Archive for the ‘insurance questions’ Tag

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.

Insurance & Restaurants   Leave a comment

View More: http://deathtothestockphoto.pass.us/brick-and-mortar

Everyone loves to eat out, which in recent years has led to the development of many new restaurants. This can include a wide variety of types of service, from a food truck to a place of fine dining.  As the restaurant industry grows, so do the needs of those involved in the industry – especially their needs for appropriate insurance to protect themselves.

The food industry has reported both job creation and revenue growth over the course of the last six years. This includes a 3.8% revenue increase, and over 14 million people currently employed in the industry.  While it is great that the food industry is doing so well, what does this have to do with insurance?  It means that there is a growing market of business owners that need specialized coverage based on their risks.

For example, if you own a food truck, it’s likely that if you had a fire or other devastating loss it will take you some time to find or build a replacement vehicle.  While this is taking place, do you have coverage to replace the income you’re losing?  How will you pay your bills?

If you own a more traditional restaurant, do you have coverage for a power outage?  What about a power outage due to power lines downed in a storm?  What if your food spoils while the power is out – is your inventory covered for spoilage?  Similarly, if you have a refrigerant/contamination issue – do you have coverage?

The special types of coverage that are listed are just a few of many that agents and restaurant owners alike need to be aware of to help both industries grow and flourish.  Feel free to call or email with questions or concerns you might have!

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!

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

 

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.

Sammy is this covered

Sammy thinks these flood changes are all wet….

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)

Before you have work done on your home….   Leave a comment

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Good morning!  Today we have a very simple recommendation for you to consider before having a contractor come to do work on your home.

Before you have a contractor (any type of contractor) come in to your home to work, you should have them provide you with a current certificate of insurance.  A certificate (example below) will reflect the liability coverages that the contractor is carrying.  Liability coverages pay for injury or damages suffered by another – like yourself – for which the contractor is responsible (liable).  Thus, you will want confirmation that your contractor has the appropriate coverage in place!

What is the appropriate coverage, you ask?  Well, there are a few things to look for on the certificate:

  • General Liabilitythis is a catch-all for many types of injuries and damages.  It covers a broad range of incidents, such as someone (including you!) being injured at your home as a result of the contractor’s work, or the damage that’s done to your home if the contractor does the repairs improperly (important note – it does not cover the correction of the original mistake, but it DOES cover the damage that’s done as a result of the mistake.  The contractor is on the hook to pay for the correction).  Pennsylvania law only requires a contractor to carry $50,000 in coverage, but most good agents will not write a GL policy for less than $300,000 in coverage.
  • Voluntary Property Damagethis is a critical coverage for ALL contractors to carry, and it is OFTEN MISSED by both agents and contractors.  Basically, VPD will pay for damage that results from the contractor taking any of your household items into their “possession” – for example, carrying your TV across the room to do work behind it, and the TV is dropped.  This type of incident is NOT covered under general liability; thus the contractor without it would have to pay this claim out of his own pocket!
  • Workers Compensation – this provides protection for the employees of the contractor if they are injured while working.  Why is this coverage important to you?  If an employee is injured while working at your home, and the contractor doesn’t carry WC coverage, YOU could be on the hook to pay for the employee’s lost wages and medical expenses!  The most common scenario is that the contractor would be required to pay these expenses, but if he does not have the means to do so, they will most likely pursue you next.  Even if you aren’t found to be liable, you will have a claim against your homeowners policy to pay your defense expenses.
  • Generation and policy effective datesWhile reviewing the certificate, be certain to review two items of particular importance – the date the certificate was generated, and the policy effective dates!  Make sure, of course, that the policy is within its effective dates and is not expired.  And make sure the date that the certificate was generated (at the top right hand corner of the certificate) is relatively recent (within the past week or two).  Less scrupulous contractors have been known to pass off older certificates, being fully aware that their coverage has cancelled (due to non-payment, for example).

I hope that this information is helpful to you in protecting your home and your claims record!  Be cautious, and if you have questions after receiving a contractor’s certificate – ask your agent to review it with you!  Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!

ACORD certificate

Example copy of the most common form of a certificate of insurance

 

 

 

 

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