Googling homeowners insurance could spell disaster for you.

Have your ever Googled your symptoms even though you know you should’nt only to find out you are dying in the next five minutes?!?

I have done it. I was recently diagnosed with a difficult form of eczema but had convinced myself after Googling my symptoms that I had skin cancer. After hemming and hawing I decided to put on my big girl pants and talk to a professional – my dermatologist. She quickly settled my nerves and told me that greasy lotion was my new best friend and that feeling like a greased pig was a new way of life now.

That’s like Googling home insurance and going with the first website that promises you cheap home insurance. It may seem easier and less stressful to do it yourself but you don’t really know what you need or what’s available. Only an professional can do that.

According to a study completed by JD Power in 2016 74% of new insurance purchasers will begin the buying process online. Of those consumers 25% will purchase insurance online. The rest use other methods, such as insurance agents or insurance company call centers. Now consider that 60% of homes in the US are under insured as stated by Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, and per Insurance Information Institute 1 in 20 homes will have a home claim each year. Those are some scary statistics from my perspective.

I know asking for help is difficult sometimes. My husband easily comes to mind when it comes to asking for help, asking for directions, or visiting a doctor. Hearing, “Honey, you were right.” always feels good. There is a reason there are doctors and there is a reason why there are Insurance Agents. It’s because we need them.

You may think by Googling and searching through a couple options that you have the right insurance. You can’t tell from seeing a few websites what you are getting until you are knee deep in a claim and you are hearing the word “denial” from your claim adjustor when you realize you may need a professional.

You are not paying extra money by using an Insurance Agent. You are asking for some one to build a relationship and trust with you. You are asking for an Insurance Agent to help you insure your home and auto adequately and to educate you about what is available to you. So ask for help and don’t go it alone. You will be glad you have some one to call if and when something happens.

11 Reasons to Work with Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors

For 20 years I worked tirelessly for insurance agencies receiving little appreciation for my contribution to the agency or the industry. I dazzled their clients and bonded with their prospects like no insurance agent could. I aspired to continue to grow, improve, and give back while insurance agencies were unwilling to create necessary change within the agency and the industry. A year ago I struck out on my own to create an insurance agency different from others. An agency that challenges how people view insurance; as a commodity, as a necessary evil, as a conspiracy. Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors is not another insurance agent, we are an Insurance Advisor. Below is why Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors is not an insurance agent.

  • I will challenge the thought that insurance is a commodity every day. Insurance is not a one size fits all. Every policy is different. Each insurance company has its own appetite for the preferred policyholder. Reading an insurance policy requires an insurance and/or legal background. Not all insurance claims are covered and/or go smoothly.
  • I will continue to learn about insurance every day. Not because the state of Maryland says I must but because I want to give you the most up to date information that is available to me. Yes, continuing education sucks but it is a necessary evil in order to give you my best. The insurance industry constantly changes, and I want to be at the forefront on behalf of my clients.
  • I will share with you my insurance knowledge. I am not a gatekeeper of insurance knowledge but I do live and breathe insurance each day and I want to help you better understand insurance so you can make a more informed insurance decision.
  • I will provide consistent oversight over your account and make you aware as soon as possible of issues or concerns. I will also provide you options on how to handle your insurance needs. I will steward your account as if it were my own.
  • I will advocate on your behalf with the insurance company to treat you fairly. The insurance company needs to make a profit. You need to maintain your livelihood.
  • I will communicate the timeline for completing your request and I will stick to it. Insurance does not happen at the push of a button – if done right.
  • I will be honest with you. If I make a mistake, I will tell you. I will also tell you how I am working to correct it. I am only human, but I value you as a person.
  • I will tell you how it is and not sugar coat if you are jeopardizing your insurance future. It is not in your best interest or my best interest if we are not open with each other.
  • I will not bend rules or lie to another party for a client. I cannot in good conscious jeopardize my livelihood or my family for another person.
  • I will not offer you the cheapest insurance program just to beat your current insurance program. Any one can offer you a cheaper policy by cutting coverage or not give you all the information. My job is to give you the best coverage for you.
  • I will work to earn your business every day. Insurance is a relationship business, not a sales business. Tell me about your work, your spouse, your kids, your hobbies. I want to know who you are.

If you want more than an insurance agent, if you want more than an insurance transaction, if you want something different start working with an Insurance Advisor at Avant-Garde Insurance Advisors today!

Why you need an insurance agent

At the end of July I had what I would call a traumatic insurance event. I was woken up one night by my husband saying the police were knocking on our door. It turns out an impaired driver had struck my SUV while parked outside our home. As I glanced out my window I could not see damage to my SUV but what I found shortly there after was my vehicle was a total loss.

My SUV immediately following the collision at 4am on July 24th.

I don’t know about other people but I loved my SUV. It took me a month to commit to buying her and I was diligent in maintaining her. I invested my time and money in maintaining the condition of my vehicle. I also enjoy the independence of having my own vehicle at my disposal at all times.

As an insurance professional I thought it would be smooth sailing but it was not. Between negotiating vehicle values to the rental car shuffle, nothing went as I thought it would. I was in four different rental vehicles while trying to get back to where I was before this claim began.

I am finally at the tail end of the claim and this is what I have learned.

  • Get towing coverage, whether through your auto insurance policy or a AAA membership. Get it! To drag my SUV onto a flat bed tow truck off of the curb the cost was over $400. Also, have the number of a tow company you trust for those 4am tow emergencies.
  • Get rental reimbursement coverage and buy it up to a minimum of $50 per day. For someone like me that drives a full size SUV with two small children in carseats and a 6’2″ tall husband you need more than the $30 per day limit. A full size SUV today is $90 per day if you are not the insurance company.
  • Know the value of your vehicle when you are reporting the claim and research similar vehicles as comparables so you are not surprised by the value the insurance company estimates.
  • In my case my gut told me my vehicle was totaled. If you have any inkling that your vehicle is totaled start finding a replacement vehicle as soon as possible. I did not want another vehicle. I delayed the process and had a hard time committing in the end.
The shock and suspension falling off the undercarriage of my vehicle.
My vehicles broken dashboard.

If you have a good insurance agent they will help guide you through the claim process and give you tips and tricks to help make it as smooth as possible. Some claims will go smoothly and others will not. When the big claim comes along you will want someone on your side to help you along the way, if not just to vent to. I don’t wish claims on any one but if a claim happens I want to be there for them.

National Insurance Awareness Day, June 28th

This Friday, June 28th is National Insurance Awareness. The day was created to encourage everyone across the nation to review their insurance policies.

Below are some tips to help you observe the day:

Home:

  • Review the home value. The value of the home should be based on current construction costs, not market value. You should review the home value every 3 to 5 years.
    • Review the home credits. If you have installed an alarm or have turned your alarm service off you should update the home policy accordingly.
    • Review the deductible. The higher the deductible the lower the premium. Also a higher deductible will discourage you from filing small claims which can impact your ability to obtain coverage in the future.
    • Review the endorsements included in the policy. If you have switched insurance companies recently a coverage may have been dropped during the process.

Auto:

  • Review drivers listed on the policy. All licensed drivers residing in your home should be listed on the auto policy. Failure to do so could result in a denied claim for unlisted drivers.
    • Review ownership of the vehicle. If the loan or lease agreement has been satisfied update the policy. This will prevent delays in payment at claim time. Any change in titled ownership should also be reflected on the policy or a new policy purchased for the vehicle.
    • Review deductibles. Insurance companies continually increase the price breaks for higher deductibles. As with the home insurance a higher deductible will save you premium and discourage you from filing small claims.
    • Review usage of each vehicle. Vehicles used for Uber or Lyft services do not have coverage while being used for this purpose. Vehicles used for business purposes may also not have coverage if used for business at the time of a claim.

Schedule:

  • Update items to be listed along with values. Appraisals should be completed every 3 to 5 years to keep up with market values. Use an inventory such as Collectify to manage your collection easily.

Umbrella:

  • Update properties, vehicles, drivers, recreational vehicles, boats, etc. at each renewal. Failure to update could result in no coverage under the umbrella.
  • Make sure the underlying insurance policies for each of the above meets the minimum liability requirements to avoid a coverage gap.
  • If you do not have coverage for the underlying insurance policy for each of the above obtain it at your earliest convenience.

With the help of a Trusted Insurance Advisors they can help you review your policies at any time, not just this Friday or at renewal. A Trusted Insurance Advisor is there to help you every step of the way. Call your agent today!

Why is my credit score used when buying insurance?

This is a common question with clients and it is never an easy conversation. Like many of my clients my gut goes sour when I need to discuss or request information regarding credit reporting. There are a few things to know.

  • State of Maryland has approved the use of credit as a rating factor for auto insurance. Credit is not used for home insurance in Maryland. Almost all insurance companies doing business in Maryland will want to obtain a credit report in order to provide an auto insurance quote. There is only 1 or 2 insurance companies in Maryland that do not.
  • Your insurance agent will never see a credit score or credit report when quoting your auto insurance. For this reason your insurance agent will also not be able to provide specifics about what was contained in the report, and will direct you back to the insurance company quoted to obtain more information.
  • Your insurance agent will not know specifically how your credit impacted your auto quote. Insurance companies have rating structures based on hundreds of rating factors. As information is entered into an insurance company’s quoting system the rate changes. Credit score is only one factor for rating.
  • The process of obtaining your credit report will not impact your credit score. Unlike when you are applying for a loan or line of credit, we are not looking to confirm if you are a good applicant. For this reason you can not be turned down for auto insurance based solely on your credit score.

While the thought of your credit score being run for an auto insurance quote has you sick to your stomach, your insurance agent is doing their best to meet your insurance needs. Your insurance agent will not pry into your financial situation but will guide you on the best auto quote for you. Maintain an open dialogue with your insurance agent and voice your concerns to help settle your nerves.

Call your independent insurance agent for more information on the auto insurance quote process.

After an Auto Accident

Auto accidents are never fun, regardless if minor or major.

My client’s can get pretty rattled at the time of an accident.

Below are some quick and easy steps after an auto accident.

  • Stop immediately, but don’t obstruct traffic. Set up accident flares or warning signs if you have them.
  • Make sure to turn off your vehicle, to guard against fire.
  • Determine if anyone is injured and assist if necessary.
  • Call the police to file an auto accident report.
  • Secure the driver’s license number, make, model and other important information of other vehicles.
  • Take photos of driver’s license, registration, and vehicles involved, including license plates.
  • Secure the names and addresses of witness or other parties.
  • Observe your surroundings to determine direction, lanes of travel, traffic, weather conditions, to provide to your claim adjustor.
  • Do not accept fault of accident or attempt to make settlement at the scene.
  • Notify your insurance agent after the scene has be cleaned up and you are safely home.
  • Always, always, keep clam, don’t argue, accuse anyone or admit guilt.

If you have any questions or concerns before or after an accident consult with your insurance agent.

Insurance agents have been involved in the claim process in a variety of situations and can provide you guidance on what to expect and best practices.

Safe driving!

Pamela

Hot Topics In The Insurance Industry

Last week was pretty chaotic for me.

In all of that chaos I attended a town hall forum hosted by Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA).

For anyone not aware, we have a new Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Al Redmer, as of February 2015.

The purpose of the forum was to open a dialogue between the MIA and insurance professionals doing business in Maryland.

There were several topics discussed…

  • When sending special notifications to Maryland policyholders to educate them on insurance, what notices should we include? What does the policyholder need to know? How do we help them make an informed decision when managing their insurance needs?
  • Water back-up and water damage came up. Water back-up is the #1 home insurance claim across the country, and that will not change in the future. Do policyholders know what water back-up is, and what is flood? What kind of coverage are insurance companies providing to policyholders? What needs to change
  • Maryland has experienced a variety of weather events lately; hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, etc. Weather events are creating a lot of claims, which in turn causes issues in rating and premium structures. MIA wants to know what insurance professionals feel is reasonable to help curve this cause of loss and create better rating structures in the future.
  • With all of the technology today, Cyber Security is becoming very important for businesses. What are insurance professionals doing to reduce their chance of a data breach? Are policyholders, specifically businesses, purchasing cyber security insurance?

There were many other topics discussed but these are the big topics for the forum and are a serious concern for the insurance industry. Some of these topics are even being discussed at the federal level.

MIA is dedicated to helping Maryland policyholders navigate the insurance market and help them make an informed buying decision.

My policyholders get frustrated every day with insurance related issues; from claims, to billing, to coverages, to premium. I myself get frustrated every day on behalf of my policyholders.

There are individuals out their working hard to provide the appropriate types of insurance and help consumers make sense of insurance. They are also trying to be fair and do what is right for the greater good.

Whenever you have a concern about your insurance you should always reach out to your insurance agent to discuss it.

You can also find more information by visiting MIA at, http://www.mdinsurance.state.md.us.

Insurance is not easy, so ask a professional.

Pamela