Tropical Storm Imelda

In the insurance world, there is a surefire way to tell when a major storm is coming – and you don’t even need to look at the weather forecast! What happens is that insurance carriers issue a moratorium on binding new business policies when a storm or hurricane is 24-48 hours away from making landfall.

Why do insurance companies do this? In the same way that health insurance carriers exclude pre-existing conditions, property insurance carriers decline to insure buildings (and sometimes cars too) if the risk of loss is suddenly increased. This is understandable – otherwise, some people would only buy insurance at the last minute, when property damage from a storm or hurricane seems inevitable.

At the time of writing, many insurance carriers are not binding coverage due to the threat from Tropical Storm Imelda, which is currently deluging coastal Texas with rainfall. Thankfully, at this point, it’s not looking like becoming a major wind event, so the chance of you having to make a homeowners insurance claim is small. Flood insurance is another matter, and we recommend that every homeowner in the greater Houston area invests in this sensible – and usually inexpensive – coverage.

Road Rage and Auto Insurance

Want to know why “road rage” is not covered by many auto insurance policies? The simple answer is that property damage or liability claims resulting from aggressive driving are not considered to be accidental, but rather, an avoidable consequence of risky behavior.

Even if you’re feeling calm, you don’t want to become part of someone else’s auto accident as a result of their bad driving choices. The following tips may save your bacon on Houston’s high-octane highways:

  1. Stay far away: Slow down or change lanes to leave as much space between you and the offending driver as possible. If you are being tailgated, move aside to reduce the chance of being run into from behind if you are forced to brake sharply.
  2. Note the vehicle details: Pull over and report the aggressive driver to the police. Remember – do not make a call on your cell phone while driving!
  3. Don’t use hand gestures: A middle-finger salute could quickly escalate the situation out of hand if the other driver is already feeling angry, aggressive, or upset.
  4. Don’t confront another driver: In a moment of madness, it may be tempting to follow the person who just cut you off, force them off the road, and teach them a lesson using a tire iron or firearm. Don’t do this.
  5. Practice empathy: Maybe the aggressive driver is running late for work, or just had an argument with his wife. Perhaps the slow driver is lost, or has a mechanical issue with his vehicle. At some point, everyone has been one of those drivers – try not to take the bad driving of others personally.

Stay safe on those crazy roads and if you need auto insurance advice, call your friends at Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston, Texas!

Renters Insurance Myths

Renters insurance may cover more than you think! It is also one of the best value insurance policies out there …. just $150-$200 a year can buy you a LOT of liability coverage, and protection for your personal belongings as well.

Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston will be happy to provide you with a quote – call one of our agents today to discuss your requirements.

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Applying For Auto Insurance

When it comes to auto insurance in Houston, “honesty is the best policy”. Leave out important information on your application, and you could end up incorrectly insured – which is a scenario you may come to regret if you are involved in an auto accident.

Full disclosure applies not only to new business, but to renewals as well. Your account manager at Memorial Insurance Agency will review all your policies with you on an annual basis, as part of our service. Those discussions often revolve around premium, liability limits, and deductibles – but it is also important to let us know if you have made any major life changes, changed your garaging address, vehicle use, or added a household member of driving age. So please make sure you mention all relevant information to your agent!

CLICK HERE for a full rundown of the things you need to consider!

Preparing for a Hurricane

As the weather gears up for another long hot summer, it is easy to forget that a major hurricane could be just weeks away. That’s right, folks – June 1st was the official start to “Hurricane Season”!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season this year. But don’t be reassured by the word “normal” – it means that we can expect 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes with wind speeds up to 110mph, and 2-4 major hurricanes in category 3 and above with wind speeds over 111mph. There is no way of telling if or where these storms will make landfall. Before they arrive – in other words, right now! – it is a very good idea to not only check that your home insurance is in order, but also to follow some basic steps to prepare. Thanks to our friends and partners at http://velocityrisk.com/¬†for the following excellent tips!:

  1. Create an emergency communication plan: Pre-arrange an evacuation route and destination with other members of your household, and be sure to know how to share warnings and alerts with your family members.
  2. Stock up on emergency supplies: What you’ll need: lots of water, non-perishable foods, can opener, flashlight and spare batteries, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, whistle, plastic sheeting and duct tape, can opener, cell phone with chargers and a backup battery.
  3. Check your home insurance: Make sure your home insurance policy covers damage caused by wind, hail, and named storms/hurricanes. Verify that you have low deductibles so your out-of-pocket costs in the event of a claim are low. Check that you have a Replacement Cost (not Actual Cash Value) policy. If in doubt …. speak to your friendly insurance agency in Houston, Memorial Insurance!
  4. Consider buying flood insurance: Don’t wait until the next Hurricane Harvey is bearing down on you before you get flood insurance, because even if you buy it today, there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect. So plan ahead and get yourself covered BEFORE the next hurricane is on the horizon. And remember – flood insurance is NOT included in your home insurance policy!

Excess Flood Coverage: Do You Need It?

As the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey looms ever closer, the thoughts of many homeowners are turning to flood insurance. Floods are one of the most common and most expensive home hazards, and it pays to make sure you’re properly protected, especially in this era of ever more violent hurricanes and unpredictable rainfall patterns.

What Kind of Flood Insurance Do I Need?

While the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers suitable coverage for most homes, people with high-value properties ought to consider supplementing their NFIP policy with Excess Flood insurance. If there is potential for a flood to cause more than $250,000 of damage to the structure of your home, and $100,000 of damage to its contents (the maximum coverage limits available under the NFIP), then Excess Flood insurance is worth considering.

How Does Excess Flood Work?

In a nutshell, an Excess Flood policy kicks in once the limits of your coverage under the NFIP have been exhausted, so you typically won’t pay another deductible. You also get some attractive additional coverage options, including loss of use, which pays for you to live somewhere else if your home is rendered uninhabitable due to flood.

How Much Does It Cost?

Excess Flood is available from private insurers and is not subsidized by the NFIP, which means it costs more than an NFIP policy. Premiums vary depending on the location and construction of your home, the foundation type, and even the way your home faces! But on average, reckon on it being at least twice as expensive as the equivalent amount of NFIP coverage.

How Can I Find Out More?

Give your agent at Memorial Insurance a call on 713-461-8272, and we will be glad to answer any questions you may have, run an Excess Flood quote, or simply help you decide whether this coverage is necessary for your home.

4 Reasons to Get a QUALITY Auto Insurance Policy

Some people think auto insurance is all about price. Those people get the cheapest possible policy because – obviously – no one wants to pay more for insurance than they have to, right?

Wrong! While, naturally, price is a major consideration when it comes to choosing car insurance, it is by no means the only consideration. Here are four excellent reasons to spend a little extra for a quality policy:

  1. You get higher coverages: The difference in price between state minimum liability limits (30/60 in Texas), and something a lot better, is often surprisingly small. It makes sense to spend just a few extra dollars each month, for the peace of mind that you have enough coverage in the insurance to pay for an accident. So, you should pick the 100/300 limits as an absolute minimum. Many “cheap” auto insurance companies offer only the lowest coverage limits, which won’t go far if you’re involved in a crash with a Lexus or a Tesla – and especially if someone gets injured. Guess who they come after for the money, once your insurance limits have been exhausted? Yes, that’s right: you, and everything you own.
  2. You get broader coverages: Let’s say your son or daughter is home from college for a few weeks, or your friend desperately needs to borrow your vehicle. You don’t want to have to add them to your policy, just so they can have occasional use of your car. Quality auto insurance policies, such as those offered by Safeco, Travelers or Progressive, cover anyone to drive your car with your permission. Cheap policies offer no coverage for any driver except those named on the policy.
  3. You get a high-quality claims service: If you’re ever involved in an accident, the last thing you need is a lot of hassle to get your car towed or repaired. The top auto insurance companies have a fast, efficient claims service, and they work with networks of high-quality repair shops. So you’ll be back on the road in no time, and with the minimum of heartache.
  4. You can lock in to a rate for 12 months: Safeco, Travelers, Progressive and other high-quality auto insurance carriers lock in your premium for an entire year. Most cheap auto insurance companies, including Geico, offer only 6-month policies. You don’t have to be a genius to guess what might happen when insurance companies have the opportunity to increase your rates after six months!

Give your agent at Memorial Insurance a call today, and we’ll be happy to explain your current coverages, or offer a comparative quote with a quality auto insurance carrier. Safe driving!

Galvanized Plumbing

Water damage claims are one of the most common kinds of home insurance claims. In fact, many home insurance carriers will decline to insure homes with the old galvanized plumbing, which is still commonly found in homes built before about 1985 which have not been updated.

Why do only a small proportion of insurance carriers accept this old kind of plumbing? Well, it all comes down to risk, of course. Galvanized plumbing is prone to corrosion, and statistically it is much more likely to cause an expensive home insurance claim when compared to more modern PVC piping.

Unless you have a very high value home, the chances are that your insurance company will carry out an exterior only inspection when agreeing to insure your home. So they won’t know if your plumbing is galvanized or not – it is up to you to tell your agent when you are purchasing your policy. If you’re with a carrier who doesn’t accept galvanized plumbing, and you have a water damage claim from a burst pipe, your insurance carrier may deny your claim.

This is one reason why it is very important to contact an independent agent who will work with you to select the right kind of policy for your home. But don’t worry – the licensed agents at Memorial Insurance will ask you all the right questions to make sure you are correctly covered!

Telematics: the Future of Auto Insurance?

Telematics is a technology-based system whereby insurance companies assess your auto insurance premiums based on your driving habits. The idea is to create a fairer system of auto insurance, by rewarding safe drivers with lower premiums – as well as providing a much more accurate way for insurers to assess risk.

You may know Telematics by other names such as Right Track (Safeco), Snapshot (Progressive), or IntelliDrive (Travelers). Drivers participating in the program download an app to their phone, or plug a device into their vehicle, which measures their speed, acceleration, braking, and night time driving, for a period of 90-365 days. At the end, safe drivers receive a discount from their auto premium, or a lower rate for their auto insurance renewal.

Some industry analysts predict that nearly all auto insurance policies will be primarily telematics-based within five years. It’s good news for driver safety, and also for premiums. Most carriers offer a 5% discount just for taking part in the program, with up to a further 20-30% premium reduction available on completion.

Give your agent at Memorial Insurance a call to see which Telematics program is available for your auto policy, and whether it would be a good fit for you.

Drive safe!

6 Things to Look For in Home Insurance Mailers

Ever had something like this through the mail? Most likely you receive several of them every year in the lead-up to your home insurance renewal. They may sound tempting …. but how do you know if it’s a good quote? What should you be looking for? Let Memorial Insurance be your guide!:

  1. Coverage amounts: Do these match your current policy? They are often lower, because less coverage means a cheaper price. Your agent has several tools available to work out exactly how much your home should be insured for.
  2. Bells and Whistles: On this quote, $1,000,000 in personal liability is eye-catching, especially if your current policy offers “only” $300,000 or $500,000. But if you have an umbrella policy (which you should!), you’ll already have the high liability coverage anyway. And if you want to add higher liability to a homeowners policy, it’s only going to cost a few bucks a year. So this feature is not nearly as impressive as it sounds!
  3. Extended Replacement Cost: Some agents offer relatively low dwelling coverage amounts, but add the extended replacement cost endorsement and tell you it’s additional coverage for your home. This is not true. Extended replacement cost applies when a large area is afflicted by a catastrophe (for example a Category 4 hurricane), and the subsequent increased demand for materials and contractors pushes repair costs sky-high. This endorsement allows for extra coverage but ONLY in the event that replacement cost increases in your area as a direct result of a natural disaster. If faulty wiring causes your house to burn to the ground, you’ll get only your basic Dwelling Coverage amount from your insurance company.
  4. Deductibles: This quote headlines with the 1% deductible, but notice the cheeky 5% deductible in the middle? This part is the deductible for a named hurricane. If you keep in mind that named hurricanes are one of the leading causes of insurance claims in many states, including Texas, do you really want to be on the hook for a 5% deductible the next time a major weather event blows through? In the case of this particular policy, you’d be looking at a $30,000+ out of pocket payment before the insurance company stepped in to take care of the rest. If this is something you can afford and would be happy to pay for, then stop reading here! In Houston, a 2% hurricane deductible is standard, with 1% also available in some areas. At Memorial Insurance, we’d be happy to provide several quotes with different deductibles so you can make an informed choice and NOT get a nasty surprise after the next hurricane.
  5. Total Premium: The advertised rate on this quote is NOT the final price, it is a guess based on you having the best possible credit and zero prior claims. To get the final rate, insurance carriers run an “insurance score” taking into account the above plus many other factors. More than nine times out of ten, when you call the agent to take the quote, your premium will increase.
  6. Exclusions: Sure, this quote tells you that your contents are insured for replacement cost. But how about the roof? See my earlier blog post for details of why you do NOT want an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy. Moreover, are water coverages (slow seepage, water backup, foundation water damage) included? Most likely not, because these increase the premium, which would make for a less impressive mailout!

Moral of the story: if you’re interested in a quote you receive in the mail, make sure you get an “apples to apples” comparison with your current policy to make sure all the coverage levels match. Better still, why not give Memorial Insurance a call – we have most of the main home insurance carriers in our agency, so we will do the shopping and comparing for you, and make 100% sure you are correctly insured!