When real disaster occurs, insurance provides a vital and necessary lifeline that helps policyholders regain their footing and start life over.
And thankfully most of the time, home insurance claims are fairly routine affairs involving some sort of property damage (typically storm related). Weird, off-the-wall home insurance claims simply don’t seem to happen that often.
When strange home insurance claims do happen, though, they are truly bizarre. Below we have included the stories from the top five strangest home insurance claims we’ve ever come across.
Also, please remember that you can always contact our office for any home insurance claim you encounter—no matter how strange it may be. Our office will be glad to assist.
Claim 1: But the floor was made of wood. A woman turned her hardwood floor into a bowling alley to practice her game. She quickly found that her grand idea couldn’t spare her floors from being damaged. The owner filed a loss report with her insurance company claiming that the floor’s damage was not the result of the heavy bowling ball, but due to the hardwood not being hard enough. Like a gutter ball, zero was the result of her claim.
Claim 2: New York man claimed that while cooking dinner, several pans on his wood stove ignited. While trying to extinguish the fire, he threw the first pan out the door, where it (conveniently) happened to land in the backseat of his convertible. While trying to throw out the second pan outside, he tripped and the pan landed on his sofa. His house and car burned to the ground. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire – suspicious of his story, law enforcement conducted an investigation and charged him with insurance fraud. He was left with no home, car, insurance money, and five years of probation.
Claim 3: The owner of a rental property visited the home to inspect it after renting it to some college kids for a few weeks. Not expecting much more than maybe some empty beer cans and some trash, the owner was stunned when he opened the door to his home and sand poured out. The renters decided to create an indoor beach and filled the house with sand and water. Insurance covered the claim but the moral of this story is: be careful who you rent to!
Claim 4: Dogs can do some amazing things, but painting is not one of them. One homeowner left a can of paint open on her floor while redoing her walls. Her dog stuck his tail in the can and then proceeded to drip, shake, and wag paint throughout the entire house. Her insurance company paid the claim, and her dog paid with a much-needed bath and well-deserved time out.
As agents we are often asked a number of difficult questions relating to auto insurance coverage and how the coverage will respond in various situations. One of the most frequent questions we receive is in regards to purchasing the collision damage waiver when renting a car.
You know the routine. You just got off of the plane for your vacation. You’re ready to go hit the beach, but first you have to go through the dreaded conversation at the rental car desk.
“Would you like to upgrade to a bigger car?”
“Don’t need it.”
“Would you like to rent a GPS system?”
“Brought my own, thanks.”
Now, the biggie: “Would you like to pay for the collision damage waiver?”
Before you quickly reject this one as well, we want to give you 5 reasons below on why you should strongly consider purchasing the collision damage waiver the next time you rent a car.
1. Loss Valuation and Settlement. Did you know most rental agreements allow the rental car company to determine the value of the vehicle solely at its discretion if you are involved in a claim?
So if you are in an accident that totals a vehicle that is a few years old, the rental car company can still charge for a brand new vehicle. A standard auto insurance policy only pays “Actual Cash Value” of the vehicle, which means you will be stuck with the difference in value.
2. Indirect Losses. If there is an accident you will most likely also be responsible for the loss of rental income incurred by the company while the damaged vehicle cannot be used. And, while many auto policies will provide some coverage for this, there have been many cases where individuals are still charged thousands of dollars above what their insurance company would pay for.
3. Administrative Fees. If you damage a vehicle, there is a good possibility the rental car company will add additional charges for expenses such as towing, storage, and claims adjustment calling them “administrative fees”. Your insurance policy will not provide coverage for these expenses, either.
4. Diminution of Value. This is another fee the rental car company can add on if the damage to the vehicle is over a certain amount. For example, if a rented vehicle sustains more than $1,000 damage, many companies will charge an additional percentage fee (typically 25%) because they figure the sustained damage has now decreased the value of the car and their ability to sell it. Your auto policy isn’t picking up this fee.
5. Loss Payment. If you happen to damage a vehicle, it is common for the rental car company to immediately charge your credit card for the damage to the vehicle. This can create a huge mess as could potentially max out your credit card. This can create some real headaches with your insurance company.
One of the provisions within your policy is that the insurance company needs to be able to inspect the vehicle so they can accurately calculate a damage amount. However, the rental car company may not wait for an adjuster, and it is common for them to charge your credit card and begin repairs immediately.
The problem is that the provision within your insurance policy mentioned above may actually give your auto insurance company the right to deny the claim as they were not allowed to properly inspect the vehicle.
Between just the fees associated with damaging a vehicle, the valuation process, and payment mess, you can see how you could easily be out thousands of dollars. By not signing the waiver, you may potentially be setting yourself up for some huge personal expenses.
Recommendation: We know you don’t want to pay more money for the waiver, but believe us, if you happen to damage a rented vehicle, you’re life will be a thousand times easier than if you hadn’t signed and paid for it.
Also, please double check to see how your own insurance policy will react to some of the claims scenarios above.
Disclaimer: The above information is to be used as guidance only, and it is not to be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. The information provided is based on the ISO standard Personal Auto Policy in force in most states. Policy provisions and laws vary from state to state and they can change at any time. Due to the brevity of this article, we cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.
Did you know that dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out last year, costing more than $530 million?
Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries; about half of these are children.
With 68 percent of U.S. households, or 83.3 million homes, owning a pet, we thought it would be a good idea to share some insight into how insurance companies view pets (specifically dogs) and what can be done to ensure you have proper liability insurance coverage.
If you have any specific questions related to your homeowners insurance policy and pets, please feel free to give our office a call.
Claims: According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 last year. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.
The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, etc., which can result in injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses.
State and Local Legislation: Dog owners are liable for injuries their pets cause if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to bite. In some states, statutes make the owners liable whether or not they knew the dog had a tendency to bite; in others, owners can be held responsible only if they knew or should have known their dogs had a propensity to bite. Some states and municipalities have “breed specific” statutes that identify breeds such as pit bulls as dangerous; in others individual dogs can be designated as vicious.
Dog Owners’ Liability: There are three kinds of law that impose liability on owners:
1) A dog-bite statute: where the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation.
2) The one-bite rule: where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury—in this case, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
3) Negligence laws: where the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.
Insurers are Limiting their Exposure: Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000). If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above that amount. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.
Some insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses. Some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers and others are not offering insurance to dog owners at all. Some will cover a pet if the owner takes the dog to classes aimed at modifying its behavior or if the dog is restrained with a muzzle, chain or cage.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year olds, according to most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rate among teens. Teens’ lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating.
Other major contributing factors to the higher crash risk of young drivers are night driving and teen passengers. Teenagers are involved in more motor vehicle crashes late in the day and at night than at other times of the day. Teens also have a greater chance of getting involved in an accident if other teens are present in the vehicle.
Why does this matter? Rates for auto insurance for teenage drivers are significantly higher than for other drivers because as a group they pose a higher risk of accidents than more experienced drivers. Adding a teenager to an insurance policy can mean a 50 percent or even a 100 percent increase in the parents’ insurance premium.
Below we have included data around the areas where teen drivers have the greatest risks and some information on how insurance companies are trying to help out.
If you have any other questions on adding a teen driver to your auto insurance policy, please feel free to contact our office.
Multiple Passengers: Research shows that when teenage drivers transport teen passengers there is a greatly increased crash risk. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report that showed that the risk of 16- or 17-year old drivers being killed in a crash increases with each additional teenage passenger in the vehicle. The risk increases 44 percent with one passenger; it doubles with two passengers and quadruples with three or more passengers.
Cellphones: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey in June 2014 showing that about 41.4 percent of high school students reported that they texted or emailed from behind the wheel at least once during the previous 30 days.
AAA also released a study that found that teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. The study also found that teenage female drivers were almost 10 percent more likely to engage in other distracted behaviors such as reaching for an object (nearly 50 percent more likely than males) and eating or drinking (almost 25 percent more likely). By contrast teenage male drivers were about twice as likely to turn around in their seats and were also more likely to communicate with people outside of the vehicle.
Speeding: According to NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, among drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are the most likely to be speeding. In 2013 about 35 percent of both 15 to 20-year old male drivers who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, compared to 21 percent of female drivers of the same age group.
Drunk Driving: Underage drinking remains a factor in teenage highway fatalities. Twenty-eight percent of drivers age 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year had been drinking some amount of alcohol; 24 percent were alcohol-impaired, which is defined by a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher.
Seatbelt Use: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tracks seatbelt use based on the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which observes occupants driving through intersections controlled by stop signs or stop lights. The 2012 survey found that 80 percent of passenger vehicle occupants age 16 to 24 used seat belts, which is lowest among all age groups.
Distracted Driving: According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, in 2012, 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Among the distracted drivers 15 to 19 years old, 19 percent were distracted by the use of cellphones at the time of the crash.
Auto Insurance Premium Discounts: Not all hope is lost, though. Many insurance companies are trying to help out in a variety of ways.
The Good Student Discount is generally available to students who have a grade point average of a B or higher. Many companies offer programs that foster safe driving habits, such as online safety courses for young drivers and parents, contracts between young drivers and parents, educational videos and practice driving logs.
Other Insurance companies are also helping to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices that parents can install in their cars to monitor the way teens drive and by offering discounts to policyholders with teens who use these devices.
In fact, 23.8 percent of property claims involve burglary, causing an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property. Plus, with only 13 percent of burglaries cleared by police, the likelihood of retrieving your stolen items is fairly small.
This brings up two important questions:
Are there items that make homes more susceptible to burglary?
What can be done to help prevent it?
Below is a breakdown on where and how burglaries occur, along with some additional information on protecting your residence from potential break-ins.
If you have additional questions on how your homeowners insurance responds to burglary, please feel free to give our office a call.
Where do burglaries occur?
Of all burglaries, 60.5 percent involved a forcible entry with another 33.2 percent as unlawful entries (without force). The majority of break-ins occur in the following locations:
- Front Door: 34%
- First-Floor Windows: 23%
- Side Entry: 22%
- Garage: 9%
What can I do to help prevent it?
- Protect the house.
- Make your home look occupied, and make it difficult to break in.
- Leave lights on when you go out. If you are going to be away for a length of time, connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on in the evening and off during the day.
- Keep your garage door closed and locked.
- Don’t allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers build up while you are away. Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to take them regularly.
- Pushbutton locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.
- Sliding glass doors are vulnerable. Special locks are available for better security.
Don’t Tempt a Thief:
- Lawn mowers, barbecues and bicycles should be stored out of sight.
- Always lock your garden sheds and garages.
- Use curtains on garage and basement windows.
Locks…Get the Best:
- No lock, regardless of its quality, can be truly effective. Key-in dead bolt locks provide minimum security.
- Change locks immediately if your keys are lost or stolen.
- When moving into a new home, have all locks changed.
Targeting the Outside:
- Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.
- Trim trees and shrubs so that they cannot be used as hiding places for intruders.
- Make sure your door hinges are on the inside.
- Most windows can be pinned for security.
- Drill a 3/16″ hole on a slight downward slant through the inside window frame and halfway into the outside frame – place a nail in the hole to secure the window.
- An alarm system is excellent for home security. It provides peace of mind to homeowners, especially while on vacation. There is a wide variety of alarm systems on the market.
- If you have a home alarm system, use it! Activate your alarm system — Alarm systems are only useful when you remember to activate them.
- Many individuals have alarm systems but do not arm them because it is inconvenient. Many burglars know this and will not be deterred by a window sticker or sign indicating that the home has an alarm system.
If Your Home Is Broken Into:
- If you come home to find an unexplained open/broken window or door:
- Do not enter – the perpetrator may still be inside.
- Use a neighbor’s phone to call police.
- Do not touch anything or clean up until the police have inspected for evidence.
- Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
- Note the descriptions of any suspicious persons.
Other precautions you should take:
Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other “secret” hiding places — burglars know where to look for hidden keys.
The winter will always bring with it precarious driving conditions. Whether it’s icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility, or any other combination of harsh weather, knowing how to control your car is key to staying safe as you journey through the snow. In fact, winter driving conditions account for more than 40% of all auto accidents and more than 113,000 injuries each year.
In addition to being more cautious while driving in adverse weather, motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. Since road conditions can also change quickly in winter, drivers need to be aware of situations and surroundings, and be prepared to react more quickly than in other driving scenarios. Extreme temperatures may also impact vehicle function.
Below you will find some additional information on navigating your vehicle in winter weather. And, if you do happen to experience an accident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.
Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
Tips for long-distance winter trips:
Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
Keep blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
Tips for driving in the snow:
Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.
The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
The holidays are just around the corner, and it’s time to start thinking about what gifts to buy your loved ones. The holiday shopping season is a fun-filled time, but it does present risks, since there are so many transactions taking place and more opportunities for identity theft to occur.
Did you know that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics an estimated 17.6 million persons, or about 7 percent of U.S. residents age 16 or older, are victims of at least one incident of identity theft every year?
The most common type of identity theft is the unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account—experienced by 16.4 million persons. Most identity theft victims discovered the incident when a financial institution contacted them about suspicious activity (45 percent) or when they noticed fraudulent charges on an account (18 percent).
Two-thirds of identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. And of those that experienced losses approximately 14 percent lost $1,000 or more. With that information in mind, we have put together a list of 10 tips to avoid identity theft during this busy shopping season.
Be Wary of Contests
Many online contests promising large prizes could be scams such as sources of computer viruses that will try to hijack your information.
Change Your Passwords
Have you had the same password for the last five years? It’s time to change it up. Create a password that is long and complicated, and doesn’t reference any of your personal information like your birthday. Stay away from using coherent phrases by breaking up words with exclamation points and other symbols, and of course, don’t use the typical “password” or “1111.” It’s also crucial that you use a different password for each account. If you need help with this, try using a password vault instead of trying to memorize them all yourself.
Make sure that the websites you’re using are secure. To lessen your chances of becoming a victim of credit card theft, only enter your credit card information on sites with URLs beginning with “https.” The “s” in the address stands for “secure,” and lets you know that your connection to the site is less likely to be overseen by hackers. This is especially important whenever you are entering sensitive information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers.
Check Your Credit Score
As the end of the year approaches, take a look at your credit report to check for inaccuracies as well as monitor your credit score. Every person can receive one free report from each of the three credit bureaus.
Shield your credit card and PIN number from view when making transactions so that thieves can’t steal your numbers by looking over your shoulder.
Don’t Trust Public WiFi
It’s tempting to do your online shopping at Starbucks, but you shouldn’t trust public WiFi networks to protect your identity.
Email with Care
Don’t submit personal information via email, even if it’s for a reputable organization.
Only Use One Credit Card
Shopping online is a very efficient way to get every item on your list checked off, but consider ways you can practice internet safety. For instance, designate one credit card for online shopping purposes, instead of using multiple ones across different sites.
Take it with You
Identity theft doesn’t only happen over the internet. The police also advise against leaving items in the car as you go shopping. If someone breaks into your vehicle, they could steal something that reveals your identity and puts your information at risk.
So another glorious summer is over, and what do we have to look forward to now? Just imagine it: 10-degree temperatures, icy slush to drive on and cold drafty breezes inside our homes. If that excites you, you’re living in the right area and you’re in the right month. If the whole idea sends a chill down your spine, you’re in good company.
While most of us can’t do anything about the icy slush or the outside temps, we do have a good deal of control over how warm our homes can feel. The following list of tips provides some ideas on getting your home winter ready. Surprisingly, a few dollars spent up front not only saves money all winter, but makes us warmer as well. It’s kind of like having your warmth and your wallet, too.
Most of us would prefer to ignore our roof and just hope it keeps taking care of us. Shingles can look OK from the ground but can be cracked, curled and wind damaged when you get a closer look. And when there is a problem, you can’t fix it in the winter. That foot of snow that will be on your roof in January? Well, that will pretty much prevent any attempts at stopping the mold momentum that will be growing with each passing January hour.
If you can safely inspect your roof yourself, please feel free. If not, hire a home inspector or roofer that you trust. This is one of those items that meet the $10/$10,000 rule: a few dollars spent now can save you a bundle later this winter.
Many of us are quite unaware that rain gutters perform a vital purpose. Their job is to capture all that water coming from the roof and run it well away from the structure — especially the window wells. If your gutters are full of leaves, pine needles, kite string, and tennis balls, then water that doesn’t drain stays right there and freezes leaves you with a problem: an 800 lb. ice cube tray lurking over your head. And it’s just waiting for that perfect moment to fall.
Even worse: when your gutters don’t drain, you get water that drains where it shouldn’t. Now you have water into your window wells and mold in your manor. As an added bonus, wet basements are an awesome way to introduce termites into your living space. To prevent all of the above, make sure your gutters are clean, that they drain toward the down spout, and that there is a drain tube at the end of the spout to run water well away from the foundation.
Nobody loves that waft of cold air flowing through your home in the middle of winter. Where does it come from? The usual suspects are the doors and windows, but it can come through electrical plugs and other openings on the exterior as well. There are solutions for all of the above, but the easiest and cheapest fix will be the weather stripping and door sweeps at your front and back doors. If you close your door and see daylight around the edges, then you have work to do. Don’t wait until you’re doing this project with the door open in 10-degree weather.
Ah, the lowly hose bib. Home inspectors will routinely see where homeowners leave a hose bib attached to something. One thing is pretty much certain: If you leave your hose on the hose bib all winter, you’ll have frozen pipes in the winter and broken pipes in the spring. When that valve is turned next March you’ll find you’re the proud new owner of a swimming pool in your basement. The rot, mold and termites will be soon to follow.
To avoid this, get all attachments off your hose bibs — now. In addition, make sure that your hose bib is securely attached to the structure so you can’t pull the hose out of the house. It only takes two screws to do this right, but the absence of those two screws can mean the $10,000 fix is heading your way.
Heating and Cooling Systems
To be able to safely take care of you, your furnace needs to see some love. Get a good filter, and then make sure it goes where it actually filters the incoming air to your furnace. Take a look at where air comes in and make sure your filter won’t lean, fall or lift improperly when the air flow happens. Next, take a look at your furnace. If it looks like the place where all the dust on earth comes to die, you might have a problem. Get your furnace serviced regularly.
If you have a swamp cooler, you have some tasks to do. First, start saving — central air is better in 1,000 ways. Until then make sure that the pan is drained, the supply line is drained, the supply valve is off and the supply line disconnected. Next, make sure the unit is protected against drafting cold air into your home, the power is off, and for good measure, take out the motor and bring it in. Or just roll the whole thing off the roof.
7100 Broadway, Suite #3M
Denver, CO 80221
Phone: (303) 469-1293
Fax: (303) 469-1362
Office Hours by Appointment Only