Saturday, July 5, 2008

Insurance Claims Secrets - The INSIDE STORY

Insurance claims can be a first class PITA!

With that in mind, this little bit of INSIDE INFORMATION is offered.


  1. An Adjuster (human type)
  2. A File (either electronic or paper or both)
  3. A Supervisor (also the human type)

The claim process looks like this (considering the three above items)

  1. The Adjuster mediates and calculates the value of the claim. (Why? Because that's what he's paid to do)
  2. The Adjuster documents The File. (Why? Because The Supervisor is going to check that file)
  3. The Supervisor reviews the file. (Why? Because once a year, the state insurance commission will audit the insurance company and randomly review claim files to be sure that the money paid out was justified, documented and in accordance with state insurance law. When there's an issue, the insurance company is fined -- HEAVILY! )

Here is the extremely valuable information ! When you're negotiating with the insurance company to settle your claim, remember while making you happy is important to them, passing the eventual audit is more important. A badly documented or poorly calculated claim can cost the insurance company -- MANY MORE DOLLARS than giving you a couple hundred extra for your bent fender.

Generally, the adjuster does not personally care how much they pay to settle the claim. Let me say that again.

Generally, the adjuster does not personally care how much they pay to settle the claim.

I say generally because you will occasionally run into that young buck, fresh out of 'ADJUSTER SCHOOL" who wants to save the world and treats the insurance company money like his own. THAT'S a discussion for another day. They're paid employees with families, bills, problems, vacation plans, and a host of other issues just like you and I face everyday.

The claim adjuster doesn't really care what he pays to settle the claim.
The claim adjuster wants to get the file closed as much as you do.

As long as he can document the amount paid, he'll write the check now and be done with it.


Whatever assistance you can offer to document a better value for your claim, the faster you'll get paid.

  1. When you think your car is worth more than they're offering, get some documentation that supports that additional value.
  2. When your repair job exceeds the insurance company estimate, get a letter or itemized estimate explaining the difference.
  3. When the replacement cost of your kitchen exceeds what the insurance company is willing to pay, get pictures of your old kitchen and an itemized bid from the contractor that clearly indicates that you're putting yourself back as you were -- No better, no worse.
  4. When the 'facts of the accident' are not clear, get witness statements or police report clarification.

The more you're willing to work WITH the claim adjuster to properly document their file to justify higher payments, the more you'll get paid for your claim.

Contact me if I can help you in any way.

After all..... it's what I do.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Whose Insurance Does What during "DELAYED POSSESSION"?

Got this great question from Jennifer Allan, author of Sell With Soul today and thought the answer might be helpful.

Hey Dennis...

What's the deal when a home sells and closes, but there's a delayed possession - that is - the seller retains possession of the property for a few days past closing to move out?

If there's damage... which homeowners policy pays? The buyer's (who owns the property, but hasn't yet taken possession) or the seller's (who no longer owns the property)?


WOW! Great questions, Jennifer.

Homeowners insurance for the buyer goes into force to close escrow. After the closing, the BUYER owns and insures the house. Should there be damage to the home, it would fall on the BUYER'S insurance to cover the loss. The new owner would be responsible to pay the deductible. (there could be some stipulations in the RENT BACK AGREEMENT about that, but without some agreement to the contrary, that's how it would likely settle out.)

Loss to any contents of the SELLER (those items remaining while they move out) could be covered one of two ways.

1. Using the homeowners insurance for THEIR (the sellers) new home
2. Using Renters Insurance if they're moving to a rental
Most insurance companies offer at least 30 days of "EITHER PLACE" coverage. In other words, their stuff can be covered by their existing policy for up to 30 days in the old OR the new location. So if they're moving to another home, they will have homeowners insurance in place on that new home. If they're moving to a rental, they need to roll their old homeowners insurance over to RENTERS INSURANCE for the new residence at the close of escrow, In either case, the EITHER PLACE coverage still applies using the new insurance policies to cover their contents during moving.

If you have any questions, please call, write, email, signal flags, or smoke signals.... :)

p.s. My insurance company, which is available nationwide, offers additional location coverage without a time limit. In other words, your stuff is covered anywhere in the world -- PERIOD. Doesn't matter if you're moving, storing, vacationing, or stocking your Ski Chalet in Switzerland.

Point here being that not all insurance companies handle this situation exactly the same. Check with your local insurance professional to be sure.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I've had a FIRE! What do I do now?

Fire can be one of the most traumatic and devastating losses anyone can experience.

If you've had a fire and there were injuries or a death, my sincere condolences. If you've experienced just loss to property, please take a moment to be thankful that there we no injuries or death.

You're probably still in shock that this has happened to you and bewildered by the seemingly endless task ahead of you. This is going to be a ONE DAY AT A TIME process. If you can settle into that thinking, this will be much easier. Every day that you make progress toward rebuilding your life is a WIN. Ask yourself at the start of each day, "What does WIN THE DAY look like
TODAY?" Make a VERY SHORT list of a few things that will get you to that WIN THE DAY feeling and be happy with that.

If your loss is a severe one (a total loss or one where SUBSTANTIAL work is required to get you back into your home) then you need to first think about some long-term living arrangements.

This should be your first priority. You might be put up with friends or in a hotel at first and you may need to get some basic items like clothing, personal items (toothbrush, etc) but don't get involved with any other stuff until you're settled into where you're going to live.

Your insurance company should be very generous here. You can usually rent a place similar to yours at their expense. They won't pay you any extra though.

For example, if you were renting a house or apartment, you won't be required to pay rent while you're out of your home, so you'll just be paying rent someplace else. The insurance company might make up the difference if there's nothing available similar to yours. The goal is to keep your monthly expense about the same.

If you owned a house, you'll still be responsible for your mortgage so the insurance company
should pick up the entire cost of renting another place.

Just rent some furniture for now and then SLOWLY, replace it with items you purchase along the way. You'll have plenty of time to shop for furniture once the contractor gets busy rebuilding your home.

OK. So now you have a "home base" from which to rebuild your life. Its important to have this so you can focus on gathering, replacing, purchasing the things, memories and items necessary for daily living.
DON'T BE TOO HASTY TO "HIRE" THE SERVICES of a 'PUBLIC ADJUSTER'. This is someone who will show up EARLY. (like while the fire department is putting the hoses back on their truck) They will tell you that they will do all the negotiating with the "big bad" insurance company for you for a small fee. SAY NO FOR NOW.... (you can always go to them later and their "small fee" is THOUSANDS of dollars....) You're better of without them.

Your claim adjuster is going to be your new best friend. That's an important mind-set to adopt. Look to him as a source of information, encouragement and ideas to get the most out of your insurance policy. The company I'm with (and most companies) will look for ways to BE ABLE TO PAY YOU rather than looking for ways to get out of paying you. Remember, losses are calculated into what they charge and a good claim experience and positive results serve them much better than saving a couple thousand dollars by nickel and diming you to death.

TAKE NOTES. You should pick up a 3-ring binder w/ some paper. You might want to get some tabbed pages to keep track of THINGS TO DO, NOTES ON CALLS, CONTACT INFORMATION, etc. Remember think MARATHON not SPRINT. You're going to need a central location (the notebook and maybe a small file
box) to keep track of your information.

They're going to start by giving you an overview of the entire process. There will be a contractor to find, plans to draw up, lists to create, receipts to keep, and plans to make. Take good notes and remember to keep thinking 'just one day at a time.'
KEEP YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND HAVE FUN! Yeah, I know that sounds a little off. But this is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You get to start all over. Fresh! New!

Make a decision to enjoy this process -- This curve ball that life has thrown your way. If you're married you can play 'newlyweds' all over again. If you're single you can make a substantial change in your lifestyle, your look, anything you want.

Decide to be BETTER not bitter because of it.

Yes.... Make a conscious decision that this is probably one of the most exciting adventures you'll ever have. Get just a few things and relish in how simple life can be. You'll "clutter back up" soon enough so just enjoy the spartan simplicity.

Buy a different brand of underwear, splurge on some really plush socks, or get a pair of just THE COOLEST JEANS EVER! Try out new ways of cooking with new dishes. Get back to enjoying the simple things in life. You'll be a bigger and better person because of it.

Don't forget to let your friends help you. You'll deepen your relationships and forge new friendships along the way. Just let it all happen.


There's way too many variations and possibilities to go into within the scope of this blog. But here's a few things to think about as you begin to work with your adjuster and contractor.
  1. The insurance company will generally pay to build the house just like the one you lost but YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUILD IT THE SAME WAY. If you've always wanted a big picture window on the west side... then GET ONE!
  2. Take your time with your architect or making your own sketches of how you want your house rebuilt. You might even be able to change the "footprint" of the slab (the basic shape and orientation of the house) One of my clients who lost their home in the San Diego fires of 2003 had always lamented that the side of the house with the best view had just one little tiny window. Well.... They fixed that w/ 4 huge picture windows and instead of having the bathroom there, it was their den and fireplace area. Turned out BEAUTIFULLY!
  3. Have a plan to refurnish your home. Just slowly replace your rented furniture with your new stuff as the "building the home" process unfolds.

The process of rebuilding your home can be the most challenging event you've ever experienced. It can also (at the same time) be the most rewarding and life-changing! After all, if you can survive this, sitting in traffic or having to replace your refrigerator just won't phase you any more.

Contact me if you have any questions.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A word about DEDUCTIBLES...

Simply stated: A deductible is the amount that you pay toward a loss or claim before the insurance company begins to pay. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
  • The more you are willing to participate in your loss, the greater the savings on your premium.
The insurance company will offer your a lower premium if you take a higher deductible because your LOSS FREQUENCY and your LOSS SEVERITY will be lower. Consider if you have a $2000 deductible instead of a $500 deductible:
  1. You'll make fewer claims because you won't be making claims for $600, $900 or $1995 losses. You'll simply pay those yourself. (FREQUENCY)
  2. When you do submit a claim the insurance company will be paying $1500 LESS than if you had the $500 deductible. (SEVERITY)

There is no "correct" deductible to choose. It depends on what I like to call your personal LOSS THRESHOLD. So before we get too far ahead, lets take a moment to diagnose your "loss threshold."

Lets say you go out and buy a $3 picture to hang in your bathroom. Are you going to insure it? Of course not! Now you go out and buy a famous $252,000 masterpiece painting. Are you going to insure it? Unless you are a multi-millionaire, you certainly will. Somewhere in between the $3 print and the $252,000 masterpiece is your loss threshold. Your loss threshold is the amount of money you can stand to lose without doing any great harm to your daily lifestyle or your peace-of-mind. In the above example, different people will have different thresholds. There is no right or wrong answer here!


OK. Let's say you're ok with a loss threshold of $1000 or less. Now you can choose between a $1000 deductible or a $500 deductible. Here's all you have to do.

  1. Find the premium difference between the two.
  2. Let's say you save $80 a year in premium to take the $1000 deductible.
  3. Now look at the DIFFERENCE between the 2 deductibles which is $500. It would take you over 6 years ($80/yr x 6 years = $480 ) to save the DIFFERENCE between the deductibles.
  4. Now you simply ask yourself, "Do I think I'll have more than 1 claim in the next 6 years?"
  5. If the answer is yes, you should probably take the lower ($500) deductible.
  6. If the answer is no, then the higher deductible ($1000) probably makes more sense.

If you're still confused by this, just give me a call and I'll walk you through it....


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A few thoughts on PROPERLY insuring your Rental Property

So, you're going to be a landlord! Since it's nearly ALWAYS a good time to buy real estate, you're making an excellent move. The long-term value of real estate from an investment standpoint is, in my humble opinion, the best leverage available.

Now that you've taken that step, it's important to get the right kind of insurance to protect not only your investment from the ravages of fire, vandalism, smoke, and broken water pipes, but also protection from the greedy hands of your tenants should they sustain an injury on your property in the form of Liability Coverage.

There's usually 4 primary areas of coverage you want to explore when looking into insurance for your property that you rent to others. (doesn't matter if it's a single family dwelling, duplex, multi-plex or a condo.

  1. Building Coverage - Protection for the structure.
  2. Personal Property Coverage - Protection for the contents of the unit that you own. This includes refrigerator and window treatments primarily. It would also include any other non-building type items that you own and are stored or used in the rented dwelling.
  3. Loss of Rents Coverage - This pays your fair market rent value to you whenever your property is rendered uninhabitable from a covered loss.
  4. Liability Coverage - This is that important coverage that protects you when tenants or their guests are injured or sustain some "other kind" of "loss" that they think is YOUR FAULT and they come after you with vengence and an attorney!

There's other coverages to consider like Medical Payments (usually included), Flood and Earthquake Coverage(BOTH usually NOT included).

Ok so now you at least have a place to start. Let's take a quick look at each one to give you just a little guidance.

This coverage is identical to homeowners insurance in that it protects the building against physical loss from perils like fire, smoke, vandalism, water damage from broken appliances and pipes, falling trees, automobiles, etc. It's usually written on an ALL RISK basis. Which is fancy insurance talk that simply means EVERYTHING except certain listed exclusions is covered. In other words, if something happens to the structure and it's NOT listed in the exclusions... IT'S COVERED!

You'll want to get enough coverage here to rebuild the structure at current construction costs. Ask your agent of a general contractor what current constructions costs would be for a place like yours. For a more complete discussion, read HOW MUCH HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE DO YOU REALLY NEED (the section on the building coverage walks you thru the same thinking you'll need to determine coverage on your rented property.)

This portion provides coverage for items that you likely brought to the property. (Exception here might be a refrigerator or window treatments) Rule of thumb is that if it's permanently part of the structure it's a building item, if not, it's likely a personal property item. Most window treatment items (curtains, blinds, curtain rods) will be personal property (check with your agent to be sure) Refrigerator is personal property. An installed dishwasher is likely a building item.

Usually you don't need too much coverage here -- $2000 to $5000 is usually enough, but add your stuff up to be sure.

This is important to provide a consistent flow of income should you sustain damage to the property that renders it uninhabitable for a period of time. Policies can pay for up to 12 or 24 mos or some offer an indefinite period of time. Usually it's just for a short time like a few days or a week or two.

This could be one of the most important decisions you make regarding your rental property insurance. My advice is to think of $1 Milliion as a minimum. The difference between $300,000 and $1 million is likely less than $100 per year ($8.00 per MONTH) Beleive me, a WISE investment in the protection of EVERYTHING you own. Liability losses can be wide ranging and EXTREMELY varied in nature.

Here's a quick story about one...

Just this year a policyholder called me and told me that they were being sued because their tenant's girlfriend accidentally let the tenant's dog out of the back yard. The dog made a beeline across the street and kicked the stuffing out of the neighbor’s dog. The landlord (NOT the tenant or the girlfriend) was being sued by the neighbor for veterinarian bills that exceeded $3000 and for mental anguish, stress, and… well, you know the drill. Fortunately my policyholder had not only their Rental Dwelling Insurance in place but also a $1 Million Liability Umbrella standing between this crazy neighbor and everything they owned. Without that, this could have been their problem…

They could have been paying off this “little problem” for years. They could have risked everything they own in addition to their FUTURE EARNINGS by not having the foresight to get adequate Rental Dwelling Insurance and a LIABILITY UMBRELLA policy.
You can insure your rental property, your personal property and your liability exposure in one simple policy.

Be sure to take your time and spend a few minutes in the chaos of the transaction to talk with your insurance professional about these important coverages.

You can always call or email me if you have any questions.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Monday, April 7, 2008

FAQ's California Wireless Law effective July 1, 2008


California finally catches up to what's safe and realistic by enforcing a requirement to use cell phones while operating a motor vehicle with either a wireless or "wired" ear piece. Soon we'll all look like Spock and Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek with those funny "listening devices" protruding from our ears.You can check out the Official FAQ's at the California Department of Motor Vehicles website, but here's my personal spin.

There will be no grace period. That sounds like really bad news, but it doesn't count as a "real ticket" and the fine for the first offense is only $20.

If you're under 18, you can't talk on the phone AT ALL while driving. This includes talking AND texting. HOORAY! (interestingly, the law doesn't specifically address texting by over 18 operators.

Speaker option is OK. Push to talk is NOT. I guess HANDS FREE means just that.

Calling 911 in an emergency situation is an exception. Makes sense to me.

Good luck. I think this is a law that's LONG OVERDUE and should be enacted in all states. The ONLY accident I've been involved in my last 25 of driving was when I was rearended while stopped at a light when a young girl was REACHING FOR HER CELL PHONE and took here eyes off the road.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Paint on my Fender Isn't Going To Match the Rest of the Car

Face it. Paint fades over time. Your car sits out in he sun and gets weather-beaten by rain, snow, etc. After a few years, the paint looks OK, but you can tell that it isn't like it was when the car was brand new.

Then.... you have a little fender bender and your left front fender is crunched. Damage isn't all that bad, but you need a new headlight and some paint when it's all done.

Doesn't matter how good the body shop is at matching the color. Actually most of it is completely computer driven and there's specific formulas for a given year and make of the car. The body shop can match the paint spot-on PERFECT. That's NOT your problem though.

The new paint is new and the rest of the paint is not. While it will match perfectly to the color it won't look the same and you want to paint the rest of the car. You think the insurance company should pay for that.

THEY WON'T. (usually)

Matching paint is not their concern. It's been round and round in the courts and it's just not a case you're going win. There could be an exception if you're dealing with the insurance company of the AT-FAULT driver who hit your car. I'll talk abou that next.

Sadly the case is that the insurance company is NOT obgligated to match the paint on the rest of the car. You might get an adjoining door painted or a little "blending" of some kind, but if you want the paint matched by painting the whole car, you'll have to pay for the DIFFERENCE yourself.
Take heart though! This is an OPPORTUNITY!
You might be able to strike some kind of deal with the body shop to paint the whole car. Remember most of the cost of painting is to set up the job -- Masking; mixing the paint, booth time, drying time, etc. That's all the same if they paint a fender or the whole car.

Make a deal with the body shop OUTSIDE of the insurance deal to paint the rest of the car. You'll get a better price and you can ethically let the insurance pay for all that set up on THEIR nickle.

If you were hit by someone else and are dealing with THEIR insurance company, you might be able to get some consideration for the non-matching paint. NOT MUCH, mind you, but something. This won't work if the accident was your fault because your car is being repaired under the collision portion of your policy and there's no provision for a liability-type payment (which this is) in that portion of the policy and the adjuster (even if they want to) CAN'T pay for that for you.

Before you go after this, be sure you get into the head of the adjuster and know WHAT THEY NEED to write you that check by reading (at least the Purple Section of:
They're NOT offering me enough for my vehicle.

You'll need to document the reduced value of your car because of the non-matching paint. It may only be worth a few hundred dollars, but it might be worth your time. Talk to some used car lots or people who sell cars a lot and you'll get some ideas. You'll need to get something in writing so you might want to be willing to type something up on their stationery and return to get their signature. Ask them what to say and you'll be on your way.

Remember the claim settlement gig is a process. Take your time and help the adjuster document their file and you'll get a better settlement.



It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Options When You Have Damage from a Prior Accident

A client called me yesterday with an interesting dilemma. Said that recently, when his car was parked on the street, it was hit by a Fire Truck on a call. Kind of unusual as Fire Truck Drivers are usually pretty good at what they do.

Nevertheless, he was concerned because on the same side of the car there was some damage from a prior accident and wanted to see if he could get that fixed at the same time. He also wanted to make sure the paint matched the rest of the car. So here's the advice I offered to Steve.

The insurance company is only going to pay for the damage that was a direct result of the accident caused by the Fire Truck. Nothing more, nothing less.

Your best bet is to make a deal with the body shop OUTSIDE of the parameters of the insurance company settlement. Here's why.

Anytime you repair a car there are some fixed expenses that are there regardless of the size of the job. The car has floor time, rack time, parts to order, paint booth time, drying time, set up the paint sprayer time, set up the sander time, on and on and on. The body shop will appropriately include most of that in the estimate for the insurance portion of the repair. Then the body shop might to ahead and fix your "other fender" for less because they have to go through all that set up stuff anyway.

Talk to your estimator at the shop see if you can't make a bettter deal. I bet you can.



It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You and Your Liability Umbrella

In the world of meteorology, whenever it looks like rain, an umbrella is good to have around. In the world of insurance, a Liability Umbrella can protect you from getting soaked as a result of losing a liability lawsuit.

People are suing each other today more than ever. Verdicts amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars are being awarded by juries across the country in increasing numbers. If you accidentally injure someone or damage their property, you could be the one being sued. Even though your underlying policies may provide substantial liability limits, it is not uncommon today for juries to award damages that exceed those limits.

Coverage amounts are written in increments of $1 million and supplement your present policies to provide additional personal liability protection.

So, how does it work?

Typically you'll have insurance on both your home and your vehicles. Those policies can cover both loss through physical damage and protect you if you are sued. You can get sued for any number of things but usually you'll get sued if someone is injured at your home or injured as the result of an auto accident that is your fault.

Courts can award damages to cover doctor costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of future income, loss of companionship (in the event of a death) and many others -- the list can be almost endless.

A Liability Umbrella steps in and pays when the limits of those policies are exceeded in the judgment. A $1 Million Umbrella gives you an additional million dollars of protection over and above BOTH your Home and Auto policies

Example: Your auto policy will pay up to $250,000 in personal injury damages when you are found at fault for an accident. You happen to hit a doctor one rainy Saturday night and he can't work for a couple years. The court awards $750,000. If you have a $1 Million Umbrella, your auto insurance pays $250,000 and your umbrella kicks in with the additional $500,000.
Obviously, umbrellas can go a long way to protecting your hard-won assets. I've seen cases where the judgements exceed their protection. They have to either go into the equity of their homes and pay from there or they get put on the LIFETIME MONTHLY PAY PLAN and have to sacrifice significant portions of their earnings for many, many years to pay the judgment. NOT a pretty picture.

The saddest part is that Umbrellas are generally extremely cost effective.

You can get a $1 Million Umbrella usually for under $300 a year. Many companies (including mine) will give you a sizable discount if your home and autos are insured with the same company. That can bring your cost down to the low $200's. In some cases a $2 Million, $3, or even a $5 or $10 Million Umbrella will make sense. Generally the more your net worth the higher your limits should be.

Liability Umbrellas are sensable, cost effective and serve to protect EVERYTHING you've worked so hard to accumulate throughout your life.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Thursday, February 28, 2008

They're NOT offering me enough for my vehicle.

Whenever your vehicle has been declared a total loss, the insurance company will offer you a settlement based on the fair market value of your vehicle. (this works for cars, motorcycles, RV's, boats, etc.)

In the realm of United States tax law, the definition of "fair market value" is found in the United States Supreme Court decision in the Cartwright case:
The fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts. United States v. Cartwright, 411 U. S. 546.

So you get offered some money for your vehicle. They give you a number. Sometimes you'll like the number... sometimes you won't.

Here's what to do when you don't.

First of all, you should always have a number in mind when you begin to enter the final phase of the claim.. That requires that you do a little research on your own. Please keep this important truth in mind as you do.


I know that YOU wouldn't do that, but some do. Just think about if for a second: Most people list their vehicles at a given price either in the paper or Auto Trader and then end up settling for less than that when they actually sell.

Remember: The price that the vehicle actually sells for is the FAIR MARKET VALUE of the vehicle.

Ok, so with that in mind, let's get about finding the FAIR MARKET VALUE of your vehicle. Here's your BEST sources.

  1. Call ads in the newspaper for vehicles that are as close to yours as possible. Hope to find people who have already sold the vehicles. WHY? Well because you quickly explain your situation and ask them if they would mind telling you the price for which the vehicle ACTUALLY sold. Might be more or less than the advertised price. Make a record of the ad, the phone number and the ACTUAL PRICE. Get as many of these as you can.
  2. Call a local used car dealership and explain your situation and ask for their help. Be willing to go see them. REMEMBER, you're in the market for a new car if yours has been totaled. Ask them help you determine the value of you car by looking in their records to see what similar models of theirs had sold for.
  3. BE SURE the insurance company has the right specifications on your car. If you had leather seats and power EVERYTHING, make sure they have that noted in the file. (more on this later.)
So once you have a number in mind, you're ready to begin discussions with your insurance company. We'll get to that in a minute.... (and let me remind you here that I'm an agent not an adjuster, but I've worked with adjusters for over 30 years and I know how they think and what they need to write you that check...)

Here's a couple of things that are IMPORTANT to keep in mind as you proceed.
  1. The claim adjuster is a hard workin' person just like you are. They're given MANY files a week to work through. I've seen it as high as 75!
  2. They want to get this file off their desk as much as you want to get your money.
  3. Most likely they DON'T REALLY CARE HOW MUCH THEY GIVE YOU FOR YOUR CAR! Yes, that's probably true. It's not their money. BUT... They have to justify in the file the amount they give you. If you can give them good justification for the value that you want, they are happy to write the check and get on the the next file.
  4. If you become their ally in this effort, you'll get a much easier and (likely) more profitable settlement.
  5. Insurance companies usually use an outside vendor to determine the value of the vehicle. (remember we talked about having your car accurately described to the insurance company....Leather Seats, etc???) The insurance company simply forwards that information to this vendor who researches SOLD VEHICLES in your area to determine the FAIR MARKET VALUE. It's usually NOT the adjuster who crunches the numbers..... he's just the messenger.
OK, now...back to the settlement.

ALWAYS have your acceptable number in mind before you call and ALWAYS let them make the first offer. You might be thinking $5,500 and they offer you $5,800. If that happens, simply say, "That sounds reasonable to me, can you mail the check today or would tomorrow be easier for you."

Have your documentation at the ready. You've done your research so you're ready. If the number is too low DON'T come unhinged. Ask them how they got the number and let them explain. Listen calmy and patiently without interrupting. Remember.....he wants settle and get rid of this file as much as you do.

Offer your documentation to help him justify paying a higher amount to you. Use phrases like, "Can I get a copy of this to you to help you with the file?" or "Would it help if I gave you some documented sales that were several hundred dollars above your offer?"

Calm... Collected and in control because you are. You don't have to settle until you're completely satisfied that you're getting fair market value.

If you don't have enough documentation, you'll have to go out and get some more. The more examples you can find, the better settlement you'll get for your vehicle.

Remember it's a process, not necessarily a one-time phone call. Take your time and win a friend along the way.


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

Friday, February 22, 2008

7 Things you need to know BEFORE you buy LIFE INSURANCE

The delivery of TAX-FREE LIFE INSURANCE proceeds is one of the most powerful social and economic forces in our country. What a shame that so many people don’t understand or appreciate its value.

As you carefully read this post, you’ll be better able to make wise and forward-thinking decisions regarding your LIFE INSURANCE.

By far and without exception, a life insurance claim is the most sobering and rewarding aspect of my profession as an insurance agent.
Sobering in that it reminds me of the brevity of this life and the certainty that it will end for all of us… eventually.
Rewarding because it’s an opportunity for me to deliver: A stay-at-home mother to children and the promise of a quality education for them, a paid-for house and a debt-free existence to the family, or a comfortable retirement for a weary widow.

It’s ONLY with the incredible power of LIFE INSURANCE that these are possible. When it comes time for you to consider this valuable cornerstone to your financial plan, you’ll want to make some very informed and calculated decisions.

Let me walk you thru some of them to help you make the ones that are best for you.
If you’ve read any of our other reports, you’ll know that even though insurance has been part of our culture for over 100 years, to most people – It’s still a just a mystery. And because they don’t understand it, a lot of people think they’re being “ripped off” by the Insurance Industry; aka “The Club”
I want to end that for you.

I'm an industry "insider": A licensed member of “The Club”
I’ve been inside the insurance business for over 25 years and I know it like the back of my hand: From policy to claims and back again.
I've sold insurance. I've bought Insurance.
I've studied it and I've learned that there's "good insurance" -- and there's "not-so-good insurance".
All insurance is "created equal".
Let’s take a quick trip with your imagination.

Picture yourself gone. Yes, I mean GONE, gone! Kind of morbid, I know. So if it makes it easier, go ahead and picture your exit as some grand, heroic or adventurous one. Maybe you went out skydiving or chasing wild horses in Wyoming. Or possibly you saved some kids from drowning when a school bus plunged into the lake. Either way… you’re gone.

Now -- Just ask yourself a few of simple questions.

  • Are there some bills left to pay? Funeral? Credit cards? Maybe a car? Or possibly a gambling tab out at Viejas Casino?

  • Is someone going to suffer without your income?

  • Is there anything to which you’d like to leave a legacy? Possibly you’d like to start a scholarship fund for some special group or just kids who need it. Maybe you’d like to have a small part of funding Meals-on-Wheels or grant some wishes come true through Make A Wish Foundation. Or maybe you’d like to leave something for your church. The possibilities are really endless.

If you answered yes or will be answering yes to any of those in your future, then LIFE INSURANCE is something you should seriously consider.


“How is that possible?” you ask.

Life insurance dollars come to your beneficiaries costing just pennies on the dollar. Here's how it works... Dollars you earn and have put into savings, on the other hand, cost MORE THAN A DOLLAR for every dollar you receive. You work; you get taxes taken out of your pay. Every dollar you spend really costs you about $1.27 to get after you’ve paid the tax man. Life insurance, on the other hand, is ALWAYS delivered for just a fraction of a dollar! You may pay $500 per year for $100,000 of insurance. You may have it for 25 years before you die. $500 x 25 years is only $12,500, yet the policy will pay $100.000. You've paid only 12.5 cents for every dollar of benefit.

I think I know what you’re thinking about this point.
You’re thinking of all the hassle it is to decide what kind and how much and then complete the application and then to get the physical (often you DON’T need one) and then on and on and on…

I know how you can quickly get past all that…
In reality, it only takes about an hour. You can just skim this report to get an overview of what you need to be thinking about and then if you’d like…JUST CALL ME.
I’ll likely take about 10 minutes of your time on the phone to see where you’re at and then, if you’re ready, we’ll set a time to get together. If you just want the information for future reference, that's fine too. It’s really pretty simple and I’LL DO MOST OF THE WORK FOR YOU.

After all… It’s what I do.

So let’s just hop right into it….

7 Things you need to know BEFORE you buy LIFE INSURANCE

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #1
Don’t buy it unless you need it

The truth is that nearly everybody could probably use a little Life Insurance. Remember the questions we asked above? If you answered yes to any of those or you’d just like to make your exit a little easier on those who are left to sort out the pieces and arrange your funeral and wake, you’re probably a good candidate for at least a little policy.
If you buy the right kind of policy, you’ll build up cash values within the policy and in many cases you’ll build more than the premiums you’ve paid. So if you’re thinking you might need some life insurance, go ahead and get a small policy that builds cash for you and you’ll be on your way.

Sometimes, people just don’t need or want any life insurance. You might be single with no debt and sufficient money in the bank to take care of ALL of your final expenses such as funeral cost, paying off all your debt, enough money to pay for the disposal of all your personal property, etc, etc. If you are, and you just don’t want any life insurance and think that you’ll never need it, then don’t buy it.


If you think you might need it in the future you might want to get a small, cash value policy with a GUARANTEED INSURABILITY OPTION. (means you can buy more later, but you don't have to...)

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #2
If you’re going to buy it, buy the right amount

We could make this portion of this report very lengthy, but I’ll give you a couple of simple options.

First is just the REPLACE MY INCOME estimate. Use the one-step chart below and there’s your answer.

Table 1-Income Replacement

First Column: Annual income to be replaced. Top Row: Years of replacement income required. Table Body: Lump sum life insurance required. Assumptions: Annual inflation rate assumed to be 4.0%; Annual investment return assumed to be 6.0%.

It’s just as easy to buy too much life insurance as it is to buy too little. You want to be sure you have the right amount of coverage.

You should also consider life insurance on your spouse or any other person on whose income you depend to make ends meet each month.

If you’re married with children you should also consider if there additional expenses should you and your spouse die at the same time or within a short time of each other. For example, you might want to provide additional monthly income to whomever you have designated to finish raising your children for you.

This short form can enable you to get a little more specific if you’d like to. It might give you’re a better idea of how much you’ll need.

1. Would you like to pay off your mortgage or have money available to pay the rent? If so, either enter the mortgage amount or your Annual Rent Cost times the Number of Years)You’d like to Provide. (Rent x Years = TOTAL)
$ __________________________

2. How much do you want available to pay off any other debts like credit card balances, car loans, student loans, personal loans, etc.?
$ __________________________

3. How much of your annual income will your family need each year after your death? (Remember if you paid off the house above or provided rent money, you won’t need to include that in their annual needs.) Use the INCOME REPLACEMENT TABLE above.
$ __________________________

4. How much do you want to set aside to pay your funeral costs? You may also want to complete this calculator for your spouse to see if they have a need for life insurance.

$ __________________________

5. How much do you want to set aside for any other needs such as an emergency fund, gifts to charity, or a family member with special needs?
$ __________________________

6. How much do you want to provide for your children's education if you die?
$ __________________________
7. TOTAL NEEDS: (add 1-6 above) $ ____________________


A. How much life insurance (individual and group) do you have now?
$ __________________________

B. What other assets (such as savings accounts, CDs, mutual funds,
stocks, bonds, 401k, retirement plans, or pension plans) would you
want your family to use to meet these needs?
$ __________________________

C. TOTAL RESOURCES: (add A & B above)
$ __________________________

TOTAL Need for LIFE INSURANCE: (Subtract Line C from Line 7)
$ __________________________

You may also want to complete this calculator for your spouse to see if they have a need for life insurance.

Can I give you a little hint?
If you’re married, let your spouse decide how much life insurance to get on YOUR life -- And vice-versa. Whoever will be around to fix the problems should get to decide how much $ will
be available.

As you fill in the amounts, keep in mind the people that will be dealing with these issues. Do what’s best for them and you’ll be on the right track.

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #3
If you need it, then buy it, AND BUY THE RIGHT KIND

A SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TERM AND CASH VALUE INSURANCE Probably one of the best analogies I’ve heard and have used for most of my 25+ years as an agent is this: Cash Value (aka: Permanent, Whole Life, Universal) life insurance is like owning a house. Term life insurance is like renting. When you own a house, initially you will pay a little more each month than you would if you were renting. Yet, in the long run, with the appreciation of the value of your home, you’ll likely make more money than it costs you to live there. Your monthly house payments are really contributing toward your own wealth. It’s like mailing money ahead to YOURSELF! When you rent, you pay less each month but you’re not building any equity or cash value and when you leave, you just leave all that rent money sitting in the landlords bank account. Your monthly rent ends up contributing to your landlord’s wealth instead of your own.

Face it! Odds are you’re going to live a long, happy and healthy life and your family WON’T need this policy. So buy the kind of life insurance where you get some or all of your money BACK when you’re older.

“Cash Value” or “Permanent” life insurance policies are tremendously powerful financial instruments. BUT…they’re designed for insurance that you’ll need to keep for all of your life.

You’ll probably want a little permanent life insurance in your plan because you will SURELY make a claim on it someday. Hopefully it will be when you’re VERY old & wrinkled and your need for life insurance is at a minimum: Just enough to pay off a few bills and cover your funeral expenses.

Realistically, TERM insurance is usually a better choice for those needs you may have now, but will not have forever.

So here’s a couple of help questions for you:
  1. Do I want some life insurance in force when I die? (probably yes)
  2. What’s my best guess of when that will be? (let’s say you guess 78)
  3. How much do I want in place at that time?

Whatever your answer is for question 3, THAT’S how much permanent insurance you should have. Consider term insurance to fill the rest of your needs.If you’re currently one of the bread-winners in your household and there are people depending on your income for everything from food to tuition, then you probably need a pretty big chunk of life insurance – For NOW at least. You likely won’t need that much for the long term. THAT’S where TERM insurance is likely your best bet.

Get some permanent insurance for the long haul; maybe $25,000 - $100,000. Usually you won’t need more than that. Get TERM INSURANCE for the temporary times in your life that you need more. Then DROP IT! No loss.

And here’s the real rub! TERM insurance is usually only renewable to a certain age and even then it gets VERY expensive. When you’re 70 or so (and your income is less because you’ve retired) your term insurance could be too expensive to keep and you may still want or need some life insurance. With permanent insurance, there’s usually enough cash value there so that you can just QUIT PAYING and be insured for life.

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #4
Once you buy it – KEEP IT until your reason for buying it no longer exists

Too many times I’ve seen people buy life insurance: Either term or permanent and then, for some reason, let it drop. Usually it’s for one of a couple of reasons.
They initially got in a little over their heads with too big of a monthly premium and it’s finally caught up to them.
They didn’t buy for the right reasons.

Make a commitment when you get your life insurance to make it comfortable on your budget so you can keep it with no financial pressure. And commit to keep it until the reasons for purchase no longer exist.

For example, if one of your reasons is to ensure that your kids complete college, and then keep it until they’ve all walked across that stage and received their diploma. (Or at least until you’ve made that last tuition payment.)

If you don’t buy this way, you’ll just be wasting your money if you keep the policy for several months and then quit.

Here in the Dennis Volz Agency, we want you to be comfortable with your insurance.
We’ll explain your LIFE INSURANCE options in simple, everyday language that you can understand.
We strive to personalize every insurance policy to be sure you have exactly what you need and want.

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #5
Let Uncle Sam help you pay your premiums

When you purchase permanent life insurance, the money accumulates tax-deferred. You end up saving even more because the accumulation is tax favored. This could make you think that even the Federal Government thinks that life insurance is a good idea!

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #6
Don’t touch the Nest Egg

Money that you contribute to you permanent life insurance can build a significant amount of cash over time. This money is available to you. Let me encourage you that as those numbers start to grow, LEAVE IT ALONE!

Here’s a good rule of thumb to govern your dipping into the nest egg.


No, a year-end sale on a Corvette doesn’t count as a PHENOMENAL OPPORTUNITY! Nice try !

Life Insurance Need-to-Know #7
Review, review, review… But only once a year or so

Every year that you’re living with either too much insurance, the wrong kind of insurance or not enough, you’re probably wasting some money.

A simple review that can take as little as 10-15 minutes over the phone with your agent can prevent this. Sometimes changes in your life can be so much and so harried that you don’t even realize when things affect your needs for life insurance. An agent who’s willing to spend the time required with you and asking the right questions can uncover these changes and often save you hundreds of dollars in the process.


What about my GROUP insurance at work?
Group insurance is probably the LEAST EXPENSIVE of all life insurance policies. Sometimes it’s even FREE! (Well, paid for by your employer anyway) My advice is TAKE IT! But don’t depend on it. Count it as just a little extra, but in addition,
Have your own plan that YOU CONTROL.
Group insurance can come and go. The company can “change the deal.” You could change jobs and be with out coverage for a time. Maybe the new job doesn’t offer group life insurance.
I’ve seen people become uninsurable for health reasons, change jobs and then they’re unable to replace their group insurance. Keep your life insurance under your control not your employer’s or other circumstances beyond your control.

Can Life Insurance double as my RETIREMENT?
Permanent insurance should NEVER be a substitute for a good retirement plan. Any agent that tells you to dump hundreds of dollars a month into a permanent life insurance plan to fund your retirement before you’ve established a good, regular investment program outside of life insurance for your retirement should be questioned.

The permanent portion of your life insurance does give you flexibility in your retirement years. You can keep the insurance, sometimes stop paying the premiums (and continue to be insured), draw on some of the cash value if you need to and a host of other options. But life insurance should never be your main vehicle to retirement planning.

A word about beneficiaries…
The beneficiary is the person who receives the proceeds of a life insurance policy at the death of the insured. Carefully structure and word your beneficiary clause. You can cause big problems if you’re thinking one thing and actually say something else in the beneficiary section of the policy.

Carefully discuss this with your agent. Something as simple as a Per Stirpes clause can save a lot of confusion.

So how do I know just how much I can afford to spend on my life insurance?

Well we have some suggestions for that for you too. The trick is to know how much you’re spending and where you’re spending it. You can’t know that unless you have a written budget. It’s really the most important key to effective money management. We have some help for you there too. Making a budget isn’t as difficult as you might think. We’ve actually broken it down to 7 simple steps that anyone can follow. If you’ve been frustrated with your money get your FREE REPORT: 7 SIMPLE STEPS Make a budget and STICK TO IT ! just click the link above or give me a call 619-670-1000 or drop me an email

What about Life Insurance on my kids?
Getting a small policy on kids is usually a great idea. While kids generally don’t need insurance for financial reasons it does a couple of things for them.

First it protects their insurability. Kids can sometimes develop physical problems that make them uninsurable. Doesn’t happen very often, but it’s probably a good idea to get them a nominal permanent policy.
Second, it locks in a nice low monthly premium for them. Life insurance rates on kids are phenomenal. The monthly premium on just a small $25,000 policy on a 30 year old is nearly DOUBLE what it is on a 2 year old. And that premium is good for life!

You’ll always want to get what’s called the GUARANTEED INSURABILITY OPTION. (Look back to the yellow insert )

Why should I buy Life Insurance when I'm young?

  1. Life insurance is cheaper when you’re younger. On the permanent portion of your insurance plan, the longer you put your money to work for you, the better the result!
  2. When you’re young, you’re insurable. When you’re older; maybe you’re not. We’re all just one doctor visit away from NOT being able to buy life insurance. If you’re diagnosed with even a minor ailment the cost of your life insurance can go up dramatically and in some cases, you won’t be able to buy it at all.

Other questions I could answer (but I won't here...)
Is it ultimately cheaper to pay annually or monthly?

How can I be sure that my life insurance company is safe?
What are ‘Banded Premiums” and how can they save me money?
What about Accidental Death and Dismemberment Riders? Should I have one?
Should I own my own policy or should my spouse?
Can I buy insurance on my business partner?
Is the Non-Tobacco rate really THAT MUCH BETTER?
What’s the difference between dividends and cash value?
What’s a “contestable clause” and how could it hurt me if I don’t understand it?
What are PAID UP ADDITIONS and how can they increase my insurance coverage?

Really.. I could really fill a book.
That’s why you really need a committed agent to do all this thinking with you.
After all… You probably have better things to do.

If you're in or near San Diego County, I'd be happy to help. If you're not, find a good, knowledgeable agent in your area. Take your time... it's an important decision.

When it comes to buying life insurance, you should always deal with a LARGE, WELL-KNOWN, REPUTABLE INSURANCE COMPANY. One easy rule is that if you haven’t heard of them, be suspect. I guarantee you’ve heard of ours – we’ve been at it for over 75 years! Today we have over 7 million life and annuity policies in force. Since 1929 we have been protecting American families one policy at a time. Just go to . (don't worry, this window will stay right here...)

WOW! Kind of impressive!

I think so.

And it’s ALL included at no additional premium...

We offer NATIONWIDE AND 24 HOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE. That’s right -- Doesn’t matter if it’s a claim or a question. You simply call my office number, 619-670-1000 and you’ll have access to our 24 Hour Customer Response Team and/or to my personal cell phone.
Should you need insurance help while away from home, we have over 1000 claim offices and over 16,000 agent offices across the United States and Canada all committed to giving you friendly, efficient home-town service (even if you’re from California ! )

We also offer free 24 hour online access to your policy information. Our company website offers you more insurance information than your brain can possibly hold. It’s all available with just the click of your mouse, 24/7/365.

We’re a friendly, local office with a licensed, trained team to assist you in every phase of your insurance. We’ve been in business here in San Diego County for over 25 years.
Whenever you call us during regular business hours, there’s NO ELECTRONIC TELEPHONE MENU to navigate -- Just a friendly voice on the phone ready to help you. (if you call after hours, there is a single-choice menu where you simply choose to leave a voicemail or to speak to a real, LIVE person)
Go ahead try it right now. If it’s during business hours, you’ll get us; after hours and you’ll get the Customer Response Center. 619-670-1000 !

“WOW”, you say!
“And that’s all included at no additional premium?”

This is so simple and easy to do.
We do all the work for you and in usually less than 30 minutes, you’ll have protected your family, their future financial stability, and your peace of mind!

Why somebody wouldn’t have their LIFE INSURANCE with us is simply beyond me.

In our agency we offer you 5 different ways to pay your premiums.
You have your choice of annual, semi-annual, Quarterly, Monthly and SPECIAL MONTHLY…
“So what’s so special about SPECIAL MONTHLY,” you might ask.
It’s special cuz it’s just so insanely easy.

We set it up for you and your monthly payment comes right out of your checking account: Same day; Every month.

Once again, If you're in or near San Diego County, I'd be happy to help.

You’ve got everything to gain and NOTHING to lose.
I look forward to talking with you soon!


It's a Good Life !

Dennis Volz Insurance Agency
10783 Jamacha Bl, Suite 1, Spring Valley, CA 91978
OFFICE: (619) 670-1000 - FAX: (619) 670-1121

Websites: Company Site:

Client Convenience Site:

My 'Other Blogs'
Working by Referral
Musings from California

This post contains only a general description of coverages and is not your insurance contract. Details of coverage or limits can vary. All coverages are determined by the terms, provisions, exclusions and conditions of your policy along with any endorsements.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright (c) 2006 – SmarterInsurance Inc -- No part of this document may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, without prior written permission of the copyright owner. LEGAL NOTICES: While attempts have been made to verify the information provided, SmarterInsurance Inc will not assume any responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, or omissions. Since this document presents general discussions, always consult a qualified professional regarding your specific tax, legal, financial, and personal circumstances. (911.21740)