Archive for Homeowners Insurance

Before You Hit the Road… Tips for the College-Bound

road-people-street-smartphoneA Few Tips for the College-Bound

College is expensive enough without the added cost of unexpected accidents or theft, not covered by your insurance policy. If you have a student heading away to school, below are a few tips to help you get the most out of your coverage.

HOMEOWNERS (varies by state)

  • Personal Property:  Most homeowners policies will cover personal property for up to 10% of your total policy while your child is residing at school (a $100,000 policy equals $10,000 in coverage). Not all types of damage are covered, so read your policy carefully. Some items such as jewelry or expensive electronics, require special coverage. Renters insurance is strongly recommended.
  • Liability Coverage:  General damage to a dorm room or apartment is not usually covered.
  • Documentation:  Creating an inventory of the items your child is taking to school is a good idea. Use photographs and keep receipts.

AUTO (varies by state)

  • Car Stays Home:  Keep your child listed on your auto policy if they will still drive your car while at home on school breaks.
  • Car at School:  Make sure to notify us if your child will be taking a car away to school. In most cases, if the car is registered to you and listed on your policy, it will be covered.
  • Driving a Friend’s Car:  Students are generally covered if they are listed on their parent’s policy and are not regularly using the vehicle. The coverage would be secondary.  The insurance for the friend’s vehicle would be the primary coverage.
  • Discounts:  A full-time student meeting certain academic requirements can qualify for a good student discount. Distant student discounts may also be available. Drivers under 21 who have completed driver’s education may also get a discount.

Before your child leaves for school, Duncan Financial Group at  (724) 863-3420 or e-mailbfornalczyk@duncangrp.com. We can walk you through the steps to ensure you have the right coverage. We’re here to help!

Let’s Keep Our Lawns – and Ourselves – Safe

For many of our neighbors in the Greater Pittsburgh Area summer means more than sunshine and vacations. It alsogarden-grass-meadow-green means working in the yard – often with tools that can be dangerous if not used properly.

Each year about 400,000 people are treated for injuries from lawn and garden tools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Don’t let your landscaping efforts land you in the hospital! Follow these handy safety tips.

Tool safety tips from the U.S. CPSC

  • Dress appropriately. To protect yourself from debris when using lawn tools, wear eye protection, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, close-fitting clothes and no jewelry. Sturdy shoes are recommended, and ear plugs may be appropriate depending on how loud the device is.
  • Before starting, remove objects from your work area that could cause injury or damage, such as sticks, glass or stones.
  • Keep children indoors and supervised at all times when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Never let a child ride or operate a garden tractor or riding mower, even if the child is supervised. And never assume children will remain where you last saw them.
    Use extreme caution when backing up or approaching corners, shrubs and trees.
  • Teenagers using power equipment should always be supervised by an adult.
  • Handle gasoline carefully. Never fill tanks while machinery is on or when equipment is still hot. Of course, you should never smoke or use any type of flame around gasoline or any gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Do not work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. For protection against electrocution, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Be sure that extension cords are in good condition, are rated for outdoor use, and are the proper gauge for the electrical current capacity of the tool.

Lawn Chemical Safety Tips from Texas A&M University

  • If you use chemicals to control weeds or pests in your lawn, read the product label carefully so you understand the potential effects on humans, animals and the environment. Follow all instructions.
  • Keep children and animals away from the application area, and protect your skin, eyes and nose during and after application.
  • Remember, use only the recommended amount. Using more of the chemical will not do a better job.
  • Ask yourself if you truly need to use a general pesticide. Is there a product that will specifically treat only the problem you need to solve?

From all of us at Duncan Financial Group, here’s to keeping both you and your lawn healthy this summer!

General Home Security

pexels-photo-101808Keeping your home secure

Everyone wants to keep their home safe from burglars or intruders, but not everyone wants to have an alarm system installed. There are plenty of people who prefer the do-it-yourself route, whether it’s home improvement or home security.

And nowadays, there are more options than ever when it comes to home security, so we at Duncan Financial Group want to help you sort through those options with a few tips.

Do-it-yourself options
The widespread availability of electronic tools means that homeowners can set up their own monitoring systems if they choose, without the help of a home-security company.

  • Cameras: Smaller and more inexpensive than ever, cameras can be placed nearly anywhere on the exterior of your home and monitored from inside wirelessly — or set to record footage for review later. Available software even allows you to point your laptop camera in a particular direction (say, at the front door) and check the images from a remote location.
  • Lights: Motion-detecting floodlights are an excellent deterrent to thieves, because they don’t want to be seen. Make sure they’re installed near entryways, and that they aren’t easily reached from the ground. And using timers for interior lights is a good way to give the appearance that your home is occupied.
  • Alarms: Vibration alarms are available for windows, alerting you if someone is trying to get in. Similarly, other monitors can be installed near doors and programmed to sound if a person comes within a set distance. Some even emit barking sounds to make it appear that a dog is in the house.

Even if you aren’t interested in installing security equipment around your home, there are a number of things you can do to increase safety:

  • Keep your home locked. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people leave windows or doors unlocked. Make sure that sliding doors and windows have extra security, such as a track lock or dowel in the track.
  • Don’t leave a key outside. If you need to provide access to your home while you’re away, leave your key with a trusted neighbor or friend.
  • Watch the landscaping. Thick shrubs and bushes around your porch or yard can give thieves a good place to hide. Keep them well-trimmed and ensure that problematic areas can be illuminated with your outdoor lighting.
  • Use common sense. If you’re going away on vacation, cancel your newspaper and other deliveries. Ask a neighbor to keep watch, and park a car out front. Don’t post publicly on social media or leave a message on your answering machine or voicemail indicating that you’ll be away for an extended period.

Burglars really do consider deterrents such as alarms, cameras, dogs, etc., when looking at targets, according to a study released by the University of North Carolina.  So a small investment in security can make a big difference!

 

We Didn`t Start the Fire, but We Can Help Keep the Fire Safe: Fire Pit Safety

pexels-photo-25344Be Careful When You Play With Fire, Even in the Backyard

It’s a great feeling to hang out with friends and family around a blazing fire in your backyard in Western Pennsylvania — unless, of course, that fire blazes a little too much.

While a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your home, all fires are potentially dangerous. So before you sit down with some marshmallows to roast, we here at Duncan Financial Group have gathered up some tips to help you keep that fire in the pit (and away from everything else).

Are you legal?
• Before building or buying a fire pit, check the regulations in your area to learn about restrictions.
• Your fire pit may be legal, but a fire might not always be. Monitor and follow community burn bans.
• Be respectful. Nothing can extinguish the good vibes of a nice fire more quickly than police complaints from smoked-out neighbors.

What kind of pit do you want?
• You can buy a fire pit or build one. If you choose the latter, there are plenty of resources online to help you design it. Don’t dig a hole just anywhere and throw some rocks down. Put some thought into it and you’ll have a better — and safer — spot to enjoy.
• If you want convenience, a propane model might be right for you. They produce less smoke and have an adjustable flame.

Ready to build your fire?
Actually, you probably aren’t ready yet.
• First, ensure the area under and around the fire pit is clear of flammable materials. Keep the pit itself at least 10 feet from any structures.
• Before you start the fire, have a fire extinguisher or a garden hose handy.

Okay, now are you ready to build your fire?
• Choose hard, seasoned woods. Sparks from softer woods like cedar can increase the danger of igniting something nearby.
• Don’t use liquid fuels, even lighter fluid, to get your fire going. And don’t burn paper, cardboard, leaves, garbage, etc.
• If you have a metal fire pit, don’t overload it and always use the included safety screen.

Is the fire out?
• When you’re done, spread out the ashes and let them cool off for a bit. Then gently pour water or sand over them. Stick around for a little while to watch for flare-ups.

We want you to have plenty of nice, warm nights — without getting burned. Here’s to making memories around the fire!

This article provided courtesy of Safeco Insurance.

What you should know about flood insurance

flood-insurance-2

 You’ve probably heard this horror story before — someone loses a home due to a flood and learns after the fact that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage.

At Duncan Financial Group, we want you to be educated about all of the risks you may face – before a loss occurs – so you can determine what insurance coverage is appropriate. Spring is a prime season for flooding, so now is a good time to review your options.

Because very few companies offer flood insurance, the U.S. government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968. Available to homeowners, renters and business owners, this insurance often is required to obtain a mortgage in areas at high risk of flooding.

But you might want to look into a policy just for peace of mind, even if you don’t live in a flood-prone zone. According to the NFIP, nearly 25% of the program’s claims occur in moderate- to low-risk areas. Check out the questions and answers below to help determine if flood insurance is right for you.

Is flood insurance available in my area?

To participate in the NFIP, a community must adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance with rules regarding construction in certain flood-prone areas. In exchange, the government makes flood insurance available within that community. We’re happy to help you find out if you’re eligible for flood insurance. Just give us a call at 724-863-3420. You can also visit  http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

What does it cover?

The NFIP provides coverage for both the structure and its contents. Coverage for contents is optional in some cases, so you may want to give us a call to discuss other coverage for your personal property.

Keep in mind that you typically can’t purchase flood insurance and have it take effect the next day. There is usually a 30-day waiting period. (Exceptions to this rule apply, however, particularly when the insurance is required by a lender and is purchased during the process of securing a mortgage.) If you think you need flood insurance, don’t wait to buy a policy!

What doesn’t it cover?

Generally, government-issued flood insurance will not cover the following: Buildings entirely over water or principally below ground, gas and liquid storage tanks, animals, aircraft, wharves, piers, bulkheads, growing crops, shrubbery, land, roads, machinery or equipment in the open and most motor vehicles.

How much does it cost?

As with all insurance policies, the cost of flood insurance varies depending on your situation. If your home or business is in a high-risk area, such as a “special flood hazard area,” your premium naturally will be higher than those in low- or moderate-risk zones. Premiums are based on how old the building is, how many floors it has, the location of its contents, your deductible and more. Renters insurance is typically less expensive, as renters generally insure their belongings and not the building.

Where can I find more information?

As always, we are happy to help you determine your insurance needs. Stop by our office at 311 Main Street, Irwin, PA,  or give us a call at724-863-3420. The NFIP website, at http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program, has plenty of answers as well.

Insurance Companies Pay Out Big for Dog Bites

Duncan Financial GroupInsurance companies shelled out $479 million to pay for dog bites last year, up from $413 million in 2010.

One company alone, State Farm, paid more than $109 million in Homeowner claims related to bites. California – which has more people and dogs than any other state – led the nation with 527 State Farm claims costing more than $20 million, followed by Illinois, Texas, and Ohio. The nationwide average claim was $28,800.

Dogs bite some 4.7 million Americans a year, nearly half of them children, Nearly 400,000 of these bites require medical treatment – and an average of 16 result in death.

Children age 5 to 9 are the group most likely to be bitten. The ASPCA predicts that one of every two children in the U.S. will suffer a dog bite before he or she turns 12, in most cases by their own dog or a pooch owned by a friend or neighbor. Seniors are the next most vulnerable group, followed by mail carriers. Dogs bit some 5,600 USPS carriers in each of each of the past two years, costing the Postal Service more than $1 million worth of medical bills in 2011.

Heredity, socialization, training, physical condition, and activities of humans can all affect the animal’s propensity to bite. Because children are by far the group most vulnerable to dog bites (a child is 900 times more likely to be attacked than a letter carrier) the ASPCA recommends that youngsters should never:

  • Maintain eye contact with a dog
  • Go near a chained canine
  • Approach or touch a dog who is eating, sleeping, or off-leash
  • Scream or run if an off-leash dog approaches
  • Pet a dog without asking its caregiver for permission (it’s wise to have the animal sniff your closed hand first – many dogs perceive an open hand as threatening)
  • Approach a dog from above its eye level
For more information on protecting yourself and others from possible liability, contact Duncan Financial Group and ask about reviewing your Homeowners Policy or getting Umbrella Coverage to cover the possibility of dog bites–even if they are accidental!

Teen Drinking = Insurance Issues

Duncan Financial GroupSummertime is no school time for teenagers and parents taking vacation, leaving their children unsupervised. Unfortunately, these events often become occasions for teens to drink alcohol. Teens at unsupervised parties risk harming themselves and others when they drink. Parents who host these parties might bear responsibility for what happens there and for injuries or damages occurring after the guests leave. Although their Liability insurance might cover any financial damages, the circumstances of the accident determine which policy will respond, and this will affect how much coverage the parents have.

Assume that a guest consumes several beers at the party, drives off in his car, and gets into an accident, injuring himself and a passenger. The parents of both injured teens sue the parents who hosted the party, who in turn notify their Homeowners insurance company. However, the policy’s personal liability coverage does not apply to an insured person’s legal liability for:

  • The occupancy, operation, or use of a motor vehicle by any person
  • The entrustment of a motor vehicle by the insured person to anyone else
  • The insured person’s failure to supervise or negligent supervision of any person using a motor vehicle
  • The actions of a minor involving a motor vehicle.

Because of this, the Homeowners policy will not cover the parents’ liability or defense costs. Their Personal Auto insurance policy might cover them, however. The policy’s liability insurance covers the individuals named on the policy and household residents who are their relatives for their liability for bodily injury from an accident arising out of the use of any auto. Therefore, even though the parents were not actually operating the vehicle involved in the accident, their policy will cover their liability. In addition, the auto policy that applies to the car involved in the accident (the guest’s insurance, or, more likely, his parents’) will also cover the hosts’ liability for the passenger’s injuries. The hosts’ policy will step in if the owners’ policy either does not apply or pays out its maximum limit of insurance.

Now assume that the guest consumes the beer, but a sober guest gives him a ride home. Rather than go straight to bed, the young man goes for a swim in his parents’ pool and drowns. His parents sue the hosts, alleging that his judgment was impaired because the hosts allowed him to drink. In this situation, the homeowner’s policy should pay for the hosts’ liability and legal defense. Because this accident did not involve a motor vehicle, and no other policy provisions that would remove coverage apply, the policy will cover this claim.

Although one policy or the other might apply to a liquor liability claim, there could be significant differences between the amounts of coverage the two policies provide. Most homeowner’s policies provide personal liability coverage of at least $100,000 for each occurrence; many provide limits of $300,000 or $500,000. Auto policies might provide much less coverage. Most states have laws setting the minimum amounts of liability coverage that an auto policy might provide, but those limits are relatively small. For example, New York law requires minimum limits of $25,000 for injuries to one person and $50,000 for injuries to two or more people (higher amounts apply for death claims.) Should a young person become seriously injured or killed, the damages claimed could well exceed these amounts. Parents should consider buying as much liability insurance as they can afford; they should also think about buying an umbrella policy, which pays for damages that surpass the amounts payable under homeowner’s and auto policies.

Of course, the best course of action is to properly supervise parties, so that everyone has a good time and lives to have another one someday.

For more information on y0ur Auto or Homeowners Policy, contact Duncan Financial Group today!

What is Homeowners Insurance?

Duncan Financial Group

Homeowners insurance is an insurance policy that protects you financially in the event that your home and property is damaged in a covered peril, or in the event of a covered lawsuit.

Perils that are typically covered by a standard home insurance policy include fire, wind, lightning, hail and theft. While no one plans on losing their home or possessions to any of these perils, it unfortunately happens every day. Ask yourself this: If your home was ever destroyed in a fire, for example, how would you pay to rebuild your home? That’s where your homeowners insurance comes in.

Homeowners insurance protects the investment you have made in your home by providing you with coverage for specific hazards.

But your home insurance doesn’t stop there. In the event that someone was filing a lawsuit against you for accidental damage you caused to their property, how would you pay for the costly legal fees? Standard homeowners insurance also contains liability coverage that protects you and your family against lawsuits where another party finds you liable for damage to their property or person.

For more information please contact us at (724) 863-3420

Homeowners Insurance

Duncan Financial Group

Home is where the heart is. It is also one of the most important assets you will ever acquire. It is more critical than ever to make sure your home and all that “makes it a home” are fully protected. Homeowners insurance must be custom built to prepare you for all of life’s planned and unplanned events.

We provide the professional and personal attention necessary when choosing property insurance. Our experienced insurance advisors offer the best rates, guidance, and coverage – all under one roof. We understand that there are many different needs when it comes to protecting your home, and we work diligently with you as your needs change, grow, or when you need us most. We cannot prevent life’s mishaps from happening, but we can help you to be prepared when they do.

Call us at 724-863-3420 to speak with one of our experienced insurance advisors. We will work closely with you to choose the right coverage for your home, condo, or rental property.

Homeowners and Lawsuits

It is common for neighbors to disagree. For example, one person might think that their outdoor dog barking at people passing by is an asset for keeping them safer from intruders. However, a neighbor who enjoys peace and quiet would think the dog is a nuisance. Another neighbor might enjoy listening to his or her music at a loud volume, but others who live in the neighborhood will likely find it annoying. Some situations might not be about noise. People who live in neighborhoods with a uniform appearance might hassle a new homeowner who decides to paint his or her house a clashing color. Whether the source of the problem is noise or something else, disagreements between neighbors can escalate into lawsuits. Before this happens, it is important to know what types of provisions a Homeowners policy provides for legal issues.

Many people think that a Homeowners insurance policy covers most types of lawsuits filed against them. For this reason, people are usually not as careful as they should be about preventing them. For example, consider a new homeowner who moves into a subdivision, replaces the existing fence with higher boards and paints them contrasting colors. If the subdivision has rules about the permissible colors and acceptable maximum height of fences, they will try to get the new homeowner to comply. Homeowners who refuse might find themselves facing a lawsuit for violating the subdivision’s code. The courts will likely favor the subdivision’s rules, and a Homeowners policy will not provide coverage for the legal battle. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly what legal issues are covered under the policy.

Loud noises, eyesores and changes are all issues that do not physically harm another person. Although they might be annoying, they are not issues that would be covered by a Homeowners policy if they escalate into a lawsuit. Always remember that a Homeowners policy offers protection for two types of liabilities: Property damage and bodily injury. If the family dog bites someone on the property, a guest falls off a broken step, or one of the kids breaks a visitor’s car window, a Homeowners policy covers such issues.

Since coverage is limited to two types of physical damage, it is important to work as hard as possible to settle disputes with neighbors. For example, if neighbors complain about a barking dog, it might be best to enroll the dog in training or purchase a no-bark citronella collar. Trim overgrown shrubs or trees that neighbors complain about. Many people get angry and frustrated when a neighbor makes accusations or complains. Anger is usually what causes people to be stubborn and refuse to compromise. Always listen to what neighbors have to say, and try to understand the situation from their perspective. Use common sense to arrive at a solution that is favorable to both parties. However, the best way to avoid anger and confrontation is to fix possible nuisances before neighbors complain. For additional information about avoiding problems and lawsuits with neighbors, discuss the issues with one of our agents.

Contact us today!
Duncan Financial Group
888-383-3420
311 Main Street Irwin, PA