Category Archives: Independent Insurance Agent

Save Time: Get an Independent Insurance Agent

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We understand your time is crucial as you continue to work towards your successful careers, finish up school and/or begin to build a marriage and a family. No matter what stage of life you are in at this time, purchasing some type of insurance is inevitable.  With all your responsibilities do you have additional time to research all the different kinds of insurance you will need?

That is why we are here! As an Independent Insurance Agency we provide you with your own insurance professional that can advise and assist you in making the best insurance decisions to fit your needs!

Below are some reasons to consider contacting an Independent Insurance Agency like ours:

You will have an individual insurance professional dedicated to handling your policies as opposed to a call center.

  • We build a strong relationship with you.
  • We provide that extra personal attention that you will not find at a direct carrier.
  • We will remind you of important dates so that you do not have to.
  • We provide “true” personal service; we are not a large corporation.
  • We are devoted and dedicated to the service we provide our clients.

We represent numerous insurance carriers

  • We provide you with more coverage options to choose from.
  • We compare these carriers for you…so you do not have to.
  • We will consult on how to choose the best policy, and we will provide explanations of your coverage in great detail and answer all your questions accurately.
  • We offer competitive pricing.

Our Wider Range of Industry Knowledge

  • We have knowledgeable professionals for your personal, commercial and life insurance needs.
  • We offer professional consultation at time of purchase and even at renewal time to assist you with making insurance choices so you can sleep at night.
  • We are devoted and dedicated to the service we provide our clients.
  • We can guide and assist you through the claims process.
  • We welcome you to visit our office and meet the people who work for you.

To put it simply, we offer you ease, advice and choices. So, please, take a minute to consider the reasons above and give us a call for any of your insurance needs.

How Much Insurance Do I Need?

calculatorAn interesting question and perhaps the most frequently asked when trying to determine the limit of insurance necessary to protect your property in case of loss. In insurance lingo, this concept is known as “insuring to value.” When trying to determine what this limit should be, most people immediately think of the market value of their property. However, market value has no bearing on the cost to rebuild or repair in case of loss. Frequently, clients insist that their property be insured for the selling price they believe they can get in today’s market, or for the price they paid when they purchased the property. This thinking can inflate the cost of the insurance, or worse yet, leave one improperly (underinsured) insured at the time of a loss. So what standard should be used to determine the correct limit of insurance?

Keep in mind that land doesn’t burn and, therefore, doesn’t need to be repaired or rebuilt. So it follows, that even if you paid separately for the land and the structure, you don’t need to include the value of the land in the limit of insurance you choose. Structures can, and do, burn including both the main structure as well as any “appurtenant structures” such as garages for example. When establishing the value of your property you want to choose a limit of insurance that reflects the cost to repair of rebuild in case of partial loss or total loss. When in doubt a good rule of thumb, used by insurance carriers, is $175 to $200 a square foot. (Keep in mind that this figure is only to be used as guide when trying to determine insurance to value.) Since inflation is often a factor in contracting costs, many insurers include automatic percentage increases in their policies which range from 2% to 8% a year to cover such contingencies.

There is also an 80% rule which is utilized by insurance carriers. This rule, called “Coinsurance,” requires that a homeowner or building owner have a limit of insurance that is equal to at least 80% of the total replacement cost of the structure. A breach of this requirement, results in a penalty that can leave the property owner a participant, or a “coinsurer,” at the time of loss. In short, the insurance company will only pay a loss based on the limit of insurance carried, to the limit which should have been carried to meet the 80% requirement. Often clients think that they can save money by choosing an arbitrary building limit, until they encounter this situation at the time of loss and then it is too late!

For example, I own a home with a replacement cost of $300,000. (Some of my neighbors have recently sold similar homes on my block for upwards of $450,000. Remember, however, that the price I can sell my home for has nothing to do with the limit of insurance I need. If I were to build an exact duplicate of my home on some exotic island it might sell for over $5 million, but the replacement cost is still that same $300,000.) 80% of $300,000 is $240,000 which is the limit of insurance I need to meet the 80% requirement. Any lesser amount will generate a penalty. As a consequence, I won’t be paid in full at the time of loss. Let’s say that I decide to insure my property for $200,000. Subsequently, I have a loss and the damages are approximately $100,000. Even though this is not a total loss, undoubtedly, I will suffer a coinsurance penalty. Here is how this works: $200,000/$240,000 = 91.67% and the carrier will only pay me 91.67% of the loss or $91,670. The remaining $8,330 is my portion of this loss, and on top of this, the carrier will further reduce my payment to reflect the deductible I chose when I took out my policy.

Remember, any renovations or major changes to structure such as adding a room or extending the property will change this requirement, so it is imperative that you review your policy limits with your agent on, at least, an annual basis!

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Under What Conditions Would You Cancel Your Personal Auto Insurance?

cancelledRecently, one of our clients called to ask us if they could cancel their personal auto policy. The answer to this question is “yes” provided that they turn in their license plates to the motor vehicle department, obtain a receipt (an FS-6) and send it in to us, their insurance agent, to cancel their policy. Without this receipt, we can’t cancel the policy. That is the law!

This prompted me to think about what conditions might lead someone to want to cancel their auto insurance policy. Here is a list of some possible reasons:

Getting rid of your automobile via sale, gift to another, making a decision to stop driving;

Receiving a suspension or revocation of your license in the State of NY. It is against the law to drive a motor vehicle in New York State with a suspended or a revoked license punishable by jail time, probation, loss of your vehicle as well as fines the imposition of fines which can be levied up to $5,000. As for driving in states other than New York, with a suspended/revoked license, most states participate in the National Driver Register (NDR) which has a database that includes and shares driver info regarding suspensions and revocations in most states. This protects other DMV’s from issuing licenses to such drivers who are at risk or whose records have been tagged with an alert. In addition, there is also a Driver’s License Compact (DLC) between most states which helps each state monitor suspension and revocations while their resident drivers are out of state. This measure helps the “home state” as well as the “guest state” put their own terms on whether or not someone is allowed to drive with a suspended or revoked license regardless if they are a resident or non-resident;

Your car is stolen and you have no intention of replacing it;

You have too many accidents and/or tickets on your record making the cost of your insurance prohibitively expensive.

Interestingly enough, having to turn in your license plates is an excellent requirement and one that absolves you of any financial responsibility once the plates are turned in. The motor vehicle department actually destroys the plates so that they can no longer be used by anyone else. This protects you from any ongoing financial responsibility.

So should you decide that you no longer have a need for your automobile, remember that without the FS-6 we can not cancel your policy. And, please, we implore that you do not let your automobile policy cancel for non-payment of premium as the insurance company, by law, must notify the Motor Vehicle Department. This can result in major fines and/or suspension of your driver’s license. If you have any other questions, we suggest you notify your insurance immediately.

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Pets Alive Westchester’s Shoe Recycling Program

petsaliveshoessWith Ground Hog’s Day having just passed, and St. Patrick’s Day ahead, can Spring be far off? Even if Spring is not on the immediate horizon, we do have long winter days when there is nothing more satisfying then cleaning out a closet and getting rid of things we no longer use.

One of my friends has a terrific rule about buying something new and bringing it into her home. The rule is that if she brings in something new, she must dispose of something old. What a concept. Being the proud owner of the “Imelda Marcos Memorial Closet” myself, I can certainly relate! For those of you who don’t remember Imelda, she was the First Lady of the Philippines and is often cited for her extensive shoe collection said to have numbered 2,700 pairs at its height.

Won’t you please join us at Petschauer Insurance by putting your hearts and your soles into the PetsAlive shoe recycling program? As participants, we can help PetsAlive make 50 cents for every pound of shoes we collect. Please bring us your old, tired shoes (no winter boots, slippers, roller skates, ice skates or shoes with holes and mold) for recycling. This is truly a great fundraiser and one that is bound to help all its participants: PetsAlive, the recipients of the shoes and of course, us, the donors. With just 25 filled boxes at our office, we can plan to raise $500 for PetsAlive and assist them in continuing the great work they do for our animal friends. Pet’s Alive suggests that we kick up our heels and get in the act. We say put your heart and soles to work and help us make this drive a huge success.

Please spread the word to your friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and all the people you meet in the course of going about your daily activities. Everyone has shoes in their closet that they can’t, don’t or won’t wear any longer for one reason or another. Now we have provided you with the impetus to get rid of these items and put them to good use. You can recycle, save the planet, help those less fortunate and make money for PetsAlive all at the same time. While you are at it, don’t forget about gym lockers and your children’s lockers at the end of the school year. Our goal is to fill as many boxes as we can. Even cleats are acceptable, so don’t skip the garage and the sports equipment closet.

By the way, there is a bit of a twist to this fundraiser. If you put a note in the shoe, you can actually trace the path taken by your shoes to meet their new feet. Who knows, maybe you will find a Sole Mate in the process!

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Why Do I Need Uninsured/UnderInsured Motorist Coverage?

uninsured-underinsured-motorists-coverageWhile it is true that we do try to impart some humor in our blogs, while educating our readers about insurance, this topic is NO laughing matter.

Recently, a young couple we know had their first children, a set of twins, and they were extremely thrilled at the prospect of raising their new family. On the way to a family gathering they suffered a flat tire and pulled over to the side of the road. The husband got out of the car and, while checking to see if his trunk had all the equipment needed to fix the flat, he was hit by a vehicle driven by a young graduate student texting while driving. In the midst of studying for finals, he had inadvertently allowed his insurance coverage to lapse. The husband suffered very serious injuries which left him unable to work and care for his family for the next three years. Clearly, the accident was the fault of the graduate student! BUT coverage under no fault was limited and our young family was left without any help against the young man with limited resources who had caused this tragic accident.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage is simply “insurance that pays for injuries suffered in an accident where the owner or driver who causes the accident doesn’t have enough liability or is uninsured at the time of the loss”. With the presence of additional limits such as an Umbrella policy, excess uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage kicks in after the coverage on the underlying auto policy is used up. I always tell my customers, “you can be sure of the coverage provided by your own policy because you bought it, but you can’t be sure of the coverage held by the other drivers on the road”. The importance of this coverage can’t be and shouldn’t be minimized. In addition, if you are hit by a vehicle that doesn’t stop, whether you are in your car, walking across the street, or riding your bicycle uninsured/underinsured coverage also comes into play.

As insurance agents, it is our job to make our customers aware of the coverages they need and the reasons why they should include such coverage in their purchase. Today, more and more, it seems like the emphasis is on the cost of insurance rather than on the protection which it affords. While some people understand the need for higher than state mandated liability limits to protect us if we are responsible for the injuries of others, we don’t really understand this coverage which can protect us and our loved ones if someone else has the lowest limits or no limits at all. After all, isn’t the purpose of insurance to protect us and our families from unforeseen disasters such as the scenario depicted above?

There is no doubt that everyone today is looking for a bargain and nobody wants to incur any additional expense, especially for something they don’t really understand. A good agent or broker will take the time to answer your questions to your satisfaction and make you knowledgeable about what coverages should be included in your insurance portfolio. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist is a must when it comes to designing your Auto policy. Take it from us, we see claims everyday and nobody is ever sorry for including this coverage in their purchase of insurance when the need for it arises. If you want to feel safe every time you get in your car, you might want to rethink purchasing this coverage and buying adequate limits with this article in mind.

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Is My Girlfriend/Boyfriend covered under MY Homeowners Policy?

PetschauerInsuranceAgencySo you have decided to take the next big step in your relationship and asked your girlfriend to move in your home. The two of you are now trying to figure out how to fit all of her “stuff” in your home. Where are you going to put all those clothes, handbags and shoes! But did you ever stop to think “are her belongings covered under your homeowners policy?” The answer is NO! Your Homeowners policy only covers an “Insured”. The policy defines an Insured as:

You (the person named on the policy)

Your Spouse (must be a resident of the same household)

Resident Relatives

Any other person under the age of 21 who is under the custody of the person named on the policy

Clearly, your girlfriend does not fall under this definition therefore her contents would not be covered under your policy. The definition of an Insured is the same for condos, co-ops and renters policies.

Now your girlfriend is all settled in the home. She decides to have a “Girls Night” at the house and one of her friends falls in the home and is injured. She sues both of you for her injuries because you’re the owner of the house and she’s the one that hosted the party. Did you know that you are covered under your policy but your girlfriend is not? Again, she does not meet the definition of an Insured. That’s grounds for a huge argument definitely not the best way to start this new chapter of your lives.

There are several ways to ensure that everyone in your household has contents and liability coverage:
• Name the person as a Named Insured on the policy.
• Add the person on by endorsement such as “Other Persons in the Household” endorsement
• That person can get their own Renters policy.

As always, please contact your broker as every company has different guidelines for these situations.

With today’s changing family dynamic, we strongly encourage you to review your policy with your insurance agent and make sure that everyone in your home is covered under your policy.

Now that you have the insurance covered, the rest of the relationship is on you!

– Sharon Davidson

The Importance of an Independent Insurance Agent

Heidi & ErwinFor the last two weeks we have been discussing different elements of a policy that affects a premium. We stressed that not all policies are written the same way even if the Dollar amount of coverage is the same and this, of course, will affect the premium. Therefore, we determined that it was extremely important to review the details or fine print of each coverage provided in the policy. However, how can busy consumers be expected to know and understand all the finer points of an insurance policy? You have enough on your plate without having to become an insurance expert too!

This is where a good insurance agent or broker comes in. Imagine if you woke up with a high fever, nausea, an ugly rash, and a nose bleed. While you might look your symptoms up on the Internet to get an idea of what you had, would you go all the way to finding out what medicine you should take and then go to the pharmacy and buy it without ever seeing a trained physician? Common sense screams “No!” A visit to your trusted doctor is a foregone conclusion. Likewise, you obviously should do your homework before you purchase any insurance policy, but to do so without the advice and counsel of a trained insurance professional could lead to much heartache in the future.

Remember that your independent insurance agent or broker is like your real estate agent or attorney. They work for YOU. Just like a real estate agent is the go-between between you, the buyer of real estate, and someone selling property, insurance agents and brokers are the go-between, between you and the various insurance companies to which they have access. Anybody can sell you a policy, but GOOD insurance agents and brokers are not there to merely sell you an insurance policy. They should also provide you with sound advice about which of the many options is best for you and make sure that no gaps are left in your overall risk protection program. So when discussing insurance quotes with your agent or broker, discuss the entire quote including the details, not just the price. Always ask questions. Make sure you totally understand what you are buying before you buy it. Believe it or not, there is nothing more professionally rewarding than to obtain the best coverage for a client and still have that client save a lot of money!

So, how do you find a GOOD insurance agent or broker? Well, how do you find a good doctor, dentist, lawyer, contractor, or almost any other service provider? Referrals. Speak with your friends, co-workers, family members, and other people you trust and ask them who they use and if they would make a recommendation. Also ask WHY they would make the recommendation. Ask about the advice the agent or broker gives, the problems they helped avoid, and the satisfaction or dissatisfaction felt after submitting a claim. This will give you a good idea of who to use as your agent or broker too! Find someone with whom you can partner and trust so that you not only get insurance you can afford, but also insurance that protects you, your family, and your hard-earned assets.

– Ray Alvarez