Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between Insured Value on my home insurance policy, and the market value of my home?

Home insurance is concerned with putting your home back the way it was – the cost of repairing or replacing the home.  Depending upon your area, the market value may be significantly higher or lower.  If the market is low in your area, homes are likely selling for less than what they would cost to build.  In such a situation, the insured value of your home will be higher than the market value. Why? Because if your home is destroyed, you still need to build it back. The opposite can also be true, depending upon where you live.

The main idea is to insure your home for what it would cost to replace your home, so replacement cost is your goal.  If you don’t know, ask a qualified contractor for an estimate.  We can certainly provide guidelines, but nothing beats a contractor’s expertise.

Am I penalized if I underinsure my home?

The goal of insurance is to put your home back the way it was before the claim occurred. Insurance policies are built upon the assumption the coverage is adequate to do so. Thus, an underinsured penalty can occur if enough coverage was not purchased. There are allowances since most penalties do not kick in until you are underinsured by more than 20%. Check your policy to be sure or ask your agent for details. Reference these posts for more information:

Will my homeowners insurance policy cover my lost jewelry or other valuable collections?

Standard homeowners policies provide limited coverage for theft of jewelry (not misplacement).  A typical amount we see is $1,500. Misplacing jewelry is not usually covered by basic homeowners insurance contracts. However, it is easy to obtain additional coverage for theft or misplacement by purchasing “valuable items” coverage.  Cost of such coverage is reasonable, easy to obtain, and involves providing an inventory of the valuable items.  Appraisals are sometimes required.

As an aside, a few homeowners policies provide “all risk” coverage that would cover misplacement of jewelry. Thus, the best answer is to check your policy or ask your agent regarding restrictions or limitations.

Does my homeowners policy cover the food in the refrigerator or freezer that was lost during a power outage?

Probably not, but most companies offer this coverage as an option for an additional charge. The optional coverage usually covers power outages as well as failure of the appliance. A typical coverage limit is $500 with no (or a small) deductible.

Lightning hit a tree in my yard. Will my homeowners policy pay to cut it down?

There are several possible scenarios here.  If the tree is still standing, no coverage will be afforded to remove the tree.  If the tree has fallen directly on the home or other covered buildings, most policies will cover the reasonable cost to remove it from the house.  It will not, however, pay to remove the entire tree.  If the tree falls in the yard and not on any covered property, only nominal coverage, if any, is provided.  The idea is that the insurance company insures the home, not the trees around it.

My tree fell on my neighbor’s house, does my homeowners policy cover the damage?

Your policy only provides coverage for your neighbor’s damage if you were careless or negligent in some way. If a tree on your property creates a hazard because it is damaged or diseased, it is your responsibility to remove it within a reasonable time. If you fail to remove the tree and it falls on your neighbor’s house, your homeowners liability insurance will cover the neighbor’s damage because you were negligent in maintaining your property. If a healthy tree falls on your neighbor’s home during a storm, your policy does not cover the damage.  There was no negligence, therefore no liability.  Such coverage is to be provided by your neighbor’s own homeowners insurance policy, subject to limitations.

Why do I have to buy uninsured motorist insurance for all the drivers who don’t carry insurance?

State laws vary, but most require all automobile insurance policies include uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage protects you against uninsured vehicles, not the uninsured vehicles themselves. If you are injured or have damage to your auto which is caused by an uninsured driver, your own policy covers your vehicle repairs, medical costs, and other related expenses. Your insurance company will then take action to collect against the responsible driver.

If I write my homeowners and auto insurance with the same company, will I get a reduction in my rate?

Usually.  Most insurance companies offer an account credit when they insure your home and automobiles. Check with your agent to see if your company provides this discount.  However, there are situations when it is more beneficial to have coverages separate.  This is a great question for your local insurance agent since they know the best combinations in your area.

I don’t have many assets, why do I need higher liability limits?

Things are easy to fix.  People aren’t.  Having your child knocking over a shelf in a grocery store isn’t much of a concern, but should that shelf fall on someone and injure them, you could be held liable.  We live in a lawsuit-conscious society and personal liability exposure is higher than ever.  Whether you have substantial assets or not, your are still at risk from large damage settlements. If you lose a lawsuit, your wages can be garnished, taking years to pay damages in full.

Does my auto policy cover me when I rent a vehicle?

If the car is rented in your personal name within the US or its territories, your auto policy provides the same coverage on the rented automobile that you carry on your own car, including deductibles.

However, there may be other expenses in the rental contract that your policy does not cover such as the loss of the rental fee or a service charge. For example, while the car is being repaired, the rental company is not able to rent it out, therefore losing rental fees.  Most rental companies will require reimbursement of such expense per the contract.  Some credit cards, should you rent the vehicle on that card, will cover this contingency.  Check with your credit card company directly.  The lesson here is the only way to be sure that you have maximum coverage is to purchase the optional insurance offered by the rental agency.

Motor homes or commercial types of vehicles such as moving trucks are not covered by your personal policy.  Contact your insurance agent.

If I let someone else drive my car and they have an accident, whose policy covers, mine or the drivers?

Anyone who has permission to drive your car is covered under your insurance policy. Your policy pays first. The driver’s policy may provide secondary coverage.

Will my auto policy pay for a rental vehicle if my car breaks down?

No.  The rental reimbursement coverage on your auto policy does not cover mechanical breakdown.  It will pay the cost to rent a comparable replacement vehicle, up to the policy limit, if your auto is undrivable because of damage covered under the comprehensive or collision sections of your policy.  If you do not have comprehensive or collision coverage, no rental reimbursement will apply.  Most policies do not offer rental reimbursement automatically.  This coverage is an option, available for a small additional premium.

Why do I need to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance?

This policy is used to comply with the Workers’ Compensation coverage required by state law. Under this requirement, an employee can be compensated if an injury or occupational disease arises out of and in the course of employment. Benefits are payable for medical costs, temporary or permanent disability including lost wages, vocational rehabilitation, or death. Specific requirements and benefits can vary from state to state.

In Virginia, the Workers Compensation Act applies to employers with 3 or more regular employees, whether full- or part-time. “Covered employees” include corporate officers as well as managing members of limited liability companies. (EXCEPTION: Officers who reject coverage AND are not paid salary or wages on a regular basis at an agreed upon amount, OR non-compensated officers or employees of tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporations, are NOT considered employees under the Act.) Sole proprietors, partners and non-managing members of limited liability companies are considered to be owners, not employees, and thus are not covered under the Act unless they voluntarily elect in
writing to be included.

Employees of uninsured subcontractors may be considered your employees. Farmers must provide coverage if they have 3 or more full-time employees. Domestic, casual or farm workers are not otherwise covered automatically but employers may arrange Workers’ Compensation coverage for their benefit.

Just what is covered by General Liability insurance?

This coverage protects against claims arising out of an accident which results in alleged bodily injury, personal injury or property damage which you neither expected nor intended. It includes protection related to premises you own and/or occupy, operations or services you render or arrange for others to render on your behalf (e.g., a subcontractor), and products you sell. Coverage payments can include judgments, attorney’s fees, court costs, or other related expenses.

Occurrence General Liability coverage applies to a claim that occurs during the policy period regardless of when the claim is made against you. This is the most common policy form. Claims Made General Liability coverage applies only to a claim that occurs and is reported or first made against you during the same policy period. This latter policy form is normally used only for Professional Liability (Errors and Omissions) coverages rather than General Liability coverages.

What are adequate liability limits for my business?

This question has received considerable attention over the years by insurance professionals and legal advisors without resulting in definite answers. The question is somewhat akin to posing the query, “How high is up?” Nevertheless, there are some perspectives which may be helpful in determining the amount of liability insurance limits to purchase. These include:

  • Attempt to ascertain the largest judgment rendered against your type of business within the judicial area in which you are located or in which you sell your product or service.
  • Examine your balance sheet (assets v. liabilities) to determine what you have to lose and thus need to protect. Remember, that liability losses resulting in judgments or out-of-court settlements generally have no respect for wealth or lack of it.
  • Similar to setting liability limits based on your balance sheet, use your income statement for the same purpose.
  • Consider liability limits you can afford. Unfortunately, this approach does not provide a quiet night’s sleep for most business owners.  The next verdict could exceed your limits several times over.
  • Review all business contracts you have signed, including premises and/or equipment leases, for their specific liability limit requirements.  Most contracts have them.  This can help determine the minimum liability limits you should carry.
  • Consider what level of liability protection is being carried by other area businesses and competitors. While we cannot disclose confidential client information, our agency is a good source of general information of this nature because of the number and cross-section of businesses we insure.

All of this causes one to ask what a business owner can do to determine proper liability limits if the listed techniques are filled with uncertainty. There is no single acceptable method. It requires an examination of the legal climate, the type of exposures presented, and all of the previously suggested parameters.

Nevertheless, we suggest you carry at least a minimum limit of $1,000,000 each occurrence for bodily injury, personal injury and property damage combined, preferably supplemented by an umbrella liability limit of at least $1,000,000 each occurrence.

What is cyber liability insurance?
How many participants does it take to purchase group health insurance?

Within certain participation guidelines, 2 participants is the minimum number required to set up a group health policy.

What are the participation requirements to fulfill the group health insurance requirement?

Generally, 75% is the industry norm.  Within populations under, a higher participation level may be required.

If we switch group insurance carriers, will we have to serve another waiting period for pre-existing conditions?

Due to the new federal legislation, credit for previous coverage may be extended to group participants. For specific cases, check with your agent or refer to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 for guidelines.

I don’t know how much life insurance I need? How much life insurance is enough?

The answer to this question should consider current assets, current income, life expectancy, debts, and liabilities, to name a few.  Many of these items are unknown or difficult to define.  However, there are means to examine your current situation, make assumptions, and calculate an answer.  To guide you through this process, we suggest consulting a qualified life insurance agent.

What kind of information do I need to provide an agent to work on life or health insurance coverage for me?

An agent can prepare a quote with your answers to only a few questions.  They will need to know your age, some lifestyle detail, current medical conditions, and where you reside.  At that point, if you desire to put the coverage in place, a detailed application be required which health records and a medical exam.