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5 Tips to Avoid Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Risks

Posted By Elana Ashanti Jefferson, Tuesday, December 17, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

The National Retail Federation reports that this year’s holiday shoppers plan to spend nearly $1050 on gifts.

Despite the fact that Black Friday remains the busiest shopping day of the year, only about a third of gift-givers begin purchasing holiday presents in November. Roughly two out of three Americans complete their holiday shopping during the busy week leading up to Christmas.

With last-minute shopping about to kick into high gear, merrymakers can expect busier streets, stores and parking lots. And anywhere there’s a crowd, there are increased risks of theft, auto accidents, slip and fall injuries and more.

The five shopping-spree tips outlined below were compiled by Erie Insurance to help holiday shoppers stay safe. Erie also reminds that consumers capitalize on the holiday season to check in with their insurance agent to make sure all of their valuables are covered.

No. 1: Smart storage. It's best to head straight home after your shopping trip, but that's not always practical. If you have more errands on your list, be conscious of where you store your gifts in your vehicle. If possible, clear room in your trunk and don't leave gifts or large items on your front seat.

No. 2: Slow down. Whether entering or exiting crowded parking lots or ramps, cars can pull out suddenly and people can appear from seemingly nowhere. Slow down and minimize distractions in the car to give your driving your full attention.

No. 3: Safe return. Always check your surroundings as you return to your vehicle. If something doesn't feel right, turn around and go back inside. If you feel unsafe walking alone in the parking facilities, request a security guard to escort you.

No. 4: Safe parking. Park your car in a well-lit area as close to the entrance as possibly, especially if night shopping is a necessity.

No. 5: Take only what you need. Leave the purse at home if you can, and bring only keys, phone and a means to pay. Keep your credit card and cash in your front pocket to make it more difficult for pickpockets. 

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How Insurance Covers a Cornucopia of Feast Fiascos

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 13, 2019

from insurance.com

Thanksgiving Day is a time to celebrate with family and friends, a chance to carve out some quality time to eat, drink and be merry. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of fires, slips and falls, or even food poisoning. If your feast goes foul, knowing what your home insurance covers will help.

Nobody ever expects their Thanksgiving celebration to result in a call to the fire department or a trip to the emergency room, but it does happen. And, unless you are properly protected by homeowners insurance, Thanksgiving could end up costing much more than the price of a turkey and fixings.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common Thanksgiving and holiday party mishaps and review the role insurance plays in covering a cornucopia of calamities.

When Butterballs become fireballs

Thanksgiving is always busy for firefighters, in fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are three times as many home cooking fires on Thanksgiving as a normal day of the year. This translates into a 250% increase over the daily average when it comes to home cooking fires.

All of those fires do some serious damage. U.S. Fire Administration statistics found there were an estimated 2,400 residential building fires on Thanksgiving Day every year between 2014 and 2016, the most recent study. These fires resulted in five deaths, 25 injuries and an astounding $19 million in property loss. The data shows that cooking is the leading cause of fires on Thanksgiving, with 76.5% of turkey day fires caused by the cook.

It turns out that cooks are responsible for a majority of home fires in the U.S. NFPA data show that cooking is the leading cause of home fires year-round. They account for almost half (48%) of all home fires nationwide, as well as 45% of home fire-related injuries. Unattended cooking (don’t get distracted by family and friends) is the leading cause of home cooking fires and fire-related deaths.

If you are forgoing the oven this year and breaking out the turkey fryer, expect the danger to increase. According to the NFPA, deep fryer fires cause five deaths, 60 injuries, destroy 900 homes and cause over $15 million in property damage, every single year.

State Farm ran the numbers and found that over the last seven years, Texas was the big winner (loser is more to the point) when it came to cooking-related insurance claims on Thanksgiving day, with roughly 38% of claims coming from the Lone Star State. Illinois was second, with 27%, while Pennsylvania and Ohio are tied for third with 23%.

Here are a few tips if you are taking the plunge (into hot oil) and frying up a turkey this year:

  • Always use a turkey fryer outdoors on a flat surface. Make sure it is away from structures, wooden decks, and covered patios. Never use a fryer in a garage
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby and ready to use
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Monitor the temperature of the oil with a thermometer to prevent the oil from overheating and catching fire
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed to prevent a fire
  • Always keep children and pets away from the fryer to prevent tipping

While fryers are certainly a major fire hazard, they are not the only thing causing Thanksgiving blazes. NFPA stats show that throughout the year (not just Thanksgiving specific) ranges accounted for 62% of home cooking fire incidents while ovens accounted for 16%.

Fires can quickly spread out of control causing both injuries and damage to your home. You should always call in the professionals if you have a fire, over half (55%) of reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.

When it comes to homeowners insurance, the dwelling coverage of your homeowners insurance will step up to help cover the cost of repairing (or rebuilding if the fire really gets out of hand) your home.

When buying homeowners insurance, you should get enough dwelling coverage to match the full replacement cost of your home. The cost to repair damage to your home or rebuild it completely at equal quality — at current prices – is the replacement cost.

Dwelling coverage not only protects your home, it extends to your garage, sheds and any other outbuildings on your property so if you manage to burn down a detached garage with a turkey fryer, you should be covered.

Another component of your homeowners insurance may also be called into service if someone is injured on your property. You liability coverage will help pay the medical bills if your turkey fire manages to injury a guest or neighbor. We will get into more about liability coverage soon but suffice it to say that carrying the proper amount of liability coverage is an absolute necessity.

Toxic turkey: I poisoned my guests, what now?

As a Thanksgiving host you carry liability risk if a guest is sent to the hospital due to your cooking or if one of your guests hits the booze a bit too hard before hitting the road.

“If a guest at your home contracts food poisoning you can be held liable,” says Christopher Earley with the Law Office of Christopher Earley.

There are no Thanksgiving-specific statistics on food poisoning, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that food-borne diseases make one in six Americans, or 48 million people, ill each year. These illnesses hospitalize 128,000 people and kill 3,000.

According to the CDC, if any of these symptoms present themselves after downing your Thanksgiving meal, you may have food poisoning:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

While most food poisoning cases resolve themselves after a day or two, in some cases, it can turn serious and if it does, your insurance should help out.

“Your homeowners general liability policy should protect you. This coverage will pay for medical bills, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering associated with the food poisoning.  If there is a lawsuit filed, your carrier will cover the costs of the litigation, and will also provide you with legal representation,” says Earley.

The liability portion of your policy will cover a variety of issues, not just food poisoning. It will typically cover:

  • Medical costs: This portion of your policy will cover medical costs for not only injuries such as food poisoning but also damage from slips, falls or other injuries that occur in your home. This includes outdoor areas such as icy sidewalks, and driveways.
  • Damage to neighbor’s property: If you hit a baseball through a neighbor’s window, back over their mailbox or destroy their landscaping, this portion of your policy will cover the damage, up to your policy limits.
  • Legal fees: If the food poisoning turns serious or a fall results in a long hospital stay you may end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit. Your homeowners policy will cover legal fees and any damages or settlements that come from the suit, up to your coverage limits.

A standard homeowners policy provides $100,000 in liability coverage but you can up this figure and most industry experts recommend doing just that. “Personal liability insurance is incredibly affordable,” says Travis Biggert, with HUB International. “We recommend base limits starting at $300,000 on your homeowners policy with a $1 million umbrella policy which will kick in when your personal liability limits are reached.”

As an example, a home insurance rate analysis by Insurance.com shows that bumping up your liability limits from $100,000 to $300,000 costs just $16 more, on average, for a policy with $200,000 in dwelling coverage and a $1,000 deductible. For $500,000 of liability it’s only $27 extra.

For a policy with $200,000 in dwelling coverage and a $1,000 deductible:

  • $1,228, national yearly average home insurance with $100,000 in liability
  • $1,244; national yearly average home insurance with $300,000 in liability
  • $1,255; national yearly average home insurance with $500,000 in liability

Another portion of your policy that covers food poisoning is your medical payment coverage, which is similar to liability, but has lower limits and pays out regardless of fault.

"If you end up serving under cooked turkey and guests get a case of food poisoning, their medical expenses could be covered if the host has medical payment coverage added to their homeowners insurance policy,” explains Cathy O'Neil, senior claims manager at Mercury Insurance “This coverage applies to the costs associated with injuries sustained by guests, regardless of who is at fault. This coverage might be applied toward medical expenses for those not living at the property and the limit varies by state and insurance company, but typically ranges between $1,000 and $5,000 per person."

Despite the fact that the CDC doesn’t have exact stats on Thanksgiving poisonings, they do offer the following tips for safe food handling on turkey day:

  • Safely thaw your turkey: Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter.If a turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it can end up in the temperature danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
  • Safely stuff your turkey: Cooking stuffing in a casserole dish makes it easy to ensure it is thoroughly cooked. If you put stuffing in the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and may cause food poisoning. 
  • Safely cook your turkey: Set the oven temperature to at least 325°F. Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F by inserting a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint.
  • Leftovers can be dangerous: Leftovers can be dangerous as well. In fact, it is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. Get your leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible.

If your guests end up in the emergency room due to your holiday meal your homeowners insurance should step up to help out. “Your homeowners general liability policy should protect you. This coverage will pay for medical bills, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering associated with the food poisoning.  If there is a lawsuit filed, your carrier will cover the costs of the litigation, and will also provide you with legal representation,” says Earley.

Too much Wild Turkey?

Thanksgiving is already a very dangerous time out on the roads due to the fact that millions and millions of people drive to their Thanksgiving celebration. The Thanksgiving weekend technically runs from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday for statistical purposes.

AAA predicts that 54.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles away from home this Thanksgiving. This is a 4.8 percent increase over last year which translates into an additional 2.5 million people traveling. The majority of Thanksgiving drivers head to their feast in a car with 89.4 percent traveling by automobile, 7.8 by air and 2.8 using another mode of transportation such as a train.

Not everyone’s trip will go as planned, AAA predicts they will have to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists over the Thanksgiving travel period.  Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the biggest reasons travelers call AAA.

Unfortunately, the Thanksgiving travel period is also pretty deadly. In 2017, Thanksgiving experienced the second highest daily fatality average with only Independence Day beating it out. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that roughly 433 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period.

Booze plays a bigger part in road accidents on Thanksgiving than normal days of the year. NSC statistics show that nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2016 represented 28% of the total traffic fatalities while during the Thanksgiving Day period the rate jumps up to 34% of fatalities.

If you over serve a guest, you may find yourself responsible for any damage they do once they hit the street. The majority of states have social host liability laws in place, which hold hosts liable for any property damage caused by their intoxicated guests. This can range from something minor, like a mailbox being run over, to much more serious offenses.

“While each state is different, in general, if you over serve someone in your home who is visibly intoxicated then you can be held liable for all losses caused to any third--party.  For example, if you over serve a visibly intoxicated guest and he then negligently causes a car accident, you can potentially be held liable to any third-party that is injured under a social host liability law. However, if your intoxicated guest simply injures himself, then you would not be liable,” states Earley.

You should be covered by your homeowners insurance but are always subject to coverage limits. “Most homeowners insurance policies will provide coverage in the event a claim is made that stems from over serving a guest in your home.  As with food poisoning claims, your homeowners carrier will cover the claim as well as the costs associated with any lawsuit that is filed, up to your policy limits,” says Earley.

This is where having the right amount of insurance in place can be a financial lifesaver. Auto accidents, especially ones involving drunk driving can quickly spiral into a very expensive claim or lawsuit. If you are under insured some of these costs will end up falling to you and that can put all of your assets at risk.

In order to up your protection, consider an umbrellas policy which kicks in when your homeowners insurance liability coverage reaches its limit. Umbrellas are sold in $1 million increments and are very affordable. Prices vary but expect to spend $150 to $300 for $1 million in protection.

Your liability doesn’t just extend to overserved guests, any guest that is hurt in your home can become a claim on your policy. Trips, falls and dog bites can all result in injuries or a lawsuit and you will end up covering these costs if you are not properly insured.

Before everyone arrives for your Thanksgiving feast, make sure your sidewalks and driveway are clear of snow and ice. De-clutter your home to help prevent trips and falls and keep pets in a bedroom away from guests if you have any concerns about them biting or scratching.

How do I minimize the risk of hosting Thanksgiving?

It’s not difficult to minimize your risk at Thanksgiving by simply taking a few precautions and familiarizing yourself with local laws. Here are a few tips to help make this Thanksgiving a success:

Do your research: Before you send out the invites, research social host liability laws in your state so you know exactly what the law is regarding your liability. Make sure you are in full compliance and are not breaking any local laws, always know where your liability lies and if you are fully protected.

While you should be protected in most cases, there are policies that exclude or limit social liability coverage so always read your policy or check with your agent before you have a party.

“Some homeowners insurance policies either explicitly protect or explicitly deny protection for social host liability, and many times if they do protect, they will limit the coverage to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident,” advises Michael Rehm with the Law Office of Michael Rehm.

Your homeowners policy may not cover any issues related to drunken guests getting behind the wheel. “Some homeowners policies also deny coverage due to a motor vehicle exception found in many homeowners policies. Specifically, any personal injuries sustained as a result of a motor vehicle accident are not protected by the policy,” says Rehm.

Be prepared: While it’s never fun having to arrange a ride home for a drunken guest, it’s even less fun to be sued.  It is a good idea to keep Uber or Lyft on speed dial if you are serving booze at your turkey day celebration. Call a car or assign a designated driver in order to get everyone home safely and keep your liability at a minimum.

Verify you are covered: It is always a good idea to review your policy coverage levels to make sure you are fully protected. Consider an umbrella policy if you are concerned about policy limits.

“Most insurance agents suggest carrying at least $300,000 to $500,000 of liability protection, depending on the value of your assets,” explains Michael Barry, senior vice president at the Insurance Information Institute. “The Insurance Information Institute also advises consumers who own a home and a car to consider purchasing an umbrella insurance policy for upwards of $1 million.”

Fun Thanksgiving Facts

  • Thanksgiving beginnings: Writer Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday that recurred every year after years of persistent lobbying. She also wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as well as founding "American Ladies Magazine."
  • $48.90 - Average price to feed 10 people Thanksgiving dinner in the United States in 2018
  • $75 - The average cost for a ready-to-eat meal from a grocery store
  • 45,000,000 – Number of turkeys are eaten for Thanksgiving dinner
  • 100,000 - Average number of questions answered by the Butterball Turkey hotline every November and December
  • 2.65 - Number of miles the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade route covers. 3.5 million spectators attend to watch 1,000 clowns perform and to see 30 parade floats while 43 million people watch at home
  • 229 – The average number of grams of fat you will consume during your Thanksgiving meal which is roughly four times the amount you should eat in a day. You may also consume roughly
  • 4,500 according to the Calorie Control Council, an industry group.
  • 50 million – Estimated number of pies that will be eaten on Thanksgiving day according to the American Pie Council
  • Plumbers are busy – According to Roto-Rooter data , Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. Kitchen drains, garbage disposals, and even toilets, require more attention the day after Thanksgiving.
  • $7.87 billion – Amount spent on Cyber Monday in 2018, making it the top spending day. Thanksgiving day was the third biggest spending day of the year with $3.68 billion spent.

 

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Imagine a World Without Insurance

Posted By Insurance Information Institute, Tuesday, October 8, 2019

from InsuranceJournal.com

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without insurance? The Insurance Information Institute has. It’s probably safe to say that life would be a lot different and probably not as exciting. The economy would not be as strong as it is. This I.I.I. video shows how the more than 2.6 million people employed by the industry are helping to make the world safer, more prosperous, more innovative and more resilient.

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Keeping Back-to-School Risks in Check

Posted By Bob Marinelli, Wednesday, September 25, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

As kids say goodbye to the lazy days of summer and head into another school year, they have so much to be excited about. Whether it’s making new friends or learning new subjects, students are anticipating a year full of new discoveries. One of the last things they’re thinking about are risks. But the unfortunate reality is that risk is everywhere, especially at schools.

Heading back to school means kids are not only hitting the books but also the school playgrounds, fields and gyms, where accidents are likely to happen. Risk managers, coaches and school administrators need to be on high alert during recess, gym class and school events to spot and mitigate potential dangers. Prevention is the best risk management strategy, helping students avoid injuries and schools avoid costly claims.

Risks at play

One of the riskiest times of the school day is recess. While playtime is an antidote to structured classroom time, it also presents opportunities for accidents ranging from scraped knees to broken bones. Each year, more than 230,000 injuries are associated with playgrounds.

On playgrounds and in gyms, the general hazards are:

  • Equipment-related, including breakage, tip over, poor design or assembly;
  • Slip and falls from, into or onto the equipment;
  • Incidental accidents caused by hazards around, but not related to, the equipment; and
  • Collisions with other students or the equipment.

The first two — equipment-related hazards and slip and falls — account for 81% of reported incidents. The U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 63% of playground injuries are equipment-related. This means that the majority of injuries can be prevented by simply checking, updating or maintaining equipment.

Be well-equipped: Ensure equipment is safe and working properly

School administrators can reduce or eliminate playground hazards by following established guidelines and standards for effective risk management of playground and gym equipment.

  • Inspection: First, make sure students are always properly supervised by teachers, coaches or other school officials when at play or practice. Install adequate signage that encourages students to be cautious and aware, and to follow the proper directions when using the equipment. Having the right surface can prevent some of the 20% of playground deaths caused by falls to the playground surface. Replace hard surfacing with fall-attenuating material, such as mulch, sand or pea gravel. Check that protective surfacing extends at least six feet in all directions from play equipment. Check for dangerous hardware, like open “S” hooks or protruding bolt ends. Check for sharp points or edges on equipment. Eliminate exposed concrete footings below surfacing material. Look out for tripping hazards, like rocks and tree stumps.
  • Install, repair or change: School administrators must make the necessary changes — and follow through with written work order procedures — when equipment is found to be defective, when the basic safety measures are not being followed, or when the school staff doesn’t provide proper supervision. Playground and athletic equipment endure plenty of wear and tear due to weather and daily use. Devastating injuries may result if the equipment is not maintained and replaced when necessary, or has a design or manufacturing defect. Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls. Playgrounds and gym facilities require regular checks and maintenance to confirm that equipment and surfacing are in good condition. Any broken or non-operating equipment should be removed or repaired as soon as possible.
  • Ongoing operations, maintenance and inspections: Once everything has been thoroughly checked and determined to be up-to-par, the work doesn’t end. This is merely the baseline, and every school must commit to having clear operational procedures in place to carefully supervise students on playgrounds and regularly perform safety checks on all equipment. Inspect playgrounds regularly. Weekly, high-frequency inspections focus on vandalism, obvious hazards and areas impacted by regular use, such as displaced loose-fill surfacing material. Conduct low-frequency inspections quarterly to address hardware and equipment conditions. All public playgrounds should be audited when new equipment is installed to ensure compliance with appropriate standards. All findings need to be documented, and all inventories should be updated when changes are made. Schools must report any injuries and train all employees on how to spot hazardous conditions before accidents occur.

Bleacher-related risks

Gathering the student body for school-wide events is a great way to bolster school spirit. Such events also bring inherent risks. Schools need to anticipate and avoid mishaps such as bleacher collapses. Large crowds of students fired up over the big football game — standing or jumping on rickety, outdated structures — can be a recipe for disaster.

Common injuries range from painful splinters from older wooden railings to trip and falls and more serious suffering that occurs as a result of bleacher collapses. The lack of railings is a common cause or railings that are too flimsy to keep people from falling off the sides.

Another important thing to consider is the amount of space between footboards and seating. These spaces should not exceed four inches. For example, vertical rails must be no more than four inches apart from each other.

Keeping school stands up to their assigned safety standards is an essential component of risk mitigation. School administrators should also check their bleachers to make sure they are in proper working order. For example, retracting bleachers must pull out smoothly, and wooden seating should be sanded and lacquered to prevent splinters.

Crowd management

Be aware of the number of people attending a school event and respect bleacher weight limits. If an emergency occurs and evacuation is necessary, crowd size will impact your ability to get everyone out safely. Pay close attention not only to crowd size but also crowd behavior. School administrators must be trained to handle bad behavior, including fights. Beyond the financial costs of a bleacher or other crowd-related accident, the school will also incur reputational damage.

Slip and fall accidents

Slip and falls are a concern especially during severe weather when water and debris in hallways, classrooms and bathrooms present a real hazard. Cleaning or mopping, and food and drink spills also cause falls, as do bookbags and other items strewn on floors. Slip and fall accidents at schools can lead to broken bones, spinal injuries, traumatic head injuries, and other serious bodily harm. Schools have a high price to pay when they fail to be vigilant in preventing these hazards.

Insurance and risk professionals can facilitate and encourage a school’s commitment to safety by ensuring a formalized safety program is in place. These programs must include a robust inspection protocol that enables staff to find hazards before students do, and a process to take equipment out of service while repairs are made.

By performing simple inspections, ongoing maintenance, and staying ahead of danger and committed to a comprehensive risk management plan, schools can minimize risks so that students can focus on learning.

Here’s to a safe and happy school year for all!

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Clients Kids Heading Back to College?

Posted By Danielle Ling, Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Here's 5 Insurance Questions They Should Ask

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Burglary is the most common crime on college campuses nationally, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The nature of the college dorm layout combined with a dense student population makes many college campuses an easy playground for petty theft and sometimes more serious crimes.

As parents send their children off to college this year, Erie Insurance points out a few critical protection tips to keep college students and their belongings safe, and answers important questions on policy coverage.

1. Are my child's belongings covered by my homeowners policy when he/she goes back to college?

Students often take expensive items to school like laptops, bikes and TVs which can be pricey to replace if damaged or stolen. The good news is that most insurers' homeowners policies are designed to cover your child if something is stolen or destroyed.

2. Does insurance coverage differ if my child is living in a dorm versus and apartment?

Your children't personal property is generally covered under your homeowners policy if they're away from home. However, when students choose to live in an apartment they should consider purchasing a separate renters insurance policy, which can provide for additional living expenses if an apartment becomes uninhabitable because of something like a fire.

3. What steps can my child take to safeguard their belongings?

It's a good idea to talk with your child about this since more than 12,000 burglaries were reported on U.S. campuses in 2016 alone. In addition to taking personal safety precautions, your child will also want to keep these tips in mind: Always lock the doors, create a home inventory and fireproof items around their home.

4. Do I need to make any adjustments to my child's auto coverage if she's away at school?

Since you'll have one less driver living at home when your son or daughter goes off to college, your household might get a discount if the child doesn't take the car to college. If your child does take a car to school, review your coverage with your insurance agent to make sure he or she is properly insured.

5. Are college kids eligible for any discounts?

There may be. This is an important question to ask your insurance agent.

 

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Essential Safety Tips for Warm-Weather Work

Posted By Jennifer Arrison, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill every year while working in extreme heat or humid conditions, according to OSHA. As June marks both the official start of summer and National Safety Month, now is a perfect time for employers to review emergency plans with outdoor workers and provide tips on how to beat the heat and stay safe during lightning storms.

Beating the heat

With temperatures quickly rising, employers should first understand the factors that can lead to heat susceptibility.

Heat susceptibility can be caused by:

  • A combination of high temperature, direct sun and humidity;
  • Intense physical labor during peak hours; or
  • Sudden hot days after cool weather conditions or workers who have not yet acclimated to the heat.

To prevent these factors from causing illness, employees must stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water to ensure fluids are replenished. Ideally, workers should drink water before beginning a job and re-hydrate often. Any caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they increase heat sensitivity.

Workers also should avoid waterproof or tight clothing that doesn’t breathe. To dress for the heat, workers should wear a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored clothes and sunscreen. Fabrics that pull moisture away from the body and provide a cooling effect also are recommended.

Proper attire and hydration can be a big help, but it’s still important to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Headache, dizziness, weakness, wet skin and fainting are indications that workers must get out of the heat immediately — or at least move to the shade. If an employee experiences confusion, slurred speech, excessive thirst, nausea or vomiting, it’s very possible he/she may be experiencing more severe heat stroke. Immediate medical attention should be sought in these cases.

Employers can also do their part in preventing heat-related illness with smart planning for outdoor work. This includes setting earlier schedules to avoid the hottest part of the day and arranging frequent rest periods and water breaks in shady, cooler areas. Project managers should also increase the number of workers for strenuous tasks on hot days and acclimate employees who haven’t worked in hot conditions lately by gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks.

Staying safe when lightning strikes

The chance of being struck by lightning is only about 1 in 500,000, according to the CDC, but the risk increases in states that have frequent storm activity, like Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. Wherever employees may be doing outdoor work, encourage them not to tempt fate. They should be smart by following these CDC safety guidelines:

  • Look to the skies. If dark clouds form and the winds pick up, do not begin any task that cannot be stopped quickly. If lightning can be seen, follow the 30-30 rule. First, count to 30. If thunder sounds before 30, get inside. Suspend outdoor work or activities for at least 30 minutes after thunder ends.
  • Shelter indoors. Although the best place to be during a lightning storm is inside, indoor spaces aren’t lightning-proof. Avoid sinks and showers since lightning can travel through the building’s plumbing system. Do not use electronic equipment and corded phones. And, of course, stay away from windows and doors, even concrete as lightning can travel through metal bars in concrete walls or floors.
  • Go low. If caught out in the open, find a low spot — like a ditch — and crouch or squat down low so as little of the body is touching the ground as possible. Electrical currents from lightning can travel along the top of the ground.
  • Find refuge in a car. If a hard-topped truck or car is available, hop inside. Although most people think rubber tires are the grounding force, it’s the metal shell that dissipates the electricity and keeps you safe.

Thunderstorms may be thrilling, but lightning can kill. Remind employees to respect the power of nature and observe storms from a safe vantage point inside.

Each season comes with a new set of liabilities. Now that the risks of cold and icy conditions have passed, reeducate employees on how to protect their safety during summer months. It’s far easier to act now than in the heat of the moment.

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My Car Was Stolen. Now What?

Posted By Danielle Ling, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

A vehicle was reported stolen every 40.9 seconds in the United States in 2017.

That year, 773,139 vehicles were stolen, costing roughly $6 billion nationally according to the FBI. The average dollar loss per theft was $7,708. Even with the peace of mind insurance provides, discovering your vehicle has been stolen can be an overwhelming and unsettling experience.

If you fall victim to an auto theft, here’s what you need to do.

Pick up the phone

The first thing you should do after you discover your call was stolen is call the police immediately and file a stolen vehicle report. The earlier you report a car stolen, the more likely it will be recovered. Having a police report on file will also be an important part of your insurance claim, so make sure you get a copy. Let the police know if your car has any kind of tracking device or GPS system, as this technology could help authorities track down and recover your stolen vehicle.

The next call you need to make is to your insurance carrier to report the car stolen. Next steps will depend on what kind of policy you have and what your state minimum requirements are. You will need a few critical pieces of information to provide to your insurance carrier when you file your report.

Information for your carrier

Firstly, provide a description of your vehicle, including mileage, options, service records and upgrades, along with information on the date, time and location of the theft, and the location of all keys to the vehicle before and after the theft. Make a list of names and contact information of anyone who had access to the vehicle. Let your carrier know if the car was leased or financed.

You’re also going to want to provide your carrier with a list of personal property stolen with your vehicle. Coverage for these items will vary from state to state, but your homeowners or renters insurance policy could provide additional coverage for these items.

If your stolen vehicle is leased or financed, the third call you need to make is to your leasing or finance company to report the vehicle stolen. They will work with your insurance carrier directly in this process.

Check your policy

After you file reports with the police and your insurance carrier, review both your auto and homeowners or renters insurance policies to see what’s covered and what’s not.

If your auto policy only covers the state minimum requirements, it likely won’t include reimbursement for a stolen vehicle, whereas comprehensive auto insurance does. Of course, the level of coverage will vary based on your insurer and your policy, and an agent can help run you through your coverage details.

If the vehicle is found, comprehensive coverage will pay to repair any damages or wear the thieves caused, but you will owe the deductible. Most carriers have a 30-day waiting period to recover a stolen vehicle before paying out the fair market value of your car. This number is somewhat negotiable so check multiple sources to ensure a fair valuation of your stolen vehicle.

What to expect

Adding to the aggravation, settling a stolen vehicle claim is a lengthy process, and there are a few routine but burdensome measures your carrier needs to take before you see a settlement check.

When a car is reported stolen, the owner is suspect number one. Carriers and police investigating the case will look at you first. Roughly $80 billion in fraudulent insurance claims are made every year, so expect to be interrogated.

Investigators will likely look into your financial history for any delinquent payments, phone records or suspicious social media posts. They will check to see if the car had recently been put up for sale or if it was over mileage on a lease. Not notifying the policy right away, or at all, is also a red flag.

The most important thing to do after you discover your vehicle is stolen is to notify the appropriate sources. Call the police and your insurance carrier immediately, and ask for the help you need.

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Uncovering Common Insurance Myths

Posted By Heather Turner, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

How well does the average consumer really know insurance?

According to the Insurance Myths and Misconceptions report by insuranceQuotes.com, Americans have a thing or two to learn about insurance coverage and policies.

We have all heard the myth that red cars cost more to insure. But there are many other insurance myths ingrained in the minds of insurance customers that can have costly consequences.

“While we do our best to try to educate people on insurance, there are unfortunately still many pervasive myths and misconceptions that millions of American adults believe pertaining to different types of coverage, from auto and health coverage to homeowner’s and life insurance to even electric scooter coverage,” Jason Hargraves, managing editor of insuranceQuotes.com, said in a press release.

Across the board, more than a third of consumers surveyed incorrectly answered each question relating to different insurance coverage. From home insurance to life and health coverage, the report reveals a shocking gap in consumer knowledge, including:

  • 68% of respondents believe collision damage is covered by comprehensive auto coverage.
  • 35% believe a standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers flood damage; 34% believe it covers mold damage.
  • 46% did not know life insurers can factor in pre-existing medical conditions when calculating premiums.
  • 36% incorrectly think electric scooter riders are required to have liability insurance.
  • 66% are unaware that women, on average, pay higher health insurance premiums than men.

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Summer 2019 Travel Tips and Trends

Posted By Elana Ashanti Jefferson, Wednesday, June 12, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

More than three out of five Americans plan to take a summer vacation this year despite having about 10% less money to spend on their travels, according to 19th annual Holiday Barometer from Generali Global Assistance.

“In the 19th annual Holiday Barometer, we have seen the consolidation of many of the positive trends we have recognized in recent years,” Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, said in a press release. “While Americans have experienced a 10% reduction in their travel budgets, they are still the highest of those surveyed. As an assistance provider, we look to stay current with travel trends in order to accurately anticipate our customers’ needs. It’s part of our ‘you live we care’ motto that we look to fulfill every day.”

Roughly the same percentage of Brazilians (68%) plan to travel this summer while fewer Europeans (63%) intend to take a midyear trek.

Half of Americans plan to vacation domestically this summer with about equal numbers planning to go to a beach versus a city. Both Brazilians and Europeans overwhelming preferred beach vacations when surveyed by Generali Global Assistance.

Budget is the most impactful factor when it comes to determining summer travel plans. Both Brazilians and Europeans have a 3% higher travel budget this summer, according to Generali Global Assistance.

Some of the other factors that weigh into where Americans plan to travel this summer include:

  • Available leisure and cultural activities
  • Personal safety
  • Terrorism risk

But there is one caveat: “The number of travelers who indicated they were concerned about terrorism was down across the board with percentages for Europeans, Americans, and Brazilians all dropping by six to seven points from years prior,” according to Generali Global Assistance.

On average, Americans will take the shortest summer vacations. Researcher found that Americans plan to take off about a week and half while Europeans plan to vacation for nearly two weeks and Brazilians will likely holiday slightly more than two weeks.

For travelers who are still firming up their summer adventure plans, Generali Global Assistance compiled these six tips to help make warm-weather travel smooth and enjoyable:

No. 1: Protect your trip costs.

For a fraction of your overall trip cost, you can buy travel insurance to help protect your vacation investment from certain unexpected mishaps.

No 2: Use a travel agent to book a cruise.

 Travel agents are most likely going to be able to get you the best deals on cruises and they can offer a wealth of travel tips. Plus, if anything goes wrong, they will be able to use their connections to help you fix it.

No 3: Check for freebies.

If you don't mind playing things by ear, then ask for an upgrade upon arrival. Sometimes you get an upgraded hotel room or plane seat for free.

No 4: Cut out the middle man.

Search aggregate travel websites to look for travel deals on transportation and accommodations. But before you pay, be sure to check individual vendor sites as well. You might save money by buying direct.

No 5: Start saving a.s.a.p.

Get an estimate of how much your vacation is going to cost and start saving money early - even if it's a year or two out.

No 6: Use multiple research sources.

Before choosing your destination and accommodations, be sure to consult multiple travel websites or books. Doing your homework before you plan a trip will help you weed out anything suspicious.

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When Flooding Happens, Here Are Ways to Weather the Storm

Posted By Javonte Anderson, Tuesday, May 28, 2019

from chicagotribune.com

Floods, no matter the size, can have a devastating effect on people’s homes and property — and can endanger people who try to drive or walk through them. They can develop slowly or quickly, and flash floods can strike without warning.

Flooding typically occurs when prolonged rain falls over several days or when intense rains fall over a short time.

The most common cause of flooding, however, is rain or snowmelt that accumulates faster than soils can absorb it or faster than rivers can carry it away, according to the National Weather Service.

“We always tell communities anywhere it can rain, it can flood,” said Cassie Ringsdorf, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.

Here’s some information about flooding and ways to guard against flood dangers and damage:

Know the flooding risk in your area, be proactive and get insurance

Flooding isn’t typically covered in standard insurance policies, so homeowners should double-check to see if they need to purchase flood insurance, Ringsdorf said.

She urged homeowners and landlords to be aware of what could be done to mitigate any potential flooding damage. And if heavy rains are in the forecast, there are steps property owners can take to alleviate the damage and dangers, including:

  • Elevate critical utilities, such as a water heater or furnace, off the basement floor.
  • Ensure sump pump is working with a backup battery system.
  • Store valuable documents in a safe, dry place.
  • Charge your phones and put together an emergency kit in case power gets knocked out.
  • Subscribe to emergency weather alerts on your phone.

Don’t drive through the water

More people die each year from drowning than from any other thunderstorm-related cause, according to the weather service. About half of those drowning deaths happen when people try to drive through floodwaters, followed by deaths of people trying to wade through or near floodwaters.

A common cause of people getting stuck in their vehicles in railroad-heavy cities like Chicago is drivers trying to get through flooded underpasses — and having their cars stall out. On more open roads, smaller vehicles can get carried away by just a foot of moving water, while just 2 feet of water can carry off most larger passenger vehicles, according to the weather service.

Help keep streets clear by lowering water use

People concerned with flooding should use less water at home to make space available in local sewer lines, said Kari Steele, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District president..

“If everyone did that, that could be the little amount of water necessary for water to flow to us and not in your basement,” she said.

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