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Insurance terms explained

 

Med Pay? PIP? Dec pages? Insurance terms explained

With all kinds of different coverages for all kinds of different needs, insurance can be very confusing. And to make it even more challenging, at times it probably seems like insurance websites and policy documents are written in a completely foreign language.

Of course, that’s why we recommend working with an independent agent—someone who is on your side during the process and who can explain everything you need to know.

Even if you do work with an independent agent, however, it’s good to have a little basic knowledge about insurance. Below are definitions for some common terms that will help you understand your coverage a little better.

General insurance terms

  • Actual cash value: This type of coverage pays according to what an item was worth at the time it was damaged—it takes depreciation and wear and tear into account. For example, if you could have sold your couch for about $200 just before it was damaged, that’s the actual cash value, even if a similar new couch would cost $1,000.
  • Actual replacement cost: This pays the amount it would cost to replace a damaged item with a new one (such as the $1,000 couch above). It does not factor in depreciation or wear and tear.
  • Adjuster: A person who works for an insurance company to evaluate losses and settle claims.
  • Additional insured: Someone who is not the policyholder, but is still covered by an insurance policy.
  • Declarations page: This is what creates a contract between you and the insurance company. It describes who owns the policy, what property is covered and for how much, etc.
  • Deductible: The amount you agree to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. For example, if the cost to fix your car is $2,000, but your deductible is $1,000, you would pay $1,000 of the total cost. Typically, a higher deductible means a lower premium.
  • Endorsement: This is a change to your insurance policy’s coverage, usually made through a special form.
  • Exclusion: Something specifically listed in your policy that is not covered by the policy.
  • Liability: Your responsibility for injuries or damage to other people or property. You purchase insurance to protect against liability and other risks.
  • Loss of use: When damage from an accident or other cause prevents someone from being able to live in their home or drive their car.
  • Med Pay (medical payments): This pays for medical expenses for those covered by your policy in the event of an auto accident, regardless of fault. It also covers medical expenses for guests if they are injured on your property, but unless it is a car accident, it usually does not cover injuries someone suffers on their own property.
  • Premium: The amount you pay for an insurance policy.
  • Subrogation: When an insurance company pays a claim, and then seeks damages from a third party who was responsible for causing the damage or loss. For example, your insurance company might pay for your car to be fixed even though an accident wasn’t your fault—and then pursue reimbursement from the person who was at fault.
  • Term: The period of time your insurance policy is in effect, usually six or 12 months.
  • Umbrella: A policy that provides additional liability coverage. It kicks in after your other insurance policies have reached their coverage limits.
  • Underwriting: The evaluation process insurance companies use to determine if they will provide coverage to a customer.

Auto insurance terms

  • Aftermarket parts: Vehicle parts made by a different company than the one that manufactured those originally included with the vehicle.
  • Bodily injury coverage: Covers expenses for physical injuries, such as hospital bills or medical care.
  • Collision coverage: This pays for damage to a vehicle caused by you or someone else covered by your policy.
  • Comprehensive coverage: If your vehicle is damaged by something you could not control, such as fire or a tree falling, comprehensive coverage applies.
  • PIP (personal injury protection): This pays medical expenses for a policyholder or additional insured, and their passengers, if they are hurt in an auto accident, regardless of fault.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM): Pays for your damages and expenses if another driver is at fault in an accident but does not have enough insurance to cover your costs.

Homeowners insurance terms

  • Additional living expenses: Coverage for expenses above your usual living expenses, such as if you have to stay in a hotel because you can’t live in your damaged home.
  • Catastrophe: A disaster, such as a hurricane or a tornado, that impacts a specific area and results in significant damage.
  • Flood insurance: Typically, standard homeowners policies do not provide coverage for flooding—it must be purchased separately.
  • Home contents: These are the things inside your house that aren’t fixed to the structure, such as your furniture, appliances, etc.
  • Peril: A specifically defined risk, such as hail, flooding, wind, etc.
  • Scheduled personal property: Separate coverage for high-value items, such as expensive jewelry, that exceed the limits of your policy or are otherwise excluded.

If something isn’t clear when you’re buying or considering insurance, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your independent agent is there to help you get the coverage you need—and make sure you understand it, too.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

 

Is your home as efficient as it could be? An energy audit can tell you

 

Drafty windows. Leaky faucets. Dirty air filters.

All are common issues in homes across the country, and they’re not just annoying—they also cost you money in decreased energy efficiency and higher bills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program estimates that homeowners can save 5% to 30% on annual energy costs by incorporating technologies to make their homes operate more efficiently. Think that’s not a big deal? Based on typical energy costs, it could mean savings ranging from $105 to $627, according to Energy Star.

That sounds pretty good to us. And even if you’re not the handiest person when it comes to home maintenance, checking your energy efficiency is something you can easily do yourself. (Although if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, Energy Star recommends a professional home-energy audit.)

Just follow the tips below—you’ll see where your home loses energy, how efficient your heating and cooling systems are, and ways you can decrease your electricity use.

First, just for reference, here’s how the average energy bill breaks down:

Heating: 29%

Electronics: 21%

Water heating: 13%

Cooling: 13%

Appliances: 12%

Light: 12%

Where’s the air?

Air commonly leaks from homes through gaps around baseboards, electrical outlets and windows or doors—if you feel like you’re running the heat all the time to no avail, that warm air might be escaping. Stopping these drafts can save up to 30 percent of your yearly energy costs (it will keep the cool air inside during the summer, too). Be sure to check your home’s exterior as well, paying particular attention to areas where two different building materials meet. When you find leaks, seal them with caulk or weather stripping.

Don’t wait to insulate

Check to see if you have enough insulation in your ceiling and walls. The attic door or hatch should be insulated and close tightly. For walls, make a small hole in a closet or other inconspicuous place and probe into the wall with a screwdriver—if the area isn’t completely filled with insulation, you’re probably losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer.

Check your furnace and AC systems

Heating and cooling systems that work correctly and efficiently can save you frustration as well as money. Make sure ducts and pipes are insulated properly and have your equipment checked and cleaned by a professional each year. Filters for forced-air furnaces should be replaced as soon as they are dirty, or every 30 to 60 days.

Let there be (efficient) light

More than half of the light sockets in the U.S. still contain an inefficient bulb, according to Energy Star—and the average home has about 70 sockets! LED bulbs use 90% energy versus regular bulbs, and they last a lot longer, too. Many will still be going after 20 years.

See how your home stacks up

Energy Star also offers a Home Energy Yardstick that allows you to compare your home’s efficiency to similar homes across the country and get advice on how to improve. It takes just five minutes. Learn more here.

Anyone can take steps to save energy—whether you’re a hardcore do-it-yourselfer or someone simply tired of sending a big check to the power company every month. Just don’t forget what might be the most important thing of all after you finish your audit and make your home more efficient: Deciding how to spend the money you’ll save!

 

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

5 Common (and Potentially Costly) Homeowners Mistakes

Owning a home is usually a great experience. But it can also be a hassle, especially when unexpected issues pop up—whether you have a minor breakdown or a major catastrophe, it’s almost certainly going to require time and money to fix.

In many instances, however, those “unexpected” issues shouldn’t really be a surprise at all, because they’re often caused by a lack of maintenance or other oversights by homeowners. And not just new homeowners, either: It’s common for people who have been in a home for years to neglect even some of the most basic tasks that can prevent problems down the road.

Here are five mistakes we often see homeowners make—and tips from experts to help you avoid them.

  1. Forgetting about (or ignoring) the small stuff. The toilet that runs constantly? Have a faucet with a slow drip? The little crack in that one board on the deck? They might not seem like big problems, but they can turn into bigger issues over time. For example, a leaky faucet or running toilet might mean your water bill is higher than it should be. And that small crack can lead to rot, which could lead to having to replace the board—or the entire deck. When you see “small” things around the house, take steps to address them as soon as you can, because it likely will be a lot easier (and cheaper) today or tomorrow than a year from now.
  2. Not doing regular checks around the house. Speaking of seeing things around the house, how often do you look around the house? You’d be surprised how many homeowners haven’t been in their attic or crawlspace for years. It’s a good idea to do a walk-through periodically to look for issues such as leaks, areas of wear or other problems. And don’t forget to go outside! How is your roof looking? Do you see any cracks in your siding? Are the seals around your doors and windows solid? It’s important to catch those things before the rainy season begins in fall and winter.
  3. Maintaining your appliances. Not only will keeping your appliances in good shape ensure they work effectively and prolong their lifespan, but maintenance also can prevent serious risks. For example, when was the last time you cleaned out your dryer exhaust vent? No, not the screen you pull out when you’re doing laundry, but the one on the back or side. Too much lint buildup there can cause a fire—so clean it out at least once a year. You also should check the hoses connected to your washing machine and dishwasher. Are they worn? Do they need to be replaced? Do it now, before one fails when you’re not at home and causes significant water damage. Other tips:
    • Clean your refrigerator coils at least once a year.
    • Clear out your dishwasher’s food filter regularly.
    • Vacuum up dust and other debris in window air conditioners before you start using them each year.
    • Remember to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year, installing fresh batteries each time.
  4. Neglecting other systems. Your HVAC system needs attention so it won’t fail when you need it most. Having your furnace, heat pump and/or central AC unit serviced each year before you start using them heavily will alert you to any potential problems. You don’t want to find out that your furnace is out of whack when it’s 30 degrees outside, or that your AC is on the fritz when it’s 95. Change filters at the appropriate intervals, and if it’s been a while since you’ve had your ducts cleaned, consider that as well.
  5. Not having a home warranty. Despite your best maintenance efforts, that air conditioner might break down, leaving you sweltering in the summer. The water heater could stop working, meaning cold showers every morning. Or the refrigerator suddenly won’t get very cold any more. These things sometimes just happen, and if your appliance is out of warranty, you’re on the hook.

Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so it pays to be diligent about caring for it. Keep your eyes open around the house. Don’t hesitate to get out the tools, or call a professional if needed. Remember, prevention is the best medicine—and that old saying holds true just as much for your home’s health as it does for yours.

Jewelry Protection

Have some new jewelry in the house?  Protect it!  

Ah, Valentine’s Day is near, and love is in the air.  Well, love and a few other things, such as chocolates, romantic dinners, candy hearts that say “Be Mine” – and, of course, jewelry. 

It’s exciting to receive jewelry from a loved one — or to give it as a gift. Not to mention romantic. But if you’re lucky enough to have some new jewelry in your Colorado or Wisconsin home this Valentine’s Day, you should take a few minutes to think about something you probably don’t find exciting or romantic: insurance 

Don’t know where to turn? Don’t worry. At Badger Insurance Advisors, we think it is exciting to help our customers protect what’s most important to them — so we’re ready to help and can answer all of your questions.  

Things to consider when insuring jewelry:  

You may need to purchase additional coverage. Your homeowner’s policy covers valuable items such as jewelry only up to set amounts. If the cost of replacing your jewelry exceeds that limit, you will want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage. You can check your policy or give us a call at (303) 359-1799. 

You might want to reconsider your deductible amounts. As always, this impacts your policy premium. It’s a good idea to take a look at your deductibles whenever you make a change to your policy. 

Do you need an appraisal? You may need to have an independent appraisal if the insurance company requires it or if you don’t know the value of your jewelry. Each item should be listed with a description and value on paper. 

What kind of coverage is offered? You’ll want to determine if items are covered no matter where they are, whether they’re in Denver (or my hometown of Manitowoc), or on an international trip, and if the policy offers full replacement cost. You also should ask if you will be required to replace your jewelry if lost or stolen, or if you can simply keep the cash settlement. 

Pictures can be helpful. Lost or stolen pieces of jewelry sometimes can be recreated if the jeweler has a good photograph from which to work. 

Should I go with a company that specializes in jewelry insurance? There are companies that specialize in jewelry insurance. Whether you choose one of these or a company that we represent, you’ll want to make sure they are reputable and stable. 

Is the value of your jewelry mainly sentimental? Is an item irreplaceable? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” you might consider foregoing insurance. But please, talk to us at Badger Insurance Advisors before making that decision. That’s why we’re here. 

Of course, it’s important to store your jewelry securely when it’s not in use; a safe in your home or a safe-deposit box is best. We want your jewelry to be replaced if it’s lost or stolen, but we’d rather your sentimental and valuable pieces stay with you and your family for years to come. 

Here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day is full of fun and romance. And if there’s no jewelry involved, well, there’s always next year! 

 

Contact Us! 

For further questions and assistance, please contact Badger Insurance Advisors at (303) 359-1799 or kevin@badgerinsuranceadvisors.com. 

 

Content provided by Safeco Insurance 

Defensive Driving Course

So You Need (or Want) to Take a Defensive Driving Course

Whether you were caught speeding (or worse), you’re looking for a discount on your car insurance, or you simply want to be a better driver, there are a wide range of defensive driving and driver improvement courses available in Denver and throughout Colorado these days.

But, which is right for you? Here are five tips to help you decide:

  1. Check with your state or municipality. If you’re taking training to avoid a traffic infraction, not just any course will do. You’ll need to take an approved course – ask for a list before signing up.
  2. Check with your insurer. The same goes if you’d like to save on your car insurance. Your carrier may only offer a car insurance discount for completing certain courses. Also, ask how much your discount will be — this will help when it comes time to choose a course.
  3. Choose the type of course. There are online and classroom options, typically ranging from 4-12 hours depending on the course material. And, there are advantages to each. Online courses offer convenience (and sometimes a lower cost), while in-person settings can provide more interaction.
  4. Determine how much you want to spend. If you’re trying to avoid a ticket (and a potential increase in your insurance premiums), the cost might not be much of an issue. If you’re taking a course to receive an insurance discount, however, make sure the total discount you’ll receive is greater than the cost of the course.
  5. Check out the reviews. Online review sites, such as Yelp, can show you what others thought of a course. Keep in mind, people who felt “forced” to take a course might have a biased opinion, especially compared to someone who took the course willingly.

No matter why you’re considering a defensive driving course, at Badger Insurance Advisors, we’re happy to help you weigh the pros and cons. The biggest pro being, once you complete your training, you’re likely to be a little more careful the next time you get behind the wheel. And, that always pays off!

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

2018 New Year’s Resolutions:  Homeowners Insurance


When it comes to homeowners insurance, you have two components to consider:  the dwelling and your possessions.


Throughout Colorado, real estate prices have been climbing steadily.  Aside from our well-known homeowner’s risk (hail storms), increasing home values, along with rising building material costs are issues that impact our costs of insurance.  


When considering your possessions, think about the following:

  • Do I have more stuff now than when I initially purchased my homeowner’s policy?
  • If a catastrophe occurred, what would be the financial impact?

Taking a regular inventory of your items helps to figure out if you have the adequate amount of homeowner’s insurance.


Regarding your stuff, The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a free smartphone app, myHOME Scr.APP.book, which is an excellent tool to help you determine how much insurance is necessary.  (Available for both iPhone and Android)   From the Google Play Store:  The MyHOME Scr.APP.book home inventory application lets you quickly capture images, descriptions, and serial numbers of your prized possessions. The app organizes information by room or by category and even creates a backup file for email sharing.  It is great for determining how much insurance you need and for filing a claim.

 

My RightTrack Telematics Experience

My RightTrack Telematics Experience

As an independent insurance agent, my job is twofold:

  1. Help people protect what matters to them by providing appropriate insurance coverage.
  2. Always be on the lookout for the best insurance deals for my clients.

One of the latest technologies in the insurance space is that of “usage-based insurance (UBI)” also known as “telematics.”  Telematics insurance works by fitting your car with a small device that records speed patterns and distance traveled as well as the time of day you drive.  Insurance companies then use this data to calculate the cost of your insurance and adjust your premium accordingly, with each aspect affecting the price that you pay for auto insurance.

Early this year I began offering this service as a way to save money for clients on car insurance premiums.  In June, I thought I better put my money where my mouth was and try the program for myself!  As a customer of Safeco Insurance, I signed up for their “RightTrack” program.  In hindsight, it was easier and much less daunting than originally thought.

The process works like this:

  1. Order device and install.  The device fits in your hand and simply plugs into a port beneath the steering column.
  2. Drive with the device installed for 90 days. It tracks mileage, time of day driven, hard stops, and quick starts.
  3. Along the way, you can track your progress online to see where you stand regarding a discount on your car insurance premium. (I received a 5% discount just for using the program, regardless of how crazy my driving was).
  4. After 90 days, return the device via the company provided envelope, and that’s it, done!

Once the term completed, I earned a 19% discount and my wife 17%.  We used the program as a friendly competition of “who is the better driver”?  Well, numbers never lie, but I’m sure that question will be a point of contention going forward!

I found the process enlightening in that not only did it save us money but that in average driving, I tend to follow too closely…oops!   For those of you that have ignored your agent’s advice because you don’t want “big brother” watching…I ask you this:  do you have a phone?  Then they are already watching.

Telematics/UBI whatever you call it, I recommend giving it a shot.  Not only will it help you save money, but it will also make you aware of your driving faults and most likely make you a better driver.  Sounds like a smart deal to me!

Identity Theft

Your Identity Belongs to You.
Protect It!

A 2009 survey shows that identity theft is on the rise – and it’s more likely to start with a stolen wallet than an online phishing expedition.

Researchers at Javelin Strategy & Research reported that the number of identity theft cases increased 22 percent to 9.9 million in 2008.

Crimes of opportunity, such as stolen wallets, represented 43 percent of cases, compared to 33 percent in 2007, indicating an increase in the desperation of criminals.
Women were 26 percent more likely to be victims of identity theft, reporting a higher incidence of lost or stolen information during purchases in stores.
Only 11 percent of cases involved online access.

The smartest way to protect yourself from identity theft is to prevent it from happening to you. However, if your identity is stolen, you’ll be able to lessen problems by acting quickly.

• Call your credit card companies immediately. Explain what happened, and ask where to send a copy of the police report.
• Call and report to the police. Make several copies of police report.
• Complete a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Theft Affidavit and FTC report (call 1-887-ID-THEFT to request the forms).
• Call your bank. They can place an alert on your Driver’s License number and Social Security Number, and freeze your account.
• Call fraud units of credit report agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

Fortunately, identity theft protection is available as an endorsement on most homeowners’ policies at a small cost. For example, Safeco offers Identity Theft Protection for $12 a year to homeowner policy holders. The coverage reimburses certain expenses associated with identity recovery. Customers can also get guidance on how to protect themselves from ID theft before it happens and may receive assistance with identity restoration.

If you’re interested in learning more, call Kevin Volz at (303) 359-1799 or e-mail kevin@badgerinsuranceadvisors.com.

 

Buying A New Car

Things to keep in mind when buying a car

 

Buying a new car is an exciting time — but it can also be stressful. After all, you’re trying to get the best deal on price, while also deciding on the make, model and features you need.

Here at Badger Insurance Advisors, we can’t really help you become a master negotiator when it comes to buying a car. But we can give you some things to consider when you’re looking around the lot — and when you’re trying to answer the age-old question of “new, or used?” Read on with an open mind, and you might just come to a different decision the next time you’re on the car lot.

New cars

Ah, that new-car smell. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s one of the things that people love about climbing into a brand-new car. And while they make air fresheners that supposedly give you that same smell for your used car, it just doesn’t seem the same, does it? Still, there are other benefits to buying new — and, of course, there are drawbacks as well.

  • PRO — maintenance: Some manufacturers offer free scheduled maintenance for a set period of time after you buy the car, and you likely won’t need a new battery, tires, etc., for several years after your purchase.
  • PRO — peace of mind: Your new car may have a warranty for up to 10 years, and also is covered by “lemon laws” that could allow for a replacement or refund if the car has serious defects.
  • CON — cost: Depending on the make and model, buying a new car is almost always more expensive (at least in terms of the purchase price) than a used car.

It’s also worth noting that if you purchase a new car in its first model year (meaning it’s a new model for the automaker), there won’t be many user reviews available, and data on reliability and repairs will be limited. In addition, sometimes newly introduced cars have some kinks that generally are ironed out by the second and third model years. These aren’t necessarily serious issues, and the warranty should cover them, but in some instances, you and your car could be headed to the shop more than you’d like.

Used cars

Don’t care about the new-car smell? Looking to save some money on your purchase? Well, a used car might be right for you. There are many advantages to buying used, but you’ll want to be a little more careful. After all, it’s hard to know exactly how well the previous owner treated the car. But you can limit your risk with a little bit of work.

  • PRO — cost: New cars depreciate quickly after they’re purchased. By buying used, you’re letting someone else take that financial hit over the first few years of the life of the car.
  • PRO/CON — reliability: Buying a used car is less of a gamble than it used to be, particularly with the advent of “certified pre-owned” programs many automakers now offer. However, used cars generally don’t carry the same warranties as new cars, even though the original manufacturer’s warranty is usually transferrable to a second owner.
  • CON — maintenance: While a used car theoretically shouldn’t need more frequent maintenance than a new car, you’ll likely need to replace things like tires, headlights, etc., earlier. And scheduled maintenance probably isn’t covered by the automaker.
  • PRO/CON — history: You’ll need to check the car’s title history to make sure it hasn’t been in a serious accident or salvaged. Ask the dealership to provide this information, usually from Carfax.

Of course, whichever car you purchase, the important thing is that it’s a good fit for you. Bear in mind that certain makes and models can result in higher insurance costs for you, so feel free to check in with us before you buy.

Have fun shopping — and we’ll see you on the road!  #carinsurance

13 Reasons Why… Tape 3

 

You should work with an independent insurance agent

Tape 3, side A

Simple, yet complicated.  Doesn’t that accurately describe an insurance contract?  In my opinion, I have one job… make sure you fully understand your coverage.  Are all of my risks covered (or excluded)?  And obviously, make sense of the insurance math:  deductibles and limits you should carry.  After purchasing insurance, an agent’s work isn’t over – instead, we’re always on standby to help answer your questions, update your policy and make coverage recommendations.  Whether you live in Wisconsin or Wash Park, an independent agent’s mission never changes, help you understand what your insurance contract means to you.

Tape 3, side B

One-Stop Shops:  at many independent insurance agencies, you can take care of all your needs at one time, reducing the headaches involved with managing multiple business relationships.  As an example, if you own a small business, you can most likely obtain commercial insurance coverage from the same agency that insures your personal belongings.  If it’s life insurance coverage you need or a worker’s comp policy for your business, many insurance agents are willing and able to provide solutions.