Will My Home Insurance Policy Cover My Dog’s Breed?

As dog owners, we love our furry little companions more than anything. Unfortunately, some insurance companies don’t if your pooch falls under certain breed categories. There are a number of breeds that many insurance companies are hesitant to offer coverage for because statistics show that they are more likely to bite and cause injuries. This, of course, can cause problems when it comes time to buy home insurance. Be prepared to work with an independent agent who can shop multiple carriers if you own a full-breed or mix of one of these breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Rottweilers
  3. Doberman Pinschers
  4. Great Danes
  5. Perro de Presa Canarios
  6. Chow Chows
  7. German Shepherds
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malamutes
  10. Siberian Husky
  11. Bull Mastiffs
  12. Wolf Hybrids

What to Keep In Mind

The average claim payout for dog bites is $30,000. If you’re found responsible for rehabilitation costs and/or lost wages, not to mention your legal fees, you could quickly find yourself in a lot of financial trouble. Your homeowners policy should include liability coverage, typically starting somewhere around $100,000. If you own a dog that made it on this list, ask your provider how much more it would cost to upgrade that amount to $200,000 or more.

On that same note, some carriers may require you to purchase an umbrella policy if your dog is labeled as an aggressive breed or has a bite history. Whether it is required or not, you may want to consider this additional policy because it raises your liability coverage close to the $1 million mark! Plus, it could come in handy for any incident that occurs on your property, not just dog bites.

Prevention

Every dog is a liability, regardless of its breed. Reduce the likelihood of a dog-related lawsuit by socializing & training your dog early on, playing non-aggressive games, and being aware of your dog’s behavior and removing it from situations it finds stressful. As always, make sure to spay/neuter your dog, heavily supervise it around small children, and keep it securely fenced or on a leash when outside.

If you own one of these breeds, it is going to be more difficult to procure home insurance, especially at a good rate. If you’re in the market for a new home right now, contact our agency to get ahead of the curve and find a company that will insure your home (and your pup) at an affordable rate!

How Can Your Business Be Prepared for a Fire?

A fire at your business might seem improbable, but it is not impossible. Hopefully, you’ve insured your equipment and space, but even so a fire can be a major setback and, even worse, can seriously endanger everyone present. Fire prevention and safety should be practiced and encouraged in the workplace, and there are specific measures that can be taken for everyone’s safety. It is vital that everyone in the workplace is familiar with your fire plan, and there is equipment that every business should have handy.

What is your fire plan?

While the equipment and materials in your business may be costly, nothing is more important than everyone’s individual safety. That means that your first priority should be educating each employee in fire safety and devise an escape plan in the event of a fire. Any decent sized building should have an evacuation plan displayed for everyone to see. Of course, never include elevators in these plans.

Several local governments can arrange for a fire marshall to visit your business and instruct everyone. Sometimes, if a marshall cannot visit, a building’s property manager can assess the structure and inform everyone of the best ways to escape in the event of a fire.

Equipment

Almost every fire code that you’ll ever be subjected to will require at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your business. It’s never a bad idea to have more though, since they can put out small fires quickly and save valuable equipment from being damaged. Fire blankets are not always required, but having one on hand could save someone’s life.

Most laws will also demand that you have a sprinkler system and smoke detectors in place. Make sure to test the batteries in your smoke detectors routinely, since they can be your first indication of danger. In some scenarios, particle detectors capable of alerting you of other chemicals may be a wise investment. Lastly, having a first-aid kit in a known location, like the kitchen, can be instrumental in treating any injuries caused in a small fire.

Training

The correct response to a fire is the best way to combat it. Make sure your employees know to call 911 in case of a fire and remain calm. At least one fire drill should be conducted each year, just to be positive that everyone knows how to exit the building properly.

If there are no employees trained in first aid, then hosting a workshop or class could prove valuable. When going over fire safety, teach everyone how to operate a fire extinguisher. Lastly, make sure that all of your employees know how to deal with different types of fires, such as grease and electrical fires.

Fires are unpredictable and can cause a lot of damage, so being ready to prevent or handle one can save lives and money. For more tips and advice, contact one of our agents. If you aren’t insured in case of a fire, we can help with that as well. Preparation is key to fire safety!

Smoke Detector Best Practices

Every homeowner knows that smoke detectors are crucial, but do we really utilize them to the fullest degree?

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms. This number is drastically lower than the number of deaths caused by home fires before smoke alarms were required in every home, but it is still too high considering the advanced technology we have to prevent fire deaths today!

Keep reading to learn some basic tips about smoke alarm usage and routines to keep your home safe for years to come.

Place Smoke Detectors Strategically

Unsurprisingly, most deadly house fires occur when everyone is asleep. If your family sleeps behind closed doors, it is important to install a separate smoke alarm in every bedroom. This ensures that no one sleeps through the sound of more distant alarms or the smell of smoke. If anyone in your family is hard of hearing, you should install alarms that also flash bright light so they can be alerted visually.

To avoid nuisance alarms from normal smoke and steam, don’t install the detector in close proximity to your stove or your bathroom. At the same time, avoid placing them by windows, doors, and air ducts, which can keep hem too ventilated and interfere with their operation. Depending on how much control you have over the installation process, opt for interconnected fire alarms that trigger the entire network to go off when one sensor is triggered.

Keep A Maintenance Schedule

If we said that checking our smoke detectors was easy to remember in our busy day-to-day lives, we’d be lying. That’s why it’s best to make it easy for yourself and just set a reminder on your mobile device reminding you to test your alarm system once a month just to make sure everything is in working order.

Batteries in your smoke detector need to be changed once per year. This not only ensures that your alarm should always have battery power, but it will prevent the dreaded “chirping” noise that comes when smoke detectors have dying batteries.

Every 10 years, the smoke alarms themselves should be replaced. An easy way to keep track of this is to keep a sticker on the back of the battery cover with the replacement date written on it, so you’re reminded each month of when you’ll need to replace your smoke detectors.

Make A Fire Escape Plan

Have you developed and practiced a home fire escape plan with your family? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t – only 26% of families have, according to the American Red Cross. Regardless, this is an important tip to take from the home fire prevention experts. All a smoke detector does is alert you to the presence of a fire. From there, it is up to you to get out of your home safely. Panic can seriously impede safety measures and waste precious minutes in an emergency, so it is imperative for your family to have a plan in place and know exactly what to do if your home catches fire.

Potentially Save on Home Insurance

Some types of smoke detectors can reduce your home insurance premium cost. This mostly applies to central monitoring systems that connect to emergency services and alert the authorities when the system is triggered. These are particularly useful for homeowners who travel a lot, but they are a great safety option for anyone to have. However, these systems cost more than the average smoke detector. Ask your independent agent if a home insurance discount could help offset the cost of a central monitoring system!

How to Lower Your Teen’s Auto Premiums

Giving your teenagers spending money already hurts your wallet, but just wait until they start driving and you have to pay for insurance every month. New drivers are the most accident-prone demographic in terms of driving, and insurers know that. Since teenagers are four times as likely to crash as an adult driver, their rates are incredibly high. Even with a clean record, it will cost several hundred dollars at the least to insure a teenager. Adding them your own insurance policy is certainly more cost effective, but even then, teenagers can still cost you thousands of dollars annually just to drive. Thankfully, there are several discounts available for teenagers that can make premiums more affordable.

Good Student Discounts

If you have a kid in middle school, encourage them to strive for the Honor Roll now. Most insurance agencies will offer a significant discount if your teenager has received good grades in recent years. Typically, as long as your teenager has maintained a B average or better, you can get an academic discount. Some agencies will even allow this discount to continue through college or until they turn 25. It may be up to your teenager to secure this cash saver, but in some cases, their premiums can drop by 25%!

Defensive Driving Courses

If you remember being 16, then you probably remember thinking that you were invincible or a safe enough driver. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes something as extreme as an accident to make new drivers realize the dangers they face on the road. Rather than waiting for a fender bender or worse, enroll your teenager in a safe driving course. Not only can you receive a discount on the insurance, but it may be intense enough to make your teenager reconsider texting while driving.

Safe Vehicles

Unless your teenager really deserves a treat, odds are that their first car will not be a new car. Used cars are cheaper and cost less to insure, but if it’s too old, there may be an issue. It can vary by insurer, but cars made after 1994 or so are generally considered safer, which means that the amount you pay monthly is less. There is, however, a balance in choosing cars. Since newer cars feature cameras for backing up and automatic brakes, they are safer than older cars which means you can possibly get more discounts. It comes down to whether or not you trust your teenager more with a 2003 Camry or a brand new Volkswagen.

As insurance experts, we can help you choose what the best course of action is and what discounts your teen may be able to receive. Contact us today and see how much you can save!

Term and Whole Life Insurance: Explained

Life insurance is nobody’s favorite subject of conversation. Most people associate life insurance with expensive monthly premiums and, more importantly, their own mortality. For that reason, many people aren’t sure how life insurance works, or what their options are. However, thinking about your life insurance policy is very important! It is intended to lessen the impact of death on your loved ones, and it doesn’t even have to be expensive. Below, we discuss the major differences between term life insurance and whole life insurance to help you determine which one may be best for you.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is a simpler, cheaper type of life insurance that’s a great way to institute a policy without having to cut too deep into monthly expenses. Term life is purchased for a specific time period, anywhere from 5 to 30 years. Death benefits will only be paid if the death occurs during the term of the policy. More often than not, term life will become much more expensive as you age. After the age of 50, the cost of term life quickly creeps up to the cost of permanent life insurance, so you should look into getting it sooner rather than later. Also, these policies can also be converted into whole life insurance in some cases, which is another option if you feel like it may be the time to consider whole life.

Whole Life

Term life insurance covers you for a set period of time, while whole life does exactly what you’d expect: it covers you for your whole life! Not only does it provide death benefits when the time comes, but it also provides a cash value accumulation that builds during the life of the policy. This means that you can actually see payoffs of your premium at a certain time, sort of similar to a retirement policy with your employer. It usually takes anywhere from 12 to 15 years to build up a considerable cash value. This cash value is based on how much the return on investment is worth.

Acquiring a whole life policy does usually mean a medical examination, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, with a higher premium, whole life insurance can be purchased without a health examination. This type of insurance works great for estate planning, and although it is initially more expensive, you can potentially save money through whole life insurance in the long run. Be sure to see what works best for your finances by speaking with a risk advisor today.

Choosing What’s Right

There are many different factors to take into account when deciding what kind of life insurance is right for you. Before speaking with a risk advisor, you should consider several factors:

  • Your current age
  • State of health
  • Financial needs (for yourself and family)
  • Plans for funeral and death expenses
  • Children’s ages
  • Long-term health expenses
  • Mortgage and current debts
  • Retirement plan
  • Future monetary needs of your children
  • Your estate
  • Your thoughts on paying a full term policy and never receiving the value of it

Although that may be a long list, factoring in as much as possible is important because life insurance is a big investment. Give our agency a call today so we can help find you the best policy for you and your family.

How to Get Your Home Ready For a Safe Halloween

Witches and ghouls are scary for the kiddos, but as a homeowner, you know that the real terror of Halloween lies in vandalism, lawsuits, and liability claims. Use these tips to make your home and belongings safe on Halloween night, both for you and your spooky visitors.

Be All In or All Out

Trick-or-treaters expect to get candy when they knock on your door, but it is understandable that you may not be in the spirit of the holiday or have the finances to supply candy every year.

When it comes to Halloween, it’s in your best interest to stick to your plan. If you give out candy, have your porch light on and be prepared for the foot traffic! If you’re not giving out candy, turn out the main lights and make it appear as if you aren’t home to the best of your ability. Greeting trick-or-treaters with no candy is awkward, and in some cases, it can lead to the worst kind of person being vindictive and coming back later to vandalize your home. It sounds bad, but it happens more than you’d think!

Hide Your Car

Halloween is a notorious night for automobile shenanigans. From toilet paper and water balloons, to eggs, paint, and bologna, vandals can pull “pranks” that wind up doing real damage to your car. If you’re not out and about on Halloween night, keep your car locked in the garage or at least park it behind the house.

Keep Your Pets Inside

Our furry friends don’t understand the spirit of Halloween. All they know is that masked figures keep ringing the doorbell to their home, and it is understandable that they get scared and defensive. No matter how sweet your pup usually is, he may still turn into Cujo on Halloween if he’s under enough stress! Don’t put your home insurance policy’s liability limit to the test over a dog bite or other, unintentional injury; keep your dogs safely in the house until the night’s excitement is over.

Light Up the Night…

Little trick-or-treaters are so excited to get candy, they tend to run up the driveway to your home. Make sure your porch and walkway are well lit and unobstructed so they don’t stumble on their way to the door. Not only could a fall ruin their fun night, but a real injury could come back to haunt you as a homeowner. Play it safe and keep it bright outside!

…But Don’t Use the Candles

Those glowing Jack-o-lanterns are super spooky and cool, but costumes, straw, and paper decorations are all very flammable. Use battery operated tea lights instead of real candles so your Jack-o-lantern only looks dangerous.

Avoiding and Reacting to Automobile Fires

Imagine you are driving down the interstate when black smoke starts rolling out from under your hood. Do you have any idea what’s going on? How are you going to react? Automobile fires are pretty rare compared to other types of highway incidents, so most people don’t know what to expect or how to handle the situation when it happens to them. However, car fires are extremely dangerous, so it’s important to avoid panic by knowing how to react if it occurs.

Reasons Why It Might Be On Fire

Car fires can be caused by a variety of things. Fuel leakages, overheating, short circuits, and car accidents can all cause fires. If you frequently see fluids collecting underneath your car in parking lots, or if fuses in your car’s electrical system are getting blown out from old or loose wiring, it’s a good idea to get your car serviced right away. Older cars and vehicles that aren’t very well maintained are at a higher risk of catching on fire, so make sure you get your car checked regularly and address any issues you notice.

What to Do If Your Car Catches Fire

  • Turn your signal on and immediately move to the safest place to stop.
  • Put the car in park and turn off the ignition. Stopping the fuel flow and electric current is very important to prevent the fire from getting worse.
  • Get every person out of the car, and don’t allow anyone to go back to retrieve personal items.
  • Move at least 100 feet away from the burning vehicle to avoid the flames and toxic fumes and also keep bystanders back.
  • Call 911.
  • Alert oncoming traffic if possible.

What NOT to Do

Anytime drivers pull off the road to address a car issue, their first instinct is to look under the hood and try to determine the problem. If your car is smoking or you see flames, there’s no need to check it out – you know what the issue is here! Opening the hood sucks in a gust of air that actually fans the flames and exacerbates the problem. You can find out the cause of the fire later.

Also, don’t try to put the fire out yourself. Car fires can escalate quickly, and explosions are always a risk. It simply isn’t worth putting yourself in danger just to attempt putting out the flames. Let your insurance take care of the loss.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to call your insurance agent. After you’ve dialed 911 and authorities are on their way, give your agent a call from the scene if you can. The earlier you get in touch with your agent, the sooner he or she can start working on your claim and get you back on the road safely!

4 Steps to Protect Backseat Passengers

Studies show that the safest place for your child to ride in the car is the backseat. However, simply riding in the backseat isn’t enough to ensure your passengers’ safety. Certain precautions should still be taken for both children and adults riding in the back to reduce their risks of injury or death.

Aim For Buying a Newer Vehicle

When you’re in the market for a vehicle, keep backseat passengers in mind. The average car on the road is 11 years old, but there have been many advancements in car safety just within the last decade. Some particularly old cars aren’t even equipped with headrests, which are key to protecting passengers’ necks from whiplash. However, many newer models come with safety features just for the backseat, like side airbags and inflatable seat belts. Buying used is the budget-friendly way to go, but try to get a car that is at least fewer than 10 years old if you can.

Secure the Kids

Being equipped with the proper restraints is the most important factor in child passenger safety. Determine whether your child needs a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt based on his or her age, weight, and height. Not sure what to trust? Use this handy page from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine which restraints are best for protecting your child passenger.

Put Them In The Middle

Believe it or not, the middle seat is the safest seat in the entire car. It offers the most distance from impact during a collision, so the middle passenger is more likely to be protected from a crash in any direction. Just make sure the passenger is wearing a 3-point seatbelt. If a lap belt is the only option, they’re better off sitting in a window seat.

No Distracted Driving!

This one seems so obvious, but distracted driving is still the number one cause of car accidents in the U.S. It is always valuable to remember that activities like talking on the phone, texting, reading, grooming, or eating compromise the safety of you and your passengers.

Remember these tips when you’re buying a car, picking out a carseat for a child, or just running an errand with a friend. The backseat is known as the “safe seat,” but there are definitely measures you can take to make it even safer and protect the ones you love. Make sure you’re covered in case of an accident or injury with the right insurance plans! Talk to one of our agents today about your coverage options.

Group Life vs. An Individual Policy: Which One Is Right For You?

Life insurance is one of those things that most people don’t give much thought to until later in life, although we do recommend younger people explore their life insurance options early. Either way, many people are only on the life insurance policy offered by their place of work. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? Well, that depends. Take a look at some pros and cons of both types below.

Group Life Pros & Cons

The base life insurance you receive from your employer is typically 1-3 times the amount of your salary at no cost to you! This is a good cushion for anyone, and a good life insurance plan period if you’re single with no major payments or debts for your beneficiaries to pick up. You also don’t have to go through a medical exam or provide medical records to qualify for coverage on a group life policy, so any preexisting medical conditions won’t count against your premium.

However, if you have dependents, your needs will be drastically different. They may need to live on the money from your policy, or pay off your mortgage or student loans, along with using it to pay for a new health insurance plan if theirs was previously covered by your employer. Suddenly, that 1-3 years salary doesn’t stretch very far. In order to cover your beneficiaries properly with your group plan, you would need to pay an additional premium through payroll deduction.

With group plans, your premiums tend to be higher because no one on the plan is required to undergo a medical exam. The contract also has to be renewed every 5 years, so it is likely that they will be renewed for higher rates. Lastly, if you ever leave your place of employment, you can’t take your life insurance policy with you. This leaves you and your beneficiaries completely unprotected until you find another job.

It is also important to remember that life insurance is a benefit, not a guarantee. If your company needs to make budget cuts, your life insurance policy could be done away with — even if you’ve been paying for additional coverage.

Individual Policy Pros & Cons

An individual policy is just that — it is written for you based on your health and financial goals. Unlike a group policy, you have control over your individual plan and can take it with you wherever you go. You can insure your life for much more than 1-3 times your yearly salary, and know that the monthly premium will be locked in for the duration of the policy so there won’t be any surprise rate increases.

You will need to pass a medical exam to qualify, but whether or not this is a pro or con depends entirely on your health. If you are a healthy individual with no preexisting medical conditions, you can benefit from a lower premium. Even if your end premium is higher than what you would pay for additional coverage through your company, your beneficiaries will be insured for much more money in the event of your passing, and you can rest easy knowing that your policy isn’t going anywhere.

Barring a small percentage of single people with no major payments or debts, the average person will need to pay some kind of premium in order to be properly covered by their life insurance plan. Independent agents understand the ins and outs of these policies and are here to help you determine what works. Contact yours today to get started on a life insurance plan that is right for you.

The Insurance Benefits of Impact Resistant Roofing

Scientific and architectural advancements are making homes safer and more durable than ever. For instance, houses are made with flame retardant materials that lower the chances of the home burning to its foundation. Roofs are no exception to these advancements, and choosing the right roof for your home might actually save you money on your home insurance costs.

Meet the Impact Resistant Roof

Impact resistant roofs (IRR’s) are specially designed and tested to be impact resistant for exposure to hailstones, strong winds, and flying debris. They can be made of asphalt, metal, plastics, rubber, and recycled materials. Impact resistant roofs are rated as class 1, 2, 3, or 4 (1 being the weakest, 4 being the strongest) based on the test results. The cost of impact-resistant roofs varies based on the type you buy.

Why You’ll Want One

Impact-resistant roofs are simply more durable, no matter where your home is located. They are made to resist damages from threats that can shred conventional shingles and tear them away. Homeowners with impact-resistant roofs save money on repairs and insurance claims after big storms come through, not to mention their homes are kept safer. To top it off, most IRR’s come with a 30-50 year limited product warranty. They are more expensive than traditional roofs, but when you weigh the outcome, IRR’s are an investment worth making.

Having an IRR Could Mean Lower Premiums

When your roof is less susceptible to serious damages, your likelihood of filing a claim is smaller. For this reason, several states offer an insurance benefit for opting for an impact resistant roof. This is especially true in states where weather patterns are likely to bring severe hailstorms. Ask your agent if you can save on your homeowner’s insurance premium by upgrading to an impact-resistant roof.

Your roof is one of your home’s most important elements, so you’ll want to check it for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. If you aren’t sure what kind of shape your roof is in, schedule a professional roof inspection. If you know you’re in the market to replace your roof, contact one of our agents today to see how an IRR can help you save on insurance costs!