Tag Archives: homeowners insurance

Personal Umbrella Policy…Do You Need One?

Daily life can be full of uncertainty. Accidents happen and things can go wrong in an instant. You want the security of knowing that when the unexpected happens, you have safeguards in place to protect you financially. Personal umbrella insurance provides an extra layer of liability coverage* designed to help safeguard you from potentially devastating claims and lawsuits.

For example, let’s say your auto insurance policy has $250,000 in liability coverage, but you are in an accident where an individual has suffered severe injuries requiring hospitalization and you’re found to be at fault. Medical expenses can quickly escalate and when you factor in compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and future care, you may find your liability limits aren’t sufficient for the damages caused. If a suit was filed and a jury awarded the injured parties more than your policy limits, your savings and equity in your home could be at risk.

No one wants to find themselves in this situation. But how do you prepare for it? Umbrella insurance can provide the coverage needed for these losses.

What is Umbrella Insurance?

While you may not think twice about buying homeowners insurance or auto insurance, the liability limits provided may not be sufficient to protect your assets.

That’s where umbrella insurance comes in. An umbrella policy provides $1 million to $5 million in additional liability coverage. While the coverage is optional, it may protect you in the instance of an unfortunate accident.

What other scenarios would an Umbrella policy cover?

  • Your dog accidentally injures your neighbor’s child
  • Your mail carrier trips over a crack in your driveway, resulting in injury and disability
  • An overgrown tree in your yard crashes through your neighbor’s roof

 When does an Umbrella policy activate?

Umbrella Insurance activates when damages from a covered claim exceed the limits in the underlying policy — everything from a lawsuit resulting from your dog biting the mailman to critical care for a driver you injure in an auto accident who is hospitalized for months.

Don’t sacrifice peace of mind and protection over the possibility of a split-second accident that could result in a lifetime of financial stress. Speak to your agenttoday about adding Umbrella Insurance coverage to your policy.

*Not all coverages may be available in all states.

Differences Between Gasoline and Diesel

Several automobile manufacturers offer diesel-powered cars, but are they a good option?

Many of us have pulled up to the gas pump at our local convenience store, absentmindedly picked up the nozzle at the end of the green hose and spent a few seconds of confusion wondering why it wouldn’t fit into the fuel filler of our car. We eventually realize it was the hose for diesel, not gasoline, and put it back on its holder.

Seeing those hoses at the gas pump does make us wonder, though. What’s the difference between a gasoline engine and one that runs on diesel fuel, and why would someone choose one over the other?

In fact, gasoline and diesel engines have much in common. Both are internal combustion engines, and each convert the chemical energy in fuel into mechanical energy. Both incorporate pistons that move up and down inside cylinders, with that movement driven by the combustion of fuel in each. Those pistons are attached to a crankshaft, which turns as the pistons move to provide the energy that moves the vehicle.

The difference between the two engines involves the way the fuel is ignited. In the gasoline engine, the fuel is mixed with air in the cylinder. The piston compresses the mixture, which is then ignited by a spark from the spark plug.

In the diesel engine there is no spark plug. Instead, it’s the compression itself which ignites the air/fuel mixture, creating the contained explosion that keeps the pistons moving.

Power versus performance

When most of us think of a diesel engine what comes to mind are the 18-wheelers we see on the interstate. While it’s true those rigs run on diesel, there are plenty of other diesel-powered vehicles on the road. They aren’t very common in the United States, but in Europe more than a third of all cars on the road are powered by diesel fuel.

The main advantages of a diesel engine compared with a gasoline one come in terms of fuel efficiency, engine reliability and power. Because diesel engines are built to withstand higher compression, they tend to be more reliable and last longer than gasoline engines. Diesel fuel is thicker than gasoline, and as such provides more power and mileage per gallon.

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, are lighter and deliver higher performance than diesel engines. There aren’t diesel engines in sports cars for much the same reasons there aren’t gasoline engines in big trucks. In addition, gasoline engines tend to be less expensive to repair simply because they’re more common.

With all that in mind, which type of engine is the best choice? The answer is that, as with many things, it all depends.

Years ago, diesel fuel was significantly cheaper than gasoline, but today the opposite tends to be true, making any savings in fuel costs relatively minor. Diesel engines tend to be more reliable than gasoline ones, but diesel-powered cars tend to cost more up front and repairs are likely to be more costly. Conversely, gasoline-powered cars are easier and less expensive to maintain and fuel efficiency is constantly improving.

Although diesel fuel used to be associated with black smoke belching from the exhaust, today’s diesel is relatively clean-burning. Newer diesel-powered cars produce lower levels of carbon dioxide than gasoline-powered cars, but higher levels of particulates and nitrogen oxides. When adding environmental concerns to the mix, gasoline engines have a slight advantage over diesel ones.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for a lightweight passenger car that will go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, a gasoline engine may be the best choice. If you’re looking for a car to tow a boat to the lake on the weekend, diesel may be the way to go.

Tips for Teen Drivers

Year after year, motor vehicle accidents continue to take the lives of thousands of U.S. teens. That’s why it’s vital for young people to treat driving as a privilege that comes with great responsibility.

To bring attention to these startling statistics and help parents teach teens safe driving habits, Mercury created the Drive Safe Challenge. The Drive Safe Challenge champions not only safe driving but provides education as well, helping young people understand traffic laws and the importance of proper car maintenance, while also offering tips on how to select the right vehicle.

As part of the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge, we asked participating Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge instructors and the social media community for their top tips for teen drivers.

1. Get to Know your Car

“Be patient with yourself; everyone started at the exact same position you are now.” —@lcfromsp

Once you have your license, it’s easy to want to get behind the wheel, start the ignition and take off before understanding all of the vehicle’s controls. Before you operate your car, we recommend that as a first step you read the owner’s manual. This will help inform how the vehicle functions and what the lights on the dashboard and instrument panel signal. Some vehicles come with a quick reference guide for the more important features and functions to make the task of learning easier.

As a best practice, we also recommend investing some time to learn basic car maintenance, too. Open the hood and check the oil levels, locate the toolkit and jack, learn how to change a tire, check the pressure and measure tire tread depths. Your teen’s vehicle should also have a vehicle emergency kit. The time you invest here could benefit your teen greatly in the future should he or she have troubles on the road.

2. Adjust your Driver Settings

“Take this seriously!” —@mamahainlen

Before you get moving, get situated and establish a pre-start car routine. Make sure your feet easily reach the pedals without your knees touching the dash. Position your seat so you can easily operate the accelerator and brake pedals without having to lift your heels from the floor. Also, adjust your seat height to ensure you have an unobstructed view of the road.

Adjust the rearview and outside mirrors to gain the largest field of view and remove as many blind spots as possible. Proper position will allow greater steering control as well as increased vision around your vehicle.

3. Remove Distractions

“Avoid distractions! Know yourself and don’t take risks!” —@malkomes1

“Nothing is more important than eyes on the road at all times.” —@billingsbeachhomes

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most crashes are the result of distracted drivers. Distractions such as drowsiness, noisy or overly active passengers, eating and multi-tasking will all result in unsafe driving conditions. Reduce or remove these types of distractions while on the road so you can focus on keeping yourself and your passengers safe while driving.

It’s no secret that technology plays a major role in distracted driving and potential accidents. Keep in mind there isn’t a call, text, song or social media post that’s worth putting your safety in jeopardy. Put your phone down and set it do not disturb mode before getting on the road. If there’s an emergency and you must make a call, safely pull to the side of the road.

Keep your eyes scanning well down the road and watchful of possible hazards from the roadsides as well. Also, note what’s immediately ahead of you to better anticipate what’s coming up next. If you’re fiddling with the radio or checking a text, your response time to make a quick stop, slow down or switch lanes will be seriously impeded. Looking forward also gives you time to plan for an impending emergency situation.

4. Maintain Distance and Remain Cognizant of Speed

“Don’t be in a rush, just drive calmly.” —@skasbaum

Rear-end collisions make up a substantial portion of total injury crashes.  Following too closely behind a car hinders your ability to come to a full stop without a collision and limits your sightlines and ability to anticipate what’s coming. Instead, allow plenty of space to break or change lanes if needed.

Understanding what’s behind or around your car is just as important. Use your rear view and door mirrors every 15 to 30 seconds to quickly detect and respond to hazards, and always check your blind spots before changing lanes. Knowing what’s around your car in addition to what’s ahead will make you a more proactive driver.

Speeding results in countless fatalities each year. In addition to breaking the law, the consequences of speeding can be much more severe. When you speed, you risk loss of vehicle control and the ability to mitigate crash severity if you do experience a collision. Always remain cognizant of the speed limit on the road you’re traveling.

You can learn more about safe driving on the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge as well as browse additional statistics, resources and driving tools. It’s never too early to start the discussion with the teens in your home about safe driving. Through education and open conversations around healthy driving habits, we can prepare young drivers to face the challenges they may encounter on the road.

Replacement Cost of Your Homes Contents

Forty percent of homeowners are not aware of what their home insurance policy actually covers, and almost one in five policyholders believe they don’t have enough insurance to repair or replace damaged or stolen property, according to a national study Mercury conducted in 2018. One specific area of confusion is the difference between “Actual Cash Value” and “Replacement Cost.”

Why is this important? Consider if your 65-in. Smart Ultra HD TV is stolen. Would your insurance company give you a settlement to replace your TV with a new one of like kind and quality, or what your TV is currently worth today after being used? The answer:  It depends on the coverage you selected when purchasing your homeowners insurance policy.

Here’s a brief explanation of the difference between the two coverages and how you might be reimbursed for a covered property loss.

Actual Cash Value – When a homeowner has actual cash value coverage to repair or replace damaged, stolen or destroyed personal property, their insurance company will pay to replace the item with like kind and quality less age and condition depreciation.

“Actual cash value is basically what it sounds like – it’s what your personal property is worth at the time of your loss, so the cost to repair or replace the property less depreciation,” said Mercury Vice President of Property Claims Christopher O’Rourke. “Depreciation rates vary depending on the type, age, and condition of property, but you can rest assured that we do our best to make sure our customers are properly compensated so they can resume their regular lifestyle as quickly as possible.”

Insurance Tip: O’Rourke recommends homeowners keep an inventory of their belongings, along with copies, scans or photos of your receipts if you have an actual cash value policy.

Replacement Cost – When a homeowner purchases replacement cost coverage, an insurance company will pay to repair or replace damaged, stolen or destroyed personal property with like kind and quality at today’s prices. The policyholder has the opportunity to recover any withheld depreciation up to the replacement cost amount once the property is replaced.

So why should you purchase replacement cost coverage?

“Chances are you might not be able to find the exact model of a TV that was purchased two years ago. With Replacement Cost coverage, you’ll be able to replace your old television with a newer model without having to absorb the cost of two years’ usage,” said O’Rourke.

Insurance Tip: O’Rourke recommends homeowners insurance policyholders review their coverage with their insurance agent annually.

“Our agents are diligent about explaining the ins and outs of insurance policies to customers, but homeowners should reach out to their agent to assess their coverage before a loss happens. One simple phone call could end up saving you thousands of dollars, especially if you’ve acquired new belongings or made home renovations,” said O’Rourke.

5 ‘Must Do’ Steps to Insuring Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

Once you have the perfect wedding rings picked out, it’s important to make sure you protect your precious investment. According to The Knot’s Real Weddings Study, Americans spend an average of $6,351 on an engagement ring. Here are some tips for adding your rings to your homeowners or renters insurance policy, along with other ideas for keeping them safe.

1. Find out the current value.

Your insurance company needs to know the current value of your wedding rings to provide sufficient coverage to repair or replace them. Keep the original purchase receipt on hand and make sure to inform your insurer with details about the gem’s four Cs — color, cut, clarity and carat size.

2. Have the ring appraised.

If your ring is an heirloom that has been passed down through generations in your family, find a jewelry store that has a certified gemologist or a quality appraiser on staff. Be prepared to pay up to a few hundred dollars for the appraisal and to drop your ring off for a week or so. When the appraisal is completed, you’ll receive an insurance replacement report that informs the retail replacement value of the ring. The insurance replacement document also will include information about the physical properties of the stone and metal. The gemstone will be described by characteristics such as shape, weight, clarity, color, polish, symmetry and fluorescence, which dictate the price of the ring.

Be sure to have your ring appraised every few years as the cost of precious metals and stones fluctuates. This step will ensure that you have the right amount of coverage because when the price goes up, you’ll be fully insured for the replacement value. And when the price goes down, you’ll save on premiums.

3. Stay organized.

Don’t toss that receipt! If you need to replace your ring, you’ll need to provide some paperwork for a speedy claims process: the original receipt, the appraisal certificate, any warrantees or coverage policies from the jeweler. Keep everything together in a file or folder so that it’s organized and easily accessible.

“First and foremost, always keep an up-to-date inventory of your possessions,” said Jane Li, Mercury’s senior product manager. “Be sure to take photos, provide descriptions, documentation to support what you paid for the item, and include the purchase date, serial numbers and copies of receipts when possible.”

At the same time, take stock of any other expensive jewelry or valuables you have on hand, and gather the receipts and certificates for those. When you get your ring insured, you can also get coverage for your other valuables, too.

4. Inquire about coverage options.

If you already have a homeowners insurance policy, call your insurer and ask about coverage options for your rings. Most homeowners policies provide minimal coverage for jewelry and high value collectibles, so you may need to purchase a “personal articles” or “floater” policy to provide protection for these items. This way, if you lose your wedding ring while scuba diving on vacation or damage the metal band while working, your insurance company will pay the cost to replace or repair the ring. There is an extra cost for these policies, however, and this cost will be determined based upon the value of the items you are insuring. Talk to you agent to learn more about these policies.

5. Keep your ring looking brand new.

If your ring is a family heirloom and you had it appraised, the gemologist or appraiser will let you know if there need to be any repairs. Some common repairs include fixing the prongs that hold the gemstone in place and cleaning the ring and stones. Also make sure that the ring fits snugly, so it doesn’t slip off during exercise or other activities.

Once you have your ring professionally cleaned, it’s a good idea to clean it on your own at least once a month by soaking it in a mixture of warm water and dishwashing soap for 30 minutes. Gently brush any diamonds or gems with a soft toothbrush and let the ring air dry to avoid scratching the metal.

When doing housework that involves harsh chemicals like bleach, avoid wearing your ring so you don’t damage the metal. Take off your ring while doing work with your hands, such as gardening or crafting, and put it someplace safe until you’re finished.

At home, invest in a safe for when you aren’t wearing your ring. When traveling, be sure to stow away your rings in the hotel room’s safe. While it’s good to know you have insurance in case something happens, you should always take precaution to protect your rings as best as possible.

Marissa Hermanson is a lifestyle and wedding expert whose work has been featured on The Knot, Southern Living and Cosmopolitan. She currently writes for Larson Jewelers, an online jeweler offering a wide variety of unique wedding rings.

5 Steps to Take When You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the top consumer complaints in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with nearly 400,000 complaints lodged in 2016. Common schemes criminals use to steal someone else’s identity include dumpster-diving to steal unshredded bills and other documents containing personal information; sending suspicious emails or phishing scams to trick victims into revealing account numbers and passwords; stealing mail to obtain preapproved loan and credit card offers; credit card breaches and ransomware attacks. Thieves use this information for anything from opening accounts and stealing your money to getting medical treatment.

Falling victim to identity theft can be an unsettling experience and many people don’t know where to begin to restore their good name and credit, what to do or even who to call if it happens to them.

Here are five important steps to take immediately if you fall victim to identity theft:

1. File a police report – This is the first step to take if there is any indication of identity theft. Many fraud departments will require a copy of this report to validate a customer’s status as an identity theft victim.

2. Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus – Fraud alerts signal creditors to verify a person’s identity before authorizing a new credit account in his or her name. Place 90-day alerts with the three major credit bureaus: Experian at (888) 397-3742, Equifax at (800) 525-6285 and TransUnion at (800) 680-7289, as soon as you suspect your information has been compromised. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb to follow before falling victim to identity theft is to check your credit reports at least twice a year. This will alert you to unauthorized credit cards, loans or other activities that are associated with your name. Free reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.

3. Cancel all credit and debit cards – This will go faster if you keep an up-to-date list of credit and debit card numbers at home in a secure location for quick reference.

4. Contact banks and credit unions – Be sure to close checking accounts and any other connected (e.g., savings, loan, credit card) accounts. If necessary, request stop payments on uncleared checks and stolen check numbers. Open a new checking account and request new debit and credit cards, if applicable.

5. Contact other providers – Notify your homeowners, condo or renters insurance carrier, as well as your auto insurer of your situation, so you aren’t dinged with unpaid premiums and to make sure they know no one else is able to file claims under your name. You should also contact the places (e.g., libraries, gyms, and wholesale clubs) where you have memberships.

Mercury Insurance has partnered with CyberScout, the leading data security and identity theft protection firm, to help Mercury customers proactively manage their identities and work to repair them if theft is suspected. This coverage is available to Mercury homeowners, renters and condo owners policyholders. Contact Integrity First Insurance Services to learn more @ 805.495.1122.

Preparation for Mother Nature

Heat waves, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes torment Americans every year. During 2011-2013 the U.S. experienced 25 weather- and climate-related disasters, costing $175 billion in total damages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Not everyone can pack up and move to Michigan – one of the states with the fewest occurrences of natural disasters – but there are steps you can take to prepare your home in the event a natural disaster strikes.

Scenario: Your home is located in a flood zone.

  • First and foremost, make sure you have flood insurance because standard homeowners and renters insurance policies usually don’t cover flooding. Flood insurance policies are available through the National Flood Insurance Program and typically have a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before they go into effect.
  • Elevate furnaces, water heaters and electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home’s projected flood elevation and make sure they’re secured to a solid structure.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Consider constructing barriers to prevent water from entering the building, as well as sealing basement walls with waterproofing compounds.
  • Locate the main power switch for utilities, as well as the main gas valve, in case you need to disconnect and close them during a storm.                                                                        Scenario: Hot, dry conditions may spark a wildfire.
  • Plant fire-resistant plants and shrubs.
  • Install fire-resistant roofing materials.
  • Regularly clean your roof and gutters and mow the lawn, clearing away clippings and dry twigs immediately.
  • Keep garden hoses attached to faucets to aid fire personnel.
  • Set aside household items like rakes, axes, saws, buckets and shovels that can be used as fire tools.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy, fire-resistant drapes.
  • Mercury Insurance offers additional tips to help plan ahead and protect your home in the event of a wildfire.
  • Install screens over attic vents with a mesh size of 1/8 inch.

Scenario: An earthquake might occur.

  • Fasten shelves securely to walls and make sure large or heavy items are stored on lower shelves.
  • Secure heavy items to walls (pictures and mirrors) away from beds and areas where people sit.
  • Hire a professional to repair defective wiring and leaky gas connections. Also seek professional help to look for signs of structural damage and to repair deep cracks in ceilings and the foundation.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Keep a wrench near your main gas valve and learn how to turn it off.
  • Secure water heaters, furnaces, gas appliances and furniture by bolting them to wall studs.
  • Install cabinet latches to prevent them from opening and spilling contents, such as dishes and glassware.

Before any type of disaster strikes, you should also have an emergency plan in place for your family that includes a designated meeting place, emergency contact numbers and evacuation plan. Practice your plan at least twice a year to keep it fresh in everyone’s minds and make adjustments as needed. And if you have a pet, incorporate them into your evacuation plan, too.

You should also have an emergency kit that is easily accessible and includes basic survival items.

  • One gallon of water per person
  • Non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries)
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Can opener
  • Blankets
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Portable charging station for cell phones

FEMA recommends keeping three-day supplies of food and water for each family member.

Consider packing prescription medications, glasses, important financial documents, copies of insurance policies (and your agent’s contact information), a recent copy of your household inventory, birth certificates, social security cards and other identification in a portable waterproof container. It’s also a good idea to include $500 cash in small bills since ATMs and credit card processing units may be inaccessible during a power outage.

If you’re affected by a natural disaster, Mercury Insurance recommends taking the following steps to facilitate the claims process:

When filing a claim

  • Contact your insurance provider immediately to report a loss.
  • Be prepared to provide your policy number.
  • Do not remove debris or damaged property that may be related to your claim.

Steps after filing a claim

  • Prepare a detailed inventory of destroyed or damaged property.
  • Offer photos or videotapes of your home and possessions to your adjuster, if these are available.
  • Keep copies of communications between you and your adjuster.
  • Keep records and receipts for additional living expenses that were incurred if you were forced to leave your home and provide copies to your adjuster.

Ready.govFEMA and the American Red Cross offer additional tips for protecting your home and family before, during and after a disaster.

Three Major Insurance Events of Which Every Homeowner Should Be Aware

Purchasing a home can be a rewarding, pricey and overwhelming experience, especially for first-time buyers. And, if your aren’t a Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg or one of the many others found on the Forbes 400, chances are your house will be one of the most significant investments you’ll make, so choosing the right home isn’t a decision that’s made lightly.

Shopping for a home can be exhausting as you research neighborhoods, tour homes, apply for a loan, negotiate the purchase price, organize inspections, and wade through a seemingly endless stack of paperwork. You also need to select an insurer and homeowners insurance policy. This is critical, as it will protect your investment for as long as you own your home, so it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make. To protect your investment, your belongings and loved ones, following are some tips for both new and veteran homeowners.

1. Fire and water damage are the two most prevalent causes for insurance claims.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports that there were 63,312 wildfires and 3,595,613 burned acres in the U.S. in 2014. Additionally, according to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 487,500 structure fires in 2013, which resulted in $9.5 billion in property damage and amounted to approximately one home structure fire per 85 seconds. There are several steps a homeowner can take, both inside and outside of the home, to prevent becoming one of these statistics.

Inside:

  • Install at least one smoke detector on each floor and check them regularly to ensure they’re working. Be sure to put in fresh batteries at least twice a year.
  • Don’t overload wall outlets or use items with frayed electrical cords.
  • If you have a chimney, hire a chimney sweep to inspect and clean it before cold weather arrives. It’s also a good time to check and be sure that your chimney cap is in good condition to catch any stray embers coming up the chimney stack.
  • Keep flammable items (e.g., curtains, furniture, etc.) away from portable heaters.
  • Don’t leave lit candles unattended and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your home. Make sure everyone knows how to properly use it and have it inspected once a year.
  • Never leave a lit stove unattended and keep flammable materials away from the burners.
  • Be sure to have an escape plan in the event of a fire and practice it with your family twice a year.

Outside:

  • Regularly mow your lawn and clear away clippings, dry twigs and branches from buildings. Be sure to clean your roof and gutters of leaves and other debris that can become a fire starter.
  • Keep branches trimmed so they don’t hang lower than six feet and bushes pruned to no higher than 18 inches.
  • Keep garden hoses attached to faucets to aid fire personnel, if necessary.
  • If a wildfire starts, track smoke and its impact on your visibility to determine if you should evacuate prior to an official evacuation notice being put in order. Monitor if the fire and smoke change direction to determine your safest evacuation route.

Using fire-resistant materials around your property and on your home provides added protection and may even save you money in the event of a loss. For example, fire-retardant plants like rockrose, ice plant and aloe resist ignition. Fire-resistant shrubs to consider when landscaping include hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples, and hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers. Speak with your local garden center to learn more about the plants that can protect your home from fires.

Water damage is the second largest cause of insurance claims; however, certain circumstances aren’t covered by a standard homeowners policy. To differentiate, damage that is caused by weather (e.g., natural flooding from hurricanes, flash floods, etc.) is referred to as flood damage and requires flood insurance, which is available through the National Flood Insurance Program. Water damage is usually caused by bursting or leaking pipes, plumbing issues, malfunctioning household appliances (refrigerators, hot water tanks, dishwashers, washing machines) and HVAC issues.

Homeowners can take the following steps to protect against water damage.

Inside:

  • Check appliance hoses once a year and replace any that are cracked or have leaks.
  • Review your appliance owner’s guide for maintenance tips to keep them in good working order.
  • Inspect pipes for cracks and leaks. If any are detected, have them repaired immediately.
  • Make sure showers, tubs and sinks are properly sealed and caulked.
  • Know the location of your main water shutoff valve so you can turn off your water supply in the event of a burst pipe or damaged hose.

Outside:

  • Keep rain gutters and downspouts free of debris. Install gutter guards to prevent debris from accumulating and position downspouts to direct water away from the house.
  • Ensure windows are properly sealed and caulked.
  • Inspect the roof for damaged, missing or old shingles and replace them.

2. Some of your belongings may have limitations to their coverage.

Certain items like fine art, rare stamps or coins, wine collections, antiques, expensive jewelry and collectibles may not be fully covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. Speak with your local insurance agent to ensure you have the right amount of coverage for everything you own.

3. Home renovations may impact your insurance rates.

If you’re considering building an addition, remodeling or putting in a pool, keep in mind that your insurance premiums will likely be impacted to protect this new investment. Square footage is one factor in determining a premium. Additionally, if renovations include higher value materials, the replacement cost in the event of a loss will go up, affecting your insurance rates accordingly. Swimming pools increase your liability exposure, which will increase your premium; however, pools can be great assets. In addition to providing a fun way to cool off on hot days, pools can act as a barrier for wildfires and an added source of water for firefighters, if necessary. And most renovations add to the comfort and livability of a home, as well as its resale value, which is well worth the added protection. Speak to your local insurance agent to determine how much your premiums will change and be sure to ask about any money saving discounts.

How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?

Every driver is different, and most vehicles are different, too. Essentially, everyone’s auto insurance needs vary based upon an assortment of factors. Whether it’s simple liability or full coverage, Mercury recommends consumers purchase the insurance package that best fits their personal requirements.

Below are some key questions consumers should ask themselves when evaluating their car insurance:

  • Am I making payments on my car?

Lien holders will often require a vehicle owner to carry collision coverage so the car will be repaired (subject to the payment of the deductible) regardless of who caused the accident. This is the bank’s way of protecting its investment in the vehicle until you finish making payments on the loan.

  • How much of a deductible do I need?

Higher deductibles lower your monthly insurance rates, but they increase the amount you pay out-of-pocket in the event of a loss. The deductible you choose is the amount you agree to pay when you use your collision coverage, regardless of fault. Some companies will reimburse the deductible if the accident is not your fault. Mercury will often even waive your deductible if the accident is clearly not your fault, so it’s very important to assess how much you can afford to pay on short notice and use that to determine your deductible.

  • What are my driving habits?

History has a way of repeating itself. A driving record littered with broken headlights, dented doors and bent bumpers may require complete insurance coverage (see collision coverage). Additionally, drivers who make long daily commutes on dangerous, busy stretches of road may also want to increase insurance coverage to protect against possible collisions.

  • Where do I live?

Location. Location. Location. Take your environment into consideration when choosing your level of protection. Living in areas with high auto theft and vandalism rates make having comprehensive coverage more of a necessity than if you reside in Smalltown, USA. If you live in an area where harsh winters, packed interstates and narrow streets are the norm, collision coverage becomes more important because the likelihood of being in an accident increases.

  • What type of car do I drive?

More expensive lines of coverage (collision, comprehensive coverage) become less justifiable as the value of your vehicle decreases as it ages. In these situations, it may make sense to decrease your level of insurance coverage to save money, but ask yourself whether the savings are enough to offset the risk of potentially having a large repair or replacement bill.

  • How frequently do I drive my vehicle?

Do you commute daily or just use your car on weekends? How much mileage do you put on your car per month? The more you drive, the more likely you are to get into an accident. Take this into consideration when evaluating how much auto insurance you need.

  • Who uses my vehicle?

Is it a family car? Do multiple drivers use it? Not everyone may be as experienced as you, so consider who else will be driving your vehicle before purchasing auto insurance. Liability may be enough protection for you, but is it enough for your teenage son or daughter?

  • What can I afford?

Money talks, especially in today’s economy. Look for a plan that protects you and still fits within your budget. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing expensive auto insurance that doesn’t offer enough protection. Mercury offers a variety of insurance discounts, ranging from good student to multi-car, which make protecting your vehicle more affordable.

  • How much do I have to protect?

If you own a home, have multiple vehicles and there will be teenage drivers using your vehicles, you will probably want a lot more coverage because you have more to lose in a serious accident. Conversely, if you rent an apartment and own an older car, you may not need as much coverage.

Whatever your situation, it’s always a good idea to speak with an insurance agent. Insurance can be very confusing and a highly trained, professional agent is your best resource to help get the right coverage at the best price. Mercury only sells through independent agents, so you can be sure you’ll get excellent advice and a package specifically tailored to meet your needs.

Understanding Car Safety Ratings

Understanding-Car-Safety-Ratings

Although newer vehicles are generally more expensive to insure than older ones, consumers can often get discounts if their new vehicles have the latest safety features. Advances in crash and accident avoidance technology mean that consumers who buy a new vehicle equipped with the latest safety features are often less likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.

Safety ratings are a function of two major factors: prevention—how well the vehicle is designed to prevent an accident—and, crashworthiness—how well the vehicle performs in a crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks its Top Safety Picks based on good, acceptable, marginal or poor performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and evaluations of seat / head restraints for protection against neck injuries during rear impacts. Crash tests are conducted on a half-dozen types of vehicles, including large cars, mid-sized cars, small cars, minivans, mid-size SUVs, and small SUVs. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for a full report on recalls and defects.

Currently, some of the top-rated safety features are:

  • Adaptive front airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Side curtain airbags
  • Knee airbags
  • Electronic stability control
  • Anti-lock braking systems
  • Brake assist
  • Tire pressure monitors
  • Back-up sensors
  • Park assist
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Smart headlights
  • Crash-alert systems (such as OnStar)
  • Built-in car seats

Technology is ever-improving, and, as time goes by, manufacturers and the government are standardizing these features. Doing your homework ahead of time and knowing what your options are can make the decision-making process smoother and get you into that new car faster!