Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dog Bite Insurance

For all of my friends who have dogs that are unruly (or just a little misunderstood), here is a new insurance option to keep yourself protected in case the worst happens:
 
 
F.I.D.O. Brings Dog Bite Liability Coverage to Florida; More States Coming
·          
·          
 18, 2012 by Amy O'Connor
 
When commercial lines agent and dog owner Debbie Turner began to look into help for her difficult dog back in 2000, she had no idea that her journey would end up leading to a new personal lines insurance option.
Now, she believes her new Covered Canine policy could take a bite out of the dog liability insurance marketplace.
Turner, who is president of Dean Insurance Agency in Altamont Fla., says the story behind the coverage began about 12 years ago when her own dog’s behavior issues led to her becoming, as she describes it, “obsessed with dogs’ behavior and trying to fix them.”
It was through this process she realized there was a gap between what questions insurance companies ask when covering dogs on a homeowners or tenant’s liability policy and what they should really know about the actual dog that is being insured. She said there are also many inconsistencies among carriers over what’s covered, or if any coverage is provided at all.
“My research showed that more and more homeowners policies have taken full animal liability out of homeowners or tenants policies, or they are excluding specific breeds,” Turner says. “It seems to be a trend that homeowners and tenant markets are really moving away from providing coverage for animal liability and dog bites are a huge part of that.”
Turner says a conversation with a colleague about a paper she wanted to write about this issue turned into her instead developing the Covered Canine insurance product and the Federation of Insured Dog Owners, or F.I.D.O.
The organization provides dog bite liability insurance through the Covered Canine insurance policy to all breeds of dogs on Great American Insurance Co. paper. The policy is currently available in Florida only, but Turner says as soon as she completes all the filing requirements for other states, she will make it available nationwide through multiple markets.
The available limits are $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 and Turner hopes to make them higher once the program is up and running. There is also the option to insure the dog off-premises for situations where the dog is taken out on a leash and attacks someone. The policy does not, however, cover “dog to dog” damages.
Customers can go online and rate the policy themselves based on breed, weight and other factors, including whether there are children living in the house and their ages. Applicants are also required to upload a picture of the dog.
She says there are not many circumstances where coverage would be denied, but those that will be have to do with whether a dog is not well-socialized or has been a police dog.
The goal of the rating criteria, she says, is not to exclude any certain breed of dog, but to focus more on the circumstances of the dog’s living arrangements.
“If you rate a pitbull according to the correct lifestyle – such as a fenced in yard, taken to the vet – you can get a $50,000 policy for under $200. You cannot buy that anywhere else,” she says.
There is a $50 fee to join F.I.D.O., which will eventually operate as a 501 (c)(3) charity with part of the membership fee benefiting animal-related causes. Turner says the legal components of that are still in process.
The coverage is only available through F.I.D.O.’s website because Turner says the policy prices are so low that it was not economically feasible for them to be brokered. However, she says that other agents and brokers can benefit from making their clients aware that there is another option out there.
“Because [animal liability] is being removed so consistently from so many personal lines policies, at some point agents are going to start getting sued because they aren’t telling anyone,” says Turner. “From an E&O standpoint, agents need to be telling insureds ‘it’s not covered, but here is a reasonably priced alternative’.”
Turner, whose agency focuses on malpractice, business and real estate insurance, says she began working on F.I.D.O. last year and just launched the organization in July. No policies have been bound yet but she is hoping to see about 12,000 in the first year.
She says developing F.I.D.O. has been an arduous process because her agency doesn’t focus on personal lines and she didn’t realize at first that this would be a personal lines product. Dealing with the regulatory issues of filing a non-admitted master policy in all states has been difficult, but she says they are being very careful to take all the necessary steps, “We need to make sure we are in compliance to be able to write,” she said.
She plans to donate part of the F.I.D.O. money to causes that help educate people about dog behavior and how they interact with people, a promise that is listed under the mission statement section of the F.I.D.O. site. She thinks this education can be an eye-opener for people and help prevent bad situations for dog owners and their pets.
“All dogs are animals and may bite… people really are very, very na├»ve about if or when a dog will bite. They don’t get it,” says Turner.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Internet Insurance

I have noticed that many of the new businesses popping up are internet-based businesses. These are companies that work from home or have a wide-spread clientele that requires most business transactions to be done via the internet. Because of this, it is very important that these businesses have the proper insurance to protect the information of the company and the information of the client. Here are some different business insurance options:

Property Insurance
Inevitably, you will have some technological difficulties at some point. Hopefully, it will just be a small problem that can be fixed with a quick call to your IT guy. However, sometimes these technology problems can be large and detrimental to your business. "Computer Operations Interruption Coverage replaces your business income loss and any extra expenses as a result of many computer problems"  (Insurance Information Institute, Internet Businesses). Similarly, Electronic Data Loss Coverage replaces/pays for any data that was destroyed or damaged as a result of certain losses named in your policy. With the inevitability of technological difficulties and viruses, it is very important to make sure that your business is properly covered, should the worst occur.

Liability Insurance
Another risk that goes along with having an internet-based business is the threat of having private information released to the public. By adding the Electronic Liability Endorsement to your business policy, you will have liability coverage for your business in the event that any confidential information is released through electronic error. I strongly encourage every business owner to purchase this endorsement. Liability insurance will also protect you if someone accuses you of slander over something you wrote on your website. Again, this is very important insurance to have, not just for internet based companies, but for any company!

Please contact our agency if you have any questions or want a quote for your business. We have agents that are ready to help you protect your business that you have worked so hard to build. You can reach us at (813) 689-8878 or go to our website at www.fearnowinsurance.com

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Green Insurance

The concept of "going green" isn't just helping out the environment... now it is helping out your wallet, too! To promote clean living, many insurance companies are offering a new line of discounts that reward you for being environmentally friendly. Below are some of the discounts offered and how you can receive them:

Auto Insurance:
          • Hybrid Discount: Hybrid cars may qualify for a discount of up to 10% off of your insurance premium. This can also be applied to any hybrid recreational vehicle, such as a boat or jetski. This is not for all insurance companies, so call your agent to see if your company offers this discount.
  • Alternative Fuel Discount: Much like the hybrid discount, if your vehicle uses alternative fuel, you could qualify for an auto insurance discount. Again, this can apply to other recreational vehicles that offer this feature. 
  • Pay As You Drive Programs: We have this option for cell phones, so why not for insurance? Some companies offer a PAYD program which tracks the miles you drive over a set amount of time. If you drive under the average mileage, you could be rewarded through discounts to your premium.
Homeowners Insurance:

  • LEED Discount: If your home is LEED Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System), you could qualify for a discount from your homeowners insurance. Insurance companies want to reward devotional to sustainability homes.
  • Replacement Coverages: Some insurance companies will pay you more for your damaged home materials to be replaced with eco-friendly materials. This is usually an endorsement to standard homeowners policies, but it may pay off in the end if you need something replaced in your home.
Businesses

  • Some insurance companies are beginning to offer discounts for sustainability practices within a business. For example, if your business has water conserving plumbing, energy efficient lighting, etc. you could qualify for a premium deduction! 
Information is provided by Insurance Information Institute  

These discounts are not offered by all insurance companies. Please call us if you have any questions or would like to see if your insurance company carries these discounts. We represent all of the major carriers in Florida, so we are fully capable of finding the most dependable company with the best rates for you! Call us or get a quote from our website (813) 689-8878 or www.fearnowinsurance.com 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

17 FAQs about Homeowners Insurance

I came across this article about homeowners insurance and thought it would be great to share. We often hear similar questions in the agency, and it's important for everyone to take a moment to read about what your policy does and does not cover so you can plan accordingly.

The article is called Am I Covered?

AM I COVERED?
Common Questions Asked by Homeowners about Insurance
If a fire, flood, earthquake, or some other natural disaster were to destroy or damage your home, would you have the right insurance coverage to rebuild your house?

This brochure, based on the questions consumers most frequently ask, explains what is covered in a standard homeowners policy and what is not. Where gaps in coverage exist, it tells you how to fill them.

To simplify explanations, we assume that you have a policy known as Homeowners-3 (HO-3), the most common homeowners policy in the United States. Find out what type of homeowners policy you have. If you have a different policy, you should review your options in question #17.

QUESTION # 1: AM I COVERED FOR DIRECT LOSSES DUE TO FIRE, LIGHTNING, TORNADOES, WIND STORMS, HAIL, EXPLOSIONS, SMOKE, VANDALISM AND THEFT?
Answer: Yes. The HO-3 provides broad coverage for these and other disasters or “perils,” as they are called in the policy, including all those listed in the question. You should check the dollar limits of insurance in your policy and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of insurance you have for specific items. Also, if you live near the Atlantic or Gulf coasts there may be some restrictions on your coverage for wind damage. Ask your agent about windstorm/hurricane deductibles. In areas prone to hailstorms, you may have a specific hail damage deductible.

QUESTION # 2: ARE MY JEWELRY AND OTHER VALUABLES COVERED?
Answer: The standard policy provides only from $1,000 to $2,000 for theft of jewelry. If your jewelry is worth a lot more, you should purchase higher limits. You may wish to add a floater to your policy to cover specific pieces of jewelry and other expensive possessions such as paintings, electronic equipment, stamp collections or silverware, for example. The floater will provide both higher limits and protect you from additional risks, not covered in your normal policy.

QUESTION # 3: IF MY HOUSE IS TOTALLY DESTROYED IN A FIRE AND I HAVE $150,000 WORTH OF INSURANCE TO COVER THE STRUCTURE, WILL THIS BE ENOUGH TO REBUILD MY HOME?
Answer: If the cost of rebuilding your home is equal to or less than $150,000 you would have enough coverage. The HO-3 policy pays for structural damage on a replacement cost basis. If the cost of replacing your home is, say, $120,000, then that is all the insurance you need. On the other hand if the cost of rebuilding your home is $180,000, then you will be short $30,000.

If you live in an area that is frequently hit by major storms, ask you insurance company about an extended or guaranteed replacement cost policy. This will provide a certain amount over the policy limit to rebuild your home so that if building costs go up unexpectedly, due to high demand for contractors and materials, you will have extra funds to cover the bill.

If you choose not to rebuild your home, you will receive the replacement cost of your home, less depreciation. This is called actual cash value. You should make sure that the amount of insurance you have will cover the cost of rebuilding your house. You can find out what this cost is by talking to your real estate agent or builders in your area.

Do not use the price of your house as the basis for the amount of insurance you purchase. The market price of your house includes the value of the land on which the house is situated. In almost all cases, the land will still be there after a disaster, so you do not need to insure it. You only need to insure the structure.

QUESTION # 4: AM I COVERED FOR FLOOD DAMAGE?
Answer: No. So, if you live in a flood-prone area it may be wise to purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is provided by the federal government, under a program run by the Federal Insurance Administration. In some parts of the country, homes can be damaged or destroyed by mudslides. This risk is also covered under flood policies. Contact your agent or company representative to get this insurance or call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-427-4661 or visit its Web site at www.fema.gov.

QUESTION # 5: A PIPE BURSTS AND WATER FLOWS ALL OVER MY FLOORS. AM I COVERED?
Answer: Yes. The HO-3 covers you for accidental discharge of water from a plumbing system. You should check your plumbing and heating systems once a year. While you are covered for damage, who needs the mess and hassle?

QUESTION # 6: WHAT IF WATER SEEPS INTO MY BASEMENT FROM THE GROUND, AM I COVERED?
Answer: No. Water seepage is excluded under the HO-3. And if the water seepage is not due to a flood you will not be covered under a flood policy. Seepage is viewed as a maintenance issue and is not covered by insurance. You should see a contractor about waterproofing your basement.

QUESTION # 7: AM I COVERED FOR EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE?
Answer: No. Earthquake coverage is sold as additional coverage to the homeowners policy. To find out whether you should buy this insurance, talk to your agent or company representative. The cost of this coverage can vary significantly from one area to another, depending on the likelihood of a major earthquake.

QUESTION # 8: A NEIGHBOR SLIPS ON MY SIDEWALK OR FALLS DOWN MY PORCH STEPS AND THREATENS TO TAKE ME TO COURT FOR DAMAGES. DOES MY POLICY PROTECT ME?
Answer: Yes. The policy will pay for damages, if a fall or other accident on your property is the result of your negligence. It will also pay for the legal costs of defending you against a claim. Also, the medical payments part of your homeowners policy will cover medical expenses, if a neighbor or guest is injured on your property. You should check to see how much liability protection you have. The standard amount is $100,000. If you feel you need more, consider purchasing higher limits.

QUESTION # 9: A TREE FALLS AND DAMAGES MY ROOF DURING A STORM. AM I COVERED?
Answer: Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, generally up to a $500 limit. You should cut down dead or dying trees close to your house and prune branches that are near your house. It's true that your insurance covers damage, but falling trees and branches can also injure your family.

QUESTION # 10: DURING A STORM, A TREE FALLS BUT DOES NO DAMAGE TO MY PROPERTY. AM I COVERED FOR THE COST OF REMOVING THE TREE?
Answer: Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks like vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage. However, if a fallen tree blocks access to your home you may be covered for its removal. Decide if you need extra insurance for the trees, plants and shrubs on your property. You may be able to purchase extra insurance, which will not only cover the cost of removing fallen trees, but will also cover the cost of replacing trees, and other plants.

QUESTION # 11: IF A STORM CAUSES A POWER OUTAGE AND ALL THE FOOD IN MY REFRIGERATOR OR FREEZER IS SPOILED AND MUST BE THROWN OUT, CAN I MAKE A CLAIM?
Answer: The general answer is no. However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the homeowners policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered. You should check with your agent to find out whether you are covered for food spoilage in your state. If not, you can add food spoilage coverage to your policy for an additional premium.

QUESTION # 12: I HAVE CHILDREN AWAY AT COLLEGE. ARE THEY COVERED BY MY HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE?
Answer: If they’re full-time college students and part of your household, your insurance generally provides some coverage in a dorm, typically 10 percent of the contents limit. If they live off campus, some companies may not provide this limited coverage if the apartment is rented in the student’s name.

QUESTION # 13: MY GOLF CLUBS ARE STOLEN FROM THE TRUNK OF MY CAR. DOES MY HOMEOWNERS POLICY COVER THE LOSS?
Answer: Yes. The HO-3 covers your personal property while it is anywhere in the world. However, if your golf clubs are old, you will only get their current value, which may not be enough to purchase a new set. Consider buying a replacement cost endorsement for your personal property. This way you will get what it costs to replace the golf clubs, less the applicable deductible.

QUESTION # 14: I HAVE A SMALL POWER BOAT. IF IT IS STOLEN, AM I COVERED? WHAT IF THERE IS A BOATING ACCIDENT AND I GET SUED? AM I COVERED FOR THAT?
Answer: Whether or not you are covered for either theft or liability depends on the size of the boat, the horsepower of the engine and your insurance company. Coverage for small boats under homeowners policies varies significantly. Ask your insurance representative whether you need a Boatowners policy.

QUESTION # 15: MY HOUSE IS CLOSE TO THE OCEAN. I’VE HEARD THAT IF IT IS DESTROYED BY THE WIND, THE TOWN'S NEW BUILDING CODE REQUIRES ME TO REBUILD THE HOUSE ON STILTS. THIS WILL ADD $30,000 TO THE COST OF REBUILDING MY HOUSE. AM I COVERED FOR THIS EXTRA COST?
Answer: No. The HO-3 excludes costs caused by ordinances or laws that regulate the construction of buildings. You can purchase an Ordinance or Law endorsement. This will cover the extra costs involved in meeting new building codes.

QUESTION # 16: AM I COVERED FOR “ACTS OF GOD”?
Answer: Sometimes. The term “Acts of God” is not specifically mentioned in homeowners insurance policies. It usually refers to natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, as opposed to man-made acts, like theft and auto accidents. Some natural disasters, such as damage from windstorms, hail, lightning and volcanic eruptions, are covered under homeowners insurance. Damage from floods and earthquakes is not.

QUESTION # 17: WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY POLICY PROVIDES LESS COVERAGE THAN THE HO-3?
Answer: Review your coverage with your agent. Some older policies provide less coverage than the HO-3. They may not provide coverage for water damage, theft, or liability. They may also provide coverage for the house on an actual cash value basis, rather than a replacement cost basis.

Actual Cash Value means replacement cost less depreciation. For example, if your roof is destroyed in a storm, the insurance will only pay for the cost of a new roof less the amount of depreciation of the old roof. If your roof was in great shape, this deduction will not be large. However, if the roof was old and worn out, the deduction for depreciation may be significant. You should try to get an HO-3.

For more information, contact your agent or company representative. You can also visit our Web site at www.iii.org.

This brochure was reviewed by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA. For additional assistance with homeownership questions, contact your County Extension office listed under County Government in your local telephone directory.