The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of insurance policies to make sure they really cover what an insured thinks they do. Too often, policyholders purchase insurance for an event they assume will not occur and once it’s filed away, they rarely take the time to review it in light of any changes they’ve experienced after its purchase.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) believes that one good New Year’s resolution is to review Homeowners, Renters and Auto insurance policies so there aren’t any nasty surprises if the unexpected happens.
“This is the perfect time to review your policy and make sure you have the coverage you need whether a natural disaster or other emergency occurs in the New Year,” says Chris Hackett, PCI’s director of personal lines. “Having a conversation with your agent or insurance company can help prevent you from being caught financially unprepared.”
While insurance is there in case of an emergency, it’s always wise to make sure it covers what an insured will really need. “If you’ve not satisfied with your coverage, we encourage you to use this time to shop around for the best policy that fits your needs,” adds Hackett.
In early 2015, the country experienced some rough weather ranging from wildfires on the West Coast to massive snow storms in the Northeast. This fall, torrential rains caused historic flooding throughout the Carolinas. And experts expect wildfires and weather events to become even more severe in the future.
Some homeowners may not be aware that coverage for floods and earthquakes requires them to purchase an additional policy over and above their Homeowners insurance. Areas where there has been an increase in fracking for oil have seen an increase in earthquakes and homeowners may not be covered for any damage they incur.
“Regardless of where you reside, it’s important to note that every part of the country is susceptible to an earthquake,” explains Hackett.
5 practical New Year’s resolutions
PCI offers policyholders five simple resolutions that could end up saving them money and heartache if they just take a few minutes to review their insurance policies:
1. Conduct an annual review of your insurance policy.
Your insurance agent will be happy to hear from you and discuss your various policy and coverage options. Did you build an addition onto your house, invest in a big screen TV or purchase a fur coat or jewelry for your wife? These are important details for an agent to know.
Did you change jobs so you can work from home? This cuts down on the number of miles you drive and can positively impact your insurance premiums. Make sure your coverage matches your risk.
2. Know what the policy covers.
This is a case where the details really do matter. Some policies cover for replacement costs while others will pay only the actual cash value, meaning you’re reimbursed for the depreciated value of an item.
If the kitchen catches on fire, a replacement cost policy will be important when it comes to rebuilding with like kind and quality materials.
The same factors matter for auto insurance. Comprehensive coverage, towing and car rental insurance will be important to have if your car is damaged in an accident.
3. Create a home inventory.
It doesn’t take as long as you think and many insurers have tools to help you create the inventory. Take photos of each room, particularly antiques, fine works of art, expensive furniture, any collections, tools, electronics or other items that may be expensive or difficult to replace. Save them to the cloud or on a flash drive in a safe deposit box (or both) so you can access them in case of an emergency.
It’s also a good practice to take pictures of receipts from any big-ticket items such as widescreen TVs to prove that you purchased it and what you paid for the item. Keeping the paper receipt is good, but frequently they get thrown away. Take a photo of the item and receipt and store them together for future reference.
Related: Insurance basics for new homeowners
4. Need flood or earthquake insurance?
Flooding is the most common natural disaster and isn’t covered under the standard Homeowners policy. Check with your agent to see what other risks you might need to make sure are covered such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail or ice dams.
5. Comparison shop
It’s always a good idea to periodically shop around to ensure that you’re getting the best price for your coverage. Keep in mind that the size of the deductible will affect the premium. Some companies offer multi-policy or other discounts for things like security systems and smoke alarms.
A new year is usually a time to make resolutions that probably won’t be kept, but keeping these five could pay dividends for the rest of the year and beyond.
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