Risks of Flood Damage

Floods can occur anywhere, affecting properties in Dorchester, MA. Common causes of floods include flash floods and seasonal storms, which can occur anywhere in the world at any time. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), floods are commonly involved in 90 percent of all natural disasters in the country. 

Continue reading to learn about the risks of flooding. Then, for more information about flooding and how to protect your property, call the experts at Vargas & Vargas Insurance today. 

Flood Risk Information

When moving to a new area, learn as much as possible about flood risks in the immediate area. Your mortgage lender, local officials, and an insurance agent may have information about the area’s vulnerability to flooding. Additionally, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can provide information about local flood risks. 

Lack of Coverage

Not all homeowners insurance policies cover all types of flood damage. Therefore, additional flood insurance policies must be purchased to ensure coverage in the event of a flood associated with a natural disaster or weather event. Not having enough coverage can leave you paying for the repair and replacement costs out of pocket. 

Buying Flood Insurance

Purchasing flood insurance is easy and can be purchased directly from an insurance professional. However, there is a 30-day waiting period before the flood insurance policy takes effect. Because of the waiting period, if you live in an area prone to flooding, do not wait to purchase your policy. 

No Flood Insurance Coverage

If there is a flood, and you do not have flood insurance coverage, your assets are not fully protected against damages and loss. In addition, not having insurance coverage could lead to paying hefty bills associated with repairing and replacing property and personal items. 

Floods can strike at any time, anywhere. Those in Dorchester, MA should not hesitate to ensure they are covered in the event of a flood. Call Vargas & Vargas Insurance today to discuss flood insurance options and get yourself covered today. 

Wearing a Seat Belt in Massachusetts Saves Lives and Is Mandatory

driver putting on her seat belt
Young attractive woman sitting on car seat and fastening seat belt, car safety concept. Photo of beautiful young woman fastens a seat belt in the car – outdoors. Bown hair woman fastening seat belt in the car, safety concept. Business lady, caucasian

More than 25% of people in Massachusetts do not wear a seat belt. Massachusetts law requires you to do so, and it is common sense. Learn more about how not wearing a seat belt in Massachusetts can affect your car insurance and your legal liability in certain scenarios.

Seat Belts for Safety and the Law

Wearing a seat belt lowers the risk of severe injury in an accident for the driver and a front-seat passenger by 50%, according to the Massachusetts Transportation Safety Department. It also cuts the risk of death by 45%.

According to the Center for Disease Control, car crashes are the number one cause of death in the U.S. for Americans between one and 54 years old. Even when simply driving to the store for milk, you should always fasten your seat belt. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, think of your loved ones. Then make sure they buckle up, too. 

Different states manage seat belt laws in various ways, but every state has them. Not wearing a seat belt is a driving infraction. You won’t be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt in Massachusetts. But a driver stopped for a traffic violation and found not wearing a seat belt can be fined $25. That driver may also be fined for passengers not wearing their seat belts. 

A Seat Belt Violation Affects Your Insurance and Any Claim

Receiving a citation for not wearing a seat belt in Massachusetts can increase your insurance rate by up to three percent annually. That is on top of any increase for the primary citation, such as speeding.

But being in an accident while not wearing a seat belt can affect your insurance in another way. It could harm an injury claim with your insurance company. If you are the driver in an accident and a passenger isn’t wearing their seat belt, they can file a claim. You, as an individual, may be solely responsible. If your insurance company is aware of the lack of a seat belt, it may not help you pay damages.

Having automobile coverage is the law in Massachusetts. In fact, you must have four mandatory coverages, each in a minimal amount, to register your car in the state. Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help. As a premier independent and local insurance agency, we will work with you to ensure you have proper coverage to meet Massachusetts’s standards, as well as your own. Contact us today.

How to Prepare Your House for Hurricane Season

homeowner updating her house insurance as part of preparing for hurricane season

We’ve talked about preparing your business for hurricane season, but knowing how to prepare your house for hurricane season can be just as (or even more) important. There are ten to sixteen named storms in an average hurricane season, including four to eight hurricanes. When winds reach over 155 mph, you’re going to be thinking about protecting your life and family when a hurricane hits, not your home. We’ll give you some tips in this guide so when the wind starts howling, your house will be safe.

Keep Supplies Handy

When the hurricane comes, you want to be prepared, know where everything is, and have a kit of emergency supplies. Keep some flashlights, batteries, and more in the kit so you don’t have to search for them in an emergency.

Trim Your Trees and Shrubbery

Tree branches can go through your windows like missiles during a hurricane; make sure you prune your trees and remove all loose branches from your trees. 

Unplug All Electronics

Electrical surges are widespread in hurricanes. By unplugging your electronics, you minimize the risk of damage.

Seal Windows and Doors

Ensure that your windows and door stay locked and secured. If you have storm windows, ensure that they are properly installed and locked, as well.

Prepare for Long-Term Outages

It may be a good idea to purchase a backup generator. Then, if the power goes out, you still have options. Also, keep your bathtubs full of water in case you lose access for any length of time.

Review Your Insurance Policy

It’s best to do this before the storm, when things are still calm. If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your home insurance policy, you may not be carrying the correct amount of coverage. The amount may not be enough to rebuild your home if the worst happens. Get peace of mind and know you have coverage as you prepare your house for hurricane season.

How We Can Help

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price, and our team is here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today.

3 Essential Steps to Prepare Your Car for Hurricane Season

Family getting into their car before a hurricane after learning about how to prepare your car for hurricane season

Hurricane season comes around every year, and with it, the fear of damage to life and property. However, with the right strategy, you can prepare your car for hurricane season.

While many people think of preparing their home and personal property for hurricanes, it’s vital not to neglect to prepare your automobile. When a severe hurricane is on the horizon, evacuation may be the best option, and your car needs to be ready. These tips can help:

1. Auto Insurance Review

It’s important to review your insurance with your insurance agent each renewal — or annually, at the very least.  If you have, then a quick review of your coverage and deductibles may be all you need as a reminder of your coverage details for potential damage. If you haven’t, make an appointment for a phone, virtual, or in-person insurance review with your agent before hurricane season. 

Hail, wind, and flood damage are all common concerns. But many people attempting to evacuate at once can also create collision and liability exposure. Understanding your coverage in advance of a claim is much better than being surprised later, and it’s an essential step as you prepare your car for hurricane season. 

2. Maintenance

Evacuating due to an impending hurricane is not the best time to realize your vehicle is not in good working order.  Making sure these critical items have been thoroughly checked will help you avoid being stranded later:

  • Tires: The treads should have sufficient wear remaining. Also, the tires should be properly inflated. 
  • Brakes: Brake pads should have adequate friction material. 
  • Battery: Replace a weak battery. 
  • Gas: A full gas tank is essential, as it may be a long distance before you can refuel. 
  • Air: Ensure air filters are clean because you and your family may be in the car for a while. This is especially important for those with respiratory issues. 
  • Fluids: All fluid levels should be checked and topped off if needed. 

3. Load Up

You may find yourself in your vehicle for a long period of time — even days in the worst-case scenario.  Having the following items ready to load up at a moment’s notice means you won’t forget them when you’re in a rush:

  • Important documents 
  • Medications
  • Pets
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Cell phone and other chargers
  • Blankets
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit
  • Cash
  • Clothing/Shoes/Personal hygiene Items

With the right preparation, you can approach the hurricane season without fear. Here are some tips for preparing your home, as well. As a premier local independent agency, Vargas & Vargas Insurance understands your concern for your family and your property. We work for you, not the insurance company. Contact us today to make sure your coverage is ready as you prepare your car for hurricane season.

5 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Hurricane Season

Business owner standing in her office

How do you prepare your business for hurricane season? A hurricane can happen at any time. But they mostly occur in June and November. If you operate a business along coastal regions, you may experience severe damage due to a hurricane.

Being prepared will help you get back on track faster after the hurricane. Here are steps to minimize interruptions and keep your employees safe.

5 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Hurricane Season

1. Employee Evacuation Plan

The safety of your employees is important. So make sure you have an employee evacuation plan. Give team members emergency roles to perform during the hurricane. It is also a good idea to train your employees and even perform flood drills to ensure your employees are prepared.

2. Create a Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan is necessary to minimize interruptions during a hurricane. You should have an emergency communication protocol and confirm all employee contact information. 

3. Get Insurance Coverage

As a business owner, you should obtain the best insurance coverage available before a hurricane. If you don’t have insurance coverage, it’s never too late to get some. Make sure your coverage meets your business needs, including flood insurance and business interruptions. Work with the insurance agent to ensure the policy meets those business needs. 

4. Back Up Your Data

Your business has documents, records, and files that you have to secure and protect. You should regularly back up your data and store it in a safe facility. It should be possible to access your data remotely in case of an emergency. 

5. Back Up Your Power Supply

A backup generator will ensure you keep your essential systems during the storm. A backup supply will also help you run your business sooner after a storm. 

Vargas and Vargas is a premier independent insurance agency, and we put our customers first. That includes helping you prepare your business for hurricane season. We offer customized insurance coverage to meet your specific needs. We are here to answer all the questions you may have about insurance, so contact us today.

How Does Condo Insurance Work?

Owning a condo is a great way to own your own home. It does come with a number of responsibilities, though, and one of the most important of these is to have a condo insurance policy. This policy protects you in a number of ways, and it’s never a good idea to be without it. If you need one of these policies, contact us today at Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA to talk to an agent. 

Protect Your Home

When you have a condo insurance policy, it covers your condo itself. This means that it will pay for certain damages to the inside of your condo, but not the outside. The condo board owns the outside and will insure that area. The only exception is when a condo owner makes some type of improvement to the outside of the condo. In that case, the owner is responsible for insuring that area as well. 

Protect Your Possessions

With all or most of your belongings inside your condo, a major accident or calamity that causes damage to your belongings can be devastating. However, your condo insurance will cover those possessions. It can pay for you to get repairs and/or to replace items that were ruined beyond repair. With this coverage, you won’t have to start over with nothing. 

Protect Your Finances

Another problem that can happen in a condo is a third party having an accident there. When that happens, it is often the owner who owes the medical bills. With a condo policy, there is liability coverage included. This will pay for the medical bills so that you won’t have to. 

Condo Protection

If you own a condo, you need protection. Call us at Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA to find out more about this coverage. 

What’s the Difference Between Builder’s Risk Insurance and a Home Insurance Policy? Part Two

Happy couple came to an agreement with their building contractors at construction site.

It’s easy to understand the importance of home insurance when your investment is immediately accessible to you, as are all of the belongings you put inside. However, a building under construction sometimes requires a little more explanation as to the importance of builder’s risk insurance.

Why Does Home and Builder’s Risk Insurance Differ?

A completed home provides all of the information for proper risk assessment. All of its features are fixed in place for determining the replacement cost value. The liability risks are mitigated as much as possible. Your coverage needs are clear. Thus, the home insurance policy can be tailor-made for your home as it stands, with all factors known. 

For a building under construction, there are many unknown or constantly changing variables. Your insurance provider calculates the replacement cost, and therefore coverage, based on the expected features of the completed home. The building’s completion stage is varied. So the liability risks also vary at any given time. At some points, there may be more materials on-premises than on the structure. Because the building changes, it needs a policy that addresses this reality. 

How Does Builder’s Risk Insurance Address the Changing Protection Needs of a Building Under Construction?

Why do you pay the same premium and have the same amount of coverage for a building in the beginning stages of construction as in the final stages? This is a fair question considering the amount of loss is much greater when the building is nearing completion.

Builder’s risk insurance addresses this by considering the most coverage needed at any time during the construction period. It also considers the premium needed to cover that risk. The insurance company then takes into account normal construction time periods. Instead of changing the coverage and premium throughout the build, they average the cost to insure the building over the entire construction period at various stages of completion into one premium. This assures that the building has proper coverage at a fair premium, regardless of the building phase. 

What Coverages Are Unique to Each Policy Type?

A home insurance policy provides much more personal property coverage and additional coverages. This includes additional living expenses in the event of a claim. These types of coverages would not necessarily be needed under a builder’s risk policy since the home is not occupied. 

What about a home addition? Home insurance policies vary on how they cover home additions. It may be that you would have adequate coverage under your home insurance policy. However, a larger addition may require a builder’s risk policy or a special endorsement of your home insurance policy. Having an insurance agent you can trust to advise you on your particular policy and needs is imperative. 

A builder’s risk insurance policy provides coverage for theft of building materials and often even for building materials in transit to the building site. It also provides liability protection for the enhanced risk of a building under construction. The liability does not extend to the contractors or subcontractors. But it does provide coverage if a child or neighbor were to wander onto the site and get injured. 

Ultimately, all builder’s risk insurance policies are temporary. Once the building is complete, you should consult your insurance agent to discuss whether you should convert to home insurance, rental dwelling insurance, or commercial insurance. For additional information, see part one of our series, What’s the Difference Between Builder’s Risk Coverage and a Home Insurance Policy?

Whether you need home, rental dwelling, commercial, or builder’s risk insurance, Vargas and Vargas Insurance is here to advise you on your journey. We work for our clients, not the insurance company, to provide individualized coverage at the right price. Contact us today to discuss your insurance needs. 

What’s the Difference Between Builder’s Risk Coverage and a Home Insurance Policy? Part One

Young happy couple standing at the construction site of their home and giving each other a high-five.

You’ve found your dream home, and now you need to protect that dream with home insurance. Maybe you couldn’t find the perfect home you had envisioned, so you are building it. That investment also needs protection, either through builder’s risk coverage or home insurance. How are these two types of homes and home insurance protections the same, and how do they differ? Most importantly, why does it matter? 

Who Needs Home Insurance or Builder’s Risk Coverage?

Home Insurance

If you are the owner of a fully constructed home and you and your family reside in the home, home insurance is the right choice for you. Home insurance provides coverage for your dwelling, personal property, and liability you might incur as a homeowner, among other optional coverages. Home insurance is not for rental homes (when you’re the renter), commercial properties, or homes in the construction process. 

Builder’s Risk Coverage

Coverage for buildings in the process of being built requires specialty coverage to meet the unique risks associated with a building that is changing daily. The building may be residential or commercial, and coverage may be needed by a variety of individuals, such as:

  • Homeowners
  • Property Owners
  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors

Ultimately, the individual named on the construction loan, or the person who retains the deed to the property, needs the builder’s risk coverage. They are the one taking on the risk of a loss until ownership changes hands. 

When Should You Begin Coverage?

A home insurance policy should begin immediately upon ownership, effective on the date of the home closing. If you change insurance providers, it is imperative that there is no gap in coverage from one insurance company to the other. Make sure you understand the date and the time coverage will cease with the current company and coordinate coverage with your new insurance company to prevent any unprotected gap in time. 

A builder’s risk policy provides coverage from the time construction begins until the project’s completion. Because the construction phase is constantly changing, the coverage and premium are designed with this in mind. Most insurers require a builder’s risk policy at the beginning phase of construction. They will not provide a policy mid-construction.  It’s just as important to convert your builder’s risk policy to a home or commercial insurance policy once completed for coverage more appropriate for a completed and occupied building. 

Now you know who needs home insurance versus builder’s risk coverage and when coverage should begin. For further explanation on how these two policies differ and why it matters to you, see the second part of our series on What’s the Difference Between Builder’s Risk Coverage and a Home Insurance Policy?   

Vargas and Vargas Insurance understands the importance of having the right insurance for every stage of your journey. We are an independent insurance agency that works for our clients, not the insurance company. We will customize your coverage for your unique needs at the right price. Give us a call today. 

How Personal Property Insurance Protects Your Property

A family playing a board game in their family room with books in the background

If you are a homeowner, you probably have homeowner’s insurance. This type of insurance generally provides some coverage for your personal property. This coverage is only for the homeowner’s property — it does not cover real estate or property belonging to renters or roommates. If your personal property exceeds the value covered, or if you are a renter, you will need to purchase a personal property insurance policy. If you live in a condo, check out our blog post about condo insurance coverage.

What Does Personal Property Insurance Cover?

According to Insurance.com, most home insurance policies only offer coverage for 40-70% of the home’s insured value. What does a personal property insurance policy cover? Many of the items that you own including clothes, appliances, furniture, and home decor. If these items are damaged or stolen, the policy will reimburse policyholders the estimated cost to repair or replace the property.

But some of the property that you own may not be covered. This could include jewelry, artwork, firearms, pets, and collectibles. Insuring these high-value items will require the purchase of a scheduled endorsement. Many insurance companies will also ask for an appraisal of the items.

Making a Claim

If your property is damaged or stolen, then you will need to contact your insurance company to file a claim. The company may ask you to provide pictures as proof of the damages. Any receipts that you can provide as proof of purchase of your property should go to the company, as well.

When your insurance approves your claim, you will receive reimbursement according to the terms of your policy. The policy will either pay the actual cash value, which includes depreciation and pays out for the estimated current value of items, or replacement cost value. This provides the amount needed to replace the property and does not include depreciation.

How Do You Get Coverage?

When you need insurance coverage, you can contact a direct writer. These agents work directly for a prominent name insurance provider. You could also contact an independent agent. Independent agents can often offer better coverage prices because they will have several options for you to choose from. Also, they will be familiar with insurance needs in your area.

If you live in Massachusetts, Vargas & Vargas is here to help you find the policy that fits your needs. Vargas & Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price and are here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today.

How Much Liability Insurance Do I Need to Buy?

family and their dog playing in their backyard

Homeowners are responsible for ensuring safety on their property. Consequently, you can be held accountable if someone is injured on your property because of unsafe hazards. This is why homeowners need liability insurance coverage

How Does Liability Insurance Coverage Work? 

Your homeowner’s insurance policy has a liability portion that provides coverage for accidents and damages associated with your property, family members, and pets. For example, a visitor may sue you for compensation if they are attacked and injured by your pet. Additionally, anyone can sue you if they slip and fall on your slippery pavement or sidewalk. 

Liability coverage can protect you from the resulting financial loss. To this end, a typical liability policy will cover the following expenses: 

  • The injured party’s medical expenses 
  • The cost of your legal defense 
  • Repair costs for the other party’s damaged property

Some policies cover a wider range of risks. Your policy’s coverage will depend on how much insurance you buy, as explained below. 

How Much Coverage Should You Get? 

Standard homeowner liability insurance policies cover up to $300,000 worth of injuries and property damages. However, this may not always be sufficient to cover all of the resulting expenses. Consequently, you may need to pay for the extra costs out-of-pocket, which can be financially crippling. 

Alternatively, you can increase your insurance coverage. For example, you can extend coverage to up to $500,000 by paying higher premiums. You can also buy an umbrella liability policy that will extend coverage to $1 million and more (up to $5 million). 

Final Thoughts on Liability Insurance

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for our clients and not the insurance company. Our team can customize your homeowner’s insurance coverage to meet your specific needs at the right price. 

We are here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today to learn more.