Monday, January 22, 2018

Home Construction

Does Construction Really Matter?

Have you talked to an agent about quoting your home insurance and they asked what type of construction your house is? Would you know the answer? I wouldn't have before we learned the insurance business. Most people we talk to don't even think about the construction. They like the way it looks and they usually assume it was built well. Does the type of construction really matter? Yes!

So why does the construction of your home matter on your insurance policy? 
Well it can determine how easily your home can be damaged and how much it will cost to repair/rebuild after the damage. Each construction type will have a different set of rates. These rates will primarily depend on how susceptible the type is to certain perils, such as wind and fire.

Most buildings are one of six construction types:

Frame/Brick Veneer is the most common. The exterior walls  are framed and supported by wood or steel frame. Brick veneer, stone veneer, wood ironclad or stucco on wood are included in this class because they do not support the structure. They are constructed over the frame. This is the easiest construction to damage, but it is also the least expensive to use in construction, making it the most used in residential construction.  
Joisted Masonry consists of exterior walls of masonry materials such as brick, concrete, adobe, concrete block, stone, tile or similar materials. This construction is usually combined with a combustible floor and roof. This class is less likely to be damaged than Frame, but it is also more expensive to use. 
Non-Combustible consists of exterior walls, floor and supports made of noncombustible materials, including metal, asbestos or gypsum. These buildings are less likely to burn, but they can be susceptible to wind. They have no drywall, insulation or exposed wiring, so they are less expensive to build than the other types. 
Masonry Non-Cumbustible consists of the same material as Joisted Masonry but the floors and roof are made of noncombustible materials, such as heavy steal or poured concrete. This is used mostly in commercial buildings. This class is sturdier and harder to damage, making it safer.
Modified Fire Resistive consists of exterior walls, floors, and roof of masonry or fire-
restrictive materials with a resistance of at least one hour, but less than two.
Fire Resistive consists of exterior walls, floors, and roof of masonry or fire resistant materials with a resistance of at least two hours. Both Modified and Fire Resistive are used in large commercial buildings. They are very sturdy (if built correctly) and can hold many people and property.

The type of construction should be listed on your pre-sale inspection (which hopefully you still have!). Knowing this information can make quoting easier and more accurate. If your agent isn't asking these questions, they may be looking online, but that information isn't always accurate. Be careful in assuming the agent has the right information. It's best if you know the answers yourself. It's your policy, meant to protect you. Be sure you know your coverage you have is what you need for the home you own!

There are three ways to request a quote for your insurance needs: 
* Visit our website
* Call Brockman Premier Insurance at 877-987-8683  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Tree Issues

Your Trees vs

Your Foundation

Foundation damage can be very costly and Home insurance policies do NOT cover foundation damage as a general rule. 
We had foundation issues at our home several years ago. We noticed a crack by a window on one side of the house and a crack in the floor tiles in our front hallway. We had 2 companies come out for quotes. One company wanted $12,000 to put in piers. The other company came out and the rep told us he would love to take our money, but he really thought the issue was our trees. We called a tree expert and he removed 5 trees from around our house and we now have a soaker hose that goes around the foundation. It has made a huge difference in the condition of our foundation. But we did have to have the pipes reconstructed in the front of our house where the biggest tree had been removed. As the root system died off, the soil shifted and the pipes were no longer held in place by the same support. As they moved, they cracked. They had to be dug up and rebuilt to the tune of $3000. That is not covered by home insurance. Where your trees are is a big factor in the damage they can cause and the damage removing them can cause. 
We have learned a few things about how trees can affect your foundation.

Trees can cause problems for your foundations in three ways:

Physical Contact:

When there is physical contact between a tree and a foundation, damage can occur, depending on the type of tree, the site conditions, proximity to the foundation, the type of foundation, how the tree is contacting the foundation, and the tree’s size.  The tree species is important because a larger, older, longer-lived, shade tree is most likely a bigger issue than a smaller, younger, shorter-lived tree or shrub. This is due in part to the extent of the root system involved with shade trees.  Most trees have root systems contained within the top 4 to 5 feet of soil, with the absorbing roots in the top 12 inches.  The roots can extend outward beyond three times the height of the tree.  So a tree with a height of 50 feet, could have roots that grow outward 150 feet from the trunk. If your tree has limbs near your house, you are likely to have roots growing under or along your foundation.  If you do not water around the foundation, research shows that roots will have a tendency to congregate and develop more rapidly under the foundation simply because of the increased amount of available moisture underneath. The roots will find water wherever they can.
The type of foundation is important because, as a general rule, a pier-and-beam foundation can tolerate nearby trees better than a slab.  Roots running below a foundation can force upward pressure as the contacting portion expands in diameter.  The roots or trunk can also exert an inward pressure if they contact the outer perimeter of the foundation as they expand in diameter.  A pier-and-beam foundation gains its support from piers rather than just concrete on top of soil, they can sustain some minor pressure from nearby trees.  If a large shade tree is 5 feet from a foundation, physical contact and pressure forced against the foundation is likely.  If the tree is 15 feet away, physical contact is likely and pressure  against the foundation is possible. the further the tree is from the foundation, the less likely the roots will cause damage. If you are moving/planting trees, call a tree expert and get some advice on placement.

Moisture Content:

Trees can affect the moisture content of soil under and around foundations.  A large shade tree can release as much as 200 gallons of water per day into the air in the form of vapor (called Transpiration) .  The water for transpiration must come from the soil by way of the roots.  Trees can “pull” water from under a foundation, but only do so when water in the surrounding soil is inadequate or unavailable.  Since water naturally moves through the soil from high moisture areas to low moisture areas, not watering at all can cause foundation problems regardless of nearby trees.  Trees can add to the problem, but are usually not the primary cause of moisture loss from soil.

Air gaps and shifting soil due to dying root systems:

When trees die (or are removed), the roots remain. Even if the tree is removed, the roots usually are not. If they are under or near a foundation, these remaining roots can create problems.  As the roots begin to rot and decay, air spaces and gaps occur in the soil  the roots once were.  Soil often shifts to fill the void.  Traditionally foundation professionals have recommend removal of a larger shade tree that is close to the house.  Today, research shows it isn't always best to remove the tree. 

Be sure to call a tree removal expert and listen to their advice before making the decision to plant, move or remove trees. Ask them for the pros and cons. 
Do it smart from the start!

There are three ways to request a quote for your insurance needs: 

* Visit our website
* Call Brockman Premier Insurance at 877-987-8683  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Explaining Renters Insurance

Make It Simple- Renters Insurance

Renters insurance is our next installment in the Make It Simple series. Have you tried to read your insurance policy and just given up? It can be very confusing! Let me try to simplify it for you.
Every policy (regardless of type) should have a Declarations Page, commonly referred to as the “Dec Page”. This page “declares” who you are, what property you have insured, your coverage choices and how much you are paying for this policy period.

Similar to Homeowners insurance, there are 2 types of coverage on your Renters insurance policy; Coverage that protects you and coverage that protects the other party.

Coverage that protects you

Personal Property:  This is your contents on the property. This can be written as Actual Cash Value (ACV) or Replacement Cost (RC) coverage. ACV coverage means your belongings are covered at the amount it would cost to replace them minus depreciation. So if you have a 5 year old tv that is stolen, you will receive the amount it would cost to replace the tv 5 years ago.  RC coverage means your belongings are covered at the amount it would cost to replace them at the time of the claim. So if you have a 5 year old tv that is stolen, you will receive the amount it would cost to replace the tv at todays cost.

Loss of Use:  May provide reimbursement for reasonable increases in living expenses (such as a hotel room or apt) due to a covered loss, if your rental home is uninhabitable.

Deductibles:  is the amount you pay out of pocket when you file a claim for a covered loss. You will have several options to choose from for your deductible. If you have a $500 deductible and a $6,000 loss, the insurance carrier would pay you $5,500 for the claim. A higher deductible will generally mean a lower premium and vice versa.

Additional coverage: You may be able to add optional coverage such as extra jewelry coverage or Identity theft restoration or increased coverage for business property.

For Parents of college students:  if you have kids living in dorm, remember- personal property coverage  on your home insurance policy will extend to the dorm. But it only covers up to 10% of your personal property coverage amount. A renters policy is an inexpensive way to make sure you child is covered at school, for both contents and liability!

Coverage that protects the other party

Personal Liability: Covers you if someone is injured on your property due to your negligence.  It may help pay for treatment of their injuries and your legal costs.

Guest Medical Payments: May provide reasonable and necessary medical expenses to a guest on your property injured in an accident.

So that is Renter's Insurance in a nutshell. There are many factors in Motorcycle insurance, but they don't have to overwhelm you. If you have any questions, please contact your agent. That is what they are there for. If they cannot answer your questions, please contact us. 

There are three ways to request a quote for your insurance needs: 
* Visit our website
* Call Brockman Premier Insurance at 877-987-8683  

Monday, January 8, 2018

Explaining Flood Insurance


   Our next installment in the Make It Simple series is Flood Insurance. 
Consumers are rarely required to carry flood insurance unless they are in a high risk Flood Zone. If you are, your mortgage house will most likely require you carry a flood insurance policy. But you should talk to your agent and make sure you know if you should have a flood policy or not, regardless of which flood zone you are in. 
   Your flood policy has a Dec page, just like every other insurance policy. It will “declare” who you are, what property you have covered, the insurance limits you have chosen and how much you are paying.
   Flood Insurance is backed through the federal government under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program regardless of who you buy the policy from. There are various levels of coverage and deductibles to choose from. You will have a separate deductible for the building and for the contents. Unlike Home and Auto insurance, Flood insurance only covers You. There is no “other party” liability in flood coverage.

Building Coverage: This covers physical damage to your home due to rising flood waters Keep in mind- two properties, or two acres, have to be flooded for flood insurance to pay out. This covers the building and its foundation, electrical and plumbing systems, a/c equipment, furnaces, walls, flooring… etc. The amount of building coverage should be based on your dwelling/replacement cost amount on your home insurance policy. Flood coverage cannot be higher than the home insurance amount. It caps at $250,000 for residential homes.

Contents Coverage: This covers physical damage to personal property such as clothing, furniture, electronics and certain valuable items, such as artwork (up to $2500). It will not cover currency or precious metals.

Deductibles: The Building and Contents coverage have a separate deductible. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium, but the more you will pay out of pocket in the case of a claim.  

*It is worth noting there is a standard 30 day wait period unless you are closing on a new home.  And Flood policies have to paid in full before coverage will begin. If your Mortgage does not require you have a flood policy, they will not let you include it in your escrow payment so you will need to make that payment in full directly. 

So that is Flood coverage. It is a simpler Dec page than home and auto with less coverage to understand. But please make sure you do understand what it will and will not cover and how much coverage you need to have. 

There are three ways to request a quote for your insurance needs: 
* Visit our website
* Call Brockman Premier Insurance at 877-987-8683  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Auto Claims

The Low Down on Auto Claims

If you have ever been in a car accident, you know they can be traumatic. Even if no one is hurt and the damage is minimal, you can feel very shaky. If there are injuries and/or damage, it becomes even scarier. 
While feeling very shaky and uncertain, you immediately have to deal with the aftermath of the accident. What damage is there to your car? How about the other person's car? Are there injuries? Should you call the police? Should you call for an Ambulance? Should you file a claim?

Is your carrier trying to trick you?

I came across an article not too long ago that gave three "Tricks" they claim Insurance carriers use to keep from having to pay out on claims. 
1. Creating a sense of urgency in your car accident
2. Getting you to make statements admitting fault in the accident
3. Using your own Social Media against you.

I don't believe carriers use these as "tricks", but they can be real issues if you are not careful.  I do address below how to avoid these coming back to bite you later. 

We are an independent insurance agency. We are not licensed for Claims, so I am not an expert on how each claim will work. (Disclaimer!) But we have worked with clients and adjusters during the claims process for many years. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist;  I don't believe adjusters are taught to make sure the carriers pay out as little as possible. I am a realist though, and insurance carriers are not in this business out of the goodness of their hearts. They do need to make money and this means they will scrutinize each claim since this is the bulk of where they lose profit.  
You pay for insurance so that the carrier will "make you whole" in the event of a covered loss. It is up to the carrier to decide if a claim is a covered loss, or how much of the liability lies with the insured. This is done through adjusters. We have been in insurance for several years now and I have come across some great adjusters and I have dealt with some I would love to drop kick off of a bridge. Much like any industry, you will deal with competent and incompetent people during this process. 

This is why you need to take some basic steps to protect yourself during a claim.

Immediately following the accident

* Are you and your passengers alright? (If not, NOTHING else matters- call 911!
* Once you have made sure you and your party is safe, pull over out of traffic and check on the other party.
* If no one is in need of medical attention, look at the damage to the cars. 
* Take photos of the damage to all involved cars! 
* Exchange insurance and contact information. (regardless of who you think is at fault)
* Call the police to make sure a police report is filed. You will be thankful for this later.
* Do not admit fault unless you are absolutely positive you are at fault. If there is any question, do not tell the other party or the police it was your fault. This speaks to Trick #2 up above- You would be surprised how many people will record you or what witnesses will say. You were just in an accident. You get to be unsure of what you think happened. 
(Spoiler - If you are intoxicated, this step will not help you!)

After the Accident

* If you know it was your fault, own it and call in the claim to your insurance carrier. You will need your policy number which can be found on your ID card.
* If you believe the other party was at fault, call it into their carrier. (This is why you exchange insurance info!)
* Be prepared with a statement of what happened. You want to write this down so you can work out the details. Drawing a picture of what happened can be very helpful. Many carriers will ask you to do that anyway. Put as many details as possible into your account. 
*Do not call in the claim until you are calm enough to discuss the details (This speaks to Trick #1 up above) You don't have to call it in immediately. Call it in with a clear head. You will be surprised the things you say when you are confused and upset.
* If it is your fault, and there is a chance the damage is lower than your deductible, don't file the claim until you get an estimate of the damage. If it is below the deductible, it will not do any good for you to file the claim because it won't pay out and you will have a claim on your file. For questions about deductibles, read our earlier post explaining auto insurance
* Once you call in the claim, the adjuster will contact all parties involved for statements. You will want to send in any photos you have taken and any witness statements you have as well. 
* The adjuster will call you once this has been completed. They should contact you within 48 hours (barring weekends and holidays). If they do not, call them again. 
* Do not go onto Social Media and tell everyone you just messed up. (This speaks to Trick #3 up above) Your words can be twisted especially if you are bragging/joking about jacking someone's car. You may think it is funny, but it can used against you, so BE SMART!
*If you disagree with the adjuster's assessment, you can appeal the claim decision. The process is different with every carrier, but you do have the right to appeal any decision.
*Once the claim decision is made, the claims adjuster will guide you through the auto assessment and repair process. You should be able to take your car to anyone you want. But if you use a body shop the carrier is associated with, it may go smoother. Some shops have an adjuster based in the shop which can make the process easier. (But who you use is up to you, not the carrier)

After the Claim

Please understand, an At Fault claim will cause your rates to increase, even if it is your first one. Not At Fault claims will not affect your rates as much, but if you have several, it will weigh on your history and can affect the rates. Claims can affect your rates for up to 5 years, depending on the carrier. This is not your agent's fault. It is just how the insurance industry works. Remember what I wrote up above? Claims are the #1 cause of profit losses in this industry. If there are higher than anticipated claims one year (think unplanned for Hurricanes and hail storms), rates will go up the next year.  If you have a claim your rate will go up more than those without claims. But even if you don't have a claim, your rates can go up because the claims losses have to be paid for. The carriers will spread it over their entire customer base. They cannot raise rates however much they want. Insurance is highly regulated by the state. Rate increases have to be approved by the State (In our case, the Texas Department of Insurance). 

Here is where I put in a plug for using Independent Insurance Agencies. When rates go up, we have several different carriers to quote you in. 

 There are three ways to request a quote for your insurance needs: 
* Visit our website
* Call Brockman Premier Insurance at 877-987-8683  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Frozen Pipes

Protect those pipes!  

Winter brings hazards that need to be taken seriously. When the weather is freezing and there is ice and snow, we know to drive slower (I hope!) We know to walk more carefully outside. But what about inside our homes? What harm can come to our safe, warm home from the ice outside? One of the biggest risks in Winter is Frozen Pipes.
Generally, damage from pipes bursting is covered under your home insurance policy as "sudden and accidental" water damage. But water claims are usually expensive which doesn't look good on insurance history (meaning higher rates in your future). Here are some tips to avoid those water claims:


 The first thing you should do is protect the pipes exposed outdoors. 

Water in pipes can freeze. The water will expand in the pipes as it freezes, which can cause pipes to burst. This can cause untold damaged to your home and belongings.  You can buy insulation at your neighborhood hardware store. You can also take old socks, sweatshirts or towels and wrap and tape them over the pipes. Remove the hose before insulating the faucet. You may also want to insulate indoor piping that is in an unheated area, such as the attic or any crawl space. This is especially true for homes in areas with harsh winters. Moving water is less likely to freeze, so drip your faucets on freezing nights. You don't need to run the water, a slow drip will work just fine.   


   If you turn on your faucet and no water comes out, chances are your pipes are already frozen. You want to thaw them as soon as possible. The longer they stay frozen, the more likely they are to burst. You should always assume the pipe may already have a tear and shut off your water at the main water valve. It is often in or near the garage. But walk your property and make sure know where it is and what tool you need to turn it off quickly. There are steps you can take to thaw the pipes yourself. But if you are not comfortable with your handyman abilities, call a plumber


   If you want to try to find and fix the frozen section yourself, start with the closest exposed pipe to the faucet(s) and wrap it with rags or towels. Pour a little hot water over it until the water flows again. Do not EVER use a hair dryer or electric heater near frozen pipes. As the water thaws, it becomes a fire and/or electric shock danger if the water sprays as it thaws.
If your home does incur water damage, call your Insurance agent. They will have contacts to clean up water damage. 

There are three ways to request a quote for your insurance needs: 
* Visit our website
* Call Brockman Premier Insurance at 877-987-8683