Insuring Vacant Homes & Buildings

A side effect of the down economy and depressed real estate market is an increase in the number of vacant homes and buildings. Vacancies are also lasting longer.

If you own a home that is insured with a homeowners policy, it’s important to know that the policy excludes payments for claims made on a home that is considered vacant. Properly protecting such a home requires a vacant home policy – normally written for a period of 6 months.

Owners of vacant commercial properties are also being impacted. Given continued high unemployment and the rising price of copper, vacant commercial properties have become much more attractive to thieves.

For owners of vacant residential or commercial property, Estabrook & Chamberlain recommends a regular insurance review to eliminate gaps in coverage and ensure adequate protection. If you have any concerns about your existing coverage or have questions about the difference in policies, we can help. Give us a call today at 800-358-1717.

Sometimes, Renting A Car Hurts

Rental carsWhen traveling for business or pleasure, many people decline the loss damage waiver (LDW) when renting a car. Most believe they are fully covered by their own auto insurance or the insurance provided by their credit card. However, there are situations when these coverages don’t fully protect you.

A rental company can contractually charge the renter for many indirect expenses that normally are not covered by auto policies or are covered only for small amounts. One of these charges is referred to as “diminished value”. Diminished value can be highly subjective and the loss of value is often uncertain until the rented car is sold. It may seem ridiculous, but some stories claim rental companies have charged from $4,000 to $7,000 for diminished value.

In one instance, $15,000 was claimed for diminished value on a luxury SUV!

Luckily, courts have so far tended to uphold the ability of insurance companies to exclude diminished value claims, but this doesn’t mean you should assume you’re covered. One customer of a Florida insurance agent had to pay thousands of dollars plus the cost of travel to Colorado to appear in court when sued in a diminished value case.

Most people never have to face diminished claims, but the next time you need to rent a car, think twice. Don’t dismiss LDW coverage out of hand. It could come in very handy.

Is Technology Driving You To Distraction?

Is technology driving you to distraction?Today’s new cars feature technology that many of us would never have dreamed possible. GPS, Bluetooth, voice control, even social networking – today’s cars are more convenient than ever. But, is convenience pushing safety to the side of the road? In a recent survey*, nearly 63% of those polled think American drivers are too reliant on their car’s technology. The survey suggests that most drivers are more familiar with their car’s technology gadgets than with its safety features. The report goes on to say that new car buyers are more interested in convenience features than safety features.

Studies have shown that new technology conveniences can often require drivers to focus their attention on things other than the road – increasing the chances of an accident. To make matters worse, many cars equipped with such gadgets are driven by younger, less experienced drivers who tend to use new technology more often. This means that even the most attentive drivers can be involved in an accident caused by a driver distracted by beeping gadgets or flashing screens in their dashboard.

So what can you do to deal with technology distractions? First of all, remember that your primary focus should be the road ahead of you and the drivers around you. When not needed, turn gadgets off and get in the habit of using them only when it is safe to do so. If necessary, pull over to the side of the road when technology requires too much of your attention. And finally, always practice defensive driving, because you never know when someone else might bend over to retrieve a dropped Bluetooth headset or decide to pummel their GPS for sending them down the wrong street.

*Survey conducted by Met Life Auto & Home and American Survey Pulse Poll

Critter Coverage

Critter CoverageIn the classic movie “The Pink Panther”, Inspector Clouseau asks a hotel clerk, “Does your dog bite?” “No”, the clerk replies. Clouseau tries to pat the pooch, only to be bitten!

“I thought you said your dog does not bite”, Clouseau exclaims. “That is not my dog”, replies the clerk.

Often, there is no telling what a pet will do. Even the most likable person can cause an otherwise friendly dog to growl and snap. Each year in the United States, there are about 4.7 million injuries from dog bites. 900,000 of these bites require medical treatment and 50% of bites happen at the residence where the dog lives. $412 million was paid by insurers for dog bites in 2009, and the average dog bite claim was more than $24,000.

Typically, the liability portion of your homeowners insurance covers up $500,000 for dog bites. However, in a worst case scenario, a claim could easily exceed that amount. For this reason, we often suggest that customers consider an umbrella policy that provides additional coverage for animal liability claims. Available in increments of $1,000,000, the added coverage may prove a wise decision should Spot
ever decide to nip at a neighbor.

Protecting Against Uninsured & Underinsured Drivers

doctor and patientDespite laws requiring drivers to maintain insurance, the IRC (Insurance Research Council) estimated that 1 in 7 U.S. drivers has no insurance at all.  In fact, many drivers choose only the minimum amount of insurance required by law.  It’s impossible to know if you’ll ever be involved in an accident with such a driver but, a recent survey may indicate that Massachusetts drivers are at greater risk.  That’s because we share a border with Rhode Island, which was among the top 10 states with a higher percentage of uninsured motorists.  At 17.6%, they ranked ninth in  the nation.  For this reason, we recommend that our customers consider selecting higher limits for their uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.
Consider this scenario – you’re injured in an auto accident with an uninsured driver and you incur hospital bills plus pain and suffering totaling $85,000.  You attempt to collect from the person who caused the injury but, since the person is uninsured, you can’t collect from their insurance company.  You could sue but, uninsured drivers typically have little or no assets and you’ll likely be left out in the cold.  If you had purchased $100,000 of uninsured bodily injury liability coverage under your own auto policy, you’d have collected the entire $85,000.
At 4.5%, Massachusetts has the lowest percentage of uninsured motorists.  However, you should still consider increasing your own coverage limits.  Why?  As mentioned previously, most drivers opt only for the minimum amount of coverage required by law.  Choosing higher limits for your UM/UIM coverage can help make up the difference if you sustain injuries that exceed the coverage of a motorist who is at fault and under insured.
Everyone’s situation is different but, increasing your coverage limits can help provide peace of mind should you ever be involved in an accident with someone who is more interested in low or no premiums than proper coverage.
For more information on how you can protect yourself against uninsured and under insured drivers, call Estabrook & Chamberlain today.

Dog Bites Cost Plenty

dog biteDogs account for a substantial number of insurance claims.  In 2010 alone, one insurance company paid out over $90 million for dog bite claims nationwide.  Morale of the story?  keep Fido on a leash and make sure you’re covered in the event of a liability claim.

Read and Ride Program Winners.

winnersPictured  are the winners of the 2011 One World, Many Stories Read and Ride Program.
Back row:  Tom Chamberlain (Estabrook and Chamberlain Insurance), Anaia Risko, Abby Morris, Andrew Power, Patrick Kearns, and Cindy Davis. Front row:  Domenic Sarro, Sarah Power, Nina Savino, and Devon Scott. All are from the Bridgewater library. Not pictured are the West Bridgewater library winners,  Hannah Smith and Emily Belmont.
Bicycles were donated by Estabrook & Chamberlain Insurance Agency.

Oil Leak Insurance

oil leakA new law was enacted over a year ago that allows consumers to purchase insurance that would compensate them should an oil heating system leak and cause damage to their residence.  If you haven’t looked into this, we urge you to give us a call.  We’ll be happy to explain the coverage and discuss your options.

Other Structures

other structuresEvery homeowner’s policy provides automatic coverage to detached structures.  This could include a separate garage, barn, shed, pool, cabana, fence, etc.  This covers up to 10% of the insurance provided on the house.  So, a $250,000 policy on a home would cover an additional $25,000 for other structures.
There are a few significant limitations to this coverage that you should be aware of.  Should the other structure be used to store business property or if you operate a business on its premises, your homeowners policy would not cover the structure.
To be sure other structures are properly insured, you should first determine how the property is used.  If there is business-related activity occurring in the structure, you may need to consider a separate business policy.  You should also consider any renovations made to other structures.  A property owner may renovate or expand a structure, creating a building that might have a higher replacement value than that covered by the additional 10% automatically allowed under a homeowners policy.  In the example noted previously, if your renovated/expanded structure cost $60,000 to rebuild, you would need to review your homeowners policy as you would only receive a maximum of $25,000 under the other structures coverage.
To ensure that your coverage is adequate and up to date, give us a call today.  Rates for additional coverage on other structures are very reasonable and well worth looking into.

Paranoid Pooch

Paranoid poochSometimes, man’s best friend can be the cause of serious damage.  One insurance company reports a claim relating to a “paranoid” dog.  It seems the policyholder had a classic car that was waxed to a mirror-like finish. The car was so highly polished that his dog could see his reflection in the paint.  Thinking the reflection was another dog, the confused canine became very agitated and began scratching at the car, trying to get at the “other dog”.  As you may have guessed, all he succeeded in doing was ruining the door panel as well as the front and rear quarter-panels.  Luckily, even this odd situation was covered by the owner’s comprehensive coverage.  Don’t assume that comprehensive covers every odd occurrence though.  Always make sure you understand your coverage and that it’s appropriate and up to date.