Answers to questions you may have before going on vacation

  • How can I secure my house or apartment while I’m away?

    Create a lived-in look to deter burglars.

    Do this by stopping newspaper and mail deliveries; asking a neighbor to park a car in your driveway occasionally; and putting lights on a timer or asking a neighbor to turn lights on in the evening. Use a telephone answering machine or call forwarding to quiet ringing telephones. And, make sure all windows and doors are locked to make entry difficult for intruders.

  • If my home is burglarized or damaged by fire, are all of my possessions covered?

    Under a standard homeowners insurance policy for a single-family home, the contents of the home normally are covered for at least 50 percent of the amount of insurance on the building ($50,000 contents coverage on a house insured for $100,000). A renters policy is written for a specified dollar amount, based on what you own, to cover the loss of personal belongings in your apartment. There are, however, special limits of liability on certain items in certain situations. Typically, there is a $200 limit on money and $1,500 on securities, passports, tickets and stamps. There is generally a $1,500 limit on watercraft, trailers and outboard motors. For fine jewelry, furs and watches that are stolen, a usual limit of $1,500 is set. And, there is typically a $2,500 limit for theft of guns and a $2,500 limit on theft of silverware, goldware and pewterware.

    A home inventory is important to have should you become the victim of a burglary or fire. The inventory is a list of your possessions, including makes, models and serial numbers. Photographs or a videotape of your belongings are other ways of recording what you own. These records should be kept in a safe place away from the house or apartment so they would not be lost in the event of fire.

  • What if the items I take with me on vacation are stolen?

    Your belongings generally are covered by your homeowners or renters policy anywhere in the world, including items in storage facilities, suitcase contents and items lent to friends. Exceptions to this are items usually kept at another residence of yours, which then would be limited to the greater of $1,000 or 10 percent of the personal property limit shown on your policy (some restrictions also apply to theft). Typically, you should have another policy to cover all the eligible property at that location, including loss by theft.

    Some homeowners or renters policies may limit coverage for items kept in a self-storage facility. Most homeowners or renters policies would be limited to the greater of $1,000 or 10 percent of the personal property limit shown on your policy. Prior to storing items, check with our agency to determine your applicable coverage limit.

  • We’ll be traveling by car on vacation. Do you have any suggestions?

    Check with our agency to make sure that your policy is up-to-date, and make sure the car is in good running condition. While traveling, be sure your passengers wear seat belts and young children ride in car seats at all times. Also, keep cameras, purses and other valuables with you while on vacation; never leave them in the car.

  • I plan to rent a car for this trip. Is it necessary to buy the insurance the rental agency sells?

    It may not be. Prior to leaving for vacation, check with our agency to determine if your personal auto insurance policy covers damage to a rented vehicle, as many policies do. You may want to contact your major credit-card company to ask if a rental car charged to that account is covered for damage. If you don’t have one of these pre-existing coverages, it may be wise to purchase insurance from the rental agency.

Are your holiday gifts covered?

  • My house is filled with expensive gifts waiting to be opened. If my home is burglarized, damaged or destroyed, are all these gifts covered under my homeowners policy?

    It depends. Many homeowners policies limit the amount of coverage or insurance they provide for personal computers, silverware, stamp or coin collections, fi ne art and jewelry. So, if you received any of these as gifts, your homeowners policy may not cover them in their entirety. Th ere also may be limitations on the types of loss or damage that are covered, such as breakage or flood.

  • Can I get additional coverage for these gifts?

    Yes. Look into personal property endorsements and floaters. With an endorsement, you can specify a higher amount than under the standard homeowners policy. With a personal articles floater, items such as jewelry can be covered at full value, with no deductible, based on current appraisal or the bill of sale. Floaters also can cover broader causes of loss, such as dropping a new ring down the drain.

  • As a renter, are my gifts covered by renters insurance?

    Yes, but renters insurance, like homeowners insurance, also limits the amount of coverage for specific items and types of losses covered. Tenants also can purchase floaters and endorsements to provide insurance for these uncovered or under-covered items.

  • What about the gifts sitting in my car while I continue shopping?

    Presents stolen from your car are not covered by the typical automobile insurance policy. However, they may be covered, subject to a deductible, under your homeowners or renters policy—again, except when limited under the specific conditions mentioned above.

  • Besides purchasing endorsements, how else can I protect my property?

    Conduct a home inventory of all your possessions, and update this inventory whenever you make major purchases or receive gifts. Go over your insurance policy with our agency to be sure it provides the appropriate coverage and also for the total value of items on your inventory. Keep the receipts, serial numbers and dates of purchases of major items. Appraise jewelry and fi ne art at least every three years, because they may change in value over time.

  • What’s involved in a home inventory?

    A few hours of your time along with a camera or video recorder. First, list all of your major belongings and furnishings, with a brief description, any serial numbers and any receipts or appraisals. Second, back up this list with photos or a video. Photograph every wall of every room, and inside closets and cabinets. With the video, make comments for a verbal record as well as a visual one. Third, store everything in a safe place away from the home, such as a safe-deposit box or another family member’s home. Update this inventory whenever needed. That’s all it takes for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you are adequately protected.

Flood damage: is my home covered?

  • Is my home insured for damage that may result from flooding caused by a hurricane or other storm?

    Not necessarily. Generally, coverage provided by a standard homeowners policy does not include damage caused by flooding or mudslides. It is important to note this type of damage could be extremely destructive to your property and without insurance you could be devastated financially.

  • How can I get insurance coverage so I’m protected for flood damage from a natural disaster?

    First, contact our agency. We have access to comprehensive information and we can help you determine if you need flood insurance. Throughout the United States, more than 20,000 communities participate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, which offers flood insurance. An NFIP policy typically includes coverage for: removing contents; sand bagging (to reduce damage); repairing flood damage and rebuilding; clearing away debris and mud; and compensating for personal belongings.

  • How much protection can I get?

    You can obtain flood coverage up to $250,000 on your home, $100,000 on its contents.

  • Is flood insurance really necessary?

    That is a question you should discuss with our agency. However, you should know that lending institutions may require flood insurance as a condition of securing a mortgage, home improvement loan, home equity loan, etc. Flood insurance also is a prerequisite for receiving federal disaster assistance when property is located in a special hazard area. It is important to note that not only high-risk areas are prone to flooding. Flooding can occur anytime and anywhere. As a rule of thumb, a flood is defined as water, which covers two acres, or covers more than the policyholder’s own property. One-quarter of NFIP claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

  • How can I prepare for a catastrophe such as flooding?

    Along with obtaining flood insurance protection, you should heed storm warnings and follow evacuation procedures such as boarding up windows and storing outside items inside; shutting off utilities; and preparing an emergency kit that contains food and water, a portable can opener, clothing, blankets, flashlights, first-aid supplies and a battery-operated radio. Also, maintain a current household or business inventory of your property and possessions and keep it in a safe place such as a safe-deposit box. An up-to-date inventory will prove useful when filing your insurance claim.

  • Can I buy flood insurance at any time?

    Yes, but in most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period between the time flood insurance is purchased and the time coverage is in force.

  • Would flood insurance cover seepage of water into my basement?

    It would in certain circumstances. An NFIP policy covers the “unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters ....” So, if there is no surface water, there is no coverage. Water that enters the home through the ground below the surface is not a covered flood if it also does not accumulate on the surface. Water that “seeps or leaks on or through the covered property” is only covered “if there is a flood in the area and the flood is the proximate cause of the ... seepage of water.” There is no coverage for damage in basements when caused by groundwater seepage.

  • How can I avoid paying higher premiums when flood maps are revised?

    The most effective way is to raise the lowest floor of your home well above the minimum elevation, which is the Base Flood Elevation level. A good time to do this would be when the home is being repaired, renovated or reconstructed. After an insured flood loss has occurred, your flood policy could pay up to $30,000 for costs to bring the home into compliance with building codes. Also, if your home has been designated by FEMA as a Severe Repetitive Loss property, you could be offered grants that pay up to 75 to 95 percent of the mitigation costs.

  • Flood facts

    On the eastern coast of the United States, flooding occurs mainly during hurricane season, which runs primarily from June through October. Hurricanes affect coastal and inland areas. These areas can be inundated by torrential rains that result in widespread flooding. FEMA estimates that 75 percent of households located in federally designated special flood hazard areas carry no flood insurance. More flood information is available at: http://www.ready.gov/floods and http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/.

  • Does flooding have to occur from a storm in order to be covered?

    NFIP flood coverage includes the “unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.” This could be a broken water pipe, a discharge from an above-ground pool, a blocked storm drain or a ruptured water storage tank.

  • What determines the rates for flood insurance?

    Besides the limits and deductible you choose, the following factors will determine your flood policy rates:

    1) whether your community is participating in the Emergency Program or the Regular Program (most are in the Regular Program);

    2) the location of your home on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM);

    3) when your home was built—whether before or after the first FIRM was drawn;

    4) the distance (in ± feet) between the lowest floor of your home and the Base Flood Elevation (BFE); and

    5) the type of home (e.g., one or two floors, split level, basement, etc.).

    Flood risk information presented on FIRMs is based on historic, meteorologic, hydrologic and hydraulic data, as well as open-space conditions, flood control works and development. Using information gathered in engineering studies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency designates Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) on the FIRM, which are those areas subject to inundation by a flood that has a 1 percent or greater chance of being equaled or exceeded during any given year. This type of flood is referred to as a base flood. A base flood has a 26 percent chance of occurring during a 30-year period—the length of many mortgages. If your home is located in a SFHA (consisting of rating zones A and V), your rates will be higher than those in low-to-moderate hazard areas (consisting of rating zones B, C and X). FIRMS are in the process of being revised by FEMA, particularly in communities located in coastal areas. If the FIRM changes in your community, the rates you pay in the future may be affected.

Insuring your in-home business

Approximately 40 million Americans operate full- and part-time businesses from their homes. The home-based business represents a substantial investment of time, money and property. Yet many business owners do not have the coverage necessary to protect themselves and their businesses.

  • Is my in-home business covered under my homeowners policy?

    Not sufficiently. Many homeowners policies provide only a limited amount of coverage for business-related exposures. Depending on your policy, your homeowners insurance may cover your business, but probably only to a maximum of $2,500 for business equipment in the home and $1,500 for equipment away from the premises. A stolen business credit card, a power surge causing the loss of important computer data and a lawsuit over a business-related matter are not covered.

  • How can I get the most appropriate coverage for my home business?

    There are three ways. First, you may be able to add a home business endorsementto your existing homeowners policy. Coverage generally includes business property coverage; business liability, including product, personal injury and advertising liability; loss of business income protection; valuable papers coverage; and accounts receivable. Second, you can purchase several individual business insurance policies to provide thevarious coverages you need, such as business property, general liability and business income insurance.Third, you can purchase a business owners package policy designed for smaller businesses, which combines the necessary property and liability insurance coverages you need in a single policy.

  • I run a day-care service in my home. Does my homeowners liability insurance extend to my business?

    No. Care providers must purchase liability insurance specifically for their business. You can, at any time, be held liable for injuries that are proven to be the result of events that occurred while the child was in your care. An occurrence policy will cover you at any time in the future should you be held liable for a child’s injury. You also may get coverage for children’s injuries that do not fall underliability. Accidental/medical insurance will cover injuries that are not due to negligence on the part of the provider.

  • What other types of insurance should I consider for my business?

    If you use an automobile for your business activities, be sure that your automobile insurance will protect you from accidents which may occur on business-related errands. You may need to purchase a separate business auto insurance policy depending on your type of business and the kind of vehicle you own. You’ll also need health insurance to cover medical costs if you become ill or injured, and disability insurance in case you become unable to work because of sickness or injury. Also, you may want to consider a small group insurance program if youhave employees. If you hire an employee, you may need to buy workers’ compensation insurance in the event that the employee is hurt on the job and needs medical treatment and income. Under certain state-specific circumstances, workers’ compensation insurance also may extend coverage to you in case you are injured at work. Be sure that your in-home business is properly and adequately insured. Our agency can help you get the most appropriate coverage for your home business.

Not all property is equal when choosing the right insurance

We recommend treating your “very important property” differently than the rest of your property. Lumping your “very important property” in with all other property doesn’t give it the respect it deserves. That’s why you should consider insuring it separately, or scheduling it under what we call an inland marine or “floater” form of insurance. Allow us to give you four good reasons to elevate the protection for this type of property.

  • Is valuing property an issue?

    Often, your “very important property” consists of property that is out of the ordinary, such as stamp and coin collections, fine arts, jewelry, silverware and furs. The value of these items can be difficult to assess when the property is available for inspection, let alone when the property has been lost or damaged. By scheduling this property, you will be compelled to clearly identify the property and its value before a loss. That means fewer disputes and a fairer settlement after a loss.

  • Is certain property limited in my homeowners policy?

    Some of your “very important property” is subject to limitation in your general homeowners coverage. Typically, you will receive no more than $200 for coins, $1,500 for stamps, $1,500 for the theft of jewelry, $1,500 for the theft of furs and $2,500 for the theft of silverware. By scheduling this property, you can override these limitations.

  • Is there a deductible for property losses?

    Your general homeowners policy has a deductible applicable to each loss, which may be $250, $500, $1,000 or greater. However, those deductibles do not apply to scheduled property. By scheduling them, you can be compensated for the full insured value of the item.

  • Are there limitations on causes of loss?

    Finally, scheduling your “very important property” covers it for more causes of loss. Instead of the limited list of covered perils under your homeowners policy, scheduled coverage expands protection to include all risks of loss that are not otherwise listed as excluded. By scheduling this property, you now can be covered for breakage, mysterious disappearance, flood, earthquake, dropping your camera over the side of the boat, losing your wedding band down the drain, pet damage and so on. Let our agency show you how to give your “very important property” the VIP treatment it deserves. You will be surprised at how little it costs to get the best. Some of these items may need appraisals to properly determine their actual worth, but wouldn’t you rather have it that way instead of trying to guess its value when it’s too late? Call us now for details; we’re standing by with the red carpet.

Your homeowners policy and storm damage—what’s covered?

  • Generally, how does my homeowners policy respond to storm damage to my property?

    Your homeowners policy covers most losses that may occur to your dwelling and personal property. Commonly, losses resulting from theft, fi re, wind, vehicles and vandalism are covered.

  • What if there is damage because of a storm?

    A standard homeowners policy covers storm damage to the dwelling, its contents and other structures such as garages and fences, up to the policy limit. Such damage also acts as a trigger for coverage of other consequential losses and expenses including removal of debris and loss of use.

  • What if my family and I cannot live in our home because of the damage?

    When storm damages make it necessary to leave your home temporarily, your home-owners policy covers the additional costs necessary to maintain your normal standard of living for such things as meals, lodging, laundry, transportation, entertainment, etc. You will need to present receipts for all of your expenses to be reimbursed.

  • What clean-up expenses can I expect to recover following a storm?

    Your homeowners policy will cover costs for removal of debris when covered property is damaged. This includes the removal of trees that fall on covered structures, but this coverage for trees usually is limited to $1,000 for a single storm.

  • Am I covered for protecting my property from damage?

    Your policy obligates you to protect your property from further damage following a loss as a condition to payment of your claim. You can expect your policy to pay for such expenses to board windows and make emergency repairs. Also, property removed from your home to protect it from an impending storm receives more comprehensive coverage than what is provided at your home—for a limited period of time, it covers flood, earthquake and any direct damage to your dislocated property without exclusions. However, the expenses to remove the property from harm’s way is not a covered expense.

  • What damages are not covered by my homeowners policy?

    Trees, shrubs and gardens damaged or destroyed by the storm are not covered. The spoilage of food due to an inoperative refrigerator or freezer resulting from anoff -premise power outage is not covered by many policies, unless the appliances are inoperative because the damage to power lines or other utility equipment occurred on your property; for example, lightning damage to your circuit box or a tree falling on power lines connected to your home. It is important to note that there is no coverage for any damage that is a direct result of flood, surface water or water that backs up through sewers or drains that is caused by an act of nature (a storm).

  • How can I find out what is covered in my specific circumstances?

    The information provided here includes general guidelines for storm damage coverage. You should contact our agency for definite answers and further advice. Remember ... Storm damage and flood damage are two different things completely. While your homeowners policy will cover you for storm damage, it will not cover you for losses resulting from flooding. For more information on flood coverage, please contact our office.

Cyber security insurance—What is it and why do I need it?

  • What is cyber security insurance?

    Does your business maintain electronic records with personal data on your clients?

    Is your company prepared to absorb the significant financial implications associated with an unauthorized breach of that data?

    Could a virus cripple your PC network? If so, do you have enough cash reserves to make up for the downtime or can you survive the loss of business?

    If you can’t answer any of these questions, it may be the right time to call your insurance agent and ask about cyber security insurance. That’s a catch-all term for policies that cover hacked computers, virus attacks, denial-of-service attacks, web content liability and other technology-related areas. Cyber security insurance also goes by e-commerce, e-business, information security, cyber risk, network security or hackers insurance. As a business owner, you know that electronic records and data are just as valuable, if not more valuable, than paper or hard-copy documents. Although not physical in nature, electronic data is nonetheless “essential” in all aspects of your business activities and has intrinsic value.

    Cyber security insurance is designed for the protection of intangible data. It can be easily explained as coverage for professional errors and the risks of doing business on the Internet or working with a network system. If you are automated, then you are susceptible to the threat of a breach of your systems, your data and your trust. Anyone who is running a business (or someone who is just starting out) really needs to consider this coverage as much as they would consider any other aspect of their business insurance needs.

  • Why should I consider cyber security insurance for my business?

    A few examples of why you need and should consider cyber security insurance:

    • Costs you could incur to make the proper mandatory notifications to your customers if a breach of your system occurs.

    Many states have mandatory notification requirements, which require business owners to properly notify their customers when a security breach has occurred. Some states also require these business owners to provide their customers with free credit reports for a year, which can become quite costly.

    • Misuse of any information, which is either confidential or subject to statutory restrictions on its use.

    Do you have any personal or confidential data on your system that a hacker would want and could gain unauthorized access to?

    • Defamation.

    You, as a company, have a direct responsibility for what is on your website. Companies also can be held responsible for their employees’ email content.

    • Transmission of a virus.

    Did you know that a company could be held liable if a third party contracts a virus from your company’s website or email, and as a result, that third party suffers a loss as a direct result of that virus?

    • Legal costs incurred in the defense of an action for loss.

    Don’t forget about the costs involved just to defend a company when a third party accuses or sues because of the harm or lost revenue caused to their company by your system’s breach.

  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my cyber security risk exposure?

    You can reduce your risk by:

    • installing audit features that monitor logon and logoff activities;
    • providing warnings that unauthorized users may be subject to monitoring and prosecution;
    • developing and implementing a trap and tracing mechanism with your local telephone company;
    • implementing systems that identify outside callers;
    • reporting significant security breaches to relevant government agencies;
    • implementing policies and guidelines regarding the use of computing and information; encouraging employees to use encryption technologies, if appropriate;


    • implementing security upgrades when they become available.

    Some states require you to notify each individual that has been affected due to a breach of your data. A recent study by Digital Forensics Association of data breach occurrences from 2006-2010 reports people’s records were “lost” on an average of 15,000 records per hour over that time span, which cost businesses more than $156 billion. Moreover, the frequency of attacks increased in 2011. Small- to medium-sized businesses represent prime attack targets for many hackers, who favor highly automated, repeatable attacks against these more vulnerable targets.

  • What does a cyber security policy typically include?

    • Legal liability for damages to third parties, caused by a breach of network security;
    • coverage for loss caused by an administrative or operational error;
    • breach of privacy coverage for damages resulting from alleged violations of HIPAA, state and federal privacy protection laws and regulations;
    • customer notification expense reimbursement (policy sublimit will be set); public relations expense coverage;
    • comprehensive business interruption expense coverage; and
    • cyber extortion reimbursementcoverage.

  • Call us for further details

    If your company uses computers in any fashion to maintain or disseminate data on your clients, you need cyber security coverage. Call our agency for further information.

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