Even Sump Pumps May Not Protect Your Basement

If you have a basement, you know that it serves many purposes: storage space, playroom, media center, workspace-or all of the above. And whether your basement is simply a place to store seasonal decorations or a professionally finished space for your home theater, it probably contains valuables. If the space were to flood, you’d be less than happy.

Sump pumps

To protect their belongings from water damage, many homeowners install a sump pump. They also take precautions with regular maintenance, and ensure licensed technicians inspect the pipes and systems regularly to protect against leaks and breaks that could cause flooding.

These are wise steps to take. However, they are not fail-safe. Don’t falsely assume you are fully protected because you have a machine to pump water away from your valuables. Even perfectly maintained sump pumps may eventually fail. Pipes wear out. Accidents happen. So when the water you tried to keep out makes its way into your basement, you’re going to need the correct type and amount of insurance to cover the damage.

Standard homeowners policies have limitations

You’ll probably need more than a basic homeowners policy. Many property owners don’t realize that this standard policy typically covers certain types of water damage, but not all. For example, some policies cover burst pipes but not sewer backups. Others may have limits on coverage, offering repairs for structural damage but not replacement of electronics.

The right policy for the right coverage

Fortunately, full coverage is available. Whether you want to insure your drywall only or everything from the kids’ toys to valuable collections, there’s a policy that’s just right for your needs. Discuss with your agent the type of coverage you want. Review the details of what is covered by each policy or rider, and work with him or her to ensure you have the policy you need.

When the next sump pump backup occurs, you’ll be glad you did.

Guess What Holiday Tops the Fire Claims List?

That’s right. Thanksgiving is the number one fire insurance claim day; claims are typically twice that of any other day in November.

Most Thanksgiving fires boil down to cooking error; unattended stovetops and grease fires top the list. But there is good news: most of these fires are preventable, and all of them can be covered by insurance. To create a safe atmosphere for your holiday gathering, take the following steps:

Don’t get distracted: Many Thanksgiving Day fires occur because the cooks get distracted. Family time, football, and festivities pull them away from the kitchen, and the unattended food goes up in flames. Keep a close eye on anything currently “under fire.”

Put a lid on it: If you experience a grease fire, don’t try to put it out with water. While cooking, keep a lid nearby to smother the fire. Slide the lid over the pan, and turn off the element.

Don’t try to fry: Many hosts want to impress their guests with a deep-fried turkey. It might taste good, but it may not be worth the risky process. If you do go this route, fry the turkey outdoors, away from buildings and trees; carefully determine how much oil you need; and never leave it unattended.

Insure your holiday: Homeowners insurance typically covers your home and its contents if they are damaged by fire. If you aren’t sure what your policy covers, or what the limits are, now’s a good time to review your policy with your agent.

And have a safe Thanksgiving!

Avoid Mistakes When Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance is one of the most important financial choices you make in your life, and that means any mistakes can have significant repercussions. Here are some common errors made when purchasing life insurance, and ways to avoid them. It’s worth knowing-for your peace of mind.

Buying life insurance for the wrong reasons. When buying life insurance, most people think about their own financial responsibilities, such as covering their mortgages, their auto loans, and their other debt. Instead, try to think of life insurance from the perspective of the loved ones you would be leaving behind. What do they need to obtain financial stability when you’re gone?

Buying too little life insurance. Typically, people buy too little life insurance because they don’t know how much they really need. This may happen when purchasing life insurance via an automated system (such as an online form that suggests you buy X times your salary in life insurance). To avoid this mistake, it’s advisable to work with a professional, who can consider all factors in assessing your life insurance needs.

Buying the wrong life insurance policy. There are hundreds of life insurance products on the market. You may not understand the many differences, some of which could have a significant impact on your beneficiaries. This can make the purchase of life insurance overwhelming at times.

Most important is to understand the differences between term and whole life insurance policies. Term life is defined by Investopedia as “(providing) a stated benefit upon the death of the policy owner, provided that the death occurs within a specific time period.” Whole life pays a predetermined amount to cover your dependent’s needs however long you live.

When you decide to purchase a life insurance policy, it’s advisable to discuss it with an advisor who understands your unique needs and can guide you through the selection process.

Short-Term Plans Can Fill Coverage Gaps

Are you between health plans? Many are, including those waiting for a job offer or those who, at age 26, are no longer covered under their parents’ plans.

In addition, for a variety of reasons, some may miss open enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage.

A short-term medical plan may offer a solution. Temporary or short-term medical coverage can fill the gap until you are able to obtain coverage through other sources.

Also called term health insurance, a temporary health insurance plan will cover spouses and dependents who meet the plan’s medical requirements. There is a wide range of plans and deductibles available to meet your individual health needs and budget, so it’s important to define these items before you start to look for short-term coverage.

If, for example, you want a plan that includes your current doctors, ensure you know what each plan’s network covers. Also, some plans may cover prescriptions; depending on your individual situation, you may want to check for this option.

One caveat: if you have a preexisting condition, you may not qualify to purchase short-term coverage; medical underwriters will determine your eligibility.

If you qualify, short-term coverage has no waiting period, so you can enroll quickly. Should you drop your coverage, short-term health insurance plans do not impose penalties, and you also can request a refund of unused premiums.

More good news: premiums may be significantly less than those charged for ACA coverage. Also, you may want to check with your insurance agent and your tax advisor to determine whether the short-term coverage you purchase can reduce or eliminate the ACA tax penalty.

As noted, short-term health insurance plans vary widely, so beware of shopping online. At no additional cost to you, you can discuss your needs with a licensed health insurance agent; he or she can help you determine the best plan for your individual situation.

Don’t Let the Clock Run Out: Meet That ACA Deadline

The clock is ticking for those intending to sign up for health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare).

This year’s ACA open enrollment period has been shortened considerably. As a result, agents report a surge of health insurance clients so far this month. If you haven’t already, contact your agent for an appointment. You don’t want to miss this limited window of opportunity.

Although some states have extended the period, generally, open enrollment for 2018 coverage began November 1 and will run until December 15, 2017. As of that date, most people can no longer sign up for ACA plans. Unless you have a reason (defined as a “qualifying event” and including a loss of coverage resulting from job loss or divorce, among others) you’ll still have to pay a penalty for being without health insurance. For 2017, this amounts to 2.5% of total household income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to $2,085. Recent information suggests it will rise in 2018.

While many people feel comfortable navigating the health insurance exchanges, there may not be as much help available when signing up as there was before. Funding has been cut for so-called patient navigator groups, who provided community-based education and information about the ACA, and many have disbanded.

Now it’s even more important than before to work with a licensed health insurance agent. Discover your options and have help selecting the plan that’s right for you. Contact your agent as soon as possible. Don’t miss this year’s short enrollment period.

Specific Industries Need Specific Coverages

One company manufactures basketballs. Another builds the gyms that house the games. These two companies have very different needs. From materials to marketing to management, the businesses vary greatly.

The same is true for their insurance needs. Not every industry faces the same risks. In some fields, liability risk is higher. In others, workers compensation is more important. While it’s vital that all companies carry insurance coverage, not every company needs the same policies. A few are common for most fields, but each business’s unique factors contribute to its individual insurance needs. Here’s a breakdown of the most common needs by industry:

Manufacturing: In manufacturing, liability is high for both consumer safety and worker safety. There are many moving parts, and they must all be covered properly. Manufacturers should focus on property, liability, commercial auto, workers compensation, product recall, equipment failure, and workplace injury insurance.

Office: Companies that are office-based must protect their assets and employees, too. With a big focus on Internet-based services or solutions, these companies have high needs for property, liability, commercial auto, workers compensation, and cybercrime insurance.

Education and nonprofits: Organizations that serve others still need insurance. Business owners in this field should focus on property, liability, commercial auto, workers compensation, counseling liability, and tuition and fees policies.

Home and building services: If you offer contractor services, it’s important to cover the basics of property, liability, commercial auto, and workers compensation insurance. You should also focus on insurance protection for tools and equipment and a policy that covers business crime.

Retail stores: Retailers are at high risk when it comes to property, liability, commercial auto, and workers compensation claims. Coverage in these areas is a must. Retail owners should also obtain coverage for income loss and crime. Business interruption insurance and protection against theft and fraud are essential.

Hospitality: Business professionals in this industry have a unique mix of insurance needs. To properly cover your own needs and those of guests, it’s important to obtain policies that provide business property insurance, business liability insurance, business personal property insurance, and workers compensation insurance.

Restaurants: Your setting poses risks of employee injury, guest injury, and food poisoning, as well as fire or other accidents that result in property damage. For proper protection, focus on restaurant property insurance, restaurant liability insurance, restaurant crime insurance, and workers compensation insurance.

Religious organizations: For your industry, it’s important not only to cover any property involved, but also the leaders. Religious organizations should obtain solid coverage in business property insurance, business liability insurance, business crime insurance, and pastoral professional liability insurance.

Real estate: If you’re in the business of selling real estate, you face specific risks. Ensure you’re covered by policies for business property insurance, business income insurance, and sale and disposal liability insurance.

As noted, each business is unique, even within a specific industry. Speak with your insurance provider to determine the exact needs of your company.

Understanding the Legal Limitations of Liability Claims

Operating a business in our litigious society involves risk. A lost lawsuit can cripple or even bankrupt a company. If a product is deemed unsafe, the manufacturer’s reputation, as well as its finances, are at stake.

Liability coverage

There is insurance coverage available to protect your company. And there are also legal limitations to consumer lawsuits. Obtaining the right insurance coverage, plus having a good understanding of the law, can give you a big edge.

However, don’t rely solely on an understanding of the law. First and foremost, ensure your company is covered. You can’t predict when a lawsuit will occur, and even cases that are dismissed can result in costly legal fees. It’s essential to always have the right liability insurance for your company.

Legal limitations

Legally, consumers have a limited time in which to file a liability claim under the statute of limitations. This varies by state. All states allow at least one year to file, and many have two-year limits. Some provide three years, but few set it higher than four years.

The statute of limitations kicks in when the injury occurs or when the injured person discovers the injury, depending on state law. Some states impose “statutes of repose” that establish a second deadline for discovery.

The law, however, can’t protect you from being sued. So, if you offer products or services to the public, consult with your agent; he or she can help you obtain the exact coverage you need. Fortunately, there’s no statute of limitations on good advice.