Archive for Personal Insurance

Do You Have Enough Coverage to Rebuild Your Home?

Ipexels-photo-106399magine how devastating it would be to lose your home in a fire. Now imagine not being able to rebuild it completely because you didn’t have the correct amount of insurance.

Selecting the proper amount of coverage is the single most important decision you can make with your Homeowners policy. Without it, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss. This is called “insurance to value.” Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs — and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away!

What is insurance to value?

Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home.  Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?

A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, taxes, school districts, the value of the land and location, and other factors unrelated to construction cost.  The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area.  It is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?

New-home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 20 bathtubs at once, securing a lower unit cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building a single home.

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

Work with your agent to provide detailed information at time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote.

Ask us about additional coverage options that may be available.

Review your insurance to value calculation on a regular basis with your agent.

Tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.

 

Insurance Tips for Back-to-School Time

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College is expensive enough without finding out too late that an accident or theft isn’t covered under your current policies. So, as you get your children ready to head off to school in the fall, there’s one vital “to-do” to add to your list (other than writing that tuition check): a review of your insurance coverage.

It’s important to keep in mind that policy language varies from state to state, and there are never “one-size-fits-all” situations, but below is a general guide. If you have questions, or want to go over your insurance needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

HOMEOWNERS (may vary by state and individual policy)

  • Coverage of personal property: Most homeowners policies provide 10 percent of Coverage C (Personal Property) for property owned by an insured that is at a residence other than the insured’s. For example, if the contents of a policyholder’s home are insured for $100,000, a student’s property up to $10,000 would be covered if living in a dormitory – provided the damage is caused by a covered peril and the student meets the definition of an insured.
  • For apartments or houses off-campus, the same coverage generally applies. Certain items, such as jewelry or expensive electronics, may require special coverage, or a “rider.” Renters insurance is strongly recommended if a particular policy does not cover a student’s personal property.
  • Liability coverage: There usually is an exclusion for damage to property rented to an insured, so generally damage to a dorm room or apartment would not be covered.
  • Ensuring adequate coverage: Contact us to get specific answers and information about your coverages. Also, it’s a great idea to create an inventory of the items your student is taking to school, as is keeping photos of and receipts for the items.
  • Renters insurance: If your student’s needs can’t be met under your current policy, don’t forget renters insurance. Landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the possessions of renters.

 

AUTO (may vary by state)

  • Coverage without a car at school: If your student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, they should continue to be listed on your auto policy. If they are attending school more than 100 miles from home, and are not taking a vehicle with them, the policy may qualify for a distant-student discount.
  • Coverage with a car at school: In most instances, a car registered to parents and listed on their policy will be covered if used by a listed student away at school. But you should make sure that your insurance carrier writes coverage in the college’s state and location. And note that a change to the principal location of the vehicle could result in a change in premium.
  • Driving a friend’s car at school: Students generally would be covered while driving a friend’s car if the students are listed on their parents’ policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle. The coverage would likely be secondary in this case, as the carrier for the friend’s vehicle likely would be the primary coverage.
  • Coverage discounts: In addition to the possible distant-student discount mentioned above, students may qualify for a good-student discount. To qualify, most insurance carriers require that a student must be enrolled in at least four courses per term as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and meet certain academic qualifications. Also, drivers under the age of 21 who complete a driver education course may be eligible for a policy discount.

 

Going away to school is an exciting time for both students and their parents. Making sure you’ve got the right insurance coverage can help you protect your assets as you invest in your child’s future. We’re happy to discuss your coverage and options — just give us a call or stop by!

Tying the Knot? Tie up Loose Ends With Wedding Insurance

pexels-photo-476971Getting married is a big step that you’re no doubt commemorating with a big celebration. And, that often comes with a (fairly) big price tag. So, have you considered insuring the whole to-do?

As with other sizeable investments, you can insure big events, such as your wedding. But, that’s not the only way insurance can play a role in your big day and the events that follow. Here are four tips for insuring your wedding, rings and more:

Big day, big investment… protect it

Of course you want your big day to go off without a hitch. But, you also want to prepare for those pesky ‘what ifs’. What if the caterer backs out? What if the bride’s dress gets lost in her checked baggage? What if your venue goes out of business?

Event insurance typically covers unexpected issues with the site, weather, vendors and illness or injury, so you aren’t stuck with the tab. For example, if you need to find a new caterer the day before the wedding, your policy may help with the costs.

Say ‘I do’ to covering your rings.

Regardless of the monetary value of your engagement and wedding rings, it’s important to protect your investment… preferably right after you purchase them. We can help. Call us from the jewelry store if you like, and we’ll schedule your new bling on your renters insurance, condo insurance or homeowners insurance.

Cover your bases by covering your gifts.

While you’re dancing the night away, you don’t want someone walking away with your gifts. But, unfortunately, it happens. You may want to consider a policy to protect your gifts. And, of course, you’ll want to include them as part of your home inventory and personal property coverage. Some items, such as collectibles and china, may need scheduled coverage, just like your rings.

Start your honeymoon right.

If your honeymoon costs as much as a car, it may make sense to get travel insurance. Policies can include coverage for trip cancellation or delay, and even medical insurance. Frommers.com says it should cost no more than 8 percent of your trip price.

 

Whether your wedding is a small family affair or the biggest event of the year, you deserve to have a stress-free day. Let us help you select the insurance coverage you want for your wedding and everything that goes along with it. So, when the big day arrives, all you have to worry about is having a great time!

Everyone Who Hates Speeding Tickets, Raise Your Right Foot!

pexels-photo-451590Slow down, save money and lives

How many times has the following happened to you? You’re speeding down Rt. 30 when you spot a police car. You quickly hit the brakes and slow down, relieved that you didn’t get caught…this time. Now take a minute to think what could have happened if you hadn’t been so lucky.

First, your speeding could have hurt somebody-or yourself. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, speed is a contributing factor in more than 30% of fatal crashes and nearly 20% of non-injury accidents. That’s a big risk to take. Second, getting a ticket could put a big hit on your wallet. Of course, that’s not nearly as important as the health and safety impacts of speeding, but in this economic climate, more and more people are watching every dime. And who wants to write a check to the state for speeding?

At Duncan Financial Group, we want you to be safe. We also want to make sure you get a great price on the insurance coverage you need. Thankfully, easing up on that lead foot can help accomplish both.

How a ticket impacts your insurance

If you get a speeding ticket, that violation can stay on your driving record for three years or even longer. And because your driving history plays a large part in determining how much you’ll pay for insurance, the fewer tickets you have, the better. Different carriers have different policies when it comes to checking your driving record and dealing with drivers who have violations.

If you receive a ticket, and it’s your first in several years, you may not see much of an increase… depending on the severity of the offense. In fact, many states will allow you to enter a deferment program if it’s your first ticket, keeping the violation off your record if you complete a safety course and avoid further tickets. But that second ticket (or third, or fourth) can bring some serious financial penalties.

While there are too many variables to say specifically how much each additional violation will increase your premium, it’s safe to say that the jump will be significant. And unfortunately, you can be stuck paying those higher premiums for years. Significant violations can have a bigger impact as well. If you’re going 20 miles per hour over the limit, you’ll likely pay more than someone with a ticket for 5 mph over.

Insurance companies know that speeding increases the risk of accidents, and they’ll view you as an increased risk… for good reason. In fact, if you have a serious violation, or too many tickets, your insurance carrier could drop your coverage altogether. For younger drivers (typically under the age of 25), it’s especially important to avoid tickets, because companies already view these drivers as riskier than the general population

. And keep in mind, even if your premium doesn’t go up, having a violation on your record could prevent you from receiving the lowest possible rate on your insurance. Of course, we think the best policy is simply to obey speed limits.

Not only will you avoid tickets and possible insurance hassles, but your risk of accidents will decrease. And you’ll get better gas mileage. Sounds like a good deal to us!

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!

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!

 

Employee Spotlight: Kim Smith

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From the July Newsletter- Employee Spotlight: Kim Smith

Kim Smith has been in the insurance industry since 1984. Three years ago, she brought her extensive knowledge and expertise to Duncan Financial Group, where she’s been a valuable asset ever since. Kim is a Personal Insurance Account Manager with a CISR designation, which helps her make it all work together for her clients. Communicating and interacting with clients is all in a day’s work for Kim, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether it is over the phone or face-to-face, her dedication and commitment to the well-being of her clients is what helps her thrive.

Kim says one of the most enjoyable things about being part of the Duncan Financial Group Team are the individuals she works with on a daily basis. She says that her co-workers’ hard work and willingness to support others in the department creates an exceptional work environment. If she has a question or needs a helping hand, she knows she can depend on her co-workers to have her back.

Despite her busy work schedule, Kim still finds time to relax with her family. On the weekends, this mother of two and a grandmother, plans family trips to new and exciting locations. One of her favorite places to visit is Myrtle Beach. This beloved vacation spot is close to Kim’s heart, as it was where she and her husband of 34 years spent their first vacation together. Family is the most important thing to Kim, so when she is not thinking of a beach getaway, she dreams about visiting her grandson in Germany. Kim finds a way to integrate her family into every aspect of her life, even her hobbies. She and her daughter both share a love for ceramics. She delights in making ceramic Christmas pieces and gifts for her friends and family. She and her daughter even make center pieces and candle holders for her daughter’s home.

Kim makes an impact in the lives of her family and her co-workers every day, and Duncan Financial Group is proud to have her as an outstanding member of the team.

Love Bites—Get Umbrella Coverage

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In today’s economy, everyone is pinching pennies. So why worry about umbrella coverage? Shouldn’t a home and auto policy leave you adequately covered?

Unfortunately, we live in a world of lawsuits. Large damages can be awarded, be extremely expensive and have long-term financial impact. Those lawsuits can come from unlikely sources, such as our furry friends.

Take Herschel for instance. Herschel is a much-loved, rather timid labradoodle who enjoys taking naps on the driveway while his owner mows the lawn.

Herschel watched from eight feet away as his neighbor, a 39 year old man, showed off his rollerblading skills to his kids. The man wiped out on the sidewalk in front of Herschel’s house and broke his leg. He required surgery, costing around $35,000 in medical costs and $18,000 in lost wages.

Fair or not, the man brought a lawsuit against Herschel’s owner, suing for $220,000 in damages. He alleged that Herschel had caused the accident by getting in his way, despite multiple witnesses to the contrary.

But Herschel’s owner was lucky–a jury vindicated Herschel. However, lawsuits such as these can easily exceed the limits on a homeowner’s policy, leaving the insured responsible for the remainder. An umbrella policy would prevent that, giving you an extra $1 million to $5 million in coverage.

Our furry friends can put your assets at risk in other ways as well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with half of those occurring on the owner’s property. Dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute, account for about a third of all homeowner’s insurance claims, which only cover limited damages.

Protect what you love. Call us to talk about your umbrella options.

Why a Home Inventory Is Important?

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Let’s try a little exercise: Can you list everything you own from memory?
Didn’t think so.

The fact is most people own more things than they realize. It’s easy to remember the cars, the computer, the TV. But what about that holiday china in the garage?  Or every pair of shoes?

All of it is regarded as personal property for insurance purposes. And if your home is destroyed by fire or some other disaster, having a list of your possessions makes filing a claim easier — and helps you put your life back together.

Why should I complete a home inventory? What’s the best way?
Comparing the value of your belongings to the “contents” limit listed in your policy helps you make sure you have enough insurance to replace them if they are lost, stolen or destroyed as a result of a covered loss. The easiest way to take an inventory is to use a video camera, recording and describing items as you walk through your house. Or, you can use a regular camera and create a home inventory checklist.

Here are a few tips for completing and storing your inventory:
Add brand names and descriptions where you can, especially on large-ticket items. Serial numbers are helpful to note.
Keep any receipts you have with the list to make the claims process easier.
Store your video or photo inventory offsite so you won’t lose it if your house is damaged.
Update your personal property records when you purchase new furnishings and valuables.
Though the task may seem daunting, it’s important to try. An incomplete inventory is better than nothing at all.

How much insurance do I need?
We can assist you in analyzing your insurance needs and help you decide how to most effectively protect your personal property. You should consider full-value coverage, which will pay for the replacement value of your personal belongings. A standard policy typically covers personal property only up to its actual cash value, determined by taking the replacement cost and deducting depreciation, which can be substantial. (For example, a 5-year-old TV is usually worth much less than what it would cost to purchase a new one.)

Finally, remember your homeowners policy covers valuable items such as jewelry, furs, art and antiques, only up to set dollar amounts. If the cost of replacing them exceeds these limits, you may want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute has a FREE online tool that can help you create your inventory. Just visit www.knowyourstuff.org  for more details.

We hope you’ll never need the home inventory, but preparing for the worst can prevent a lot of hassle later!

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!