Home Appliances Hazards: Ten Tips for Maximum Safety

January 27, 2010

These days, we seem to own plenty of home appliances that are supposed to reduce our workloads and make life easier and simpler. But with those work-saving appliances come some hidden risks that could cause losses that cost us our homes, our contents, and our peace of mind.

Here is a list of home appliances and hazards that you can easily prevent:

1. Dishwasher: Has an average life expectancy of 9 years. Make sure the door seals work properly to prevent water leaks. If it won’t drain properly, check the garbage disposal to see if it’s clear. Water leaks from dishwashers regularly cause water damage in kitchens. If the leak is sudden, you’re probably covered. If the leak keeps happening over time, you probably won’t be covered for loss.

2. Clothes washer: Has an average life expectancy of 10 years. Replace the rubber hoses with flexible stainless steel braided hoses to prevent hose bursts and big water claims. If a hose bursts, the water could spray the laundry room until someone finds it, causing a big water loss.

3. Clothes dryer (gas or electric): Has an average life expectancy of 10 years. Lint build-up inside dryers causes nearly 4,000 fires each year. Make sure your dryer hose vents correctly. Replace plastic vent hoses with metal. Clean the lint filter after every dryer load. Disconnect the dryer and hose twice a year and sweep out the lint under and inside the dryer cabinet. You’ll be shocked at how much lint you’ll find.

4. Toaster/toaster oven: Has an average life expectancy of 5 years. All of these little toasters have a trap door so you can clean them out. Crumbs dry out and become very flammable. Clean out the crumbs to prevent a fire.

5. Microwave: Has an average life expectancy of 8 years. Never use metal inside a microwave. It will start a fire. It will also damage or destroy the magnetron that generates the waves.

6. Gas Stove/Oven: Has an average life expectancy of 15 years. Got electronic burner lighters? If you turn on the burner, and it doesn’t light immediately, turn off the burner. Even three seconds of gas…unlit…can explode when lit. Let the gas dissipate for about 30 seconds before trying again. If you have to, dismantle the burner eye and clean it out. Also, make sure you clean up spills inside the oven which can generate smoke and start a fire. You’ve got a lot of open flame with a gas stove. Watch out for sleeves, dish towels and pot holders.

7. Electric stove: Has an average life expectancy of 13 years. Have a burner or oven element that malfunctions or burns out? Replace it right away. Also, make sure you clean up spills inside the oven which can generate smoke and start a fire.

8. Refrigerator/freezer: Has an average life expectancy of 15 years. This appliance regularly has an icemaker, which has a plastic water line that feeds it. These water lines burst frequently, and they will pump water out onto the floor until someone discovers it. Replace the plastic icemaker line with a copper line.

9. Garbage disposal: Has an average life expectancy of 15 years. If it gets blocked, go to the fusebox and turn off the breaker or fuse before trying to clear it. Don’t ever stick your hand down inside a garbage disposal. Replace the rubber drain line with a braided line.

10. Electrical extension cords: Not an appliance, but cause thousands of fires each year. Don’t use a frayed cord. Look at the amperage rating on the cord, and don’t plug in stuff that exceeds the rating. If you have a cord that you can’t find a rating on, throw it away. Don’t place a cord under a rug, carpet or under a piece of furniture. Check ALL of the cords in your home to make sure that there is no furniture leg resting on a cord. Feel cords in use to see if they are warm or hot. If they are, throw them away and get a heavier cord. Using power strips is safer than cords.

I recommend that if any appliance repairs will cost more than half of the price of a new appliance, replace it.

If you will take care to do these simple tips, you will drastically lessen the chances of having a disastrous home fire. But if you do have a home fire, you will need an expert to help you submit your claim. Never allow the insurance adjuster to handle your claim on your behalf. Their job is to minimize your claim. Your job is to collect every penny you are entitled to collect. See the conflict?

Get more information about insurance claims at: http://www.claimsecrets.com

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Public Adjusters: How To Choose the Right Public Adjuster

June 20, 2009

Public Adjusters (PAs) are licensed claims adjusting professionals that represent the policyholder in the calculation, preparation and submission of a claim. They do not work for the insurance company. They work for YOU, the person or business who suffered the loss.

Public Adjusters only work on property claims, such as homeowners, apartment complexes, and businesses. They do not represent clients in auto or liability claims.

The biggest challenge for a policyholder who has had an insured loss is the calculation, preparation and submission of his claim. Most people do not have the expertise to submit an insurance claim, and they end up leaving hundreds or even thousands of dollars “on the table” that they are entitled to collect…but don’t collect. A PA will maximize your claim settlement.

I strongly recommend that you contact a PA any time you have a property claim. A consultation will customarily cost you nothing, but their representation could collect thousands more for you.

When it’s time to find a Public Adjuster, do the following:

1. Use your computer search engine and search for “Public Adjuster” along with your city or zip code.
2. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Public Adjusters.”
3. Go to: http://www.napia.com which is the website for the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and get referrals in your area.

Contact at least two PAs in your area and interview them with these questions:

1. Are you licensed in your state?
2. How many years have you been a PA?
3. Do you have a specialty?
4. Can you provide a list of at least ten satisfied customers with phone numbers?
5. Do you have documentation of your success in insurance settlements?
6. Have you ever had a complaint filed against you with the Department of Insurance?
7. Please explain your fees and how you are paid.
8. Please provide a copy of your retainer contract.

Based upon the information you receive from each PA, and how you get along with them, make your choice which PA will be on your team. Then work together to collect every dollar that you are entitled to collect.


Property Damage Attorneys: How To Choose The Right Property Damage Attorney

June 20, 2009

Property Damage Attorneys are lawyers that assist policyholders in their property claims. Customarily, they are not Personal Injury attorneys, who represent policyholders and claimants who are seeking recovery from damages or injury.

In my hot-selling book, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!” I have a chapter entitled “Should I Get A Lawyer?” I recommend that anyone who is preparing a claim should consult an attorney.

When I say “consult an attorney,” I don’t necessarily mean retain an attorney. But you should consult an attorney at every step of the claims process. You do not want to give up any of your rights just because you are unfamiliar with the law. Such an incident could bar you from recovery of your full claim.

You should have your attorney present, or on a conference call, when the adjuster asks for a recorded statement. You should also have your attorney review every document that the insurance company requests that you sign, such as a Sworn Statement in Proof of Loss or a Release Form.

So, here is how to choose the right property damage attorney:

1. Using your computer’s search engine, look for “Property Damage Law” and your zip code or name of your state. That search should give you names of attorneys in your area.
2. Contact at least two Personal Injury attorneys in your area and ask them for referrals to attorneys practicing Property Damage Law.

Once you’ve found Property Damage Attorneys in your area, interview them with the following questions:

1. Are you licensed in your state?
2. How many years have you been a Property Damage Attorney?
3. Do you have a specialty?
4. Can you provide a list of at least ten satisfied customers with phone numbers?
5. Do you have documentation of your success in insurance settlements?
6. Have you ever had a complaint filed against you with the Department of Insurance or the State Bar Association?
7. Please explain your fees and how you are paid.
8. Please provide a copy of your retainer contract.

Based upon the information you glean from your interviews, you can make a choice of the best Property Damage Attorney to consult.


Property Insurance Claims: Take Photos

June 18, 2009

I just handled a burglary loss for a very nice woman in Atlanta. She decided to go to the market at about 8:30 pm on a Wednesday evening in late May. She began to drive toward the market and noticed four teenaged boys standing in a park very near her home. She hesitated for a moment, then continued to the market.

When she returned at 8:55 pm, she found that someone had broken through her back door and stole jewelry, cash, a TV, a laptop and some expensive handbags. Her claim totaled over $20,000. Only $1,500 of that were for repairs to the back door.

I provided a Contents Inventory Worksheet so she could list all the items stolen. She submitted the worksheet quickly. Unfortunately, she had no receipts or any other kind of documents to prove that she actually owned the stolen items. Even photos of her stuff would have helped to prove she owned it. But no photos either.

The insurance company wanted to pay some of the claim, but insisted that she provide some documentation. She could not. The insurance company denied the Contents portion of the loss, and paid her only $500 after assessing her $1,000 deductible.

Gentle readers, this is not an isolated incident in the claims process for property claims. Insurance companies are serious about holding down their claims cost. And it is YOUR responsibility to prove your claim.

You have a legal contract with the insurance company. Part of that legal contract requires you to provide proof of ownership of your contents. The insurance companies give a lot of latitude in these matters, but remember that they don’t have to.

Most people are not going to create a master file of all their receipts for the stuff they buy, and then keep that file in a fireproof box or off-site. So, most people who have a fire, flood, burglary, hurricane or water loss are going to be faced with proving ownership of their personal property.

So, remember this: The NUMBER ONE most important thing that you can do to prove ownership of your personal property is to PHOTOGRAPH IT.

Get a camcorder, or digital camera, or even disposable cameras. Go through your home or business and capture your personal property “on film.” Do it once a year, and then remember to update after every major purchase…like a new computer or flat-screen TV. Don’t leave anything out. Even photo inside drawers and closets.

Take the photos or video and place them off-site. I recommend a safe deposit box.

Then, in case of a disaster, you have some visual proof of your loss. You could review the video or photos and compile your inventory list. You could submit a copy of the photos or video as proof of ownership.

The photo/video process takes me an hour when I do it. And that’s filming in average sized home.

Don’t take a chance by being unprepared. It could cost you tens of thousands of dollars at claim time.


Restoration Contractors: Liability Issues That Can Affect YOU!

June 16, 2009

If you are the victim of an insured loss, such as a fire, flood, tornado or hurricane, you will likely have to hire a restoration contractor to complete repairs on your home. However, here is an issue that most property owners never consider…until it’s too late.

That issue is the liability insurance of the restoration contractor. No matter if you are the owner of residential or commercial property, you could have major liability issues in the process of the restoration.

Restoration contractors are customarily general contractors. That means that they manage the work of sub-contractors. They may hire plumbers, framing crews, roofers, electricians, drywall crews, painters and other artisans to complete the work on your property. Many times, the restoration contractor has a crew of workers on his payroll. But, there are some restoration contractors that only act as construction managers.

There’s nothing wrong with that arrangement if the job gets done on time and on budget.

You’ll be entering into a contract with the contractor you choose. In addition, you will be granting authority for your contractor to work on your premises, as well as his sub-contractors. Here is where you must take care to protect yourself.

In the pre-contract process of verifying your chosen contractor’s credentials, you will have required the contractor to provide you with a current copy of his insurance certificate. Take a few minutes and phone the insurance company and confirm that the coverage is in effect, and that the policy dates are correct.

You must insist that the restoration contractor carry General Liability, Completed Operations and Workers Compensation insurance (if he has employees). In addition, you must insist that each sub-contractor furnish the same insurance certificates. The only exception would be a contractor who worked alone and had no employees. That fellow would not need Workers Compensation insurance.

Another very important strategy is to insist that ALL the contractors place you on their insurance policies as an “Additional Named Insured.” That way, if anything were to happen in the course of repairs, such as a worker injury or some other liability issue for which they are liable, THEIR insurance policy would defend and indemnify on your behalf.

This one strategy could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit award, and thousands in legal fees defending the suit.

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to liability and lawsuits. Use this strategy!


Personal Property Claims: The Depreciation Trap

June 10, 2009

Personal property claims can be some of the most frustrating claims in the insurance claims process. The deck is stacked against you if you have any kind of insurance policy that insures your personal property. This is true for property owned by homeowners and renters as well as the personal property owned by businesses and other commercial entities.

Personal property, also commonly known as “Contents,” is usually described as any property in or on the insured premises not permanently attached to the building. Naturally, your policy will give you a definition that is more exact that this one, and will also have exclusions about some property that is not covered.

Many property insurance policies have the Replacement Cost (RC) Endorsement on the policy that covers the contents. The claims process for your Contents is the trap laid by the insurance companies. Don’t think that your insurer wouldn’t do that to you…they ALL do it.

Here’s the method of settlement found in all policies with the Replacement Cost Endorsement.

You submit your contents claim inventory. On that inventory you will have listed all of your contents, item by item, and the replacement cost. The insurance company will apply depreciation to each item of your contents, based upon its age and condition. Subtracting the depreciation amount from the replacement cost gives you the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your property, whether business or personal.

The insurance company settles RC claims by issuing two separate checks. The first check will be for the ACV amount. According to the Loss Conditions in the policy, the insurer only pays you the RC of your contents once the replacement has been made.

For example, if you had an item with an RC value of $1000, and the depreciation amount was 30%, or $300, you would receive the first payment of $700. But, $700 does not replace the item. In order to receive the RC amount you will have to use $300 of your own money plus the $700 paid by the insurance company to make the replacement purchase. Then you are eligible for the second check, the $300 reimbursement.

Now…think about the same example if your entire contents claim is $100,000.

The insurance company “holds back” $30,000. In order for you to make the replacement purchases, you will have to find $30,000 of your own money, make the purchases, and then get reimbursed by the insurance company.

Where are you going to get that $30,000? Savings? Credit Card? Get a loan? Or perhaps you’re like many people that don’t have those cash resources available to them. They cannot make the replacements at all.

Do you see the trap?

Here is a strategy of three things you can do to minimize the effects of the Depreciation Trap.

1. Demand that the insurance company provide you a copy of the Depreciation Tables that they used to calculate your loss.

2. Compare each item, line by line, to be certain that the proper amount of depreciation was assessed by the adjuster.

3. Challenge any and all incorrect depreciation amounts.

By using this three-step strategy, you will maximize your Contents claim amount.

There is another Contents strategy that you MUST use when documenting your Personal Property claim. It relates to the personal property you won’t be replacing.

I knew a family that had a major fire loss. The wife was an attorney for many years. Then, when she had her first child, she decided to leave the business world and be a full-time mom. She had a closet full of expensive business suits, blouses, shoes and accessories. She was not going to replace them, since she was not using them any more for work clothing. So, we worked hard at establishing the highest possible value on her wardrobe. The ACV money that the family was paid for her wardrobe was used to make RC purchases of other items that did need replacing.

You can use this strategy in your Contents claim. Your home, condo, apartment or business is full of personal property that you’ve purchased over the years that (a) is obsolete or (b) you’re not using anymore. A business could have inventory items or office equipment that is unsold or obsolete. In each case, you have every right to be paid the correctly calculated ACV for those items. Then, you can use those dollars to offset the “holdback” amount when you are making your replacement purchases.

Don’t be a pushover! Don’t allow the insurance company to depreciate your Contents without a fight!

Fight back and WIN!


Hurricane Preparedness: Prune Your Losses

June 8, 2009

Hurricane preparedness goes beyond making sure your insurance policies are up to date. There are some practical things you can do around your property, whether home or business, that can lower the risk of storm damage.

The National Climactic Data Center published statistics for 2007 that showed property damage from storms at over $7.4 billion. 2008 totals were higher with the Texas hurricanes. I imagine that you do not want to be part of the 2009 storm statistics.

Let’s concentrate on the simplest remedies. When storms arise, the exterior of your home can be damaged by those high winds and heavy rain. So, roofs, siding and windows are the first line of defense in a storm scenario.

Here are some tips for lowering your risk exposure:

• Make sure that your roofing is in good repair. Well-installed roofs are less susceptible to damage.
• Make sure that your siding is tightly attached to the building.
• If a storm is heading your way, consider boarding up your windows to protect them from being broken by flying debris.
• Caulk windows and doors to prevent wind-driven rain from entering around the openings.
• Cut down unhealthy trees on your property.
• Prune tree limbs that overhang your home or power lines, or overhang your neighbor’s property.
• Clean out roof gutters so rain doesn’t back up and cause interior water damage.
• Move your outside furniture and other personal property into inside storage so it is not blown against your building or a neighbor’s building.

With these tips accomplished, your property has much less exposure to damage from wind and rain. Of course, if your area is struck by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, missing shingles and siding will be the least of your worries.

At that point, you’ll be glad you updated your insurance policy.

You DID update your policy, didn’t you?