April Showers Bring Flooded Basements

It’s that time of year when we tend to see heavy rainstorms in our area.  Along with those heavy rains, we see a lot of flooded basements caused by water backing up through the sewers and sump pump systems.

Some policies do provide insurance coverage for these types of losses.  But, they are often limited and sometimes carry a heavy deductible.  Plus, the insurance won’t cover your time and aggravation in having to deal with the water in your basement.

If you have a sump pump system, now would be a good time to check it to be sure it is working properly.  In addition, if you have a battery backup, you should check the battery to be sure that it is working and fully charged.  Many batteries require some maintenance including adding water and will wear out over time.  If you have a separate backup pump, you’ll want to test it to make sure that it will work in an emergency as well.

If you live in an area that experiences a lot of power outages, consider purchasing a small gas powered electric generator.  You can use these to not only power your sump pump, but also other appliances such as your refrigerator to keep your frozen food from thawing out.

Remember, “In times of peace prepare for war.”  Don’t wait for the storm to hit to find out if these important protections against water damage are working.

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How to Save Money on Your Auto Insurance

Earlier this month Trusted Choice® asked fans on Facebook what questions they had about insurance and what they would like toInsurance Savings Jar know more about when it comes to coverage and price. Responses ranged from “what to do after an accident” to “Am I covered if…,” but far and away the question on most people’s minds was “How can I save money on my insurance?”

It’s a common question, and in tough economic times, one that warrants consideration. Of course, keep in mind that the extent of coverage is an important factor that determines the cost of your insurance, so the cheapest policy is not necessarily the best. Your insurance premium is also based partly on the level of risk the insurance company must take in order to provide coverage, so one way to save money is to reduce your risk. Here are a few ways that you might lower the premium on your homeowners and auto insurance, while at the same time taking steps to reduce your risk.

Save on your homeowners insurance

  • Installing deadbolt locks (to discourage theft), fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and burglar and fire alarms that alert your local police and fire stations can often result in premium savings because of discounts offered by the insurance company. Check with your Trusted Choice agent before purchasing any of these items to see if your insurance carrier has specific requirements to qualify for the discount.
  • Another way to save may be to increase the deductible on your homeowners policy. If your deductible is $500, it means that you agree to pay this amount first, and your insurance company will pay for damages that exceed this deductible. By increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000 it decreases the insurance company’s risk, which may mean a savings in your premium.

Save on your auto insurance

Insurers often discount their rates for good drivers and those who take safety and security precautions. Sometimes the investment you make in your vehicle is worth the discount, and sometimes it’s simply worth some peace of mind. For example, the purchase of anti-lock brakes merits a discount from nearly every insurer, but the discount probably will not pay for the brakes during the normal life of your vehicle. Insurers generally offer discounts for:

  • Safety Features
  • Defensive Driving— Clean violation record, driver’s education courses for teenagers and defensive driving or accident prevention courses for adults (insurance discounts for the latter are required in some states).
    Security Systems—Alarms, electronic locks and disabling devices.
  • Changing Driving Habits—Commuting by public transit, using a company vehicle for work-related travel and car-pooling.
  • Formal Agreements Not to Drink and Drive—The availability of a discount for signing such an agreement varies among insurers and states.
  • You can also lower your insurance rates by requesting higher deductibles (the amount of money you pay before you make a claim). Increasing your deductibles on collision and comprehensive coverage from $250 to $500, will bring your rates down. Moreover, you may not need collision and comprehensive coverage if you drive an older car. Ask your agent which discounts are available to you.
  • Many insurers also offer discounts if you insure both your home and automobile with the same company.

Part of the value of working with a Trusted Choice agent is that they have the ability to represent more than one insurance company, so they can help identify and explain different coverage options, so that you’re getting competitive pricing on a choice of products to find what’s right for you.

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Cabin Fever? Make a Home Inventory!

Do you have the winter time blues? Cabin fever? Looking for a way to pass the time?Make a Home Inventory Why not take a few minutes if you’re stuck inside this winter to make a home inventory? If disaster strikes or your home is burglarized and your belongings are destroyed or stolen, a home inventory makes the insurance claims process a lot simpler. Being able to provide a detailed home inventory to a claims adjuster can help you and your insurance company settle on a fair amount for your belongings and it helps you get your possessions replaced quicker. Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be completely daunting. Here are a few tips for compiling your home inventory:
  • Details, details, details. A home inventory includes a comprehensive list of all your belongings, along with receipts (if you have them), photos, and descriptions. For items such as electronics be sure to record the serial number of the item.

  • Divide and conquer. Instead of making one long list of your items, break it down by room and/or type of item, such as clothing, heirlooms, electronics, and jewelry. This will make the home inventory less overwhelming and decrease the chances that you’ll overlook something.

  • Know what your stuff is worth. If you have antiques, family heirlooms, or other valuables that don’t have receipts, you may want to have them appraised in order to determine their value.

  • Don’t forget to check the attic. When taking your inventory, make sure you don’t overlook items that are stored in the closet, drawers, attic, or garage. Bicycles, holiday decorations, and sports equipment may be out of sight, but their cost adds up. Make sure you include everything – even if it’s in storage – on your list.

  • Add it up. Once you have a full document of all your belongings, along with their values, add up all the items in your home and their total cost.

  • Keep it safe. Store your complete home inventory with your insurance policy in a safe, easily accessible place, such as a fireproof box, safe deposit box, or other secure location. Technology today also makes it possible to keep your home inventory digitally using cloud storage.

  • Take stock annually. Remember to review and update your inventory each year, or whenever you make a significant purchase, to ensure your new items are documented.
Trusted Choice ® offers a home inventory tool on our mobile app, which allows you to use your smart phone or tablet to take pictures and document important details of your belongings. It also allows you to maintain multiple inventories, so you can categorize your belongings by type (electronics, furniture, etc.) or by room in the house. The app is free and available through both the App Store and Google Play.
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Time to Winterize!

Winterizing Pipes

As the first leaves hit the ground and those fall breezes turn from cool to cold, it’s time to prepare for winter. Whether that means snowstorms and ice or just the heavy chills many experienced in last year’s milder season, experts advise preparing your home for whatever Old Man Winter has in store.

Here are 10 popular winterizing tips:

  1. Check doors, windows and any exterior opportunities for winter to enter your home. Caulk cracks and replace cracked or broken glass and dried-out or missing weatherstripping and seals.
  2. Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts.
  3. Inspect, repair or replace flashing, roof shingles or tiles. If needed, add attic insulation to prevent ice dams along the edge of the roof, which can cause water damage to roofs and ceilings.
  4. Get the fireplace and furnace ready. Buy or chop firewood and inspect damper and chimney. Have the furnace inspected, clean the ducts, stock up on filters, and inspect or replace the thermostat.
  5. Inspect, update, or install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers.
  6. Protect pipes. Insulate exposed pipes, and drain and close off A/C pipes or exterior hose bibs. If you plan a vacation, be sure to leave heat set at least to 55 degrees.
  7. Reverse ceiling fans. In the summer, ceiling fans force breezes downward. In winter, reversing the direction of air flow forces the warm air at ceiling height back down along the walls, from where it will rise again, keeping the overall room temperature at a more comfortable level with less need for heating.
  8. Prepare landscaping and gardens. Trim dead tree limbs or any branches that are hanging so close to the house or electrical wires that they could cause damage when weighted by ice. Bring sensitive plants indoors or move to greenhouse. Seal or repair sidewalks, driveways, patios, and decks.
  9. Service winter equipment. Is your snowblower ready for action? Do you have snow shovels and ice choppers and adequate bags of sand or ice melt for icy surfaces?
  10. Assemble an emergency kit. Include first aid supplies, flashlights, candles, lanterns, extra batteries, nonperishable food, and bottled water.

And don’t forget this is a great time of year for a homeowners coverage review with your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent. Should winter storms cause damage to your home, be certain your current protection is adequate.

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Did You Unwrap a Coverage Problem: Insuring Your Holiday Gifts

Jewelry Insurance

Were you one of the people from the car commercials who found a surprise in the driveway with a big bow on it Christmas morning? For most of us, the answer is probably not, but just like you’d insure a new car, you may want to look into insuring some other gifts from this past holiday season. Certain gifts, such as cars, obviously require their own insurance policy, but sometimes it’s not always as clear.

Most of the gifts are automatically covered by your homeowners or renters insurance, but there are a few gifts that may be exceptions to that. Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents encourage you to review your insurance if you unwrapped one of these gifts this year:

Jewelry Insurance

Jewelry is a popular gift item every year, and on top of the value of each piece, a jewelry collection can have a value of thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. On a homeowners insurance policy there may be a limit of $2,000 or less on the amount of coverage for jewelry. A diamond ring and a pair of pearl earrings may put you over that limit. With jewelry it’s important that you know how much your gift (and other pieces) are valued at, and whether it exceeds the limits in your policy. If it does exceed the limit, consider adding what’s known as a “valuable articles floater” to your homeowners policy.

Collectibles & Memorabilia Insurance

Whether it’s the baseball card from your favorite player’s rookie year, the autographed “Rolling Stones” album cover or the rare stamp your philatelist father-in-law has been searching for, collectibles and memorabilia can have significant value, either as an individual item or as part of a larger collection. For some collections, listing or “scheduling” the items on your homeowners insurance policy will provide sufficient coverage. For some collections though it may make more sense to obtain a separate policy- for items like art, antiques, musical instruments and coin collections, a Fine Arts and Valuable Items policy may be available for added peace of mind.

A valuable articles floater or a personal articles floater can add coverage for your gifts if they aren’t covered by your homeowners policy. When you give or receive gifts that may have a high value, make sure you document their value and add them to your home inventory. Then, reach out to your Trusted Choice agent to make sure that you have coverage to protect your present.

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You Posted What!? Teens, Social Media and a Parent’s Liability

Jealousy. Passion. Betrayal. No, not the latest television drama, but high school. For many the high school experience comes with social pressures and obligations to fit in and belong, and sadly this can lead to exclusion and isolation of some students. At some point we all probably said something in our teen years in the heat of the moment that we wish we could take back, but today’s teens face the added burden that if they convey those statements on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, their words could be around for a lot longer than just the heat of the moment.

It doesn’t take much searching of the news to see stories of teens using social media sites like Facebook to transfer the cruelty of high school hallways into the online world. Teens that make fun of a student or tease them may not just be responsible for hurt feelings, but if they’re publishing bullying or teasing posts online or revealing private information about another teen in a public forum, whether a blog, to their Facebook profile or other social space, they may be exposing you and your insurance policy to a claim.

Are my kids covered under my insurance?

Generally speaking, any coverage you have through your homeowners or renters insurance policy also provides coverage to other residents of the household, including your teenage children. Standard homeowners and renters policies include liability protection for bodily injury or property damage, which would pay for the costs to cover medical bills or repair/replacement costs if your child injured a friend in a pick-up basketball game or if they were at a friend’s house and accidentally spilled soda on a $13,000 oriental rug, subject you your policy’s deductible.

But what if your son or daughter were to post rumors about other teens online that implied drug use, promiscuity, or other information that could damage that person’s reputation? With college admissions offices and employers beginning to look up applicants on social networking sites, rumors and gossip have the very serious potential to damage someone’s ability to get into the college of their choice, or find a job. Or if your son or daughter “outs” another teen’s sexual orientation, as in the case of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, there’s the potential that someone could pursue legal action under a type of defamation known as publication of private facts. Interestingly, a standard homeowners or renters policy would not cover these instances.

So what can you do?

Get a Personal Injury Endorsement

In order to cover claims from that kind of situation, homeowners and renters policies must have what is called an endorsement- extra language that is inserted into the policy to expand coverage- in order to have your liability protection extended to cover “personal injury.” As a Trusted Choice ® Independent Insurance Agent, we can tell you if your current insurance policy already has this personal injury endorsement by reviewing it, and if it doesn’t, they would be able to help you get one. You may be surprised to find that this expanded coverage may not cost you much additional premium. A personal injury endorsement will pay the costs up to the limits of your policy to defend you, pay a judgment or settle a case when legal action is brought against you or your children for defamation.

Make sure that if you’re a parent, you talk to your children about social media, how they use it and what’s expected of them. It’s critical that they understand how their use of social media could impact your insurance. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s use of social media, and there are various software programs available to assist those who want to closely monitor what their children do in social spaces for parents who want access to their children’s profiles. No matter what you choose to do, we should all encourage each other to treat others with respect.

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