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You accelerate instead of pressing the brake pedal - life happens. If it's when your vehicle goes through an office window, it can cost a lot more than you bargained for.

You never know what life may throw at you. Imagine being the driver, or the business owner in this case. You can prepare, however, for most eventualities by having the necessary insurance cover in place.

* Planning made simple. Not everyone is a natural planner. Furthermore, there are some events for which we can't prepare. This makes having a back-up plan (in the form of enough short-term insurance) all the more essential.

The good news is that anyone can have enough insurance, whether or not you are good at planning. All you have to do is secure cover for the worst-case scenario.

* Calm before the storm - and after. A picturesque summer setting of a meal shared outside on the patio - particularly with an ocean view - is hard to spoil. However, freak weather with hail and strong winds can ruin this picture aesthetically and financially if you don't consider insurance.

Furniture that is designed to be kept outside should be reinforced for protection, and to avoid any accidents. In some cases, an insurer will refuse to pay out for a weather-related claim if a lack of maintenance is determined. It's important to maintain property throughout the year, acting on any damage - no matter how small - as soon as you spot it.

Practise proper maintenance through awareness (checking your property periodically for signs of wear and tear) and by keeping up the correct replacement values in your policy. Your property should be able to withstand heavy rains, and your policy should cover you fully if it unexpectedly can't. A claim could be repudiated, however, if you have ignored existing leaks.

* Sparking action. Recent gas explosions have shown how disastrous accidents can be. In July, a gas tanker blew up in Worcester and there was a chemical explosion at a business in Olifantsfontein, leaving 50 people hospitalised. The damage in these events was mammoth and will take time to wade through.

* Liability losses. In the case of the gas tanker, the insurer will consider the adequacy of motor and general liability policy limits - that is, whether there was sufficient cover in place to replace the tanker and to sustain any third-party claims. Not only does this remind us of the value of comprehensive vehicle and liability cover, but also of how important it is to check that your insurance policies match what you and your business need. Maintaining your vehicles regularly is also important.

* Building reserves. In the case of the chemical explosion, business and private property owners can heed the warning to ensure your cover is correct and up to date; from having the building insured for the right amount to having all your contents noted (and insured for today's replacement cost). These are important steps to take to make sure you are protected against even the total destruction of your property. Be sure to factor in what your assets are really worth and to keep this updated as time goes by.

* Mind your own business. Expensive equipment or costly building materials can add up over time. Without proper insurance, losing these can seriously deplete a business financially. For businesses operating in stock, a large loss may also be impossible to recover from without an insurance pay-out.

Physical losses aside, business interruption cover is usually essential to meet your operational obligations. If something like a freak fire (just think Knysna) halts your business proceedings, how will you fulfil your orders and bring in the income you need to pay your staff and bills? It can be a slippery slope without cover, or a serious setback to your savings.

* Tend to any seeds of doubt timeously. Many of us will remember the incident some years ago in Swellendam, where 14 silos housing canola seeds collapsed like dominoes. Unexpected, costly accidents can unfold in unlikely places. Although some events will result in bigger losses than others, it’s important to consider everything that could potentially go wrong and to prepare as best you can. Consider the bigger picture in your work and home life to make sure you're covered.

* Consider taking some good advice. Discussing your needs with someone who understands what cover exists to protect you, in line with your unique circumstances, can really help you prepare properly. Insurance is critical as part of an optimal financial plan, as many of us will not have enough savings or access to funds to easily recover after an accident. Working closely with your adviser can better ensure that nothing is missed. There are enough variables in life already; why not increase your odds for the best possible outcome?

Bertus Visser is the chief executive of distribution at PSG Insure.

PERSONAL FINANCE