Charles Hagerty No Comments

Manage the “Four C’s” of Winter Fire Risks: Chimneys, Candles, Christmas Trees and Children

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve—these
holidays mean celebrations, many of them in decorated homes filled with
merry-making family members and friends.

Insurance professionals know that the winter
holidays bring greater-than-usual risks of fire in homes.  The National Fire Protection Association
reports that, over the course of a calendar year, the 10 worst days for
fires in homes fall between December 24 and January 6.

Fortunately, these risks can be reduced with
safe practices that address the “four Cs” of winter fires: chimneys, candles,
Christmas trees and children.


Buildup or blockage within a chimney can catch fire. Chimney fires are
unpredictable: they can be noisy and fierce, or can smolder undetected.

Common-sense tips:

  • If you haven’t checked or cleaned the chimney in the past two years, don’t use
  • Have a pro inspect the chimney for creosote (which is what builds up in a chimney and
    fuels a chimney fire)
  • Use dry wood. This minimizes creosote buildup.
  • Don’t burn wrapping paper, boxes, trash or Christmas trees.
  • Don’t use liquid to start a chimney fire. Use kindling.

Remember fireplace basics, too: use a screen to contain
sparks; and let ashes cool before disposing of them in a metal container.


Home-candle fires happen on Christmas Day more often than any
other day, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Next worst:
New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve. How do they start? Half of home-candle fires
begin because an item is left near a lit candle. Four of 10 home candle fires
start in bedrooms, with bedding, furniture, and curtains igniting.

Common-sense tips:

  • Make sure all candles are out before you leave a room or go to bed.
  • Keep clothing, curtains, furniture, and other flammable items away from candles
    and flame.
  • Use candle holders that don’t tip over.

Christmas Trees

The National Fire Protection Association notes that 300 home
fires start each year with Christmas trees. It’s not just live trees;
artificial trees also burn. Three major reasons Christmas-tree fires start:
electric malfunctions, heat too close to the tree, and children playing with
matches, candles, or fireplaces.

Common-sense tips:

  • Buy a cut tree that has green, fresh needles.
  • Buy a fake tree that is fire resistant.
  • Use a secure stand.
  • Locate trees a minimum of three feet from heat sources such as fireplaces and
  • Water live-cut trees every day.
  • Use lights listed by an industrial laboratory. Link together, at most, only
    three strands of bulbs.
  • Throw out lights that have frayed or broken cords.
  • Pull the plug on lights before going to bed or leaving home.
  • When a tree starts dropping needles, it’s time to dispose of it (outside, not in
    the house, garage or basement).


Perhaps the most unpredictable risks for winter fire are those young
people who are, naturally, exploring and experiencing the wonders of the winter
world for the first time. Remember that lights and flames are fascinating to

Common-sense tips:

  • Watch the wires. Keep kids away from light strands and power cords.
  • Matches, candles, stoves and ovens often get extra use during the holidays, at a
    time when adults are occupied with cooking, cleaning and entertaining.
    Stop and ask: “What might draw a child’s curiosity in this house?” Then
    shield children from those items, physically and through discipline and
  • Put matches/lighters out of children’s reach. Use lighters that have a
    child-resistant safety feature.
  • Train children to tell an adult if they see matches or lighters.

TLIG stands ready to
assist consumers with a homeowners insurance claim. The best claim is no claim,
though. Use these common-sense practices to prevent home fires.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan
to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at
or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

When You Travel, Do You Need Special Insurance?

Recent months have brought travel risks to the
forefront of consumers’ minds: the economic downturn, and safety risks overseas due
to political unrest.

There are two broad types of travel-related coverage
for those leaving the United States:

  • Travel insurance covers the loss of the prepaid travel
    costs of a trip should it be canceled, interrupted, or postponed. It also can
    reimburse unexpected expenses incurred due to a sudden change in travel plans
    due to illness or other causes.
  • Specialty medical coverage protects against personal
    insurance risks when someone is outside the United States.

Travelers can buy travel coverage in conjunction with
their travel tour, hotel bookings or flight reservations. It’s also available
from providers that specialize in the international insurance market. For
example, Continental, a major international airline, offers trip cancellation
and interruption coverage through its reservations Web site.

The coverage reimburses the traveler for “prepaid,
unused, non-refundable travel expenses should your trip be cancelled or
interrupted due to any covered reason.” Such reasons include: inclement
weather, an unexpected illness, death of a traveler, and travel delays.

The Insurance Information Network of California notes
that trip insurance providers sometimes require a physician’s verification if a
trip must be canceled before it occurs. It advises buyers to check whether the
travel coverage is “cancel for any reason protection,” or more limited

Trip interruption insurance is another variation. It
can provide reimbursement for extra food and lodging costs if a traveler
becomes ill during the course of a trip. Some plans cover medical costs. Trip
delay insurance covers expenses a traveler incurs in resuming a planned trip or
returning home after being quarantined in another country. Often these various
coverages are bundled and sold together in a package.

Short-term medical insurance may be appropriate for
the millions of U.S. residents who travel outside the U.S. every year. Those
who travel outside of America may be going beyond the boundaries of their
medical insurance without knowing it, according to Clements International, a
provider of international insurance policies.
The unpredictable nature of the spreading of swine flu
that began in April 2009 has heightened awareness of health risks while
traveling around the world. Travelers may wish to consider short-term medical
insurance if they’re traveling outside of the United States for an extended
vacation or business trip.

To determine whether it’s necessary, it’s advisable to
check if a domestic health insurance policy covers out-of-country travel. If not,
short-term medical insurance provides coverage for illnesses or medical
evacuation that occurs while traveling outside of the United States.

International travelers face the same insurance risks
(and sometimes additional risks) while outside the country that they do while
stateside. Life insurance issued in the U.S. may not be available on the same
basis while a person is traveling for an extended period as when not traveling.
It’s prudent to check on the validity of life insurance coverage as part of the
travel-planning process.

Check with your insurance agent about what type of
insurance protection might be needed if taking an overseas trip.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that
represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal
and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet
your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Is Your Home Fully Insured?

If you’re like most Americans, your home is your largest
investment, so you know how important it is to protect it. You probably take
safety precautions and have insurance that will cover you in case of a loss.

But are you fully
protected? Chances are, no. You probably are running the risk of having to pay
money out of pocket to rebuild your home after a loss, to replace stolen items
or to settle a liability lawsuit.

Consider the following questions to determine if you are, like
most homeowners, underinsured.

  1. Are you working at home? Do you
    have a home-based business? If so, you’re not alone—40% of Americans
    operate a home-based business that provides their sole means of living or
    extra income. Most people don’t know that their standard homeowners
    insurance provides very limited coverage for business property and
    generally no liability protection for business use of the home. You can
    get this coverage added to your homeowners policy by an endorsement or by
    purchasing a separate business policy.
  2. Do you have recreational vehicles? Watercraft,
    snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and similar recreational vehicles add
    spice to your family’s life. But you should know that liability coverage
    for these type vehicles is not
    provided by your homeowners insurance. Accidents happen. So add this critical
    coverage to your policy by an endorsement or addition.
  3. Did you build an addition recently?
    If so, did you update your homeowners policy? Most Americans neglect this
    important step, leaving their family vulnerable to significant
    out-of-pocket expenses to rebuild after a loss. New additions to the
    structure and grounds may increase your liability and coverage needs. So,
    if you’ve added a pool, another bedroom or a home theater, you best inform
    your insurance agent so that you can be adequately protected
  4. Will your policy pay to rebuild or
    replace your home?
    The recent ballooning of home prices has lead to a
    corollary increase in the cost of building materials. These increases
    directly impact the amount of insurance homeowners must carry to avoid
    costly penalties for being underinsured. Get a home appraisal now so you
    can determine how much homeowners insurance you need to rebuild or replace
    your home.
  5. Do you own an historic home? If
    the answer is yes, your home poses a unique requirement on your homeowners
    insurance. That’s because older homes do not meet the stringent building
    codes in effect in most towns and cities today. If there is a loss, your
    old home will have to be rebuilt to the new code. A standard homeowners policy limits increased
    construction costs and the lost value of property. Again, add this
    coverage as an endorsement to your policy.
  6. Do you have expensive items or a
    Most standard homeowners policies limit coverage for
    high-value items like expensive jewelry, art collections, antiques and
    other collectibles. Think about how valuable these items are to your
    family—both monetarily and emotionally—and decide if you need to secure
    additional coverage either by an endorsement to your homeowners policy or
    through a specialty policy.
  7. Do you have medical payments coverage?
    Most homeowners don’t carry this protection, often called “goodwill”
    protection. It provides payments for medical care for people injured on
    your property (regardless of fault) up to three years after an accident.
    In today’s lawsuit-happy society, medical payments coverage could save you
    tens of thousands of dollars. Get this affordable coverage added to your
    homeowners insurance policy today.
  8. Check for leaks regularly. If there’s
    a leak in your house, then you’ve got problems and probably damage to your
    home, too. To prevent a lead from mushrooming you should regularly inspect
    your home. Look for discoloration in ceilings, floors, walls and tiles.
    Check for water in the basement and around appliances. Check the
    foundation. And, check indoor hose connections in the laundry room,
    bathrooms and kitchen. Repair damaged or suspect areas immediately.
  9. Get an alarm system. Unfortunately,
    there are crooks among us who are looking to take away your prized possessions.
    Arm yourself! If you don’t own an alarm system, get one. It is a great
    deterrent against break-ins and could save you money on your homeowners
    insurance. Test it regularly—at least monthly—to ensure it is operating
    properly. And, most importantly, use it. An alarm system will not dissuade
    burglars if it’s off!
  10. Got a pet? Fido sure is cute. But
    he could cost you a lot of money if he bites the neighbor’s kid or the
    mailman. Pet bites and attacks are one of the most common causes of
    homeowner liability claims. Insurance companies judge certain breeds to be
    more dangerous. Some, such as pit bulls, may be excluded from coverage
    altogether. Before adopting a pet check with your insurance company to
    ensure it will be covered by your homeowners insurance.

By addressing these issues now you can prevent costly claims
and save money on homeowners insurance premiums over the long term. And, your
family will have peace of mind knowing that your homeowners insurance will be
there no matter what life and Mother Nature throw at you.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan
to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at
or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Business Use of My Personal Vehicle: Will My Insurance Work?

There are over 240 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S.,
according to the Census Bureau. At a given time, as many as a third of those
clutter American roadways, and it is estimated that one-fourth of those are
being used in the course of work.

Running errands, making deliveries, visiting customers. Even
for those whose employment is not based on driving, it’s fair to say that your
vehicle is an essential part of your employment. This presents an important
question: If you are involved in an accident in the course of employment, are
you covered by your personal auto insurance policy (PAP)?

Like most insurance questions, the answer depends on
circumstance. For example, what kind of car are you driving? Does the car
belong to you or someone else? What type of business are you in?

Consider the language found in the typical PAP. At a glance,
many policyholders are shocked to see that the PAP appears to exclude coverage
for the use of any vehicle in the
course of business other than farming or ranching. However, a very broad exception
to this exclusion allows coverage for the business use of a vehicle provided it
is one of three types: 1) a private passenger auto, 2) a pickup or van, or 3) trailer
while used with the aforementioned. This exception suggests that as long as the
vehicle is one of these three types, coverage remains intact after the accident.

But policyholders should proceed with caution, since some
PAPs are not as generous. For example, some versions may be more restrictive
towards pickups or vans, possibly including a gross vehicle weight (GVW)
limitation or a clause that restricts coverage to owned pickups or vans only. Be
sure to consult your policy before driving any pickup or van for work.

Further, policyholders should understand that any coverage permitted
for business use of personal vehicles by the PAP is not intended for these
three vehicle categories:

Commercial-type vehicles.
The PAP restricts business use to private passenger autos, pickups and vans.
While they can be purchased personally, box trucks, tractor trailers, shuttle
busses and other commercial-type vehicles do not fit this description; such
vehicles require a commercial auto policy.

Furnished or available for regular
Often called the “company car” exclusion, this provision is
dangerous and must be remedied if the exposure exists. The reason is that a
typical PAP will exclude coverage for a vehicle that is regularly available to
the policyholder but is not specifically insured under the PAP. For example, if
you are furnished a company car as a benefit to your employment, make certain
that you are covered by your employer’s auto insurance policy. If not, specific
action is required to extend coverage under your PAP; it will not do so
automatically. The good news is that this coverage change is usually
inexpensive and can be done easily; just be sure to request the change now, before
the accident happens. While the definition of furnished or available for
regular use
varies by case, err on the side of caution. Don’t assume that because
you don’t take it home with you each night or that you only drive it
occasionally you’re in the clear. Regardless, a vehicle owned by your employer could
be considered available for your regular use. This exclusion presents a
potential gap that is too risky to ignore; your Trusted Choice® agent can
help you take the appropriate steps to close it.

Vehicles that are the business.
A PAP will not cover your vehicle if you use it to carry people for a fee,
such as a taxi, limo or shuttle. The only exception is a share-the-expense car
pool. And if you’re planning to make a few extra bucks delivering pizzas, auto
parts, newspapers or other goods, proceed with caution. Many PAPs also remove
coverage for vehicles that are used to deliver food or other types of property
for a fee.

While in most cases the PAP will cover you for business use
of a personal vehicle, there are situations where it will not. Such situations
are not uncommon and, if not remedied, could result in significant financial
detriment for you and your family. Consult your insurance agent for advice on
how to close potentially devastating gaps in your PAP today.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan
to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at
or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Insurance: The One Question Everyone Asks

“Am I overpaying?”

That’s a question that every consumer asks from time to time. Everyone is curious and concerned as to whether he or she is getting a good value for the
money, whether it’s for a candy bar, a car or an airline ticket.

It’s a good question to ask about insurance, too. After all, Americans spend a lot of money on insurance for homes, autos and businesses. In 2008,
American drivers spent $161 billion for personal automobile insurance, reported the A.M. Best Co., an insurance research and ratings firm.

This large market for auto insurance is highly competitive. Consumers play a large part in keeping insurance rates competitive by virtue of
shopping—whether online, by telephone or on the World Wide Web. More than one of four (about 28 percent) of auto insurance buyers shopped around for car insurance in 2009, reported J.D. Power & Associates in its 2009 national auto insurance study.

But consumers aren’t the only ones shopping around for auto insurance. So too do independent insurance agents, including Trusted Choice® insurance professionals.

On average, Trusted Choice® agents provide consumers with property/casualty insurance options from eight different insurance carriers, reported the 2008 agency universe study conducted by Future One, a collaboration of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (the Big “I”) and leading independent agency companies. For automobile insurance, those agents may compare rates and coverages at even more insurance
companies, through their use of software that allows them to compare multiple policies and multiple carriers.

For auto insurance buyers, research showed that independent agents rank most highly on the most important element of customer satisfaction. The J.D.
Power study measures customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies across five factors (in order of importance): interaction, policy offerings, billing and payment, price and claims. Insurers who sell their auto insurance products through agents performed “stronger in the interaction factor than do direct insurers,” reported J.D. Power.

Overall, customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies reached a five-year high in 2009, reported the J.D. Power study. The biggest improvement in satisfaction among the five factors has been in price. Interestingly, 42 percent of customers in 2009 reported that their auto insurance premiums declined without switching insurers.

Are you overpaying for auto insurance? Thanks to a competitive market that includes Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents, the answer probably is no. If you’re not sure, ask a Trusted Choice® agency to review your options.

Give TLIG a call at 434-582-1444

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Stay Cool with Swimming Pool Risks

It’s summer, and thoughts of Americans everywhere turn to water. Whether it’s in the pool, on
the lake, at the ocean or in the river, water draws people almost magnetically
as the weather turns hot. In fact, swimming pool trade groups teamed up to make
May “National Water Safety Month” in the United States to make consumers “water

Swimming pools are popular but also present a risk to a homeowner. While homeowners are welcoming
friends and family with a clear, clean pool, they’re also assuming significant
financial risks by doing so. What’s more, they are unwittingly facing liability
from strangers since pools are an attractive nuisance that can pose a risk to
uninvited guests, children in the neighborhood and intruders. Homeowners can be
found liable for injuries to uninvited guests.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1
to 14 years, reported the American Red Cross. Its survey of more than 1,000
adults showed that more than 90% of families with young children plan to be in
the water this summer, and almost half (48%) plan to swim in a place with no
lifeguard. If that’s on your property, be prepared.

Insurance plays a key role in protecting consumers who have pools on their property. Homeowners
and liability insurance cover bodily injury and liability protection in the
event of an injury or claim. Plus, insurance carriers, by virtue of inspecting
or requiring compliance with building codes, can make a swimming pool safer.

If you have a swimming pool:

1) Let your insurance agent or insurance carrier know. Coverage is most likely to be provided if the
structure and risks are known prior to a claim. Insurance carriers view pools
as presenting a unique and heightened set of risks. Put simply, a swimming pool
will increase the risk of property damage or a liability claim, as compared to
a home without one.

Typically, a homeowners insurance policy covers property damage to a home and additional
structures. An in-ground pool usually is considered an “additional structure”
in insurance parlance, as are sheds and detached garages. An above-ground pool
may be considered “personal property” and insured under that section of the
homeowners policy.

Homeowners insurance also offers liability coverage in the event a homeowner is hit with a
claim or lawsuit as a result of an incident in or near the swimming pool.
Friends and family who are injured in a pool accident may not want to sue, but
may need to sue in order to pay medical bills and replace lost income.

2) Check the amount of homeowners property coverage. A standard coverage amount for additional
structures on a property is 10 percent of the amount written for the home
itself. Thus, a $500,000 home might have $50,000 of property damage coverage
for other structures. Ask your independent agent to help you determine the
proper amount of property coverage.

3) Check the amount of homeowners liability coverage. One claim can pierce a standard homeowners
liability insurance limit, so check with your insurance professional to discuss
increasing the limit and/or adding an umbrella policy. An umbrella (or excess
liability) policy pays up to a limit (usually $1 million) for claims.

4) Check the perils covered.
Homeowners insurance comes in a variety of types, and some policies protect
against additional “perils” in addition to fire, lightning and windstorm. Other
perils may be excluded. Check which type of policy you have and whether it
suits your needs. For pool owners in the north, note that damage by
freezing/thawing is usually not covered by homeowners insurance.

5) Check that your pool is up to code, and whether any features are specifically not
permitted or insured.

Plumbing, fencing and deck requirements all can vary by state and locality. A
homeowner increases the risk of loss if a pool is not up to code. Additionally,
amenities such as diving boards and slides are particularly hazardous and may
be excluded by building code or can be uninsured.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control noted that drowning prevention requires appropriate adult
supervision while children are in the water, as well as multiple layers of
protection (such as four-sided isolation fencing, pool alarms, and locked
gates) to keep children away from swimming pools.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Safety Makes Your Summer Party Memorable—In the Right Way

The entertainment value in a summertime get-together can be in the camaraderie and storytelling. But don’t let your next backyard barbecue
turn into a tale of woe, to be retold years from now.

One party hostess recalled a disastrous event that involved hot oil, alcohol, a paper tablecloth and fireworks:

“The oil to fry the turkey was too hot and too full (yes, we fry our turkeys in Texas). Maybe it had to do with the over-served [read: one too many alcoholic beverages] cook. But once the turkey went in, the oil bubbled over, caught the paper tablecloth on fire, and lit the grass on fire.”

The grass fire then ignited a pile of fireworks, which were supposed to be on the porch. This in turn “led to one huge fireball, screaming crying children who will probably never recover from the panic that was set throughout, which then led to roof catching on fire.”

The damage tally was: one home partially destroyed, several cars damaged by smoke, a missing dog, $2,500 worth of poorly timed fireworks
and three acres of burned grass. The lessons learned reported the wiser hostess: “We now monitor everyone’s booze intake, park cars far away, and only
have one person know where the fireworks are. And I now cook the turkey with fire extinguishers nearby.”

Summer is truly party time in America. But homeowners should be aware of the risks associated with these get-togethers. Before reviewing
safety tips, let’s look at three common risks for which a homeowner might need insurance coverage:
Liquor liability: Summer parties can be a breeding ground for drinking-and-driving accidents. Most homeowners know that they bear some
responsibility if a guest becomes impaired after consumer alcoholic drinks at the homeowner’s house, and then causes a car accident. If the party-giver is
sued, however, his/her homeowners and automobile insurance policies may not provide liability coverage. (Keep in mind that the legal defense against a
claim is another significant expense for anyone who is sued in such a circumstance.)

Changes to homeowners insurance standard contracts in 2000 may limit the coverage available under a homeowners policy. Homeowners might be
well served to check their homeowners and auto insurance policies (contacting their agent, if necessary) to determine what protection they may have.

Personal accidents on the homeowner’s property: A homeowners policy and an excess liability policy (dubbed an “umbrella” policy) provide broad protection for accidents on the party host’s property. For instance, if a guest tumbles down the steps of an outdoor deck or a child is burned by the outdoor grill, the homeowners policy would pay medical costs for the guest (and, should a lawsuit follow, likely would pay the costs of defending against the lawsuit and damages awarded in the case).

No one, of course, wants to see such events occur, but accidents do happen. Homeowners coverage is designed to “make whole” a homeowner who is facing a liability claim due to an accident on his or her property.
Property damage liability:
When guests drive to your party and park their cars at your home, the homeowner assumes risk. The possibilities of property damage range from a
simple dent from a stray baseball, to a young driver releasing the parking brake and rolling the car into a tree, to an impaired driver going for a joy
ride and damaging the car. A different example of property damage is the theft of a guest’s purse/wallet or valuable articles from the party-giver’s property.

Homeowners coverage pays for damage to another person’s property, if the homeowner is held liable. A homeowner’s negligence and
omissions (i.e., failing to take steps that might have prevented an incident) are reasons that he or she can be found liable for damage to another person’s

To prevent accidents, consider some sensible safety precautions:


Some 5,000 people are injured by charcoal, wood-burning and
propane grill fires each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration of the
Federal Emergency Management Administration. Good safety practices include:

  • Before using a propane gas
    grill, check the connection between the tank and the fuel line. Make sure
    the Venturi tubes (where the air and gas mix) are not blocked, and check
    hoses for cracks or damage.
  • Never use a propane
    barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof. And never grill/barbecue in
    enclosed areas, as deadly carbon monoxide can be produced.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher
    or a source of water (a garden hose or four-gallon pail of water) near an outdoor
    grill or barbecue.
  • While barbecuing, don’t
    wear loose clothing. Use long-handled barbecue tools and/or mitts that are
    flame resistant.
  • Don’t squirt flammable liquids onto an open flame.
  • Don’t leave a grill unattended.
  • Keep matches and lighters
    away from children. Supervise children around outdoor grills, which are
    objects of curiosity.
  • If using a charcoal or
    wood fire, dispose of hot coals properly by soaking them with water, then
    stirring to ensure that fire is extinguished. Never place them in plastic,
    paper or wooden containers.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill since they are flammable.



Liquids containing alcohol cause the human body to lose more fluid, say health educators. So summertime drinking in the sun or heat can present
hazards to health, including impaired judgment, balance and coordination.
Consider these safety tips if serving:

  • Use designated drivers.
  • Make non-alcoholic beverages as available as alcoholic drinks.
  • Stop serving alcohol before the party ends.
  • If children are attending the event, remember that alcohol may seem more available to them at a

Dining outdoors

Food-borne illnesses favor the hot conditions found at outdoor events where food is not refrigerated or may be undercooked. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture offers food safety tips:

  • Cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.
  • Keep hot foods hot and
    cold foods cold. Hot foods should be heated and maintained at 140 °F or
    warmer with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Cold foods
    should be held at 40 °F or colder. Maintain cold by placing food dishes in
    bowls of ice or in a cooler.
  • Live by the “two-hour rule”: Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.
Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Feathering the Nest? Update Your Insurance

Consumers spend billions on their homes. Home improvement
projects tallied to a whopping $280 billion in 2005, according to research from
the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. The center forecasts
that home renovations will grow at a steady 3.7% rate annually through 2015,
after inflation.

What shouldn’t be lost in the excitement of adding a
bedroom, finishing a basement or updating the kitchen is your financial
security. The risk management and insurance tools available through your
Trusted Choice® insurance agent are indispensable when you’re renovating.

Be aware that home renovations add to the risks you’re facing
as a homeowner, including injuries to family, contractors and delivery workers;
fire, theft, and vandalism; and water damage. What’s more, know that you must
protect yourself from financial liability for anything that goes wrong.

It’s imperative that your homeowners and umbrella
insurance coverages are set up correctly before, during and after your
renovation project. The time and paperwork required may seem a distraction when
you’re eager to upgrade an older home, install an energy efficiency retrofit,
or renovate a rental property. But it’s every bit as important as buying the building
materials or choosing the contractor.

Before renovations start: Require
contractors to provide proof of insurance for workers compensation and
liability coverages. Your insurance agent can guide you on how to do this and
what to ask the contractor to provide.

Workers compensation insurance pays for medical and
rehabilitation expenses (and covers lost wages) if workers are hurt on the job.
Workers who are injured in your home can sue you or claim damages from you if
the contractor they work for does not have adequate coverage. (By default your
homeowners and umbrella liability policies can become their insurance coverage,
an unwelcome development for those who pay the premiums and do the claims

If you need to move out during construction, notify your
agent so you can be certain that you have proper coverage for a temporary
residence such as a hotel or rented home.

Recognize that building code upgrades and market changes
may change the standard to which your renovated home is held. For example, home
alarm systems have become popular, so you may wish to add one during your
renovations. It may add to the renovation cost, but can make your home safer
and earn a homeowners insurance discount. Such decisions are generally best
considered before the project starts.

During construction: With the added risks—such as
construction accidents, fires due to power tools and open utility lines, and
strangers in the house who may be tempted to steal your property or your
identity—you may want to consider temporarily increasing homeowners and/or
umbrella policy limits and/or changing the deductible.

After the project is finished: Home improvements can increase the
market value and replacement cost of your home. Your agent can guide you to
proper insurance coverage levels for homeowners and umbrella policies. At that
time, you may want to also ask about guaranteed replacement cost coverage for
your homeowners policy.

The renovated or expanded space in your home may fill up
with new furniture, exercise equipment, electronics, and appliances. Track
those purchases with receipts and a written or electronic home inventory.
Additionally, check the coverage in your homeowners policy for personal
property, as this may need to be adjusted as well.

Talk to your insurance
agent to be sure your home is properly insured at all stages of a home
renovation project.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan
to meet your specialized needs.

You can visit TLIG online at
or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Small Businesses: Don’t Let Business Risk Share Your Home

The diversification of the U.S. economy over the past generation has meant that millions of Americans have started their own businesses. Americans still chase the dream of being their own boss by starting their own business—and the trend has picked up because of hiring slowdowns and spikes in corporate layoffs.

Small businesses are the biggest driver of job growth, generating 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Small firms employ half of U.S. workers.

And the sole proprietor is alive and well: In 2005, there were six million firms with employees but a whopping 20.4 million firms who had no employees other than the owner, according to the Small Business Administration.

Of all small businesses, 52 percent are home-based. That means millions of Americans are earning their business income where they live. But business owner beware: Don’t expect homeowners insurance to cover business risks.

Business insurance offers protection from liability and property risks. Often these coverages are combined into a package policy called a BOP or business owner’s policy. Millions of small and mid-sized business owners purchase or renew their BOP every year.

Typically, a BOP includes the following coverages:

Property insurance for buildings and contents of the business.

Home-based business might not need coverage for their property, since it’s already insured against risks of fire, lightning and windstorm. But if there are additional risks to the structure because of the presence of business operations, those won’t necessarily be covered by homeowners insurance. Your insurance agent can help determine if a special endorsement or a separate policy are most appropriate.

Home-based businesses might not have adequate coverage through homeowners insurance because homeowners policies often have “sub-limits” restricting coverage for business property. For instance, the homeowners policy may cover business property, but typically only up to $2,500 while it is “on premises” and up to $500 while the property is “off premises.”

One example of inadequate coverage was a home-based retail cosmetics/personal care business that kept $20,000 of inventory in a garage that caught fire. The inventory was covered only up to the sub-limits of the homeowners policy. Another instance: Coverage would be limited to the “off premises” limit of $500 if a laptop computer valued at $1,500 that is stolen while the business owner has it away from home.

Property insurance for buildings and contents of the business.

If there are additional structures on a residential property where the homeowner operates a business, those won’t necessarily be covered by homeowners insurance. For example, a detached garage that serves as a small-engine repair shop would not be covered by homeowners insurance; that business owner would need a policy endorsement to gain coverage.

Business interruption insurance.

This protects against loss of income resulting from a fire or other covered event that disrupts the business. This coverage can also include the extra costs a business shoulders while it works from a temporary location. A fire in a home can be double trouble for a home-based business.

Liability insurance.

This protects the small business for legal responsibility for the damage it causes to other people or entities. Liability insurance is usually priced according to the risk of the industry in which the business operates. A business that manufactures toys, for example, faces different risks than a consulting firm. Liability insurance shields a business and its employees if they cause bodily injury or property damage.

Not included in a BOP are professional liability coverage, automobile insurance, workers compensation,
medical insurance and disability insurance. All can be covered with separate policies.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Flood Insurance: What It’s All About

Just seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf coast of the United States, wiping out
more than 250,000 homes.

That massive storm painfully brought to public awareness the fact that flood damage is not covered
by homeowners insurance.

Many consumers were unaware that, even though their homes were ruined in the hurricane, they were
not insured since they lacked flood insurance. Insurance against flooding
(rising water) is different from insurance against driven rain or leakage,
which often are covered. Since that time, tens of thousands of Americans have
purchased flood insurance for the first time.

Three perils—fire, lightning and windstorms—are traditionally covered by homeowners property
insurance. Flooding is excluded from homeowners coverage, as floods tend to be
catastrophic in nature causing widespread damage in a geographic area. Private
insurers are not able to absorb all that risk.

Hurricanes get a lot of attention, but big storms are not the only cause of floods, nor are
floods limited to coastlines. In fact, flooding is the nation’s most common and
frequent natural disaster, according to federal officials.

Flood insurance first came about after the federal government was called upon to bail out communities.
As the nation grew after World War II, flood-damaged communities turned to the
federal government for disaster relief and rebuilding assistance. In the 1960s,
Congress sought a more proactive system, and in 1968 created the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP).

This community-based insurance mechanism requires municipalities to adopt and
enforce flood-abatement measures. In order to join the NFIP, it must adopt a
program of corrective and preventive measures for reducing future flood damage
(including zoning and building requirements). Flood insurance is available only
to consumers in communities that have joined the NFIP.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA). It provides flood coverage to homeowners and renters as well as
commercial building owners. Coverage is provided through Trusted Choice®
independent agents as well as through other insurance agents.

Flood insurance may not just be desirable for homeowners, it may be required. For example, mortgage
lenders are legally bound to require consumers buying a house in a high-risk
flood zone to have flood insurance.

Consumers owning or renting property in low- or moderate-risk flood areas can buy flood insurance,
and may be eligible for a lower-cost preferred risk flood policy.

Flood insurance protects against losses to buildings and contents (not the property on which
they sit). Coverage is in effect whether flooding results from heavy rains,
storm surge on the coast, melting of snow, blocked storm drainage systems,
levee or dam failure, or other causes. Waters must cover at least two acres or
affect at least two properties to be considered a flood for insurance purposes.

Residential flood insurance provides as much as $250,000 of coverage for dwellings for 1-4
families, and as much as $100,000 for contents. Commercial property owners can
get up to $500,000 of insurance for the building and the same amount for
contents. Condominiums also can be insured.

Unlike homeowners insurance, flood insurance has a waiting period. The NFIP sets a standard
30-day waiting period before flood coverage goes into effect (except for
lender-required flood insurance, if more insurance is required because of a
flood map revision, or if existing coverage is being increased upon renewal).

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to
meet your specialized needs.

You can visit TLIG online at
or call us at (434) 582-1444.