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Thursday, April 9, 2020

How Does the Coronavirus Affect Your Insurance Coverage?

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy pixabay
If you’re like most Americans right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has left you for the most part sequestered to your home.  With many businesses, most stores and nearly all public places closed, there isn’t much for you to do.  Add to that the fact that many Americans have either been forced to work from home or have been temporarily laid off and it means most of us are spending the better part of the day cooped up with the family.  Many of my insurance customers have been wondering how the shelter-at- home policy is going to affect their insurance coverage, while others are wondering what will happen if they suddenly find themselves unable to pay their premiums.  To help you keep from adding any more anxiety to your already overtaxed psyche, I decided to dedicate this week’s blog to letting you know what I’ve discovered regarding the current insurance situation.

What does the Coronavirus mean to homeowners?

Even before the pandemic hit, many Floridians discovered that when it came time to renew their homeowner’s policies, they could expect to pay anywhere from 15-40% more for the same coverage.  When asked what caused the rate hike, I explained that the damages paid out after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma cost the insurance industry somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 billion.  This forced insurers to raise rates in 2020 to recoup the losses sustained two years ago.  Now that the Coronavirus has reared its ugly head, my customers are worried that this could also cause their homeowner premiums to rise.  Fortunately, this is not the case, although it possibly could cause their health insurance rates to rise in 2021.

That being said, there are a few things that homeowners need to be aware of regarding the current crisis:

      1.      While the direct risk to your home during the pandemic shouldn’t concern you, if you’re forced to work at home during the crisis and your employer provided additional equipment and electronics for your use, you should contact your agent to make sure that this equipment is covered for fire and theft.

      2.      It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to your agent regarding any liability issues that working from home could cause, since your workplace temporarily resides in your home as opposed to an office.

      3.      Since you’re cooped up in your home anyway, this is also a good time to create a home inventory of your belongings to make sure that they are covered.  To accomplish this, take photos or record a video of the interior of your home.  Then create an itemized log that lists your belongings along with their cost, make model and serial number.  This way if the items are ever lost or stolen, you’ll be able to provide your insurer with proof or their value when you file a claim.

Baby can I drive my car?

Image courtesy pikrepo
Since most of us are housebound, the number of miles we’re putting on our vehicles has drastically plummeted.  This has caused a number of my customers to wonder whether this entitles them to a discount on their auto insurance.  The answer I give them is, “It depends.”  As of April 1, at least two insurers have announced they intend to do something about it.    While some insurers want to help their policyholders, they are forced to wait until they get approval from state insurance regulators.  Speaking of regulators, many states are pressuring the insurance industry to support consumers by offering rebates and grace periods that take into consideration the considerable financial hardships all Americans are under for the foreseeable future.  To learn more about these and other emergency measures being offered by insurers, call your insurance agent.

What if I have to file a claim during the pandemic?

Just like many other businesses, the insurance industry was forced to reduce its staff during the current crisis.  That means it could take longer to file a claim or have an adjuster come out to assess the damage.  Due to social distancing measures imposed by the government, the claims process is going to be quite different than it used to be.  Some insurers are eliminating the adjusters altogether for some claims and relying on digital tools and apps to help their customers file the claims themselves.  Rest assured that while the process might be a bit slower than usual, all claims are being processed in a timely manner.

What if I can’t pay?

Image courtesy flickr
If any insurance customers are having difficulty paying their premiums during the crisis, their best bet is to contact their insurance agent.  Agents can help customers reduce their costs for many insurance products by bundling insurance policies under one insurer, increasing deductibles until the crisis is over and searching for rebates and discounts offered by insurers.

While it’s unclear how long the current crisis is likely to last, one thing I can promise you is that your friendly, local insurance agent will do everything in his or her power to help make sure it doesn’t turn into a financial disaster for you and your family.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

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