Here in Pennsylvania, many homes have basements and people are looking for extra livable space. So many have finished their basements turning them into valuable living and storage space. However a question that is often brought up is, “What is covered if I get water in my basement?” Water leaking in through the foundation walls or through the floor is a common issue for some on a regular basis or during storms.
Most homeowner’s insurance will cover water damage due to sudden leaks from a pipe bursting. Slow leaks over a period of time are often excluded. So if you have a sudden pipe burst in your basement, most likely your insurance will cover the damage above your deductible amount.
Some homeowner’s insurance policies come with an additional water back up coverage add on. This allows you to have a limited amount of coverage for water and sewer damage coming from your drains, septic lines, or sump pumps. This is often a suggested coverage for an additional fee for those who have finished basements – especially ones with a bathroom in the basement!
Lastly, you can purchase flood insurance for your property whether you live in a high risk flood zone or not. For it to be considered a “flood”, water must cover the ground on your property and an adjoining property (unless you have a large property, then it has to cover two acres on your property). Flood insurance only covers limited items in a basement though. These include electrical systems, hot water heaters, heating/cooling systems, freezers, washers, and dryers. Flood insurance does not cover finished basement rooms, furniture, or anything stored in the basement though.
Generally if you have water that comes in through the walls or floor of your basement, there is a gap in coverage where often none of the water coverages available will cover any damages. If you have not finished your basement yet and have gotten water in the basement before, you may want to not finish the basement or store valuable items on the floor. If you do finish your basement, keep in mind that you take on the risks of paying for repairs yourself if you do take in water from the walls or foundation.
When you are setting up and reviewing your auto insurance in Pennsylvania, one of your important decisions to make will be choosing full versus limited tort. This article is not fully exhaustive on the subject and is not meant to give legal advice. You can read the state law regarding tort here.
When you choose a tort option, you are choosing it for the members of your household, including your spouse and children. Your option is regarding your legal rights to sue the at-fault party in a car accident. When you choose a tort option, you must sign the state document indicating which you would like. If you do not sign the document within the given time period, your insurance policy will default to full tort regardless of your initial decision.
What is Full Tort?
Full tort is generally more expensive to have on your insurance policy. However, for the cost, it gives you the unlimited right to sue if you are involved in an accident. You can sue for economic losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, out-of-pocket costs along with non-economic losses, including pain and suffering regardless of the type or severity of injuries. Pain and suffering is generally a large part of accident lawsuits. Having the ability to sue for these does not guarantee that you will actually win a settlement, and even if you are awarded damages by the court, there is no guarantee the at-fault party will have the coverage or assets to pay. That is where we enter into the discussion of uninsured and underinsured motorists bodily injury coverage, which we will address in another article.
What is Limited Tort?
The first thing that people notice with limited tort is that their insurance cost is 15%-20% less than with full tort. However, for those savings, you sign away the ability to sue for pain and suffering for “non-serious injuries” along with other non-economic losses. So what can you sue for? You can still be reimbursed for economic losses. These include medical bills, lost wages, property damages, and other out-of-pocket costs. You can sue for “serious injuries” which are defined in your policy as personal injuries resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.
Limited tort does have a number of exceptions that will revert your rights to full tort after an accident where:
You were hit by a driver convicted of a DUI (Driving Under Influence) or accepts ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) as a result of this accident. Keep in mind, the driver must live to be convicted.
The vehicle that hit you is registered in a state other than Pennsylvania.
You were injured by a driver purposefully trying to harm themselves or others. This could include a road rage scenario and possibly the act of avoiding such a risk.
You were hit by a driver without insurance. Keep in mind that drivers without insurance often don’t have great amounts of assets or income to recover either, which makes your uninsured motorist coverage important.
Your injuries were caused by an auto manufacturer’s defect or a mechanic’s defect in workmanship.
You were in a vehicle other than a private passenger vehicle. This could be a business vehicle, company vehicle, commercial vehicle, bus, other public transportation, motorcycle or bicycle.
Consider your rights, your family, the exceptions, and the price of your insurance coverage to make a decision of full or limited tort. If you have legal questions, consult a lawyer for further information. If you have insurance coverage or rate questions, ask your agent!
Have you been a victim of identity theft? Do you know someone who was? Chances are you answered yes to at least one of these questions. According to CNN, every two seconds another American becomes a victim of identity theft – and it’s growing rapidly!
There are clear steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft before it occurs, but what about after it has already taken place? Consumers should be made aware that most homeowner or renters insurance policies don’t cover much, if any money stolen from property, and none of the money stolen from a bank. Once the damage is done, you can still manage its impact by following these key tips to stop the damage from going any further.
Check your bank accounts daily
The few minutes of your day it will take to diligently check your bank accounts, is well worth the price of fraudulent spending cleaning out your savings. Beyond just spotting ID theft, this practice will also help you spot erroneous fees or mistakes made when depositing checks. Online platforms, such as mint.com, can help you aggregate all of your different bank accounts into one location where you can view them seamlessly. This daily practice will ensure ID theft will have no more than 24 hours impact on your bank account, increasing your chances of getting all of your stolen funds restored.
Check your credit score three times per year
While you’ve likely seen commercials out there for all sorts of credit score companies, keep in mind that there are just three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You should run your credit score with them each once per year. Spread these out over the year, so you are checking your credit every four months. Checking all main credit bureaus will give you the full picture of your credit, so you can spot anything that appears fraudulent. The sooner you catch these errors, the sooner you can report them to the bureau and restore your credit.
Set alerts on spending
One of the best ways to catch ID theft in real-time is to set alerts on any spending from your bank accounts or charges to your credit card. Most banks or credit card companies will monitor your account for what appears to be fraudulent spending, but this may not be enough to catch a sophisticated ID theft. Take matters into your own hands and get an email alert for any time a card is used. These may result in a few extra emails a day, but it’s easier to delete these emails than to recover money lost due to ID theft.
Change all passwords on important accounts
Once you see fraudulent charges occur, it’s safest to assume the ID theft has all of your sensitive information. Immediately change your passwords for all bank accounts, email accounts, government accounts, social media and PayPal. This is one of the fastest and smartest ways to reduce the impact of ID theft. Additionally, don’t reset your password to something obvious or something you’ve recently used for another account.
Send creditors and credit reporting agencies a copy of your ID theft report
Once ID theft takes place, you should share copies of your ID theft report with your creditors and credit report agencies so they can note the fraudulent charges as such and remove the impact these would otherwise have on your credit score.
Escalate things to the police or FTC
If after you have taken all of the actions listed above and the fraudulent activity continues to occur, it may be time to take your case to the police or Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Usually the entities only get involved if the case is extremely sophisticated, but yours just might be. With their resources, you have a better shot at restoring your identity and the money or credit you may have lost in the process.
The good news is there are services and insurance out there that can offer you some additional peace of mind. Companies like LifeLock and IDShield offer subscriptions to closely monitor your private information and alert you of any potential threats. However, these services are by no means a guarantee you will never experience identity theft. Additionally, you can usually add on ID theft expense coverage as part of your homeowners’ insurance policy for about $30 a year. While this doesn’t cover the actual money stolen as the result of ID theft, it does provide up to $25,000 to cover the cost of hiring an attorney, credit recovery and monitoring service, and pay for time off work related to getting your ID back.
Remember, the best safeguard against ID theft is using precaution, closely monitoring your bank accounts and credit score, and taking action immediately if anything looks out of place.
What other questions or tips do you have related to identity theft? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
7 Common Mistakes People Make With Their Homeowners Insurance
Owning a home is a great joy and a big responsibility. It’s important to properly protect your assets with the right homeowners insurance. Unfortunately, there are quite a few common mistakes homeowners make when insuring their home and assets. Take a moment to learn from these mistakes and compare them against your current coverage.
Having too much or too little coverage
When it comes to insuring your home, it’s important to find the right balance of insurance that is not too much or too little. If you’re over-insured, you’re going to be paying more for things you don’t likely need. If you’re underinsured, you may run into damages your insurance doesn’t cover, causing you to pay for repairs completely out of pocket. An experienced insurance agent can help you find that “just right” amount of coverage unique to your home and family.
Setting your deductible too high or too low
A low deductible sounds great, but keep in mind your premiums will also be higher as a result. A high deductible may save you some money on your premium, but if you can’t afford to meet the deducible when you need to file a claim, that will leave you in a tight spot. Similar to finding the right amount of coverage, you also need to find the right deductible. Think: How much money can I immediately and reasonably pay out of pocket if something goes wrong?
Not understanding the extent of your coverage
Don’t sign off on your policy without reading the fine print and asking questions. Many homeowners make the mistake of assuming their policy will cover everything that could happen to their home. Wrong! Your policy covers what it says it will cover, so read it. Issues like flooding, earthquakes and mold may require additional coverage. If you have special items in your home, they may require special coverages too.
Failing to report any life changes
If your family gets a dog or remodels the basement, you may not think this is something you need to share with your insurance agent. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Some “life changes” could impact your insurance policy. Check with your agent who can advise if this is something that will require different or additional coverage. In the case that a change to your house could save you money, like adding a security system, it’s always worth the ask!
Not making an inventory of your property
If your house caught fire tomorrow and everything you owned was gone, could you recall all your household items by memory? It’s not likely any of us could. This is why it’s so important to take a photo inventory of each room in your home, and pictures of the outside of your house. Place the file with the photos in a fireproof safe. Don’t forget to update this inventory if you purchase a new item or change something in a room.
Not taking immediate action to report or resolve an issue
If you spot something that could be mold, don’t drag your feet to get it looked at. What might not seem like a big deal now, could cost you big down the road. Not only will the issue continue to get worse, your insurance may not cover the repairs since you did not take action when you first identified a problem.
Forgetting to regularly review your policy
On an annual basis, you should review your homeowners insurance, and all insurance policies with your insurance agent. They will be able to ask you questions on things that have changed in your life over the past 12 months. They can also advise you of changes to your policy or other policies that may be a better fit for your current life situation. One annual meeting can save you both time and money – make it a priority!
Have you run into issues with your homeowners insurance? Ask a question or share and example from which others can learn!
With all of the extremely cold temperatures we are experiencing this winter, many of us have turned to electric heaters just to keep our homes warm. They help heat up a room faster, but also come with some dangers. One third of all home heating fires are caused by space heaters.
Please follow these tips in order to avoid fires and burns:
Don’t place a heater too close to clothing, mattresses, bedding, or upholstered furniture.
Don’t place a heater under any furniture or in an enclosed space.
Use newer heaters that automatically shut off if they tip over.
Keep heaters at least 3 feet away from any object that is combustible.
Always plug the heater directly into the wall receptacle, never into a extension cord!
Keep children & pets from directly touching heaters or sitting too close.
It’s a new year and the perfect time to take a fresh look at the many areas of your life which you can improve. Aside from improving your health and breaking some bad habits, it’s also smart to take a critical look at your insurance policies to be sure you are properly covered and getting the best rates possible.
Take a look at these six tips for getting more out of your insurance in 2018 and plan to put them to use in the coming months!
Learn What Coverages You Really Need
When it comes to insurance, you don’t want to overpay for coverage you don’t need and you certainly don’t want to be underinsured. It’s smart to educate yourself on what coverages you really need for home, auto, life and any other type of insurance you purchase. Your agent should offer you sound advice, but you should also have enough base knowledge to ask questions and understand exactly what you’re getting in a policy.
Bundle Insurance Packages
Working with a single agent and bundling multiple insurance packages can save you time, money and stress. Many insurance companies offer a full suite of insurance policies and when you purchase multiple policies, there is a cost-savings involved. You will get the most out of your insurance by bundling packages because you will (most likely) only need to work through one company and one agent which increases efficiency and lowers costs.
Invest in Safety and Anti-Theft Devices
Get more out of your insurance this year by investing in safety and anti-theft devices for your home, car, boat and other insured assets. Most insurance policies will then offer a discount for installing such devices that reduce the risk of your items being stolen or damaged. Not to mention, this is a huge benefit to you, too. Win, win!
Stay in Direct Communication with Your Insurance Agent
It’s important that you have a direct line of communication to your agent, especially in case of emergency. Get the most out of your insurance, and reduce your stress, by working with an agent who is professional, responsive and proactive. You should also schedule a regular (i.e. annual) meeting with him or her to review your policies and insurance needs, as these frequently change over time. You want to be sure you always have accurate coverage and are taking advantage of the best possible rates.
Maintain Good Credit
For so many reasons, it’s smart to regularly check your credit score and to take steps to improve it. When it comes to insurance, your credit may play a role in setting your policy rates. Your credit-based insurance score helps the insurer determine your likelihood of experiencing an insurance loss. It’s important to note that not all insurance companies consider credit ratings when determining your policy rate, but a good credit score will help you in so many other areas of your finances that it’s one more way you can get more out of your insurance in 2018.
Consider service, not just price
It’s easy to focus on the bottom line of what your insurance costs, but don’t forget to consider the service aspect. Working with a company and an agent who delivers exemplary customer service is invaluable. This will save you headaches – and likely money – in the long-run. When shopping around, consider how responsive and knowledgeable the agent is and whether you would feel comfortable turning to this person in an emergency situation.
What other insurance-related questions do you have? Leave a comment and let us help you find an answer!