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Ask the Experts: DicksteinAssociatesAgency, LLC
Jasper E. Parrella, Jr.
Jasper E. Parrella, Jr. is the President and GeneralManager of Dickstein AssociatesAgency, LLC, an independent insurance agency offering a full suite of insurance and financial services. Their clients include individuals, families, businesses, public entities, and commercial enterprises. He has worked in the industry for 30 years, becoming a partner at DicksteinAssociates in 1986, and has served on numerous insurance company agent advisory councils; he presently chairs Encompass Insurance Company’s NorthStar National Product & Pricing Committee.
What criteria should someone use when deciding where to purchase insurance?
I’m a strong advocate of the independent agent system and believe consumers should always consult with a professional independent agent before making any insurance-related decisions. Insurance is complicated, and the advice of an expert can help you make the right decisions, whether you’re in the process of making an insurance purchase or managing ongoing risk. Using an independent insurance agent gives you a distinct advantage – access to multiple insurance companies, a broad selection of insurance policies, customized coverage, competitive pricing, convenient local service support, and unparalleled advocacy.
What are some mistakes people make when buying insurance?
1. Failing to get professional advice. For example, buying car insurance is not all about price. Since most people don’t actually read their policy cover to cover, what they may not know is that all car insurance companies and their policies are not created equal. A professional agent will explain the differences and help you navigate your way through those complexities. We welcome the opportunity, and often work with a client’s accountant, attorney, and financial professionals in order to provide the best professional advice and solutions available.
2. Confusing price and value. Smart consumers are not only price sensitive, but also price conscious. There’s the direct cost of insurance coverage and the value that coverage provides. After all, you expect your agent and insurance company to be there for you when you need them most – at the time of a claim – but what about the rest of the time? There’s the intangible value of an agent’s professional service that includes providing personalized attention to customer service, convenience of a local office, dedicated claims advocacy, and dedicated risk-management professionals who offer ongoing advice and consultation. If you have the comfort and ease that comes from doing business with people who care about you and whom you trust, well…it’s hard to put a price on that.
What are some overlooked insurance products and services?
The fastest growing area of crime is identity theft. Every 79 seconds someone's identity is stolen and an account is opened in the victim's name. In 2005, $56 billion was stolen. The average time it takes a victim to restore his or her credit is 60 to175 hours, and most of those calls have to be made during normal business hours. The impact on your life can be staggering, yet many standard homeowner policies fail to provide expense reimbursement associated with ID theft. For a marginal sum you can add ID theft coverage to your policy. Keep in mind that this coverage is usually limited to reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses associated with repairing your credit and not for the value of items stolen.
If you own a business or are an individual who employs anyone, you know the risks associated with your employment responsibilities. Consider the cost of Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) for alleged wrongful termination or discrimination. With EPLI, insurance companies not only provide your defense, but pay up to your policy limit if you lose the case, potentially saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs. Many carriers provide HR and legal advice free of charge as an added value.
A common mistake is failure to get adequate flood coverage. The standard homeowner's policy does not cover flood damage, which can be caused by storms, melting snow, hurricanes, or water backup due to inadequate drainage systems. Floods are the #1 natural disaster in the U.S., and almost a quarter of associated claims come from outside high-risk flood zones. Keep in mind that under FEMA rules there's a 30-day waiting period on most new flood policies, so it’s wise not to wait until the last minute.
Another error people make is forgetting to insure their income. What if the family breadwinner dies or becomes disabled? Who will earn the money for the car, mortgage, etc.? Almost half of the country doesn't have life insurance. Everyone who supports their family should consider the impact of their premature death or disability. Term insurance rates are at historic lows, so today’s affordable rates provide greater opportunity forat least a basic level of protection.
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