Auto insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, umbrella liability insurance…in some ways, personal insurance is like a trapeze artist’s safety net. When she’s performing, a trapeze artist thinks of her moves, not the net underneath her. But you can bet that if she falls, she wants a strong safety net, because a single hole could prove fatal.
While personal insurance coverages might not be a life-or-death matter, they do protect your most valuable assets—your home, your vehicles and most importantly, your income.
For most people, their home represents the biggest investment they’ll ever make. Homeowners insurance might sound simple, but a single oversight can make a difference of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost claims payments if your property is damaged or destroyed.
Likewise with auto insurance. Do you want to trust your coverage to an online insurer, with representatives you’ll never meet in some far-away call center? Or do you want to trust a respected local professional, one who is a member of your community and understands local risk exposures?
Many individuals take all the right steps to insure their home and vehicles from damage, but neglect to adequately estimate their liability exposures. Most lawsuits against individuals stem from accidents on their premises, auto accidents or service on a nonprofit board. The more assets you have, the more likely you are to be sued. Some cases, such as accidents causing serious injury or death, can even result in liability that exceeds the value of your assets. Adequate personal liability coverage can protect your assets and future income from being taken in a liability lawsuit.
Life can sometimes seem like a three-ring circus. But with the right personal insurance, you can fly through life knowing you have a safety net to catch you if you fall.
Homeowners insurance will help you repair or rebuild your home if it’s damaged by fire or other covered disaster. It also provides these valuable protections:
Contents: A well-written policy pays to replace your personal possessions when damaged or lost due to fire, theft or other covered peril, whether at home or away.
Medical payments: Your homeowners policy will pay reasonable medical costs for a non-resident who suffers injury at your home. This valuable coverage can help prevent a minor accident from turning into a liability lawsuit.
Liability: Your homeowners policy provides your first line of defense when someone sues you for an accident that occurs at your home or through your negligence. It helps pay your attorney and court costs; your insurer will even help arrange your legal defense.
Your insurance costs will depend on many factors, including your home’s value, location and type of construction. The higher the value and risk of damage, the more you’ll pay.
The type of coverage you select also affects costs. The basic “named perils” policy covers you only for loss or damage caused by one of the perils named in the policy (hence its name). These generally include fire or lightning, windstorm or hail, explosion, and more. A broad-form policy provides broader coverage, covering you for the named perils listed above, plus others, including damage from burglary; falling objects; freezing; electrical surges; and weight of ice, snow or sleet.
An “all-risk” policy differs from a named perils policy by covering damage or loss caused by any peril, unless specifically excluded by the policy. Typical policies exclude losses due to earth movement, water damage, power failure, neglect, war, nuclear hazard and intentional loss. “All-risk” coverage costs more, but provides more comprehensive coverage for your property and liability exposures.
Condominium owners sometimes make the mistake of thinking their condominium association covers their property. While your association probably insures your building and common areas, its coverage ends at your walls. You need your own condominium policy to cover damage to your interior walls, floors, cabinets and fixtures.
Like a homeowners policy, a condominium policy also protects your personal property. “Contents coverage” pays for damage or loss to your personal property, whether it’s at home or off premises. The policy also provides liability protection that will help pay your attorney and court costs if you are sued for injury to another person or another person’s property.
Don’t own your own home? If you have any assets to protect, you still need property insurance. For only a few dollars per week, a renters policy protects your personal property by paying you when it is lost or damaged by a covered peril, such as fire or theft.
Every homeowners, condominium and renters policy covers fire damage. But did you know that floods are four times more likely to occur than fires?
Valuable Items Insurance
Your possessions may be worth more than you think. Most homeowners, condominium and renters policies limit coverage on specific high-value items, such as jewelry, electronics, fine art and collectibles, antiques and firearms. Buying extra insurance to cover these valuables costs less than you probably think.
Boat and Personal Watercraft Insurance
Whether you operate a jet ski or a deluxe cabin cruiser, you need more coverage than your homeowners policy can provide.
The typical homeowners policy provides only limited coverage for your liability due to operating any type of watercraft. It also limits coverage for loss or damage to your watercraft to $1,000, including trailers, furnishings and motors. And coverage for watercraft applies only on your premises, rather than where theft or damage is most likely to occur—in transit or on the water.
State laws require motorcycle owners to buy a minimum amount of liability coverage. Motorcycle owners have two choices for insuring their bikes: adding a “miscellaneous type vehicle endorsement” to their auto policy, or buying a standalone motorcycle policy.
The miscellaneous type vehicle endorsement has limitations. Unlike your personal auto policy, it does not cover you for liability for non-owned motorcycles, so if you take a friend’s motorcycle for a spin, you won’t have coverage. It typically covers only the actual cash value of your bike, or the original price, less depreciation. If you have a rare or collectible bike, a customized bike or one with many add-ons, the endorsement is unlikely to provide enough coverage.
For many people, a specialized standalone motorcycle policy offers the best coverage. Its liability coverage applies in more situations and it provides better coverage for the damage or theft of a valuable or customized bike. With some specialized motorcycle policies, you can get “agreed value coverage,” where you and the insurer set a price for the motorcycle when you buy the policy. If it is stolen or totally damaged, the policy will pay you this agreed amount, less any depreciation of tires, batteries and engine parts.
Motor Home & RV Insurance
Whether you own a deluxe land yacht with all the bells and whistles or a simple folding camper, having any type of recreational vehicle represents a change in lifestyle…and insurance needs.
You can insure most recreational vehicles under your personal auto policy. However, specialized recreational vehicle or motor home policies provide better coverage. You won’t notice the difference until you need to file a claim, but then differences become apparent.
Auto policies pay actual cash value when your vehicle is stolen or totaled, but RV insurers often offer agreed value coverage. With agreed value coverage, the insurer will pay you the amount you select when you buy the policy in the event of total loss or theft. Some insurers also offer total loss replacement coverage, which will pay for a new RV like the one you own if yours is stolen or suffers a total loss in its first five years.
Personal Umbrella Insurance
Unfortunately, accidents happen. And when they do, the victim usually tries to blame someone else.
Under the U.S. system of tort liability, courts can hold injurers liable for many different types of torts, such as bodily injury, trespass and “personal injuries,” such as invasion of privacy, slander, libel or damage to reputation. Your homeowners policy covers both the costs of your legal defense and any court awards for this type of claim, while your auto policy covers you for liability resulting from accidents you’re involved in. The typical homeowners policy provides from $10,000 to $500,000 in liability coverage, while your auto policy might provide $500,000.
Dream vacation or nightmare? Travel insurance can make the difference!
Trip cancellation/trip interruption coverage
Political instability can make planning an overseas vacation a hit-or-miss proposition these days. Even if you’re traveling to a relatively stable country, bad weather, natural disaster or strikes can affect your transportation and accommodations. Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance will reimburse you for all or a portion of your costs if your trip is cancelled or cut short due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather, airline strike and more.
Travel medical/medical evacuation insurance
Did you know that Medicare does not provide coverage for your hospital or medical costs outside the United States? Many private health insurance plans also do not provide coverage overseas.
Insurers that do provide coverage for overseas medical treatment might provide coverage on a reimbursement basis only, leaving you to pay the bills, file a claim and wait for reimbursement. And they might not pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States, which can easily cost $10,000 and up, depending on your location and medical condition. Travel medical insurance can cover your expenses for emergency or urgent medical care you need while overseas.
Identity Theft Insurance
In 2010, 8.1 million Americans became victims of identity theft. According to a Javelin Strategy & Research survey, the average victim lost $600. In addition, the Identity Theft Resource Center estimates the average victim spends 607 hours clearing his or her financial records and restoring his/her credit rating.
Some homeowners policies, particularly high-end ones, automatically include some coverage for identity theft. If yours does not, you can add coverage to an existing policy by buying a coverage endorsement, or you can buy a standalone policy.