Identity Theft Lakewood, WA

Identity Theft: An Unfortunate Reality

It has been all over the news lately: data breaches at major retailers have been potentially compromising shoppers debit and credit cards. While your banking institutions and credit card issuers do offer some protection against fraudulent charges to your accounts, did you know that your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance plan may offer additional protection if your identity is stolen.

Identity Theft in Washington:

  • Keep an eye out: Even if you do not suspect your identity or credit cards have been potentially comprised, it is a good idea to regularly go over your statements to ensure all charges are accurate. Some credit card issuers will offer inexpensive credit monitoring from at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you notice a fraudulent charge or an error on your credit report, you should immediately contact the appropriate agency (i.e., your credit card issuer, credit reporting agency, bank, etc.).
  • Extra Protection: In addition to your own diligence, your homeowners, condo or renters insurance policy can offer some extra protection. For a small yearly fee (typically less than $40 per year) your insurance policy may cover expenses related to court fees, loan reapplication fees (if denied due to identity theft), notary fees and more. Some insurance plans may also include access to an identity theft counselor, someone to assist with reporting fraudulent activity and to act as a liaison to the major credit report bureaus on your behalf. Identity theft plans will vary by carrier and state, so be sure to ask your Insurance Unlimited, Inc., agent about plans available in Washington.
  • Next steps: If you suspect that you have been a victim of credit card or identity theft, fill out a police report. This will be crucial as the next few agencies you will be contacting, your bank, credit card issuer and the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) will need a copy send to their fraud departments. You will also need to file an ID Theft Complaint and Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission. Any accounts or cards that are potentially compromised should be closed and new cards issued. Continue to monitor your credit reports and accounts.

The road to recovery from credit card and identity fraud can be long and expensive. Here at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, Washington we hope it is something that you never have to experience on your own. If you are interested in learning more about adding identity theft protection to your existing home, condo or renters insurance plan contact us today. You can also visit our website 24/7 to learn about the other insurance products we offer.

Driving Faux-Pas Lakewood, WA

Top Driving Faux-Pas in Washington

We wanted to know what some of your biggest gripes about those other drivers you share the road with. After tallying our unofficial poll results, we compiled a list of bad habits behind the wheel.

  • Blinkers: Not using a blinker topped the list of annoyances on the road. Using a blinker allows other motorists to know where you intended to merge, turn or otherwise move. It gives your fellow commuters a chance to slow down to let you in/turn, etc. Not using a blinker and then moving your vehicle could cause those around you to slam on their brakes potentially causing an auto accident. We all forget every now and again, but make sure to use that blinker.
  • Merging: There were several gripes surrounding merging. Most agreed that not allowing other cars to merge into traffic was not very nice and also hazardous. Allowing traffic to flow onto the freeway may prevent an auto accident. Also on the merging gripe list is merging at a speed too slow or too fast could cause other drivers to react which could lead to an auto accident.
  • Aggressive drivers: In many states, driving aggressively can lead to a hefty ticket. Drivers who tailgate, weave in and out of traffic and speed excessively put not only themselves at risk, but other drivers, etc., around them as well.
  • Distracted drivers: These days there are many things that can distract you while driving a vehicle. Shushing kids, minding pets, texting or talking on cell phones, self-grooming, eating, drinking coffee and playing with the radio are all things that can distract you from your number one task – keeping your eyes on the road. Whether you are on a major interstate or a country road, it only takes a moment for a vehicle, animal, child or debris to get right into your path. If you are not paying attention to the road, your reaction time could be minimized and it could lead to an auto accident.
  • Share the road: Not only do we share the road with other drivers, we share the road with cyclists and pedestrians. In some areas cyclists have dedicated lanes, but they are afforded the same “right-of-way” privileges as pedestrians. When driving in an area frequented by cyclists and pedestrians, you need to be hyper-aware of your surroundings as they can seemingly pop out of “nowhere.” While the burden of an auto accident may fall to the vehicle, all parties have a duty and responsibility to look out for themselves and each other. Cyclists and pedestrians should make the direction they are heading clear, and cyclists should use the proper directional hand signals.

Driving is a privilege and requires the utmost responsibility when behind the wheel. We all have bad days when we are rushing to get to our destinations, mad at the driver in front of us or just in a daze. Snapping yourself out of those moods may help prevent an auto accident or injury. If an accident does occur, make sure to get the appropriate information from all parties involved and report the claim to your insurance carrier. If you have any questions about your auto insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to ask the experts at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, WA. Your local, independent insurance agents can walk you through what may or may not be covered by your current auto insurance policy and help you decide if additional coverage is right for your situation. They can also assist you with a personal umbrella policy. You can visit their insurance website 24/7 for more details.

Replacement cost vs. Actual cash value Lakewood, WA

Replacement cost vs. Actual cash value – What does that mean?

An insurance policy’s usefulness is determined by the policy language used. Specific policy language determines what is covered, what is excluded and the amounts covered under the policy. Reviewing your insurance policy language every now and again may be helpful in the event of a claim, as you would have a better understanding of what may be covered.

Insurance policies are full of language and terms that may not be clear right off the bat. Many terms are specific to the industry and to the specific type of insurance that is being purchased. Two such terms are Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value. These terms can be a bit confusing to decipher between.

Replacement cost vs. Actual cash value in Washington:

  • Replacement cost is very simple: It is literally the cost to replace your item with an item of similar quality. Replacement cost policies tend to be a bit more expensive since you are essential getting a brand new item for one that may have otherwise depreciated. Replacement costs are agreed upon by all parties before the insurance policy is finalized. If you have high-ticket items (jewelry, art, RV, boat, luxury vehicle or classic car) this may be the best type of coverage if you can afford it.
  • Actual cash value is the cost to replace the item minus any depreciation. For example, if you were in an auto accident and you had an actual cash value policy, your insurance would pay out the cost of the vehicle minus any depreciation, so if your vehicle is worth less than what you owe you would be responsible for paying that difference out of pocket, unless you had gap insurance. An actual cash value policy can put you in a tight spot if your items cost more to replace or repair than your policy pays out. Depreciation values for big ticket items like RVs or luxury cars can be quite large, so make sure that you have a nest egg and be prepared to pay some out-of-pocket for a loss if you have an actual cash value insurance policy.

No matter which policy type you choose, the local experts at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., can answer any questions and walk you through the different types of scenarios to see which policy type is right for your situation. Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, Washington can guide you through your homeowner’s insurance policy and more, like auto insurance. Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle, and they live right in your area, so know firsthand what your insurance needs might be. You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about the insurance products they offer.

Condo Insurance Lakewood, WA

“What does my condo insurance policy cover?”

Congratulations, you’ve purchased a condo!! Home ownership with little or no yard work. You can remodel your kitchen, paint the walls and enjoy your new space. During the purchasing process your agent probably told you that the homeowner’s association insures the building, the walls and the physical structure of your unit. What that insurance does not cover is the personal contents of your unit or any remodeled or upgraded areas within the unit.

Condo Insurance 101 in Washington:

  • Why do you need it: While your walls and building are covered in the event of destruction, your belongings and any upgrades are not. You are responsible for the physical contents, additions and upgrades in your unit. Condo insurance also provides liability coverage should a negligent act by you (fire, water damage, glass breakage, etc.) affect units other than your own. Say you left the bathtub running and it overflowed causing damage to the unit below. Your condo insurance would cover the damage to the unit below you as well as repair the damage to your unit, after a deductible. Pro tip: never leave your bathtub running unattended.
  • What may be covered: Like a renter’s insurance policy, your belongings are covered up to a certain dollar amount. Like a homeowner’s insurance policy you can add scheduled property like art, jewelry and other collectibles. A condo insurance policy also includes a negligence and liability portion in the event that you damage a unit other than your own, the common areas or if someone is injured in your unit. A condo insurance policy may also include reimbursements for living expenses if your condo is unlivable and needs to be repaired.

Having the proper amount of condo insurance coverage may help protect you from having to pay out of pocket for liability claims or damage to your unit. There are several options when it comes to the condo insurance you feel is appropriate for your needs and budget. Have questions? Talk to your local, independent insurance agents at Insurance Unlimited, Inc. Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, Washington can guide you through a condo insurance policy and add additional coverages like flood insurance or earthquake insurance. Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle, and they live right in your area, so know first-hand what your insurance needs might be.  You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about the insurance products they offer.

Rental Car Coverage Lakewood, WA

What are my insurance options for rental car coverage?

You know (or should know) exactly what your auto insurance covers if you get into an accident with your vehicle. But what if you are driving a vehicle that is not yours, specifically what if you are driving a rental car? Whether it be for a business trip, vacation or just a loaner while your vehicle is in the shop, driving a rental car is an experience we all share. Does your auto insurance coverage extend to your rental car?

Auto Insurance Coverage for a Rental Car in Washington:

  • Your auto insurance: Liability coverage is required by law, though amounts vary by state. If you have collision and comprehensive insurance coverage on your primary vehicle insurance policy the coverage typically transfers to your rental car as long as all vehicles you own are insured. If you are involved in an auto accident in your rental car the damage should be covered under your Collision and Liability policy*. Typically this means any collision damage to your rental vehicle or property damages to another vehicle (if you are found to be at-fault) as well as any injuries sustained in the accident may be covered. Collision and Liability will not cover personal effects in your vehicle that may have been damaged in a collision.
  • Insurance from the rental company:  When you rent a vehicle, you are always asked if you would like to purchase rental car insurance. This decision is purely up to you. If you have Collision and Comprehensive insurance it may be a bit redundant, however if you don’t carry the coverage it will be required to be purchased from the rental company. Insurance from the rental company typically covers theft, vandalism and collision damage to the vehicle, though there may be excluded events like damage that occurs while driving under the influence. Each rental insurance terms will vary, so it is best to discuss what is covered and what is not with the specific rental company. In terms of liability coverage, the rental company insurance policy typically includes a one million dollar limit, however this can vary between companies. Insurance from the rental company is usually fairly inexpensive, typically starting in the $20 per day range.
  • Extra protection: A simple way to get extra insurance protection in the event you are found negligent or liable in an accident is to have a personal umbrella policy. A personal umbrella policy will often extend your coverage to a rental vehicle. Not used in cases for minor fender-benders, but if you are in a serious accident and an injured party has high medical bills, a personal umbrella policy could protect your assets.

*Every claim is unique. To ensure that you’re properly covered, it is requested that you speak with your insurance agent to ensure you have the right coverage in place and that that coverage will transfer to your rental vehicle.

Your auto insurance policy does likely offer limited coverage with a rental vehicle and for most folks that is enough coverage. If you plan on having personal items in your vehicle or will have your rental car for an extended period of time, having additional coverage from the rental car company may be a smart move. Find yourself needing a rental car? Talk to the experts at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, WA. Your local, independent insurance agents can walk you through what may or may not be covered by your current auto insurance policy and help you decide if additional coverage is right for your situation. They can also assist you with a personal umbrella policy. You can visit their insurance website 24/7 for more details.

homeowner's insurance Lakewood, WA

Homeowner’s Insurance – Don’t let thieves steal your holiday

As the countdown to the holidays and NYE approaches, undoubtedly you’ve got some new gadgets, toys or jewelry around the house. Thieves know this. While you are off enjoying a holiday gathering, vacation or party, thieves could be helping themselves to your things. Taking a few extra precautions may help save you and your family the stress and anxiety of having to sort through your home for missing items and filing a homeowner’s insurance claim in Lakewood, WA.

  • Be alarmed: An alarm system is a great way to deter criminals (as long as you remember to arm it) and to potentially get a discount on your homeowner’s insurance. If you do not want the added expense of installing and maintaining an alarm system, get “Protected by XYZ Alarm Company” sign for your front  yard. A little deceptive advertising could go a long way to keeping thieves away from your home.
  • Meet the neighbors: Get to know the people on your block; be friendly. Neighbors can see things that you might miss such as an open gate or garage door. Friendly neighbors can also look out for one another on nights out or when you’re out of town.
  • Keep it clear and lit: Keeping landscaping and shrubbery trimmed and low around potential points of entry like windows or side doors could help reduce the likelihood of an intruder trying to enter your home. Installing motion lights and leaving a television or radio on when you are away from home gives the illusion that someone is in the house can be a deterrent for thieves.
  • Stash the valuables: Just not in the bedroom! The bedroom is one of the first places that thieves will look for jewelry and other valuables. Having a built-in safe or a false tile in the bathroom floor to store your valuables may make it harder for thieves to make off with your goods.
  • Know your stuff: Keeping an inventory log of items that have a potentially high risk of being stolen can help you later in the claims process. Having readily available photos, serial numbers and receipts or appraisals can help your insurance agent determine a payout should these items go missing. Having a written record can also help the police search for your missing items at pawn shops or on Craigslist.
  • Specialty Insurance: While your homeowner’s insurance may cover a portion of the cost to replace stolen items, it will not cover everything. Adding a separate valuables policy may help you recoup more of your dollar loss. Valuables such as jewelry, art and electronics can be added to a separate valuables policy.

We know that keeping your home safe from thieves is a top priority for you, just like making sure your home is properly insured is a top priority for your local independent insurance agent. Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, Washington can guide you through your homeowner’s insurance policy and add additional coverages like a separate valuables policy or personal umbrella policy. Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle, and they live right in your area, so know first-hand what your insurance needs might be.  You can also visit their insurance website 24/7.

Winterizing Lakewood, WA

Winterizing your summer “toys” before the weather turns

As winter approaches you start to prep your home and vehicles for inclement weather. You clean gutters, fix drafty areas and make sure that your emergency kit is stocked. You also store your summer toys. RVs, motorcycles and boats need to be prepped for winter too, just to make sure that they are in top condition to start the summer season next year.

In order to winterize your RV, motorcycle or boat, there are a few key areas that you need to pay special attention to.

Winterizing your summer toys in Washington:

 

  • Motorcycles: With motorcycles, you are most likely going to focus on fluids. Make sure that brake fluid is topped off and the brake lines are clear. Give your bike a fresh oil change and check the tire pressure (and tread wear!). Now is also a great time to make sure that the engine and throttle are performing properly. If anything sounds “off,” take it in for repairs so that the motorcycle is ready to go when those first warm days arrive. You should also top off the gas tank. If your tank is less than full, ice crystals can form in the tank and cause expensive damage.
  • RVs: Prepping your RV for winter is a lot like prepping your daily commuter for winter. Make sure your RV has a full tank of gas, oil change and a check of the vital engine systems like spark plugs, etc. Make sure the fresh and gray water tanks are emptied and that the tires are checked for pressure and wear and tear. The interior of your RV should also be thoroughly cleaned and while doing so, check for any drafts or broken window seals. Before you seal up your RV until summer, add a dehumidifier or desiccant crystals to help absorb harmful moisture and help prevent mold damage.
  • Boats: Like an RV, you have to prep both the interior and exterior of a boat for winter. For the exterior, check for cracks in the hull and scrape off any barnacles or other marine life that made your boat its home for the summer. If you have an outboard motor make sure to flush it with fresh water and that all the water is expelled. Inboard motors need to be refilled with antifreeze, so make sure to consult your manual for the proper mixture. The interior of the boat should be cleaned and wiped down with some type of vinyl protectant to help keep it from cracking in the cold. Make sure that your cover extends below the water line of the boat and that the cover is snug.
  • Insurance: It may seem like you do not need to keep insurance on your toys during the winter, but it is a good idea to maintain a year-long policy. If someone is injured on one of your toys while it is being stored (even if they are trespassing) and you have no liability coverage, you may be forced to pay damages out-of-pocket. Also, if a warm day comes along and you feel like taking your bike out for a spin and even just filling up the gas tank on the RV, you should have collision coverage. You may also get a discount for continuous coverage.

Winterizing is proper maintenance for your toys and proper maintenance includes insurance. If you have questions about a policy on your motorcycle, RV or boat, make sure to talk to the insurance professionals at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, WA.  Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle, and they live right in your area, so know first-hand what your insurance needs might be.  You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about the insurance products they offer like auto insurance.

insurance claim lakewood, wa

Five steps for filing an insurance claim

In the moments after an auto accident there are a million things that will run through your head. Checking yourself and other passengers for injuries is probably the first thing you do followed by visually assessing the damage to your vehicle. Your next steps may make the insurance claims process a bit easier, so learning these steps prior to an accident may trigger your memory should you find yourself involved in an auto accident.

5 tips for filing an insurance claim in Washington:

  • Call 911: Always alert law enforcement to an auto accident whether it is single or multiple vehicles, on private property, etc. The 911-dispatcher will ask a series of questions to determine if an officer is needed, usually if there is significant vehicle or property damage, there is an injury or if impairment is suspected. If an officer is not needed at the scene, make sure to file a police report at your local precinct as your insurance company may need a police report in order to process certain claims. This process also works for claims such as theft, vandalism or hit-and-run damage to your vehicle.
  • Gather information: You will need to collect information from any parties involved in the auto accident or information from someone whose property may have been damage by your vehicle (and vice versa). Make sure to get a phone number, address, auto insurance company and policy number, a description of the vehicle (make, model, and year) and a description of the damage done to the vehicle. If you have a smartphone or camera handy take photos of all vehicles, buildings and surrounding areas. Make sure to photograph vehicle positions, street signs and anything else that may be useful in the claims process.
  • Talk to your agent: Alert your agent to the fact that you have been in an auto accident and let them know the details. If it is a smaller, solo accident without significant damage to your vehicle, it may be cheaper in the long run to avoid an insurance claim and pay for the damage out of pocket. Your agent can guide you through your options and help you make the best decision for your situation. Your agent may also be an advocate for you when dealing with the insurance company of any party that was involved in an accident with you.
  • File a claim: If you and your agent have determined that filing a claim is the best option for you, then your agent can assist you in that process. Provide your agent with the information of anyone else involved in the auto accident, any photos or videos that were taken at the scene and if there is one, the police report. Your agent will start the claims process and send out a claims adjuster to assess the damage to your vehicle and let you know how much the damage will cost to repair. This does not necessarily reflect the amount you will pay, depends on who is found “at-fault” for the accident.
  • The waiting game: The claims process can take a bit of time, especially if there are multiple parties and multiple insurance companies involved. Check in with your agent and feel free to ask any questions you may have about the process.

We always hope that none of our clients will experience the stress of an auto accident, but we know that it happens (that’s why we’re here!) The local, independent agents at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, WA can assist you in filing a claim and finding a reputable repair shop. They are right in your backyard, so they know the most trusted repair shops in the Lakewood, Washington area. Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle. You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about auto insurance or the other insurance products they offer like Classic Car or RV insurance.

 

earthquake insurance lakewood, wa

Earthquake Insurance in Lakewood, WA – A Solid Foundation

Unlike some natural disasters, earthquakes are extremely difficult to predict. There are several regions in the U.S. that are at higher risk than others for having the “big one” and we just happen to live in one of them. Depending on the depth, intensity and duration, an earthquake can do significant damage to a home or condo.

This type of damage is not typically covered on a basic homeowner’s or condo insurance policy and only about 10 percent of homeowners purchase earthquake coverage. In this instance an earthquake insurance policy in Lakewood, WA may be a smart move.

Earthquakes and Washington:

  • Quaking ground: Earthquakes can be brought on by many factors. The movement of a tectonic plate in a subduction zone, the slipping of rock on a strike-slip fault line, a volcanic eruption or it can be triggered by an external factor, like drilling or mining. Generally the deeper the location of the earth’s movement, the stronger the earthquake, however, the shallower it is makes it more destructive. Earthquakes that occur along coast lines can be even more destructive as an earthquake can trigger a tsunami. Here in Lakewood, Washington, we are close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The CSZ is lengthy fault that runs from Vancouver Island in Canada all the way into Northern California, separating the Juan de Fuca plate from the North American plate. This particular fault has produced some damaging earthquakes, most recently in February 2001 when the Nisqually earthquake shook the Puget Sound region, had a recorded magnitude of 6.8 and caused about $2 billion in damages.
  • Dwelling damage: Damage from an earthquake can range from a few easily repairable cracks in the drywall of a home, to a complete failure of the structural integrity of a home. A homeowner may need to higher inspectors, structural engineers, a contractor and the list goes on. Not to mention that a family whose home was damaged in an earthquake will need a safe place to stay until the home is repaired. If the family does not have an earthquake insurance policy, they may be responsible for paying all repair costs out of pocket. These costs can often be thousands of dollars.
  • Earthquake Insurance: An earthquake insurance policy helps cover damages and additional living expenses up to a certain dollar amount. The policy cost and the amount of the deductible may vary depending on a number of factors including, but not limited to: Age of the home, distance from a fault line, location of the home (hillside, soil type, etc.) and the type of policy either Standard or Comprehensive. The monthly cost for an earthquake insurance policy can range from a few hundred dollars a year to a few thousand dollars a year depending on your location. If you or the previous owners retrofitted the home for an earthquake by securing the home to the foundation with seismic bolts or reinforcing walls or chimneys, you may be entitled to a lower earthquake insurance policy cost.

Before purchasing a home or condo, it’s important to remember to talk to your licensed insurance agent in Lakewood, WA to see if you might need an earthquake insurance policy. The experts Insurance Unlimited, Inc., in Lakewood, Washington have years of insurance experience that can save you a bundle. Plus they live right in your area, so know first-hand if you may need additional insurance such as flood insurance.  You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about the other insurance products Insurance Unlimited, Inc., offers.

 

 

Homeowner's Insurance Lakewood, WA

Homeowner’s Insurance in Lakewood, WA – Don’t let your home be a house of horrors

Time to break out the conical hats, black cat decorations and the pumpkin seeds; Halloween is on its way! Whether you intend to go all out and build a spooky scene in your front yard complete with a giant spider and web or if you plan to put up a few jack-o-lanterns you can take some extra steps to ensure that your Halloween spirit does not turn your home into a personal house of horrors.  To avoid a costly homeowner’s insurance claim in Lakewood, WA such as a fire, property damage or a personal liability claim, make sure that your Halloween decorations and any area that party-goers or trick-or-treaters access is free of debris and tripping hazards.

Avoid a holiday homeowner’s insurance claim in Washington:

  • Décor: Many Halloween decorations are made of paper or wood products. Keep these decorations away from open flames and away from lights as the décor could spontaneously combust resulting in a fire. Lit jack-o-lanterns should be extinguished prior to going to bed or leaving the house for an extended period of time. A pumpkin that is too dry or a flame that is too close to a wooden porch could spark a blaze, which if not caught quickly could be quite destructive. To eliminate open flames altogether, try flameless LED candles.  Speaking of lighting, make sure that any lights hung are the appropriate type (indoor or outdoor) and that they are strung in such a way that no one could trip over or get tangled in.
  • Tripping Hazards: Little ones (and adults too!) can get over excited during a scare and could hurt themselves on décor that is not properly secured or in the way. Moving items like porch furniture or lawn décor could help prevent accidents outside. If you plan to throw a Halloween party indoors with little ones, make sure that sharp edges and corners are secured and tripping hazards such as side tables or ottomans are out of the way. Taking a few extra steps to ensure that your guests are safe could save you from a costly personal liability claim.
  • Treats and tricks: Another wonderful part about Halloween is the food! Candy corn, lollipops and caramel apples are delicious treats for young and old alike; however they do present a choking hazard for small children. Make sure that bite-size or chewy treats are kept out of reach of tiny hands.

Halloween can be a fun time for friends and family, not a time to worry about household accidents. If you have any questions about what your homeowner’s insurance policy covers in terms of fire, property damage or personal injury liability, your licensed insurance agent in Lakewood, Washington can assist you.  The local, independent agents at Insurance Unlimited, Inc., can assist you with examining an existing policy or setting you up with a new policy. Their years of insurance experience can save you a bundle. You can also visit their insurance website 24/7 to learn more about auto insurance or the other insurance products they offer like personal umbrella insurance.