From the Kansas Insurance Matters Column-January 2016 by Ken Selzer, CPA, Commissioner of Insurance
Buying your first car, moving to a new state, losing or changing your job or starting a small business are a few of the life changes that should trigger a review of your insurance. But picking the right insurance coverage for you and your family is also about finding the right insurance agent.
We at the Kansas Insurance Department (KID) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offer these tips to help you find the right agent for your insurance needs.
First, understand that you have different types to choose from. You can pick an independent agent or an exclusive (sometimes called captive or direct) agent. An independent agent may write contracts with several different insurance companies. An exclusive agent writes exclusively with one company. Independent and exclusive agents represent the insurance company and receive a commission from the insurance company.
Whether you are looking for your first agent or thinking about switching agents or companies, it's a good idea to have several to choose from. When evaluating your list, consider the following:
- Personality - Have conversations with prospective agents. Explain your situation and ask for a quote. Simply asking does not mean you have to work with them. This is a chance for you to get a feel for how they work and if you are comfortable with them.
- Credentials - Many agents will have letters behind their names on their business cards. These represent designations or credentials they have earned from various insurance groups or associations. Ask them what these letters mean. Also, ask them if they carry Errors and Omissions (E&O) coverage for themselves.
- Reputation – Do you know someone who is already a client with the agent you are considering? Ask that person what he/she thinks about the agent’s work.
- Licensing - Make sure the agents and the companies they are writing policies for are licensed in Kansas. You can check company licensing information by calling the KID Consumer Assistance Hotline, (in Kansas) 800-432-2484, or by going to the KID website, www.ksinsurance.org, and clicking the “Finding a Company or Agent” icon.
- Complaints - While you're checking whether the agent and the company are licensed, also check to see if they've had complaints filed against them. For the company, you can check the KID hotline at the number above. The insurance department can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the agent. You might also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any consumers have filed complaints - or compliments - about the agents you're considering.
- Financial Strength of the Company - When evaluating a company, you also want to check the company’s financial rating. There are five major rating services. Go to the KID website and click the “Finding a Company or Agent” icon, which will take you to a page that provides links to major ratings services.
- References - When you're applying for a job, you provide references, so don't be afraid to ask a prospective agent for the same.
- Ask Questions - If you've had a particularly interesting insurance experience, or have heard of one, ask the agent how he/she and the company the agent represents would have dealt with the situation.
- Choices - If you're using an independent agent, you'll have choices of companies and coverages. Evaluate the options with the agent to make sure you're choosing the policy best suited to your situation.
- Company Explanation - If the agent doesn't tell you about the company he/she is placing your coverage with and why that company has the best coverage for you, ask why he/she chose that company.
- Honest Sales - You shouldn't feel pressured to choose an agent, a company or a quote. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
We at the Kansas Insurance Department can also help. If you have questions or concerns, call us at 800-432-2484 and speak to a Consumer Assistance Representative.
This article is published on KansasMoney.gov.
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