WHAT IS AN INDEPENDENT INSURANCE BROKER?

Unlike other insurance providers, an insurance broker works for you rather than an insurance company. Brokers use their professional knowledge and experience to help you properly assess your insurance needs, shop for the best value in insurance coverage and help you in the event of a claim.

Many brokers will help you with a quote on line or over the phone, but personal consultations are encouraged, to answer any questions you may have, ensure there are no misunderstandings and no detail is overlooked.

WHAT'S THE ADVANTAGE IN USING AN INSURANCE BROKER?

These days there are many different ways to buy insurance, but there are good reasons to consider using an insurance broker’s expertise to help you make the best-informed decisions.

Insurance brokers act as your personal advisor on insurance matters.  They work for you, not the insurance company, to make sure your family; your possessions and your business are properly protected. If you have the misfortune of a loss your insurance broker will guide you through the claims process, helping to ensure a swift and fair settlement by your insurance company, to get you back to where you were before disaster struck.

Brokers provide expert, unbiased advice on your individual insurance needs. Unlike other providers who are focused on selling you something, with a broker your interests come first.  It is this focus on customer needs rather than their own that sets the broker apart from all other insurance options.

Choice
Brokers have access to a wide selection of some of the best insurers in the country, most of whom do not sell directly to the public.  Once a broker has properly assessed your individual insurance needs they do the shopping for you, to find you the right coverage at a competitive price.

Advice
Brokers are licensed professionals.  They bring their experience and judgment to their role as your personal insurance advisor.  Most important, they are free to make impartial recommendations.  Their first and only responsibility is to serve your interests, so it’s advice you can trust.

Flexibility
Most people prefer to have a face-to-face conversation with a broker to discuss coverage, at least at the outset. For most of your dealings with a broker you can communicate in whatever way you are most comfortable with, or that fits into your busy life, such as telephone or email.

Trust
Insurance brokers work to a principle of utmost good faith. Your insurance broker puts your interests first, before those of the insurance companies they deal with. Buying from a broker means you can buy with confidence knowing that the recommended coverage is right for your particular needs.  A broker’s advice is independent of any insurance company, so their recommendations are always in your best interests.

Advocacy
If you have to make a claim, your broker is there to ensure that you receive fair and prompt payment, to get you back to normal.  In the event of a dispute, your broker will act as your advocate with the insurance company.  Experience has shown that a broker’s knowledge and contacts can often help settle a disputed claim.  The disappointment of a refused claim lasts much longer than the satisfaction of having saved a few dollars.

Knowledge
Brokers are a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of insurance and other preparedness.  They know how to ensure that you get all applicable discounts on the insurance you buy.  They are experts at risk assessment and how to properly protect you and your family’s interests with respect to Auto, Home and Business coverage.  Professional education is ongoing and put to use on a daily basis, so you can rest assured that the coverage you receive is the coverage you need.

Transparency
It doesn’t cost you any extra to use the services of a broker.  Brokers are paid a commission by any insurance company they place your business with, there is no financial incentive for them to pick one over another.  What’s more, they are completely open about their transactions and encourage you to ask them about their remuneration.

Responsibility
Brokers act as a local resource centre for safety information and crime prevention. Brokers are part of your community’s emergency response team. They will be among the first to respond to your needs in the event of a catastrophe in your community. Buying from a broker means you are investing in your own community.

WHAT IS INSURANCE AND WHY DO I NEED IT?

Four good reasons to insure. In some cases, insurance is mandatory – to obtain a mortgage, for example, or to drive a car. Otherwise, the choice is yours, but it’s a wise choice for four main reasons:

Reduces worry. With the right type and amount of insurance, you can be protected from the risks to property and person that are inherent in everyday life.

Makes it easier to obtain credit. Lenders may be more willing to extend personal or commercial credit if they know that proper insurance is in place.

Helps to prevent loss. Brokers and insurers work to help prevent loss with information and advice on road safety, anti-theft, fire prevention and fraud reduction.

Frees up capital. Because insurance protects your assets, you do not have to put money aside in case of future losses.This security applies to individuals and businesses.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES AS A CONSUMER?

Insurance companies, along with the brokers and agents who sell home, auto and business insurance, are committed to safeguarding your rights when you shop for insurance and when you submit a claim following a loss. Your rights include the right to be informed fully, to be treated fairly, to timely complaint resolution, and to privacy. These rights are grounded in the contract between you and your insurer and the insurance laws of your province. With rights, however, come responsibilities including, for example, the expectation that you will provide complete and accurate information to your insurer. Your policy outlines other important responsibilities. Insurers and their distribution networks, and governments also have important roles to play in ensuring that your rights are protected.

Right to Be Informed

Responsibility to Ask Questions and Share Information

Right to Complaint Resolution

Responsibility to Resolve Disputes

Right to Professional Service

Right to Privacy

SHOULD I MAKE A CLAIM?

There are some situations in which you shouldn’t and your broker can help you decide.

  • Is it covered? Remember that your policy has limits and exclusions that mean some losses are not covered. Property belonging to your employer, for example, is probably not covered. Damage from a fire that was set intentionally might not be covered, and theft of a valuable painting could be beyond your insurance limit. Is it covered? Ask your broker first.
  • If the loss is less than the amount of your deductible, then you cannot make a claim.
  • If your loss is covered and above the amount of your deductible, you might still not want to make a claim if your premiums will increase as a result. Again, ask your broker for advice.

WHAT IS LIABILITY INSURANCE?

Liability insurance covers the cost of damages (for accident benefits, medical costs, lawsuits and awards) in the event of personal injury or death from an accident involving the insured party. In other words, you are financially protected if you are held liable for an injury or loss by others arising from the operation of your vehicle.

WHAT IS NO-FAULT INSURANCE?

Many provinces in Canada now have some level of no-fault insurance in which each person’s own insurance company pays for injury or damage up to a certain limit. This applies regardless of whether or not the insured person was at fault.

WHEN TO CONSIDER EXTRA COVERAGE?

The recommended level of liability insurance coverage is usually about $1 million. There are some situations in which you might want to increase your liability limit depending on the use of your vehicle.

AM I COVERED?

Renting a car
If you drive a rented car or any vehicle that is not owned by you, your existing policy automatically extends accident benefits and third party liability coverage to your rented car. These limits are the same as those on your own car.

Traveling outside the province or country
Your insurance will apply if you take your car on short trips to other provinces or into the continental U.S., as long as you engage in normal use of the vehicle. 

Moving to another province
If you are relocating long-term or permanently, you must inform your insurer and arrange for new coverage that reflects the risks in your new location.

When the car is “in the shop”
Under most insurance policies, you are not entitled to a replacement vehicle while your car is in the shop for normal maintenance or repair. If you lose the use of your car because of an accident, then you might be entitled to a loaned vehicle depending on the situation.

When driving someone else’s car
If you borrow someone else’s car, you are covered by the insurance on that car. However, if you are involved in an accident, the owner’s record, not yours, will be affected.

When someone else drives your car
Remember that when someone else is driving your car, you are still responsible for it. Any at-fault accidents or claims will go onto your driving record and affect your future premiums.

HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT POLICY FOR MY HOME?

Your home should be insured from the moment you take legal ownership-even if it is under construction. Your broker’s expertise is particularly useful at this stage when you really need to match policy features with needs. Here’s a primer to get you started: Home insurance covers the building, its contents and liability     There are usually three parts to your homeowner’s policy. For condominium owners and tenants, just the contents and liability coverages apply. 

Policies range from offering comprehensive to “bare-bones” coverage. You can save money by scaling down your policy, but be careful not to underinsure. Basically, there are two common types of protection.

  1. Named Perils coverage provides coverage for specific basic perils outlined in the policy. This coverage is usually less expensive, but places more risk to financial loss on you.
  2. All Risks coverage provides you broader coverage for normal risks to which your home exposes, except those which are specifically excluded, such as acts of terrorism or flooding.

There are three general policy categories from which to choose:

  1. Basic/Named Perils policies which is the most basic policy you can buy, providing “Named Perils” coverage only for both your home/outbuildings and its contents.
  2. Broad Form policies provide slightly broader protection, offering “All Risks” coverage on your home and outbuildings and “Named Perils” coverage on your contents.
  3. Comprehensive policies provide the most thorough coverage available by offering “All Risks” coverage for your home/outbuildings and also your contents.

Regardless of which policy you select, some coverages can be increased and certain items insured separately. Your broker will be happy to sit down with you to review your coverage needs.

WHO NEEDS BUSINESS INSURANCE?

Every business has unique requirements.Your commercial insurance should be designed to protect against the most prevalent risks, to the assets and capital in your business. Your broker can help you itemize and quantify those risks, and determine the level of coverage you should consider. Risks include:

Property loss. Insurance against property damage or theft protects the physical assets that support your business including buildings, equipment, vehicle fleets and inventory, as well as intangible assets such as licenses, patents and accounts receivable.To arrange the right level of insurance, you must know your rights and obligations as an owner, tenant, leaseholder, landlord or mortgage holder. You must also take into account local bylaws on standards for physical repair and reconstruction.

Liability loss. Every business is exposed to liabilities and should be protected against the minor as well as the major ones including personal injury, product failures or negligence.

Personnel loss. Group health and benefits insurance can help to improve employee retention and well-being thereby reducing the cost of turnover and lost time.

Net income loss.Some businesses are exposed to specific perils that are beyond their control and that would cause critical damage to the viability of the business.

For example, a food services operation might insure against a major electrical outage that would result in spoilage of their inventory.  Consider the underlying risk drivers in your business. An experienced commercial insurance broker can help you read the risks in your business, advise you on how to reduce some of the more manageable exposures and suggest an insurance mix that takes your risk tolerance and financial situation into account. The following are examples of common risk drivers:

  • Heavy reliance on limited sources of income
  • Dependence on one or a few people to run the business
  • Elaborate and specialized physical assets
  • Extensive international operations
  • Sensitivity to factors outside your control, such as weather and commodity prices
  • Labour unrest
  • High levels of inventory
  • Large vehicle fleets
  • Rudimentary workplace health and safety practices
  • Dangerous materials handling

Let your broker help you plan and arrange the right insurance for your business.