Pandemic Purchases – Are you protected by your insurance?

Despite staggering unemployment statistics during this COVID-19 Global Pandemic, there are still consumers out there splurging on big ticket items commonly known as Pandemic Purchases.  According to Resonate’s National Consumer Study ™, 2.1 million people said their likelihood of making a major pandemic purchase has increased since COVID-19 began.

We want to make sure if you are one of those individuals making the large pandemic purchases that you’ve thought through the risks involved with your purchases and adjusted your insurance accordingly.

Some common large purchases we have seen during this pandemic include: Golf Carts, ATV’s, Boats, Home Renovations, New Cars, Hot Tubs, and Pools.

Are you cruising the neighborhood in a new golf cart with the right protection in place…could depend on who your carrier is?  Do you have enough property coverage for that new master bathroom you installed?  Are your liability limits sufficient now that you have that pool of your dreams in the backyard?

Also, with kids going back to school, many people are having to make decisions about their children’s education.  The practice of organizing “pandemic pods,” where parents team up with other families in their neighborhoods or social circles to hire teachers for their children, is getting more and more popular by the minute.  But what if a problem arises from one of these pods?  Who is responsible?  Would your personal insurance cover you if you were liable?

Insurance policies are there to protect you in the event of a covered loss, but they do have their limitations and exclusions.  Call us if you ever want to talk through certain scenarios or if adjustments to your policy are needed.  We want you to be able to enjoy your time spent at home without worrying about the “what ifs.” 

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

Our fur babies are family. They comfort us, entertain us, and rely on us. We buy them toys and the best pet foods to keep them happy and healthy. But despite all that, sometimes they have accidents or develop illnesses, and those veterinary bills add up quickly. Thus, the need for Pet Insurance.

A 2015 report by CBS News stated that cancer treatments for a pet can reach upwards of $5,000. And if your furry friend breaks a leg or swallows some giftwrap at Christmas, those surgery costs add up as well. Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery and Dental Care lists prices for their most common procedures on their website. As you can see, an unexpected pet emergency can put a real strain on the budget.

You should consider a few things. First, most carriers will write an insurance policy for an older pet, but keep in mind that as your dog ages, that monthly premium goes up. Here in South Carolina, an insurance policy for a puppy might cost $35 per month, but by the time that same dog is 8 years old, that monthly premium could more than double. Also consider the general health of your pet. A pet insurance policy only has value if you use it. But remember that a lot of carriers won’t cover a pet with a pre-existing condition. Moral of the story: It’s a bit of a gamble, but you’re better off taking out pet insurance while your pet is still young.

A pet insurance policy could provide financial assistance if the unforseeable happens and peace of mind even if it doesn’t. And it probably doesn’t cost as much as you think. Figo Pet Insurance states that their pet plans average less than $1.50 per day—a small price to pay for peace of mind for your pet and your budget.

Pet insurance typically covers these common pet expenses:

  • Hospitals
  • Surgeries
  • CT scans, MRIs and X-rays
  • Vet specialists
  • Prescriptions
  • Cancer treatments
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Congenital conditions
  • Hip displasia

Call Livingston Insurance Agency in West Columbia, South Carolina, at 803-791-1120 or call your local insurance agent for more information to determine whether pet insurance is something your family should consider.

Can Social Media Hurt Your Insurance Application?

Is your social media hurting your insurance application? Yes, companies will review your Facebook posts!
Is your social media hurting your insurance application?

By Jackie Lorick

Social media is great for businesses, but can it hurt your insurance application? You can market to a broad audience through your posts as well as online reviews by past customers. Personally, I love reaching out to local Facebook pages to get recommendations for bakeries, hair dressers, dog groomers, etc. Just recently I ordered my son’s birthday cake based upon a recommendation someone made on Facebook, spoke with the owner on Facebook Messenger, and purchased the cake via PayPal. Voila! Cake ordered and problem solved.

But have you ever considered that social media could potentially hurt your insurability or affect the rating carriers may use to provide you with a quote for your business insurance or perhaps even your personal insurance? This is an issue we run into all the time in the world of insurance. We gather information from prospective clients, submit the insurance applications to our markets to obtain quotes, and then are contacted by the underwriter to probe on information that was found on our client’s Facebook page or other social media platforms.

For example, a client puts on their insurance application that they are an auto repair shop that only deals in minor repairs, but their Facebook page clearly offers welding services. Or, a business owner tells me they are the only driver of their commercial vehicle, but we later find a post by an employee mentioning she just made a delivery to a happy client, clearly showing she was driving the company car. Both of these scenarios can be perceived as lying to the insurance company, potentially jeopardizing your coverage should a claim occur or causing the carrier to non-renew your policy.

Frequent mistruths underwriters often discover from insureds trying to keep premiums low vary whether you are applying for commercial insurance or personal insurance. This article from Investopedia shares some common ones.

I cannot stress enough that carriers and underwriters are using social media for underwriting purposes on a daily basis now, as it provides them with helpful information. It is important to be honest on your insurance application and with your agent about your true business exposure. If your little white lies are discovered, there can be expensive consequences. See this article.

If you are offering services on your social media, you need to make sure to include them on the insurance application you submit or mention them to your agent https://livingstoninsurancesc.com/  during the fact-finding process.

Will Your Insurance Company Ever Call for Payment? Insurance Phone Scam

Warning to Insureds: Avoid This Insurance Phone Scam

Insurance Phone Scam
Insurance Phone Scam

Just when we think the scam calls can’t get any worse . . . they do! This new Insurance Phone Scam is hitting people all over South Carolina.
An insured recently contacted our agency to see if his insurance carrier would call to collect a payment if it is late.

After more discussion, I learned that someone posing as an employee of his insurance company called him to let him know his payment was late. They said that he could make a payment over the phone to avoid cancellation. Our insured did so, and before he got off the phone, the caller said he could go ahead and make another payment so he would be ahead next month. Our insured also agreed to this.

Now, I know it is easy to think that you would never be taken in by a phone scam like this. But consider the circumstances: Our insured was rushing out of the house to go visit some friends in the hospital, so he was distracted. Plus, the caller had the amount that was due for his insurance and his insurance company’s name. Who is to say you won’t get a call while the kids are crying and throwing a fit, you just received bad news at work, you just had a death in the family, and so on? As we like to say, hindsight is 20/20.

Thankfully our insured started thinking more about the phone call and thought it was odd they called about a late payment. He called our agency and his bank to further investigate. We were able to contact his carrier and verified there were no pending payments and that they would never call to get payment information. He was the victim of phone scam. His bank put a watch on his account so the payment did not go through and the money would not leave his account.

After this happened, I wondered if any of the insurance carriers call insureds for payment information. I made it my mission to call each of our carriers to ask. They all said the same thing: All invoices and late notices are mailed. As one carrier said, they are like the IRS. They don’t call for payment information. Note that a carrier’s billing department may occasionally call an insured, but it is always at the request of the insured. Other than that, they never initiate contact by phone. An online search for others who have experienced this type of phone scam returned few results, with most being related to health insurance, so this might be a relatively new scam aimed at consumers. To be safe, take advice from this article in U.S. News & World Report that states, “It’s best not to buy anything over the phone unless you have initiated the call.”

Don’t be a victim. If you ever get a call from your insurance carrier requesting personal information, it’s likely a phone scam. Call your local agent before providing any information over the phone unless you initiated the call.

AARP offers information on additional phone scams to avoid < https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/recognize-a-robocall.html>.

Should I File a Glass Claim for My Cracked Windshield?

Written by Rebekah Morris

You’re riding down I-20 in Columbia toward Augusta. A gravel truck in front of you hits a pot hole and gravel bounces out and hits your windshield, causing a small crack that you know will eventually spread into a large crack. You need to get it fixed. Possible glass claim!

Should you file a glass claim with your insurance company, and can filing too many glass claims hurt your insurability?  Unfortunately, this will not be a straightforward answer, so let’s start digging. 

In the state of South Carolina, insurance carriers have a $0 deductible for glass claims. So, while you do not have to pay a deductible as you would for a collision or any other type of comprehensive claim, your insurance carrier does. 

Now, a typical glass claim can range from $500-$1,500 depending on the type of vehicle and windshield you have. It is easy to forget that windshields now are more than a simple piece of glass like they used to be. Windshields now have defrosters in them, they come already tinted, and some include cameras. These are just a few features that can be built into your windshield.  With those features come more expensive costs. 

Let me give you an example: Let’s say your windshield costs $1,200 to replace and your annual auto premium is $1,600.  If you have more than one glass claim during a policy period, the company is already losing money on you as an insured.  And as with every business, insurance carriers need to make money to stay in business.

So, while a glass claim every now and again may not affect your rates, filing multiple glass claims per year could affect your insurability, as the insurance carriers are losing money on you as an insured. I do feel it is worth mentioning that, while not all insurance carriers charge harshly or at all for them, glass claims are still listed as claims.  We tend to forget that since we don’t have to pay a deductible. 

As my economics teacher in high school taught me, there is no free lunch.  The same can be said for windshields: There is no free windshield. Someone has to pay for it.

Of course, the best defense is good offense. Check out these tips from Glass America to avoid a cracked windshield in the first place.

But if you do face a damaged windshield and you cannot decide whether you should file a glass claim, call your local agent for advice for your specific situation.

Should I Purchase Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

Written By Jackie Lorick

“I have fewer than four employees. Therefore, per South Carolina law, I am not required to carry workers’ compensation coverage.” This is a comment we hear from our commercial clients all too often.

While they are correct, per South Carolina law, they do not have to carry workers’ compensation coverage if they have fewer than four employees, we do caution our clients to still consider purchasing this valuable coverage. Just because it is not required by law does not mean that it is not a prudent business decision to carry workers’ compensation coverage to protect yourself and your business. 

So why should you consider the purchase of workers’ compensation coverage? Simple. We have seen clients who had fewer than four employees when they start their business. Then they added employees to the payroll once the business started growing and forgot the “four or more” rule. This then caused them to be in non-compliance with the state laws on workers’ compensation and resulted in fees and fines.  A common misconception is that the employees have to be full-time. This is incorrect; all employees are considered for the “four or more” rule in South Carolina.

One thing to remember is that, should an employer not carry the required workers’ compensation coverage and an employee is injured, that employee then has the option of filing a civil lawsuit against their un-insured employer to recover compensation for their damages. This could be expensive for the business owner.  

Another reason would be that you, as an employer, are offering your employees a great benefit should they be injured on the job and unable to come to work or need help paying their medical bills.  In our experience, business owners are often surprised to find out that workers’ compensation coverage is not as expensive as they expected.  

If you are interested in reading more about workers’ compensation compliance, take a look at the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission’s website. 

For more information or a quote for your business, please contact Livingston Insurance Agency at 803-791-1120, your local agent.

 

Passing of a Founder

We are saddened to report the passing of Livingston Insurance Agency co-founder Raye Livingston on Thursday, March 14. She was a family member and friend to so many of you.

The family invites you to visit with them at Thompson Funeral Home, 4720 Augusta Road, Lexington, SC, on Sunday, March 17 2019 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and to celebrate her life on Monday, March 18, at Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church in West Columbia, at 11 a.m.

Our office will be closed Monday March 17th 2019 in remembrance of her.

Children as Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

Children as Beneficiaries on a Life Policy

Written by Rachel Popkowski

Selecting who should receive your life insurance money (beneficiary) after you die seems simple, right? Not quite! Most individuals purchase life insurance as a way to take care of their families in the event of their untimely death, but selecting exactly who should receive that money can be tricky. 

The focus of this article is children as beneficiaries and whether that is your best option. The short answer is “no.” The reason is because life insurance companies won’t distribute benefits directly to minors.  (I mean, what 8-year-old kid is going to be able to responsibly manage a $500,000 life insurance benefit?) 

Your best option is one of the following:

  1. Create a trust and name the trust as the life insurance policy beneficiary.
  2. Name an adult custodian for the life insurance proceeds under the Uniform Transfers to Minor Act, which allows the proceeds from a life insurance policy to transfer to a child’s named custodian to help with the needs of the minor up until the child reaches a certain age, which is usually 21.
  3. Designate a reliable adult to manage the funds for the minor.

All the options listed above avoid probate (which is when the court appoints someone to handle the proceeds, sometimes with serious restrictions on use and distribution) and are not subject to the claims of creditors. We always recommend consulting an estate attorney to help you decide the best course of action for you and your children. 

Once you’ve selected your option, just make sure you have filled out the beneficiary paperwork correctly and then review the beneficiary designation every three years or after a major life event occurs, such as a death, birth, marriage, or divorce. Life is crazy enough as it is; don’t let an improperly designated beneficiary ruin your afterlife!

 

Cheap Car Insurance: Is it really the best?

Written by Rebekah Morris

Is cheap car insurance the best car insurance?  Do you need higher liability limits than the North and South Carolina state minimum of $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage? Unfortunately, the number of distracted driving accidents is on the rise along with the cost of injuries and repairs.  This common claims scenario gives the answer!

Let’s set the scene on the error of cheap car insurance and minimum limits!

You are driving down the road and hit a 2015 Toyota Corolla. A base model for this car costs about $17,750 MSRP. So, you are a little bit below your property damage limit of $25,000. But what if you cause a multi-car accident? That $25,000 would become exhausted pretty quickly. 

Now let’s look at your bodily injury limit. Few car accidents these days don’t result in some type of bodily injury, anything from a soft tissue injury to broken bones and head injuries. The average soft tissue injury is going to start around $5,000. Let’s go on to imagine that the vehicle that was hit is totaled, which led to more severe injuries. The cost of the average hospital stay is around $10,000. On top of that, if injuries are substantial, it could the injured time away from their job. If that is the case, they could be looking at your car insurance to pay lost wages from the car accident. 

With all of these factors, those minimum limits disappear pretty quickly. Once your liability limits and property damage limits are exhausted, who do you think is on the line?  It will not be the insurance carrier; it will be the person who caused the accident. 

So, while you may save $10-$20 a month by choosing minimum liability limits on that cheap car insurance policy, is it worth it in this common claims scenario? Hop on over to your insurance agent and get a quote to increase those limits to make sure you are protected in the case of an accident. The low costs to increase the limits could surprise you!

Commercial Car Insurance: Why Cheaper Is Not Always Better

Written By Jackie Lorick

In today’s economic climate, almost everyone is looking for the best deal on goods and services. While we all love a good deal, “cheap” may not always result in the best coverage when shopping for commercial car insurance.

Those of us in South Carolina who have been in the insurance industry for a few years hear “find the lowest insurance for the best price” on a daily basis. The problem is, when clients focus on cheap, they tend to lose sight of the coverages they are giving up. While cheap commercial car insurance policies can help you save money in the short term, they can also potentially result in some very costly out-of-pocket expenses further down the road.  

It’s important to remember that your business relies on your commercial car insurance after an at-fault accident, or perhaps even a not-at-fault accident. In those events, you do not want to be told that you do not have coverage.

Of course, that is not to say that there are not ways to save money on your auto policy! One cost savings option would be to have lower liability limits on your commercial car insurance but have your independent agent quote an umbrella policy to provide an additional layer of coverage. At times, this can be more cost-effective than carrying the highest liability limits. Another cost savings measure would be to increase your collision and comprehensive deductibles, especially if you do not plan on filing a claim that is below a certain dollar threshold.  

When it comes to your commercial auto policy, it is best to steer clear of cheap car insurance and instead focus on what coverages are most important to you and your business. Claims on a commercial auto policy tend to have higher payouts compared to personal auto policies, and it is important to remember when the vehicle is on the road, everything owned by your business is, in essence, tied to the hood of that vehicle driven by you or your employee.

Is your business vulnerable in the event of a liquor liability claim?

Written By Jackie Lorick

Liquor liability is something of a hot topic these days and has many business owners wondering if their general liability policy protects them from such an event. The simple answer to that question would be . . . maybe, as each claim is evaluated by an insurance claims adjuster and depends upon several factors. After polling a few underwriters from various insurance companies, the answer really depends upon the following: the type of business the insured runs, the claims scenario, who the carrier is, and the policy forms.  

Liquor Liability Exclusion and Host Liquor Coverage

All standard general liability policies have an exclusion stating that should the insured be in the “business of manufacturing, distributing, selling, serving or furnishing alcoholic beverages,” the policy would not provide coverage for liquor liability. If the insured is not in such a business, then there is what is known as “host liquor” coverage. This type of coverage protects clients who generally do not have any alcohol exposure but might have an office outing and are (for example) providing a glass of wine with dinner for their employees.  Even Non-Profits must consider carefully when alcohol is served at a function. The Nonprofits Insurance Alliance has some great tips for all businesses when alcohol is served at function. 

This coverage can be at times deemed a gray area for adjusters, as it is hard to determine whether or not such events are incidental to the business exposure.  If the client is hosting a large party where alcohol is present, it is always best to go the route of adding a special event policy with liquor liability coverage to prevent yourself from being in a “gray area of coverage.”

Beware of the Host Liquor Liability Exclusion

Also, it is important to note that some carriers have even started adding additional exclusions to their general liability forms that will remove host liquor coverage for insureds. For this reason, we always recommend insureds read their policy documents carefully! If an insured is still unsure, they should call their trusted independent insurance agent to talk through their options.  

If an insured is in the “business” of alcohol, it is obviously always best to include a liquor liability policy in their insurance portfolio.  

So, is your business adequately protected from a liquor liability claim? Call your local insurance agent to find out.

Should I Buy the Rental Car Company’s Rental Car Insurance?

Written by Rachel Popkowski

Our agency in Columbia, SC, gets asked this question all the time.  And unfortunately, there is no simple yes or no answer. Whether you buy the rental car company’s insurance depends on your own personal auto insurance policy and your plans for the rental vehicle.  

First, let’s cover what rental car companies typically offer when you are picking up your rental.

  1. Loss-damage waiver – This covers physical damage to or theft of the rental vehicle while it is in your possession.
  2. Liability coverage – This provides supplemental liability protection to cover property damage and/or bodily injury to other vehicles and their passengers when you are at fault for an accident.
  3. Personal accident insurance – This covers medical costs after an accident for you and your passengers in the rental vehicle.
  4. Personal effects coverage – This covers damage to or theft of your personal belongings in the rental vehicle.

According to an article published by Richard Tay and Jaisung Choi, “ . . . relative to private vehicles, rental cars have been found to experience a higher collision rate per registered vehicle and these collisions often result in higher injury severity.”

So now that we know what rental car companies are offering and that there is a higher probability of an accident in a rental car, let’s consider your own personal auto insurance policy.

Most personal auto insurance policies will extend your auto insurance coverage to any car you rent, as long as you are using the rented vehicle for personal use (i.e. can’t rent it to make sales calls for your business or rent a commercial box truck to move across the country). However, your personal auto policy will only cover you in the rental car for the same coverages it provides to your personal vehicle. This means if you only have liability coverage on your personal  auto policy, the rental car will only have liability coverage extended to it from your personal auto insurance while you are driving. In addition, some credit cards provide loss-damage waiver coverage of $50,000 if the card is used to rent the vehicle. Contact your credit card company to determine if their plan meets your rental’s needs.

If you have personal health insurance and/or medical payments on your personal auto policy, that would cover your and your passengers’ medical bills that result from an accident in a rental car. Your personal items, if damaged or stolen, would be covered under your homeowners/renters personal property coverage up to the limit provided for items taken off premise and subject to the homeowners/renters policy’s deductible. 

Rental Car Insurance Outside the United States

In general, personal auto policies only provide coverage within the United States, its territories or possessions, Puerto Rico, and Canada.  So if you are traveling to Jamaica, you’ll need to purchase the rental car company’s insurance, because your personal auto policy will not cover you there.

The last thing to consider is how you plan to use the vehicle.

It could be worth purchasing some of the rental car company’s rental car insurance and transferring that risk from you and your personal policy to the rental car company. For instance, you are traveling a long  distance in a rental car through unfamiliar terrain, it could be worth deferring that greater potential for an accident to the rental car company’s insurance policy. If you are involved in an accident in a rental car and have to make a claim under your personal auto insurance policy, that claim will affect your personal auto insurance premium and possibly your own renewal eligibility. You will also have to pay your personal auto insurance deductibles in the event of a rental car accident where a claim is filed under your personal auto insurance. 

Sometimes the extra money spent for rental car insurance through the rental car company is worth the peace of mind on vacation! Other times, it’s worth the gamble for travel around town while your car is in the shop. 

Bottom line, check your own personal auto insurance coverage or call your personal lines agent  before heading to the rental car counter so you are prepared to handle those additional coverages!

Do You Need a Life Insurance Policy?

Written by Rebekah Morris

When should you purchase life insurance? Or better yet, do you really even need life insurance?

No one likes to talk about death or even start planning for it. A better way to think about life insurance is planning for your family’s future needs. When I say family, I don’t just mean husband and wife and kids. I mean your parents as well.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association [http://www.nfda.org/news/statistics], the average funeral costs between $7,000-$10,000. If something happens to you, does your family have that extra money to pay for the funeral you deserve? No one wants to leave their family vulnerable for inheriting their debit, and we know nothing in life is free.

How much Life Insurance to Buy

So now that we agree you need to buy life insurance, how much insurance should you get? Here are some things to keep in mind when coming up with an amount:

  • Immediate Expenses: Funeral costs, uncovered medical expenses, mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, and estate settlement costs.
  • Ongoing Expenses: Food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, clothing, and insurance (health, home, auto, etc.) for your loved ones in the event of your death.
  • Future Expenses: Education and retirement costs for your loved ones.

One thing to keep in mind if you are a husband or wife: Your household will be going from a two-salary household to a one-salary household suddenly. Can your bank accounts accommodate that? Will your spouse be able to continue to live in the house that you built a life in and continue the lifestyle they are accustomed to? i.e. If you have children, will they still be able to go to daycare, extra-curricular activities, or such?

After taking these factors into consideration, you should be able to get a rough number of what your loved ones need.

Take some time and really think about your life insurance needs. Your loved ones will be glad you did, and it won’t cost you a thing to get a quote.

Donating a Life Insurance Policy

Life insurance can also provide an inexpensive way for you to leave a lasting legacy in your community with the insurance benefits being gifted to your church or other selected non-profits by designating them as beneficiaries. (Check this post for how.)

Review your Life Policy

Now if you already have life insurance, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to ensuring your needs are taken care in the event of the unfortunate. Be sure to take time to review the policies as your needs change i.e. wedding, babies, career change, new house, etc. to make sure the insurance is still sufficient. Also, review your beneficiaries from time to time. If the beneficiary is a minor, make sure the life benefits are set up to go into a trust to help reduce any problems. This will also ensure the money is disseminated responsibly.

Contact your local independent insurance agency to get started today.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Are You (and Your Home) Ready?

The holidays are a joyous time of fun, food, family, and friends. But let’s get real: We do some pretty crazy stuff during the season. From hanging pine boughs on the mantle over a roaring fire to dropping a 23-pound bird in a vat of hot oil to slipping and sliding with friends on ice-covered hills, there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. Be sure to keep these Christmas safety tips in mind to make sure your holiday season stays merry and bright.

  • Baby, it’s cold outside:When the weather outside is frightful, few things are more comforting than a warm fire in the fireplace. Make sure yours is ready to go by giving it a good cleaning (or hiring a pro to do the job). Avoid chimney fires, smoke backups, and a certain jolly old elf’s sooty footprints all over your house by giving it a thorough cleaning! To make sure your home is ready for the cold weather even after the holidays are over, check out this article on winterizing your home.
  • O Christmas tree:The holiday season is the worst time of year for home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, thanks in part to the Christmas trees we like to rock around this time of year. Water your live tree each day, and position any tree (live or artificial) at least 3 feet away from heat sources to lower your risk. Turn off Christmas lights and remember to blow out those gingerbread-scented candles before leaving the house.
  • Keep only chestnuts on your open fire:While we’re talking about fire, remember to not only hang your stockings by the chimney with care, but also be sure to keep garland and other décor as well as holiday ribbons and wrappings away from an open flame or other heat source.
  • Don’t let a grinch steal your Christmas:Of course, the holidays are a time to welcome others into your home, but that’s no reason to tempt uninvited grinches who may be passing by. Keep doors and gates locked, and don’t leave delivered packages on your porch longer than necessary. If you’re traveling for the holiday, contact the United States Postal Service to hold your mail so you don’t alert thieves that the house is empty.
  • Give us figgy pudding: Most of our holiday festivities center around food, so be sure to keep a few things in mind while you’re preparing your family’s favorite dishes. Stay with your food while you’re frying, grilling, or broiling. Foods cooking at these high temperatures can easily burn and catch fire if not attended . . . and do you really want to be remembered as the one who burned the kitchen on Christmas Day? You’d never hear the end of it. Store leftovers in the fridge, and when reheating them, make sure they reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees to eliminate bacteria and prevent anything-but-festive food poisoning.
  • White Christmas: It’s rare to have a white Christmas in South Carolina, but if winter weather shows up in the forecast, make sure you have shovels and salt on hand to keep your driveway and walkways safe and ice-free. You wouldn’t want a reindeer slipping and injuring a knee. (Just for fun, have a look at these fascinating facts about reindeer.
  • Dashing (safely) through the snow: Now that your home is ready for Santa’s visit, we want to remind you, as always, to put away the phone and other distractions while driving this holiday season. There are more people on the roads and the chance of icy road conditions increases. Remember that Grandma got run over by a reindeer after having a little too much egg nog, so when you celebrate with friends and family, please drink responsibly and call a ride to keep you and others safe and sound this Christmas.

For more Christmas safety tips, check out this page by the National Safety Council

Insurance for New Home Construction in Lexington

Are you building a home? Buying insurance for new homes can be an intimidating venture, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, you can enjoy the process and be confident in your decisions.

Local builder Mungo Homes notes these reasons for building a new home. [ https://www.mungo.com/why-buy-new]

Once you’ve made the decision to build in Lexington or surrounding areas, what do you need to know about insurance for new homes?

 

  1. First and foremost, make sure you know what kind of insurance your lender may require before you purchase a lot. For example, your lender may require you to purchase flood insurance if the land you are considering is in or near a flood zone or builders risk insurance. Check before you sign a contract to ensure you don’t have any surprises after you start construction.
  2. Your builder’s insurance policy may not cover you. It likely only protects the builder in case, for instance, a tree falls on the home while it’s under construction. It could be worth your while to get a policy to cover your land and any belongings you might have on the property before you move in.
  3. If you are paying for the home in full at the closing, good for you. You won’t be required to have a homeowners’ insurance policy in place before the closing. Otherwise, your mortgage company will probably require proof that you have a year’s worth of insurance in place. The lender usually sets forth requirements for how much home insurance you should have – usually enough to rebuild the home from the ground up in case of disaster.
  4. Should you escrow? There’s no denying it’s more convenient to have an escrow account. However, a new construction home loan with an escrow account can be subject to a significant increase in monthly payments after the first year depending on how the escrow account was set up at closing. Make sure that your lender is basing your initial escrow account on the estimated property taxes for the improved property (the sales price) and not the unimproved value (the lot value). This will most likely result in an escrow surplus, but it will ensure your future payments stay relatively stable after an escrow analysis.
  5. Review and update your new home insurance policy frequently. After you move in, you might decide to add a deck or a porch or a pool to enjoy those hot Lexington, SC, summers. All of these things can affect your insurance premium or coverage. Even the addition of a home security system can influence your rates. Call your agent any time you make a change to make sure you are covered in case the unexpected happens.

Personal Lines Manager Rebekah Morris advises, “When buying insurance for new homes, don’t skimp. A bare-bones policy won’t adequately cover you in a loss, and the additional coverages are usually less expensive for new homes than they would be if you decided to add them later.”

If you’re still in the early phases of your home-building process and looking for a builder, you might want to check out these builders in the Columbia and Lexington areas as they have several new properties going up currently in the best school districts:

Mungo Homes: https://www.mungo.com/why-buy-new  

DR Horton: http://www.drhorton.com/Home-Search-Results?zipcode=29072#zip=29072

 

And as always, call your agent with any questions you may have throughout the process of building and buying insurance for new homes.

 

The Truth about Car Safety Features Lowering Your Insurance Premium

There are a lot of websites and car salesmen that will swear to you that car safety features will save you money!  Can you really trust the car salesman with insurance advice?  Here’s the truth about car safety features lowering your insurance premium.

There are even credible websites that state you will save money on car insurance with car safety features:

Nerdwallet: Will it really save you money compared to your old car?  

DMV:  This is a privately owned website not connected to the government agency, but this article may be the most accurate in stating buyers could receive insurance discounts.                           

 

The Bottom Line:

A member of our staff was just shopping for a new car in the Lexington, Columbia and Greenville, SC, area; and each dealer stated, “These safety features will lower your car insurance too.”  Is this true?

The answer is most likely not!  A car with safety features will be less expensive to insure than a car without them; however, when comparing insurance premiums to your old trade-in, the new car will definitely cost you more premium!

It’s not complicated. In fact, it’s quite simple:  New cars cost more than used cars, and thus it will cost more to replace or repair them after an accident. That is why you’ll see an increase in premium.

There are some cool safety features out there like blind spot warning systems, backup cameras, collision alerts, etc. It is recommended that you buy a car with as many safety features as possible. Maybe, just maybe, we will all get in fewer accidents and our rates will then gradually decline! In the short term, though, these safety features do add cost to the car and more expensive cars are costlier to insure! 

Safe Driving will lower you insurance!

 

Do I have to tell my agent all the safety features in the vehicle?

No! The modern reporting of VIN (vehicle identification numbers) has all the safety features of the vehicle included in its data. When you are ready to add the car to your insurance, just call Livingston Insurance and give us the vehicle’s VIN. Easy!

 

Happy Car Shopping!

 

Insurance for your Startup Business

Have you been working to open your own business and are ready to buy insurance for your startup?  Just where should you begin??  There are many types of insurance out there to consider, and all may be relevant, but what are the core insurance coverages for any small startup business?

Core Insurance Products for All Businesses, including Startups

  • General Liability: This is the fundamental core insurance of all businesses, especially startup businesses. This insurance covers any bodily injury or property damage liability that is not specifically excluded ( i.e. general liability coverage).  For a start-up business, this insurance may only run you a couple of hundred dollars. Here’s an in-depth resource on this comprehensive coverage.
  • Auto Insurance: Insure the vehicles the business owns or uses. If you or your employees use your personally owned vehicle for business on a regular basis, many carriers could deny coverage in the event of a claim due to its use as a business vehicle.  Your business could also be held liable for a vehicle used by the business on behalf of the business. A Columbia, SC marine fish store has his employees use his personal car for service calls. Without the proper insurance coverage, the owner could be personally liable for any claim that could occur.  For incidental company use, make sure to purchase hired & non-owned liability insurance to protect your business.
  • Professional Liability – If you provide services for a fee, you need to make this a core product in your insurance portfolio. Professional Liability or Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance provides protection against negligence claims due to harm that results from mistakes or failure to perform services.

Possible Insurance Products for your Startup

  • Property: Protect your business assets. Whether you own property, equipment, computers or inventory, make sure to insure them. Startup cash flow can be limited, but purchasing this insurance can save you money in the event of unexpected disasters that occur all over South Carolina.
  • Workers Compensation: In South Carolina, any business that employs four or more employees must purchase this insurance. Most startup businesses we see do not have this number of employees at the beginning, but it could be relevant to you.

Insurance Issues for the Startup

  • Home-Based Businesses: Many businesses begin out of the owner’s home, but most homeowners’ policies do not provide coverage for business property, equipment, inventory and some exclude business liability.
  • Products Liability: If you manufacture, sell or distribute a physical product, there could be liability that arises from your actual product. As you gain cash flow, consider this coverage if its not already covered by your General Liability policy.
  • Business Interruption Insurance: This insurance is not a separate policy and is not automatically included in most policies. If your business is interrupted with a claim, recouping lost income and coverin extra expenses with this insurance could be just the benefit you need to keep growing. 
  • Cyber Liability: If you transact business online or have a website that accepts payment, consider this coverage immediately.
  • Other: As you grow (check this handy chart out) or due to the complexity of your business, other insurance coverages may be needed like Directors and Officers Insurance, Key Man Insurance, Employment Practices Insurance, Flood Insurance, etc. Have a conversation with your agent once a year or when changes occur to make sure you are properly covered.  The small business administration (see here) can be a good resource as well as a good insurance agent.

Most startup businesses begin a little cash strapped, thus making any insurance purchase decision seem like a last priority. With only a couple of hundred dollars, any startup can be on its way to a good insurance portfolio!  Contact us today for a more detailed insurance plan and pricing.

Insurance for Political Campaigns

Insurance for Political Campaigns

Running for political office carries with it certain risks unique to campaigning. What should you consider when kickstarting your political campaign?

  • Certain coverages may be required by law. Workers’ compensation coverage is required by law in South Carolina and every other state. If your political campaign includes paid employees (campaign director, finance manager, etc.), you need workers’ compensation coverage. Otherwise, you could face steep fines. 
  • General liability insurance covers fundraising and meet-and-greet events you may put on and protects you in case someone slips and falls while at your event or at campaign headquarters. If you serve alcohol at your events, that requires special liquor liability consideration. Some larger events may be excluded by your general liability policy, so make sure to contact your trusted independent insurance agent.
  • Political campaign employees who use their personal autos for campaign purposes can open your campaign to significant property damage and bodily injury claims. This can usually be handled with endorsements to your general liability policy.
  • If you rent spaces for your campaign offices, the lessors will require the campaign to cover mishaps in those places with additional insured endorsements. We have insureds with political campaign offices in hotel suites and business parks in Columbia, Greenville, and Charlotte that all require this coverage.
  • Property coverage may also be necessary to protect computers, equipment and other contents of campaign offices.
  • You may need to consider directors and officers (D&O) insurance if your campaign has debt – for example, the campaign takes out a loan to kickstart the election cycle. This article from The Hartford has more information on D&O insurance.
  • While you’d like to think all of your volunteers are honest, you will also want crime coverage in the case of theft of funds by campaign workers.
  • Consider adding cyber insurance, especially if you are accepting donations through a website.
  • Depending on the size of the political campaign, you may consider an umbrella policy for an added layer of protection. For instance, a gubernatorial campaign would need more protection a campaign for the office of county clerk.

 

Give us a call at Livingston Insurance Agency at 803-791-1120 to discuss your individual needs. We have experience covering all sizes of political campaigns and can make sure your campaign and personal interests are protected.

 

Should I Call the Police?

One of the most common questions we get in the office regarding automobile accidents is, “Should I call the police?”

The answer is simple: Absolutely.

The police can easily come to the scene of the accident. They will record all parties’ vehicle, driver and insurance information and take statements to determine which party is at fault in the accident. In South Carolina, all of this information goes on a form called an FR-10 that is submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicle and assists your insurance agent in filing any claims for damages resulting from the accident.

We see it all the time here in our West Columbia office: You back into another car in a Lexington parking lot or an impatient driver taps your bumper in 5 o’clock traffic on I-20 in Columbia. There are no injuries and minimal damage to both cars, so you exchange insurance information with the other driver and go on your way without calling the police. Later that day, the other driver calls into our office to file a claim against your insurance, saying you hit them and they have gone to the hospital for treatment of neck and back pain.

Without a police report, it is their word against yours and little your insurance agent can do to protect you from the claim against your policy.

Here is a quick list of what you should do after any accident (even a minor one):

 

  • If you are able to do so, move to the side of the road to prevent further incident. Turn on your hazard lights.
  • Contact the police. If you are unable to do it, ask someone else to do it for you.
  • If anyone is injured, call an ambulance.
  • Be courteous, ask if the other party needs medical attention, and wait for the police to arrive. Do not make a statement regarding the accident to anyone except the reporting officer.
  • Get the officer’s name, department, and badge number.
  • Do not accept responsibility or apologize to the other party.
  • Determine if there are any witnesses to the incident that are willing to make a statement on your behalf, and get their name and phone number.
  • If you are on the job or in a company vehicle, report the incident as soon as possible to your supervisor.
  • Collect your copy of the police report (an FR-10 in South Carolina) from the police officer.
  • Take pictures, if you can safely do so, of the accident scene and any property damage.
  • Contact your insurance agent after the accident. They can help you submit the FR-10 to the DMV as required by South Carolina law and discuss any possible claims with you.

 

Any accident is an inconvience, especially having to wait for the police to finish their paperwork; however, it is critical that you call the police for even small accidents. That simple step can save you hundreds of dollars in increased premium resulting from claims against your insurance policy.

Livingston Welcomes Travelers!

Livingston Insurance Agency is proud to announce that it has been appointed to sell personal insurance coverage from Travelers to our customers in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida.

With their A++ rating (the highest in the industry), Travelers takes on the risk and provides the coverage you need to protect the things that are important to you – your home, your car, your valuables and your business – so you don’t have to worry.

In the mid-1800s, Hartford businessman James G. Batterson was in the post office when he met James E. Bolter, a local banker. Bolter had heard that Batterson and several others were organizing a company to introduce accident insurance to the United States. He wanted to know how much Batterson would charge to insure him for his four-block walk back to his house. “Two cents,” Batterson said.

Batterson served as president of Travelers from the company’s founding on April 1, 1864, until the day he died in 1901. The company has now been around for more than 160 years and has earned a reputation as one of the best property casualty insurers in the industry. Today Travelers has more than 30,000 employees and operations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland.

While premiums have gone up a bit from the two cents Batterson charged in the first days of the company, the products and service offered are among the best in the industry. Travelers boasts a long history of awards and special recognition, including Fortune magazine’s Most Admired Company award and Top Veteran-Friendly Company by U.S. Veterans Magazine.

The Travelers Companies, Inc.’s (NYSE: TRV)  diverse business lines offer its global customers a wide range of coverage. Call Livingston Insurance Agency at 803-791-1120, email us at info@livingstoninsurancesc.com , or click here today for a quote for your personal lines insurance coverage, including home, auto, renters, boats, weddings and events, jewelry and valuable items coverage, and more.

For more information, about Travelers visit their website. 

We are excited to have another great option to serve your insurance needs.

Hurricane Contact Numbers

As Hurricane Irma approaches South Carolina, here is a list of hurricane contact numbers you may need if you are affected by the storm and cannot reach our office:

 

Emergency Claim Numbers

For all other carriers not listed above, contact us at 803-791-1120.

 

In addition to these numbers, place a copy of your policies along with other important documents in a sealed, waterproof bag to grab in case you have to evacuate, and make sure you are up-to-date on payments. You want to make sure you are in good standing with your insurance company should you need to file a claim.

Be prepared and stay safe, South Carolina!

 

Rental Property ROI High in Lexington and Richland Counties

Considering purchasing rental property in South Carolina? You should look in the Midland’s counties of Lexington, Richland, and Sumter. These counties have some of the highest return on investment (ROI) and lowest carrying costs in South Carolina. 

Why Are the Lexington and Richland Counties Rental Markets So Profitable?

The coastal property market is the most expensive to operate in South Carolina with very high carrying costs including taxes and insurance. The going rental rate on these coastal properties compared to the expenses is not enough to provide a big return. (See the below chart for additional info.) Richland County, for instance, has one of the lowest sales prices for homes in the state yet one of the higher rental amounts. This spells PROFIT for the property owner!

Rental Property Return on Investment in South Carolina  

County

Rental Amount (3 bedroom) Median Sales Price Annual ROI
Sumter $1,040 $99,500 12.50%
Richland $1,245 $124,000 12.00%
Lexington $1,245 $130,000 11.50%
Aiken $1,087 $121,700 10.70%
Anderson $945 $109,000 10.40%
Berkeley $1,382 $176,000 9.40%
Pickens $1,102 $143,000 9.20%
Dorchester $1,382 $184,000 9.00%
Greenville $1,102 $165,000 8.00%
York $1,314 $204,000 7.70%
Beaufort $1,529 $306,000 6.00%
Charleston $1,382 $315,000 5.30%

 

Source: Attom Data Solutions, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

What Should You Consider?

When considering getting into the rental business or purchasing more properties, one of the most important steps is to find a trusted insurance partner to help guide you and provide timely quotes. Owners need to make sure they have the proper amount of property and liability insurance for each property, weigh various deductible options, and consider different insurance companies to find the right fit.  An independent insurance agency, such as Livingston Insurance, can easily help you with all of this.  

How Much Should You Insure Your Rental Property For?

This may seem like a straightforward question; however, it can actually be quite complicated, and there are options. For instance, there are several different methods by which your insurance company may calculate the amount it will pay you for a loss. Payment based on the replacement cost of damaged or stolen property is usually the most favorable from your point of view because it compensates you for the actual cost of replacing the property. In contrast, actual cash value (ACV) is the standard that insurance companies arguably prefer when reimbursing policyholders for their losses. Actual cash value is equal to the replacement cost of the property minus any depreciation (ACV = replacement cost – depreciation). This is a complex topic that an agent can help you with. Here is also a helpful article on how the amount may even differ per state law:

http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2016/11/16/a-look-at-replacement-cost-value-vs-actual-cash-va

 

If done right, investment properties can be a lucrative business, especially considering some of the returns mentioned in the chart below. However, it can also be complex to insure and manage, so an experienced insurance agency will help make this process much smoother. Livingston Insurance has helped clients manage their rental business for almost 60 years now, and we are adding new clients getting into the business each week. Give us a call at 803-791-1120 so we can help you get started today!

Are my guns insured? Why You Need a Separate Gun Insurance Policy

Are you purchasing a new hunting rifle?  Did your father hand down an antique firearm?  Did you make a large firearm purchase for your home defense? Are your guns insured?  Do you need separate gun insurance? Your standard homeowners policy may not cover this!

We in South Carolina take pride in our firearm and gun collections. Let’s make sure you cover these valuables correctly with a separate gun insurance policy. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Your homeowners or renters policy may not fully cover a loss. Many insurance companies put a cap on how much they’ll pay out for covered firearm-related losses. If your firearm costs more than $1,500, you probably need to insure it separately or at least list it separately. We recently had an insured whose firearm was stolen from his house in Lexington, South Carolina. It wasn’t insured separately, so they had to pay their homeowners deductible before the insurance company would pay out on the loss.
  • It’s not as expensive as you think. Don’t shy away from insuring your weapon. The annual premium for most valuables policies is 1 to 3 percent of the firearm’s value.
  • It’s worth the investment. A lot can happen to your favorite pieces: loss, theft, severe damage, and fire. Inland marine insurance can cover a range of losses.
  • Riders don’t always give you the coverage you need.You may get higher limits and broader coverage from riders, but they aren’t always designed for guns. If your guns are worth insuring, make sure you have a policy that will protect you.
  • It’s not just for firearms.A “valuables policy” is also known as an inland marine policy. An inland marine policy covers not just guns but jewelry, furs, artwork and other valuables. You can either schedule each item separately or add a blanket amount of coverage.

 

Are we too invested in insurance to trust? The same advice above is given in this gun owners forum:

https://www.shootersforum.com/general-discussion/78564-insuring-your-firearms-best-way.html

The NRA also recommends a separate gun insurance policy:   

https://mynrainsurance.com/insurance-products/firearms-no-cost-armscare

 

For more information on insuring your treasured pieces, give Livingston Insurance Agency a call at 803-791-1120.

 

Don’t forget to buy a Jewelry Policy!

Are you buying jewelry for your special someone this Valentine’s Day? Did you receive a little bling for Christmas? Don’t forget to buy a Jewelry Policy!

Let’s make sure you’re covered in case it ever gets lost or stolen. Here’s what you need to know on Jewelry Policies:

  • Your homeowners or renters policy may not fully cover a loss.Many insurance companies put a cap on how much they’ll pay out for jewelry-related losses. If your jewelry cost more than $1,000, you probably need to insure your valuables separately. We recently had an insured whose wife lost her anniversary ring. It wasn’t insured separately, so they had to pay their homeowners deductible before the insurance company would pay out on the loss. A jewelry policy could have prevented this additional expense.
  • It’s not as expensive as you think. Don’t shy away from insuring your new watch or diamond tennis bracelet because you think it’s expensive to do so. The annual premium for an average jewelry policy is 1 to 3 percent of the jewelry’s value.
  • It’s worth the investment. A lot can happen to your favorite pieces: loss, theft, chipped stones, and more. Jewelry policy insurance can cover a range of losses, and often allows you to work with a jeweler to recreate or repair the piece.
  • Riders don’t always give you the coverage you need.You may get higher limits and broader coverage from riders, but they aren’t always designed for jewelry. If your valuables are worth insuring, make sure you have a policy that will protect you.
  • It’s not just for jewelry.A “jewelry policy” is also known as an inland marine policy. An inland marine policy covers not just jewelry but guns, furs, artwork and other valuables. You can either schedule each item separately or add a blanket amount of coverage.

 

For more information on insuring your treasured pieces, give Livingston Insurance Agency a call at 803-791-1120.

 

Protect Yourself From Halloween Horrors

It’s the time of year when cute trick-or-treaters ring our doorbell asking for sweet treats. But every once in a while, we might have to deal with damage created by larger monsters that arrive at our door asking for trouble.

Vandalism and property damage are two potential Halloween insurance concerns. You also have to consider the possibility of trick-or-treaters getting hurt on your property or accidents caused by decorations or other holiday props. We make sure our children are protected by wearing reflectors and going only to homes we know, but do you know if your insurance policies are ready to handle all the horrors that the holiday may bring?

Here are a few of the most common Halloween mishaps that might trigger an insurance claim.

  • Slips and Falls – It is easy for smaller children to trip or slip and hurt themselves, especially with elaborate or clunky costumes that make it hard for them to see clearly or walk normally. Add the anticipation of candy and a significant sugar buzz, and tumbling toddlers become an even more likely occurrence.Generally, the liability portion of your homeowners policy will cover these types of accidents. But you should still take precautions to prevent them. Clear your walkway of fallen leaves and pine straw, and move any electrical cords or decorations that could trip up your visitors. If any of your decorations or the condition of your walkway presents a significant hazard to trick-or-treaters, your insurance may not cover the damages. If you are unsure about what constitutes a hazard, give us a call at 803-791-1120 or email us at info@livingstoninsurancesc.com.
  • Fires – The same candles that light up your traditional jack-o-lantern cause around 10,000 accidental fires every year in the United States. Your homeowners policy covers repairs and living expenses until repairs are made — unless the fire was a result of negligent or dangerous activities (for example, putting your candle-lit jack-o-lantern in a pile of dry leaves, or starting a bonfire on your porch).
  • Dog Bites – Even dogs in the top of their class in obedience school can become overexcited and frightened by the sight of a mass of costumed youngsters and bite one or more of the children. Dog bites are usually covered under the liability and medical expenses portions of your policy, but rules vary by insurer and by state. Check your policy, especially if you got your dog after the policy was signed.
  • Vandalism – Classic Halloween pranks such as egging or toilet-papering your home are an inconvenience, for certain. While vandalism is covered by your homeowners policy, pranks such as these probably aren’t worth filing a claim considering your deductible unless there is significant damage.Damage to your car is typically an auto insurance issue through a comprehensive policy.
  • Gravestones – Did you know that theft or damage of a tombstone is often covered under homeowners policies? Even though the graves are not located in your backyard (we hope), Halloween vandalism of your loved one’s grave is often covered.
Insurance for Halloween Protection

Insurance Protection for your Halloween Horrors

To prevent mishaps this Halloween, we offer these suggestions:

  • Do not set up any hazardous decorations.
  • Use flashlights and battery-operated candles instead of flames for illumination.
  • Keep your house and all walkways well lit. 
  • Remove any slip hazards. 
  • Avoiding handing out candy that contains peanuts and other allergens. (Learn about the teal pumpkin initiative.)
  • Consider the audience when scaring trick-or-treaters. For instance, don’t jump out of the bushes and shout “Boo!” at a toddler or elderly person who may not be solid on their feet!

With a little forethought, you can enjoy the holiday with confidence. Check to make sure your policies cover these common Halloween-related concerns, understand any exclusions that may exist, and close any loopholes that you think are important enough to be closed so you can relax and enjoy the holiday with your friends and children. 

 

Probate Bond Quick Help for Richland County, Lexington County, and Other Midlands Counties

Have you ever dealt with a probate court?  They are formal and not very helpful!  The point of contact for a recent conservatorship bond that we helped place vented to us how frustrated he was that a local probate court would not help him find a lawyer or an insurance agent for his conservatorship probate bond.  Fortunately, a Google search lead him to our agency.  Having a trusted lawyer and agent are two of the key steps in properly managing an estate’s or living person’s assets.

No one knows when they will have to step up to be a conservator, but if the time arises, here are some helpful resources for Lexington County, Richland County, Newberry County, and Kershaw County…

Probate Bond Court Forms:

Lexington County and Richland County probate courts will refer you to their website for any probate forms you will need. Rural counties often have more paper forms or use a standard state-wide form.  Here are some helpful links we have used:

Lexington County, SC Probate Court:

Main Probate Contact Page:

http://www.lex-co.sc.gov/departments/DeptIQ/ProbateCourt/Pages/default.aspx

Forms:

http://www.lex-co.sc.gov/departments/DeptIQ/ProbateCourt/Pages/ProbateForms.aspx

Richland County, SC Probate Court:

Main Probate Contact Page:

http://www.rcgov.us/Government/Courts/ProbateCourt/ProbateContacts.aspx

Forms:

http://www.rcgov.us/Government/Courts/ProbateCourt/Forms.aspx

Newberry County, Kershaw County, and other SC Counties Probate Courts:

Newberry, Kershaw, and other Midlands Counties use the South Carolina Judicial Department website for their forms and probate contact information.

That main page is: http://www.sccourts.org/index.cfm

Navigate your way to “Trial Courts,” then “Probate Court,” then “County Map.”  Select the county of your case’s jurisdiction for their information.

For example, this is it for Newberry: http://www.sccourts.org/probate/index.cfm?fuseaction=forms&countyno=36.

 

How to find a good Probate Bond Lawyer:

Anyone can find a lawyer; they are everywhere!  But, how do you find a good probate lawyer?  Use this resource http://www.martindale.com/ in your search.  Martin Dale provides peer-reviewed and client-reviewed resources for both consumers and lawyers. This site is merely meant to help you in your search.  You will want to speak with the actual lawyers to find the most experienced and best fitted for you.

 

Probate Bonds and the Many Other Names they can be Called:

This is a re-cap of “different” names a court may use to refer to probate bonds. Of course, you can always call us for more info on each of these!

Probate: Administrator bonds, Personal Representative bonds, Estate of Court bonds, and Executor of Court bonds.

Guardianship:  Guardianship bonds, Conservatorship bonds, and Custodian bonds.

Trustee: Receiver bonds, Trustee bonds, and Disbursing Agent bonds.

 

Experienced Independent Insurance Agent:

Finally, only an experienced local Independent Insurance Agent in the court’s general vicinity can truly help you navigate the confusing system of the Probate Court and the required bonding. Our average total time with a client is around 30 minutes with typically same day pricing turnaround time. You do not physically have to come in our office.  We have helped an individual from across the country with a conservatorship bond domiciled in South Carolina completely remotely. An experienced independent agent has multiple markets and the expertise to handle this part of the process quickly and painlessly.

Distracted Driving

Show of hands: Who has caught a wild Rattata on their way to work?

Pokémon GO is only the latest of countless distractions to take your mind – and eyes – off the road while you’re driving. Distracted driving is an epidemic in the United States, with 8 people killed and 1,161 people injured each day due to drivers doing things other than just driving.

Whether you’re playing Pokémon, making your weekly call to mom, grabbing a quick breakfast in the car, putting on mascara, picking up that pen you dropped, having the “It’s not you; it’s me” talk with your significant other, or refereeing quarrelsome toddlers in the backseat, you are putting yourself and countless others at risk.

Check out this video that shows what distracted driving looks like in real life:

Consider recent history (like the 1980s), before we had 24/7 contact with the whole world. Somehow we managed to travel – sometimes for hours – without checking our phones. That “quick glance” at your phone to read an incoming text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. In that length of time, driving 45 mph, you’d travel the length of a football field. Imagine the damage you could do in that space at 5:15 p.m. on Highway 378 in Lexington.

 

Here are some things you can do to limit your distractions while driving:

  • Silence your phone and put it out of reach. That “urgent” text message can wait.
  • Set your GPS before you start driving.
  • Put your passenger in charge of the air conditioning and radio. (They’ll love you for it.)
  • Save serious discussions (on the phone or with a passenger) for home.

 

To promote safe driving, several developers have created apps to help you keep your mind off your phone and on the road.

  • Focus – Screen Free Driving (https://justdrive.io/) for iPhone gives audible reminders when you touch your phone while driving. Examples of these reminders are, “Eyes on the road, Chief” and “Would your parents be happy with you if they knew you were doing this?” At the end of your trip, it gives you a report showing how many minutes you were distracted by your phone.
  • DriveMode (https://drivemode.com/) for Android and iPhone will turn itself on and silence your text alerts once you reach 15 mph.
  • SafeDrive (https://www.getsafedrive.com/)  for Android and iPhone rewards you with points as you drive that can be redeemed at gas stations and other retailers, but once you touch your phone while driving, you lose your points.
  • For other apps, search for “distracted driving” in your phone’s app store.

 

Let’s do our part to promote road safety and put an end to senseless distracted driving accidents.

Craft Brewery – Do I need Liquor Liability Insurance?

Craft Brewery – Do I need Liquor Liability Insurance?

Do you own or run a Craft Brewery or Micro Brewery in South Carolina? Do you ever serve your product directly to your customers?  If you answered yes to both questions, then you need Liquor Liability Insurance.    Whether you are serving a craft brew or a high gravity beer, Liquor Liability will help protect you and your brewery!

What is Liquor Liability Insurance?

Liquor Liability protects your business and its assests should an interested party sue your business for damages related to their intoxication.

South Carolina Courts Crack Down on Serving the Intoxicated

It is common knowledge that those holding liquor permits in South Carolina cannot sell alcohol to those who are younger than 21 or already intoxicated.  (See S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580.)

What if you cannot tell an individual is already intoxicated? The South Carolina Supreme Court in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill, Inc. (see here for the case law summary… http://caselaw.findlaw.com/sc-supreme-court/1533406.html) held that a business may be found liable for the actions of a customer, even without evidence that the customer was visibly drunk.  This increased burden on any beer, wine, or liquor business must be taken into consideration.  Buy Liquor Liability Insurance to transfer this risk and set up good business practices in-house to prevent claims.

SC State Law Required?

No, South Carolina does not require this insurance, but you may need it to do business with other establishments, and you definitely need it to protect yourself!  A recent example is a beer tasting was held at a popular Columbia, SC venue where some craft brewers handed out samples.  Before this could occur, the venue required the brewers to show proof of liquor liability insurance to serve those samples.

How do you get Liquor Liability Insurance?

A good Brewery Insurance policy will have limits built into the policy form or has it so coverage can be easily added onto the policy.  You can also purchase this as a separate policy in some non-standard markets.

How much Liquor Liability Insurance does my Brewery need?

You are only doing tastings and the consumption limit per guest is 48 ounces of beer, right?  So you’re thinking you don’t need that much, just the bare minimum.  NOT SO FAST!  We live in a very litigious society and South Carolina is known for lawsuits against businesses of all sizes.  Start with at least $1M in limit.

Craft Brewery – Tasting Rooms & Brewery Tours

Craft Brewery – Tasting Rooms & Brewery Tours

Many local craft brewers and retail establishments in Columbia , Greenville, and Charleston, South Carolina offer brewery tours and tastings. This is a great way to market a product and create interest from the community.  However, what you might not think about is how these tours and tastings present a different set of exposures compared to a craft brewery where guests are not allowed on premise.  You must protect your business as well as your guests!

Per our previous blog post (have fun here)on Craft Brewery Insurance, slips and falls are the most common liability claim for the tasting rooms and tours. Protect your brewery and guests with some quick and easy safety/housecleaning tips for your craft brewery:

  • Use non-skid flooring whenever possible and mop up spills immediately.
  • Make the surface level, but if it is not possible, clearly mark and illuminate all changes in elevation and steps.
  • Ensure handrails on stairs are secure and stairs are in proper condition, i.e. no tears in the carpet and a solid non-skid surface.
  • Keep walkways inside and outside the brewery in good condition and well lit.
  • Don’t permit guests to carry beverages or food with them during the tour.
  • Post warnings and liability disclaimers at the tour site and on your website to assure visitors understand potential physical and operational hazards.
  • Be sure to follow any state or local safety regulations or health restrictions, including occupancy restrictions for fire evacuation.
  • Inspect all equipment and clean the area before guests arrive.
  • Provide proper clothing, if necessary, for safety and contamination reasons.
  • Contact your Insurance Agent or Livingston Insurance for advice or more ideas!

 

Finally, abide by the law!  South Carolina has a law known as the “Pint Law,” which limits brewery guests to 48 ounces of on premise beer consumption within a 24 hour period.  For the actual law, visit the South Carolina State House Site: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t61c004.php and Read Section 61-4-1515.

Craft Brewery Insurance – What you need to protect your brew house!

Mirco (Craft) Brewery Insurance – What you need to protect your brew house!

Laws are changing to attract more Craft Brewers to cities.  In fact, West Columbia, SC just had a major announcement to try to attract craft brewers or a single craft brewery to locate in their city to help revitalize a once popular real estate area. It’s a great idea!  Here’s an article in The State about it:

http://www.thestate.com/news/business/article76307167.html

According to the South Carolina Brewers Association, craft breweries have accounted for $443 million in economic impact in South Carolina since 2014.  As it stands now, Lexington County, South Carolina only has 1 brewery for this booming industry.

But don’t forget about Craft Brewery Insurance, if you are thinking about opening your own micro brewery!

As a brewer interested in opening another location or a new business, South Carolina and Lexington County laws are just one hurdle to jump. You must also post State and Federal Liquor Bonds and should buy appropriate insurance.  Not any insurance will do!  You need specific insurance to protect your most significant investment and risks…your tanks, your beer, and your customer liability.

Make sure your Craft Brewery or Micro Brewery Insurance includes the following industry specific coverages:

Brewery Property coverages

  • selling price and market value valuation clauses for your product
  • tank collapse
  • tank leakage
  • contamination and adulteration of your product
  • temperature change

 

Brewery Liability coverages

  • blanket additional insured status for vendors/distributors
  • product recall expense
  • liquor liability
  • special event coverage if you host or attend tours, tastings, festivals, and/or weddings.

And those are only the Property and General Liability coverages, there are broadened Crime and Equipment Breakdown coverages available for brewers as well.

As you can see from the brief list above, a standard General Liability and Property Policy will not provide enough protection for a Brewery to be successful in the event of a loss. It only takes one large event to force a start-up Brewer to close its doors.

 

Consider these loss examples that can easily occur in your brewery:

Your heating boiler explodes, causing extensive damage to your brewhouse and building. Equipment breakdown coverage can cover the damage to your equipment and your building.

A gear in a bottling line suddenly breaks, shutting down production. Equipment breakdown coverage can pay for your cost to repair or replace the damaged gear, up to the limit of your policy, and could also cover your lost income or extra expense caused by the accident.

Finally, most craft breweries have tasting rooms and tours.  Protect yourself!  The most common claims are slips and falls, which can run up to $10,000 in medical bills.  Here are some additional tips to protect your brewery tasting rooms and tours:  http://blog.cinfin.com/2015/03/19/tasting-rooms-tours/

Don’t forget to join your local Brewers Assocation to stay on top of current trends happening in your area.  Here the link to the South Carolina Brewers Guild:   http://www.southcarolinabeer.org/

 

 

Adding Teenage Drivers to Your Auto Insurance – Not So Scary After All!

Adding a teen driver to your car insurance policy might seem a little scary. Now, not only is your child loose on the roads of Richland and Lexington counties, but you’re also facing increases in your insurance rates!

But take heart: There are ways to keep your teen driver safe and save you some cash on those insurance premiums.

When to add your teenage driver

You should notify us, your insurance agent, when your teenager gets a learner’s permit so we can make a note of it in our files, but you don’t need to officially add your teen until he or she becomes a licensed driver.

Once your teen gets a license, it’s time to add him or her to your policy or buy a separate policy for them. Talk to your agent to determine the best option for your family.

Looking at teenage driver insurance rates

Auto insurance premiums increase when you add a teen driver to the policy. Let’s face it: Teenagers are often high-risk drivers – due either to recklessness or inexperience – and insurance companies know they are taking a risk by insuring them.

However, there are ways to keep your costs from skyrocketing when your child starts to drive.

  1. Sign up your teen for a good driver’s training program.

    You may be able to keep your premiums lower by helping your teen learn how to avoid risky behavior behind the wheel, and that means getting them into the best driver’s education program possible.  (Bonus, some insurance companies offer discounts for these classes.  More on that later

  2. Avoid buying your new driver his or her own car.

    Yes, if your child has his or her own car, they won’t constantly be borrowing yours, but it makes good sense to let them drive yours instead of buying a separate vehicle just for your teen.

    • Your insurance premiums will be lower if you add your child as a secondary driver rather than a primary one.
    • Buying another car means you’ll have to pay insurance on yet another car. Not the best way to save money.
    • The insurance company looks at the driving record of each person listed on a policy. Your good driving could offset your teen’s potentially risky driving. Plus, you may qualify for discounts not available on a teen’s policy.
  3. Or buy them a sensible car. If you must buy a separate car for your teen, don’t buy them the fancy red sports car they’ve been eyeing. A sensible car means lower premiums for you.
  4. Look for teen driver discounts.

    When you add your teen, ask your agent about discounts for new drivers. Some companies offer discounts for students with good grades (usually A’s and B’s). Those who have taken an approved safety course may also be eligible. If your teen goes off to college and doesn’t take the car, you may be able to get some money back for that as well.

  5. Place all your coverage with the same company.

    Most insurance companies offer multi-policy discounts, so it could pay to have all of your insurance with the same company. The more you insure with one company, the greater your discount could be.

Adding a new, young driver to your household is scary enough without the added stress of out-of-sight insurance premiums. Give us a call at 803-791-1120 to make sure you and your teen are adequately covered and receiving all the discounts you’re eligible for.

Backyard Fire Safety and Tips – South Carolina

Did you know that South Carolina has one of the nation’s highest numbers of wildfires annually? According to the South Carolina Forestry Commission, 3,000 wildfires per year threaten homes in our state. Backyard Fire Safety is important. Read on for fire safety tips and relevant insurance advice.

According to the Forestry Commission, March is the most likely time for a fire, and the largest fires, in terms of damage, take place in April.  Vegetation is dead, humidity is low, the sun is hot, and the wind is picking up. These are perfect conditions for a fire to get out of control.

Because of these statistics, backyard fire safety is of extreme importance.

Real-Life Example:

In March 2016, a customer here at Livingston Insurance had a fire that he thought he extinguished properly in his backyard fire pit in Lexington, SC, but after 28 hours, it re-ignited! The fire quickly spread and got out of control and threatened three of his neighbors’ homes. Here are some pictures!

Lexington County Fire Fighters at Work  - Backyard Fire Safety

Lexington County Fire Fighters at Work

Lexington County Fire Fighters at Work  - Backyard Fire Safety

Protecting the valuable swing set!

Insurance:

“It’s really important that people understand that any time you create fire outside of your house, you’re responsible for the fire from the time you light it until the time it goes out. Permanently.” – Lexington County, South Carolina Fire Services Chief

In our customer’s example, a standard $100,000 or $300,000 personal liability limit would not have been enough to cover the potential damage he was liable for. He was glad he had his umbrella policy in place.

In summary, your basic homeowners insurance may not have adequate limits to help in this situation! An umbrella policy provides an extra layer of liability insurance that will protect you in situations like this.  And they are relatively inexpensive – on average , they cost $150 annually for a $1 million limit.

Backyard Fire Pit Safety Tips:

In light of our customer’s backyard fire, here are some safety tips for you and your family:

  • Clear the area of debris. Our customer found this out the hard way. Any flammable objects near the area will easily burst into flames.
  • Properly extinguish. Use water and sand. Hold your hand over the area to make sure you feel no heat.
  • Check wind direction before lighting the fire. Wind can easily carry an ember 100 yards from your fire pit.
  • Avoid using soft woods like pine or cedar because they can throw sparks and embers.
  • Keep a bucket of water next to the fire so you can easily extinguish it when the fun is over!
  • Call 9-1-1 as soon as the fire gets out of control. There is little time before the fire explodes onto others’ properties.
  • Make sure to check with your local fire services department for additional tips and regulations.

Here is the link to Lexington County’s Fire Services:

http://www.lex-co.sc.gov/departments/DeptIQ/publicsafety/fireservices/Pages/AfterAFire.aspx

Here is the Columbia, SC and Richland County Fire Department’s website:

http://columbiarichlandfire.net/

More great information about forest fires can be found at the South Carolina Forestry Commission’s website: http://www.state.sc.us/forest/refwild.htm

Stay safe out there!

 

Business Services Bond – Use it to Attract New Customers in South Carolina

Want to gain new clients and give them assurance that they will be protected when you go to work in their home or business? Show them your business services bond. Dishonest employees can severely impact your business profit and reputation. The business services bond protects your customers from losses incurred by dishonest acts of your employees.

What is the purpose of a business services bond?

The purpose is to protect your customers from losses they incur at the hands of your employees. For example, if one of your employees takes a new Blu-ray player that your customer was seemingly throwing away, a business services bond would protect the customer.

How will a business services bond respond?

Unlike an insurance policy, a business services bond will not pay the customer immediately for the loss. The bond guarantees to the customer that you, the business owner, will be able to pay any losses up to the limit of the bond. The bond will only pay the customer in the event that you or your business is financially unable to pay the loss.

How do I purchase a business services bond in South Carolina, Georgia or North Carolina?

The process is simple and can be completed same day.  Contact Livingston Insurance at 803-791-1120 or email at info@livingstoninsurancesc.com to get started. You will need to fill out a simple two-page application, and the rest is on us.

How much is the bond?

The rates are very affordable and can be downright cheap. A bond for $5,000 is generally $100 per year. We have an insured with a $50,000 bond that is $325 annually.

What types of businesses in South Carolina should purchase a business services bond?

  • Home cleaners
  • Office cleaning companies
  • Pest control companies
  • Pool cleaning services
  • Carpet cleaning and installation companies
  • Pet sitters
  • Childcare professionals
  • Painters
  • Movers and moving companies
  • Gardeners, lawn services, landscapers
  • Plumbers

 

In South Carolina especially growing areas like Lexington and Columbia, trust is an important factor when deciding to contract with a new vendor.  If you tell potential customers that you have a third-party guarantee in the form of a business services bond, this may truly gain you a new customer.

 

South Carolina License Bonds for the SC Residential Builders Commission

The State of South Carolina requires several types of businesses to post a license bond to obtain a business license and permit. The South Carolina Residential Builders Commission is the entity that requires the most license bonds in South Carolina. The license bond process should be easy, fast and cheap.

Here is what you should know:

The license bond our agency issues on a regular basis is for the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission. Formerly, these bonds were referred to as license and permit bonds, but the SC Residential Builders Commission now refers to them as license bonds.

Here is the law code that requires the bond: SC Code of Law SECTION 40-59-220.

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t40c059.php

The types of residential businesses required to post a license bond annually along with their application (both new and renewal) in South Carolina are as follows:

  • Residential roofers
  • Remodeling or small contractors
  • Specialty residential contractors
    • These businesses are not residential builders, but they contract with homeowners to do construction work, repairs, improvements or re-improvements where the total cost of construction is over $200.
  • Electrical contractors
  • HVAC contractors
  • Plumbing contractors

What is the cost for a South Carolina license bond?

Most of our customers pay $100 annually for their bond. Payment by credit card or cash is acceptable.

What if I don’t have an official license or license bond? 

You will be caught. In June 2015, 73 unlicensed contractors were caught in a sting operation. See here: http://www.llr.sc.gov/AboutUs/MediaCenter/news/2015/Contractor_Sting.pdf

The fine and possible imprisonment is not worth $100, i.e. the average cost of a bond.

Where can I get a license bond?

Due to the required long-term obligation of the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission License Bond, it is important to contact a professional with experience; otherwise, you will be paying more and doing more work than necessary. Livingston Insurance Agency makes the process simple, and it can be completed same day.  You will need to fill out a simple two-page application, and the rest is on us. It is also important to note that for the lower bonding limits, there is no required credit check.

Call us at 803-791-1120 or email at info@LivingstonInsuranceSC.com to get your bond today!

 

Helpful Links:

Required Bond Form: http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/ResidentialBuilders/PDF/LICENSE%20BOND.pdf

South Carolina Residential Builders Bond:  http://www.llr.sc.gov/pol/residentialbuilders/index.asp?file=faq.htm

South Carolina Residential Builders Commission FAQ’s: http://www.llr.sc.gov/pol/residentialbuilders/index.asp?file=faq.htm

How to Become a SC Residential Builder: http://www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/residentialbuilders/index.asp?file=FAQ%20Residential%20Builder.htm

 

 

Proper Business Insurance for Gun Stores and Ranges

Gun owners as well as gun stores have been under great scrutiny over the past few years with the poor decisions made by a few individual gun owners.  Because of these “bad apples,” it is imperative that gun stores and gun ranges as well as their owners protect themselves and their assets with proper insurance coverage.

Livingston Insurance Agency is a family owned & operated, independent insurance agency located in West Columbia, South Carolina that offers insurance products that can meet the needs of gun stores and gun ranges through CSU Underwriters, Inc., an A.M. Best A+ rated company. We have helped several stores to properly insure themselves. 

Gun store and gun range owners need to purchase at a minimum the following insurance:

  • General Liability
  • Property – for owned Buildings and/or Business Property
  • Inventory Coverage
  • Employee Dishonesty/Commercial Crime
  • Workers Compensation (if required based on SC state law)

Other additional coverages to consider include business income, glass breakage, equipment breakdown, gun smith coverage, cyber liability (for products sold online), etc.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Philadelphia Insurance Companies recommend similar coverages as the ones listed above:

https://mynrainsurance.com/business-insurance/business-alliance

https://www.phly.com/Products/RetailGun.aspx

However, you have to call a 1-800 number to speak with someone regarding their products.

Livingston Insurance in West Columbia, SC has been around since 1958 and prides itself on delivering comprehensive insurance products with personalized service.  We can come to you and your store/range to discuss your needs in person.  Our parternship with CSU Underwriters will also deliver to you:

Competitive pricing and terms

Excellent customer service

Local Claims Representative

Local Loss Control Representative

Local Field Underwriter that could potentially visit your operation for their own inspection & review to ensure proper coverage

If you are just getting into the business, make sure you are setting yourself up right from the beginning.  Check out this link for step-by-step instructions on how to start a gun range business:

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/start-gun-range-business-2163.html

 

In the end, gun store and gun range owners need to safeguard their businesses as well as their personal assets with proper insurance.  Let Livingston Insurance Agency assist you with those needs so you can sleep well at night albeit with a gun under your pillow 😉

 

 

Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring Cleaning Tips

You wash your towels and sheets regularly. You tidy up around the house after the kids go to bed. But spring is the best time to tackle tasks that are easy to overlook the rest of the year. Let the Spring Cleaning begin with our tips for both the interior and exterior of your home.

Sprucing Up Your Home’s Interior

  • Dust all furniture and ceiling fans, and clean all ducts and vents. This will decrease your exposure to pollens and other airborne allergens. Make sure you catch all the dust bunnies by cleaning out from behind the kickplate on your refrigerator, mopping behind washers and dryers, and wiping down the tops of cabinets. Clean or replace air conditioning and heating filters.
  • Wipe down hard surfaces. Telephones, doorknobs, light switches, thermostats, cabinet pulls, and faucet handles harbor tons of bacteria and are often overlooked during routine cleaning. Use a mild disinfectant on paper towels to kill harmful bacteria and help prevent the spread of viruses.
  • Clean all mold and mildew from bathrooms and other damp areas with a bleach-based cleaning product. Mold is a fungus that can trigger allergic reaction. To learn more about household mold and the issues related to it, see the Center for Disease Control’s webpage.
  • Organize your medicine cabinet. While you’re cleaning the bathrooms, take a look at your medications and discard any that have expired and those you no longer use. Your pharmacist can advise you about the best way to dispose of old medications, since tossing them into the garbage may be dangerous. Many pharmacies and clinics offer a free medication take-back service.
  • Sort your cleaning products. Don’t hesitate to dispose of products you don’t or won’t use anymore. Get rid of any products that don’t get the job done and older products that may have expired. The labels usually mention proper ways to dispose of these products.
  • Check your rugs. Make sure rugs on bare floors have non-skid mats underneath. Wash or replace older mats that have become dusty and lost their non-skid properties.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you haven’t already, test to be sure they work properly. Collect old batteries throughout the home for recycling or disposal.

 

Exterior Home and Boat Spring Cleaning Tips

Don’t forget to give the exterior of your home the onceover. Regular maintenance will keep your home safe and your vehicles ready to roll so you can enjoy the warmer months in the South Carolina sunshine.

  • Check for rain gutter obstructions. Over the winter, leaves, sand from shingles, and other debris can accumulate in your rain gutters, slowing or blocking proper drainage – especially with all the rain and wind we have in South Carolina, especially in Columbia and Lexington. This can lead to foundation flooding and other damage from standing water. Eyeball the gutters for obstructions or spray a hose onto your roof for several minutes and watch the flow of water leaving the downspouts. HouseLogic.com offers suggestions for cleaning your gutters.
  • Check the garage and basement for old cans of paint, thinners, oils, solvents, stains, and other forms of “toxic” trash. Call your city or county sanitation department to find the location of the hazardous waste drop-off center, and get rid of anything you’re not going to use.
  • Inspect outdoor play equipment. Make sure it remains sturdy and in good repair. Check for loose guardrails, protruding bolts, and other potential hazards. Clean equipment with non-toxic cleansers and be sure to thoroughly rinse any residue with clean water.
  • Clean your vehicles thoroughly. Your garage and driveway will stay cleaner for longer if you remove all the gravel and dirt from your automobiles’ undercarriage. Also, a cluttered car can be a distraction on the road.
  • Break out your boat. Get your boat ready for the season. A winter in dry dock can lead to dried-out wood and loosened bolts on your watercraft. Follow this checklist from BoatSafe.com to get your vessel ready and help you have fun and stay safe on the water. And make sure you have adequate watercraft insurance to protect your interests before heading out to Lake Murray or Charleston.

 

  • Clean up your insurance coverage. Spring is also a great time to take stock of your insurance policies. Insurance Spring Cleaning! Review your policies to make sure they are up to date. Have you switched cars? Started a home-based business? Installed a swimming pool? If so, you may not have adequate coverage. Give us a call at 803-791-1120. We’ll be happy to review your policies with you.

South Carolina Probate and Surety Bonds

Quick Summary of South Carolina Probate and Surety Bonds

Probate bonds, also known as fiduciary bonds, are required by the South Carolina courts to protect any interested parties from loss resulting from a failure of the fiduciary to faithfully perform the duties and obligations required of them by law. The representative (executor, administrator, or guardian) is charged with a significant responsibility. They’re appointed to manage assets for an incompetent, minor, or estate.

Bonds are required by the South Carolina courts to provide protection for these assets. This person must have a record of being able to manage finances and have a good credit history. They have to faithfully perform the duties of the office of the representative according to the law. They don’t need to be a lawyer or accountant but must be able to manage the assets as prescribed by the court. This person must be credit worthy just as if they were applying for a loan of the same amount of the bond.

Surety Bond FAQ’s

1)  What are the different types of probate bonds?

Guardian Bonds:  guarantee that a guardian will faithfully and diligently administer a ward’s welfare, preserving the rights and assets of the minor or incapacitated person.

Administrator Bonds: are required to protect the administration of a decedent’s estate when the decedent has died without leaving a will.

Executor Bonds: are required to protect an estate against fraudulent activities of a fiduciary named by the decedent to administer the decedent’s estate.

Conservator Bonds: guarantee that a conservator will be responsible for the assets and finances of a minor or incompetent who is deemed fully or partially incapable of properly handling their finances.

Receiver Bonds:  guarantee the faithful performance of a receiver’s duties as assigned by the court, which vary per case. A receiver is a person appointed by a court to secure the assets, property, and control of a company or entity that is a party to a lawsuit pending final decision.

Trustee Bonds: guarantee the performance of a person appointed to administer the trust and/or assets of an individual or of a business.

 

2)  Our most common probate court surety bonds:

  • Administrator bonds
  • Executor bonds
  • Conservator bonds
  • Guardianship bonds

3)  What do these bonds do?

Court Surety bonds essentially guarantee proper performance. Each South Carolina jurisdiction may use different terms for this type of bond. Such as estate bond, fiduciary bond or probate bond. Despite the term, the purpose of the bond is the same — to protect the estate and the heirs to the estate.

4)  Is a probate surety bond protection for me the executor or guardian?

No. As the executor or guardian, you are provided no protection by the bond. The estate and heirs are protected.

5)  How much does it cost?

Cost of court surety bonds mainly depend on the size of the estate, duration of the estate, along with the conditions surrounding the estate. The premium will also vary depending on the personal credit of the applicant, executor, or guardian.

6)  How do I close my probate bond?

A probate bond can not be canceled by the surety company or the executor/guardian without a court order. The bond can only be closed when the probate matter is closed by an order of discharge from the probate court.

7)  Local Greenville, SC Resource:

This local SC County Site has some good information on Estate Bonds. This is a unique county with good information:

http://www.greenvillecounty.org/probate/Estate_FAQ.asp

8)  Why should I use Livingston Insurance Agency for my bond?

Livingston Insurance Agency is one of the oldest family owned insurance agencies in the Midlands of South Carolina.  We’ve been handling all types of surety bonds for over 40 years.  Besides just check out what our clients think of us…   TESTIMONIALS

 

Five Fast Facts

  1. The Average Premium for a Court Surety Bond is under $1,000 Annually
  2. Premiums are reimbursable from the estate/assets.
  3. Underwriting is largely dependent on Personal Credit Scores of the executor/guardian, but the use of a lawyer can be a significant underwriting factor in borderline cases
  4. South Carolina judges, especially in the Midlands, have been known to waive the Bond Requirement for qualified individuals
  5. Use of a surety bond can be a big leveraging tool in court for contested assets, such as in the case of Conversatorships.

 

For more information, contact the estate’s attorney or Livingston Insurance Agency at 803-791-1120.

 

Ten Questions to determine if you should buy Long Term Care Insurance

Long Term Care Insurance has been a continuous financial debate for many years and will continue to be until all the babyboomers retire.  Many people out there wonder if the product is at least worth a consideration. Here are 10 questions that one should ask themself to determine if they should even consider purchasing Long Term Care Insurance. Although this list is in no way comprehensive, it is a good starting place for some non-financial points to consider.

Ten Long Term Care Questions to Determine your need:

  1. Did you know that Medicaid does not allow you to choose where and how your care will be provided?
  2. Does the idea of being unable to hire help frighten you?
  3. Which of your children is best able to pay for all or part of your care?
  4. How would you feel if you needed care and the resulting expenses left your spouse with little funds remaining?
  5. Would your children be able to take care of you? If so, would they be sufficiently trained to give you adequate care? Would they have the time off from work to do so?
  6. If your son must bathe you, how will that affect your relationship?
  7. Do you think there could be a conflict among your children when they must decide who will be your primary care giver?
  8. What would happen to your health if your spouse developed Alzheimer’s and made it impossible for you to sleep?
  9. Do you really want to risk your hard earned retirement savings all on healthcare? Would you want to spend your retirement savings all on long term care and leave nothing for future generations?
  10. Do you really want to place the emotional and physical burden of long term care on your family and loved ones?  Ever taken care of a parent?  It is emotionally taxing!

What the Experts say

To be honest, experts are mixed, but they all use different statistics. Here is an example of that from the Wall Street Journal:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304756104579449482245063704

Yet, experts do agree there is a need for the product and that everyone should at least consider it. Here is another article from a well-known author regarding the risk of purchasing Long Term Care Insurance.  It’s worth the read:

http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/long-term-care-how-big-a-risk/

Finally, here is a great article on how to avoid mistakes when evaluating Long Term Care Insurance:

http://discuss.morningstar.com/NewSocialize/forums/t/337533.aspx

Should I buy Long Term Care Insurance?

In the end, if you have answered yes to some of the questions, want to protect your wealth, avoid a burden on your family, and have some peace of mind at least contact your independent agent for a quote to evaluate it.

Here at Livingston Insurance we can quote Long Term Care Insurance through Auto Owners Insurance Company, who is one of the few remaining stable carriers to offer the product.

Should I add my Church as a Beneficiary on a Life Policy?

Church or Charity as a Beneficiary on a Life Policy

Many individuals would love to give a substantial gift to their favorite charity/non-profit, which here in South Carolina is likely their church. A Whole Life Insurance policy with the Beneficiary listed as your favorite charitable organization is one solution. It is effective for your charity, it is convenient and easy for you, and it is also tax deductible*!

The Benefits You Receive:

  • Donors who give a policy to a charity are eligible for a charitable deduction for the policy itself and for any premiums they pay to maintain the policy after the charity takes ownership.*
  • A reduction in the size of your taxable estate.*
  • A feeling of satisfaction as your tax-deductible gift of premiums or policy are magnified by life insurance as the insurance gains in value over time.
  • Single or limited premium payments make it easy and convenient for you to purchase and maintain.
  • A guaranteed gift that is much larger than its costs you.

The Benefits Your Charity Receives:

  • Tax-Free and guaranteed life insurance benefits in the event of your death
  • A guaranteed gift that is much larger than its costs to the donor.
    • With Single and Ten Pay Whole Life policies, the premiums are much smaller than the death benefit itself.

 Is this the most effective and convenient asset one can give to a charity?

Yes, it likely is!

Here is a financial article backing up this assertion: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/insurance/10/giving-to-charity-using-life-insurance.asp

 What if you already have a policy and would like to donate it?

There are two options:

  1. Keep it and let your heirs donate it.
  2. Donate it now and get the tax savings and satisfaction.

The Wall Street Journal sums up this advice here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323608504579022743817392368

 What Type of Life Insurance Product is eligible?

Any life product is eligible, but it is most efficient to purchase a Single Pay Whole Life policy or a Ten Pay Whole Life policy.  With the Single Pay Life Policy, your entire premium is paid up front and the gift is completed.  The benefit of the ten pay policy is that you will pay it off in full after only 10 years allowing you to spread the cost over 10 years if needed.

Livingston Insurance can handle this process for you in a quick and easy manner.  We have many types of insurance policies available for you and would be glad to give you options!

  

*Note: This discussion concerns federal tax law. State and Local income tax law will vary. Any reference to tax treatment does not constitute tax, legal, financial, or accounting advice. Consult your tax advisor.

Should I Buy Life Insurance On My Young Child or Grandchild?

There are 3 main reasons to buy Child Life Insurance on your young child or grandchild.

1.  Life Benefits help with final costs should the unexpected occur.

    • For most people, life insurance is purchased to cover final expenses, to replace lost income, and to leave some financial help for dependents. Since a child will not have an income or dependents, the life benefit’s main practical use is thus for final expenses. Should the unexpected tragedy occur, the policy benefit can be used to help pay the high costs for the funeral service, burial, and incurred final medical expenses.

2.  Give your Child or Grandchild a head start in their financial planning.

    • When they turn age 18, they can have a policy that has a much higher benefit than the original benefit you purchased.
    • Policies accrue value at a guaranteed rate! While this rate is slower than the average market return, the stock market is far from a guarantee.
    • The Cash value built is also tax advantaged, unlike the stock market.

3.  Protect your Child or Grandchild’s insurability.

    • Should your child or grandchild develop a disability or chronic illness late in life, it will be hard, too expensive, or impossible to purchase life insurance when it’s needed the most.  (Keep in mind some diseases run dormant and unpredictable in a person until adulthood.) Having a policy already in place would be a huge asset.

 

Even trusted financial bloggers state that this insurance is worth the buy, here is a long article with many reasons to buy Child Life Insurance:

http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/advisorvoices/buy-life-insurance-children/

What to buy?

There are many options to consider such as riders to existing policies, child specific policies, Single Pay Whole Life Policies, and Ten Pay Whole life policies.

An example of a specific product for Child Life Insurance is Auto Owner’s Simplified Issue Children’s Advantage Plan Plus.  This product’s benefit increases automatically by 50% at both ages 18 and then again at 25 for no additional premium. The estimated cost for this product for a $10,000 benefit is less than $100 per year with no medical underwriting. That is quite a deal!*

*For more on this product from Auto Owners, click here: http://www.auto-owners.com/our-products/life-insurance/life-insurance#SIKID

Cost

A cost example prepared recently is for a 10 Pay Whole Life policy on a child less than a year old with a $10,000 benefit, the premium would cost $101 per year for 10 years.  After 10 years, the product is paid up in full, and during that time, the policy has been accruing cash value at a guaranteed rate from age 0!*

*Cost examples are always subject to change.

As with all life insurance, the purchasing decision becomes very personal and financially dependent.  With the average American funeral costing between $7,000 and $10,000, it might not hurt to at least get a quote. (http://funeral-tips.com/funeral-costs-how-much-does-an-average-funeral-cost/)

Consult a knowledgeable agent as well as a financial planner before making any decisions.  Give us a call, and we can help!

Progressive Insurance

Progressive Insurance has arrived at Livingston Insurance Agency! With their AM Best Rating of A+ ** and their wide auto appetite in the insurance industry, they’re a great fit for us at Livingston.

Here are just a few of the many highlights of Progressive Insurance:

  • #1 Provider of Auto Insurance sold through independent insurance agents and brokers. They are mainly known for auto insurance but also have leading insurance policies for motorcycles, boats/personal watercraft, RVs, business vehicles, snowmobiles and Segway®.**
  • They have one of the better motorcycle insurance programs as the bike that you carefully chose and outfit will be treated like the unique ride it is.
    • For example, damaged OEM parts are replaced with OEM parts. And if your bike gets totaled or is stolen, with Total Loss coverage (TLC), you get a new one that’s just like the original.
  • Progressive is the #1 truck insurer in America, and they are the nation’s third-largest commercial vehicle insurance carrier.**
  • Progressive offers a usage-based insurance program called Snapshot*** for qualified insureds.
  • Claims service is available 24/7!

Progressive is known for a number of firsts in the auto insurance industry including:

  • Writing insurance for high-risk drivers. Today, it offers coverage to drivers of all types.
  • Providing customers with personal service and support immediately after they report a claim 24/7. Specially marked vehicles bring claim professionals to wherever customers need them including the site of an accident.
  • A concierge service to help customers find a replacement vehicle at a competitive price and financing for it.

Overall, Livingston Insurance has found that Progressive is a strong financial insurance company with a creative approach to their products, centered on technology and innovation.  They may not be a fit for every insurance risk, but they certainly are worth considering.

Want to know more about Progressive Insurance?  Check out Progressive’s website for videos!

 

**About Progressive. (2015, May 5) Retrieved from https://www.progressive.com/about-progressive-insurance/

***Snapshot is not currently available in North Carolina.

What is Usage-Based Insurance? What is Snapshot?

Snapshot by Progressive is one product that is part of the latest trend in insurance: Usage-Based Insurance.

We are often asked, “Why does my personal auto premium go up? I am a safe driver with no claims.” Well, that is because auto insurance is based on a risk pooling method whereby all drivers in a common rating segment are lumped together to determine appropriate auto rates for that segment.  What ends up happening is the safe drivers with no claims help balance the costs of the risky drivers with claims.  So it’s not just your driving history that goes into your auto policy’s rates.  In the majority, this method has worked for hundreds of years.

However, with the recent advances of technology and people’s desires to customize everything, there is a new way to approach auto insurance pricing with usage-based insurance rating models such as Snapshot*. (Snapshot is Progressive’s usage-based insurance program.) This program personalizes your insurance rate based on your actual driving. You can save money on your insurance premium for your safe driving habits. Currently, the main factors are hard braking, mileage, and time of day you’re driving.

How does Snapshot work?

Plug the Snapshot device into your car following the provided instructions. Track your driving habits through email updates sent from Progressive. Return the device to Progressive when you receive an email request from them. The email update will show exactly how your rate will change when you renew your policy. That’s all.

For more information on Snapshot, please visit Progressive’s website.

Rumor DEBUNKED

We have heard this rumor on several occasions, but it is not true!

Rumor: “Snapshot and other such devices will interfere with my hands free calling and Bluetooth.”

Answer: FALSE.

Usage-based insurance devices don’t interfere with driving ability, Bluetooth, or GPS navigation in the vehicle.

Usage Based Insurance: The latest trend in insurance

Many carriers including Progressive, Esurance, Allstate, Liberty Mutual are adopting usage-based insurance rating models. Here’s a more in-depth commentary by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners regarding usage-based insurance:  http://www.naic.org/cipr_topics/topic_usage_based_insurance.htm

Usage-based insurance appears to be the future in the personal auto insurance industry.  With today’s technological advancements, the limit for usage-based insurance is seemingly unlimited!

Not Convinced?

As of May 5, 2015, Progressive is offering a free 30-day trial of Snapshot.  Use Snapshot for the 30-day trial, and they will email us a quote to share with you.  Why not give it a try? Call us, and we will set you up!

 

*Snapshot is not currently available in North Carolina.

Driving a Company Car for Personal Use…Am I Protected?

Driving a Company Car for Personal Use…Am I Protected?

No, you are not automatically protected if you have a company car!

Consider these questions if you drive or your spouse drives a company car:

  • Do you have regular access to your company vehicle for personal use?
  • Does your spouse ever drive your company vehicle?
  • Do you know what your company’s commercial auto limits are?
  • Do you know if that policy has lapsed due to unpaid premiums?

If you answered yes to either of the first two questions and have no idea about the last two questions, then you need to read further.

Coverage Gap between Commercial & Personal Auto Policies

You could have a gap in your auto insurance coverage if you are involved in an accident in your company car while on personal time.  The commercial auto policy may not cover the claim because you were running a personal errand.  Or in the case of your spouse driving the car, the driver was an unreported, uncovered driver on the commercial policy and the claim could be denied.  On the flip side, your personal auto policy does not automatically extend liability coverage to non-owned autos furnished or available for your regular use (i.e. that company car).

How to Fill the Gap

There is a quick, easy, and CHEAP solution to fill this auto insurance gap.  An extended non-owned coverage endorsement should be added to your personal auto policy.  This endorsement extends your personal auto liability coverage to vehicles that are furnished or regularly available for your personal use.  And, this endorsement only runs about $25-$35 per year per driver.  Also if the coverage is added and you have a personal umbrella, the umbrella would extend over this coverage should the worst happen and you need to use it.

Don’t leave it up to your employer to take care of your personal auto liability needs.  Regardless of what state you live in – North Carolina, South Carolina, Alaska – you may find yourself in the insurance gap discussed above.  Check with your local independent insurance agent about adding this valuable coverage to your personal auto policy.

 

 

Do I Need Travel Insurance?

There are a lot of people living in Columbia, SC or Lexington, SC that love to travel to different cities to escape the heat of the Midlands. They often ask, “Do I need travel insurance?”  The short answer is yes.

Whether you are headed to Europe, Hawaii, or even Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, you do need Travel Insurance.  It has several benefits and will not break your vacation budget!

 Questions to Ask Yourself before Your Trip

The article linked to below has 10 secnarios you should consider regarding your upcoming trip: http://www.travelguard.com/whybuy/whytravelguard.asp?intcmp=clc-001-Nav-3-10Reasons

If you could see any of these scenarios or similar ones happening to you, buy the insurance.

There are many benefits of Travel Insurance, but here are a few to pique your interest:

  • Travel Downpayment Protection

Travel insurance can offer full or partial reimbursement for prepaid reservations if your trip is canceled, interrupted, or delayed for any reason. Consider these unpredictable scenarios: your mother or father is ill and the worst happens, your wife goes into sudden and unexpected labor, you are hit with a serious virus.  All of these scenarios would be valid for coverage under the proper travel insurance policy.

  • Lost Baggage

You finally get to your desitnation and your luggage is lost with your inhaler inside of it.  Who will help you fill an emergency prescription?  Some medical insurance providers may not even help you depending on where you are!  Travel Insurance can help in this instance.  In addition, most travel insurance policies reimburse you for lost or stolen baggage in transit and reimburse you for items inside of that baggage.  This can be pretty valuable coverage to have.

  • Emergency Evacuation

You are at a beach resort in Myrtle Beach, and a hurricane forces an evacuation.  Who is going to assist you with that? Who will reimburse you for your lost deposits and incurred expenses?   In fact, our agency has 2 customers who were on their honeymoon in the West Indies, were evacuated from their 5 Diamond Resort due to an impending hurricane, and were forced to pay $500 each to be flown to saftey. They lost all their deposits and had to pay extra!  A simple comprehensive travel insurance policy would have helped them here tremendously!

Inexpensive Cost for the Travel Insurance

Let’s be honest, it all comes down to a matter of cost.  Is travel insurance worth the added expense?  Typically, Travel Insurance is 5 percent to 7 percent of the price of the trip. Thus, a $10,000 European holiday would cost roughly $500 to $700 to insure.

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/insurance/do-you-need-travel-insurance-1.aspx#ixzz3WjbuUxOO

How to Buy

Contact your local independent agent or travel agent to purchase this valuable coverage.  Keep in mind that packaging this insurance with a travel package is not always your best deal for coverage and price.  Purchase this through a different entity and you are better off.   This Consumer Reports article speaks to this: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/06/do-you-need-travel-insurance/index.htm

Sleep at Night Coverage

Bottom line, Travel Insurance is a “Sleep at Night” insurance for your hard-earned vacation. Buy the coverage and sleep better at night knowing you’re covered!

When Can I Drop the Insurance on my Personal Auto?

If I’m Not Driving My Car, When Can I Drop the Personal Auto Insurance?

We get some variation of this question all the time:

  • my car is broken down and I’m not going to fix it for a couple months…
  • my car is on cinder blocks and not going anywhere…
  • my elderly parent is no longer driving their vehicle but will not sell it…
  • I own a classic car that I work on just for fun but don’t drive…
  • I’m selling my car next week…

…do I need to keep the auto insurance on the vehicle?

The short and quick answer is YES if it has a South Carolina license plate on the vehicle.  But let me explain a little.  In the state of South Carolina, you are required to maintain liability limits at a minimum of $25,000 bodily injury per person/$50,000 bodily injury per accident/$25,000 property damage on any registered vehicle (i.e. has a SC license plate).

Per the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, “If you have a South Carolina license plate on the vehicle then you must maintain insurance on the vehicle or you must turn the license plate into your local SC DMV office before removing insurance from the vehicle or you can be suspended and penalized for no insurance.”

More information about SC Motor Vehicle Requirements can be found here: http://www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/

If You are Looking to Save Money

So if you are looking for ways to save on your auto insurance, dropping coverage on a vehicle you no longer drive but is still tagged is not the way to go.  You can get slapped with a hefty fine if the SC DMV catches you.  And believe me, the DMV has gotten smart!  Their computer systems “talk” to insurance companies’ computer systems.  If they find that information does not match (even something as simple as a Vehicle Idenfication Number (VIN) mismatch), they will mail you a letter notifying you they will suspend your license and registration unless you or your insurance agent can provide proof of current coverage.  However, you could look at reducing your auto coverage on that vehicle to help save you some money.  Call your independent insurance agent to figure out what makes sense for you and your auto!

How to Legally Drop the Insurance Coverage on a Vehicle

The only way to legally drop the insurance coverage on a vehicle you still own in the state of SC is to turn in the SC license plate to the DMV then cancel the auto coverage that same day.

 

Why do I need watercraft insurance?

Dreaming of the Weekend and Getting out on your Boat?  Don’t forget your Watercraft Insurance!

As we sit here in the bright lights of the office or in the cold of winter, many of you are dreaming warm thoughts about the coming spring and summer months when you can finally break out of your winter cocoon, get outside in the warm sunshine, and back on the water!

When getting on the water in your pontoon boat, fishing boat, ski boat, Jet Ski, etc. make sure you are adequately covered just like you would with your autos or home.  Here are some things to think about when considering watercraft insurance:

  1. Why do I need watercraft insurance or boat insurance?
  2. How much is it going to cost me?
    • Watercraft insurance can run anywhere from a couple hundred dollars a year to over a thousand. It all depends on the type of watercraft needing coverage, the coverage requested, and your personal risk characteristics.  As you can imagine, a yacht is going to cost a whole lot more than a john boat.
  3. What factors help determine my watercraft premium?
    • The following is a list of characteristics that affect your watercraft premium: (Note: This list is not exclusive and factors differ from company to company.)
      • Type of boat
      • Coverage requested (i.e. liability only, comprehensive & collision, deductible)
      • Limits of coverage
      • Watercraft usage
      • Watercraft claims history
      • Your age & gender
      • Your driving history
      • Watercraft description (i.e. year, make, model, inboard/outboard engine)
      • Horsepower
      • Your personal credit score (this is becoming common with most insurance coverage)
  1. Should I buy the boat or boat insurance first?
    • Insurance is definitely a cost in owning a boat. As such, it should be factored into the cost of purchasing your boat.  So you may not need to actually purchase the insurance before buying the boat off the lot, but it’s good to get the coverage quoted through a reputable insurance agent so you know what to realistically expect when you need to make the actual insurance purchase.

Owning a watercraft is a lot of fun, but make sure you are smart and insure yourself before you head out on Lake Murray in Lexington or the Intracoastal Waterway in Charleston!  Call Livingston Insurance Agency at (803) 791-1120 for your watercraft quote today.  We have some amazing companies that offer watercraft insurance!

Dental Practice Insurance

Pulling Teeth is Easier than Getting the Right Insurance for my Dental Practice, right?

Running your own Dental Practice in the Midlands of South Carolina requires a myriad of insurance needs that you may not even know about.  Read on to find out the basics of what you need and how to obtain proper Dental Practice Insurance.

Dental Malpractice

Let’s start with the most obvious coverage needed:  Professional Liability Insurance.  This insurance, also known as dental malpractice insurance, protects insureds from claims that may occur from alleged malpractice or failure to treat a patient or any error or omission in providing dental care.  This insurance is extremely important as it can help defend your reputation in the event an unfortunate event happens.  It is always good to remember that you don’t have to do anything wrong to be sued here!

Property Insurance

You’ll also want to think about covering your physical property with a Commercial Property Policy, which would include your dental office if you own the building as well as any furniture, equipment, computers, etc. inside the building that you own.  Some of your leased equipment may have insurance requirements that would be fulfilled here as well. Depending on the policy form and endorsements selected, much broader property coverage can be included on your property policy including business interruption insurance.  Property coverage is important because in the event of a loss, say from a fire, would your practice have the money readily available to replace everything lost and continue your operations unscathed?

General Liability

After you’ve properly insured your physical “stuff,” you will want to then make sure your operational liabilities are covered by a General Liability policy.  This type of policy covers bodily injury, property damage, advertising injury, or personal injury to a third party arising from your operations.  I know what you’re thinking, when would I ever need this?  But trust me, you’d be surprised!   Perfect example, an elderly patient enters your office and trips over the welcome mat breaking their hip.  You could be held liable for the medical expenses, and a general liability policy would take care of that along with any legal costs associated with the claim.

Other Insurance Coverages to Consider

  • Workers Compensation & Employer’s Liability – required in SC if you have 4 or more employees
  • Cyber Liability – consider this if you store your patients’ health and/or credit card information on your office’s digital devices
  • Commercial Auto Insurance – self-explanatory if the practice owns a vehicle, but what if your employee gets in an accident on the way to the bank in their personal vehicle? You need Hired/Non-Owned Auto Liability coverage, an inexpensive but valuable coverage.
  • Umbrella – adds an additional layer of liability over your General Liability, Employer’s Liability, and Auto Liability policies at a minimal cost for the amount of coverage added. It prevents you having to predict where your losses will be!

For more coverages to consider, check out this site for a Dentist to Dentist perspective on dental practice insurance:   http://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-98/issue-10/features/insurance-for-the-new-dentist-doctor-protect-thyself.html

Dental Practice Insurance can be overwhelming and making sure you are properly insured can be even more overwhelming.  You don’t have to do it alone.  Seek the help of a professional independent insurance agent!  They have multiple markets, possibly specific dental practice insurance programs, know what is out there for you, and can figure out the best fit for you and your practice. The good agencies help you with risk management advice for no additional cost!

Your Non- Profit needs D&O Insurance to protect you and its other board members!

D&O Insurance: Your Non-Profit needs it to protect you and its other board members!

So you recently were appointed to a Non-Profit Board of Directors in Columbia, SC.  Pretty exciting, right?  Now you can bring awareness and make a difference in your community for a cause you are passionate about.  But I’m guessing when you were thinking about the offer you did not consider the liability that you were assuming with the board appointment, or if you did, you thought I’m covered by my Personal Liability on my homeowner’s policy.  Well, we wish it was that simple.

You are assuming a true risk when you agree to sit on a non-profit board.  You are now part of a team that is running a “business” with the vendors, creditors, and benefactors of the non-profit looking to the board to make the best decisions on their behalf.  When an interested party feels that poor management decisions have been made by the board, they can sue the non-profit and its board of directors personally.

Directors  & Officers (D&O) insurance provides coverage for “intentional” actions taken by an organization’s board of directors or management that someone else thinks is wrong.  And as we all know, you don’t have to be guilty to be sued.  D&O Insurance provides defense costs coverage for suits even if the non-profit is not at fault.

Now I know what you are thinking, I’ve got personal liability insurance under my homeowners policy.  Well, you might want to check that really closely.  Some homeowners insurance policies protect insureds while serving on for-profit boards, but there is no coverage for not-for-profits or if your policy has the coverage it is limited.  Also, all board members may not have a homeowners policy; therefore, they don’t have any personal liability coverage.   For these reasons, it is important for the not-for-profit to find money in their operating budget for D&O Insurance.  For small not-for-profits, premiums can be as little as $750 per year.  Sounds worth it if you think about how expensive a lawsuit can be.

So I task you with finding out if the non-profit boards you sit on have D&O Insurance.  If they do, make sure you are a covered insured.  If they don’t, call Livingston Insurance or your trusted insurance agent to get a quote FAST.

Should I package my home and auto insurance with the same insurance carrier?

Packaging Home & Auto Insurance – Is the juice worth the squeeze?

There are all these commercials on TV telling you to bundle this and package that, but should you really place your home and auto insurance with the same insurance carrier? If you can, absolutely! In fact, this is a question we get on an almost daily basis at Livingston Insurance, and it’s an easy answer because it is a no gimmick, great deal for any insurance customer!

Whether you are looking for home insurance, auto insurance, boat insurance, or business insurance, having several insurance policies with one carrier or at least with the same agency has significantly more pros than cons.  It’s not as hard or as scary as everyone makes it out to be either.  The Juice is worth the squeeze in this situation!!!

Here are the main reasons why packaging your insurance is the BEST way to go:

Multipolicy Discount: 

Money off!!!  Up to 20% off annual premiums at most companies with a Home & Auto Insurance combo or Home and Life Insurance combo.  Depending on the carrier, this can be applied to BOTH your home and auto insurance (or even your home, auto and business insurance).  Why not save the 20%?  You have to buy both policies anyways!

1 Point of Contact:

Aren’t you busy enough?  Simplify your life and put all your insurance in one place.  So…1 point of contact, 1 phone number, and 1 company to remember.  Also, certain insurance companies allow you to put all your policies on one bill so 1 payment too.  Can’t get much easier than that!  The big insurance agencies may not have a 1 point of contact system, but anyone at Livingston Insurance Agency can handle your needs.

Accommodations:

This is one of those unspoken industry truths, but it is a common practice that insurance carriers give extra consideration on pricing, claims, and coverages when an individual has several policies with them.  Reason being you are investing and trusting in them so they are going to go the extra mile to ensure you are well taken care of.

Claim Handling:

If you happen to have a claim where a vehicle (your’s or another’s) damages your house and auto in the same claim, it can be a huge headache as the insurance companies may end up fighting over whose going to handle the claim.  What a hassle!  Placing insurance with the same carrier avoids complications like this because it is ultimately the same claims department paying the home or auto claim.

Finally, what squeeze?  Really, there is no extra work needed on your behalf to package your insurance coverages.  An independent agent will do all the work for you – gathering the pertinent information from you and other sources, searching for the right company fit, and quoting the coverages to you.  All you have to do is say “yes” and sign on the dotted line, well, maybe, 3 or 4 dotted lines, but either way its easy!

NOTE: There are times when you may only be able to place all your insurance with one agency, not one carrier.  Don’t fret! Most carriers prefer this to separate agencies and still give you several of the benefits listed above like accommodations and the convenience of one point of contact.

Fun Facts About Craft & Distilled Spirits

Interested in some Distilled Spirits/Distillery History and Current Events? Check out these cool links!

History of Spirits in America

The origins of whiskey (aka Distilled Spirits) can be traced back to the medieval monks of both Ireland and Scotland, but we love America so this is a link to the history of Distilled Spirits in America. Check out this quote from the site, “Bourbon, in fact, is so darned American, that, in 1964, Congress itself recognized it as ‘a distinctive product of the U.S.A.’” Read more here: http://www.discus.org/heritage/spirits.

George Washington’s Distillery

The first major Craft Distiller in the United States is none other than our Founding Father, George Washington. In 1799, he is estimated to have produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey. He was so detailed in his process that on the war trail during the Revolution, he frequently wrote home to Martha with specific instructions on how to keep the distillery going while he whooped up on the British! Check out more here: http://www.discus.org/heritage/washington/

Whiskey Rebellion

Hate paying taxes on those distilled spirits? Well, so did George Washington! In 1791, Alexander Hamilton proposed a seemingly small tax on distilled spirits, which caused the Whiskey Rebellion to ensue. (Even today’s distillers know they pay too much in taxes!) Even though George Washington himself didn’t like the tax, he had to saddle up the militia to stop the rebellion: http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/whiskey-rebellion/

Craft Spirits’ Roll in the Burning of Columbia, SC

distillery-barrels-for-blog-post-fun

Distillery Barrels

Yes, even craft spirits played a significant roll in the burning of Columbia, SC during the Civil War. Once the city had “peacefully” surrendered, Sherman’s troops found a huge stock of Whiskey! The Northern troops started drinking the whiskey and fires were started. Marion Brunson Lucas, a prestigious author on the subject, stated, “… the chief culprits were cotton, wind, and whiskey.” Don’t believe me, check this out: http://library.sc.edu/socar/uscs/1993/addr93.html

For more on the 150th Year Anniversary of the Burning of Columbia, check out their site: http://burningofcolumbia.com/

Finally, a Fun Link! Need Cash to Buy Those Stills?

How about crowd-funding them? You can fund your business from around the country without having to leave the comfort of your home in Lexington, South Carolina! http://www.cnbc.com/id/101219048#

What Insurance Do I Need for My Distillery and How Much?

“What insurance do I need for my distillery? How much do I need for my distillery?”

We get these questions at every client meeting with a craft distiller. This industry is reemerging and growing so fast that the answer is not easily avaible. There are many different areas that go into valuing insurance, but we can mostly break this down into 3 areas:

  • Stills & Property
  • Liability Limit Needed
  • Product Recall

Stills & Property

Any craft distiller or spirit maker will be most concerned with his or her stills and equipment. As anyone in the spirit distilling industry knows, these pieces of equipment are very expensive and often have a long lead time for delivery (many coming from overseas!). To value it, one must consider all three of these factors: How much is your time worth to wait on a new one? How much lost revenue will occur during that time? Does your insurance cover the damaged equipment? Not all property policies were created equal! Keep in mind all those pieces of electronic equipment that are so valuable to quality control need to be considered in your valuation as well.

A quick insurance property value estimate would be a tally of invoices of your current stills and other property used in the course of your business. Don’t forget to account for inflation! Also, talk with your agent about business interruption insurance.

Liability Limit Needed

At least a $1,000,000 limit. Do you have a tasting room? If so, you need liquor liability. What else do you do? Make sure to have an open and honest dialogue with your agent to properly insure yourself.

Product Recall

This will keep you up at night! You are shipping your bottles to stores around your area or even countrywide, what happens if you find out the batch was contaminated or the bottle causes someone harm?!?! What are you going to do? Make sure you have this coverage. Recall expenses can add up quickly, so get a good agent with specialized experience.

Need more help? Try the Distilled Spirits or Craft Spirits Associations.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States may be able to help you with valuations because they are some of the industry experts. They are the trade association for nearly 70% of all distilled spirits sold in America. They have special member rates for small Craft Distillers. Check them out here: http://www.discus.org/

The American Craft Spirits Association is a trade association specifically representing the US craft spirits industry. They have a number of benefits including some vendor discounts! Check out this Association here: http://www.americancraftspirits.org/#

The Craft Distillery and Spirits Distillery industry is full of new growth and potential.

Distilled Spirits. We Can Handle it! No Problem for Livingston Insurance!

We Can Handle it!
No Problem for Livingston Insurance!

It is also highly specialized, confusing, and complicated. You need an insurance risk manager and agent to help protect you and your assets. We are located right in the heart of the Midlands of South Carolina in West Columbia, but we can help you with advice or service wherever you are in the United States.

Choose wisely! Contact us with any questions!

Jewelry Insurance

Buying or Receiving some nice gifts like a ring for the holidays?  They’re fully covered under your homeowners, right??  NOT SO FAST. You may need extra Jewelry Insurance!

There are coverage limitations for certain items on every homeowners policy.  Is $1,500 enough to cover all the jewelry in your house?  Do you have more than $2,500 of guns in your house? There are specified caps to jewelry, guns, art work, antiques, musical instruments, rare collections, valuable comic or baseball card collections, etc. You may need Jewelry Insurance or separate coverage for your valuables!

Jewelry Coverage

Jewelry Coverage

When in doubt, Schedule it!

Although you can add coverage for your valuables onto your homeowners policy, it is best to purchase a separate Inland Marine Policy. You can either schedule each item or add a blanket amount of coverage on the policy.

What is an Inland Marine Policy?

It is a policy designed to protect property in transit! For the layman, it protects your valuable personal items wherever you go.

This site has a great description and history of the name:  http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-inland-marine-insurance.htm

Advantages to an Inland Marine Policy:

  • Worldwide Coverage i.e. less limitations
    • Lose your diamond ring in Venice, Italy. No problem.
  • Broader Coverage i.e. Mysterious Disappearance
    • Can’t find a piece of china and have no idea what happened. Again, no problem.
  • Homeowners Premium will not be affected by a loss on this policy
    • e. an increase on a $150 policy after a $10,000 loss is a lot easier to absorb than the same increase percent on a $1,500 homeowners policy
  • The premium is Not Escrowed through your Home Mortgage Payment
    • You won’t have to pay the man!

Is it more expensive than scheduling it to the Homeowners?

Nope!  Usually, it is about the same cost.  So more coverage at roughly the same cost!

Happy Shopping this holiday season, and Make sure to Call your Agent to get more info and be properly protected!

10 Tailgate Tips at the Next Gamecock Game

Football Season is back!  That means Tailgating time! Are you ready for a Fun but Safe Tailgate?

Tailgating Livingston Insurance Style

Tailgating Livingston Insurance Style

Here are the Livingston Insurance Top Ten Tips to a Happy, Well-Remembered, and Safe Tailgate:

  1. Never Drink and Drive. Your team could win, but this will ruin your next 3 years and cost you approximately $10,000.
  2. Watch the Car! Don’t throw a ball near your car.  Don’t throw it near anyone else’s either.  Leave that to the players and stick to other “recreational” activities.

    Car Insurance Advice: Buy Comprehensive Auto Insurance Coverage.

  • A football goes through your windshield! You get back from the game and someone has spray painted your car!   Your car was stolen!  Your car caught fire from the hot grill you stored inside!  Carry Comprehensive Coverage on all of your vehicles for unpredictable non-collison accidental events like these.
  1. Watch the Grill. Don’t add more fuel than is necessary, don’t leave the fuel container in the sun, and please put out the fire completely before entering the stadium!
  2. Clean Up! If you love your team, clean up your area.  Don’t be THOSE
  3. It’s all about the Food. The best tailgates are the ones with the best food.  Make sure to have a few good, simple but tasty recipes.
  4. Lock up your Valuables – The most frequent tailgating claim we have is lost or misplaced jewelry. Read on about insuring your valuables…

     Homeowners Insurance Advice: Schedule Valuable Jewelry

  • The ISO Standard Homeowners policy only has $1,500 worth of Jewelry Coverage, and this is subject to the policy deductible. If you have jewelry worth more than that, schedule it!  It’s as easy as calling us!
  1. Control your Emotions. Don’t say or do anything that you will regret later.
  2. Remember the Decorations. This is key to a memorable and noticeable tailgate.   There is no limit here!
  3. Don’t forget your Hand Sanitizer. It’s easy to clean up before and after the game.  Don’t eat finger foods with dirty hands!  Your fellow tailgaters will appreciate it.
  4. Have fun! Support your team – Go Dawgs, Go Gamecocks, Go Tigers, Go Paladins, Go Blue Hose!

 

Real Life Worst Case Scenario:

The tips shared above are meant to help you avoid a worst case scenario.  Read on about one that Actually Happened at a Redskins game!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/04/AR2008110401097.html

Watching your team lose is hard, but having your car burn to the ground and being liable for other cars burning is worse!

Personal Liability Insurance Advice: Purchase Umbrella Insurance

  • See the Real Life Scenario above, Liable for an 8 car burn? You will need an umbrella for that liability.
  • Slander? Things get heated and someone accuses of you of defamation. You will need an umbrella for that liability.
  • Personal liability coverage and the extra layer of protection from an umbrella policy is key to removing worry for any tailgater!

 

So here’s to another great football season, and may the best team!

Joe Popkowski

 

Why Do I Need a Personal Umbrella?

Why Do I Need a Personal Umbrella?

Umbrella

A Personal Umbrella

Ever wonder if you have enough insurance? A Personal Umbrella policy can take that worry away!

First, let’s explore what a personal umbrella policy is.  Per Trusted Choice®, “an umbrella policy increases your liability coverage substantially—more types of claims are covered and at a higher limit.” (Source: https://www.trustedchoice.com/umbrella-insurance/#umbrella)  Personal umbrella policies provide an additional layer of liability coverage once your underlying liability limits like personal liability, auto liability, and/or watercraft liability are exhausted.  Furthermore, some umbrella policies provide coverage where your underlying policies do not such as personal injury protection should you be sued for libel, slander, defamation, or invasion of privacy.

*As always keep in mind that you do not have to be guilty to be sued!*

Now that we know what a personal umbrella policy is, consider the following list of questions to see if you should consider purchasing a personal umbrella policy:

  • Do I have a swimming pool or trampoline in my backyard? “Backyard nuisances” are attractive to others whether or not you are home.  You can be held responsible if someone drowns or hurts themselves.
  • Do I own a pet? Pets are protective of their homes and owners, and sometimes become aggressive when they feel threatened.  In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.
  • Are there any young drivers in the household? Inexperienced drivers are the most volatile exposure you can have in your household.
  • Do I own a boat? Improper and unsafe use of watercrafts account for the majority of watercraft liability claims. All it takes is one really bad accident to exhaust your watercraft liability limits.
  • Do you carry personal auto insurance? In today’s litigious society, auto insurance claim costs are on the rise.  With auto coverage following the car (not the insured), your auto liability limits can be at risk anytime you let someone borrow your car.
  • Are my personal assets (i.e. home, auto, retirement savings, business income, etc.) worth more than the liability limits on my underlying policies? If so, those assets are at risk should you be sued because you don’t have enough liability limit in place.

Bottom line, will a personal umbrella policy give you peace of mind so you can sleep at night?  That’s what insurance is there for…to help you sleep easy knowing that if the worst happens, you have protection.  A personal umbrella policy can give you that peace of mind when it comes to liability by increasing your liability limits at a truly affordable cost.

It’s Cheap!

On average, a $1 million personal umbrella policy ranges from $150-$200 per year.

So when life rains on you, make sure you have a personal umbrella to cover you!

What Are My Home’s Biggest Risks?

Do You Know Your Home’s Biggest Risks?

Home's Biggest Risks

A House Fire can be completely destructive. Buy Protection

 

Family.  Happiness.  Relaxation.  Sanctuary.  Man Room.  All words that might come to mind when thinking about your home. Do You Know Your Home’s Biggest Risks?

The other thing that may also come to mind is the fact that your home is one of your biggest assets.  Anything that can happen to it can put your family under hardship. Do you truly know your home’s biggest risks?

By far the largest type insurance claim paid out is a fire claim for a homeowner; however, you are more likely to have a wind, hail, or theft claim. Fire claims are by far the most damaging financially and emotionally, and of all the ones we have handled, not one of the owners “saw it coming!”

Other types of losses that have high a frequency of homeowners claims are Theft, Lightening, Bodily Injury/Property Damage, and finally Medical Payments to others.  This is true on a National basis and even down to a local Lexington, SC basis.

Here are some Trusted Resources for Additional Information

  • ISO: A Leading Source of Information about property/casualty insurance risk. Most data in the industry is collected by ISO.  Click here to view their site.
  • III or Insurance Information Institute: Their Missiion is to improve the Public’s Understanding of Insurance.  Click here to view their specific page on homeowners information.

 

What about a Sharknado?  Good News!  A Homeowners Policy can cover that too! Check this out from Consumer Reports:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/07/good-news-homeowners-insurance-covers-a-sharknado/index.htm

 

We cannot prevent a claim, but we can help you minimize them by sharing homeowners safety tips that we provide here in our blog posts or via social media, as well as providing a way to transfer that risk onto an insurance company. Let insurance handle your home while you handle everything else!

Contact us to help you review what you can do to minimize these frequent types of losses and to sleep peacefully at night knowing that if the worst should happen, you will be in good Financial Hands!

Is your Distillery at Risk? Craft Distillery Insurance

Craft Distillery Insurance. Do you have a Craft Distillery?  Is your work at risk?  Here’s how to protect your distillery!

 

Whiskey Display. Distillery Insurance

Craft Distillery Insurance. Protect your Distillery.

 

The Number of Craft Distilleries has surged in the US in the past few years. And believe it or not, insurance is a critical aspect of the success or failure of a startup distillery. They need specialized insurance, Craft Distillery Insurance, for things like tank leakage and tank collapse that a standard insurance policy does not cover!

NPR even profiled small distilleries and documented their meteoric rise. Check out this link to NPR.org which details the incredible increase in craft distilleries: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/22/264863748/small-batch-distilleries-ride-the-craft-liquor-wave
Livingston Insurance Agency has had success in South Carolina and North Carolina with insuring start-up Craft Distillery operations. Why? We have a specialized program through Cincinnati Insurance Company with competitive coverage and pricing, and we are already well versed in assisting new ventures with their insurance needs.

To be fully protected a Craft Distillery must look out for the following coverage sections and specific coverages in their insurance policy that address exposures common to the distilling industry, such as:

Distillery Property coverages:

• selling price and market value clauses
• tank collapse
• tank leakage
• contamination and adulteration of your product
• temperature change

Distillery Liability coverages:
• blanket additional insured status for vendors/distributors
• product recall expense
• liquor liability
• special event coverage if you host or attend tours, tastings, festivals, and/or weddings.

And those are only the Property and General Liability coverages, there are broadened Crime coverages and Equipment Breakdown coverages available for distilleries as well.
Also, distilleries will have to post Distilled Spirits Bonds to the National Government and possibly the State Government even to operate.

As you can see from the brief list above, a standard General Liability and Property Policy will not provide enough protection for a Distillery to be successful. It only takes one large event to force a start-up Distillery to close its doors. You need specific Craft Distillery Insurance for your unique business.

Check out Cincinnati’s Craft Beverage Program Here and Contact Us with any questions:
http://www.cinfin.com/Businesses_N_Organizations/Specialty_Programs/Craft_Beverage.aspx

Trusted Choice® – Independence – Independent Agent

                                    Trusted Choice® Independent Agent – What’s that?

TC_2color_web

You may or may not recognize the Trusted Choice® logo above, but it is a very important symbol to independent agencies just like Livingston Insurance.  So what is an Independent Agent?

“Trusted Choice® is the national brand created exclusively for members of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, to help consumers understand the value of an independent insurance agent.”  (https://www.trustedchoice.com/about-us/, 3/19/2014)  Trusted Choice® agents are independent agents who represent multiple insurance companies, which enable them to offer their customers a variety of coverage choices to tailor an insurance plan that provides the protection they specifically need. This is a great benefit to those in need of car insurance or business insurance!

Sounds pretty great, but what good is the brand if no one knows about it?  Trusted Choice® is working to change that!  They understand that the world is flooded with cute and witty direct writers’ advertising…think the Geico Gecko or AllState’s Mayhem.  They also understand that those ads attract customers especially those less educated in the world of insurance.  That is why Trusted Choice® is launching an equally witty campaign emphasizing the freedom that you receive by working with an independent insurance agent.  Because let’s face it, as Americans, we love to have choices!  Independent insurance agents provide just that and typically can be a “one stop shop” for all your insurance needs.

So when you think independent, think America, think freedom of choice, and think Livingston Insurance Agency  a Trusted Choice Independent Insurance agency.

As for those particularly in South Carolina, especially Lexington, Columbia, Greenville and Charleston, expect to see some banner ads coming your way very shortly!

If you want to find a Trusted Choice independent agent for your insurance needs click here, enter your zip code and you will find independence!

 

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquakes?

 

Earthquake Insurance: Does your standard Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquakes?

Need for Earthquake Insurance

Earthquake in San Francisco

If you were like me and were sitting on the couch Valentine’s Day Night in South Carolina or Georgia around 10:20 pm, you probably felt your entire house shake.  And if you were like me, you probably wondered, “What just happened?  Was that a freight train that all of the sudden found tracks right outside my house or an airplane flying too low?”  Come to find out, it was a 4.1 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter near Edgefield, SC!  Now you are probably not like me because the next thing I thought was, “Am I covered under my homeowners’ policy if there are any damages?”

Earthquake damages are not covered under most standard homeowners insurance policies, but additional coverage can be purchased in most states.

Earthquake insurance usually covers damages to the insured residence and/or its contents that are caused by the earthquake.

However, earthquake-related damages not caused by the actual earthquake but are a by-product, such as a tidal wave, may not be covered.  Earthquake Insurance premium is based on the probability of an earthquake occurring in your area and the characteristics of the insured structure.

The deductible is usually a factor of your home’s insured value, usually around 10%.  So if you had a $150,000 home, your deductible would be $15,000.  That may sound ridiculously high, but think about all the damage a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, which was the magnitude of the 1886 Charleston Earthquake, could do.  A ten percent deductible doesn’t sound so bad when you look at it that way.  That being said, the coverage is surprisingly affordable in our area of the country.  I’ve seen between five and ten percent of the annual policy premium.

Bottom line, check your homeowners policy to see if you are one of the lucky ones where earthquake insurance is built into your policy form.  If you are not so lucky, you can always inquire with your agent about adding the coverage.  It is should not be that expensive.  By purchasing the coverage, you gain peace of mind that you are protected if another larger earthquake were to hit our area, which history indicates that it will!

How to Winterize my Home?

How do you winterize your home? Cold Temperatures can wreak havoc on our beloved homes. Here are some tips to help winterize yours!

Whether you live in Lexington, South Carolina, Columbia, Irmo, Greenville, Charleston, or Charlotte, the following the tips on how to Winterize Your Home can help you keep your home warm, combat high utility bills, and avoid potential claim situations in the winter months:

  1. Clean your gutters so winter’s rain and melting snow can drain.
  2. Keep your attic well-ventilated and insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house and to help avoid roof freezing.
  3. Block those leaks.  To find your leaks, you can walk around the inside of your home on a breezy day and hold a lit incense stick to locate the most common drafty areas (ie. recessed lighting, window & door frames, electrical outlets).
  4. Insulate yourself.  You should have a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic.  If you are going to layer insulation on top of each other, do not use the kind that has a paper backing.  It will act as a vapor barrier and can cause moisture problems in the insulation.
  5. Check your furnace.  Turn it on and see if it is working before the coldest weather comes.  In the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly to help with efficiency and air flow.
  6. Check your duct work and make sure they are well connected.
  7. Check your windows.  If you have storm windows go ahead and put them up.  If you don’t have storm windows and your current windows are leaky or drafty, start to replace them a few at a time or buy a window insulator kit to help out.
  8. Have your chimney inspected before using your fireplace.
  9. Reverse the fan in your home.  When you reverse the direction from the summer operation, the fan pushes the warm air down and forces it to recirculate.  The blades should be turning clockwise.
  10. Wrap your pipes to help them from freezing.  Frozen water in pipes can cause water pressure buildup between the ice blockage and the closed faucet at the end of a pipe, which can lead to pipes bursting.
  11. To keep water in pipes from freezing, take the following steps:

i.      Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrap to slow the heat transfer.

ii.      Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations
near water pipes with caulking.

iii.      Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces.

12. Finally, Check your alarms and fire extinguishers.  Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years.  If you do not have a carbon-monoxide detector, you should purchase one.

Use these tips above to winterize your home so that you can enjoy the winter by a cozy fire with your loved ones!

Winterize your Home!

Enjoy with Loved Ones!

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Independent Insurance Agents: How we can help you the most!

Independent insurance agents are becoming one of the best kept secrets of the insurance industry.

Independent Agent

The Trusted Source for Independent Agents

While we are bombarded with cute TV commercials, witty billboards, and ear-catching radio announcements from direct writer insurance companies promising to save us $400 on our current insurance rates, we are forgetting about our advocates, the independent insurance agents.  These individuals are there to make sure that saving $400 does not jeopardize our insurance needs. Independent Agents are simply the best in the industry. Secure a quote today from an Independent Agent for the best policy and service.

First, let me explain the difference between a direct writer and an independent insurance agent.  A direct writer is an insurance company that solicits and services business directly with the public through its own employees, the mail, or the internet.  A great example of this is Geico.  On the other hand, an independent insurance agent is a licensed individual who typically represents multiple companies and acts as the middleman, negotiating insurance products and services on behalf of their clients with one or several of their available markets.  These agents have local offices where you can speak with someone face to face about your insurance needs.

The independent insurance agent can be your best friend when it comes to securing your insurance for many reasons:

  1. Independent insurance agents do all the work for you.  Independent   insurance agents can check several markets for you to ensure you have the best premiums and plan provisions available to you based on your information and specific needs.  You  only have to give the information once, and they take it from there.  It’s like having your own personal  shopper for insurance.
  2. Independent insurance agents are a  one-stop-shop.  By having access  to multiple insurance markets, you can typically secure coverage for your  home, auto, boat, life, small business, neighborhood HOA, vacant land, and whatever else you may need, all through one agency.  You would have just one contact for all your insurance even though it all may not be with the same insurance company.  Even as your insurance  needs change, you can stay with your same agent; they just may need to go  to another one of their markets.
  3. Every policy is different.  So as if it’s not hard enough to know  what insurance you need to buy (i.e. a dwelling fire versus a homeowners  policy), you also have to understand the little nuances between each  insurance company to make sure you are insured properly.  Some carriers include earthquake  coverage in their covered perils, while others exclude it.  Since South Carolina sits a fault line,  wouldn’t it be nice to know if earthquakes were a covered peril on your policy?
  4. Independent insurance agents deliver  outstanding service.  When you  have a coverage question or worse, you need to report a claim, do you want  to call a 1-800 number, follow voice prompts for 10 minutes, and finally speak with someone in a call center a million miles away?  By having an independent agent, you’ll  get to speak with a live person that you know and trust right off.  Your agent can quickly help you with a  tricky coverage question or get you the assistance you need for a  claim.  You may say, “But what if I  need something after hours?”  Policy  changes can always wait until the next business day as policies allow a  grace period to report changes. As far as claims are concerned, you can always call in claims directly to your insurance company if you do not want to wait until the next morning.   Or if you have your agent’s cell phone number, you can always give  them a call.
  5. Insurance is complicated.  By going online and filling out some information for a direct writer insurance company, how do you know you are getting the proper coverage you need?   A great example is state minimum auto limits.  While minimum limits are appealing  because they are cheap and are all that are required, they typically are  not enough.  In South Carolina, our  minimum limits are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily  injury and $25,000 for property damage.  Think how quickly those limits would be exhausted in a head on  collision involving two cars where 2 people had to go to the      hospital.  This is where an   independent agent can help guide you to what is best for you.

While there are many positives to using an independent insurance agent, I have to be honest that agents are human, and mistakes can happen.  When this happens, you do have options such as contacting the Department of Insurance or filing a claim against that agency’s Errors and Omissions insurance (similar to a doctor’s malpractice insurance).  It is not necessarily what you want to do, but at least you have options.  If you secure the coverage yourself and are not adequately covered, you have only yourself to blame.

Also, not all independent insurance agents are created equal.  Each agency has access to different insurance carriers, some more than others.  Also, different people work at different agencies so you need to find an agent and agency you feel comfortable with and trust.  You are going to be sharing personal information with that individual and you want to make sure you are okay with that.  Think of your insurance agent as a trusted advisor just like you do your accountant or lawyer.  An independent insurance agent should be there for you and your needs!

 

Why did my insurance premium increase?

Insurance Premium Increases

Why did my insurance premium increase?  I did not file a single claim! This is a common question we get, and it has a complex, yet simple answer: insurance rates are increasing because of the numerous recent natural disasters and companies’ poor investment returns in the stock market.

The past 7 years have seen a frequency of enormous costly storms to hit the States and the World. 2012 was the second most costly year ever in U.S. history, costing U.S. insurance companies an estimated $58 Billion. (2005 was the most costly year with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.) Superstorm Sandy is just one of the 2012 disasters yet it only accounts for 43% of the total 2012 estimated costs. Sandy  alone “resulted in about 1.38 million insurance claims — 71 percent for damage to homes; 17 percent for damage to automobiles and 12 percent for damage to businesses” , said Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based trade group and research entity. Travelers alone, according to their most recent publically available financial statements, attributed Sandy to $669 million of the $689 million in after-tax catastrophe losses at Travelers (and more than $1 billion pre-tax).  Between 2000 and 2011, insurers, on average, paid $27 billion each year to cover insurance claims related to hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, hail, and all other natural catastrophes in the U.S., according to Munich Re’s research.  The world’s most costly year was 2011, think tsunami in Japan and the horrendous tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi, costing $121.8 Billion. This is not just a Global phenomenon.  Remember the large hail storms that hit Lexington, SC and the rest of the Midlands area in 2011 and 2012? One storm will not make rates rise, but a series of many catastrophic storms will!   The insurance companies have to be able to pay the costly claims, which they do by raising rates and thus premiums.  Due to insurance risk pooling, carriers spread the cost of these storms throughout their entire customer base in order to keep premiums down for all. (Pooling is one way we can get a $1 million umbrella limit for only $150 a year). The average combined loss ratio of P&C carriers for the past few years is 101.1%, i.e. they lose money on every dollar of premium received. Now, we all have been affected by the down economy in many ways, insurance companies included.  And while the stock market is improving and Insurance Companies’ market returns are increasing, this will only help lessen the amount of rate increases they will need to return to an underwriting profit. When the stock market was performing well, Insurance Companies could offset poor loss ratios with gains from the market, which they cannot do in today’s market. So, if you are located in Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, West Columbia, or even Roswell, GA expect to see some increase in your insurance premiums over the next few years! Rates are of course actuarially determined and there are many factors that contribute to the rates. Here is a quick article with 5 surprising reasons for car insurance rates to increase: http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/auto-insurance/5-unusual-things-that-raise-your-car-insurance-rates.htm In order to head off some of these increases, you can consider increasing your deductible, bundling your homeowners/renters and automobile coverages (i.e. place with the same carrier), and watching your Claim Activity by driving safely and properly maintaining your home. This can be as simple as driving the speed limit and trimming limbs overhanging your house.  P.S. Don’t drink and drive. That can literally cost you up to $10,000 per year for the next 5 years in insurance alone!

You may be thinking I’ll just shop my insurance each year to ensure I have the cheapest premium possible. This is not recommended as longevity is still valued within an insurance company.

We have been on the underwriting side of the business, and we did look to see how long a customer had been with a company before non-renewing or considering the size of an increase. Although, it would be wise to at least check out the market once every 5 to 7 years.  A good Independent Agent, like Livingston Insurance, can do this for you and will also know their markets well enough that you will be satisfied with your insurance

Am I too young to buy Long-Term Care Insurance? Is it too Expensive?

Long-Term Care Insurance

As recently pointed out by the new Director of Insurance, Ray Farmer,  for the State of South Carolina, Long-Term Care Insurance is increasingly important and highly desired. We have discovered 3 main misconceptions when it comes to Long-Term Care Insurance: 1) It’s Too Expensive, 2) No option for At Home Care and 3) I am too young to purchase it.

As South Carolina’s new Director of Insurance recently pointed out, “Rates will continue to go up because of the nature of that line of business and the age of the population,” Farmer said. “But it is still a good coverage.” He pointed out that a yearly premium of say, $3,000, may be the same as the cost of just a few weeks in long-term care. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the average annual premium for a 50-year-old buying a fairly typical policy—pay a daily $200 benefit for 3 years with a 3% compound inflation option–is $2,235 annually.   The average annual cost for an Assisted Living Facility (one bedroom) in the State of South Carolina in 2012 was $34,500, with the Columbia (including Lexington) area at $34,185. Even a $3,000 annual premium is far less expensive, than $34,185 a year, according to a study by Genworth Financial.  NOTE: Long Term Care Insurance is another pot of money that consumers can use to help retire and age in the lifestyle that they wish.   It can be applied towards the cost of care, in some instances it may not cover all costs.

Another one of the misconceptions is that people think this insurance cannot be applied to At Home Care. Long-Term Care Insurance is very customizable. A big benefit of the insurance is that it allows one to remain in control of their care by allowing them to have their care in home, in an assisted living facility or a nursing facility.

The ideal age range to purchase Long-Term Care Insurance is between 50-65. This age group begins to think realistically about retirement and several competing financial needs, like college tuition, are behind them. Long Term Care Insurance providers look at morbidity risk—the likelihood of falling sick – thus the younger you are and less likely to get sick, the cheaper the insurance will be.  The younger you are, the less you’ll pay in premium. Premiums are also fixed like Life insurance. They cannot cancel and cannot increase your rate, unless they have a general rate increase.

You may ask, “This is all great, but where can I buy Long-Term Care Insurance?” It’s true that several of the carriers that have historically written the most Long-Term Care Insurance are leaving the marketplace, so there are only a limited number of carriers providing this coverage.  Auto Owners does still offer Long Term Care Insurance and we will be glad to help personalize a policy for you. We can help anyone living in South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Is my property covered if I live with Family or a Friend?

Renters Insurance

A common question we have been receiving quite often these days is, “I don’t need Renters Insurance… Is my personal property covered under my friend’s/family member’s policy if I am living in their house and they have a Homeowners Policy?”

The answer is no! If you are over the age of 24, not a student, and you are living in a house that you do not own, then your personal property is not covered. You will need a Renters Insurance policy, which is fairly inexpensive (see the previous blog post). Yes, Renters Insurance will cover you even if you technically do not pay rent! The policy is not only inexpensive, it can also cover you for personal liability and can give you a 15-20% (on average) discount on your car insurance if you bundle it with the same carrier as your auto insurance.  If you live in South Carolina, Renters Insurance can be especially cheap!

Don’t find this out the hard way by having a loss (fire, item stolen or damaged, etc.) and then finding you do not have any insurance coverage! In fact, a 2006 Insurance Research Council poll found that while 96 percent of homeowners have homeowners insurance, less than half of renters have a renter’s insurance policy. Many people incorrectly assume that their landlord’s insurance policy will cover their belongings. This is simply not true!  At some point in everyone’s life, you begin to accumulate items that will be hard to replace at once.  Renters Insurance or Homeowners Insurance is important! There are a lot of misconceptions about Renters Insurance and we hope that these two blog posts can help clear some up.

 Contact Us for a firm quick quote. All we will need is your name, address, contact information, and the approximate amount of property you want. A few minutes will be well worth your time!

Top 10 Commercial Carriers (by Rating)

 

Top 10 Commercial Carriers

Cincinnati is the Number 1 Rated Commercial Carrier!  We are proud to represent them.  Back in November of this year, 402 carriers were evaluated and rated based on the following categories: Underwriting Process; Financial Security; Responsive Service; Claims Handling; Risk Management and Loss-Control Programs; Compensation Program; Products and Coverages; Brand Reputation; Partnership; and Technology Support. Cincinnati Insurance came out on top of the all, including well-advertised ones like Travelers, Hartford, and Chubb.  This is quite a feat!  With all the advertising the other carriers do, this ranking goes to show the consumer that some of the best insurance companies out there do not advertise!   View the article here.

Why buy Life Insurance?

Got a Life?  Life Insurance that is

Well, a life insurance policy that is. While easily overlooked and often deemed unnecessary, Life Insurance is extremely important especially if you have a family that depends on you or large amounts of debt.

Before we get into why Life Insurance is so important, let’s establish what it is exactly. Life Insurance is a contract between an individual and an insurance carrier where the individual regularly pays premiums for the promise that the insurance carrier will pay a certain benefit in the event of the individual’s death.

Sounds a little morbid right? But think about it, life is short and you never know what tomorrow will bring. Life Insurance helps you plan for the unexpected. Think about these tough questions:

Are your loved ones okay financially if you are here today, but gone tomorrow?

Will they be able to pay the mortgage, the car note, or the credit card bills?

  • Will your wife be able to put your kids through college in ten years without your income?
  • What if you incurred significant medical costs before you passed? Who has the money to pay for those?
  • Is there enough money for you to be laid to rest in the manner you want or will your family have to scrape together money to pay for the funeral costs?

Your Life Insurance benefit can help pay for all of these costs. If you really think about it, Life Insurance is one of the most unselfish insurance policies out there. You are putting the needs of your loved ones first to keep them in the lifestyle they were accustomed to before your death.

Don’t just take our word for it. Google it.  There are infinite amount of resources out there to help plead the case for Life Insurance.

Here is a quick one from a source outside the insurance family: The Motely Fool. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/08/25/5-compelling-benefits-of-life-insurance.aspx

Now that we’ve established the need for Life Insurance, I know the next questions on your mind are what are my options and how expensive is it. The options are plentiful. You have the choices of permanent, universal, whole, and term life policies. The first three have a savings component to them, which tends to make them a little more expensive. With all four types, each insurance company has their own policy forms. Research your options and speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you wade through all the options. As for price, life insurance can be dirt-cheap! I’ve seen premiums as low as $150 per year for a $100,000 life benefit. Factors that affect premium include the type of Life Insurance requested, benefit amount, and your health status.

Now don’t get worried about your health, I know I did when I recently purchased Life Insurance. But the whole underwriting process is relatively painless. Most likely the application process will go as follows – you will complete a brief application which will result in an indication of premiums and will be submitted to your selected insurance carrier, the carrier may set-up a phone interview depending on your selected benefit amount, and finally a short physical will be performed at the cost of the insurance carrier. (This is a huge bonus as the tests they conduct are expensive yet provide valuable information about your health and you get a copy of the results!). After the carrier reviews all of these pieces, they will determine if the initial indicated premium holds and issue the policy. (Note: Underwriting criteria will vary from carrier to carrier.)

So if you were wondering what you could do to help your family plan for the future, think about purchasing a Life Insurance policy because you never know what life holds right around the corner.

Do I need Renters Insurance?

Renters Insurance

Many people this time of year are renewing rental agreements or entering into new leases for the next 12 months. With the crash of the housing market, renting is on the rise and will remain so for at least another decade. Most have heard of Renters Insurance, but few really understand what it is all about and most think it is too expensive.

Many ask, “Is it a “gimmick” insurance that is too expensive and will never use, like warranty insurance??” Nope!  This insurance has great value in protecting your possessions and your personal liability at a low cost. Price…it all starts with price. On average, this insurance runs $10-$20 per month. That is very inexpensive!  If you bundle the coverage with your auto insurance, it could be even more inexpensive. If you live in South Carolina, it is actually pretty cheap!

“Ok, the price is really affordable, but what does it really cover?” From a busted water pipe to a leak in the roof, these are the types of accidents that you don’t expect to happen in your home. Although your landlord may be responsible for making the repairs, he or she is not responsible for repairing or replacing any of your property. Without Renters Insurance, you would have to replace the items out of your pocket. The policy is designed to cover the theft, disappearance, or destruction of your personal property. (Legal Disclaimer: Read your actual insurance policy to determine the full coverage terms and conditions). It covers your personal liability for a number of deeds that you could be potentially held liable for. For instance, if you have a fire or flood in your home and the investigation shows that you caused the event due to negligence, you can be held responsible for any damages caused to your neighbor’s home and property along with the damages in your home as well. If a person was to fall or injure themselves in your home, you could be held responsible for their injury even as a renter. This insurance would pay their medical bills and other costs.

There is truly a wealth of coverage in the Renters Insurance Policy at a very affordable price.

Finally, let me end with an example of how critical the insurance can be. A person recently shared a tragic story with me of how, when she was renting a home, she had all of her earthly possessions destroyed when the house caught fire. She had to start from scratch with everything from clothes and art to computers and jewelry. If she had only purchased the renters insurance, she would have had the funds quickly available to do so. She did not, and it took years to replenish her assets.

Contact us at Livingston, and we can help get you covered.

Joe

Old Fashioned Thank You Card: How we Thank our Customers

Old Fashioned Thank You Card

How we Thank our Customers

Customer retention is a key metric in our business and customer appreciation is a priority. What better way to show customers that we appreciate them than with an old fashioned hand written Thank You card? Every other Friday we each try to pick a customer that we have been working with, helping, quoting, heard of some personal news, or are just plain on our minds to write a brief thank you note. No employee is exempt from this, which includes me.
We all at Livingston Insurance are in this business to help people and we all appreciate our customers very much. When I came to work at the agency, I really felt “the love” for our customers by our staff. The problem is that no one expressed that.  We certainly expressed it by our actions such as analyzing coverage, providing alternate quotes, examining each and every renewal policy that comes in to make sure they have absolutely the best coverage possible, but the customer had no idea. To this day, the staff still becomes personally upset when an insurance company does something seemingly unfair to one of our customers; for example, exceptionally large increase in premium given to a customer we know to be struggling to make ends meet. We go out of our way behind the scenes to do all we can for that customer.

We really do love each and every customer and I want all to know this. The first method I could come up with to communicate this was an Old Fashioned Thank You Card.