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Bureau of Insurance

Shopping Tips

for Auto and Homeowner's Insurance

for Life Insurance

for Health Insurance

for Medical Professional Liability Coverage

Buying Automobile and Homeowner's Insurance

  • Answer the questions on the application completely and honestly.
  • Do not sign a blank application.
  • Do not pay the agent in cash. Make a check payable to the insurance company. And include the type of policy that you are paying for (auto or homeowners, etc.).
  • If you are turned down for insurance, ask for the specific reason.
  • Do not buy on price alone; consider coverage and service. Select a company and agent you feel you can trust.
  • Do not forget to ask about discounts for safety and security devices (burglar alarms, fire alarms, dead bolts).
  • Remember to use the Insurance Quotation Worksheet to see which company has the lowest price for you.
  • Ask if the company gives a new home discount or multi-policy discount.
  • Ask about the difference in price between a “named peril” policy and an “open perils” policy.
  • Make sure your dwelling policy limits are at least 80% of the replacement cost of your home. If you do not have a recent appraisal, ask your agent to help you.
  • Does the company offer an inflation guard endorsement?
  • Discuss with your agent whether you should list your valuable items of personal property on a personal property schedule. Does the company offer full replacement cost coverage on your personal belongings?
  • Ask about the difference in price for basic liability limits of $100,000 and a higher limit such as $300,000 or $500,000.
  • Companies are required by law to offer you water and sewer back-up coverage. If your property is subject to water, which backs up through the sewer or drains, make sure you get this coverage. You may have to pay extra.
  • Companies are required by law to offer you building ordinance or law coverage. This provides protection when a building damaged by a covered peril must be repaired or rebuilt in a more costly manner because the original construction does not comply with current building codes. This coverage may cost you extra.
  • Your homeowners policy has some provisions that may prevent you from receiving payment for a claim even if you have paid the premium. If your home or apartment is left vacant or unoccupied, some part of your coverage may be suspended automatically. When you plan a long vacation, or when you are moving either in or out of your home, or if your home will remain vacant for any other reason, you should ask your agent or company which coverages will be suspended.
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Buying Life Insurance

  • Decide how much insurance you need and the length of time the protection should last.
  • Learn what kinds of policies are available to meet your needs and pick the one that best suits you.
  • Look for a policy with a premium you can afford. It can be costly to let policies lapse.
  • Use the 10 day “free-look” provision, you can get your money back in the first 10 days if you change your mind.
  • Reassess your life insurance needs frequently because your needs will change as your dependents and finances change.
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Buying Health Insurance

  • Always complete applications including your medical history.
  • Check policy provisions that restrict or reduce benefits.
  • Be aware of possible consequences when replacing existing coverage.
  • Check your right to renew.
  • Use the 10 day “free-look” provision.
  • General Shopping Tips
  • Shop around.
  • Select a sound company and a reliable agent.
  • Check with the Bureau of Insurance to see if the company and the agent are licensed to do business in Virginia.
  • Examine the policy carefully.
  • Carefully review the copy of your application contained in your policy and report any errors or omissions to the company or agent.
  • Do not pay cash for any policy.
  • Check the rating of the company.
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Buying Medical Professional Liability Coverage

The State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance offers the following tips to physicians who are shopping for medical professional liability insurance coverage:

  • Shop well in advance of your renewal or expiration date. Your agent should have all of the necessary information to the insurer at least six to eight weeks before your coverage expires. See the attached checklist for the types of information your agent will need.
  • Contact one or two agents and be sure to ask each agent which insurer will be contacted for a quote. Ask the agent if an application will also be submitted to a surplus lines broker. If so, ask for the name of the surplus lines broker and ask which surplus lines insurers will be contacted. Provide this information to the other agent to avoid multiple applications being submitted to one insurer from different agents. If the application is being submitted to a surplus lines broker, be sure to ask the agent for information on the coverage provided and specifically request information on exclusions.
  • If your agent recommends coverage through an unlicensed company (such as a surplus lines insurer or a risk retention group), be aware that, in the case of an insolvency, you will not have coverage through the Virginia Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association. However, if you have had several claims or an open claim, you may only be able to obtain coverage through a company not licensed in Virginia. Ask your agent for information on the financial rating of the company and if the surplus lines insurer has its own guaranty fund. Also, when you shop, feel free to check with the Bureau to see if the company and agent are licensed or authorized to do business in Virginia. Additional information on purchasing groups and risk retention groups is included in our frequently asked questions section.
  • Be sure the agent fully understands your business. If incorporated, ask the agent what coverage is needed to protect the corporation as well as the individual doctors.
  • Ask the agent if you will need to purchase "tail coverage" or if the new insurer will provide coverage for "prior acts." If coverage is offered with two insurers, ask the agent what each insurer charges for "tail coverage." This information may help you decide which insurer has the most competitive price.
  • Complete your application for coverage in its entirety. Don’t omit any information and be sure to provide as much detail as you can, especially about prior claims. Many insurance companies want 10 years of information; they may also request information about your risk management practices and procedures.
  • Discuss deductible options with your agent. These may help lower your premium.
  • Find out if your insurance company offers any risk management or loss prevention programs. These programs may help lower your premium and help reduce your exposure to losses.
  • If you have any questions or problems, call the Bureau’s Consumer Services Section at (804) 371-9185 or toll-free at (800) 552-7945.
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