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Monday, June 02 2014

Q: What steps can I take to help get my homeowners insurance claim paid quickly if my house is damaged by a storm?

A: If you do become the victim of a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, storm or other disaster, the following steps can help you get your homeowners claim paid without delay and find out whether you qualify for additional assistance.

Make an inventory. Before a storm hits, update your home inventory. (Several apps, such as the one from KnowYourStuff.org, make it easy to go through your house with your smartphone and take photos or videos that show your possessions and special architectural details.) An inventory can be particularly important if your home is destroyed, such as after a tornado, because you don't want to have to remember every item that was damaged while you're still in shock over the loss of your home.

Make contact. Call your insurance agent or company right away, even if you haven't been able to get to your home and assess the damage. After major disasters, many insurers' web-sites feature lists of contact information, the location of mobile claims units, apps to help you report claims, and instructions about what to do right away. After the initial contract, keep in touch with the insurer and agent by email. Doing so gives you a paper trail of the steps you have taken - which can help if you end up having trouble getting claims paid. Keep records of every phone call and email communication you have with the insurer throughout the process.

Photos first. Take photographs of the damage before you clean up or make any temporary repairs so that the insurer can see what the house looked like right after the storm. Keep receipts for any materials you buy; the money you spend may be reimbursed by your insurer.

Make basic repairs. Your insurer won't want you to make any changes until you meet with the adjuster. But that can take quite a while after a major disaster. You should make basic repairs as soon as possible - such as putting a tarp on a damaged roof or covering broken windows - to prevent additional damage.

Lankford, Kimberly. "How to get an insurance claim paid after a storm."  Chicago Tribune., 14 July. 2013

Posted by: Jordan Levine AT 12:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, June 02 2014

What does travel insurance cover? Travel insurance is usually sold as a package of coverages that can be broken into three basic components, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The coverage many people think about is trip cancellation, interruption or delay. For example, it would pay you for the nonrefundable parts of a vacation if you have to cancel a trip because of illness, a death in the family or other mishap listed in your policy.

Pricier policies, often costing 50 percent more, offer a "cancel for any reason" provision, which means your reason doesn't have to be listed in the policy. It will reimburse you for a large portion of your trip, 75 percent to 90 percent.

The second type of coverage, arguably the most important because it protects against additional expenses that could be catastrophic, applies if you become sick or injured during travel — maybe you have to be flown home from a foreign country.

Indeed, medical expenses and medical evacuation — different things — are especially important if you're traveling abroad and your regular health insurance doesn't cover you. Only about half of health policies provide medical coverage abroad, Grace said.

Notably, Medicare without supplemental coverage does not cover you outside the United States.

"When I travel, I always get medical, and then I look at my trip costs and see what's at risk," Grace said.

The third type of coverage is travel assistance, which is a concierge service.

It can help you find doctors or contact family members in case of an emergency, for example. It's a throw-in benefit with most package policies and doesn't boost the cost much, Grace said.

Typically, travel insurance is bought per trip, but some frequent travelers buy an annual policy.

How much does it cost? Trip insurance costs, on average, 4 to 8 percent of the cost of the trip. The price is based on coverages chosen, the age of the traveler and cost of the trip.

What's the biggest warning about trip insurance? Know what a policy covers before you buy it. Only scenarios specifically listed in the policy are covered. And there are exclusions. For example, if your problem arose because you were reckless or drunk, your claim is likely to be denied. Call an insurer or broker to talk out your concerns to make sure you get the proper policy, Grace said.

What's the main argument for buying trip insurance? If you're traveling outside the country, emergency medical and evacuation coverage is probably a good idea, assuming you're not otherwise covered. "It could be a $2,000 ambulance trip or it could be a $150,000 (medical) flight from China to the U.S.," Grace said.

What's the main argument against buying trip insurance? Duplicate coverage. You might already have coverage for some of the travel risks you face. Consumer Reports and the Consumer Federation of America have been lukewarm on travel insurance for just this reason. For example, if you have adequate life insurance, you don't need accidental death insurance.

Check first and foremost with your health insurer. Then check your homeowners, life, and auto policies to determine what they cover when traveling. Also check with your credit card company to determine what travel insurance it offers when the card is used for travel charges. And being a member of AAA gets you some benefits similar to those offered in a travel insurance policy.

How does my homeowners policy help? Your homeowners or renters policy will usually provide coverage for off-premises theft — if your luggage is stolen, for example. However, filing a claim on your homeowners policy for a few hundred dollars might be a bad idea. First, you have to pay your deductible, which might exceed the value of your claim. Travel insurance has no deductible. Second, filing a claim might cause your insurer to raise your rates or drop your coverage, Grace said.

Where can I purchase travel insurance? Travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, cruise lines and tour operators sell it, as do travel agents, private insurance firms and insurance brokers, including those online. Buy your trip and your insurance from separate companies. If you buy from a tour operator that goes out of business, you lose your vacation and your insurance.

How do I get a good deal? The industry has become more competitive in recent years as more companies join and create an "arms race" to add more benefits to policies, Grace said. "In the end, it's better for consumers," he said. "The stuff that's out there today is really advanced, really tuned to the travel risk that people have today."

Karp, Gregory. "Pros, cons of picking up travel insurance."  Chicago Tribune., 14 July. 2013

Posted by: Jordan Levine AT 11:17 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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