Friday, October 2, 2009

Dogs and Insurance

I love my dog. He is a big dumb oaf that loves us with all his heart. His name is Jake and he is about 8 years old(not sure exactly because we got him from another family). He is a yellow lab as you see in the picture and he allows us to do silly things to him like make him lay on the couch while we show how big our son has gotten.
Jake does dumb things all the time like run away, and eat balls of tinfoil that he finds in the garbage. Luckily, Jake has never seriously injured anyone, although he did jump on our neighbor and break the skin which resulted in the City of Milwaukee sending over some police officers to check out the vicious dog we had.
I am mentioning this because I just read the following fact "Dog bites account for 1/3 of all homeowners liability claims" The average cost of a dog bite claim in 2008 was $24,461!!!! That number amazed me, I knew insurance companies were nervous about dogs but now I know why.
The other reason I wanted to write this post is to clarify a common question I get from clients. What kind of dogs will insurance companies not cover? The main breeds which insurance companies do not want to cover are: Rottweilers, Pittbulls, Akita, Chow, Presa Canario, Wolf Hybrids, and Shar-Pei. I personally am of the opinion that all of these dogs might be fine in the right setting, except maybe the Wolf Hybrid, but insurance companies tend to be pessimistic whereas agents tend to be optimistic. The important thing is that if you do have one of these breeds make sure you communicate it prior to getting a policy. The last thing you want is to get a new policy only to have it cancelled when the inspector sees your dog. At which point you may or may not be able to find a new policy willing to cover your breed.
The last thing I will mention is that any damage a pet of yours causes to your own home will not be covered by your home insurance. This is a standard exclusion on Homeowners policys, just ask my parents. My childhood dog, Domer, chewed up almost all of the woodwork in their house causing thousands of dollars of damage and the policy couldn't reimburse them a nickel. Domer survived, probably because my father doesn't own a shotgun, but the house was in pretty bad shape.
Just something for all of you dog owners to chew on. :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Auto Insurance In Milwaukee

Shopping for auto insurance in Milwaukee? Try our new website for getting an Erie Insurance quote. We are an independent agent so Erie Insurance is only one of the many companies we represent but they were nice enough to give us this custom made website.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What do you mean I don't have coverage?!?!

The other day a friend came in to my office and asked me to run some quotes for him. Of course I was happy to help out but I was happier to see he had copies of his current policies with him. We took a few minutes to go over some of the basic info so I could get the quotes started and one of the first things I noticed was the his wife was not listed on the policies. I knew he was married and asked why she wasn't listed. He asked me if she should be listed or if it makes a difference. To which I responded, YES, YES, YES IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE!

When insurance companies/agents write a policy for an insured there are some very basic things that should always be done to make sure the policy will cover you the way it is supposed to. One of the most basic is always listing husband/wife, engaged couples, or long time partners together on the policy. This ensures that both people who own the property have all of the rights of a named insured. What does this mean for you? If you and your spouse own a home and it burns to the ground, the first thing the insurance company does is pull out their copy of your policy to find out who gets the money. You might have a mortgage company who needs to get paid but aside from that, the money goes to the named insured, i.e. the person listed on the front of the policy. In that same home you may have someone get seriously injured and sue you for their injuries. Again, your company will look at your policy to decide who they need to defend for that lawsuit and the first place they look is the named insured.

So if your spouse isn't listed does he/she have coverage? Yes and no. Every policy I have ever worked with will define "you" as "The named insured shown in the Declarations and the spouse if a resident of the same household". So as long as your spouse is a resident of the house there is coverage. However, if they move out of the house temporarliy for whatever reason, divorce, seperation, has to work in another state for her employer for an extended period of time, they are no longer a "you" and don't get coverage.

Luckily there is a very simple fix. List both you and your significant other on all of your insurance policies, home, auto, boat, umbrella, etc. This way you won't have to worry about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Auto Insurance soon to be mandatory in Wisconsin

In case you missed it, the Governor's budget had a few lines regarding auto insurance when it was passed. Basically starting June 1, 2010 every car on the road in Wisconsin will be required to be insured. Some people don't realize that Wisconsin is one of only two states that don't currently require auto insurance, but starting next year that will all change. You can read all of the details in a Journal Sentinel article In addition to requiring auto insurance, the budget also requires the minimun insurance requirements to be increased over the next few years.

I have had a few discussions with clients asking me what this will mean for their insurance premiums. In my opinion, it means premiums are going up. If you increase the minimun requirements for everyone then the people with the lowest liability limits are going to need to increase their coverage. Some will decide the increased cost for the new higher limits is too expensive and decide to risk it and not carry any insurance. So the number of uninsured drivers goes up. With more uninsured drivers there are, the more claims that go unpaid increasing everyone's insurance costs. In addition to an increase in the number of uninsured drivers, the insurance companies are also going to see more people buying policies and not keeping them in force. How does this increase costs? Basically an insurance company looks at a new policy as a long term investment. The cost to start a new policy, go through underwriting, issue the policy etc is where the majority of the cost comes for the company. They anticipate the policy will stay in force for 3 years which is about when a company breaks even on a policy, depending on the claims of a client.

Overall, I really disagree with the idea of the government stepping in to make decisions for people. As an agent, I counsel my clients to carry the limits appropriate for their life, family, budget, etc. This is the job of the insurance professional, not the State of Wisconsin. I would love to have every person in Wisconsin insured properly but that is a little utopian in my opinion. The costs associated for the insurance companies and the State of Wisconsin will far outweigh the benefits of a few more people carrying insurance. In fact, the article points out that mandating insurance does not mean an increase in insured motorists. Obviously we are going to have to wait and see what happens with all of the new rules but I am going on the record now as being firmaly against these changes, not just for my agency but for my clients too!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Call me with Google!

I just added a great feature to the blog, Google Voice. If you want to get ahold of me but are not certain if you should call the office or my cel, now you can just dial one number and it will find me! If for some reason I still can't take you call you can just leave a voicemail and it will send me an email with the message right away.( I have a smartphone so I will get the email right away too) Try it out next time you need to get in touch with me, it is a neat piece of software!

Friday, June 19, 2009

American Family Increases Home Rates

I was watching Fox 6 news last night while getting ready for bed and they had their Business Journal Minute that gave some details on a rumor I have been hearing for the last few weeks. American Family Insurance is increasing their Home rates by about 10% this year. This comes after an increase of about 11% last year. The Business Journal has the short article here.

While almost every insurance companies makes adjustments on an annual basis, these increases are quite high. Most of the companies we represent are still only adjusting their rates by 1 or 2 percentage points and many of them are midwest based companies too.

Oddly enough the midwest has always been a better place for insurance companies to operate simply because we don't have the hurricanes, mud slides, wild fires, etc that the coasts get hit with on a regular basis. However, the last few years the midwest has gotten hammered with hail storms, heavy rains and bad snow storms.

These types of increases by insurance companies are one of the main reasons we are an independent agency. If one of our companies increases rates by too much we have many other companies that are willing to accept the business at better rates. At least then you as the client just have to get used to a new company, not a new agent and a new company at the same time.

As always, quotes are free and we love referrals give us a call or tell your friends. Every referral earns you a $10 gas card just for sending your friends and family to YOUR FRIEND IN INSURANCE!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Buying/Starting a new business.

So I just learned a friend of mine is expanding his business and while he was talking about the details it got me thinking of all the people I talk with who have decided to buy or start their own business. Sooner or later the topic of insurance comes up(hopefully before they start the business!) and most of these people have never had to deal with all of the insurance issues a business owner faces. So I thought I would do a quick post on some of the very basics any new business owner might need to consider.

I could go on for hours with all of the details depending on the type of business but lets keep it simple and go over the basic coverages your business would need, liability, property, auto, and worker's compensation. There are lots more coverages to consider but these are the four that are almost always needed in some way shape or form. Lets start with liability coverage.

Liability coverage protects you and everything you own. If you have a business you need to have liability coverage, period. Even if you run a business out of your home like my wife, who is a Creative Memories consultant, there is still liability. If you have a home business you can probably have the business liability extended from your homeowners insurance, but if you have an office or some other type of business you will probably need a General Liability policy. So what does Liability cover? Without getting real technical and putting you to sleep it covers you (meaning the business and employees) and your business location. Lets go one more step. Your location is covered if some gets injured and decides to sue you for their injuries which is pretty easy to understand. But the first part can get very complicated, the business and the employees are covered for operations, finished products, personal injury, advertising injury and completed operations. Basically this means if you get sued because of your products or actions or you cause injury or property damage you should have coverage. I say should because there are millions of situations and I can't cover them all.

The second line of coverage is Property. Now when we talk about property we are talking about property owned by you and the business. A building, office furniture, computers, tools, equipment, etc. Depending on the policy you will usually get the standard coverages for things like fire, theft, vandalism, wind, hail, etc. A big item which most people forget is your income. Many business policies will automatically give you 12 months of lost income coverage if you have a covered loss. So for example, a restaurant has a fire and is out of business for 6 months the insurance policy will pay the owner the lost profit, the additional costs that have not gone away even though the restaurant has, and maybe even the payroll for key employees. This is huge if your business is your only source of income!

The third coverage is Auto. Now many people will say "I don't have a company car so I don't need Business Auto insurance." Not true. Anytime you take your personal car to an appointment or to run an errand for the business you have a liability exposure. If you get into a serious accident on the way to an appointment the other driver may get an attorney who decides to sue you and your business. I always included the coverage for non business owned vehicles on every policy I sell because it is cheap and covers a gap. While it may not be the biggest exposure to your business, it can definitely put you out of business in a hurry if you don't have coverage.

The last line of coverage is Worker's Compensation. Work Comp is required by the State of Wisconsin for any employer that has an employee making more than $500 in any calendar quarter. If you have an employee earning less than $40 per week you are probably running a sweat shop and have other problems. The nice thing in Wisconsin is that the State determines the rates business pay for their Work Comp and also all of the benefits and coverages the insurance companies provide to the employees. The only thing that will change rates is what type of business you do. A clerical employee will cost a lot less than a roofing contractor, for obvious reasons. There are some secrets to saving money on Work Comp that I share with my clients....but you have to talk to me to get those!

So there you have it a very brief summary of what you might want to think about when you venture in the world of business ownership. This is really only the tip of the iceberg and depending on your business things get very complicated which is why my friends and clients trust me to help them navigate the many companies and coverages to find what fits them.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't raise my insurance premiums!

Recently the Joint Finance Committee approved a final version of Governor Doyle's budget which contains a number of mandates that are going to have a major affect on everyone's insurance premiums. Did I mention they did this in the middle of the night? That doesn't seem sneaky at all!

Here is a summary of the issues:

1. A return to joint and several liability, in which you can be forced to pay any millions of dollars even if you were only minimally at fault. Currently, state law mandates that a defendant must be found at least 51% at fault to be found liable. Doyle wanted to reduce that to 1%. The committee will tell you that they listened to the people and compromised by changing Doyle's proposal to 20%. So now, an individual who is 80% innocent can still be held liable for 100% of all damages.

2. Requiring the highest auto limits in the nation. As a compromise, the Democrats agreed to phase in the increases. However, to make matters worse, they added an annual inflationary index that would eventually require the minimums to be raised to odd numbers like $103,624.

3. Allowing stacking of limits for Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist. This is a particular concern for commercial auto. For example, under current law if a customer purchases a limit of $1 million, then that customer is protected up to that limit for any one loss. Under the new proposal, the limit would be determined based upon the number of vehicles that are insured. So, the person who owns a fleet of 100 vehicles, would be able to "stack" all of the limits together and would be covered for, not the $1 million he paid for, but $100 million.

4. Allowing judges and attorneys to give a jury instructions which will unduly influence them and introduce a sympathy factor. A jury is supposed to decide cases on fact, not sympathy.

5. The budget also calls for numerous tax increases as well as fee increases on such everyday items as your cell phone.

I know people don't like thinking about insurance but we all have to pay for it and our Governor is trying to make you pay more by adding in these changes to the budget. If you have a second click on the link, and fill out the form to let them know you do not want to pay more for your insurance premiums.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Welcome to the G2 Insurance Services Blog

Welcome to The Your Friend in Insurance Blog! Over time I hope this blog will become a valuable resource to our clients, associates and friends. I promise not to just post about insurance related topics! I have already lined up some guest posters to help you with financial advice, accounting, printing, computers and many many more. So stay tuned and thanks for being a friend!