Frequently asked questions
Q. Does HelpInsure.com sell insurance coverage?
A. No. HelpInsure.com is a free resource to help Texans shop for residential property, commercial property, personal automobile, commercial automobile, farm and ranch and farm and ranch owners, commercial liability, professional liability insurance and surety bonds. The website is a free and secure service of the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) and the Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC).
Q. How can HelpInsure.com help me?
A. HelpInsure.com is a comprehensive resource to help you shop for residential property, commercial property, personal automobile, commercial automobile, farm and ranch and farm and ranch owners, commercial liability, professional liability insurance and surety bonds. You can view and compare sample rate estimates provided by insurance companies for residential property and personal automobile, as well as information about insurance companies and the policies they offer. The HelpInsure.com Learning Center provides shopping tips and in-depth information about insurance. You can also verify agent and company licenses, locate agents near you, and learn how to contact companies. If you are shopping for homeowners insurance, you can sign up on our secure online form to have agents or companies contact you.
Q. Do the companies listed on HelpInsure.com have to write a policy for me?
A. No. The companies may use their own guidelines for deciding which customers to accept, as long as they do not violate state laws against discrimination and prohibited trade practices. Some companies have certain eligibility requirements – membership in an organization or military service, for example – for you to be eligible for a policy.
Q. Are the rates shown on HelpInsure.com the premium I can expect to pay?
A. No. The sample rates are only estimates provided to TDI by the companies listed. Your premium will be based on your own individual circumstances. The sample rates could be higher or lower than your actual premium. To learn exactly what you will have to pay for coverage, you will need to contact the company or an agent directly for a rate quote. The sample rates should give you a basic idea of what you can expect to pay. They also help illustrate that it pays to shop around since companies can charge very different rates, even for similar coverages.
Q. How can I be sure that I am comparing policies with similar coverages?
A. You can view a summary of the coverages included in policies offered in Texas for personal automobile and residential property insurance. Although the summary is not a substitute for the policies themselves, it can give you a good idea of the basic coverages that are included. Coverages can vary widely from one policy to another. Before you buy a policy, review the coverages carefully to ensure that you are getting the coverage you want and need. Pay special attention to any “exclusions” in the policy. These are things the policy will not cover.
Q. Should I buy the policy with the cheapest rate?
A. Not necessarily. In addition to price, you should consider a company’s customer service record and its financial strength rating. HelpInsure.com includes information about company history, its consumer complaint index, and its financial rating from an independent rating organization. These are important factors to help ensure that the company is financially stable and has good customer service. It is illegal to sell insurance in Texas without a license, except on a surplus lines basis. Licensed companies participate in guaranty funds that will help pay the company’s claims if the company becomes insolvent. If you buy from unlicensed companies, your claims could go unpaid if the company goes broke.
Q. Is there anything I can do to lower my premium?
A. Yes. Be sure to ask the company or agent about discounts. Most companies offer discounts if you qualify. For instance, you may be able to get a discount on your homeowners insurance if you have a monitored burglar or fire alarm, or you may be able to save on your auto insurance if you have taken a drivers safety course.
There are other ways to reduce your premium as well. For auto insurance, tickets and accidents can cause you to pay significantly more, so maintaining a good driving record is important. For homeowners insurance, make sure your home is in good repair. You can also consider raising your deductibles. If you do, however, you will have to pay more out of pocket if you have a claim. For more information on saving money, read our Shopping Smart, Automobile Insurance Made Easy and Homeowners Insurance publications.
Q. I have called a couple of companies, but they were unwilling to insure me. Is there something else I can do?
A. Keep shopping. You may also use the HelpInsure Market Connection feature, which allows you to search companies and agents offering various types of coverage or you can submit a questionnaire for companies and agents to view and contact you regarding the coverage you are seeking. Companies have different criteria for accepting customers. You may still be able to find a company willing to insure you even if another company will not. You can also use the Yellow Pages. Be sure to include independent agents in your search. Independent agents represent several companies, so they may be able to place you in one of their companies that has less-stringent underwriting guidelines than the ones that turned you down.
For auto insurance, the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA) assists Texans who are unable to obtain automobile liability insurance coverage. Only the basic automobile liability insurance coverage required by Texas law is available.(Personal Injury Protection and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage are also available). You may apply for coverage through TAIPA if you have been rejected for automobile insurance by at least two insurers. The assignment period through TAIPA is for a period of three consecutive years. For more information about TAIPA, visit www.taipa.org/tfaq.aspx.
For residential insurance, the Texas FAIR Plan Association provides a basic homeowners insurance policy form to qualified consumers. To be eligible for coverage, you may not have received a valid offer of comparable coverage from an insurance company licensed in Texas and you must have been denied insurance by at least two licensed insurance companies writing residential property insurance in Texas. For more information about the Texas FAIR Plan Association, visit www.texasfairplan.org.
Q. What if I still cannot find homeowners coverage?
A. You may have to accept a policy with a surplus lines carrier. Large independent insurance agencies usually are licensed to sell surplus lines insurance or they can put you into contact with an agent who can. Surplus lines companies are "eligible" to do business in Texas when licensed companies are unwilling to write the coverage. As a temporary measure, a surplus lines policy may at least let you obtain a mortgage loan and have basic insurance coverage until the normal market opens up again. In most cases, surplus lines policies offer less coverage at a higher cost. You can read more about surplus line coverage in our Understanding Surplus Lines publication.
Q. What if I need health coverage. Are there any resources available to help me?
A. Yes. TDI has a website called TexasHealthOptions that can help you learn more about and shop for health care coverage. Visit www.TexasHealthOptions.com for more information.
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