Archive for May 2013

So What’s this Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Why should I have it?   Leave a comment

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You can be the most responsible driver in the world and have your very own auto insurance coverage plan but there are an untold number of drivers out there on the city streets and freeways who drive without any insurance and have no concern for what might happen after an accident. What happens if you get hit by a car owner without any car insurance?

Uninsured Motorist Insurance

This is where uninsured motorist coverage comes into play. It is estimated that in some states up to 25% of drivers don’t have any form of auto insurance, which is a staggering figure when you think about it. That’s 1 in every 4 cars around you as you trudge along during your morning commute. And if these people are irresponsible enough not to insure their cars, how responsible do you think their driving habits are going to be when they are out on the roads?

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage can pay for, medical expenses for you and your passengers and in some cases to your property in the car if you are hit by someone who is at fault in the accident. This additional auto insurance is highly recommended by most industry experts as it seems the number of uninsured motorists is growing due to the state of the national economy.

When you can barely pay your bills for housing and food it is easy to look at car insurance as an expendable monthly expense. Now, you may know that isn’t a wise but that doesn’t mean the person in that car in the lane next to you feels the same way. We have all heard about hit and run drivers and usually these people do so because they are uninsured. Such an incident would be covered for you if you have uninsured motorist coverage.

What Can Uninsured Motorist Coverage Pay For?

Adding uninsured motorist coverage to your current plan is usually relatively inexpensive considering how ably it can protect you from financial ruin in the case of a catastrophic accident. Not only does uninsured motorist insurance pay for damage to your car and medical expenses but it can also cover the cost of lost wages and pain and suffering.

Millions of Americans are out of work and are in dire financial straits, so now more than ever having underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is an absolute must. If someone has no car insurance and no money to pay you for your costs after an accident, you will be fully responsible for all that financial burden without uninsured motorist insurance coverage. Don’t let someone else’s irresponsibility or personal financial struggle put you or your family at risk and ask your insurance agent about uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist coverage is not the same in all states and coverage will vary depending on where you live and where your policy is based on. Please consult your agent and your policy regarding specific questions you may have.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

What is a 4 Point Inspection?   Leave a comment

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A “Four Point Inspection” focuses only on four main areas of interest in a home:

• HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)
• Electrical wiring and panels
• Plumbing connections and fixtures
• Roof

The inspection and report describes the condition and age of these elements.

Insurance companies have become increasingly reluctant to issue Homeowner Insurance Policies on older homes (usually 25 years old or more).

Their common concern is that there may be conditions in an older home that could become a liability to them. For instance; a home with a roof nearing the end of its reliable service life may fail while under the policy and the homeowner may seek reimbursement from their insurance company for damages to the home or its contents. Similar concerns extend to the condition of the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems in an older home. If these elements are in poor condition, in need of being updated or replaced or were improperly installed, they may fail and cause fire or water damage to a home.

Newer homes are assumed (by the insurance companies) to not have these problems as frequently as older homes.

Is there a standard form to fill out?

There is no industry wide standard form for a Four Point Inspection. Some insurance companies provide their own forms; however, most insurance companies will accept forms from companies that perform home inspections provided that they are filled out by qualified individuals.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted May 17, 2013 by leecountyinsurance in General Info, Homeowners

Flood Insight   Leave a comment

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Flood coverage is not included in your homeowners or dwelling fire policies, but is available for purchase as a separate policy. Flood policies cover damage due to flooding, according to the guidelines established by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Just an inch or two of water in your home can cause extensive and costly damage.

Available Coverage

For homeowners, flood policies are available to insure your home (dwelling) up to $250,000 and its contents up to $100,000. If additional coverage is needed, separate excess flood insurance policies are also available for purchase.
For renters, it is recommended that tenants purchase a flood policy in addition to their renter’s policy to cover contents. Up to $100,000 of flood coverage is available for renters.

Activation Period

Don’t wait to purchase flood insurance until hurricane season or spring storms are headed your way! Flood policies are not effective until 30 days after purchase. We recommend reviewing your policy coverages on an annual basis with your insurance agent. Contact Lee County Insurance today to learn more about flood insurance policies and available options such as excess flood coverage. You may also get a multi-policy discount and save money on your homeowners (HO3) by purchasing a flood policy.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Flood Insurance: Are you Covered   Leave a comment

sandbags

Many homeowners forget that homeowners policies do not include flood insurance coverage, which is available as a separate policy.

Floods happen in every state including Florida. Your independent insurance agent can help you purchase a flood policy, but be sure not to wait! Unlike home insurance, flood insurance policies do not take effect until 30 days after purchase. Even if you don’t live in a high-risk flood zone, hurricanes and heavy rains can cause flash flooding. Just one inch of water in your home can cause serious AND costly damage. Be smart about flood insurance. Contact your insurance agent today!

Information Courtesy of Tower Hill Insurance

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Damage from Floods: How to Protect Your Home   Leave a comment

girls-in-flood-waters

Floods can happen any time and any place, and they can happen fast! Whether you live near the water or not, you should always be ready. Here are some important things you can do to prepare.

Everyone Lives in a Flood Zone

Did you know that most homeowners policies do not cover flood damage? However, you can purchase flood insurance as a separate policy from your insurance agent.

But do you need flood insurance? In a word, “YES!”

Floods can happen anywhere, anytime. Even an inch of water in your home can cause extensive–and expensive–damage. Consider the following….
•Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
•In the past several years, about 60 percent of all declared disasters involved flooding.
•Floods are caused by storms, hurricanes, water backup due to inadequate or overloaded drainage systems, as well as broken water mains. In Florida especially, slow-moving tropical storms can result in significant inland flooding.
•You do not need to live near water to be flooded. Some of the most damaging and costly floods occur hundreds of miles from coasts and river banks.
•Nearly one-third of flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas. In areas with the greatest risk of flooding, Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), a building has a 26 percent chance of being flooded during a 30-year mortgage. Sources: FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

What Does a Flood Insurance Policy Cover?

A standard flood policy covers the home’s structure (building) for up to $250,000 and its contents up to $100,000. In addition to the building, the structure portion of the policy will typically cover furnace, water heater and air conditioner damage; flood debris clean up; and flood surface damage such as to installed carpeting and tile. The contents portion will typically cover furniture, clothing, electronics, and valuables such as jewelry and art.

If you need an additional amount of coverage based on the value of your home and contents, excess flood policies are available. Check with your insurance agent to learn more about flood policy options and which type of coverage best meets your individual needs. For renters, flood insurance is available for contents coverage up to $100,000. Flood insurance is also available for business owners (nonresidential property owners); standard coverage includes up to $500,000 each for a building and its contents.

If You Wait, It May Be Too Late

Flood insurance is typically subject to a 30-day waiting period, meaning that it will not cover losses incurred within 30 days after the policy effective date. So don’t wait until a hurricane is forecast in your area to purchase a flood policy–or it will be too late to have coverage for that storm. If a policy is purchased in connection with a mortgage, the 30-day waiting period does not apply.

Be Prepared Before a Flood

Floods can happen any time and any place, and they can happen fast! Whether you live near the water or not, you should always be ready. Here are some important things you can do to prepare.
•Copy your most important documents (i.e., mortgage papers, deed, passport, insurance policies, bank information). Keep copies in your home above ground level, and store originals in a secure place outside the home, such as a safe deposit box.
•Complete a household inventory ahead of time. The more comprehensive you make the list, the better.
•Take photos of your most valuable possessions (i.e., furniture, musical instruments, electronic equipment) and keep the photos with copies of your important documents. With the photos be sure to include receipts, so that you have proof of the original cost, purchase date, manufacturer, model number, and other details that will help expedite repairs or replacement.
•Have an emergency plan in place for your family. Keep at least a 3-day supply of nonperishable food and bottled water on hand, plus an emergency kit that includes a battery-powered radio.
•Be sure to review your policy coverages with your insurance agent annually, to be sure you have adequate coverage. Between policy reviews contact your agent to discuss any important changes, such as remodeling or new valuables, to confirm you have the coverage you need.

Be Safe During a Flood

Hopefully, you will never have to experience a flood firsthand. But if you do, there are a few things you can do to help stay safe:
•Closely monitor weather advisories, and evacuate if ordered to do so.
•Keep away from downed power lines and any other electrical wires. Electrocution is often a major cause of death in floods.
•Do not walk through a flooded area.
•Just six inches of moving water can knock you down.
•Do not drive through a flooded area. Just two feet of water can lift and move a car, even an SUV. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during a flood.

Check Out these Helpful Website
•FloodSmart.gov, the official site of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), includes helpful information about the causes of flooding and flood risk scenarios. The website also includes an interactive tool that shows the potential damage and cost a flood could cause to your home. Tips on preparing before a flood and recovering after one are also provided.
•FloridaDisaster.org provides tips on developing an emergency plan for your family. There is even a section for the youngest family members to get involved, “Kids Get a Plan.”
•NOAA.gov, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, also includes tips on flood safety and awareness.

Report any property damage to your insurance agent or company representative immediately, and make temporary repairs to prevent further damage.

Information Courtesy of Tower Hill Insurance

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Posted May 14, 2013 by leecountyinsurance in Flood

Check your Hurricane IQ with our Pop Quiz   Leave a comment

Check your hurricane IQ with our pop quiz.

approaching-storm

True or False?:
• Tape windows or cover them with solar film to prevent damage during a tropical storm or hurricane.
• Only protect or board up windows and doors facing the coast or direction of the storm.
• Open windows or the garage door during a storm or hurricane to help equalize wind pressure with the outside to help prevent damage.

The statements above are . . . FALSE! These are all old hurricane myths, so be prepared and know the facts.

NO TAPE. Windows and openings (garage and entry doors, etc.) should be constructed of or covered with impact-resistant coverings, such as approved hurricane shutters. Pledge to “GO TAPELESS” with the Great Hurricane Blowout!

PROTECT ALL DIRECTIONS. Wind can shift quickly and blow from any direction. Use approved impact-resistant hurricane shutters; in an emergency, use plywood that is 5/8″ thick and attach securely.

KEEP WINDOWS AND DOORS CLOSED. Keep doors and windows closed and covered, ideally with hurricane shutters, during a storm to prevent wind from coming into your home. A leading cause of damage to homes during hurricanes results from garage doors failing to withstand the wind speeds or not being properly reinforced.

Information Courtesy of Tower Hill Insurance

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Plan. Prepare. Practice   Leave a comment

toolbox-wrench

It’s important to have a disaster plan in place for your family. Planning and preparing ahead of time is often key to staying safe during a catastrophe.

Familiarize yourself and your family with the location of nearby emergency shelters and evacuation routes through your local media or by visiting FloridaDisaster.org. Pick up a hurricane guide at your neighborhood grocery or hardware store to include in your emergency kit.

KidsGetaPlan.com is designed for the youngest members of your family. Just enter the child’s grade level and ZIP Code, to access interactive stories, activities, downloads and more.

Information Courtesy of Tower Hill Insurance.

Posted May 9, 2013 by leecountyinsurance in Disaster Preparedness

Do you ever get that sinking feeling?   Leave a comment

sinkhole

Sinkholes have been in the news a lot lately, and I am sure this has generated a lot of questions from customers. Sinkholes are a fact of life in certain parts of Florida. Sinkholes and how they are adjusted is regulated by the State of Florida. In 2011, the Legislature enacted SB408, which basically tells us, the insurance industry, how to adjust sinkholes. The law tells us that, when a claim is submitted, we must first have the risk evaluated to determine if the structure is showing signs of a sinkhole, at least a sinkhole as defined by the Legislature. The definitions of sinkhole are as follows:

“Sinkhole” means a landform created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater.  A “sinkhole” forms by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by subsidence as these strata are dissolved.

“Sinkhole activity” means settlement or systematic weakening of the earth supporting the covered building only if the settlement or systematic weakening results from contemporaneous movement or raveling of soils, sediments, or rock materials into subterranean voids created by the effect of water on a limestone or similar rock formation.

“Sinkhole loss” means “structural damage” to the covered building, including the foundation, caused by “sinkhole activity.”  Contents coverage and additional living expenses apply only if there is “structural damage” to the covered building caused by “sinkhole activity.”

The Legislature then goes on to tell us what is considered structural damage under the statute.

“Structural damage” means a covered building, regardless of the date of its construction, has experienced the following:

  1. Interior floor displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 117-90 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement related damage to the interior such that the interior building structure or members become unfit for service or represents a safety hazard as defined within the Florida Building Code;
  2. Foundation displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 318-95 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement related damage to the primary structural members or primary structural systems that prevents those members or systems from supporting the loads and forces they were designed to support to the extent that stresses in those primary structural members or primary structural systems exceeds one and one-third the nominal strength allowed under the Florida Building Code for new buildings of similar structure, purpose, or location;
  3. Damage that results in listing, leaning, or buckling of the exterior load bearing walls or other vertical primary structural members to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity does not fall inside the middle one-third of the base as defined within the Florida Building Code;
  4. Damage that results in the building, or any portion of the building containing primary structural members or primary structural systems, being significantly likely to imminently collapse because of the movement or instability of the ground within the influence zone of the supporting ground within the sheer plane necessary for the purpose of supporting such building as defined within the Florida Building Code; or
  5. Damage occurring on or after October, 15, 2005, that qualified as substantial structural damage as defined in the Florida Building Code.
    1. Primary structural member means a structural element designed to provide support and stability for the vertical or lateral loads of the overall structure.
    2. Primary structural system means an assemblage of primary structural members.

Once we have the report back and it has been reviewed by the adjuster, we can move in either of two directions. If the report finds no evidence of a sinkhole, then we will send the customer an appropriate letter along with a copy of the report. On the other hand, if there is structural damage to the home that is consistent with the definitions in the law, then we move to step two, which involves having an engineer and perhaps a geologist further investigate the claim by performing certain tests and borings at the home to determine if indeed there is a sinkhole.

A geotechnical engineer is an expert in the soils that underlie a building and the interaction between the soils and the building below the surface of the ground. The engineer’s report is then reviewed by the adjuster, and one of two directions in the claim file is taken depending on the findings by the engineering firm. If the report finds sinkhole activity according to the definition in the law, then a plan for the remediation of the subsurface is prepared concurrently to the report. We then obtain three estimates from reputable subsurface remediation contractors based on the engineer’s repair plan and complete the estimate for the repair of the cosmetic damage to the dwelling. We then issue a check for the Cosmetic repairs less any deductible or prior payments, if any were made. If the insured then chooses to have the remediation work to the subsurface completed, they will need to send us a signed contract for the remediation based on the engineer’s remediation design. At the time of receipt of the signed contract we will send the insured a check for the amount necessary to begin and perform the repairs and continue payments as the work is performed and expenses are incurred. If no sinkhole activity is found according to the definition in the law, then the customer is sent the appropriate letter along with a copy of the engineer’s report.

We realize that the process does take time and ask for patience on everyone’s part so we get the right answers that our customers deserve.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Information Courtesy of Tower Hill Insurance.