Insuring Teen Drivers

Did you know that vehicular fatalities are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. And though fatality rates for teens have steadily dropped since 1975, teens remain 3 times more likely to crash per mile driven than adults.

Thankfully, you can play a big part in keeping your teen safe. To help you navigate through this important milestone in your child’s life, here are 9 tips covering everything from safety to saving money on car insurance for teenage drivers.

If you have any questions on insuring your own teen driver, please feel free to give our office a call.


 

1. Invest in a safe-driving courseThe more practice young drivers have behind the wheel, the better. Since inexperience results in many teen motor vehicle accidents, approved safe-driving courses can help teens gain experience and helpful skills. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to get an approved list.

Safe-driving courses can be taken online or in person and usually last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Most courses are affordable, but it never hurts to shop around. And while you’re looking for ways to save, don’t forget to ask your insurer about a car insurance discount for taking an approved safe-driving course.

2. Get the safest car for your teen driver.  When it comes to choosing the right car for your teen, safety and reliability are key. Choose the safest car you can afford. Whether you buy a brand-new car or a used model, look for advanced safety features like front and side air bags, antilock brakes, head restraints, and electronic stability control. If a crash occurs, these safety features can be lifesavers.

Before you settle on a vehicle, make sure you check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for the crash test rating of the car you have in mind.

3. Implement your own graduated licensing program.  Even if your state has an excellent graduated drivers licensing program, consider implementing your own set of rules until you’re comfortable with your offspring’s driving skills.

  • Restrict nighttime driving: The IIHS reports that most fatal crashes for young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so it’s a good idea to take away the keys after 9 p.m.
  • Limit the number of passengers: It may be fun for your teen driver to play chauffeur to his or her friends, but studies have shown that the presence of passengers actually increases accident risk. Teen drivers are more likely to be distracted when they have friends in the car, and the presence of peers also leads to riskier driving practices.
  • Supervise driving: Even though your child may be a bona fide licensed driver, he or she still lacks the necessary experience to handle difficult driving situations.

4. Have a heart to heart.  Driving is a privilege — make sure that your young driver knows it. Before you hand over the keys, clearly spell out your expectations for good driving behavior.

A parent-teen contract detailing your policies regarding passengers, alcohol use, texting while driving, speeding, etc. — and the consequences should your child fail to live up to his or her responsibility — will make sure that you and your teen are on the same page.

5. Practice what you preach.  Set a good example for your young driver. Drive safely, buckle up, and avoid distractions (like texting, talking on the phone, or eating) behind the wheel.

6. Discuss driving costs. If your child has to pay for some car-related expenses (gas, a portion of the monthly insurance premiums, oil changes, etc.), chances are he or she will take driving more seriously and be safer on the road. So make sure your child knows who will pay for what and, when possible, have your teen help out with the cost of car ownership — even if it’s just buying gas every once in a while.

7. Set a zero-tolerance drinking policy.  The statistics for underage drinking are sobering. According to the Center for Disease Control, youth aged 12 to 20 consume 11% of all alcohol in the U.S. So though you might like to avoid the subject, turning a blind eye to teen alcohol use won’t make the problem disappear.

8. Keep a squeaky-clean driving record.  Since every vehicular infraction tarnishes your record and raises your insurance premiums, practice safe driving to keep your record clean. If you’ve added your child to your policy, make sure he or she also follows safe-driving practices. Since speeding is the most common driving violation in the teenage population, make sure your child follows speed limits at all times. (Investing in a vehicle tracking device could be a good option if you’d like to monitor your child’s speed.)

9. Encourage good grades. Aside from helping your young family member advance through life, good grades can also help you and your young driver save on car insurance. If your child is a full-time high school or college student and maintains a high GPA, he or she could be eligible for a Good Student discount.

7 Excluded Homeowners Claims

Our hope is that you never have to experience any disaster to your home that requires submitting an insurance claim to our office.

What worries us even more, though, is submitting an insurance claim assuming there is coverage only to find out the claim is actually excluded on your policy.

With that in mind we have put together a list of the top 7 most-frequently-excluded claims on homeowners insurance policies. While we are always working to provide you with the insurance coverage you need, subtle changes we are unaware of (like a trampoline purchase for instance) may have a dramatic effect on the coverage your insurance company is willing to offer.

We hope that by sharing this list we can help uncover some potential gaps in your policy and provide you with some insight on how to properly cover them.

If you have any questions at all specific to your policy, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.


Mold and Water Dam

A spike in mold-related claims at the turn of the century led most insurers to strike the coverage entirely from their homeowners policies.

Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies. The peak came around 2002 when Ed McMahon filed a $20 million lawsuit against his insurance company for mold-related damages. After that, many insurance companies stopped providing coverage completely or limited their coverage to a very small amount.

Sewer Backup

The only thing worse than having a bathroom or basement overflowing with sewage is the fact that you may have pay the entire bill yourself.

Sewage backups are a standard exclusion on many homeowners insurance policies. Without purchasing the additional rider (which is usually less than $100), there is a very good chance you will have to pay for the cleanup yourself.

We will often see the homeowners try to get their cities to pay for the damages, but without being able to prove negligence it is a very difficult thing to do.

Natural Disasters

Depending on where you live, your insurance policy may exclude coverage for certain natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, and flood.

If you live in an area likely to be involved in a natural disaster, then your insurance company may be reluctant to provide coverage for the incident. For example, almost every homeowners insurance policy excludes any coverage for earthquakes, floods or landslides. That coverage must be purchased through a specialty insurance company.

Also, if your home is located in a very remote area far away from any fire station or you live in coastal area, then your insurance policy may not provide damage from fire or wind.

Neglect

Home damage that happens over a long period of time like a slow water leak or a termite infestation may leave you with the bill.

Homeowners insurance policies are written to cover “sudden and unexpected losses” that happen to your home. Insurance companies expect you to care for your home and deal with any maintenance issues that come up. This means problems like a slow water leaks or infestations are usually excluded on your insurance policy because they develop over a long period of time and should have been detected by the homeowner.

Bruce Johnson, author of “50 Simple Ways to Save Your House ,” recommends conducting regular home inspections to detect any potential problems. Tour the exterior of your home to look for cracks, decay or water damage. Check the condition of the roof and inspect the basement or crawl space for other hidden problems, including rodent droppings, termites or leaks.

Trampolines

Some hazards like a swimming pool or swing set may cause an increase in your premiums while other hazards like trampolines may outright excluded on your policy.

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there are approximately 98,000 trampoline-related injuries every year with fractures and dislocations accounting for 48% of those injuries.

With that in mind many insurance companies are now excluding any injury related to trampolines. In fact, some insurance companies will actually cancel your insurance policy if they find out your have purchased one.

So if you have purchased a trampoline be sure to speak with our office to find out how it will affect your liability coverage and insurance policy.

Dogs

Dog bites now account for over one-third of all homeowners insurance claims with average damages totaling over $10,000.

With total damages now exceeding $310 million a year, it is easy to see why insurance companies are very leery to insurance residences with dogs. Whether or not your insurance company will surcharge for owning a dog or provide coverage at all depends upon the breed of dog you own.

Troublesome breeds like pit bulls, German shepards, Rottweilers, and huskies may make finding an insurance policy that will provide liability coverage very difficult. Providing proof of dog training and a proper fenced-in enclosure with help prove to insurance companies you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others, and they may be willing to discount your premiums for doing so.

Intentional Damage

If your rebellious teenager or estranged spouse intentionally damages your home, there is a good chance you will be paying for the damages yourself.

Intentional damages caused by an insured person – you, your spouse, dependants or any relatives living in the home – aren’t typically covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Estranged spouses are a very gray area for insurance companies: while they may not live at the residence, they may still be listed on the deed or have an insurable interest in the home, which will give insurance companies a right to deny any claim from their destruction.

* Disclaimer
The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.

Dangers of Unlicensed Contractors

One of the first principles of gambling is this: Never take a risk you can’t afford to lose.

When you hire an unlicensed contractor to do work on your property, or you fail to secure the necessary permits for that work, you are doing just that.

Here’s why: When a general contractors take jobs, they will hand off parts of it to one or more subcontractors. But the general contractor has overall responsibility for legal compliance, safety, quality of workmanship and just about everything else that happens on the job site.

Now here’s the dirty little secret: If you don’t hire a licensed and insured contractor to handle your project, you’re the general contractor!

If your unlicensed contractor breaks a sewer line, you’re responsible. If a worker gets hurt and can’t work for two years, and there’s no workers compensation coverage in place, you are on the hook for that workers’ medical bills and lost wages.

To find out more about the risks involved in hiring unlicensed/uninsured contractors, please read below.  And, if you’re curious to find out how your homeowners insurance will respond to these types of situations, please give our office a call.


General contractors take on a ton of responsibility. With that comes an equal measure of potential liability. That’s why licensed and responsible general contractors carry a lot of insurance, from general liability insurance to workers compensation insurance.

All these different forms of insurance coverage ultimately protect the customer if things don’t go according to plan. In fact, some states won’t even issue a contractor’s license if the minimum level of insurance isn’t in place.

Additionally, all subcontractors (when preforming work for the general contractor) will either have their own insurance or they will be operating under the general contractor’s license and insurance coverage. Either way, you as the customer will enjoy a substantial level of protection simply by virtue of using a licensed and bonded contractor. Their insurance protects you from having to bear the financial consequences of a job gone wrong, or a workplace injury.

What Can Go Wrong With Unlicensed Contractors?

Many things can go wrong on a construction job, from injuries to shoddy workmanship to destruction of power, sewer or water lines. Ultimately, all issues are the responsibility of the general contractor. The general contractor and their insurance carriers are the primary payers in the event something goes awry on the job. This also means that if you are personally operating as the general contractor, you must be aware of the potential risks and litigation that could arise.

What’s more, your standard homeowners insurance or landlord liability insurance will not cover you for these events. Most of these policies exempt damage caused by the knowing use of illegal or unlicensed contractors.

Consequences for Landlords

Landlords should be very wary of property management companies that make use of unlicensed or uninsured contractors. When they do, they are potentially putting you at risk, too.

If your property manager brings in an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, and something goes wrong, courts have generally held the property owner liable along with the property manager.

The Danger of Hiring Friends as Contractors

Hiring friends as contractors doesn’t make the liability and risk issues go away. Everyone can enter an arrangement with the best of intentions, but when your buddy falls off the ladder and files a claim with his insurance company, the company may well pay the claim and then go after you in subrogation proceedings (the area of law in which insurance companies fight to get reimbursed after paying their customers’ claims).

In one California case, Mendoza v. Brodeur, a homeowner asked his neighbor to do some work for him on his home. But the neighbor got hurt on the job. The homeowner thought he was hiring an independent contractor who had his own insurance. The court rejected that reasoning, and found instead that the homeowner was the neighbor’s employer and therefore should have had workers compensation coverage in place to cover the possibility of injury on the job. Since workers compensation wasn’t there, the homeowner has to cover the costs personally.

Summary: the Risks of Hiring Unlicensed Contractors

Failing to hire an insured, licensed and street-legal contractor could potentially cost you everything you own. If the worst happens, you could be sued into bankruptcy. Additionally, most homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude damages arising from the work of unlicensed contractors, so they will not protect you. Therefore, if you have a home project that presents any sort of risk, we highly recommend hiring a licensed general contractor to assist with the job.

Toy Drone Liability

If holiday estimates are correct, over 200,000 drones were given out as Christmas gifts this year.   This means that tens of thousands of relative novices will be at the controls of small, unmanned aerial vehicles in densely populated cities and suburbs.  And with the inevitable swooping over houses and cars, spooking pets, and dodging humans will invariably lead to cracked windows, damaged vehicles, and some bloody injuries.
Drone liability?  As crazy as it sounds to be discussing this, below we have included some tips and tricks to protect you and your family in case your toy drone causes damages to others.
If you have any questions on how your homeowners insurance will respond to a claim like this, please feel free to give our office a call.
Homeowners Insurance: 
The liability protection in homeowners or renters insurance policies will sometimes cover damage or injury from a drone crashing into a neighbor’s house, vehicle, or child. Yet this coverage isn’t universal.  Some policies specifically carry an aviation exclusion that encompasses recreational drones, which the Federal Aviation Administration currently classifies as small aircraft.
Some insurance companies will cover damage to someone else’s property.  Damage to your own property, though, is excluded on the policy.  Other insurance companies will cover the claim just like other covered claims.  (If you would like to find out how your policy will respond, please give our office a call.)
Specialty Insurance:
The Academy of Model Aeronautics offers drone-specific insurance as part of their annual $75 membership.  All of the group’s 185,000 enjoy $2.5 million in personal liability coverage and $25,000 medical coverage.  According to the AMA, most claims are small and include out-of-control drones flying into vehicles.
Education: 
Some major drone retailers like Amazon have educational websites built by drone manufacturers to promote safe flying. (‘Know Before You Fly’ is popular of those sites.)
Regulation:
Regulators also are preparing for how to manage increased drone flying.  Owners of small drones must register the machines with the federal government so that authorities will be able to more easily investigate crashes and illegal flights. Only the smallest toy drones weighing less than 250 grams are exempt from the registry.

Social Host Liability

Now is the time of year for social gatherings, whether it’s a family holiday party or New Year’s Eve bash, if you are planning to serve alcohol at any type of party it is important to take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you have the proper insurance.

Social host liability, the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, can have a serious impact on party throwers. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest (as they are also negligent), the host can be held liable for third parties, and may even be liable for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.

Before planning a party in your home, it is important to your homeowners coverage and any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have for this kind of risk. Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but it is typically limited to $100,000 to $300,000, depending on the policy, which might not be enough.

Most importantly, whether you are hanging out with a small group of friends for cocktails or throwing a big family bash, remember that a good host is a responsible host, and takes steps to ensure guests get home safely if they have been drinking.

If you have any questions on how your homeowners policy will respond, please feel free to give our office a call.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Guests

  • Consider venues other than your home for the party. Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks.
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Be a responsible host/hostess. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

Winterizing Your Vehicle

Climate changes don’t affect just you―they also affect your car. In regions that don’t enjoy mild winters, you wouldn’t dream of heading outside without a heavy coat if the wind chill brought the temperature below freezing. Don’t expect your car to function properly without some attention to its winter needs, too.

Engine Oil in the Winter

The oil in your engine changes depending on how hot or cold the engine is running. Because the outside temperatures will influence the internal temperature of your engine, you need to make sure you’re using the proper oil for the conditions.

During the winter months, if you live where temperatures get below freezing, you’ll want to switch over to thinner―less viscous―oil. If you run a 10W-30 in the summer, for example, try moving to a 5W-30 when changing your oil in the fall or winter. If you are in doubt, refer to your manual or the manufacturer.

Engine Coolant

You car’s coolant system is not intended only to keep your engine from overheating. It is also responsible for protecting your valuable engine against corrosion. Before the weather gets too cold, make sure you are using coolant with ethylene glycol to help protect your engine.

Every vehicle requires a certain ratio of coolant to water, and your owner’s manual or repair technician can explain what your engine needs. For most vehicles, a winter ratio is 60% coolant to 40% water. Adjusting this ratio is an important step in winterizing your car, so if you need help, ask someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.

Additionally, some engines can only take specific types of coolant. Be sure to check with you vehicle manual to make sure you are putting the right type of coolant into your car.

Cold Weather and Battery Capacity

It isn’t only your engine that doesn’t like to start in the winter. Your battery capacity is reduced by the cold weather, too. A thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals, and fluid will help you make sure your car is ready for the winter.

Check over the battery cables for cracks and breaks. The terminals should fit snugly with no loose connections. You can check your battery fluid by uncovering the refill hole (or sometimes holes). If the level is below the bottom of the cap, refill with distilled water.

To read the level of charge in your battery, you will need to turn the engine off. Some batteries have a built-in hydrometer eye that tells you the amount of voltage remaining in the battery. If you prefer, a handheld hydrometer can be used to collect the same information.

While you’re inspecting your battery, look around for the manufacture date. Knowing how old your battery is can clue you in to when it will begin to lose charge. Shopping for a new battery? Never buy one with a six-month-old manufacture date.

Snow Tires

When it comes to really dealing with winter weather, your tires are out there mixing with the snow, sleet, and ice. Driving in snow can be very difficult and sometimes dangerous; still, the reality is you need to get to work.

Mounting the right tires on your car or truck can give you a huge advantage when trekking through snow. Many car makers and tire manufacturers recommend changing all four tires to snow tires in the winter. If you don’t swap all four, the difference between snow and summer tires can cause other problems for your vehicle.

If you live off the beaten path, you can even buy snow tires with studs to help you get where you’re going all winter long. When spring comes, though, you’ll be glad to get out of the heavy winter tires because your fuel efficiency and handling will improve with a less aggressive tire.

Another option is all-season tires that you drive year-round―winter and summer. The advantage of all-season tires is that you don’t change the tires before winter or need to keep two sets of rims. Of course, the disadvantage is that you don’t get all the great features of a specialized seasonal tire.

Windshield Treatment

An easily overlooked part of your winterizing program is your windshield. If you have ever driven behind another vehicle kicking up wet, dirty road snow, then you already have a true appreciation for windshield washer fluid.

For best results in clearing off cold, heavy grime, select a washer fluid with an antifreeze solution. But beware―some washer fluids can be harsh and damage your car’s paint.

Frozen Out

Door locks can freeze in cold weather and break your key if you try to force them open. The old fashion cure was warm water, but what if you’re not at home and don’t have any warm water nearby? Discount stores, auto parts stores, and even hardware stores sell glycerine you can use for de-icing. Think about where you keep it, however, because if the de-icer is in the glove box of your frozen-shut car, then it won’t help you any.

Stock a tube at home in the garage and also in your desk at work. That way whenever your locks freeze up, you’ll be able to solve the problem.

Emergency Kit

If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, consider putting together a few basics and stowing them in the trunk. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure your spare tire is in good shape with all the tools to change it out. But you might also want a few other emergency items in case you slide off the road and get stuck in a snow bank:

  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Radio
  • Engine oi
  • lWasher fluid
  • Coolant
  • Flashlight
When you take the time to winterize your car, you become more comfortable driving in cold, snowy climates. A short commute quickly becomes difficult when your vehicle isn’t equipped to handle snow and ice. By planning ahead, you can make winterizing your vehicle an annual ritual in the name of safety and vehicle reliability.

Preventing Water Damage Claims

The recent, devastating rainstorms have affected us over the past month. As your insurance agents, we want you to know that we are here and ready to help with whatever we can.

With that in mind, we have been receiving many calls in regards to how homeowners insurance will respond to these types of events.

In general, how your insurance policy will respond to water damage claims depends upon how the water entered your house.

There basically are two insurance policies that deal with a homeowner’s damage due to water — a flood insurance policy and a homeowners insurance policy. Losses not covered by one of the policies may be covered by the other.

While insurance policies may differ in the coverage provided from homeowner to homeowner, there often are basic features common to all policies. Our goal with this brief letter is to provide you with some general information found on most standard policies. As your specific insurance policy may differ in coverage and terms, we highly recommend that you give us a call if you have any specific questions.

FLOOD INSURANCE

As the name implies, a standard flood insurance policy, which is written by the National Flood Insurance Program, provides coverage up to the policy limit for damage caused by flood. The dictionary defines “flood” as a rising and overflowing of a body of water onto normally dry land.

For insurance purposes, the word “rising” in this definition is the key to distinguishing flood damage from water damage. Generally, damage caused by water that has been on the ground at some point before damaging your home is considered to be flood damage. A handful of examples of flood damage include:

  • A nearby river overflows its banks and washes into your home.
  • A heavy rain seeps into your basement because the soil can’t absorb the water quickly enough
  • A heavy rain or flash flood causes the hill behind your house to collapse into a mud slide that oozes into your home.

Flood damage to your home can be insured only with a flood insurance policy — no other insurance will cover flood damage.

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

A homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage for flood damage, but it does provide coverage for many types of water damage to your home.

Just the opposite from flood damage, for insurance purposes, water damage is considered to occur when water damages your home before the water comes in contact with the ground. A few examples of water damage include:

  • A hailstorm smashes your window, permitting hail and rain free access into your home.
  • A heavy rain soaks through the roof, allowing water to drip through your attic or ceiling.
  • A broken water pipe spews water into your home.

Even if flood or water damage is not covered by your homeowners insurance policy, losses from theft, fire or explosion resulting from water damage is covered. For example, if a nearby creek overflows and floods your home, and looters steal some of your furnishings after you evacuate, the theft would be covered by your homeowners insurance because it is a direct result of the water damage. However, the flood damage would be covered only if you have flood insurance.

It’s important to note that flood insurance and homeowners insurance do not duplicate coverage for water damage. Instead, they complement each other.

We hope this provides you with some insight into how both flood insurance and homeowners insurance will respond to water damage claims.

If you have any questions at all, or if you would like to submit a claim, please feel free to give our office a call.

Protecting Your Personal Data

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you lost all of your family photos or videos due to a problem with your computer?  Or what if your hard drive failed, causing you to lose all of your saved data?

As your insurance agent, our goal is to protect those items that are most valuable to you.   And what is more valuable than the information many of us store on our home computers?

Knowing that families’ most precious memories like photos and videos are stored on computers now, we have put together a list and infographic with tips on protecting your personal data.

Below you will find advice on how to ensure that some of your most precious assets are never lost or destroyed.


1. Back It Up!  The most important thing you can do is back up your valuable data.  Doing so will allow you to rest much easier knowing your family photos and other documents are protected in the event something happens to your computer or hard drive.

There are many ways to back up your information, but the most common are external hard drives or on “The Cloud.”  On “The Cloud” simply means you are using software that stores your information on the web so you can access it from any machine at any time.   There are a number of great software programs to use, and a list of them can be found here.

2. Security Software.  Antivirus and antispyware software is vital to keep your computer safe.  Installing security software will do two things for you: scan and remove virus and spyware in files and monitor the operation of your computer for virus activity.

Some Tips with Security Software:

  • Make sure to keep your application files up to date.
  • Do not run more than one antivirus program on your computer.  Each program may detect the other as a virus and create a mess for you.
  • There are additional tools like Identity Finder (free for the basic version) that will actually search for, protect, and dispose of personal information stored on your computer like credit card numbers and social security numbers.
3. Encrypt Your Data.  By encrypting your data, you will actually convert documents and spreadsheets into an unintelligible, scrambled format.  There are many 3rd party software solutions for data encryption that are fairly inexpensive.

4. Lock Down Your Wireless Network.  If you don’t secure your wireless network then everything you have on your personal computer could be accessed by hackers.

Some Tips for Protecting your Wireless Network:

  • Password protect your wireless router with a strong password.  “Password” is probably not the best one to use here.
  • Move your wireless router away from windows to decrease the signal strength outside your home.
  • Make sure your firewall is turned on.
  • Though it should be common sense, don’t let strangers log on to your network.
5. Don’t Open Email from Unknown Sources. (Even if you think the Prince of Nigeria has a large sum of money he would like to share with you.)

Some things to remember with viruses and emails:

  • Email attachments are frequently the culprits in virus attacks.
  • If you do not know the sender of a message with an attachment, delete the message without opening or reading it.  Simply opening the email could release the virus.
  • Do not open any attachments with the following file endings: .exe, .vbs, or .Ink.
  • Be cautious of unfamiliar attachments from family members, co-workers, or friends.   If their account has been hacked, it is not uncommon for the virus to start sending emails to the address in their contacts.

6. Do Not Download Unfamiliar Software From the Internet.  Make sure any software you download comes from a reputable source.  Also, downloading software copies from “less than reputable” sources may be a violation of copyright or other laws.

 7. Update your Software.   It can be annoying to have to restart your computer for the latest software update, but those updates are done to fix security concerns and even holes that could potentially cause you major problems.  For software like Windows you can schedule the updates to happen automatically, which is highly recommended.

13 Most Preventable Homeowners Claims

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This statement has great relevance to the topic of loss prevention.

In fact, did you know most homeowners’ insurance claims are not caused by fires or storms? The primary cause of claims is actually neglected maintenance that grows into a larger problem.

By simply taking some time to check and replace some items in your home, you may be able to save yourself thousands of dollars, as well as the hassle of dealing with a costly claim.

To help you avoid becoming a victim of one of these accidents we have compiled a list of the top 13 most preventable homeowners’ claims along with recommendations on how to prevent them.

For further tips or to discuss how your policy may respond if you experience a claim like those mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.
1. Frozen Pipes: Frozen pipes will often crack, which can quickly cause serious water damage to your home.

Recommendation: There are a number of things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing:

• Insulate pipes – insulation goes a long way toward preventing freeze-ups.

• Open cabinet doors under sinks – this will allow the heat to warm the pipes.

• Maintain your home temperature at 3-4 degrees higher than normal.

• Turn on your faucets and let the water trickle constantly.

2. Burst washing machine hose: The rubber hoses attached to a washing machine will eventually dry out, crack, and leak. Water damage caused by a cracked hose will usually go undetected until there is a huge problem as it is a low-traffic area of the house.

Recommendation: Replace any rubber hoses every three years, or replace the rubber with metal mesh hoses from any hardware or home store.

3. Slow leaks around tub/shower grout and edges: Over time, the grout and caulking around the edges of your tub or shower will decay and crack, allowing water to seep into your walls and floor. What’s worse is this type of water damage is usually not covered by your homeowners policy.

Recommendation: Check and maintain seals. Make certain you keep shower doors or curtains securely shut to prevent water from spilling.

4. Electrical cord fires: Cords under throw rugs and baseboard heaters are the most likely sources of electrical fires.

Recommendation: Reroute cords around throw rugs and use certified power strips. Don’t place furniture against baseboard heaters.

5. Woodstoves and Fireplaces: Clogged chimneys and stovepipes are a leading cause of home fires.

Recommendation: Inspect and clean chimneys and stove pipes at least twice a year. Make sure to remove ashes into a noncombustible container and keep flammable materials away from the fireplace.

6. Unattended cooking, candle fires, and space heaters: Unwatched, a “contained” fire can spread and rapidly become a tragedy.

Recommendation: Carefully monitor all cooking and candle fires.

7. Electrical Outlets and Wiring: Electrical systems in older homes have a difficult time handling the energy requirements of modern appliances.

Recommendation: Have all appliances professionally installed and avoid overloading or overusing extension cords and outlets.

8. Furnaces: A furnace that is not functioning properly can cause a fire or emit carbon monoxide.

Recommendation: Regularly inspect your furnace for signs of wear and tear and have a qualified service technician inspect your furnace if it is more than five years old.

9. Roof Collapses: Large snow buildup can easily cause your roof to collapse from weight.

Recommendation: After any large snowstorm be sure to check your roof for any excessive snow buildup. Also, make sure the roof is vented properly to avoid collapse and ice dams.

10. Roof leaks: Dark spots appearing in your ceiling are a clear sign you have leak in your roof. Also, look for curled or upturned shingles along house edges.

Recommendation: Clean gutters regularly. Check for loose or missing shingles. Don’t try to make a roof last ‘just one more season’ if it’s worn out.

11. Hot water tank leaks: Often forgotten, hot water tanks are susceptible to leaks and rust. They only last so long before showing wear.

Recommendation: Inspect the flooring around your water heater for signs of leaks. A qualified technician should periodically inspect water heaters installed more than five years ago.

12. Garage door opener theft: Garage door openers stolen from cars parked outside the house can give thieves easy access to a house later.

Recommendation: If you park your car outside, make sure to take your garage door opener in with you.

13. Mold: Mold buildup within your home can be dangerous and very expensive to remove.

Recommendation: Take special precautions to clean up all water spills or leakage immediately to prevent the spread of mold, fungus, wet or dry rot or mildew. Use anti-fungal cleaners wherever possible.

Final Note:

Hopefully we have shown the importance of regular maintenance to your home. With even just periodic inspection of water pipes, electrical cords, the fireplace, and roof, you may be able to prevent a disaster that could cost you or your insurance company thousands to replace.

Cell Phone Insurance

For many of us the thought of going even a single day without our cell phones starts to make our hands shake and our eyes twitch.

When you consider that the wide range of applications for a mobile phone include everything from helping you to navigate around the city to providing appointment reminders and keeping tabs on your teen, it’s easy to see how it becomes your constant companion.

Did you know that about 60 million mobile phones are lost or damaged every year accounting for more than $30 billion in losses?

Losing or breaking your phone can really set you back. And having it stolen is even worse.  And, if you do experience a loss, do you know if your homeowners insurance will help pay for a new one?  Or is an insurance policy that specifically covers cell phones a better option?

Below we will outline the details of how (most) homeowners insurance companies respond to cell phone losses and some things to consider when looking at a cell phone insurance policy.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to give our office a call.


The Manufacturer’s Warranty Is Not Mobile Phone Insurance
Most cell phones come with warranties from the manufacturer covering all damages from defects or mechanical failure. Manufacturer warranties usually cover defects for one year. However, a manufacturer’s warranty will not cover a replacement phone if you dropped the phone and smashed it, if you spilled your coffee on it or if your phone was stolen or lost.

Does Your Homeowner’s Policy Include Cell Phone Insurance?
Insurance for mobile phones – when it is included in your homeowner’s policy – is likely not enough to replace your phone. The typical HO-3 homeowners policy insures all direct physical losses of all personal property listed in Coverage C of the policy document. The only condition is that a covered peril needs to be the cause for loss.

Therefore, if you listed your mobile phone in Coverage C and insured it against theft, you would receive coverage for the theft of the mobile phone. If your theft coverage pays for the depreciated value of the phone, you will still pay a considerable amount to buy a brand new one.

Additionally, most homeowners insurance policies have a deductible of $500 to $2,500, which means you would need to pay that amount prior to any coverage kicking in.

What to Look for in Cell Phone Insurance
Insurance for mobile phones makes sense under certain circumstances, but you want to be sure you are getting the benefit and value you need. Here are some questions to ask when considering a policy on your cell phone:

  • What is the coverage and scope of the cellular phone insurance? For example, does the policy cover accidental damage, phone theft and loss?
  • What does the coverage cost? Multiply your monthly premiums by the length of the policy and then add the deductible. For example, if you pay $10 a month for 3 years, then $10×36 = $360 + deductible of $50 = $410. If the price of a new cell phone is less than the amount you would be paying, you may decide that buying a new phone would be a more cost-effective option.
  • How will the cell phone will be replaced in the event of a loss? Will you get a similar model or a better one? Will the replacement be a new phone or a refurbished one?
  • What will it cost to replace your phone out of pocket?
  • How much is the deductible? The deductibles for cell phone insurance usually cost around $50-$150.
  • Will the insurance cover the cost of calls a thief made after stealing your phone?

Your insurance coverage should fit your needs and give you peace of mind.  You should feel confident that your coverage has a high value and can protect your investment adequately.

Disclaimer: The above information is to be used as guidance only, and it is not to be considered as definite in any particular case.   Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond.  The information provided is based on the ISO standard HO-3 homeowners insurance in force in most states. Policy provisions and laws vary from state to state and they can change at any time.  Due to the brevity of this article, we cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.