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.

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