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Right agent can provide proper mix of insurance | Guest Columns

Are all home, auto insurance carriers the same?

Absolutely not.

When it comes to protecting the most important and expensive assets you have, making sure you have the right carrier and coverage are key. When a claim occurs, you want your insurance carrier to look for coverage, not exclusions.

Depending on the size of your home, you may be eligible for carriers that provide premium home-owners coverages. In Northeast Ohio, a home that is 3,000-plus square feet would typically qualify for a high-value home insurance policy. These carriers provide higher limits, more personal liability and broader coverages for jewelry, art and collectibles. The high-value home carriers provide a personal risk analysis where their home inspector comes to take photos and document exactly what the home looks like to guarantee its correct replacement value.

Additional features like deductible waivers on claims over a certain amount and an option to take a cash settlement instead of re-building the home are nice added extras that only these high-value homeowners carriers automatically include in their policies. Personal cyber coverage is a hot topic and only a select number of carriers are including this as an option as well.

As for auto insurance, some carriers may require you to use their specific approved body shops or only pay for generic replacement parts versus the original car manufacturer parts when adjusting an auto claim. The good carriers will not limit a rental car reimbursement to a per day dollar allotment and will provide complimentary glass repair if there is a crack in the windshield at zero cost to the insured. If the car is totaled, the high-end insurance companies will pay out an agreed value that is stated on the policy versus the least favorable blue book value, you have no negotiating power.

What is most ironic is often these higher-end carriers are not more expensive. When sub-par carriers see larger homes, luxury vehicles or expensive jewelry and art, they often increase the premiums yet still provide mediocre coverage and service. The higher-end carriers are only writing this specific type of business and have priced their premiums correctly, often leading to lower pricing.

Beyond coverages, how a carrier treats you during a claim is typically the biggest difference. You want a carrier to be responsive, to allow you to bring in your own contractors and to look for ways to pay the claim not deny it or become a stressful situation. Clients of the top carriers are typically so pleased with the way their carrier handled a claim that they are bragging about their carrier to friends and family as opposed to complaining.

The top-tier carriers that are known for including all the best bells and whistles of coverage include: AIG, Berkley One, Chubb, Cincinnati, Nationwide Private Client, PURE, Westfield and Vault. To obtain a quote from one of these carriers, consumers must work with an independent property & casualty insurance agent. These carriers do not work directly with the consumer.

In addition to having the right carrier, it is equally as important to work with the right agent. An independent agent that has multiple carrier options will make sure you always have options at your renewal, staying updated in today’s insurance marketplace. Your agent should also be your advocate with the carrier when claims arise to make sure the carrier is responding quickly and correctly. Yearly reviews from your agent should involve conversations regarding any changes to your assets to make sure that your insurance is updated accordingly.

When disaster strikes, the last thing anyone wants is to find out their insurance carrier is not there to deliver. Consumers pay thousands of dollars in premiums every year and should feel confident that when the unthinkable happens, their carrier will be there to respond. However, it’s up to the consumer to make sure they are with the right carrier to begin with.

Michelle Hirsch is senior vice president of Brunswick Companies in Garfield Heights.

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