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Homeowners Insurance FAQ

09/06/2017 | No Comments

What Is Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners insurance, also referred to as home insurance or property insurance, provides coverage for your private home and compensates you in the event of a loss. If your home is burglarized or is partially or totally destroyed by a cause that is covered by your policy, homeowners insurance will help you replace your belongings, repair your home, or even rebuild.

Homeowners insurance also provides liability coverage which protects you, the homeowner, in the event that someone is injured on your property or you are deemed responsible for personal injury or property damage through negligence.

The amount of compensation you receive in a claim, or that the claimant receives from your insurance company when filing a liability claim against you, depends on the limits set for your policy. A Tri County Agent can help you to determine the amount of coverage that makes the most sense for your home and your risk tolerance.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Homeowners insurance provides coverage for a range of risks that you may face as a homeowner that otherwise can be financially challenging to cover out of pocket. These include:

  • Property damage: This includes damage and destruction to your residence and/or detached structures. You will receive compensation, up to the limits of your policy, if your house or storage shed is damaged due to a covered hazard. Standard covered circumstances include things like hurricanes and vandalism, but other hazards such as earthquakes and floods are excluded. Be sure to check your homeowners policy for exclusions.
  • Personal property loss: Includes damage or theft of personal property, up to your set policy limits for covered circumstances, which typically excludes flooding, earthquakes, and personal negligence. If your personal property is very valuable (such as collectibles or antiques) you’ll likely need additional “riders” or special endorsements on your policy. Be sure to talk with a knowledgeable agent about your personal belongings and valuables, as standard limits may not be adequate to cover a major loss.
  • Personal liability: If you, your family member, or even your pet causes an accident, injury or property damage, your homeowners insurance can protect you. Whether the issue requires medical care or repair of property, you will typically have coverage up to your liability limits. There are exclusions, such as aggressive acts against a neighbor, so it is important to fully understand your liability coverage. Be sure to talk with an agent about how to choose adequate policy limits that protect your finances in the event of a lawsuit.
  • Added living costs: If your house is uninhabitable, your homeowners insurance can pay for alternative living arrangements while your home is repaired or rebuilt. Depending upon your homeowners insurance company and the specifics of your policy, this may be included or may be an optional coverage. You will typically have daily and total overall limits for this coverage.

How Does Home Insurance Work?

When you buy home insurance, you’re buying a safety net for your home. If your home is damaged or destroyed, it can cost thousands of dollars – even hundreds thousands of dollars – to repair or rebuild.

Without home insurance, that money has to come out of your pocket. But if you’re insured, you can file a claim to pay for the damage and help rebuild your dreams. Your homeowners insurance will also cover theft of your personal belongings, includng when you take them with you in your car or while you travel.

In the event you suffer a loss, whether from burglary, fire or a severe storm, call your insurance agent or insurance company to begin the claims process. An adjuster will work with you to assess the damage and determine your compensation.

The benefits you receive will depend upon several factors, including:

  1. The limits set on your policy, both for your structural property and your belongings.
  2. The deductible amount you pay before your coverage kicks in.
  3. Whether you have chosen coverage for the actual cash value (depreciated) or the replacement value of your home and belongings.

Is Homeowners Insurance Required?

Your state may or may not require homeowners insurance, but your mortgage lender typically will require coverage in order to provide a home loan. Even if you own your home outright and you are not required to buy homeowners insurance, it’s still a good idea to protect your investment with an insurance policy. That way you can get the financial compensation you need to repair or rebuild after a loss. Not only that, but your home coverage can help to protect you financially in the event of a liability claim that leads to a lawsuit.

Why Is Homeowners Insurance Important?

Homeowners insurance is important for a variety of reasons:

  • If you’re insured, any significant repairs or rebuilding after a disaster can potentially be covered by your insurance policy, up to your set limits.
  • If you owe money on your mortgage and your home is completely destroyed, you will still be required to pay your home loan, unless you have adequate homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can help pay for the rebuilding cost. If you insure your house at full replacement cost value, you will have the means to fully rebuild, if needed.
  • Liability coverage is arguably the most important aspect of homeowners insurance. If something happens to a visitor on your property, your liability coverage can cover that person’s medical costs, well as your legal fees if you are sued. Lawsuits are expensive and hiring a lawyer can cost thousands of dollars. If you’re found responsible, you could be ordered to pay large sums of money in a personal injury suit, a cost that can be offset by your liability coverage.

When Should I Get Homeowners Insurance?

You should purchase homeowners insurance before you contact a mortgage company for a loan. Most mortgage companies will require you to have homeowners insurance in place prior to giving you a home loan; but don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about insurance.

It’s important to shop around for the right policy for your needs. There are many factors that determine the right insurance coverage. A Trusted Choice member agent in your area can help you compare policies and quotes to find the best coverage for your needs.

How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cost?

The value of your home and the amount of coverage you buy will largely dictate the amount you will pay for your premiums. But there are other factors that can affect your premium as well, including things like the crime rate in your area, and how many claims you have filed in the past. Another important factor is the state you live in, as average costs can vary significantly from state to state.

Because there are so many factors that affect the cost of homeowners insurance, a typical annual premium can range anywhere from $400 to $1500, or more for a high value home. If you choose additional coverage, you may pay a higher premium, but you will also have better protection.

It’s always important to comparison shop for the best homeowners insurance rates and the best value. An independent agent in the Trusted Choice network can compare prices from several different insurance companies to find the right policy for you at the right price.

Is Homeowners Insurance Tax Deductible?

Your insurance premiums are not tax deductible except under special circumstances. You do receive other tax benefits as a homeowner, but they are not related to homeowners insurance.

If you’re a landlord or a homeowner who uses part of your home for business purposes, you may be able to deduct a portion of your homeowners insurance. A tax advisor is your best resource in determining what you can and cannot deduct on your taxes.

Is Homeowners Insurance Included in the Mortgage Payment?

Homeowners insurance is not included in your mortgage payment, unless it is escrowed. Today, creating an escrow account that covers your mortgage payments, your home insurance and even your property taxes is common practice.

Additionally, your mortgage insurance is typically included in your mortgage payment. This is paid if your loan exceeds 80 percent of your home’s value. Mortgage insurance does not insure your home. It insures the bank if you default on your loan.

Can Your Homeowners Insurance Be Canceled?

Homeowners often ask “Can my homeowners insurance drop me?” Yes, your insurance company can drop you, but it’s important to know that being dropped (considered a non-renewal) is different from being canceled.

When you are dropped by your insurance provider, your insurance policy is not renewed at its expiration date and you must pursue another provider. You will be informed if your policy is going to be dropped so you have adequate time to shop for new coverage.

Your homeowners insurance can be canceled at any time as long as you are notified that it will be occurring. During the first 60 days, the insurance company can cancel for a variety of reasons. After 60 days, the reason for cancellation must be due to a specific circumstance such as non-payment, misrepresentation or increase in risk. You’ll typically receive a cancellation notice 10 to 30 days in advance of cancellation, depending on the reason your insurer cites.

How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?

Make sure your homeowners insurance covers the following areas:

  • Structure of home: Insure your home for its replacement value. This is how much it would currently cost to build your home from scratch. (Be sure you have an accurate estimate of your home’s value.) The amount it would cost to sell your house is not a good indicator of the replacement value.
  • Personal belongings: Most policies cover your personal belongings at 50 to 70 percent of your home’s value. This may not be enough coverage if you have many valuable items. Conduct an inventory of your personal belongings to find out how much coverage you need and insure them at replacement cost. For antiques or high value items, you may need to purchase a personal articles policy or additional “rider” that can provide more complete coverage.
  • Liability: A basic policy might include $100,000 to $300,000 of liability coverage. Considering the cost of personal injury lawsuits, you may want to purchase liability insurance with higher $300,000 to $500,000 limits.

For additional protection and peace of mind, consider buying an umbrella liability policy, which can add another $1 million or more in liability coverage. An umbrella policy is an excellent way for anyone to increase liability protection, but it’s an especially good idea for anyone with more valuable than average assets to protect, or particular liability concerns.

How Is Homeowners Insurance Paid?

You can always pay the insurance company directly for your homeowners policy, but you have other options. You can ask your mortgage company about escrow, which allows you to pay your homeowners insurance payment along with your mortgage payment. The insurance payment is placed into an escrow account where it is held by the mortgage company until the annual premium is met. At that point, the mortgage company pays the homeowners insurance annual premium to the insurance company.

This allows you to break your insurance premiums into smaller payments and you only work with one company. Escrow may not be available for everyone, though, so check with your lender.

Where Can I Get Homeowners Insurance?

When you start your search for homeowners insurance, it’s important to assess your needs to determine the right amount of coverage. It can be tempting to choose a policy based on price alone, but you probably won’t get the right amount of protection using that method. Protecting your investment doesn’t mean breaking the bank. You can get a range of quotes and options from an independent Trusted Choice agent.

When you work with an independent agent, you’ll never have to wonder if you should have looked at more policies from different companies. You will have the opportunity to compare several options from top companies and find the best policy and value for your needs, all while letting your agent do the legwork.

Contact us today for personalized homeowners insurance quotes.


Professional Liability Insurance

07/27/2017 | No Comments

Is the Type of Job You Have Putting You at Risk for Being Sued?

We live in the age of lawsuits, and if you operate in certain professions, there is a good chance you will be sued at least once over the course of your career. Statistics show that medical professionals are the most likely to be sued. According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, insurers forked out $3.3 billion in medical-related lawsuit payments in 2013. Lawyers are also common targets of lawsuits. American Bar Association statistics show that attorneys have a 17% chance of being sued each year.

Unfortunately, professionals of all types can be sued. If you are in the business of providing advice or guidance, you could find yourself on the wrong side in a lawsuit. Professionals at risk include financial and accounting professionals, architects, designers, consultants and health and wellness practitioners. Despite the well-known risks, many professional service providers simply don’t acknowledge the risk of a lawsuit until after a client or patient hires an attorney.

It’s best to be prepared before a lawyer comes knocking. Protecting your business, finances, and reputation with a professional liability policy is imperative if your clients pay for your expertise, knowledge, advice or care. A Tri County agent can compare professional liability insurance quotes from a variety of insurance companies and find you the right coverage at a competitive rate.


What Is Professional Liability Insurance?

Almost everyone has heard of medical malpractice insurance, but professional liability insurance is not as well-known. The exact definition of professional liability insurance varies depending on the professional being insured; but in general, it protects you against “errors and omissions” that occur when rendering professional services. Basically, it safeguards you against mistakes or negligence that result in a financial loss for your client. It differs from a general liability policy, which is designed to cover bodily injury and property damage claims.

Professional liability insurance covers the cost of legal defense and any judgments or settlements up to the policy limits. Lawsuits can be extremely costly, with damages running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in a major suit.

Professional liability insurance goes by a number of different names and can be applied to a wide variety of professions. Here are three of the more common types of professional liability insurance:

  • Malpractice insurance: This coverage is designed especially for medical professionals. It protects against suits that allege negligence or mistakes. Anyone working in the healthcare field should consider a malpractice policy.
  • Errors and omissions liability insurance (E&O insurance): This type of coverage is ideal for lawyers, consultants, real estate agents, stock brokers, insurance agents, designers, architects and others. These professionals offer their advice and knowledge to earn a living. Clients who act on that advice, whether it be buying a certain type of insurance or purchasing a particular stock, are at risk and may feel that the service provided resulted in a financial loss.
  • Directors and officers liability insurance (D&O insurance): This coverage is specific to high-ranking executives in a company. It handles a variety of circumstances, including unlawful acts, poor investment decisions, the release of confidential information, issues with hiring and firing, gross negligence, conflicts of interest, and other errors.

Professional liability insurance comes in two different flavors, claims-made and occurrence. A claims-made policy must be in effect not only when a lawsuit is filed, but also when the incident that prompted the lawsuit took place. This is the most common type of policy and is usually cheaper.

Occurrence coverage covers any incident that takes place during the coverage period, even if the suit is filed after the policy has expired. These policies provide more comprehensive coverage, but tend to be expensive.


What Kinds of Professionals Can Be Sued?

The list of professionals who can be sued by their clients is endless, but some are more likely than others to find themselves in court. If you fall on this list, professional liability insurance is a must. In many states, doctors and attorneys are required to carry professional liability, but it’s optional for others. Here are a few professionals who should consider this type of coverage:

  • Accountants
  • Engineers
  • Graphic designers
  • Information technology consultants
  • Insurance professionals
  • Investment advisors
  • Management consultants
  • Real estate agents and brokers
  • Software developers

This list is hardly complete. Anyone in a profession where a mistake can result in a financial loss should consider professional liability insurance. Dentists, wedding planners, transport professionals and even hairdressers can find themselves the target of lawsuits.

Large organizations need to protect their directors and officers. Lawsuits can come from a variety of areas. The 2015 JLT Specialty U.S. Directors and Officers Liability Survey found that 32% of lawsuits were employment-related (hiring and firing), 35% were related to shareholder suits, 18% were fiduciary, and 15% fell under the regulatory banner.

D&O coverage is available in three different types, sides A, B and C; the differences are who is covered under what circumstances. Consult with an independent agent to learn which D&O or personal liability coverage is best suited to your company.


Why Should I Get Professional Liability Insurance?

Just about any professional can be sued these days. Professionals of all types can benefit from the protection of professional liability insurance. If you are concerned that your company may not support you during a lawsuit, you will want to protect yourself with individual professional liability insurance. For example, if for any reason there is a conflict of interest, your company’s insurance policy won’t provide coverage. The costs of legal defense and possible settlements or judgments may then be taken from your personal financial assets.

Here are a few real-life examples that help answer the question: “Who needs professional liability insurance?”

  • Financial advisors: Brokers and financial advisors are especially vulnerable to lawsuits, regardless of the legitimacy of the claim. Suits happen when clients see investments go south, even if they have been advised of the risks. Legal fees can be enormous, even on a bogus suit, making E&O coverage a necessity.
  • Private investigators: These professionals spend lots of time researching information and digging up data that their clients use to make major decisions. These decisions can involve marriage, employment, or whether to enter into a contract with another party. If any of this information is incorrect, or details were overlooked, it could cause a financial loss to their clients.
  • Lawyers: According to the Washington Times, roughly 50% of all malpractice claims in the legal industry involve mistakes related to the law. Common errors are inadequate discovery and not knowing the relevant law. Administrative errors, such as missing deadlines and calendar dates, rank high in one-person firms. Professional liability insurance will protect you regardless of whether the suit has merit.
  • Consultants: Business and tech consultants are often at risk for lawsuits. Clients rely on their expertise to make important decisions regarding their business. Tech consultants may make a mistake that shuts down a client’s website or inadvertently introduces a virus into their system, resulting in a lawsuit.
  • Contractors: General contractors are exposed to a variety of lawsuit risks. Mistakes and miscalculations can cause time delays and budget issues. Contractors can also be held liable for faulty work done by their subcontractors. A costly lawsuit could easily bankrupt your company if you’re operating without professional liability coverage.

Even if your profession does not fall into these categories, if you provide advice or expertise that could result in a financial loss to your clients, you should absolutely have a professional liability policy. Regardless of whether you are at fault, the risk of a lawsuit is real, and mounting a legal defense can easily bankrupt small or even medium-sized businesses. If you’re not protected by the right type of insurance, both your business and personal assets can be at risk.

Following are a few tips to help prevent lawsuits:

  • Be careful: When talking to clients or the public, avoid statements or activities that could be construed as questionable. Improper actions and statements can quickly lead to a lawsuit.
  • Find a great lawyer: Make sure you have a lawyer who can advise you on what to say and do if you are sued. Contact them immediately, before making any statements, and trust their advice.
  • Protect your data: Protecting your customer data is key. A data loss can lead to legal action from customers or suppliers.

A Tri County agent can help you assess your risk of a lawsuit and determine the proper amount of coverage to protect your assets.


How Do I Get Professional Liability Insurance?

Unfortunately, people love to sue and it should be clear by now that carrying a professional liability policy is essential to protecting your business and personal assets. When shopping for a professional liability policy, one of the first things to consider is the claim limit. The amount of coverage needed can vary. One of the best ways to get advice on recommended coverage levels is to talk to industry leaders and a Trusted Choice agent who specializes in your industry.

Another factor to consider is defense costs. Some policies subtract the cost of your defense from the claim limit, which leaves less money available to pay any judgments. Other policies pay for defense costs on top of your claim limit. Finally, check for a loss of earnings clause. Policies that offer this benefit pay for the time that you spend in court, while policies without it don’t cover those costs.

Costs for professional liability insurance can vary widely depending on the work that you perform. To get an accurate quote, contact us. These agents have access to many professional liability insurance companies. They will advise you on appropriate coverage levels and search for multiple professional liability insurance quotes that fit within your budget.


Bikers: Reduce Your Risk of Being Hit by a Car

06/15/2017 | No Comments

Motorcyclists understand something that those riding in vehicles (“cagers”) don’t: There’s something supremely liberating about taking to the open road with nothing between you and the environment but your good fortune and a bit of leather. When on a bike, you are not only more aware of your surroundings; you are also more one with the road.

As with all things, however, this feeling of exhilaration comes at a price. As a motorcyclist, you are far more likely to be injured or killed in an accident than those who are protected by their steel cages. By nature, most cagers expect to see only other cars on the road. Bikers (and bicyclists, and even pedestrians) must be aware of this fact.

Furthermore, the feeling of invulnerability that comes with having multiple airbags in a two-ton crossover or SUV sometimes leads to inattention or aggressive driving. This can spell trouble for someone on a motorcycle. Regardless of who’s at fault for an accident, the biker always pays the price when it comes to injuries. Fortunately, you can take a few precautions to minimize your chances of a collision with a car.

How to Reduce the Risk of Being Hit by a Driver Who Is Changing Lanes

It’s not uncommon for motorcyclists to be hit by cars when the drivers are changing lanes. It is almost as though motorists are simply unable to see bikes. A few precautions on your part can go a long way toward maintaining your safety.

  • When possible, avoid riding in the driver’s blind spot.  Drivers don’t always bother to turn their heads to check if someone is approaching before changing lanes, and your motorcycle is small enough to easily fit into the areas that can’t be seen using mirrors alone.
  • Stay alert to traffic patterns. You can usually predict when a driver is likely to want to change lanes.
  • Don’t assume that drivers will hear you approaching. If they’re jamming away to “Uptown Funk” or some other turned-up music, they’re likely to be lost in their own little worlds.
  • Keep in mind that if you can see a driver’s eyes in their side-view mirror, they can see you. Try to make sure that you are seen before riding past the car.
How to Reduce the Risk of Being Hit by a Driver Who Is Making a Left Turn

Drivers making left turns are responsible for a full 42% of all accidents in which a car and motorcycle collide. That’s one of the biggest hazards faced by bikers.  These accidents most frequently happen when the biker is going straight through an intersection and a driver going the opposite direction makes a left turn into the biker.

Accidents of this nature involving two cars happen often enough, but because motorcycles are smaller and are frequently overlooked by motorists, it makes for an even bigger hazard. Naturally, you can’t control the actions of drivers, but you can take some precautions to reduce your risk of being involved in this type of accident:

  • Avoid speeding, particularly through intersections.
  • Do not attempt to pass cars or weave through traffic while approaching or riding through intersections.
  • If you notice an approaching car with a left turn signal on, be prepared to take any necessary defensive maneuvers.
  • Ride on the left side of your lane. Cagers may be more aware of bikes directly ahead of them, and will most likely clear your path earlier if they continue their turn.
  • When riding with others, avoid riding two bikes right next to each other in the lane. Proper technique requires that one bike follow the other, staggered on the left and right sides of the lane.
  • Approach all intersections with your hands over the brake and clutch levers, prepared for emergency avoidance maneuvers. Be aware of other cars following the leading car, in case you need to make a last-ditch swerve into an oncoming traffic lane.
  • Install headlight modulators, devices that flash headlight high beams that can be used to wake up inattentive or negligent drivers.
  • Practice emergency avoidance maneuvers every month or so. A bit of practice on this vital skill can quite literally save your life.
How to Reduce the Risk of Being Hit while Lane Splitting

Most motorcyclists have done this, especially if they’re riding an air-cooled bike. While stuck in stopped or slow-moving traffic, it is easy to operate a motorcycle between two lanes to keep moving along. However, this practice is not only dangerous; it’s actually illegal in many states.

Lane splitting is hazardous because it requires to you ride in a narrow space, which leaves little room to maneuver around any obstacles. Furthermore, drivers rarely expect a motorcyclist to appear in this space between the lanes and may hit the biker with their car while trying to move into a different lane or even just by opening their car door to dump a cup of ice on the road.

Naturally, you’re safest if you simply don’t do lane splitting. However, if you feel that you must and you are riding in a state where it’s  legal, you can reduce your risk of injury by adhering to the following tips:

  • Engage in lane splitting only when your bike is in danger of overheating; and then, only if it’s legal in the state you are in.
  • Be wary when one lane is moving faster than the other. Aggressive drivers are likely to suddenly change lanes.
  • Be extra careful while riding in drivers’ blind spots.
  • Ride faster than the speed of traffic, but not much faster.
Ride Safely and Save on Your Insurance

All of the tips listed above are likely to be covered, explained and practiced in a motorcycle safety course. These courses are recommended for riders of all levels, so just because you’ve been riding for 20 years doesn’t mean the course is useless to you. Best of all, in addition to learning ways to avoid accidents and injury, successful completion of a safety course can earn you significant discounts on your motorcycle insurance. Speak with your local Tri County insurance agent to learn more.


Get Ready…It’s Hurricane Season!

05/09/2017 | No Comments

Get Ready…It’s Hurricane Season!

The most important thing you can do as hurricane season approaches is to get yourself, your family and your home prepared. By starting early, you’ll avoid the rush at home supply stores, grocery stores and other venues typically crowded and often chaotic when hurricane watches and warnings are issued.

Preparing Makes Sense

How Can I prepare

  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio Station for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)
  • Secure any items that can be lifted by wind
  • Secure windows and doors
  • Set your freezer and refrigerator to its coldest settings
  • Turn off propane tank and unplug small appliances
  • Fill your car gas tank
  • Have an evacuation plan set
  • Evacuate immediately if advised by authorities
  • Keep emergency contact numbers handy
  • Make arrangements for pets (if you are evacuated- most shelters will not allow pets)

 

What Supplies Should I Have?

  • Ample water – At least 3 days worth (One gallon per day, per person)
  • 3 days worth of non – perishable food (don’t forget pets)
  • Flashlights (avoid candles)
  • Battery powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7 days worth)
  • Copies of personal documents
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Extra cash – ATM’s may not be working
  • Insect Repellant
  • Tools to secure your home
  • Warm Clothing
  • Blankets
  • Camera for photos of damage

 

What should I do after a Storm?

  • Listen to NOAA for more updates Only use your phone in emergencies
  • Stay away from damaged powerlines
  • Check for spoiled food – when in doubt throw it out
  • Avoid drinking and preparing food with tap water (can be contaminated)
  • If you were evacuated, do not return home unless instructed by the authorities
  • When cleaning, wear protective clothing (avoid areas that can be dangerous)
  • Follow directions from emergency service personnel and fire response
  • Avoid operating electric appliances or tools around water

 

All NOAA Weather Radio stations broadcast on one of seven frequencies in the VHF Public Service band: 162.400 megahertz (MHz), 162.425MHz, 162.450 MHz, 162.475 MHz, 162.500MHz, 162.525 MHz, and 162.550 MHz. While some older weather radio receivers will only have three frequencies (162.400, 162.475 and 162.550), and receiver sold today should be able to pick up stations on any of the seven frequencies.

Consider buying a generator

If you use a portable generator, read and follo all the manufacturers instructions. Be sure to set it up outsied – not in your home or garage – and connect appliances directly to it. Don tot ire your generator directly to your breaker or fuse box, because the power you generate may flow back into power lines and cause injuries.

Helpful Links:

National Hurricane Center http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

American Red Cross  http:/www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/hurricane

Preparedness Guides https://www.ready.gov

Create a Family Emergency Plan

Designate a meeting place. Choose a location outside your house in case of a household emergency, such as a fire, and one outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return to your house. Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate. If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make a reservation before you leave. Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.


Will Boat Insurance Keep You Afloat?

04/21/2017 | No Comments

Make Sure You Have Boat Insurance to Weather the Storm

If you enjoy fishing, sailing, yachting, or cruising around on a powerboat, make sure you have boat insurance that covers your liability risk as well as your watercraft, equipment and passengers. Perhaps you have a lake cabin and like to tow water skiers or tubing enthusiasts. Maybe you have the party boat and every Fourth of July you load up your vessel with guests, food and libations.

Water activities are a great way to bring people together, but it is important to remember that accidents, injuries and fatalities do happen, especially when alcohol is involved. To get the right coverage that will protect your financial investment, work with a Tri -County Agent. A local agent who knows the risks and regulations in your area can help ensure that you are fully covered when you head out on the water.


Critical Steps for Boater Safety

  • Take a boating safety course
  • Educate your passengers on safe boating techniques
  • Make sure all passengers wear life vests
  • Follow all rules of the waterway you frequent
  • Stay sober, particularly if you are at the helm
  • Get boat insurance to ensure you are protected for the risks involved in boating, from liability claims to theft, storm damage and capsizing

What Does Boat Insurance Cover?

The exact boat coverage you need depends on multiple factors. Small boat insurance is very different from yacht insurance, for example. However, for most types of boats, the three kinds of coverage in a basic boat insurance policy include:

  • Bodily injury liability for expenses related to the injury of another person
  • Property damage liability for expenses related to harming another person’s property
  • Physical damage for damage to your own property, including your boat and trailer.

You also may want to add additional types of coverage to your boat insurance policy in order to fully protect yourself and your property. Here are some examples of additional coverage:

  • Property coverage for equipment such as tools, life preservers, anchors and oars
  • Insurance for fishing equipment like your rods, lures, nets and tackle
  • Towing coverage when your boat becomes disabled and needs servicing
  • Medical payments coverage for hospital and funeral expenses for you or your passengers
  • Uninsured/underinsured boaters coverage if you have an accident with another boater whose insurance is not sufficient to cover damages

As with all insurance, the amount of benefit or reimbursement you have in the event of an incident is set at the time you buy your policy. Be sure to talk with an experienced Tri-County agent who can make sure you have sufficient insurance for the risks you encounter.


What Kinds of Boats Need to Be Insured?

You can insure just about any kind of vessel, whether you have a yacht, speed boat or personal watercraft (PWC) like a JetSki. Every type of boat has the potential to be stolen or damaged, and can be involved in an incident that results in harm to another person or their property. Even if your boat is docked or stored in your garage, it can potentially be vandalized, damaged in a fire or storm, or stolen.

Many owners of small watercraft such as canoes, rafts and kayaks assume they will be covered under a homeowners or renters policy. This may be the case, up to a specified limit in your home policy. However, when it’s time to make a claim, you don’t want to be surprised to find out that this limit is not adequate to cover the value of your investment.

Be sure to consider the amount of coverage you would need to repair or replace each of your boats and recreational vehicles if damaged or stolen and ask your agent to help you get the right coverage for those items.


Can You Buy Boat Insurance Online?

There is certainly nothing wrong with getting online boat insurance quotes when you are shopping around. Just make sure you are comparing “apples to apples.” For example, if you get multiple online quotes for boat insurance, you could start by making sure that each includes the same amount of liability, property damage and medical coverage.

Buying insurance is a personal matter, and many considerations go into choosing just the right coverage for you. For this reason, many people choose to work with an independent agent who can provide guidance and answer questions. That kind of support can be difficult to find in an insurance call center or online interface.

Contact us at Tri-County today to find the insurance policy that is right for you!


Car Insurance Prepares You for the Unexpected

03/23/2017 | No Comments

Traffic accident scenarios are common, from fender-benders to highway crashes. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, over 10 million accidents occur on U.S. streets each year. The key is to be prepared so that the costs involved in recovering from an accident are not devastating to your finances.


The Cost of Car Accidents in the U.S.

  • Automobile traffic accidents cost $299.5 billion annually in the U.S.
  • Crashes cost $61,600 on average
  • A critically injured person can accumulate $1 million in medical expenses

Legal defense alone can cause devastating financial hardship, even if it turns out you are not found to be at fault. For this reason, it is important to think carefully about the coverage you may need in the event of an accident. If you buy car insurance online without professional advice, you may not be fully covered.


How to Find Fast, Accurate Insurance Quotes

When you’re on the hunt for accurate insurance quotes, it’s also important to look for coverage that makes sense for your concerns and budget. Tri-County can help you get fast quotes that are tailored to your real life needs. Moreover, you can get answers to your questions about how much insurance is best for you, how to get discounts and how to keep your costs low.

Tri-County Insurance Agents offer several important benefits:

  1. Your local agent not only understands the factors that make up a quality car insurance policy, but knows the requirements in your state.
  2. Independent agencies partner with multiple carriers to find the best personal auto insurance coverage for you at affordable rates.
  3. Your agent will help you find car insurance tailored to your needs, not to a mathematical formula describing what the average driver should have.

Review Options from Multiple Auto Insurance Companies

When you work with an independent agent, you are not stuck with one insurance company and the solutions that company provides. Instead, you will have a range of choices from top insurance companies.

Your Tri-County Agent will assess your needs based on factors such as the number of drivers in your family and their ages. Your agent will also look at bundling multiple vehicles together, or combining your home and auto policies under one insurance company, so that you can get the best value for your dollar.

Your agent can help you review several policy choices, coverage limits, deductibles and pricing and choose the best fit for you.


Is Auto Insurance Coverage Required?

Drivers in every state are required to have auto liability insurance, such as personal injury protection (PIP).

Car insurance liability requirements vary by state, and include a minimum amount for bodily injury costs per person and per accident as well as a minimum for property damage liability. If you cause an accident, liability coverage pays those costs, up to the limits set for your policy.

In addition to required liability coverage, you may also want collision coverage to protect your investment in your vehicle. And depending upon your specific needs and risks, you may also want comprehensive coverage – now known as “other than collision.” Together, collision and comprehensive can provide protection for everything from accidents to theft and vandalism.


What Does Car Insurance Cover?

There are three primary types of insurance coverage:

  • Liability insurance: Covers the costs associated with injuries and property damage you are responsible for if you cause an accident.
  • Collision: Covers the costs to repair or replace your damaged or destroyed vehicle after an accident.
  • Comprehensive: Formally known as “other than collision,” this portion of your policy covers damage to your vehicle from causes such as auto theft and weather damage.

There are also several different types of coverage which may be available to you, including:

  • Medical payments: Covers the costs of injuries for you and others in your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): Similar to medical payments coverage, PIP coverage can pay your medical costs after an accident, regardless of fault. But PIP offers expanded coverage that includes coverage for lost wages.
  • Rental reimbursement: Pays a certain amount daily for a replacement vehicle if yours is in the shop for repairs.
  • Towing and roadside service: Provides emergency roadside assistance and towing to help you get your vehicle back on the road or to a shop for repair.

As you consider your policy needs, it is important to keep the coverage limits in mind. The costs of a severe crash can quickly exceed the limits. If that occurs, you will have to pay for costs out of your own pocket.


The Risks of Buying Auto Insurance Online

Shopping for insurance online may be a great way to get information and rough quotes, but there are drawbacks to actually buying your auto coverage that way. One of the drawbacks with buying car insurance online is that it may not match your needs. Many people go looking for instant online insurance, only to find that it is difficult to know whether it offers the right amount and type of protection. Buying a no-frills basic car insurance policy may meet state requirements, but may not provide the compensation you need to recover from an accident.

It is important to discuss your risks and coverage options with a qualified insurance agent who can help ensure that you don’t have coverage gaps. A Tri-County Agent can help you learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision about your car insurance.


Contact Tri-County today! We are here to help find the perfect coverage for you.


Find Affordable Health Insurance for Individuals, Families and Businesses

02/10/2017 | No Comments

The Affordable Healthcare Act stipulates that failure to carry health insurance can result in tax penalties, so if you are uninsured, you now have more motivation than ever to find coverage. Finding an affordable policy may seem like a daunting task, but today, those shopping on the private market have access to a greater number of options than ever before. With so much to choose from, how do you sort through plans, deductibles, and networks, and choose a policy that makes sense for you, your family or your employees?

An independent insurance agent who specializes in health insurance can be an excellent resource when you want to evaluate health plans. You may even discover that you can find a lower cost option through an independent agent than you can through your employer. This is because these agents can compare plans from multiple carriers to find the best fit and rates. Contact a Tri County agent and get all your questions answered right away.


How to Buy Health Insurance for Individuals and Families

If you are self-employed or you are not obtaining healthcare coverage through your employer, you need at least a basic health insurance plan to ensure that you are prepared for an unforeseen health condition or injury.

A full-coverage health insurance plan may be more suitable for your needs if you have dependents, you are getting ready to start a family, or you have a family history of certain health risks, such as heart disease. You should ensure that your healthcare plan helps you to pay for the broader set of services you need.

Use the handy checklist below to help you decide what kind of coverage may be right for you.

Use this checklist to decide what Health Insurance coverage you need.

Healthcare Costs, Co-pays and Coinsurance

Your healthcare costs are an important factor to consider when you want to buy health insurance, and you have a number of options for managing those costs. You can choose to pay a higher deductible to lower your regular premiums, which means you need to pay that deductible amount for doctor’s visits and medical bills before your health insurance kicks in. Alternatively you can pay a higher premium in order to avoid a high out-of-pocket cost in the event of a serious illness. Bear in mind that health insurance companies are now required to cover preventive care visits (such as routine physicals, gynecological exams, and mammograms) in full so you will not pay for these visits even if you have not met your deductible.

Co-pays and coinsurance are two methods health insurance companies use to share the cost of healthcare. Co-pays are a small amount you pay for doctor’s visits, whereas coinsurance is an amount you pay in the event you need additional care. Your doctor cannot charge a you a co-pay for preventive care visits. Be sure that you fully understand any coinsurance payments your health insurance plan requires. In the event of a serious illness or injury, these costs can become very high.

A local independent agent in the Trusted Choice network can help you compare medical insurance quotes and find the right healthcare plan to match your current and anticipated needs.


Health Insurance Coverage Plans

There are a number of different types of health insurance plans for individuals and families. The following table provides a brief overview of the most common health insurance plans.

A brief overview of common Health Insurance plans

An independent agent in the Trusted Choice network specializing in healthcare insurance can answer all of your questions. You can also learn more from the following Healthcare and Health Insurance FAQ.


Healthcare and Health Insurance FAQ

Q: Is it possible to buy good yet cheap health insurance?

A: Between the policies offered on your state’s health insurance exchange and those offered on the private market, you should be able to find a variety of low cost health insurance plans. Frequently, these plans have a high deductible but will allow you preventive care at no additional cost and can prevent a major injury or illness from becoming excessively expensive through limits on out-of-pocket spending. Talk to a qualified agent about ways to cut expenses without sacrificing needed care or putting your family at risk of a large burden of debt.

Q: How does the Affordable Health Care Act affect health insurance?

A: The Affordable Health Care Act was an extensive overhaul of the healthcare system. It eliminated the legality of predatory insurance companies and it ensures that everyone has access to basic preventive care at no additional cost beyond their monthly premiums. Furthermore, those with pre-existing conditions can no longer be turned down or price-gouged by insurance companies. To fully understand how this legislation has affected you, you can talk to a qualified agent and get your questions answered.

Q: Does health insurance cover long term care?

A: Health insurance plans typically cover your regular health care and major medical care, such as hospital stays and surgeries, with costs and limitations varying considerably from one plan to another. Long term care insurance is a supplemental insurance policy that helps individuals get the care they need in the event of a chronic condition, such as an injury requiring rehabilitation in a care facility, or the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Q: Does Medicare include long term care?

A: Medicare is a government health insurance program designed to help those over 65, and those with certain severe illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It helps to cover the costs of hospital stays, doctor’s visits, and prescription drugs. Long term care insurance is a supplemental insurance plan that helps to cover the costs associated with care for individuals with chronic conditions and disabilities.

Q: Can I get a free health insurance quote?

A: Yes. The agents in the Trusted Choice network offer free insurance quotes and can help you assess your needs as well. These independent agents work with multiple health insurance companies, which means they can compare a range of policies and options for you, and help you evaluate the right coverage for your needs.

Contact a Tri County agent for assistance with your healthcare needs today.


Three Insurance Resolutions for the New Year

12/30/2016 | No Comments

Some people vow to exercise more, or to quit smoking or to read more books, and these are all admirable New Year’s resolutions. But what about resolutions that help provide you with peace of mind, more protection and a little more money in your wallet? Tri County Agency encourages you to review these three straightforward “insurance resolutions” that can help you start 2017 on the right foot.

Check to See If You Qualify for Discounts to Lower Your Premium

It’s always a good idea to save a little money when you can, and asking your Tri County agent about potential discounts is a great place to start. While premiums are calculated based on the level of risk an insurance company must take to provide you with coverage, there are steps you may be able to take to reduce those risks. For example, installing alarms in your home that alert local authorities to fires or burglary may help to reduce the premium on your homeowners insurance since it can aid in the prevention and mitigation of a fire or break-in. If you have teenagers that are or will be old enough to drive this year, ask your agent about good student discounts, and all drivers may be able to lower their premiums by successfully completing a defensive driving course.

Another way you can lower your premiums would be to raise your deductible- the amount you pay for a loss before your insurance coverage kicks in. Raising your deductible on your auto insurance collision and comprehensive coverage can help bring your rates down.

Make a home inventory

The reason we all purchase insurance is to help us recover, rebuild and replace after a loss. Keeping a comprehensive home inventory can help you replace your belongings after a loss, as accurate records will make it less likely that there will be a dispute between you and your insurance company during the claim process.

Find and Fix Gaps in Coverage

One of the worst experiences you can have when filing a claim after a loss is being told that you don’t have the right coverage. While a Tri County agent will work with you to try and eliminate those scenarios, there are also times when your circumstances change, and if you don’t update your insurance coverage accordingly, you might find yourself with a gap in coverage. If you have certain high value items such as jewelry or collectibles, they may not be fully covered under a homeowners policy, despite coverage being available elsewhere under an add-on called a “personal articles floater.” Similarly, in the wake of Sandy and other storms with intense flooding, many homeowners found out that their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood losses. Even if your mortgage company doesn’t require it, a flood insurance policy can be an important piece of protection you should investigate.

Speaking with a Tri County agent can help you identify where there may be potential gaps and they are able to help you obtain the coverage to fill them. Contact us today!

A New Year is a new start, and a time to start over. Committing yourself to these resolutions can help provide you with peace of mind, more protection and, hopefully, a little more money in your wallet to start the year.


Halloween Safety Tips

10/26/2016 | No Comments

Halloween is this weekend! Everyone here at Tri County Agency would like to wish you and your Family a safe weekend. Please keep the following tips in mind!
Walk Safely

  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
  • Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
  • Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
  • Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  • Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

Trick or Treat With an Adult

  • Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.

Keep Costumes Both Creative and Safe

  • Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
  • Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  • When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.

Drive Extra Safely on Halloween

  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

Is Life Insurance a Life or Death Matter?

09/27/2016 | No Comments

You are not planning to have a heart attack tomorrow, or get a cancer diagnosis, or accidentally step out in front of a bus. For that reason, and especially if you are young and healthy and have no dependents, life insurance probably isn’t for you. Or is it?

Let’s look at what life insurance is, what it covers, and why people buy it. Then you can decide if now is the time to contact a Tri County Agent who specializes in life insurance. Because these agents work with multiple life insurance carriers, they can compare policies and options on your behalf and help you make the best choice. Contact us for help meeting your life insurance goals.

Life Insurance Statistics

  • 40% of American adults have no life insurance
  • Over 50% of U.S. households lack adequate life insurance coverage
  • About 40% of people surveyed say they would have immediate financial trouble if the primary wage earner in their household died

Why Buy Life Insurance?
As with all insurance, life insurance plans are about preparing for the unexpected. We don’t plan to have a heart attack or meet an untimely end. We may fret about the unforeseen, but there are few ways to prepare for it. Life insurance provides a way to be prepared and get peace of mind.

The main reason to buy life insurance is for financial protection for your family and dependents. If you are the sole income earner or the major provider in your family, then life insurance definitely makes sense. If you should die unexpectedly, your policy will help your loved ones pay your final expenses and potentially receive ongoing support. The amount they receive will depend upon the size of policy you buy.

Do You Need Life Insurance When You Are Young?
Most people don’t think about buying life insurance when they are young, healthy and single. However, if something should happen to you unexpectedly, a life insurance policy could pay for your student loans or other large outstanding debts, as well as your funeral expenses. These are never fun things to think about, but evaluating risks is a first step to preparedness.

Another good reason to consider buying life insurance at a younger age is to lock in rates. The affordability of life insurance is based largely on your age and risk factors, and life insurance for adults becomes increasingly expensive. While you are young and healthy, you will pay lower premiums. With short term insurance you can choose a lock-in term, such as 15 or 20 years at a preferred rate.

It is important to know that many term policies can be converted into permanent policies later on, without having to re-qualify. If you develop a severe or chronic condition at any point, your life insurance is already secured. Essentially you can insure your insurability.

Life Insurance Over 30
Most people begin seriously thinking about buying a life insurance policy at about the time they start a family. If you are like many people, the light bulb may come on at about the age of 30, when you realize that you are mortal, and that you have real financial responsibilities.

An important consideration for anyone who wants to purchase life insurance is that it will never be cheaper than it is today. It’s not too late at the age of 30, 40 or 50 or even later to buy life insurance that will protect your dependents from financial hardship or provide for you in retirement. But your costs will go up the longer you wait. If you do buy life insurance now, you can lock in a life insurance premium at a more affordable rate than it will be a few years down the road.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
Choosing a life insurance plan requires a bit of math. You want to figure out how much your family needs for daily spending and major upcoming expenses in the event that you pass away too soon and cannot provide for them. Or, if you are young, single and healthy, you can look at the cost of paying off any debt you have accumulated, or the cost of care for an aging parent.

For the following simple example, we will pretend there is no interest or tax. But in reality those factors will affect the amount of benefit your beneficiaries receive.

Example:

  • You purchase a $500,000 life insurance policy.
  • Upon your passing, your family spends $10,000 for your final expenses, leaving $490,000 to be divided up over the payout period for your designated beneficiaries.
  • If the payout period is 20 years, the payments would be about $24,500 per year, or about $2,040 per month.

Again, interest and tax are not figured into this simplified example. What makes life insurance so confusing is that there are several different types of coverage, including term life and whole life or permanent life insurance. Additionally, the details of the policy you choose will be unique to your personal situation.

Life Insurance Terminology
It can be difficult to make sense of life insurance terminology. Here is a brief overview of the most common terms:

  • Accidental death insurance: Also known as accidental death and dismemberment insurance, or AD&D, this coverage pays you or a beneficiary a benefit if you are in an accident that results in your being killed or dismembered.
  • Annuities: An annuity is a type of insurance that either pays income after your initial investment (immediate annuity) or accumulates income (deferred annuity). Either of these types of annuities can be fixed (guaranteed) or assigned a variable rate that pays out based on the policy’s associated investments. Life insurance companies typically offer annuities to help people obtain a stable income during retirement.
  • Critical Illness Insurance: While not a life insurance policy, critical illness insurance is often available through life insurance companies. You might buy critical illness insurance (or CI) if you have a family history of heart disease or cancer in order to ensure that you have the financial resources to pay for your care if you are diagnosed with a severe illness.
  • No exam life insurance: This is life insurance coverage that some companies offer without requiring a medical exam first. Typically, this option will be more expensive because without submitting the results of a medical exam to the insurance company, you are an unknown and potentially greater risk.
  • Term life insurance: This is a life insurance policy that provides a death benefit only. Your annual premiums are locked in for a set term, such as 10 or 20 years. In the event that you pass away during this period, a death benefit is paid to your beneficiaries.
  • Permanent life insurance: This is a long-term policy, such as universal life insurance or whole life insurance, that includes an investment component and can cover retirement expenses in addition to providing a death benefit.
  • Universal life insurance: A permanent life insurance policy with a “liquid” account that accrues cash value, as well as interest, with each premium you pay. You can take out loans as needed for unexpected expenses or opportunities, such as a home purchase. You also can pay more than the scheduled premium, or take breaks from paying premiums.
  • Whole life insurance: Whole life is a permanent policy with an investment component that provides for your financial needs similarly to universal life insurance, but without the liquidity of the funds. This life insurance policy accrues a cash value and pays out at the end of the policy, if it is kept current.

Finding the Right Life Insurance for You

Life insurance causes more confusion for people than perhaps any other type of insurance, partly because there are several different types of life insurance products, and partly because the best life insurance is unique to each individual. Should you buy term life or permanent life insurance? Do you need a broker or can you get life insurance from an agency? Should you buy life insurance coverage online or is that too risky?

While you can buy online life insurance, it may be difficult to know what you are getting and whether it will adequately meet your family’s needs. Buying life insurance is a very personal decision. You may want a policy that builds cash value over time, or you may simply want to purchase coverage that will provide a death benefit if you should pass away within a specific term.

Depending upon the ages of your children and how long it is until they graduate from college, a 10-year, 20-year or 30-year life insurance term policy might be appropriate for you. Or, you may need life insurance to cover only your final expenses. These choices are individual, and for this reason it is smart to consult with a knowledgeable life insurance agent.

How an Independent Agent Can Help Find the Best Life Insurance
Many people begin their search for life insurance by getting an instant online quote. But when it comes time to make a decision, they really want to talk with a professional who can guide them in choosing the best life insurance policy for their needs.

An independent agent at Tri County Agency who specializes in life insurance can help you learn about the various life insurance plans and provide all of the answers to your questions. Independent agents advocate for you, not for the life insurance carrier. This means they are dedicated to helping you make the best possible decision for your needs. You will have the opportunity to review various life insurance premiums and make an informed choice.

Your agent will help to evaluate your life insurance goals, answer your questions, and help you make a smart choice. Simply request a quote to get started.


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