Homeowners Insurance: Sewer Backup or Overflow?

Sewer backup or system overflow: Which is it?Backup or Overflow

The weather in the Midwest has been quite wet this year, which brings to mind two sometimes confusing and misunderstood types of property claims. What’s the difference between a sewer backup and a plumbing system overflow?

A great deal of rain can overtax the sewer systems. This can cause water to flow backward through the property owner’s lateral pipes, through the drain, and into the basement. When water outside the insured’s plumbing system flows backward through the plumbing into the property, this is a backup claim.

A backup is different from an overflow. An overflow occurs when there’s a blockage in the plumbing system. When the toilet is flushed, there’s nowhere for the water to go due to the blockage, so the toilet bowl overflows. The water that’s causing the damage never enters the sewer system. An overflow can also occur when there’s blockage within the lateral pipe. The water from the property flows down the lateral and because of the blockage, the water has nowhere to go so it overflows the floor drain or a lower-level bathroom causing damage.

So how are these two claims covered? The homeowners policy affords coverage for an overflow of the plumbing system up to the policy limit; however, damage from water that backs up through sewers or drains, overflows or discharges from a sump, sump pump, or related equipment is specifically excluded.

How do you get coverage for a sewer backup or sump overflow on the homeowner’s policy? With a Water Backup and Sump Overflow Coverage endorsement. The endorsement provides coverage for water backup or sump overflow for both personal property and structural damage from water.

How you can prevent sewer line backups?

There are several preventative measures homeowners can take to minimize the occurrence of sewer line backups.

  • Proper disposal of grease and food: Grease, fats, gravies, sauces and cooking oils should NEVER go down your kitchen drain.
  • Proper disposal of paper products: Anything that does not easily dissolve as easily as toilet paper should never be flushed. Even facial tissue should be avoided; it does not dissolve as easily as bathroom tissue.
  • Install a Backwater Prevention Valve. These fixtures allow sewage to go out , but not come back in

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Sources: Horizon Services
West Bend Insurance Company

Distracted Driving: Is It Still LOL?

Don't text & drive| Driving SafetyDistracted driving is a serious and growing problem, quickly becoming a habit for some –  a habit that is deadlier than drunk driving.

Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind of your primary task:  driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing. Here are a few sobering statistics:

  • Drivers who use a hand-held device are four times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury.
  • Using a cell phone while driving delays your reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08, which is the legal limit for drunk driving.
  • Research indicates that the burden of talking on a cell phone – even if it’s hands-free – saps your brain of 39 percent of the energy it takes to devote to safe driving.
  • Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to get involved in a crash. Texting is the most alarming distraction because it involves manual, visual and cognitive distraction at the same time. Sending or reading text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.  At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field, blindfolded. It’s incredibly dangerous!
  • Remember, in Minnesota, it is a primary offense for all drivers to text and drive. Any use of a cell phone while driving is also a primary offense for bus drivers and novice drivers (anyone under the age of 18 with a learner’s permit or provisional license.

Homeowners Insurance: Damage By Fallen Trees

Will Homeowners Insurance Cover that Fallen Tree?

Damage By Fallen Trees

Trees add value and beauty to your home, but they also can spell trouble if they aren’t properly maintained. Dead or dying trees aren’t just unsightly; they post safety hazards and can cause liability issues. It’s important for homeowners to understand what is covered by their homeowners insurance policy if a tree should fall on their property or their neighbor’s property.

Overview

Most basic homeowners insurance policies will cover damage to your house and the contents caused by falling trees and tree limbs. Most storm-caused tree damage, such as ice, hail and lightning, is covered. As long as the tree was healthy and well maintained, it doesn’t matter if it was your tree or your neighbor’s tree; your policy covers damage to your property. The same is true for your neighbor. Their homeowners policy is there to cover their property.

Liability

This is where it gets a little more complicated. If a tree on your property is not well maintained, is dead or diseased, and may fall and cause damage to your neighbor’s property, you may be liable. Typically, your neighbor’s insurance company will pay for the damage, and then come after your insurance company for reimbursement in a process called subrogation. If the insurance adjuster finds that you were negligent (didn’t maintain the tree properly, your insurance company may end up footing the bill and you’ll feel the pain through higher premiums and potential lawsuits.

If you notice that your neighbors aren’t taking care of their trees properly, you should contact them about it. If they aren’t cooperative, it’s best to use certified mail to have a record of the communication to show you have made an effort to protect your property.

If you don’t properly maintain trees on your own property and they cause damage to your home, it’s possible the insurance company may deny coverage because you failed to protect your property.

Other Damage

Should a healthy tree fall on your garage and damage your car, your homeowners policy will cover the damage to the structure up to limits set within your policy. Your auto insurance, assuming you have comprehensive coverage, will cover the damage to your car. Again, if the tree isn’t properly maintained, coverage may be denied.

Your homeowners insurance policy also likely will cover some of the cost of removing the tree from the structure and the cost of hauling it away. Tree removal and hauling away will have separate limits. These can be very expensive, so be sure to see what the limits of your policy are. 

Keeping your trees healthy and well trimmed doesn’t just protect your family’s safety, but can save you from increased premiums and potential lawsuits.  Prevention is by far the best cure.

www.homesite.com/insurance-resources

Flood Insurance: What Isn’t Covered

What’s Not Covered by Flood InsuranceFlood Insurance

Generally, physical damage to your building or personal property “directly” caused by a flood is covered by your flood insurance policy. For example, damages caused by a sewer backup are covered if the backup is a direct result of flooding. However, if the backup is caused by some other problem, the damages are not covered.

  • Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner.
  • Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers such as stock certificates.
  • Property and belongings outside of a building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools.
  • Living expenses such as temporary housing.
  • Financial losses caused by business interruption or loss of use of insured property.
  • Most self-propelled vehicles such as cars, including their parts.
  • Paneling, bookcases, and window treatments such as curtains and blinds.
  • Carpeting, area carpets, and other floor coverings such as tile.
  • Drywall for walls and ceilings (below lowest elevated floor).
  • Walls and ceilings not made of drywall.
  • Most personal property such as clothing, electronic equipment, kitchen supplies, and furniture.

Flood Insurance for Basements and Areas Below the Lowest Elevated Floor

  • Basements; crawl spaces under an elevated building
  • Enclosed areas beneath buildings elevated on full-story foundation walls (walkout basements)
  • Enclosed areas under other types of elevated buildings.
  • Make sure to ask your agent for additional details on basement coverage.

Flood Insurance: The Basics| Flood Insurance: What Isn’t Covered | Preparing for a Flood

www.floodsmart.gov

MN Auto Insurance: What Affects Policy Cost?

Variables that affect the cost of your auto insurance cost.

Auto Policy Cost

 

Age and Gender –  Insurance Industry statistics show that certain groups of people have different accident rates, based on their age and gender. For example, teenagers and seniors have more accidents. Because they are viewed as an increased risk for the insurance company, they pay more for coverage. 

Type of Vehicle –  Certain vehicles cost more to repair or replace. An insurance company charges more for physical damage coverage on one of these vehicles.

Mileage –  The more you drive, the more opportunity for an accident – and the more you pay for coverage.

Driving Record –  You will be rated according to traffic accidents and tickets you have over a period of years. The more incidents, the greater the premium. You may also be turned down for coverage if you have too many.

Where You Live – If you live in an area with more traffic (a city versus a rural area), industry statistics show that you have a greater chance for an accident and therefore will pay more for insurance.

Deductibles –  Some coverage’s in your policy have a deductible, which is the amount you pay first, before your insurance company pays, on a covered loss. The higher the deductible, the lower your premium. Insurance companies offer varying deductible amounts.

Discounts –  Your premium may be reduced by various discounts offered by some companies in some instances. For example, you may get a discount if you have your homeowner’s insurance and auto insurance with the same company; or if you are a non-smoker. Other discounts are required by law: policyholders age 55 and over who have successfully completed a defensive driving course; a vehicle equipped with an authorized anti-theft protection device.

Surcharges –  If you have one or more traffic violations or accidents, your insurance company may attach an additional charge to your policy. The Surcharge Disclosure Sheet, which by law must be given to you at the time you apply for your policy, will have the details.

Minnesota Auto Insurance: Required Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Optional Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Renting & Loaning
Minnesota Auto Insurance: No-Fault Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: What Affects Policy Cost?

MNDepartment of Commerce

MN Auto Insurance: No-Fault Coverage

What is No-Fault Coverage?No-Fault Coverage| MN Auto Insurance

No fault coverage is widely misunderstood. Many drivers believe that their insurance company will cover ALL losses in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. But “no-fault” coverage applies ONLY to expenses resulting from injuries sustained in an accident. Here are some other facts about no-fault coverage.

No-Fault is a Minnesota law.

It was established to help ease the burden of courts and to ensure prompt treatment for accident victims.

No-fault IS the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) on your policy, sometimes referred to as Basic Economic Loss Benefits.

No-fault covers your medical costs, wage loss, replacement services such as housekeeping, and in the event of death, $2,000 of funeral expenses.

No-fault claims are first made on your own PIP. If expenses then prove greater than the PIP limit on your policy, or you attain specified thresholds, you may make a claim against the other driver’s liability coverage if the other driver is found to be liable.

Minimum no-fault coverage is $40,000. That amount is available to each person injured in an accident; $20,000 is allowed for medical expenses and $20,000 may be used for non-medical expenses. Coverage beyond these minimum amounts may be purchased.

No-fault usually does not apply to accidents when you are riding your motorcycle or snowmobile. You must purchase a separate insurance policy covering these vehicles, and the policies will not include personal injury protection. PIP coverage for snowmobiles or motorcycles can, however, be purchased separately.

No-fault claims must be made within six months of the accident. You must include proof of expenses, complete an application for benefits, and submit to a medical examination if requested. Bills should be submitted to the insurance company as they come in.

Minnesota Auto Insurance: Required Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Optional Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Renting & Loaning
Minnesota Auto Insurance: No-Fault Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: What Affects Policy Cost?

MNDepartment of Commerce
Part 5 : “What Affects Policy Cost”

MN Auto Insurance: Renting & Loaning

Renting a car? Are you covered?Minnesota Auto Insurance

Minnesota law requires every auto insurance policy, under the property damage liability portion, to provide a minimum of $35,000 in coverage, without a deductible, for damage to, and loss of use of, a rental car (including pickup trucks and vans under 26,000 pounds.) State law further specifies that when a driver rents a vehicle in Minnesota, separate notice must be attached to the rental contract that informs the driver of this coverage. The notice must also state: “purchase of any collision damage waiver or similar insurance affected in this rental contract is not necessary if your policy was issued in Minnesota.” The same law requires that no collision damage waiver or other insurance affecting the rented vehicle can be sold unless the person renting the vehicle acknowledges in writing that the consumer protection notice has been read and understood.

Loaning your car to a friend?

If you loan your car to a friend, and he or she has an accident, their injuries will be covered under their own policy, not yours – assuming they have an auto policy. If they do not have their own policy, and no one in their household is covered under a policy, the basic economic loss benefits will be paid from your policy.

Who pays for damage to the car, however, is not quite so simple. Your car will always be covered under your own policy as long as the policy carries comprehensive and collision coverage. Under certain circumstances, the policy covering the other vehicle may pay for damage to your car. Check your policy under the definition of “your covered auto.”

Minnesota Auto Insurance: Required Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Optional Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Renting & Loaning
Minnesota Auto Insurance: No-Fault Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: What Affects Policy Cost?

MNDepartment of Commerce
Part Four: What is No-Fault Coverage?

MN Auto Insurance: Required Coverage

Who is covered by your policy?Minnesota Auto Insurance

You are covered by the policy in your name. Any relative living in your home, who does not have a policy of his or her own is covered by YOUR policy. This includes a spouse, children, or a minor in your custody or  the custody of a relative. A driver using your car with your permission, who is not covered by another policy, will be covered by your policy.

What are the types of coverage that are required in Minnesota?

Personal Injury Protection  (PIP) provides basic economic loss benefits. If you are injured in an accident, this portion of your policy pays you and members of your household, within the stated limits, for medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement services. These costs are paid no matter who is at fault. This is what is known as “NO FAULT” coverage.

Liability covers claims to your policy from another driver. It is also the portion of your policy that covers damages to another’s vehicle, within the stated limits, when an accident is your fault.

Underinsured coverage pays within stated limits, only for medical claims of those covered by your policy. These benefits are in addition to your PIP benefits and are used when the other driver is held responsible for the accident and does not have enough liability coverage to cover your medical claims.

Uninsured pays for your medical expenses after you have exhausted your PIP benefits and when the other driver is held responsible for the accident but is not covered by insurance.

Minnesota Auto Insurance: Required Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Optional Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: Renting & Loaning
Minnesota Auto Insurance: No-Fault Coverage
Minnesota Auto Insurance: What Affects Policy Cost?

MNDepartment of Commerce

 

Snow, Ice, & Freezing Rain: Buckle Up

Safe Winter DrivingWinter Driving Safety

The snow is a sign that winter has officially started, here are a few tips for safe winter driving. Don’t go out during a snowstorm if you can avoid it. If you do, buckle up!  If you must go out, here are some tips to share the road with snow plows:

  • Give snowplows room to work; don’t tailgate or try to pass.
  • Keep in mind, there are times when several plow trucks may block all lanes on major highways, take it slow.
  • Stay at least 4 car lengths back from snowplows and equipment.
  • Spreaders on trucks can throw salt, sand etc. that can damage close- following vehicles; again, give them room to do their job.
  • Trucks carrying salt and sand often have a sign on the back warning people to stay back. That is for your safety as well as the drivers.
  • Plow truck operators have to focus on snow removal and cannot always watch out for the drivers surrounding them; so if you try to pass, you could collide with the equipment or another vehicle.
  • Drive even slower in construction zones, even though they are inactive in winter weather.
  • Always have your headlights on, plenty of fuel and wiper fluid, and tires with ample tread.
  • Remember that a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.
  • Don’t text and drive and only use your phone if you have to.

Protect Your Home: Cold Weather Damage

5 Ways To Protect Your House From Cold Weather DamageWater Spigot

1.Outside Spigots – Shut off and bleed.  It’s not enough to turn the faucet off. You have to bleed the pipe of all water by opening the faucet fully after the supply is turned off. This is the most common pipe to burst from freeze up.

2.Main Water Shut-Off and Freeze Alarm Systems – When traveling out of town for more than 24 hours, take precaution. There are a number of steps to follow. 1) Shut off the water in front of the water main and again bleed the system by opening faucets in the home. 2) Install a freeze alarm that will alert you when the temperature of the home drops below a certain temperature. DO NOT SET THE TEMPERATURE BELOW 55 DEGREES.

3.Furnace Maintenance –  It is advised to have your furnace serviced annually. This will not only keep the furnace running efficiently, it will prevent potential “puff back” or furnace fire claims and will improve the indoor air quality inside the home.

4.Check for Insulation Deficiencies – Heat loss through the attic or ceiling can cause the build-up of ice dams which can lead to water intrusion into the home. Proper insulation in the attic can also prevent condensation  which can warp roof decking and also add humidity and water to the attic. Also, check exterior walls with plumbing for adequate insulation and wrap any exposed pipes on exterior walls with pipe wrap or heat tape.

5.Clean your Gutters – Clogged or improperly draining gutter systems are a major contributor to many ice dam claims. When gutters have standing water in them from being unable to drain, they start the ice build up as soon as the freezing weather sets in. Even with the “maintenance free” gutter guard products, your gutters can and do get clogged. Make sure you check them before the freezing weather sets in.