There’s an old saying is that the only thing constant in life is change. There’s a lot of truth to that saying, and it’s one of the things that a competent insurance agent focuses on most: life changes.
Insurance is all about helping you identify and manage the amount of risk you are comfortable with and then putting a practical strategy in place, through the use of insurance policies, to protect your assets. With this definition in mind, it only makes sense that when your life change, your level of risk and assets will likely change with it.
Therefore, here are 6 times you should reach out to your Texas insurance agent and review your coverage:
1) Birth and death
When you have a child, grandchild, etc. or when someone you know or loves passes away, both times you should reach out to your agent, not only to update your family’s contact information, but also to review your coverage and make sure that any policies will reflect the addition, or passing, of that individual.
If you move, it’s imperative that you review your coverage. Different areas, even in North Texas, are rated differently, have different risk levels and it’s in your best interest to update your address and just as importantly make sure that you are properly covered at your new residence.
3) You change jobs or retire.
This is a major life event for anyone, and definitely demands a policy review with your insurance agent. Life insurance, retirement funds, time off/severance all can be impacted by this job change, and it’s helpful to make sure your insurance agent is aware so they can make recommendations to protect the things that matter most to you even if you change jobs.
4) You make a big purchase.
Whether this is a new car, other type of motorized vehicle (ATV, Motorcycle, RV, etc.), or even things like jewelry and fine art. Your insurance agent has products and options that can help your protect these things, often for just a small premium.
5) You file a claim.
Depending on the severity of your claim will determine when is the best time to talk to your agent, but once your claim has been resolved, it would make sense to talk to your agent and make sure that you have the proper coverage moving forward, in the event that you had rejected optional coverages that might have protected you during that claim process.
6) At least once a year.
Big changes don’t come all the time, but when they do it’s important to speak with your insurance agent. Even if you don’t have a major event a good Dallas insurance agent, like LFIG, will reach out to you at least once a year to offer a policy review. This isn’t a sales conversation, it’s a chance to make sure that your insurance coverage is keeping up with your asset protection needs. There may be additional products that could better help, there may be coverage that is unnecessary due to your situation. Your agent will help you find out.
Nobody wants to file an insurance claim, but life happens fast. Whether you’ve been in an auto accident or your home has been damaged, you pay a monthly premium each month to have your policy cover the items listed in the contract come claim time.
Once you’ve had a possible claim situation arise, your first step should be to mitigate any future damage, make sure you and your family are safe, and then contact your Dallas insurance agent.
When you get in contact with LFIG they’ll get you directly in touch with the insurance company who issued your policy and help guide you through the process. Once the claim is actually filed, though, your agent takes a hands-off approach. The reason being that insurance claim estimating and adjusting is a specific field in the insurance industry.
Insurance adjusters and claims representatives are specifically trained in evaluating damage and making accurate estimates of the damages, whereas your agent’s training is based around risk management and asset protection on behalf of the client. Their job is to give you policy options that fit your current life situation and level of risk.
Because your agent works on your behalf, and doesn’t work for the insurance company, they can be a resource to help resolve any communication problems you are having or get you in touch with the individual(s) who can answer the questions and concerns you have that are directly related to your claim.
Of all the issues that North Texas homeowners face, one of the most frustrating is foundation damage. It seems to come on slowly, where you don’t necessarily recognize it until you have a multi-thousand dollar repair bill on your hands. If you’re like most people, if you find out you have foundation damage your first thought will be to reach out to your Dallas insurance agent, Lewis Family Insurance Group, to find out if your Texas homeowners insurance covers this type of damage.
Like most things in insurance, the answer is: “it depends”. The reason is that insurance policies are written to cover certain, specific types of losses, referred to as “perils”. Certain policies cover certain perils, but this blog post will try to give a general understanding of what is and isn’t covered when it comes to foundation damage. As always, though, read your policy and reach out to your agent/carrier to attempt to verify coverage before filing a claim.
So, from a 30,000 foot view whether or not foundation damage is covered will depend on what caused the damage in the first place. Some of the common causes of foundation damage in Texas are:
1) Damage due to shifting soil or earth movement.
Texas, North Texas specifically, has soil with high clay contents. This means that the soil expands and contracts as it absorbs water causing your foundation to shift. This tends to be the most talked about cause of damage to foundation, but unfortunately most insurance policies do not cover damage due to shifting soil as it is indicative of the client failing to take preventative steps to prevent and/or mitigate the damage. In the instance of earth movement, homeowners policies typically do not cover, and actually exclude, covering damage as a result from earth movement, sinkholes, mud and landslides, etc.
2) Damage due to faulty construction
Most homeowners’ policies in Texas will not cover damage that is a result of faulty workmanship or building materials. In this instance, you would not be reimbursed for the cost of having the construction recompleted/repaired, therefore your best bet would be to contact the builder or contractor who initially completed the work to discuss remedies.
3) Damage due to flooding or leaks
Beginning with flooding, typically the only policy that will cover flooding (flooding=rising water entering the home from outside) is a flood policy. While there are private companies who write flood insurance, the most common flood policy is routed through FEMA and based on Federal Government standards. As far as damage due to water originating inside the home (from a pipe, for example) your policy will have specific language detailing what is and isn’t covered. Often the damage must result from a sudden and unexpected event, meaning knowing you have a leak and waiting 3 or 4 weeks to stop the damage would likely not be covered.
Bottom line: While everyone should have their home protected, Texas homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover every single type of damage you might face as a homeowner. Your best course of action is to always prevent damage from getting worse, and contact your insurance agent to find out what steps to take moving forward to best protect your home.
If you’ve had insurance for more than a minute, you’re likely familiar with the term “deductible”. Deductibles apply to various types of insurance: home, renters, auto, health, etc. Even within some certain coverages added to policies there could be a separate deductible that applies before the coverage “kicks in”. In short: for homeowners insurance the deductible is the portion you agree to pay (other than the premiums themselves) before the insurance company begins to pay for repairs to your home or property.
This portion you agree to pay in the form of a deductible is often a small percentage of your home, most often 1 or 2%. So, for example, if you have a $300,000 home and a 1% deductible you would pay the first $3,000 in the event you filed a claim to have your roof replaced and the remainder would be paid by the insurance company.
Insurance, both from the standpoint of the client and the company, is all about risk management. The more risk the insurance company takes in covering you the higher your premiums will be. The more risk you are willing to assume as the insured the lower, generally speaking, your premiums will be. A 16-year-old driving a brand-new Corvette is likely to be a higher risk for the insurance company than a 45-year-old with a perfect driving record sporting that 8-year-old Ford Focus. The same is true for your homeowners insurance deductibles. If you agreed (whether you knew it or not) to cover a 2 or 3% deductible before the insurance company has to pay to cover that roof or plumbing repair, you’re likely to see a much lower premium.
After February 2021’s winter storm a lot of Texans were shocked to learn that while they were paying crazy low rates for their homeowners insurance, they were expected to fork over a massive amount of money before the insurance company would cover any repairs. This was compounded by the fact that home values and rebuild costs continue to skyrocket in North Texas (hello rising cost of lumber).
LFIG isn’t opposed to high deductibles in and of themselves. There are a number of reasons someone could decide to have a 2, 3 or even 5% deducible. It’s never our job to “tell” you what to do. What is vitally important though, and something that we saw after the winter storm, is that clients know exactly what their deductible is, not just in terms of some random percentage, oh you have a 2% deductible, but rather “YOU’RE EXPECTED TO PAY $10,000 BEFORE THE INSURANCE COPMANY COVERS ANYTHING”. If you’re aware of the deductible, are comfortable with it and willing to assume that risk there isn’t an issue. The problem comes when so many people are shocked to find out what that percentage deductible means in real world dollars.
Because we have access to dozens of carriers, we can shop to find you the best coverage for the most affordable premium. As far as homeowners insurance is concerned part of that process includes discussing what kind of deductible, you’re comfortable with. It doesn’t make sense to cut corners on your deductible if you actually won’t be able to afford to pay it at claim time. Sure, raising you deductible from 1 to 2% mathematically means that you’ll save enough to make up the difference if you have to file a claim, but are you actually putting those premium savings away every month? Most people, understandably, are not.
The entire discussion about deductibles boils down to two things that we focus on at LFIG:
1) Determining how much risk you, as the insured, are willing to assume.
2) Making sure that you, as the insured, have the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about your insurance coverage.
As a local, independent insurance agency based here in North Texas, we’re always willing and able to have those conversations.
Buying a home, whether it’s your first home or fifth, can bring a lot of excitement to your life. In spite of the stress, people find a great deal of enjoyment in viewing homes and planning out their future in a new space. If you’re considering a home purchase there are some insurance related considerations you should keep in mind.
The age of the roof
It’s no secret that North Texas gets a lot of hail. Hail, wind and brutal sun in the summer often shortens the lives of Texas roofs. An old or damaged roof can make getting insurance coverage from a reputable company difficult. Even if you are able to get the coverage you’re likely setting yourself up to have to file a claim the next time a bad storm comes through and pay the deductible to get the roof repaired or replaced, or even worse the insurance company may require you to have a scheduled or actual cash value roof coverage clause on your policy.
Prior claims and damage
Life happens. Especially in older homes it’s not uncommon to find that insurance claims and damage have occurred when prior owners were living in the home. The problem you can run into, though, as a homebuyer is finding out that those damages weren’t completely or properly repaired. If the damages weren’t complete or only partially complete that can result in a delay in binding the homeowners insurance which can slow down your loan closing and processing. Even worse, unrepaired damage could, in some instances, result in a claim denial.
Plumbing, Heating and Electrical
Of course, when buying a home, your inspector will make sure that the plumbing HVAC and electrical systems are all in working order. But in older homes, things like fuse boxes, galvanized plumbing, knob and tube wiring and older furnaces can result in denial of insurance coverage or exclusions for certain claims.
Dallas Homeowners Insurance
You’ve got a lot going on when buying a home. Let your Texas insurance agent make things a little easier by ensuring that the home your purchasing is properly covered so there are no surprises come claim time.
An independent insurance agent in Dallas, like Lewis Family Insurance Group, is your best bet as we have access to nearly two dozen nationally rated insurance carriers to find a policy that will protect your home and leave you with peace of mind.
If you’re considering purchasing a home in the near future and need a relator or loan broker, let us know so we can put you in contact with one of the proven professionals we trust to handle our clients home buying needs.
I see it more often than I’d like. Someone comes to me looking for a quote on their auto insurance and their prior agent had reduced or eliminated their uninsured motorist coverage to save them an extra $10 or $15 per month. Don’t get me wrong, tough economic times means making tough decisions and I’m not saying that there isn’t a reason to look at where you can save a few dollars a month on your auto insurance, because those dollars add up over the course a year.
The problem I have with agents who tell their clients to drop their uninsured motorist coverage is that they often times say it in a way that implies that the coverage is unimportant or unnecessary. Tell me how unimportant uninsured motorist coverage is when you’re in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance, or you get back to your car at the grocery store to find out you were in a hit and run or even worse you’re driving your new, $45,000 car and someone with state minimum liability insurance (only $25,000 in coverage) t-bones you at an intersection.
Uninsured motorist coverage can be tricky. You’ll likely see it on your policy declarations page noted as UIM or UM coverage. It can cover:
Being involved in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance.
Being involved in an accident with someone who doesn't have enough insurance.
A hit and run accident.
Medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages as a result of the accident.
Now, it is true that there may be other coverages on your policy, such as collision to repair your vehicle, or medical payments/PIP that can help out if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or under-insured driver, but those coverages often come with a higher deductible or less overall coverage.
Additionally, filing a collision or medical claim because of an uninsured driver can in some instances cause your rates to increase which would likely raise your rate more than the $10 or $15 a month that your agent was trying to save you.
Again, there are a number of people who carry low limits of uninsured motorist coverage or reject it all together. The key, from the standpoint of an agent, is to find out what level of risk tolerance your client has and help them build a policy of coverages that will protect the things that matter most to them that is also aligned with the overall level of risk that they’re willing to assume
Here at the Lewis Family Insurance Group we help our Dallas auto insurance clients find coverage options that are a specific fit for them. Every client is different, every insurance company is different and it’s imperative that you work with an agent that is looking out for you as an individual, not just signing you up for the same policy that everyone else that comes through their door gets.
If you’re looking for low-pressure personalized service for your Dallas auto insurance, the Lewis Family Insurance Group is here to help.
It’s no secret that more and more Americans, especially younger Americans, are being saddled with student loans. As the cost of tuition and public and private universities increase at record speeds and wages remain relatively stagnant, most higher learners are being forced to take out loans to pay for their continued education.
Now, this blog post isn’t a critique one way or another about student loans, whether they should be forgiven, what the interest rates should be or anything like that.
What this blog post is about, however, is whether those student loans are forgiven when you die and whether your life insurance death benefit will be reduced to cover the outstanding loan balances.
First and foremost it’s important to remember that (just like every person) every life insurance policy and company is different. The contracts have different features and benefits associated with them so before you sign up for coverage with your Dallas insurance agent, you ask them every single question you can possibly think of.
As a general rule, though, life insurance is a contract directly between the policy owner (not necessarily the insured) and the insurance company. When you die the beneficiary that is listed in your policy receives the death benefit minus any deductions for unpaid premiums or loans if it is a permanent policy. Any debt that you might have, including student loans, generally isn’t subject to being garnished from life insurance proceeds as those debts become part of your estate and are settled through the probate process. And if you’ve taken out federal student loans those are typically forgiven at the time of death.
So, no, generally speaking student loan debt doesn’t reduce the amount of the death benefit when you die.
What you should think about, however, is if you have student loans that you acquired with the help of a cosigner. Specifically private student loans, cosigners may be required to continue paying the debt on those loans even if you are no longer living. For parents and grandparents who plan on cosigning for their junior’s students, it’s not a bad idea to take out a small life insurance policy on him to make sure if something tragic happens that you are not responsible for a debt that, while technically is yours, isn’t one you were prepared to take on.
Even more than auto, home and renters insurance, life insurance can become incredibly complicated. Your Dallas insurance agency, the Lewis Family Insurance Group, has the knowledge and experience to cut through the clutter and simplify the topic so you can make an informed decision.
This Holiday season, while different than ones that most of have experienced in the past, is not void of dangers for your home and your family. As we begin our celebrations here are some tips to help you stay safe.
Inspect any Christmas
...lights for broken or cracked bulbs and connections and replace any that are broken. If using an extension cord to connect multiple strings of lights, place it securely against a wall to ensure that no one trips and falls.
Keep an eye on your garbage
Except for the Scrooge in your life, most people enjoy giving and receiving gifts, especially during the holidays. After you’ve completed your gift exchange, dispose of the product boxes and packages in stages (recycle if possible) making sure not to place boxes from large expensive items where people who might be driving by can see exactly what that new electronic gadget is that you unwrapped. Even better, if possible, dispose of those packages and boxes at a public waste facility where others will not see the item's contents.
Keep your home well lit!
This is a tip for all times of the year, but especially now during the Holidays when burglaries tend to be on the rise. Burglars might not be fooled into thinking you’re actually at home if the lights or TV are on, or even if you have an automatic interior timer light, but it will serve as a deterrent as the last thing a thief wants is to be conducting their illegal business in the bright lights.
Take an Uber, Lyft or other ride sharing service
...or choose a designated driver if partaking in adult beverages. Nothing wrong with enjoying some libations, especially during the holidays. But, if you’re going to drink, make sure to be smart about your decisions. Hire a ride, have a sober person drive you home, or stay where you are until you are completely sober. If you haven’t been drinking, though, you still need to be aware of your surroundings, understanding that there is a dramatic increase in drunk driving fatalities during the Holiday season. Keep aware of who is around you, where they are, their speed, habits and take an alternate route or even pull over if necessary.
Review your home and property insurance.
No better time than the end of the year to make sure the insurance protection you have is properly aligned with your life circumstances and LFIG can help. Schedule a 10-15 minute policy review, even if you’re not insured with us, and find out if you’re paying too much for too little coverage on your Dallas homeowners insurance.
2020 has changed the way a lot of us travel. I know this is true from personal experience. In years past, if Lauren and I wanted to get out of town we’d find an inexpensive flight if our destination was more than 4 or 5 hours from Dallas. Now, all of the places we’re looking at getting away to are within driving distance from the metroplex. What this means for us, not wanting to put extra miles on either of our cars, is that we’ll rent a SUV, load up the dog and the toddler, and get to where we’re going. I’m sure a lot of people are the same way.
This begs the question, though, if I rent a car do I need to purchase the rental car damage insurance. Truth is, if you ask a dozen insurance agents you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. This question, like many of the questions our Dallas insurance blog addresses, is one that comes down to your personal level of risk assumption. I generally don’t purchase the rental car insurance, but my father (who is much more risk averse than I am) will never rent a car without adding the additional insurance. It all comes down to how much risk you want to take on as an individual and making sure you’re comfortable with that risk.
Given that the extra insurance on a Dallas auto rental is usually pretty inexpensive, it’s not a bad idea to add it on before you head out of town. If you’re on the fence, here are a two important reasons you should purchase the rental car damage coverage.
1) Loss of Income for the Rental Car Company
If you’re renting a vehicle and it is damaged it’s entirely likely that you will be responsible for the rental company’s loss of income from that vehicle. It can’t be used, they’re losing money so you have to pay. These costs can add up fast if it takes an extended period of time to repair the damages.
2) Rental Car Diminished Value
Rental cars are generally valued differently than your standard auto policy. Unless you have an endorsement on your Texas auto insurance policy, it’s likely that your car is valued on an “actual cash value” basis for insurance purposes. This is not always the case with rental cars. They can be valued based on whatever the rental company decides and obligate you to reimburse them for the vehicle’s value (that they determined) regardless of your ability to pay.
Regardless of what coverage your personal auto insurance policy provides for rental car coverage, it’s probably not a bad idea, just to be on the safe side, to purchase the additional protection from the rental car company. Their job is to make money, not to look after your best interest. The last thing you want after a fun weekend with family and friends is to find out your credit card has been maxed out by the rental company because of some obscure clause in the rental agreement and your refusal of the additional insurance coverage.
If you have additional questions about rental car coverage, how auto insurance in Dallas covers you when you’re traveling out of town with (or without) a rental car, the Lewis Family Insurance Group can help you determine the best path. Call us at 214-666-8103or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The world is becoming more and more litigation happy. Everything from a hot cup of coffee, leaving a child’s toy in your yard covered in leaves and even social media posts can land you in “hot water” and potentially facing a lawsuit. Lawsuits, of course, don’t just begin and end with the frivolous. Car accidents where another party is seriously (or not) injured can force you into the courtroom, saying the wrong thing about the wrong person or just being a landlord have the potential to open yourself up to some serious liability.
Regardless of whether you think about the rules and regulations surrounding when and why someone can file a lawsuit, from an insurance prospective it’s important to know that you have options to better protect yourself so that if you do find yourself in a terrible situation, you might not be stuck paying out of pocket for damages, court and attorney fees.
The way you accomplish this is through an umbrella policy from you Dallas insurance agent.
What is an umbrella policy?
The most simple way to think of an umbrella policy is to think of it as an extension of the liability protections already on your Texas homeowners and auto insurance policies. In the event that a claim is filed against you, generally the lability protections on the auto or homeowners policy are paid out first and you have to hope that you have enough insurance to cover the total amount of the payout. With an umbrella policy, after those initial lability limits are reached the umbrella can kick in to cover an additional amount up to the limit of the umbrella policy (typically at least $1,000,000).
Think about it like this: you’re driving home from work and are involved in an automobile accident where you’re found at fault and negligent. One of the passengers in the other vehicle is injured to the point of requiring serious medical care. Helicopter trip to the hospital, numerous surgeries and tests, physical rehab, lossed wages, are just some of the costs the other party might expect you (and your insurance company) to pay for if you’re found to be at fault. Depending on what kind of auto insurance you have here in Dallas, you could be looking at having to pay the remainder out of pocket. If you can’t pay, and let’s face it most of us don’t have a few hundred thousand dollars just laying around, you could see a lien or judgement placed against you or even have your wages garnished until the judgement is settled.
Considering the ever increasing cost of medical care it might be worth adding some additional protection in the form of an umbrella policy, or at the very least increasing your liability limits.
Who needs an umbrella policy and how much do I need?
This is the million dollar question. Some people will say that, technically, everyone needs an umbrella policy because everyone can be sued and have a judgement placed against them. Others will tell you that only those with high net worths and exposed assets need to have this extra protection. Here at the Lewis Family Insurance Group I try to ask questions of clients and prospective clients to find out what amount of assets they have exposed, and their level of risk tolerance to help guide the conversation. As with any of the products and services we offer, the client is always the boss. It’s never our job to force coverage onto people, but rather to give you all of the information available so that you can make the most educated decision that makes the most sense for you and your family.
If you do decide to add an umbrella policy to your insurance portfolio the most simple way to determine the level of coverage you need is to assess your total net worth (assets minus liabilities) and purchase a policy that is slightly larger than that number. A more accurate way is to have us send over our assets exposed worksheet that takes into account a number of different factors, including future earnings potential, to find out more precisely what level of coverage is right for you.
An umbrella policy can help you protect current and future wealth, regardless of how much money you have or don’t have right now. If you’ve ever talked to me, you know I believe that your liability coverage is the most important and (often) most inexpensive portion of your insurance policy, and as a result everyone should consider increasing their liability limits. It’s a lot easier to come up with an additional $500 when you raise your deductible from $500 to $1,000 than it is to come up with two or three hundred thousand dollars to settle after an auto accident.
Regardless of your current situation, here at the Lewis Family Insurance Group, we can help you find the coverage that best fits your budget and your needs. Give us a call at 214-666-8103 or fill out the online quote request to learn more.