WHAT IS PROPERTY/CASUALTY INSURANCE?
Property and casualty insurance is insurance that protects against property losses to your business, home or car and/or against legal liability that may result from injury or damage to the property of others. This type of insurance can protect a person or a business with an interest in the insured physical property against losses. Let’s examine some of the things to look for in the different types of property/casualty insurance.
- Coverage: An auto insurance policy typically covers you and your spouse, relatives who live in your home and other licensed drivers to whom you give permission to drive your car. The policy is “package protection”, which provides coverage for both bodily injury and property damage liability as well as physical damage to your vehicle. This damage can include both that caused by the collision and damage cause by things “other than collision”, such as flood, fire, wind, hail, etc.
- Common Types of Coverage: Auto insurance typically covers personal injury (PIP), medical payments, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist, auto rental, emergency road assistance and other damages to your car not caused by a collision such as flood, fire and vandalism. Other coverage is available, too.
- Deductible: The deductible is the amount that you will pay out of pocket when you file a claim. Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower your premiums.
- Insurance Rates: How much you pay will depends on many factors, including your driving record, the value of your vehicle, where you drive, how much you drive, your marital status, your desired coverage, your age, sex and even your credit history
Our homes and their contents are our greatest assets. That is why it is so imperative that we protect their value. Homeowners insurance helps us achieve that goal. Let’s break down the different concepts that encompass this area.
- Coverage: Homeowners insurance typically covers the dwelling (the structure), personal property and contents, and some forms of personal liability. The policy may cover direct and consequential loss resulting from damage to the property itself, loss or damage to personal property, and liability for unintentional acts arising out of the non-business, non-automobile activities of the insured and members of that insured’s household.
Types of Insurance: Are you ready to decipher the codes? There are six standard forms of homeowners insurance containing personal property coverage
HO 00 02 (Homeowners 2, Broad Form) : This form of insurance provides broad form coverage on your dwelling and other structures and insures against loss of use. To be specific, the broad form of coverage insures against windstorm, hail, aircraft, riot, vandalism, vehicles, volcanic, explosion, smoke, fire, lightening and theft , plus rupture of a system, artificially generated electricity, falling objects and freezing of plumbing.
HO 00 03 (Homeowners 3, Special Form): This “special form” insurance offers coverage for more causes of loss than the HO 00 02.
HO 00 04 (Homewoners 4, Contents Broad Form): This is a renter’s policy. Even if you don’t own your home, you should consider having this type of insurance. Your landlord’s insurance will not cover damage to your personal property or liability against you. Think about how much it will cost to replace all of your furniture, clothing etc. If you feel this isn’t a loss you could bear, consider buying this type of insurance.
HO 00 05 (Homeowners 5, Comprehensive Form) : This type of policy essentially combines the HO 00 03 form with the HO 00 05 endorsement into one comprehensive form to provide open perils coverage on personal property in addition to the dwelling, other structures and loss of use. The HO 00 05 rider can only be combined with an HO 00 03 policy.
HO 00 06 (Homeowners 6, Unit Owners Form) : This is a condominium policy. This type of policy is different from a homeowners insurance policy in that it is designed for individuals who live in a unit structure owned and insured by a condo association, townhouse association cooperative, homeowner’s association, planned community or other similar type of organization. The insurance the association provides only covers the outside dwelling, not the contents of your unit, so it’s important to consider purchasing this type of insurance to protect against personal property losses and liability
HO 00 08 (Homeowners 8, Modified Coverage Form) : This form of insurance settles losses on an actual cash value basis and is usually only used to cover older structures where the cost of replacement far exceeds the value of the structure. This type of insurance is offered when insurers are not willing to offer HO 00 02, 03 or 05 coverage because there may be an incentive to intentionally destroy the structure. Now let’s take a look at what is usually not covered under these types of insurance. These are known as “exclusions”, but you may be able to get coverage in these areas with a rider or umbrella policy. Your individual policy may exclude more items than listed below, so consult with your agent.
Ordinance or Law: If the dwelling does not comply with local building codes, the insurer will not be liable for the cost of construction to bring the structure up to code.
Earth Movements : This includes two distinct types of earth movements, including shifting earth (landslides) in the foundation of a home and earthquakes. These may be considered two separate coverage areas, so being covered for one may not mean being covered for the other.
Water Damage : This includes flood, water backing up in sewers or drains, water seeping through basement walls etc.
Neglect : This excludes losses resulting from direct or indirect neglect and failure to use reasonable means to protect property.
War : Damage caused by any type of war or nuclear weapons attack.
Nuclear Hazard : This defined as any nuclear reaction, radiation, or radioactive contamination, (whether controlled or uncontrolled). Any loss caused by nuclear hazard as it is defined will not be considered loss caused by fire, explosion, or smoke, even if these perils are specifically named in your policy.
Intentional Loss: Any damage intentionally done to one’s own property is excluded for obvious reasons.
As with any type of insurance, it is critical that you read the insurance policy so that you know exactly what it will cover. The amount of coverage you should consider should be based on the replacement cost value of your home or property. Replacement costs on one’s dwelling provides that if, at the time of loss, the amount of insurance covers at least 80% of the replacement cost of the dwelling, the loss will be paid on a replacement cost basis. Keep in mind that this still leaves the homeowner on the hook for the remaining 20% in the event of a total loss.
Oftentimes, the bank or institution holding your mortgage will require that you maintain a specific amount of coverage. However, even if your home is paid off, you should still consider having the appropriate amount of insurance protection, which might include coverage for physical damage as well as liability protection for the owners.
Depending on where you live and given the unpredictability of nature, specifically the weather, you should consider other types of insurance to protect your property. For example:
Flood insurance is becoming more and more popular as places that normally would not experience floods are suddenly finding themselves suffering losses as a result of extreme weather. To the surprise of many of these homeowners, their regular homeowners insurance policy did not cover against flood. This is a separate type of coverage that you will have to purchase if you consider flood to be a risk for your business or property.
If you live in a flood-prone area and you have a mortgage, the lender will require you to purchase adequate coverage to insure the property. If you own the property, you can elect to self-insure and not buy insurance, but you have to remember that any damage caused as a result of flooding will be your financial responsibility. The cost of this kind of damage can run from the hundreds to thousands of dollars, so it’s worth considering purchasing the insurance to transfer this risk, especially, if you live in a flood zone. If you don’t live in a flood-prone area, you may qualify for a discounted rate, which means a lower premium for you.
Like flood insurance, windstorm insurance is a separate type of coverage that protects your home or business against wind damage. Wind damage may result from items flying and destroying your property as a result of a hurricane, hail, snow, sand or dust.Coverage for windstorm may be limited in states prone to hurricane and tornadoes. If you live in a state like Florida, Louisiana, Texas or the Carolinas, which are frequently barraged by tropical storms or hurricanes, this should be an integral part of your asset protection planning. Consult with your agent or broker for more details on this type of coverage.
Umbrella Liability Policies
Umbrella insurance helps you protect your assets if you are sued. If you are worried that the liability insurance coverage you have through your auto or property policies is still not enough, you can consider adding an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy is basically an additional policy that kicks in when your other insurance policies have reached their limits. The amount of coverage and types of coverage offered by these policies varies, as will their premiums. You can tag on an umbrella policy to your homeowners or auto insurance policy to protect your assets against liability or lawsuits.
Certain exclusions apply, including:
- Owned or leased aircraft or watercraft
- Business pursuits
- Professional services
- Any act committed by the insured with the intent to cause personal injury or property damage
Umbrella policies are fairly inexpensive to acquire, and coverage ranges from $1 million to $ 5 million or more. You might expect to pay between $200 to $500 for $1 million in coverage. There is no specific “umbrella deductible“. Because an umbrella policy is written on top of any auto or personal property coverage you have, the benefit does not kick in until you satisfy the deductible on those policies and have used up the coverage from either the auto or property policy.
Homeowners insurance is a critical component of anyone’s risk management planning. There may always be a threat of property loss from fire, theft or bad weather. Having an accurate home inventory of your possessions can make settlement claims a lot easier and faster. Insurance agents suggest that all homeowners keep receipts, descriptions, photos or video of the items they own. Once your list and evidence of ownership is itemized, store this in a safety deposit box or other safe location outside of your home, along with a copy of your policy.
WHAT DOES AN AUTO POLICY CONSIST OF?
Your auto policy may include six coverages. Each coverage is priced separately.
1. Bodily Injury Liability
This coverage applies to injuries you, the designated driver or policyholder cause to someone else. You and family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else’s car with their permission.
It’s very important to have enough liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Definitely consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect assets such as your home and savings.
2. Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car. At its broadest, PIP can cover medical payments, lost wages and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs.
3. Property Damage Liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property. Usually, this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car hit.
This coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes. Collision coverage is generally sold with a deductible of $250 to $1,000-the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company. If they are successful, you’ll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals such as birds or deer.
Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $300 deductible, though you may want to opt for a higher deductible as a way of lowering your premium.
Comprehensive insurance will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. Some companies offer glass coverage with or without a deductible.
States do not require that you purchase collision or comprehensive coverage, but if you have a car loan, your lender may insist you carry it until your loan is paid off.
WHAT ARE MY HEALTH INSURANCE CHOICES?
There are essentially two types of health insurance plans: indemnity plans (fee-for services) or managed care plans. The differences include the choice of providers, out-of-pocket costs for covered services and how bills are paid. There is no one “best” plan for everyone. Some plans are better than others for your or your family’s health care needs, but no one plan will pay for all the costs associated with your medical care.
Here is a brief description of the types of available health insurance plans: Indemnity Plans; Managed Care Options; and Government-sponsored Health Insurance
A. Indemnity Plans
Cafeteria/Flexible Spending Plans are employer-sponsored plans that allow the employee to design his or her own employee benefit package, choosing between one or more employee benefits and cash. Several types of Flexible Benefits or Cafeteria Plans are used by employers, including a pre-tax conversion plan, multiple option pre-tax conversion plan, medical plans plus flexible spending accounts, and employer credit cafeteria plans. For more information about these choices, contact your employee benefits department.
Indemnity Health Plans allow you to choose your health care providers. You can go to any doctor, hospital or other provider for a set monthly premium. The plan reimburses you or your health care provider on the basis of services rendered. You may be required to meet a deductible and pay a percentage of each bill. However, there is also often an annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses, so that once an individual or family reaches the limit, the insurance covers the remaining eligible medical expenses in full. Indemnity plans sometimes impose restrictions on covered services and may require prior authorization for hospital care or other expensive services.
“Basic and Essential” Health Plans provide limited health insurance benefits at a considerably lower cost. When buying such a plan, it is extremely important to read the policy description carefully because these plans don’t cover some basic treatments, such as chemotherapy, certain prescriptions and maternity care. Furthermore, rates vary considerably because, unlike indemnity plans or a managed care option, premiums are community rated and are based on age, gender, health status, occupation or geographic location.
Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are a recent alternative to traditional health insurance plans. HSAs are basically a savings product designed to offer individuals a different way to pay for their health care. HSAs enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis. Instead of paying a premium, you establish a tax-free savings account that covers your out-of-pocket medical expenses. This means that you own and control the money in your HSA. You make all decisions about how to spend the money without relying on a third party or a health insurer. You also decide what types of investments to make with the money in the account in order to make it grow. However, if you sign up for an HSA, you are generally required to buy a High Deductible Health Plan as well.
High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) are sometimes referred to as catastrophic health insurance coverage. An HDHP is an inexpensive health insurance plan that kicks in only after a high deductible is met of at least $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a family.
B. Managed Care Options
Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) offer access to an extensive network of participating physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals and facilities. You choose a primary care doctor from a list provided by the HMO and this doctor coordinates your health care. You must contact your primary care doctor to be referred to a specialist. Generally, you pay fewer out-of-pocket expenses with an HMO, but you are often charged a fee or co-payment for services such as doctor visits or prescriptions.
Point-of-Service (POS) plans are an indemnity-type option in which the primary care doctors in the POS plan usually make referrals to other providers within the plan. If a doctor makes a referral out of the plan, the plan pays all or most of the bill. However, if you refer yourself to an outside provider, the service is covered by the plan, but you will be required to pay co-insurance.
Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) charge on a fee-for-service basis. The participating doctors, hospitals and health care providers are paid by the insurer on a negotiated, discounted fee schedule. Costs are lower if you use in-network healthcare services, but you have the option of going out-of-network. If you choose an out-of-network provider, you are generally required to pay the difference between what the provider charges and what the plan pays.
C. Government-sponsored Health Insurance
Medicaid is a federal/state public assistance program created in 1965. It is administered by the states for people whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care or private insurance. All states have Medicaid programs, though eligibility levels and coverage benefits vary.
Medicare is a federal government program for people 65 and older, or those with certain disabilities, that pays part of the costs associated with hospitalization, surgery, doctors’ bills, home health care and skilled-nursing care.
State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is administered at the state level and provides health care to low-income children whose parents do not qualify for Medicaid. SCHIP may be known by different names in different states.
Military Health Care includes TRICARE/CHAMPUS (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services) and CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs) as well as care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
State-specific Plans are available for low-income uninsured individuals. These plans are known by different names in different states.
Indian Health Service (IHS) is a Department of Health and Human Services program offering medical assistance to eligible American Indians at HIS facilities. In addition, the HIS helps pay the cost of selected health care services provided at non-HIS facilities.
CAN I DRIVE LEGALLY WITHOUT INSURANCE?
NO! Almost every state requires you to have auto liability insurance. All states also have financial responsibility laws. This means that even in a state that does not require liability insurance, you need to have sufficient assets to pay claims if you cause an accident. If you don’t have enough assets, you must purchase at least the state minimum amount of insurance. But insurance exists to protect your assets. Trying to see how little you can get by with can be very shortsighted and dangerous.
If you’ve financed your car, your lender may require comprehensive and collision insurance as part of the loan agreement.
WHAT IS AUTO INSURANCE?
Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy. Auto insurance provides property, liability and medical coverage:
- Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
- Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
- Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
An auto insurance policy is comprised of six different kinds of coverage. Most states require you to buy some, but not all, of these coverages. If you’re financing a car, your lender may also have requirements. Most auto policies are for six months to a year. Your insurance company should notify you by mail when it’s time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.