Long time no post! This El Nino winter has been a strange one here in Pittsburgh. The on-again off-again wintery weather has kept us busy. The Insurance Dogger loves the snow, so this winter has been an emotional roller coaster to be sure!
A month into winter and we’ve received an unusual array of claims for this time of year – of course we are seeing the normal frozen pipes, chipped windshields (salt wreaks havoc on your glass!), and sliding on ice. But we are also seeing some unusual-for-winter claims as well – in particular, sewage backing up in basements, which is far more common in spring & early summer. The heavy snowfall, followed by rapidly rising temps and even occasional rain showers has simply been too much for many sewage systems to handle.
All of this has gotten us to thinking, in light of some of the conversations we’ve had to have with clients, it’s time to do a brief update & post on choosing your insurance coverage – both home and auto.
I can’t tell you how many times a client has told us they want to insure their cars or home “as cheaply as possible.” Though this is a thought process we work very hard to counter, it’s not always feasible to adjust this mindset. When you’ve had a claim is NOT when you want to find out that if you spent a couple extra dollars per month, you would have saved yourself a lot of heartache.
Once you’ve had a claim, you cannot backdate a change to your policy to provide you with the coverage you need – even if you offer to pay for the additional premium.
Here are a few coverage options to consider having on your policy to avoid stress & financial difficulty:
Comprehensive physical damage – do not confusion this with collision coverage, or “full” coverage. As explained previously here on the Dog Blog, comprehensive coverage (in Pennsylvania) protects against things like glass damage, hail damage, fire, theft, flooding, or hitting a deer. Even if you remove Collision coverage from your vehicle, we always recommend retaining Comprehensive on your policy, as it is a cheap way to provide protection against a number of different claims.
Rental Reimbursement & Towing and Labor – Again, previously explained on the Dog Blog, these two extremely inexpensive coverages will save you A LOT of stress in the event of a covered claim. Towing & Labor, which provides similar benefits as AAA membership for a fraction of the cost, is a particularly useful during the winter months. It provides everything from jumping a dead battery to pulling your car out of a ditch after sliding on black ice. Rental reimbursement pays you back for the use of a rental car (with policy-specific limits – ask your agent) in the event that a covered claim puts your car in the shop for an extended period of time.
Increased Property Damage liability limit – Did you slide on slushy roads and rear-end that brand new Mercedes driving in front of you? We recommend all clients carry AT LEAST $50,000 of Property Damage liability coverage, if not $100,000 or more. Sleep peacefully knowing that you have the protection you need if you damage an expensive car (or cars!) or home.
Sewer & Drain back up – Put simply, S&D B/U (as I call it) protects you in the event that sewage backs up through your floor drains or water overflows from your sump pump. The coverage is available on both owners and renters policies. Though this is more common in spring & summer – add it now to ensure A) you don’t get any nasty surprises during this unusual weather season and B) you don’t forget to add it before the spring rains start.
Preventing pipes from freezing – though not a specific coverage, preventing your pipes from freezing in winter is crucial to preventing an unforeseen catastrophe – especially if your power goes out! Some useful links with more in depth information were provided last winter, but there are several easy things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing during cold snaps. If you know you are not going to be home for 24 hours or more, ALWAYS shut your water off at the main. This prevents water from flowing continuously from a burst pipe. If you have pipes closed up within a cabinet (like your kitchen sink), open the cabinet from time to time to warm things up – and leave the doors open during especially cold times (when temps drop below zero Fahrenheit). If your power goes out during a storm or a cold snap, turn all faucets on exterior walls on to a slight drip to ensure the pipes don’t freeze.
Identity Theft – OK OK, identity theft has nothing to do with winter weather, but especially during the Christmas shopping season, it bears repeating that the $20-30 per year that you spend on identity theft is money extremely well spent. In 2014 alone, nearly 10% of all Americans were a victim of identity theft. If that’s not enough to motivate you, consider that nearly 15% of identity theft victims suffered a direct financial loss of at least $1,000. At $20 per year, it would take 50 years to make up the difference with premium savings to cover a $1,000 loss!
To summarize – a few simple and inexpensive steps now can prevent a great deal of stress down the road! Contact your agent to discuss any questions or concerns you might have.