Charles Hagerty No Comments

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.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

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.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

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.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

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

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

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

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

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.