What to Expect In a Life Insurance Exam

If you are reasonably healthy with no preexisting medical conditions, it is likely that your best bet for getting great life insurance at a low rate is to take a physical exam. This exam determines if you are prone to illnesses that would make you a higher risk to insure, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc. We’ve put together a list of things to expect from your exam so you can be better prepared to take it.

When, Where, and How Long

The exam itself won’t be much different than a routine exam with your doctor. However, there is no set office location that insurance companies operate out of, and they know that scheduling an appointment can be difficult. Therefore, they will send out a paramedical technician either to your home or workplace, depending on your preference. You’ll want to schedule the exam early in the morning if you can, because fasting blood work will be required. The exam itself should only take about 30 minutes.

Before Your Exam

To get the best results possible from your physical, drink plenty of water the day before and the morning of your exam. Also, skip your morning coffee – caffeine will elevate your blood pressure, which could mean a difference in your test results and cost of premium, even if you aren’t prone to blood pressure issues! Similarly, avoid alcohol, nicotine, excessive salt, and fatty foods a few days before your exam, as these substances can negatively affect your blood work results. Make sure to study up on your medical history and be ready to list any medications you take, as well.

During Your Exam

During the exam, your tech will perform routine health checks you would normally expect from a doctor: height/weight, pulse, blood pressure, blood work, and a urine sample. If you are an older applicant, your technician may ask you to undergo an EKG to measure your heart’s electrical activity. These tests are performed to check for the following:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Nicotine usage
  • Recreational drugs
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Blood diseases such as HIV and hepatitis

After Your Exam

The results from your paramedical exam will be given to the insurance company and taken into consideration along with your age, family medical history, and lifestyle. If all goes as it should, expect to hear back with your actual quote within a few weeks.

If you’ve been keeping healthy and prepared for the exam properly, you should pass the exam and score a lower premium on your policy! If you’re concerned that the results of your exam are inaccurate, you can ask your carrier to schedule a second exam. This will not do away with the results of the first exam, but the two will be combined and your new premium will be based on the composite.

Keep In Touch With Your Agent!

If you have any questions at all before or after your paramedical exam, don’t hesitate to give your independent agent a call. Not only are they experts in the insurance field, but they can direct you to the right carriers for your case to help you get the best price on life insurance, no matter the state of your health.

How to Handle a Parking Lot Accident

Parking lots are considered one of the most dangerous places to drive for a reason. With limited visibility, crowded spaces, and mediocre signage, parking lots are hot spots for fender benders on a daily basis. When an accident happens in a parking lot, there are typically three characters who have an important role to play in resolving the wreck quickly and calmly: the driver, the victim, and the witness. Here, we break down what you should do in this situation according to your role:

If You Are the Driver

As the offending driver, there are several scenarios you can find yourself in here. The number one thing to remember is, no matter what, don’t drive off! You may be panicking and thinking you can get away with it, but hit-and-runs are pretty serious offenses in most states, and parking lot surveillance cameras are more common than you’d think.

If the car was parked, go inside the establishment and try to track down the driver. The best way to do this is to get a customer service representative to describe the victim’s car and make an announcement over the intercom. If the driver doesn’t appear, it’s time to take all the matters into your own hands. If the damage to the car is as minor as a scratch or small dent, write a note that includes your name, number, and explanation of the accident and secure it onto the other driver’s car. If the damage is more extensive, call the police to come document the accident in the parking lot. This professional documentation helps police track down the other driver, and it can protect you in the long run when it’s time to file an insurance claim.

If You’re the Victim

If your car is the one that got hit, it is important to contact your auto insurance agent as soon as you can. The faster an accident is reported, the more accurate the claim will be. If the other driver is still at the scene, make sure you write down their name, phone number, driver’s license number, address, and insurance company.

Whether the other driver is still there or not, record evidence of the accident. Take pictures of the damage and look for witnesses in the parking lot. Before you leave, go into the store and ask the manager if he or she has any security camera footage you can check. If the other driver left, this last step can help you and the police track them down!

If You’re a Witness

As a witness, you may feel like you aren’t involved in the accident, but you actually play a very important role here. If you see a parking lot accident happen, you should provide assistance to the victim and driver. If the offending driver drove away, then help the other driver document the damage. Also provide them with your contact information so the police or insurance company can contact you later if needed. Having a witness on hand can really help the victim later on. It isn’t against the law to turn your head and not help out, but it is the right thing to do and a generally accepted social rule to stop and help if you witness an accident.

5 Surprising Household Hazards

We know you do everything you can to keep your house safe, especially if you have small children or adventurous pets. You’ve tied up the drawstrings on your blinds, placed non-slip grips on the shower floor, secured your cleaning liquids in an upper cabinet, and changed the batteries in the smoke detector, so everything checks out as safe, right? Well, not necessarily.

There will always be hazards anywhere you go, so home will never be completely safe, but here are a few common household hazards that are easy to miss, and easy to fix.

  1. Trash Cans

A trash can that closes well is important to keep curious noses and little hands from digging into rubbish that could contain a multitude of hazards. Items like broken glass, toxic substances, and spoiled food can still pose a threat, even after they’re in the trash can. So, forego the cheap flip lids and purchase a lid that closes well enough to keep kids and dogs away.

  1. Broken Garage Door

Electronic garage doors are made to sense objects (or people!) underneath them and retract to keep injuries from occurring. Like all electronic things, garage doors experience malfunctions and breakdowns which, in this case, can be harmful or even deadly. If your garage door starts acting funny or experiences some damage, call a professional to come service it for you – an important fix of this magnitude shouldn’t be left up to instructions from the internet.

  1. Window Screens

You want to throw those windows open with abandon because the weather outside is irresistible! We get it, but don’t think that a child is safe just because the window has a screen. The small, transparent frame that keeps bugs from getting in isn’t enough to catch the weight of a falling or pushing person, so make sure the windows on your upper floors have bars! At least until the kids get older.

  1. Treadmills

Treadmills can easily be one of the most dangerous items in your house for both children and adults if they aren’t operated with care. Falls on a treadmill can result in traction burns, broken bones, pinched skin and snagged clothing, and more. Every treadmill should come with an attached safety magnet to be worn during workouts. Make sure every user wears the clip, and turn on the safety switch or unplug the treadmill when it isn’t in use.

  1. Electronic Appliances

From blow dryers to microwaves, electronic appliances have the ability to malfunction and cause fires or electrocution. Always pay attention to any unusual display messages on your appliances, and carefully follow instructions for proper use. If you know you’ll be running many outlets at once, invest in a surge protector to protect you and your other appliances.

And Don’t Forget Home Insurance

No matter what happens in your house, a good home insurance policy with liability coverage will always have your back. Independent agents have the ability to shop multiple carriers for good policies that fit your unique risks and budget! So, if you don’t have your home insurance policy yet, get in touch with your independent agent to find the right coverage for you.

How Whole Life Insurance Can Be Useful During Your Lifetime

Permanent life insurance, sometimes referred to as whole life insurance, is a policy guaranteed to remain in force for the insured’s entire lifetime as long as the premiums are paid. While it serves its purpose of helping your beneficiaries when you pass away, it can also help you financially during your lifetime in several ways.

Fixed Premiums & Tax Free Benefits

The premiums on a whole life insurance policy are usually higher than premiums on term life, but the good news is that whole life premiums are fixed. The premium is based on the age of issue, and they usually do not increase with age. The policyholder either pays premiums until death, or establishes a limited pay policy that can be paid up in 10 to 20 years, or by age 65. The death benefit paid by a whole life insurance policy typically passes on to your beneficiaries income tax-free.

Opportunities for Policy Dividends

When insurance companies experience better-than-expected performance, they sometimes pay whole life insurance policyholders a return of premium. These dividends are never a guarantee, but they can be a nice surprise to increase a policy’s death benefit or cash value! What you receive from the dividends is also not usually considered taxable income, so the reward is 100% yours to keep.

Cash Value

The cash value of a whole life insurance policy makes it valuable to you long before death. A whole life insurance policy allows for accumulation of cash value on a tax deferred basis over time. The policyholder can use this cash value to help cover unexpected expenses, debts, or simply go towards retirement income. Unpaid loans and withdrawals will reduce the cash value and the death benefit, but utilizing this option may be worth it if you find yourself in a tight spot financially.

Get the Coverage You Need Today

Are your beneficiaries protected in the event of your death? If not, it’s time to look into a life insurance policy. The benefits in this blog accompany a whole life insurance policy, but there are multiple coverage options available depending on your needs. Contact our independent agents to get your questions answered and get on the road to great coverage!

Will My Home Insurance Policy Cover My Dog’s Breed?

As dog owners, we love our furry little companions more than anything. Unfortunately, some insurance companies don’t if your pooch falls under certain breed categories. There are a number of breeds that many insurance companies are hesitant to offer coverage for because statistics show that they are more likely to bite and cause injuries. This, of course, can cause problems when it comes time to buy home insurance. Be prepared to work with an independent agent who can shop multiple carriers if you own a full-breed or mix of one of these breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Rottweilers
  3. Doberman Pinschers
  4. Great Danes
  5. Perro de Presa Canarios
  6. Chow Chows
  7. German Sheperds
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malimutes
  10. Siberian Husky
  11. Bull Mastiffs
  12. Wolf Hybrids

What to Keep In Mind

The average claim payout for dog bites is $30,000. If you’re found responsible for rehabilitation costs and/or lost wages, not to mention your legal fees, you could quickly find yourself in a lot of financial trouble. Your homeowners policy should include liability coverage, typically starting somewhere around $100,000. If you own a dog that made it on this list, ask your provider how much more it would cost to upgrade that amount to $200,000 or more.

On that same note, some carriers may require you to purchase an umbrella policy if your dog is labeled as an aggressive breed or has a bite history. Whether it is required or not, you may want to consider this additional policy because it raises your liability coverage close to the $1 million mark! Plus, it could come in handy for any incident that occurs on your property, not just dog bites.

Prevention

Every dog is a liability, regardless of its breed. Reduce the likelihood of a dog-related lawsuit by socializing & training your dog early on, playing non-aggressive games, and being aware of your dog’s behavior and removing it from situations it finds stressful. As always, make sure to spay/neuter your dog, heavily supervise it around small children, and keep it securely fenced or on a leash when outside.

If you own one of these breeds, it is going to be more difficult to procure home insurance, especially at a good rate. If you’re in the market for a new home right now, contact our agency to get ahead of the curve and find a company that will insure your home (and your pup) at an affordable rate!

Will My Family History Affect My Life Insurance Rates?

You’ve probably heard that you can’t get good rates on life insurance if you have an existing medical condition. But what if you’re a healthy person with a not-so-healthy family history? Unfortunately, those odds of pre-existing conditions can be stacked against your life insurance premium as well. However, there are benefits to being educated about what to expect and how to get the best deals on life insurance regardless of your family history, so we’ve outlined some advice for you below:

Know What Underwriters Are Looking For

To fully understand what you’re getting into when you apply for a life insurance policy, you need to know what policy underwriters consider a risk and what they don’t. There are a lot of disorders that are known to recur through generations more than others. If one of your immediate family members has been diagnosed with any of these inherited conditions, the policy underwriter may consider you more of a risk because your likelihood of developing that same condition is higher. This, of course, can lead to higher premiums.

Some inherited conditions that underwriters may consider include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Blood disorders
  • Alcoholism/drug dependency
  • Neurological disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • And more…

Don’t Try to Get Out of It

We understand it can be frustrating knowing that your premiums will likely increase because of your family history, even if you’re healthy as a horse. But knowingly omitting information in the hopes that the insurance company won’t notice is a really bad idea. When reviewing your life insurance applications, the companies access your Medical Information Bureau reports. This report includes your family’s medical history. When the insurance company sees the information, they will automatically raise your risk class and premium that you will be offered. This may come as a real shock if they quoted you for a lot less originally! If there are too many discrepancies between your application and your medical information, the company may refuse to cover you altogether.

If you do manage to pull a fast one on the insurance company, know that they will investigate your claim upon your death when you’re unable to control any course of action. During this time, if they find out you lied about your history when you applied, they can reduce or completely deny any payout to your beneficiaries. Would it then be worth it to have had that lower premium for so many years? Probably not.

The best thing to do is be upfront with your independent agent about your family history and let them shop their carriers for rates that won’t run you dry.

Realize That the Underwriting Process Varies by Carrier

This is one of the big reasons why you should start your search with an independent insurance agent who works with the big companies and has a good idea of their varying processes. For example, some insurance carriers only consider your parents’ health history, but not your grandparents or siblings. If your family’s health history is already affecting your health, you may consider going with a no exam policy. In this case, the premiums tend to be higher, but some companies may give you a preferred plus rating if your parent did not die before age 60 from a serious medical condition. Other carriers won’t give you that benefit and will only qualify you for standard coverage.

These policy differences are precisely why shopping around and comparing your options is so important, and that is what we’re here for! As independent agents, we work to give you good options for your life insurance policy, despite your family’s medical history. It is possible to take care of your beneficiaries even when the odds are stacked against you. Contact us today to learn more about the perks of working with an independent insurance agency!

How to Teach Your Teen to Drive in Wet Conditions

Every driver’s safety hinges upon their skill behind the wheel. If it is your first time training a teenager on how to drive in the rain, it’s a good idea to teach them everything they need to be aware of both before and during the driving session. Many of these are things that experienced drivers do on autopilot every time it rains, so it may be easy to forget to teach a young driver.

We’ve put together some important points for you to include in your training, so your teen doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises when he or she hits the road in the rain.

Before Hitting the Road: Know What to Check For

How Are the Tires?

  • The car you have your teen driving probably has tires that are in good condition, but teach them how to measure a tire’s tread using a gauge anyway. When they’re out on their own, they need to know that a worn down tire doesn’t have enough tread depth to evacuate standing water from between the road surface and the tire. They should know how to tell when it’s time for a replacement.
  • Also teach them how to check the pressure. Tires that have too much or too little pressure can lead to reduced traction, early tread wear, or tire failure.

How is Your Visibility?

  • Show your teen how to check the quality of their windshield wipers. If they leave streaks across the windshield, they are probably old and worn down. Good windshield wipers are critical for being able to see clearly in heavy rain.
  • Make sure your teen understands how important it is to run their headlights in the rain. Many experienced drivers still don’t abide by this rule of the road! Being seen by other cars is arguably one of the most important parts of driving in the rain. Show your teen how the daytime running lights, while useful, don’t activate the rear tail lights. Without rear tail lights, it can be difficult for other drivers to see your teen’s car in heavy rain, and their chances of getting struck from behind are increased.

On the Road: Things to Always Keep in Mind

  • Slow down! Driving slower in the rain is crucial, especially when it hasn’t been raining for very long and the fresh water is mixing with slippery “road sludge.” A wet, slick road surface offers less grip compared to a dry surface, and braking distances can double.
  • Teach your teen to use the air conditioner to keep their windshield from fogging up. The A/C dehumidifies the car and keeps the windows clear. If the A/C doesn’t work, tell them to crack the back windows to allow air to circulate.
  • Make sure your teen understands how longer braking distances can really put them in danger driving in town or on the interstate. They should know to keep a further distance from the vehicle in front of them, so they have plenty of time to stop if traffic suddenly slows down.
  • Teenagers can be nervous and use jerky movements while driving. This will improve over time, but make sure your teen knows that smooth steering inputs are paramount, especially in the rain. Jerky or rushed steering can cause loss of control on a slick road. Show them how important it is to always look far ahead and anticipate every action they’ll take on their journey.

Everyone was a new driver once, but it is evident by the amount of needless accidents that not everyone was properly taught. Rainy weather is one of the most dangerous conditions to drive in, but making sure that your teen is prepared and confident will give you both peace of mind and decrease their likelihood of getting in an accident. If your teen hasn’t started driving yet, make sure they’re prepared to legally hit the road with car insurance!

How Can Your Business Be Prepared for a Fire?

Even though it made for one hilarious episode of The Office, a fire at your business is no laughing matter. Hopefully, you’ve insured your equipment and space, but even so a fire can be a major setback and, even worse, can seriously endanger everyone present. Fire prevention and safety should be practiced and encouraged in the workplace, and there are specific measures that can be taken for everyone’s safety. It is vital that everyone in the workplace is familiar with your fire plan, and there is equipment that every business should have handy.

What is your fire plan?

While the equipment and materials in your business may be costly, nothing is more important than everyone’s individual safety. That means that your first priority should be educating each employee in fire safety and devise an escape plan in the event of a fire. Any decent sized building should have an evacuation plan displayed for everyone to see. Of course, never include elevators in these plans.

Several local governments can arrange for a fire marshall to visit your business and instruct everyone. Sometimes, if a marshall cannot visit, a building’s property manager can assess the structure and inform everyone of the best ways to escape in the event of a fire.

Equipment

Almost every fire code that you’ll ever be subjected to will require at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your business. It’s never a bad idea to have more though, since they can put out small fires quickly and save valuable equipment from being damaged. Fire blankets are not always required, but having one on hand could save someone’s life.

Most laws will also demand that you have a sprinkler system and smoke detectors in place. Make sure to test the batteries in your smoke detectors routinely, since they can be your first indication of danger. In some scenarios, particle detectors capable of alerting you of other chemicals may be a wise investment. Lastly, having a first-aid kit in a known location, like the kitchen, can be instrumental in treating any injuries caused in a small fire.

Training

The correct response to a fire is the best way to combat it. Make sure your employees know to call 911 in case of a fire and remain calm. At least one fire drill should be conducted each year, just to be positive that everyone knows how to exit the building properly.

If there are no employees trained in first aid, then hosting a workshop or class could prove valuable. When going over fire safety, teach everyone how to operate a fire extinguisher. Lastly, make sure that all of your employees know how to deal with different types of fires, such as grease and electrical fires.

Fires are unpredictable and can cause a lot of damage, so being ready to prevent or handle one can save lives and money. For more tips and advice, contact one of our agents. If you aren’t insured in case of a fire, we can help with that as well. Preparation is key to fire safety!

How to Lower Your Premiums on Home Insurance

As long as you own a home, homeowners insurance doesn’t go away. What’s worse is that insurance premiums have the tendency to increase over the years. Whether you are shopping for homeowners insurance for your first home or looking to decrease your premiums for your current home, here are a few tips to help you make your insurance more affordable.

Improve Your Home Security

By decreasing vulnerabilities in your home, you can potentially cut your insurance premiums by as much as 15-25 percent. Methods of improving your home security can include adding a smoke detector, burglar alarm, dead-bolt locks, sprinkler system, and professionally installed storm shutters and doors. With these added safety measures in place, your house is less likely to receive damage from unforeseen instances such as storms, floods, fire, or burglary. If you do make these safety upgrades to your home, keep a record of your receipts in case your provider wants proof before lowering your premium.

Know Your Location

If you haven’t bought your home yet, check the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report of the home you are interested in. These reports will be able to tell you the property’s insurance claim history so you can be familiar with any problems the house has had.

Increase Your Deductible

A deductible is the amount of risk you agree to accept before the insurance company starts paying on a claim. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your insurance premiums. You could save up to 25% on your premiums simply by doubling your deductible.

Bundle Your Home and Auto Policies

If you already have auto insurance, consider either purchasing your home insurance with the same provider or moving your auto insurance to your new home insurance provider. More often than not, you can save a lot of money on your premiums by bundling the two with the same provider. In fact, bundling can save you anywhere from 5 to 15 percent on your monthly payment.

Determine if Loyalty Matters

Insurance providers typically reward their loyal customers by offering policy discounts. Some insurers will reduce your premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. However, while loyalty has its benefits, some providers offer cheaper discounts to new clients who switch over to their agency.
Make sure you do not ignore such opportunities by occasionally checking your price with other policies that could potentially be cheaper from the beginning.

Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need

This might sound obvious, but don’t have insurance for things you don’t need to cover. For example, if you aren’t in a flood zone, flood insurance may not be the best option for you. Or, if you don’t have any expensive jewelry, you shouldn’t need a jewelry policy. So unless you have a good reason for having a type of insurance, you probably shouldn’t have it. With that being said, it would also be a good idea to reevaluate your coverage each year to make sure your policies are relevant to your current lifestyle. Having one that is unneeded will only make you spend unnecessary money that could be used elsewhere.

Shop Around

Odds are that you aren’t going to pick the cheapest insurance provider with your first choice. In order to make sure you don’t pay more than necessary, shop around either before purchasing home insurance or before renewing your current policy. Ask your friends who they are covered through and check consumer guides to be sure you get the lowest rates that fit your current situation.

To be sure you get the lowest premiums on your homeowners insurance, contact our agency today. We’ll do the shopping for you to get you the best coverage at the best price, whether it’s your first time or you need a readjustment upon renewal time.

How Will Adding a Teenage Driver Impact My Car Insurance?

So, your teen is ready to get their license. It’s an exciting time for them! And maybe for you too, although you may have a number of concerns when it comes to adding a less experienced driver to your insurance plan. There’s the matter of their safety, whether or not they will break certain rules and restrictions on the road, as well as how they will affect your car insurance rates.

Keeping a teenage driver covered under an insurance plan can be extremely expensive, but going without insurance is not an option. While adding a teen driver may be pricey and stressful, there are many ways to lessen the cost. Below are just a few ways you can keep costs down while sending your new driver out on the road.

Mentor by Practicing Good Driving Habits Yourself

If you’re not practicing good driving habits yourself, how can you be your teen’s best mentor? To avoid additional costs, you’ll want to do everything in your power to help them avoid an accident. Have your teen strictly follow safety practices when driving such as putting their phone away, limiting distractions, and buckling up. Make sure they know and follow basic rules of the road every time they drive with you, and hold yourself accountable as well.

Increase Your Liability Coverage

You’ll probably want to increase your liability coverage before your teen even gets behind the wheel. The car they will be driving is in your name, so that means YOU are liable for whatever happens when they’re on the road. Because they are just learning to drive, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have the right coverage plan in case you are held accountable for something you did not do. While you probably do not wish to add an additional amount to your bills, liability will literally save you should a bad accident and subsequent lawsuits occur.

Have Them Drive an Older or Used Car

Because teenage drivers are at a greater risk of getting in an accident, it would be wise to have them drive an older or used car. The car shouldn’t be so old that it’s not up-to-date regarding safety, but having them drive in a well-running vehicle that’s a bit older could save you a great deal of money in the future. These cars are much less expensive to repair should damage occur to them.

Enroll in a Driver Tracking Program

Today, a number of insurance companies provide small devices that monitor driving habits and patterns. These trackers can tell how fast you’re going, the distance at which you break, and other important factors that can give your teen insight as to how they are regularly driving. With this type of information feedback, teens should be able to recognize where their driving could use improvement. Once your teen begins implementing better driving habits, you may see your monthly rates gradually decrease.

Ask About a Distant Driver Discount

When the time comes for your teen to head off to college, they may not take a vehicle with them. Less than half of teenage drivers head off to college with a car in tow. If your child falls into this category, you may be able to get a discount during the time they are away and not driving. In many instances, they don’t have to be very far from home to qualify for a distant driver discount. Check with your insurance provider to see if your teenage driver qualifies you for this type of discount today.

As soon as your teenager begins to think about driving, you’ll want to inform your insurance agency so that your son or daughter can be added to your current plan. This way, they will be covered throughout the experience of learning this important life skill. Make sure they are under the right car insurance plan by having them covered with our agency. To get started, give us a call and let us insure you for all of your major life moments.