It’s that time of year when each of us resolves to make improvements – whether we call then “New Year’s Resolutions” or not. As you think about the upcoming year, why not consider things you might commit to doing to help maintain your financial safety?
Since your insurance portfolio helps protect your financial well-being, we thought we would suggest some resolutions that should help you to avoid the most likely insurance claims that could arise – whether with your home, your car or, indeed, your life.
1. Stop inviting car thieves.
If you park your car to run an errand, it’s tempting to assume that you don’t need to lock your car or take your keys, but that would be a dangerous assumption. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that a vehicle was reported stolen once every 45 seconds in the United States during 2015, and there was a theft every 6.5 minutes in which the keys or the electronic FOB had been left inside the vehicle. The occurrence of this type of auto theft is up 31% since 2013.
You can stop inviting car theft by always locking your car when you leave it and taking all keys/FOBs as well as the garage door opener with you. Don’t store your registration or other personal information in your glove box, and make it a habit to remove all personal items of value at all times.
Such thefts can be very costly to you. Thieves have been known to steal a car find the address on your registration and burglarize the house before anyone knows the car has been stolen. In addition, depending on your insurance coverage, the theft might not be covered; in this case, you would be facing the cost to replace your vehicle out of pocket. It is wise to have a chat with your insurance agent to learn what your insurance
2. Create a home inventory.
In the wake of a natural disaster or perhaps a fire, unexpected property damage can be extensive, and you would be overwhelmed as you file an insurance claim if you are not able to provide details about all that was lost. If you don’t have a detailed list of your property’s furnishings and your personal belongings, then the claims process could be difficult. The Insurance Information Institute reports that only half of homeowners surveyed in 2016 said they had a home inventory, but such an inventory will allow you to support your claim.
Consider the Know Your Stuff inventory tool provided free from the Insurance Information Institute. It walks you through the process and allows you to collect details about all of your belongings along with pictures and video. Then, using the tool, you can store your inventory in the cloud so that there is no danger of having it damaged at home.
3. Stay in the kitchen while you're cooking.
At times, when cooking, you might be distracted by a phone call, a knock at the door or something else, and you might believe it is safe to leave the kitchen briefly. But leaving the kitchen unattended when cooking can result in a fire being ignited very rapidly from one of many sources. Something on top of the stove could boil over and begin to burn or a cloth set too close to the heat source could smolder and suddenly ignote. Something in the over could erupt or explode and begin to burn.
If you are in the kitchen with a fire extinguisher at hand which you are trained to use, then you might handle such a cooking fire; but if you are more than a step away, such a fire would be out of control before you could return to the room.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking fires are the top cause of both home fires and home injuries, and by far the leading cause of such fires is unattended cooking. You can help avoid the inconvenience of a common insurance claim by staying in the kitchen when you cook and checking all appliances before you leave when cooking is completed..
4. Improve your credit.
In most states, your insurance company determines your auto insurance premium based on a number of factors – not the least of which utilizes data held in your credit record such as outstanding debt, collections, payment history, length of credit history. According to Consumer Reports, your credit history has more effect on your insurance rates than even your driving record.
In fact this credit-based insurance scoring is only banned or limited in a very small handful of states.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, many insurers find credit-based insurance scoring to be important and statistically-valid in predicting how high a risk you are perceived to be in terms of the calculated probability that you will file a claim and the likely cost of that claim.
5. Advise your life insurance beneficiaries
You might assume that in the event of your death, sudden or not, all details related to your estate would be taken care of; but that would be incorrect. A lot depends on who is handling your affairs, so you will want to confirm who that would be and make sure they are positioned to take care of all items.
Moreover, letting your life insurance beneficiaries know where to file a claim if you die could also put your mind at ease. Many times, a beneficiary will not pursue a payout from a life insurance policy because they are unable to locate the insurance policy, assuming they even know it exists. The fact is that they only need to know which insurer you bought the policy from in order to start the process of filing a claim.
6. Read your insurance policies.
Long before you need to file an insurance claim, you should know the scope of your insurance coverage. To do that, you’ll need to take the time to read thoroughly and understand your policy, its endorsements, etc.
When reading your health insurance policy, start with the summary of benefits and also pay attention to the co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles. When reviewing your auto insurance and home insurance policies, focus on the declarations page and be sure to fully read all information about the limits and deductibles of your policy. Be sure to direct any questions to your own insurance agent who should be able to explain any items that are not clear to you.