Millions of Americans experience costly homeowners losses during the summer months as a result of natural disasters, fire, or theft.
Summer months are also reportedly a peak time for car accidents, as families travel to their favorite vacation destinations and many teens get behind the wheel for the first time. To make matters worse, consumers are often stunned to find out that their auto or home insurance may not cover everything they thought it did, leaving them in a state of financial shock. Fortunately, it’s actually easier than people think to secure the appropriate level of coverage and avoid unwanted surprises, simply by asking a few questions.
“The beginning of summer is the perfect time to review your insurance needs, in order to avoid unwanted surprises should you have to file a claim,” according to Bob Smith, chief claim officer for MetLife Auto & Home. “Whether it’s a car crash, a swimming pool incident, or damage to your residence as a result of lightning, hurricane, tornadoes, hail, or fire, accidents not only happen — they happen frequently. And, too often, the importance of having the right insurance is not realized until a loss occurs, and consumers are left paying more than expected for repairs. That’s why ensuring you have the coverage you think you have is critical.”
When reviewing insurance, here are some questions to consider:
— If someone broke into my home, would the insurance company pay for full replacement of stolen items? Many burglaries and thefts occur during peak vacation times like the summer and holidays. Ask if you have “replacement cost for contents” coverage, rather than the less-comprehensive “actual cash value” coverage. Also, if you have expensive jewelry, watches, furs, or other costly items, consider Scheduled Personal Property insurance to ensure that you can replace your most valuable items.
— In the event of a fire loss or a natural disaster, would there be enough insurance to rebuild? Fire is a common summertime peril, given wildfires, lightning strikes, or sometimes just forgetting to completely extinguish coals from the barbecue. Ask if your policy has “guaranteed replacement cost” coverage for the dwelling, without a cap, or you may not have adequate coverage to rebuild.
— What would happen if someone stole my new car, or I got into a wreck? Make sure your policy provides enough insurance to replace your vehicle without deduction for depreciation. Vehicles can depreciate up to one-third during the first year, so a person with a new $30,000 vehicle may only receive $20,000 or so, if the car were totaled. Also, if you’re financing a car, you may want to purchase “gap insurance,” so you won’t owe more than the vehicle is worth in case of loss.
— Do I really need to buy separate insurance, if I rent a car? Your auto policy may provide liability and property damage coverage, or your credit card provider may offer coverage, if the rental vehicle has been charged to that card. However, before hitting the road for your summer vacation, make sure your policy covers storage charges and loss-of-use costs a rental car company may charge, since most auto insurance policies do not provide this coverage
By reviewing their policies and talking to their insurance agents or representatives, consumers can avoid insurance gaps for many common losses; often for a premium that is equal to, or less than, the one they are currently paying. “It always makes sense to ask questions and to shop around for the best value,” added Smith. “The simplest solution–and the best value for your money–is to have the coverage you need built into your policy. There’s a lot of competition in the marketplace, and you can find a product that’s right for you, with just a little homework.”
To help consumers learn more about auto and home insurance, MetLife offers two free brochures from its Life Advice series: “About Auto Insurance” and “About Homeowners Insurance.” They are both available at www.LifeAdvice.com (choose “insurance basics”).
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