These days you can buy nearly anything online, even your insurance.  Although it may seem like you are saving time and money by obtaining a policy online, it may not be so convenient later.

One of the biggest advantages of working with an agent is that they have time to sit down and talk with you, in turn allowing you to establish a one on one relationship.  Just one visit with an agent can prove to be beneficial in respect to knowing what your options are and choosing the best possible coverage that fits your needs.  In addition to this, based on your answers to a few simple questions, an agent is able to find possible discounts that you may be qualified to receive.  Purchasing insurance can sometimes be stressful and an agent can alleviate some of that stress, if not most of it just by understanding and being able to relate to you.  After all, we are human and it’s comforting to know that someone has your best interest at heart.

Ben Franklin said it best, “Time is money”. Although an online agency provides you with a phone number where they can be reached, you may not be able to speak with a live person. I’m sure that we have all experienced the downfalls of 800 numbers and the “customer service” they provide.  One could spend 30 minutes or more being looped from one automated message to the next only to reach a live person who ends up transferring you somewhere else. Being able to reach your agent by phone without having to guess which automated option to choose can save you both time and aggravation.

One final advantage to working with an agent who is local is that they can work with you in regards to your coverage.  They can adjust your limits and/or deductibles without sacrificing the important coverage that you need resulting in a policy that is tailored just for you and your pocketbook.   Online agencies give you the freedom to choose the coverage you want according to what you can afford, but an agent can recommend coverage that will protect you and your family all while keeping you within your budget.

For example, the required liability coverage amounts in the state of Arizona are 15/30/10.  Sure, you may get a huge savings up front, but will you pay for it in the end?  If you cause an accident which results in bodily injury more than $15,000 or property damage more than $10,000, you are financially responsible.  Just to give you an idea, according to the National Safety Council, the average cost of injury in a car accident is $61,600 and the average price of a new vehicle is a tad over $30,000 according to Forbes.  Saving a couple of dollars by reducing coverage could cost you thousands in the long run.

With all of the decisions that you make in life, don’t let choosing the right policy overwhelm you when you have an agent right who is right around the corner.  Make an appointment today by calling us @ 480-288-5900.  We can help you protect what matters most!

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Does your business need umbrella coverage? (Image via FreeFoto)

When it comes to buying the insurance you need to protect your small business, the wide range of options can be confusing and overwhelming.  There are so many different types of policies and different level of coverage that it isn’t always easy to know if you have all the coverage you need, if you are underinsured, or if you have policies that provide coverage for risks you don’t face.  One of the most common questions small business owners ask about the coverage they need is about umbrella coverage and whether or not they need it.

Surprisingly, although it is the type of insurance almost everyone and almost every business should have, it is not as well understood as the other common coverage types like auto, liability, and worker’s comp.  This can have serious, long lasting consequences for business owners of all types.  To understand why Umbrella coverage is so critical to small businesses, you need to first understand what it is and what it does.

Umbrella insurance is a kind of liability coverage.  These policies extend, like an umbrella, over most of your other liability policies like your business auto and your general liability.  If there is a claim that breaches the upper limit of one of your base policies, the Umbrella policy provides coverage over and above that limit.  For example, if you or one of your employees were at fault in an auto accident where your company’s car caused damage in excess of the $50,000 property damage limit on your business auto policy, your company would be responsible for paying every dollar over that limit out of pocket.  The insurance company pays $50,000, you pay the rest.   Now, if your business has a $5M Umbrella policy, the insurance company for your base policy would pay for any damages up to $50,000 and then the Umbrella carrier would pay for any damages from $50,001 to $5M.  To break this down, having that Umbrella policy in place could mean the difference between your company paying nothing and your company being responsible for millions of dollars of damages.

When looked at from this perspective, it is clear why many businesses must have an Umbrella policy in place to protect the viability of the business.  In order to determine if your business needs this type of coverage, here are some things to consider.

If your business requires you or any employee to operate a motor vehicle as part of doing business, you must have an umbrella policy over your business auto policy.  Car accidents can lead to incredibly expensive liability lawsuits and even minor accidents can result in medical bills that exceed your business auto policy limits.  Don’t take the risk; if your business has auto coverage, you need an umbrella policy.

If your business has assets, you need umbrella coverage.  It doesn’t take much these days for someone to file a lawsuit and even if you win, the cost of defending yourself can wipe out your available cash and even your businesses assets.  If you lose, the situation can quickly compromise your entire business.  Umbrella coverage protects you from the high costs associated with getting sued.

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Flood Insurance

Does your insurance cover you in the event of a flood? Image via freefotouk on Flickr

The majority of homeowner’s policies written today provide three types of coverage: damage to or loss of your house, damage to or loss of your possessions, and protection from liability claims.  These standard coverages protect you from losses resulting from most natural causes including fire, wind storms which includes hurricanes and tornados, lightning, hail, and the weight of ice and snow.  It also covers losses that are not caused by Mother Nature like riots, civil unrest, aircraft collision or other falling objects, theft, and vandalism.  The personal liability coverage included in most standard policies is enough to protect against small to medium sized liabilityclaims against you.

Most homeowner’s policies are fairly comprehensive in the type of protection they provide, which leads many homeowner’s to assume that any loss to their house or property and any lawsuit against them will be covered by the insurance company.  However, a quick review of the list of natural disasters above makes it clear that this is a bad assumption since floods and earthquakes are not covered by a standard policy.

The best way to make sure you know exactly what your policy covers and what it does not, is to read your policy from cover to cover.  If you find anything that you thought was covered that is not, you may be able to increase your coverage by adding a rider or extension to your existing policy or by purchasing an additional policy.

Here are some of the most common types of extra coverage homeowners add to their policies.

1.     Scheduled Items

One of the misconceptions about property replacement under a homeowner’s policy is that there are no limits on individual items. You assume that if everything you own is worth less than your policy limit, everything will be covered and replaced.  However, most policies include specific limits on high value items like jewelry, furs, expensive collections, and even computer equipment.  If the value of your property in one of the specified areas is higher than the limit listed in your policy, you need to add a higher limit or schedule those items for additional coverage.

2.     Special Coverage for Specific Threats

As mentioned above, there are two specific natural threats that are almost always excluded from a standard homeowner’s policy, floodsand earthquakes.

If you live in a flood zone, you will need to secure flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program separately from your standard homeowner’s policy.

When it comes to earthquakes, many homeowners’ don’t feel they need extra coverage because it is unlikely that an earthquake would damage their home.  This is especially true if they live outside of the most seismically active states, Alaska, Hawaii, and California.  If you think it will never happen to you, consider this.  There were 43,458 earthquakes in the U.S. between 2001 and 2011 according to theUnited States Geological Survey (USGS).  Even if you take out the quakes in the three states above, roughly 90% based on earthquake data for the last 40 years, 4,348 quakes remain.  This equates to more than one quake for each day of the 10 year timeframe from 2001 to 2011.   If you believe that earthquakes never happen where you live, you may want to take a look at the stats; there are only 8 states that have not experienced a single earthquake since 1974.

3.     Umbrella Coverage

Umbrella coverage is a separate policy that goes over your homeowner’s policy and provides an extra layer of protection in the event of a substantial loss.  For homeowners, this type of coverage can protect your assets, including your house, if someone sues you.  There is a limit, indicated in your policy, on how much your homeowner’s policy will pay out for personal liability losses.  If someone is hurt or killed on your property and you are found liable, that standard limit may not be enough to cover any judgment or settlement resulting from a lawsuit.  This type of coverage is one of the most important things you can add to your existing homeowner’s policy because of the broad protection it provides.

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