Los Angeles felt a 4.1 magnitude earthquake over the weekend, emphsizing the need for consumers to prepare for disaster and evaluate their individual needs for earthquake insurance.
“Disaster will strike when you least expect it,” said California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. “Our state is home to many devastating natural disasters – from wildfires to earthquakes. It is essential that all homeowners are prepared for the possibility of a catastrophic loss. I encourage every Californian to evaluate their individual situations and consider whether earthquake insurance is right for them. I also urge consumers to regularly inventory their assets and make sure to have adequate insurance coverage.”
A 2008 National Association of Insurance Commissioners survey revealed that the majority of American consumers do not have the coverage necessary to protect themselves from specific types of losses that are not reimbursed under standard policies. According to the survey findings, 69 percent of Americans do not have earthquake insurance.
The Commissioner is advising consumers to speak with their insurance agents and offered the following tips:
-Take an inventory of your valuables and belongings. Take photographs or a video of each room. This documentation will provide your insurance company with proof of your belongings and help to process claims more quickly in the event of disaster.
-Keep sales receipts and/or canceled checks. Also note the model and serial numbers of the items in your home inventory. As you acquire more valuables — jewelry, family heirlooms, antiques, art —consider purchasing an additional “floater” or “rider” to your policy to cover these special items. These types of items typically are not covered by a basic homeowners or renter’s insurance policy.
-Remember to include in your home inventory those items you rarely use (e.g., holiday decorations, sports equipment, tools, etc.).
Store copies of all your insurance policies in a safe location away from your home that is easily accessible in case of disaster. You may want to store your policies and inventory in a waterproof, fireproof box or in a safe, remote location such as a bank safe deposit box.
-Consider leaving a copy of your inventory with relatives, friends or your insurance provider and store digital pictures in your e-mail or on a website for easy retrieval.
-Know what is and is not covered by your insurance policy. You might need additional protection depending on where you live. Make sure your policies are up to date. Contact your insurance provider annually to review and update your insurance policy.
-Keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for each of your insurance providers.
-Find out if your possessions are insured for the actual cash value or the replacement cost. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home or possessions after depreciation while replacement cost is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home or possessions without deducting for depreciation.
-Speak with your insurance provider to determine whether purchasing replacement coverage is worth the cost. Also speak with your insurance provider to find out if your policy covers additional living expenses for a temporary residence if you are unable to live in your home due to damage from a disaster.
-Appraise your home periodically to make sure your insurance policy reflects home improvements or renovations. Contact your insurance provider to update your policy accordingly.
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