Insurance Blog
Items filtered by date: January 2017

Top Ten Tips 460x340

Life happens. Even with the best of intentions, maintenance plans, and insurance coverage, the occasional unavoidable crisis will present itself. When people think of homeowners' insurance claims, they often associate it with major disasters such as wildfires or tornados. In these scenarios, there's not much that policyholders at ground zero can do to avoid disaster.

But the reality is that many losses are entirely preventable. The state of Massachusetts expects 50,000 to 60,000 homeowner's claims each year.Some of the most common claims, such as residential flooding, are only attributable to the weather eight percent of the time, according to a study from U.S. plumbing and drain service company Roto-Rooter. The rest? Appliance and/or plumbing failures that can usually be detected and repaired well before you find yourself filling out claims paperwork.

Statistics like these, combined with anecdotal evidence, suggest that many of the incidents that result in homeowner's insurance claims are problems of our own making. However the upside to creating our own insurance woes is that there is ample opportunity to prevent them - with a little proactive attention.

Here are 10 examples of completely preventable insurance claims, followed by a practical tip for reducing the likelihood of having to file. Note: At least six of them involve some type of water damage.

1. Loose/Damaged Washing Machine Hose(s) - Alternating water temperatures, shaking machines and containment in low-traffic areas make this issue a common homeowners' insurance claim.

Tip:  Replace plastic hoses at least every three years, and inspect frequently for irregularities. If possible, situate your machine in a more visible (or at least audible) area.

2. Bath Tub/Shower Grout and Edge Leaks - Small leaks and slight decay may not seem like a big deal, but that water has to go somewhere - and it's usually right into your floors and walls. Over time, this can lead to major repairs in plumbing, carpentry, etc. More often than not, these repairs are not covered by standard homeowners' insurance policies.

Tip:  It's simple. Water that flows into your bath or shower needs to stay there, or travel down the drain. Close doors and curtains. Frequently inspect and repair seals, calling in a professional when in doubt.

3. Toilet Issues - If you've never experienced problems with toilet leaks or overflow, you're in the minority. However consistent attention is key to sparing yourself and your family thousands of dollars in damages.

Tip:  Toilet wobbling? It might not be properly installed. Experiencing a leak? Call your landlord or a qualified expert immediately. We can't overstate it enough: this is no time to wait until "later."

4. Refrigerator Leaks - While tougher to identify than toilet or shower cracks, the water and plastic lines that extend from your fridge can cause extensive kitchen damage in short order. 

Tip:  If you're comfortable or handy, check the lines regularly for kinks. If uncertain, contact an experienced professional.

5. Roof Damage - Most homeowners' insurance policies will provide coverage for roof deterioration caused by unpreventable triggers, such as vandalism or fire. That's not going to be much help when it's time to repair a roof brought down by nagging leaks.

Tip:  Basic roof maintenance, such as gutter cleaning and shingle replacement, is key to a longer life. But don't try to stretch your roof past its time. 

6. Chimney/Fireplace Fires - Relaxing in front of the family hearth during the cold winter months is a great source of comfort and warmth. But according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, "Your chimney…adds architectural interest to your home, but its' real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace." A dirty or blocked chimney cannot succeed in its mission - with dangerous and expensive consequences.

Tip: Implement all fire safety best practices and maintain a regular chimney-cleaning schedule.

7. Hot Water Heater Leaks - There's always plenty of complaints when the hot water runs out, but it's entirely possible that quick heat loss reflects poor tank performance or sediment presence.

Tip: If your water heater is more than five years old, a qualified technician should inspect it at least every year.

8. Electrical Fires - Does your "surge protector" ironically resemble an overloaded circuit hazard? Do you hide cords under the carpet for aesthetic reasons?  If you answered "yes" to either question, you've got a preventable homeowners' insurance claim on your hands.

Tip: Unplug any and all appliances not actively in use. Never route cords under rugs.

9. Cooking/Candle Fires - Open flame (or gas) is often necessary for preparing food, warming and illuminating the home. But next to water damage, fire devastation is the number one source of homeowners' insurance claims.

Tip:  Similar to what Smokey the Bear would say, only you can prevent most fires. Be vigilant at all times and always practice safety. 

10. Garage Door Opener Theft - Sometimes it's just easier to park on the street than pull into the garage. But smart criminals on the lookout will take it as an opportunity to gain entrance

Tip:  If your car is not in the garage, don't leave the door opener behind in your vehicle!

Published in Homeowners
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 05:48

Home and Business Inventory Checklist

Home Inventory checklist

Now is a great time to take a few minutes this winter to make a home or business inventory. If disaster strikes, or your home or business is burglarized and your belongings are destroyed or stolen, an inventory makes the insurance claims process a lot simpler. Being able to provide a detailed home inventory to a claims adjuster can help you and your insurance company settle on a fair amount for your belongings and it helps you get your possessions replaced quicker. Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be completely daunting. Here are a few tips for compiling your home inventory:

  • Take one room at a time; 15 minutes at a time. Keep the task manageable by breaking it into smaller pieces by focusing on one room at a time and for just 15 minutes. Repeat until all of your rooms are complete!
  • Details, details, details. A home inventory includes a comprehensive list of all your belongings, along with receipts (if you have them), photos, and descriptions. For items such as electronics be sure to record the serial number of the item.
  • Divide and conquer. Instead of making one long list of your items, break it down by room and/or type of item, such as clothing, heirlooms, electronics, and jewelry. This will make the home inventory less overwhelming and decrease the chances that you’ll overlook something.
  • Know what your stuff is worth. If you have antiques, family heirlooms, or other valuables that don’t have receipts, you may want to have them appraised in order to determine their value.
  • Don't forget to check the attic. When taking your inventory, make sure you don’t overlook items that are stored in the closet, drawers, attic, or garage. Bicycles, holiday decorations, and sports equipment may be out of sight, but their cost adds up. Make sure you include everything – even if it’s in storage – on your list. 
  • Add it up. Once you have a full document of all your belongings, along with their values, add up all the items in your home and their total cost. 
  • Keep it safe. Store your complete home inventory with your insurance policy in a safe, easily accessible place, such as a fireproof box, safe deposit box, or other secure location. Technology today also makes it possible to keep your home inventory digitally using cloud storage.
  • Take stock annually. Remember to review and update your inventory each year, or whenever you make a significant purchase, to ensure your new items are documented.

There are many easy home inventory tools that can help and are available as apps for your Droid or iPhone, on your computer or simply as a paper checklist. Here are a few for you to check out:

There are great mobile apps that offer a home inventory tool which allows you to use your smart phone or tablet to take pictures and document important details of your belongings. It also allows you to maintain multiple inventories, so you can categorize your belongings by type (electronics, furniture, etc.) or by room in the house. This app is free and available through both the App Store and Google Play:

Know Your Stuff. An app provided by the Insurance Information Institute. Disasters can happen anytime, but with the Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory app, you’ll always have an up-to-date record of your belongings. Know Your Stuff® is a snap to use: Just take photos of your belongings and fill in a few key details. Your data automatically syncs with free cloud storage, giving you secure access whenever you want. You also can access this online at knowyourstuff.org  Download the Know Your Stuff® app for iPhone or Android.

And if your preference is to complete the task with pen and paper, here's a form you can use:

Great Inventory Form for You to Print - here's a link to a pdf form that you can print on your home computer if you prefer the traditional pen to paper way to keep organized.

Published in Homeowners
Tuesday, 17 January 2017 07:09

Top Homeowners Insurance Claims

water pipe burst 580x387

Weather incidents account for more than half of all homeowners insurance claims, with wind, pipes freezing and bursting, roof and flashing leaks and ice dams among the major causes of home damage during weather events.

Fire-related claims are the most expensive, however.

The five most common causes of home claims are:

  • Exterior wind damage – 25 percent of all losses.
  • Non-weather-related water damage (e.g., plumbing or appliance issues) – 19 percent.
  • Hail – 15 percent.
  • Weather-related water damage (e.g., rain, melting ice, snow) – 11 percent.
  • Theft – 6 percent.
Costliest Claim Causes

While weather-related claims are most common, fire causes the most expensive claims, accounting for nearly one quarter of the total claim costs. Fires are often caused by appliance and machinery misuse or failure, electrical problems, including wiring or outlet issues, and cooking. Hail, wind, and plumbing or appliance leaks followed fire as the most expensive claims.

Water Damage

There are typically two main causes of water damage — weather events, such as rain or snow melt, and other issues, such as pipes bursting or leaking. By comparison, more water damage is caused by events such as a pipe bursting, or plumbing or appliance issues, than from the weather.

Regional Differences

The leading cause of claims differs depending on where customers lived:

  • In the Northeast, wind is the most common cause of claims. The weight of ice and snow on the roofs of homes was also a common claim throughout the region. Fire is the costliest source of claims for homeowners in this area.
  • In the South, wind is the most common cause of home claims and hail is the most expensive.
  • In the Midwest and West, hail is both the most common reason for a homeowners insurance claim and caused the costliest damage. Midwestern homeowners also saw repeated problems caused by sewer or sump pump backups.

For more information on securing the best coverage for your needs, our Trusted Choice independent insurance agency is ready to provide personal assistance. Just give us a call!

Published in Homeowners

In an article published by the Insurance Journal, four out of 10 small businesses are likely to experience a property or general liability claim in the next 10 years. Topping the list for the most common claim is burglary and theft, however, the most costly claim for a small business is reputational harm, which includes libel, slander and violation of privacy.

Burglary and theft affected 20 percent of small business owners in the past five years. However, burglary and theft ranked lowest out of the top 10 most costly claims, averaging $8,000, compared to reputational harm claims, which cost $50,000 on average.

A claim payout on a reputational harm claim, covered through a general liability policy, can run much higher if a lawsuit is involved, according to the insurer. If a lawsuit is involved, a general liability claim can average more than $75,000 per case to defend and settle. 35 percent of all general liability claims result in a lawsuit.

Fire claims are ranked in the top five of both the most common and costly claims. The average cost for a fire claim is $35,000, impacting 10 percent of small business owners in the past five years.

The top 10 costliest small business claims are: reputational harm, ($50,000); vehicle accidents ($45,000); fire ($35,000); product liability ($35,000); customer injury or damage ($30,000); wind and hail damage ($26,000); customer slip and fall ($20,000); water and freezing damage ($17,000); struck by object ($10,000) and burglary and theft ($8,000).

Top 10 Property and Liability Claims

Most Common Most Costly
Burglary & Theft (20%) Reputational Harm ($50,000)
Water and Freezing Damage (15%) Vehicle Accident 3 ($45,000)
Wind and Hail Damage 6 (15%) Fire($35,000)
Fire (10%) Product Liability 4 ($35,000)
Customer Slip and Fall(10%) Customer Injury or Damage 5 ($30,000)
Customer Injury and Damage(Less than 5%) Wind and Hail Damage($26,000)
Product Liability(Less than 5 percent) Customer Slip and Fall ($20,000)
Struck by Object (Less than 5 percent) Water and Freezing Damage ($17,000)
Reputational Harm (Less than 5 percent) Struck by Object ($10,000)
Vehicle Accident (Less than 5 percent) Burglary and Theft ($8,000)

top 10 small business claims

Published in Insurance Tips

snow roof

With more snow on the way in the upcoming weeks, Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies wants to remind you to continue working to prevent property damage due to snow, ice and spring melting. Here are some terrific checklists to review and put on your to-do list:
  1. Remove excess snow from the roof. Prevent the need for water damage restoration and encourage water flow by carefully removing excess snow from the roof or hiring a contractor to do this for you.
  2. Clear gutters, drains and downspouts: When rains and rapid snowmelts are imminent, cleaning gutters and drains will direct water away from the building. Make sure a channel to the storm drain is clear of debris.
  3. Move the snow: After a winter storm, move piled snow away from the property’s foundation.
  4. Secure property on lower levels. Move items up onto waterproof shelving, to higher levels of your property, or have waterproof containers to help prevent water damage.

In addition, here is great information offered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA):

Homeowners, tenants, and businesses should be cognizant of the danger posed by heavy snow loads on roofs, and the importance of recognizing the warning signs of potential structural weaknesses. In many instances, the risks posed by accumulated snow can be mitigated by safely removing snow from roofs. Flat and low pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, but also used in certain home designs, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations.

To safely remove snow from roofs, the following tips are recommended:

DO

  • Use a snow rake for pitched roofs (available at most hardware stores) to remove snow from your roof.
  • Start from the edge and work your way into the roof.
  • Try to shave the snow down to 2 or 3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which will risk damage to your shingles or other roof covering.
    • Keep all ladders, shovels and roof rakes away from utility wires.
    • Plastic shovels are usually best. Metal tools may cause damage to your roof.
    • Shovel snow from flat roofs throwing the snow over the side away from the building.
  • Remove large icicles carefully if they’re hanging over doorways and walkways. Consider knocking down icicles through windows using a broom stick.
  • Wear protective headgear and goggles when performing any of these tasks.
  • Consider hiring professionals to do the job. The combination of heights plus ice makes this one of the more dangerous house chores. If you choose to do the task yourself, have someone outside with you to assist.
  • Keep gutters and drains clean, free of ice and snow and keep downspouts clean at ground level.

DON’T

  • Unless approved by a registered professional engineer, don’t add your weight or the weight of equipment to the roof.
  • Don’t use a ladder since ice tends to build up on both the rungs of the ladder and the soles of your boots.
  • Don’t use blow torches, open-flame, or electric heating devices like hair dryers or heat guns to remove snow and ice.
  • Don’t try to remove ice or icicles from utility wires or meters. Call your utility company for assistance.

How to Recognize Problems with Roofs

  • Sagging roofs
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

What to Do if You Have Problems

  • If you notice any signs that you have a problem with your roof, or suspect a gas leak, leave the building immediately without touching light switches and call 9-1-1 from safely outside.
  • For general questions, call your local building or fire department business line.

Other Safety Tips for Homeowners

  • Clear snow away from furnace and dryer exhaust vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.
  • Clear snow from fire hydrants near your home or business.
  • Clear snow from storm drains near your home or business to prevent street flooding.

#  #  #

Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies has four offices in eastern Massachusetts—Wayland, Bedford, Hudson and Winthrop. We are here to help you make sure you have the coverage needed to maximize your protection in the event of damage or loss. Call us! 

Published in Homeowners

wedding season liability

It's not surprising that February is National Weddings Month. In time, you will have picked out the table linen, found your dream venue, and figured out a way to seat all of your family members in one room without them strangling one another—it must be time for your wedding! Family conflicts included, as much as you plan, you can never predict everything that may or may not happen on the “big day”. It is important to consider the many different ways you can protect your big day from being ruined by illness, a late vendor, or bad weather. It is best to contact your Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent as soon as you make the decision to be married (jewelry insurance anyone?), because your agent can walk you through the steps of obtaining wedding insurance as well. Every wedding is different so you also have options to add a “rider” or additional protections for the following: 

  • Military service—if you or your “soon-to-be” is suddenly called to duty.
  • Gowns and tuxedos—if the dress is damaged when you pick it up or the store suddenly goes out of business.
  • Gifts—if gifts are not covered by your homeowners or renters insurance, provides protection against theft or damage of gifts.
  • Honeymoon—in case you need to cancel your trip due to illness, bad weather or other circumstances.

Keep in mind that venues usually have their own insurance policies, so it is important to do your research to avoid paying double the cost. If you get married at your home or at a private property, you will need an additional stipulation to your policy to protect your event. 

Be sure to talk to us at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker before making major decisions like paying deposits for venues and limos. May your wedding day be filled with security, happiness, and plenty of wedding cake! 

Here's a terrific infographic to share:

Wedding Infographic

 

 

Published in Insurance Tips
Tuesday, 17 January 2017 05:02

Love your Valentine's Gift!? Insure it!

Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day, and thoughts of people everywhere turn to … jewelry. 

Love isn't likely to be a cheap thrill this Valentine's Day, as consumer spending related to the holiday is expected to reach an all-time high thanks in part to the last several months of domestic job growth and wage gains. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will shell out more than $19.7 billion for Valentine's Day.

About one of four Americans buys jewelry, spending $2,000 per year on average, and industry experts expect jewelry sales to grow by at least 5% annually through 2025. Those who don’t buy shiny things for Valentine’s Day may prefer other types of valuables, such as electronics, artwork, antiques, wine and furs.  

Whatever the purchase, American consumers should take steps to safeguard and insure their valuables. Having the right insurance coverage will provide financial protection and is an important first step after receiving a Valentine's gift of value. 

According to the Insurance Information Institute. (I.I.I.), jewelry losses are among the most frequent of all home insurance content-related insurance claims. Fortunately, there are four relatively simple steps everyone can take to ensure adequate protection for their new jewelry:

 1) Contact your insurance professional immediately. Find out how much coverage you already have and whether you will need additional insurance. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal items such as jewelry; however, many policies limit the dollar amount for the theft of high-value personal possessions—such as jewelry—to $1,000 to $2,000. So, you would be covered if the item were destroyed by disasters listed in the policy such as a fire or hurricane, but if your expensive new present is lost or stolen you would need separate insurance to be covered, pointed out the I.I.I.

 To properly insure jewelry, consider purchasing additional coverage through a floater or an endorsement. In most cases, these add-ons to a homeowners or renters policy would also cover you for “mysterious disappearance.” This means that if your ring falls off your finger and is flushed down a drain, or is lost, you would be financially protected. Floaters and endorsements carry no deductibles, so there is no out-of-pocket expense to replace the item.

 2) Obtain a copy of the store receipt. Forward a copy of the receipt so that your insurance company knows the current retail value of the item. Keep a copy for your records, and include it with your home inventory. If the item was purchased on sale, also get a copy of the appraised value of the item.

 3) If you received an heirloom piece, have the item appraised. Heirlooms and antique jewelry will need to be appraised for their dollar value. You can ask your insurer to recommend a reputable appraiser.

 4) Add the item to your home inventory. An up-to-date inventory of your personal possessions can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance, and speed up the claims process if you have a loss, so remember to add your new jewelry to your inventory. And if you don’t yet have an inventory, celebrate your engagement by creating one with your fiancée. To make creating a home inventory as easy as possible, the I.I.I. offers free Web-based software and apps, available at Know Your Stuff® - Home Inventory.

Finally, if you don’t think you need renters insurance, think again. A 2013 Insurance Information Institute poll found that 96 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance but only 35 percent of renters had renters insurance. If you rent your home, renters insurance can provide important financial protection in the event your belongings are stolen or destroyed.

Contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker insurance agents for more information and make certain you secure the right coverage for your special Valentine's gift!

Published in Insurance Tips

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