each year, so Elon Musk decided to do something about it.

Buying a new car is just the start of the costs you’ll incur, with insurance being another potentially big layout depending on your driving history and experience. But if you’re buying a Tesla, Elon Musk is looking to offer you a “much more compelling” insurance option.

As TechCrunch reports, on a Q1 earnings call yesterday, Musk confirmed that Tesla intends to launch its own insurance product at some point in May. The claim of it being more compelling was not backed up with detail, but the suggestion is that it relates to the amount of information Tesla has access to regarding how people drive its vehicles.

Some insurers already offer lower premiums to customers if they allow their driving to be tracked. Tesla’s vehicles are packed with safety features and the increasingly important Autopilot. Combine that with detailed information collected on how a vehicle is driven and Tesla knows how well (or badly) each vehicle is driven.

As Electrek points out, insurers are known for charging very high premiums to Tesla owners, which in part is why Tesla launched the InsureMyTesla program a couple of years ago. It saw Tesla working with third-party insurers to offer lower premiums, but clearly that isn’t good enough for Musk.

Article source: http://entm.ag/q111

What is covered by standard homeowners insurance?

Understanding the four essential protections provided by your homeowners policy

Homeowners coverage provides financial protection against loss due to disasters, theft and accidents. Most standard policies include four essential types of coverage: Coverage for the structure of your home; Coverage for your personal belongings; Liability protection; Coverage for Additional Living Expenses

Coverage for the structure of your home

Your homeowners policy pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disasters listed in your policy. Most policies also cover detached structures such as a garage, tool shed or gazebo—generally for about 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of the house.

A standard policy will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or routine wear and tear.

When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, remember this simple guideline: Purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home.

Coverage for your personal belongings

Your furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items are covered if they are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or other insured disasters. The coverage is generally 50 to 70 percent of the insurance you have on the structure of the house.

The best way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory.

Personal belongings coverage includes items stored off-premises—this means you are covered anywhere in the world. Some companies limit the amount to 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions. You also have up to $500 of coverage for unauthorized use of your credit cards.

Expensive items like jewelry, furs, art, collectibles and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if they are stolen. To insure these items to their full value, purchase a special personal property endorsement or floater and insure the item for its officially appraised value.

Trees, plants and shrubs are also covered under standard homeowners insurance—generally for about $500 per item. Trees and plants are not covered for disease, or if they have been poorly maintained.

Liability protection

Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. So, if your son, daughter (or even your dog) accidentally ruins a neighbor’s expensive rug, you are covered. (However, if they destroy your rug, you’re out of luck.)

The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents.

Liability limits generally start at about $100,000, however, it’s a good idea to discuss whether you should purchase a higher level of protection with your insurance professional. If you have significant assets and want more coverage than is available under your homeowners policy, consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy, which provides broader coverage and higher liability limits.

Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage, so if a friend or neighbor is injured in your home, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company. This way, expenses can be paid without a liability claim being filed against you. It does not, however, pay the medical bills for your own family or your pet.

Additional living expenses (ALE)

ALE pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a an insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other costs, over and above your usual living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

Keep in mind that the ALE coverage in your homeowners policy has limits—and some policies include a time limitation. However, these limits are separate from the amount available to rebuild or repair your home. Even if you use up your ALE your insurance company will still pay the full cost of rebuilding your home up to the policy limit.

If you rent out part of your house, ALE also covers you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

Next steps: Purchasing a home? Get the Home Buyers Insurance Checklist.

Article source: https://www.iii.org/article/what-covered-standard-homeowners-policy

How to save money on car insurance

When it comes to lowering your auto premiums, you’re in the driver’s seat

Having adequate car insurance is both smart and prudent, but there’s no question that it adds to the expense of driving. The good news is that premiums can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on a number of factors. Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance is in step with your needs, and follow these practical steps to reduce the bottom line on your auto policy.

Shop around for your car insurance

Prices differ from company to company, so it pays to shop around.

Get at least three quotes, from both different insurance companies and different types of insurance companies—that is, those that sell through their own agents; those that sell through independent agents; and those that sell directly to consumers via the phone, an app or the Internet. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations based on their experiences, and do your own due diligence by researching the company before committing.

Understand auto insurance enough that you can ask a prospective insurer informed questions. Anyone you speak to should take the time to answer to your satisfaction. Remember, these are the people you’ll rely on if the worst happens and you need to make a claim.

Keep in mind that the lowest price isn’t always the “cheapest” option. Make sure the company you choose is reputable, and that you’re comfortable with the service you get from the insurance professionals you speak to. Your state insurance department or online consumer information sites may provide information on consumer complaints by company to help you choose the right insurance company for your needs.

Compare insurance costs before you buy a car

Auto insurance premiums are based in part on the car’s price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of car theft or personal injuries, or for cars that are known to be safe. When you’re comparing new or used vehicles to purchase, also research what each will cost to insure. To start, you can check safety rankings for specific models with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) online Top Safety Pick ratings tool.

Raise your deductible

By choosing a higher deductible on your car insurance, you can significantly lower your premium costs. Of course, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay the higher deductible in the event you have a claim.

Reduce optional insurance on your older car

As a rule of thumb, if your older car is worth less than 10 times the insurance premium, having collision and/or comprehensive coverage may not be cost effective. To find out whether this is true for you, check the value of your car. You can look up what your car is worth for free on websites such as Kelley Blue Book, National Association of Auto Dealers (NADA), and TrueCar.

Bundle your insurance and/or stick with the same company

Many insurers will give you a discount if you purchase two or more types of insurance from them—such as homeowners and auto—or have more than one vehicle insured. Some companies offer a price break to longtime customers. There are no guarantees so do your homework and compare costs for a multi-policy discount from a single insurer with buying your insurance separately from different companies.

Maintain a good credit history

Establishing a solid credit history has many benefits, including lower insurance costs. Many insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. (Research shows that people who effectively manage their credit make fewer claims). To be sure you’re getting the good credit you deserve, it’s a good idea to check your credit record on a regular basis to be sure all information is accurate.

Take advantage of low mileage discounts

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive less than the average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.

Ask about group insurance

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or from other associations. Check with your affiliated organizations to see what they offer.

Seek out other discounts

There are other discounts that your insurer may offer to policyholders. For example, some companies offer discounts to those who’ve not had any accidents or moving violations during a specified period, or who have taken a defensive driving course. If there is a young driver on your policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at college without a car, you may also qualify for a lower rate.

Ask your insurer what discounts you might qualify for, but keep in mind that what’s important is the final cost of your policy. A company that offers few discounts may still be able to give you a lower overall premium price.

Additional resources

Next steps: When shopping for car insurance, have this information ready.

Article source: https://www.iii.org/article/how-can-i-save-money-auto-insurance

Five insurance mistakes to avoid… (and still save money)

Avoid these pitfalls when buying auto, home, flood and renters insurance.

Saving money feels good. And shopping around when you’re looking for insurance coverage is a great way to do it. However, simply reducing your coverage or dropping important coverages altogether is like diet without exercise—focused only on numbers, not on results. Don’t risk ending up dangerously underinsured and on the hook for much bigger bills in the event of a disaster.

Following are the five most common auto, home, flood and renters insurance mistakes people make, along with suggestions to avert those pitfalls while still saving money (we call them, “better ways to save”):

1. 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—no matter what the real estate market is doing.

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.

2. Selecting an insurance company by price alone.

It is important to choose a company with competitive prices. But be sure the insurer you choose is financially sound and provides good customer service.

A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies (some well-known ones: A.M. Best, Moody’s), and ask friends and family members about their experiences with insurers. Select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.

3. 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. You may not be aware you’re at risk for flooding, but keep in mind that 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas. Furthermore, yearly weather patterns—spring runoff from melting winter snows, for example—can cause flooding.

A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to determine whether a property is situated in a flood zone; if so, you may want to consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a designated flood zone, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance. Additional information on flood insurance can be found at www.FloodSmart.gov.

4. Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car.

The minimum is just that—the least you can get away with by law. So buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket later. And if you are sued, those costs can jeopardize your financial well-being.

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.

5. Neglecting to buy renters insurance.

A renters insurance policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to an insured disaster, such as a fire or hurricane. 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, such as renters, auto, and life will generally provide savings.

Article source: https://www.iii.org/article/five-insurance-mistakes-avoid%C2%85-and-still-save-money

94-year-old finally receives 1934 life insurance policy money that disappeared

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Less than one week after turning to Better Call Behnken for help finding her missing insurance policy money, Eleanor Fetkin has a check for the full $1,250.

“I’m real happy, and I thank you for helping us get it back,” Fetkin said.

Eleanor kept track of the 1934 life insurance policy her mother bought her. But when the 94-year-old needed the money now, her son Bob Fetkin was told by MetLife that the policy no longer existed.

“For me, taking on MetLife was taking on an 800-pound gorilla,” Bob Fetkin said. “I couldn’t get anywhere, and you guys were able to open doors that we weren’t able to. And I’m very much appreciative to you and your team at Channel 8 for getting the results that you guys did.”

Better Call Behnken called MetLife and confirmed the money was sent years ago to California, Unclaimed Property Division.

I called the state, and then MetLife decided to send Eleanor a check. Her son is thrilled.

“I was really shocked,” he said. “I was confident you guys would get results. I didn’t know you’d get results that quickly.”

Source: https://www.wfla.com/8-on-your-side/better-call-behnken/94-year-old-woman-finally-receives-her-1934-life-insurance-policy-money-that-had-disappeared/2052310471