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Motorcycle Insurance – coverage review   Leave a comment

Motorcycle season

It’s motorcycle season!!

Good morning everyone!

For those in Western PA, motorcycle season is very nearly upon us, and if you’re like me, that’s an exciting and gratifying thing indeed.  Four to five very long months of waiting can get rough on us all.

One thing that tends to sit on the backburner is the motorcycle insurance renewal that almost always also comes through at this time.  As such, now is as good a time as any to give a quick run-down on motorcycle coverage and things to consider.

Some of the coverages on a motorcycle policy will mirror those on your auto policy – bodily injury and property damage liability are good examples.  Liability coverage pays for the medical expenses and damages others suffer, for which you are responsible (in an accident).

Uninsured & underinsured medical provides coverage for you and your passenger’s medical expenses in the event of an accident where someone else is at fault and either doesn’t have sufficient coverage, or any insurance at all, to pay for your bills.  And, of course, you can buy physical damage coverage on your motorcycle itself if it’s stolen or damaged.

Beyond that, though, is where the differences start to appear.  For example, many first party benefits coverages either are unavailable or very expensive to obtain.  These coverages provide protection for you in the event that you are injured in an at-fault accident for things like medical bills, lost income, or funeral expenses.

Roadside assistance and/or trip interruption can function differently on a motorcycle policy – depending on the company you go to, you can get coverage for a flatbed tow (not typically available on regular auto policies) or other motorcycle-specific services.  On occasion, you can even get coverage for unexpected expenses resulting from an accident or breakdown – such as the cost of staying in a hotel.

There is also more readily available coverage for accessories and “carried” contents on your bike.  Several insurance companies provide a small amount of accessory coverage automatically when you buy physical damage coverage on your bike.

If you have done a great deal of modification, have an antique or custom bike, make sure to go over the best way to properly insure your baby – otherwise, you might be in a position where you have to cover most of the cost of those same mods out of pocket in the event of a claim. 

One final thing to consider – keep your safety courses up to date (within the past three years).  This will you provide you with a moderate to major discount on your coverage, and is a great refresher for those safety skills you learned years ago.  For Pennsylvania riders, head to the PA MSF website to find and schedule a class.

Shameless plug – as a licensed rider & Harley owner who is registered to provide motorcycle coverage through multiple insurance companies (like Rider, Progressive, AIC, and more!), I am excited to work with you to provide competitive quotes.  We can re-evaluate your coverage, and potentially get you better coverage for less money.  Do business with someone who knows and understands the passion and dangers involved so you can ride with peace of mind.  The quoting process takes approximately 15-20 minutes.  Please complete the following form, and I will get in touch with you soon to begin the process. 

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Driverless cars – insurance for the future?   Leave a comment

Sammy driving

The Insurance Dogger isn’t sure if she’s ready to jump out of the driver’s seat just yet!

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of news coming out lately about driverless cars – Google is one of the main players in the field,  but Carnegie Mellon University made a big splash locally and nationally when it unveiled a very successful test-drive in the Cranberry area nearly two years ago.  A lot has been written in the last couple years about the various pros & cons of driverless cars, so I won’t rehash them here – a simple Google search will reveal just about anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the future of driverless vehicles.

However, as an insurance agent, one of the first things that comes to mind whenever the topic comes up is, how will the insurance policy, and the liability coverage in particular, function when it comes to insuring driverless vehicles?  This is not an easy question to answer, as there are many facets to consider, and much of it is based on speculation because the technology has not put forth a viable “ready for the public” option yet.

There are several legal considerations that, for the most part, I will set aside for now – primarily for the sake of expediency.  One of the big issues at hand is that, generally, each state has autonomy over how insurance laws & coverages are mandated.   I will address issues as broadly as possible, but the situation is still largely theoretical and developing as the technology progresses.

From an insurance standpoint, one of the largest liability concerns is the question of who is at fault (“liable”) when a driverless car is involved in an accident – is it the “driver” of the vehicle?  The engineering firm that put together the software operating the vehicle?  The manufacturer of the vehicle?  All of the above?  This is not an easy question to address, and seems to generate more questions than answers.  Was there an error in the software?  Was the driver able to manually override the vehicle and didn’t?  Did the steering system or brakes fail to receive or comprehend the instructions the software passed along?  Some of these questions will sort themselves out as the technology becomes more “concrete” and less speculative.  But the truth is, I fear, legal liability concerns will not actually be resolved until after the rubber hits the road and accidents occur.

Another concern along those lines is who is responsible for damages to the driverless car itself if it is responsible for an accident in which it gets damaged?  As above, should the software design firm pay for your damages?  The car company?  Are you responsible, as the owner of the vehicle?

A bit more disconcerting – what if your vehicle’s software is hacked?  If the vehicle is dependent upon mobile maps & directions to get from point A to point B, what if mobile/cellular service is lost?  How will the vehicles navigate, and in particular, how will it respond to the ever-changing conditions of roads and construction, closures, traffic, etc?

Lloyd’s of London published a market-watch article (along with its far more lengthy corporate report) about some of these very issues.  While the article isn’t conclusive, it does provide some key insights into considerations and factors at hand: “liability will be a key issue because autonomous and unmanned vehicles involve the transfer of control from direct human input to automated or remote control.  ‘In many cases the technology is there to create fully autonomous vehicles, but the legal and regulatory environment needs to be developed further, and public trust will also need to be fostered,’ says Maran.”

One thought I see being repeated consistently is that, ultimately, the increased safety offered by autonomous vehicles will rapidly outweigh the legal and insurance liability concerns: “Many of the routine claims that currently drive the cost of motor insurance will reduce or almost disappear entirely, explains Powell. The resulting decreased exposure for insurers would probably require underwriters to change the design and pricing of motor insurance products, he says.”

At the end of the day, because the technology is a relatively long way off, the “problems” of insuring driverless cars still bring up more questions than answers.  Regardless of the characteristics of the final product, the technology is coming, and the insurance companies that are able to quickly analyze and adapt to the new risks will be a huge step ahead of their competitors.

Some additional resources, reading, and even some videos to watch:

Insurance Information Institute study, Feb 2015

Wall Street Journal article, August 2014

Auto Insurance Center (undated)

CNBC / AllState CEO, Jan 2015

CNET / YouTube – great review of pros & cons of self-driving cars

Google self-driving car – A First Drive

Wall Street Journal YouTube article

CMU driverless car driven around Pittsburgh

Bill Shuster rides in driverless car

 

Identity Theft, Flood Insurance, and antique coverage – Part Three   Leave a comment

In this final installment of our 3 part mini-series, we are going to review a little bit of information about coverage for antiques and high-value items you may have in your home.

This is a topic that I covered briefly in my post reviewing homeowner’s insurance (HOI) in general.  As discussed there, while most HOI policies provide replacement level coverage for dwelling and contents, there are very specific limitations in place regarding antique, unique, and high value items.  Replacement coverage is defined as “like kind and quality” but does not specify replacing unique items with exact or proximate matches – for example, an antique grandfather clock will typically be replaced with a newer version of the same unless specifically scheduled.

Policies and guidelines will differ from company to company, but in general, HOI policies do not provide adequate coverage for your specialty items:

Antiques:  Typically this is an item that is at least 50 years old, is out of production, and generally can be considered challenging to replace.  It can be just about anything – Griswold Cast Iron Skillets , Seth Thomas Mantel Clocks, or antique jewelry are just a few examples – and will need to be specifically scheduled on the policy to receive the appropriate level of coverage.  An appraisal will almost always be required.

Unique Items & Artwork:   Another broad category of items, this would include collectibles (like Hummel figurines), collections (like baseball cards), and a vast array of artwork – paintings, pottery, statuaries & sculptures, and more.  This coverage typically applies to higher value or difficult to replace items, will need to be specifically schedule, and will require an appraisal.

High Value Items:  This is basically a catch-all for items that don’t fall into one of the first two categories, and most commonly is non-antique jewelry.  Coverage can be placed in two ways: in a blanket format (one total limit for all pieces) for mid-level values (individual pieces typically less than $2500-$3000), or on a scheduled basis (each piece individually listed) for high value items (greater than $3000 each).  For high value scheduled items, an appraisal will be required.

These scheduled items will be covered on a policy form called “Inland Marine.”  I won’t bore you with the history of why it’s called that, but it will provide you with the more detailed and specific coverage you are seeking for your high value and unique/irreplaceable items.  For the amount of coverage purchased, especially since most Inland Marine policies or endorsements carry $0 deductibles, you will pay a relatively minor amount of premium.  I hope that you found this series to be enlightening and informative, and if you have questions, you can always feel free to email me at scott@poleskyagency.com or find me on Facebook!

The Insurance Dogger does not have a great deal of respect for delicate items!!

The Insurance Dogger does not have a great deal of respect for delicate items!!

Not funny, Insurance Dogger!  Not funny!

Not funny, Insurance Dogger! Not funny!

 

Before you have work done on your home….   Leave a comment

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Good morning!  Today we have a very simple recommendation for you to consider before having a contractor come to do work on your home.

Before you have a contractor (any type of contractor) come in to your home to work, you should have them provide you with a current certificate of insurance.  A certificate (example below) will reflect the liability coverages that the contractor is carrying.  Liability coverages pay for injury or damages suffered by another – like yourself – for which the contractor is responsible (liable).  Thus, you will want confirmation that your contractor has the appropriate coverage in place!

What is the appropriate coverage, you ask?  Well, there are a few things to look for on the certificate:

  • General Liabilitythis is a catch-all for many types of injuries and damages.  It covers a broad range of incidents, such as someone (including you!) being injured at your home as a result of the contractor’s work, or the damage that’s done to your home if the contractor does the repairs improperly (important note – it does not cover the correction of the original mistake, but it DOES cover the damage that’s done as a result of the mistake.  The contractor is on the hook to pay for the correction).  Pennsylvania law only requires a contractor to carry $50,000 in coverage, but most good agents will not write a GL policy for less than $300,000 in coverage.
  • Voluntary Property Damagethis is a critical coverage for ALL contractors to carry, and it is OFTEN MISSED by both agents and contractors.  Basically, VPD will pay for damage that results from the contractor taking any of your household items into their “possession” – for example, carrying your TV across the room to do work behind it, and the TV is dropped.  This type of incident is NOT covered under general liability; thus the contractor without it would have to pay this claim out of his own pocket!
  • Workers Compensation – this provides protection for the employees of the contractor if they are injured while working.  Why is this coverage important to you?  If an employee is injured while working at your home, and the contractor doesn’t carry WC coverage, YOU could be on the hook to pay for the employee’s lost wages and medical expenses!  The most common scenario is that the contractor would be required to pay these expenses, but if he does not have the means to do so, they will most likely pursue you next.  Even if you aren’t found to be liable, you will have a claim against your homeowners policy to pay your defense expenses.
  • Generation and policy effective datesWhile reviewing the certificate, be certain to review two items of particular importance – the date the certificate was generated, and the policy effective dates!  Make sure, of course, that the policy is within its effective dates and is not expired.  And make sure the date that the certificate was generated (at the top right hand corner of the certificate) is relatively recent (within the past week or two).  Less scrupulous contractors have been known to pass off older certificates, being fully aware that their coverage has cancelled (due to non-payment, for example).

I hope that this information is helpful to you in protecting your home and your claims record!  Be cautious, and if you have questions after receiving a contractor’s certificate – ask your agent to review it with you!  Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!

ACORD certificate

Example copy of the most common form of a certificate of insurance

 

 

 

 

A review of Personal Insurance – Home Owners (Part 1)   1 comment

dog blog

Sitting at home, blogging away!

Homeowners coverage.  Where to begin?  With your home, of course!  In this “installment,”  I’m going to review a couple things to keep in mind while reviewing or considering insuring your home – based on the assumption that you own, not rent.

The primary “concern” of homeowners is protecting the actual dwelling itself.  As there are quite a few formats to do this, I’m only going to cover the most common form, called an HO5 policy

Under an HO5 homeowners policy, the dwelling is covered for comprehensive perils at replacement cost valuation.

  • Comprehensive Perils – CP is actually easier to explain by starting with its counter-part, named perils.  A named perils policy means that only claims (causes of loss or perils) specifically named on the policy are covered – if it’s not listed, it’s not covered.  Comprehensive perils is the opposite – if a cause of loss is not specifically excluded, it’s covered.  Every company has its own list of excluded losses, but some common ones are flood, acts of war, intentional acts of the homeowner (arson, for example), and wear and tear (in other words, maintenance is typically NOT covered!).
  • Replacement Cost Valuation – RCV describes how payment for a loss will be made.  When you carry RCV coverage, a loss will be paid out based on the true cost to repair or replace damaged goods (less your deductible).  Actual Cash Value, by contrast, pays based on the cost to repair or replace MINUS depreciation (typically based on age and condition). 

Understanding RCV is what typically causes frustration.  The easiest way to understand how this works is by using an example.  If you have a fire in your home, and the kitchen is destroyed, RCV dictates that the insurance company pay the cost of restoring your kitchen (as closely as possible) to its original condition, REGARDLESS of the age of materials there.  In other words, your cabinets may be 15 years old, but an RCV policy pays for the cost of brand new cabinets (comparable – “like kind and quality”).

The replacement cost valuation of your home is commonly found by entering in the characteristics of your home into software designed for this purpose – how many square feet, how many stories, year built, updates, style, construction, etc etc.  A common source of confusion is that the RCV of your home is often greater than the market value of the house – this occurs because the cost to rebuild per square foot is almost always higher than the actual market value per square foot – but this works in your favor!  If a home policy were written based on market value, and you had the kitchen fire described above – guess what!  The cost to repair would not be paid in full: unless your kitchen were brand new, it’s virtually impossible that it’s market value would be anywhere close to what the replacement value is!

Contents Coverage – Another important component of your homeowners policy is contents, or personal property, coverage.  This is for the actual contents of your home – simply put, anything that’s not permanently attached.  So all of your clothing, furnishings, appliances/electronics, decorations, etc etc.  This is almost always calculated as a percentage of your building limit – 60, 70, and 80% are the most common levels. 

Something important to remember – if you have high-value, unique, antique, or difficult to replace items, it’s generally a good idea to schedule them on the policy.  Most policies have limitations or exclusions for these items that generally mean that you are only going to get a fraction of what they are actually worth.  In addition, by scheduling items, you can typically get minimal or zero dollar deductibles, which drastically reduces your out of pocket expense in the event of the loss.  The coverage tends to be more expensive than general contents (PP) coverage, but in the long run is far more beneficial!

Liability Coverage – The last of the major coverages I will review today is liability coverage, which covers damage or “injury” for others.  The most common example of a liability situation would be if a person (NOT a guest of yours, who are covered by “Medical Payments” coverage) were on your property, slipped and fell, and required you to pay for their injury and rehab costs.  This would be covered by the liability coverage on your policy.   Other examples of common liability claims would be if you happened to accidentally damaged someone else’s goods – knocking over the TV in their house, hitting a baseball through their picture window, etc.  It would also cover injuries caused if your dog bites someone.  Contact your agent if you have questions about what would and wouldn’t be covered by your liability coverage. 

A common situation that often causes consternation – what if your neighbor’s tree fell over onto your property and damaged your home?  Would that be covered by your neighbor’s liability coverage, or your dwelling coverage?  Everyone’s favorite answer:  That depends.  If the tree is long since dead and your neighbor has been negligent in removing it, then his liability policy would cover your damages.  HOWEVER, if the tree is still alive, and was simply blown over by the wind, or some other similar “unforeseeable” incident, then the damages would be paid out of your dwelling coverage (and subject to your deductible). 

Some other coverages to consider:  Loss of Use, Other Structures, Medical Payments, Inland Marine Floater (see Scheduled goods)

Blog

Tuckered out after a long day of writing!

Concerns about the Affordable Care Act   2 comments

Some of the reasons why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives me a great deal of concern about it’s potential economic impact:

  • Employers are required to provide coverage if they have 50 or more full-time employees, or face paying taxes and fines
  • Individuals are required to carry coverage, or face paying taxes and fines
  • A 5% Affordable Care Act tax to subsidize uninsured individuals
  • Limits employer contribution to flexible spending account to $2500
  • Confusing definitions on who is an employee vs sub-contractor
  • An excise (read: sales) tax will be charged on “Cadillac” health plans starting in 2018

The two really serious kickers to the whole program:

  •  Health insurance companies will be required to spend at least 80% of premiums collected on the provision of care, drastically limiting how much revenue can be used for administrative costs and profit.  This will likely create incentive for companies to reduce overhead expenses, such as customer service and claims-processing employees.

AND THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL POINT OF ALL:  

  • Starting in 2014, health insurers cannot charge higher rates to those who will use more medical services (and thus costing insurers more money)!!  This creates a subsidy situation where customers who don’t use medical services very often will still pay increased premiums to pay for the medical services of those who use them more often.

In other words, forget underwriting, forget being able to charge more for the customers who will cost more.  EVERYONE is going to have to pay more in order to subsidize those who are more expensive to the insurance companies – for example, people who have pre-existing conditions and, usually, women.  I certainly have nothing against women.  But if the reality is that insuring a woman is more expensive that insuring a man, then a comparable plan for a woman should cost more than a man’s.  That, unfortunate though it may be, is how insurance works – if you cost more, you pay more.  This will no longer be the case under the Affordable Care Act.

Not charging more for those with pre-existing conditions would be comparable to an auto insurance company not being allowed to charge more for drivers who have prior claims.  So even though people with pre-existing conditions will cost carriers more money than those without pre-existing conditions, they cannot be charged more.  Top that off with the 80% premiums-for-care requirement, and we are facing a situation where a health insurer cannot hire the most qualified individuals (because they are not allowed to divert the money from revenue for care), cannot provide the best services (by hiring more customer service representatives, adjusters, billing employees, etc), and cannot charge people based on their potential cost to the company.

Dog Blog ACA

The Insurance Dogger is not looking forward to 2014 or the implementation of the ACA….

A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (physical damage)   3 comments

Dog Blog

I’ve been waiting for a little while now….

OK OK I know that I said I’d be back to finish up auto coverages a few days ago.  Business being what it is, it’s taken me a little while.  But here we are, and off we go!

Last week we reviewed liability and injury coverages.  This week, we are going to review the coverages in place to protect the damages to your vehicle itself and ways to save on them.

  • Collision  – Even though this is “backwards” from how the coverages appear on your policy, it’s easier to explain starting with Collision.  Collision provides coverage for your vehicle when it collides with some other inanimate object, or is hit by another moving vehicle.  In the state of PA, unfortunately, that includes when your car is hit by a shopping cart.  Some examples of collision claims:  if your car is parked and gets hit by another car (or shopping cart!), you hit a patch of black ice and slam into a tree, or you are at fault in a multi-vehicle accident.  Ways to save – see note after Comprehensive
  • Comprehensive (Comp) – Comprehensive is most easily explained as “all other covered forms of physical damage to your vehicle,” hence the name.  In PA, comprehensive coverage does pick up one type of accident that would otherwise be considered a collision – hitting an animal or pedestrian.  These damages would be covered by comprehensive.  Other examples of comp claims:  if your car is stolen, catches on fire, suffers flood damage, a tree falls on it, etc.  Windshield and other glass damage is covered by comp (unless caused by a non-animal collision).  Ways to save – Easiest and most common way to save is by increasing your deductible.  Be wary of two things, though – first is that collision is far more expensive than comp, so it’s far more effective to increase your collision deductible.  Second is that you should be aware that the savings by increasing the deductible will not offset (in one year) the increased out of pocket cost in the event of a claim.
  • Comp or collision pay for a total loss of the vehicle based on the depreciated (Blue Book) value of the car.  All other (partial) losses are paid based on the actual expense of repairs (less the deductible).
  • Rental Reimbursement (RR) – RR provides coverage if you need to pay for a rental car as a result of a covered comp or collision claim.  In other words: you have a covered claim.  Your vehicle will be in the shop for two weeks.  You need a car in the interim.  You pay for a rental vehicle.  RR coverage will reimburse you for the cost, up to specified daily limits and maximum duration (typically, $30 a day for 30 days).  Ways to save – only real way to save here, outside of not purchasing it at all, is to carry lower per day limits.
  • Towing & Labor (T&L) – T&L provides coverage in the event that you need some form of roadside assistance (change a flat tire, charge a dead battery, keys locked in your car) or need to be towed for virtually any reason (mechanical breakdown, run out of gas, etc).  No real way to save here, it’s generally very inexpensive to begin with.  Only thing to consider – if you are paying for this AND AAA or some similar road service, be aware you may be paying twice for the same coverage.
  • Gap Coverage – This provides coverage for new cars that are purchased using a car loan.  As noted above, in the event of a total loss to your car, the policy will only pay for the depreciated value of the vehicle, NOT the loan amount.  Typically, the loan amount is higher than the depreciated value, creating a “gap” in coverage.  Gap coverage fills the void by paying for the difference.  This coverage can be purchased through the dealership or on your auto policy.  Compare BOTH terms and pricing before choosing where to buy the coverage!

That about does it for this review.  There are other liability and physical damage coverages available, but these are by far the most common (at least in PA).

Relax

So just relax and enjoy the ride – knowing you are well covered!

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