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No Coverage for Earthquakes? Don’t be at Fault!

As you likely know, there are two fault lines that run through Tennessee. The first is the New Madrid Fault, which runs approximately 120 miles south from Charleston, Missouri, and part of West Tennessee, near Reelfoot Lake, extending southeast into Dyersburg, Tennessee. The second is the East Tennessee fault line, which runs from Chattanooga through Knoxville and on to North Carolina.

What you may not know is that most property insurance policies exclude damage from earthquakes. And while we haven’t had a major earthquake in Tennessee in the last 100 years, that doesn’t mean they can’t occur. So, what would you need for coverage, and how do these policies work? Let’s discuss it.

How Earthquake Insurance Works

Earthquake (EQ) insurance provides protection from the shaking and cracking that can destroy buildings and personal possessions. And while there are certainly scenarios where major damage can occur, one of the more common issues is the damage earthquakes can cause to foundations and walls of a building. This shifting, cracking, and movement can be very costly and may also damage the structural integrity of your building(s).

If a fire, electrical damage, or water line damage occurs as a result of an earthquake, there is a good chance your current property policy may provide coverage for those losses. But direct damages from the earthquake, whether to your building, auto, or personal property, are unlikely to be covered by non-EQ policies.

It’s important to know that EQ insurance carries a deductible, and this is generally in the form of a percentage rather than a dollar amount. That is somewhat unique compared to other coverages and could be an unpleasant surprise if you don’t understand it in a claims scenario. As an example, an EQ policy may have a 10% deductible, meaning that if the home is replaced at a cost of $250,000, the homeowner would have a $25,000 deductible. These deductibles may be as high as 20%, which can mean a very significant cost to the homeowner.

The cost of EQ insurance can also vary a lot, depending on location, how your structure is built, and the materials used. These policies are provided by private insurance companies, and not the government like many flood insurance policies. As such, EQ insurance needs to be reviewed and compared to understand the coverages and costs.

Does your home or business property need EQ insurance? It’s likely a good idea to have a policy in place for it. While we don’t expect an earthquake anytime soon, the science to predict them is not advanced enough to detect them in advance and one could occur at any time.

Contact Brandon Patterson on our team at brandon@ownbyinsurance.com or call 865.453.1414 and he’ll help you review your options.

What Do You Need to Cover Business Auto Use?

If your business regularly uses autos for business needs, you likely have risks. Whether it’s a fleet of vehicles or just one, and whether it is vehicles you own, lease, or your employees own – having the right coverages for business-use autos is critical.

Employer-Owned Vehicles

If your business owns autos for business use, you likely need a Commercial Auto policy. This will usually provide you coverage for liability damages, collision, or comprehensive auto property damage, bodily injury coverage, and property damage for other vehicles/property.

Additional coverages may include reimbursement for rental vehicles, under/uninsured motorist coverage, and/or medical payments coverage. Personal use of the vehicle may also be covered, but typically not by others (such as family members using the auto).

Non-Owned Vehicles

There are plenty of scenarios where your business may be using vehicles it doesn’t own. Maybe you’ve rented, leased, or borrowed a vehicle. Maybe your employees are using their own vehicles. For these situations, the risks are different, as you likely need coverage for property damage or bodily injury that your business is at fault for in an accident.

Hired and Non-Owned Auto coverage is often the solution here. The “hired” coverage provides protection for your business when you’ve rented, leased, or borrowed a vehicle. The “non-owned” coverage extends protection from and for your business over the employee’s personal auto policy. This likely adds to the limit that could be paid in the cases of property damage or bodily injury.

However, this is typically a “liability” only coverage, and doesn’t coverage damage to the non-owned property (the auto itself). That’s why it’s important to understand the underlying property coverages, such as the employee’s personal auto policy or the auto’s rental agreement coverage.

HNOA coverage might be available to add your business’s general liability policy, or it might be available to purchase separately as a “standalone” policy.

Additional Coverages

If you have greater risk potential for your business’s use of autos, you may want to consider adding a commercial umbrella. This type of policy may give you higher limits that could be paid on a claim for property damage, legal costs, medical bills, or even legal settlement payments. A variation of this may be excess liability that is specifically added for commercial auto coverage.

Whatever auto use your business has, it is important to understand the risks and coverage options available for you. This is also a scenario where understanding the exclusions of policies is extremely important.

Contact Brandon Patterson from our team at brandon@ownbyinsurance.com or 865.453.1414 to discuss your options for covering business autos.

Covering Your Trailer and the Objects You’re Hauling

As the weather warms up, more and more people are getting outdoors to enjoy nature. Maybe it’s boating on the water, taking an ATV off road, setting up camp in the woods, or getting projects done outside. And one thing all these might have in common is that trailers may be involved to move the items to their intended destinations. As you’re hauling, you may be wondering – am I covered? Let’s review some of the circumstances.

Covered by Your Auto Policy?

In most cases, the coverage of your trailer – while in use for hauling – will fall under the policy of the auto hauling it. But keep in mind that if you have liability only coverage for your auto, the same would apply for your trailer. In addition, the contents you are hauling on your trailer are not typically covered in these policies.

Boat Trailers

If you have a specific trailer for your boat or other watercraft, you may be able to purchase coverage under your boat insurance policy. However, unless you have designated the trailer as “dual purpose” on your policy, you are unlikely to be covered if you haul something on the trailer other than your watercraft.

Camper Trailers

Because of their different risks, you will likely need a separate policy to cover any kind of pop-up or camper trailer. In addition, the value of a campers “contents” alone would likely make it a wise decision to have specific coverage in place for them.

Other Coverages

Trailer-specific coverages, personal umbrella policies, and additions or endorsements to other policies may be available to cover your trailer and its contents.

In Tennessee, there is not a requirement for registration or insurance if you have a boat, farm, utility, or pop-up trailer. Other trailers do have registration laws in Tennessee, and since insurance for the auto hauling the trailer is required, there are still some approximate rules for coverage in the state no matter what you’re hauling with your trailer.

Contact Brandon Patterson from our team at brandon@ownbyinsurance.com or 865.453.1414 to discuss your trailer risks and options for coverage.

Risk Management and Your Team’s Role in Lowering Risk

Risk Management and Your Team’s Role in Lowering Risk

Workers’ compensation rates have been steadily dropping for the last decade in Tennessee and other states. And while factors like market competition and legal system improvements are factors, one of the biggest impacts has come from a reduction in claims frequency and claims severity. How has this been achieved? Safety and risk management programs. When better procedures are in place to protect employees, fewer accidents – or less damaging accidents – occur. So, could this be applied elsewhere to lower your businesses risks?

Preparing Your Team for Success

Onboarding, training, screening, and testing of employees and potential hires can help you lower risk. And this isn’t just for jobs with physical risks. Training your employees on cyber risks, onboarding them for customer interaction, screening them for past loss history, and intermittently testing them on what they’ve learned can all help with your risk management. Let’s review some examples of how this approach can be impactful.

Cyber Liability Prevention

Most businesses store customer data or personal info in some fashion. Whether it be loyalty info like names and birthdays or financial info like credit cards stored for recurring payments, this data is sensitive and must be protected. If you train and test your employees on avoiding cyber risks like phishing, hacking, and human error, you’ll be helping lower your cyber risk.

Third Party Liability Prevention

How does your team interact with customers? If there is a physical location that customers visit for goods, services, or transactions, is it well-maintained? Does your team know to clean up spills, report malfunctioning equipment, or notify management of unsafe conditions? Quickly acting on these concerns not only makes for a better customer experience, it may also reduce your risk.

Property Damage Prevention

If you work on or interact with customer property, having your employees properly trained is critical. Whether it be a $20,000 car or a $1,000,000 piece of equipment, the work your employees do shouldn’t put position you for a claim. And while accidents happen, the better the training, the less likely they are to occur.

Good risk management leads to better options for your insurance, especially as your business’s loss history continues to be good or improves from prior claims. Contact Brandon Patterson at 865.453.1414 or email brandon@ownbyinsurance.com to discuss how it could help your business.

Is Increasing Your Deductible a Good Idea?

Is Increasing Your Deductible a Good Idea?
We’d all love to save more money, and insurance isn’t something people typically enjoy spending money to purchase. There are ways to decrease the cost of your insurance premiums, and one that is often mentioned is increasing the deductible of the policies. But is this a good idea? That depends on your specific situation.

What is a Deductible?
As you probably know, your deductible is the amount you’ll be responsible for if you have a claim paid by the company that insures you. For example, on a home insurance policy, “cheaper” insurance often has higher deductibles, meaning a claim resulting in $10,000 of damages might cost you $5,000 out of pocket on that cheaper policy, while a “more expensive” policy may only result in only $1,000 out of pocket expense.

So, I Can Save That Money Now, Right?
If you purchase a less expensive policy with a higher deductible, you may indeed save money on the front end. But what about if you have a claim? Since none of us knows when a claim will occur, a plan to save on the front end until you have a claim may not work out for you. Let’s take a look at why with an example of premium and deductible differences on a home with $350,000 in dwelling coverage:

Average Annual Home Insurance Premium1                  Deductible

$1,595                                                                                                    $1,000

$1,522                                                                                                    $1,500

$1,441                                                                                                    $2,000

With these averages in mind, raising your deductible from $1,000 to $2,000 would save you $154 per year. But if you have a claim in the first twelve years of your policy term, you haven’t saved any money once you pay your deductible. And what if you have another claim soon after? Your deductible is typically paid at each claim occurrence, so that means another $2,000 out of your pocket.

Does it ever make sense to increase your deductible. Yes, there are instances where it would based on the premium differences and the individual’s financial situation. But that is something you’d want to review carefully with your insurance agent.

Our agents can discuss your options and help you find the coverage that’s best for you. Let us help you find the insurance policy terms that are right for you!

1 – Quadrant Information Services. Averages are for $350,000 worth of dwelling coverage.

What to Expect This Year in Insurance

Over the last 18 months, the insurance market has been “hardening” up. A hard market in insurance means that insurance companies are increasing their premiums and reducing the amount of risks they cover. This has been especially apparent on property (i.e., homes, buildings, rentals, etc.) and auto risks.

Catastrophic events are often the driver for this in the property marketplace. Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and more can bring large losses and frequently in concentrated geographic areas. In the auto insurance marketplace, higher cost for parts, slower repair completion, more expensive replacements for electronics (e.g., hybrids, EV, microchips, etc.) have resulted in a similar increase in rates. Many companies have also reduced their offerings in the market as well.

When insurance companies pay out these larger claims, their profitability takes a hit. In fact, the property and casualty insurance industry as a whole experienced unprofitable years in 2022 and 2023, having a combined ratio of over 100% (under 100% traditionally means profit).1 While many expect a return to industry profitability sometime this year, the impacts are still taking place. Companies are charging more to insure property, whether it is a home, business building, or otherwise.

So, why should you care if insurance companies make a profit? Certainly, these are large corporations, some of which are worth billions. But they still support millions (almost 3 million in 20222) of people and provide safeguards for almost every individual and business in this country. The insurance industry is needed for our economy to function.

In 2024, it is likely that rates will continue to climb, but possibly at a slower rate. Then we anticipate that things may begin to “soften” as the year progresses. But you do have options as a consumer. Independent insurance agencies – like we are at Ownby Insurance Service – can shop your coverage for you with other insurance companies. Those that directly write insurance for national companies can’t offer that.

Our agents can discuss your options and help you find the coverage that’s best for you. Let us help you weather the hard market!

1 – Per https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/research/us-pc-insurance-market-report-profitability-to-remain-elusive-in-2023

2 – Per https://www.statista.com/statistics/194233/aggregate-number-of-insurance-employees-in-the-us/

Restaurants, Alcohol Sales Percentage, and Liquor Liability

Restaurants and bars have specific, and sometimes unique, risks to cover. One of those risks centers around alcohol sales and consumption on their premises. And while it may seem obvious, how much they sell is key. But how much is too much? The corresponding coverage for this risk is called Liquor Liability Insurance, and there are a few ways it is underwritten by most carriers.

Many insurance companies measure alcohol sales risk by comparing it to the amount of food sold by the venue. If the percentage of alcohol sales is high, the classification of a restaurant may be changed to a “bar” instead. If that “bar” also has a stage, live music, a dance floor, etc., it may be considered a nightclub. Both bars and nightclubs have higher risk potential when considered by underwriters.

In addition, different states have very laws around liquor sales. Often called “Dram Shop Laws,” these regulations take into account the potential of alcohol contributing to liability claims. This might include actions that a patron took after being served alcohol by the establishment. In very strict states like Alabama, this is more prevalent, while in a state like Nevada, there may be less liability.

As mentioned earlier, the type of venue is a key piece of liquor liability coverage. A restaurant may have less risk in an underwriter’s eyes, while a nightclub or tavern might have a higher level of concern for them. And again, the key to that determination may center around alcohol sales as well as the characteristics of the venue.

So, what does liquor liability actually cover for these establishments? In most cases, these policies will help cover damages caused by a patron that has been served alcohol by the venue. These damages may be related to bodily injury or property damage. One of the best ways for a venue to protect themselves is to have proper risk management in place for the sales and service of alcohol, and to have the right liquor liability coverage in place in case an incident does occur.
What is the right policy for your restaurant? We can help you determine that! Contact Brandon Patterson from our team at 865.453.1414 or  brandon@ownbyinsurance.com.

Do Life Changes Impact Your Needs for Life Insurance?

A new year can often bring in changes in life. New jobs, new family additions, new businesses, personal changes – there are many things that can impact your planning for a new year. And although it may not be at the top of your list, how do these changes impact what – or whom – you need to protect? When it comes to life insurance, there may very well be some changes you need to make. Let’s take a look at some of these impacts and how you might want to approach your coverage.

Your Policy’s Value
If you have big personal changes like jobs, a new home, children, etc., you have new financial commitments. These commitments could be a huge burden if one of the family’s income providers passes away. Just think of a widowed spouse trying to handle a mortgage, childcare, and day-to-day living expenses without the other’s income. Understanding the amount of coverage your family would need – and for how long – is a critical component.

Your Policy’s Term
As you probably know, Term Life Insurance is active for a specific period of time, while Whole Life is typically meant for an individual’s entire life. As you get older, have children, retire, or go through other life changes, converting to a Whole Life policy may be the right decision. Many Whole Life policies also have a “Cash Value” account option, and you may be able to withdraw or borrow from this account – but keep in mind that there may be penalties involved.

Your Plans for the Future

Empty nesters? Retiring? Finally paid off that mortgage? If you have these or other occurrences that are typically later in life – you still have Life Insurance needs. These needs may just be different. A policy with a cash benefit may make more sense. Or, although unpleasant to think about, a policy with a “Death Benefit” or “Final Expense” component might make sense. This would provide your spouse with funds for funeral and burial expenses.

Your unique situation is the primary factor in what life insurance you need. Let us help you review your needs and your options for life insurance coverage.

The Changing Marketplace for Cabin Insurance

In case you haven’t noticed, the insurance market has changed significantly this year. Prices are up and the options for coverage are fewer. So, what does that mean for insuring your cabin or vacation rental property? It means you need to work with someone who understands what’s going on and how it impacts your specific risks. Let’s take a look at what’s happening and how you can approach your insurance needs.

What Has Happened?
Natural disasters and other claim impacts have led to many property and casualty (P&C) insurance companies losing money. Some reports say that the P&C industry won’t be profitable again until 2025. Wildfires, hailstorms, tornadoes – all of these unexpected occurrences and more can add up quickly on claims – sometimes in bunches of the same times and locations. For many cabins and vacation properties, the impacts are greater because they are in more remote locations with less recovery and response service in place.

As a result, the premiums for most of these properties have continued to escalate. In addition, some companies have stopped offering coverage for them, either in certain areas or completely.

What Can be Done?
There is still coverage available for almost any property but finding it can be more of a challenge. Independent agencies like ours have access to multiple markets and can help research what’s available for your property. Once we identify your options, we can help you review the offering and the cost to discuss what’s right for you. We can also help you understand measures that might make your property less of a “risk” when these companies are underwriting your application for coverage.

Being proactive is critical when the market is in this state. Let us help you review the needs you have and help you find the right coverage for your cabin or vacation rental property. Give Brandon Patterson a call at 865.453.1414 or email brandon@ownbyinsurance.com and he’ll help you start the process!

Insurance Premiums and the Economy – What’s Happening?

Is it inflation? Is it a recession? Is it just weird? Our nation’s economy is definitely in flux right now. And while what exactly is happening might be debated, there is no debate that it is impacting everyday Americans. One of those impacts is in the cost of insurance. How and why? Let’s review the impacts and discuss your options.

Social Inflation
Referring to increases in lawsuits, the amounts awarded, and general impacts of litigation, social inflation is on the rise. Litigation funding is even a thing now, as firms and investors are “betting” on cases by backing the plaintiffs as a way to make money.

Cost of Claims
The costs to repair and replace are also a factor impacting premiums. Parts and materials, whether it be for a car, roof, building, or otherwise, are costing more and also taking longer to complete. Insurers are paying more for repairs, rental cars, loss of use, and more. Even if the amount of claims is lower, the severity of the claims is higher with these added costs.

Deductibles and Premiums
Some may suggest that saving money on your insurance is as simple as raising your deductible. And while that certainly can reduce your premium, the whole point of insurance is to help indemnify the party or parties that suffered the loss. With a higher deductible, you’d receive less money in the case of a large loss, and also have a higher threshold of when it would even make sense to file a claim. Raising your deductible is sometimes a solution, but it may only be a short-term fix.

What Can you Do?
We can help you review the coverages you have, look for options, and even consider variables like bundled coverage for saving money. There isn’t always a need to lower your coverage amounts to save money, and we want to help you understand your choices. In addition, we can discuss if you really have the proper limits and endorsements to make sure the things you want to protect are truly covered. Because sometimes, spending money can save you money in the long run.

Let us go to work for you! Give Brandon Patterson a call at 865.453.1414 or email brandon@ownbyinsurance.com and he’ll help you start the process!