Archive for the ‘car insurance’ Tag

To Dashcam or not to Dashcam?   Leave a comment

Dashcam 3

One of my co-workers recently had a hit-and-run accident, in which the other driver pulled over briefly, saw the severity of the situation, and took off again. With no information about the other driver, my co-worker had to file the claim against her auto policy and pay her deductible.

The situation raised a question in the office that ultimately prompted several of us to purchase dashcams: “What can be done to protect ourselves against a hit and run driver?” While there is no perfect solution, a high-resolution dashcam is a great start.

Dashcam 1

The idea is simple enough to comprehend – with a high resolution video recording being created while you drive, all those crazy near-misses you experience while driving are recorded in great detail… and should you have an accident, most of the cameras include sensors that automatically lock the data for a length of time before and after impact is detected to prevent the video from being deleted.

But will a dashcam help? The answer is, unfortunately… it depends. It mainly depends on two factors – what happened, and how much information the camera captured.

Though most cameras provide high resolution and wide angle videos, they still only capture what happens in front of you – not much help if you get hit from the side or the back. While there are models that also include a rear-facing camera, that still leaves the sides of the vehicle unmonitored.

Dashcam 2

And, of course, the most important piece of the puzzle is whether or not the license plate of the offending vehicle is legible. That’s were the cost of the equipment can skyrocket quickly – not just in the camera, but also in the quality of memory card needed. For a high quality front and back camera with ultra-fast memory card, you could be looking at more than $200 … and if you have more than one vehicle that’s used regularly in your household, that cost goes up exponentially!

Ultimately, the choice to purchase and use a dashcam is very similar to choices you have to make while purchasing your insurance coverage: do you spend money up front to seriously reduce your financial risk down the road? Will the investment now protect you from headaches later? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to answer these questions with certainty, so it depends on your own tolerance for risk (vs spending more to pass that risk on).

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Pokémon GO Is a No Go While Driving   Leave a comment

Pokémon GO is a fun new app that is taking people’s phones by storm. The app has not been out very long, but the number of average daily users is close to that of Twitter. This app has even caused some big changes in the stock market, causing Nintendo’s overall worth to grow almost 8 billion in just a week’s time.  All of this excitement about the game has helped to give people even more of a reason to go “catch em all.”

Go logo

Many people have already started their journey to become a Pokémon master. This adventure begins with users wandering the real world with their phone in hand to hunt down all the Pokémon they can find. As a result, many users have been paying more attention to their phone than their surroundings. This of course has resulted in some Pokémon masters getting injured with scrapes, cuts, and even sprained ankles. Some players are even falling into creeks and holes. It may make you wonder, “How long until someone really gets hurt?”  The answer to that question is soon.

Recent reports and tweets suggest that a number of users have been playing Pokémon GO on the go. Driving and playing Pokémon GO is very dangerous. The Tennessee Highway Safety Office (along with many others) has already made a Public Service Announcement:

PSA

Along with this there are already reports of accidents occurring due to one or more drivers being on the hunt for Pokémon while they should be looking at the road. Texas A&M Police recently reported an incident where a driver got into an accident, because another driver illegally parked and left the car to catch a Pokémon.

Police tweet 2

Even though Pokémon GO may be a childhood dream come true for many, we all need to put down our phones and pay attention to the road while driving. Save a life and your Poké Balls until you are safely stopped and out of your car.

Some Wintery Insurance Tips   Leave a comment

Sammy Bo

Sammy Bo loves the snow!

Long time no post!  This El Nino winter has been a strange one here in Pittsburgh.  The on-again off-again wintery weather has kept us busy.    The Insurance Dogger loves the snow, so this winter has been an emotional roller coaster to be sure!

A month into winter and we’ve received an unusual array of claims for this time of year – of course we are seeing the normal frozen pipes, chipped windshields (salt wreaks havoc on your glass!), and sliding on ice.  But we are also seeing some unusual-for-winter claims as well – in particular, sewage backing up in basements, which is far more common in spring & early summer.  The heavy snowfall, followed by rapidly rising temps and even occasional rain showers has simply been too much for many sewage systems to handle.

All of this has gotten us to thinking, in light of some of the conversations we’ve had to have with clients, it’s time to do a brief update & post on choosing your insurance coverage – both home and auto. 

I can’t tell you how many times a client has told us they want to insure their cars or home “as cheaply as possible.”  Though this is a thought process we work very hard to counter, it’s not always feasible to adjust this mindset.  When you’ve had a claim is NOT when you want to find out that if you spent a couple extra dollars per month, you would have saved yourself a lot of heartache.

Once you’ve had a claim, you cannot backdate a change to your policy to provide you with the coverage you need – even if you offer to pay for the additional premium.

Here are a few coverage options to consider having on your policy to avoid stress & financial difficulty:

Auto Insurance

Comprehensive physical damage – do not confusion this with collision coverage, or “full” coverage.  As explained previously here on the Dog Blog, comprehensive coverage (in Pennsylvania) protects against things like glass damage, hail damage, fire, theft, flooding, or hitting a deer.  Even if you remove Collision coverage from your vehicle, we always recommend retaining Comprehensive on your policy, as it is a cheap way to provide protection against a number of different claims.

Rental Reimbursement & Towing and Labor – Again, previously explained on the Dog Blog, these two extremely inexpensive coverages will save you A LOT of stress in the event of a covered claim.  Towing & Labor, which provides similar benefits as AAA membership for a fraction of the cost, is a particularly useful during the winter months. It provides everything from jumping a dead battery to pulling your car out of a ditch after sliding on black ice.  Rental reimbursement pays you back for the use of a rental car (with policy-specific limits – ask your agent) in the event that a covered claim puts your car in the shop for an extended period of time.

Increased Property Damage liability limit – Did you slide on slushy roads and rear-end that brand new Mercedes driving in front of you?  We recommend all clients carry AT LEAST $50,000 of Property Damage liability coverage, if not $100,000 or more.  Sleep peacefully knowing that you have the protection you need if you damage an expensive car (or cars!) or home.

Homeowners/Renters Insurance

Sewer & Drain back up – Put simply, S&D B/U (as I call it) protects you in the event that sewage backs up through your floor drains or water overflows from your sump pump.  The coverage is available on both owners and renters policies.  Though this is more common in spring & summer – add it now to ensure A) you don’t get any nasty surprises during this unusual weather season and B) you don’t forget to add it before the spring rains start.

Preventing pipes from freezing – though not a specific coverage, preventing your pipes from freezing in winter is crucial to preventing an unforeseen catastrophe – especially if your power goes out!  Some useful links with more in depth information were provided last winter, but there are several easy things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing during cold snaps.  If you know you are not going to be home for 24 hours or more, ALWAYS shut your water off at the main.  This prevents water from flowing continuously from a burst pipe.  If you have pipes closed up within a cabinet (like your kitchen sink), open the cabinet from time to time to warm things up – and leave the doors open during especially cold times (when temps drop below zero Fahrenheit).  If your power goes out during a storm or a cold snap, turn all faucets on exterior walls on to a slight drip to ensure the pipes don’t freeze.

Identity Theft – OK OK, identity theft has nothing to do with winter weather, but especially during the Christmas shopping season, it bears repeating that the $20-30 per year that you spend on identity theft is money extremely well spent.  In 2014 alone, nearly 10% of all Americans were a victim of identity theft.  If that’s not enough to motivate you, consider that nearly 15% of identity theft victims suffered a direct financial loss of at least $1,000.  At $20 per year, it would take 50 years to make up the difference with premium savings to cover a $1,000 loss!

To summarize – a few simple and inexpensive steps now can prevent a great deal of stress down the road!  Contact your agent to discuss any questions or concerns you might have.

Slow down and drive carefully!

Always drive slowly and carefully when the snow is flying!

Winter weather tips – damage & injury prevention   1 comment

Good afternoon!  Seeing as how the Pittsburgh area is forecast to experience record low temperatures tomorrow & Friday, I thought I would put together a short blog with links for useful tips to prevent damage to your home and to keep yourself & your pets from getting injured.

Winter

Cold temperatures coming soon!

Hope you find the information useful!

Prevent freezing pipes

Pre-storm preparations

Things to do during a storm

Post-storm damage prevention & maintenance

All-around maintenance and preparation ideas

Tips to protect yourself when outside in cold weather

Good resource with multiple links & other info

Pittsburgh Winter

The Insurance Dogger doesn’t seem to mind the cold!

Driverless cars – insurance for the future?   Leave a comment

Sammy driving

The Insurance Dogger isn’t sure if she’s ready to jump out of the driver’s seat just yet!

As you may have noticed, there is a lot of news coming out lately about driverless cars – Google is one of the main players in the field,  but Carnegie Mellon University made a big splash locally and nationally when it unveiled a very successful test-drive in the Cranberry area nearly two years ago.  A lot has been written in the last couple years about the various pros & cons of driverless cars, so I won’t rehash them here – a simple Google search will reveal just about anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the future of driverless vehicles.

However, as an insurance agent, one of the first things that comes to mind whenever the topic comes up is, how will the insurance policy, and the liability coverage in particular, function when it comes to insuring driverless vehicles?  This is not an easy question to answer, as there are many facets to consider, and much of it is based on speculation because the technology has not put forth a viable “ready for the public” option yet.

There are several legal considerations that, for the most part, I will set aside for now – primarily for the sake of expediency.  One of the big issues at hand is that, generally, each state has autonomy over how insurance laws & coverages are mandated.   I will address issues as broadly as possible, but the situation is still largely theoretical and developing as the technology progresses.

From an insurance standpoint, one of the largest liability concerns is the question of who is at fault (“liable”) when a driverless car is involved in an accident – is it the “driver” of the vehicle?  The engineering firm that put together the software operating the vehicle?  The manufacturer of the vehicle?  All of the above?  This is not an easy question to address, and seems to generate more questions than answers.  Was there an error in the software?  Was the driver able to manually override the vehicle and didn’t?  Did the steering system or brakes fail to receive or comprehend the instructions the software passed along?  Some of these questions will sort themselves out as the technology becomes more “concrete” and less speculative.  But the truth is, I fear, legal liability concerns will not actually be resolved until after the rubber hits the road and accidents occur.

Another concern along those lines is who is responsible for damages to the driverless car itself if it is responsible for an accident in which it gets damaged?  As above, should the software design firm pay for your damages?  The car company?  Are you responsible, as the owner of the vehicle?

A bit more disconcerting – what if your vehicle’s software is hacked?  If the vehicle is dependent upon mobile maps & directions to get from point A to point B, what if mobile/cellular service is lost?  How will the vehicles navigate, and in particular, how will it respond to the ever-changing conditions of roads and construction, closures, traffic, etc?

Lloyd’s of London published a market-watch article (along with its far more lengthy corporate report) about some of these very issues.  While the article isn’t conclusive, it does provide some key insights into considerations and factors at hand: “liability will be a key issue because autonomous and unmanned vehicles involve the transfer of control from direct human input to automated or remote control.  ‘In many cases the technology is there to create fully autonomous vehicles, but the legal and regulatory environment needs to be developed further, and public trust will also need to be fostered,’ says Maran.”

One thought I see being repeated consistently is that, ultimately, the increased safety offered by autonomous vehicles will rapidly outweigh the legal and insurance liability concerns: “Many of the routine claims that currently drive the cost of motor insurance will reduce or almost disappear entirely, explains Powell. The resulting decreased exposure for insurers would probably require underwriters to change the design and pricing of motor insurance products, he says.”

At the end of the day, because the technology is a relatively long way off, the “problems” of insuring driverless cars still bring up more questions than answers.  Regardless of the characteristics of the final product, the technology is coming, and the insurance companies that are able to quickly analyze and adapt to the new risks will be a huge step ahead of their competitors.

Some additional resources, reading, and even some videos to watch:

Insurance Information Institute study, Feb 2015

Wall Street Journal article, August 2014

Auto Insurance Center (undated)

CNBC / AllState CEO, Jan 2015

CNET / YouTube – great review of pros & cons of self-driving cars

Google self-driving car – A First Drive

Wall Street Journal YouTube article

CMU driverless car driven around Pittsburgh

Bill Shuster rides in driverless car

 

Christmas Outtakes   Leave a comment

As promised last weeks, here are some of the more amusing outtakes from last week’s photoshoot for our Christmas “card”:

Sammy

She just couldn’t stay awake!

These next three would’ve made an amusing gif.  It appears almost as though she’s singing “Joy to the World!” like Clark Griswold.

Sammy

JOY

Sammy

TO

Sammy

THE WORLD!

This is one of my favorites of all of them:

Sammy / Mork

Nanoo Nanoo
Oh, wait – too young for that joke?

These last pictures show just how hard it is to keep Sammy’s attention, even with treats!

Sammy steps

Who’s upstairs?

Cute bored dog

Are we done yet? Pretty bored over here…

Sammy looking down

What’s that?

Sammy treats

I’m coming to get my treat now!

Sammy housetop

Up on the housetop, click click click….

(for reference on that last one)

A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (physical damage)   3 comments

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!

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