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The Texas Insurance Blog

September 19, 2022

Am I covered by insurance when I rent a scooter?

Scooter

Before you rent or jump on one of those cute zippy scooters, remember these tips.

  • Scooter rental companies don’t cover you in case of accident or injury. Rental agreements give you all liability. That means you could be paying for any damages and injuries, not just your own.
  • Home policies usually don’t cover damage from motorized vehicles and your auto policy probably won’t extend to an electric scooter.
  • Don’t forget to read your scooter rental agreement before you ride. And to be safe, wear a helmet.

So, what covers scooter accidents? Your health insurance probably will cover your injuries—though it won’t cover anyone in your path.

Learn more


September 15, 2022

Back to campus? Take these easy steps to stay safe from fire.

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September and October are the peak months for fires in student-occupied property—especially between 5 and 9 p.m. Most of these fires are caused by cooking.

From 2015 to 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 3,840 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other related properties

Take a few easy steps to help stay safe:

  • Make sure your bedroom and other living areas have working smoke alarms.
  • Practice a fire escape plan. Find two ways out of your room, apartment, or home.
  • Don’t cook when you’re distracted. It could lead to a mistake and fire.
  • Use only flameless candles.
  • Keep clear all exits, hallways, and stairwells.
  • Clean the dryer lint trap before and after each use. Clogged vents are a fire hazard.
  • Make sure you, and your roommates, know your dorm or housing’s safe meeting place if you have to escape.
  • Leave quickly if an alarm sounds. Even a short delay could be dangerous. Leave everything and get out.

Learn more

How college students can stay healthy, safe, and protect their stuff  


September 1, 2022

Hold on! My totaled car is worth more than insurance wants to pay

You’re already bummed by your car wreck. Now your auto insurance company wants to total your car. This means the insurance company will pay the market value of your car—instead of covering the cost of repairs.

If your company isn’t offering the amount you think your car is worth, you have some options:

  • Find out what a car like yours – the same make and year – would sell for in your area. Get written quotes from used car dealers. Also, look online for cars being sold near you.
  • Write down any special features or custom parts that make your car worth more. (You probably can’t count that thingee hanging from your rear-view mirror.)
  • Call your insurance company or adjuster and ask if they’ll pay more than what they have offered. Give them the quotes you collected and point out the car’s special features.
  • If your company won’t pay more, ask about using an appraisal process. You and the company each hires an appraiser to determine the value of your car. The appraisers choose a third appraiser to act as an umpire. The umpire rules on any disagreements. You pay for your appraiser and half of the umpire's costs.
  • If you owe more than your car is worth, check your purchase documents to see if you bought gap insurance when you bought your car. You might also have loan/lease coverage in your auto policy.

If you’d rather keep your car as is, let your company know quickly. It will subtract the car’s salvage value from the original amount it was planning to pay you. You can spend your revised payment on the car or not.

Hear more expert advice about totaled cars in the latest Texas Insurance Podcast.

View podcast Q&A: How to deal with a totaled car

Learn more


August 11, 2022

Does my roommate’s renters insurance cover my stuff?

Insurance advice college edition

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If you lease your apartment or home with a roomie, you should each buy your own renters insurance.

Big yikes: Your roommate’s policy won’t pay for your stuff if it’s lost in a robbery or fire. Their policy covers only their belongings.

Renters insurance costs less than $20 a month.

Reasons to buy a policy:

  • It pays for your belongings – clothes, electronics, home décor, furniture – if they’re damaged or stolen from your rental home or car and while you’re traveling.
  • If you need to move out of your rental home while it’s being repaired, it might pay for rent somewhere else and food.
  • It also covers medical expenses and your legal fees if someone is hurt at your place.

If your parents have homeowners insurance, their policy will pay a certain amount to replace your belongings. But it’s likely that renters insurance would probably cover more than the limits of your parents’ homeowners policy. Check with their insurance company to get coverage amounts.

Watch our video featuring tips about college students and insurance.

Learn more


August 10, 2022

TDI fraud investigation leads to another guilty plea from a former NFL player

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Former Dolphins draft pick Jonathan Rex Hadnot pleaded guilty last week to his role in a scheme to defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). The account was designed to help former pro players with some of the cost of health issues associated with their time in the league. 

Hadnot pleaded guilty in a Harris County court to submitting false medical claims for reimbursement. He collected nearly $30,000 from the HRA for medical treatments he never received. He’ll have to repay that money and serve five years’ probation.

The case was investigated by Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) investigators and prosecutors working with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Eight former players have been identified in Harris County in connection with the scheme, as well as a Houston athletic trainer.

You can report suspected insurance fraud by calling TDI’s Help Line at 800-252-3439.

Read more about the multi-year investigation and the individuals involved:

Houston athletic trainer and former NFL players indicted for fraud


August 4, 2022

Safety and savings tips when you go back to college

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Many college students live off campus.

Freedom, right?

But you need to watch out for yourself.

Some money-saving and safety tips:

  • Call your health plan to find nearby urgent care centers that are in your plan’s network. This could save you money when you need care.
  • Look for the fire alarms and exits in your apartment complex. Some alarms sound a bell. Others have a voice feature telling you where to go if there’s a fire.
  • Consider renters insurance. At less than $200 a year, a renters policy can pay to replace your things after a fire or other disaster. It might also pay for you to live somewhere else while repairs are being made.
  • Let your auto insurance agent know that you’re back at school. This might save you money.

Hear more expert advice about going back to school in the latest Texas Insurance Podcast.

View podcast Q&A: How college students can stay healthy, safe, and protect their stuff

Learn more


July 28, 2022

Thinking about buying a residential service contract? It’s not home insurance.

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When you’re buying a home, you also might be asked if you want a residential service contract. They’re sometimes called a home warranty. 

These service contracts are different than home insurance. Insurance pays for damages from events your policy covers like fire or theft.

A residential service contract covers certain items in your home when they break down from normal wear and tear. (Home insurance doesn’t pay for wear and tear.) Depending on your contract, you may get coverage for appliances, such as stoves and refrigerators, to water heaters, electrical and plumbing systems, and even swimming pools.

Residential service contracts can bring peace of mind about the machines and systems that keep your home comfortable. Not all service contracts are the same, though. Remember to carefully read the contract before signing up. 

Under Texas law, companies that sell residential service contracts must be licensed by the state.

In our latest video, we spoke with Elizabeth Salinas-Strittmatter with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) about how residential service contracts work.

Learn more


July 22, 2022

Texas wildfire? Insurance can cover home, auto damages.

House burning

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If a wildfire damages or destroys your home or car, does insurance apply?

The answer might be vital. The Texas A&M Forest Service shares that Texas has seen over 150,000 wildfires since 2005, with many threatening homes.

Some insurance tips:

  • Homeowners insurance will pay to repair or replace your home or property if it is damaged or destroyed in a fire or storm, up to the policy limits. You’ll have to pay your deductible. Damage from an explosion or smoke also is typically covered.
  • Check that the limits on your home policy match the cost to rebuild your home. Your agent can help you figure out the rebuild cost and might suggest higher limits. If your limits are too low, you’ll have to pay the extra cost.
  • If you can't stay in your home because of damage covered by your policy, your homeowners or renters policy may pay for a hotel or rental. Check your policy for limits on the coverage.
  • Your car is covered if you have comprehensive coverage. Some policies will pay for a rental car if yours is damaged.
  • Call your agent or read your policy to check details.

Learn more


July 14, 2022

Spacecraft hit your home? Insurance covers that and more.

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Does my insurance cover that?

You may have heard; NASA plans a year-long study of reported UFOs.

But did you know home insurance would pay if a spacecraft hit your house?

Really.

In the unlikely event a spacecraft damages your home, most home policies would pay for damages. Falling objects is a “covered peril.”

Here’s what else your home policy probably covers—and doesn’t:

  • Damages from hail or fire are covered.
  • Tornado and inland hurricane damages are covered. If you live near the Gulf Coast, you’ll likely need a separate windstorm policy.
  • Most policies cover water damage from leaks and broken pipes, but there are exceptions. Read your policy to see what’s covered.
  • Most policies do not cover damage from water that comes from outside your home. You’ll need a separate flood policy.
  • Damages from earthquakes are not covered. Neither are termites, wear and tear, and sewer backups.

Learn more


July 7, 2022

Detect odorless carbon monoxide, the “silent killer”

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You can’t see it. You can’t smell or taste it.

But carbon monoxide gas, which can leak from faulty appliances, car engines, or generators, could make you sick and even kill you.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, carbon monoxide accounts for more than 50,000 U.S. emergency room visits a year. Annually, more than 400 Americans die from breathing in too much.

Protect your family and home by installing carbon monoxide detectors. They’re vital if you have gas-powered appliances or an attached garage.

Learn more, such as where to install detectors, from our podcast. We talked to relatives of a family who died by carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping.

View podcast Q&A: How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

Learn more


July 7, 2022

Summer travel? Remember to check for smoke, carbon monoxide detectors.

portable smoke detector

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Your bags are packed, everyone is ready for a relaxing vacation away from home. But are you planning to check your getaway spot for smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors? Doing that could prove wise.

CO is a colorless odorless gas that replaces oxygen in your blood when you breathe it in. It can make you short of breath or cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness—even death.

Each year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning, with about 50,000 people going to an emergency room. And a 2019 study tallied over 100 CO poisoning incidents in U.S. hotels, motels and resorts—mostly caused by natural gas-fueled appliances.

Before or when you arrive at your vacation spot, the National Fire Protection Association recommends you check for:

  • Working CO and smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside sleeping areas, on every level of the home.
  • Portable fire extinguishers in easy reach.

If you own or rent an RV, make sure it has working alarms.

For less than $50, a small portable CO detector might be worth packing. Plug it in at your destination and help protect your family.

Learn more


June 27, 2022

Leave July 4 fireworks to the professionals

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Love fireworks?

For safety’s sake, let a professional light up your Independence Day.

State Fire Marshal Orlando Hernandez said: “If you want to see great fireworks, save money, and stay safe, go to a professional show. Our office has issued more than 250 permits for Fourth of July shows, so there’s probably one nearby.”

Check your local news or social media for local Fourth of July fireworks shows.

Another caution: Most communities don’t allow you to use fireworks within city limits or during local burn bans. Check with your local fire department to see what’s allowed.

Hernandez added: “There are no safe fireworks for children.” He said some sparklers burn at nearly 2,000 degrees, as hot as a blow torch.

“Have fun,” Hernandez said, “but stay safe, Texas.”

Learn more

How to stay safe when using fireworks


June 23, 2022

When a storm enters the Gulf, it’s too late to ask: ‘Do I have enough insurance?’

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Gulf of Mexico

Insurance companies often put a hold on approving new policies when a storm is in the Gulf of Mexico.

It can be hard to imagine the drenching rains and powerful winds of a hurricane when a lot of Texas is suffering through drought-like conditions. But today’s high temperatures should be a reminder that some of the strongest hurricanes have formed in the heat of late summer, including Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

Once a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, most insurance companies, including the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), stop selling new policies or making changes to existing ones.

That means you can’t wait until a storm is approaching to think about your insurance coverage, because you won’t be able to buy or change it then!

Of course, this is especially critical for Texans with homes near the Gulf Coast. But the effects of a hurricane, like flooding and tornado force winds, can extend well beyond the coast.

Which leads us to another key point, flood insurance. Most home policies don’t pay for damage from rising flood waters. Most people buy flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program. And unless you’re buying coverage for a new home, these policies don’t go into effect until 30 days after you buy them.

So again, you can’t wait until a storm is coming to ask: “Am I covered?”

Learn more


June 16, 2022

Tips to avoid a tornado: Follow weather reports

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You’re driving home from work, inching along in highway traffic. Then you hear a tornado warning on the radio. Or worse, you see a tornado twisting your way.

Don’t get yourself into that situation!

A National Weather Service expert urges everyone to follow the weather, especially during the spring and summer tornado and hurricane seasons.

If your city or county is under a tornado watch, plan to be inside a building—and not sitting in your car or truck.

Watch “How to stay safe in a tornado” for more tips from the National Weather Service about protecting your family and property from a big storm.

Read our blog post, “Danger, danger! Don’t mix up tornado watches and warnings.”

See our tips: “Are you prepared for a tornado? Here’s how to protect your home.”


June 2, 2022

Hear a beep? Get on your feet!

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Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home deliver potentially life-saving messages.

Your alarm’s sounds can signal different dangers:

  • A set of three loud continuous beeps means smoke or fire.
  • A set of four loud continuous beeps means carbon monoxide is present.
  • A single chirp – repeating every 30 to 60 seconds – means your alarm battery is low and needs to be changed. If your alarm continues to chirp after replacing the battery, that means the alarm unit needs to be replaced.

Learn more about how smoke and carbon monoxide alarms keep you safe in the latest This Is TDI podcast featuring Kelly Ransdell of the National Fire Protection Association.

“We want people to learn the sounds of fire safety,” Ransdell says.

View podcast Q&A: How to know what your smoke alarm is telling you

Learn more


May 19, 2022

Title insurance isn’t required by law. But it protects you.

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Having a property title means you own the property and can sell, rent, or transfer ownership of the property. Title insurance protects you against problems with getting a title when you buy property.

Title insurance companies search for problems with a title that need to be corrected before it’s given to you. Possible problems could be:

  • Unpaid property taxes.
  • Fraud or forgery of a previous deed (the legal document used to transfer the title).
  • A spouse or unknown heir who could make a claim against the property.

If there’s a challenge to your ownership later, your title company will handle the dispute.

If you’re borrowing money to buy a property, your lender will require you to buy a Loan Policy of Title Insurance (PDF) to protect their interest.

Otherwise, you can get peace of mind from an owner’s title insurance policy, which lasts for as long as you or your heirs own the property.

TDI sets premium amounts for title insurance policies sold in Texas, so the rates are the same for all title companies. It still might be worth researching title companies. You should make sure the title company is licensed and has good customer reviews. You also might want to check their closing costs, which can vary.

Watch “How does title insurance work?” featuring TDI’s David Muckerheide talking about title insurance.

Learn more


May 18, 2022

Federal loans available to Texas homeowners, businesses, renters hit by March storms, tornadoes

Map of Texas with disaster counties highlighted

Click on image to enlarge

Residents and businesses in more than 40 Texas counties hit hard by storms and tornadoes on March 21 can now apply for low-interest disaster loans.

Assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA) is available in these counties: Anderson, Angelina, Archer, Bastrop, Bell, Burnet, Caldwell, Camp, Cherokee, Clay, Collin, Cooke, Denton, Fannin, Fayette, Grayson, Gregg, Harrison, Houston, Jack, Lee, Leon, Madison, Marion, Milam, Montague, Morris, Nacogdoches, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rusk, San Augustine, Shelby, Smith, Travis, Trinity, Upshur, Walker, Williamson, Wise, Wood, and Young.

Loans are available to homeowners, businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, and renters whose property was damaged or destroyed by the storms or tornadoes.

Five Disaster Loan Outreach Centers are open with SBA customer service representative to help answer questions. No appointment is necessary.

Bastrop County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Bastrop County Tax Annex
1125 Dildy Drive
Elgin, TX  78621
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Closes at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 26

Houston County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Crockett Civic Center
Crockett Economic & Industrial Development Board Room
1100 Edmiston Drive
Crockett, TX  75835
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closes at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 26

Montague County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Montague County Courthouse
Old County Courthouse – Third Floor
11339 State Highway 59 N
Montague, TX  76251
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closes at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 26

Nacogdoches County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Cushing Volunteer Fire Department
783 Walnut Ave.
Cushing, TX  75760
Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Closes at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 26

Upshur County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Upshur County Courthouse
100 West Tyler St.
Old Commissioners Meeting Room – Third Floor
Gilmer, TX  75644
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closes at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 26

SBA representatives are also available to meet with residents in Jacksboro (Jack County) and Jarrell (Williamson County).

Jack County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Jack County Courthouse
100 North Main St.
Jacksboro, TX  76458
Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Close date to be determined. 

Williamson County
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Wayfinders Church
508 North Fifth St.
Jarrell, TX  76537
Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Close date to be determined.

Loan applicants can apply online, get more disaster assistance information, and download applications on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website. Applicants can also contact SBA’s Customer Service Center for more information at 800-659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability should dial 7-1-1 to access relay services.

For more detail, including possible loan amounts, read the SBA’s press release.


May 5, 2022

Will your car’s rubber tires keep you safe from a lightning strike?

True or false: Your car’s rubber tires will protect you if lightning strikes your car.

False!

John Jensenius of the National Lightning Safety Council says it’s the type of car – not the tires – that protect you from lightning. You’re the safest in a hard-topped vehicle. When lightning hits, he says, the shock gets dispersed by your car’s metal shell and keeps the people inside safe.

Tire twist: If your car or truck has steel-belted tires, a lightning strike can blow them out.

Learn more from Jensenius about staying safe from lightning on the latest episode of the Texas Insurance Podcast.

View podcast Q&A: How to stay safe from lightning

Learn more


May 3, 2022

Danger, danger! Don’t mix up tornado watches and warnings

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Ever mix up a tornado watch with a tornado warning?

Big difference!

  • A tornado watch means keep an eye out for a possible tornado.
  • A tornado warning means a tornado’s been spotted in your city or county.

Tornado warning in your area? Take cover.

People in a warning zone need to take cover immediately. If you’re in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home, leave and head to the closest building if you have time.

If you’re in a house or building, go to an interior room, bathroom, or closet on the lowest level. Cover yourself with blankets, towels, or a mattress to stay safe from falling debris. Never open windows; it doesn’t help equalize pressure. But you should shut all your doors because that will help reduce the chance that your roof will blow off.

If you’re driving, don’t stop under bridges or overpasses. They don’t offer protection from tornadic winds or flying debris. If you can’t get to a building, lie flat and face down in the nearest ditch or depression. Cover your head with your hands.

Tornado watch in your area? Get ready.

Tune in to your local weather report to keep track of the tornado watch. Get ready to move to a safe space.

A tornado watch area is often large, covering counties, even states.

If you are under a tornado watch:

  • Review your emergency plans.
  • Bring in or secure outdoor objects that might blow around.
  • Check supplies, such as batteries, flashlights, water, non-perishable food, and medicines.
  • Identify your safe room.

Summing up: A tornado watch means get ready. A tornado warning means move quickly to safety.

Learn more


April 7, 2022

Happy birthday to ‘The Texas Insurance Podcast’

Candles, cake, and consumer tips?

Yep, we’re celebrating a year of providing helpful insurance tips through TDI’s “The Texas Insurance Podcast.”

Every month, Ben Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Insurance talks to insurance experts about issues affecting your home, health, or auto coverage, including how to save money.

New to podcasts? No problem.

We make it simple: You can listen to any of our episodes on The Texas Insurance Podcast webpage.

Are you a podcast fan?

Be sure to get new episodes delivered to you. And let us hear from you. Your reviews and feedback help us improve content.

You can subscribe for free through your favorite podcast service. Find a list down the right side of this page.

Here are some of our favorite episode tips

  • In the market for a used car? The National Insurance Crime Bureau talks about checking a vehicle’s VIN number to confirm its ownership history. And the Better Business Bureau shares how to avoid scams.

    Listen now: How to check a used car’s history and avoid scams

  • Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) shares storm and hurricane planning advice. TDEM encourages families to have a “go kit” ready in case they need to leave home fast. Your “go kit” should have flashlights, batteries, phone chargers, water, pet food, your regular medicine, and copies of your home insurance and flood policies.

    Listen now: How to prepare for hurricane season

  • The Houston Police Department talks about how to prevent car break-ins. The best step? Don’t leave valuables in your car. Also noted: Today’s thieves often rifle through vehicles looking for loose handguns.

    Listen now: Car burglaries and break-ins are increasing. Here’s how to protect your car

Listen to all 13 episodes at The Texas Insurance Podcast.


April 7, 2022

Shop to save money on your car insurance

You probably shop for the best prices and quality when you’re looking for new clothes, tech products, and food.

But do you do that for car insurance?

Give it a try.

Quick tips to save on coverage:

  • Shop around. Companies charge different rates. You often get a better deal if you’re willing to switch companies.
  • Ask about available discounts—for a good driving record, for having an alarm in your car, or for taking defensive driving or driver education classes. You could also get a discount for having your auto policy with the same company as your home insurance.
  • Your premium is what you pay up front for coverage. But don’t forget to check on your deductible—what you must pay after an accident before the insurance company pays. A lower deductible usually means you’ll have to pay more up front for the policy. Think about how much you can afford to pony up if your car is damaged.

Hear more tips and learn what drives the cost of car insurance in the latest episode of “The Texas Insurance Podcast.”

View podcast Q&A: How to lower car insurance costs

Learn more


March 31, 2022

Staying safe when lightning strikes

In any given year, your odds of getting struck by lightning are one in 1.5 million. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? But across your lifetime, the odds don’t look that great – they go to one in 1,800. Of course, the odds of you getting hit go higher if you ignore the dangers of thunderstorms.

Heed these tips and avoid zaps from the sky:

  • If you’re outdoors and you see lightning or hear thunder, enter a sturdy building or get inside a car and close the windows.
  • Stay away from utility poles and metal fences. And get out of cars with soft tops, tractors, and motorcycles.
  • Don’t lie flat on the ground or in a ditch. Run to the nearest building or car. If your hair stands on end, squat down, and put your head between your knees.
  • If you’re indoors, stay away from windows, plugged-in appliances, computers, and power tools. And don’t take a shower or bath, wash dishes, or stand near plumbing; water pipes conduct electricity.

There are also ways to protect your house from lightning.

Homeowners can invest in a lightning protection system, which has three parts:

  1. Lightning rod: Intercepts the lightning.
  2. Down conductor: Takes energy from the lightning down the side of the building.
  3. Ground terminals or grounding rods: Takes the energy from the down conductor and puts it deep into the ground.

If you want to install a lightning protection system, hire a professional certified by the Lightning Protection Institute.

In our latest This Is TDI video, John Jensenius of the National Lightning Safety Council talks about:  

  • Common outdoor activities that put people at risk of being struck by lightning.
  • The odds of getting struck.
  • How to protect your home.

Learn more


March 18, 2022

Are you an attorney looking for a career outside Big Law?

Are you an attorney who is looking for an interesting job, work-life balance, and the opportunity to make a difference? If so, the Texas Department of Insurance could be your next employer.

And contrary to what some may think, you don’t need insurance experience to work here. Read Do you need insurance experience to work for TDI? No.

At TDI, you’ll work to support the agency’s mission to protect insurance consumers. You’ll also get broad experience and work with other areas in the agency.

Current opening

Learn more


March 4, 2022

InsurED webinars

2022 Compliance Conference

Continuing education webinars

Earn continuing education credit by joining one-hour webinars presented by Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) staff.

Webinars will feature updates and time for Q&A.

Register to join

Click the links below to register and get details.


March 3, 2022

Ask these questions before you buy and insure your home

Owning and insuring a home is a big deal. You’ll want to ask questions before you buy.

Here are a few questions that could affect how much you pay for home insurance:

  • How far away are emergency services like the fire department? Is it a paid fire station or a volunteer fire department?
  • Is the home in an area that has flooded in the past? Flood damage is not covered by most home insurance. You’ll need a separate flood policy to cover rising water.
  • Have there been past insurance claims on this home? Ask the owner for a CLUE report; it shows claims filed for a property over recent years.
  • Check if the home has features that could reduce the risk of future claims. Is the roof new? Does the home have an alarm system or fire sprinklers? Such safety features could qualify you for an insurance discount.

Hear more on insuring your home in the latest episode of “The Texas Insurance Podcast,” featuring Cindi Bulla, a past chair of Texas Association of Realtors.

View podcast Q&A: New home? How to shop for insurance.

Learn more


February 24, 2022

Did you get a surprise medical bill? You might not have to pay.

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Nobody likes getting a medical bill they weren’t expecting.

Good news: You might not have to pay it.

A new federal law and a 2019 state law bans out-of-network doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers from billing you in emergencies or when you didn’t have a choice of doctors. These bills are called “surprise bills.”

Federal law also protects you from surprise bills from air ambulance services.

We have tips about what to do with a surprise bill. Visit our webpage, How to get help with a surprise medical bill.

Learn more


February 24, 2022

Driving on slick streets? What to do if you’re in a wreck

If you must drive in dangerously icy or slick conditions, remember to proceed with caution.

And what if you’re in a wreck? 

First, make sure that nobody is hurt. 

After that, you’ll want to reach out to your auto insurance company. If you need help filing a claim, contact us at 800-252-3439.

Some tips about making your insurance claim after a wreck: 

More: Will your auto insurance pay after a hit-and-run crash?


February 15, 2022

Will your auto insurance pay after a hit-and-run crash?

Every 43 seconds someone in the U.S. is involved in a hit-and-run accident. We hope it never happens to you, but statistics show it’s something that unfortunately happens a lot. So, what can you do?

Make sure you have the right auto coverage to repair your car.

In Texas, the law requires you to have liability insurance, but that won’t pay to repair your car after an accident. Liability insurance only pays to repair the other person’s car if you’re at fault in an accident.

To get your car repaired, you’ll need a car insurance policy with collision coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) property damage coverage. Both pay for car repairs after a hit-and-run accident. UM/UIM coverage usually has a lower deductible than collision coverage and may pay for a rental car if you need it.

If you don’t have collision or UM/UIM coverage, consider asking your agent how much they would cost to add to your policy. Read about other coverages you might need in our Auto insurance guide.

Also read: Were you in a wreck? Tips for auto insurance claims


February 10, 2022

Older Texans face greater fire risks. Learn how to make a safe exit.

Older adults have a higher risk of dying in a house fire. But taking precautions can save lives.

Some tips to prevent fires and to make a safe exit:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside and outside the bedrooms. The best alarm system is interconnected so that when an alarm sounds in one room, alarms in the other rooms also go off.
  • Keep your glasses, cane, wheelchair, or other helping devices close in case you need to leave your home quickly.
  • Test your alarms monthly.
  • Replace alarm units every 10 years.

Make and practice a home escape plan with everyone in your house. In a fire, you might have just two minutes to get out.

Watch our latest “This Is TDI” video featuring Teresa Neal of the U.S. Fire Administration who shares fire safety tips, including cooking safety tips for older adults.

Learn more


February 7, 2022

How to get free COVID tests

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Texans can now get free COVID-19 tests. And if you buy them yourself, there’s a good chance your health plan will pay you back.

  • Get tests in the mail: You can get four free tests mailed to your home. Order the tests online at COVIDtests.gov.
  • Buy your own tests: Most health plans will pay back their members for tests the member buys at the store or online.

    Ask your health plan:

    • How much it will pay for a test and for how many. Most plans will pay up to $12 per test for up to eight tests per month.
    • What the process is for paying you back (reimbursement).
    • If the plan works with any stores where you can get tests for free without needing to send in receipts.
  • Call your doctor: If your doctor says you need a COVID-19 test, the test will be free to you.

Note: Be careful if the testing site wants to do other tests (like to check for flu or strep throat). If you and your doctor think you need those tests, they probably won’t be free and you’ll have to pay for them.

Learn more


February 2, 2022

Another Texas freeze in forecast? Podcast has steps to protect your home.

Just saying “freeze” can make a Texan flinch. We remember last winter.

But you can take steps to protect your home before temperatures drop.

For starters, wrap indoor pipes with insulation. Wrap your attic pipes first.

And when a freeze happens, you can run water through your indoor faucets – hot and cold – before you go to sleep. Or you can let facets drip from the cold and hot taps. Be sure to follow your local government’s instructions, which may limit water use.

Hear more about prepping your home from the latest episode of “The Texas Insurance Podcast,” featuring David Yelovich, a Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners board member. The podcast closes with TDI advice on insurance and water-related damage.


January 28, 2022

Texas town listed as the US lightning strike capital

Texas again topped all states in lightning strikes last year, according to a recent report (PDF). And Flatonia in Central Texas was the nation’s lightning strike capital.

Lightning struck nearly 42 million times in Texas, according to information from the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network. Florida, Louisiana and Oklahoma were next to see the greatest number of strikes, 15 million or less.

Ahem: Texas always leads in lightning strikes, it turns out, due in part to its size and southwestern location.

We were shocked (excuse us) to learn Flatonia, in Fayette County, is the nation’s lightning capital with 1,043 lightning “events” per square mile. See 2021 United States lightning capitals (PDF).

This is no time to get jumpy. Check out TDI’s tips on protecting yourself from lightning.


January 27, 2022

You could save money by comparing car insurance prices

People routinely price-shop food, clothes, tech products and other items. Yet in 2020, more than half of U.S. customers didn’t take any action to manage their auto insurance costs, according to a J.D. Power study released in 2021.

Customers who did act mostly chose to reduce coverage; increase their deductible; or shop or shift to a different provider, the study found.

Michele Thomas of TDI’s Property and Casualty Division suggests that car owners check coverage prices every two years or so—especially if you haven't had any tickets or accidents in some time.

Your price check should start with your current carrier. It might have discounts reducing your costs.

Watch our video, How to save on car insurance.

Learn more


January 24, 2022

Don’t ‘puff’ your cold car or truck outdoors; keep thieves away

It’s tempting in cold weather to start your car or truck and then scoot indoors while it turns toasty. This is known as “puffing” because steam puffs out of the exhaust pipe while your ride warms up.

But beware. Thieves may see your unattended vehicle as a drive-away opportunity.

Over a recent three-year period, more than 17,000 Texas cars and trucks were stolen with keys or fobs left inside. And that count may be low because many drivers don’t admit to making the mistake. These incidents also aren’t noted in police reports or insurance claims, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Other tips to avoid break-ins and thefts

  • Lock doors and windows as soon as you enter your vehicle.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Use a loud alarm or an anti-theft device a thief can see.
  • Install a catalytic converter cover or lock.

Learn more


January 13, 2022

Do you need insurance experience to work for TDI? No.

True or false? You must have an insurance background to work for the Texas Department of Insurance.

False!

TDI has wide-ranging job opportunities. Recent job openings include those for attorney, investigator, actuary, auditor, programming, and accounting positions.

Sign up to get emails of TDI job postings

Isela Mata of TDI’s Human Resources office talks about why Texans of all stripes should consider working for the department in our video, A variety of job opportunities available.

Learn more

Thinking about a new job? Don’t forget the insurance.


January 6, 2022

Podcast: New year, new you—and your health plan could help

Are you resolving to shape up in 2022?

Your health insurance plan could help.

Check your plan’s website or call your agent to see if your plan offers:

  • Free or discounted weight loss or wellness programs.
  • Free or discounted programs to help quit cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  • Discounts on gym memberships or fitness equipment.
  • A free app to help you count steps and track your fitness.

In TDI’s latest Texas Insurance podcast, Department of State Health Service’s Statewide Wellness Coordinator Lesley Jimenez offers fitness advice. Also, TDI’s Cindy Wright talks about insurance coverage of mental health benefits.

Listen to our podcast, Ways to help make healthy New Year’s resolutions stick.


January 5, 2022

New Texas law encourages renters to buy flood coverage

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A new Texas law (House Bill 531) emphasizes that renters insurance doesn’t pay for flood damage.

Renters insurance, available for about $20 a month, pays to repair or replace the things you own if they’re damaged by fire, smoke, theft or vandalism, and certain kinds of water damage.

But renters policies don’t pay for losses caused by floods.

Renters worried about flooding should consider buying a separate flood policy. Ask your agent if they sell flood insurance. If not, you can buy a policy from the National Flood Insurance Program. You can also call them at 800-427-4661.

Starting this month, landlords are now required to:

  • Tell potential renters if they know the dwelling is in a 100-year flood plain.
  • Tell potential renters if they know the dwelling had flood damage at least once in the previous five years.
  • Encourage renters to buy flood insurance.

Even if your home isn’t in a flood plain, you might want to consider a policy. Flooding can happen anywhere at any time. Poor drainage systems, broken water mains, neighborhood construction, and summer storms can result in flooding.

Learn more


December 16, 2021

Avoid frozen pipes and costly water damage by taking steps now

Last winter’s big freeze left many Texans with frozen pipes.

But by taking simple steps now, you could head off thousands of dollars of water damage to your walls, ceilings, carpets, and furniture.

Key tips

  • Install inexpensive wraps on exposed pipes. Start in the attic, where many Texas homeowners saw pipes freeze last winter.
  • Wrap your outdoor faucets.
  • Whether you own your home or live in an apartment or condo, identify water shutoff valves indoors and out. This will ready you for cutting off the water if a freeze poses risks.
  • Don’t delay preparations until a freeze looms. Act now to ease your worries.

In this TDI video, How to prevent pipes from freezing, an expert with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners shows several preventive steps you can take (plus, he spots a toad).

Learn more


December 9, 2021

How can I find the best health care insurance for my needs?

When shopping for health insurance, there’s a lot to consider. In this video, we share tips for how to shop smart:

  • Be aware of the deadlines to enroll if you’re shopping for health insurance through HealthCare.gov:
    • You have until December 15 to get coverage on January 1.
    • You have until January 15 to get coverage on February 1.
  • If you have a medical issue or a doctor you like seeing, make sure that plan covers treatment, and your provider is in the plan’s network. If you take a medication, make sure it is covered. Call the insurance company if you have questions about what’s covered.
  • Review out-of-pocket costs including deductibles and co-pays, which can increase depending on the cost of the plan.
  • If costs have you worried, find out if you can get a tax credit. “Premium tax credits” or subsidies are based on your income. More people are expected to get subsidies than in past enrollment periods.

Use our checklist to help you decide on health coverage. Health plan shopping guide.

Make sure you weigh your options when it comes to health care insurance coverage. Texas Health Options has answers about how coverage works or if you need help understanding your rights.

Texas Health Compare allows you to find and compare health insurance plans. If you have more questions, call the TDI Help Line at 800-252-3439.


December 2, 2021

Podcast: Even experienced drivers need reminders about driving in winter weather

Bad weather and sloppy roads cause nearly a half a million auto accidents and more than 2,000 deaths each winter according to AAA.

Don’t feel helpless on your drive and prepare for bad road conditions. Here are some winter weather driving safety tips:

  • Keep cold weather items like ice scrapers, blankets, gloves, and layered clothing in your vehicle.
  • Maintain an emergency kit for your vehicle with a cell phone charger, flashlight, battery-operated radio, and jumper cables.
  • Inflate your tires correctly and make sure there is tread.
  • Check to see if your battery is in good shape.
  • Never warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area like a garage or place with poor ventilation. This will put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and death.
  • Avoid using cruise control in slippery road conditions.

In TDI’s latest Texas Insurance podcast, we talk to Sonja Gross from the Texas Department of Transportation about what Texans should know before driving in winter weather.

Before starting a trip, visit DriveTexas.org to see if roads are closed due to weather conditions.

Listen to our podcast for winter safety driving tips.


November 18, 2021

Does insurance cover water damage caused by burst pipes?

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When Winter Storm Uri covered Texas in ice and snow in February 2021, it caused more than $8 billion in insured losses. Texans filed more than 450,000 insurance claims after the storm. A lot of that damage was caused by water from broken pipes.

In our latest video, we asked our Property and Casualty Division what Texans need to know about insurance coverage for water damage.

  • Most homeowners policies cover water damage from leaks and broken pipes, but there are exceptions. Always read your policy to see what’s covered.
  • If you rent, the owner’s policy won’t cover your furniture, electronics, clothing, or other personal items. Consider buying renters insurance to cover your things.
  • If you have a leak, turn the water off at the main and move expensive items off the floor. Your insurer may deny your claim if you don’t protect your property.
  • Home and renter’s insurance only cover leaks that happen inside your home. They don’t cover flood damage. You need a separate policy to cover flooding. Visit floodsmart.gov for more information.

For tips about damages caused by issues like burst pipes, see When are Water Damage and Mold Covered by Insurance?

There are also steps you can take to protect you home and property from winter damage.


November 9, 2021

TDI employs over 100 veterans and welcomes more applicants

TDI staff are proud to work alongside many of our nation’s military veterans—and welcome more.

“Over 100 veterans now work for TDI,” said Cynthia Olivier, associate commissioner of human resources. “We encourage veterans to reach out to us about job opportunities.”

If you’re a veteran seeking work, check out our job postings and contact the TDI human resources team with questions at
HR-Recruitment@tdi.texas.gov.

You also can sign up for email alerts to new openings.

If you are interested in applying for a job, be sure to read our Before you apply webpage for important notes and documents you will need to submit.


November 4, 2021

Podcast: Many Americans planning trips; some considering travel insurance

The majority of Americans plan to travel soon—and about one in three travelers say they’re likely to purchase travel insurance, according to a survey by AAA.

The AAA survey found:

  • 55% of American adults are planning a vacation of at least one overnight stay before the end of 2022.
  • 31% of people planning to travel between now and the end of 2022 are more likely to purchase travel insurance due to the pandemic.
  • 69% of travelers said the ability to cancel a trip and get a refund is the most important benefit when considering travel insurance.

In TDI’s latest Texas Insurance podcast, Megan Cruz of the US Travel Insurance Association encourages shoppers to check exclusions in any travel policy before buying.

Cruz also suggests that before you use your policy to cancel a trip, you should contact your hotel and airline. Both could waive reservation cancellation penalties and give credits to reschedule travel. After that, Cruz says, check if the provider of your travel insurance will let you change your coverage dates to a later time.

Listen to our podcast, What does travel insurance cover?


October 28, 2021

Does insurance cover treatment for mental health and substance use disorders?

If you’re dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse issues, your insurance should help cover your treatment—just like it would with a medical issue.

In our latest video, we asked Cindy Wright in TDI’s Customer Operations what Texans should know about insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorders.

  • Most health insurance plans cover services for mental health and substance use disorders. If you aren’t sure, check your policy or contact your insurance company.
  • The law guarantees “parity” for most health plans, which means health plans must cover mental health and substance abuse treatment the same as medical health. Learn more on our How to get help with a mental health issue
  • If your mental health insurance claim is denied, you may be able to file an appeal with your insurance company or ask for an external review.
  • Texas Health and Human Services has resources to help you get access to mental health and substance use treatment through your insurance plan.

If you have questions about appealing an insurance claim or the claims process, call the TDI Help Line at 800-252-3439.

For more information, see our webpage, Insurance coverage and parity for mental health and substance use disorder services.


October 14, 2021

Protect your information from scams during Medicare open enrollment

Did you get a phone call from someone offering a free COVID-19 vaccine or a gift if you give them your Medicare information? It’s probably a scam. A health plan will never call you out of the blue and ask for personal information.

Medicare open enrollment—the time of year you can sign up for or make changes to a Medicare plan—is from October 15 to December 7. Which also makes it prime time for scammers.

Never give your Medicare information to someone you didn’t expect to get a call from. If you aren’t sure, call 800-252-9240 to find your Area Agency on Aging, or check with your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

About 4 million Texans have health insurance coverage through Medicare. In our new video, we talked to Yvette McVeigh with the Area Agency on Aging. McVeigh explains what to do when your plan doesn’t cover the medications you need or let you see the specialist who’s right for you. She also had great advice for avoiding scams.


October 7, 2021

Is your smoke or carbon monoxide alarm chirping? Here’s what it’s telling you.

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Just about everyone has woken up to the sounds of a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm going off in the middle of the night. But what do those chirps and beeps mean? In our latest video, we asked the National Fire Protection Association what the noises mean and how to stay safe from fires and carbon monoxide. Here’s a simple guide:

  • Smoke alarms alert you with three beeps in a row.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms alert you with four beeps.
  • A single chirp means the battery is low or the detector should be replaced.

Some newer alarms also have a voice that gives you directions. Other alarms, made for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, shake your pillow or have a strobe light.

  • Every alarm has a manufacture date or an expiration date. Replace your alarms before the expiration date, or within 10 years of the manufacture date.
  • Test your alarms once a month.
  • Replace the batteries once a year.
  • Replace the alarms at least every 10 years.

When you buy new alarms, put them inside and outside each sleeping area. Not just bedrooms, but anywhere people sleep. If your garage is attached to your home, you need one there too.

Have a family escape plan and pick a safe place to meet outside. Then practice your plan so everyone’s ready when an alarm goes off. If someone in the house has mobility issues, make sure they sleep on the ground floor. It could be a matter of life and death.

Learn more


September 30, 2021

Podcast: TDI answers your auto insurance questions

Not sure what kind of auto insurance you need? Wondering why your rates went up? In our latest podcast, TDI experts answer your top auto insurance questions.

Here are a few of the questions we hear the most.

  • What should auto insurance cost, and what’s the best kind to get?
  • Why do my neighbors pay less for auto insurance than I do?
  • Should I buy the insurance car rental companies try to sell me?
  • Should I get “gap coverage” when I buy a new car?
  • Why do insurance rates in Texas seem higher than in other places?
  • What can I do to keep costs down?

Listen to the podcast to get the answers and some money-saving tips.


September 23, 2021

Need life insurance? Young Texans should consider it too

COVID-19 concerns are driving an increase in life insurance purchases by younger Americans. Applications were up 8% for those under 45 years old. In our new video, TDI’s Life and Health section explains what Texans need to know about life insurance.

Anyone with a family business, assets, or people to protect should think about buying life insurance. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • If I were to die, how would that affect the people in my life?
  • Would there be money to pay for a funeral?
  • How much money would people in my life need to make ends meet without me?
  • Would they lose their homes?
  • If you have children, who’s going to pay for their education?

Write those questions down, and it will help you determine how much life insurance you need.

You’ll also need to decide between term life and whole life insurance.

Term life is the least expensive. It’s based on a time period or your age. When you get to the end of the term period, or reach the age, the insurance ends. There may never be a payout, because you're just covering yourself for a portion of your life when others rely on your income.

Whole life insurance, also called permanent insurance, is there for your entire life. Whole life can be expensive, but that’s because it lasts until you die and the policy pays out. Unlike term life, a whole life policy will accumulate cash value over the years.

More tips: Do you need life insurance?


September 14, 2021

Know the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning

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Cell phones and other devices are a big help in a weather emergency. They give you a quick way to check in with friends and relatives or call for help. But if the power’s out and your battery is low, be careful where you recharge your devices.

It may be tempting to use a running car or truck to charge your phone, but never do that when your vehicle is in a garage. Most engines put out carbon monoxide, a deadly gas you can’t see or smell.

A running car can create enough carbon monoxide build-up to kill you, even if the garage door is open. Wind can blow carbon monoxide back into your garage, or even inside your house if doors, windows, or vents are open.

If you can do so safely, move your vehicle out of the garage and away from your home. Then it’s OK to start the engine and recharge your phones and devices in the vehicle.

Be careful when you use generators and other sources of carbon monoxide as well.

Learn more


September 13, 2021

How to prepare for Tropical Storm Nicholas

Tropical Storm Nicholas is expected to bring strong winds and flash flooding to the Texas coast tonight through Wednesday. Coastal areas and parts of Harris and Montgomery counties could see 10-20 inches of rain. Space City Weather expects the storm to be similar to what Houston saw during Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019.

Here’s how you can prepare:

Be ready to evacuate. Pack a bag with your insurance policies, home inventory, health plan cards, medication, water, and food in case you need to leave your house. Call family members to talk about where you’ll meet if you need to evacuate. 

Prepare your home. If you have a two-story house, move valuables to the higher floor. Gather flashlights, can openers, blankets, and other things you might need to eat and sleep on an upper floor. If you have time, clean your gutters to allow the water to drain faster.

Listen to the news. Evacuate if told to do so. Know what roads and backup routes you’ll take to get to higher ground.

Don’t drive through flood water. Water can be deeper or stronger than it looks. Turn around and find another route. If you’re trapped in your car in fast-moving water, don’t get out. If you can avoid it, don’t walk or swim through flood water.


August 26, 2021

Apartment hunting? Look for these safety features

Heading off to college? Starting your career in a new town? If you’re getting a new place for the first time, check out our new video for fire safety tips from the Texas State Fire Marshal.

Look for sprinkler systems and fire alarms. The best systems have voices, not beeping, because people wake up faster to a voice than a noise. And always check the evacuation plan.

The most common causes of apartment fires can all be avoided—here’s how:

  • Don’t cook when you’re tired—or leave a cooking fire unattended.
  • Don’t overload power outlets with chargers and electronics.
  • Avoid candles, or at least keep combustibles away from them. Better yet, get artificial candles that flicker like a flame.
  • Don’t put anything within three feet of a space heater.
  • If you have a clothes dryer, clean the lint out of the vent.

Make sure your new place has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check the manufacturing date on the back of each one. Have your landlord replace any that are 10 years old.

Think about fire safety when you go out, too. Look for alternative exits at football games, concerts, clubs, stores, and restaurants. In an emergency, most people crowd the front door, so make sure you know other ways out. If any place gets too crowded, leave.

And remember, your landlord’s insurance only covers the building. You need renters insurance to cover your things inside it. For more information, visit tdi.texas.gov or call 800-252-3439.

We’ve also got tips on how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning at home.


August 19, 2021

Could a travel insurance policy pay off on your next trip?

Air travel is hitting pandemic highs—a record 2.2 million people went through airport checkpoints during the first Sunday in August, according to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

Still, there’s a lot of uncertainty to travel these days. So for our new video, we talked to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association about protecting your travel plans.

You can buy travel insurance that covers things you already paid for, such as flights, cruise tickets, or hotel deposits. You can also buy a “cancel for any reason” policy, which pays back about 50 to 70% of the cost of your trip if you if you cancel for any reason—or even no reason.

How do you know if you need travel insurance? Well, think about what you’d have to pay if you had to cut your trip short. Could you afford another ticket? What if you had to book an extra night in a hotel? Or if you had to be evacuated for medical reasons? If you can’t cover those costs, consider buying travel insurance.

Travel insurance typically costs between 5 and 10% of the cost of your trip. Adding “cancel for any reason” coverage will cost 40 to 70% more. And while most policies don’t cover the COVID pandemic itself, they may cover things like a quarantine, sickness, job loss, bad weather, or a government-mandated airport shutdown.

Read our tips: Travel insurance: What does it cover and when do you need it?


August 12, 2021

Got insurance? Questions to ask at a job interview

Text on image: Job offer? Ask about a health plan.

Congrats, you got a job interview! After you talk about pay and telecommuting, don’t forget to ask about the benefits. And we don’t mean days off – we mean insurance.

On average, benefits make up a third of a company’s compensation package, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health insurance is a big part of that.

Ask if the company offers health insurance and how much of the premium you’ll pay. Also ask if they offer health insurance for your family. And look at the plan’s copays, deductibles, and coinsurance. Those are all amounts you’ll have to pay yourself.

If you already have health insurance, getting it through your job will probably cost less and offer more benefits. But always compare costs and benefits before you switch.

If a company doesn’t offer health insurance, ask if there’s a health savings plan. It’s a plan you pay into to help with the cost of health care.

Learn more about what to ask about insurance before you switch jobs.


August 5, 2021

Podcast: Buying a used car? Here’s how to avoid scams

Buying a vehicle? Curious about the one you’ve got? Did you know you can check a car or truck’s vehicle identification number (VIN) number to learn more about it? The information you get with a VIN can help keep you safe and save you money.

For our latest podcast, we talked to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) about how a VIN can help you. And the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Greater Houston shared how to avoid scams when you buy a vehicle online.

Some tips: You can use NICB’s VINCheck to find out if a vehicle was stolen or damaged. A VIN can also tell you if it was flooded during a hurricane. That’s important because, if it was, sensors for airbags and bumpers could fail in an accident.

It’s also a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau in your area when you buy a used vehicle, especially if you buy online. The BBB can tell you if a seller or website has a lot of complaints or bad reviews. And they can tell you about the latest scams—like a price that’s too good to be true, or a third-party escrow site that seems fake.

If you’re in the market for a car or truck, listen to our podcast for more information.


July 29, 2021

Home insurance isn’t required. But it makes sense.

No law requires you to have home insurance. But having a policy can protect your investment, giving you peace of mind.

If you have a mortgage, your lender probably requires home insurance.

A new study by the Texas Real Estate Research Center estimates that 4.1% of Texas homeowner households with a mortgage don’t have home insurance. In contrast, 26% of Texas residents who own their homes free and clear of debt lack home insurance—with rural homeowners generally more likely to lack coverage, the study says.

A home policy can help even if your home is paid off. It shields you from facing potentially massive out-of-pocket costs to repair or rebuild if a burst pipe, fire, or other incident wreaks damage.

Questions to ask your agent or insurance company

  • What kinds of damages does the home policy cover?
  • Does the policy fully cover replacing my house and possessions?
  • What’s the premium, what I pay for the policy up front?
  • What’s my deductible, what I must pay before the insurance pays anything?
  • Do I need additional coverage such as a flood policy?

See more in our new video on common questions about home insurance.

Ready to shop? Find and compare Texas home insurance policies or use TDI’s home insurance guide.


July 27, 2021

Before starting your home business, check on insurance needs

Woman packing merchandise in her living room

Starting a business? You may have new insurance needs even if you’re working from home.

Texans are starting businesses at a faster clip. More than 250,000 businesses launched in the state the first half of 2021 — up from 152,000 the first half of 2020, according to federal statistics.

If you’re starting a business at home, your homeowner’s policy might not cover your equipment, products, or injuries to employees and customers. Some coverages worth exploring:

  • Coverage of expensive equipment, special tools, or inventory.
  • Business interruption coverage to make up for lost income if your business is put on hold after a break-in, storm, or fire.
  • Data breach or cyber liability coverage — especially if you store anyone’s personal data.
  • A commercial auto policy if you make deliveries or regularly need to pick up supplies.
  • Workers’ compensation coverage, additional liability coverage, or an umbrella liability policy in case an employee or customer has an accident in your home.

Ask your agent or insurance company if you can bundle coverages into a business policy to save money.

Read our updated tips: What insurance do I need to run a business from home?

Watch our video on what you need to know about business insurance.


July 23, 2021

2021 Insurance Summer Games

Olympic medals

Sorry sports fans, there won’t be spectators at the Olympics in Tokyo. But welcome to TDI’s Summer Insurance Games! We look at the insurance tips with the most web hits, video views, and podcast listens. You’ll experience the thrill of victory and the agony of a totaled car. The winners:

100 meter insurance blog

Insurance tips floor exercise

200 meter freestyle podcast

400 meter video hurdles


Still need some help? Consider this video our closing ceremony. We’ll see you in a few months for the winter games.


July 15, 2021

How $50 can strengthen your roof

Did you know spending about $50 on the right kind of nails can double the strength of your roof?

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety shares advice that can help you protect your roof and your home from storms. The institute tests products in storm-like conditions, then lists the best at www.fortifiedhome.org.

Here are the institute’s top tips for protecting your roof

  • Make sure the roof decking—which is what shingles or a metal roof sit on—is attached to the trusses or the rafters with ring shank nails. Ring shank nails have ridges or grooves on them.
  • Seal the roof deck to keep wind and water out of the roof cover. That will keep water out of the house and from causing even more damage.
  • Purchase roof covering products designed to resist the conditions you actually face in your area. You don’t always have to spend more money.
  • Make sure your garage door is properly rated. If you lose it in a storm, the pressure change inside your house could cause major structural failures.

Watch this video to learn how to strengthen your roof and home.


July 9, 2021

Home improvement ideas – indoor edition

Is your home protected?

Home improvement is a never-ending adventure. We’ve got ideas for July projects to help you make progress without breaking a sweat.

Shop around: Even if you aren’t building or remodeling, higher construction costs may mean you need to increase your homeowners insurance policy limits. We talked to the Insurance Council of Texas about ways to lower your costs.

  • Use HelpInsure.com to get sample rates for your area. It includes information on homeowners, renters, and auto insurance.
  • Look at your deductible and think about how much you can afford to pay if your home is damaged. Switching from a $500 deductible to a $1,000 deductible can save as much as 20% on the cost of your premium.
  • Watch the full interview for more tips.

Make a home inventory: Having a list of what you own will help if you need to file an insurance claim after a disaster. You can start by taking photos or a video of each room. There are also apps to help you put together a home inventory.

Tune in as we interview experts: Join us on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube as we talk to industry experts on a variety of topics.

  • July 15: The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety talks about building and remodeling projects that can reduce the risk of damage to your home. Watch video 
  • July 29: We searched Google for the most common questions about home insurance. We’ll go over the answers with one of our TDI experts. Watch video

July 8, 2021

Do construction costs affect my home insurance?

The cost of lumber tripled in the past year. We talked to the executive director of the Insurance Council of Texas about how construction costs factor into what you pay for homeowners insurance.

Insurance covers the cost to rebuild your home after a disaster. As construction costs increase, it’s important to adjust your policy limits. While you might be tempted to save money by getting less coverage when you renew your policy, that could mean higher out-of-pocket costs for you if your home is damaged or destroyed.

To look for the best deal on insurance, shop around with HelpInsure.com. Texas has more than 160 homeowners insurance companies, so smart shoppers will take advantage of the competition. And check out discounts for bundling or smart home technology.

Watch this video to see what construction costs mean for your homeowners insurance and for tips to keep your insurance costs down.


July 6, 2021

Five reasons you should always lock your car or truck

A bar chart showing Texas auto thefts for 2017-2019. There were 77,489 auto thefts in 2019, 69,817 in 2018, and 68,041 in 2017.

Locking up your car or truck might seem a little thing. But always locking up protects you and your property.

Here’s why to lock up:

  • Theft happens a lot. In the U.S., a car is stolen once every 40 seconds—and car theft went up 9% in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
  • Theft costs money. The average loss per Texas motor vehicle theft topped $16,000 in 2019.
  • Leave your keys, risk your ride. Driver error, such as keys left in a vehicle or leaving it unlocked, is a factor in nearly half of all auto thefts. In Texas in 2019, more than 17,000 stolen vehicles involved keys left in the car or truck.
  • Burglaries happen fast. A criminal can grab valuables in seconds. The crime that police call “sliding” targets unlocked cars briefly parked at stores such as gas stations. A thief sneaks up one side of the vehicle, opens a door, slides in, takes items, and slips away. The Houston Police Department has warning videos on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Lock up as soon as you’re in your car. Car or truck doors may automatically lock once you’re driving. But locking up as soon as you get in the driver’s seat better protects you from surprise break-ins.

Learn more

Auto theft and insurance: How to protect your ride

Car burglaries and break ins are increasing. Here's how to protect your car (podcast)


July 1, 2021

Podcast: How to find a new health plan now

Shopping for health insurance podcast

Choosing the best health insurance is kind of like picking the perfect mix of streaming services. The choices are overwhelming and costs add up quickly. We can’t help with streaming, but we have tips on how to find the right insurance coverage and avoid scams.

From now until August 15, anyone can sign up for a health plan through Healthcare.gov. You may even qualify for subsidies to help pay for your coverage.

You also can buy health insurance from an insurance company or licensed agent. Or you may have options through your employer, a union, an association, or your church.

There are a lot of different plans, all with different costs. Listen to our podcast to learn how to find the right one for you. And our health plan shopping guide has a list of questions to ask before you buy a plan.


June 22, 2021

Are your collectibles worth a lot? Are they insured?

Pokemon card

The rapper Logic was just as surprised as we were when his rare Pokémon card sold for nearly $200,000 at an auction this year. Even if you’re not that lucky, you might have other valuable antiques, toys, coins, or memorabilia sitting around. Maybe they could fetch a pretty penny.

But do you have insurance for them if they’re stolen or damaged? Most home and renters policies won’t cover them or limit what they pay for collectibles. But you can buy extra coverage.

We’d hate for your prized Babe Ruth card to get stolen. But we’d hate it even more if you didn’t have insurance to get paid back.

Learn more about insurance for your collectibles.


June 21, 2021

RV, pool, or boat? Insurance for your summer survival tools

Texans typically use the heat index instead of the calendar to mark the arrival of summer. Whether you wait for a 100-degree day or the official summer solstice, summer is here. Stay cool, Texas. We’ve got ideas to beat the heat and make sure your investment is insured.

Hit the road: RV sales are skyrocketing. If you’re part of this growing trend, watch our video to understand how insurance works for your home on wheels.

Hit the pool: Thinking about adding a pool or outdoor kitchen to your home? Yes, please! It’s a big investment, so talk to your insurance agent or company about getting the right coverage.

Hit the lake: With thousands of lakes and 367 miles of coastline, no wonder Texas is home to more than half a million recreational boats. If you have a small boat, your homeowners insurance may include enough coverage. To make sure, check our tips on boat insurance.


June 17, 2021

Average cost of renters policy? $15 a month

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If you rent an apartment or house, it’s a good idea to have renters insurance. It pays to replace your personal belongings if they’re stolen or damaged by a fire, storm, or burst pipe.

We talked to a Houston-area real estate agent about the importance of having renters insurance.

Christy Rodriguez says renters should weigh the cost of renters insurance (about $15 a month) to the cost of relocating and replacing their belongings if their rental is damaged.

Renters insurance also pay for a hotel and food if you need to move out while your rental is being repaired. It also pays if someone is hurt in your home, and we all have that one friend…

Learn more about renters insurance.


June 3, 2021

Hurricane season brings many dangers

Podcast: Preparing for hurricane season

Hurricane season is here, and it looks like 2021 will be a dangerous one. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts three to five major hurricanes and a host of smaller storms.

Listen to our podcast for more information on what to expect during the 2021 hurricane season, including tips for staying safe during and after a storm.

We’ll help you prepare your house for hurricane season and explain how to put together a hurricane “go kit” with everything you’ll need if you evacuate your home. We also share lifesaving tips for generator use that can help you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning after a storm.


June 2, 2021

Starting your financial future together

Getting married soon? You’re not the only happy couple! Wedding planners report being booked through the year as couples reschedule weddings postponed due to the pandemic. We can’t help you find a caterer, but we do have an insurance checklist to get you off to a good financial start.

Renters insurance: The average renters policy in Texas costs about $20 a month. That’s a great way to protect those nice wedding gifts. It will pay to replace items damaged by a burst pipe or other cause. It will also cover personal items stolen from your home or car.

Auto policies: Combining your auto policies may save you money. Most insurance companies offer a discount if you have more than one vehicle, and rates are usually lower if you’re married.

Health coverage: You have several options for health coverage. If both of you have coverage through work, compare the policies. One may have better benefits, a lower deductible, or a lower cost to add a dependent. And check to see if there’s a deadline to add a spouse.

Life insurance: As your situation changes and your family grows, you may need life insurance. Consider how much income would need to be replaced to help with childcare, your mortgage, and other debts.


May 26, 2021

Carbon monoxide – the silent killer after the storm

Hurricane Laura, a powerful Category 4 storm, left a path of destruction across Louisiana last year and caused 15 deaths. Eight came after the storm, caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.

Sheletta Brundidge’s relatives were among the victims. They rode out the hurricane but lost power after the storm. Five family members gathered in one home with a generator running in the garage. As they slept, the garage door blew shut. The home didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector to alert them to the deadly fumes filling the home. They never woke up.

Carbon monoxide kills more than 400 Americans each year and is responsible for 20,000 emergency room visits, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We talked to Sheletta and an expert with our State Fire Marshal’s Office about the proper use of generators, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the importance of carbon monoxide detectors. Watch the interview and check out our tips to protect your family.


May 24, 2021

Protect your home while you’re away

Inside of a dark home with someone outside. Text on image: 6 things to do before you go on vacation

It’s time to shake off 2020 and take a vacation. A real vacation. This year we can do better than setting up a tent in the living room and binge-watching Animal Planet. Before you head out, we have some tips to keep your home safe while you’re gone.

Set timers on interior lights. Criminals are looking for an easy target. Use a timer on a few lights to make it appear that someone is home, and don’t let newspapers or mail pile up. Make sure valuables aren’t visible to someone looking through windows, and never leave a key outside.

Don’t post on social media. It’s best not to post that you’re away even if you think only friends and family can see your social media accounts.

Lock doors and windows. It’s obvious, but it’s also easy to forget. Before you leave, take one last trip around the house to make sure everything is locked.

Unplug TVs and computers. It’s Texas so you never know when an electrical storm could cause a power surge. To protect expensive electronics, unplug them or use a surge protector.

Turn off the main water supply to your home. Even a minor leak can cause major damage if no one is home to catch it.

Close interior doors. This will help protect your home if there’s a hurricane or tornado while you’re gone. (Video)


May 20, 2021

Start preparing now for 2021 hurricane season

Hurricane season in Texas means the potential for strong storms and flooding. The season starts on June 1, but you can start now to make sure your home and family are ready.

We talked to the Texas Department of Emergency Management to get some tips.

Gabriela Stermolle says we should put together a disaster kit with food, water, important documents, and pet supplies in case we need to leave the house fast.

We can also make our houses storm ready and think about flood insurance. But don’t wait too long: it takes 30 days for flood insurance to take effect.

Watch our interview for more tips to help you prepare for hurricane season.

Learn more about preparing and flood insurance: Before the storm.


May 18, 2021

How rising lumber costs affect your insurance

racks of lumber at a home improvement store

Lumber prices are through the roof. Even if you aren’t buying or building a house, you might feel the sting of inflation. Higher rebuilding costs may mean higher insurance costs.

Will my premium go up?

Probably. The price of lumber tripled over the last year, adding about $36,000 to the average cost of building a house, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The prices of other building materials are also up.

When renewing your policy, your insurance company will calculate what it would cost to rebuild your home at today’s prices to determine how much insurance you need. If the costs are higher, your company will increase your policy limits.

Why is my insured value different than my appraisal?

Your property’s appraised value includes the cost of your land and factors in how much homes are selling for in your neighborhood. The insured value is the cost to rebuild or replace your home.

Do I have to increase my policy limits?

Some insurance companies require you to insure at least 80% of the cost to rebuild your home. If you have a home loan, your mortgage company will probably require you to have enough insurance to pay off your loan in case of a disaster.

If you do have the option of insuring your property for a lower value, think about how you’d make up the difference if your home was destroyed or damaged. Most insurers will prorate claim payments based on the amount of coverage you have. For example, let’s say the cost to rebuild your home is $200,000, but you only insured it up to $120,000 – or 60% of the replacement cost. Your insurance company may only pay up to 60% of the repair cost for any damage to your home, minus your deductible.

How can I lower my costs?

You could consider increasing your deductible. This will lower your premium payment. When deciding what deductible is right for you, think about how much you can afford to pay if your property is damaged.

You can also use HelpInsure.com to compare sample rates for different companies.


May 13, 2021

A look at the 2021 hurricane season

Tropical storm Andres made news this week as the earliest named storm to ever develop in the Pacific Ocean. If it’s a year for surprises, what can we expect for the Atlantic hurricane season? We talked to the National Weather Service to find out.

Paul Yura said the 2021 forecast will probably be like recent years. He also explained that rip currents and improper generator use can lead to more deaths than storm winds.

Watch our interview for tips to prepare for the hurricane season, which begins June 1. For bonus science points, you’ll also learn about Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and how it affects hurricane activity!

For more tips, see Before the storm.


May 10, 2021

Insurance tips for new graduates

If you’re graduating and moving into your own house or apartment, there’s a lot to consider. Here’s what you need to know about insurance.

a group of new graduates throwing caps into the air

Protect your stuff: Renters insurance pays for your clothes, furniture, electronics, and other belongings if they’re stolen or damaged by a fire or other cause. Most renters policies also pay for your belongings if they’re stolen from your car. Learn more: Renters insurance: What does it cover and how much does it cost?

Shop for auto insurance: If you need your own auto insurance, use TDI’s HelpInsure.com to compare rates and policies. Then ask several companies for quotes. Also ask if you qualify for any discounts. Learn more: 10 steps to find the right auto insurance

Finding health insurance: If you have a job that offers health insurance, that’s great. Be sure to ask if your doctors are in its network to avoid a big bill. Also look at the plan’s website to find hospitals and urgent care centers near you for when you need a doctor after hours. Learn more: Need health insurance? How to find a new health plan now.


May 6, 2021

Podcast: Tips to help with storm claims, recovery

Texas has already seen damaging spring storms across the state – including what may be a record hailstone in Hondo. Imagine what hail the size of honeydew melon could do to your home.

Our latest podcast explains how to start the claim process, what to if you disagree with your insurance company’s decision, and how to avoid contracting scams.

If your home has storm damage, file a claim as soon as you can. Don’t throw away damaged items until you talk to your insurance company or adjuster. But make temporary repairs to protect your home from more damage – cover broken windows and holes in your roof. Keep the repair receipts. Your policy may cover the costs.

In our podcast, we also share tips from the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas. They’ll tell you to how to find a qualified contractor for repairs.

Help after the storm has more information about claims and repairs.


May 5, 2021

Used car prices are up, so shop smart

Arrow showing location of a car's vehicle identification number. It is on the driver's side of the dashboard, close to the windshield.

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Cars are the latest shortage of the pandemic. A lack of computer chips is slowing production of new cars and trucks, and it’s increasing demand for used vehicles. It’s a great time to sell, but expect to pay more if you’re buying. Average trade-in values hit a record $17,080 in March, up 20% from a year ago, according to the car research website Edmunds. 

While you may have to pay more, make sure you’re not getting scammed. Before you buy a used car, check the vehicle identification number (VIN). It will confirm the vehicle’s model year and let you know if it’s been reported stolen or salvaged.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free VIN check and has links to other services.

For more information about VINs and the information you can get with them, watch our interview with Tully Lehman, an expert at the National Insurance Crime Bureau.


April 29, 2021

Do you know your home’s wildfire risk?

In 2011, the most destructive wildfire in Texas history destroyed more than 1,600 homes in Bastrop County. A decade later, wildfires continue to pose a risk to much of Texas – and the risk increases as population expands into wilderness areas.

You can use the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal to check the wildfire risk for your home. Just enter your address, and you’ll get a look at the risk for your property and the surrounding area. Then listen to our interview with the Texas A&M Forest Service about what you can do to reduce those risks and protect your home.

For more tips, see Wildfire risks: Projects to help you protect your home.

 


April 19, 2021

New podcast looks at increase in auto thefts

Auto thefts were up in Texas and across the nation last year. In our new podcast, we talk to Sgt. Tracy Hicks with the Houston Police Department’s Auto Theft Crimes Task Force about what you can do to protect your car or truck from burglaries and theft.

Man breaking into a car

Thieves often break into cars to look for guns, Sgt. Hicks said. Be especially careful when going to a gun range or store because thieves may be watching the parking lots to identify potential targets. He suggested getting a car safe if you carry guns or other valuables in your car.

Catalytic converters are another hot commodity for thieves, who sell the precious metals inside. Catalytic converters easy to steal and hard to identify. Hybrid cars are often targeted because their catalytic converters – and the metals inside – are usually cleaner than on gas cars. You can get a catalytic converter lock or cover installed to make it harder to remove.

Check out our podcast for more about the latest trends in auto theft and how to protect your car or truck.

We have also a video interview with Sgt. Hicks and information about insurance coverage for auto thefts and burglaries.


April 15, 2021

Buying a house? Ask for a CLUE report

The Texas housing market is hotter than the habanero you didn’t know was in those nachos.

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With fewer houses on the market and low interest rates, houses in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and other parts of the state are selling in days and often above the asking price. It’s a seller’s dream, and a buyer’s nightmare. If you don’t make a quick offer, you may lose out. But is that house hiding a maintenance problem?

One way to protect yourself is to ask the property owner for a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report. A CLUE report shows the insurance claims filed for a property for the past seven years. An insurance company will check the report and use the claims history as a factor in deciding how much you’ll pay for homeowners insurance.

For more information, including how to request a report, visit How to get a CLUE about your claims history.

Learn more

 


April 15, 2021

What FEMA covers and how to apply

Are you still dealing with repairs or extra expenses from the February winter storms? Homeowners and renters who have damage or other storm-related costs not covered by insurance can apply for federal disaster assistance. To learn more about what FEMA covers and how to apply, we talked to FEMA’s Kurt Pickering. (Update: The application deadline was extended to May 20 after we posted the interview.)

FEMA may cover expenses beyond repairs to your home. Help also may be available for temporary housing, to repair storm damage to your primary car, for extra child-care expenses, or to replace medications or medical supplies.

FEMA rental assistance may be available if you need to rent a different place while repairs are made to your rental home. Rental grants may be used for security deposits, rent, and utilities. FEMA can also help renters replace or repair damaged personal property, such as furniture, appliances, clothing, school supplies, and job-related equipment.

To apply, visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-3362.


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