Serving the Penn-Ohio area
Among the questions we receive from our policyholders, these are some of the most frequently asked:
Certainly, that’s what we’re here for! Upfront, you should realize that you won’t get a high-pressure sales pitch from us. All our agents are salaried, so you need not worry about a salesman motivated by a quick commission. With our competitive markets, we write the majority of the business we quote. But, if you’re better off staying where you are, we’ll be the first to tell you.
We like to give both an apples-to-apples quote as well as our recommended coverages. The policies our new customers show us sometimes need just a little tweaking, while others need a radical restructuring. The important thing is that you come out of our office knowing not only whether we can offer you a better deal, but also that you understand your insurance better. For most people, an insurance policy is the most complex legal contract they will enter into in their lives. Yet, too often we meet new customers whose old agent never explained even the basics of their insurance coverage.
For Auto Insurance: Your address and current coverage limits; the year, make and model of your vehicles (preferably with the serial numbers); names, dates of birth, and license numbers of the drivers; accident and violation history; vehicle usage.
For Homeowners’ Insurance: Your address and current coverage limits, claims history, the dates of birth of the owners, and the age of your roof, heating and electrical wiring. If it looks like we can give you a good deal, we would then conduct an exterior inspection of your home in order to develop a replacement cost estimate; we’ll also need to ask you about some interior features, so our replacement cost calculation is more accurate.
For Business Insurance: The exact nature of your business, annual sales, payrolls, and claims history. (Because business insurance needs can vary so widely, there will be a good deal of additional information we’ll need, depending on the scope of your operation).
For Life Insurance: Your date of birth, tobacco usage, general health, the amount of insurance wanted (we can easily run quotes for multiple amounts), and whether term or permanent insurance. If term insurance, the length of the coverage term wanted (though, again we can present you with various options).
With all the decisions and requirements needed as you approach closing — not to mention the excitement as you consider all the packing and unpacking and perhaps remodeling or redecorating your new home — sometimes insurance becomes an afterthought.
We normally need to inspect the property’s exterior to develop an accurate replacement cost — we will also ask you about some of the interior features that affect a home’s replacement value. While it often happens that you only just learn of a closing date in two days, it is helpful for us to have a few days lead time to complete our inspection. After we have completed an application with you, a closing date has been settled upon, we can quickly fax the insurance documents to your closing agent.
While coverage for your home is most often written for 100% of the replacement cost (with a replacement cost guarantee on the dwelling), in some situations insuring to 80% of replacement cost, or even a home’s market value, may be more appropriate. We will discuss your options with you. We will also help you determine which deductible would be your best buy.
Insurance companies will want your roof, furnace, and electrical service to be up-to-date and in-good repair. Let us know of any major improvements you will be making upon possession. We will also ask about your homeowners’ claims history. If your home has a wood-burning stove, we will need to make sure it is properly installed. If you would be operating a business out of your home, we can make sure your policy provides the proper coverage.
Whether you are buying a new home, or want to compare our rates to your existing premium, it only takes a few minutes to get a quote. And, while insurance is no less vital than the loan approval, title search, and inspections that accompany the purchase of a new home, the process to make sure you are properly covered at the best possible rate will take little of your time.
Congratulations! As an owner of a small business, you’ll know the satisfaction (along with the occasional headache) of being your own boss. Moreover, you’ll be playing a perhaps small, but definitely vital part in reinvigorating our local economy. As a fellow small business owner, we welcome writing insurance for new start-ups, and, along with your accountant and attorney, are eager to serve you as a trusted advisor.
1. Liability. What is termed “General Liability” insurance protects you for your legal liability for injury or damage you cause, and arising out of your premises, your operations, products you sell or work you have already done. The premium will vary based on annual sales, payroll, floor area, or some other factor that best measures the level of activity for your business classification.
2. Property: If you own a building, that, of course, would need to be insured; likewise, any contents (termed “business personal property”). Settlement may either be on the basis of replacement cost or “actual cash value” (depreciated value). The premium is based on the type of occupants in the building, the type of construction, hydrant or sprinkler protection, and the values involved.
3. Business Interruption: Should you suffer loss or damage to your premises you would be faced not only with a bill for repair or replacement, but lost profits until you can reopen. We can help you figure the proper amount to carry.
4. Special property: Standard property insurance limits the coverage for certain types of property or losses such as money, employee dishonesty, signs, or property away from your premises. Many insurance packages include automatic extensions to grant a certain level of coverage for such circumstances. A well-designed insurance program will take care to identify and properly insure any property you own that might otherwise be subject to special limitations.
5. Automobile: If your business will own a vehicle, the insurance is not all that much different than with personal auto insurance. Pricing will be based on the type of vehicle, its usage, the distance it will normally travel, and the driving records of you and any drivers you hire. Unlike a personal auto policy, a business policy does not automatically provide coverage for vehicles you rent or borrow (“Hired Autos”). Moreover, your firm can also be held responsible for an employee who has an accident in his own vehicle if he’s on the clock (“Non-owned Autos”). These two coverages can be added to a business auto policy — or even to a general liability policy if you own no vehicles.
6. Workers' Compensation: The law holds an employer responsible for on-the-job injuries to his employees, regardless of the fault of the employer. This responsibility is for both unlimited medical expenses as well as lost-wages at levels set by statute. (The trade-off is the employee, in nearly all cases, must accept these benefits and cannot sue you for pain-and-suffering or other additional amounts). Premium is based mainly on the type of business and your payroll.
7. Professional Liability: Certain types of businesses or professions will need to carry Professional Liability (also known as Errors & Omissions) in addition to General Liability insurance. We can advise you if this will be a consideration for your particular business.
9. Health Insurance: With obtaining quality, affordable coverage always a concern, health insurance can be written just for you and your family or as an employee benefit for your workers. Depending on the ages, health status and number of persons to be covered, as a business owner, you often have the option of purchasing either individual policies or group coverage. We can help you navigate the ins-and-outs of the health insurance market and select the most cost-effective option for your situation.
10. Life Insurance: Group life insurance might be a benefit you want to provide or make available to your employees. The cost is usually low. As an alternative, payroll deduction plans allow your employees an easy way to buy moderate amounts of coverage. These plans are at no cost to you but are perceived as a benefit of working for your company. Separately, you may need to consider life insurance on yourself, any partners or other key employees. The proceeds may be used to pay off business loans, by the surviving partners to buy out each other’s heirs, or to pay the additional cost of bringing in replacement talent.
It need not be confusing, but there are two basic decisions to make: How much insurance do you need and how long do you need it? We can help you answer both these questions. Sophisticated software allows us to do an in-depth analysis of your life insurance needs. (An easy-to-use version is available here). However, a couple rules of thumb are useful.
For how much you need, a multiple of your present salary — 10X to 20X salary (with the higher end of the range more appropriate the younger you are) — is usually suggested during your earning years. Toward retirement, an amount sufficient to pay for a funeral, some final medical expenses, and any remaining debts is usually enough. Don’t forget to figure an amount for a non-working spouse to cover the cost of child care and management of the household.
A substantial amount of insurance is usually needed for the time your family is relying on your income — in most cases, until the children are grown and / or the mortgage is paid down. (Business or estate tax needs can extend this time period even longer). After that, for most personal situations, a lower amount of insurance, but lasting indefinitely, is sufficient.
What kind of insurance to buy? There are two basic categories — term and permanent. Term, as its name implies, is written for a set period of time, usually 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. If you would want to continue coverage at the expiration of the term, you could either reapply (as long as your health hasn’t deteriorated) or exercise a “conversion privilege.” Conversion is a right in a term policy which allows you to purchase permanent insurance, up to the full face amount and at your current rate classification, regardless of your future health, even if it would then be very poor. Term insurance does not develop a cash value.
Permanent insurance comes in the form of a Whole Life or Universal Life policies. A Whole Life policy provides coverage for your lifetime, at a level premium. Because the premium does not increase, you are, in effect, overpaying in your younger ages to subsidize the cost of insurance in your older age. This “subsidy” develops a cash value in the policy, which you can later withdraw or borrow against. A Universal Life policy is similar; however, it lets you vary the premium, amount of insurance, cash value build-up, and length of protection.
In the long run, permanent insurance is usually a better buy. On the other hand, because the initial premium of term insurance is a good deal lower, it can more easily fit in the family budget. (Frankly, if the choice is between enough insurance for the short-term and a lesser amount for the long-term, it is better to take care of present needs first). Sometimes, a combination of the two — a small permanent policy for lifetime needs, and larger term policy, say until the kids are grown — is advisable. Whichever life insurance option you select, we will make sure that it is appropriate for you and your family.
Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, homes remain on the market far too long. When a property is vacant, the risk of damage is greatly increased with most insurers not willing to write the coverage. Luckily, we have very competitive markets for well-maintained properties that will cover a basic set of perils — fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, smoke, explosion, riot, vehicle or aircraft damage. Be aware that this list does not include vandalism, bursting of pipes, weight of ice and snow, or theft. (We also have markets that will write a broader set of perils, though at a higher premium).
For certain businesses, particularly contractors, being able to obtain a surety bond is often a concern and sometimes even a mystery. While insurance companies provide bonds, they differ from insurance policies in two important respects. First, the bond is a guarantee of an existing obligation you would have to another party (usually, a governmental entity). Even after you secure a bond, you are still responsible for fulfilling this obligation; the bonding company is merely providing a back-up guarantee. (Think of it like obtaining a co-signer for a loan). Secondly, bond forms are not standardized — there are hundreds of different types, covering various kinds of obligations and to various local, state or federal bodies.
Contractors are most often faced with a request for a bond. Municipalities frequently require a license bond to accompany an application for a license to operate within the town. These usually guarantee the contractor will remedy any below-code work. The cost of such bonds is small, and they are usually written freely.
Contract bonds are an entirely different sort of bond contractors will sometimes need. They guarantee work — usually with a public entity — will be done as specified in the contract and at the price bid. The contract bond has a few components: The Bid Bond guarantees that you will enter into the contract at the price bid. It must accompany the bid you submit, there is minimal or no cost for this. It also gives assurance that you can obtain the Performance Bond. The Performance Bond is the main guarantee that you will be able to successfully complete the job. The Payment Bond guarantees that subcontractors and materials suppliers you used will be paid. A Maintenance Bond guarantees your performance of any maintenance provisions following completion of your work. Payment and Maintenance Bonds are normally included with the Performance Bond (except for maintenance agreements over one year or performance guarantees other than against defective materials or workmanship).
Businesses that are responsible for collecting and remitting money to another entity are also often required to be bonded. Examples are dealers of hunting and fishing licenses, auto dealers, lottery agents, or contributors to union welfare plans. The cost of these bonds depend on the amount and the exact nature of the obligation. Because they are guaranteeing, you will remit money when due, such bonds are carefully underwritten.
For all bonds, you will need to be of good character, and of good credit. Depending on the size of the bond, the Surety company’s underwriting could range from a simple credit check, to a review of your financial statements, to requirement for audited financial statements. For contractor’s performance bonds, you should have the experience and capability to tackle the type of job you are bidding. Give the bond underwriter time to review your case if you have not already established a bonding account with them.
Jewelry, while covered for fire, tornado, etc. under your homeowners’ policy, is subject to a limitation for theft. With Erie Insurance, this theft limit is $3,000; with Millville Mutual, it is $2,500. Moreover, because of the small size and high value of most jewelry, there is also a concern about misplacing or losing a piece.
There are a few options available to properly cover your jewelry depending on the value of the items and your homeowners’ policy form. More expensive pieces; however, usually need to be scheduled — an appraisal giving a value and a detailed description of the item would be required. Rates for scheduled jewelry run around $10 per $1,000 of value.
First, let’s explain what it is. An umbrella liability policy provides high limits ($1,000,000 or higher) of coverage over-and-above your existing liability coverages: Automobile, the premises and personal liability provided by your homeowners’ insurance — and if you have them, recreational vehicles, watercraft, and seasonal or rental properties. Typically, umbrella policies require a minimum coverage limits on your basic liability (auto and home) policies — $300,000. (If your basic limits are not this high already, you would need to increase them to qualify for an umbrella policy). In a few respects, an umbrella also provides broader coverage than your basic policies — worldwide auto liability, liability assumed by contract, and damage to property in your custody.
Everyone has the potential risk of a catastrophic lawsuit. It’s not so much who you are — as much as who is making a claim against you. A moment’s inattention on the highway could cut short the career of an oncoming driver, a surgeon just out of medical school, or a candle you leave burning destroys not just your apartment but an entire multi-unit apartment building.
Those most interested in umbrella policies are individuals and families with significant assets to protect, high wage earners, or those whose occupation or position in the community may make them a target of a lawsuit. Also, purchasing umbrellas are those who like boating, skiing, or other sporting activities, and who recognize the increased risk of accidents an active lifestyle brings.
But is it expensive? Not really. If you have one residence and two cars, premiums run about $145 a year. There are additional charges for more cars, or if you own a boat or additional dwellings, or if you have young drivers in the household.
Homeowner's and other property policies broadly exclude damage both from surface water and water below the surface of the ground. There are two separate coverages which address these exposures to loss.
Flood Insurance is underwritten by the Federal Government and is available through our office. It covers overflow of a body of water (river, lake, or stream) as well as mudslide and flash-flooding conditions. A “general condition of flooding” must be involved; this requires yours and another property (or at least 2 acres) be flooded. Moreover, flood insurance does not cover damage to basement contents or finishing (e.g., drywall or carpeting).
If your house lies within a flood zone and you have a mortgage, then the bank will require you purchase flood insurance. (In the Shenango Valley, since construction of the dam, there aren’t many populated areas that lie within a flood zone; however, there are still a few areas near various streams). Outside a designated flood zone, there is still some risk of a flooding loss, with flood insurance available for purchase.
The premium for a flood insurance policy is relatively expensive. If you are in a flood zone, it sometimes costs as much as if not more than your homeowner's policy. Outside a flood zone, premiums typically run around $200 to $300 a year, depending on the amount of insurance desired.
Coverage for back-up of sewers and drains, on the other hand, may be added to your Homeowners’ insurance at a reasonable premium. This would cover a back-up through the floor drains or a sump, and could arise either from a problem with city sewers, septic tanks or a sump overflowing.
As life-long residents of the area, we feel a personal concern for local families and businesses.
Get in touch with us today for a quick and easy quote.