It’s Almost Boating Season!

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Safety Tips for Boating Season

Every summer, our team gets calls from customers after a fun weekend on the water takes a turn for the worse. Often, these accidents could have been prevented with just a few simple precautions. Here are a few tips we like – courtesy of our partners at Safeco.

Don’t let an accident wreck your fun!

Life Preservers Aren’t Just for Kids. It’s not enough to just have life jackets on board — wear them! In an accident, people rarely have time to reach for a life jacket. This rule applies to adults, not just children: More people in their 30’s die in boating accidents than any other age group. Life vests have come a long way in style. Today, you can even get vests for your water-loving dog!

Watch the Back of the Boat. Carbon monoxide kills in minutes. So tell your passengers where your exhaust pipes are located and turn off your engine when people are in the water, and don’t let passengers “ski” or “teak-surf” by holding on to the back of the boat. Both Washington and Oregon made teak-surfing illegal in the last few years, after several tragic deaths. Carbon monoxide detectors are standard on most new boats; older boats install devices for less than $100.

Alcohol and Boating Don’t Mix. More than 50 percent of drowning’s result from boating incidents involving alcohol. You don’t drink and drive, so don’t boat and drive.

Boats Need TLC Too. When you’re out on the water, make sure your gas tanks are vented and bilges are free of vapors, oil, waste and grease. Carry a charged fire extinguisher. Have your boat’s operating systems checked yearly by a certified marine technician. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons also offer free vessel safety checks.

Experience Counts! The U.S. Coast Guard says that operator errors account for 70 percent of all boating accidents. Make sure anyone who drives your boat is properly trained. You can also earn boat insurance discounts from Safeco and other insurers if you complete a safety course with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons.

Watercraft Insurance
Most home insurance policies have limited coverage for boats. If you own a boat, watercraft insurance is your best bet: It covers theft, damage, and injuries or accidents while you’re on the water, as well as some of your expensive watersports gear.

 

Sites for Information:

Coast Guard: http://www.uscgboating.org
Coast Guard Auxiliary: nws.cgaux.org/
Safeco tips: http://www.safeco.com/insurance-101/consumer-tips/your-boat

Call us at 252-368-4017 or e-mail info@westtownins.com for more info.

The Importance of Renters Insurance

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If you live in a rental home or apartment, chances are you don’t have the proper insurance. Despite the fact that rented homes are more likely to be burglarized than owner-occupied properties, nearly 60 percent of renters don’t have a renters policy.

Why does it matter?

“If you rent a house or apartment and think that your landlord is financially responsible when there is a fire, theft or other catastrophe—think again,” warns the Insurance Information Institute*. “Your landlord may have insurance to protect the building you are living in. But your landlord’s policy won’t replace your personal possessions or pay for your living expenses while the building is being repaired. The only way to protect yourself financially against disasters is to buy a renters insurance policy.”

Renters insurance covers your possessions, liability and additional living expenses. Let’s take a look at these three types of protection:

Possessions

Standard renters insurance protects your personal belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm, water and other disasters listed in the policy. Floods and earthquakes are not covered.

To decide how much insurance to buy, you need to know the value of all your personal possessions—including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, kitchen utensils and even towels and bedding. The easiest way to figure this out is to create a home inventory, a detailed list of all of your personal possessions and their estimated value.

There are two types of renters insurance policies for your possessions:

  • Actual Cash Value pays to replace your possessions minus an amount for depreciation (the reduction in the value of items due to age and use) up to the limit of your policy.
  • Replacement Cost pays the full cost of replacing your possessions (with no deduction for depreciation), up to the limit of your policy. The price of Replacement Cost coverage is about 10 percent more than Actual Cash Value coverage, but can be well worth the additional cost.

Note that a standard renters policy offers only limited coverage for items such as jewelry, silver, furs, etc. If you own property that exceeds these limits, it is recommended that you supplement your policy with a floater. A floater is a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy such as accidental loss.

Liability

Standard renters insurance policies also provide liability protection in the event you or members of your familiar cause injury to others or damage their property.  It also pays for damage your pets cause.

If you are sued, the liability portion of a renters policy may pay for both the cost of defending you in court and for court awards, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. Your policy may also provide No-Fault Medical coverage. If visitors are injured in your home, regardless of fault, you can submit their medical bills directly to your insurance company. You can generally get $1,000 to $5,000 worth of this coverage. It does not however, pay medical bills for your own family or your pets.

Additional Living Expenses

Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is typically included in a renters insurance policy. If the home or apartment you are renting is damaged or destroyed and you need to live elsewhere while it is being repaired or rebuilt, renters insurance will cover your additional living expenses—namely the difference between your regular living expenses and the additional costs incurred by having to live away from your home, such as hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, etc.

Renters insurance is surprisingly affordable and when you bundle with an auto policy, you could save even more!  Need help deciding what coverage is best for you? Contact us today to find out how you can protect your valuables, save money, and give yourself peace of mind.

*Insurance Information Institute, September 30, 2009

Protect Yourself Against Holiday/Winter Fires

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The holiday season is brightened with creative decorations using candles and electric lights, and colder weather offers the chance to finally start cozy fires in unused fireplaces. Unfortunately, winter is also a prime time for fire-related injuries, property damage and even deaths. Trusted Choice® agents can help families prepare for fire risks and hazards that may come during the colder months.

Lighting and Flames

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2014 alone, more than 3,000 civilians died from fires and almost 16,000 were injured. Additionally, 97 firefighters died and almost 66,000 were injured in the same year.

To help families and businesses enjoy the holiday season and protect themselves against winter fire risks, West Town Insurance Agency, a Trusted Choice® agency, offers the following tips to ensure a fire-safe home this winter:

  • COOKING FIRES: Cooking is the number one cause of home fires. Never leave anything cooking unattended and keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
  • CANDLES: Avoid using lit candles. If you do use candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Also keep them out of the reach of children and pets. Never leave a home, or even a room, with unattended candles burning.
  • SMOKE ALARMS: Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test the batteries each month and change them at least once a year.
  • CHIMNEYS: Have the chimney, chimney vent and flue cleaned and inspected annually. Never burn trash or wood that is painted or pressure-treated inside the home. Never put Christmas tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • FUELS: Never use gasoline or other alternative fuels in a kerosene heater.
  • CHRISTMAS TREES: A dry Christmas tree in the house can act as kindling for a fire. A tree should never be placed close to a heat source, including a fireplace, heater, candle or a heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree faster, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Keep fresh trees watered at all times. When a Christmas tree becomes dry, promptly discard it.
  • HOLIDAY LIGHTS: Inspect all decorative lights for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Inspect them again when you take them down. Do not leave lit decorative lights unattended and only use UL approved lighting. Check to see if lights are indoor or outdoor lights before putting them up.
  • OUTLETS: Do not overload outlets and use surge protectors. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord and/or surge protector before plugging the cord into the outlet.
  • THE ELDERLY: Check on older adults and help them inspect their homes and holiday decor. Older people have a higher risk of injury from fires and are also more likely to die in fires or of fire-related injuries than those in younger age groups.

Keeping Warm

There are more ways to keep warm than just using the fireplace. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Never leave fireplaces, woodstoves or space heaters unattended. Always use extreme caution with auxiliary heat sources.
  • Speak with a trusted contractor about doing a winter inspection on your home. You may want to install plastic coating over your windows and doors, a sump pump in your basement, storm windows or consider purchasing special padding or foam to prevent drafts around cracks where air can escape or enter. If a complete storm window upgrade is not in the budget, consider replacing old storm windows on just the northern exposure of your home where it is vulnerable to the cold.
  • Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air during colder months.
  • Have the heating system regularly serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.

West Town Insurance Agency is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies.  We can offer you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs. Our firm adheres to a pledge of performance, committing us to providing excellent customer service. You can visit us online at http://www.westtownins.com or call us at (252) 368-4017.

Condo or Condon’t — Condo Insurance

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You’ve taken the plunge and opted for condo life.  Now that the papers are signed, it seems like everything is taken care of for you—building maintenance, roof repairs, landscaping, insurance, etc.  It’s time to relax because everything is covered, right?

Not quite.  The insurance policy provided by the condo association covers the building structure and common areas, but what about potential structural damage to your unit and covering your belongings?  Without a personal condo insurance policy, you could be left high and dry if your unit floods, is damaged in a fire, etc.

Most condos need two insurance policies.

Master Policy:  Generally provided by your condo association, this policy covers the physical structure of the building, including basement, roof, walls, elevators, lobbies, etc.  Coverage usually includes both physical damage and liability. Get a copy of the policy so you know what’s covered.

Personal Condo Policy:  This will cover additional structural damage to your unit, including cabinets, appliances, personal belongings, and more.  This also covers living expenses if you fall victim to a fire, theft, or other covered disaster.  Many insurance carriers, such as Safeco InsuranceTM, offer enhancements that include personal property protection in your condo insurance policy. Safeco’s Full Value Contents® protection will pay the full replacement cost of your belongings, not just what they are worth today.

Other coverage to consider:

Umbrella Policy:   If someone were to trip and fall inside or near your condo, they could sue both you and the condo association.  Umbrella provides additional layers of liability protection and can protect against lawsuits that target both your current and future earnings.

Flood or Earthquake:  Read the fine print on your policy.  They often won’t cover damage due to these disasters.  Additional coverage may be required if you live in a prone area.

Agents at West Town Insurance Agency can help you determine your coverage needs to make sure you’re properly covered. Contact us to learn more about protecting your property with condominium insurance.

Vehicle-Animal Collisions

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Steering Clear of Wildlife

 America’s roads are full of cars — but often, they’re also full of wildlife. That’s why an estimated 2 million vehicle-animal collisions happen each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Fall and winter constitute the most dangerous periods for these incidents. Visibility is reduced, thanks to the shorter days and inclement weather, it’s migration and mating season for many animals, and also deer hunting season. But, you can still take steps to decrease the chances you’ll hit an animal. Here are five things to do:

  1. Be particularly alert at dawn and dusk. Visibility is low at these times, and animal activity is high.
  2. Keep an eye out for signs. If you’re in an area where wildlife is common, you may see posted warnings.
  3. Watch your speed. Avoiding any kind of collision is easier if you’re travelling at an appropriate rate of speed. And, it’s not just about the speed limit. In certain conditions, driving under the speed limit is more optimal.
  4. See an animal? Look for more. Missing one animal doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods, so to speak. There are probably others around.
  5. Don’t swerve. If possible, don’t make any wild maneuvers. You could end up hitting something worse than an animal — like another car — or going into a ditch or down an embankment. Use your brakes, use your horn, and use your good judgment.

Sometimes, though, collisions just can’t be avoided. If you do hit an animal, here’s what to do next:

  • Call 911 for assistance, especially if there are injuries to you or passengers.
  • Don’t touch the animal. They can be dangerous, even when hurt.
  • Document the accident scene and the damage to your car.
  • Get in touch with your insurance carrier or with us.

Keep in mind that the same attributes that make for safe everyday driving can also help you avoid animal collisions: Remain alert, maintain a safe speed for conditions and avoid distractions. Also, be sure to carry adequate car insurance in case something – animal-related or otherwise – does happen.

Seven Commercial Vehicle Insurance Myths Debunked

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By Ryan Furmick, business auto product manager, Progressive Commercial

Your vehicles are the backbone that keeps your business up and running. But when it comes to the insurance for those vehicles, there may be some misconceptions floating around out there. For example, you might have been told that it’s okay to cancel your vehicle insurance in the off-season, or that all of your drivers are automatically covered by your policy.

To help you get to the facts about commercial auto insurance, we’ve collected some of the more widely-held misconceptions and uncovered the truth about them–along with some tips on how to make sure you have the right coverages for your business.

Myth: It’s cheaper to cancel your insurance if you have a seasonal business.

Fact: Not necessarily. If you cancel your insurance policy, your stored vehicles won’t be protected. A Comprehensive-only policy provides coverage for a business that doesn’t need liability coverage during certain months, but needs basic protection against incidents, such as vandalism, theft, falling tree branches, hail, etc. This is ideal for vehicles that sit for long periods during off-season.

Plus, a Comprehensive-only policy provides continuous insurance which may save you money in the long-run. If you drop your insurance completely, you may pay significantly more to purchase a new policy when your peak season rolls around because most insurance companies ask for proof of continuous coverage to get you the best rate.

Myth: All commercial vehicle insurance companies use their own claims adjusters.

Fact: Most companies use part-time or contract adjusters to handle commercial vehicle claims, which can slow down the time it takes to get your vehicle back on the road and in business. Progressive handles 100 percent of its commercial vehicle insurance claims with its own staff of in-house commercial insurance experts, making sure claims are processed faster than other insurers that outsource this work.

Myth:  You must pay your insurance premium in full up-front.

Fact:  This isn’t always the case.  Some insurance companies offer payment plans that allow your insurance premium to be paid in installments, with very little initial payment.  Keep in mind that you might qualify for a discount if you pay your policy premium in full up-front; however, your carrier or agent may also have other bill plan options available to help you manage your cash flow. Progressive, for example, offers several bill plans, including low initial payments and no interest financing

Myth:  Your employees are covered when they drive your business vehicles.

Fact: Some vehicle insurance companies will only extend coverage to drivers who are specifically named on the policy.  Make sure your insurer allows “permissive use,” which means that all of your drivers are covered as long as they have your permission to operate the vehicle.

Myth: It’s cheaper to buy all of your business insurance products from the same company.

Fact: You need a wide range of coverages to protect your business, from commercial vehicle insurance and general liability to workers’ compensation. While it might be easier to buy all of these products from the same company, you could save big bucks by buying your policies from separate providers. Shop around to find the best deal, or ask one of our agents for quotes from several different companies.

Myth: All insurance companies offer 24/7 service.

Fact: Many insurance companies are only available during regular office hours, which can make filing a claim, adding a vehicle to your policy, and paying bills inconvenient. Before you buy, check with your insurance company to make sure they’re available when you need them.

Myth or Fact

Wonder if one of your perceptions about vehicle insurance is myth or fact? Talk to one of our experienced agents at West Town Insurance Agency.  We can provide answers and help you determine which coverages are right for your business.

 

Ryan Furmick is a business auto product manager for Progressive Commercial.  Progressive, in business since 1937, is a market leader in commercial auto insurance.  For more information on Progressive’s coverages or to find a local independent agent, go to http://www.progressivecommercial.com.

Flood Insurance: How it works

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The National Flood Insurance Program

Historically, flooding has brought damage and destruction to communities across the United States. In order to help alleviate the financial devastation caused by flooding, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968. The NFIP, overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), enables homeowners, business owners, and renters in participating communities to purchase federally backed flood insurance. This insurance is designed to provide an alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing flood damage to buildings and their contents. You can get flood insurance:
• If you live or own a business in a high-risk area (or Special Flood Hazard Area, known
as an SFHA).
• If you live or own a business in a moderate to low-risk area—and possibly at a lower
cost.
• If your home or business has been flooded before.
• If your mortgage company doesn’t require it.

Flood Insurance Basics

All properties are at some risk for flooding. The NFIP is dedicated to making property owners and renters aware of the need for flood insurance—not only among those who live and work in high-risk areas, but those in moderate- to low-risk areas, too. Properties
located outside of the mapped high-risk areas are not exempt from flooding. Their risk, while reduced, is not removed.

Consumers need to know that most homeowners policies do not cover flooding. Only a flood insurance policy will financially protect you from flood damage costs. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, business owners, and renters for both a building and its contents.

Homeowners can insure a home for up to $250,000 and its contents for up to $100,000. Renters can cover their belongings for up to $100,000. Non-residential property owners can insure a building and its contents for up to $500,000 each. The average premium for a
yearly flood insurance policy is about $700 per year.

Flood Insurance Requirements

Residents and business owners who live or work in an SFHA are required to purchase flood insurance if they have acquired a loan from a federally regulated and insured lender, and they must carry the insurance for the life of the loan. Those outside of mapped SFHAs can also purchase flood insurance, and they may be eligible for a lower-cost policy (called a Preferred Risk Policy). The NFIP encourages all residents to learn about their flood risk and to protect themselves with flood insurance.

How to Purchase Flood Insurance

Flood insurance is sold and serviced by insurance agents in more than 22,000 communities nationwide. To purchase a policy, call us at 252-368-4017.

Waiting Period

• There typically is a 30-day waiting period when purchasing a new policy. There are exceptions to the waiting period.  Talk to your agent to see if any of those exceptions apply to your situation.

What’s Insured under Building Property Coverage*

• The insured building and its foundation
• The electrical and plumbing systems
• Central air-conditioning equipment, furnaces, and water heaters
• Refrigerators, cooking stoves, and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
• Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor
• Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases, and cabinets
• Window blinds
• Detached garages (up to 10 percent of building property coverage); detached buildings (other than garages) require a
separate building property policy
• Debris removal

What’s Insured under Personal Property (Contents Coverage)*

• Personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
• Curtains
• Portable and window air-conditioners
• Portable microwave ovens and portable dishwashers
• Carpets not included in building property coverage (see above)
• Clothes washers and dryers (even in a basement)
• Food freezers and the food in them (even in a basement)
• Certain valuable items, such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)

What’s Not Insured Either by Building Property or Personal Property Coverage*

• Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner
• Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers such as stock certificates
• Property and belongings outside of a building, such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences,
seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools
• Living expenses such as temporary housing
• Financial losses caused by business interruption or loss of use of insured property
• Most self-propelled vehicles such as cars, including their parts (see Section IV.5 in your policy)

* This is a partial list of coverage. Refer to the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) for a description and full list of coverage and exclusions.

 

*Source: National Flood Insurance Program – March 2015  www.FloodSmart.gov

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