Dog Owner Liability

Did you know that dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims? And that half of all dog bites occur on the dog owner’s property?

When your dog bites a visitor to your home, many people’s first question is to ask whether it is covered under a home insurance policy. The answer is – it depends. Some homeowners’ policies include animal liability as standard, and others will allow you to add it by endorsement (usually for an extra premium of around $25 a year).

Another important factor is the breed of dog. If you have an animal that is deemed to be dangerous – from a fairly standard list including Pit Bull, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and others – then you will usually find that your home insurance policy specifically excludes liability. Some carriers will decline to insure your home – period! – if a dangerous dog is present. Finally, even if your dog is a so-called “safe” breed, you may not be covered if it has a history of biting people.

That is why it is essential to disclose all information about animals in your home, when signing up for a new policy. And also, let your insurance agent know if you obtain a new pet, so they can assist you in understanding what coverage you need.

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!

Ten Things to Look For in a Home Insurance Policy

There are many different coverage options available in a home insurance policy. Which ones do you really need, and which ones can you go without? Let Memorial Insurance guide you through the small print!

Really Need

  1. Enough Coverage: As a rule of thumb, it will cost at least $100 per square foot to rebuild your home. So, if your home is 2,000 square feet, you will need an absolute minimum of $200,000 in coverage. If your home is custom built, or uses higher-than-average-quality materials, the replacement cost will be higher.
  2. Replacement Cost: If the worst should happen, you want the insurance company to pay the full amount that it costs to rebuild your home and replace everything inside it. So the policy needs to state Replacement Cost, for the dwelling and the roof. This also applies to your Personal Property (coverage C) – otherwise you’ll get only Actual Cash Value for your belongings, which will be a lot less than the items will cost to replace.
  3. High Liability Coverage Limits: The difference in premium between $25,000 and $300,000 in liability coverage is just a handful of dollars per year, so you should go for the highest available amount to make sure you are well protected if you are found legally responsible for someone else’s medical bills or lawyer’s fees.
  4. Low Deductibles: The deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket before the insurance takes care of the rest. In a natural disaster-prone area such as Houston, insurance claims due to weather events are common, so it makes sense to have low deductibles. Standard in this area for good policies is a 2% deductible for wind, hail, and hurricane, and 1% for all other perils. 1%/1% is also available in many areas away from the coast.
  5. Water Coverages: These include water backup, slow seepage, and foundation coverage, and are included as standard on an HOB policy form but have to be added (“endorsed”) to other kinds of policies. They are generally inexpensive to add, but give you protection against very expensive potential losses.

Go Without

  1. “Actual Cash Value”: Some insurance carriers (including several very well known household names) depreciate your roof. In other words, you’ll receive less from the insurance company than the amount it will cost to replace your roof, and the potential payout shrinks every year as your roof ages. If your roof is 10 years old and you have an Actual Cash Value policy, you’ll receive next to nothing for your roof claim – or even nothing at all, after your deductible is taken into account. Also see above for what Actual Cash Value means for your personal property.
  2. Personal Injury Coverage: This sounds great until you realize that it does NOT mean physical injury to a person. “Personal Injury” is coverage for slander, libel, and other lawsuits that most homeowners will be very unlikely to face. In other words, with this one you’re paying extra for something you don’t need. Tricky agents love to add this to a policy because it sounds like it offers a lot of coverage.
  3. Extended Replacement Cost: If your home is insured for $200,000, and you have 25% extended replacement cost coverage, this does not mean you will receive $250,000 from the insurance if your home burns to the ground. Extended replacement cost only applies if an entire area is affected (for example by a major hurricane) and the ensuing demand drives up the cost of labor and building materials, so your home costs more to rebuild at that particular time than it normally would. Adding extended replacement cost is a devious way that agents “add coverage” without actually giving you the correct protection. If your home is going to cost $250,000 to replace, opt instead for that full amount of coverage under the “dwelling A” section of your policy.
  4. Identity Theft: This is one of a number of optional endorsements available on a home insurance policy. If you want this kind of coverage, it is best to buy a specific policy and not mix it in with the homeowners insurance. Otherwise, you might find you are having to make an identity theft claim under your home insurance which can potentially increase your premium on renewal.
  5. Wind/Hail/Hurricane Exclusion: If you live in a coastal area (Galveston, Brazoria, and some parts of Harris) and you receive a home insurance quote that looks too good to be true, then it probably is! Some companies won’t insure your home in these areas unless windstorm coverage is excluded, due to the high risk of hurricanes. So while you’ll be covered for fire, lightning, vandalism and malicious mischief, you’ll be getting zilch from your insurance if the next Category 4 takes your roof with it. Thankfully, Memorial Insurance has many options for coastal homes, including specialist companies that do include wind in high risk areas, as well as standalone windstorm policy options.

If you have any questions, give your agent at Memorial Insurance a call and we’d be happy to explain further!

Does Auto Insurance Cover Rental Cars?

The short answer is, of course, “it depends”. What are YOU covered for? Read our handy guide below:

1. Where are you renting? If you have full coverage (including comprehensive and collision) on your auto policy in Texas, and you are with a high-quality, reputable company like Safeco, Travelers, or Progressive, then insurance coverage will likely extend to your rental car anywhere in the United States. However, it’s a different story overseas. Countries such as Mexico have their own laws and requirements, so if you’re heading abroad you’ll almost certainly need to purchase additional insurance.

2. What kind of car are you renting? Own a small SUV in Houston, rent a small SUV in Utah … usually no problem with your rental being automatically covered under your auto policy. Normally drive a 2003 Toyota Corolla, but rent a Ferrari 488GTB to drag race down the strip in Vegas on your bachelor party weekend? You could have problems. Moral of the story: if in doubt, get the insurance offered by the rental company.

3. Have a good credit card? Sometimes – but not always – this can fill in any “gaps” in coverage that your personal auto policy cannot provide, including CDW (see below).

4. Live in a house? Your personal belongings are likely covered under your homeowners, renters, or condo policy – even while they are lying on the back seat of a rental car. Of course, everyone knows that leaving valuable items unattended in a vehicle is a bad idea, but you get the picture.

5. Don’t forget the CDW Collision Damage Waiver (also known as Loss Damage Waiver) is not an insurance product, but a waiver that means the rental car company – not you – is held responsible in the case of damage of theft. Among other things, the CDW will cover loss of use and diminished value to the rental car, which can add up to thousands in the event of a major accident and won’t be covered under your auto insurance.

6. Relax! Finally, when purchasing insurance with a rental car company, it is almost always both easier and cheaper to purchase it in advance … NOT at the rental car desk when you arrive tired and frazzled after a long flight!

Happy and safe travels from Memorial Insurance!

6 Things You Forgot to Insure!

Insuring your cat may help to keep those vet bills down, but what about the other things that people often overlook? Don’t forget to protect yourself against the following:

  1. Half of your car accident: Liability insurance will pay for damage to other people, their vehicles and property. But what about your own car? Omit comprehensive and collision coverage from your policy, and you’ll be paying the full cost of repairs by yourself.
  2. The bad decisions of others: 1 in 4 drivers is either driving around with no insurance at all, or has woefully inadequate limits. If one of these guys crashes into you, guess who could end up paying for the accident? That’s right: YOU. If injuries are involved, the bills could be astronomical. To avoid this nightmare scenario, be sure to add UM/UIM coverage to your auto policy.
  3. Your valuables: High-value items such as jewelry, art, or antiques need to be scheduled on your home insurance …. or can be put on their own policy. If you make a big purchase, don’t forget to protect it! Also, take a look at your policy every year to make sure you have enough coverage for any additions or upgrades to your home. As your home grows, so should your insurance.
  4. Flooding: No one in Houston should be without flood coverage, which is NOT included in your home insurance. If you aren’t in a designated flood zone, flood insurance offers high coverages and unlimited peace of mind for $450 a year or less.
  5. Extra liability: If you’re doing well in life, the sad fact is that you are at risk from people coming after everything you’ve got, especially if you’re at fault for a serious accident. Umbrella insurance is inexpensive and will give you up to $5 million in extra protection.
  6. Replacement cost: be sure your policy includes these two magic words, for both your home and your personal property. Some agents are sneaky and will give you Actual Cash Value coverage in order to reduce premium, and this means your insurance will pay you only a depreciated value for your home, roof, or contents. What is the actual cash value of a 10 year old roof? A lot less than it costs to replace it, for sure. And when you factor in the deductible as well, an ACV policy may give you almost no payout at all after that Category 4 hurricane hits Houston.

Any questions? Give your friendly agent at Memorial Insurance a call and we’ll be happy to help!