Cleaning up after Mother Nature

Throughout the years during Minnesota’s stormy season, severe thunderstorms/tornados have been strong enough to cause many homeowners major damage resulting in costly repairs. The storms rip through neighborhoods with their high winds knocking down power lines, uprooting trees, pelting down hail, and flooding walkways and lower levels.  Once the storms have passed, the signs of their destruction can prove to be devastating for some homeowners.   Depending on the severity of the storm, it may be necessary for you to repair or even replace significant parts of the home such as the roof due to damage from hail, lightning, or downed trees. Since the roof of the home protects your family and your belongings from all elements of nature, it is the most important part of the home.

Although you may have encountered the same storm as your neighbor, chances are you will not have the same type of damage. Some damage to the roof is obvious such as shingles being torn or stripped off as a result of exposure to brutal gusts of wind, or it becomes the resting place for a downed tree. However, more often than not roof damage is not easily detected. Damage can also occur when large hail pours down on the roof which causes inner damage (bruising) of the granule layers that eventually leave the shingles exposed to the rays of the sun. This will cause serious deterioration of the shingle at an increased rate and ultimately shorten the lifespan of the roof. If you have been through a severe storm and fear that you may have damages to your home, contact your agent. Prolonging the necessary repairs could cause greater damage to the roof and even affect the interior of the home and personal items. Not to mention, with some insurance companies the longer you wait to file a claim, the more likely your claim will be denied.

Roof Claim Process:

    • Initial Contact with Agent – After contacting your agent, you will be notified by the insurance claims department.  You will then be contacted by an adjuster who will assess the damage, take photos, and then provide your insurance company with a copy of the cost for repairs an estimate.
    • Search For a Contractor - You will need to search for a contractor to do the work, best to get more than one estimate. Make sure that you are looking for quality from a reputable company.
    • Hire a Contractor – After choosing the best estimate, you should research their business background before you hire the contractor. Ask for references from people you know, make sure they are licensed, and find out how long they have been in business
    • Inspect Repairs – Prior to signing off on the work, make sure the work is completed to your satisfaction and according to the contract.
    • Notify your Agent of Repair – when your claim has been settled, the claims department does not update your records. You could also be entitled to credits which could lower your premium.

Tips on Settlement:

  • If your home like many others has the mortgage secured by a bank, a settlement check may be made out to the insured and the bank. This assures the bank that proper repairs have been made to your home to return it to the normal condition to protect its value. You may want to notify your bank to find out how your contractor will be paid, and any other information you should know before the work is started.
  • When filing a claim on a home that has no mortgage, make sure to notify your agent of any change in Mortgagee that will speed up the process and avoid errors when your settlement check is issued.
  • If you decide to take the settlement check without considering repairing damages, and the same thing happens down the road, your claim for similar damages may be denied.

Are There Wedding Bells in Your Future?

wedding-couple-boquePlanning a large event such as a wedding can take months or even years to organize. When you finally make the announcement, there is much more ahead. The guest list must be prepared, invitations need to be ordered and mailed out, the dress must be designed and fitted, tux rentals and fittings, getting in touch with caterers, musicians, photographers, searching for the perfect reception hall, plan out travel for out of town guests, transportation, etc. Not only are the arrangements required some time in advance of the big day, but deposits may be required at the time you schedule them. While the average cost of a small wedding can range between $10,000-30,000, more extravagant weddings can easily exceed $30,000. Since we all know that nothing is ever perfect at any wedding, and a disaster is not uncommon, $30,000 is a lot of money to invest in an event that does not go as planned. There are countless YouTube videos, and photos of horrifying wedding disasters shown on the internet all around the country. Limo drivers bail out at the last minute, caterers go out of business, your reception hall is double booked, dresses get damaged or are not ready in time, the weather does not cooperate, gifts may even be stolen.

A Wedding Protection Plan Can Be The Answer

A wedding Insurance policy, like auto or homeowner’s insurance, will protect your investment in the event of an unfortunate disaster. With the right insurance protection, you can be reimbursed for most of your losses. There are some things that are not covered under your wedding insurance policy. You can also take out additional coverage for some of the things that are not covered.

What is Covered:

  • Problems with your reception site – The site becomes unavailable at the last minute, damage to the site, or it closes down prior to your wedding date.
  • Weather –Covers rescheduling the event due to weather preventing main people from getting to the wedding (Bride, Groom, Parents, majority of Guests).
  • Vendors – Covers any cancellations or now shows such as caterers, musicians, photographers, etc.
  • Sickness or Injury – If the bride or groom, or any of the essential parties become ill or injured and the Wedding needs to be postponed.

What is not Covered:

  • A change of heart – If the bride or groom back out, there is no coverage.
  • Jewelry such as watches, gemstones, jewels on clothing.
  • Lost or damaged engagement ring

Extra Coverage:

  • Photos -Some policies will cover you if your photos are lost or damaged, or if the photographer fails to appear as scheduled they will rehire a photographer. Some policies will even pay to re-stage the wedding so the photos can be taken or retaken.
  • Gifts – Coverage pays to repair or replace gifts that are lost, stolen, or damaged even if they were mailed.
  • Wedding Gown – Replaces the cost of the dress in the even it becomes lost or damaged.
  • Personal Liability: Covers bodily injury or property damage caused by an accident at the wedding.

You wouldn’t hesitate to insure your brand new home or a new vehicle to protect your investment, so why take a chance on the most important investment of your life. When you begin to plan out your wedding and start working on a budget, speak with an Insurance Advisor today.

Filing an Insurance Claim

College student with parent.The sole purpose for buying insurance is to protect you in the event that something happens to the valuable things that you own such as home, auto, and your personal belongings.  Since each individual policy is based on purchase price and other factors depending on what you are insuring, it is important to know what types of coverages you have and what deductible you will pay in case you need to file a claim. Insurance policies are loaded with fine print and clauses that most people don’t read or understand.  It’s a good idea to become familiar with what your policy does and does not cover. There are insurance riders that can be added to the policy for additional protection if you are not already covered. You can contact your agent to learn more about the details of your policy.

Filing a claim is part of the long process of dealing with the loss of insured property, damage to property, or injuries sustained. Prior to filing any claim keep in mind that the more claims filed, whether it is a moderate repair or a complete loss, could in some way affect the premiums that you pay for your home and auto insurance.

When considering filing a claim for minor damages in the home, or as a result of an auto incident that required minimal repairs, it might be more sensible to make the repairs yourself and avoid filing the claim especially if the estimate for damages is only slightly higher the deductible.  Typically claims filed that are not your fault, such as damage from a storm, theft, hail, or an auto collision should not affect your rates and should be filed as soon as possible.  The longer it is delayed, the more damage could occur and the less likely your insurance company is to cover the full cost of all of the damages incurred.

Contacting your agent for advice on certain claims will help you to avoid a hike in your rates and perhaps prevent you from losing coverage due to an excessive amount of claims filed within your policy terms.

What is Important to Consider When Contemplating Filing an Insurance Claim:

Home

  • Could it have been prevented –Were there existing problems that went unresolved (pipes, cracks in cement, roof repairs)
  • Water Damage – Mold Issues
  • Do you have prior claims for similar issues
  • Estimate the damages/know your deductible

Auto 

  • Were you at fault – Other vehicles involved
  • Do you have other auto claims/prior moving violations
  • Estimate the cost of damages/know your deductible
  • Bodily Injury

 What to do to Begin the Process of Filing:

  • Report in a timely manner as coverage is contingent on timely reporting
  • Get the information needed such as other Drivers names, Addresses, and phone numbers, vehicle makes/models, license plates of other vehicles, names of witnesses if any, policy numbers, etc.
  • Prevent further damage with minor repairs when necessary
  • Take Pictures of damages if at all possible
  • Assess the cost of damages, get a repair estimates

Insurance Advisors, Inc

Are You a Target for Identity Theft?

Life Insurance | FamilyMillions of Americans are affected by Identity Theft each year. Just within the past year we have seen Security Breaches in large department stores, Internet and Email Scams, Social Security/IRS fraud, and most recently the Minnesota Department of Revenue temporarily stopped accepting tax returns that were submitted through Turbo Tax due to a security breach.

When a security breach occurs it leaves many people vulnerable to having their credit/debit card and other personal information stolen and used by the hackers to make fraudulent purchases. Some financial institutions are aware of this type of fraud and will notify you if your information is at risk and issue a new number to protect your account.  Other companies have liability clauses in their credit card terms that may protect you from fraud. However, if you do not pay attention to your credit/debit purchases and the fraud goes undetected for a long period of time, the more likely you are to be liable for the debt.

Locking up your home when you are away could probably help protect you from a burglary, but since we have all become potential targets for ID Theft even simple tasks such as taking out the trash is now becoming a huge risk. Along with the possibility of someone digging through your trash for personal information, you could also be a target for ID Theft in the safety of your own home via the internet. Hackers and Scammers are looking for any opportunity to get your personal information.

The IRS has seen an increase in phone and email scams around the country. These scams, among others, are listed on the IRS website to help people become more familiar with what the scams entail and promote awareness of this type of theft. In some cases the scammer will call or email you and pose as an IRS agent. They will tell you that you have been audited and you owe back taxes. There are some that will threaten the victim with penalties and even legal action unless they make a payment by using a preloaded debit card. The emails use the same tactic, and demand that you contact them right away. In the event you do get a phone call or an email do not give out any information. You can contact the IRS directly to find out what your status is, or to report potential fraud.

Reviewing the following information and becoming more educated with scams and fraud will greatly decrease the likelihood of another statistic in Identity Theft.

What the scammer is looking for:

  • Driver’s License with name, address, date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Medical ID Cards
  • Credit Cards
  • Bank Account numbers

What they can do with the information:

    • With your driver’s license they will have access to your address, birth date and license number. The scammer could take your number and create a fake ID card with their picture. They could use your name and information to apply for work, give your information on traffic ticket, and damage your driving record. They could even show up at some point to burglarize your home.
    • With your Social Security number, they can get a job and file false tax returns, get a new Social Security card saying that they lost the old one, obtain Social Security benefits by filing a claim, apply for welfare benefits, get medical and dental care, obtain passports, access bank account information and drain retirement/savings accounts.
    • With your Medical ID, they could have surgery, even cosmetic surgeries, file for Social Security/disability benefits, and file medical insurance claims.
    • With your credit cards and bank account information they can open new lines of credit, open new bank accounts, obtain checking/saving account information to purchase a vehicle or a home, buy expensive jewelry, and deplete your savings, checking accounts.

 How you can detect/monitor and possibly prevent it:

  • Don’t respond to emails that are asking you for personal information such as name or address, birth date, credit card information, or social security numbers. Most places that need this type of information would never ask for it via email.
  • Watch where you are using your credit cards. Avoid going onto links that you are being redirected to. Make sure your page is safe before using your credit card information. Never save your credit card information, always log out of an account online.
  • Monitor your bank account and go over your monthly statements to be sure there is no suspicious activity.
  • Get your annual social security statements and check to be sure that the jobs listed are accurate and that there have been no claims filed or work history you are unaware of.
  • Many people are getting into the habit of shredding personal documents that may contain bank account information, social security numbers, and even birth dates instead of throwing it in the trash.

In order to protect yourself from Identity Theft find out more information on what is targeted, what is done with information, and what options you have to prevent it or recover in the event it does happen to you. Some insurance companies offer identity theft protection. Contact your agent to find out more about how to protect your identity.

By: Insurance Advisors, Inc.

 

Surviving a Winter Road Trip

Winter Driving Safety MinnesotaIn Minnesota, the winter weather can quickly become your worst enemy during any outdoor adventure if you find yourself unprepared and caught in a winter storm. Although summer is the biggest time of year for vacationing, there are many people in this state who enjoy traveling during the winter months to take part in many winter activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, or skiing. If you plan to travel to an area you are unfamiliar with, it may be a good idea to map out the area and check out the forecast prior to travel. This time of year the weather is unpredictable and can get ugly very quickly. Inexperienced drivers or those who are unfamiliar with the area can easily become distracted, get lost, and make poor decisions that will adversely affect other drivers. If you find yourself in this predicament, remain calm and pull your vehicle safely off the road. This will allow you to take a moment to get back on course, and let other drivers continue on without incident.

Winter Driving Safety

Winter storms can cause roads to become extremely dangerous for travel and the normal rush hour traffic can seem even more intolerable as road conditions worsen throughout the day. With daily commuters traveling to and from work, and school in session, there is always increased potential for accidents when impatient drivers are inattentive to what is going on around them. A driver should never attempt to pass another vehicle at an excessive speed, and then cut back in front of that same driver who is using caution. This not only causes the other driver to brake unexpectedly and perhaps start sliding, but debris from the road can be kicked up onto their windshield and make it more difficult to see clearly. Tailgating is always a bad idea regardless of the road condition. It is however, more dangerous when the roads are icy because reaction time is greatly reduced.  Always maintain a safe distance behind another driver. Although your vehicle may be equipped to handle well in wintry conditions, the black ice on some roads is unforgiving to most vehicles. The road ahead may look fine, but it is possible that ice is lurking beneath a layer of sand or salt. If your vehicle has great traction and you don’t worry about the possibility that you may need to brake abruptly, just remember that ice reduces traction by 90 percent. Allowing extra reaction time may not get you to where you are heading as fast as you would like, but it will decrease the potential for an accident that is sure to cause a greater delay on the roads.

Keep A Winter Survival Kit In Your Car

Winter Survival Car KitWhether you are bound for the North Shore or simply making your daily trip to work or school, there are many situations in which the weather can be hazardous and require you to use extreme caution.  With unexpected large snow accumulation, high winds, blowing/drifting snow, and extreme temperatures, it can be a struggle to keep your car on the road to safely make it to your destination. In either case, when you see the warning for a winter weather advisory, prepare for the worst.  If you don’t need to head out during the storm, don’t. If it is unavoidable, be sure that you are well prepared with safety gear such as extra clothing, blankets, scraper/brush, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a stash of foods such as chocolate or meal bars. Winter storm warnings are for your protection.  If you desperately need to travel during a winter storm, please use extreme caution and be aware of these safety tips:  

Vehicle Safety

  • Check the tire pressure and make sure the tread is in good condition
  • Make sure you can see, test wiper blades, have plenty of fluid, get the snow off your car
  • Be prepared with jumper cables in the event of a stalled vehicle
  • Watch for patches of black ice, especially near bodies of water, bridges, overpasses, and high volume intersections
  • Use lower gears, drive at slower speeds, increase your following distance
  • Avoid travel in poor conditions when necessary

Roadside Emergency Tips

  • Skidding –  take your foot off the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want to go
  • Stranded –  stay inside the vehicle, don’t walk for help, keep window cracked when vehicle is running
  • Stuck in Snow – rock the car, move forward and back at least a foot to make an even path
  • In a Ditch – make a call if you are able, stay with the vehicle and keep flashers on

Get instant car insurance quotes or contact one of our Minneapolis Insurance Agents.

Trick or Treat! Tips for a Safe Halloween

Carved pumpkin. Halloween Safety Tips.It is that time of year again in the heart of the Halloween Capital of the world, when the little Ghouls and Goblins swarm the streets and run throughout their neighborhoods to join in the Halloween traditions of “trick-or-treating”, attending neighborhood parties, and walking in parades.  To aid in the safety of these little travelers and avoid hazardous situations, make sure your yard is not a danger zone and use caution when driving in residential areas.

Halloween festivities are not confined to just neighborhood children.  Most local taverns and night clubs have costume contests, pub crawls, and other events that draw large crowds.  There are also many large haunted house attractions throughout the state that people will travel to.  Some homeowners continue to have annual parties and decorate their yards with spooky décor as part of the tradition.   Along with these adult activities, there is always potential for tragedy when alcohol is consumed.  It is always wise to have a sober driver to ensure that there are no driving catastrophes caused by carelessness and poor decisions.  More people are hit by cars each year due to inattentive and drunk driving.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the state reached 300 crash deaths in 2013.  Seven people lost their lives and 27 others were seriously injured in drunk- driving crashes during Halloween party weekends in the last five years (2008-2012). “Impaired driving typically rears its ugly head during the Halloween party period, which creates a dangerous environment on our roads and highways,” says Jody Oscarson, DPS Office of Traffic Safety impaired driving program coordinator. “Before you put on your costume and head out for the night, make sure you have a plan in place for a sober way home to avoid the dangers and consequences of driving drunk.” DPS also emphasizes the importance of pedestrian safety on Halloween. Trick-or-treaters and parents should review basic rules. (News Release, Office of Communications, MN Department of Public Safety October 24, 2013)

Halloween Safety Tips

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

  1. Stay in well-lit areas if possible
  2. Carry a flashlight or glow stick, wear reflective clothing
  3. Stay on the sidewalk, and use crosswalks at intersections
  4. Don’t run through yards
  5. Set out in groups or with an adult

Safe Driving Tips

  1. Reduce your speed limit when going through residential areas
  2. Avoid using your cell phone (including hands free)
  3. Never pass another vehicle that has stopped in front of you (many people bring their children from home to home and make frequent stops)
  4. Anticipate larger groups of people in the streets and more congestion in residential areas
  5. Do not drink and drive

Homeowner Safety

  1. Avoid fire hazards by using battery operated lighting, or LED lights inside your carved pumpkins, instead of candles
  2. Remove debris and other potential risks from your yard such as branches, stakes, posts; also, yard tools such as rakes, shovels, and other large items to prevent tripping
  3. Clear walkways and drive paths, have entries well lit
  4. Make sure decorations are secured and pose no threat to visitors
  5. Some addition homeowner insurance may come in handy if you have elaborate decorations, and are planning to entertain friends

From everyone one at Insurance Advisors, Happy Halloween!

Sources: MN Department of Public Safety

 

Water Safety

House with a pool in the backyard.Summer means swimming and water sports. With all the fun to be had, don’t forget about water safety!

  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone. Even at a public pool or a life guarded beach, use the buddy system!
  • Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and Learn-to-Swim courses.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits based on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.
  • Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water including ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
  • If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
  • Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.

Prevent Unsupervised Access to the Water

  • Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.
  • Ensure that pool barriers enclose the entire pool area, are at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching and open outward, and away from the pool. The latch should be high enough to be out of a small child’s reach.
  • If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover whenever the pool is not in use.
  • Remove any structures that provide access to the pool, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.
  • Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.

Maintain Constant Supervision

  • Actively supervise kids whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach—designate a responsible adult to supervise.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.

Know What to Do in an Emergency

  • If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • If you own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
  • Enroll in Red Cross home pool safety, water safety, first aid and CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.

From all of us here at Insurance Advisors, Inc. Have a fun and safe summer in the water!

By: Christine Gaffron

Source: RedCross.org

Homeowners Insurance: Child’s Play can be a Liability

Homeowners Insurance and Playtime

Boy riding his bike.

With summer in full swing the neighborhood streets are filled with children playing. As you send your children out to play be aware of the liability they can present.

If your child somehow causes damage to your neighbor’s property, your homeowners insurance will cover it if your child is legally liable for the damages. If someone is injured on you property your liability coverage or a person umbrella policy should cover the claim.

It’s a good idea to know when other children are playing in your yard and to know where your children are playing if not in your own yard. If a child is injured while playing on your property you may be liable for medical and other expenses. Make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to keep any visitors to your property safe and protect yourself financially with the proper insurance coverage or a personal umbrella policy.

Scooters and battery powered toy vehicles are fun to play with but may not be covered under your homeowner’s policy if someone becomes injured or causes property damage when using them. Check with your insurance agent to ensure adequate coverage for these items.

Inform your agent of any changes to your property. Trampolines and swimming pools may be considered an “attractive nuisance” – a legal principle that makes a homeowner responsible if a child trespasses onto your property and injured on a trampoline or swimming pool. Not all insurance companies will provide you with liability coverage for these items. Protect yourself by adding a fence around your yard with a self-closing, latching gate. Pool alarms provide extra security and protect you from people wanting to “take a dip” without permission.

Even though you’ve provided extra protection, nothing can replace your attentive supervision when children are playing in the yard.

From all of us at Insurance Advisors, Inc. be safe and enjoy your fun in the sun!

Firework Safety Tips

Fireworks over MinneapolisFireworks are a part of celebrating Fourth of July but, be safe about it!

  • Always purchase fireworks from a reliable source.
  • Use fireworks as directed on consumer product safety label; never alter products.
  • Observe local laws and use good COMMON SENSE.
  • Have a designated shooter to organize and shoot your family show.
  • A responsible ADULT should supervise all firework activities.
  • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; AWAY from buildings and vehicles.
  • NEVER carry fireworks in your POCKET.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  • Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor trash can.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

These safety tips were provided to you from The National Council of Fireworks Safety

Insurance Advisors, Inc. would like to wish you a Happy and Safe Fourth of July!!

How To Prevent Cyberbullying

With today’s’ technology kids are connecting to the internet in more than one way. This increased way to connect may also increase cyberbullying

Know What Your Kids are Doing Online

Line drawing of man at computerBe aware of the sites your kids go to and the online activities they are participating in.  Ask them what sites they are going to, who they communicate with and what they are doing on the site.

Install parental control filtering software and monitor your child’s online behavior.  Inform your child that as a parent it is your responsibility to check up on their online activities to keep them safe.

Learn which sites your child likes to visit.  Ask them for the passwords to the sites and tell them you will only use them in an emergency.

Ask to be their “friend” or “follow” them on social media sites or have another trusted adult do so.

Encourage your child to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, are being cyberbullied. Help your child understand that they can always come to you if they are being bullied or encourage them to go to another agreed upon trusted adult in your absence.

Technology Use Rules

Sit down and talk to your child about appropriate use of cell phones, computers or other social networking capable devices.  Make sure they understand what sites they are allowed to visit and which are not allowed.

Teach kids about what should and shouldn’t be shared on social networking sites.  Set up the account together and show them how to block personal information such as home address, home or cell phone numbers, what school they go to and what pictures are appropriate to share.  Help them understand that once it is posted on a social website it is always there even if they delete the picture it may already have been shared with someone else.

Remind your child not to share their password with friends.  Help your child understand that sharing a password can compromise their online identities and activities.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

     Source: stopbullying.gov