TUESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2017
Generally speaking, gaps are a bad thing. If there’s a gap in the sidewalk, you may trip and break your arm. If there’s a gap in your data, you may draw the wrong conclusion. And, if there’s a gap in your insurance coverage? You may find yourself unexpectedly paying out-of-pocket to repair your home or vehicle.
Insurance gaps are a rotten surprise, and unfortunately they don’t go away just because you ignore them. In fact, the more you know the better. So, let’s take a closer look at insurance gaps and how they may occur.
What Is an Insurance Gap?
A coverage gap is an area or type of risk that an insurance policy does not cover.
How Do Insurance Gaps Occur?
An insurance gap may occur when your policy does not offer any coverage for a particular type of risk (i.e. it’s an “excluded risk”). Alternately, coverage may be available but you did not purchase any or enough of it.
How Can I Avoid Insurance Gaps?
Here’s the tricky part: You’ll always have coverage gaps. There’s simply no insurance policy or combination of policies to fully protect you from every single risk there is. However, you can work with your independent insurance agent to help identify and address many of the most common gaps.
Here’s another tricky thing about insurance gaps: They can be hard to identify if you don’t know your policy well or if you simply assume you are covered when you actually aren’t. For example, here are four wintertime scenarios when unknown or ignored coverage gaps may cost you severely:
- Snow Melt Overwhelms Your Sump Pump
And, now your basement is flooded. There’s a gap here because the typical homeowners policy does not cover damage resulting from overflow or discharge from a sump pump. However, you can help to close the gap by purchasing additional coverage, such as Backup of Water and Sewer, if it’s available from your carrier. Adding it to your policy will increase your premium, but it could also increase your peace of mind against the threat of water damage.
- An Auto Accident Injures Your Carpool of Carolers
Your family and a neighboring family are carpooling to a caroling event downtown, and you volunteered to drive. On the way, you lose control of your minivan going around an icy bend and collide with an SUV. Now you’re on the line for damage to the SUV and your own vehicle, as well as injuries to the SUV’s driver and to the three passengers in your vehicle who were hurt. There could be multiple coverage gaps here, depending on the specifics of your policy. They may include:
- Too little liability coverage. Most states require you to carry Property Damage Liability and Bodily Injury Liability on your auto policy. Even still, you may find that you have a coverage gap if you selected low liability limits for your policy. In other words, the cost of the damage to and injuries in the SUV could be greater than the total coverage that your policy provides. When that happens, it’s your responsibility to cover the remaining costs.
- No Collision Coverage. You may not have this on your policy since it’s not one of the coverages most states require you to carry. That means you’ll be on your own to pay for your vehicle repairs, especially if you’re at-fault for an accident.
- No medical coverage for your own passengers. Some states require a form of this coverage, such as Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection. In other states, it may be optional. Without it, you may be looking at some significant out-of-pocket costs for the medical needs of the three carolers injured in your vehicle.
- A Total Loss Leaves You Paying for a Car You Can No Longer Drive
It’s perhaps the most exciting holiday season ever: You got a new car. A brand new car that, unfortunately, was stolen and totaled just a week later. Now your car is gone, but your payments aren’t. There’s an $11,000 gap between what your insurance carrier pays you for the total loss ($14,500) and what you still owe on the vehicle ($25,500). That’s because your carrier covers the actual value of the car, not the financed value. So, when insuring a new car, be sure to ask about closing the gap with an option sometimes known as Loan and Lease Coverage. It can help make those remaining payments disappear, depending on the specifics of your coverage.
- A Thief Makes off With Your Diamond Ring and Earrings
A holiday burglary is a most unwelcome surprise when you return home from celebrating with relatives. But, you have Personal Property Coverage on your homeowners or renters policy, so where’s the gap? It’s here: Your stolen jewelry is worth $13,900, but your policy has a $5,000 cap on how much it will pay toward jewelry in a single incident. You’re short $8,900 of coverage. It’s a gap you can help to close by “scheduling” high-value items on your policy. Scheduling allows for dedicated coverage for individual items under a policy that otherwise would not cover the full value of your belongings. Be sure to have a current appraisal of the item to share with your independent agent.
Insurance gaps can make a bad situation worse, which is why it’s so important to understand your policy and address any coverage gaps that seem particularly concerning. Your independent agent, as always, can help. What else can help? An umbrella policy, which provides extra liability coverage on top of what an auto or home policy provides. It may just save the day if the damages keep adding up – and adding up – following a severe accident.
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