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  • Writer's pictureTanya Berndt

What Kept My Father Up at Night?

The "Addesso Shoe Service" sign that hangs in Tanya's home as a reminder of her father's business.

Looking back to my childhood, the word "insurance" was never something I even remotely thought about or even crossed my mind. Knowing how I've been considered the family "worry wart", I guess I ultimately decided, no matter how strange it might sound, that by worrying about a potential claim would somehow save my family from financial ruin. Or, as my grandmother would have put it, worrying would save us from being sent to the poor house. Who would have thought that about 30+ years later, insurance would be my passion? Was Addesso Shoe Service properly protected or even adequately protected - your guess is as good as mine. In my opinion, good insurance means taking some of the "worry" out of life and transferring it to someone else to worry about.

So I asked my father (present day), did you ever need your insurance policy? I mean, it seems like an insurance policy is a necessary evil that most people put money into and never see anything in return. Four occurrences in particular came to his mind.

The first close call, was when I was merely an infant. My father recalls his panic when the front door to his business caught on fire because of some of his machinery in his shop. Luckily the brief fire caused minimal damage.

The second insurance related event was the time my father had to use his General Liability policy. A woman, ran into his shop (why getting her shoe fixed was an emergency, I am not sure) and she didn't see the step down. She fell and hurt herself and from that time forward, it was no mystery why the "Watch Step Down" sign was prominently displayed on the front door of his business.

As you learned from my previous article, my father repaired shoes for a living. He took shoes, fixed them and returned them back to the customer. These shoes were in his care, custody and control. He never in his wildest dreams thought he would be summoned to court because he couldn't save someone's cheap old pair of sneakers.

Then finally, the last occurrence that could have involved insurance was the time he was burglarized. One night, his business was broken into and they took his cash register. Luckily, he didn't store very much cash in the register but it was still a very scary time for my family.

Now, as an insurance agent, not knowing whether he was properly protected as a business owner - even if he had low exposure because of his trade - makes me cringe. What if the flames were worse and he was unable to stop the fire in his shop? What was the building insured for? Was it insured enough to be rebuilt with the same like and kind quality as the original? Was he guided through the process or was it a number he just picked in his brain? What if the fire put him out of business for months? Did he have insurance for the business income to ensure we would be able to eat and live our normal lives until his business was back up and running? Since the original building was built in 1929, did he have building ordinance or law coverage to make sure he had enough insurance to rebuild the building to the stipulations of the city codes? I am sure city codes in the 80s were quite different than they were in 1929.

Remembering the customer that fell on his property, what if they sued my father rather than just walking away with medical payments? Did my father have the typical 1 million occurrence, 2 million aggregate limits normally provided in a general liability policy? What if the customer sued my father for more than the 1 million dollar occurrence limit? Did he have an umbrella policy to make sure he had another level of protection or would he be forced to pay the remainder out of his pocket?

When my father received the customer's cheap, old pair of sneakers, did he have coverage for items in his care, custody or control? Just like a dry cleaner or tailor, he had an obligation to provide the customer's property back to them in the same condition he received, if not better.

Finally, with regards to the cash register, did my father have the appropriate limits in place for money and securities coverage?

Even a shoe repairman with limited exposures, still has an array of insurance coverages to consider and many more that I have not mentioned above. An ordinary agent provides a quote. An excellent agent (or trusted advisor as I like to call them) assesses the risks, understands the financial risk the client is willing to tolerate and provides a well, thought out and unique approach to address these exposures. While I don't know if my father's insurance agent provided him with the knowledge he needed to choose the best policy for him, I do know I will do everything I can to educate my clients so they are able to purchase the best policy for their needs. After all, the importance of a policy can be life changing.

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