Archive for the ‘dog blog’ Tag

Ten Tips for Preventing a Disaster   Leave a comment

Insurance Dog

The Insurance Dogger has been keeping an eye on things in my absence!

Good afternoon!  Long time no write!

Sorry I’ve been so busy – working on quotes and assisting clients with claims has eaten up vast amounts of time in my calendar!

Just a quick list of things you can easily do to prevent a disaster from occurring in your home.

If you think there’s something I missed, feel free to email your idea to me:  scott@poleskyagency.com

1 – Turn off your water supply at the main valve into the house before leaving for vacation.

2 – Always use metal water supply lines for all fixtures, especially heavy water users like your dishwasher or wash machine – plastic lines corrode far too quickly and can be pinched or severed accidentally.  You can either use actual copper lines, or the metal-coated flex lines.

3 – Have your sump pump tested annually, preferably before the spring rainy season arrives.  If you don’t know how to do it, contact a local plumber to assist you.

4 – Check your foundation walls for cracks every six months, especially looking for cracks that run across the face of the blocks.  Cracks that follow the mortar/joints between blocks could be a sign of ordinary settling, whereas cracks across the blocks themselves could be an indication of pressure or other damage that should be closely monitored.  If you do see a crack developing, cover it with a small amount of caulk, joint compound or spackle, and check every few weeks to see how quickly the crack is spreading.  If it’s spreading quickly, or if it’s more than 1/4″ wide, contact a licensed foundation repair contractor immediately.

5 – Trim trees annually, especially those near the house.  Make sure to remove all dead branches, and to “balance” the tree as much as possible so it’s not producing branches primarily on one side of the tree.  Similarly, trim back all shrubs and other landscaping so it is at least a foot from the exterior walls of the house to prevent infestation by ants, termites, and other insects.

6 – Place splash pans or catch basins under your washer and hot water heater to catch leaks.  Make sure the pan drains to a nearby floor drain.

7 – Inspect your foundation walls annually for termite tunnels (which often look like small mud tunnels on the block).

8 – Add long down spout extensions to the end of your gutters to direct rain water away from the foundation of the house – a one inch rain fall drops approximately 650 gallons of water on an average roof!

9 – Install surge protectors on all of your electronics and, when possible, appliances.

10 – Test the batteries in all smoke detectors at least once per year, and keep at least one ABC rated fire extinguisher on each floor of the house and an additional ABC fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  Replace them as indicated, or after any use.

Bonus tip – be sure to have your furnace/boiler cleaned and inspected on an annual basis before cold weather hits – preferably in the summer so if something comes up, you are not paying “emergency” or “rush” fees to your repairman!

Oh, and Happy Flag Day!

american-flag-2a

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Motorcycle Insurance – coverage review   Leave a comment

Motorcycle season

It’s motorcycle season!!

Good morning everyone!

For those in Western PA, motorcycle season is very nearly upon us, and if you’re like me, that’s an exciting and gratifying thing indeed.  Four to five very long months of waiting can get rough on us all.

One thing that tends to sit on the backburner is the motorcycle insurance renewal that almost always also comes through at this time.  As such, now is as good a time as any to give a quick run-down on motorcycle coverage and things to consider.

Some of the coverages on a motorcycle policy will mirror those on your auto policy – bodily injury and property damage liability are good examples.  Liability coverage pays for the medical expenses and damages others suffer, for which you are responsible (in an accident).

Uninsured & underinsured medical provides coverage for you and your passenger’s medical expenses in the event of an accident where someone else is at fault and either doesn’t have sufficient coverage, or any insurance at all, to pay for your bills.  And, of course, you can buy physical damage coverage on your motorcycle itself if it’s stolen or damaged.

Beyond that, though, is where the differences start to appear.  For example, many first party benefits coverages either are unavailable or very expensive to obtain.  These coverages provide protection for you in the event that you are injured in an at-fault accident for things like medical bills, lost income, or funeral expenses.

Roadside assistance and/or trip interruption can function differently on a motorcycle policy – depending on the company you go to, you can get coverage for a flatbed tow (not typically available on regular auto policies) or other motorcycle-specific services.  On occasion, you can even get coverage for unexpected expenses resulting from an accident or breakdown – such as the cost of staying in a hotel.

There is also more readily available coverage for accessories and “carried” contents on your bike.  Several insurance companies provide a small amount of accessory coverage automatically when you buy physical damage coverage on your bike.

If you have done a great deal of modification, have an antique or custom bike, make sure to go over the best way to properly insure your baby – otherwise, you might be in a position where you have to cover most of the cost of those same mods out of pocket in the event of a claim. 

One final thing to consider – keep your safety courses up to date (within the past three years).  This will you provide you with a moderate to major discount on your coverage, and is a great refresher for those safety skills you learned years ago.  For Pennsylvania riders, head to the PA MSF website to find and schedule a class.

Shameless plug – as a licensed rider & Harley owner who is registered to provide motorcycle coverage through multiple insurance companies (like Rider, Progressive, AIC, and more!), I am excited to work with you to provide competitive quotes.  We can re-evaluate your coverage, and potentially get you better coverage for less money.  Do business with someone who knows and understands the passion and dangers involved so you can ride with peace of mind.  The quoting process takes approximately 15-20 minutes.  Please complete the following form, and I will get in touch with you soon to begin the process. 

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

 

Happy National Black Dog Day!   Leave a comment

National Black dog day

In honor of National Black Dog Day, we are formally debuting our new TV commercial featuring the Insurance Dogger!

Hope you enjoy the commercial!

Identity Theft, Flood Insurance, and antique coverage – Part Three   Leave a comment

In this final installment of our 3 part mini-series, we are going to review a little bit of information about coverage for antiques and high-value items you may have in your home.

This is a topic that I covered briefly in my post reviewing homeowner’s insurance (HOI) in general.  As discussed there, while most HOI policies provide replacement level coverage for dwelling and contents, there are very specific limitations in place regarding antique, unique, and high value items.  Replacement coverage is defined as “like kind and quality” but does not specify replacing unique items with exact or proximate matches – for example, an antique grandfather clock will typically be replaced with a newer version of the same unless specifically scheduled.

Policies and guidelines will differ from company to company, but in general, HOI policies do not provide adequate coverage for your specialty items:

Antiques:  Typically this is an item that is at least 50 years old, is out of production, and generally can be considered challenging to replace.  It can be just about anything – Griswold Cast Iron Skillets , Seth Thomas Mantel Clocks, or antique jewelry are just a few examples – and will need to be specifically scheduled on the policy to receive the appropriate level of coverage.  An appraisal will almost always be required.

Unique Items & Artwork:   Another broad category of items, this would include collectibles (like Hummel figurines), collections (like baseball cards), and a vast array of artwork – paintings, pottery, statuaries & sculptures, and more.  This coverage typically applies to higher value or difficult to replace items, will need to be specifically schedule, and will require an appraisal.

High Value Items:  This is basically a catch-all for items that don’t fall into one of the first two categories, and most commonly is non-antique jewelry.  Coverage can be placed in two ways: in a blanket format (one total limit for all pieces) for mid-level values (individual pieces typically less than $2500-$3000), or on a scheduled basis (each piece individually listed) for high value items (greater than $3000 each).  For high value scheduled items, an appraisal will be required.

These scheduled items will be covered on a policy form called “Inland Marine.”  I won’t bore you with the history of why it’s called that, but it will provide you with the more detailed and specific coverage you are seeking for your high value and unique/irreplaceable items.  For the amount of coverage purchased, especially since most Inland Marine policies or endorsements carry $0 deductibles, you will pay a relatively minor amount of premium.  I hope that you found this series to be enlightening and informative, and if you have questions, you can always feel free to email me at scott@poleskyagency.com or find me on Facebook!

The Insurance Dogger does not have a great deal of respect for delicate items!!

The Insurance Dogger does not have a great deal of respect for delicate items!!

Not funny, Insurance Dogger!  Not funny!

Not funny, Insurance Dogger! Not funny!

 

Identity Theft, Flood Insurance, and antique coverage – Part Two   Leave a comment

Hello everyone, we’re back again! This time we are going to briefly review the debacle that is flood insurance.  Operated by the National Flood Insurance Program (under the auspices of FEMA) or NFIP for short, flood insurance has gone through quite the upheaval lately.  This is due, in large part, to the fact that the program is about $20 BILLION in debt.

As a result, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012 in an attempt to bring the NFIP’s budget deficit back in line.  This was to be accomplished primarily by removing subsidies from policies in heavily flood-prone areas so the premium reflected the real risk of insuring a homeowner in such an area.  As you can imagine, this created quite a bit of backlash from property owners along the coast, particularly those in Louisiana.

The resultant premium increases imposed by Biggert-Waters were shocking and dramatic, far higher than what was originally predicted.  Instead of removing subsidies over time, as was initially proposed, they were yanked all at once for thousands of property owners nationwide.  For example, one of our clients saw her premium jump from a little less than $500 to nearly $3,000 in one year.

Thus Congress & the Senate recently passed the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act.  Boiled down, the HFIAA basically sets annual limitations on premium increases to attempt to raise rates in (very small) steps.  However, even a glance at FEMA’s overview page outlining the changes reveals confusing and challenging definitions and procedures.  When I called the company about getting our client’s premium scaled back due to the change, I was told, almost word for word, “We don’t know whether the new act is going to affect her premium, so we are going to wait until FEMA tells us to do something.”

Very simply, I would summarize all the changes to flood insurance this way:  Our government took a program that was quite literally drowning in debt, put together a knee-jerk and poorly executed solution, and reversed it in a similarly ineffective fashion in response to public outrage.  This article puts it all together perfectly.

The government had a chance to fix a broken program that had previously served constituents relatively well.  It had its problems, as most government programs do, but it was completely blindsided by the severity of storms like Katrina and Sandy.  Instead of scaling up property owner premiums over 5 or 10 years to more accurately reflect the risk that they carry, a “NOW NOW NOW” followed by a “LATER LATER LATER” mentality prevailed.  As usual, it will ultimately be the property owners and tax payers who foot the bill.

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Sammy thinks these flood changes are all wet….

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