Home Insurance Terms You Need to Know Going Forward

Understanding the terms of your home insurance policy can alleviate a lot of confusion and problems down the road. It’s not simply a form full of non-sensical legal jargon; it’s the plan to keep your home and family safe from financial ruin.

Today, let’s take a look at those terms and clear some of the confusion.

General Home Insurance Terms

While a lot of insurance plans are unique to certain vendors, there are terms that are usually universal. So, no matter who is holding your policy, this list will still be of great benefit.

Declarations Page

The Declarations page is essentially a quick overview of the policy details. It delivers fundamental information such as:

  • Your basic info
  • Name and address of the insurance company
  • Coverage dates
  • Basic outline of coverages
  • Deductibles
  • Premium
  • and other basic interests

Essentially, this page is the “proof of insurance” when a mortgage company asks.

Insured/Insurer

The Insured party is the individual for which the coverage is being provided. This is typically the home or property owner.

An insurer is the insurance company providing that coverage.

Additional Insured

The Additional Insured party is anyone other that the homeowner who has a vested interest in the property. This is often the mortgage company if applicable.

Also, this party can be a payee for larger claim payouts in the event of something major. For example, if a hurricane disintegrates half of your home, the mortgage company may receive the funds.

Policy Period

The Policy Period is the calendar date when the insurance is active. This is often processed annually, but some policies may be month-to-month.

Premium

Now, the Premium is how much your insurance costs every 12 months. This is not to be confused with a monthly payment, which is a considerably different amount.

However, the premium can be broken up into monthly, quarterly, and semi-annually payments to make it more immediately affordable.

Usually, homeowners will pay the amounts directly to the insurer through a mortgage escrow account.

Deductible

One of the more important home insurance terms to know is the Deductible. This is the amount a claim has to reach before the insurer bears any financial responsibility.

For instance, if you have a deductible of $500, but the damage repair or placement cost is only $450, the insurer doesn’t have to pay and it will come out of your pocket.

Of course, this is just an example. Every insurance company has its own levels for deductibles, and the higher the deductible, the less your annual premium you pay.

All-Risk/Named-Peril

An All-Risk policy will cover all potential losses other than specific exclusions of the policy. These are not very common as they are more expensive. However, they tend to be far more inclusive.

The Named-Peril policy covers causes of loss specific to the policy and nothing else. For instance, an insurance policy for the midwest may include tornado damage as it is a common risk for the property. However, it may not include earthquake coverage should one happen.

Replacement Cost Value / Actual Cash Value

Replacement cost and actual cash values are very different, especially when considering coverage and when filing insurance claims.

The Actual Cash Value, or ACV, is the cost to fix your home minus its decrease in market value due to age, location, and other environmental factors.

The Replacement Cost Value, or RCV, is the cost to replace or repair elements of the home or property according to today’s prices.

Other Valuables Not Included

Did you know that not all of your valuables may be covered by your home insurance policies? Things like jewelry, guns, cash, and antiques are not often covered unless you schedule them specifically on your policy.

Don’t leave anything to chance. Take a look at your policy and talk with an agent today to identify things of value in your home that are not currently covered.

Knowing Home Insurance Terms is Vital

Knowing how to read your home insurance policy is an essential facet of life, and understanding the terms is an excellent first step. It can help reduce a lot of confusion in the event of an emergency.

Not to mention making sure certain things in the home are covered.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’ll help you understand the details and terms of your home insurance policy. Contact us today and let us provide assistance that will give you peace of mind.

What to Expect From Condo Insurance

What is condo insurance? Buyers may be wondering about this while searching for the right insurance plan. Similar to homeowner’s insurance, condo insurance covers scenarios of unexpected damage or losses from a condominium unit. This could include repair costs after a perilous event, repayment for lost or stolen items, or renovation costs for remodeling broken parts of the condo. 

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we proudly offer insurance to the condominium owners of Massachusetts. 

Buying Condo Insurance: What to Expect

Getting condo insurance is generally a good idea if you’re at risk of property damage or loss of personal belongings. Some mortgage lenders or property owners will require you to purchase condo insurance to own the condo. Either way, this type of insurance will give you peace of mind in the extreme case of a fire, a storm, or a break-in. 

At Vargas & Vargas, you can expect condo insurance to cover specific policies, such as damage to the plumbing, the HVAC system, the water pump, or broken windows or doors. While often covering storm damage situations, our insurance package also covers theft, vandalism, or impact from vehicles or aircraft.

Getting in Touch in Massachusetts

Before purchasing insurance coverage, you should check with your condo’s association policies to see what the insurance requirements are and what’s already covered by the property owners. Once you know the value of your condo, one of our agents will craft an insurance plan that covers all of your needs. While speaking to a representative, you can expect to be asked specific questions about your living situation – like belongings you own. In Massachusetts, it’s common for insurers to cover computers, entertainment systems, and expensive artwork kept inside the condo. Once you’ve purchased your coverage plan, our agent will explain how you can file an insurance claim when need be. 

Are you interested in hearing quotes? Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance at 617-298-0655. Our team would be glad to answer any of your questions. 

What is Inherent Diminished Value and How it Affects an Auto Accident?

It’s quite common for some pieces of personal property to diminish in value almost immediately. For example, a computer could lose a great deal of its replacement value within days because of the ever-changing nature of technology and its use. But how does Inherent Diminished Value work for a car?

This depends on the state in which you live. But in Massachusetts, IDV is an established precedent.

What is Inherent Diminished Value?

Inherent Diminished Value, or IDV, is when a vehicle loses value due to damages caused by a no-fault accident. This is when there is a collision through no fault of your own.

As some damage is prevalent even after repairs, courts have ruled that IDV claims can help the owner be “made whole.”

These are usually filed as third-party claims. That’s because you’ll contact the at-fault party’s insurance company.

An example of this is when an accident occurs through no fault of your own that causes structural damage to the vehicle’s framework. Although repairs can be made to allow the vehicle continued use on the road, the frame itself could be altered in a way that disrupts usage as intended.

If the vehicle has less than 20,000 miles on the odometer after suffering severe structural damage, this could result in an IDV claim of roughly 10% of the vehicle’s value.

Is There a Difference in Depreciation vs Inherent Diminished Value?

Depreciation is when the value of the vehicle decreases over time due to normal wear and tear. In fact, most pieces of property will depreciate over time except for housing.

A well-maintained home will actually appreciate over the years, which is why homeownership is a great investment.

So, a vehicle with 200,000 miles will depreciate quite a bit because it has been extensively used. Even after installing a new motor, the vehicle will never be at its original MSRP.

Inherent Diminished Value, on the other hand, happens immediately upon an accident. This is why the IDV claim is much more for a new vehicle vs an older one. It hasn’t had nearly as much wear and tear.

How to Calculate Inherent Diminished Value

Let’s take a look at the calculations to establish IDV. For this example, let’s say I have a 1990 Dodge Daytona ES with 82,399 miles.

1. Establish the Car’s Value

The first thing we’ll do is estimate the vehicle’s value. This gives us a base amount. A commonly used website for finding vehicle value is the National Automobile Dealers Association, or NADA.

In my example, the value of a 1990 Dodge Daytona ES is $11,000.

2. Calculate the Value’s Base Loss

In many instances, the insurance company will calculate the base loss at a maximum of 10%. This means my Daytona’s base loss is $1,100 (11,000 x .10)

3. Use the Multiplier for Damages

Use the multiplier from the numbers below:

  • 1.00 = Severe structural damage
  • 0.75 = Major damage to structure and panels
  • 0.50 = Moderate damage to structure and panels
  • 0.25 = Minor damage to structure and panels
  • 0.00 = No structural damage or replaced panels

Let’s say my car was in an accident that severely altered the frame of the vehicle. I would use the “1.00” multiplier. So, my IDV is still at $1,100 (1100 x 1.00).

4. Use the Multiplier for Mileage

Remember when I told you about the “depreciation” of an automobile? It’ll actually play a role in the Inherent Diminished Value of your car.

Use the mileage multipliers below:

  • 1.00 = 0 < 20,000 miles
  • 0.80 = 20,000 – 39,999 miles
  • 0.60 = 40,000 – 59,999 miles
  • 0.40 = 60,000 – 79,999 miles
  • 0.20 = 80,000 – 99,999 miles
  • 0.00 = 100,000+ miles

For example, let’s now say that my vehicle had only 82,399 miles on the odometer at the time of the accident. I would use the “0.20” multiplier. As a result, my IDV would decrease further to $220 because of the mileage (1100 x 0.20).

Any vehicle that has over 100,000 miles may not qualify for an IDV claim.

When Should You File a Diminished Value Claim?

For the most part, the Inherent Diminished Value triggers when you are involved in an accident through no fault of your own. This means you’re most likely to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, or if the at-fault driver is uninsured, you may be able to file a claim against your own insurance company. This is because there is no other insurer involved.

File your IDV claim as soon as possible. Some areas may have a statute of limitations or your vehicle could further decrease in value as time marches on. In any case, make sure you have supporting documentation.

What Kind of Coverage Do You Have?

Although your insurance may cover a great deal of damage, you may also receive additional restitution due to Inherent Diminished Value.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we help our clients get what they need and deserve. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help keep your automobile covered.

Not all repairs can completely restore a vehicle back to its original functionality. Can compensation help you in such a situation?

Do You Have the Right Small Business Coverage?

Starting a small business is exciting, especially if you come up with something that takes off quickly. In the hustle of getting everything put together, how much time did you spend considering insurance coverage for your small business?

Sure, you may have property insurance in the event of a fire or other natural disaster. But what about things that property insurance doesn’t cover?

Liability insurance can only go so far as to keep your business protected.

What Kind of Small Business Coverage Do You Need?

General Liability insurance is better than nothing at all. But you might want to consider expanding it with an Umbrella policy or extending it to cover any of the following.

Commercial Auto Insurance

Does your small business have a car of its own? There’s a big difference between commercial and personal coverage. For instance, commercial coverage supports you and any employees driving company vehicles.

Commercial Property Insurance

In many cases, commercial property insurance covers tools, equipment, inventory, and any furniture needed by the business. In the event of a fire or flood, this plan can help replace those things you need for operation.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is to help alleviate the financial burden of employees who become sick or injured while on the clock. This type of insurance plan covers things like death benefits, lost wages, and various disabilities that result from those instances.

Professional Liability Insurance

While mistakes and accidents do happen, they could result in a lawsuit against your company. Professional liability covers much of the litigation process in such cases.

Data Breach Coverage

Due to the nature of the Internet, protecting data is a constant battle. But do you have coverage in the event of a data breach? This type of insurance can help with various expenses. For instance, it can help with notifying customers impacted by the breach, hiring PR firms to help with negative press, or even credit services to help breach victims.

What About Home-Based Small Business Insurance?

A growing number of people are working to build a home-based business today. Even if you’re simply a freelancer working from home, having the right insurance plans can give you peace of mind.

Now, homeowner’s insurance can cover quite a bit when it comes to business property, such as computers. But what about other things such as employee injuries, data loss, or lawsuits?

Do you have property, inventory, or supplies that are relevant to your small business practices?

Take a few moments and really process what your home-based business needs to function and ensure your current insurance plans cover all the bases.

Choose the Right Coverage for Your Business Needs

Protecting your assets is of utmost importance if you want to build a successful business. One simple happenstance could quickly turn into a financial nightmare.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we do what we can to ensure your small business needs are covered. Contact us today to find out how we can help protect your livelihood from suffering heavy losses in the event something happens.

All it takes is one storm, accident, or natural disaster to decimate what you’ve worked so hard to build.

Does a Lapse in Car Insurance Affect Your Rates?

Among the best ways to save money on auto policies is to make sure you don’t have a lapse in car insurance coverage. This is when, for whatever reason, you stop payments on your policy for your automobile.

While it may save you a few dollars this month, it’ll come back to haunt you later on, especially in the event of an accident.

In reality, the only lapse in auto coverage you should ever have is when you have no vehicle to drive. You can’t really put insurance on something that doesn’t exist. Though, it’s probably a good idea to get non-owner car insurance if you plan on borrowing or driving someone else’s vehicle.

How a Lapse in Car Insurance Affects Your Rates

Typically, the effects on your rates depend on the amount of time that has lapsed. In many cases, there is an 8% increase if you haven’t had insurance within 30 days. Afterward, it could get much higher ranging up to 35% for a lapse of 31 days or more.

For an annual policy, this could result in paying hundreds of dollars more than what you would have paid. This is why it’s important to get back onto an insurance policy as soon as your old plan expires.

And that’s if you’re not a high-risk driver. The amount you pay could be significantly higher.

Now, this is an estimation as every insurer will have its own policies and penalties. But you can bet that any lapse will result in some sort of higher premium.

What to Do if You Have a Lapse in Car Insurance

Not all lapses in coverage are on purpose. Sometimes people forget to pay their premiums. Or, maybe something else caused the insurer to drop your plan.

In any case, it’s a necessity to get coverage as soon as possible if you continue to drive.

A few things you can do include:

  • Have your local independent insurance agent ask your insurer for a reinstatement. In some cases, your agent may be able to work with you to reinstate your policy with minimal penalties if done quickly enough.
  • Have your insurance agent shop around to see how much of a penalty you’ll have to pay for coverage. Perhaps they can find an insurance comoany that is cheaper overall.
  • Refrain from driving until you’re properly covered. Even if you don’t get into an accident, you can still get a ticket or a potential court appearance should you get pulled over by an office for any other reason.

License, registration, and proof of insurance…

Don’t Forget to Seek Discounts

Some insurers will still allow you to qualify for certain discounts to offset penalties from a lapse of car insurance. This could include things like a good driver’s discount, low mileage use, combining policies such as including homeowner’s insurance, anti-theft devices, defensive driving courses, and more.

Ask your provider what discounts you qualify for even with the lapse in coverage. It could help reduce your monthly payments after a lapse.

It’s Best to ALWAYS Have the Auto Covered

A lapse in car insurance can happen for a myriad of reasons. And many of them might not even be your fault. However, you’ll still feel the brunt of a lapse if you take too long to rectify the situation.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we work with many national insurance companies and may be able to help you find car insurance policies that are affordable even after an extended lapse. Contact us today to find out how we can help you get back on the road.

After all, the sooner your car is covered, the cheaper it’ll be in the long run.

6 More Tips to Winterize Your Car Before it Snows

One of my favorite sayings is, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.” This means the little things you do today may save you from a lot of headaches later on. In this case, it’s making sure to winterize your car before the snow starts to fall.

Now, we’ve provided some tips for winterizing autos in the past. But today, we’re going to expand a bit and offer a few more than can keep you and your family safe this winter.

1. Keep the Car Clean

A build-up of slush, ice, mud, and road debris can wreak havoc on your car. Not only can it damage the paint, but it can also lead to rust if not properly cleaned.

This is especially true in areas that utilize a lot of salt or magnesium chloride to melt icy roads. Prolonged exposure could ultimately damage the vehicle.

2. Winterize Your Car with Snow Tires

Keeping an eye on air pressure is helpful. But switching to snow tires can make a world of difference in severe weather. The tread on these tires is such that it improves traction, which reduces your risks of losing control.

If you don’t use snow tires, at least check the tread gap of your tires to ensure they’re still in good condition.

3. Check the Brakes on the Car

It’s bad enough that you can potentially slide through an icy intersection, but losing control because of bad breaks can make the situation far worse.

Having the brakes inspected now could save you a lot of hassle later on should the brakes fail during a snow storm.

4. Winterize by Using De-Icer for Your Car

De-icer fluid can come in a variety of packages. You’ll see a lot of de-icing windshield fluids as well as sprays for your door’s lock. In any case, methods to help de-ice your car shouldn’t be underestimated.

You could go as far as using anti-fog sprays on the inside of your windshield to prevent the glass from fogging up in the mornings. It’s the same spray that motorcyclists and skiers use on their helmets and visors, and it works wonders!

The anti-fog sprays not only help winterize your car, but they can do so much more for other outdoor activities. It’s worthwhile having a bottle on hand.

5. Have an Emergency Kit on Hand

You should always have an emergency kit in your car regardless of the weather. In the event of winter, though, it should include gloves, blankets, drinking water, and non-perishable edibles, such as nuts and/or other sealed goods.

Think of it this way; if you were to slide off the road somewhere, could you survive below-zero temperatures for several days with what you have in your car right now?

Sure, it’s a very rare occurrence this could happen. Yet, hundreds were stranded in eastern Virginia at the beginning of 2022, forced to stay the night in their vehicles.

6. Be Mindful of Driving Abilities

The way you drive in the winter is vastly different from how you drive in the summer. Obviously, there are greater threats to consider. Mostly, how you handle black ice and dense snow storms.

Practicing your driving skills in poor weather conditions can vastly improve your chances of avoiding accidents. In fact, a lot of businesses offer winter driving schools for this very reason.

Winterize Your Car with the Best Insurance Plans

Every year, roughly 39% of all weather-related auto accidents happen on roads experiencing everything from regular snowfall to icy pavement. Regardless of how much preparedness you commit to, there’s always a chance you’ll be involved in an accident yourself.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’ll help you find the best policies regardless of the weather. Contact us today to see what we can do for you this winter.

Just make sure you take steps to winterize your car before the weather gets too bad.