Imagine that you’ve just purchased a business and you need to buy general liability insurance. How do you proceed? Like other small business owners, you have several options when shopping for insurance.
You can buy coverage online, either from a single insurer or through a website that offers products from several insurers. Another option is to purchase insurance from a captive agent, meaning an agent that represents a specific insurer (such as Nationwide or State Farm). Insurance may also be available through a trade group or professional organization. Finally, you can obtain coverage through a local Chattanooga independent agent. While any of these methods can be effective, there are benefits to using an independent agent.
One advantage of utilizing an independent agent is that he or she is a licensed professional. Agents cannot sell insurance products unless they have a license. To obtain a license, an agent must typically pass a state exam.
There are various kinds of licenses, and the type of license an agent has depends on the products he or she sells. For instance, an agent that sells property and liability insurance will likely be required to obtain a property/casualty license. A license is generally valid for a few years. To renew his or her license, the agent must fulfill state continuing education requirements.
You can verify that an insurance agent is properly licensed by contacting your state insurance department. In many states you can check the status of your agent’s license online by using a look-up function on the insurance department’s website.
Access to Many Insurers
Independent agents represent multiple insurers. Thus, they can obtain quotes on your behalf from several sources. Price and scope of coverage can vary from one policy to another. Your agent can help you compare policies and choose the one that best suits your needs.
Another advantage of using an independent agent is that agents know what types of businesses insurers want to insure. Your agent’s knowledge of insurers’ preferences can save you time and effort. Rather than waste time submitting applications that are likely to be rejected, your agent will direct your submission to insurers that want to insure your business. If your agent isn’t sure whether your business meets an insurer’s underwriting guidelines, he or she can contract the underwriter directly before an application is submitted.
Some agents are generalists, offering basic coverages that most small businesses need. Others specialize in coverages for certain types of businesses, such as contractors or restaurants. The type of agent you need depends on the size and complexity of your business. Many independent agents have access to a surplus lines broker. This connection can be valuable if you need specialized or hard-to-find coverage.
Help With Claims
An independent agent will provide you with claims service in the event of an accident. You call your agent about the accident, and they will notify the insurance carrier. They can help you to fill out any necessary forms as well as be an advocate for you if any issues arise regarding your claim. Agents will be familiar with how to handle claims as well as the amount that is typically paid for various claims. After the claim has been paid, your agent will advise you as to whether the payment amount is reasonable or not.
Independent insurance agents are well trained in assessing risk. They can review your business operations and assist you in identifying the major risks. Together, you can then identify which risks are most important and how you can insure them. Many risks can be covered by insurance, but some are uninsurable. Also, while some may be insurable, they may be cost prohibitive.
Example: Damage to your business’ property by war is most likely uninsurable under a commercial property policy. Similarly, your basic liability policy will not cover a lawsuit alleging the release of pollutants originating from your premises caused property damage or bodily injury. Depending on the nature of your business, there is the possibility to buy liability coverage for some pollution losses. This coverage can be rather expensive. If you can not afford this coverage, your agent can suggest ways to reduce the chance of a loss.
Anyone in the insurance industry will tell you- insurance is a people business. Since you will be meeting with your agent in person, you will be able to develop a personal relationship with them. As they become more familiar with you and your business, they will be able to provide you with more personalized service. If you call a 1-800 number, you have to tell your whole story to the agent every time you make a phone call. Your agent will also review your coverages before your renewal and possibly suggest changes. This service can be very valuable to a small business owner.
Call Coffey Insurance today and get the right quote for the right insurance the right way!