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When You Can’t Come Home: What Does “Loss of Use” Coverage Actually Cover?

Your homeowner’s insurance policy will pay to repair
damage to your home caused by a fire, windstorm or other covered cause of loss.
But when you and your family incur expenses for moving out while repairs are
made, who picks up the tab?

An often-overlooked but essential function of your
homeowner’s policy is “additional living expenses” (also called “loss of use”
or “Part D”) coverage. Additional living expenses coverage will pay the
necessary increase in living expenses required to maintain your family’s
current standard of living while the house is being repaired. Examples of
expenses typically covered include the cost of hotel, food bills in excess of normal grocery/restaurant bills,
cooking supplies and the cost of moving property into storage.

The good news is that payment for these expenses usually
does not stop if the policy expires. Rather, they will continue to pay until
the limit is used up, the home is repaired to a habitable state, or you
permanently relocate.

The bad news is that many homeowners erroneously believe
that the policy covers 100 percent of additional living expenses until the home
is habitable. Realistically, very few policies do this. In most cases, home
insurance companies place a limit or cap on loss-of-use payments. For example,
many homeowner policies will only offer loss-of-use coverage as a percentage of
the limit of insurance carried on the dwelling; 20 percent is common. Others
may specify a flat dollar amount.

Usually, a covered loss must occur for any insurance
dollars to be paid for additional living expenses. The one exception is if your
home is not accessible due to civil authority or government mandate triggered
by nearby damage. For example, in 2009, wildfires in California triggered
mandatory evacuations that prevented tens of thousands of homeowners from going
home. If homes in close proximity to yours are burning, there’s a chance the
government will close roads and/or prevent you from entering your property even
though it has not yet suffered a direct loss. In this situation, additional
living expense payments are often limited to two weeks.

Homeowners who receive additional income by renting a
portion of their home should also pay close attention to the Part D limit. This
limit also applies to replacing lost rental income while the damaged house is
being repaired.

Here’s the important question: How do you know if your
policy’s Part D limit is sufficient? The trouble is that important factors are
variable. For example, how do you know how long you will be out of your house?
Building codes and permits cause rebuilding efforts to proceed slowly in many
parts of the country. Calling a local building contractor to gain some idea is
a good start but there is no exact prediction.

Further, how do you know what expenses you will incur?
According to’s 2009 hotel price index, the average hotel room in the
U.S. costs $115 per night! Add this and other expenses to a lengthy,
unpredictable repair schedule and the possibility of eclipsing your Part D
policy limit before your home is habitable could become a serious problem.

The last thing you want to hear is that your loss-of-use
coverage has run out before you can go home. Fortunately, a professional
insurance agent understands these exposures and can help you weigh your
options, including those that may increase your loss-of-use coverage limit.

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.

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Is a GPS Covered by an Auto Policy?

Some may view them as science fiction gone wild. Others
see them as indispensable, possibly life-saving tools. Regardless of your
feelings about Global Positioning Systems (GPS), they continue to occupy the
dashboards of millions of U.S. vehicles each year. The pervasiveness and
expense of the technology has drivers asking if their GPS systems are covered
by auto insurance.

Personal Auto Insurance

Whether its finding alternative routes to beat traffic or
an Italian restaurant for the family, drivers rely on their GPS to get them
places without the stress of winding up who knows where with an empty tank, no
cellular service and shrieking children.

If you depend on your GPS to maintain safety and sanity
in your personal vehicle, you should call your insurance agent and request that
your auto insurance policy be endorsed to cover the system; failure to make
this request will likely result in no coverage for the system after a loss.
This is because most personal auto policies strictly limit or totally exclude
coverage for GPS and other electronic devices in your car that are not used to
operate the vehicle. Some policies will offer limited coverage for GPS devices
that are built into the vehicle by the manufacturer or even some portable
systems; however this is not the case for all policies and those that do
include coverage are limited.

Business Auto Insurance

Any business person who has ever gotten lost finding a
jobsite or received lousy directions to a meeting can attest to the value of a
GPS system. Many businesses invest thousands into such systems for the mobile
among their ranks—an investment that could be lost if the system is damaged in
a crash or stolen.

Similar to personal auto insurance policies, covering a
GPS device under a business auto insurance policy likely requires a call to
your insurance agent. Your agent should be able to endorse your policy to
include coverage for the GPS system. This endorsement is necessary for most
business auto policies—those that do extend coverage to the GPS system will do
so only in a limited capacity; still leaving you with a bill for the damage.

Moral of the Story: Call Your Agent

Regardless of the level of dependence you invest, losing
the ability to use your vehicle’s GPS system because it is damaged in an
accident or stolen is frustrating and expensive. Calling your insurance agent will
help you discover how much coverage your current auto policy will offer towards
replacing the damaged system.

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.

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Condos: Easy Living, Tough Insurance

Do you own a condominium? To you, condo ownership may
represent a feasible way to home ownership. Or maybe it represents a second
residence in some exotic location you like to visit. Or maybe it’s an
investment to generate rental income. Regardless of why you own, understand
that insuring a condo is much different than insuring a traditional home.

Statutes and Paperwork

A thorough review of your master deed (often called declarations
or “docs”) is necessary to adequately insure your condo. Unfortunately, these
docs can be multiple pages of legalese that make it difficult to decipher
insurance requirements. Further, your association’s bylaws may contain
important insurance information. And if it wasn’t confusing enough already,
some states have statutes which dictate condo insurance requirements.  For these reasons, a best practice is to
review your insurance needs with a trusted insurance advisor, like your Trusted
Choice® independent agent.

Definition of Unit

Your docs should contain a definition of “unit.” This term is
often used to define the boundaries of the property that you individually own
vs. common property that is owned by
the association or other entity. For example, boundaries may include the space
you occupy as well as all real property located between the unfinished walls,
floor and ceiling. Note that there is no standard definition of unit: All docs are different.

“Bare Walls In?” or “What I Bring In?”

Some docs will make the association’s insurance policy
(often called “master” policy) responsible for all building items and fixtures
including those located inside your unit. Such items may include floor
coverings, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, built-in cabinets and counters,
appliances and equipment. In this case, you are only responsible for insuring
your personal property such as furniture, electronics, and clothing. You may
also be responsible for insuring alterations you make to the existing floor
plan, such as laying carpet over tile.

Other docs will make the master policy responsible only for real property that is located
outside of the unit. In this case, you are responsible for insuring the items
mentioned above including building
items and fixtures located inside your unit. Some docs will specifically list the
items that you must insure yourself, but others are not as clear. This is
another important reason to review the docs with your independent agent.

Rental Units

If you plan to use your condo to make a few extra bucks, proceed
with caution: Once you rent or make your condo available for rental, your
insurance changes. For example, once your condo is made available for rent you
lose coverage for your personal property. This means items like furniture,
electronics and decorations are no longer insured. Since condos often are
rented furnished, this is a large gap that must be addressed before the damage
happens. Coverage is also eliminated for appurtenant structures—such as a
detached garage or dock—if damaged once the condo is rented or made available
for rent.

This practice also eliminates the personal liability
coverage under your condo insurance policy. This means if someone renting your
condo injures someone else or their property and you are brought into the
lawsuit your condo policy will not pay to defend you.

All hope is not lost. Most condo policies can be easily
amended to close these significant coverage gaps. Your Trusted Choice®
independent agent can also help you evaluate how much your policy will pay you
for lost rental income if your condo is damaged.

Loss Assessments

There are many reasons why your association may render an
assessment against you. There are circumstances where your condo insurance
policy will help pay the cost of the assessment. One circumstance is if you are
assessed to pay costs for which the association is liable due to a loss that
would be covered by your condo policy.

For example, say you are assessed for dollars to repair
damage to common property (i.e. a pool house). The reason you were assessed is
because the damage exceeded the amount of insurance available in the master
policy. If the damage was caused by windstorm, the assessment coverage under
your condo policy would kick in because windstorm is covered by your policy.
However, if the cause of the damage was flood your policy would not pay because
flood is not covered by your policy.

Your assessment coverage will also kick in to help cover the
cost of the master policy’s deductible. It may also pay for liability
assessments resulting from claims of bodily injury or property damage as well
as liability for your decisions as an uncompensated association director or

The dollar amounts of such assessments are unpredictable and
depend on factors that are out of your control. This is why you should work
with your trusted advisor to raise the amount of coverage your policy will pay
for an assessment.

Properly insuring your condo is complicated. A professional
independent agent can help you secure the insurance you need to eliminate
surprises if the worst happens.

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.

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Earthquakes: Is that covered on my policy?

5,000. That’s the number of earthquakes felt in the United States each year. Popular belief may consider California to be the state at most risk of an
earthquake, but since 1900, earthquakes have caused damage in all 50 states, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

In fact, Oklahoma was struck by at least 10 minor earthquakes in a two-day period in late August 2009. These were strong enough to be felt throughout the central part of the state.

While Alaska experiences more earthquakes that any other state, California remains the greatest risk for widespread and catastrophic damage to property. A 2006 forecast by experts from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Southern California Earthquake Center, and the State Geological Survey said that the state is virtually certain to be hit by a major earthquake by 2028.

Despite numerous warnings, only 12 percent of Californians own earthquake insurance, down from 30 percent in 1996 — when the state was still recovering from the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake, which at an estimated $20 billion in property damage was the most-costly quake in U.S. history.

Homeowners and business owners have limited or no protection provided by their existing insurance coverage for damages resulting from earthquakes. Some damages caused by specific conditions subsequent to the shaking and cracking — such as fire due to broken gas lines or water damage due to burst water pipes — may be covered by home and business insurance policies, according to the Insurance Information Institute. However, property owners should be aware that property insurance does not cover the damage or destruction of buildings or personal property caused by the shaking and cracking of an earthquake.

It is specialized earthquake insurance that provides financial protection for property owners at risk of earthquake damage, explains the Insurance Information Institute. Who should buy earthquake insurance? United Policyholders, a non-profit organization focused on educating the public on insurance issues and consumer rights, draws the following conclusion: “If you live in [earthquake] country, have equity in your home and couldn’t afford to rebuild it on your own, buying earthquake insurance makes financial sense. It really is that simple.” The organization also warns that government and charities may not be able or willing to provide rebuilding resources after an earthquake disaster.

Earthquake insurance policies are provided by a small number of private insurance carriers. In California, the California Earthquake Authority, a privately funded, publicly managed organization, provides homeowners with earthquake insurance.

For earthquake insurance, it’s important to consider having enough coverage to repair or rebuild a home in light of building code improvements put in effect after the house was built. Plus, consumers will need funds for living expenses while the earthquake-damaged house is repaired.

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.

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Insurance: Your 3 Biggest Questions Answered

Insurance comes in a wide array of choices for a variety of consumer and business needs. Even the best-educated consumer who spends time researching insurance issues will come across a topic he or she doesn’t understand.

Let’s take a look at what consumers say when asked: “What’s one thing you don’t understand about insurance?” Here are three common questions that Trusted Choice® insurance agents and brokers hear:

Q: Why do I need insurance?

Insurance is for the uncertainties of life. Accidents and catastrophes happen. What can’t be predicted is when they will occur, and whom they will affect. Most people understand they’ll get sick at some point in their lives, but they can’t predict the severity and extent of the illness nor the cost of the treatment.

Catastrophes strike: In 2005, there were 24 weather-related or other disasters causing a total of $61 billion of insured
losses. Hurricane Katrina alone caused $41 billion in damage from 1.75 million insurance claims.

Even the safest drivers face the risk of an accident, and even the safest homes can catch fire. In 2006, about 5 percent of insured homes had a claim, according to the Insurance Services Office. About 94 percent of these homeowners insurance claims were for property damage, including theft.

Lawsuits are another uncertainty thatbusinesses and homeowners face. They’re costly: In the 56-year period from 1950-2006, the costs of the tort lawsuit system in the U.S. increased an average of 9.2% each year, reported Tillinghast-Towers Perrin. While most lawsuits are settled before they reach the courtroom, Jury Verdict Research data show that the median plaintiff award in personal injury cases was $45,000 in 2005, compared with $32,000 in 2002. Insurance provides two benefits to those who are sued: It pays for the cost of defending the lawsuit and pays for any liability payments for which the insured is found responsible.

Q: How do you define what insurance is … or does?

Insurance is simply a vehicle for transferring risk from one party to another. You need insurance if you have financial risk (and everyone does) and you want to reduce that risk. To do so, you pay someone else (e.g., the insurance company) to assume much of the risk for you, in return for a payment known as a “premium.”

Because American consumers hold a tremendous amount of wealth in property—ranging from homes and cars to collections of baseball cards and Christmas ornaments—they have a basic need to protect themselves from losing that value.

Insurance is designed to “make people whole” after their property or assets are damaged or stolen, or if they are responsible for harm caused to another party. An insurance policy is a contract under which an insurance company agrees to pay a certain amount of money to the policyholder if certain events happen (and their property is damaged or they cause harm to someone else or someone else’s property).

Q: Is life insurance an investment or purely insurance?

A: Life insurance for centuries has been first and foremost insurance: it provides a death benefit to the family or business
partners of an insured person.

Beginning about 30 years ago, the attractive returns in stock investments led insurance companies to bring investmentelements into life insurance policies. For example, agents and companies offered consumers the choice of placing life insurance premiums into mutual
funds, stocks, and bonds within the life insurance contract—known as “variable” life insurance. The term “variable” implies that the investment returns on these premiums vary with market performance.

With these types of life insurance policies, the insurance carrier takes the policyholder’s premium dollars and places them
in the investment account(s) chosen by the policyholder. These types of life insurance policies are subject to state insurance regulation and federal and
state securities regulations.

While investment-oriented life insurance has grown popular over the past generation, traditional life insurance (both
permanent and term) continues to be purchased in large amounts. Americans purchased $3 trillion of new life insurance coverage in 2006, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.

If you’re not sure whether a life insurance policy includes investment elements, you can check the disclosure information
on a life insurance application or policy, which must discuss whether securities are part of the life insurance contract.

What are your particular questions about insurance? Give TLIG a call at 434-582-1444

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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