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As an Arvada resident, if you have ever been in an auto accident you know it can be a stressful situation.  We hope you will find the following list of of steps to take if you are ever involved in an auto accident useful:

Be Prepared

  • Carry a set of warning triangles or emergency flares in your trunk to help alert traffic.
  • Carry a card in your glove compartment that contains emergency contact information and any necessary medical information.
  • Also, it’s not a bad idea to keep a pen and paper along with a disposable camera in the car.

Immediately After an Accident

  • Check for injuries; call an ambulance when in doubt.
  • If accident is minor, move cars out of traffic.
  • Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights and use warning triangles or flares for safety.
  • Call the police.
  • Notify your insurance agent immediately.

Other Important Tips

  • Do not sign any document unless it’s for the police.
  • Make immediate notes about the accident, including specific damages to all vehicles involved, witness information.  If possible use a disposable camera or camera in your cell phone to document everything.
  • If the name on an auto registration is different than the driver, jot down the relationship.
  • State only the facts, and limit your discussion of the accident to the police.
  • If possible, don’t leave the accident scene before the police and other drivers do.

 

Last week we talked about going through the claims process on your homeowners insurance.   This week we are going to share some tips and tricks to avoid any potential scams after you file your insurance claim.
Hiring a Contractor

  1. Get multiple bids before you sign any contracts.
  2. Avoid contractors that encourage you to spend a lot on temporary repairs.  While temporary repairs are covered by your policy, they can erode the limit available for permanent repairs.
  3. Investigate the background of any contractor before you hire them.  Ask for referrals and check prior jobs.  Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to check with the state contractor’s board and Better Business Bureau to make sure the contractor hasn’t received any complaints.
  4. Avoid contractors that ask for significant sums of money before they perform any work.  This is a common fraud scheme where the contractor will take the money and never perform the work.

Public Adjusters and Attorneys

  1. Be cautious in hiring a public adjuster.  It’s also a good idea to be extremely cautious with any adjuster going door-to-door soliciting business after a catastrophe.
  2. Before hiring an attorney or adjuster, try working with our office and your assigned adjuster first.  State laws require the insurance company to be forthright and responsive.   If they are not, then it might be prudent to bring an attorney.
  3. Verify the credentials of the person you are looking to hire, especially if your claim is unique or complicated.  Ask for referrals and verify their background just as you would a contractor.
  4. It’s important to keep in mind that you will have to pay a public adjuster 15 percent and an attorney as much as 30 percent of your total claim settlement.

 

This is the second part of our posts on the top ways Arvada and Denver residents can save money on their auto insurance.
If you would like to view part 1, please click here.
4.  Watch Your Credit
Most Insurance companies now use credit as one of the primary factors in determining your rate.  The higher your credit score, the less you pay in premium. They do this because insurance company studies actually show a strong correlation between your credit score and the likelihood of filing a claim.
For those people who may have had a hardship that negatively affected their credit, some insurance companies will consider a life event exception.  Make sure you talk to your agent if you’ve had an event in your life that would qualify.
Also, it is worth noting there are some states that actually limit the way Insurance companies can use this score, and a few other states have even banned their use.
 
5. Pay the Policy in Full
Many insurance companies now offer significant discounts (10 – 15% off the total premium) if you pay for the policy in full rather than dividing it up into monthly payments.  Also, by paying the policy in full you avoid monthly service charges that add $7 – $15 to each bill.
When you take those two things into account, you can save a few hundred dollars by simply paying for the entire policy upfront.
Most agents are used to just providing their clients with a monthly payment option, so be sure to ask what kind of discount you receive when you pay for the policy in full.  Also, ask your agent how much of an installment fee is charged on each bill if you decide to go with the monthly payment option.
Summary
By applying each one of the tips we have provided above, you will save hundreds of dollars on your policy this year and for years to come without having to sacrifice any of the coverages necessary to protect you and your family.
Sources:
A Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 2 June 2011, www.naic.org
Consumer Alert from the Utah Insurance Department: Tips for Saving Money on Auto Insurance, Utah Insurance Department, www.insurance.utah.gov/docs/ConsumerAlert7-25.pdf
Reed, Philip, How to Save Money on Your Car Insurance, Edmunds, 30 April 2009, http://www.edmunds.com/auto-insurance/how-to-save-money-on-car-insurance.html
Which Cars Cost More or Less to Insure, MSN Money, http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/InsureYourCar/which-cars-cost-more-or-less-to-insure.aspx

A lot of reports discuss saving money on your auto insurance.  The problem with many of those reports is the suggestions provided only translate into a savings of $20 or so a year.
We want to provide you with five tips that will translate into saving hundreds of dollars on your policy.
The best part is our suggestions don’t have anything to do with eliminating coverages or decreasing limits.  
1. When Purchasing a Car, Factor in the Cost of the Insurance
While many people intuitively know insurance on an SUV is more expensive than on a sedan, very few actually understand the factors that make it more expensive.
Here are the vehicle factors that will drive (no pun intended) up the price of your auto insurance:

  • Vehicles with a lot of horsepower
  • Vehicles with high repair costs
  • Vehicles with less protection devices
  • Vehicles with higher damage costs in accidents
  • Vehicles with high theft rates
  • Vehicles that cause higher amounts of damage to other vehicles

Also, remember that just because a vehicle has a high safety rating does not mean it carries a low insurance cost.   The vehicle could still be very expensive to repair or susceptible to theft.
Insurance companies will also take into account the average demographics for a particular vehicle.  For example, minivans are often driven by moms who tend to avoid driving at peak hours, at night, or aggressively; so they tend to be cheaper to insure than some standard sedans.
Taking into account all of the factors listed above, here are the Top 10 least expensive vehicles to insure:

  1. Mazda Tribute I
  2. Honda Odyssey LX
  3. Chrysler Town & Country LX
  4. Jeep Wrangler X
  5. Dodge Grand Caravan SE
  6. Toyota Sienna CE
  7. Hyundai Tucson GLS
  8. Kia Sportage LX
  9. Hyundai Santa Fe GLS
  10. Jeep Patriot Sport

2.  Ask About Discounts
Most carriers have a number of discounts available to qualifying drivers.  It is always good practice to confirm with your agent that you are receiving the maximum number of discounts available.
Here are some of the most common discounts:

  • Multiple vehicles on the same policy
  • Auto and Home Insurance with the same company
  • Participation in driver education/safety courses
  • Good student driver under age 25
  • Mature driver (between 50 and 65 years of age)
  • Being a member of a particular association or employer
  • Airbags or other safety equipment
  • Anti-theft devices
  • Car Tracking Systems (LoJack)

3. Keep a Clean Driving Record.  
Insurance company statistics show that drivers with just one violation are much more likely to be involved in an accident at some point in the future.
Therefore, drivers with clean records will typically have much lower rates and qualify for more discounts on their auto insurance than drivers with even just a small fender bender or speeding ticket.
If you live in the Arvada or Denver Metro area and would like to see how we can help you save on your auto insurance, please give our office a call.

In part one of our posts on dog bites and insurance we shared some statistics on just how bad dog bites have become.
In part two today we are going to explain how our Arvada and Denver Metro clients can protect themselves from these types of claims and how your homeowners insurance policy will respond.

Dog Bite Liability

According to the Insurance Information Institute, there are three types of laws regarding dog owner liability:
One Bite Rule – In some states, a dog’s first biting incident doesn’t mean an owner will be held liable.  However, any further incidents will usually go punished, especially with dogs that show repeated aggressive behavior.  (Many states are doing away with this law and holding owners liable for all incidents.)
Dog Bite Statute – This law states that dog owners are liable for all injuries or damages resulting from a dog bite, and provocation of the dog is not considered.
Negligence Laws – Some states have ruled that dog owners are liable only if they are careless in controlling their dog.  For example, if a neighbor is bitten by an unrestrained dog when the owner is present will usually be found negligent.  However, for dogs who attack trespassers, the owners are not usually held liable.

Punishment

When dog owners are found liable bites, they typically must reimburse the injured party for medical bills along with lost wages, property damage, and even pain and suffering related to the event.

Insurance Implications

A proper homeowners insurance policy will typically respond to most dog bite claims (as long as the policy is written properly).   And since, most homeowners insurance policies provide anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage, the policy will usually provide enough protection from most claims.
Most insurance companies are willing to provide liability coverage for dog owners (depending upon the breed), but they will usually charge additional premium for it.  Most insurance policies, though, will exclude specific dog breeds that violent or vicious tendencies.   It’s important to work with your Arvada and Denver Metro insurance agent to ensure your policy provides the proper insurance coverage and limits for your dog.

Safety Tips

To help prevent any lawsuits, we also recommend the following safety tips:
 

  • Purchase a muzzle for the dog to wear when introducing it to new people. Many pet stores sell muzzles that flex enough for the dog to drink water, breathe or vomit, so they are not dangerous to the animal.
  • Keep the dog confined while guests are present. Dogs can stay in crates, other rooms or outdoors.
  • Never leave the dog alone with visitors’ children. Dogs think differently than humans and may bite fearful children or timid adults.
  • Enroll the dog in professional behavior training and socialization classes.
  • Have the dog spayed or neutered to reduce hormones related to aggression.

We often receive questions in regards to dog bites and homeowners insurance.  It’s an important enough topic that we thought we should put together a couple of blog posts to outline just how serious dog bites have become and how your insurance policy will respond.
Today’s post will focus on some statistics showing how prevalent dog bites have become and the lawsuit damages associated with dog bites.   Our next post will then show you how your insurance policy will respond and what you can do to ensure you have the right coverage.

By The Numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year.  And over half of those victims are children.
A USA Today article from May of last year stated that State Farm Insurance alone paid out over $109 million in dog bite related claims in 2011 alone!  And the Insurance Information Institute estimates that a total of $479 million in claims were paid out across the industry in that same year.
Over one-third of all liability claims paid out by insurance companies from dog bites with the average claim amount now totaling almost $30,000!
And since total claims are rising by over 10% every year, our Arvada and Denver dog owners should be concerned with how their insurance policy will react in the event of a claim.
In our next post we will break down how your homeowners insurance policy will help protect you.
 

Now that the weather is finally changing here in Arvada, it’s time to take the bicycles out of the garage and up into the mountains.
One of the questions we frequently receive is in regards to properly insuring a bicycle if it is lost, damaged, or destroyed.  So we thought it would be good to spend a few paragraphs explaining the best way to cover your bicycle with insurance.
Most bicycles are covered as property on your homeowners policy policy under the contents limit and the policy will provide coverage whether the bike is stolen or destroyed on your property, in your vehicle, or at another premises.  One of the things to pay close attention to, though, is the limit of insurance you have for the bike.   Some policies will only provide a sublimit of insurance of $1,000 to $1,500, which might not be adequate for an expensive racing bike that may have cost you thousands of dollars.  If you have an expensive, customized, or unique we recommend speaking with your agent about purchasing some additional coverage for the bike.
What about if you hit somebody or destroy property while riding your bike?  Will insurance pick that up as well?   Typically, your homeowners policy will also protect you for any damage or injuries you cause while riding your bike up to the limits of liability on your policy.   Every insurance policy is different, though, so it’s important you speak to your agent about how your specific policy would respond in the event of a bicycle-related claim.
 

An adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer you a certain sum of money for repairs. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount. It is not the final payment.
If you’re offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later on, if you find other damage, you can “reopen” the claim and file for an additional amount. Most policies require claims to be filed within one year from the date of disaster.
When both the structure of your home and personal belongings are damaged, you generally receive two separate checks from your insurance company, one for each category of damage. You should also receive a separate check for additional living expenses that you incur while your home is being renovated.

Structure

If you have a mortgage on your house, the check for repairs will generally be made out to both you and the mortgage lender. As a condition of granting a mortgage, lenders usually require that they are named in the homeowner’s policy and that they are a party to any insurance payments related to the structure.
The lender gets equal rights to the insurance check to ensure that the necessary repairs are made to the property in which it has a significant financial interest. This means that the mortgage company or bank will have to endorse the check. Lenders generally put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed. You should show the mortgage lender your contractor’s bid and let the lender know how much the contractor wants up front to start the job. Your mortgage company may want to inspect the finished job before releasing the funds for payment to the contractor.
Some construction firms require you to sign a form that allows your insurance company to pay the firm directly. Make certain that you’re completely satisfied with the repair work and that the job has been completed before you let the insurance company make the final payment. Remember, you won’t receive a check for the repair job. The construction firm will bill your insurance company directly and attach the “direction to pay” form you signed.
Bank regulators have guidelines for lenders to follow after a major disaster. If you have any questions contact your state banking department.

Personal belongings

The first step is to add up the cost of everything inside your home that has been damaged in the disaster. Now is the time to review your personal inventory, to help you remember the things you may have lost. If you don’t have an inventory, look for photographs or videotapes that picture the damaged areas. For expensive items, you may also contact your bank or credit card company for proof of purchase. When making your list, don’t forget items that may be damaged in out of the way places such as the attic or tops of closets.
If you have a replacement cost policy, you will be reimbursed for the cost of buying new items. An actual cash value policy will reimburse you for the cost of the items minus depreciation. Regardless of which type of policy you have, the first check will be calculated on a cash value basis. Most insurance companies will require you to purchase the damaged item before they will reimburse you for its full replacement cost.
If you have financed your home, your bank may have received a check for both repairs to your home and your possessions. If you don’t get a separate check from your insurance company for your belongings, ask the lender to send the money to you immediately.
If you have a replacement cost policy, you may be required to buy replacements for items damaged before your insurance company will compensate you. Make sure to keep receipts as proof of purchase.
If you decide not to replace some items, in most cases you’ll be paid the depreciated or actual cash value of the items that were damaged. You don’t have to decide what to do immediately.
Your insurance company will generally allow you several months from the date of the cash value payment to replace the item. Ask your agent how many months you are allowed before you must replace your personal possessions. Some insurance companies supply lists of vendors that can help replace your property.

Additional living expenses

Your check for additional living expenses should be made out to you and not your lender. This money has nothing to do with repairs to your home and you may have difficulty depositing or cashing the check if you can’t get the mortgage lender’s signature. This money is designed to cover your expenses for hotels, car rentals and other expenses you may incur while your home is being fixed.

Options for rebuilding

If your home has been destroyed, you have several options:

  • Rebuild your home on the same site.
    The amount of money you’ll have to rebuild your home depends on both the type of policy you bought and the dollar limit specified on the first “declarations” page of your policy. Generally, you are entitled to the replacement cost of your former home, providing that you spend that amount of money on the home you rebuild. Remember, your insurance policy will pay to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster. It won’t pay to build a bigger or more expensive house. A similar rule applies to repairs.
  • Decide not to rebuild or to rebuild in a different location.
    The amount you’ll get from your insurer will be determined by your policy, state law, and what the courts have ruled on this matter. If you decide not to rebuild, review your policy and ask your insurance agent or company representative what the settlement amount will be.

Shopping for a Safe Car 

If you are like most people shopping for a new car, safety ranks high among things you’re looking for. Every new car must meet certain federal safety standards, but that doesn’t mean that all cars are equally safe. There are still important safety differences, and some vehicles are safer than others. Many automakers offer safety features beyond the required federal minimums. The following safety features should be considered when purchasing a car:

  1. Crashworthiness
    These features reduce the risk of death or serious injury when a crash occurs. You can get a rating of crashworthiness from our Auto Crash Test tool.
  2. Vehicle structural design
    A good structural design has a strong occupant compartment, known as the safety cage, as well as front and rear ends designed to buckle and bend in a crash to absorb the force of the crash. These crush zones should keep damage away from the safety cage because once the cage starts to collapse, the likelihood of injury increases rapidly.
  3. Vehicle size and weight
    The laws of physics dictate that larger and heavier cars are safer than lighter and smaller ones. Small cars have twice as many occupant deaths each year as large cars. In crashes involving smaller and larger vehicles, heavier vehicles drive lighter ones backwards, decreasing the forces inside the heavier car and increasing them in the lighter car.
  4. Restraint systems
    Belts, airbags and head restraints all work together with a vehicle’s structure to protect people in serious crashes. Lap/shoulder belts hold you in place, reducing the chance you’ll slam into something hard or get ejected from the crashing vehicle. If you aren’t belted, you’ll continue moving forward until something suddenly stops you—often a hard interior surface that will cause injuries.

    • Shoulder belts are on inertia reels that allow upper body movement during normal driving, but lock during hard braking or in a crash. Belt webbing is stored on the reel, and during a frontal crash any slack in the webbing can allow some forward movement of your upper body. Then you could strike the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. This problem is addressed in some cars with belt crash tensioners that activate early in a collision to reel in belt slack and prevent some of the forward movement.
    • Airbags and lap/shoulder belts together are very effective. However in some circumstances, a deploying airbag can cause serious injuries and even death. The greatest risk of injury occurs when you are on top of, or very close to an airbag when it starts to inflate. Choose a car that allows you to reach the gas and brake pedals comfortably without sitting too close to the steering wheel. Some cars offer telescoping steering column adjustments that may help.
    • Side airbags are designed principally to protect your chest. They may also keep your head from hitting interior or intruding structures.
    • Head restraints are required in the front seats of all new passenger cars to keep your head from being snapped back, injuring your neck in a rear-end crash. But there are big differences among head restraints. Some are adjustable, and others are fixed. They also vary in height and how far they are set back from the head. To prevent neck injury, a head restraint has to be directly behind and close to the back of your head. Look for cars that have this type of restraint. If the restraints are adjustable, make sure they can be locked into place. Some don’t lock, so they can get pushed down in a crash.
  5. Anti-lock brakes
    When you brake hard with conventional brakes, the wheels may lock and cause skidding and a lack of control. Anti-lock brakes pump brakes automatically many times a second to prevent lockup and allow you to keep control of the car. If you were trained to brake gently on slippery roads or pump your brakes to avoid a skid, you may have to unlearn these habits and use hard, continuous pressure to activate your antilock brakes. Anti-lock brakes may help you keep steering control, but they won’t necessarily help you stop more quickly.
  6. Daytime running lights
    Daytime running lights are activated by the ignition switch. They are typically high-beam headlights at reduced intensity or low-beam lights at full or reduced power. By increasing the contrast between a vehicle and its backgrounds and making the vehicles more visible to oncoming drivers, these lights can prevent daytime accidents.
  7. On the road experience
    Other design characteristics can influence injury risk on the road. Some small utility vehicles and pickups are prone to rolling over. “High performance” cars typically have higher-than-average death rates because drivers are tempted to use excessive speed. Combining a young driver and a high-performance car can be particularly dangerous.

Will my insurance cover renting a car after an accident?

Most drivers don’t ever really think about their auto insurance policy until they are involved in an accident and to begin filing a claim with their insurance company to help pay for the vehicle’s repairs, and even a rental car.
Unfortunately, many drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance policy doesn’t cover the cost of a rental car while their vehicle is being repaired.   And since cars are in the repair shop an average of two weeks after an accident, it can cost as much as $500 to rent a vehicle during that timeframe.  However, for drivers with rental reimbursement insurance coverage, the cost of renting the vehicle is little or nothing.
Rental reimbursement coverage is one of the cheapest coverage options you can select for your insurance policy.  At a cost of only $15 to $30 per year, we recommend that all of our clients add this coverage to their auto insurance policy.
This becomes especially handy in situations where you were not at fault in an accident, but the other party’s auto insurance company is still working out the claim details.   Rather than wait for the rental car approval, you can rent a vehicle on your policy and have the other party’s insurance