Author Archives: UNIKO Media Group

car accident 3

No one likes the claims process. It means you have had a loss and are working with your insurance agent/broker and company to recover. There are what seems like a million questions and mountains of paperwork. Well, there really isn’t all that much red tape, but the better prepared you are, the faster your settlement will come.

Before you even have a claim, be sure your policy covers what you think it does. Did you upgrade your auto policy when you decided to customize your car? When you finished that beautiful addition to your home, did you also make an addition to your homeowners policy. Nothing stops the claim process faster than something that is not covered.

Speaking of coverage, many people don’t understand how important collision insurance is until they hit a light pole or another car. Sure, your liability will cover the other guy (if you have enough coverage), but your repairs are 100 percent out-of-pocket without collision. That Low Cost Insurance policy may have seemed like a good idea way back when, but minimum coverage is exactly that. Also remember your deductibles. Sure, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium, but that deductible comes right out of your bank account

When a claim does occur, fully document everything. If it’s a fender bender, take pictures of both vehicles, get names of witnesses, and take down complete info on the other driver and any passengers. If someone broke into your home, call the police and get a report.  Be sure to detail all your losses and back up with pictures and receipts.

Call your broker/agent or your company’s claims hotline as soon as possible. Your policy might require that you make the notification within a certain time frame. Remember not to make permanent repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before the damage is inspected.

Obviously, your first step in claims preparation is a meeting with your insurance professional. They can tell you what coverages you have, which ones may be unnecessary, and what you may still need.

disabilty 3

You like to plan ahead to be ready for any eventuality. You have plenty of auto insurance just in case your car is damaged. Your home is protected with a well-thought out homeowners insurance purchase. Your business has an excellent BOP policy. But what about your potential earning capability. If something happened that precluded you from working, temporarily or permanently, would you be OK? Maybe you should think about disability insurance.

There are two types of disability policies: Short-Term Disability (STD) and Long-Term Disability (LTD). STD policies have a waiting period of 0 to 14 days with a maximum benefit period of no longer than two years. LTD policies have a waiting period of several weeks to several months with a maximum benefit period ranging from a few years to the rest of your life.

When considering disability insurance, consider this: Not too long ago, the Social Security Administration estimated that one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled and unable to work before they reach the age of 67. If you think you are safe with Workers Compensation, a Forbes Magazine article pointed out that Workers Comp replaces lost income if an injury or illness occurs on the job, but fewer than 5% of disabling accidents and illnesses are work-related. Most (90%) of long-term disability claims are for illnesses, not accidents.

Also, some policies pay benefits if you are unable to perform the customary duties of your own occupation. Others pay only if you are unable to perform any job suitable for your education and experience. Some policies define disability in terms of your own occupation for an initial period of two or three years and then continue to pay benefits only if you are unable to perform any occupation. “Own occupation” policies are more desirable, but more expensive.

Speak with your insurance professional and go over different options should you become incapacitated, ill, or otherwise unable to continue working. Make sure your livelihood is protected.

safe driving 3

We are all familiar with auto insurance commercials promising the best prices and the best coverages. But contact your local independent agency and you will be introduced to a variety of companies with different premiums for similar coverage. This is the reason you go to an independent agent in the first place. Even though companies assign different values for different rating factors, they all start out on pretty much the same page.

In California, all companies must consider three main rating factors first and foremost: Miles driven annually, years of licensed driving experience, and the safety record of the individual driver. There are other less significant factors companies will likely consider, such as marital status, gender, age, vehicle type, garaged or not, etc.

Of course, there are ways to save on your auto insurance premium. Obviously, maintaining a clean driving record and cutting down on the number of miles you drive is helpful. There is nothing you can do about your age, gender or marital status. However, there are other things you can do to save money.

The type of vehicle you drive can also ease up on that premium dollar. A non-sporty model with an excellent safety record is a good thing. Ask about alumni and other professional association discounts. Take a driver safety class. Increase your deductibles.

The only way you can make sure you are getting the best price possible for your coverages is to sit down with your insurance professional and talk about your options. If taking a few minutes can save you potentially hundreds of dollars, why not get it done?

self storage 3

If you are like millions of others, you have too much stuff for your house or apartment. There are simply too many things and not enough storage room. So you turn to one of the many storage facilities there are in practically every community. You rent an appropriately-sized unit and move those baby clothes and old exercise equipment right in. Of course, some things have a real value past sentimentality. Have you thought about whether you need additional (or any) insurance protection for your stored keepsakes?

The Insurance Information Institute has these suggestions:

Some standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal possessions kept off-premises including a storage facility. Off-premises coverage includes theft and damage from fires, tornadoes and other perils listed in the policy. However, it does not cover for damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. And check the coverage limits, as these vary by company.

Find out what type of financial protection is provided by the storage facility.  Most facilities provide reimbursement based on the square footage of the unit. Check both the coverage limits and whether it is provided on an actual cash value or replacement cost basis. Most storage facilities will also offer a variety of supplemental insurance packages; ask your insurance professional if it would make sense to buy this additional coverage.

Consider special insurance or storage for expensive items.  If you intend to store valuable property, such as art, antiques, jewelry or furs, there may be dollar restrictions under your standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policy for theft. Think about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to fully cover these items.

There are also specialized storage facilities available for these types of items, as they often need to be kept at specific temperature and humidity levels. Small items such as jewelry will cost less to insure if they are kept in a bank safe-deposit box. Keep in mind contents in a safe-deposit box are not insured by the bank.

As with any coverage decisions, you should consult with your insurance professional to be sure everything that needs protection has it.

car keys 3Most of us have lent our cars to friends and/or family members at one time or another. Whether they needed to go to the store, were visiting from out of town, or had their own car in the shop, our mobile castle was theirs for the borrowing. But did you give any thought to whether or not they were insured – their own policy or yours?

Most auto policies allow for permissive drivers, that is, drivers operating your vehicle with your permission. Often, their own auto policies will follow them while driving another vehicle. However, your coverage would be considered primary. Their insurance may cover some medical expenses and possibly supplement if your limits are maxed out.

What you need to watch out for are people driving your vehicle who should be on your policy. For example, your sister is visiting for a week or so from out of town. She will likely be covered. However, if that same sister is moving here and staying at your place until she finds a job, which is a different story, especially if she is using your vehicle to go on job interviews. If your assistant uses your car to run errands for you, he/she needs to be on your policy.

If you have teenage drivers living in your home, you are sometimes forced to add them to your policy. Otherwise, they will be specifically excluded from driving any of your vehicles.

Just something to keep in mind: California Vehicle Code Section 1715 states: “Every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle, in the business of the owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of the owner.”

Before you turn over the keys to your car, check with your insurance professional to see if your auto policy covers permissive drivers. More importantly, how much it will cover someone borrowing your car.

lawsuit3Owning your own business is part of the American dream, but not having the proper insurance coverage can turn that dream into a nightmare. Sometimes, businesses are magnets for lawsuits — slips and falls, product malfunctions, employee accidents, etc. Hre is a quick primer of what coverages you need:

Your business must carry general liability, which covers any legal damages that may result from claims of negligence, injury and property damage. Your liability insurance pays damages for which you are found liable, up to the policy limits, as well as attorneys’ fees and other legal defense expenses. It also pays the medical bills of any people injured by your business. Product liability provides protection from injuries or damages that may result from a faulty product.

It’s legally mandated for employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance covers your employees’ medical expenses and missed wages should they be injured while working. If a worker dies as a result of injuries sustained while working, the insurance provides compensation to the employee’s family.

If you use your own car for business purposes, understand that many personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage if the vehicle involved in an accident while being driven for business. You may need to purchase a business auto policy, which provides coverage for autos owned and operated by or on behalf of a business.

A common policy offered to companies of all sizes is Business Owners Policy (BOP). While not a catch-all, a BOP policy usually includes: Property insurance for buildings and contents owned by the company; Business interruption which covers the loss of income resulting from a disruption of the business operation; and Liability protection, which covers your company’s legal responsibility for the harm it may cause to others.

BOPs do NOT cover professional liability, auto insurance, worker’s compensation or health and disability insurance. You’ll need separate insurance policies to cover professional services, vehicles and your employees.

Talk with your insurance professional and find out which coverages you need to protect yourself and your livelihood. There are many different policies for many different businesses. Be sure you have the correct match.

house for rent 2Ah, the lure of easy money. You’re planning on taking a week away here and there throughout the year. You keep hearing about rental services like Airbnb and think it’s a great alternative to traditional hotels. Then someone suggests renting out your own home while you are away. Why not, you think. They have a good vetting policy, renters are screened and most rental stories you here are good ones. Plus, maybe you can break even on your lodging costs if someone is also paying you. But before you sign-up, pull out your homeowners insurance police and do some research.

If you only plan to rent out your home once or twice a year, a standard homeowners policy will probably suffice. Some insurance companies may require a special endorsement. Either way, you should definitely notify your insurance professional about the rental. You may also want to consider mandating a renter’s insurance policy, as property belonging to the tenant would not be covered.

If you plan on renting out your residence several times a year on a regular basis, or have a vacation property for rental, this would constitute a business. Standard homeowners insurance policies do not provide any coverage for business activities conducted in the home. To be properly covered you would need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy.

If you are planning to lease your home for a longer period of time, say six months or a year, you will likely need a landlord or rental dwelling policy. f you are regularly renting out a vacation home or investment property, this would also require a landlord or rental dwelling policy. Landlord policies provide property insurance coverage for physical damage to the structure of the home, for any personal property you may leave on-site for maintenance or tenant use, and liability coverage.

Your best resource for all things insurance is your insurance professional. They are well-versed in what coverages are offered in a standard homeowners policy, which are needed for different rental arrangements, and how to best protect you and your home. Make an appointment to discuss all of your coverage options and make sure you have what you need.

auto accident 1There are a lot of vehicles on the road. If you have spent any time on the freeway, this is not news to you. Some people are careful drivers, some are, let’s say, less than aware that there are other cars sharing the road. One of the reasons why you have auto insurance is because of careless drivers. Of course, sometimes such carelessness extends to a lack of insurance on their part. Should you be the one involved in the inevitable accident these moronic drivers will be in, will you be covered?

According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), one driver out of every seven drivers in the United States is currently uninsured. This is especially startling considering that an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver can result in significant costs that aren’t covered by a basic liability insurance policy.

The State of California mandates liability limits for auto insurance be 10/20/3 for low cost auto insurance policyholders. For regular drivers, it’s 15/30/5. The first number is medical payments per person in an accident, the second is total payments for everyone in a single accident, and the third payment is total property damage payment.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is designed to help you pay for bills associated with a crash that was caused by another person who either doesn’t have an auto insurance policy or has a policy with liability limits that are too low to cover costs associated with a covered loss.

As with any insurance questions, your best resource is your insurance professional. Take a few minutes to meet with them and explain your concerns. They will make sure you have all the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

gas pump 1

The good news is it seems like gas prices have stabilized at around $3 a gallon, depending on where you live. So it isn’t necessary have to take a second mortgage out to fill your tank, but you are still paying more than a few dollars at the pump. If you are interested in getting a few miles more out of your gas dollar, check out the following suggestions:

Drive at a moderate speed – This is the ABCs of gas mileage. Consumer Reports once tested a Honda Accord at a steady 65 mph and the car’s fuel economy dropped from 49 mpg to 42 mpg compared to 55 mph. Driving at 75 mph cost the car another 5 mpg..

Don’t stop and start – Obviously avoid hard acceleration and braking whenever possible. Consumer Reports tested an older Camry and found that frequent bursts of acceleration and braking reduced mileage by 2 to 3 mpg.  Obviously there are times when you can’t avoid traffic, but when you can, look ahead and drive as smoothly as possibly.

Remember aerodynamics –At highway speeds, more than 50 percent of engine power goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag. Of course, some weekend outings often require the use of a roof rack, but try to avoid carry things on top of your vehicle when you don’t have to. Even an empty rack can create enough drag to suck gas mileage down 5 mpg.

Check your vehicle – Under-inflated tires are one of the most common causes of poor gas mileage because they have more rolling resistance, which means your engine has to work harder to keep your car moving. A dirty air filter restricts the flow of air into the engine, which harms performance and economy. Motor oil that has lost its viscosity (if it has turned black, that’s a hint) also makes your engine work harder. That means wasted gasoline.

Some myths about gas mileage savings include morning fill-ups allegedly get you more gas for the money. Gas may be denser in the cool morning, but the temperature of the gasoline coming out of the fuel nozzle changes very little, if at all. Open tailgates and tonneau covers and another myth for improving gas mileage. These can actually hurt gas mileage.

Another way you can save money on the cost of driving is by going over your auto insurance. For most people, reviewing their auto policies (or any policy) is rarely done. So sit down with your insurance professional and look at ways to keep some of your premium dollars in your pocket.

classic car 3A standard auto insurance policy is pretty straightforward with what is and is not covered. Alterations, expensive sound systems, custom wheels, etc. all require extra coverage. But there is a point where your vehicle will need an policy independent of your auto insurance.  If you own a classic or vintage vehicle, you may want to consider additional coverage.

While there is no standard rule of thumb when it comes to a definition of classic cars, there are a few points to consider. If a car’s value exceeds its original selling price, then it might be considered collectible. A “classic” or “antique” vehicle is usually at least 25 to 30 years old. Many modified vehicles, particularly high performance “hot rods” should carry extra insurance, as should exotic or super-luxury models. Vintage military vehicles, classic motorcycles and antique tractors are also candidates for classic car coverage.

In order to qualify for a classic car policy, there are a few common criteria noted by the Insurance Information Institute: Limited Use—Your classic car cannot be used for everyday commuting or errands; Car Shows and Meetings—The ‘limited use’ provision of a classic car policy allows for travel to car shows and auto club meet-ups; however this coverage may be restricted by some insurers. Secure Storage—When not in use, your special vehicle must be stored in a locked, enclosed, private structure, such as a residential garage or storage unit; and Clean Driving Record—You may be disqualified from classic auto insurance if you have serious offenses on your driving record, such as reckless driving, repeat speeding violations or driving while intoxicated.

Before you obtain a classic car policy, you will need to reach an agreement on how much your vehicle is worth. This will be specified in your policy until any changes are made. You’ll want to be sure your policy allows you to use a specialized mechanic or body shop, as well as towing and the ability to obtain specific spare parts.

As with other insurance questions, you will want to speak with your insurance professional. Take a look at your current auto policy and compare it to what shape your vehicle is in now. Sometimes people make assumptions about their coverage, only to find out that they cannot claim a theft or loss. Be sure now rather than be sorry later.