Umbrella vs. Excess Liability: do YOU know the difference?

Thanks to our friends at Safeco Insurance for their reminder about this crucial distinction!

The golden rule is: an Excess Liability policy provides additional coverage above your auto/home liability limits, BUT it only covers what is included in the underlying policy. In contrast, a true Umbrella is an OPEN PERILS policy – which means that if something is not specifically excluded, you’re covered.

Do you need examples of where an Umbrella could provide coverage, but an Excess Liability policy would not? How about these:

1) While on vacation, you rent a boat. Out on the water, you crash into another boat, severely injuring a water-skier being towed behind. Neither your home nor your auto policy would cover that …. but an umbrella would.

2) You write a blog post about a bad experience in a restaurant. The restaurant owner sues you for libel. Even if the lawsuit is thrown out of court, you still have to respond …. and that can be expensive. An umbrella would cover your costs.

3) You rent a car while overseas, but get involved in an accident which injures another driver. Your auto insurance all the way back home in Texas won’t cover his hospital bills …. but your umbrella will.

For more information about umbrella policies, or to find out whether your current policy is a true umbrella or merely an excess liability policy, give your friendly agent at Memorial Insurance a call!

Source: Safeco Umbrella vs Excess Liability

How to Make Flood Claims the Right Way

Floods are terrifying, havoc-wreaking, and all too common in Houston, TX. But, as they’re a part of life in the region, you need to be prepared to handle one when it strikes. With that in mind, Memorial Insurance Agency is here to give you the three-step process of filing a flood claim.

Contact

The basics of first contact will require you to provide the name of your insurance company (plenty of agents represent multiple insurers), your policy number and a way to contact you. That third item can be deceptively tricky. Flood damage is usually accompanied by displacement, so you might be harder to reach than normal. Additionally, most flood events hit a lot of people at one time, so your insurance company might be scrambling to meet needs. Make a contact plan when you talk to your agent to ensure you can get them what they need so they can take care of you.

Document

Documentation is the backbone of all insurance claims; floods are no exception. The first part of the process is photographing all of the damage, but floods come with some inherent danger. When it’s safe, take pictures of everything from structural damage to ruined items that you plan to trash. Also, don’t trash anything yet. You’ll want to make a complete list to pair with your pictures and provide as much proof of value as you can (think receipts). Once your adjuster tells you it’s ok, you can throw away ruined items. In some cases, they might want to hang on to damaged stuff.

Proof of Loss

This is the major paperwork step. Usually, your adjuster will help. Basically, this is where you get all of the documentation together and certified by the insurance company so they can process the claim. It can feel like a headache, but it’s a vital step. By and large, you want to follow the advice of your adjustor for this part.

While the process can feel monotonous, having a clear picture from the start can help you avoid situations that will cost you time and money. Regardless, Memorial Insurance Agency will be here the next time floods strike the Houston, TX, area.

Eight Top Tips for a Safe Barbecue this Labor Day

With Labor Day coming up, the thoughts of many Texans are turning to barbecues. But how can you be sure you’re grilling safely? Follow our top tips to avoid spending time this weekend in hospital or on the phone to your insurance company:

1) Operate the grill well away from your house. Ten feet should be the absolute minimum – and make sure you’re also far from overhanging structures such as porches, unless you want them to be fuel for your fire!

2) Keep your grill clean and do not overload it. Caked-on oils and grease can make your barbecue flare up in ways you never expected. Throw too much meat on, and the dripping fat can spark a blaze that will flame-grill not only your steaks but your eyebrows too.

3) Check for gas leaks. Rub a soap and water solution over the hoses and connections. If large bubbles appear, the hoses may have holes or the connections may be loose. At this point, either invest in quality grill repairs or call for a pizza, because a gas explosion would really ruin your whole day.

4) Keep decorations far away from your grill. This is pretty obvious. Basically, keep ANYTHING away from your grill that may catch fire. This includes pets, unless you want your dog to go “woof”.

5) Keep a spray bottle of water and a fire extinguisher handy. The former can be used to dampen minor flare-ups without ruining dinner. The latter may be the only thing that stands between you and a catastrophe if your barbecue gets out of hand.

6) Open your grill lid BEFORE turning on the gas. The alternative is having a fireball explode in your face!

7) Focus your attention on the grill at all times. Fires can spread FAST so don’t let your grill out of your sight. Alcohol will impair your focus and judgment, so don’t knock back too many beers before you’re done cooking and the grill is safely extinguished.

8) Barbecues are for outdoor use only. Do we really have to say this? Grills need to vent fresh air. Use one indoors – even a small one – and you risk not only burning your house to the ground, but also ending up dead from inhaling lethal carbon monoxide.

Mine’s a Rib-eye, cooked rare! Happy grilling this Labor Day weekend!

Essential Coverage on your Auto Policy

Ever wondered what the jargon on your Auto Insurance policy means? Worried that you’re not adequately insured? Let Memorial Insurance help!

Part A: Liability Coverage: The state minimum limits in Texas are $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage (30/60/25). It is a really, really bad idea to limit yourself to minimum coverages. For one thing, these amounts do not go far at all in the case of a serious or multi-vehicle accident. For another, it is relatively inexpensive to upgrade to better coverage, usually just a few dollars per year. Aim for a minimum of 100/300/100. A little-known fact? Sometimes, high limits such as 500CSL may actually be cheaper! This is because you are rated differently as a responsible driver who sees the value in being properly protected.

Part B: Personal Injury Protection (PIP): This part of the policy provides funds for medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If you are retired you might opt for Medical Payments coverage instead, which includes most of the benefits of PIP without the lost wages provision.

Part C: Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists: This is an optional protection that you do NOT want to leave off. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 drivers in Texas may be driving completely without insurance – and the ones who do have it often don’t have adequate coverage limits to pay for an expensive accident. Getting hit by one of these drivers has the potential to turn into your worst nightmare if you do not have UM/UIM coverage.

Part D: Coverage for Damage to your Auto: To save premium, you can leave off this coverage for older vehicles, as long as you are prepared to pay for the full costs of any damage yourself. For newer vehicles, and all loan/lease vehicles, this coverage is essential. There are two parts to it, which are often referred to as Comprehensive and Collision. Comprehensive covers fire, flood, theft and similar perils, whereas Collision protection will pay for damage to your vehicle caused by an accident. There is usually a deductible, ranging from $100-$2,000, which is the part of the claim you must pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in to take care of the rest.

Additional Protections: Roadside Assistance is very inexpensive, usually less than $10 per year. Also consider rental car coverage, which is cheap and provides for up to a month of car rental fees while your vehicle is in the garage being repaired.

Finally, for ultimate peace of mind, add an umbrella for extra liability coverage – and don’t forget to add Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist protection to it!

Stay safe out there!

Independent Insurance Agent vs. Buying Directly Online

In the past, you didn’t have many options for buying home insurance, but those days are well and truly over. If you’re a homeowner, you’ll be getting bombarded every year with “too good to be true” offers in the mail, and every insurance company under the sun will be popping up on your Facebook sidebar as renewal date approaches.

Not only are there more options these days, but there are more ways to buy insurance, from a plethora of local agents, to companies offering direct quotes online in a matter of minutes.

It’s true, there are companies out there who will give you a real life quote for your home with just a few clicks of your mouse. So is this the way of the future? Could it really be the best course of action to just go online and buy the cheapest policy you can find, direct from the insurer?

It’s tempting, but before proceeding, ask yourself the following question: am I an insurance expert? If the answer is yes, go ahead and click away to see what is on offer.

However, if you don’t know your water backup endorsement from your water damage coverage, or your personal liability from your personal injury, then you need to get an independent insurance agent in your corner. Independent agents such as Memorial Insurance have access to many different markets and can find you a homeowners’ insurance product that suits your home, location, and budget.

Often, you will save money by relying on an agent’s expertise, compared to going directly to an online insurer and running the risk of buying coverage you don’t need, or not buying coverage you do.

When you’re in the market for a toaster, by all means go online and get it from the cheapest outlet you can find. After all, a toaster is the same wherever you buy it. The same can definitely NOT be said about insurance. This is why independent agents like Memorial Insurance are here to stay, fighting your corner and helping you navigate the insurance minefield to find the most suitable policy for your needs.

Photo credit: Franchise Opportunities .

Less Premium, More Coverage …. GO LEAN with your insurance today!

With insurance, you get what you pay for. This is fine up to a point …. but what if the things you’re paying for include hefty marketing budgets, national TV advertising, huge numbers of offices and thousands of staff? State Farm, Nationwide, Allstate and other major national carriers spend millions of dollars each year to make you think of them when you’re in the market for insurance.

If you hate the idea of your premium being spent on annoying TV jingles, you’ll be delighted to know that there are alternatives. In Houston, there are plenty of insurance carriers who offer low premiums, high coverages, and excellent customer and claims service …. but you have never heard of them. They don’t run expensive office networks, and they certainly don’t advertise on TV. In fact, they won’t even pop up on your Facebook feed, and in some cases you would even struggle to find them on Google unless you know exactly where to look.

But don’t be put off. All insurance companies are rated for their financial stability, and the amount of cash they have in reserve to pay claims. The highest available rating for insurance carriers is with A M Best. State Farm, Nationwide, and Allstate are all examples of A M Best rated companies …. but so are City National, Occidental, and Universal. The latter three companies are lean insurers that are long-established, financially stable, and use their money to pay claims, not advertising. They sell their products only through independent agents and don’t have an office network to support. By the way, did I mention that Memorial Insurance writes business with all three of these companies? (and many more besides!).

Another point to consider is that the big names often don’t have the best coverages. You’ll want to see the magic words “replacement cost” on your policy. You also need comprehensive water coverages (for water backup, slow seepage/leakage, and foundation coverage).

So, why not send us your current declarations page from State Farm, Nationwide, or Allstate? We’ll be happy to give you an honest, no-obligation assessment of what you’ve got covered, and if you like, give you an “apples to apples” quote with our carriers for comparison. Why pay more to get less? GO LEAN with your insurance today!

How to File a Claim

We are slap bang in the middle of hurricane season, and while there are no storms on the Texas horizon – yet! – it definitely pays to be prepared with the phone number for your insurance company’s claims department.

Updated claims numbers for all our carriers are listed below. Before picking up the phone, make sure:

1) That what you are claiming for is covered by your insurance policy, and ….
2) That the amount of the claim is likely to exceed your deductible (if in doubt, get an estimate from a contractor)

Above all, remember that your account manager at Memorial Insurance Agency is here to help you. If you have any doubts about whether to file a claim, call us FIRST!

Good luck and fingers crossed for the rest of hurricane season!

COMPANY NAME CLAIMS#
AIG 1-888-760-9195
Allstate 1-800 ALLSTATE
ASI 1-866-274-5677
ASI FLOOD 1-866-274-5677
Bankers 1-800-765-9700
BRISTOL WEST 1-800-274-7865
Centauri 1-866-215-7574
CHUBB 1-800-252-4670
CYPRESS TEXAS 1-877-560-5224
Federated National 1-800-293-2532
FIDELITY NATIONAL 1-800-220-1351
FIDELITY FLOOD 1-800-725-9472
FOREMOST 1-800-527-3907
GeoVera 1-800-631-6478
GMAC 1-800-468-3466
Gulfstream 1-866-485-3005
HARTFORD 1-800-243-5860
Homeowners of America 1-866-407-9896
IMPERIAL 1-800-325-1088
Infinity 1-800-334-1661
Lighthouse 1-877-852-0606
Maison 1-844-962-4766
MERCURY 1-800-503-3724
MetLife 1-800-422-4272
Mission Select 1-800-233-2160
National General 1-800-325-1088
NFS Edge Flood 1-888-281-0684
Occidental 1-800-780-8423
Pillar 1-800-780-8423
PROGRESSIVE 1-800-776-4737
SAFECO 1-800-332-3226
State Auto 1-800-766-1853
Swyfft 1-855-542-0917
Texas Fair Plan 1-800-979-6440
TWIA 1-800-788-8247
TRAVELERS 1-800-252-4633
UNITRIN 1-800-777-8467
Universal North America 1-866-999-0898
UPC 1-888-256-3378
Velocity Risk 1-844-878-2567
WELLINGTON 1-800-447-6465
Wilshire 1-800-780-8423
Wright Flood 1-800-725-9472

Don’t Forget Your Umbrella – 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Without It!

Dollar for dollar, umbrella insurance is one of the best value coverages you can buy. $1 million of additional protection can cost as little as $150-$200 a year. But do you need it? YES! Here’s why:

1) If you get taken to court after an auto accident, or an incident at your home, you’ll be on the hook for your current assets AND future earnings. Most auto and home policies offer a maximum of $500,000 in liability coverage – if you’re lucky. Legal fees, medical expenses and other associated costs can be cripplingly expensive, and it won’t take long to burn through your auto and home limits …. which is when your umbrella policy comes into play.

2) Everyone’s worst nightmare is to be involved in a serious accident with uninsured or underinsured motorists. Be sure to add UM/UIM coverage to your umbrella policy and you’ll boost your protection against this worst-case scenario.

3) Consider paying for your umbrella by raising the deductibles on your current policy. Increasing your auto deductibles from $250 to $1000 will save you hundreds of dollars per year in premium, which you can use to purchase MILLIONS of dollars in additional umbrella liability coverage!

4) Do you own rental property? Are you a high net worth individual? Consider investing in $2 million, $3 million or $5 million umbrella policies. A good rule of thumb is to get liability insurance limits that are at least as much as your net worth. It is a small price to pay for large amounts of protection.

5) Remember to review your coverages regularly, to make sure your umbrella policy is still offering the right protection for you. Your knowledgeable local agent can provide helpful advice about the coverage you need. Give Memorial Insurance Agency a call and we’ll be happy to assist you with the answers to your questions!

3 Things to Consider When Purchasing Home Insurance

If you are purchasing a home insurance policy, you may be feeling a tad overwhelmed. Luckily, we now live in the information age, and there is no reason to venture blindly into anything. That said, the following is an overview of three things to consider when purchasing home insurance.

Flood Insurance or Not?

First off, depending on where you reside, flood insurance may be vital to maintaining your property. Although many people seem to believe home insurance covers flood damage, this isn’t necessarily the truth. In fact, it is fairly common for home insurance policies to only cover specified damages with regards to flood damage. Therefore, if you feel your home is especially at risk of being flooded, it would behoove to purchase flood insurance.

Location Woes

Similarly, depending on where you live, there may be other common issues that may be catastrophic to the home. Therefore, if you are buying a home in an area that is prone to certain natural disasters, you will want to get additional coverage.

Deductibles

In general, the deductible can affect your rates. For instance, a higher deductible can make for lower payments, which can make for more money in your pocket in the long run. However, if a major hurricane hits Houston, you’re going to be happy and relieved you opted for that low wind and hail deductible.

Overall, for those residing in Houston, TX, Memorial Insurance Agency is a great option. Proudly serving the Houston, TX area, Memorial Insurance Agency is a premier insurance company with outstanding customer service representatives and competitive rates. Visit our website to find out how you can start your policy today and hopefully save!

5 Reasons to Choose an Independent Insurance Agent

Still unsure whether an independent insurance agent is the best way to go for your home, auto, umbrella, flood, renters, or rental property insurance? Read below!

  1. You save money: The difference between your current policy and the best option available in the marketplace can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year. Put your independent agent to work finding the best policy for you!
  2. You have more choice: Let’s say you are shopping for homeowners’ insurance. An independent agent has many companies to choose from (Memorial Insurance has more than 22!), whereas a captive agent – such as State Farm – has just one. Who is more likely to be able to offer the most suitable policy at the lowest price?
  3. You get better discounts: New roof? Got married? Improved credit score? If you stick with the same policy for years, you run the risk of missing out on savings if no one is checking. Your independent agent will review your policies annually to make sure you’re receiving all possible discounts.
  4. You stay under one roof: Life is easier when you have your home, flood, auto, boat, umbrella, and rental home policies all in one place with someone you know.
  5. You make informed choices: Unsure about whether to file a claim? Don’t know what is covered under your policy? Your independent agent will make sure you’re not missing any essential coverage, as well as providing guidance and advice. There are no 1-800 numbers here …. you just call and speak directly to someone who knows you.