Auto Insurance FAQs
What is covered by a basic auto policy?
Your auto policy may include six coverages. Each coverage is priced separately.
1. Bodily Injury Liability
This coverage applies to injuries that you, the designated driver or policyholder, cause to someone else. You and family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else’s car with their permission. It’s very important to have enough liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Definitely consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect assets such as your home and savings.
2. Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car. At its broadest, PIP can cover medical payments, lost wages and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs.
3. Property Damage Liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property. Usually, this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car hits.
This coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes. Collision coverage is generally sold with a deductible of $250 to $1000—the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company. If they are successful, you’ll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals such as birds or deer. Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $1000 deductible, though you may want to opt for a higher deductible as a way of lowering your premium. Comprehensive insurance will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. Some companies offer glass coverage with or without a deductible.
6. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
This coverage will reimburse you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when an at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage will also protect you if you are hit as a pedestrian.
How much coverage do I need?
Speak with us about purchasing higher liability limits to reflect your personal needs. You may also consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy. These policies pay when your underlying coverages are exhausted. Typically, these policies cost between $200 and $300 per year for a million dollars in coverage. If you have your homeowners and auto insurance with the same company, check out the cost of coverage with this company first. If you have coverage with different companies, it may be easier to buy it from your auto insurance company. In addition to liability coverage, consider buying collision and comprehensive coverage. You don’t decide how much to buy. Your coverage reflects the market value of your car and the cost of repairing it. Decide on a deductible—the amount of money you pay on a claim before the insurance company reimburses you. Typically, deductibles are $500 or $1,000; the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. What determines the price of my policy? There are many factors that influence the price you pay for auto insurance. Your premium may fluctuate depending on:
- Your driving record. The better your record, the lower your premium. If you’ve had accidents or serious traffic violations, you will pay more than if you have a clean driving record. You may also pay more if you haven’t been insured for a number of years.
- The number of miles you drive each year. The more miles you drive, the more chances there are for accidents. If you drive a lower than average number of miles per year, less than 10,000, you will pay less. For instance, some companies will give discounts to policyholders who carpool.
- Where you live. Insurance companies look at local trends, such as the number of accidents, car thefts and lawsuits, as well as the cost of medical care and car repair.
- Your age. In general, mature drivers have fewer accidents than less experienced drivers, particularly teenagers. So insurers generally charge more if teenagers or young people below age 25 drive your car.
- The car you drive. Some cars cost more to insure than others. Variables include the likelihood of theft, the cost of the car, the cost of repairs, and the overall safety record of the car.
- Your credit. For many insurers, credit-based insurance scoring is one of the most important and statistically valid tools to predict the likelihood of a person filing a claim and the likely cost of that claim. Credit-based insurance scores are based on information like payment history, bankruptcies, collections, outstanding debt and length of credit history. For example, regular, on-time credit card and mortgage payments affect a score positively, while late payments affect a score negatively.
- The amount of coverage. Of course, like anything else, the more coverage you have, the more you pay. However, you may qualify for discounts.
What does my credit rating have to do with purchasing insurance?
Credit scores are based on an analysis of an individual’s credit history. These scores are used for many purposes, such as securing a loan, finding a place to live, getting a telephone, and buying insurance. Insurers often generate a numerical ranking based on a person’s credit history, known as an “insurance score,” when underwriting and setting the rates for insurance policies. Actuarial studies show that how a person manages his or her financial affairs, which is what an insurance score indicates, is a good predictor of insurance claims. Insurance scores are used to help insurers differentiate between lower and higher insurance risks and thus charge a premium equal to the risk they are assuming. Statistically, people who have a poor insurance score are more likely to file a claim. As a result, establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need, and keep the balances on your credit cards as low as possible—ideally, try to pay off the bill in full each month. Also, check your credit record regularly, and request that any errors be corrected immediately so that your record remains accurate. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. How can I save money? The price you pay for your auto insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending what type of car you have and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some ways to save money.
1. BEFORE YOU BUY A CAR, COMPARE INSURANCE COSTS
Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Car 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 injuries or theft.
2. ASK FOR HIGHER DEDUCTIBLES
Deductibles are what you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim.
3. REDUCE COVERAGE ON OLDER CARS
Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars or you can look it up online at Kelley’s Blue Book. Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.
4. BUY YOUR HOMEOWNERS AND AUTO COVERAGE FROM THE SAME INSURER
Many insurers will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce the rates for long-time customers. But it still makes sense to shop around! You may save money buying from different insurance companies, compared with a multipolicy discount.
5. MAINTAIN A GOOD CREDIT RECORD
Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Most insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. Research shows that people who effectively manage their credit have fewer claims. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.
6. SEEK OUT OTHER DISCOUNTS
Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also get a discount if you take a defensive driving course. If there is a young driver on the 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. Inquire about discounts for the following:* Antitheft Devices Auto and Homeowners Coverage with the Same Company College Students away from Home Defensive Driving Courses Drivers Ed Courses Good Credit Record Higher deductibles Long-Time Customer More than 1 car No Accidents in 3 Years No Moving Violations in 3 Years Student Drivers with Good Grades *The discounts listed may not be available from all insurance companies. The key to savings is not the discounts, but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.
Home Insurance FAQs
What coverage is included in a standard homeowners insurance policy?
A standard homeowners insurance policy includes four essential types of coverage. They include:
- Coverage for the structure of your home.
- Coverage for your personal belongings.
- Liability protection.
- Additional living expenses in the event you are temporarily unable to live in your home because of a fire or other insured disaster.
What type of insurance do I need for a condo?
If you have purchased a condo or co-op, the bank will require insurance to protect its investment in your home. You may, however, need more insurance to cover your personal items, liability or fees that may be charged to you regarding shared areas of the building, like the lobby. You will need two separate policies to protect your investment:
- Your own insurance policy. This provides coverage for your personal possessions, structural improvements to your apartment and additional living expenses if you are the victim of fire, theft or other disaster listed in your policy. You also get liability protection.
- A “master policy” provided by the condo/co-op board. This covers the common areas you share with others in your building, like the roof, basement, elevator, boiler and walkways for both liability and physical damage.
Also ask your insurance professional about the following additional coverages:
- Unit assessment This reimburses you for your share of an assessment charged to all unit owners as a result of a covered loss. For instance, if there is a fire in the lobby, all the unit owners are charged the cost of repairing the loss.
- Water back-up This insures your property for damage by the back-up of sewers or drains. Water back-up may not always be included in a policy.
- Umbrella liability This is an inexpensive way to get more liability protection and broader coverage than is included in a standard condo/co-op policy.
- Flood or earthquake You need to purchase separate flood and earthquake policies. Both flood and earthquake insurance can be purchased through your insurance agent.
- Floater or endorsement If you own expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, or guns, you might consider getting additional coverage since there is generally a $1,000 to $2,000 limit for theft of jewelry on a standard policy.
Does my homeowners, renters or condo insurance cover flooding? Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. A separate flood policy underwritten by NFIP is available through us. Don’t wait for a flood season warning on the evening news to buy a policy—there is a 30-day waiting period before the coverage takes effect. Excess flood insurance is also available for those who need additional protection over and above the limits provided by NFIP. Do I need special coverage for jewelry and other valuables? A standard homeowners policy includes coverage for jewelry and other precious items, such as watches and furs. These items are covered for losses caused by all the perils included in your policy, such as fire, windstorm, theft and vandalism. However, there are special limits of liability for certain items, meaning that the insurer will not pay more than the amount specified in the policy. One important limit is for the theft of jewelry. To keep coverage affordable because jewelry can be easily stolen, the standard policy has a relatively low limit of liability for theft, generally $1,000 or $2,000. Our recommendation is to schedule each piece or item because it offers broader protection – such as dropping your ring down the drain of the kitchen sink or leaving an expensive watch in a hotel room. Before purchasing this type of policy, items covered must be professionally appraised.
Business Insurance FAQs
Small Business Insurance Basics
Insurers often combine a number of insurance coverages into a package that is sold as a single contract. The most common policy for small businesses is the Businessowners Policy (BOP). The BOP combines coverage for all major property and liability insurance risks, as well as many additional coverages into one package policy suitable for most small businesses. The BOP may include business income insurance, sometimes called business interruption insurance. This compensates a business owner for income lost following a disaster. Disasters typically disrupt operations and may force a business to vacate its premises. Business income insurance also covers the extra expense that may be incurred if a business must operate out of a temporary location. To cover specific risks associated with a business, a variety of additional coverages may be added to the basic BOP.
Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan
Of all businesses that close down following a disaster, more than 25 percent never open their doors again. While there’s no way to lower the risk of a natural disaster like a hurricane, there are critical measures that can be taken to protect your company’s bottom line from nature’s fury. A disaster plan and adequate insurance are keys to recovery.
Steps to consider in developing a Business Recovery Plan
Set up an emergency response plan and train employees on how to carry it out. Make sure employees know whom to notify about the disaster and what measures to take to preserve life and limit property losses.
Write out each step of the plan and assign responsibilities to employees in clear and simple language.
Practice the procedures set out in the emergency response plan with regular, scheduled drills.
Compile a list of important phone numbers and addresses.
Make sure you can get in touch with key people after the disaster. The list should include local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors, suppliers, realtors, financial institutions, insurance agents and insurance company claim representatives.
Decide on a communications strategy to prevent loss of customers.
Post notices outside your premises; contact clients by phone, email or regular mail; place a notice in local newspapers.
Consider the things you may need initially during the emergency.
Do you need a back-up source of power? Do you have a back-up communications system?
Protect employees and customers from injury on the premises. Consider the possible impact a disaster will have on your employees’ ability to return to work and how customers can return to your shop or receive goods or services.
Inspect your business’ plan(s) and assess the impact a disaster would have on facilities. Make sure your plans conform to local building code requirements.
Even if your business escapes a disaster, there is still a risk that it could suffer significant losses due to the inability of suppliers to deliver goods or services or a reduction in customers. Businesses should communicate with their suppliers and markets (especially if they are selling to a business as a supplier) about their disaster preparedness and recovery plans, so that everyone is prepared.
Protect Your Building
If you own the structure that houses your business, integrate disaster protection for the building as well as the contents into your plan. Consider the financial impact if your business shuts down as a result of a disaster. What would be the impact for a day, a week or an entire revenue period?
Keep Duplicate Records
Back-up computerized data files regularly and store them off-premises. Keep copies of important records and documents in a safe deposit box and make sure they’re up-to-date.
Identify critical business activities and the resources needed to support them.
If you cannot afford to shut down your operations, even temporarily, determine what you require to run the business at another location.
Find alternative facilities, equipment and supplies, and locate qualified contractors.
Consider a reciprocity agreement with another business. Try to get an advance commitment from at least one contractor to respond to your needs.
Protect computer systems and data.
Data storage firms offer offsite backups of computer data that can be updated regularly via high-speed modem or through the Internet.
Review Your Insurance Plan
Make sure you have sufficient coverage to pay for the indirect costs of the disaster—the disruption to your business—as well as the cost of repair or rebuilding. Policies do not cover flood or earthquake damage and you need to buy separate insurance for these perils. Be sure you understand your policy deductibles and limits. New additions or improvements should also be reflected in your policy. This includes construction improvement to a property and the addition of new equipment.
Basic Commercial Insurance to Consider
Building coverage provides coverage up to the insured value of the building if it is destroyed or damaged by wind/hail, or another covered cause of loss. This policy does not cover damage caused by a flood or storm surge, nor does it cover losses due to earth movement, such as a landslide or earthquake, unless added by endorsement.
Business Personal Property
Provides coverage for contents and business inventory damaged or destroyed by wind/hail, or another covered cause of loss.
Tenant Improvements and Betterments
Provides coverage for fixtures, alterations, installations, or additions made as part of the building that the insured occupies but does not own, which are acquired and made at the insured’s expense.
Additional Property Coverage
Provides for items such as fences, pools or awnings at the insured location. Coverage limits vary by type of additional property.
Provides coverage for lost revenue and normal operating expenses if the place of business becomes uninhabitable after a loss during the time repairs are being made.
Provides coverage for the extra expenses incurred, such as temporary relocation or leasing of business equipment, to avoid or minimize the suspension of operations during the time that repairs are being completed to the normal place of business.
Ordinance or Law
Provides coverage to rebuild or repair the building in compliance with the most recent local building codes.
How do I save money on Business Insurance?
Here are four ways to save money on business insurance:
Choose a higher deductible. Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. The higher the deductible, the less you will pay for the policy.
Buy a package policy. It can sometimes be cheaper to purchase a package policy, such as a Businessowners Policy (BOP), rather than individual coverages. A package policy provides standard coverages and limits of liability that are appropriate for typical small-to-medium-sized businesses.
Work closely with your agent or broker. We can provide invaluable advice to help protect your business from unexpected disasters. But you need to keep us informed about any major changes in your business. This includes major purchases, expansions or changes in hiring or the nature of your operation. Also, get our advice in terms of disaster planning. Ask what you can do to both reduce risks like fire or work-related accidents, as well as the procedures that should be in place in case your business does suffer a major catastrophe. Having the right coverage and a well thought out disaster plan can save you money in the long run. It may even save your business from going under.
Ask about ways to prevent losses. You may be able to reduce your premium for certain coverages by following your insurer’s recommendations. These can include workplace safety, disaster preparation, and human resource intervention.
Flood Insurance FAQs
Doesn’t my homeowners insurance policy cover flooding?
No. Flood damage is not typically covered by a homeowners insurance policy.
I live in a low risk flood zone, do I really need flood insurance?
Yes! It’s a good idea to buy flood insurance even if you live in a moderate- or low-risk area. Anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. People outside of high-risk areas file over 25% of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding. When it’s available, disaster assistance is typically a loan you must repay with interest.
What if I want to purchase more flood insurance than the NFIP offers?
We offer Excess Flood Protection, which provides limits over and above those of the NFIP. For more information, contact us.
- Floods are the #1 Natural Disaster in the United States.
- Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states.
- Everyone lives in a flood zone.
- Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
- Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property.
- A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
- New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
- If you live in a moderate-to-low risk area and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $129 a year, including coverage for your property’s contents.
- It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it’s important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.
- In a high-risk area, your home is more than twice as likely to be damaged by flood as by fire.
- The average annual U.S. flood losses in the past 10 years (2001-2010) were more than $2.7 billion.
Life Insurance FAQs
Why should I buy life insurance?
Many financial experts consider life insurance to be the cornerstone of sound financial planning. It can be an important tool in the following situations:
- Replace income for dependents If people depend on your income, life insurance can replace that income for them if you die. The most commonly recognized case of this is parents with young children. However, it can also apply to couples in which the survivor would be financially stricken by the income lost through the death of a partner, and to dependent adults, such as parents, siblings or adult children who continue to rely on you financially. Insurance to replace your income can be especially useful if the government- or employer-sponsored benefits of your surviving spouse or domestic partner will be reduced after your death.
- Pay final expenses Life insurance can pay your funeral and burial costs, probate and other estate administration costs, debts and medical expenses not covered by health insurance.
- Create an inheritance for your heirs Even if you have no other assets to pass to your heirs, you can create an inheritance by buying a life insurance policy and naming them as beneficiaries.
- Pay federal “death” taxes and state “death” taxes Life insurance benefits can pay estate taxes so that your heirs will not have to liquidate other assets or take a smaller inheritance. Changes in the federal “death” tax rules between now and January 1, 2011 will likely lessen the impact of this tax on some people, but some states are offsetting those federal decreases with increases in their state-level “death” taxes.
- Make significant charitable contributions By making a charity the beneficiary of your life insurance, you can make a much larger contribution than if you donated the cash equivalent of the policy’s premiums.
- Create a source of savings Some types of life insurance create a cash value that, if not paid out as a death benefit, can be borrowed or withdrawn on the owner’s request. Since most people make paying their life insurance policy premiums a high priority, buying a cash-value type policy can create a kind of “forced” savings plan. Furthermore, the interest credited is tax deferred (and tax exempt if the money is paid as a death claim).
How much life insurance do I need?
There are two major types of life insurance—term and whole life. Whole life is sometimes called permanent life insurance, and it encompasses several subcategories, including traditional whole life, universal life, variable life and variable universal life.
Term Insurance is the simplest form of life insurance. It pays only if death occurs during the term of the policy, which is usually from one to 30 years. Most term policies have no other benefit provisions.
Whole life or permanent insurance pays a death benefit whenever you die—even if you live to 100! There are three major types of whole life or permanent life insurance—traditional whole life, universal life, and variable universal life, and there are variations within each type.