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TIPS FOR NAVIGATING THE INSURANCE CLAIMS PROCESS:

From the Office of Insurance Regulation:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following the landfall of Hurricane Irma, many Floridians are now assessing their homes and property for damage and taking steps to make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage before filing insurance claims. CFO Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier encourage Floridians to be prompt in notifying their insurance companies and cautious of repair deals that sound too good to be true.

“If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is and could be fraud,” said CFO Patronis. “Opportunistic scammers may attempt to defraud Floridians following Hurricane Irma, and I encourage all Floridians to be vigilant in guarding against fraud. Floridians should report suspicious activity ASAP by calling 1-877-693-5236.”

Here are the top tips for consumers currently navigating the insurance claims process:

  • Notify your insurance company first. Many insurance companies have reporting deadlines, so it is important to act quickly. Take steps to make temporary repairs that prevent further damage, but remain in contact with your insurance company regarding any outside vendors that are brought in to make repairs. If you need help locating contact information for your insurance company, click here to access the Office of Insurance Regulation’s (OIR) directory. Helpline experts working the Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-693-5236 can also help Floridians locate their insurance company’s contact information.
  • While making temporary repairs, obtain the licensing or training credentials of all third-party vendors before signing any work agreements. Beware of fly-by-night repair companies and hire only licensed and reputable vendors. Use the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Contractor License lookup to make sure all contractors are properly licensed and bonded. Access DBPR’s licensee.
  • Fully review all documentation you are asked to sign and ask questions to make sure you understand the agreements you are signing. Ask specifically who is responsible for paying the vendor, you as the consumer, or your insurance company. For more information about how an assignment of benefits (AOB) for repairs works, visit the DFS “AOB” or Office “AOB Resources” webpages.
  • If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, ask for identification to verify that the adjuster is licensed. Visit CFO Patronis’ Hurricane Irma Insurance Resources website to verify the license of any Florida insurance agent or adjuster.
  • Understand how much a public insurance adjuster charges as well as what services are included before signing any contract.
  • If you suspect fraud or suspicious activity, report it immediately by calling 1-877-693-5236. You concerns will be promptly referred to insurance fraud investigators.

CFO Patronis’ Insurance Consumer Helpline (1-877-693-5236) is available from 8:00am EST to 5:00pm EST to answer all insurance-related questions for Floridians and businesses.


Should I sign an AOB / Assignment of Benefits form?

 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, if a third-party vendor contacts you about repairs, think twice. Do not contract with a vendor without first carefully reading any contract they propose. Please remember that the insurance companies can help you locate a reputable, licensed contractor for home repairs.

Some contractors will ask policyholders to sign a form titled Assignment of Benefits (AOB). These documents can give control of some or all of a claim to the contractor. In some cases, if you sign an AOB you no longer have the right to receive any payments from your insurance company, as such payments will now belong to the contractor. This may result in incomplete repairs; theft of insurance payouts or unlivable conditions in your home, and it will complicate, delay, reduce, and possibly result in denial of a claim settlement. Policyholders should carefully read and consider any AOB documents before signing AOB agreements. If presented with such a document, we encourage you to contact us before signing.

It is recommended all claims be reported directly to the insurance company for faster turnaround. To better assist you, the carriers have 24-hour claim reporting services available online.

 


Do I have enough Homeowners Coverage? What are coverages A, B & C?

Do I have enough Homeowners Coverage? What are coverages A, B & C?

Unfortunately, disaster can strike at any time. No one is immune to the threat of losing his or her home due to any number of possible hazards. However, a recent survey found that most homeowners are seriously underinsured. Marshall & Swift/Boekh, a leading insurance data services company, found that 66 percent of homeowners had inadequate coverage by an average of 18 percent. That works out to $36,000 for an average $200,000 home. While few people would willingly choose a policy with a $36,000 deductible, that is the result if they are underinsured by that much on what may well be their most valuable asset.

Coverage A – Dwelling Coverage

Coverage A is your home’s replacement value, or what it would cost to rebuild your house to its current building quality in today’s cost of materials, and labor at the time of loss. Some carriers may include debris removal of the materials being replaced under the Coverage A limit, or it may be included under additional coverage in the policy. Market value is the amount of what your home would sell for today, which is very different from what it would cost to rebuild your home. Market value takes into consideration the land value, depreciation or market trends and other nearby market factors such as jobs or school districts. The replacement cost simply reflects the cost to rebuild one home.

For example, you can have a home that is worth $400,000 if it was sold (market value) in one neighborhood while an identical home across town could have a market value of half that much, even assuming they were built on lots of equal size. However, replacing those homes, rebuilding them at today’s cost while using similar construction methods and materials, would essentially cost the same for both. Rebuilding costs can be higher or lower than market values, since factors like land value and depreciation don’t affect rebuilding. However, the quantity of materials being purchased will affect the cost to rebuild, often therefore brand-new construction can appear less in cost to build than to “rebuild” at replacement cost on your insurance policy. Home Builders purchase materials in quantity and receive lower rates in labor, whereas insurance policies calculate for the individual home loss.
Sitting down with your agent to review the features of your home is very important to ensure you are covered adequately. Homes with features such as crown molding, hardwood floors and tile, and custom kitchens cost more to rebuild. Your agent will take these and other factors of your home into consideration, including the total square footage to determine the home’s replacement cost. This is the value you should insure your house for in the event you have a “total loss”. We recommend you review your policy every few years or if you make significant improvements to your home to avoid being underinsured.

Coverage B – Detached Structures/ Other Structures

Detached structures, sometimes referred to as “other structures” refers to any structure that is on your property, but not attached to your main house. Examples of detached structures include:
• Detached garage
• Fence
• Garden sheds
• Detached in-law unit
• Retaining walls
• Swimming pool
• Outdoor kitchen

Most homeowner policies automatically include detached structures insurance (Coverage B) that equals 2% of the amount of insurance on the dwelling (Coverage A). If the number and/or value of detached structures is significant; such as a detached mother-in-law suite or several of the items listed above – a separate valuation should be done for each to determine if extra coverage is needed. Typically, the 2% limit for detached structures can be increased to 10% on the policy for these items before you would need to schedule specific detached structures on the policy, depending on the values of the structure(s). If you have a normal size fence and nothing more, you will probably be fine with the 2% figure. Regardless, this should be brought up when discussing replacement cost coverages with your agent.

Coverage C – Personal Property or Contents Coverage

Your homeowner’s policy will automatically include personal property coverage, which is a separate item sometimes known as “Coverage C” that can equal 50% to 75% of the Coverage A amount. If you have a typical amount of personal property in your home, this should be adequate. Policies include coverage for personal property at actual cash value, which is the depreciated value of the item at the time of loss- which will factor in the age of the items and use of the items. This decreases the value of replacing them substantially. If you do not have Personal Property Replacement Cost listed on your policy, you should contact your agent and discuss this coverage with them. This can amend the valuation of how your contents/personal property is paid in the event of a covered loss and is a beneficial coverage to have.

Similar to the Replacement Cost on the Dwelling discussed, the Personal Property Replacement Endorsement will allow you to have coverage to replace the contents lost with items of like quality and kind.

However, if you have a great deal of personal property or you have higher value items, then you may want to discuss an additional amount of coverage with your agent. Items such as jewelry, guns, coins, computers, business and high-risk property typically have policy sub-limits, some of which may be $1,000 or less. Such special items should be discussed with your agent, especially if you have them valued over $1,000. A homeowner’s policy has many options to increase these personal property coverage amounts.

Larger Homes and Other Special Risks

In some cases, the insurance company will have an appraiser come by and visit your property. This will provide a better valuation than relying on a database estimate alone. This is commonly done for homes larger than 5,000 square feet, for some commercial properties, or for structures with unusual characteristics such as unique craftsmanship and materials, historic value, and other special considerations.

Know the Value Before a Catastrophe

Knowing the value is part of good financial planning and risk management. What you are doing is protecting your assets, belongings and the investment you have in your home. The worst thing you can do is review your coverage values after a claim, because at that point, it is too late. That is why it’s best to address this now and let insurance serve its purpose and allow you to smoothly proceed with your life after a claim occurs.

Important tip: Be sure to take a detailed home inventory before any disaster strikes. Take photographs and record serial numbers where applicable, particularly on high value personal property. There are many commercial websites that can help you with this process and will automatically store this information offsite, where these important records are not vulnerable to the same disaster that befalls your home and property. You could upload photos, videos, and/or receipts of any inventory to the “cloud” for remote access after a disaster and or loss has occurred.


If I Hire a Contractor, Do I Need a Certificate of Insurance?

What is a Certificate of Insurance:
A Certificate of Insurance is a document summarizing insurance coverage and should be issued by an agent on behalf of an insurer that says a policy has been issued to an insured. The Certificate is usually issued to a third party who wants some evidence or assurance that a policy has been issued and is in force. The Certificate itself is a document naming the insured, identifying the insurer issuing the policy, the type of policy and the limits of insurance and listing the Certificate Holder, typically the requestor. On some occasions, it may identify some types of exclusions, but the Certificate never provides all the contract terms, exclusions or other conditions of coverage.

What is the purpose of a Certificate of Insurance?
The Certificate of Insurance is an important document serving as the insured’s evidence to customers, contractors or other third parties that the insured has obtained insurance. It indicates that the business or individual named as the insured has the financial resources available to protect those who may come to harm through their own negligence. It serves the same purpose that a driver’s proof of insurance serves to the victim of an auto accident whose car has been damaged — it shows that somewhere an insurance company issued a document saying there is a policy that may cover the loss.

When should you request a Certificate of Insurance?
Any time you hire a contractor to perform work at your home or business

What type of insurance should the Certificate of Insurance display?
General Liability Insurance: If the contractor’s error or accident causes property damage, this coverage is designed to cover those damages subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.
Workers Compensation Insurance: If the contractor or your contractor’s employee is injured while working on the job at your property this policy is designed to cover their injuries. *Note: Some contractors may be exempt from carrying Workers Compensation Insurance – in this case request a copy of their exemption. However, this exemption will provide protection ONLY for that individual, not any other workers they may bring along.

If the contractor does not have the proper insurance coverage, YOU may be financially responsible if something such as an accident or an injury occurs during the contractor’s work. A reputable contractor will be more than happy to verify proper insurance coverage!

Is it acceptable to accept the Certificate of Insurance directly from the contractor?
It is highly recommended that you obtain the Certificate of Insurance directly from the agent, agency or insurance carrier. The contractor may also contact their agent, agency or insurance carrier providing your name, address & preferred method of delivery for you to receive the Certificate of Insurance.

Why is it important to receive the Certificate of Insurance directly from the agent, agency or insurance carrier?
The agent, agency or insurance carrier won’t issue the certificate if the policy/policies are not in force/active. That’s not saying if the contractor supplies you with the certificate that his/her policies aren’t in force/active, you just have no true verification. We also recommend you get an updated certificate on the day the work commences to insure policies are still in force. For example, Bob received three bids to get some tree limbs removed and procured the certificates of Insurance showing proper coverages. A few weeks later, Bob chose Company A to do the work. They completed the work and a limb fell on his house, causing considerable damage. His certificate showed he was insured when he got the bid, but Company A didn’t pay their premium and the policy was cancelled, leaving Bob in the lurch!

You should always consult with an insurance professional if you have any questions regarding your liabilities. An agent at the Morse Agency would be happy to assist you.




Drive Safe Challenge!

Charlie driving

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers have crash rates 3 times those of drivers 20 and older per mile driven.  The fatal crash rate is nearly twice as high for 16-17 year-olds as it is for 18-19 years old.  Mercury Insurance developed this Drive Safe Challenge to help reduce teen driver accidents and deaths. The Drive Safe Challenge was designed to assist parents by teaching teens safe driving and collision avoidance techniques, laws and information, how to select the right vehicle and much more. So, take a look around, because there are a lot of resources on this site that will help teens prepare for life behind the wheel.

For questions and help comparing coverages and costs for Orlando Insurance, please contact us at The Morse Agency!