A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (physical damage)

Dog Blog
I’ve been waiting for a little while now….

OK OK I know that I said I’d be back to finish up auto coverages a few days ago.  Business being what it is, it’s taken me a little while.  But here we are, and off we go!

Last week we reviewed liability and injury coverages.  This week, we are going to review the coverages in place to protect the damages to your vehicle itself and ways to save on them.

  • Collision  – Even though this is “backwards” from how the coverages appear on your policy, it’s easier to explain starting with Collision.  Collision provides coverage for your vehicle when it collides with some other inanimate object, or is hit by another moving vehicle.  In the state of PA, unfortunately, that includes when your car is hit by a shopping cart.  Some examples of collision claims:  if your car is parked and gets hit by another car (or shopping cart!), you hit a patch of black ice and slam into a tree, or you are at fault in a multi-vehicle accident.  Ways to save – see note after Comprehensive
  • Comprehensive (Comp) – Comprehensive is most easily explained as “all other covered forms of physical damage to your vehicle,” hence the name.  In PA, comprehensive coverage does pick up one type of accident that would otherwise be considered a collision – hitting an animal or pedestrian.  These damages would be covered by comprehensive.  Other examples of comp claims:  if your car is stolen, catches on fire, suffers flood damage, a tree falls on it, etc.  Windshield and other glass damage is covered by comp (unless caused by a non-animal collision).  Ways to save – Easiest and most common way to save is by increasing your deductible.  Be wary of two things, though – first is that collision is far more expensive than comp, so it’s far more effective to increase your collision deductible.  Second is that you should be aware that the savings by increasing the deductible will not offset (in one year) the increased out of pocket cost in the event of a claim.
  • Comp or collision pay for a total loss of the vehicle based on the depreciated (Blue Book) value of the car.  All other (partial) losses are paid based on the actual expense of repairs (less the deductible).
  • Rental Reimbursement (RR) – RR provides coverage if you need to pay for a rental car as a result of a covered comp or collision claim.  In other words: you have a covered claim.  Your vehicle will be in the shop for two weeks.  You need a car in the interim.  You pay for a rental vehicle.  RR coverage will reimburse you for the cost, up to specified daily limits and maximum duration (typically, $30 a day for 30 days).  Ways to save – only real way to save here, outside of not purchasing it at all, is to carry lower per day limits.
  • Towing & Labor (T&L) – T&L provides coverage in the event that you need some form of roadside assistance (change a flat tire, charge a dead battery, keys locked in your car) or need to be towed for virtually any reason (mechanical breakdown, run out of gas, etc).  No real way to save here, it’s generally very inexpensive to begin with.  Only thing to consider – if you are paying for this AND AAA or some similar road service, be aware you may be paying twice for the same coverage.
  • Gap Coverage – This provides coverage for new cars that are purchased using a car loan.  As noted above, in the event of a total loss to your car, the policy will only pay for the depreciated value of the vehicle, NOT the loan amount.  Typically, the loan amount is higher than the depreciated value, creating a “gap” in coverage.  Gap coverage fills the void by paying for the difference.  This coverage can be purchased through the dealership or on your auto policy.  Compare BOTH terms and pricing before choosing where to buy the coverage!

That about does it for this review.  There are other liability and physical damage coverages available, but these are by far the most common (at least in PA).

Relax
So just relax and enjoy the ride – knowing you are well covered!

A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (liability)

Miss me
Hi everyone! Did you miss me?

Hey everyone!  It’s been too long since we’ve posted anything.  We’ll try to blend the purpose of this post between a good mix of information and ways to save.  Since our prior posts focused on business insurance, we’re going to start in a more widely useful direction – personal insurance.

Auto insurance is, at least in the state of PA, a legal requirement – but probably far less than you think.  In fact, state regulations only require that you carry liability coverage for the bodily injury and property damage of others, as well as your own personal medical expenses.  The limits required by the state are similarly low – only $15,000 per person & $30,000 per accident for bodily injury, $5,000 for property damage, and $5,000 for medical expenses.

Here are some of the coverages you can purchase, as well as ways to save on them:

  • Bodily Injury (BI)BI covers your liability for injuries people NOT in your vehicle sustain in the event of an accident for which you are at fault.  BI claims can get very tricky in PA.  If you are responsible for an accident that injures the passengers of another vehicle, typically the medical payments coverage on the policy on the OTHER (non-responsible) vehicle responds first.  It can quickly get convoluted, so in the interest of brevity, contact your agent for additional details of how coverage applies in the event of an injury.  Ways to save – see notes after Property Damage.
  • Property Damage (PD) PD covers your liability for the damage done to the property of others in an accident for which you are at fault.  For example, if you rear-ended a slower moving vehicle, back into a parked car in a parking lot, or take a turn too quickly and end up in someone’s front yardWays to save in general, liability coverages are the most difficult to reduce your costs on – the most convenient way to save is by lowering your limits.  However, especially if your driving record is clean, you won’t save as much by reducing limits as you might think.   Other ways to reduce your rates include changing driver/vehicle assignments on your policy (the youngest driver on the oldest car, for example), purchasing a safer car, or doing something to reduce your daily (commute) or annual mileage.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists (UM/UIM) – this coverage is similar to BI but in reverse.  If you or your passengers are injured in an accident where another party is at fault, and that party either does not have any BI coverage (uninsured) or they don’t have enough BI coverage (underinsured) to pay for your injuries, UM/UIM will pick up the difference (up to your policy limits).  Ways to save the best way to save without reducing your limits (if you have multiple vehicles on your policy) would be to reduce your limits and add stacking.  Stacking multiplies your UM/UIM limits by the number of vehicles on your policy.  So, if you have two cars on your policy, and carry $50,000/$100,000 unstacked limits, you can reduce your limits to $25,000/$50,000 and stack the coverage.  You will maintain the same total coverage (as long as you have at least two vehicles!) and pay less.
  • First Party Benefits (FPB) I will address these as a group, as they are typically lumped together in a batch on your policy.  Additionally, they can be combined into one large limit for the whole group of coverages, instead of having separate limits for each.  This is typically called blanketing coverage.  I digress – the four FPB coverages are medical expense, income loss, accidental death, and funeral benefits.  Each FPB coverage pays if you or your relatives (residing in your home) are injured or killed in an accident, regardless of who is at fault.  Medical Expenses operates similar to health insurance – covering your actual medical & rehab costs.  Income loss operates similar to disability coverage – covering your lost wages if you are injured in an accident and are unable to return to work.  Accidental Death and Funeral Benefits, similar to life insurance, provide coverage in the event you pass away as a result of an accident.  Ways to save in order to get higher limits for less money, consider purchasing the combination option, where you get one lump sum for all four coverages, which you can divvy up as necessary.  For example, instead of maintaining higher limits on each individual coverage, consider carrying combination coverage of $100,000 or $177,500.  Additionally, if you already have health, disability, or life insurance, consider reducing or removing the applicable coverages from your policy.

In the interest of your sanity and keeping this short, I will stop for today.  We’ll review the physical damage coverages you can purchase on your vehicle itself tomorrow.
In the meantime:

Sammy Dog Blog
Keep on riding!

Polesky Agency Instagram Contest details & rules

As you may have heard, we are hosting a contest via Instagram and Facebook meant to help promote local businesses and their social media marketing efforts.  The details of the contest seem a bit complex, but in reality, it all works very easily.

Put simply, we are going to reward you for something many people are already doing – posting pictures of their favorite establishments on Instagram & Facebook!  All you have to do is go to your favorite local business, take a picture that you feel best or most creatively represents and promotes that business using Instagram (or a digital camera or phone if you don’t use Instagram), post it online, and tag the business and our agency.  Our agency’s Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/PoleskyAgency

Our independent judges will select three finalists and ultimately one winner.  What do you get?  How about a $200 gift card to the business in the winning picture!  The other two finalists will each receive a $25 gift card to the businesses they photographed.  Additional details are below.

We hope you enjoy our contest, and we hope that you will discover new places to check out here in Pittsburgh!  Good luck!

  • Take a digital picture best, most creatively, or interestingly represents your favorite Pittsburgh business.  You may photograph up to three businesses, but only post one picture of each – so make the picture you post good!
  • When posting on Instagram and Facebook, be sure to include in your caption #ThePoleskyAgency, as well as #’ing the business in question.  Note – you must like our Facebook page in order to participate.
  • You do NOT need to have an Instagram account to participate.  If you don’t have or use Instagram, simply post a picture on the Agency Facebook Page from your camera phone or digital camera.
  • You MUST post a copy of the picture on our Facebook (agency) page.  If the picture is NOT on our agency page, it will NOT be judged.   When posting on the agency page, make SURE that you tag the business represented in the photograph, whether it’s obvious what business it is or not.  Part of the idea is to promote THEIR social media efforts!
  • The contest will not be judged until at least 30 separate individuals have participated.  In other words, ten participants each posting three businesses does NOT trigger judging of the photos.  Our goal is have the contest judged on the first day of August.  Note, if we have more than 30 participants within the month of July, the contest will continue until July 31st.
  • A business can be represented by more than one participant.  However, if multiple participants choose the same business, and only one is chosen as a finalist or winner, the others who photographed the same business (but were not selected) will NOT receive a gift card.
  • The business must be within a 30 mile radius of downtown Pittsburgh (essentially, Butler to Washington and Greensburg to the Ohio border).
  • A group of impartial judges chosen by the agency will select the finalists and winner.  We are currently seeking five judges – two to select the finalists, and three to select the winner.  The number and arrangement of judges can change based on needs and availability.
  • Neither participants NOR businesses need to be a client of the Polesky Agency to participate and win.  The contest is available to anyone.
  • The Polesky Agency will purchase and pay for ALL gift cards.  Businesses are NOT required to contribute financially.
  • Businesses ARE encouraged to promote the contest and their business to their customers.  Businesses have free rein to promote the contest to their customers in any way they see fit, so long as it accurately and attractively represents the contest and our agency.
  • No purchase is necessary.  You don’t have to buy anything at the business you photograph, but then, why would you want to help promote them in the first place?!
  • The Polesky Agency reserves the right to update and change the rules of the contest at any time.
  • The Polesky Agency reserves final say in determining resolution of any and all disputes and discrepancies.

What the Hail?!

Hail
Wow! Thank goodness we didn’t see anything the size of these babies!

Some timely advice for local Pittsburghers who endured the relatively uncommon pelting of hail yesterday:

Worried about hail damage? Don’t be!

– Virtually every building (home or business) policy includes coverage for hail damage, even if you have a named perils policy.
– Same for auto policies – if you carry comprehensive, you have coverage for hail damage.
– If you are concerned about hail damage on the roof of your building – DON’T get up there to check it yourself! Hire a professional.  Also, make sure its either someone you trust, or is reputable and in good standing in the BBB or Angies List.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be present for the inspection. Sadly, some of the less-reputable “contractors” will go onto people’s roofs with a ballpeen hammer and create some “hail damage” of there own to get some quick and easy repair work.

In addition, if you have a chip in your windshield, get it fixed now before it becomes a crack!  If you carry comprehensive on your auto policy, and the chip is about the size of a quarter, most policies will pay for the repair with no cost to you.  Once it turns into a full blown crack, and it needs to be replaced, then you would pay your comp deductible and the company pays the balance.
Other questions or concerns? Talk to your agent!

(Photos courtesy of Hail Events & Scott Blair)

Windshield
Probably going to need replaced….
Windshield
Another probable replacement…..

Fish Fry 2013!

It’s Fish Fry Season!

I can’t help but love this time of year because it means that every Friday I get to stuff my face with delicious fried fish (and usually support a good cause while you’re at it – either a local church or other service – the Moon Twp VFD is our closest fish fry, for example).

If you like to bounce around and try all the various fish fries, I’ve found a website that has a decent consolidation of resources for you to check out.   http://www.livingpittsburgh.com/2013/02/2013-pittsburgh-fish-fries-lenten-fries/

Another good option, if you like to support local churches with your business – it’s not as efficiently laid out, but it does also give a breakdown by county AND a link to a pretty awesome Google Map of Fish Fries in the area.  http://www.pittsburghcatholic.org/fishfry.php

Tell you what.  I’m going to make it even easier for you by just linking to the awesome interactive Google Map here!

Enjoy!  (seems weird to say enjoy about the Lenten season, doesn’t it?  This is what these delicious fish fries bring us to…..!)

A review of business coverages – Part 2

Workers Compensation
Injured at work? Work Comp is what you need!

Good afternoon one and all!  Today I’m going to give you a brief break down of one of the more straight-forward coverages for your business – Workers Compensation.  To put it simply, Workers Compensation is in place to pay for expenses due to a work related injury, illness, or death.  In addition, it will also replace any income lost if an employee is not able to work due to any of those three things.

Virtually every employer (and employee thereof) is required to partake in Workers Compensation in the state of Pennsylvania (I won’t be covering any information for any other states).  It can be purchased by any business in the state – whether through a private company or The State Workers’ Insurance Fund or SWIF.  Coverage is written on an annual basis, and is rated based on annual payroll amounts.

Payroll is divided into class codes based upon the type of work that employees perform.  When you first write a policy, the class code is initially determined by your agent, and will be confirmed by the PA Rating Compensation Bureau or PCRB.  Final determination will be made by the PCRB and will be enforced upon all insurance companies, including SWIF.  You can always appeal the class code(s) assigned to your business.

Each class code has a rate, as determined by base rates each company files with the state.  Simply put, your WC premium is determined by multiplying your payroll amount (divided by 100) times the applicable rate, and then adding in the PA Employer Assessment (which functions similar to a tax).  If you write your coverage through any company other than SWIF, you will also pay a flat Expense Constant.

At the end of each policy term, your policy will be audited – either by your insurance company or an independent auditor hired by your company.  Not every company audits every year, but most do.  Audits, especially for small businesses, are typically a short form that’s mailed to you to complete and return.  The audit is used to determine the actual payroll for the prior policy term (not calendar or business year), and typically requires W2 or other tax form verification.  Occassionally, an auditor will actually come to your business to review your information, but it is still often a simple process.

I feel like I’ve bored you enough.  Work Comp is generally a very dry, straight forward coverage to discuss.  I hope that you stayed awake, and if you have additional questions on how it works, PLEASE feel free to call or email us!

PS – we are running a contest on Facebook.  Every person who likes my page in the month of February is entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift card to either Darden Restaurants or Big Burrito Group.  Already liked my page?  NOT TO WORRY!  For every person that you refer to my page, you are entered to win a $50 gift card to the same!  (everyone can “enter” to win this card – new and old “likers”)  If they are picked as the winner for the $100 gift card, and you referred them, then YOU WIN the $50 card!  Need another link, in case you missed the first one?   Here’s another one…  LINK   or was it LINK

Anyway, have a good day, and don’t hurt yourself!

Pittsburgh!
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with Workers Compensation. But I love our city. And you’re probably tired of hearing about WC

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr

January 15 1929 - April 4 1968
January 15 1929 – April 4 1968

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice…: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I hope that you have a warm and wonderful Martin Luther King Day.

 

The Dog Blog

 

A review of business coverages – Part 1

Insurance confusion
Feeling down because you don’t understand your business insurance? The Dog Blog is here to help!

Today is the first part of a series reviewing various business insurance coverages.  Insurance companies will handle the various coverages differently, but some generalities can be made.  Many companies often use standardized forms provided by the Insurance Services Office, but certainly not all do.  Today’s coverages we will review are the Commercial Package Policy and Business Owners Policy.

The Commercial Package Policy (CPP) in its simplest form is the combination of two business coverages – most commonly general liability and commercial propertyThe CPP can be written a la carte to include a variety of different coverages, but is almost always written with GL & property.  General Liability protects business owners from a wide variety of legal exposures, such as a customer getting injured at their location, damages due to a product failure (although the actual product itself is typically NOT covered), or a wide variety of other lawsuits.  Commercial Property protects business owners against a loss to their building, contents & furnishings, inventory, or other goods.   The CPP can also include things like tool coverage, equipment breakdown, professional liability, auto, and crime – it can be built “from scratch” to meet your needs specifically, and is often used for larger or more complex businesses.

The Business Owners Policy (BOP) is a package that automatically includes a variety of coverages to provide a more efficient and competitive method of insuring a business.  The package includes general liability, commercial property, business income protection, and often also includes a variety of coverage enhancements.  Business Income coverage replaces lost income when business operations are interrupted due to a covered property loss.  For example, if there is a fire at a retail store and they cannot operate for 3 months, the income lost for those 3 months is replaced by the insurance company. 

The BOP is meant to streamline coverage for less complex businesses such as small retail operations or a medical or professional office (but the BOP does NOT offer malpractice coverage!).  If a BOP is available, it is often going to be more competitively priced than it would be to try to piece together similar coverages via a CPP. 

As I mentioned previously, each insurance company is going to handle coverages differently, and ultimately if you have questions you should call your agent Thanks for tuning in!

A mish-mash of things leading up to Christmas!

Hello and good morning faithful!

Not terribly much new going on in the local insurance world, and amazingly few things need to be addressed insurance-wise.

I do want to say that I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Years.  The dog and I will be going on vacation shortly (well, I’m going on vacation, the dog is going to *gasp* the kennel) and this will be my last post of 2012!  (for followers of the Mayan Calendar, I guess it’s my last post ever!).  We will be celebrating Christmas and New Years with some of my oldest and closest friends, and I hope that you have the opportunity to do the same!

I would like to say a little something in light of the events in Oregon and Connecticut.  There is very little that we can do to directly impact the lives of those involved with what happened, but there is a lot that we can do every day to impact the lives of those around us.  Be the good, be the light, and be the joy that people need to see every day.  Show people that there is a better way to live.  Show patience.  Love others.  Be caring and understanding.  Encourage those around you.  Show people that there IS good in the world.  As the world becomes a darker place, the only way to combat that is by adding more of your own light back in.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Next year, I am going to re-double my efforts to show my gratitude and appreciation to first responders.  These people make sacrifices every day to ensure our comfort and safety – there is no such thing as doing “too much” to show them our appreciation – you never know whose life they saved today.

My first year with the Polesky Agency has ended on some very high notes!   We’ve had one of our best years ever, and were recently ranked by the home office as being in the top 10% of all Erie agents!  We’ve expanded the number and types of insurance companies we can place new policies with for both personal and commercial lines, allowing us to better serve our clients by offering them more options.  Our office remodeling job is nearly completed, and the new layout and look have been a smashing success!  We have dramatically expanded our social media presence – LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ – and are even the first listing now when you Google “Erie Insurance Moon Twp”! 

I would like to wrap up just by saying that I’m looking forward to a positive, productive, and prosperous 2013, and I hope that we can work together to protect the things you care about most!

All the best for 2013!

Sammy Bo Journey, Scott & Amanda Berney

Scott & Amanda Berney
Scott Amanda and Claire in 3D glasses
Scott Berney Amanda Berney honeymoon
Scott and Amanda Berney on their honeymoon
Relax
Sammy Bo can finally relax and enjoy the holidays!

A defense for the insurance industry…. based on my own experience

I wrote this blog on the day that the incident occurred.  I decided to wait a few weeks and give myself time to cool down so I wouldn’t be posting in anger.  Nearly a month after the fact, I’m keeping it intact, as it’s mostly not about anger so much as it is informative about what’s going on out there.  On with the show:

Hello estranged readers!  (all 3 of you)

I’m going to describe an incident in my life today, to defend my industry.  I’m going to eliminate many of the identifying details; the situation is on-going.  However, I think the lesson it holds is an important one.

Very simply, one of my vehicles is in a repair situation that normally would be resolved via the insurance company.  It is, however, being paid out of pocket by the party responsible.  To make a long story short, I was told by the garage that I am being charged a higher rate for my repair.

When I asked why, I was told “Because the insurance companies will pay the higher rate.” 

“How is this a defense of the insurance industry?!  They are paying higher rates than necessary when they could negotiate reductions in cost!”  you might ask.

“While that may be accurate on the surface, there are some factors at play that make that not necessarily correct.”  Sammy would rebut.

To make it as straight forward as possible – the increased cost that’s being charged is lower than cost of negotiating the correct amount.  If an insurance company were to take the time and manpower necessary to haggle for better prices, they would pay more for the hourly pay/salary of their employee than the increased cost of repair – in my case, about $75 total.  It may not seem like much, and in my case, it’s not.  But when you multiply that by hundreds of cases a month (see “A form of insurance fraud” at bottom), every month of the year, well, you can see how it adds up.

One very important point needs made – not every repair shop operates in this fashion.  I was not aware this was going to be the case in my situation, or I would not have gone to the garage that I did.  Now, I’m stuck overpaying (albeit slightly), but I’m aware that it happens, and I’m aware that I need to be more wary of where I go to get repairs done.

Most importantly, I want you all to be aware that in a world of rising insurance costs, it’s not simply a case of the insurance company raking you over the coals.  Insurance companies are being nickel and dimed in this fashion quite often, and there is no simple solution to the problem.  To be blunt, some repair firms will take advantage of this situation, and that results in all of us paying higher rates for insurance.

And to the shop in question, Sammy only has one thing to say:

**Pbbbbbb**
**Pbbbbbb!**
A Whiskey Mama

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