Insurance Tips From An Insurance Attorney.

Insurance tips
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We sat down with Ryan Sandstrom of Copper Canyon Law. Ryan is an insurance attorney and helps consumers find the best auto & home insurance policy with the best coverage. His insights and experience that he shares with us can help anyone. If you have insurance, you need to listen to this! Transcript of our discussion is listed below:

My name is Ryan Sandstrom. I call myself the insurance attorney. Everybody has to have a thing and that’s, that’s my thing. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to understand all the nuances that there are about insurance law.

And also kind of how that relates to business law and how that relates to people’s individual coverage. So I’ve worked for judges, I’ve worked for insurance companies in house for a decade. I was a partner at a firm in phoenix doing insurance law, interpreting policies, interpreting coverages, fighting those in state and federal court for a long time.

Okay. And then now I’m a partner of copper canyon law and helping people on the front end of those claims to make sure that they have adequate coverage and like you know, we, you and I have talked about sometimes I hate it when people say I thought I was covered for that. It just makes me sick when I hear this.

So I try to be very careful with my clients to make sure that they are covered for everything and anything that they want to be covered for and we take a lot of effort, make a lot of effort and take a lot of time to make sure that they are covered for that. Awesome, so you’ve been around the block, it seems like you’ve been in every angle, every aspect of the business so you know how to help people.

Yeah, I mean before I went to law school I sold insurance for a group in salt lake and I sold a little bit insurance while I was in school and I clerked for a judge handling only insurance docket for the eighth circuit district court for the chief judge there and then I worked in house for an insurance company and like I said when I went private practice, work my way up at a big firm doing defense work defending these types of claims, insurance related negligence type claims for business owners for individuals and all that kind of stuff for over a decade now I’m on the policyholder side.

So I’m helping people when they have claims involving insurance. And let’s be honest, that’s a lot of that’s an insurance basically covers everything absolutely. When you think about it, think about the property damage claim that somebody’s home like if you have a wind wind storm or if you have a, you know, water loss, pipe breaks, that’s an insurance claim.

If you have an auto accident, that’s an insurance claim. If you have a defamation case, that’s an insurance claim, everything comes back, it’s all about insurance. Yeah, it’s kind of wild. So that’s, that’s what we try to understand is help people protect from the potential of those impacts on them, especially on the personal lines.

It’s to make sure that they’re protected. Got it. So long story short, he knows what he’s talking about.

Understanding Your Risk

So you want to listen to these three tips, so let’s jump into them. Yeah, so the first one is just understanding what your risk is, right? So, understanding basically what you, as an individual could have exposure to.

And there’s two different sides of that. Number one is a property risk and the other one is a liability risk, right? So property for example, I think we all understand if you own a vehicle that you’re gonna want to have insurance that provides coverage for that vehicle. Now, what’s interesting in Arizona, you’re not required to have insurance on your own vehicle.

That is interesting. Yeah. So you can actually buy an insurance policy that only provides liability coverage for the person that you might hit. Okay, so there’s a chance and again, usually it’s a cost conscious decision to say, I can’t afford the property coverage. But I’ll tell you, I deal with a lot of those situations after the fact where people get in an accident and they say, I don’t have rental coverage, I don’t have property coverage and they go, I never thought I would get in an accident.

Well that’s why we have policies and, and you you get what you pay for. I mean if you’re looking for the discount policy, then you’re probably gonna have discount coverage. So it’s really important to understand on the property damage side of things. And this is also for your home, you want to understand what coverage is that you have that might apply.

So again, vehicles, homes, intellectual property, business assets, individual assets, boats, that kind of stuff. There’s usually policies that apply to each and every one of those things. Now, sometimes you can bundle those policies together.

A lot of carriers do that really, really well, but each of those is a different coverage. Your homeowners policy will not apply to vehicles and likewise, your vehicle coverage will not apply to homeowners. Your boat policy probably will, your boat probably won’t be covered under your vehicle or your homeowners unless it’s specifically provided for.

So just understanding that individuals have a lot of different exposures, here’s a couple of nuanced ones that people might not think about, like I mentioned before, defamation, which is, if you say something against somebody else. And they’re injured because of what you said.

Generally, individual lines policies may or may not cover that just depends on the policy. So if you’re in a contentious relationship with somebody else you might want to consider hey, do I have coverage for defamation? I’ve litigated defamation cases. We actually, this is not to toot my own horn but I actually just litigated the defamation case with the Arizona border appeals and we won and created new laws in Arizona. That was really cool.

That was cool about the defamation. So again, understanding whether or not your policy provides that it’s called advertising injury or just coverage under your homeowner’s policy. I have to check for that. If it’s not covered under your individual policy, you might want to look to an umbrella policy.

Understand The Coverage You Have

So that’s kind of the second tip is not as number one understanding what coverage, what liability you might have, but then also understanding generally how much coverage you need. Right? I mean, let’s be honest, if you only if you have a small vehicle and it’s not worth very much, then maybe you don’t need very significant coverage and that’s okay, but if you have a lot of money in the bank, if you have a lot of assets that you need to protect.

Now we’re talking about that liability coverage. Right? So now it’s not just your property. If you happen to get in an accident and you have a million dollars in the bank and only $25,000 in coverage. There’s a really good chance that that personal injury attorney and I do a lot of personal injury claims on the, on the policyholder side is going to look at you and say sorry.

Your insurance isn’t enough. I have a claim right now that I’m dealing with, unfortunately the guy that was involved in an accident, pretty significant accident, hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. There’s not enough insurance. So they’re looking at his retirement accounts.

So really painful thing. So I always tell people look at the level of your of your coverage needs to match or exceed your level of exposure. And that if your head is kind of spinning, you’re like, well, okay, what if I need coverage for that? What if I need coverage for that?

What if there’s something I need coverage from that? I haven’t even thought of. That’s where finding a good agent, a good broker to sit down with comes in because he can sit and ask you all those questions to make sure that everything that needs to be covered is covered. 100%. Yeah.

I mean, it’s basically doing the underwriting job for the carrier. But the carrier is going to take the information that they received and just write the policy based on what’s provided. They’re not going to try to come back to you and say, well, what about this? What about that?

Understand Your Exposures

So that’s the agent of the broker’s job is to say, well let’s identify your exposures and that’s actually gets to, my third point is, let’s let’s figure out what those exposures are and then how to best protect against them. Now, insurance company, insurance agents oftentimes are sued or claims are brought against them if they don’t provide adequate, you know, suggestions and recommendations for the amount of coverage and for the particular types of coverage.

So actually from an agent standpoint, it’s really valuable to have somebody else if that’s not your wheelhouse, is is that weeds of the policy? It’s really valuable to get somebody like you or get somebody like me that understands those weeds, make sure that you’re fully and adequately protected. So again, that, that goes to the whole idea that, you know, you’ve got to figure out what your exposures are and how much you need and you can get umbrella policies for very cheap.

They are too, I mean, holy smokes, I mean you can get a million dollar umbrella policy granted, you have to have enough underlying insurance to qualify for an umbrella, but they’re very, very cheap. I mean we’re talking a couple $100 a year for some of those big policies.

So it makes a lot of sense to add that and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of cases where someone has had an umbrella and it saved their butt. Oh, completely, I have one right now where if there wasn’t an umbrella, we would, we would be looking at retirement accounts that’s actually on a personal injury case where we’re pursuing on behalf of somebody that was injured, very catastrophic case, very unfortunate case.

But we looked at the liability driver and thankfully the guy has enough insurance. If that wasn’t the case. Again, we’d be looking at retirement accounts and things like that. I should know, there are a lot of exemptions in Arizona for different types of assets. There’s what’s called the homestead exemption.

So there’s protections for how much money somebody could go after your home, right? There has to be a certain amount of equity in the home in order to go after that, there’s, you actually can’t go after like furniture and household goods and all that kind of stuff and there are some limitations on what you can go after.

But really, you know, in attorneys minds, we think one of the bank accounts look like one of the retirement accounts look like. And I always asked whenever I’m in a personal injury type of claim like that, we asked for affidavits of no insurance, making sure that’s the only coverage and the statement of all their assets, I’ll get bank accounts, I’ll look at the financials and see where money is.

Again, just to make sure that we have enough, okay. And even though there are those exceptions and you may not lose your home, that’s still something you don’t want to stress and worry about 100%. Whereas if you have that umbrella policy, it’s just, here’s my policy and let them take care of it. Exactly, right. And I’ll tell you a quick story.

So when I was 16 I was in an auto accident. Okay. So this is kind of how my mind started thinking about insurance claims, right is I was 16 and I actually turned left in front of a motorcycle, it’s my fault. And I remember we had a conversation two days later with the adjuster at my house and he asked my dad questions like, hey, how much do you have in your retirement account? How much is, how much is your house worth?

How much is in your bank account? And I’m sitting there as a 16 year old kid thinking what did I just do? Thankfully, I mean there was some productions with Arizona law and how much they could go after and my dad had done a good job and hired a good agent. So there was plenty of insurance and paid it out just fine.

But it got me thinking at a young age, holy smokes like this is a big deal. You got to make sure that you have the right coverage in place. And again, this goes to my third point. But this is also another situation when I was like 10 or 11. My mom went through a situation where she had an insurance claim denied and she was seeking treatment for cancer.

And so again, they had that, my dad had to hire a lawyer to go fight with the insurance company to get the coverage overturned. And again, I remember thinking as a 10 or 11 year old kid holy smokes, there’s so much power with these insurance companies.

So it’s a really valuable thing to make sure that number one, you have a good agent that understands the nuances and how that, how that stuff works. But then make sure that you have somebody in your corner that if things go wrong, they go to bat for you. Right. I mean, so that’s why we built the shop that we have is we can both protect on the front end and if things don’t go right, then we go litigate, we hold the carrier feet to the fire to make sure that they’re responsible not only for the contract but also to treat you fairly.

And if they don’t treat you fairly, we’re gonna, we’re gonna go to bat for you. We’re gonna make sure they pay bad faith damages as well. So again, that just goes to my last, my last point about again. Now with the two steps before understand your risk making sure you have enough coverage and that really is making sure you have the right people on your team.

There are a lot of people that sell insurance that probably everybody has a nephew or cousin or somebody that sells insurance and no, no offense to those guys, but when they’re selling discount rate policies, you’re going to get discount coverage and if you don’t want to deal with situations where you say, I thought I was covered for that hire somebody that understands the nuances of insurance law, who’s dealt with the intricacies of how these policies play out because we can build protections on the front end that will help avoid a lot of stress on the back end it’s worth.

And it’s not even that much more expensive. Let’s be honest. It just takes a little bit of effort on the front end to make sure you’re protected for the long term makes sense. And it’s important to know and all of this. We never once talked about, oh, you got to find a policy that saves you 10 bucks a month or 50 bucks.

None of that matters in your situation when you’re a 16 year old kid and that adjuster comes to your house, like your dad’s not thinking, oh, I’m glad I saved $25 a month for real. You know what I’m talking about. So that’s why and all these educational videos, it’s all about putting things into perspective and what insurance is really about.

It’s not about all the commercials and saving 15% or it’s about protecting yourself. Our whole mission with heritage is building better futures. I love that. And so you get to do it right on the front end, you’re protecting your future. And then there’s people like you where the insurance carrier doesn’t do what they should, you help them.

Exactly, right. And I think that’s really, really important because everything you see on tv is how do you save money on insurance? I love the idea of teaching people, how do you protect yourself better because of insurance? And it’s not going to be a huge difference in cost. I mean it might be a little bit different, but the peace of mind that you gain from making sure that you have coverage in place far outweighs 10 20 bucks a month. Absolutely, yeah. And so again, you know, our firm here copper canyon law, we can help with all that kind of stuff.

And my brokerage is called diamond financial group and we work a lot with agents to, and we do a lot of this education type of stuff. I’m not sure that everybody understands, you know, the intricacies and nuances and I don’t like to step on other agents toes, they’re all good people.

So in the event that somebody is looking at a, you know, unique coverage issue and wants to understand how it works. They get us involved. We don’t charge anything for it. We just co write the policy so we really help out, we’re really trying to make this a better situation and take away the power that those insurance companies have.

I was on the phone with insurance companies just this morning and you realize how much clout they have. So it’s nice to kind of take some of that back and say no. We understand this from a very, very intricate and detailed level and we can protect our clients for perfect. And I’ll put all his information down below. So if you have any concerns or you just want that peace of mind, feel free to reach out to him, he’s a great guy, will take care of you.

Thanks very much. Really appreciate it. Thanks.

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