Top 5 Mistakes People Make When Filing an Insurance Claim

Harford County Insurance Claims

Top 5 Mistakes People Make When Filing an Insurance Claim

These mistakes can cost you. Whether you’ve suffered damage to your home or business, a loss from storm damage, fire or some other peril can be incredibly stressful, and sometimes it’s hard to think straight. The same goes for an auto accident or vandalism. You want to avoid these mistakes, so that your claim is handled speedily, and you get the insurance payment you deserve.

Here are the top five mistakes clients make when filing insurance claims:

  1. Not contacting your insurance company immediately. Most insurance companies provide a 24/7 hotline for making claims outside of regular business hours. Many people make the mistake of cleaning up the damage before an insurance adjuster visits. This creates confusion about how bad things really were, and you may find that either the labor you did or paid for before this visit can’t be covered.
  2. Making permanent repairs. Take the reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage and be sure to save the receipts. Remember that payments for temporary repairs are part of the total settlement. This includes things like boarding up windows, putting a tarp on the roof, etc. Don’t make extensive, more permanent repairs until our claims adjuster has assessed the damage.
  3. Not documenting the damage. Many times, repairs must begin immediately to prevent additional damage, or equipment must be moved to a new location. If this is the case, make sure you take pictures of the original scene to document how it was before you started your cleanup effort. Also take photos of any repairs you make. Many insurance companies, as part of their online claims process, allow you to upload photos.
  4. Disposing of damaged goods. If your cleanup includes removing items such as water-damaged furniture, flooring or insulation, keep it all, even if it has to pile up in your yard or parking lot. The damaged materials are all evidence in the claims process. However, photos will be enough if exposure to spoiling is a risk, such as food or perishable items.
  5. Not getting statements from witnesses. Depending on the type of claim, look for witnesses. Find as many as you can, and make sure to get their statements and contact information. Witness statements can be invaluable, especially when they’re given by people totally unconnected to the incident.

By avoiding these common mistakes when filing an insurance claim, you can avoid delays and get back to normal in no time.

Looking to update your insurance or get insurance for your new home or car? Dean Insurance is a Bel Air, MD independent Insurance Agency offering auto insurance, homeowners insurance, commercial insurance and more. We’ve been serving the insurance needs of central Maryland since 1973. Call us today at 410-838-3700 for a free quote.

Snow, Ice and Freeze Damage – Am I Covered?

Harford County Homeowners Insurance

Snow, Ice and Freeze Damage – Am I Covered?

The winter may have seemed relatively mild so far, but February and March can be tough in the Mid-Atlantic region. Downed tree limbs, power outages, roof collapses and frozen pipes are just some of the many perils caused by winter weather.

Whether or not your insurance covers the winter storm damage depends on the type of policy you have and the type of damage and what caused it.

Most standard homeowners insurance policies and commercial property insurance policies provide coverage for winter storm damage from ice, heavy snow, freezing rain or wind. You may want to review your policy to make sure you have appropriate coverage.

It’s important to note that standard homeowners insurance and commercial property insurance policies do not cover flood damage. So if you have flooding due to a heavy snow melt, damages will not be covered unless you have a separate flood insurance policy.

Also, if your home or business suffers winter storm damage while the building is unoccupied or vacant, you will have some additional issues to deal with. Some insurance policies have exclusions for property damage that result from a home or building not being properly winterized (not turning off the water and draining the pipes) or other exclusions.

Your best bet is to check your coverage, add to it if needed, and take several steps to protect your property to avoid damage from winter storms.

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts so that melting snow can flow freely away from your home. This includes clearing around the downspouts after a heavy snow.
  • Inspect and repair roof shingles and flashing to prevent water damage.
  • Trim tree branches on your property – especially branches close to the home or building.
  • Apply weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows and inspect storm doors and windows for broken glass.
  • Drain water from pipes leading to exterior faucets and remove garden hoses.
  • Insulate pipes that are susceptible to freezing such as in crawl spaces or on an exterior wall.
  • Have your heating system cleaned and inspected.
  • Turn off the water and drain the pipes if the building or home will be vacant, or keep the heat on to at least 55 degrees.

Call Dean Insurance Agency today at 410-838-3700 for a free quote and consultation on homeowners insurance, auto insurance, commercial insurance and all of your insurance needs.

Christmas Safety Tips from Dean Insurance Agency

Christmas Safety Tips from Dean Insurance Agency

The Christmas season is full of joy and cheer, but if you’re not careful, disaster could strike. We already talked about fire safety as it concerns your wood stove, fireplace and space heaters. But with all of the holiday decorations, there are a few more safety tips to keep in mind.

TREE LIGHTS

If your tree lights are more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing them, because safety standards have changed and the technology has improved. Definitely replace lights that flicker or have loose connections, frayed or cracked insulation, or corroded sockets. Do not overload your outlets, and avoid extension cords whenever possible. Unplug all lights when leaving your home or going to bed. Using a timer will accomplish the same thing.  All lights should be UL approved.

 

OUTDOOR LIGHTS

Follow the same tips listed above for your outdoor lights. Another thing to keep in mind with outdoor lights is your own personal safety. Don’t climb a ladder without another person there to assist. Don’t climb up on your roof if you are at all unsteady on your feet. Consider hiring a professional or a handyman to hang lights in high places.

CANDLES

Always put candles in sturdy, tip-resistant candleholders. Keep them away from curtains, drapes, decorations, or anything flammable. Don’t leave them burning unattended or within the reach of small children. Extinguish candles by wetting the wick before you leave a room or go to bed.

TREE

If you use a real Christmas tree, make sure it’s fresh. Trim the trunk two inches before putting it up, and use a large, non-tipping water-holding tree stand. Locate it away from heating ducts, hallways, doorways or any busy area, and keep it watered. A dry tree can go up in flames in seconds. If you are using an artificial tree, be sure it is flame retardant.

KITCHEN

As you prepare for holiday parties and the big gathering, traffic and activity in your kitchen may increase dramatically. But basic kitchen safety rules don’t change at all. In all the fuss, pay extra attention to the little things: keep pot handles turned inward, keep combustibles away from flames, and keep children and pets from out from underfoot while you’re working with the hot stuff!

And of course, if there is a fire or any other emergency, call 911, and when things have calmed down, call your insurance company to report the incident.

Call Dean Insurance today at 410-838-3700 if you have any questions, or to get a free quote on homeowners insurance, auto insurance, life insurance and more. We’ve been serving Bel Air and the Harford County Community since 1973 and we’d love to help you get the insurance coverage you need

Fire Safety Tips

Fire Safety Tips

It’s that time of year again, when people start using the fireplace or wood stove, or switch on space heaters. As heating season begins, the number of house fires goes up. So does the number of smoking related fires because smokers either don’t want to go outside in the cold, or are in a hurry to get back inside and don’t fully extinguish the cigarette butt before tossing it.

Fortunately, by following some fire safety tips and taking some preventative measures, you can reduce the risk of a fire in your home. And most of all, you can prevent the risk of injury or death in the event of a fire.

  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home.
  • Test smoke alarms regularly and change the batteries if they aren’t working.
  • Keep items that can catch fire at least three feet away from anything that can get hot or has an open flame. This includes stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, candles etc.
  • Make sure the fire in the fireplace or wood stove is out before you go to bed
  • Turn off space heaters if you leave the room, or before you go to bed.
  • Never run extension cords under a rug, and avoid using them for space heaters.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Smoking is the number one cause of residential fire deaths in the United States. If you smoke, smoke outside, never smoke in bed, or smoke if a family member uses oxygen.
  • Use deep, sturdy ashtrays and douse cigarette and cigar butts with water before disposal.
  • Teach your children about the dangers of fire and keep lighters and matches out of reach.
  • Have a fire escape plan and a designated spot to meet outside.

In the event of a fire, get out of the home as quickly as possible and call 911. When things have calmed down a bit and everyone is safely accounted for and the fire is out, call your insurance company to let them know of the fire.

If you’re a renter, fire is one of the reasons you need to have renter’s insurance. Your landlord’s insurance covers the building, but not your belongings. For a low monthly rate, you can insure your clothing, furniture, electronics and other belongings so that you don’t lose everything in a fire.

Call Dean Insurance today at 410-838-3700 if you have any questions, or to get a free quote on homeowners insurance, auto insurance, life insurance and more. We’ve been serving Bel Air and the Harford County Community since 1973 and we’d love to help you get the insurance coverage you need.

If I Hit a Deer Will It Be Covered By My Auto Insurance?

If I Hit a Deer Will It Be Covered By My Auto Insurance?

In a word, yes. As far as your auto insurance company is concerned, hitting a deer is a typically covered loss. Since this is not an “at fault” type of loss, your insurer is likely to process the claim through your comprehensive coverage.

It’s important to note that for the accident to be considered a comprehensive loss, physical contact must be made with the deer. If you swerve to miss the deer and run your car off the road, that would likely be considered a collision loss.

And assuming no other factors are present, such as DUI or distracted driving, your insurance rates should not go up if you hit a deer. Hitting a deer is considered a random and unpredictable situation, since deer are known to unexpectedly dash across the road. Since the claim is generally processed under your comprehensive coverage where no fault is assigned, it’s not likely that your rates will increase.

What to Do If You Hit a Deer

It happens, even to the most careful driver. Nationwide, it is predicted that one of every 169 drivers will collide with a deer. And if you do any driving in Pennsylvania, your risk is higher at 1 in 67. Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with the highest number of deer crashes. If you should happen to hit a deer, here’s what to do:

  • Move your vehicle to a safe place. If possible, move your vehicle off the side of the road and turn your hazard lights on. If you have to exit your vehicle, do so on the side away from the road. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn – making it hard to see them, and hard for another driver to see you.
  • Call 911 to report the incident. Tell authorities if you are blocking the road, or if the crash caused property damage. The police report may be helpful when you file your insurance claim.
  • Take pictures of the incident. Take photos of your surroundings, the crash site, the deer, the damage to your vehicle, etc. Photos can help you process your claim more quickly. If there were witnesses, get their statement about what they saw and get their contact information.
  • Stay away from the deer, if it is still alive. A frightened deer can still kick and injure you.
  • Call your insurance agent to report what happened. The sooner you report what happened, the sooner they can process your claim, and get you a loaner car if needed.
  • Don’t assume your vehicle is safe to drive. Look for leaking fluid, loose tires, a broken windshield, a hood that won’t latch, etc. If your vehicle seems unsafe, call for a tow.

Call Dean Insurance today at 410-838-3700 if you have any questions, or to get a free quote on auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance and more. We’ve been serving Bel Air and the Harford County Community since 1973 and we’d love to help you get the insurance coverage you need.

Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover My College Student?

Harford County Homeowners Insurance

It’s that time of year again. Whether you have a brand new college student starting their freshman year, or you just helped your older college student move into their off campus apartment, you realize that Wow! They have a lot of stuff!

And they’re growing up. You can’t protect them from everything, including theft of their bike, laptop, iPhone, etc. But if those items are stolen while they’re away at college, does your homeowners insurance cover the loss?

The answer: It depends.

DORM LIVING

If your student lives in the dorms, or other on-campus housing, many of their belongings will be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy for loss due to theft, fire or damage.

But there are some exceptions:

  • Computers may not be covered. You may want to buy additional insurance.
  • Jewelry and other high dollar items may have a specific limit. If your student’s possessions are worth more than that limit, they will need extra coverage. Or, consider leaving high dollar items at home.
  • Smartphone insurance may make more sense and be more affordable than making a claim on your homeowners insurance.

Before your college student moves onto campus, check with your insurance agent and review your policy to see what’s covered. You may want to get additional coverage. Also, many colleges send out information from companies that specialize in insuring college students’ belongings. Make sure to read the fine print.

OFF CAMPUS LIVING

For students living off campus, the rules are completely different. Your homeowner’s insurance will not cover a single item while they live off campus. They (or you) will need to purchase renter’s insurance.

Renter’s insurance is generally very affordable, and even the basic plans will likely cover most possessions. We can help you and your student select the best plan for their needs.

At Dean Insurance, we have been serving Bel Air and the Harford County Community since 1973, and we pride ourselves on offering you the best insurance protection, whether you’re at home or at college. Call Dean Insurance Agency today at 410-838-3700 to get a free quote, or to discuss your existing homeowners insurance policy.

Do I Need Pool Insurance for a Backyard Pool?

Bel Air Insurance Agent

If you have a pool, or you’re thinking about installing one, it’s a good idea to let your insurance agent or insurance company know. While nothing beats the dog days of summer like relaxing in a backyard pool, pool ownership comes with added responsibility. If the unexpected or tragic happens, do you have the insurance coverage you need to protect you? Whether it’s physical damage to the pool or your own liability, you may want to review your insurance coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that you make sure your insurance company knows you have a pool, or you’re planning to install one. This goes for both inground pools and above ground pools.

Property Coverage The property portion of your homeowners insurance policy likely extends to your swimming pool; so if a tree falls on it or there is vandalism of your pool, your policy would likely pay for removal of the tree and necessary repairs, after your deductible and up to the limits in your policy. Your insurance agent can help you figure out if you should increase your coverage based on the value of your pool, along with any pool equipment such as the pool deck or water slide.

Liability Coverage You will also want to check with your insurance agency to make sure you have enough liability coverage. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, thousands of people go to the emergency room each year for pool-related injuries. If someone is injured while using your pool, you could potentially face major expenses (both medical and legal) as a result. Liability coverage is a standard part of your homeowner’s insurance policy, but because a pool can increase your liability risk, you may want to increase your coverage.

The typical homeowner’s insurance policy provides $100,000 in base liability coverage. The III recommends increasing your liability coverage to $300,000 or $500,000 if you have a backyard pool.

If you have a pool or are thinking about installing one, and want to review your homeowners insurance, call Dean Insurance Agency today at 410-838-3700. We’ll go over your current policy, and make recommended changes. We may also suggest you consider purchasing a Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP). A PUP provides more liability coverage than your homeowners policy – generally up to $1 million. The PUP comes into play after you have exhausted the liability insurance provided by your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Boat Insurance – What Does It Cover

Harford County Boat Insurance

As the weather gets nicer, more and more people are getting out on the water. Whether you’re exploring Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, cruising the Chesapeake Bay or docking at the marina, accidents happen. The more boaters on the water, the greater the likelihood of a boating accident or damage to your vessel. A good boat insurance policy provides protection in the event of an accident, whether you’re hauling your boat, at the marina or out on the water.

Risks insured against generally include fire and explosion, windstorm, theft, collision while afloat, collision while being transported, sinking, stranding, loss of motor overboard, contact with underwater objects and liability (with limits on medical payments).

Whether you just bought a boat and need boat insurance, or if you have a boat but it’s time to review your policy, the boat insurance experts at Dean Insurance are standing by to lend a hand. Call us today at 410-838-3700 or use our contact form. to get a free quote.

Dean Insurance is a Bel Air, MD independent Insurance Agency offering auto insurance, homeowners insurance, commercial insurance and more. We’ve been serving the insurance needs of central Maryland since 1973.

Do You Need Renters Insurance?

Bel Air Renters Insurance

Do You Need Renters Insurance?

The simple answer? Yes. Yes you do. And here’s why. Your belongings, including all of your clothes, furniture, electronics, etc. are NOT covered by either your parent’s homeowner’s insurance OR your landlord’s property insurance. Don’t think you have enough stuff to bother with insurance? Go through your place, room by room, and do an inventory of your clothes, furniture, electronics, music collection, kitchen utensils, etc. Tally up the approximate value of each item, adding on as you go. You may be surprised at the final number.

If there is a fire, the roof blows off in a storm, someone breaks in and steals all of your electronics, a crazy ex uses their key and comes in and trashes your place – in all of those scenarios, if you don’t have renters insurance, you eat the cost of replacing everything that was damaged or stolen.

If you’re already struggling to make ends meet with your first real job and paying off student loans, an unexpected financial hit can be devastating.

That’s why renters insurance makes so much sense. For a relatively small premium, renters insurance covers your property for its purchase price, minus depreciation, up to the policy limit.

Now as with any type of insurance, you could pay for renters insurance year after year and never need it. While some renters see it as a waste of money, those who end up needing it say they are grateful they had it.

Renters insurance doesn’t just pay to replace your stuff. It also protects tenants from a few kinds of liability. For example, if someone trips and falls in your apartment and incurs expensive medical bills or even a lawsuit, a renter’s insurance policy would provide coverage.

Renters insurance could also be a financial lifesaver. If you left the stove on and caused a fire, any damage caused to your apartment and the building would be your responsibility.

Renters insurance may also help play for a place to stay if your apartment is inhabitable, such as from hurricane damage or because of a major repair. Most policies place a time limit and dollar limit on what they will pay for you to stay in temporary digs.

How much does renters insurance cost? A basic policy, with $10,000 in personal property coverage and $100,000 in liability coverage, costs about $150 dollars. Even if you bump up coverage levels, most renter’s insurance policies will still run you less than $200 a year.

If you bundle your renters insurance with your auto insurance, you might get a discount, and if there are safety features in your apartment such as a sprinkler system, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, an alarm system, a staffed front desk etc., let your insurance agent or insurance company know about them. Safety features can decrease the cost of your policy.

Like any other insurance policy, your renter’s insurance policy will have a deductible. If your deductible is $250 for example, and you suffer a $1000 loss, you would receive a check for $750.

Look around you. Do you own some expensive things, or a whole lot of stuff? What would it cost to replace it if you lost everything? For the price of a pizza a month, you can protect it all with a renter’s insurance policy.

If you want to learn more about getting renters insurance, call Dean Insurance today at 410-838-3700 to discuss details. We’d be happy to help!

Why Work With an Independent Insurance Agency

 

Harford County, Insurance Agency, Baltimore County, Auto Insurance

OK, maybe we’re biased here because Dean Insurance is an independent insurance agency, but we think there are a number of reasons why you should work with a local insurance agency rather than some faceless conglomerate.

You may think you’re saving money on auto insurance or homeowners insurance by dealing directly with the insurance company, but that isn’t always the case.  Our rates are competitive with the direct writers and often lower than those big guys who spend billions to advertise on TV. Working with an independent insurance agent saves you the time of calling dozens of different companies for a quote, and because of our industry knowledge, we can save you time and money in the long run.

Specifically, working with an independent insurance agency has several benefits:

  • Insurance agents have the ability to quickly check prices and coverages with a number of different insurance companies. Not all insurance companies are created equal. One company may have very competitive rates in rural areas but not so great in town.  Another may have great rates for singles or older folks but may be a poor choice for a family with teenage drivers. Rates can vary widely depending upon your individual circumstances and an independent insurance agent will know where to look for the best value and coverage.
  • Independent insurance agencies are a one-stop-shop for all of your insurance needs. We don’t just sell auto insurance.  We also sell homeowners, renters, health and life insurance, business insurance etc. Use us – at no cost to yourself – to handle all of your insurance in one place.
  • Insurance is a complicated subject.  It’s our business to understand it and communicate it to you so you understand it as well.  In almost all cases, you, the consumer will benefit from having a professional who deals with this subject for a living advise you on a 50+ page contract.  We know where to look in your insurance policy for hidden surprises.  The industry is regulated on a state-by-state basis.  Move from one state to another and you’ll find that the coverages may look the same at first glance, but a closer look shows things work a bit differently.
  • Insurance coverages don’t just vary from state to state … they can vary from company to company within the same state. Some companies’ policies may contain provisions that materially affect you in some way… some unknown way if you don’t have an expert advisor who is already familiar with a particular policy’s quirks.

The importance of using an independent agent cannot be over-emphasized.  Insurance contracts and insurance laws are complex and change periodically.  Licensed insurance agents are professionals who must pass a rigorous licensing exam and successfully complete 26 hours of Continuing Education every two years in order to maintain their licenses and keep up with policy, industry and regulatory changes.  Buying insurance without an independent agent is a bit like being your own lawyer without a law degree.  It might be OK if nothing goes wrong but when the unexpected happens, you need the peace of mind that comes from knowing your protection plan was designed by a professional.

Contrast that to buying directly from an insurance company. With no regulated, licensed insurance agent working to protect your interests, you are taking on full responsibility for your coverage decisions and for any mistakes you make. No safety net.  Standing over the smoldering ruins of what was your home or reading over a freshly served law suit is not the time you want to be wondering whether you should’ve used a professional independent insurance agent.

Now, don’t get us wrong. Plenty of people buy insurance online or over the phone from the big direct writers with cute mascots and multi-million dollar advertising budgets.  We just think you get a better policy at a better price, with better service from an independent insurance agency owned and staffed by people who live and work in your community.

If you’re in the market for auto insurance, homeowners insurance, business insurance, life insurance or any other type of insurance coverage, give the independent insurance agents at Dean Insurance Agency a call today at 410-838-3700. We work with homeowners and business people throughout Harford County, Baltimore County and Cecil County Maryland. We work for you, not the insurance company.