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1 year ago ·by ·0 comments

Homeowners Insurance Claim

A violent storm damages your house. A grilling accident leaves your guest injured. A burglar breaks in. When an unfortunate event strikes close to home, you might need to file a claim with your insurance company. As part of the contract between you and your insurer, a claim against your homeowners insurance policy comes with rules and procedures that both your insurer and you must follow.

Read more about storms in US?

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How to claim for homeowners insurance

First steps to a claim.

  • Report any crime to the police. If you are the victim of a theft or your home has been vandalized or burglarized, report it to the police. Get a police report and the names of all law enforcement officers that you speak with as you may need to provide the details of the event to your insurer.
  • Phone your insurance professional immediately. Ask the following questions: Am I covered? How long do I have to file a claim? Will my claim exceed my deductible? (If your loss is lower than your deductible, you probably won’t want to go through the claims filing process.) How long will it take to process my claim? Will I need to obtain estimates for repairs to structural damage?
  • Promptly fill out claim forms. If you establish that you’ll be making a claim your insurance company will send you the necessary claim forms—by law, these must be sent to you within a specified time period. Return the properly filled out forms as soon as possible in order to avoid delays.
  • Have the insurance adjuster inspect the damage. Your insurance company will probably arrange for an adjuster to come and inspect your home. An adjuster is a company representative who inspects property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. He or she will interview you and inspect the property.
  • Prepare for the insurance adjuster’s visit. Be prepared to show the adjuster any structural damage and have a list of damaged items ready so you can make the best use of the time.
  • Make temporary repairs. Photograph or videotape the damage, then take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. If possible, avoid throwing out damaged items until the adjuster has visited your home. Save receipts for what you spend—you may be able to submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement later.
  • Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles. You’re going to need to substantiate your loss, so make a list of destroyed or damaged items, then make a copy of the list for your adjuster. Also, supply him or her with available copies of receipts from damaged items. (Having a home inventory will speed this part of the claims process).
  • If you need to relocate, keep your receipts. Keep receipts and records of all additional expenses incurred. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for additional living expenses in such cases, but you’ll need to provide proof of the costs.
  • Don’t be shy about asking questions. If you have any questions about the claim filing laws in your state, call your insurance professional or your state department of insurance.

State laws require that you be sent payment promptly. But after you and your insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement,

What should you NOT do when filing a home insurance claim?

Homeowners often make several errors that can delay their claim or affect their payout:

  • Throw away items: Swerling says one of the biggest is discarding items too soon. “You need to document your loss with as much detail as possible,” she says. “Don’t dispose of the evidence until you get an agreed upon payout.”
  • Wait too long: “A common mistake is failing to contact your insurance company professional immediately after incurring a loss,” says Michael Barry, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. “By acting quickly, you can begin the claims filing process and have an insurance adjuster sent to your home to assess the damage.”
  • Not complete claims forms in a timely manner: The claims process can drag on if you don’t provide your insurance company with paperwork for proof of loss, receipts and other documentation to approve your claim. You will get your claim form after 30-40 days. The longer you wait to complete these forms, the longer the process takes.
  • Not understand your policy: Standard home insurance often doesn’t include flood coverage, so homeowners must purchase it separately. Swerling says public adjusters frequently encounter policyholders who think their policy covers more than it actually does. Policyholders often don’t carry enough coverage for personal property, she says. However, you should insure your personal property at the same level of coverage at which you insure your home. You need to ask your insurer to increase your policy limit so that this coverage is included.

How long does it take for an insurer to pay a claim?

Unfortunately, some state laws are vague in this area. In South Carolina, insurance companies are granted a “reasonable” amount of time to either deny or payout your claim. Around California, insurers have 40 days to either accept or deny a claim. In North Carolina, insurance companies are required to acknowledge receipt of your claim within 30 days, but there’s no set timeframe on when they must settle. because “each claim is different and the length of time to settle may vary,” the state says.

“In many states, there are either regulations or laws which require an insurance adjuster to at least visit your home within a certain timeframe,” Barry says. “The claims payout requirements are going to differ from state-to-state because insurance is regulated at the state level. If the policyholder is unable to live in their home because of an insured loss, many home insurers will issue a check to the policyholder immediately to pay their additional living expenses — like hotel costs and food — since they do not have access to their home.”

Need more help?

You can always contact us for more information and help about homeowners insurance or anything else.

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1 year ago ·by ·0 comments

Earthquake insurance, Ins & Outs

Earthquake insurance covers damages caused by an earthquake, a sudden and violent shaking of the ground resulting from movement of the earth’s crust. More specifically, earthquake insurance covers damages to your house, personal belongings inside your home, and Additional Living Expenses (ALE) or loss of use, which are the costs to live somewhere else while a policyholder’s area is evacuated or their home is repaired. Insurance coverage for earthquakes is generally not included in standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. It can be added to an existing homeowners insurance policy as an endorsement or purchased as a separate policy.

Roughly 200,000 earthquakes occur each year, the vast majority happening in 42 states considered at risk of earthquakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Most earthquakes are small and unnoticeable, and cause little or no damage, but others can be catastrophic. Some states and areas within them are at a higher risk than others, so earthquake insurance rates and need can vary greatly.

What Earthquake Insurance Covers

Earthquake Insurance pays for reasonable costs that you sustain from the loss of your residence in the event of quake damage. There are three major components: your home (referred to as a dwelling in policies), personal property, and additional living expenses (ALE).

For example, if your home is subject to an earthquake and sustains cracks in the walls, ceiling, foundation or other damages, those would be covered under the dwelling portion of the coverage. There is a deductible and limit to this portion of the coverage. Another portion of earthquake insurance covers your personal belongings inside the impacted home. Personal property claims usually include protection for furniture, electronics, and other belongings. Almost anything can fall within this category, although there is a deductible and limit to this portion of the coverage that is separate from the deductible and limit for the dwelling itself. You might able to have your insurance company reimburse you or pay for a temporary rental home, apartment, hotel room, restaurant meals, or a temporary telephone line. Moving, storage, furniture rental, and laundry can also be covered.

Earthquake Insurance does not cover a number of things consumers might assume it does. For example, damages resulting from a fire caused by an earthquake would fall under a policyholder’s homeowners insurance, not their earthquake insurance. It also does not cover damage to vehicles, fences, pools and things like china and crystal. Damage to your land, such as landscaping or a sinkhole, are also are usually not covered but some policies include “engineering cost” options which these would fall under.

Another important exclusion to earthquake insurance is external water damage. Flooding and tsunamis are common results of earthquakes but their damage does not fall under earthquake insurance. Both of those events would fall under flood insurance, as well as damage caused by a sewer or drain back up that was a result of an earthquake.

How Earthquake Insurance and Claims Work

First of all, you can Contact us to learn more about claims and insurances.

Deductibles and premiums to insure your house against an earthquake can vary greatly. Typically, earthquake insurance covers your dwelling up to the same limit as your homeowners insurance, and policyholders pay a deductible between 10%-20% percent of that limit.

Ex: Here’s an example of how the coverage limits, deductibles, and insurer payouts work together for a person whose home was completely destroyed by an earthquake. It’s just for the dwelling portion of their policy, but the same math and logic extends to the other coverage types.

  • Earthquake insurance policy: Coverage limit: $100,000, deductible of 15%
  • Claim submitted: $150,000
  • Homeowners responsibility = 15% of $150,000 claim = $22,500
  • Leftover claim amount = $150,000 coverage limit – $22,500 deductible = $127,500
  • Insurer pays out up to the coverage limit, dollar for dollar; in this case, that’s the max of $100,000
  • Unpaid claim and homeowner’s responsibility = $150,000 claim – $100,000 insurer payout = $50,000

To file an earthquake insurance claim, policyholders should call their insurance provider and notify them of the event and any visible damages. Even if there is no visible harm, it can be difficult to evaluate the damage earthquakes cause. If you are in an impacted area, it might be worth having your home inspected, especially if it is an old home.

Determining If Earthquake Insurance Is Worth It

1. Check to see if your homeowner’s insurance covers earthquake damage. Most homeowners insurance policies do not extend to earthquakes, but if it does, there is no need to purchase additional insurance.

2. Do you live in a high-risk area for earthquakes?

There are 42 states at risk for earthquakes, out of which 16 have registered magnitude 6 or greater quakes on the Richter scale and are considered high-risk. Hazards are especially high on the west coast, intermountain west, and some regions in central midwest and east coast – including a hot spot where Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Illinois meet. If you live near the San Andreas Fault Line, the New Madrid Seismic Zone, or along the Ramapo Fault Line – to name a few examples – you should consider it. California has earthquakes of significant magnitude more frequently than other states – eight of the 10 most costly U.S. earthquakes in history have occurred in California. It is still worthwhile to ensure against one if you’re outside of the high-risk areas.

States with Highest Risk for Earthquakes

South CarolinaWyoming
Earthquake insurance
Map of earthquake distribution

If you live in a high-risk area where earthquakes are more frequent and more powerful, you should get earthquake insurance. Remember, there is no way to predict how powerful earthquakes will be, or when they will strike. This brings us to our last question.

3. Can you rebuild your life easily after an earthquake? Help determine if you should get earthquake insurance by asking these three questions:

  • Imagine your house was damaged or destroyed by an earthquake. Can you afford the cost of repairing or rebuilding your house entirely?
  • Can you afford to replace the personal belongings in your home after an earthquake?
  • If your home is deemed uninhabitable, can you pay for temporary housing? either due to an area hazard or structural damage?

If you answered “no” to one or more of the above, then you should consider getting earthquake insurance.

Factors Affecting the Cost of Earthquake Insurance

Rates for earthquake coverage in California average $1.75 per $1,000 of coverage. E.G. it would cost you roughly $437 per month if you had to purchase earthquake insurance for a $250,000 home. In some high-risk regions, that might even exceed the price of a homeowners insurance policy. In lower-risk regions, coverage can cost as low as 50 cents per $1,000 of coverage. So for the same $250,000 home, a policyholder in a low-risk region might pay as little as $125.

Regardless of the level of risk, there are things that affect the cost of earthquake insurance premiums outside of geography. The age of your home and the number of stories (including the basement) have an effect on the cost of premiums. Newer homes tend to have better materials and can be designed with earthquakes in mind, so they typically cost less to insure than old home. The taller a home, the more at-risk it is to topple and so it is more expensive to insure.

Homes with wood frames cost less to insure because it is more elastic than other materials. Raised rather than slab foundations also give a home elasticity as its base, which is crucial during an earthquake. Even homes built on sandy soil instead of clay or rock will have lower premiums for the same reason.

Policyholders also can save money by earthquake retrofitting their home. Some of the most common retrofitting to older homes includes bolting the home to the foundation, bracing the chimney and water heater, installing automatic gas cut-off valves and using plywood to strengthen cripple walls. These all work to make the home more stable, and thus less likely to sustain serious damage in the case of tremors.

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1 year ago ·by ·0 comments

Why do you need earthquake insurance

Some people assume earthquakes in the U.S. don’t cause mass destruction, but this is incorrect.

Earthquake insurance
Earthquakes cause damage to city.

In 1994, the Northridge earthquake caused $15.3 billion of insured damages ($25.6 billion in 2017 dollars). This disaster was the 5th costliest disaster of all time.

But homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies may not cover damages. That’s where earthquake insurance comes into play. Here’s what you need to know to help you decide if earthquake insurance is right for you.

SO, why do I need earthquake insurance?

From September 2017 to September 2018, over 4,960 earthquakes of a magnitude of three or more hit North America. Earthquakes can cause destruction to your home. They can damage the foundation of your home, collapse your walls, or even destroy family keepsakes. It all depends on the magnitude of the tremor.

Earthquake Insurance policies may be necessary where you live

Earthquakes in Northern America with a magnitude of three or higher.

If an earthquake causes a fire, a standard policy may pay for some repairs. The policy may also cover additional living expenses if your home is unlivable. But the majority of homeowners and renters insurance policies will not cover direct destruction caused by earthquakes.

What is covered by earthquake insurance?

Earthquake insurance covers most repairs needed. If you have additional structures attached to your home, such as a garage, your policy may cover the damages.

Earthquake insurance may also cover the additional costs to get your building up to code and replace structural damage to your property.

Homeowners or renters insurance does not cover earthquake damage. You need to add it on as an endorsement or written agreement. This may increase the insurance premium.

Sometimes it makes sense to get a separate policy. Speak with your insurance agent and discuss the best option for your insurance needs.

What isn’t covered by earthquake insurance?

Earthquake coverage doesn’t cover all loss or financial burden due to an earthquake.

Exclusions may vary by insurance provider, but here are a few of the most common exclusions:

  • Fire: Your home insurance policy usually covers damage due to fire. Earthquakes can puncture gas lines that can lead to fires.
  • Vehicles: Your auto insurance policy may pay for the damages to your vehicle. If your car is parked in your garage, earthquake insurance will not cover the damages. (for car insurance you can contact us)
  • External water damage: If an earthquake were to cause a flood and water damage, your policy may not pay for repairs. This is what a flood insurance policy is for.
  • Land: Generally, this coverage won’t cover sinkholes or erosion to your property due to an earthquake. There may be an exception if your policy includes Engineering Cost coverage. This coverage will pay a portion of the cost to stabilize the land.
  • Previous damage: If your property has pre-existing damage from an earthquake, your policy will not cover it.
  • Brickwork: If you have any masonry veneer—brickwork, stone, or rock that covers your home, you will want to discuss this before purchasing a policy. Some insurance policies may not cover the costs of masonry veneer. They may evaluate the cost of repairs using sliding materials or stucco.

How much coverage do you need?

Most earthquake insurance policies have limits to their coverage. They may also have sub-limits that limit the amount of coverage you can receive for a certain category. For example, the policy could have a sublimit of $4,000 for computers.

When you ensure your home for the appraisal value or loans value, you will generally have enough to cover the reconstruction of the home.

Dwelling coverage on your homeowners and earthquakes insurance usually have the same limit. Regularly review your policy and make sure your dwelling coverage doesn’t drop below 80% of your home’s value.

If it does drop below 80% of the home’s value, the insurance company may reduce the amount they will pay on a claim.

When determining how much coverage you will need, here are some important questions you should ask yourself:

  • How much would it cost if your home was destroyed? What portion of the damages could you pay?
  • How much would it cost to repair the damages to your household items, such as furniture or personal items? Is this something you could afford to repair?
  • If something happens to your home that makes it unlivable, could you pay for additional accommodations while your home was rebuilt? Will you need a temporary housing option?

Is it worth it to buy earthquake insurance?

According to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS), nearly half of all Americans are at earthquake risk. This number includes 143 million people and 48 states.

Purchasing earthquake insurance could be worth it even if you don’t live near a fault line. As a result of oil drilling, some cities experience an uptick in seismic activity, such as Oklahoma.

If you are considering buying a home in areas that have frequent earthquakes, you may want to entertain purchasing earthquake insurance.

Here are a few questions to consider when determining if earthquake insurance is worth it:

  • Could you afford to pay for temporary housing and additional expenses?
  • If your personal items and furniture are damaged, could you afford to replace it?
  • Could you afford the expenditures for the reconstruction of your home if it was damaged?

Assess your policy needs and determine if you need earthquake insurance to fill in the financial gap.

How do earthquake insurance companies calculate your premium?

Earthquake insurance premiums may vary by location and property characteristics.

Some of the most common factors insurance companies use when determining earthquake insurance premiums include:

  • The age of the home: If you have an older home, your premium could be higher.
  • The location of the home: If your home is located in an earthquake-prone area or a fault line, premiums tend to be higher.
  • The structure of the home: Does your home have a concrete foundation or a slab block foundation? Does your home have a wood frame or brick structure? How many stories is it? Does it have a finished basement? These are all factors that can have an impact on an earthquake insurance premium.
  • The estimated expense of rebuilding the home: There are two options for replacing the contents of the home. You can choose to get a policy that provides replacement value, which will replace the contents of the damage. Another option is to select a policy with a cash value offer that pays a cash value for the contents of home based on age and wear.
  • The deductibles: You can also select a larger deductible to lower your premium. However, if an earthquake were to take place and cause damage, you’ll need to pay the full deductible amount.

There are many factors that will determine your premium. That’s why it’s important to shop around for the best insurance policy.

Another factor to consider is that, as with other types of residential insurance, your earthquake insurance policy is not tax deductible.

Reach out to several insurance companies and get an earthquake insurance quote. This will help with the decision-making process.

How to find the best earthquake insurance

Once you decide you need earthquake insurance, you will want to begin the shopping process. However, it can be a challenge to find the best policy. That’s why it’s important to do research in advance.

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