Monday, August 27, 2012

MYTH BUSTERS: Does my insurance cover damage to my car?

Dreamstime.com
I feel like this is an appropriate topic to discuss, considering the recent string of storms that have hit Florida. I have heard this question many times, and I am sure it will come up again now that the storms have blown through:
"Does my insurance cover damage to my car caused from a storm, i.e. an uprooted tree, a limb falling, lightning strike, etc.?"
Unfortunately for most, this question is asked after the matter. But, for the lucky ones who have not yet experienced this fiasco, here is a good rule that you should know about your auto insurance policy.

Yes, your policy has the ABILITY to cover damage to your vehicle caused by acts of God. However, that does not mean that all policies cover this. The coverage is called "comprehensive coverage" and it will repair your car after any natural disaster causes damage to it. Typically, this coverage comes with a deductible of up to $1,000, but you can opt out of that.

Seems simple enough, right? Now, here is the problem that I usually run into. Comprehensive coverage is considered an endorsement, meaning it is not covered under standard auto insurance. However, it can be added to any policy - it just increases the premium a little bit. The increase in premium makes sense, because the company is offering more coverage and they are taking more risk of paying for a car repair. I find that some people do not want to pay this increase in premium, so they opt out of the coverage altogether.

There is another option, though. If you add the comprehensive coverage to your policy, but increase the deductible, the premium will not increase as much. For example, if you increase your deductible to $1,000, that is $1,000 less that your auto insurance company will have to pay to repair your car. If the damages are $5,000, you still have to pay $1,000 out of pocket, but that is much better than having to pay $5,000 out of pocket for repairs. So, you see, there can be some negotiation available with the coverage.

Unfortunately for Florida, the storms are not over. We receive wind and rain year round. If you would like to cover your vehicle for any natural disasters, or if you have any questions about your auto insurance coverages or ways that you can lower your premium, please give Fearnow Insurance a call at 813.689.8878 or email at info@fearnowins.com.


Written by Kelly Jones

Friday, August 24, 2012

MYTH BUSTERS: Does my car insurance cover my friends?

We have all been in that situation where we hand our keys over to a friend to drive your car - whether it is an emergency and your friend's car is in the shop or you are just too tired/sick to drive. The point is, we have all relinquished our vehicles to the hands of a friend, hoping they would not get in an accident while they were driving. But what happens if they do get in an accident? I often find that people do not have an answer to this question - they just hand over the keys and hope for the best. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to describe what your insurance policy covers and what it does not, in the event of your friend getting in an accident with your car.

Please remember that this article is based on a standard policy. Some policies may differ, so you need to know exactly what coverage is on yours.

Does My Insurance Cover Another Driver?

Knowing what car insurance will cover and what it will not is especially important when it comes to friends driving your car. There is a wide variety of car insurance available to you, each with its own features. Before you let a friend borrow your car, you should know if your auto insurance coverage applies to them. Go through the definitions of the different types of coverage to get an idea of the protection they offer. Then call your insurance company. They will be able to give you a complete rundown of coverage features.
Liability Coverage
Liability car insurance coverage follows a driver no matter what car they are driving. Most states require at least liability coverage and many states have assistance programs for low income residents who qualify. Liability coverage is what allows a driver to drive a friend's car and still be covered under their own auto insurance policy. If you plan to allow your friends to drive your car, one of the questions you should ask is about what kind and level of insurance coverage they already own. Knowing the answer may prevent problems down the line should they be driving your car and an accident occurs.
Comprehensive and Collision
Comprehensive and collision auto insurance coverage are specifically linked to the car that is being covered. These policies provide coverage for damage that may occur to a car as a result of an accident or vandalism. Charges for comprehensive and collision coverage are usually higher than liability coverage and they are additional expenses to the policy.
Other Drivers
The question of allowing other drivers to drive your car and whether or not they will be covered by your existing auto insurance is an important one. Unfortunately, there is no blanket yes or no answer, since this is something that varies from policy to policy.
When purchasing auto insurance, you should talk to the agent about who precisely is covered and what happens if you give permission to someone to drive your car and there is an accident. If you have complete coverage, many insurance carriers will cover the driver, but only at the minimum coverage limits. However, there are certainly insurance carriers who will not cover any driver who is not specifically named in the policy.
Another important factor can be where that person resides and if they are related to you. In general, if someone is living in your household and they regularly drive your car, then the insurance carrier expects you to have that person named on the policy. They will need to undergo the same underwriting and qualification process as any other policy holder.
In some cases, if a family member is visiting and has permission from you to drive the car, then the insurance company will cover them if there is an accident, but the coverage may be limited. Additionally, in the future, that person may be specifically excluded from any future inclusion on the policy and your rates may increase as a result of any accidents.
When purchasing auto insurance, carefully review the details on excluded drivers and any limitations on coverage for anyone driving the car who is not specifically named on the policy.

Someone Else's Car: What Drivers Does Auto Insurance Cover?

In the event that you find yourself in this situation, insurance coverage when driving someone else's car is, in general, the coverage you carry for your own vehicle. Your personal auto insurance coverage will apply in most cases when you drive a vehicle not your own. This includes any uninsured motorist coverage you carry and the medical portions of your policy. Although not always, your property damage coverage might carry over while driving another's car as well. As should be expected, if you drive your own car without insurance, do not expect that you are covered when driving another's car.
When You Are Covered
If you carry auto insurance for your own vehicle, when driving another's car, typically you are covered by your own policy in the event that you get into an accident. Certain factors may be weighed including the reasons for driving a car other than your own, if you had permission or not or if it was a rental or dealership loaner. In each case, the individual circumstances will be investigated, but generally speaking you are covered by your own insurance.
With some policies, provided the car is insured, the insurance will cover any drivers of that car. This is not always the case, though. Some insurers require that all drivers be listed in order to be covered. One detrimental consequence of this involves the car being stolen. In some instances, if the car is stolen and the thief gets into an accident, your insurance won't cover the damages, sticking you with the bill. It only applies if you have given permission for a particular driver to operate your car.
With comprehensive insurance which covers almost everything, it is the car rather than the driver that is covered. This, however, requires many stipulations to be put in place such as who is allowed to drive the car. If you are driving a car with this type of insurance, if you are not listed as a driver--even if you have permission--you may not be covered in an accident.
Under normal circumstances, provided either the car you are driving is insured or you carry insurance for your own vehicle, an accident will be covered. Since insurance follows the car, the insurance covering the car you are driving (with permission) will cover at-fault accidents. If the car has no insurance attached to it but you do, your insurance will most often kick in and cover you. It is a complicated situation, but as long as you have permission to drive another's car and either the car or you have insurance, you will be covered in the event of an accident. The best thing to do, however, is check the exact stipulations of yours or your friend or family member's insurance company.

Article from carsdirect.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MYTH BUSTERS: Why are there still points on my license?

Sunner & Sunner, Attorneys at Law
After someone gets in an accident, their car insurance typically increases. Granted, there are some policies that waive the first accident, but a standard policy will increase the premium after a claim. This is a fact that is generally understood by everyone who has auto insurance. However, one of the most common questions that I hear in the office is:
 "I took the driving test to get the points off my license. Why is my premium still increasing?"
Let me answer this is two parts. An insurance company increases the premium after a claim has been paid in order to compensate for the amount that has been paid. You are also deemed more of a risk, since you were involved in an accident. While taking the driving course to get the points off your license is strongly recommended, it does not affect your insurance policy. Getting points off your license simply keeps your license from being suspended in the event of multiple accidents or incidents. When the insurance company runs the reports before each policy renewal, they look at your claims history. If you have multiple claims, or one claim with a very large pay-out, your premium will most likely increase. Now, with that being said, not all insurance companies will increase the premium for one accident. Some companies have accident forgiveness, and others won't increase the premium too much if the pay-out was minuscule.

Another thing to remember is if you do have an accident and there is a claim paid by your insurance company, the claim will stay on your record anywhere from 3-7 years, depending on the company. Therefore, if you decide to switch companies before the accident/claim comes off of your record, you risk receiving possible rate increases.

Again, there is a bright side to this. At Fearnow Insurance, we represent all of the major insurance companies in Florida. We are constantly reviewing the policies of our clients to make sure that they are receiving the best rates and the best service. If you have any questions about your policy, or if you want to see if another insurance company can offer you a lower rate, call us or visit our website for a free quote: 813.689.8878 or www.fearnowinsurance.com. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

MYTH BUSTERS - My homeowners insurance includes flood, right?

Copyright © 2010 The Money Alert.com. All rights reserved.
To continue our series of "MYTH BUSTERS: False Claims About Insurance" I would like to address a question that is commonly asked around these summer months - my homeowners insurance covers flood, right? Somewhere in between the hurricane warnings and severe rain downpours, people start to worry about the consequences of having a crack beneath their door or foundation that will cause rain water to seep in. This is a valid concern; people want to have peace of mind knowing that their home will be insured if damages were to happen. However, flood is not covered in a standard homeowners 
                                                                              policy.

Flood is considered "rising water." Therefore, if water begins to seep onto the floor of your home due to excessive rainfall, your homeowners insurance WILL NOT cover this. You can take out a separate flood policy to protect your home from this damage. Depending on whether or not you are in a flood zone, you might already be required to carry this coverage. If you are not in a flood zone, the rates are standard based on the amount for which your home is insured. So, just to reiterate, flood insurance is not included in a homeowners policy.

However, that is not to say that all water damage is not covered under a homeowners policy. If there is excessive rain that causes you roof to leak and the water damages the inside of your home, that is covered on your homeowners policy. Now, not all policies include that in their standard coverage. Some policies require you to add on a water damage endorsement, so check your policy to make sure you are properly covered.

 With the recent onslaught of rain and continual hurricane warnings, it is important to know that your home is protected from any kind of water damage. If you have any questions about your policy, or if you want to know about different policy options to protect your home, please call our agency at 813.689.8878. Agents at Fearnow Insurance are trained in risk management and can help ensure that your possessions are properly insured.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MYTH BUSTERS: Garnished Wages


To continue our series “MYTH BUSTERS: False Claims about Insurance” I would like to discuss the idea of garnished wages. So many times, we have people reject higher liability limits on their insurance policy under the pretense that they “can’t be sued because they have nothing that can be taken.” While I understand that most people have undergone certain financial difficulties in light of the economy, please do not think that you are safe from a lawsuit.

Let me explain a little further. I wrote a blog post a while back about a car accident lawsuit that settled for $50,000,000. To sum it up, the injured person was 21; he was a pre-med student in California that had just been accepted into grad school. The accident had rendered him mentally incompetent, thus destroying his hopes of becoming a doctor. Therefore, when he sued the driver that caused the accident, the lawsuit branched farther than just medical payments. He sued for all of the future wages that he would have earned as a doctor and all of the student loans that he had to take out for his undergrad degree, since he would no longer have the income to pay those back.

In this scenario, Drew Bianchi (the injured) sued for his loss of wages. So, what would happen if you had been the driver that caused this accident? I don’t know of very many people that have an extra $50,000,000 lying around their house. Basically, you would face a series of events to pay off the difference between the lawsuit amount and the liability amount for which your insurance company protects you. The court can put a lien on your house, your car, and anything else for which you are making payments.  Don’t have any of those? They can put a stipend on your wages from work, i.e. each paycheck will have a portion of money taken out until the lawsuit payment is covered.

Not providing yourself with adequate coverage is a risky decision. You might think that you have nothing to lose, but trust me, the court will find a way to get their money. They won’t just throw a lawsuit out the window because you are struggling financially; they will simply become more determined to make you pay the lawsuit. I realize that the example of $50,000,000 is an extreme situation (although, you should read the post because it really did happen). Even if you are facing a lawsuit of $20,000, you will still be responsible for paying whatever amount is left above your liability coverage. If you have the Florida state minimum coverage of $10,000, you will have to pay the additional $10,000 to cover the expenses. Again, if you do not have this, the courts will stipend your wages, put a lien on your car and home, and even seize your possessions (if you have no other way to pay for the lawsuit).

We always tell our clients to make sure they are properly covered. What might be a few extra dollars every six months in higher liability limits might save them thousands in the event of a lawsuit. Even if you do not have your insurance policy with our agency, send us your current policy. We are trained professionals at risk management. We can show you the gaps in your current coverage so that you can take it back to your insurance company and ask them about changing your coverages. You can call us at 813.689.8878 or email us at sales@fearnowins.com.

Written by Kelly Jones

Monday, August 13, 2012

MYTH BUSTERS: False Claims about Insurance - Full Coverage

Copyright: Discovery Channel
Today is the first segment of our “MYTH BUSTERS: False Claims about Insurance” series. For the next couple weeks, we will be confronting the most common myths associated with insurance policies. After working in insurance for a few years, I have started noticing the same patterns and the same scary misconceptions about what is covered in an insurance policy. Luckily, we have a wonderful customer service team that specializes in risk management – meaning, they take the time to teach each customer exactly what is covered on their insurance policies. However, for all who still have questions, this series is for you!
Myth #1: “Full coverage” on my auto policy means I’m fully covered, right?
No. I realize that “full coverage” is very misleading, but it does not actually mean that you are fully covered on your auto policy. “Full coverage” simply means that you have Bodily Injury, Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Comprehensive Coverage, and Collision Coverage. These are all great things, and I strongly recommend them to everyone. However, just because you have these things on your auto policy does not mean that you are protected against every case. More often than not, we have people calling in saying they have full coverage (which is true), but they only carry 10/20 Bodily Injury limits. So, yes, they technically have “full coverage”, but they are carrying the state minimum liability coverage which leaves them vulnerable for a law suit in the event of an accident.
Think about it this way: 10/20 Bodily Injury coverage means that if you are at-fault in an accident, your insurance will pay out up to $10,000 for one person in the other vehicle, or up to $20,000 for multiple people in the other vehicle. So, if there are four people in the vehicle and they each have to visit the hospital just to be checked out (this is standard procedure), then your insurance will only pay $5,000 for each of them. A hospital visit that includes running tests to make sure accident victims are OK is usually well over $5,000. Therefore, you would have to come up with the rest of the money out-of-pocket because your insurance already reached its $20,000 limit. Now, heaven forbid you injure someone in the accident – tack on more money that you have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical bills.
So, yes, you might be “fully covered” as far as covering bodily injury and physical damage to your car, but if you still have the bare minimum requirements for that coverage then you are still liable for a major lawsuit in the event of an accident. To put into perspective the risks of carrying 10/20 coverage, we have an agency policy to NOT write any policies that carry 10/20 coverage. With rising medical costs and frequency of law suits, 10/20 will just not cover someone in an accident. As an agency, we identify this risk and urge our clients to get higher limits. Not to mention, most companies give a discount for carrying even the next highest limits (25/50) for six months. So, increasing your limits might be slightly more expensive for the first six months, but most companies will offer a discount after that and you will actually be saving money.
If you have any questions or would like a quote to see if you can save money by increasing your limits, please give us a call at 813.689.8878 or email us at info@fearnowins.com.

Written by Kelly Jones

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blasting Those Back to School Blues!


Photo from phillyburbs.com
Alright, parents. It is getting close to the time when your children head back to school. Depending on your child, this could be a time of great excitement or great despair - regardless, all families are going to experience a change in schedule. This adjustment calls for some practice and creativity on your part, Mom and Dad. After doing some research, I have compiled a list of my favorite tips and tricks to get your child (and your family) ready to go back to school.

  1. Slowly change your family's schedule from summer to school. It is my experience that children do not do well with abrupt changes in their daily schedules... especially when their bedtime and wake up time is affected. Therefore, a good tip is to start easing them into a different bedtime about two weeks before school starts. This slow adjustment will allow them to become used to their new wake up time for the first day of school. One mom even lets her children play a game in the morning as an incentive to wake up. She only allows this for the first week or so until her children are used to getting up earlier. My mom used to let me watch my favorite TV show in the morning before school. I would wake up half an hour earlier just so I could watch my cartoon while eating breakfast. This might be a good option to explore for your child.
  2. Create a central calendar! With the first day of school comes an influx of events and appointments that can be hard to manage. If you child is an athlete, tack on after school practices to those PTA meetings and everything else you have to do. Keeping up with several paper schedules can only lead to you missing something important. A great tip is to get a whiteboard calendar to keep in a central location of the house. Copy all of the events on to this calendar to allow an easy way to follow everyone's schedule. You can even add on the lunch schedule to know whether to pack your child's lunch or give him/her lunch money that day.
  3. Make a game plan for back-to-school shopping. Shopping for clothes and school supplies can be a nightmare if you don't approach it with a plan. Before you leave the house, know who is having the sales! Bring coupons and make a cohesive route of the stores that you will shop to save some time. It is also a good idea to go through your child's wardrobe (with him/her there with you) to make sure that you are shopping for the right things. Bring the old clothes to Good Will while you are out. Check the clothes of older siblings for any hand-me-downs before you go out and buy that new jacket. This will help you from over spending when you get out to the stores.
  4. Do your preparations at night. One of the greatest things my dad ever taught me is to do my preparations for the next day the night before. What I mean is this: pick out your child's outfit, pack his/her lunch, put all of the papers in the backpack, etc. the night before the first day of school. In fact, this is one tip that you might want to implement every day - not just on the first day of school. Inevitably, your child will wake up late, you will wake up late, or the standard craziness will overtake your morning and you will forget something on your way out the door. It will be easier to go through this madness if your child already has his/her outfit picked out, lunch packed, and backpack ready to go. Again, I still implement this tip every day. It makes my mornings getting ready for work so easy and relaxed.
  5. Start a tradition. The first day of school can be hard. Start a tradition that will make your kids look forward to waking up that day. In my house, my mom would always take me to Einstein Bagels before the first day of school. It was on our way, so we didn't lose too much time. Stopping for breakfast was special... it allowed me to take a breath between the madness of getting ready for the first day of school and the jitters of walking in the classroom. It was calming. This was our chance to talk about anything that was making me nervous, catch our breath, and have a few last laughs before she dropped me off. This even carried into my college life - my parents woke up early and took me out to breakfast before moving me into my dorm for the first time. Little traditions can go a long way.
I am going to leave you with one bonus tip that I read on Redbook. This parent makes a great effort to make going back to school fun for her kids:
"Two weeks before school begins, I print up small posters with numbers counting down the days, and my kids help me decorate them. On certain days, I have events planned - 14 days to go is school shopping day, 12 days to go is a special craft project, 10 days to go is an outing to the amusement park, eight days to go is a visit to the library to get a book for the school year, and so on. With all the fun anticipation, the kids get increasingly excited for the big day to finally arrive."   -Jacqueline Mellor, 44, Casselberry, FL: mother to Brandon, 24, Cameron, 20, and Dylan, 11
I hope these little tips help ease your family back into the school schedule. Remember, this is an adjustment period for everyone and a great time to take something stressful and make it a fun, bonding experience. Best of luck!

Written by Kelly Jones

Monday, August 6, 2012

Grilled Grouper with Watermelon Salsa

You might have missed National Watermelon Day on August 3, but that doesn't mean you can't still celebrate with this delicious recipe! This recipe is quick, easy, and sure to be a family favorite for any occassion. For more recipe options, visit Southern Living.


Ingredients
  • 4 (4-oz) grouper fillets
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chopped watermelon, seedless
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 tbsp minced  red onion
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
Preparation
  1. Preheat grill to 350* to 400* (medium-high) heat. Sprinkle grouper with pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil.
  2. Grill fish, covered with grill lid, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or just until fish begins to flake when poked with the tip of a sharp knife and is opaque in center.
  3. Combine chopped watermelon, next 5 ingredients, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Serve with grilled fish.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why do insurance premiums keep increasing?

One of the most common questions that floats around in the insurance world is "why does my premium continue to increase?" We don't blame you for asking this question. Whenever you buy anything (insurance related or not), you like to know where your money is going and why. It's time for insurance companies to address the issue head-on and provide consumers with a detailed explanation of why homeowners insurance has increased once again.

We aim to answer that question in this article. The information provided is based on a video released from Tower Hill Insurance Group (shown at bottom of page). I strongly recommend everyone to watch this video; it is very educational and cuts right to the chase about why premium rates increase.

Tower Hill opens the video by outlining a very common analysis made by most consumers:
"Why is my premium increasing? I live in the same home and the market value has declined; there were no hurricanes, and I haven't had any claims."
So, let's start at the beginning. Yes, the real estate market has declined and house value is at the lowest it has been in years. However, the cost of rebuilding has not declined at all. In fact, rebuilding costs have actually increased. Remember that - in the event of a total loss - your insurance company does not promise to buy you a new home; it promises to REBUILD your current home. Therefore, the market price does not affect your insurance price because rebuilding the home is still much more expensive than it has been in past years.

OK, that was the easy part. Now let's get into something a bit more complicated. We will need a little history lesson to start us off...

When Ben Franklin established the first insurance company (to protect against fires), he created a company based on a "Good Faith Contract." This means that "you pay us [the insurance company], and we PROMISE to pay you if you incur any damages on injuries covered by the contract" (Tower Hill Insurance Group). He designed the company to spread the risk, meaning if ten houses pay an equal amount, and one house burns down, there is enough money in the "group pot" to rebuild that one house. As more people chip in and join the group, the company is able to cover more risks. Eventually, the risks start becoming predictable based on different patterns, which helps the company accurately assess how the premium should be spread.

However, what happens when there is a natural disaster? Let's go back to the ten houses example. If ten houses pay in to the company, and one house burns down, the company has enough money to rebuild it. However, if two homes burn down, then there is no longer enough money to rebuild both. Now magnify this scenario when catastrophes happen and damage the majority of the state. Insurance companies have "reinsurance" which means that they are backed by financially sound groups in the event that the insurance company does not have enough money to cover all of the damages. These reinsurance groups come with a fee to the insurance company.

Reinsurance groups do not limit themselves to one company, though. While 2011 might have been a mild year for Florida hurricanes, it was one of the most catastrophic years for disasters worldwide. Therefore, all of the reinsurance companies gathered together to help out the different areas that suffered. Because their resources were significantly deminished, the reinsurance companies had to increase the rates owed by the insurance companies whom they help. Since the insurance company is now paying more for reinsurance, they have to increase the premiums for the insurance policies to make up the difference in their funding.

I realize that this is a slightly complicated explanation. Again, if you still need some assistance understanding why your premium increased or if you just want more insight, please watch the video provided by Tower Hill. You can also feel free to call our agency for any questions you might have.
 

Written by Kelly Jones