What is an umbrella policy?

WHAT IS A PERSONAL UMBRELLA POLICY & DO I NEED ONE?

Simply put, an Umbrella policy is a policy which provides additional liability insurance coverage above all of your other insurance policies.

HOW DOES AN UMBRELLA POLICY WORK?

Here are some examples of incidents that an Umbrella policy could cover if your homeowner’s insurance or your auto insurance wasn’t enough:

  1. Your dog runs out of the house and viciously attacks a neighbor who was going for a walk. Your neighbor sues you to cover the cost of her medical bills, lost wages & pain/suffering.
  2. Your child gets into a fight at school and punches another student, breaking their nose. The student’s parents sue you.
  3. You cause a 10-car accident and your auto insurance property damage coverage isn’t high enough to replace all 10 accident victim’s vehicles. Nor is your personal liability coverage high enough to pay for their medical bills.
  4. You send sandwiches to your child’s school for a field trip @ several students develop food poisoning and their parents sue you.
  5. Your child throws a party at your house while you’re gone. Someone brings alcohol to the party and one of the guests is arrested for driving under the influence on the way home. You can be sued.

As you see from these examples, the Umbrella policy would cover not just the policyholder, but also other members of the household.

Some people are more likely to need an Umbrella policy than others. If you engage in some activity that puts you at a greater risk of incurring excess liability, you’re an even better candidate for an Umbrella policy. Personal liability risk factors can include owning property & renting it out, employing household staff, having a trampoline, pool or hot tub, hosting large parties and being a well-known public figure.

Basically, the more likely you are to be sued, the more strongly you should consider purchasing Umbrella insurance, but anyone can be at risk. Wouldn’t you sleep better at night knowing you’re protected by an Umbrella policy!

We service all of Southwest Michigan areas such as Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Coloma, Watervliet, New Buffalo, Baroda, Bridgman, Stevensville, Berrien Springs, Hagar Shore etc. Wherever you are, call our office!

What is an Independent Agent? Auto-Owners can answer that

You need insurance. We all do. In some cases it's required by law, in others it's required by the unwritten code of being a responsible adult that owns things. So, what’s the best way to buy it?

Online or with an agent?

What kind of agent – independent or captive?

Oh, and what does this all mean?

We think life is complicated enough; your insurance doesn’t have to be.

What is an independent insurance agent?

An independent insurance agent is a trained and licensed professional that tailors programs to meet their customer’s specific needs. They can do this because they work with many insurance carriers, rather than just one. They are locally based and operate out of their own local insurance agency.

This may surprise some people, but an independent agent is a small-business owner. Agents are not an employee of the insurance companies whose products they offer.  The insurance agency is often run by a few agents and administrative staff members. Oftentimes it's family owned. Another misconception is that they sell their own insurance products. They do not. Instead, they work on behalf of their customers to obtain policies from insurance companies.

Now, it's important to point out that every insurance agency you see is not an independent agency. There are also captive/exclusive agencies that operate differently.

What's the difference between independent insurance agents and other insurance agents?

The main difference is that independent insurance agents offer more choices than captive/exclusive insurance agents. Captive/exclusive agents offer only one insurance company's products. This means they can only place your policy with that one company.  Independent agents, on the other hand, have options. They can place your policy with one of the several insurance companies they work with to make sure your unique needs are met.

Summary: Independent insurance agents help you find a policy with one of the several insurance companies they work with at their agency. Other, captive or exclusive, insurance agents can help you find a policy with the one insurance company they work with at their agency.

 

So, what’s the best way to buy insurance? If you ask us, an independent insurance agent!

At Auto-Owners, we are committed to offering our insurance products solely through independent agents because of the many advantages they offer you.

What advantages? Glad you asked.

1. Your local independent agency is your one-stop shop for all types of insurance. Since independent agents offer a variety of insurance products from several insurance companies, you are more likely to be able to handle all of your insurance needs in one place rather than trying to coordinate with businesses all over town. Most independent agencies offer life, home, car and business insurance. This means you may only need one point of contact for all your policies.

2. Local support from somebody you know. Many customers share stories about their independent agent being the first one on the scene after losing their home to a storm or fire. Agents take their job seriously, especially when their customers experience a loss. They know you personally and are ready to help when you need it most. For many agents, this is why they became insurance agents - to help people during hard times.

3. You can have the same point of contact even if you want to switch insurance providers. Let’s say you are interested in changing your insurance. When you have an independent agent, you don’t have to go back to the drawing board. Instead, you can call the same agency and they can help coordinate the switch. This means you can often stay with your same agent even if you switch insurance providers. This way you can continue to work with the person you’ve built a relationship with and who knows your needs.

 

4. Your independent agent knows your community, because it’s their community too. Independent agents live and work in your community, maybe even in your neighborhood. This means they personally understand the insurance needs specific to your area. This is extremely valuable since insurance requirements vary from state to state. Your local, independent agent can offer you more personalized guidance than a 1-800 number or website can.

5. Expert advice means you'll have confidence and peace of mind. Do you really want a flashy website form and an automated formula to be what stands between you and financial distress in the event of a claim? With an independent agent, you will receive expert guidance from their experience. And, if you need to file a claim you will know whom to call. Not to mention, if you have questions about your policy you can call your agent. This beats waiting on hold for what feels like forever just to get a simple question answered.

6. You get insurance that fits your needs rather than a one-size-fits-all policy. When you call or visit an independent insurance agent, they will work with you to review several options for your insurance. This allows them to focus on finding a policy that fits your needs rather than fitting your needs into what one insurance company offers.

7. Working with a local, independent agent means you are supporting a local business. Most independent agencies are locally owned. Many agencies are owned and operated by a family from your community. So, when you call the agency to find your policy or inquire about a potential claim you are likely calling a familiar area code rather than a 1-800 number.

 What about all those cheap and easy options I see online?

We’re not going to pretend there isn’t an option to buy insurance online, directly from other insurance companies. Because, well, there is. They like to tote that insurance can be cheap and easy. They say you can get a quote fast and get the cheapest coverage.

But, let’s take a second and ask ourselves if “cheap and easy” is how we want to describe one of the most important financial decisions we make in our adult lives? Does cheap and easy give you confidence?

Alternatively, would you find confidence in the fact that a licensed professional that knows your name has your back? The expert that you know personally did a thorough review with you when you purchased your policy. They looked it over, they know the companies and put your assets with the company they know from experience provides the coverage you need.

We are your independent agent! We service clients for home, auto, life and business insurance all thoughout Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties in towns just like yours whether it is Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, Coloma, Watervliet, Bridgman, Baroda, New Buffalo etc. Just give us a call and see what the Independent Agent can do for you!

Is your business prepared for a disaster?

Summer weather can bring major storms to the Midwest, often including tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, lightening, floods, etc. It is likely a question of when, and not if. But if you are prepared, the damage can be managed. Insurance can help make sure you are back to business as quickly as possible.

A recent survey found that 66 percent of small businesses do not have business interruption insurance. This is despite the fact that an estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster. Some 75 percent of small businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan in place, even while 52 percent say it would take at least three months to recover from a disaster.

Some tips:

Look into flood insurance. Flooding is the most common and most costly natural disaster in the United States, causing billions in economic losses each year. About 90% of ALL natural disasters in the US involve flooding. Just one inch of water can cause up to $25,000 in damage. Flood coverage is thru a separate program and business insurance does not cover flood unless a specific policy has been purchased separately.

Make sure your records are stored electronically off site and make sure you have financial records, insurance policies and important contact information available.

Review your insurance annually. Check coverage and limits to make sure they are adequate if you need to rebuild. Sit down with your agent to discuss coverages changes that may be needed. Was there a new purchase like equipment or furnishings? A couple of new employees which may have increased the payroll? Did you add an outdoor patio? Many times customers don’t think to notify their agents when changes are made.

Maybe it is time to review your policy? Call our office to discuss your policy. We can evaluate your current program, make coverage recommendations etc. This can be done electronically if you prefer given the current social climate.

We provide all types of business insurance needs with numerous carriers in the Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Coloma, Watervliet, Stevensville, Bridgman, and New Buffalo areas as well as many others in the tri-county area. We are always available to help!

Who Handles Your Life Insurance?

You work hard to make sure you have Auto and Homeowners insurance; however have you reviewed your Life insurance needs lately for you and your family?

This coverage is crucial to have in place for you and your family’s protection. The need is very real. I have personally handled many claims for an unexpected death of a loved one, and I can tell you when the check is delivered to the beneficiaries, it’s a huge help during a family crisis. Think about these statistics for a minute: 1 in 4 people feel they need more life insurance. 8 in 10 Americans say family is most important to them, but only half have life insurance (55%) to protect them. 85% of consumers agree that most people need life insurance, yet only 62% say they have it. 8 in 10 Americans overestimate the true cost of life insurance. 1 in 3 households would have immediate trouble paying living expenses if the primary wage earner died. 6 in 10 married households with children have an average life insurance gap of nearly $200,000. Think about these questions: How would your family’s day-to-day life be impacted if the unthinkable happened to you? How long can your family live without your paycheck? Would they have to move? How would your children attend college without your paycheck? Have you co-signed any student loans? Do you have enough Life insurance to cover your debts? Would your family have to take out a loan to pay for final expenses? If you’re a business owner, how would your business continue, and do you and/or your partners have life insurance protection to cover your business arrangements (i.e. Key Man or Buy/Sell)? Do you want to give an inheritance/estate gift to a favorite charitable organization, church, or other organization?

You see, all of the above needs can be satisfied with Life insurance! If you have Life insurance, that’s great and I applaud you for having that important coverage in place! Have you reviewed that policy lately to make sure you understand how much and how long that coverage will be there? Your needs may have changed since you bought the policy, or it may be performing differently than what you assume so I recommend performing an annual checkup on these policies to make sure they are adequate in coverage and length of time based upon your personal needs. I would be happy to give you a no-obligation review of your current program, and if desired, we can check our markets to see how it compares. We write all types of Life insurance from Level Term, Whole Life, Universal Life, Indexed Life insurance, and beyond with numerous top rated life insurance companies.

I would be happy to discuss your Life insurance needs and concerns with you at any time, give you my recommendations and options, and then you can make an informed decision to have a solid Life insurance plan for you and your family protection!

We write not just Life insurance, but also all types of Annuities/IRA’s for savings/retirement needs, Disability Income (wage protection) if you become sick/injured, and Long Term Care insurance to cover nursing home care, assisted living, and home health care needs after your primary insurance coverage stops paying benefits. I will cover these topics in future blogs. We provide this insurance in the entire State of Michigan, predominantly in the tri-county area in communities such as Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Coloma, Watervliet, Stevensville, Bridgman, New Buffalo, and beyond.

Please give Life insurance serious consideration. I can tell you that your family will undoubtedly appreciate the financial assistance when your untimely passing occurs.

Have a great day, and be healthy!

-Cory Flaugh