auto

DID YOU KNOW? Prepare For Back To School With Insurance Policy Review

BACKTOSCHOOLICON.jpg

A back to school insurance review is vital for anyone with children living at college or boarding school. Whether it's the first year away or the last, going away to school has several insurance implications that need to be addressed to ensure adequate coverage.

Housing

Students living away from home for the first time present new worries for their parents. What if they have friends at their dorm and someone gets hurt?  What if they forget to turn off an appliance and cause a fire?  What if their laptop is stolen?

Many schools require first-year students to live on campus, so renter’s insurance may not be necessary. Some insurance companies include student housing in their definition of a covered location, but it pays to check with your agent.  If the policy language is unclear or if the policy does not automatically include student housing, a liability extension endorsement can be added to the policy for a very modest increase in premium, usually less than $50 annually.  The endorsement changes the home insurance policy to provide liability coverage to include a student's dorm room at school.  With this extra coverage, if someone gets hurt in their dorm, there is now no question about coverage.

But what about all the stuff they brought with them to school? Most home insurance policies will provide coverage for property located outside the main residence, with some restrictions – usually 10% of the property limit on the home insurance policy. For example, if your home insurance policy provides you with $200,000 of personal property coverage, up to 10% of that limit ($20,000) may be automatically covered while at college or boarding school.

There are two drawbacks to using this approach to cover property located in a dorm. First, the deductible from your home insurance policy would apply to the loss. If you have a high deductible on your home insurance policy, a small personal property claim at the dorm may not clear your deductible. Secondly, Loss of Use coverage (or sometimes called Additional Living Expense) does not extend to other locations listed on the policy. Let’s say a pipe bursts in the dorm, causing damage that will take months to repair. There is no coverage for additional living expenses you might incur while your child is living elsewhere.

If you don’t want to accept these policy limitations, a separate renter’s insurance policy should be implemented. Renter’s insurance will provide liability insurance for the dorm, or off-campus address listed in the policy, as well as the personal property at that location. The amount of personal property coverage is usually subject to a minimum amount ($20,000 to $25,000 is common), but a separate policy will allow you to secure a lower deductible, keep any losses from showing up on your home insurance policy, and provide you with Loss of Use coverage.  Expect to pay around $200 per year for a basic renter’s policy.

Whether you choose to extend coverage or take out a renter’s policy, don’t forget to list this location on your personal umbrella policy.

Itemized personal property

If you’ve made a significant financial investment in a laptop for your student, it may make sense to itemize it on your home insurance policy – much like you would a new piece of jewelry. Some insurance companies don’t like to schedule laptops, but it pays to check.  Expect to pay between $20 and $25 per-thousand of coverage.

Paying this additional premium gives you extra coverage for misplacing the laptop and accidental damage, with no deductible applied to the claim.

Cyber Liability

Free wi-fi might be a great way to attract students to a coffee shop or a study room, but it is also a great way to become a victim of identity theft. Your son or daughter might have your credit card information or other personal data on their cell phone, exposing you to financial loss.  Many home insurance policies offer optional cyber liability coverage by endorsement.  The amounts of coverage can vary widely, and there may even be customizable limits within the endorsement, so a conversation with your agent is essential.

Vehicles

If your son or daughter does not bring a car with them to school, you may be able to get a discount on your auto insurance. Most companies will provide an “away at school” discount if the school is at least 100 miles from home.

If they bring a car with them to school, coverage will need to be amended to show a different “garaging location." Depending on the state and the insurance company, a separate auto policy may need to be written if the car is garaged in a different state.

It is also important to remind your son or daughter that the insurance follows the vehicle. If they let their roommate, a friend, or a friend of a friend borrow their car, the insurance on the car pays for the claim. By extension, this means your personal umbrella would also cover the claim if the claim was severe.  Strongly discourage your child from letting anyone use their car while it is with them at school.

And DO NOT let them sign up as a driver for Uber or Lyft while they are at school. They might think it’s a good way to make a few extra dollars, but there are absolute coverage exclusions on auto insurance policies when vehicles are used as a taxi or livery service. Uber and Lyft provide their own insurance, but there may be coverage gaps as to when their coverage applies and when it does not and how it coordinates with your own policy. The risk far outweighs the financial reward.

Have questions about a back to school insurance review? David Miller has answers. Miller, who writes the monthly, DID YOU KNOW? blog is The Plexus Groupe's Vice President, Client Executive for Private Client Solutions. Miller can be reached by calling 846-307-6141.

DID YOU KNOW? Texting While Driving Deaths On The Rise

textinganddrivingresized.jpg

Drunk driving is down by 65 percent since 1982, but deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving – like texting while driving – are on the rise. People are busier than ever, juggling home and work lives, managing kids' schedules and rushing from one thing to the next. It is no wonder that people use their time in the car to navigate their day -- making appointments, responding to email, returning a text -- when instead they should just navigate the road.

This wasn't always the most prevalent problem on the road. Alcohol was.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in the mid-1970s, alcohol was:

  • a factor in over 60 percent of traffic fatalities
  • involved in two-thirds of traffic deaths among persons 16 to 20
  • allowed to be purchased by anyone 18-years old.

Since then, a number of factors have been implemented to reduce drunk driving fatalities. Some of those reasons include:

  • the drinking age is now 21 in all 50 states.
  • The level at which a person can be arrested for drunk driving has dropped from a 0.10% blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.08%
  • a zero tolerance law of 0% BAC for underage drinking have been adopted.
  • drunk driving has been stigmatized
  • the use of designated driving has been promoted.

 

According to Responsibility.org, these efforts have reduced alcohol-impaired driving fatalties by 65% since record keeping began in 1982.

But with the onslaught of cell-phone use -- over 330 billion Americans use one daily -- the statistics for distracted driving are going in the other direction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 9 people are killed and 1,100 people are injured per day due to distracted driving and these statistics don’t include near-misses where an accident was avoided at the last second.

A number of years ago, Car and Driver magazine conducted a test that measured the reaction time of a drunk driver compared to a texting driver. The texting drivers took significantly longer to react to an alert than drivers who were legally drunk, yet texting and driving continues virtually unabated.

Despite these statistics, legal deterrents for distracted driving lag far behind those that have been implemented for drunk driving. In Illinois, the average fine for texting and driving is $75 for a first offense and little or no change in your insurance premium with most insurance companies.  Contrast this with a first-offense DUI in Illinois – A one-year suspension of your driver’s license, a fine of up to $2,500 (not counting attorney fees), and up to one year in jail.  From an insurance standpoint, a DUI may also result in non-renewal of your auto insurance, or astronomical increases in your premium combined with coverage restrictions or eliminations for up to seven years.

In order to fill this void, the insurance industry needs to get tougher on distracted driving. Awareness campaigns are a good first step, but meaningful financial penalties need to be implemented as a deterrent. Perhaps tripling a policyholder’s collision deductible for a distracted driving claim would work because it would have an immediate financial impact at the time of loss.

Have questions about your home and auto insurance coverage and want to make sure you are covered if a texting while driving accident occurs? David Miller has answers. Miller, who writes the monthly Did You Know blog, is The Plexus Groupe’s Vice President, Client Executive for Private Client Solutions. Miller can be reached by calling 846-307-6141.

When it comes to home renovations, don't skip the one phone call you need to make

drill.png

In our latest roundup of personal insurance news, notes, and tips, we begin with a reminder that seeing someone's proof of insurance is one thing -- but hearing an agent verify that coverage is believing.

Hiring contractors? Verify their insurance with an agent, then trust.

Spring is ideal for home improvements, some of which might require a contractor's expertise. But before anyone starts work on your home, make sure they have insurance. Ask your contractor to furnish proof of insurance, with their agents contact information to verify the insurance is active. A reputable contractor will welcome your due diligence, and you will have peace of mind. Have any questions on this topic? Call us at 847.307.6100, and any of our Plexus Private Client Solutions team members will be happy to help.

Florida: the king of uninsured motorists

Ah, Florida. Sunshine. Beaches. And, unfortunately, a higher percentage of uninsured drivers than the rest of the country, according to the most recent available data from the Insurance Research Council (via the Insurance Information Institute). Therefore, there is no guarantee insured Florida drivers are carrying all that much coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Florida drivers are only required to carry $10,000 in liability coverage per person, with a minimum $20,000 per accident in liability insurance. Furthermore, drivers need just $10,000 in property coverage, per state law.

About Plexus Private Client Solutions

The personal insurance practice of national insurance brokerage The Plexus Groupe LLC, Plexus Private Client Solutions delivers a superior client experience and comprehensive personal insurance for successful individuals and families, including auto, home, and umbrella coverage. Our experienced, dedicated team takes a consultative approach to your personal insurance needs, and we transform complexity into simplicity to reduce your exposures and protect your most valued assets. For more information on Plexus Private Client Solutions, contact the firm at 847.307.6100, or reach out via the Web.

Eight things that might surprise you about your home insurance policy

luxury-interior-e1520628583363.jpg

By David Miller, Vice PresidentPlexus Private Client Solutions 

Home insurance is essential, but only having the right home insurance offers true piece of mind.

What's more, there is nothing worse than being surprised by an expense not covered by your insurance.

With these points in mind, here are eight things to consider as you think about your homeowner's coverage.

Finally, if you want to discuss issues raised in this article, please contact me at 847-307-6141 or dmiller@plexusgroupe.com.

Eight Considerations

1. Your home's probably underinsured.  According to CoreLogic, which provides analytics information to insurers and other businesses, 60% of U.S homes seem uninsured by an average of 20%.  Most home insurance companies will provide additional coverage if the amount listed in your policy's not enough to rebuild your home. The amount of this cushion varies from one company to the next.

The bigger concern, however, is not working with an agent that insures the home correctly in the first place.  You don’t want to find out at the time of loss that your policy provides you with 20 percent additional coverage when you need 50 percent more coverage to completely rebuild your home.

2. Your deductible may be too low.  Many insurance companies are starting to provide meaningful premium reductions at higher policy deductibles.  Our rule of thumb is to accept a higher deductible when the increase in deductible divided by the premium savings is five years or less.

For example, let’s assume your current deductible is $1,000.  The insurance company would decrease your premium by $450 if you increased the deductible to $2,500.  If you divide the additional out-of-pocket expense ($1,500) by the premium savings ($450), the result is 3.3 years.  In this example, we would recommend moving to the higher deductible.

3. Your deductible may have changed.  We have started to notice that some direct writers are moving towards a percentage deductible as opposed to a flat deductible for all causes of loss.  Other companies are implementing higher deductibles for certain types of losses. Many range from one percent to as high as five percent for losses due to wind or hail.

4. You may have little or no coverage for losses due to sump pump failure or sewer backup.  Most policies issued by direct writers provide no coverage if water enters your home through a sump pump failure or a sewer drain backup.  Many of these same companies will allow you to buy back some coverage. The amounts may be low ($10,000 is common), or the buyback includes restrictions on the types of property covered.

Even if you have an unfinished basement, the costs associated with a sump pump/sewer claim might surprise you.  We represent companies that offer higher limits, all the way up to limits on your home and/or contents.

5. You may have a depreciation schedule for hail damage claims to your roof.  Some companies are including a depreciation table in their policies that list how much less they will pay for your roof, based on the type and age of your shingles.  For example, if you have a 20-year-old roof and asphalt shingles that  hail damaged, your company might only pay for 50 percent of the claim.

6. Your policy might not cover claims for Personal Injury.  Personal Injury refers to such things as libel, defamation, and invasion of privacy.  While these types of claims may seem far-fetched, they are on the rise with the pervasive use of social media.  And while you may be careful with what you post about your neighbors or friends, your children may not.  They might send an inappropriate photo or text to a friend, and that message's forwarded and quickly goes viral.  Adding this coverage to your home insurance is inexpensive (less than $50 a year) and often overlooked by the agent.

7. Your jewelry or other valuables may not be insured.  Most policies limit the amount of coverage for lost or stolen jewelry to no more than $2,500 – and that's after your deductible's applied.  For additional premium, you can insure your jewelry for its full value at a $0 deductible.

You can insure collections of just about anything. Whether it's sports memorabilia, old movie posters, or wine, your passion's included.

8 Your homeowner’s liability limit may be too low.  Many home insurance policies carry a liability limit of $100,000 or $300,000.  For less than $50 per year, this limit can be increased to $500,000, or even $1 million.

About Plexus Private Client Solutions 

Plexus Private Client Solutions protects the life’s work of families and individuals, offering tailored, comprehensive personal insurance solutions, including home, auto, and umbrella policies. Click here for a personalized quote.

 

Introducing the new Plexus home & auto coverage quoting platform

CREATIVEMODERNDURABLE-6.png

Home & Auto Quoting

Plexus Private Client Solutions, the personal insurance practice of The Plexus Groupe, is proud to unveil a new online platform designed to streamline the home & auto quoting process for our clients.

It's this simple: fill out a brief online form, and one of our dedicated Private Client Solutions representatives will contact you to begin the process of finding the right insurance for your needs.

At Plexus, you are a valued partner, not an account, and we will protect all you have earned and achieved.

Want to know more about what Private Client Solutions can do for you? Contact Client Executive David Miller at 847.307.6141, or email him at dmiller@plexusgroupe.com.

Helpful insurance links, resources for storms

Currently a Category Five storm, Hurricane Irma could make landfall in Florida by Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center. From there, the storm could move north and east to affect parts of Georgia and South Carolina. Irma's impact on renters, homeowners, and business owners could be significant. As a resource, we have put together a short fact sheet on insurance FAQs and contact information for U.S. areas most immediately affected by Irma.

A brief overview of common insurance coverages

Flood insurance: Flood coverage is required in some flood-prone areas, and possibly essential for homeowners, renters and business owners, as homeowners, renters and businessowners coverage typically excludes flood damage.

The National Flood Insurance Program oversees most U.S. flood policies. This is typical coverage under flood insurance.

Homeowners / renters insurance: These policies will cover structural, fire and other various damage inflicted by storms. A rental policy covers damage and loss to a leaseholder's apartment, including valuables.

Businessowners insurance policy (BOP): Businesses guarding against a wide range of risk, including property damage from storms, typically hold this coverage. The coverage often contains business interruption insurance, a must if operations are halted because of weather or another cause.

Auto insurance: Comprehensive auto coverage, will protect you in case of storm damage to a car. Note that flood coverage excludes car damage.

In all cases, it is good to known what each of your policies covers and excludes, and your insurance agent can be your greatest guide in this regard.

Beginning the post-storm claims process

To begin, policyholders are advised to inventory their belongings before a storm strikes (though, of course, that can be easier said than done when time is of the essence).

In the case of a loss, consider taking these steps:

⇒ Take care of this first if you need emergency assistance.

⇒ If -- and only if -- it is safe to do so, you may want to take action to begin reducing the impact of the loss. For instance, if there is water on your floor, and you have access to shut off your water, this would be a logical step, but only if it safe to proceed.

⇒ Contact your insurance agent. However, in the case of a major weather event, it is possible your agent might not be immediately available.

Resources -- national

FEMA offers numerous online resources on the flood insurance claims process, including infographics in more than a dozen languages and an in-depth fact sheet on claims.

Here is a list of toll-free numbers for property & casualty insurance carriers from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCIAA).

The PCIAA website has plenty of valuable information as well, including tips for before the storm.

Resources -- state

⇒ The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation offers information for state policyholders. Visit the organization's website, or contact the office via multiple phone numbers, including toll-free in-state at (877) 693-5236.

The Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner regulates Georgia's insurance industry. Telephone: 800-656-2298. The commission website offers search functions to find local insurance agents in Georgia, as well as other insurance information.

⇒ The South Carolina Department of Insurance has a host of information for policyholders, including a brochure on what to do before a storm. Telephone:  803-737-6160.

Plexus personal insurance notes: As summer wanes, weather-proofing becomes key

In our August personal insurance newsletter, we explore several topics of note for policyholders, including when it's time to add new drivers to parents' insurance policies.

After the toys of summer have gone

With summer winding down, seasonal items such as boats, personal watercraft, motorcycles, and classic cars may soon have to be stored. Some policies will include a "lay-up period" for seasonal vehicles in storage, leading to lower rates. For more information, contact Client Executive Deborah Dohn at 847.307.6177 or ddohn@plexusgroupe.com.

Time is right for weather-proofing

Have you cleaned your gutters recently? With the weather still warm and fall approaching, it might be time for a roof cleanout. Leaves and winter weather can lead to ice-clogged gutters, and melted snow and ice with no escape path can cause leakage and water damage inside your home. While insurance will likely cover ice damming, it could lead to higher rates.

Adding new drivers to your insurance

Parents often ask, 'When do we add teenagers with learner's permits to our auto policies?' Your insurance agent can answer this question and more. Newly permitted or licensed drivers may have discounts available. For more information, contact Client Coordinator Terri Lyons at 847.307.6129 or tlyons@plexusgroupe.com.

Let Plexus lend a hand

For more information on The Plexus Groupe's personal insurance solutions, contact us at 847-307-6100 or via the Web. We're here to help -- and we're happy to help.