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Summer break is nearly over, but vacations happen year round, so it is never too late (or too early) to learn a thing or two that could really come in handy should disaster strike while you are away, from the perspective of an insurance claims professional.
First, be sure you have insurance to begin with, and that it is the right insurance for you and your property, with the right coverages, endorsements, and deductible. Whether you are going on vacation or not, you should meet with your insurance agent yearly, or you should review your policy carefully if you don’t have an agent. Why? As you might imagine, insurance policies differ from company to company, and each insurance company may also have policies that differ. Some policies are actual cash value only, meaning they will deduct for depreciation in the event of a loss, while other policies are replacement cost value, meaning they will not deduct for depreciation, but fully pay whatever it costs to replace what you had that was damaged, lost, or destroyed. Even this is not consistent, in that some policies say they are replacement cost, but will only pay the full replacement value if you replace the item, and they will not pay actual cash value until or unless you actually replace the property first.
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In short, it’s important to have an idea of what these limits and circumstances are, and whether or not you can buy additional insurance to cover your property. Oftentimes you can, but unless you know what the limits are, how can you know whether you need to buy more insurance or a better policy? Early in my career as an insurance company adjuster, an associate and I inspected a claim for a theft loss that highlights this well. As we interviewed the homeowner, he explained that while he was out of town, thieves broke into his home and stole a number of items, including jewelry, cash, and designer clothing from his wife’s boutique. Other items were stolen and damaged as well, but the items listed above were all subject to relatively low internal limits.
The cash limit was $200, the jewelry limit was $2,500, and the limit for clothing used in his wife’s
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And for similar reasons, it is crucial to have at least a basic understanding of all other aspects of the policy. Without this basic knowledge, it is impossible to know whether or not you have the right policy and endorsements for your needs. Once you are confident of your policy, you can be a bit more at ease when you leave for vacation.
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But just having the right policy is not enough. You need to have a plan as well. This can include how to prepare your home to make it less attractive to thieves, to be less susceptible to electrical and plumbing losses, and general life and home protection ideas, including a contact list to use in the event of some disaster, and a step by step strategy for beginning to deal with the claim remotely. I actually found some very good ideas and tips on insurance websites for www.Nationwide.com and www.Travelers.com (hey, just because I don’t trust those guys to help you after a loss doesn’t mean I won’t recognize any of their good works).
With a comfortable knowledge of your policy, a plan in place, and your home prepared, it’s time to pack your bags and enjoy your trip!
Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.