I Know We've Talked About Water Before....
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In a previous post I talked about Flood Insurance, and with all the storms we've had here in the northeast this winter, there have been many folks that did or could have benefited from this coverage.

But many times water damage is not caused by something that can be categorized as a flood. Rising water, water the rises up from the saturated ground, is not covered under your homeowner's insurance coverage either. Neither is seepage. But there is a category of coverage available that covers a very common source of water damage: the backup of water into your home through sewers and drains, and backup that occurs when your sump pump fails.

This coverage, basically called Water Backup Coverage, is an endorsement that you can add to your Homeowner's insurance policy. In New York it generally costs between $30-$50 per year. Connecticut rates are running a bit higher depending on the limit you choose and you can usually increase the limit up to $75,000.

Many homeowners in this area have sump pumps to clear water from their basements should it come in during an event. They are machines and are known to fail, usually just when you need them. There are also towns here that have town water and sometimes the drains and sewers become clogged on the outside, causing water to back up into a home. This endorsement would cover the ensuing damage an event such as this would cause. As always,the pipes or the pump themselves would not be covered, but compared to the damage this type of loss usually causes, that is a minor part of the cost.

So keep this coverage in mind. Get a quote. Call us for a quote on your homeowner's insurance and we will be glad to include a quote for this endorsement as well. For what it costs, it maybe well worth it in the long run.

CM
Avalon Agency Insurance

Hiring a Contractor Now That Spring Is Here? Some Tips...
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With the gloom of winter finally beginning to recede, we homeowners smell the fresh spring air and begin to think of all those things we need done around the house. From landscaping to siding to building an addition, to the basic maintenance we know is so important in the retention and growth of our home's value. Our homes are probably our biggest asset, and so it is vitally important that we hire reputable contractors to work on them.

The PIA, the Professional Insurance Agent's organization, offers these tips to help select the right contractor to work on your home.

1. Be wary of contractors who sell their services door to door or via cold calls. Especially with the recent storms, this can be a tactic of unscrupulous con artists known for this type of scam. Also, if the price is "only good if you sign right now" don't sign.
2. Get recommendations from friends, family or neighbors who have worked for them.
3. Ask for a written estimate that includes anything you agreed to verbally. Make sure it has a line by line breakdown of all the costs, including material and labor and ask if there is a charge to get the estimate. If there is, find another contractor.
4. Get at least 3 estimates and at least 2 references. Contact the references.
5. The lowest bidder may not do the best work.
6. Verify the contractor is licensed, bonded and properly insured. Ask for a certificate of insurance showing General Liability coverage (covers you if they cause damage) and workers compensation coverage (covers them if they are injured). Call the agency/company listed on the certificate and confirm the coverage is in force.
7. Contact the Better Business Bureau and see if there are any complaints against the contractor.
8. Do not pay for the whole job before the work begins. Standard practice is 33 percent of the job up front.
9. Get a copy of the proposed contract. It should specify the work to be performed, the start and end dates, payment agreements and any warranties. Also, it should contain a Hold Harmless Agreement stating that the contractor will indemnify you with respect to your liability to members of the public who are injured or whose property is damaged during the course of the work.
10. Get a friend, relative or an attorney to review the contract before you sign. Sometimes a second pair of eyes will catch things that you might miss.

Just remember the old adage that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don't just take a contractor's word for what he is going to do for you. Get it in writing and make sure you are comfortable with the person that is going to have access to your most valuable asset.

Have a great day!

CM
Avalon Agency
Bedford NY
Personal and Business Insurance Serving New York and Connecticut for over 40 Years


Don't Sleep and Drive...Driving Drowsy
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With the change to Daylight Savings Time recently, the New York State DMV released some information about Driving Drowsy. I guess they think we may all have a tough time adjusting to the loss of an hour. I know it took me a few days to finally appreciate that the sky was still bright as I left the office in the evening.

So here is that notice. Good reading, actually.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, March 11, 2010

MOTORISTS REMINDED OF DANGERS OF DROWSY DRIVING
Sleep Loss a Possibility as Daylight Saving Time Begins on March 14

Commissioner David J. Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) today used the occasion of the upcoming switch to Daylight Saving Time to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving. Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this year on Sunday, March 14.

"Driving while drowsy is a contributing factor in thousands of crashes each year," Commissioner Swarts said. "Motorists should be aware of the warning signs of fatigue and how to avoid drowsy driving, particularly as we adjust to the loss of sleep that comes with the switch to Daylight Saving Time."

The National Sleep Foundation's 2009 "Sleep in America" poll shows that one percent, or as many as 1.9 million drivers, have had a car crash or a near miss due to drowsiness in the past year. Even more alarming, 54 percent of drivers (105 million) have driven while drowsy at least once in the past year, and 28 percent (54 million) do so at least once per month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year 100,000 crashes reported to police are caused by drowsy driving or driver fatigue, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Drivers at highest risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include: commercial truck drivers; late-night shift workers; parents taking care of young children; people with untreated sleep disorders; and young drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of young people ages 16-24, and fatigue is a common contributing factor. Studies show that 36 percent of teens drive drowsy on a regular basis and, out of all of the crashes caused by fatigue, a full 55 percent involve drivers under the age of 25.

Falling asleep at the wheel is the most obvious example, but the effects of drowsy driving can be as simple as not paying attention while driving due to fatigue or sleep deprivation. The warning signs of drowsy driving include difficulty in keeping one's eyes open, repeated yawning, wandering or disconnected thoughts, drifting from the driving lane and failure to remember the last few miles driven.

To avoid drowsiness while driving, motorists should get adequate sleep before they drive and take breaks about every 100 miles or two hours on long trips. On long trips, drivers should also bring a passenger to help keep them awake and share the driving responsibilities. Motorists should never drink alcohol before driving, and drivers should always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications they might be taking, as some cause drowsiness.

Opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music should not be relied upon to overcome fatigue, and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. Drivers who experience drowsiness should pull over to find a safe place for a rest or to sleep for the night.

Driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's Web site at www.nysdmv.com or the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Web site at www.safeny.com.

Many thanks to The New York State DMV for this helpful information.

Feel free to call us for an insurance quote at Avalon Agency. For New York and Connecticut. Have a good one!
 



Talking About Flood Insurance..Again
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I know I posted about Flood Insurance on February 26, but with all that's been going on, I thought it would be a good idea to reference that post again.

So check it out at

If You Don't Have Flood Insurance

What To Do If You Have A Flood, If you do have Coverage

And feel free to check us out at our web site, where you can email us or request a Flood Quote.

Take care and Stay dry.

Your Friends At
Avalon Agency

Want Some Tips On Buying Insurance?
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Insurance still seems like a mystery to so many people. I always tell folks that insurance is a product, just like any other product. You need to know what you need and understand what you are getting. If there is a benefit to you, you buy it. Yes, most states now require a minimum of automobile insurance coverage in order to register and operate a car and those rules were put into place by state governments for various reasons. And mortgage companies require you to buy homeowner's insurance coverage, but this is to protect their collateral on a loan they have given you, and makes all the sense in the world. If you were to lend someone money to buy a certain item, and expected them to pay you back, AND that item is destroyed, would you expect them to not finish paying you because the item (the collateral) was gone? 

But if you purchase your home cash, there is nobody that can force you to purchase homeowners insurance. There are very few cases where you are forced to buy life insurance (maybe in the case of a divorce settlement, but I can't think of too many more). Who says you have to insure your jewelry or precious items? Nobody. It's your personal choice, as is writing higher than the minimum required auto insurance limits for your state.

There are good reasons, I believe, to write higher than the minimum auto limits. Here in NY the minimum is very low. However, if you are involved in an incident and you are sued, it is very rare that anyone will sue you for the minimum. The higher the amount they sue you for, the higher in the court system you go, affording less chances for an appeal. Of all the summons I have received on behalf of my clients over these 24 years in this business, I've never seen one for less than $500,000, and most have been for $1 million or more. It's simply what I've seen happen. I carry the highest limit I can afford on my insurance, and then I make sure to drive as safely as I can.

So where are the tips you say? Well, here they are:

1. Have a young driver just getting their license and you want to add them to your policy? Rates for young drivers are definitely higher. Females have caught up with males, and so their rates are almost identical now. Generally, a driver needs at least 3 years of experience before they can lower their rates. Here's what I recommend to my clients. Don't buy that new driver a new vehicle. In fact, if you are adding a third driver, it would behoove you to let them drive one of your cars for a while. In other words, 3 drivers? 2 cars. This makes them an occasional driver on one vehicle instead of a primary driver on another. Yes, the rate will increase on the vehicle they are driving occasionally, BUT the rate for them as primary on their own car will always be around twice what you are paying now for that car. Your son or daughter may want their own vehicle, and as long as you are willing to pay for it, that's fine. But this is one way to keep the rates down for a while, until they gain that much needed experience.

2. Staring in the 1990's, most insurance companies have used credit rating as part of the underwriting process. They've found that people who have low credit scores file a lot more claims. So it's important to stay on top of your credit report and make sure it is correct and up to date. Contact the reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, and check them out before you look for insurance.

3. If you have a claim against another person, and their company is repairing your vehicle, make sure you request NEW parts. Yes, your vehicle may still be worth a bit less because the accident occurred, but at least you won't have the added issue of generic aftermarket parts.

4. Your car is totaled? Insurers usually consider a car totaled when the cost of repairs exceed 70% of the vehicle's value. If the frame is damaged, you will most likely be told the car is a total loss. But you don't have to accept the company's first offer. If you don't agree with their comps, try Edmunds.com or Autotrader.com and find better ones. Or hire your own appraiser and request arbitration.

5. Your company has it's own repair shops? For years, we were told, specifically, not to recommend a shop for you to get your vehicle repaired at. I still refuse to do it. Why? Because it is your choice where you get your car fixed, and I never want to appear to be steering you to a specific shop. Nor do I want the responsibility if things don't go so well. I'm not in that business and know nothing about fixing cars. But many companies now have specific lists of repair shops, and one company actually owns its own chain. I don't think I have to mention the conflict this could present. You should have a choice of where you have your car repaired. That's my opinion. If you don't, have someone outside the network check the work once it is complete.

6. Online quotes have become very popular. Many companies offer this service now, and it can be a good starting point. But remember that most online quotes do not take into consideration all of the factors that WILL be used to determine your final rate, such as the driving record of ANYONE that lives in your home, your credit score, and your previous insurance history. And regarding that last item, don't just stop paying your premiums, even if you plan to go elsewhere. Don't let your policy cancel for not paying your premium. It looks bad down the road. Call your company or your agent and get the form needed to cancel the policy properly. It can save you a lot of aggravation in the long run.

These are just a few tips. Have any questions? Let me know. I'd be glad to try and answer them. Or visit us at Avalon Agency. We answer these kind of questions every day!


Got Flood Insurance? Some Recs if you have a flood...
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If you have flood insurance already, here are some tips from the National Flood plan on steps to take if one occurs:

If possible, photograph the outside of the premises, showing the any damage or flooding. Also, photograph the inside of the premises, showing the damaged property and the height of the water if your property was flooded.

Call your insurance agent to report your claim.  If you have seperate flood insurance, also call your flood insurance agent to report your claim. Your flood insurance agent will prepare a Notice of Loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to assist you.

Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the insurance adjuster's examination. If reasonably possible, protect the property from further damage.

When the adjuster visits your property, let him or her know if you need an advance or partial payment of loss. Again, good records can assist your insurance companies and the NFIP in giving you an advance payment. Use your inventory to work with the adjuster in presenting your claim.

Damaged property that presents a health hazard or might hamper local clean-up operations should be disposed of. Be sure to adequately describe discarded items so that, when the adjuster examines your losses and your records, these article are included in the documentation.

Good records speed up settlement of your claim. Compile a room-by-room inventory of missing or damaged goods, and include manufacturer's names, dates and places of purchases, and prices. Try to locate receipts or proofs of purchase, especially for major appliances, and note manufacturers' names, serial numbers, prices, and dates of purchase.

There are many other tips for dealing with a flood event. Please visit the NFIP site for more information.

CM
Avalon Agency



A Flood Could Never Happen Here…..right?
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Just because it has never happened doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Now, I definitely live by the adage that a life lived in fear is a life half lived, but maybe that’s because I’ve purchased the insurance policies I have and I feel pretty secure that I won’t end up in deep water should a flood happen.

 

Actually, statistics show that almost 25% of all floods happen in low to moderate risk areas. Floods happen in all fifty states. Things like changes in crop land use, added housing development, or heavy snowfalls that lead to large snow melt events have the potential for future flooding situations.

 


 

 

A big risk comes when a heavy rain from a mild storm accompanies rapidly melting snow, especially when the ground is frozen and unable to absorb water. The Mid-Atlantic region has already experienced this dangerous combination. In January 1996, a couple of weeks after a record-breaking blizzard, 2 to 5 inches of rain and the equivalent of 2 to 5 inches of liquid in the form of water stored in the deep snow pack resulted in widespread flooding in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. The Potomac River at Great Falls, Md., actually rose 85 feet in 48 hours during this event.

 

Right now, in a large area encompassing southern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, eastern West Virginia and northern Virginia, after two major storms, the snow pack has 4 inches or more of water stored in it. Of course, flooding is not imminent. Water goes in many directions, be it back into the atmosphere, into the water table, into river basins, etc. So thanks to nature doing what it is supposed to, flooding does not occur after every major snowstorm.

 

Another thing to remember is that your Homeowner’s insurance policy does NOT cover flood. And all flood insurance policies are subsidized by the government, so what THEY cover is pretty much set in stone and is as follows:

 

Flood is defined as:

 A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties, at least one of which is the policyholder's property from:

 --      Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
 -- Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
 -- Mudflow or
Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.

 

Many types of water damage that you might think would be considered a flood, are not. But the big ones are the ones you want to be covered for. And Flood Insurance is not all that expensive. Quotes are free, so if you have any concern about it at all, get one from your agent.

 

I’ll post some suggestions for what to do in a flood situation next.You can also check out the Flood Plan site.

 

Stay dry!

CM

Avalon Agency


Thinking of Changing Your Insurance Company? Wait!
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Every few minutes, be it on the television or radio, you hear another commercial for ANOTHER insurance carrier. Maybe it's making you think you need to make a change, find a new company, a new agent. Maybe you could really save all that money they say you can save if you just make that call.

I'll say again the same thing I always say: be as informed as you can possibly be. More information will never hurt you, and it will help you make a decision about your car and home insurance that will benefit you in the long run.

There are two primary ways to get your insurance coverage: through an independent agent/broker (someone that represents you as well as the company) and through what are known as "direct writers".  Some direct writers sell policies over the internet or by phone, while others use "captive" agents who only represent them. There is a give and take here, and knowing which is best for you is just a matter of how much work you are willing to put into dealing with your insurance carrier and issues.

An independent agent usually represents more than one insurance company and can shop rates for you with all of his/her carriers at once, looking for the policy that makes the most sense for you, both coverage and cost wise. They can also go to bat for you if you have a loss, as they have built up relationships with the companies they represent. It's also someone you can call when you need information or have a question about your coverage, and it's someone  who will know you, and come to know what you need as far as your insurance is concerned. Many independent agents now also offer internet and email access, the difference being that you know who is on the other end of the phone or your outlook every time you call or hit send.

For many people, the direct writer IS the way to go. Generally you will have an 800 number to call if you need service. You will not get the same person on the line each time, however if the savings are significant enough many people feel this is something they can deal with. If you purchase your coverage over the internet or by phone, this may remain your method of contact with the company going forward. With a direct writer you need to know the coverage that you want and be sure that is the coverage that you get. And be sure to confirm that the rate you are quoted is the rate you will be paying. Make sure your driving record and credit score have been checked before you make that first payment or sign that contract.

Insurance companies have 60 days to cancel your policy and if your credit and/or driving records are not checked beforehand, you could receive a notice of cancellation of your new policy, something that can make it more difficult to write coverage elsewhere once it is on your record. An independent agent will run these reports before they offer you a confirmed quote. Some direct writers will write your coverage first, take your payment, and THEN run the reports. They will cancel your coverage if they find something they don't like, but they won't cancel it flat. So even the short time and small amount of money they get from you is profit and it's not their problem where you find coverage next time. It's a lot like throwing spaghetti up against the wall. They know some will stick and some won't.

So just keep a sharp eye out for those deals that sound too good to be true. And educate yourself about your insurance product. Times are tough and it's your hard earned money. Make sure you are getting what you need and what you paid for.

CM
Avalon Agency

Earthquake Coverage - On Everyone's Mind
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With the recent, horrific events unfolding in Haiti, coverage for earthquake damage is a question that is suddenly popping up again with our customers. What is covered? Do we even have that coverage? What are the odds of it happening here, in the northeast? 

All valid questions, for sure. Earthquake coverage is an endorsement, in other words additional coverage, that you can add to your policy. You need to request the coverage and it can be pricey. It may also have its own deductible, separate from your homeowner's insurance deductible.

Here's how it works, in a nutshell: You purchase the Earthquake endorsement in an amount equal to the property or dwelling limit on your home. The company will offer you a deductible that is a percentage of that coverage, Let's say you have $100,000 coverage on  your home and the earthquake deductible is 3%. That means, for that amount of earthquake coverage, your deductible would be $3000 per loss. Generall, any additional aftershocks within a 72 hour period are considered part of the same earthquake, but this would be a per-loss deductible. Each company has filed with their state what deductibles they will offer, so your choices will be limited.

There are some policy forms that include earthquake coverage, but you really need to confirm this with your agent. The great thing is that it is available, if you want, to most people.

What are the odds of an earthquake occuring? We felt one here, outside of New York City, in 1983. I, like many other people, was awakened thinking the oil burner had blown up. It originated in Blue Mountain, New York, registered 5.3 on the Richter scale, and was felt in Canada and in 12 states. Luckily, it only caused minor damage near its epicenter. The USGS has a very interesting, informational site where you can read up on earthquakes.

So, if you are interested in finding out how much earthquake coverage would be to add to your Homeowner's insurance policy, call your agent. Or contact us at Avalon Agency if you are in New York or Connecticut. We'd be glad to give you information on this coverage.



Ok Enough About Insurance....
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And onto Beef Burgundy! This is one of my favorite, and most successful, recipes. It's a family recipe and everybody seems to love it!

Beef Burgundy

Ingredients:
4 LB Beef, trimmed (Best is beef loin flap meat because it stays tender)           
2 LB white mushrooms                                                      
6 Slices Bacon                                                                      
2 Crushed Garlic Cloves                                                     
2   10 1/2 oz cans of Consomme(not beef broth)
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 Cup Butter
2 tbsp Chopped Parsley
2 Bay leaves, crushed
1/8 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 Cup Burgundy Wine    

1. Slice the mushrooms. Trim the beef and cut it into bite sized pieces.
2. Get all your ingredients ready.
3. Fry the bacon in your stock pot. It needs to be in small pieces so you can cut it before or after frying.
4. Remove bacon from stock pot and leave bacon fat in pot.
5. Brown the beef in the bacon fat. Drain most of the liquid from the pot.
6. Once browned, add to the meat the: garlic, mushrooms, bay leaves, salt, pepper, thyme & parsley.
7. In a second pan,melt the butter. Then take off heat for a minute or two.
8. Add the flour to the butter off the heat. It will be a thick mixture. Then put it back on a low flame and brown slightly.
9. Once butter mix is SLIGHTLY brown, add consomme and burgundy. Don't burn it!
10. Stir butter/consomme/wine mix until thick.
11. Add this mix to the meat pot. Stir together. Cook 1 1/2 hours over medium to low flame.

This amount serves 8-10 people. For a family of 4, you'll have lovely leftovers for a day or two. As with many recipes, this one gets better with time.

Enjoy!

Your Friends at Avalon Agency Insurance

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