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General Personal Lines FAQs:

Q: What kinds of questions should I be expected to answer when I apply for an insurance policy? Why do insurers need so much information?

When you apply for an insurance policy, you’ll be asked a number of questions. Among other things, the agent might ask you your name, age, gender, and address. You’ll also be asked a number of other questions which will be used to determine how likely you are to make a claim.

When an insurance company is deciding whether or not to offer automobile insurance to a potential customer, they will want to know about the person’s previous driving record, whether they have any recent accidents or tickets, and what type of car is to be insured.

Insurance companies have different programs for different customers. Adults with good driving records will generally pay less for auto insurance than a young driver with traffic tickets will. In order to determine which program you qualify for, an insurance company needs basic information about you.

In addition to your age, gender, and driving experience, they will also need information about the vehicle you drive and how you drive it to determine a fair price. For example, a large luxury car costs more to repair or replace than a sub-compact, and someone who commutes 30 miles each way is more likely to be in an accident than someone who rides the bus to work and drives only on weekends.

Q: What are the advantages to using an agent to purchase insurance?

By using an agent to purchase insurance, the policy holder receives more personal service. An agent with whom there is direct contact can be vital when purchasing a product and absolutely necessary when filing a claim. A local independent agent is able to deliver quality insurance with competitive pricing and local, personalized service.


Q: I have an older car that currently has a very low market value. Do I really need to purchase automobile insurance?  

Most states have insurance laws that require drivers to have at least some automobile liability insurance. These laws were enacted to ensure that victims of automobile accidents receive compensation when their losses are caused by the actions of another individual who was negligent.

It’s often the case that the cost of repairing the damages to an older car is greater than its value. In these cases, your insurer will usually just “total” the car and give you a check for the car’s market value less the deductible. Many people with older cars decide not to purchase any physical damage coverage.

Q: What's the difference between Collision Physical Damage Coverage and Comprehensive Physical Damage Coverage?

Collision Physical Damage Coverage is defined as losses you incur when your automobile collides with another car or object. For example, if you hit a car in a parking lot, the damages to your car will be paid under your collision coverage.

Comprehensive Physical Damage Coverage provides coverage for most other direct physical damage losses you could incur, including theft. For example, damage to your car from a hailstorm would be covered under your comprehensive coverage.

Q: What factors can affect eh cost of my automobile insurance?

A number of factors can affect the cost of your automobile insurance, some of which you can control and some that you can’t.

The type of car you drive, the purpose the car serves, your driving record, and where the car is garaged can all affect how much your automobile insurance will cost.

Even your marital status can affect your cost of insurance. Statistics show that married people tend to have fewer and less costly accidents than single people do.

Homeowner FAQ's:

Q: What are some practical things that I can do to lower the cost of my homeowners insurance?

There are a number of things you can do to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance. The easiest thing to do is get a comprehensive review of your policy and needs from your local agent.

It’s not surprising to find quotes on homeowners insurance that vary by hundreds of dollars for the same coverage on the same home. When you shop, be careful to make sure each insurer is offering the same coverage.

Another way to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance is to look for any discounts that you may qualify for. For example, many insurers will offer a discount when you place both your automobile and homeowners insurance with them. Other times, insurers offer discounts if there are deadbolt exterior locks on all your doors, or if your home has a security system. Be sure to ask us to look into these discounts for you.

Another easy way to lower the cost of your homeowners insurance is to raise your deductible. Increasing your deductible from $250 to $500 will lower your premium, sometimes by as much as five or ten percent.

Q: What does homeowners insurance cover?

The typical homeowners policy has two main sections: Section I covers the property of the insured, and Section II provides personal liability coverage for the insured. Almost anyone who owns or leases property has a need for this type of insurance. Usually, homeowners insurance is required by the lender to obtain a mortgage.

Q: What is the difference between the terms "actual cash value" and "replacement cost" in my homeowners policy? 

Covered losses under a homeowners policy can be paid on either an actual cash value basis or on a replacement cost basis. When “actual cash value” is used, the policy owner is entitled to the depreciated value of the damaged property. Under the “replacement cost” coverage, the policy owner is reimbursed an amount necessary to replace the article with one of similar type and quality at current prices.

Q: What factors should I consider when purchasing homeowners insurance?

Here’s a checklist of things you should consider when you purchase homeowners insurance:

  1. Determine the amount and type of insurance that you need. The coverage limit of your house should equal 100% of its replacement cost. If your policy limit is less than 80% of the replacement cost of your home, any payment from your insurance company will be less than the full cost to replace your home. You’ll have to pay the rest out of your own pocket. Also, decide if the personal property and personal liability limits are adequate for your needs.
  2. Determine which, if any, additional endorsements you want to add to your policy. For example, do you want the personal property replacement cost endorsement, an earthquake endorsement, or a jewelry endorsement?
  3. Once you’ve decided on the coverage you want in your homeowners insurance policy, consult us. We’ll be able to help you determine if there are any gaps in coverage you might not have been aware of and explain the details of the policy’s exclusions and limitations, as well as recommend an insurance company that will live up to your expectations.

Q: What are the policy limits (i.e. coverage limits) in the standard homeowners policy?

*Note: this answer is based on the Insurance Services Office’s HO-3 policy.

A: The dwelling and other structures on the premises are protected on an “all risks” basis up to the policy limits. “All risks” means that unless the policy specifically excludes the manner in which your home is damaged or destroyed, there is coverage. The policy limit for the dwelling is set by the policy owner at the time the insurance is purchased. The policy limit for the other structure is usually equal to 10% of the policy limit for the dwelling.

Losses to your personal property are covered on a “named perils” basis. “Named perils” means that you have coverage only when your property is damaged or destroyed in the manner specifically described in the policy. The policy limit on the coverage is equal to 50% of the policy limit on the dwelling. Limits for the coverage for the additional expenses that the policy owner may incur when the residence cannot be used because of an insured loss is equal to 20% of the policy limit on the dwelling.

The coverage limit on personal liability is determined by the policy owner at the time the policy is issued. The coverage limit on medical payments to others is usually set at $1000 per injured person.

Q: Where and when is my personal property covered?

Personal property (except property that is specifically excluded) is covered anywhere in the world. For example, suppose that while traveling, you purchased a dresser and you want to ship it home. Your homeowners policy would provide coverage for the named perils while the dresser is in transit, even though the dresser has never been in your home before.

Q: Do I need earthquake coverage, and how can I get it?

The standard insurance policy does not pay for direct damages caused by earth movement. “Earth movement” is a much broader term than “earthquake”. It includes earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other types of earth movement. This coverage may be available by endorsement for an additional charge. If you live in an area that’s more likely to have an earthquake, you’ll pay more than if you live in an area that is unlikely to have one. We can help you weigh the costs and benefits of this coverage before you decide to purchase.

Renters FAQ's:

Q: Why would I want to buy renters insurance?

If you live in an apartment or a rented house, renters insurance provides important coverage for both you and your possessions. A standard renter’s policy protects your personal property in many cases of theft or damage and may pay for temporary living expenses if your rental is damaged. It can also shield you from personal liability. Anyone who leases a house or apartment should consider this type of coverage.

Q: How does a renters policy protect my personal property?

A renters policy provides “named perils coverage”. This means that the policy only pays when your property is damaged or destroyed by any of the ways specifically described in the policy. These usually include:

  • Fire or lightning
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Explosions
  • Riots
  • Aircraft
  • Vehicles
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism or malicious mischief
  • Theft
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam
  • Freezing
  • Sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current
  • Volcanic eruptions (but this doesn’t include earthquake or tremors)

Renters coverage applies to your personal property, no matter where you are in the world. This means you’re covered when you are on vacation as well as at home.

Q: Why do some apartment complexes require tenants to have renters insurance?

Owners of apartment complexes buy insurance policies for their liability and to cover their buildings and personal property. However, these policies do not cover any of the tenant’s property or liability. By requiring their tenants to have renters insurance, the apartment owner is assured that the tenants will not mistakenly believe the apartment complex owner’s policy will provide coverage for a tenant’s property or personal liability. Although this type of requirement benefits that apartment complex owner, there are benefits to the renter as well. We recommend that you purchase renters insurance regardless of what your landlord requires.

Q: Why do some apartment complexes require tenants to have renters insurance?

Owners of apartment complexes buy insurance policies for their liability and to cover their buildings and personal property. However, these policies do not cover any of the tenant’s property or liability. By requiring their tenants to have renters insurance, the apartment owner is assured that the tenants will not mistakenly believe the apartment complex owner’s policy will provide coverage for a tenant’s property or personal liability. Although this type of requirement benefits that apartment complex owner, there are benefits to the renter as well. We recommend that you purchase renters insurance regardless of what your landlord requires.

Q: What if I share my apartment with a roommate? Do we both need to have renters insurance?

Standard renter’s policies cover only you and relatives that live with you. If your roommate is not a relative, each of you will need your own renter’s policy to cover your own property and to provide you liability coverage for your own actions.

Umbrella FAQ's:

Q: What is personal umbrella liability policy?

A personal umbrella liability policy is designed to increase your liability protection. This single policy acts as an “umbrella” over all of your other personal liability policies (home, auto, boat, RV, etc.) so that you have a higher personal liability limit than what would otherwise be available. In certain circumstances, an umbrella policy may provide personal liability coverage that is otherwise excluded from your other policies. For example, an umbrella policy provides coverage anywhere in the world, whereas your auto policy usually provides coverage in the U.S. and Canada only.

Q: How do I know if I need a personal umbrella liability policy?

It used to be that the only people who needed personal umbrella liability policies were wealthy individuals who had sizable amounts of personal assets that would be at risk in a lawsuit. However, in our very litigious society, even individuals with modest incomes and assets are often subjects of large lawsuits. Since they are even less able than a wealthy individual to pay large damage awards, they recognize the need to have coverage limits greater than what can be obtained from their homeowner or auto policies.

General Commercial Lines FAQ's

Q: Why does a business owner need to consider risks?

Running a business is inherently risky. Many factors outside the control of the business owner can influence the success or failure of the enterprise and a high percentage of new businesses fail within a few months of inception. Even large and successful businesses can succumb to changing conditions. Consider what has happened to some of the largest companies in industries such as automobiles, telecommunications, computers, and railroads. To improve the probability of success, the management of a business should think about potential risks and how to offset them.

The losses to a business caused by increased expenses or decreased revenues could threaten the livelihood of the owner or owners. A realistic analysis of the risks inherent in the business and a plan for dealing with them will protect the business from unanticipated losses and disruptions to its flow of income.

Q: What is Risk Analysis?

Risk analysis is a process by which you consider all possible risks and determine which are the most significant for your particular business. It may make sense to mitigate some risks by purchasing insurance. Other risks can be eliminated without purchasing insurance. After considering how likely various losses are to occur, how expensive they are to mitigate and how much money you have to spend, you decide the optimum strategy for dealing with the various risks.

Q: What types of risks need to be considered?

The size of the company, type of industry, type of organizational structure, capitalization, geographical area, management team, degree of experience and expertise in the targeted business, capitalization, competitive environment and many other factors can have a bearing on the risk environment for the company. The business owners should address such issues in their business and strategic analyses of the company’s situation. A few of the potential operational risks are as follows:

1. Risk of Property Damage

2. Risk of Inventory Loss or Damage (through spoilage, etc.)

3. Risk of Loss from Employee Theft

4. Risk from Various Liabilities (including injuries to customers or to others)

5. Risk from Errors and Omissions Liabilities

6. Business interruption Risks

Other risks involve the business’s employees and may call for optional or mandatory insurance coverage:

1. Worker’s compensation

2. Unemployment

3. Employee benefits

Some additional risks relate to the owners and their ability to continue the business in the event of serious losses

1. Risk of death of an owner or key employee

2. Risk of disability of an owner or key employee.

Q: What are some key risk management techniques?

The primary ways of dealing with risk include:

1. Find ways to avoid risks such as eliminating potentially hazardous products or procedures

2. Reduce the frequency or severity of risks that cannot be eliminated

3. Transfer the risk to an insurance company (or perhaps to another party by means of legal agreements that your business will be “held harmless”).

Q: How often should I review my risk analysis?

A review should be done periodically. Once a year might be appropriate for many businesses. Many insurance premiums come due or up for reevaluation annually. That would be a good time to consider any changes in your risk analysis. You should also consider a review whenever you business:

1. gets larger or smaller

2. changes its nature as when it diversifies into new businesses or markets or products

3. relocates

4. anytime your business evolves in any way that could change your risk profile.

Q: How does the structure of the organization relate to the businesses risk?

The type of organization can have a bearing on the degree to which you are personally liable for obligations of the business.

Unincorporated Businesses:

Unincorporated businesses are by far the most common type of business.

The three basic forms of unincorporated business enterprises are

1. Proprietorships (easiest to form and terminate). This is the most common form of business enterprise. Most proprietorships are small. The proprietor faces the greatest risk exposure of any business owner since the business and personal assets of the proprietor are legally indistinguishable – as are business and personal debts. Business misfortune can cause personal financial distress.

2. Partnerships. State laws lay out the legal principles that govern these. Allows for additional input of expertise or capital or time. General partners of businesses also have essentially unlimited exposure.

3. Limited-liability companies. These are the fastest growing form of company. They allow limited liability, flexibility of partnership taxation, and are attractive to people who desire to be limited partners (with limited liability) and supply investment capital, but not become involved in the active management of the company. A variation of this is the registered limited liability partnership which operates as a normal general partnership and offers liability protection for all partners.

Incorporated Businesses:

The corporation is another form of business organization. A corporation exists as a legal entity separate and apart from its owners. It is created under the laws of the various states. Advantages of the corporate form include limited liability, continuity of life, and various tax advantages. Corporations range from small scale to very large. Very large corporations usually have a department that manages the various aspects of risk planning and business and insurance planning. Corporations are taxed as separate taxpayers with rates different from those applicable to individuals. These tax considerations affect some aspects of insurance planning for corporations.

Corporations can be one of two general types (C corporation – the ordinary type, or S Corporation – which has a different type of taxation)

Q: What is a closely held corporation?

A closely held corporation has a small number of shareholders, no public market for the corporate stock and the ownership and management overlap. Many small closely held corporations are functionally not greatly different from small unincorporated businesses in such matters as how they operate, make decisions and raise capital. Despite the difference in liability exposure, some lenders have been known to require managements of small corporations to pledge personal assets to secure business loans.

Q: What is business insurance?

The term “Business Insurance” refers to a wide variety of insurance coverages that can reduce or mitigate or compensate for exposure to risk for the business or its employees. It also includes coverages mandated by law such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation social security, and (in some states) state disability.

Q: What should I do about computer and data risks? Do I require insurance?

In today’s business world, your computer data constitutes a key asset – perhaps more valuable than many of your tangible items such as buildings or vehicles. So safeguarding data and data processing assets are crucial success factors.

Many data related risks can be greatly reduced by non-insurance steps. For example a carefully designed program of backing up data frequently and dispersing data processing and records in widely separated locations can avoid many of disruptions caused by natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, etc.) or by area-wide disruptions of communication or electric power and even terrorist attacks. If such events do occur, the redundancy and dispersion should make it possible to recover your operations quickly in most situations.

Archived data should also be maintained in secure locations. If you do not have the capability of securing such records, you might want to consider using the services of outside companies that store your valuable records in secure, carefully controlled, remote locations such as special warehouses or underground mines.

And security of customers’ private information is increasingly important to give customers the confidence to use your products and/or services. So you need to consider what information security risks you have and how to eliminate them.

These are areas where you might find preventive actions to be preferable to insurance and remediation.