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.

Investors: Insure Those Rental Homes!

Insuring Rental Properties

We partnered once again with Priority Investor Loans for another highly successful INVESTOR EVENT, in the swanky Lounge 26 @ Catalyst in downtown Houston. In this short video, Memorial Insurance's very own Justin Vance explains why landlords should always make sure their rental homes are correctly insured!

Posted by Memorial Insurance Agency, LLC on Friday, May 31, 2019
We partnered once again with Priority Investor Loans for another highly successful INVESTOR EVENT, in the swanky Lounge 26 @ Catalyst in downtown Houston. In this short video, Memorial Insurance’s very own Justin Vance explains why landlords should always make sure their rental homes are correctly insured. Contact your favorite home insurance agent in Houston, Memorial Insurance, and find out about our dwelling fire/landlord insurance products today!

5 Reasons to get Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage is an essential part of your auto insurance policy. Yes, it is optional and you can “reject” it in writing, but you’d be crazy to do this considering that an estimated one in five drivers in Texas may be driving around with no insurance at all, and millions more drivers have only the bare minimum of coverage.

How do UM and UIM coverages protect you? They step in to cover bodily injury and property damage if you get involved in an accident with a driver who either has no insurance, or whose insurance limits are less than the cost of the accident. Hit-and-run accidents – where the other driver flees the scene – would also be included in the UM/UIM part of your auto insurance policy.

So, why get UM/UIM? Here are 5 very good reasons:

  1. The number of uninsured motorists is increasing As insurance costs spiral ever higher, so too does the number of people willing to “chance it” and drive without insurance. This is especially true in large cities like Houston which have among the highest auto insurance premiums in the nation.
  2. The number of uninsured motorists may continue to rise Research has shown that the number of uninsured drivers is directly related to the strength of the economy. If we enter another recession, the numbers of people without insurance will increase, so you should be prepared for this well ahead of time.
  3. Minimum liability limits are too low Even if you already have UM/UIM coverage, if you have only the minimum 30/60/25 limits ($30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage) you will likely have too little coverage under your policy to pay for a serious accident. Guess what happens if you run out of coverage? Yup, you are going to be paying the rest out of your own pocket, and those medical bills do not come cheap.
  4. Increasing your UM/UIM limits is not expensive It usually costs just a handful of dollars a month to upgrade from 30/60/25 to 100/300/100 or more – giving you a lot more coverage (and peace of mind) for very little additional cost.
  5. The chance of collecting money from an uninsured motorist is low Someone who is driving without insurance most likely has few assets, so pursuing a claim against them will likely to be an expensive waste of time, especially considering the legal fees involved.

The moral of the story? Speak to your agent at Memorial Insurance today to make sure the UM/UIM limits on your policy have you covered if the worst should happen!

Ultimate A-Z of Essential Items to Keep in your Car

Wondering about what you should keep in your car? Check out Memorial Insurance Agency’s ultimate guide!:

1. Air Pump
2. Blanket: nights can be cold, even in Texas, and waits for tow trucks can be long.
3. Bucket: can be used for lots of things, as well as for storing many of the items on this list.
4. Cash: credit card machines “go down” surprisingly often. Always have some spare cash on hand for gas, and quarters for payphones (yes, they still exist, and no, many remote areas of Texas do NOT have a cell signal).
5. Duct tape: for all manner of uses – not just gagging your kidnap victim before you throw them in the trunk.
6. Fire extinguisher
7. First Aid kit
8. Flashlight
9. Food: energy bars, nuts and the like. Nothing perishable!
10. Gas can (empty!)
11. Gloves: the kind that you can wear to change a tire – leave the designer leather ones at home.
12. Grocery bags: the heavy-duty ones you can use again and again.
13. Hammer: get one with a built-in seatbelt cutter – and keep it in the glove compartment, not the trunk.
14. Insurance cards and vehicle registration
15. Jumper cables: because a flat battery is not as rare as you think!
16. Maps: paper maps in case your GPS isn’t working.
17. Matches: seal the box in a ziplock bag to keep it dry.
18. Multi-tool
19. Notebook and pen: to take down insurance details or directions.
20. Owner’s manual
21. Paper towels
22. Phone charger
23. Pillow: in case you have to spend the night in your car.
24. Plastic bags
25. Pressure gauge: check your tires are A-OK before a long trip.
26. Rain poncho
27. Safety vest: the reflective kind.
28. Shoes: a spare pair in case you have to walk.
29. Spare tire
30. Slime: to fill your tire so you can drive (carefully!) to the next repair shop.
31. Tools: make sure these include a jack and a wrench.
32. Tow straps
33. Water: especially for you to drink, but also some distilled water for the car radiator.
34. Wet wipes

In case you’re wondering whether you’re going to need a trailer to tow all of this stuff, fear not: with clever packing it should all fit into a corner of the trunk.

By the way, some lists advocate bringing a pet seatbelt, a DVD player, or a portable toilet, but we reckon those are a bit over the top ….. what do you think?

Stay safe out there!

Home Fire Safety Tips

Thank you to our friends at Lighthouse Insurance for the following essential safety advice.

“In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. That’s why home escape planning is so critical in a fire situation. It ensures that everyone in the household knows how to use that small window of time wisely.

Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Smoke alarms give you an early warning, so you can get outside quickly.

SMOKE ALARM TIPS

•Install smoke alarms in every bedroom. They should also be outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Install alarms in the basement. Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
•It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
•Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
•A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
•People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
•Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

IF THE ALARM SOUNDS

•If the smoke alarm sounds, get out and stay out. Never go back inside for people or pets.
•If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to find your way out.
•Call the fire department from outside your home.

GENERAL SAFETY TIPS

•Make a home escape plan. Draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows. Discuss the plan with everyone in your home.
•Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily.
•Have an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet.
•Practice your home fire drill at night and during the day with everyone in your home, twice a year.
•Practice using different ways out.
•Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
•Close doors behind you as you leave.

U.S. fire departments respond to a home fire every 86 seconds. That’s over 1,000 fires a day. Home fires can occur for a variety of reasons, but many are preventable. Over 365,000 fires and 2,650 civilian deaths occur every year, resulting in $7 billion in property damage. Memorial Insurance Agency can help tailor your policy to provide the best coverage for your home and needs in case of a fire”.

The original article can be found here: Home Fire Safety Tips.

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!

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

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 .

10 Tips for Staying Safe this July 4th!

Ensure your Independence Day weekend is filled with celebration and not regret with these 10 fire safety tips, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

  1. Be sure fireworks are legal in your area before using or buying them.
  2. Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities and never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. Sparklers alone account for one quarter of emergency room fireworks injuries.
  3. If you set off fireworks, keep a bucket of water handy in case of malfunction or fire.
  4. If fireworks malfunction, don’t relight them! Douse and soak them with water then throw them away.
  5. Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially one that is glass or metal.
  6. Use your grill well away from your home and deck railings, and out from under branches or overhangs.
  7. Open your gas grill before lighting.
  8. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below your gas or propane grill so it cannot be ignited.
  9. Declare a three-foot “kid and pet-free zone” around the grill to keep them safe.
  10. Avoid loose clothing that can catch fire when cooking on the grill.

The Red Cross also has plenty of useful information and tips about firework, water, and picnic safety, at http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Have-a-Safe-Fourth-of-July.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Should You File a Homeowners Insurance Claim?

Homeowners’ insurance is designed to protect you from financial ruin when the worst happens to your largest asset. If a plane crashes into your house, it is obvious that your insurance company will need to become involved. However, for less serious losses, should you file a claim? Here, we answer some commonly asked questions on this topic:

Does my policy provide coverage for the damage that occurred?

Perils such as fire, smoke, and explosion are usually covered. Coverage for foundation, water damage or slow seepage will depend on the kind of policy you have. Flooding due to rising waters is never covered in a home insurance policy. If you attempt to file a claim for something that is not covered, you will not only be wasting your time, but you will also end up with a claim against your record. The golden rule is to ask your agent what your policy covers, before making that call to the claims department!

What is a deductible, and how much is mine?

The deductible is the portion of the loss that you pay out of pocket before the insurance steps in to take care of the rest. On your homeowners policy, your deductibles will usually be listed as percentages, or sometimes dollar amounts. Typical deductibles for homeowners insurance in Houston are 2% for wind and hail (including hurricane), and 1% for all other perils. In other words, on a $300,000 home policy, you would pay the first $6,000 of a weather-related claim, and the first $3,000 of all other claims. If you can’t find the numbers on your policy, or if you are unsure, give your agent a call and they will be happy to explain.

It looks like the damage will probably be more than my deductible. What next?

You should get an estimate from a licensed contractor for the total cost of the repairs. In fact, you’ll want to do this anyway, regardless of whether you plan on filing a claim.

So …. the repairs will cost $7,000, and my deductible is $6,000. I’m good to file a claim, right?

Not so fast. All claims, even those where little or no money was actually paid out, will show on your record. Claims often lead to premium increases – particularly if more than one claim is filed over a three or five-year period. If you have a lot of claims, you may even be “non-renewed” by your insurance company, and will have to seek inferior coverage elsewhere. In other words, it may be cheaper in the long run to pay for the damage yourself, even if the repair bill exceeds your deductible. So the best advice is speak to your agent, do the math, and don’t rush to file a claim when something happens.

My house burned to the ground, so should I file a claim?

Of course. Major disasters are what your home insurance is there for. This is the moment you’ll be glad you opted for the Replacement Cost policy, instead of an Actual Cash Value one which depreciates your roof and personal property every year.

My neighbor fell down in my driveway and broke her leg. Should I file a claim?

Yes. You never know when a liability claim can become a full-blown financial and legal disaster, so it is wise to file these kinds of claims as soon as possible.

My old fence finally fell down in last week’s storm. It was due for replacement anyway. Will my homeowners’ insurance cover it?

No. Your side of the bargain with the insurance company is to maintain your home to a reasonable standard, and your homeowners policy is not designed to cover routine maintenance or wear-and-tear issues. This means that any related claims will be denied.