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Keeping Holiday Parties Merry & Bright

Posted By Ana Robic, 12 hours ago

from PropertyCasualty360.com

According to a recent Chubb survey, 50% of homeowners will host a winter holiday party in their homes. These parties are a time for joy and merriment with family and friends.

Too often, however, homeowners overlook the holiday party-related risks that can put a damper on the festivities.

Here are a few things to discuss with clients to ensure their holiday parties go off without a hitch.

Deck the halls, carefully

The right ambiance can make or break a holiday party, so it’s understandable that clients want to go all-out on decorations. String lights and candles are often popular choices.

Yet, poor placement of such lights and candles can quickly cause a fire. The National Fire Prevention Association reports that from 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 840 home structure fires that began with decorations each year. Of these fires, candles were the leading cause (36%). Additionally, decorations that were too close to a heat source caused two of every five fires (42%). Unsurprisingly, such decoration-related fires peaked in December.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways clients can safely turn their holiday party décor visions into reality. It starts with one basic rule: Avoid candles with flames. Battery-operated candles will provide the same illusion at significantly less risk. Additionally:

  • Consider how many people are invited to the party, and where they are most likely to congregate. Knowing where there will be increased foot traffic means clients can adjust their decorating plans accordingly.
  • Carefully tend to live plants including garlands and Christmas trees so that they don’t dry out and become a fire hazard.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or try to hide them under rugs. Not only can they fray and be pinched by heavy furniture, but they can also create a trip-and-fall hazard.
  • Test smoke detectors and replace batteries, if necessary.

Hire the right help

The best hosts make throwing a party look easy, but appearances can be deceiving. There is often significant back-end coordination to ensure a party runs seamlessly. This includes coordinating with vendors, caterers, bartenders and valets.

Unfortunately, many clients sign a contract for hired help without first reviewing the details. It’s important to advise clients to read the fine print before signing, specifically looking to see whether the vendor is licensed, bonded and insured. Clients should ask their agent about the appropriate limits of insurance needed in order to best manage their risk when using service providers in their home.

Additionally, clients should determine whether the vendor has workers’ compensation insurance for any staff that will be on-site before, during and after the party. Failure to verify this coverage in the event a staff member is injured on the job could mean clients are held liable for damages.

There are additional safeguards agents and brokers should suggest to clients based on vendors’ specific roles and functions. Bartenders should be TIPS-certified and directed to avoid serving alcohol to minors, even if it is a family member or close friend.

Valets also require special safeguards. Clients need to ensure they’re protected against claims of both property damage and theft. Additionally, valets can’t park cars just anywhere. Rather, they need a parking plan that complies with local ordinances and necessary permits. Once guests turn over their keys, ensure clients’ driveways and walkways are well lit, especially in areas with high snowfall or that are prone to ice.

Extra duties for regular help

It’s also important that clients don’t overlook any assistance they regularly have in the home, including nannies, housekeepers and gardeners.

If clients will be asking these employees to perform additional tasks over and above their day-to-day responsibilities to prepare for the party, this could increase their liability exposures. Imagine, for instance, what would happen if a gardener fell off a ladder while hanging lights outside.

Therefore, it’s critical that agents and brokers work with clients ahead of the holiday season to ensure they have sufficient coverage in their employment practices liability policies.

Watch out for ‘uninvited guests’

Clients have likely put significant thought into their holiday party guest lists, but it’s possible they could end up with a few unwelcomed guests — and they might never know it!

In many cases, these guests take the form of cyber bad actors who capitalize on hosts’ poor cybersecurity practices. Consider that, according to Chubb’s recent cybersecurity survey, 41% of homeowners don’t have a password set on their Wi-Fi network. That means anyone can gain entry.

When inviting people over, it’s understandable that hosts want to give visitors and guests access to their password-enabled networks (which 34% of homeowners do), but the safest decision would be to create a separate guest Wi-Fi network, something just 18% of homeowners have in place.

Why the extra precaution? Because hackers are always looking for the next victim. Your clients could practice safe cybersecurity measures, but if their friends don’t adhere to the same practices, allowing them access to your clients’ primary networks could inadvertently expose your clients’ information.

The holidays are a special time of the year. Spread good tidings by helping your clients throw the best — and safest — parties.

Happy holidays!

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12 Ways to Prevent Theft at the Holidays

Posted By Karen L. Sorrell, CPCU, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

It's the most wonderful time of the year....for thieves too.

They’re making a list and checking it twice — and we don’t mean Santa and his elves. Burglars know the holiday season is a prime time for them to stock up on some goodies of their own. They plan ahead to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals who may be more focused on merrymaking than keeping safe from theft and fraud.

Thefts and break-ins typically skyrocket during the holiday season because thieves know that many families leave their homes and cars unattended and sometimes even unlocked.
Insurance might cover these thefts, but it won’t alleviate the victim’s violation of privacy concerns or restore their confidence of being safe and secure. Further, some items have more sentimental value than monetary.

All said, the after-effects of theft linger long after the item or its monetary value has been recouped.

Here are 12 steps that you, your clients, and your friends and family can take to ward off holiday theft.

No. 12: Mind your package deliveries.

It takes just a few minutes for a thief to drive through an area and see if packages are sitting on porches or stoops. Packages left sitting overnight are almost sure to be gone by morning, having been stolen by so-called ‘porch pirates.’

If deliveries are expected at your residence, make sure you will be there to get them inside as quickly as possible. If there is a possibility that no one will be home or a neighbor can’t store the package, then use alternative delivery options, such as having the items delivered to a store for pick-up, ship to an alternate location, such as the address of a trusted neighbor or friend, or perhaps your workplace.

Several options from delivery sources are available. FedEx offers a service called Delivery Manager, and UPS features a My Choice option that gives you some control over when and where packages arrive. On the other hand, you and your neighbors might agree to collect packages for each other if you see boxes left on each other’s doorsteps.

In some more densely populated areas of the country there are secure or parcel lockers available where customers may pick up packages at their convenience. UPS allows customers to pick up packages from a holding area at businesses, such as a local dry cleaner or convenience store, using UPS Access Point Network. Another example of a self-service parcel delivery is Amazon Locker. You find an Amazon Locker near you and add it to your address book. When ordering use it as your location when you check out. When the package is delivered, you will be emailed a 6-digit code with which to open the locker. Use of the locker is free and you have three days to collect your package.  Another option for Amazon prime members is to use Amazon Key, which gives customers the option of allowing Amazon to deliver packages just inside your front door. Access can also be granted to other people you trust, such as family members, friends, or even the dog walker or house cleaner.  A new product called Package Guard is a disc that is a connected package portal that sends an alert to your phone whenever a delivery arrives so you can have it stored elsewhere right away.

No. 11: Secure all entries.

Not all thieves enter your home through the front door.

It’s a good idea to keep all doors and windows locked when not in use, whether you are home or traveling. While a thief is less likely to enter a home when occupied, it does occasionally happen. When traveling, make sure any alarm system or security cameras are enabled and working properly. If you don’t have an alarm system, ask a neighbor or friend to keep an eye out for you until you return home. It’s also a good idea to alert the local police that the house is unoccupied. If neighbors are familiar with each other, they can help each other keep their residences secure while they are away from home. Or, you can download the NextDoor app, which offers a private social network focusing on connecting neighbors for various activities, including the posting of information on suspicious activity.

No. 10: Light it up.

When traveling, keep the home’s exterior lights on, and use a timer to turn indoor lights on and off. Empty houses and apartments are prime targets for thieves. By keeping the lights on and setting decorations and lights on an automatic timer, the thief may be fooled into thinking you are home.

No. 9: Hold the mail.

Nothing screams Empty Home! like a stack of newspapers outside and a full mailbox. When traveling, you might ask the neighbor to check your mail periodically throughout the week, or go to the post office and have them hold your mail. Stop delivery of the newspapers for the period of time you’ll be gone or have a friend or neighbor pick them up daily. This will give potential intruders the illusion that someone is home.

No. 8: Avoid dropping hints about high-ticket gifts.

One precautionary step to take is to carefully dispose of boxes that contained expensive items such as large-screen HDTVs and computers. The boxes could be a tip-off to a thief that such items are inside the home to steal. Also, having gifts or valuable items in view from a window could make a home an easy target for theft. Keeping them out of view of people passing by is a safe strategy. You might also consider writing down the serial number of high-value items and engraving them with your driver’s license number. In event of a theft, that information could help law enforcement officials locate the items and prosecute the thief.

No. 7: Hide any shopping bags that are inside your car.

With all the hustle and bustle of shopping and running errands, it can be easy to leave your bags, packages, and gifts in the backseat of your car, in plain sight of thieves. It is not uncommon for thieves to walk or drive through mall parking lots checking for unlocked doors, open windows and packages in full view. Be sure to always lock the doors, roll up the windows, and hide your purchases or put them in the trunk of your car so you don’t become an easy target for theft. For small items, make use of interior storage compartments in the vehicle.

When making multiple purchases, consider taking a break from shopping and return home to unload the packages. If that isn’t practical, then you may want to relocate the vehicle to another part of the parking lot to throw off a potential thief who might be tracking your vehicle or purchases.

No. 6: Protect the cash.

Many purses are stolen from shopping carts as customers are perusing store items. If you must use the shopping cart for your purse, hook the handle through your arm and make sure the purse is zipped or closed so that wallets cannot be easily retrieved.

Avoid openly displaying large amounts of cash, and consider removing most of your debit or credit cards from your purse or wallet prior to shopping. That way, if your wallet or purse is stolen, you will still have a form of payment available. Keep on hand a written copy of the phone numbers to the credit card company or bank so you can report the cards stolen, or store the contacts in your phone for easy access.

No. 5: Take a moment.

When leaving the car unattended, even for just a few minutes, do not leave the car running or unlocked. Experienced thieves are always on the lookout for an easy target and know that in our haste we often don’t take the precautions we should to protect our valuables. Our hasty desire to enjoy a latte on the run could result in a thief enjoying a whole lotta our stuff.

No. 4: Be aware of your surroundings.

When parking your vehicle, take note of the surrounding area and people. Watch for suspicious activity or for anyone who may be following you. If possible, park in areas that are patrolled such as on city streets or mall parking lots, rather than on side streets or at the outer edge of the shopping center. When shopping at night always park in well-lit areas. Install a car alarm or panic alarm on your vehicle or phone.

No. 3: Shop smart online.

When shopping online, stick with retailers known for their customer service, just in case of one of your orders fails to arrive or disappears.

No. 2: Track packages.

Most online retailers provide a tracking number in the confirmation email, so keep track of details like when items should arrive so you’ll know if a package has gone missing. Mobile apps like Slice can also help keep track of deliveries from multiple retailers by scanning your emails and aggregating your order information into a single feed.

If your tracking information shows that a package has been delivered but you haven’t received it, contact the retailer.  Sometimes the carrier will deliver to the wrong address or leave a package in the wrong mailbox and they can often be retrieved or replaced if the retailer is made aware the item is missing.

If the retailer is uncooperative, you may be able to file a claim with the credit card issuer. Before ordering, check your card policy to find out if your card offers purchase security that will replace or reimburse cardholders for stolen items purchased with the credit card.

Depending on the value of the item and other specifics of the situation, you may also need to file a police report and contact the merchant.

No. 1: Purchase peace of mind.

Regardless of the precautionary steps we take, it is still possible that a theft will occur. However, by investing in homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or car insurance, you can guarantee yourself peace of mind in the event that a theft during the holiday season does occur.

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Keep Bad Weather from Ruining Your Airline Trip

Posted By Sara Clementine, Tuesday, November 27, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Snowstorms and hurricanes, thunderstorms and fog. Bad weather is by far the biggest source of flight delays in the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

While you can’t control Mother Nature, smart planning can reduce your risk of having to sleep in a terminal. Try these six tips the next time a bad forecast is looming over your much-needed getaway:

1. Sniff out delays before anyone else.

Don’t stayed checked-out until it’s time to check in. Besides signing up for your airline’s flight alerts, there are several ways to know if you’re in danger of a delay. To get a current snapshot of what’s happening at your airports, visit the FAA’s Flight Delay Information page. It won’t provide the status of your specific flight, but it will tell you if, say, flights from LaGuardia to San Francisco are facing hours-long weather delays.

Use apps such as FlightView or FlightRadar24 to see if your specific plane is running late from its previous assignment. Query Google with your flight number; its machine-learning algorithms have gotten especially good at combining data from multiple sources to predict delays before the airlines get in touch.

And keep an eye on the forecast, of course. If any of these modes of recon give you pause, contact your airline immediately to get ahead of the pack.

2. Avoid change fees.

If adverse weather is predicted to strike on the day of your flight, see if you can avoid it by preemptively changing your plans, whether this means leaving a day early, shifting from a late-night to an early-morning departure, or rerouting your connection. Airlines are inclined to help you do this, as it alleviates the crush of passengers that need to be rebooked if and when a real storm strikes. But before you pick up the phone, research your options and get a sense of what types of fees might be incurred.

If change fees apply to your fare, ask nicely if they can be waived — make your case by mentioning that you’re helping them avoid a potential problem. Want to cancel altogether? Ask for a flight credit rather than a refund to maximize your odds of success. Then tackle your hotel reservation; cancellation and rebooking policies tend to be more flexible so long as you’re getting in touch more than 24 hours ahead of check-in.

3. Have the right insurance.

Airlines have no obligation to compensate you in the event of a weather delay or cancellation —so they won’t. But good travel insurance will compensate you if bad weather sinks your trip.

No , we’re not talking about the pointless plans that Expedia and Orbitz tell you to buy once you’ve purchased your flight; these options are more focused on what you need, and are far more likely to deliver a payout. For instance, Berkshire Hathaway’s AirCare specifically insures your flight: It pays flat fees for different kinds of disruptions, starting at $50 for a simple, two-hour delay. Prices start at $26 for domestic round-trip flights; you can buy it up to an hour before the flight, as long as you haven’t already been notified of a delay or cancellation.

If the priority is getting to your destination, Freebird can make it happen (for a small fee). In the event of cancelation, significant delay, or missed connection, it lets you quickly find and book another flight for no additional charge and without waiting in customer-support queues. Coverage starts at $19 for a one-way domestic trip.

Some credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi Prestige, also provide travel insurance at no additional cost. They will reimburse you for long delays, cancellations, and luggage problems — as long as you paid for the flight with the card.

4. Carry your essentials.

Think an overnight delay is bad? An overnight delay without your toothbrush is worse. Pack a change of clothes, medication, and any other must-have items in your carry-on bag, in case you get stuck sans luggage.

5. Put more power in the palm of your hand.

By the time your trip goes cockeyed and you can’t get a signal in the terminal, it’s too late to download the apps that can rescue you from airport hell. Instead, download them before you pack your bags. Your airline’s app can be surprisingly helpful; some let you rebook flights, instead of having to wait on line or on hold. Add the carrier’s customer-support line to your phone contacts.

LoungeBuddy can help you get day passes to the nearest airport lounge, where the Wi-Fi signal may be stronger and coffee is sure to flow. And HotelTonight, a one-stop app for booking last-minute hotel rooms, can help you compare and book options near the airport (along with better ones that aren’t too far away).

If you’re in Europe, you have further recourse once you’ve exhausted everything else: File a claim with AirHelp, which will litigate on your behalf if it determines that favorable EU passenger-rights laws are on your side. It’s free to use and takes only a small commission if it wins you a settlement.

6. Have a backup plan.

If you think you might get stuck away from home, check in advance whether your hotel can let you stay an extra night. Could a rental car get you where you need to go? If so, book one  you can cancel free of charge. How about the train? Having a plan B won’t prevent delays, but it can make them much less stressful.

Tags:  consumer  holidays  insurance  travel 

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Hidden Risks in Rental Cars this Holiday Season

Posted By Denny Jacob, Tuesday, November 27, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

During the holiday season, many travelers rely on rental cars to reach their destinations. Many of today’s cars are designed to make hands-free calls, stream music, and even access the internet — but one has to connect to an infotainment system first. 

But in order to do this, the infotainment system may store personal information kept on a driver’s phone, says AAA. “The stored information in mobile devices is vulnerable to theft. If you sync your mobile phone to a rental car, you open yourself up to having your personal information stolen,” Lori Weaver Hawkins, Blue Grass AAA, said in a statement. “It is possible for an unauthorized person to gain access to things like home address and the code for your garage door opener.”

Know your risks

There are currently no industry or government standards for vehicle infotainment systems, but the first step to safeguarding your personal data is to know the type of information an infotainment system may store.

Potentially stored information:

  • Home address, work address, and other saved or frequently used GPS locations.
  • Home phone number.
  • Call and message logs.
  • Personal contacts.
  • Garage opener programming.

Reducing your risks

To avoid a data breach of any kind, there are a number of steps drivers can take.

  1. Purchase a phone charger for your phone that plugs into the cigarette lighter adapter port rather than the USB port. The lighter adapter port does not access your information.
  2. Use your phone’s GPS without syncing up with the rental car.
  3. Check your phone’s permissions to learn what information your car can access. When syncing your phone, if your infotainment systems allows you to choose which types of information you share, restrict it to only what’s necessary. For instance, if you’re only syncing your phone to play music, the car only needs access to your music library, not your personal contacts or other data.
  4. Before handing your keys over to a valet, check to see if your car’s infotainment system has a valet mode you can set that will protect your sensitive data.
  5. Before trading in your car or returning a rental car, go to the settings menu on the car’s infotainment system to find a list of synced devices. When you find your devices, follow the prompts to delete them. If you can’t figure out how to do this, check the owner’s manual or an online tutorial.

Tags:  consumer  holidays  insurance  travel 

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More Americans Traveling This Thanksgiving

Posted By Samuel Robinson, Wednesday, November 14, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Higher wages and more disposable income motivate the most Americans to travel for Thanksgiving since 2005

About 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles away from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of 4.8% compared with last year, according to data from AAA, the largest U.S. motoring group. About 48.5 million travelers will drive, nearly 5% more than a year ago. Air travel will also see a 5.4% increase.

“Motorists have become accustomed to this year’s more expensive gas prices and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano. Regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.735 a gallon Wednesday, 6.9% higher than this time last year, according to AAA.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

All those drivers on the roads will likely lead to more traffic. Global mobility analytics company INRIX predicts travel times in the most congested U.S. cities may be as much as four times longer than normal.

Tags:  travel 

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10 Tips to Prevent Chimney Fires

Posted By Denny Jacob, Wednesday, October 24, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Fall weather has many homeowners cozying up to a warm fireplace. But chimneys require upkeep. A chimney that is dirty, blocked or in disrepair can inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue, and can also cause a chimney fire. Nearly all residential fires originating in the chimney are preventable, according to the New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Chimney fires account for 75% of home heating fires, meaning homeowners should actively monitor their chimneys. Homeowners looking to avoid damage to their property and increased premiums should prepare for fires by checking their smoke alarms and updating their emergency plan.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends looking for these signs of a pending chimney fire: a loud cracking and popping noise; a lot of dense smoke; or an intense, hot smell.

In honor of National Chimney Safety Week 2018 — held Sept. 30 to Oct. 6 — here are 10 tips to prevent chimney fires, courtesy of American Heritage Insurance Group.

  1. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a professional, and more than that if creosote builds up on your chimney walls more rapidly.
  2. Consider installing a stainless steel liner that will withstand even the highest temperatures and will keep the embers contained.
  3. Watch out for soot buildup. Soot is softer than creosote, but is also flammable and should be cleaned up regularly.
  4. Between the professional inspections and cleanings, be sure to check and monitor your wood-burning fireplace for signs of buildup or other problems.
  5. Clean the interior of your fireplace, including the floor, regularly. Seep or vacuum up cold ashes.
  6. Your chimney has a cap on the top of it with open sides (usually covered in mesh tokeep rain, birds, squirrels and debris out). Make sure this cap is regularly inspected and replaced when necessary.
  7. Check the interior of your fireplace for creosote buildup. It is flammable, therefore too much buildup is a fire hazard and should be cleaned away with a creosote remover as soon as possible.
  8. Any time there is smoke indoors from your fireplace, troubleshoot and immediately correct any problems you find. Possible causes are a dirty chimney, soot or creosote buildup, other debris, a sample that isn't full opened, or wood not burning completely.
  9. To improve your fireplace's efficiency, you should also consider installing heat-proof glass doors to protect against heat loss and a fan or blower to direct heat into the room.
  10. If possible, burn hardwoods like oak, maple, ash and birch. These woods burn hot and long, are cleaner to handle, and have less pitch and sap. They also tend to leave less creosote buildup but can be more expensive.

Tags:  fire  homeowners  insurance  safety 

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Back to School Safety

Posted By Denny Jacob, Wednesday, September 5, 2018

10 School Zone Driving Tips

from PropertyCasualty360.com

The end of summer tends to means one thing for many kids and parents: School is back in session.

Drivers can expect a number of changes on the road: more school buses picking up children, cars double-parked before and after school, and the return of crossings guard in school zones as kids march along to a new day of learning.

Such scenarios can create dangerous road conditions and contribute to increases in the frequency of auto accidents.
In 2016, there were 5,987 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in the U.S., up from 5,495 in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

As always, drivers must be cognizant of their surroundings on the road. But the back-to-school season requires them to be that much more vigilant of both vehicles on the road and children making their way to school. If not, drivers are putting themselves at risk.

With this in mind, look below to find 10 tips for drivers this back-to-school season:

  1. Be on the lookout for school zone signals and always obey the speed limits.
  2. When encountering a school bus, drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
  3. Never pass a bus loading or unloading children.
  4. Unless licensed to do so, never use handicap or emergency vehicle lanes to drop off or pick up children at school.
  5. Yield to pedestrians in cross walks, and take extra care in school zones.
  6. Avoid using a cellphone while driving in a school zone. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds on average.
  7. Watch out for school crossing guards and obey their signals.
  8. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Sop far enough back to allow them to safely enter and exit the bus.
  9. Be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones.
  10. Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.

Tags:  back to school  consumer  insurance 

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The Parents Guide to Insurance for College Students

Posted By Barbara Marquand, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

from nerdwallet.com

Saying the last goodbye in the dorm parking lot, the stark realization dawns that you can’t protect your child from every risk. It’s time to let go.

But back at home, you can assemble a strong financial safety net. Knowing what your current insurance will pay for — and whether you need to buy extra coverage — is a good first step.

Here’s how to evaluate your auto, homeowners, life and health insurance needs as your kid heads to college.

Car insurance

IF YOUR CHILD LEAVES THE CAR AT HOME

  • Ask your insurer about an away-at-school discount. Some insurance companies offer a price break if the college is at least 100 miles away from home.
  • Keep the student listed on your policy, so your son or daughter has coverage at home on breaks, says Scott Johnson, manager of Marindependent Insurance Services in Mill Valley, California. Maintaining continuous auto liability insurance also keeps rates down over the long haul.

IF YOUR CHILD ASKS TO TAKE A CAR

  • Consider the risks. “It’s the first time away from home. Why throw a vehicle into the mix?” Johnson says.
  • Notify the insurance company if your child takes a car. Some insurers might reprice the policy based on the school’s location, Johnson says. The coverage price might go up or down.

Car or no car, don’t forget about the good-student discount. Many insurers offer one for maintaining at least a B average.

Homeowners or renters insurance

FOR A DORM

Your child’s stuff will be covered under your renters or homeowners insurance in a campus dorm. Check the policy for details. Some policies limit coverage for belongings away from home to a percentage of the total amount of coverage for all possessions, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Typically there are also coverage limits on expensive items such as computers. Consider buying extra coverage for these items if necessary.

FOR AN OFF-CAMPUS APARTMENT

Students who live in off-campus apartments will need their own renters insurance policies. Renters insurance covers belongings and, like homeowners insurance, provides liability coverage. Liability insurance pays legal expenses if anyone covered on the policy inadvertently injures someone else or damages property and is held responsible. It doesn’t cover illegal acts.

Make sure the liability insurance includes personal injury coverage, Johnson says. If it doesn’t, the price to add it is small, he says. Among other things, personal injury coverage would pay for legal defense and settlement costs if your son or daughter were sued for posting something objectionable on social media.

Life insurance

Shop for a term life insurance policy if you don’t have enough coverage and your income is crucial for paying the college bills. Buy enough to cover you at least until the youngest child graduates from college, says Garrett Prom, a certified financial planner and founder of Prominent Financial Planning in Austin, Texas.

“Ideally you already have the coverage you need and have all your ducks in a row, but that isn’t always the case,” he says.

Health insurance

Check whether your health plan’s provider network includes doctors and hospitals where your child will attend school, says Elizabeth Hagan, associate director of coverage initiatives for Families USA, a national consumer advocacy group. You’ll pay a larger portion of the medical bills for treatment outside the network with a preferred provider organization, or PPO. With a health maintenance organization, or HMO, there may be no coverage outside the network, except in emergencies.

If your student will be uninsured or will move outside the health plan’s network, check the following:

THE COLLEGE’S STUDENT HEALTH PLAN

Many student health plans offer good coverage, but they do vary. Make sure you understand any coverage limits, Hagan says.

THE GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE

If the college town is outside your plan’s provider network, your child will be eligible to sign up for a health plan outside the regular open enrollment period. Start shopping before the move. The coverage will go into effect:

  • the first day of the next month if the plan is selected between the first and 15th of the month.
  • the first day of the second month if the plan is picked between the 16th and the last day of the month.

Then sign up for a 2018 plan during the annual open enrollment period, which will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017. Even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed or revised, changes won’t take effect before open enrollment. “Obviously there’s a lot of uncertainty now with the fate of the Affordable Care Act, but consumers will still have the opportunity to enroll at least through the 2018 open enrollment period,” Hagan says.

HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS OFFERED OUTSIDE THE MARKETPLACE

Consider this only if you’re not eligible for income-based subsidies that would lower the price through the marketplace.

Find health insurance confusing? You’re not alone.

“It’s very complicated, and a lot of times, people are left with questions about what to do,” Hagan says. She recommends getting help sorting out the options. Contact your health plan or health benefits administrator at work. For help finding a marketplace plan, log on to Healthcare.gov to get contact information for free, in-person assistance.

More changes are ahead as your college student gains independence. Review your insurance policies annually to make sure the right coverage is in place.

Tags:  college  consumer  insurance  student 

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Advantages of an Independent Insurance Agent

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Does a Professional Independent Agent Offer You?

More Choices

Your local independent insurance agent can offer you more options so that you can find the policy that fits you. That's because they represent several companies, not just one. Unlike internet companies, or an agent representing only one company who will try to make your needs fit their single solution, they will shop and compare, to find the solution that fits your needs.

Money Savings

Because your independent agent is comparison shopping on your behalf, you can be confident that you are getting the best coverage at the best price available. They are working on your behalf, to make sure that the policy is right for you, not a company.

Personal Assistance

An independent agent gets to know you personally, and is there when you have questions, life changes or need to file a claim. They will conduct regular reviews to make sure that your policy remains the best coverage and price based over time.

Local Connection

Your independent agent lives and works in your community. Doing business locally supports your economy and your neighbors.

Tags:  advantages  benefits  consumer  independent insurance agent 

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Most Preventable Deaths Occur in July & August

Posted By Sally Davisson, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Summer is here and it’s a great time to enjoy the great outdoors and new activities, but it can also be a risky time of year. Take time to help educate your insurance clients about warm weather dangers and increase public awareness about preventable accidents.

A recent National Safety Council (Council) analysis indicates that more preventable, accidental deaths occur during the two months of July and August than during any other two-month period of the year — a trend that includes:

  • Drowning.
  • Pediatric vehicular heatstroke.
  • Pedestrian deaths.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Gun-related fatalities.

‘Hot car deaths’ now it’s own category

The Council has added deaths by month — and data around some of the issues influencing these deaths — to its Injury Facts interactive online database of preventable injuries and deaths. While the Council has tracked preventable injury and death data for 98 years, this is the first time NSC has made “Hot Car Deaths” its own category — something the Council does when emerging issues become critically important for the public to understand.

“Unfortunately when we look at accidental deaths, summer is not the carefree period we’d like it to be,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council. “The numbers underscore the need for public awareness. We hope Injury Facts can help people understand the biggest risks to their safety and take the steps needed to ensure no one gets hurt.”

Take inventory of your own safety risks

Noteworthy issues to pay attention to for the next few months include:

  • Drownings: Swimming, playing in the water or falling in the water claimed 656 lives in July alone in 2016, a 108% increase over the yearly average and their highest level that year. In total, 3,786 people died in 2016 from drowning (In this instance, “drowning” relates to deaths involving non-transport activities and does not include drownings from boat-related incidents). Injury Facts now breaks down all preventable deaths by month so people understand the biggest risks facing them as we move through the calendar year.
  • Hot car deaths: Eighteen children have died this year after being left in a hot car, and that number is increasing almost daily. On average, 37 children younger than 15 die this way each year. Aside from adding “Hot Car Deaths” as its own category for the first time, Injury Facts is updating in real time the statistics, locations, vehicle temperatures at the time of death and other information.
  • Pedestrian fatalities: Pedestrian deaths start to increase in late summer and continue a steady increase through the end of the year. Since 2009, pedestrian deaths have risen sharply, totaling 7,330 in 2016, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. For the first time, Injury Facts shows where pedestrian fatalities tend to occur, what the outdoor lighting condition was like at the time of the death and what day of the week the incident occurred.
  • Disaster deaths: There were 44 deaths associated with excessive heat in July and August in 2016 — the most common disaster of those months. Injury Facts breaks down the data by month on an interactive table. Categories include floods, excessive heat, fire and winter storms.
  • Gun-related fatalities: Accidental shooting-related deaths have remained steady in recent years, totaling about 1% of all firearm fatalities. By contrast, homicides by gun jumped 7% from 2015 to 2016, and July and August are peak months. More than 2,600 people were fatally injured by a firearm during that two-month period in 2016. For the first time, an interactive chart on Injury Facts breaks down the data by gender, age and year, and the split between intentional and unintentional deaths.

 Injury Facts is the Council’s 98-year-old compilation of preventable death and injury that has transitioned to an online, interactive portal in order to expedite the flow of critical safety information to the general public.

Tags:  consumer  info  insurance  safety 

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