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Insurance Tips You Can Use


This Month's Tip

Choose Safety Features on New Cars Carefully

Safety features and semiautonomous features on new automobiles are growing at a breakneck speed. Although they are not foolproof (e.g., bike lanes and snowstorms cause all sorts of visual recognition difficulties), the automotive jury so far is giving many of these features a solid thumbs up. Car and Driver magazine has test-driven many of these autos, and it reports that the autonomous sensors and algorithms are making tremendous strides in their sophistication and reliability.

Last year, Car and Driver compared the autonomous features of four luxury automobiles: the Tesla Model S, BMW 750i, Infiniti Q50S, and Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. And the winner was The Tesla Model S. Unfortunately, these cars all cost north of $100,000. So what type of autonomous car feature recommendations can insurance professionals make to their colleagues and friends that don't break the bank? The following are some tips to pass on concerning the selection of a newer model automobile regarding safety features and affordable autonomous features.

 

- Go online and check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS tests analyze two aspects of auto safety: (a) crashworthiness (how well it protects the occupants in a crash) and (b) crash avoidance and mitigation (technology that can prevent or mitigate a crash). Their website provides a list of its Top Safety Picks (under "Ratings"). For example, under midsize cars, the 2017 Honda Accord sedan earned the highest safety marks. Under small SUVs, the 2017 Nissan Rogue earned the top grades. The best marks are indicated by the symbol TSP+ (Top Safety Pick Plus). These autos can be used to create your shopping list. The website also has a nice selection of videos that vividly illustrate many of the autonomous features, such as crash avoidance.

- Another worthy website is that of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This governmental entity performs exhaustive tests on crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what federal law requires. Its 5-Star Safety Ratings program ranks vehicles from one star to five stars.

- As far as "must have" autonomous features are concerned, one that stands out is the forward collision warning feature (also called smart cruise control). These systems sense slowing or stopped traffic in front of your vehicle. If the algorithm determines that you have not slowed down in the proper time, it sounds a warning. And if you still do not respond quickly enough, the car's brakes are automatically applied for you—thus avoiding a rear-end collision.

- Another vital autonomous feature is blind spot monitoring. As the name suggests, a light on the side-view mirror is activated when traffic is coming up beside your car, reminding you not to change lanes. This is especially helpful for senior drivers who lack the neck-twisting capability of younger drivers.

 

A rearview video system is also highly recommended. Also known as a backup camera, this technology helps prevent back-over crashes and protects vulnerable people such as children, senior citizens, and those with disabilities.

 

Select Home Contractors Prudently

American spending on home renovations and repairs is expected to peak at $327 billion in 2017, according to the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. A large percentage of this spending is for the services of general contractors and subcontractors. Yet home owners are often unaware of the large exposures that could result in hiring an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, particularly for large projects. For example, an uninsured roofer working on a home may sue the home owner for damages if he is injured on the job. The following tips should be passed on to home owners to help them select contractors to work on their home, especially for major projects.

  • Be wary of contractors who solicit business door to door or via cold calls. In addition, avoid contractors who quote you a price that will automatically go up the next day or week if you don't accept it immediately.
  • Obtain recommendations from friends, family members, and neighbors about experienced and reputable contractors who have performed excellent work for them.
  • Ask for a written estimate from the contractor that includes any oral agreements the contractor makes in this process. The estimate should contain a line-by-line breakdown of costs, including materials and labor.
  • Verify that the contractor is licensed, bonded, and properly insured. Ask for certificates of insurance for workers compensation and general liability policies. You should also receive these certificates for any subcontractor the general contractor may hire to work on your home.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor. This can be performed via the bureau's website at www.bbb.org.
  • Obtain a copy of the proposed contract. Ideally, it should include a hold harmless clause in your favor, particularly for major work such as when heavy equipment will be used in constructing a swimming pool. A hold harmless clause specifies that the contractor will indemnify you with respect to your liability to members of the public who are injured or whose property is damaged during the course of the contractor's operations. The contract should also explicitly establish an independent contractor relationship.
  • Ask an experienced attorney to review the home repair contract before you sign, particularly for large remodeling projects. 

 

Don't Become an Auto Insurance Fraud Victim

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports in its August 2016 article, "Insurance Fraud," that property and casualty insurance fraud costs our society approximately $32 billion annually, which is about 10 percent of the industry's incurred losses and loss adjustment expenses. According to some estimates, this insurance fraud adds about $200 to $300 annually to total insurance premiums for the average household. Auto insurance fraud accounts for a large segment of these losses, which are ultimately passed on to you, the auto insurance consumer, in the form of higher insurance premiums.

 

Auto insurance fraud can occur in a variety of ways. For example, unethical groups of doctors and lawyers can team together to overtreat patients and thus exaggerate claims. Staged accidents are also a common problem, in which a conspirator's car pulls in front of an innocent driver's automobile and stops suddenly. This action causes the innocent driver to rear-end the conspirator's vehicle. Thus, the innocent driver often believes he or she is negligent. Typical victims are usually driving alone in new and expensive vehicles. In many cases, the criminal driver uses a large, older sedan with several passengers inside.

There are several ways by which you can avoid becoming a victim of these "staged accidents," including the following.

 

  • Avoid tailgating at all times and focus on driving defensively.
  • Obtain the names and driver's license numbers of all occupants in the other car.
  • Attain the names and key information of witnesses.
  • Take photos of the damage to the autos.
  • Report your suspicions immediately to your insurance agent. You can also report your concerns to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's toll-free hotline at (800) 835–6422. Your call can be anonymous, and you could be eligible for a reward.

 

 

Protect Your Interests after an Auto Accident 

While we certainly hope that you are never involved in an auto accident, we realize that they do happen. That's the reason we're in business; that's the reason you trusted us to find the right auto insurance for you. If you are ever involved in an accident, the following suggestions will help the claim process move ahead smoothly. Please print this out and keep a copy in your glove box.

 

· Make sure that everyone is unhurt—in your car and any others involved. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. Even if you think your injuries are minor, it is probably a good idea to have them checked out—either at the hospital or with your family doctor. A seemingly minor injury could turn out to be more serious.

· Call the police. They can help defuse a difficult situation and ascertain who is at fault. Make sure that police on the scene get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all other involved parties. Ask for a copy of the police report from the officer.

· If you happen to have a camera with you—or a smart phone—take some photos of the vehicles involved, the general area where the accident occurred, and skid marks.  (And don’t forget license plates, drivers’ licenses and proof of insurance cards).

· If possible, safely move the cars out of the way of traffic.

· Do not admit or discuss liability with anyone other than staff at our office or your insurer.

· Get the following information about everyone involved in the accident: name, address, driver's license number, license plate number, description of car, e-mail address, all phone numbers (home, work, and cell), and auto insurance information. Also, obtain contact information from any witnesses to the accident.

· Get the following information about everyone involved in the accident: name, address, driver's license number, license plate number, description of car, e-mail address, all phone numbers (home, work, and cell), and auto insurance information. Also, obtain contact information from any witnesses to the accident.

· Report the accident immediately to our office (916)236-3351, or directly to your insurance company.

· While the details are still fresh in your mind, write your own account of the accident. Be sure to make note of anything the other involved parties said about their injuries or about how they may have contributed to or avoided the accident.

 

How Safe Are Your Holiday Decorations?

Each year, holiday season fires in the United States claim the lives of more than 500 people, injure 2,200 more, and cause more than $500 million in damage, according to the American Red Cross's "Holiday Home Fires Fact Sheet." And the top 3 days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Yet, there are simple lifesaving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of these precautionary tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.

Christmas trees. When buying a live tree, make sure the needles are green. The needles should not break if the tree is freshly cut. If you bounce the tree on the ground and needles fall off, the tree is too dry and should not be used. When you put the tree up in your home, be sure to keep it away from heat sources. Don't put it up too early, and don't leave it up for more than 2 weeks. Always be sure that it has plenty of water. When you take the tree down, do not burn it in the fireplace. Recycle it or have it hauled away by a community pickup service.

Holiday lights. Before using your lights, inspect them for bare spots or frayed wires, and use only lights that a testing lab has approved. Be sure not to overload your circuits; the best way to do this is to avoid stringing together more than three strands of lights. And never leave your holiday lights on when you are away from your home.

Holiday decorations. All holiday decorations should be flame resistant. Be sure to place them away from heat sources. You should not burn wrapping paper in your fireplace. Such a fire may throw off sparks or produce a chemical buildup that could cause an explosion.

Candles. Always place candles in steady holders where they cannot be easily knocked over, and do not go out of the house with candles burning inside. If you do use candles during the holidays, be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby. And never use candles near a flammable source, such as paper or curtains.

Smoke alarms. December is an excellent time to change the batteries in your smoke alarm, which should be done annually. If your smoke alarm is hardwired into the home's electrical system, be sure that it is working.

Copyright 2016
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.


Bump Up That Deductible

Insurance consumers are constantly looking for ways to save on their personal lines insurance costs. Some of these ways are smart; some, not so much.

Many consumers request reductions in the dwelling limits on their homeowners policy or reductions in the policy's liability limits. Some customers even request reductions in the limits of liability on their auto insurance policies. In most cases, these types of requests are not wise. We cannot stress enough how much you have to lose if a liability judgment goes against you -- for example, in an auto accident or if someone is injured while at your home.

A wiser way to save money on your insurance premiums is to increase your property deductibles. On a homeowners policy, going from a $500 to a $1,000 deductible (or a 1 percent of the dwelling limit deductible) may result in a savings of between 10 and 20 percent on the premium. This savings can be set aside to handle the higher deductible should a loss occur.

Higher deductibles on the physical damage section of your auto insurance are also a good way to save some money on the premium. A $500 deductible on both comprehensive and collision can save you up to 30 percent on these coverage lines. A $1,000 deductible would result in even greater savings.

Another advantage of higher deductibles is that you will handle smaller losses on your own, increasing the chances of a pristine loss record. This type of clean record can result in lower insurance premiums down the road.

Lastly, with more "skin in the game," you will be more likely to practice safe driving and to make sure your home is in tip-top shape. Switching to higher deductibles is a much smarter risk management choice than reducing coverage limits.

Copyright 2015
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

 


Thwart Dog Bites

Did you know that dog bites cause over 2,000 injuries that require immediate medical care in the United States each day? You can be held legally liable if your dog bites someone. Fortunately, this loss is usually covered by the homeowners policy, with some exceptions. In fact, around 33 percent of all liability insurance claims paid by homeowners policies are for dog bites! Even if your insurance covers the claim (and any ensuing lawsuit), however, imagine the personal grief you and your family would feel for the injured friend, not to mention the time and trouble you would incur in cooperating with your insurer in defending the claim following a tragic event involving your pet.

Therefore, thwarting such an ill-fated occurrence should be your primary objective, and there are steps you can take to reduce or prevent dog bites. Here are some suggestions from the professionals.

  • Consider dog breeds carefully prior to selecting a pet. Some breeds are more aggressive than others, and a veterinarian can help you decide which breeds might best fit your lifestyle.
  • Spay or neuter the animal, as this often decreases the aggressiveness of dogs.
  • Seek a veterinarian's advice quickly if your dog becomes aggressive.
  • Socialize your dog from an early age to encourage appropriate behavior.
  • Never leave dogs alone with small children.
  • Avoid aggressive games with puppies and dogs, such as tug-of-war.
  • Do not place your dog in situations where he or she can be teased or feel threatened.
  • Train your dog to obey commands.
  • If your dog does bite someone, a board-certified plastic surgeon should treat this person to minimize scarring and potential disfigurement.

There is one other loss exposure concerning dogs you should consider. You may face liability claims if your dog gets out into the road and causes or contributes to an auto accident. You can be sued for violation of leash ordinances by allowing your dog to "run at large." Use a well-maintained and sturdy fence or other safeguards to reduce this exposure.

And if your dog does injure someone despite all your efforts to avoid it, report it to your insurance company immediately to assure your coverage is not jeopardized for late reporting.

Copyright 2016
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.


Are You Smart with Your Smartphone?

A Dallas insurance professional was recently mugged in broad daylight at a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station. As he was checking his iPhone for messages, two teenagers ran up to him, grabbed his brand-new phone, knocked him over, and sprinted away. He had 12 stitches on his face and 7 on his arm. His knee was also severely bruised. A Dallas police officer told him that they field 2–3 incidents like this per day.

A 48-year-old Dallas woman was looking at her cell phone as she began to cross the street a couple of months ago. She was fatally struck by a motor vehicle, with two witnesses stating that she failed to look for oncoming traffic before stepping into the intersection.

The driver of a Tennessee school bus that crashed last December, resulting in the death of two students and a teacher's aide, was reportedly receiving and sending texts just before the accident. The US Department of Transportation reports that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, causing hundreds of thousands of injuries and costing 6,000 lives.

With these unfortunate situations in mind, here are some cell phone safety tips to remember and share with others.

  • Keep your cell phone out of sight while in public settings. When there are lots of people milling about, your cell phone should not be in your hands.
  • Put your cell phone in your pocket or your purse if you are a pedestrian. Paying close attention to your surroundings is vital when walking or jogging the streets of a city.
  • Do not write, send, or read a text or talk on your phone while driving. These actions put you (and those around you) in harm's way. You may also be breaking the law, especially in school zones.
  • Share your location mindfully. More apps now allow you to pinpoint your friends' locations. If you use an app like this, do so only with trusted friends and family.
  • Use your smartphone's security features and activate the "find my phone" feature. Check out these links for details.

 Apple device: Find My iPhone Activation Lock

Android device: Turn Android Device Manager on or off

 


Fend Off Those Home Burglars

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that there are over 2 million burglaries per year in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of these burglaries occur in residences. Approximately 30 percent of all burglaries happen through an open or unlocked window or door. A home burglary occurs every 13 seconds in America.

There are numerous things a home owner can do to reduce his or her chance of being a victim of this unfortunate crime, including the following.

  • Keep your windows and doors locked, since burglars obviously prefer easy access.

  • Install heavy-duty exterior doors.

  • Safeguard doors with extra-long screws and high-quality door locks.

  • Utilize a motion-sensing switch for your outdoor lights.

  • Trim your shrubs and bushes so that windows and doors can easily be seen from the street.

  • Ask for a crime assessment inspection of your home from your local police department. They are typically available free of charge.

  • Keep your garage door closed, even when you are inside your residence.

  • Utilize a property identification marking system for your valuable possessions.

  • Store small valuables, such as rare coins and expensive jewelry (that you do not typically wear), in a safe-deposit box at your bank.

 

Copyright 2016
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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