Will my home insurance rates be affected if I get robbed?

Will my home insurance rates be affected if I get robbed?

It’s hard to describe the deep feelings of violation that are felt when your home is robbed. This is your chosen safe place, a sanctuary away from the chaotic world around you. It is where your family can rest and be at peace. It is where all of your belongings reside, including tokens from memories and people that may no longer be with us. And to see it destroyed, pilfered, and picked through is heartbreaking. One of the first calls that you should make, after that of the police, is with your homeowners insurance company. After all, they promised that if something like this would happen, they would put it right, as much as possible. And while that is accurate, there is a chance that your premiums could increase. To understand why, it is important to look at what determines homeowners premiums in the first place, and why certain elements result in higher premiums. But we should also look at things that you can do to safeguard against another break-in, protect important or expensive items, and potentially result in a lowered rate in the future. 

How do insurance companies decide homeowners insurance rates?

There are a number of factors that go into the decision making concerning the costs of homeowners insurance. All of these factors are determining levels of risk. The higher the risk of a potential loss or claim, the higher the premiums or rates. These factors that they take into account can be broken up into a few categories:

  • The People: Your claims history (with other insurance companies also), credit history, and even what breed of dog you have can affect your risk score.
  • The Property: The condition of your home (like fixer-uppers vs. well-maintained), construction of your home (brick vs. stucco vs. frame), what other structures you have on the property (pools or sheds), and the age of your home are all considered.
  • The Ecology: They mostly look at fire department ratings and whether you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, or floods. 
  • The Environment: This is the factor that will relate to the current issue of robberies. Insurance companies are very meticulous and detailed when they identify crime trends in different zip codes, whether the property is in a rural, suburban, commercial, or urban neighborhood, and what the claim history is for that area. Your initial rates may have been higher because of the neighborhood you moved into, and they will likely get higher with every incident of theft, robbery, or even general crime that occurs.

What can I do?

Knowing that, on top of your house being robbed and your possessions being taken, your rates may also go up, can be frustrating. But there are a number of steps that you can take. And good insurance companies will take into account these steps when looking at how much of a risk you are. If you prove that you are taking measures to decrease the likelihood of another incident, they can often respond with enough confidence to keep the changes to a minimum. So here are a few things you can do:

  • Beef up security:  Although most of these ideas will cost your pocketbook a little now, they will definitely pay off later. 
    • Cameras: Small cameras can be pretty inexpensive these days and even a simple doorbell camera has revolutionized the police’s ability to catch perpetrators of vandalism and theft.
    • Security system: Often the sight of the sign in the front yard is enough to deter a would-be robber. The fear of being caught can be powerful.
    • Exterior lights and motion sensor lights: No thief wants to be seen and motion sensor lights can be especially helpful because many thieves will assume you turned it on from inside and will leave.
    • Dogs: This is a tried-and-true deterrent to theft, but be careful which breeds you buy because some home insurance policies consider certain breeds to increase risk, not decrease it. Be sure and check with your insurance agent before jumping in.
    • Fences and Gates: Again, check with your insurance company first. Some fencing can increase the potential risk according to insurance companies, but all fences and gates provide more safety.
    • Creating a neighborhood watch: This is a good idea no matter what. But helping to start or joining a neighborhood watch is typically low involvement, but high yield. Together we can all make our neighborhoods safer.

It is important to remember that insurance companies are on your side. They exist to help restore you to as close to normal as they can after a disaster, whether it be water damage from a pipe bursting, roof damage from hail, or loss of your possessions from theft or vandalism. The experts at Winstead Insurance understand this and will work hard to get you the most affordable rates possible, no matter what risk factors you have present. Call them at 410.398.6700 (text at 410.205.9355) for a comprehensive quote. 

Will my auto insurance rates go up if I get a speeding ticket?

Will my auto insurance rates go up if I get a speeding ticket?

You’re cruising along on a sunny day enjoying a drive and then you see the dreaded lights. You didn’t even realize that you were speeding. After the interaction with the officer, and the ticket being issued, it suddenly occurs to you, this could affect my insurance rates. For most of us, an increase in rates gets our heart pumping higher too. And for most people, a ticket can increase rates because an insurance company sees you as a higher risk. In fact, according to Forbes Advisor, drivers in the United States who receive a speeding ticket have their rates go up by 24%, or almost $380 a year, which can put a serious dent in any wallet. But there are steps that you can take to recover from this, and even companies that you can go with that will understand when there is an unfortunate aberration from your typical safe driving. So, you got a ticket. Now what?

What your insurance company is thinking about:

An insurance company makes all its decisions based on the levels of risk of the people it represents. While it would be noble to cover anyone, despite their previous records, anyone who is at a high risk of making a claim against their insurance or getting into an accident, is going to cost more money to the company. Therefore higher risk customers are going to be charged higher premiums, and the highest risk customers may not be provided insurance from most companies at all. Another reason why it’s important to drive safely. 

Here are the basic questions that an insurance company is going to ask itself if you get a speeding ticket.

  • Was this your first ticket? – A first time offense will not be taken nearly as seriously as a pattern of behavior.
  • How many miles per hour were you going over the speed limit? – The higher the recklessness, the higher the risk to the insurance company.
  • What is your prior driving record?  – Keep in mind that parking tickets won’t count against you, unless you don’t pay them. They’re going to be looking for at-fault accidents, and moving violations in your past.
  • How long has it been since your last moving violation? – Again, insurance companies are mostly concerned about a pattern of behavior, and a short time gap between tickets is seen as a potential problem.

What can you do after you’ve already gotten a ticket?

Most of us assume that once the ticket has been issued, your fate is sealed when it comes to a higher rate. While you can’t change your insurance company’s reactions concerning a ticket, you can do two big things to prevent this from becoming a pattern. 

  • Take a few classes: Most states offer accident prevention or defensive driving courses that can reduce points or even lead to lower premiums. Especially if you have just received a ticket, these efforts will look really good on your record and insurance companies love to see the effort. In addition, quite a few of these classes are entirely online. Just make sure that they are certified or approved to get those points shaved off, and even ask your insurance company if they would consider not increasing your rates if you agreed to take one that they recommend.
  • Drive safely: It cannot be stated enough that a clean and clear driving record after a ticket is the best way to keep your rates low. Most insurance companies offer incentives to good drivers and ways to track your safe driving. Ask your insurance company about their programs and any other ways that you can prove on an ongoing basis that you are not a high risk customer. 

We all make the occasional driving error and as frustrating as the fallout can be, picking the right insurance company can make all the difference. Winstead Insurance in Elkton, MD believes strongly that the occasional mistake shouldn’t have a terrifying impact on your ability to stay affordably insured, and that you shouldn’t have to cut coverage to cut costs. Winstead Insurance has a Minor Violation Forgiveness Policy which states that one minor moving violation won’t increase your rates. This counts for each individual policy, and will renew every three years, providing there are no more hiccups. If only other mistakes in life could be forgiven so easily. Contact Winstead Insurance today at 410.398.6700 (or text at 410.205.9355) for rate quotes and more information.

Does My Auto Insurance Cover a Broken Windshield?

Does My Auto Insurance Cover a Broken Windshield?

Crack! We’ve all had it happen. Minding our own business, driving safely down a highway or street and a rock flies into our windshield, the telltale spiderweb-style damage staring at us from the formerly pristine glass. As startling as it can be the moment it happens, the torrent of questions we ask ourselves about what to do next can be even more overwhelming. Does this crack make it unsafe for me to drive? Will I need to replace the windshield or can I get it fixed? How much will it cost? And most importantly, will my insurance cover this windshield damage? For peace of mind, let’s look at each of those questions one by one. 

Is driving with a cracked windshield unsafe?

Although a small crack is not inherently dangerous, it is considered unsafe for a few reasons. First, even a small crack can grow quickly and threaten the effectiveness of the windshield itself. If a second rock were to hit the windshield or an accident were to occur, the natural protections that would be in place by a fully intact windshield would be compromised, and the likelihood of more serious injury would be increased. For the safety of future occupants in potential situations, it should be repaired or replaced. Secondly, as a corollary to that safety concern, a crack in a windshield also can cause visibility and distractibility issues that could actually lend themselves to causing further incidents or accidents. In this way, sometimes it’s not the size of the crack that matters, it’s the fact that it exists at all that can compromise the integrity of the windshield and the ability of the driver.

Will I need to replace the windshield or can I get it fixed?

Basic rule of thumb when examining a cracked windshield and determining whether it can be repaired or replaced, is how long the crack is. In most situations, if the crack is under 3 inches, it can be repaired and a full replacement isn’t necessary. Many shops use the dollar bill test: if it can be fully covered up by a dollar bill, it can be repaired. This makes it doubly important that the crack be addressed immediately, because it can grow very quickly and lead to requiring a full replacement.

How much will it cost to replace my windshield?

Without insurance, the average cost to repair a windshield can be between $20 – $75 but can get as high as $350 depending on the make and model of the car. But this leads to the next obvious question.

Will my insurance cover windshield crack repair?

The short answer is, yes. But there are many involved elements here, including the potential for requiring a deductible, and how to proceed with a claim. First things first, it is in an insurance company’s best interest to get a windshield repaired. For the same reasons that a customer is concerned for their safety when driving with a crack, the insurance company is concerned for any potential for further injury and damage and this risk is decreased if the windshield is repaired quickly and effectively. In addition, most policies also cover windshield replacement which can cost the company more, so it would make sense that they would be interested in taking the easier, lower cost option of fixing it as soon as possible. The next question a customer immediately is concerned with is a deductible. Nearly all policies have deductibles which can help to lower premiums, but if the costs are so low, then would it be logical to make a claim for windshield repair if it would be under the deductible amount anyways. For this reason, most insurance companies do not apply the deductible to glass damage, and simply cover the costs to get the repair completed. This benefits both the customer and the insurance company in getting the claim handled and the glass fixed. Fortunately, most insurance companies have a separate department that handles all glass related claims, to separate them from other kinds of claims that may require the application of the deductible or liability concerns. 

As scary as a sudden rock in the windshield can be, the resulting crack doesn’t have to feel so daunting. Experienced insurance professionals, like those at Winstead Insurance, have handled situations like this for years and can make the process simple and smooth for any concerned customer. When purchasing your car insurance, be sure to consult them for competitive rates from multiple companies that will include windshield repair and replacement costs, to put your mind at ease, just in case an errant rock decides to try and ruin your day. With Winstead backing you up, your insurance company will ensure a quick and easy resolution. Call Winstead Insurance for quotes at 410.398.6700.

Does My Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

Does My Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Termite Damage?

According to the USDA, termites cause $40 billion in damage every year to homes in the United States, damaging or destroying 600,000 homes annually. Many homeowners are well aware of this risk and assume their home insurance policies provide some protection against the little vandals. But sadly, this assumption  is not made after careful research, and they often find themselves on the hook for enormous repair costs. It also could leave a home condemned and beyond repair if a termite infestation was allowed to get too far out of control. 

Insurance policies do not generally cover termites

So, to simply answer the question in the title of this article, unless you have a fairly unusual policy, you can bet that your home insurance does not cover damage from termites. This is not just an attempt by the insurance companies to get out of covering one very specific and common cause of damage though. Home insurance does not cover pest damage in general. So, damage from rodents, roaches, raccoons, bats, and all the other pests you hope are not in your home is also not covered. 

The reason for this is simple: damage from pests is considered a preventable maintenance issue, not the kind of unexpected, accidental, sudden peril that insurance is meant to cover. The same is true for plumbing problems. If a pipe one would assume was in working order bursts suddenly, it is generally covered. But if a pipe gradually accumulates gunk from the shower or sink and then backs up, causing water damage, the insurance company will consider you at fault for not maintaining clear pipes. 

With termite damage, the assumption is that everyone is responsible for making sure there are regular termite inspections and, if necessary, treatments. Homeowners should be aware of what regular maintenance is considered to be their responsibility, and they should make sure they are protecting their investment in their home by performing this maintenance. Being unaware of these expectations and hoping home insurance will cover any problems that arise is a dangerous move. Many people who have taken this attitude have ended up having to pay enormous bills from their own pockets. And termites are definitely one of the major culprits for this.

How to protect your home against termites

Since the insurance company will not be much help in protecting your home against termites, what should you do instead? 

  1. Get regular termite inspections: This is the most important step for you to take. If you are aware the very moment termites become present on your property, you can move quickly to eliminate them. 
  2. Prevent any long-term moisture: Not just termites, but nearly all pests, look for long-term sources of moisture. It’s not a big deal if you let some water sit out on the counter once, but a dripping pipe, a flooded basement or other steady presence of water draws pests like a magnet. Termites especially like wood that has been softened by moisture. 
  3. Take notice of signs: Blistered walls, hollow wood in framing or cabinets and small discarded insect wings are three signs you may have termites. Sagging floors or ceilings could be signs that the infestation has reached an advanced level. 
  4. Know when to call an exterminator: Often, the company that inspects for termites will also exterminate them. If they spot any signs, or if you do, have a professional company take care of it immediately. 

Do you have home insurance? If not, you should get some. 

While home insurance will not help with termites, it does help with most other risks to your home. Call Winstead Insurance in Elkton, Maryland, at (410) 398-6700 if you are interested in home, car, life or other types of insurance. 

Does My Auto Insurance Cover Rental Cars?

Does My Auto Insurance Cover Rental Cars

Are you one of the millions of people every year who start googling when asked at a rental car counter if they want to buy the insurance, wondering if you are already covered by your personal auto insurance? The quick answer is that your insurance probably covers you, at least to some degree. But it’s wise to dig a little more before getting behind the wheel. 

 

What does your car insurance cover usually?

The key to the question of whether your rental car will be covered in an accident is whether your usual car insurance would have covered the same situation in your own car. If you have liability insurance (which you are legally required to), then typically, your policy will cover liability claims in a rental car. If you also have collision insurance, which covers damage to the car you’re driving, then this should also be covered in a rental. The same goes for comprehensive coverage, which typically covers claims not related to driving, like from theft, vandalism and weather. 

Other coverage you may not realize you have

If there is an incident in a rental car, your auto-insurance policy may not be the only policy that will come to your aid. Homeowners insurance or renters insurance will likely cover your personal effects, albeit to a lesser degree, when you are outside your home. If your laptop or bookbag is stolen, you can submit a claim under these policies. 

Interestingly, your credit card may also come to your rescue and fill in gaps in your coverage. This is only the case if you used the card to rent the car, but it is still worth checking in to. Travel insurance, personal injury insurance and health insurance, depending on if you have them, can also help. 

What their insurance may cover better

While you likely have some insurance that overlaps with the car-rental company’s coverage, there are also a number of circumstances where it can pay off to get their insurance. If you are traveling overseas, your auto insurance may not cover your rental. Also, if you have a high-deductible insurance plan and they have a small deductible, it may be worth it to fill that gap. You may even just get it in case an accident does happen, so you don’t have to file a claim and risk your rate going up. 

Often car-rental companies offer a simple “damage waiver” that removes your responsibility for any typical accidents. Be careful though, because if you are determined to have been breaking traffic laws or were otherwise negligent, the waiver may be void, making you liable to cover the costs. 

When in doubt, call your insurance agent

So, to summarize, the coverage at a car-rental office likely overlaps with insurance you already have. But it would be wise to confirm that that’s the case, and to what degree, so you don’t neglect to protect yourself against possible risks when you are driving a car you aren’t used to in an area you don’t typically travel. So, before making a decision, why not call an insurance expert? If you don’t have a trusted insurance agent, give Winstead Insurance a call. You can reach our Elkton, Maryland, office at (410) 398-6700.

What is Renter’s Insurance and Do You Need It?

What is Renter’s Insurance and Do You Need It?

In the typical rental property, most landlords will take proactive steps to protect their property and the belongings inside them. To guard against losses from fire outbreaks or theft, the landlord will usually buy insurance. But, even though property owners do their best to prevent loss or damage, the typical landlord insurance has its limitations.

It leaves tenants and their belongings unaccounted for. As a tenant, the house you live in and the landlord’s possession inside it are insured, but your possessions are not. That is because instead of covering everyone and everything within a building, landlord insurance makes a distinction between the tenant’s belongings and what belongs to the landlord.

For two important reasons, renters in a rental property are exposed to significant risks of losing their belongings if something bad happens. Firstly, the lease agreement does not make it the landlord’s responsibility to protect the renter’s possessions. Secondly, the landlord’s insurance goes out of its way to exclude anything not belonging to the landlord from the policy.

This leaves the tenant’s belongings exposed if an incident occurs that results in loss or damage to their property. But luckily there is a way to get around this. People living in a rented home can protect themselves and their belongings by buying a policy tailored to the needs of renters. This policy is called renters’ insurance.

Fireman at rented home fire

What is Renter’s Insurance?

It is an insurance policy that protects you from property loss and personal liability when you are living in a rented house, condo, or apartment. It provides you with the same level of coverage that property owners have through landlord insurance. Renter’s insurance protects belongings like clothing, jewelry, smartphones, artwork, furniture, and other personal belongings from damage or loss due to a range of perilous events including:

  • Fire, smoke, lightning, explosions, and electrical surges
  • Windstorm, hail, and volcanic eruptions
  • Riot, civil commotion, theft, vandalism, and malicious mischief
  • Damage by vehicles (including aircraft) and falling objects
  • Damage by weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Damage from accidental discharge of water/steam by household systems or appliances
  • And many more

Personal Property Coverage

You are protected against the loss of your personal property by the policy. This may be loss that occurs due to fire, smoke, or theft. However, the policy does not just cover your belongings when you are in your home. It will protect you if your belongings are stolen or damaged while you are traveling abroad. It will also protect you if they are stolen from your parked car.

Broken Glass Personal Property Damage

Renter’s insurance can either pay the replacement cost or actual cost of lost or damaged items. When the policy pays the replacement cost, it will pay out enough money to buy a new item, similar to the one that was lost or damaged. When it pays the actual cash value, it will pay you the estimated value of the lost or damaged item, which may only be enough to buy a used item.

Personal Liability Insurance

Personal Liability Coverage

In the event that a friend, neighbor, or some random person gets injured while inside your apartment, the policy will protect you if you are found personally liable for the person’s injuries. The coverage will include your legal fees, monies awarded to the other party, and their medical bills. Also, if your dog causes bodily harm to somebody, the policy will protect you

Other forms of liability that you are protected from include protection from losses you incur when you borrow someone’s property and it is lost or damaged in your apartment. Or you accidentally leave the kitchen tap running with the sink clogged or plugged and the water runs over and damages your neighbor’s apartment.

Protection against loss of use

If due to any reason your rented apartment becomes uninhabitable and you have to live elsewhere while it is being repaired, renter’s insurance will cover the additional living expenses. This includes situations where a home is damaged by a natural disaster, smoke or fire, and you have to live in a hotel temporarily.

Benefits of renter’s insurance to landlords

In addition to the benefits you get from this policy, renter’s insurance also benefits your landlord.

  • It helps landlords avoid liability claims from tenants whose belongings are damaged
  • It serves as a tenant-screening tool to judge the prospective tenant’s level of personal responsibility
  • It ensures that the landlord’s will not be burdened by the tenant’s relocation expenses if the home becomes uninhabitable
  • It shields the landlord’s insurance policy from claims by tenants

As a result of these benefits, many landlords are now requiring tenants to have renter’s insurance.

Cost of Renters Insurance

What is the Cost of Renter’s Insurance?

Compared to the amount of coverage you get under this policy, renter’s insurance is surprisingly cheap. The average renter’s insurance does not cost more than $200 a year. This means that for less than a dollar a day you can have adequate protection for all of your belongings. There is really no reason why you should not buy this policy today.

Have questions or looking for a quote? Contact Winstead Insurance today at (410) 398-6700