Seeing a wall of flames or a madly spinning tornado bearing down on your community or neighborhood is the worst time to wonder, “Do I have enough insurance to build my home again?”
While some areas of the country have already experienced tornadoes and record flooding, fire and storm season is just beginning.
We’ve seen enough disasters to know the stress and financial impact they leave behind. More out-of-control fires and powerful storms have resulted in higher cleanup costs, elevated rebuilding prices and shortages of manpower and materials, due to the damage in a concentrated area.
It’s very important to make sure that you have enough insurance for your home and property.
- Half of American homeowners have told experts that they don’t really know what their homeowners insurance policy covers
- Other studies estimate that six out of ten homeowners are underinsured by an average of 20 percent – meaning if their house costs $200,000 to replace, they would fall short by about $40,000 if they had a total loss
- Less than 20 percent of those in flood or earthquake-prone areas have flood or earthquake insurance
Here are some of the factors that could lead to a home being underinsured:
- Improvements and upgrades. When you buy new appliances, remodel kitchens and bathrooms or add on to your home, those improvements may not be covered by your original insurance policy.
- Hazardous materials removal costs. After a disaster, your property may be full of dangerous chemicals, asbestos and other hazardous materials. It may take months to get proper permits, and the costs to remove the toxic residue can be quite high.
- Rising construction costs. After large-scale disasters, building materials, construction crews and equipment may be in short supply. Costs in many areas have skyrocketed after massive property destruction.
- Updated building codes. Rebuilding an older home to meet today’s safety codes may be expensive, especially if you bought your home decades ago.
- Limited loss of use coverage. Make sure you have enough coverage to pay for extra living expenses (rent, food and other essentials) while your home is rebuilt or repaired. It’s important to factor in extended time after large disasters, sometimes more than a year.
- Not enough personal property protection. Make sure that you have enough contents coverage to replace the many items you own – bedding, clothing, kitchen items and electronics. Don’t forget scheduled personal property for high value items, such as jewelry, special musical instruments, fine art and collectibles.
A yearly policy review is a must. As your insurance partner, it’s imperative that you tell us about any home improvements/upgrades that you’ve made. A California Casualty advisor will take the time to explain your policy and help make sure that you have the coverage you need with the discounts you deserve.
Its’s also important that you make an inventory of your possessions. Not only will it help determine the amount of coverage you need, but it speeds up the process of replacing those items. Only half of American homeowners and renters have done an inventory, which could leave them in the lurch after a disaster.
Take a moment and contact one of our customer service representatives for your policy review by calling 1.800.800.9410, option 3.
While we worry about our teens texting while behind the wheel, what kind of example are we setting? Nearly one-third of drivers of all ages admit to texting, talking or checking a map app while on the road. With Americans spending an average of an hour a day on the road, that’s too many opportunities for a serious crash.
Technology can give us the boost we need to stay on task, avoiding texting while driving. There are a variety of apps to reduce your temptation to use a smartphone while behind the wheel. Most of us already use apps for workouts, calorie counting, music and banking – why not add one for safer driving?
Five Apps to Stop Phone Use While Driving:
- AT&T DriveMode, a free app for iOS and Android that silences incoming calls, restricts texting, and sends alerts when the app is turned off
- DriveSafe Mode, an app available for iOS and Android that prevents texting and emailing while driving and sends notifications when the phone is in use or when the driver shuts off the app
- Cell Control, a subscription service that allows businesses or families to block sending or receiving texts while driving and sends an alert if it is deactivated
- On My Way Realtime GPS (available at iOS app store), a free app that allows others to track where you are in real time without the need to send a text or make a call while driving, and lets them know when you arrive at your destination
- LifeSaver, a subscription service for both Android and iOS that blocks phone use, monitors driving behaviors, sends alerts when the driver arrives safely and allows them to earn points while using the app
Your phone may already have a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. Search within your phone settings to activate it.
Some other tips to help drivers concentrate on the road and not on technology include:
- Mapping out the route before getting into the car
- Creating music lists at home to play on the ride
- Making calls to friends, work or relatives before the drive and after you arrive at your destination
Learn more about distracted driving and efforts to prevent it here.
Fires, tornados and other disasters are unpredictable and can turn dangerous for you and loved ones in just a matter of moments. Here are some things you can do now to be more prepared.
- Know and practice using as many evacuation routes as possible.
- Have a plan where you and family members will meet and how you will communicate if you become separated.
- Prepare a disaster kit that includes enough water, food, medications and other essentials for at least three days (don’t forget necessities for babies and pets), along with important insurance, banking and other papers.
- Complete a home inventory of all the items you own (clothing, shoes, mattresses, bedding, kitchen appliances, pots and pans, furniture, and electronics) to help replace your possessions.
- Review your insurance with an advisor to make sure you’re adequately covered.
If you need to evacuate:
- Text SHELTER and your ZIP code to 43362 (example: SHELTER 12345) to find the nearest shelter, or visit the American Red Cross webpage to locate shelters
- Contact California Casualty as soon as possible and save all receipts for living expenses, such as hotels, meals and other essentials
- Monitor local media about conditions, further evacuations, or when it might be safe to return home
When you return home, be very careful. There are many potential dangers, such as:
- Dangerous toxins, ash and debris following a fire
- Gas leaks
- Electrical shock
- Poisonous snakes or other animals
- Structural instability and collapse
- Sewage and chemical tainted water
For additional recovery help afterwards:
Please remember, you are not alone if a disaster strikes. California Casualty will be there when you need us the most. National and local governments will provide resources for safety and recovery, and numerous entities and nonprofits will offer food, clothing and other essentials as communities come together.
TAKEAWAY: California Casualty is ready to help you when you have a claim. Contact our Claims department 24 hours a day at www.calcas.com/claims or call 1.800.800.9410 option 4.
If you’re in the market for a used car or truck, be aware that water-damaged vehicles could soon be coming to your community. While most will arrive from areas deluged by tropical storms and hurricanes, others can come from flooding in other parts of the country. The U.S. Justice Department and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warn that crooks often ship these flooded vehicles across the country to unwitting buyers, and any used vehicle in any part of the country needs to be checked for water damage.
Carfax estimates there are now more than 325,000 water-damaged vehicles on American highways. They’ve been found from California to Maine and Minnesota to Florida. In fact, the cities where the most flooded cars have washed up are Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago. The states with the most flood-damaged vehicles are Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.
A waterlogged vehicle can have chronic issues that can last for years. Water fouls fuel lines, destroys electronics, and rusts engines, brakes and other important parts.
You should always test drive and inspect any used vehicle you plan to purchase. Here are some signs a vehicle has suffered water damage:
- A musty odor or heavy aroma of cleaners or disinfectants to mask mold odors
- Water marks or dirt in the dashboard, carpets or trunk
- Rusty door hinges and truck latches
- Corrosion around bolts or screws
- Silt or mud under seats, glove compartments or window wells
- Electronics that flicker or don’t work
- Fog or moisture in interior lights or the dashboard
When test-driving a used vehicle, experts say you should:
- Turn on the ignition and check all instrument panel lights and accessories
- Test the interior and exterior lights, air conditioning, windshield wipers, turn signals, high beams and heater
- Turn on the sound system and check door speakers, which often become damaged in water
- Look at the engine oil – when mixed with even small amounts of water it turns murky and looks like a melted chocolate shake
- Inspect the air filter for water stains
If you suspect you unknowingly bought a water-damaged vehicle, the Federal Trade Commission has a wealth of resources for used car buyers who fear they are victims of fraud.
You can get a free vehicle history check from Carfax or through vendors approved by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.
Learn more about avoiding flood-damaged vehicles at https://www.carfax.com/press/resources/flooded-cars
You might be surprised to learn that school zones and bus stops are some of the most dangerous places for kids as they go to and from school. Since it’s been a few months since school has been in session, these safety refreshers can make this back to school season safer for our children:
- Be aware of school zones
- Pay close attention to all school zones along your route. Warning signs, flashing lights and speed bumps are good indicators that a school zone is nearby.
- Never drive distracted, especially in areas where children travel to and from school
- Drinking coffee, texting, talking on the cell phone and completing the morning routine to get ready for the day (applying makeup or shaving) are all distractions.
- Slow down and observe school zone speed limits
- Avoiding the need to rush by building in extra time can save a life. Slamming on the brakes is not the best approach to reducing your speed in a school zone.
- Be patient and expect increased traffic during drop-off and pick-up times
- Don’t get overwhelmed by the controlled chaos. Your patience is greatly appreciated.
- Avoid double parking or blocking crosswalks in school drop-off zones
- Always yield to pedestrians, whether or not they are in the designated crosswalks.
- Yield to buses at all times
- Filled with precious cargo, they deserve the right of way.
- Stop when you see school bus yellow or red flashing lights and the stop arm extended
- Drivers behind the bus as well as those approaching it are required to stop.
- Let students getting off of the bus cross in front of your car and wait to ensure all riders have crossed safely
- Stopping a good distance from the bus will help you to see the students and the students to see you
- Be aware of kids standing at bus stops
- They may accidentally step off of the curb and into your path. Be ready.
Nothing is more valuable than the lives of our children. These simple rules can prevent tragedies and keep our school zones safer for all.
TAKEAWAY: Find a great back to school safety resource at https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/seasonal-safety/back-to-school/drivers
The weather is warming up and it’s time to ride. Whether you’re an “Easy Rider” or a café cruiser, don’t let a dead battery or clogged fuel line keep you from your adventures.
We know your life is hectic, so here’s a quick reminder of some things to inspect before you start your motorcycle’s engine:
- Battery – check the terminals, clean dust and corrosion, tighten cables and give it a charge
- Oil – start with fresh oil and filter
- Fuel – drain old fuel and start with a fresh tank if you didn’t winterize your bike
- Fluids – check that brake and hydraulic fluids are still good, replace any that looks dirty, and refill reservoirs
- Brakes – look for cracks or leaks in lines, inspect the pads and test for any scraping or squealing noise
- Inspect the drive belt tension and look for cracks or tears, or if you have a chain look for damaged links and worn or broken teeth
- Tires – replace worn tires and check for pressure leaks
It’s also a good time to make sure your headlight, brake lights and turn signals are all working properly. And if you bought a new bike or haven’t ridden all winter, safety experts recommend that you take a test ride to see how everything is working and have an opportunity to regain the feel of the road.
California Casualty can join you on the ride with quality motorcycle insurance at competitive rates. We cover most motorcycles, and if you ride something we don’t insure, we can find you motorcycle insurance through one of our partner providers.
TAKEAWAY: Make sure you have the protection you need before you hit the road. Call a California Casualty advisor today at 1.800.800.9410 or visit www.calcas.com/motorcycle-insurance.
Read all the articles from the this edition of the Calcas Connection Newsletter:
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