Does a Maine College Student Need Their Own Insurance?

 

If you’re preparing to send a student off to college, your household is buzzing with activity. If your student is a freshman, there’s the added anxiety (for parents AND students) of doing it for the first time.

Many clients ask our Maine insurance agency these questions about insurance for college students:

Does homeowners insurance cover college students’ computers?

Generally, yes. If they’re living in college housing, they’re still considered part of your household. Your homeowners policy covers their books, clothes, jewelry, electronics and other property. What if you have a condo or renters insurance policy? Still covered. Remember, the same coverage limitations apply to property such as jewelry and money.

If your student does not live in college housing, be sure to consult your agent. Coverage can vary greatly in these situations.

Does homeowners insurance cover a “semester abroad”?

If your student is still a household member, your policy covers their belongings anywhere. If they accidentally damage property or injure someone, your homeowners policy defends any suit brought in the U.S.

Need broader protection? Some personal umbrella policies will also defend against worldwide liability suits. This is another great reason to buy Maine personal umbrella insurance.

Remember, NO auto policies cover outside of the US, its territories and Canada. If your student is driving in a foreign country, make other insurance arrangements there.

My child is not taking their car to school. Can I get a discount on my auto insurance?

You bet! There are a few restrictions: The school must be more than 100 miles away from your home, and the student should not have the car on campus. Don’t forget to ask your agent about the “good student discount” on auto insurance and other car insurance discounts.

Should I buy the medical insurance the college sells?

Our agency does not sell medical insurance, so we are not experts on this topic. Ask your medical insurance provider for their advice. If your family has no insurance coverage, then it may be a good idea to buy the college’s plan.

Have questions about Maine auto insurance, personal umbrella insurance or homeowners insurance? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. As a locally owned Trusted Choice independent insurance agency, We represent many of Maine’s best insurance companies. We offer choice as well as professional advice. We’re independent and committed to you.

 

How to Be an Instant Insurance Genius With 1 Easy Move

Did you buy home, condo or renters insurance from one company and auto insurance from another? You’re not alone. Maybe you bought a policy online to insure your first car. Then, when you bought your house or condo, you found a local agent who found you a good deal with another company. Each of your insurance companies has probably solicited you for the part they don’t insure.

Knowing that combining your home and auto insurance is smart is one thing; actually doing it is another. The good news is, it’s not that hard. Having separate insurance companies may not have hurt you too much so far. Sure, you might have paid a few dollars more, or put up with the hassle of multiple insurance bills, but you didn’t feel enough pain to motivate you to combine them.

That will likely change in 2012.

It’s only May, but 2012 has already brought big changes in Maine home and auto insurance. U.S. insurers have lost money on property insurance for several years in a row, due to natural disasters, broadened coverage, depressed pricing and increased reinsurance costs. With today’s low interest rates, insurance companies’ investment income is depressed as well. As a result, homeowners and Maine condo insurance prices are increasing significantly, and underwriters have become much more picky.

The single best personal property/casualty insurance move you can make right now?

Combine Your Property and Auto Insurance.

Here are 10 reasons why you should bundle your insurance today:

1) Save Hundreds of Dollars
Insurers are increasing the “package discount”, making it more attractive to insure your home and autos together. Many companies have increased the discount from 10% to 15%, 20% or even 30% discounts. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

2) Better Homeowners Rates and Coverage
Insurance underwriters (the people who choose whether to accept or reject your insurance application) have become VERY picky about home insurance. If you’re buying a home anywhere near the water, you might be quoted a premium nearly twice what the prior owner paid. You might also have a wind deductible of $5,000 or higher, when the prior owner had a $500 flat deductible.  If you only insure your home with that company, you have no leverage with the underwriter.  Bundling your coverage “sweetens the pot” for the insurance company, and levels the playing field a bit.

3) Avoid Non-Standard Insurance on Camp or Second Home
They don’t call Maine “Vacationland” for nothing. Maine has the highest ratio of secondary and seasonal homes to primary homes of any state in the US. Preferred insurance companies have willingly insured these homes for decades, even if they didn’t insure your primary home. In 2012’s tighter property underwriting environment, many insurers refuse to insure these properties unless they insure your primary home and auto. We still have access to insurers who will insure a Maine secondary or seasonal home; but, the rates are higher, and the terms less favorable than those of the preferred companies.

4) Reduced Risk of Non-Renewal
The more business you do with an insurance company, the more likely they will consider you a preferred customer. If you have multiple claims in a 3-year period, your name appears on an underwriter’s list of policies to review. Will they consider you “naughty” or “nice”? One factor they consider is the number of policies you have with the company. They’re more likely to cut some slack to a multi-policy customer than to one with a single policy.

5) Increased Convenience, Reduced Risk of Cancellation
If you have policies with different companies, you’re getting billed by each, and paying a billing charge to each. Most insurance companies can bill all of your policies in one bill. They call it “account billing”. It saves you money (billing fees and postage) and time, and reduces the chance of a late payment by at least 50%.

6) Preferred Umbrella Rates
Many financial advisors are shocked to find how little liability insurance many of their new clients have. Most advisors recommend that their clients buy a Maine personal umbrella policy, which provide liability insurance in excess of their home and auto insurance limits. Preferred umbrella insurers require that they insure all of the policies that their umbrella extends over (called “underlying policies”). We have access to companies that provide umbrella coverage without insuring all of your underlying policies, but they’re usually more expensive.

7) More Favorable Deductibles
Some insurance companies require a higher property deductible ($2,500 or more) if they don’t also insure your autos. They will allow a lower deductible if you have other policies with them.

8) Improved Service From Your Agent
An insurance agent’s worst nightmare isn’t losing you as a client; it’s seeing you suffer an uncovered loss that they could have helped you recover from. The more they insure for you, the better they can help you identify and close expensive coverage gaps.

Let’s say your company starts allowing you to work from home. You might tell your auto insurance company you’re no longer commuting, to get a break on your car insurance rates. But you might not think to tell your home insurance company. When your home is broken into and your work computer stolen, or when a business associate visiting your home slips and falls, you could be shocked to find that you have no coverage for that. If one company handles both, they have the full picture, and can better protect you.

9) Almost Free Renters Insurance
Most Portland Maine renters insurance policies start at about $100 a year. Most Maine car insurance policies are about $600 per year. If you get 15% off each by combining them, you’ve saved $105 a year – in essence getting your renters’ policy for free.

10) Smug Self-Satisfaction
Isn’t it satisfying to read one of these blog posts, and say “Already done that!” Yeah, we thought so.

If you would like a Maine auto insurance quote, or would like to discuss your insurance, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541.

“Can I Take My Spouse Off My Insurance?” How Divorce Affects Your Maine Insurance Policies

Divorce is a major life-change. It’s a complicated and emotional process that takes time to work through. It’s not surprising that it also can have a great effect on your personal insurance coverage. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about how divorce affects your auto and home insurance. You should discuss your individual situation with your agent and your attorney.

I Want to Take my Spouse Off My Auto Insurance

Until your divorce is final, your insurance agent should not remove anyone’s name from the policy without their written consent. An insurance policy is a contract. Your agent is responsible to BOTH parties to the contract. Each has the same rights under the policy. A professional agent will not only want to make sure that both parties remain covered; they are obligated to honor each person’s policy rights.

I Own One Vehicle, and My Spouse the Other; Can’t We Get Separate Insurance?

Maybe, but you should consult your attorney first. Maine “joint property” laws may render the registration immaterial. If the property is considered “joint property”, you both should maintain one policy until the divorce is final, and the property is separately owned. Your attorney can help you with this issue.

The Insurance Bills Go to My Spouse. Will My Policy Cancel if They Aren’t Paid? 

Yes. That’s why it’s important that your agent knows how to reach BOTH of you; you need to keep them updated. If payment of bills is a problem, discuss this with your attorney; they may be able to arrange for timely payment.

My Spouse Isn’t Reimbursing Me for Their Share of the Insurance. Why Should I Pay Their Part?

It’s important to keep your coverage in force. The best way to do that is to pay the premium that you are billed. Otherwise your policy could cancel – and you would both lose coverage. Don’t “cut off your nose to spite your face”. Talk to your attorney about evening out the financial details.

I’ve Moved Out. Does Our Homeowners Policy Still Cover My Stuff? 

It depends. It is very important that you contact your agent to discuss your individual situation.

My Spouse and I Can’t Seem to Agree on Anything.

Sometimes, it is best to let your attorney and theirs deal with these insurance issues. Have them contact your agent, and give your agent permission to talk with them.

If you are looking for a Greater Portland Maine insurance agency that understands how divorce affects your insurance, and can help you protect your assets going forward, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. Our agency represents several insurance companies, so we can offer one-stop insurance shopping.


 

How Does Getting a Speeding Ticket Affect Your Insurance Rates?

Police officer with radar gun
Photo credit: NY State Police

Getting a traffic ticket is one of life’s indignities. It’s expensive, embarrassing, and – depending on who’s in the vehicle with you, or who drives by while you’re pulled over – hard to live down. It might ruin your day, but in most cases, if you stay out of further trouble, you won’t have to regret it for too long.

How long do tickets stay on your record? Most insurance companies price insurance using the last 3 years of your driving record. Some companies use a 5 year experience period.

Will my rates go up if I get one ticket?

The good news is that one ticket USUALLY isn’t going to drive your Maine Car Insurance Rates up too much. If it’s a speeding ticket, and you were going less than 20 miles over the speed limit, most insurance companies consider this a “minor violation”. Passing a stopped school bus, driving more than 20 mph over the limit, and other more serious infractions have more serious consequences on your insurance rates.

Have the insurance rules about tickets changed?

Just a few years ago, most insurance companies had 3 underwriting tiers: superior, preferred and standard (high risk drivers went to non-standard insurers). If your driving record was squeaky clean when you bought your car insurance, you got the auto insurance discounts associated with the superior rate; if you had one ticket, you were usually still “preferred”. They usually didn’t bump you from your tier if you later had one minor ticket. But, if you got 2 tickets, they would probably knock you down a tier.

Now, car insurance companies have created 50, 75, even 100 pricing tiers, based on an “insurance score” that factors information about you, your vehicle, your driving record, and more. This scoring algorithm varies by company. They consider it proprietary, and guard it closely. Consequently, agents – and customers – don’t know for sure what caused their rates to be high or low. We suspect that insurance companies do now charge for every accident or violation, although probably not a lot for the first ticket.

Should I Shop My Insurance if I have a ticket?

Every insurance company’s rates are different. If you have just one ticket, and you think you’re paying too much for car insurance, check prices. If you live in the Portland area, auto insurance agents like Noyes Hall & Allen would be happy to provide a quote. We’ve even created a way for you to get your own online Maine auto insurance quote from 5 of our companies.It doesn’t hurt to check around; the worst you’ll find is that the rate you’re paying is a good one.

Hitting Miranda Cosgrove’s Bus: A Liability Insurance Fable

If your household is like mine, you have an iCarly fan. Teens and tweens across America were distraught by news that iCarly’s star Miranda Cosgrove’s ankle was broken in a bus accident, causing her to postpone her popular “Dancing Crazy” summer tour. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

How Much Auto Liability Insurance Should I Buy?
That’s a question we hear often. Many people who shop for Maine auto insurance have purchased “split liability limits”, which contain separate limits for bodily injury and property damage. On split limits policies, Bodily injury is also subject to a “per person” sub-limit. If you have one of these policies, your liability coverage might say 100/300/50. This means you have $100,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, subject to a $300,000 maximum per accident; and $50,000 property damage.

What If You Cause a Serious Accident?
Let’s pretend that you were responsible for the accident that injured Miranda Cosgrove, and you had those common Maine liability limits shown above.

There were 5 people on the bus. Would $100,000 be enough to pay for any one person’s medical bills? Would $300,000 be enough for all the bus’ occupants? Maybe. Maybe not. What if our fable had a commuter bus full of people? Uh-oh.

And that’s just the injuries from one vehicle. What about the damages from lost income due to the postponement of Miranda Coscrove’s tour? What about any other vehicles that may have been involved?

Who Will Defend Me Against a Liability Suit?
This fable has a knight in shining armor! Your auto liability insurance pays defense costs – regardless of whether the suit is groundless, and in addition to the limits of your policy. As long as you have liability limits remaining, your insurer will defend you.

What if You Don’t Have Enough Liability Insurance?
If you’re legally liable for damages, and your insurance isn’t enough to pay them, two bad things happen.

  • Your defense coverage stops. That means you have to pay for your own legal representation to defend yourself.
  • Your assets and future earnings are fair game. You could be forced to turn your home, investments, savings or other assets into cash to pay the damages. If that’s not enough, the court can garnish your future wages.

That’s a Fable. What Are the Chances?
Fortunately, they’re slim. But, celebrity sightings in Maine are common, especially in summer.  And, you might be unlucky to meet a celebrity in the worst way possible – by accident.

Remember, you don’t buy insurance to protect you from the probable – you buy it to protect your assets from financial disaster.  Buy enough to protect your assets and your future earnings. We generally recommend against split limits, and often suggest that our clients consider Maine personal umbrella insurance. For custom advice about your situation, or a Maine auto insurance quote, contact Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541 – and live happily ever after.

 

Sending Kids Off to College? Check Your Insurance!

NoodleIf your house is like mine, you have random piles of clothing, boxes of ramen noodles and bedding all over the place, waiting to load into the car for the annual college move-in. Ours moves in this weekend. Let’s hope the weather cooperates!

College is one of the biggest expenses we parents face in our lifetimes. With finances so tight, it’s certainly not the time to find out that your Maine auto insurance policy doesn’t cover an accident or theft isn’t covered by your Maine homeowners insurance. Here are a few common scenarios, and how the policies our Maine insurance agency sell respond. YOUR policy may be different.

Maine Homeowners Insurance

 
 

 

  • Your kid’s “stuff”: Most home policies provide 10% of your personal property limit for belongings located at a residence other than the insured home. So, if you have $100,000 of contents coverage (“Coverage C” on your policy), $10,000 of it follows your student to school, if they live in a dormitory. Of course, the damage has to be caused by a peril covered by your policy.
    Certain items, like jewelry or expensive electronics, might need special coverage. Contact your agent to discuss these items.

    If your student leases an off-campus apartment, they should probably get their own renter’s insurance. Your local Maine insurance agent can tell you for sure.   
     
  •  Liability: Even brilliant students can do stupid or careless things. Luckily, your homeowners liability coverage follows them, as long as their permanent residence remains your home. But that general dorm damage bill you got for the discharged fire extinguishers: all yours, sorry. Damage to a rented property is not covered by homeowners policies. 

Car Insurance

Even though it’s tempting to remove your children from your Maine auto insurance policy to save money, it’s a bad idea. They still need coverage for times when they’re home, or if they borrow someone else’s car. Hey, it happens.

 

  • “You’re not taking that car to school”: If your child is away over 100 miles without a car, most insurers offer auto insurance discounts.
  • “But I need to have a car so I can (insert excuse here)”: Somewhere around second semester sophomore year -if not before- you’ll hear this. If you let them take one of your vehicles to school, make sure your insurer knows about it. Sure, you’ll pay more for insurance, but you won’t have to explain why your BU student was driving on Comm Ave on a Wednesday night. Awkward!
  • “So I borrowed Griz’ car…” Your student is covered under your policy as long as they remain a member of your household. The primary coverage for any accident comes from the owner’s insurance policy (if any). Yours would be secondary. Same thing applies if your child lends someone else your car (you just shuddered a little at that thought, didn’t you?)
  • Dean’s List pays: Just like high school, a “good student insurance discount” applies for kids who maintain a “B” average. Keep your agent posted to make sure you’re getting the discount.

For more information, contact your agent or company. Or, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. After all, we just gave you a bunch of free advice, didn’t we? And we’ve got kids to put through college too!

Lessons from the Lapointe Trial Verdict

Many Mainers followed the recent trial of Medway, MA and Bridgton, ME resident Robert Lapointe, who was charged with manslaughter, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and aggravated OUI following a collision on Long Lake in which killed Terry Raye Trott of Harrison and Suzanne Groetzinger of Berwick. The jury was deadlocked on the first two charges and found Lapointe guilty of the third. 


Regardless of your opinion on the case (and everyone in Maine seems to have a strong one!), there are some items worth noting:

  • The criminal trial was only part of Mr. Lapointe’s worries. There will surely be a civil trial now that the criminal trial is over. Yes, he was convicted of two counts of Aggravated OUI, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. And, the State hasn’t decided whether to re-try him on the two deadlocked charges. 
  •  A civil trial, which would likely charge wrongful death, would be protracted and expensive – regardless of the outcome. Probably the most famous civil trial following a criminal acquittal was The O.J. Simpson case. As everyone knows, Simpson was acquitted of murder in the criminal trial, only to be found guilty of civil charges, which cost $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $33.5 million in punitive damages
  • Maine homeowners insurance and Boat Insurance policies offer liability protection, including defense costs. This would apply only to civil – not criminal – charges. The maximum limits available are generally $500,000. Too many people fail to even carry this amount.
  • Personal Umbrella Insurance policies provide excess liability protection in increments of $1 million. Best of all, legal defense costs are usually NOT taken out of that limit: most policies provide a full $1 million of protection against damages.

 You probably have a tough time identifying with O.J. Simpson or Robert Lapointe. Their cases are extreme. But bad things can happen to ordinary people, too. And your assets can be wiped out by defense costs and liability judgements following an accident. 

Takeaways:
  1. Review your homeowners policy. 
  2. Compare your liability coverage to your net worth.
  3. Consider buying an umbrella policy.  
  4. Talk to your insurance agent.