Insurance Consumer

Insurance Consumer

What’s in your trunk?

Winter is here and that means cold and snow. It also means that it’s time to think about the junk in your trunk. Spend a few minutes to clean out your trunk and replace unnecessary items with things you might need in the event of a roadside emergency.

Below is a list of items to consider as part of your emergency gear:

  • Hazard triangle (with reflectors) or road flares
  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables or small battery charger
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Spare tire (make sure jack and lug wrench are in vehicle)
  • Tow strap
  • Blankets and extra warm clothing
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Road salt or kitty litter to help with tire traction
  • Brightly colored flag or "Help" sign
  • Flashlight with working batteries, matches, or lighter
  • Tarp for sitting or kneeling in the snow in case you need to change a tire
  • Small tool kit
  • Duct tape for temporary fixes
  • Water
  • Non-perishable food

Store them in a bag, box, or tub with a lid to prevent them from becoming projectiles in the event of a sudden stop, especially in vehicles with an open cargo area, like SUVs and pick-up trucks. This will also make your emergency supplies easy to find when you need them. If you already have an emergency kit in your car, take inventory to be sure everything is still working well, such as flashlight batteries.
Also, make sure you carry your cell phone and charger and any medications you might need. No matter where you live, it's always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected.

Steer clear – Watch out for wildlife collisions

Many hunters have wild game in their crosshairs this fall. But even if you don't participate in this sport, you should set your sights on safety when you get behind the wheel of a car. More deer accidents occur in the U.S. in October and November than the rest of the year. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) reports there are about 1.5 million annual deer-related auto accidents. Vehicle collisions with deer and other animals can be costly and dangerous. To help you stay safe this fall, follow these tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

There is always a chance for a collision with wildlife such as deer, moose, raccoons, birds, and even bears but from now through mid-December – Vermont’s deer seasons – the herds are especially active, which increases the risk of hitting an animal with your vehicle. Before a collision occurs, make sure you're protected with the right type of insurance and understand how to avoid animal accidents. (For more information on the various hunting seasons in Vermont, check out the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife: http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/cms/One.aspx?portalId=73163&pageId=83790)
Are You Covered?Damage to a vehicle from a collision with an animal is covered under an auto policy's optional comprehensive portion. If you only have collision coverage or liability coverage, your insurance carrier will not cover damage to your vehicle resulting from a collision with an animal. The NHSA estimates that damage caused by deer accidents results in more than $1 billion in annual insured losses. Comprehensive auto insurance also includes coverage for a variety of perils/risks/exposure: fire, theft, vandalism or malicious damage, riot, flood, earthquake or explosion, hail, windstorm and falling or flying objects. Filing a claim for an accident covered by your comprehensive coverage means you'll still need to pay a deductible. After that, your insurer will cover the costs of the claim up to your policy limits.
How to Avoid an Animal Collision
Consider these tips from the NAIC that might help reduce your chances of an animal collision:
• Deer tend to travel in pairs or groups, so if you see one, lookout for more that may follow.
• Keep an eye out for deer crossing signs and reduce speed when you see one. They are placed in areas known to be highly populated with deer.
• Animals tend to be active at dawn and dusk so be especially aware during these times.
• Make sure your headlights are in working order to ensure you see well at night. Using high beams can help you spot wildlife more quickly.
If you have questions about your coverage in case of animal collisions, contact your insurance agent or carrier.

Questions about Flood Insurance Claims?

Flood insurance is administered by the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)  not under homeowners’ insurance policies.  These claims can be complicated and policyholders may have questions in the days and weeks following a flood event. The NFIP call center is reachable at 1-800-621-3362, and will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CDT) Monday through Friday. Specialists will be available to assist policyholders with the servicing of their claims, provide general information regarding their policies, and/or offer technical assistance to aid in recovery.

The FEMA National Flood Insurance Program

 

Know Your Insurance Policy During Hail Damage Season

FAQ’s ON HAIL DAMAGE TO YOUR VEHICLE:

Do I Have Hail Damage Coverage on my Car?
Hail and windstorm damage is covered on your car if you have already purchased comprehensive coverage on your damaged vehicle before the damage occurred.
Will I Have to Pay a Deductible for Hail Damage?If you have hail damage and a deductible on comprehensive coverage, and if your deductible is less than your damages, you will need to pay your deductible in order to get your car repaired.
Can Hail Damage Total My Car?
Yes, it is possible that your car can be totaled by hail damage. Your insurance adjuster will be able to verify whether or not repairs will be made to your car.

FAQ’s ON HAIL DAMAGE TO YOUR DWELLING:

Will my policy cover wind and hail damage?
Most standard homeowner insurance policies cover damage done windstorms and hailstorms subject to your policy deductible.
What is not covered by homeowners insurance?
Earthquake and, flood coverages usually require separate coverage.  Also, normal wear and tear and poor maintenance of the exterior of a home is not covered by insurance.
Will my insurance cover the cost of tree removal after a severe storm?
Most policies cover the cost of tree removal after a storm; however, you should check your policy.
 

The National Flood Insurance Program

WASHINGTON – Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) call center pilot program to serve and support policyholders with the servicing of their claims.

Flood insurance claims can be complicated, and policyholders may have questions in the days and weeks following a disaster.

The NFIP call center is reachable at 1-800-621-3362, and will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CDT) Monday through Friday. Specialists will be available to assist policyholders with the servicing of their claims, provide general information regarding their policies, and/or offer technical assistance to aid in recovery.

 

Read the complete The National Flood Insurance Program


 

National Flood Insurance Program Call Center Opens for Policyholders and Disaster Survivors Nationwide

WASHINGTON – Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) call center pilot program to serve and support policyholders with the servicing of their claims.

Flood insurance claims can be complicated, and policyholders may have questions in the days and weeks following a disaster.

The NFIP call center is reachable at 1-800-621-3362, and will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CDT) Monday through Friday. Specialists will be available to assist policyholders with the servicing of their claims, provide general information regarding their policies, and/or offer technical assistance to aid in recovery.

To read the full article please click:

http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

 

Did you know for Homeowners or Fire Dwelling policies:

Cancellation: 

If your NEW Homeowners or Fire Dwelling policy has been in effect for less than 60 days.
• It can be cancelled for any reason.
If your NEW Homeowners or Fire Dwelling policy has been in effect for more than 60 days and
• If it is discovered that there is fraud, material misrepresentation, a substantial increase in hazard, the cancellation for these reasons shall be effective only after prior approval of the insurance commissioner.
Your Homeowners or Fire Dwelling policy can be cancelled at any time during the policy term for:
• Nonpayment of premium.

Non-renewal:  
Did you know, your Homeowners or Fire Dwelling policy can be non-renewed for any reason, providing the carrier has mailed or delivered to you, at least 45 days’ advance notice of its intention not to renew your policy.

 

 

June 2015

Buying a ‘used’ car? Where did it come from? Has it been damaged by flood?

Due to the heavy rains and flooding this spring throughout the country, thousands of cars have been flooded — which means that used-car shoppers should be on alert for out-of-state vehicles that could be hiding serious water damage.

Even partly flooded cars are at risk for having damaged mechanical, electrical and computerized components that could make the car unsafe to drive. This kind of damage can take months or even years to appear.
When carriers total flooded cars, they’re generally given a new “salvage” title; typically, such cars are sold at auction, often for parts that may still be usable.
It pays to be diligent when car shopping, these cars can and do make their way back to market and onto the road.  
Here are a couple ways to help check a vehicle’s history:

Not all flood damaged cars will be submitted for insurance claims, therefore their damages will not be recorded anywhere.   Also, it is illegal not to disclose a flood damaged vehicle.
Experts suggest to check for mud or grit in unusual places, like the spare-tire well, and checking the car’s seat-mounting screws. If they look as if they’ve been replaced, it could indicate the seats were removed to help dry out the vehicle. Condensation or water lines inside headlights can also indicate possible flood damage.  Also, how does the car smell?  Do you smell mildew, bleach or a heavy scent of disinfectant? 
Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car.  So buyer beware!
 

Be aware before you share

DFR urges consumers to check insurance policies before sharing rides, rooms.
The new “sharing economy” is changing the landscape of small business in the U.S. and Vermont.  

Opportunities to rent everything from rides to rooms, golf clubs to cameras, are popping up everywhere and while you may be tempted to take advantage of these money-making innovations, make sure you know what your insurance policy covers.

 

Transportation networking companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar and house sharing arrangements like Airbnb are household terms, but entrepreneurs are also lending vehicles, office space, parking spots, boats, bicycles, cameras and more. Although a smaller segment of the “sharing economy,” personal items like power tools, clothing, household items camping equipment, furniture, and even pets are being “shared” with complete strangers. 

The “share-conomics” business models use technology – typically a website and/or smartphone application – to connect consumers with individuals interested in providing lodging, transportation or goods and services.

While joining this "collaborative consumption" revolution may sound like an easy way to make extra money from renting your home, car or other personal possessions, it is important to fully understand the insurance implications and liability considerations of such transactions for all participants.

The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation has issued some tips that may help keep Vermonters from making expensive and harmful mistakes.

Ride Sharing

If you are considering ride sharing, whether you are a passenger or the driver, there are several things you should think about before you go.

Protect Yourself as a Driver

When it comes to insurance, TNC’s generally do not operate like traditional licensed taxi or limousine services where drivers are required to have a certain level of insurance. TNC drivers should be aware of a possible gap in insurance coverage between their own personal automobile insurance policy and the TNC’s insurance policy (if one exists). The major TNCs have policies covering their drivers, but these may not offer the full spectrum of protection that drivers or passengers may assume or expect.
Many standard personal auto insurance policies list exclusions if you use your personal vehicle to transport passengers for a fee. Some policies may even go further and list exclusions in the event that a driver is available for hire. Other policies may be silent concerning coverage during the period when the driver has engaged the app and is looking for passengers, but has not picked up a passenger. Drivers should not assume the lack of a specific exclusion means they have coverage.

Protect Yourself as a Passenger

Passengers should be aware that the insurance gaps that may exist for ridesharing drivers can also have an impact on a passenger’s ability to be reimbursed for injury claims resulting from an incident during a shared ride.

House Sharing

House sharing has become quite popular and provides accommodations that are generally less expensive than hotels. It offers added income for those who rent out all or part of their home and is an affordable means of travel for people who are looking to save money. One of the most well-known house-sharing enterprises is Airbnb.

Airbnb allows people to rent out and/or host lodging in private homes. In some cases, whole houses are available while others choose to rent only a bedroom in their home. According to Airbnb’s website, there are more than 1,000 listings in Vermont and 800,000 listings in more than 190 countries worldwide. While the company has announced that it will begin offering liability coverage for U.S. hosts, the coverage is “secondary,” which means that Airbnb will require any claims to be processed through the host’s insurance policy first. Anyone interested in hosting a house sharing arrangement like Airbnb should understand their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy and what coverage, if any, would be provided if a guest has a claim against them such as theft, property damage or injury.

Be Informed

Commissioner Susan L. Donegan said as this trend of the “sharing economy” becomes more popular, DFR expects to see the insurance market adapt quickly to clarify and deal with the insurance gaps. “Read and understand your policies to make sure insurance coverage is adequate and if you have any concerns that there may be inadequate insurance coverage for these types of sharing arrangements, talk to your insurance agent or insurance company,” she said. Donegan urged Vermonters to remember that the bottom line is as a driver, passenger, homeowner or person looking for a place to stay while traveling, be aware of possible insurance consequences.

“Be aware before you share” tips:

  • For insurance purposes, once you begin earning income from renting out personal property, you may be considered a home-based business. Make sure you understand all relevant legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Before sharing a vehicle or residence, make sure auto and homeowners' insurance policies provide the protection you need.
  • When lending goods and services, be sure to set a security deposit that is sufficient to cover losses. Take photos and other information about your property in a home inventory. Be mindful that for some items, you may not be able to locate an exact replacement.
  • Contact your insurance agent or your insurance company if you have any questions.

 

Travel Insurance Tip Sheet

 

  1. If you’re over 60, you will most likely have to fill out a medical questionnaire when you apply for travel health insurance.  If you are uncertain as to how to answer a question, consult your doctor with questions, and ask for your medical records. This will help you understand any conditions you have so you can answer the questions accurately.  You must be as accurate as possible in answering your travel insurance application questions, especially those that relate to the cost of your trip and medical conditions.
  2. Certain questions on the questionnaire ask you about medications you are taking, which can cause confusion.   Contact your pharmacist for a list of prescriptions you are currently taking. For instance, if you have a standing prescription at the pharmacy for a medication, the insurance company could understand that to mean that you are taking it even though you’re not currently filling that prescription.
  3. If there is a question about high blood pressure and you are taking medication for it as a preventive prescription, the insurance company could understand this to mean you have been diagnosed with this condition.
  4. Do not answer the questionnaire based on what you think is relevant.  Even the smallest treatment or diagnosis, when not answered correctly, can make your insurance null and void. It is better to over-report than under-report. You may have to pay a higher premium, but you will be assured to have coverage in the event of an emergency.
  5. Make sure you understand the definitions of all the terms on the questionnaire.  For Example, being tested for a condition could mean you have been treated for it to some insurance companies.
  6. Read your travel insurance policy carefully. Pay particular attention to the ‘Limitations and Exclusions’ section so you understand what is and is not covered. Some policies will not cover you if your medical emergency involves excessive alcohol or extreme sports. If there is anything in your policy you don’t understand, call your insurance company for clarification.
  7. If you experience a medical emergency while on your trip, contact your insurance provider right away. Your claims may not be paid in full if you do not receive prior approval.
  8. If your claim is denied, appeal to the insurance company. If that does not work, contact the Department of Financial Regulation-Insurance Division.
  9. Make sure to check your credit card policies to see if they offer travel insurance coverage prior to purchasing travel insurance.  Often credit card companies offer certain travel coverage such as compensation for a trip interruption or delay expenses and lost luggage.

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