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What happens when a tree falls? | Michigan Home, Auto Insurance

posted Dec 8, 2017, 11:42 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Dec 8, 2017, 11:44 AM ]

Fallen Tree - Michigan Insurance
While tornadoes are, thankfully, relatively infrequent in West Michigan we do routinely suffer damages from high winds and storms. There storms frequently down trees resulting in expenses for property owners to remove tree debris, repair damaged structures, and repair or replace other items a downed tree may damage.

In this article we'll examine which personal insurance policy responds and what to expect from your insurance when there are damages resulting from downed trees.

Tree(s) downed on the premises
What happens if a tree is downed in your yard without damaging any structures or other property?

This is one area where there can be considerable differences between individual insurance companies and the coverage their policies provide that most people don't recognize beforehand or even think to inquire about when they are shopping for home insurance.

Some home insurance policies provide no coverage whatsoever for tree debris removal expenses if a tree is downed on the property without damaging a covered structure. Other home policies will provide limited coverage for tree debris removal, typically ranging from $500 to $1,000 per occurrence.  Coverage is customarily subject to the policy deductible.

Tree(s) downed on a covered structure
Tree Damage - Michigan Home Insurance
In addition to insuring the house, home insurance policies typically provide coverage for additional structures on the premises including detached garages, storage sheds, pole barns, fences, and pools.*

When a tree is downed on the house or another covered structure the home insurance policy will cover resulting damages to the structure - subject to the policy deductible and any applicable coverage limits.

There may still be limitations for the cost of removing tree debris when a tree falls on a covered structure, although the tree debris removal and structural damages would be considered one claim with the policy deductible only applying once to the cost of removing the tree debris and repairing the structure.

Tree Damage - Michigan Auto Insurance
Tree(s) downed on a car, boat, motorcycle, snowmobiles, recreational vehicle, or travel trailer
A home insurance policy generally will not provide coverage for damages to any of these types of vehicles - items that are designed to be insured separately.

Regardless of whether they are stored in a garage or another building on the property, the only coverage for these types of vehicles would be if they are separately insured for physical damage.  Typically they would be insured on a separate policy although certain types of recreational vehicles may be eligible to be insured on a rider added to a home policy.

This is another area where there can be a noteworthy difference between insurance companies that isn't accounted for by simply comparing the price of their policies.  There are some insurance companies that will only apply one deductible if there is a loss covered by multiple policies.  What this means is if a tree falls damaging a garage and a vehicle parked in the garage, if both the home and vehicle were insured with one of these companies, only the larger of any applicable deductibles between the home and auto policies would apply to the combined loss.

* It is always advisable to discuss, with your agent, coverage for any detached structures on your property. Depending on the combined value of detached structures there may be a need to adjust policy coverage and/or depending on the use of any building(s) they may need to be separately insured.

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Understanding No Fault Insurance | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Oct 24, 2017, 12:58 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Oct 24, 2017, 12:59 PM ]

Michigan No-Fault Auto Insurance
Based on conversations over the years I've realized it's not uncommon for most people to be a little confused by no-fault auto insurance.

When there is an accident, under Michigan no-fault insurance, your own auto insurance company responds for your damages - regardless of who was at fault.

Understandably that can seem, on first glance, counterintuitive.  After all, it only seems fair that if a person was at fault in an accident then that individual - or their insurance company - should be responsible for any resulting damages.

There are a couple of guiding principles behind no-fault auto insurance:

One being your own insurance company should have more of a vested interest in settling a claim for you, as their client, promptly and fairly.  Regardless of fault, an insurance company that has no direct financial relationship with you has no financial stake in resolving a claim expediently and to your satisfaction.

This is also intended to cut down on lawsuits as consumers don't have to sue to establish legal responsibility and compel an insurance company to pay for damages.

A second notion behind no-fault auto insurance is each consumer can individually determine (to a certain extent) what coverages they want to carry on their own auto insurance policy.

While there are auto insurance requirements mandated by the State of Michigan those are for relatively minimal liability coverage and medical and work loss benefits.  There is, however, no state requirement that an individual insure their vehicle for physical damage.

Adding to the confusion about Michigan no-fault auto insurance there are also a few exceptions wherein the at-fault party can be responsible for damages.  The exceptions include:
  • Serious injury, death, or dismemberment: In these situations while your own insurance company would still respond for medical bills and lost wages there can be recourse against an at-fault party for pain and suffering.  This provision allows an injured party to obtain financial compensation for a diminished quality of life resulting from injuries caused by another driver.
  • Parked vehicle: When your car is legally parked it considered property when damaged by another driver.  If another driver hits your parked car they would be responsible for the damages - basically the same as if they hit your mailbox.
  • Mini-tort claim: Under this provision the at-fault party in an accident can be responsible for up to $1,000 of the damages to another person's car if those damages are not covered by that person's own insurance.  This exception is intended to provide a modest amount of relief for a not-at-fault party that properly insured their own vehicle, but doesn't carry collision coverage or has a deductible that applies to any coverage afforded by their own policy.
As auto insurance differs from state-to state there are also exceptions if you happen to be involved in an accident in another state or if you are involved in an accident in Michigan with a non-resident who is driving a vehicle registered and insured in another state.


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How To Be A Smart Insurance Buyer | Michigan Insurance

posted Oct 11, 2017, 1:54 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Oct 12, 2017, 7:29 AM ]

Ask Questions When Buying Insurance
A few years ago my wife and I purchased kayaks and a trailer.  The salesperson was friendly, informative, and offered several worthwhile suggestions regarding equipment and accessories.  While the salesperson was helpful there were items we wound up purchasing that he didn't immediately suggest.

As an example, we didn't like the idea of simply strapping our kayaks to the trailer as they could easily be damaged while being transported.  When we expressed that concern the salesman recommended saddle cradles typically used for car rooftops that were able to be added to the trailer crossbars to provide a secure mounting system for each kayak.

When we questioned the potential for theft if we used basic straps to tie down each kayak that salesman brought to our attention available theft-deterrent, locking straps.  For each potential concern we expressed there were accessories available.

In my estimation, the salesman didn't do us a disservice by not immediately suggesting all of the equipment and accessories we wound up purchasing.  The purchase process required our participation: we thought about what was important to us and asked questions to make certain we had the proper equipment and accessories to meet our needs and expectations.

Throughout my career I've found there is seldom this level of participation when people are buying insurance.  More often there is a misconception that basic insurance policies will provide coverage for every need and expectation.

The reality is there is an extensive array of additional coverage options available with most insurance policies.  These coverage options are available to custom-tailor each policy to meet your needs and expectations, but it requires asking questions and identifying those needs and expectations when working with your insurance agent.

Take auto insurance as an example:
  • Do you need roadside assistance coverage in the event your vehicle needs to be towed or if you need some type of service for a lockout, flat tire, or dead battery?
  • Do you need additional coverage to pay for a rental car if your car is out of service due to a covered loss?
  • If so, how much coverage - per day - would you need for a rental car? (A good example as $30 a day may be enough to pay for basic transportation, but what if you routinely transport kids and equipment and may need to rent a more sizeable, higher cost vehicle like an SUV?)
  • Are you financing or leasing a new vehicle and may need gap coverage?
Home insurance offers an even wider array of additional coverage options to provide coverage for guaranteed home replacement, personal property replacement, valuable items (including jewelry, fine arts, and collectibles), water backup, tree removal expense, refrigerator & freezer contents, identity fraud, home businesses, personal electronics, service lines, sinkholes, shoreline property for waterfront homes, and increases in repair costs to comply with local ordinances and laws.

A good insurance agent is going to take time to ask questions intended to help design a policy that meets your needs and expectations.  The likelihood of buying an insurance policy with coverage options tailored to your situation increases when you take an active role participating in the purchase process.

An excellent example is one of my clients recently expressed concern as they lives in an area where there have been issues with sinkholes.  While additional coverage is available for sinkholes it is somewhat costly and isn't an option most people would choose to pay the extra cost to include with their home insurance policy.  In that case the client helped me identify a need I was able to address with an additional coverage option appropriate for their unique circumstance.

The important takeaway from this article is to be actively involved when purchasing insurance.  Think about what could happen, ask questions, and participate to be certain your insurance policies will respond as you may need and expect in the event of a loss.

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Insurance concern home buyers should address BEFORE signing a purchase agreement | Michigan Home, Condo Insurance

posted Aug 30, 2017, 8:39 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Aug 30, 2017, 10:25 AM ]

Home Purchase - Michigan Home Insurance
Your heart is set on purchasing your dream home or condo in Michigan.  You've earnestly begun negotiations with the sellers - haggling over price, working with your realtor to outline seller and buyer responsibilities to be completed before closing, targeting a date for closing, and - frequently these days - agreeing how long the sellers may remain in the home after the closing.

While delays where sellers remain in a home after closing are common and purchase agreements typically stipulate the seller is required to pay for any repairs or replacement necessitated by misuse, abuse, or neglect of the property one valid concern most purchase agreements fail to address is what happens if there is an insurance-related loss while the seller is still living in the home?

An insurance claim for damages to a home or other structures on the property that occurs after the closing date customarily is the responsibility of the home buyer and their insurance company.

What this means is if an unforeseen claim occurs - say a pipe bursts in a wall - during the period of time following closing while a seller is still living in the home they no longer own the claim goes to the home buyers insurance company and the new homeowner is also responsible for paying, out-of-pocket, their insurance deductible.

While accidents happen, as you can well imagine, most new homeowners are understandably none too pleased to file a claim against their new insurance policy and pay their deductible (typically $500 - $1,000) for a loss the occurs before they've even taken possession of their new home.

Since you own your new home once the closing is completed there isn't really any effective way for a home buyer to avoid being stuck with a claim if an insurance loss occurs before they've taken possession of their new home.  There is, however, a simple solution to minimize risk and expense for a homebuyer in this situation.

A clause can be added to the purchase agreement stipulating the seller would be responsible for the buyers' deductible if an insurance-related loss occurs after closing while the seller remains in the home.  For a buyer whose new home insurance policy has a $1,000 deductible a clause similar to the following would provide a remedy to this potential issue:

"Seller to be responsible for the first $1,000 of any insurance related loss if the loss occurs while the sellers continue to occupy the property after close."

This is a simple and reasonable solution.  Unexpected losses can - and do - happen: that's the purpose of insurance.  It's also reasonable to expect a seller, who requests time to remain in a home after closing, should bear some financial responsibility if any damages occur while they continue to occupy the home.

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What is Functional Replacement Cost? | Michigan Home Insurance

posted Aug 10, 2017, 2:23 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 2:54 PM ]

Functional Replacement Cost - Home Insurance
With functional replacement cost, if this hand-laid stone porch was destroyed, the insurance company would pay to replace the porch with a functionally equivalent porch using conventional construction materials and methods, such as brick or stacked stone.

Older homes, particularly houses built prior to 1945, often have unique construction features.  While the history and uniqueness of these building characteristics add to the allure of the home they can also be extremely difficult and expensive to replace.

The most common example of an obsolete construction feature in older homes are plaster walls.  Most builders and remodelers now routinely use drywall as it is less expensive, easier to install, and has fire-resistant properties that combine to make it a more ideal selection for walls in a home.

Other examples of unique construction features of older homes may include: ornate woodwork, mahogany banisters, hand-laid stone foundations and porches, and imported, individually hand-painted floor tiles.

The replacement provision of home insurance policies customarily specify the insurance company will repair covered damages using like kind and quality materials.  With older homes insurance companies typically amend the policy to instead provide what is known as functional replacement cost coverage.

Functional replacement cost means the insurance company will pay to repair or replace covered damages to an older home with construction materials and methods of construction that are functionally equivalent in condition and appearance to the original construction, but would not be an exact replacement of matching kind and quality materials.

Referring to the earlier cited examples: plaster walls would be replaced with drywall, stone foundations would be replaced with poured concrete, hand-laid stone porches (such as the one pictured above) would be replaced with brick or stacked stone, a mahogany banister may be replaced with a pine banister, and hand-painted individual floor tiles would be replaced with more readily available, high quality tiles.

The end result with functional replacement cost coverage is covered damages will be fully repaired and functionally equivalent to the original construction, but the cost of labor and materials would be substantially less than an exact replacement.  This provision lowers the amount of insurance needed and thereby also lowers the cost for insuring an older home.

What is Disability Insurance? | Michigan Disability Insurance

posted Jun 28, 2017, 8:52 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Jun 28, 2017, 8:57 AM ]

Michigan Disability Insurance



What is your most valuable asset?

When this question is posed most people will think of their home or some other tangible asset they own...perhaps their car, boat, recreational vehicle, personal belongings, or even their accumulated savings and investments.

The reality is your income is more than likely your most valuable asset.  Your ability to work and earn an income is the primary source of funds to pay for your home, vehicles, and other assets as well as paying for groceries, utilities, and other everyday expenses to maintain your standard of living.


What would happen if you became sick or hurt and were unable to keep working?

Disability insurance is a type of insurance designed to replace your income if you are unable to continue working due to an illness or injury.

Disability Probabilities - Michigan Income Insurance
You may be surprised to learn 1 in 4 of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.

What resources would protect your income?
  • Workers' Compensation - 90% of long-term disability claims are due to illness and are not work-related, meaning they are not covered by workers' compensation.
  • Savings - Nearly 40% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Would your savings be sufficient to cover your expenses for an extended period of time?
  • Government - Social Security may not cover all your expenses if you become disabled. At the beginning of 2017, the average monthly SSDI benefit for workers was $1,170 (source: Social Security Administration fact sheet). And, between 2003 and 2012, Social Security disability claim denials averaged 59%.
  • Spouse's Income - Many families rely on two incomes to cover monthly expenses. Could your family get by with just one income?
  • Employer-provided Disability Insurance - Group coverage furnished by an employer often has limited benefits and is not available to you after leaving the employer.  Also, if your employers pays for the insurance any benefits paid are taxable.
The most flexible and reliable source to protect your income is an individual disability insurance policy you purchase on your own.
  • An individual disability insurance policy is portable, meaning you can take it with you from one job to the next.
  • Disability insurance is flexible - you can customize a policy to meet your specific needs and budget.
  • Individual disability insurance, when purchased with after-tax dollars, provides income-tax free benefits.
There are 3 main components to an individual disability insurance policy:
  • Elimination Period - How long, following a disability, you wait before benefits begin being paid.
  • Benefit Amount - How much of your income a disability policy would replace.
  • Benefit Period - How long benefits would be payable.
Additional options are available that would allow you to increase your coverage in the future regardless of any changes in your health, to have benefits paid increase over time to keep pace with inflation, and to have premiums refunded if you don't use your policy.

While the odds of a disability occurring sometime during the course of your career are significant the good news is most people who suffer an illness or injury are eventually able to return to work.  This is an important consideration to be aware of as the most common mistake I've seen people make when inquiring about disability insurance is narrow their focus solely to purchasing a policy providing ultimate protection - a short elimination period with maximum benefits paid to retirement.  While this may be ideal protection, it can come with a price tag higher than the budget permits - those people often decide disability insurance is unaffordable and go without any coverage whatsoever.

A customized disability insurance policy with a modest elimination period, reasonable benefits to make sure your family can pay the mortgage, buy groceries, and pay for utilities, and with benefits payable from 1 to 5 years can provide an excellent financial safety net without breaking your budget.


What is Insurable Interest? | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Jun 16, 2017, 9:37 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Oct 20, 2017, 7:08 AM ]

Insurable Interest - Michigan Auto Insurance
Insurable interest is an important concept to understand, particularly as it relates to Michigan auto insurance.

Insurable interest is an insurance term that means the owner of an insurance policy must have a financial interest in any item they insure.

With auto insurance an insurable interest must exist both at the time a vehicle is originally insured and at the time a loss occurs.

On the surface this sounds simple: In order to insure a vehicle, and in order to collect insurance benefits if a loss occurs, you need to be a titled owner or leaseholder of that vehicle.

Unfortunately, insurable interest can become confusing when consumers either don't understand the concept or, misguidedly, attempt to insure vehicles incorrectly.

A husband and wife are considered one legal entity by insurance companies.  Therefore, one or both members of a married couple may be listed as the owner(s) of an insurance policy and either or both individuals may be listed as the titled owner or leaseholder of a vehicle insured on that policy.

Other than a married couple, for any vehicle to be properly insured, the named owner of an auto insurance policy must be a titled owner or leaseholder of the insured vehicle.  This means:
  • A parent cannot insure a child's vehicle if the child is the sole titled owner or leaseholder of that vehicle
  • Unmarried couples cannot combine their separate vehicles on one auto policy, unless the individual specifically named as the insurance policy owner is a titled owner or leaseholder of each vehicle
  • Roommates cannot combine their vehicles on one auto insurance policy
  • An individual cannot insure a "friends" vehicle out of the goodness of their heart - or because the friend is ineligible or unable to afford their own auto insurance
Some of those examples may seem obvious however, having been in the insurance business for over 25 years, I've encountered each of those situations numerous times.

The most common occurrence of individuals incorrectly insuring a vehicle is when a parent attempts to insure a vehicle that is solely owned by their child.

What frequently happens in this situation is ownership of a vehicle is transferred from a parent to a son or daughter when that child strikes out on their own.  The youngster often receives a "sticker shock" when they obtain a quote for their own auto insurance policy - the pricing on their own likely missing some of the favorable advantages of being insured on their parents' auto insurance policy including their parents' good credit history, multi-car, and multi-policy discounts.

In that situation people sometimes mistakenly think a solution is to simply not tell their insurance company and leave the child and their vehicle on the parents auto insurance policy.  Unfortunately this scheme to save on insurance costs can, and very likely will, backfire if there is a significant claim (see Michigan court case "Hoskins vs Miller").

As mentioned earlier, insurable interest must exist both at the time a vehicle is originally insured and at the time a loss occurs.  If there is a significant claim you can be assured your insurance company will review all pertinent details, including whether the policy owner had an insurable interest in the vehicle.

Making certain you are properly insured is a vital step to having the assurance your Michigan auto insurance policy will respond as expected if a loss occurs.


How Do I Cancel My Insurance? | Michigan Insurance

posted May 16, 2017, 9:01 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated May 16, 2017, 9:03 AM ]

Insurance Cancellation Grand Rapids
One of the most common mistakes people make involving insurance is simply neglecting to notify their insurance company when they decide either to not renew or cancel an insurance policy.

Whether you're switching insurance companies or simply have sold a vehicle, property, or business and no longer need insurance, you should always notify your insurance company and arrange cancellation of your policy.

Customarily the insurance company will require an authorization, signed by all named insureds, to properly cancel a policy.  A signed cancellation request helps avoid misunderstanding or cancellations in error as well as ensuring all parties with an ownership interest in a policy are in agreement with canceling the policy.

If a request to cancel a policy dates back more than 30 days insurance companies likely will require additional documentation to substantiate the cancellation date, such as proof replacement insurance was purchased or documentation confirming the date the covered vehicle or property was sold.

Once a cancellation request is processed the insurance company will send confirmation along with a final statement of account.  The final statement will detail any premiums owed through the cancellation date or any premiums being refunded as a result of the cancellation.

A common instance when problems can arise is when a person switches insurance companies at a renewal date, doesn't notify their previous insurer, and mistakenly assumes when they don't pay the renewal bill their policy will cancel.  While this eventually does prove true the previous insurer may extend coverage, and bill for coverage provided, through any grace period (the time period following an initial premium due date when the insurance company would accept a late payment and continue the policy with no gap in coverage).

One additional note: If you have only one vehicle insured on a Michigan auto insurance policy that you are selling and intend to replace within a relatively short span of time you should discuss the situation with your insurance agent, rather than simply canceling your auto policy.  You're likely to be best served to either maintain your existing policy, or some type of auto insurance, during a brief period between owning vehicles to avoid a situation where you may become ineligible for a standard auto policy once you acquire another vehicle.

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What is Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage? | Michigan Home Insurance

posted May 2, 2017, 11:17 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated May 16, 2017, 9:06 AM ]

Home Insurance Grand Rapids
Most consumers purchasing home insurance have an expectation, if their home is destroyed due to a covered loss, their insurance will pay to rebuild their home.  That's a reasonable expectation, particularly if the home is less than 50 years old and well maintained.

In most cases, home insurance policies are designed to provide replacement cost protection.*  This means the insurance company will calculate the cost to rebuild based on the square footage and features of your home and provide coverage based on this replacement cost value.

While insurance companies utilize specialized property valuation software designed to accurately estimate the cost to rebuild a home their calculations are still only an informed estimate.  A natural concern for a homeowner relying on an insurance company's estimate of the cost to rebuild their home is what happens if the insurance company is wrong?

Fortunately, insurance companies have provided a solution to this potential issue by offering guaranteed replacement cost coverage, sometimes referred to as extended replacement or full replacement coverage.  This is a rider that effectively says the insurance company will pay the full cost to rebuild your home even if the cost of doing so exceeds the limit of coverage stated on your policy.

The intention of guaranteed replacement coverage included in a home insurance policy is to alleviate concern for the homeowner of whether the insurance company's calculation of the cost to rebuild their home is accurate.  If your home is insured at a replacement value of $250,000 and wound up costing $275,000 to rebuild, with guaranteed replacement cost coverage, the insurance company would pay the difference.

There is generally a cap, typically an additional 25% - 50% of the dwelling coverage limit, for guaranteed replacement cost coverage on home insurance policies.  There are also customarily stipulations the homeowner must agree to insure their home at the insurance company's calculation of the replacement value and allow annual coverage and premium adjustments based on regional increases in building costs.

Perhaps most importantly, as this provision is often either overlooked or misunderstood by homeowners, there is also usually a requirement the homeowner notify the insurance company of any changes, renovations, or additions they complete that would increase the replacement value of their home.

* If the replacement cost of a home is significantly higher than the purchase price or market value the insurance company may not be willing to offer a replacement cost policy.  In those instances the homeowner may be able to purchase a repair cost policy.




What happens if my classic car is totaled? | Michigan Collector Auto Insurance

posted Apr 18, 2017, 12:37 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Apr 18, 2017, 12:38 PM ]

Michigan Classic Car Insurance
For most automotive enthusiasts a collector vehicle is much that a car, it's a passion - their classic vehicle is a cherished collectible they put a lot of time, effort, and money into maintaining.  These enthusiasts know their vehicle isn't a commonplace automobile that's value can be determined from a generic car valuation site.

With this in mind most collector vehicle owners wisely purchase Agreed Value Coverage for their classic car.  With agreed value coverage you and your insurance company set a predetermined or "agreed" value for your car at the time it is insured - and this is the amount the insurance company will pay if a total loss occurs.

It's worthwhile to mention collector vehicle owners should periodically review their coverage and, as necessary, make any adjustments to the agreed value.  Classic cars get better with age, especially if they are well-maintained, and you want to make sure your insurance keeps pace with any changes in value.

Even if you purchase agreed value coverage it's important to consider what happens if your car is totaled.

Repairing a collector vehicle can be a time-consuming and expensive process.  For this reason, a collector vehicle that suffers even a modest amount of damage in a covered loss may be considered a total loss - it simply depends on what it will cost to repair the vehicle in relations to its value.

It's entirely possible - especially if your collector vehicle has sentimental value - that you may want to keep and restore your classic car if it's been totaled in a loss.  In this event, what amount will your insurance company pay you?

The insurance company will happily sell you back your totaled vehicle in the form of a deduction from your loss settlement.  The amount deducted would be based on the salvage value of your vehicle.  This is where it gets interesting, especially for collector vehicles...

Michigan Collector Auto Insurance
The process of determining salvage value with Hagerty Insurance, the world's leading insurer of collector vehicles, is the insurance company would list the car at www.copart.com for 3 days.  The highest bid for the totaled vehicle would be designated as the salvage value and that amount would be deducted from the agreed value if the owner wishes to retain their totaled car.  Depending on the scarcity of your collector vehicle, it's overall condition, and the value of usable parts the salvage value could be quite significant - leaving you with far less cash than you may have expected if you choose to keep your totaled vehicle.

Fortunately, there is a solution.  Hagerty Insurance offers optional Cherished Salvage Coverage.  This additional coverage, available at a modest cost, allows the collector vehicle owner to retain their vehicle after a covered loss when it is totaled and still received the full agreed value.

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