Putting up Christmas lights

Understanding Insurance Rates – We’ve Got You Covered

KC Keith

KC Keith
Vice President and General Manager
Stockman Insurance

This installment of Coffee Talk comes to you from KC Keith, Vice President and General Manager of Stockman Insurance. That means today’s topic is INSURANCE! Now, don’t click the Back Button – please keep reading! You will gain some valuable information and you might enjoy it too! 😊

I recently surveyed our staff, inquiring what the number one question or request our customers ask. Overwhelmingly, the response was “why do my insurance rates keep going up?” Most likely, we have all received a renewal notice for our home, auto, business, and even health insurance and indeed asked ourselves “why did my premium go up?”

Insurance rates are determined by several factors such as claims history, credit score, underwriting, driving record, and even our zip code or geographical area. For example, those of us living in eastern Montana can attest to higher property rates than our neighbors to the west due to wind and hailstorms we seem to “enjoy” every – or at least every other year.

Although the factors that determine insurance rates are equally important, let us spend a few minutes talking about claims. Some claims are avoidable and unfortunately, some are not.  Weather claims are not predictable and as the saying goes, “it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when!” Our Miles City office processed over $500,000 in damages just from one unavoidable windstorm last May. The perils or benefits of living in eastern Montana, I guess. Storms including hurricanes are the cause of over $400 billion in damages nationally in the past eight years.

Putting up Christmas lights

Putting up Christmas lights


Avoidable claims are just that – avoidable. And sometimes, avoidable claims do leave lasting impressions. The requirement of calling before you dig is a necessity for a reason! An experienced back-hoe operator was digging a trench in a local community when he inadvertently struck a gas line which not only blew him off the machine; the ensuing fire completely destroyed the backhoe. Fortunately, the only injury he sustained was wounding his pride.

Another example of an avoidable claim involves a tree trimmer who was using his bucket truck to hang Christmas lights during the holiday season.  He allowed a customer to ride with him in the bucket. Due to excessive weight in the bucket, the truck tipped on its side. Although it was winter, there was not enough snow on the ground to soften the landing and both occupants were injured. Medical costs were paid to the customer and damages to the truck were covered.

Deer in the Headlights

Deer in the Headlights


There are other unavoidable claims besides weather claims. Sometimes it is simply bad luck. A father was driving his son’s brand-new pickup when in the span of two miles, he hit a deer along with two different birds. These must have been big Montana birds as the damage to the front end and windshield was significant. After a stern lecture on the benefits of defensive driving from his son, the father said the least he could do was offer to pay the deductible.

Recently, a retired gentleman purchased a side by side or recreational vehicle. After a few minutes of driving the side by side, the owner parked it in his attached garage and went into his house for lunch. Upon smelling smoke, he rushed to the garage and found his new side by side was engulfed in flames. Quickly reacting, he jumped in his car and pushed and rammed the side by side outside the garage and onto the park pad. The damages to his side by side and car were minimal when considering what the overall potential damage his house could have sustained.


Insurance rates are determined by numerous factors such as claims history, credit score, underwriting, driving record and even our zip code. All these reasons are equally important in determining insurance rates.

Mitigating damages from avoidable and unavoidable claims is what we do as insurance agents.  We get to sit down with our family, friends, and neighbors and guide them through avoidable and unavoidable claims. We get the opportunity to learn their trade, know what is important to them and know what makes their business successful.

We at Stockman Insurance understand the inherent risks that are associated with businesses or properties and provide guidance and advice on ways to minimize that risk. The relationships we develop are the best part of our job.  They are genuine, positive, and real. We become partners with our customers as we navigate between avoidable and unavoidable claims. So next time you are climbing in a bucket truck to hang Christmas lights, ask yourself, is the risk of injuring myself avoidable? Of course, the answer is yes.

Do not let avoidable claims be your reason for a rate increase.

Insurance Disclosure

Cynthia by John Deere Combine

Crop Insurance

By Cynthia Ries ,AFIS Licensed Agent, Stockman Insurance

Crop Insurance

Not usually a dinner conversation, but definitely could be. Take a moment this evening to assess your plate of food. Steak, baked potato, green beans, slice of wheat bread, bowl of fruit? Perhaps you’re a salad eater – greens, almonds, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes. If crop insurance didn’t have its place, you may be staring at an empty plate. And what about those clothes you wear? Any cotton fabric? Thank you crop insurance!

Crop insurance, across the United States, ensures the people who put those products on your table and on your back, can continue to do so year after year. Unlike many of our jobs that continue regardless of weather, crop and livestock producers hang on the words of daily weather forecasts knowing it could affect the outcome of their income for the year. Enter crop insurance – to help mitigate their risk, as well as the risk of the bankers who invest in them.

It’s not “just” crop insurance

For those of us who sell this “animal,” there are two primary types of crop insurance – crop hail insurance and multi-peril crop insurance (MPCI). For the sake of simplicity, we will look at the basics of these two types of insurance. Crop hail insurance – just like it sounds – insures against damage to crops caused by hail. MPCI covers crop loss due to all types of weather-related disasters – crop hail, drought, excessive moisture, and excessive heat – as well as plant disease, insects, wildlife, earthquake, volcanic eruption….the whole gamut!

Barley photo 2 by Hayley 2018

Barley photo by Hayley

Let’s narrow it down to Montana

Although Montana is one of the larger states, we are not considered one of the big players in the crop insurance world. As a small grains state, primarily wheat and barley (plus hay, corn, oats, canola, safflower, sugar beets, potatoes, dry peas, sunflowers, apples, cherries, bees, livestock, etc.) reports indicate there are 10.5 million acres covered by crop insurance, with farmers paying $67.7 million for crop insurance. For a comparison, look at the smaller state of Georgia that grows primarily cotton, peanuts, hay, and sweet corn. 2.7 million acres are insured and farmer premium is at $62 million. 75% less acres insured than Montana and farmers paying a premium equal to 90% of ours! Bigger cash crops worth a lot more per acres….more to lose per acre!

Because we know Montana

In Northcentral Montana, I am familiar with wheat, barley, dry pea varieties, hay, canola, oats, and flax. How do the farmers in my area decide the “right way” to insure their crops? They crunch numbers with their bankers, we look at different options available for their crops, run quotes, analyze numbers for a total crop loss vs partial loss, how much they can budget for premiums….and more. Over 90% of insurable farmland in the US is covered by MPCI… almost a given for farmers. And, because it is a federally subsidized insurance, it is “affordable” for farmers. MPCI is usually the underlying insurance for the bulk of the farmers. Crop hail insurance is then stacked on top of the MPCI for some farmers. Why?

Farmers who live in hail prone areas of our state are very familiar with crop hail insurance because odds are they will see hail damage at some point in every crop year. Crop hail insurance pays a loss from a whole different approach than MPCI. And, a farmer could suffer substantial hail damage and still not receive a payment from their MPCI policy. What??

Here’s why –again, a simplified explanation of the difference between MPCI and hail insurance:

MPCI losses are determined by the amount of crop that is REMAINING. For MPCI, your crop is insured based on crop yields that are determined by a rolling average of what YOU grow on your farm. When you have a loss, the adjuster will look at what part of your crop is still harvestable. 5 bushels? History has proven you can grow 30 bushels? You will receive a payment for a percentage of those bushels that make up the difference.

HAIL losses are determined by the amount of crop that is GONE. Hail insurance is purchased by dollars per acre. No history involved. What value do you think your crop is, or your expenses are, that you have exposed in the field and want to recover? $100/acre? $400/acre? Within the limits set by companies, you have plenty of choices on how to apply crop hail. Typically, $100/acre is where most of my customers will start and add on more coverage (something you can do with crop hail, not MPCI) as the crop matures. So, a hail storm comes through and an adjuster is sent out. The adjuster will take counts in the field and determine what percent of the crop IS GONE. It doesn’t matter if you have a 15 bushel crop or a 60 bushel crop. If 50% of the crop is gone, you will get paid 50% of the $100/acre.

Trust me, this is a simplified explanation of crop insurance! I have been a licensed agent, specializing in crop insurance, for nearly 30 years and every year, I have the opportunity to learn something new about crop insurance, particularly MPCI. Unlike crop hail insurance, which remains basically the same year-after-year, MPCI – for the most part, changes every year!

Cynthia by John Deere Combine

Cynthia Ries ,AFIS Licensed Agent
Stockman Insurance

So, look at your dinner plate tonight and know that more than likely, all those food items are insured with some kind of crop insurance. They don’t come from a grocery store. They come from a field somewhere that is exposed to Mother Nature and crop insurance helps to ensure it gets to your table.

Insurance Disclosure

Rooftop House Fire

Best Practices in Avoiding Home Insurance Claims

KC Keith

KC Keith, VP and General Manager Stockman Insurance

Homeowner claims in Montana are just as diverse as its terrain. Not withstanding the Father’s Day Tornado in 2010, Billings experienced a series of catastrophic hail storms in 2016 and 2017 (not to mention the August 11, 2019 severe storm), while Missoula experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in 2017 and most recently a 4.1 in the Manhattan area in early August 2019. No matter how hard we try to avoid, prevent and minimize claims, the odds are not in our favor as one in 20 homes have a claim each year.  Wind and hail claims are the most frequent, and claims relating to fire and lightening are the costliest.

Here are some best practices on how to limit risk or avoid them altogether:

Wind/Hail:  Is the most common claim and is hardest to prevent. Nationally, one out of 50 homes has a claim each year.  The simplest way to minimize claims is to use good quality, climate-recommended products when replacing your roof and siding.

Hail Damage

Water/Freezing Damage:  One in fifty insured homes has a water/freezing pipe claim each year.  Although floods are not predictable, preventing frozen or broken water pipes is avoidable by preventing pipes from freezing and getting those drips fixed. A bucket under the kitchen sink should not be the preferred method of handling a leak.

Broken Pipe

Theft: One in 325 homes has a theft claim each year.  Keeping your doors and windows locked, and having a home security system are your best deterrents.  Scheduling your jewelry, guns, and fine art helps alleviate compensation questions at claim time, and can reduce deductibles and increase coverage.

Home Break In

Fire and Lightening:  The national cost for fire repair is just over $68,000.  This includes small or partial fires.  One out of 360 homes has a fire loss each year. Make sure your electrical service is at code along with properly installing and using fire rated wood stoves and fireplaces.

Rooftop House Fire

All Other Property Damage: From tree branch damage to your siding or roof, or your lawnmower pitching a rock through your window – all other property damage is very broad in scope.  It’s important to visually inspect the interior and exterior of your home monthly for any noticeable damage.

Bedroom Damage

From unpredictable weather to keeping your home safe, these best practices are just some of the preventative actions that you can take. Our Stockman Insurance team of professionals is also a great resource.  We are here to help with any questions or concerns that you may have about a claim. Give us a call today!

Insurance Disclosure

HAIL!! Should I File a Hail Claim?

KC Keith

KC Keith

Post written by KC Keith, Vice President/General Manager at Stockman Insurance

Should I file a hail claim on my home?

Or, should a contractor inspect it first?

Those are the two questions we hear most often after a hail storm.

According to Safeco, “Hailstorms cause approximately $1 billion in damage every year, according to the National Storm Damage Center.

Depending on the intensity of the storm, hailstones can range from dime-sized to softball-sized stones and fall in random patterns due to gusty winds.

Damage can vary considerably, from one property to the next, due to factors such as:

  • Wind: Hailstones are driven by wind and often strike the roof at an angle.
  • Roof Position: The slopes of the roof facing the storm usually suffer the most damage.
  • Roof Age: Older roofs are more susceptible to hail damage due to granular wear.
  • Size and Pattern: Hailstones usually fall in random patterns and size.

Due to all this, there’s no one-size-fits-all claims decision in an area impacted by hail – even for two homes right next to one another.”

That’s why insurance companies send a field adjuster to look at the home for possible damage.

The adjuster will physically look at the home and roof. A fresh hail dent on your roof will appear black from the newly exposed asphalt, and there may be dents to air conditioner fans, vents, and rain gutters.

roof tiles

People often wonder if they should file a claim right away, or wait until the hail season is over just in case there is another storm.

It’s a good idea to contact your agent and notify them of possible damage.

If you aren’t sure that there’s damage, the company can send an adjuster out to take a look.

You should not be charged a surcharge for filing a claim if there turns out to be no damage and the company pays nothing.

Scheduling repairs can take time, and the contractors usually prioritize according to the amount of damage and need for repair.

The most important thing to remember is to stay safe and make sure you mitigate any further losses.

If a storm breaks a window or damages your roof and causes a leak, you must make temporary repairs to stop more damage from happening.

Save your receipts so you can turn them into your agent, who will then forward them on to the insurance company for you. The insurance company will deal with the contractor to come to an agreement on repair costs.

You, as an insured, should never have to be caught in the middle of the negotiations.  All “supplemental” or additional costs of repair need to be authorized by the company prior to being done. If they aren’t, the company can deny those charges.

During the claim process, be sure to check with your agent if you have questions or if something that an adjuster tells you doesn’t sound right.  The agent can always call the company to get clarification.

One last thing to keep in mind; if a storm downs a power line, always assume the line is live, or hot. Stay clear of it, and notify the utility company so they can send out a repair crew and block off the area to avoid injuries.

Give any of us at Stockman Insurance a call if you have any questions. We’re here to help!

Insurance Disclosure

Unlocking the Mystery of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Two Drivers Arguing After Traffic AccidentPost written by Marcy Parks, Stockman Insurance Officer Manager

What do Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury and Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury mean on my Personal Auto Policy?

And if my agent says they aren’t mandatory coverages and I can save money by “rejecting” them, why would I want to pay for them?

Are they necessary?

The purpose of Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UM) and Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UIM) are to allow insureds to collect from their own insurance company, that which they should have been able to collect from the negligent uninsured or underinsured third party.

In other words, if someone hits your car and causes bodily injury to you or others who are in your car, and the person who hit you either has no insurance or less than enough to pay for your medical bills, your policy should kick in.

In addition, UM/UIM also covers you while on a bicycle or as a pedestrian.

Why would I want this coverage if I already have health insurance?

UM/UIM covers more than just medical bills. It should also cover compensatory damages such as pain, suffering, loss of relationship for a spouse or child, and lost wages while injured or due to death.

Coverages and Exclusions vary by policy, so please be sure to read your policy or talk to your agent. Aside from not covering lost wages, health insurance usually has a deductible and a co-pay, and some health insurance policies exclude auto accidents as covered losses.

Stressed Driver Sitting At Roadside After Traffic AccidentUninsured Motorist Bodily Injury liability (UM) coverage kicks in if the person driving the vehicle that caused the bodily injury isn’t insured, or their limits are less than the state required minimum limits where your covered auto is garaged.

Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury liability (UIM) language in the policy differs by company. It’s important to read your policy or visit with your agent to find out what triggers this coverage in your policy.

Some policies state that UIM kicks in only if the injuries are caused by a motorist whose bodily injury liability limits are less than the injured person’s auto policy UM/UIM.

So if someone carries UIM limits of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, and the driver who caused the accident has the same limits or higher for his Bodily Injury Liability, there is no coverage.

Some policies state that UIM kicks in if the negligent driver’s Bodily Injury Liability limits are not enough to cover the damages caused by the accident.

The bottom line is, UM/UIM are very important coverages and quite reasonably priced. Stockman Insurance agents can answer any questions you might have regarding this, and make it a priority to be sure you understand your policy and have the right protection you need.  Contact an agent today for more information.

To reach a Stockman Insurance agent near you, call our toll-free number 1-866-441-8485. We have offices in Miles City, Conrad, Glendive, Richey, Worden, Great Falls, Billings, Helena, Stanford, and Missoula.

Insurance Disclosure

Cyber Liability…It’s Not Just for Big Business!

Amy Schott

Amy Schott

Post written by Amy Schott, Account Manager for Stockman Insurance in Missoula

Cyber liability may be one of the newer products on the insurance market, but it’s one that we at Stockman Insurance strongly encourage business owners not to overlook.

The aftermath of a cyber attack can be detrimental to a business if you’re not properly covered.

This type of policy protects your business against data losses caused by cyber-attacks, viruses, and other threats.

Cyber liability, in general, is the risk posed by conducting business over the Internet, over other networks or using electronic storage technology.

Insurance can be purchased and “risk-based” security strategies can be used to mitigate against both the first and third party risks caused by cyber liability.

Do you think your business is too small or couldn’t possibly be exposed to a cyber liability exposure? Think again.

No matter how large or small your business is, if you’re keeping ANY sort of personally identifiable information regarding your customers or employees, your business could be at risk.

According to the 2017 Cyber Claims Study done by NetDiligence, “companies with less than $50M in revenue were the most impacted, accounting for 47% of the claims”.

The same 2017 NetDiligence study found that “the average total breach cost was $349,000”. That size of loss could break most small businesses.

It’s the goal of Stockman Insurance to make sure you have the proper coverage in place to avoid a massive setback of that size or worse…a business ending loss.

Like all other lines of insurance coverage, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Depending on who you’re storing the information for (yourself, your clients or both) will help determine which type of policy is the best fit to protect you and your business.

Not all policies are equal, but Stockman Insurance agents are determined to find you the most effective and affordable cyber liability solution. Whether your business is big or small, cyber liability is your defense against a cyber attack!

Insurance Disclosure

Umbrella 600

What is a Personal Umbrella Policy…and Why Would You Need or Want One? 

Winter drivingPost written by Marcy Parks, Stockman Insurance Office Manager

One day I was driving to Billings and the roads were slushy and there were patches of ice on the interstate.

While passing a semi truck hauling cars, I thought about just how far my $100,000 property damage limit on my auto policy would go if I were to slide into him and cause an accident.

The answer? Not very far.

I went back to the office and immediately issued myself a personal umbrella policy.

Since then I’ve done the same for my adult children and my mother, and I highly recommend the same to my clients.

What is a Personal Umbrella Policy, and why would you need or want one?

A Personal Umbrella Policy provides higher limits of liability coverage over and above your other policies, such as Homeowners, Auto, Motorcycle, Boat, etc. If an accident happens, once the liability limits of the underlying policy are reached, the umbrella policy kicks in.

None of us want to imagine that we would be the cause of an accident that might hurt someone else or damage their property. We all want to know that if the unimaginable happens, our insurance policy will pay for the damage we cause.

I had a person tell me recently that she has her adult children carry minimum limits of liability because they don’t own anything of value that they could lose in a lawsuit. What about their future earnings?

Just because a person doesn’t have insurance doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible to pay for the damages they cause.

In Montana, the state requires minimum liability limits of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $20,000 for property damage.

Think about how many vehicles are on the road today that cost more than $20,000. Think about the cost of an ambulance ride, emergency room visit, or hospital stay.  How far would $25,000 go?

Take a look at your insurance policies. What are your liability limits? Ask your agent to quote higher limits and a personal umbrella for you. You just might be surprised how affordable the extra coverage is.

To reach a Stockman Insurance agent near you, call our toll-free number 1-866-441-8485. We have offices in Miles City, Conrad, Glendive, Richey, Worden, Great Falls, Billings, Helena, Stanford, and Missoula.

Insurance Disclosure

Bed with tray and flowers

A Sharing Economy. Vacation Rental.

 Kelin JohnsonPost written by Kelin Johnson, Producer/Agent Stockman Insurance

In recent years we’ve seen the rise of the phenomenon known as the sharing economy or collaborative consumption. Collaborative consumption allows consumers to share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership.

Whether you’ve participated or not, you’re likely familiar with some of the bigger names in this industry: Airbnb, FlipKey, HomeAway, VRBO. The impact is vast and, for perspective, Airbnb now boasts of 2 million listings in 34,000 cities across 191 countries.

In 2015 the market’s potential growth was underscored by Expedia’s acquisition of HomeAway, at a cost of $3.9 billion. The industry has made such a significant impact that politicians are getting involved.

They’re citing concerns such as communities and consumers being at risk through violations of sensible health, safety and zoning regulations under state and local law. Among the issues being debated is the topic of insurance coverage.

Insurance is the allocation of risk for a specified financial compensation. The challenge for insurance companies is determining the propensity for loss and an appropriate premium to offset the risk. Without prior data, the majority of insurance companies stay as far away as possible and exclude any related activity. Thus, the market for residential sharing insurance products is very narrow.

By definition, a short-term/vacation rental is defined as any residential structure that is rented on terms less than 30 days.

With respect to the owner of the property

The property owner is exposed to the risk of their property being damaged and also liability for personal negligence. The tenant could cause damage to the property or commit theft of the owner’s personal belongings. Many of the short-term rental companies offer coverage for these situations but have significant limitations such as property damage caps of $50,000 (and differ greatly across each platform).

In the event of a total loss, a coverage cap of that size will force the owner to look at their primary insurance for indemnification. That assistance will only be applicable if the home is insured properly. Though the market for this type of policy is narrow and likely has additional costs, they are available.

In terms of liability, there are numerous preceding cases of discrimination and bodily injury. In terms of cost, liability claims can far exceed property damage claims and settle well into the millions. A standard home or landlord policy won’t cover these types of claims. Even if the owner has a personal liability umbrella policy, the claim will be denied because the risk has converted to commercial exposure.

It’s important for a homeowner to understand that their standard home insurance ceases to provide coverage as soon as any revenue is generated. A landlord/rental policy will deny coverage when the terms change to less than 30 days. Claims representatives are searching the web as soon as a claim is submitted and denials are immediately issued if the address comes up on any vacation rental site.

With respect to the short-term renter

Bed with tray and flowersWhether you’re a homeowner or renter, the good news is that the liability associated with your homeowners or renters insurance will likely extend to the short-term rental, but is your coverage enough?

If an individual has a renter’s policy with a $300,000 liability limit and they’re negligent for a fire that takes a $1,000,000 home, clearly there’s a significant gap.

The owner may submit a claim and have their home rebuilt, but this situation would be far from over. The owners’ insurance company is likely to subrogate or file a lawsuit against that negligent renter. That’s not a good position to be in.

The positive is that insurance companies want and need to adapt to accommodate this market as it is only going to grow from here.

Emerging risks are often opportunities for companies to step in and be the leader in a new product. They’re accumulating data and research on necessary coverages and prior claims so they know what consumers need and what premium to charge to maintain profitability.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been reaching out to some owners of short-term rentals in Missoula. I went on one of the popular sites and contacted 20 people who were renting out either a room in their home or the entire home.

Of the 20 people contacted, only three had discussed the issue with their agent and made changes to their standard home insurance. 85% of the sampled audience is putting themselves and their tenants at risk.

I’ll end this with some questions that should be considered when using a vacation rental. These are questions you may be facing without even knowing it.

  • If the property owner’s insurance denies a claim and you don’t have any insurance that applies, who pays the damages?
  • If you don’t have home or renters insurance and are negligent for a fire in one of these rented properties, how do you pay for it?
  • What if you rent out your primary or secondary residence for a weekend and there’s a crime that takes place there. Who’s liable?
  • Lastly, if you rent out your home for a week and the tenant burns down the house but you’ve neglected to adjust your insurance, who pays to rebuild? What if the tenant can’t pay the judgement?

If you hear of anyone who may be renting their property on this platform, I’m certain they would be happy to get more information. We want to help you enjoy your life by not taking a step backward but by being prepared for the unexpected.

Insurance Disclosure