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Insurance tips offered for small businesses

Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is sharing insurance advice with small business owners across Ohio to assist them in understanding their insurance coverage provisions as they recover from the recent severe weather that blanketed the state.

“The first step for business owners who suffered an interruption in service and damaged products and property is to get in touch with their insurance agent,” Taylor said. “They will be able to assist in sorting out the particulars of the policy and help you get back on your feet.”

Taylor added that if business owners incurred damage they should collect copies of receipts for equipment, furniture and other valuable items and photos of the property to share with their agent.

Taylor offered the following insurance information for small business owners impacted by recent severe weather:


Property Insurance

Property insurance typically covers for damage or theft of the physical property and equipment of the small business.

If you own the physical structure of your business address, your property insurance should cover both the structure and its other assets.

If you lease the space you occupy, you are likely responsible for insuring your personal property/contents. As a leaseholder, you should have a contingency plan in case your landlord or your landlord’s insurer is not able to promptly repair the building where your business is located.

Business Interruption

Business interruption insurance covers lost earnings due to circumstances stated in the policy – such as weather or fire – that shut down a business for an extended period.

Certain events will trigger this insurance that generally covers expenses associated with running your business, such as payroll and utility bills, based on your company’s financial records.

Benefits under this kind of coverage may not be payable for a certain number of days after the business interruption has occurred. Make sure you have sufficient funds to tide you over for that time.

The insurance may also help pay for the extra expenses to keep your business in operation until you recover.

Taylor also shared this information to assist business owners in preparing for potential future severe weather or natural disasters:

General Planning

Is your business ready for disaster?

Do you have an emergency response plan for employees and customers?

Do you have copies of important papers and information stored off site?

Does the information include: receipts, photos, insurance policies, contact details for your agent or company, employee roster, etc.?

These documents will assist you when you file a claim later.

Minimize your insurance risks by:

Installing fire and security alarms.

Planning and training employees for emergencies on the premises, such as fires and evacuations.

Having employees keep wallets and other personal items in a secure place. Keeping the business’ cash and other valuables in a safe.

Keeping office space in good physical condition.

Review your insurance needs and your current policies:

Are your policies up-to-date with your insurance coverage needs and are the limits for each coverage at a level that protects your investment?

The Office of the Ohio Treasurer recently announced businesses that suffered damage can apply to obtain up to a three percent interest rate reduction on new or existing loans for construction or to improve cash flow through the Ohio Treasury’s Renew Ohio & Rebuild Ohio emergency financing programs.

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Taylor shares insurance claim tips to help those impacted by severe weather

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is advising Ohioans impacted by recent severe weather on how they should attend to damaged property and offered tips on the insurance claim filing process. Taylor also cautioned residents to beware of fraudulent contractors trying to take advantage of people in need of property repairs.

“We want to provide information to help those impacted understand the insurance claim filing process so they can get their lives back in order,” Taylor said. “Most homeowners and business insurance policies provide coverage for repairing damage caused by a windstorm, hail and tornado after the applicable deductibles are met and up to certain dollar amounts. Your agent or insurance company can help you understand the particulars of your policy while Department staff are available to help consumers experiencing problems with their claims.”

She added that protection for vehicles against damage caused by windstorm, hail and tornado is provided through an auto policy’s “other than collision” or “comprehensive” coverage. The Department has created a Severe Storm Recovery Toolkit under the Featured Links section on its website, http://www.insurance.ohio.gov. It includes claims filing tips, FAQs about windstorms and insurance, and tips on how to avoid a deceitful contractor.

Taylor said that if you have suffered damage from a storm, you should:
• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can.
• Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim.
• Back up claims with written estimates.
Taylor offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud:
• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.

OII offers answers to wind and rain coverage questions

Heavy rain and gusty winds from June 29th storms serve as reminder that many of these losses are covered by insurance. Common losses that are typically covered by insurance include damage caused by downed-trees and damage to roofs, walls and ceilings caused by wind and downpours. Some losses are covered under a homeowners policy and others may be covered by policy endorsements.

The Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) advises checking with your insurance agent or company regarding coverage questions and limitations, especially those related to water. Some weather-related damages are covered under a standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policy; some are covered to a specific limit; while other coverages may be excluded but can be added through a policy endorsement or a separate flood insurance policy.

OII provides the following insurance coverage information.

WATER COVERAGE – HOME
Water backup

Coverage for sewer drain backup is available through many insurance companies as a homeowners or renters policy endorsement. Coverage limits and costs vary by carrier so it’s important to understand what is – and isn’t – covered under this endorsement.

Based on a recent OII survey, most insurers offer a water backup endorsement. Coverage limits range from $1,000–$100,000 with costs varying from $30–$485 annually depending on the type of coverage and limits selected. Some insurers offer options for this coverage with a basic endorsement covering major appliances (furnace, water heater/softener, washer/dryer, sump pump) while a broader endorsement extends coverage to finished basements including carpeting, furniture and electronics.

Wall and ceiling water leaks

If roofs and gutters have been damaged by a covered loss (i.e. wind, tornado, hail) interior wall and ceiling leaks from seeping rain are covered by homeowners insurance. Deductibles apply.

Flood insurance

Damage caused by flooding is excluded from homeowners and renters insurance policies. This protection is available through the purchase of a flood insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent or company for specifics or visit http://www.floodsmart.gov to assess your flood risk, estimate the cost for a flood insurance policy and locate a flood insurance agent in your area. There’s a 30-day waiting period before new or modified flood insurance policies go into effect. Click here for additional info on flood insurance.


WIND (TORNADO) COVERAGE – HOME

Damage caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies. Homes or belongings damaged as a result of a fallen tree due to wind or lightning strikes – whether it’s your tree or a neighbor’s tree – are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Tree removal costs are also covered when being removed from the damaged structure. Deductibles apply.

Debris removal

Typically the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500/tree) under the following circumstances:
• The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the peril of weight of ice, snow or sleet, or a neighbor’s tree was downed under the same circumstances and
• The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed, or
• The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured’s driveway or handicap access ways.

Reasonable repairs

Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Save these receipts.

Damage to trees

Residential trees, shrubs, plants or lawns are not covered when damaged by wind or hail. Limited coverage is provided if damages are caused by fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft. The limit is typically 5% of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.

VEHICLE COVERAGE

If severe weather threatens, move your car under cover to prevent damage from high winds, flying debris and hail. Vehicles pot-marked by hail or damaged by flooding are covered under the “other-than-collision” (comprehensive) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn. Deductibles apply.

TIPS

Consumer insurance tips

• Closely inspect property and cars for damage.
• Photograph any damage and inventory losses, especially if heavy, widespread damage has occurred.
• Secure property from further damage or theft (save receipts and provide to your insurer).
• Contact your insurance agent regarding coverage clarification and damage assessment regarding a potential claim.
• Consider obtaining a written repair estimate prior to filing a claim as repair costs may not exceed your deductible. If the loss amount is close to your deductible, you might consider absorbing the loss on your own.
• If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss, check your policy for “additional living expense” or “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover additional expenses (like motel & dining) up to a stated amount.
• Create a home inventory and keep it up-to-date. A free downloadable program is at http://www.knowyourstuff.org.
• Schedule an ‘annual insurance checkup’ with your insurance professional. Review all your insurance needs (such as a new teen driver in the household or new home improvements/remodeling, etc.). Be sure to ask what’s not covered by the policy to avoid confusion should a loss arise in the future.

Preventing Water Damage

• Never store perishables or valuables in basements that you can’t afford to lose or replace (i.e. photos, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc.).
• Do not store items near basement drains.
• Check storm drain lines to make sure they’re clear of debris, like roots and dirt.
• Make sure your sump pump and/or dehumidifier are in working order.
• Use shelving to store items several inches above the potential water level.
• Make sure your home’s downspouts are extended far enough away from the foundation to prevent water from entering your basement through the walls.
• Grade the property around your home to drain water away from the house.
• If you have water seepage following storms, take corrective measures to alleviate future problems. For instance, install a sump pump or have a waterproofing expert take a look at your situation to see what can be done to eliminate the potential of major water damage losses.

Hiring a Home Contractor

• Beware of rip offs. Carefully check the background of contractors and others who promise “cheap” repairs. OII suggests checking with family and friends for referrals and contact your local home builders association or the Better Business Bureau.
• Obtain several estimates and request customer references. Be sure estimates include all contractor info, including the contractor’s name, address and phone number. Click here to view OII’s home repair tip sheet.


Food Spoilage

Homeowners insurance policies differ, but food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.). Some insurers offer a “refrigerated property coverage” endorsement that provides coverage – typically up to $500 – for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power. Contact your insurance professional to see if coverage applies. The Ohio State University offers suggestions for proper food handling in the event of power outages.

The OII is a trade association representing insurance companies and agent groups for the property/casualty insurance industry. Its primary objective is to help Ohioans achieve a better understanding of insurance and safety issues.

With winter here, Taylor urges Ohioans to check insurance coverage and policies

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is encouraging Ohioans to check insurance coverage and policies related to winter weather. Taylor reminds Ohioans that winterizing homes and cars will likely save time and money.

“It is important for all of us to check our vehicles and property for winter, “Taylor said. “I would encourage everyone to review their insurance policies. To better understand coverage options and the claims process, contact the Ohio Department of Insurance, Consumer Services Division.”

Winter in Ohio can be severe and unpredictable. A record amount of snowfall hit the state in 2010 and several other storms over the last decade caused millions of dollars in insured losses.

Taylor suggests Ohioans review insurance policies and communicate with their insurance agents. Ohio Department of Insurance representatives are available to answer questions and explain the claims process by calling toll free 1-800-686-1526. Information is also available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.

Taylor recommends Ohioans take the following steps:

Home Safety Tips:
• Look for missing shingles and broken, overhanging tree limbs on the roof.
• From the attic, inspect the underside of the roof for signs of leaks.
• Clean gutters and downspouts.
• Check water pipe insulation to prevent winter freezes.
• Check heating system and make sure heat is being delivered to all outlets.
• Make sure dryer vent is unobstructed.
• Assemble emergency supplies, including non-perishable food, water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio.

Vehicle Safety Tips:
• Have a mechanic check your vehicle to make sure all systems are running properly.
• Make sure tires have adequate tread and air pressure.
• Keep windshield wiper fluid tank filled and carry an extra container of fluid in your vehicle.
• Carry a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal.
• Maintain at least a half tank of gasoline.
• Carry food, water, blankets and a first aid kit.

Claim Tips for Home Damage:
• Call your insurance company as soon as possible.
• Try to protect your property and salvage what you can.
• Closely inspect property for damage. Note and photograph any damage and losses, which will assist in settling claims.
• Be sure your agent knows how to contact you if you cannot stay in your home.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover such expenses up to a stated amount.
• Be sure everything is considered in the claim. Back up claims with written estimates.

If You’re in an Accident:
• Be safe – Make sure you stay away from moving traffic after an accident. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. Move your vehicle out of harm’s way if you are able.
• Assist others if necessary – Check on passengers in your car and in the other vehicle(s) and see if they need help, but only if it doesn’t put you in a dangerous situation. Call emergency personnel if necessary.
• Take photos – Try to take as many photos as possible of the damage. Also, sketch a diagram of the accident, making sure to label your car, any other vehicles involved, streets, highways and other points of interest.
• Exchange information – Obtain the name, address, phone number, date of birth from the other drivers involved in the accident. Also, get the driver’s insurance information, including policy number. If the driver of the car is not the owner of the vehicle, get the insurance information of the vehicle as well. Do not discuss who is at fault or other details in relation to the cause of the accident.
• Get witness information – Get the contact information of those who may have seen the accident. Your insurance company and/or police may want to speak to them later.
• File a police report – If the accident is not serious, you do not need to call the police to have them write a report at the scene. Police may be too busy to respond to a minor accident. If this is the case, you can move your vehicles to the side of the road, exchange information and file a report at a later time. If an officer does come to the scene, make sure to request his official identification information such as name and badge number.

Ohio Insurance Institute offers insurance coverage info related to wind and rain

COLUMBUS – Heavy rain and gusty winds from yesterday’s storms serve as reminder that many of these losses are covered by insurance. Common losses that are typically covered by insurance include damage caused by downed-trees and damage to roofs, walls and ceilings caused by wind and downpours. Some losses are covered under a homeowners policy and others may be covered by policy endorsements.

The Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) advises checking with your insurance agent or company regarding coverage questions and limitations, especially those related to water. Some weather-related damages are covered under a standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policy; some are covered to a specific limit; while other coverages may be excluded but can be added through a policy endorsement or a separate flood insurance policy.

OII provides the following insurance coverage information.

WATER COVERAGE – HOME
Water backup

Coverage for sewer drain backup is available through many insurance companies as a homeowners or renters policy endorsement. Coverage limits and costs vary by carrier so it’s important to understand what is – and isn’t – covered under this endorsement.

Based on a recent OII survey, most insurers offer a water backup endorsement. Coverage limits range from $1,000–$100,000 with costs varying from $30–$485 annually depending on the type of coverage and limits selected. Some insurers offer options for this coverage with a basic endorsement covering major appliances (furnace, water heater/softener, washer/dryer, sump pump) while a broader endorsement extends coverage to finished basements including carpeting, furniture and electronics.

Wall and ceiling water leaks
If roofs and gutters have been damaged by a covered loss (i.e. wind, tornado, hail) interior wall and ceiling leaks from seeping rain are covered by homeowners insurance. Deductibles apply.

Flood insurance
Damage caused by flooding is excluded from homeowners and renters insurance policies. This protection is available through the purchase of a flood insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent or company for specifics or visit http://www.floodsmart.gov to assess your flood risk, estimate the cost for a flood insurance policy and locate a flood insurance agent in your area. There’s a 30-day waiting period before new or modified flood insurance policies go into effect. Click here for additional info on flood insurance.

WIND (TORNADO) COVERAGE – HOME
Damage caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies. Homes or belongings damaged as a result of a fallen tree due to wind or lightning strikes – whether it’s your tree or a neighbor’s tree – are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Tree removal costs are also covered when being removed from the damaged structure. Deductibles apply.

Debris removal
Typically the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500/tree) under the following circumstances:
• The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the peril of weight of ice, snow or sleet, or a neighbor’s tree was downed under the same circumstances and
• The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed, or
• The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured’s driveway or handicap access ways.

Reasonable repairs
Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Save these receipts.

Damage to trees
Residential trees, shrubs, plants or lawns are not covered when damaged by wind or hail. Limited coverage is provided if damages are caused by fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft. The limit is typically 5% of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.

VEHICLE COVERAGE
If severe weather threatens, move your car under cover to prevent damage from high winds, flying debris and hail. Vehicles pot-marked by hail or damaged by flooding are covered under the “other-than-collision” (comprehensive) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn. Deductibles apply.

TIPS
Consumer insurance tips

• Closely inspect property and cars for damage.
• Photograph any damage and inventory losses, especially if heavy, widespread damage has occurred.
• Secure property from further damage or theft (save receipts and provide to your insurer).
• Contact your insurance agent regarding coverage clarification and damage assessment regarding a potential claim.
• Consider obtaining a written repair estimate prior to filing a claim as repair costs may not exceed your deductible. If the loss amount is close to your deductible, you might consider absorbing the loss on your own.
• If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss, check your policy for “additional living expense” or “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover additional expenses (like motel & dining) up to a stated amount.
• Create a home inventory and keep it up-to-date. A free downloadable program is at http://www.knowyourstuff.org.
• Schedule an ‘annual insurance checkup’ with your insurance professional. Review all your insurance needs (such as a new teen driver in the household or new home improvements/remodeling, etc.). Be sure to ask what’s not covered by the policy to avoid confusion should a loss arise in the future.

Preventing Water Damage
• Never store perishables or valuables in basements that you can’t afford to lose or replace (i.e. photos, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc.).
• Do not store items near basement drains.
• Check storm drain lines to make sure they’re clear of debris, like roots and dirt.
• Make sure your sump pump and/or dehumidifier are in working order.
• Use shelving to store items several inches above the potential water level.
• Make sure your home’s downspouts are extended far enough away from the foundation to prevent water from entering your basement through the walls.
• Grade the property around your home to drain water away from the house.
• If you have water seepage following storms, take corrective measures to alleviate future problems. For instance, install a sump pump or have a waterproofing expert take a look at your situation to see what can be done to eliminate the potential of major water damage losses.

Hiring a Home Contractor
• Beware of rip offs. Carefully check the background of contractors and others who promise “cheap” repairs. OII suggests checking with family and friends for referrals and contact your local home builders association or the Better Business Bureau.
• Obtain several estimates and request customer references. Be sure estimates include all contractor info, including the contractor’s name, address and phone number.

Food Spoilage
Homeowners insurance policies differ, but food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.). Some insurers offer a “refrigerated property coverage” endorsement that provides coverage – typically up to $500 – for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power. Contact your insurance professional to see if coverage applies. The Ohio State University offers suggestions for proper food handling in the event of power outages.