Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The bottom line on homeowners insurance and rates

 Do you know why insurance premiums are rising? Insurance companies use past events to predict future risk, and risk is shared. What that means is whether disaster strikes in Ohio or another state, insurers use pooled premiums to pay claims that help customers recover. In essence, the catastrophic damage caused by more frequent severe weather in recent years has caught up with us.

 What you can do

Understanding what coverage you have and why will help you control costs. The right coverage will mean the difference between devastation and recovery. Call us for clarity and ask how these tips might apply to you.

Ways to help control your rates

·         You could opt for higher deductibles, but do so only if you can easily pay that amount if you need to file a claim.
·         Consider the impact of replacement cost insurance versus actual cash value. Replacement insurance, while more expensive, covers the full cost of replacement. Actual cash value coverage (standard on most policies) pays the depreciated cost of the insured items.
·         Carefully decide whether to submit a claim. If you will only get a couple hundred back after the deductible is met, you may want to pay out of pocket. Filing a claim may affect your premium.
·         Regularly review your policy with us to ensure you get the discounts you are entitled to and that you have the right endorsements.
·         Understand that your credit score, claims history, and age/condition of your home will impact your rates.


How to reduce the potential for a homeowners claim

·             Perform regular maintenance to your home and make improvements
·             Use working smoke detectors
·             Clean your gutters and trim tree limbs away from your home
·             When going out of town, turn off your water line
·             Inspect your sump pump, and clear debris near external drains
·             Replace the hoses on your washing machines every five years

What’s not covered by homeowners’ insurance?

Policies differ, but typical exclusions include damage from:
·         Earthquakes
·         Flooding or water damage caused by sewer backup or basement leak
·         Power failure originating off your premises
·         Collapse

With homeowners rates rising, it’s important to have a policy that fits your needs. Call us to ask questions, make adjustments and gain peace of mind.

This information brought to you by Dostal & Kirk, Inc., a proud member of Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio, Inc.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

What to know before you shop for a car

What “options” are you legally required to buy?
Confused about what is and isn’t required when buying or leasing a vehicle? Ohio law requires drivers to meet financial responsibility requirements, which can be done by purchasing liability insurance. In addition, when leasing or financing a vehicle, those contracts require you to have physical damage insurance coverage.   

Beyond that, here are answers to common questions asked about dealer options.* 

Is my “new” car automatically covered by my current auto insurance policy?
Usually yes, but the length of time coverage is provided on a newly acquired auto (typically 4 to 14 days**) varies based on the types of coverage and whether the vehicle is a replacement or additional vehicle. To be safe, call us about your policy.  

A newly acquired auto will receive the broadest coverage provided for vehicles already on the policy. However, if your current policy does not have Collision or Other Than Collision coverage, the automatic extension of these coverages to the new auto is usually limited to 4 days.** Though not legally required, you may want to take your insurance policy or ID card with you.

What about loan/lease GAP insurance?
In an accident, your auto policy pays you the current market value of the car, but you could still owe much more to the finance company. That gap, or amount you still owe, is covered by loan lease Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) insurance. Though not legally required, some new car leases have GAP coverage built into the contract. Ask the dealer if you have the option of deleting the coverage from the lease and purchasing it as an endorsement to your existing auto insurance. Doing so could save you a few dollars to a couple hundred dollars. We can get you estimates now.
Is an extended warranty mandatory?
No, and you don’t have to buy an extended warranty before you leave the dealer. A warranty may not be necessary for you, so call us. But if you are intent on getting a warranty, know that purchasing from the dealer is not your only option.  
What about credit life and disability?
Credit life and disability policies sold by auto dealers are not required. They protect the lender if you cannot make monthly payments due to death or disability. You are insuring the unpaid balance of the loan. If that’s all you need, the dealer’s policy will suffice. However, it may be wiser to use that money to increase coverage on your own life or disability policy instead of tying it to the lease or purchase of a vehicle.
Our advice
Before you car shop, call us. We’ll help you get prepared and informed so you don’t end up paying extra for something you neither want nor need.  
*    Many of these same principles apply for purchasing a boat, RV, travel trailer or motorcycle.
** Information from Insurance Services Office, Personal Auto Policy, 2005 edition.
This information brought to you by Dostal & Kirk, Inc., a proud member of Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio, Inc.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How ‘spending 15 minutes or less’ on insurance can HURT you

Almost 60 percent of consumers who purchased insurance through a direct insurer (promising lower prices) 10 years ago or more said they switched back to an independent insurance agent, according to a 2013 study conducted by InsightExpress, an independent marketing research firm.

Why? They wanted:
-Someone to guide them through the insurance purchasing process
-One point of contact
-Personal advice from an experienced insurance professional.

What these consumers described is what independent insurance agents do. We are business professionals who have access to multiple insurance companies but represent you. We know different insurers’ underwriting styles and the nuances of their different policies. This broad background helps us give you sound advice specific to your situation.

Managing your risks is key
Insurance is all about managing your risks. We believe insurance should protect you and all your assets, so we look at the big picture. We ask questions, explain different kinds of coverage and how having or not having them could affect you.

What you choose for one type of coverage, like auto insurance, can impact all your assets – so we shop around for the best prices and coverage to offer you a complete package.

What can go wrong?
Some competitors are only interested in one piece of the puzzle. They entice you with a lower rate on a single type of insurance, but less coverage.

Looking at it piecemeal instead of as an entire solution can lead to disaster. For example, imagine you purchased lesser coverage through a company that took only 15 minutes to save you money on auto insurance. When you signed up, the rep didn’t ask about the value of your home or tell you that your level of coverage should involve looking at the value of your assets.

Later, you cause a horrible car accident. Your auto insurer writes a check that doesn’t cover the victim’s expenses, and that ends the insurer’s obligation to you.  The injured victim sues you for $1 million. If your home is your biggest asset, you’ll face losing it and your savings.

How an independent agent could have helped
In that scenario, you didn’t have all the facts up front. We could have suggested umbrella coverage. But with a telephone or online quote, this probably wasn’t an option.

Our competitors are at a disadvantage because they sell for a single insurance company and are limited to the options offered by their employer.

We don’t have those constraints. And we’re here for you throughout the life of your policy. We answer questions, handle issues and adjust coverage as needed. To file a claim, you call us, not an 800 number. We are with you throughout the process.

Bottom line, when making insurance decisions, turn to the source you can trust. Turn to an independent agent.

This information is brought to you by a proud member of Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio, Inc.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Be Alert for Skimmers and Scammers! 

By: Mike Dockery & Matt Johnson

The Cincinnati Insurance Company 

Before you swipe your bank card or credit card to make a payment or complete a bank transaction, be alert for skimmer devices attached inside or over the real card reader. Criminals use skimmers to capture the information from the magnetic strip on credit or debit cards, gaining unauthorized access to consumer accounts. 

Skimmers have become increasingly prevalent as they are easy to put in place. The skimmer device fits right over or inside the real card reader. When the card is swiped, it passes through the skimmer before going into the real reader. Skimmers have popped up at bank drive-through ATMs, gas stations and other businesses, especially in remote locations or places that are difficult to monitor.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your account information stays safe.

Look before you swipe  

Look for signs of tampering or bulkiness of the card reader you are about to use. If it looks too thick, damaged, loose or just does not look right, report it to the bank or business and use a different machine. Consumers have even reported parts of skimmers coming off the ATM. The FBI offers additional tips and illustrations of what to look for. If you see someone tampering with or hanging around an ATM machine, report this information as soon as possible to law enforcement or the bank or related business hosting the machine. Sometimes criminals hang around machines to collect information via a Bluetooth connection or wait for an opportunity to add a skimmer or make changes to a machine.

Protect your chipped card  

Many newer credit cards have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. The chips use a wireless, electromagnetic field to transmit information across short distances. Criminals use small remote skimmers that can be concealed in a pocket to collect information from the RFID chip. With these skimmers, the card need not be physically swiped to compromise the information. The electronic pickpocket need only walk a few feet away from you to collect information from the chip.
To prevent information theft, use a card carrier with a lined casing to shield the signal from the card. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation put out a Consumer Alert describing additional measures you can take, such as stacking several RFID-equipped cards together.

What to do if you're hacked 
If you do fall victim to a skimmer or RFID scam, immediately report it to law enforcement, providing as many details as possible. Contact the security department of your bank or the retailer whose card was compromised. Close the account and put a fraud alert on your credit file. Find additional information to protect your accounts on our identity theft prevention site and from the Federal Trade Commission.