You Maintain Your Car, But What About Your Car Insurance

Your car’s performance relies on a program of regularly scheduled maintenance, and so should your car insurance. In the same way that your car needs to be tuned up for it to operate safely and efficiently, your car insurance needs to be periodically reviewed to ensure it continues to provide the coverage you need.
When you review your car insurance, you should pay careful attention to the following:
•   The Declaration Page – This is usually the first page of the policy. It shows the insured’s name and address, policy dates, and a summary of the policy terms, the coverage limits and what is covered. You need to review and update the information on this page because it affects your coverage needs and the cost of your premiums. Never overlook any updates that need to be made, no matter how seemingly insignificant. 
•   The Insuring Agreement – This specifies what the insurance company has agreed to cover in exchange for the premium. An insurance policy begins by declaring what it covers and then proceeds to restrict, limit and exclude coverages. You can’t just read the insuring agreement to understand the coverage your insurer is providing. You must read the entire policy and refer back to the insuring agreement. This will help you identify coverage gaps.
•   The Types of Coverage – The types of required coverage and minimums vary from state to state. The level of coverage is also affected by the age and value of your car. However, there are four types of common coverage that you should include in your insurance assessment. 
The first is liability coverage. This protects you if you hurt someone or damage property while you are driving. As you accumulate more personal wealth, it is imperative that you increase your liability coverage. Without sufficient liability coverage, you could have your hard earned assets seized to cover a judgment against you.
The second type that needs to be reviewed and updated is your medical payments coverage. This covers you if medical expenses are incurred by anyone involved in the accident regardless of who was at fault.
The third type is your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. You will be extremely glad you upgraded this coverage if you are ever involved in an accident with a driver who has no insurance, has minimal insurance or is unidentified, as in the case of a “hit and run.”
The last type to be reviewed is your collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision covers damage to your car caused by an accident. Comprehensive covers damage caused by anything other than collision.  Both coverages are optional.  However, if you have a car loan or you are leasing a car, you will be required to carry both collision and comprehensive coverage. If you own your car outright, the decision whether to carry this coverage will depend on the age and value of the vehicle.   

Your car’s performance relies on a program of regularly scheduled maintenance, and so should your car insurance. In the same way that your car needs to be tuned up for it to operate safely and efficiently, your car insurance needs to be periodically reviewed to ensure it continues to provide the coverage you need.When you review your car insurance, you should pay careful attention to the following:•   The Declaration Page – This is usually the first page of the policy. It shows the insured’s name and address, policy dates, and a summary of the policy terms, the coverage limits and what is covered. You need to review and update the information on this page because it affects your coverage needs and the cost of your premiums. Never overlook any updates that need to be made, no matter how seemingly insignificant. •   The Insuring Agreement – This specifies what the insurance company has agreed to cover in exchange for the premium. An insurance policy begins by declaring what it covers and then proceeds to restrict, limit and exclude coverages. You can’t just read the insuring agreement to understand the coverage your insurer is providing. You must read the entire policy and refer back to the insuring agreement. This will help you identify coverage gaps.•   The Types of Coverage – The types of required coverage and minimums vary from state to state. The level of coverage is also affected by the age and value of your car. However, there are four types of common coverage that you should include in your insurance assessment. The first is liability coverage. This protects you if you hurt someone or damage property while you are driving. As you accumulate more personal wealth, it is imperative that you increase your liability coverage. Without sufficient liability coverage, you could have your hard earned assets seized to cover a judgment against you.The second type that needs to be reviewed and updated is your medical payments coverage. This covers you if medical expenses are incurred by anyone involved in the accident regardless of who was at fault.The third type is your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. You will be extremely glad you upgraded this coverage if you are ever involved in an accident with a driver who has no insurance, has minimal insurance or is unidentified, as in the case of a “hit and run.”The last type to be reviewed is your collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision covers damage to your car caused by an accident. Comprehensive covers damage caused by anything other than collision.  Both coverages are optional.  However, if you have a car loan or you are leasing a car, you will be required to carry both collision and comprehensive coverage. If you own your car outright, the decision whether to carry this coverage will depend on the age and value of the vehicle.   

Shield Your Business from Phony Slip and Fall Claims

If you’re open to the public, you’re always vulnerable to a fraudulent slip and fall claim. These types of claims are a favorite among con artists because they’re easy to perpetrate and difficult to disprove. Circumstances like a slippery floor, or a broken sidewalk are an open invitation to a specialist in insurance fraud to make you their next target.

Your first line of defense in the war against slip and fall scam artists is a video camera. Most surveillance systems are priced so as to make them affordable to purchase and maintain. Keep in mind that the money you invest in a good surveillance system will be paid back many times over if it prevents you from becoming a victim of one of these schemes.

You should also rely on your insurance company’s claims examiner to spot signs of possible fraud and to thoroughly investigate those cases. These professionals are trained to use a number of techniques to uncover hoaxes, like reviewing video footage, examining the scene, interviewing the claimant and witnesses, and verifying that the claimant is actually being treated for the injuries claimed.

In addition to these resources, The Hartford has created a list of steps you can take to further protect your business:

  • Eliminate the opportunity for fraud – Maintain facilities inside and out. Keep floors clean, dry, and clear of debris. Thoroughly clear sidewalks of snow, ice and other hazards. Repair damaged sidewalks, parking lots, and other walkways that customers use to enter and exit the facility.
  • Document prevention efforts – Check public areas on a regular basis, and keep a detailed log of cleaning and maintenance activity. List each task, which employee performed it, and when it was completed.
  • View and capture video footage immediately after an incident – Many systems reuse tape. These systems often run on a 24-hour loop, which means the footage will be erased if not properly secured after an incident.
  • Take photos of the area, and of whatever hazard the person claimed to slip or trip on – Be discrete and considerate, but photos of the accident scene can be invaluable in managing the claim and any fraud investigation.
  • Identify witnesses – Act quickly to secure names and contact information. Often, in cases of fraud, a witness might say, ‘Yes, I saw the fall and he just laid down on the ground and then called out in pain. It looked really fake to me.’
  • Be thorough in collecting details – In an authentic slip and fall, the person will usually land in the substance they slipped on. Is there any sign of the substance on the person’s clothing? Is there evidence of a slip mark on the floor? Is a witness overly enthusiastic? This can be a sign of two people working together. Any unusual aspects of the incident should be noted.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Says Death Rates Double for Minicars

Minicars have become increasingly more popular as fuel prices have risen. Because of their newfound popularity, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety included them in their crash tests for the first time in 2006. The agency rated the cars for comparison of occupant protection in front, side, and rear crashes. What the Institute discovered from its testing is that driver death rates in minicars are higher than in any other vehicle category and more than double the death rates in midsize and large cars.

The results of the crash tests conducted by the Institute indicate which vehicles in each weight category provide the best protection in real crashes. This round of tests reveals big differences among the smallest cars.

Minicars weigh about 2,500 pounds or less. A typical small car weighs about 300 pounds more, and midsize cars weigh about 800 pounds more. A midsize SUV weighs 4,000 pounds or more, which is at least 60 percent more than a minicar weighs. In every vehicle category, the tests revealed that the risk of crash death is higher in the smaller, lighter models. This means that any car that’s very small and light isn’t a good choice in terms of safety.

Another objective of the testers was to find the minicars with the most crashworthy designs. The Nissan Versa scored best. It is slightly larger than the other cars tested by the Institute, which puts it in the small car classification. This is the next size class up from minicar. Still the agency included it in the minicar testing because the Versa is marketed to compete with minicars.

The Versa was the only car to earn the highest rating of good in all three tests. In the frontal test, its structure held up well, and there was minimal intrusion into the space around the driver dummy. The majority of injury measures were low. In the side test, the standard equipment side airbags prevented contact between the striking object and the heads of the crash test dummies.

The Honda Fit with its standard side airbags and the Toyota Yaris equipped with optional side airbags also earned good ratings in front and side tests. However, both cars failed to earn acceptable ratings for rear protection. The Yaris was rated marginal, and the Fit was rated poor.

The Hyundai Accent ranked lowest in overall testing. Researchers were especially concerned about its structural performance in the side test. Its standard airbags in front and rear seats provided good head protection. However, injury measures recorded elsewhere on the driver dummy revealed that a motorist in a similar type crash would be likely to sustain internal organ injuries, broken ribs, and a fractured pelvis.

What Is and Isn’t Age Discrimination

With a troubled economy and continuingly soaring healthcare costs, employers are always on the lookout for ways to limit expenses. Much as they might not want to, they often look at personnel costs, including those for healthcare. Personnel moves, however, can be a minefield for the unwary. Handled incorrectly, they can land a well-meaning employer in court, especially if they smack of possible discrimination against older workers or retirees. Several court and regulatory decisions over the past few years have weighed in on what employers can and cannot do regarding their older employees.

In February 2008, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the question of whether a court must, in an age discrimination case, accept testimony from former employees who are not parties to the lawsuit and whose accusations are against supervisors not accused in the lawsuit. Rather, they ruled that a federal appellate court was incorrect in overruling the trial court on the question. The court said that the appellate court should have sent the case back to the trial court with orders to clarify its decision. The ruling left the question about testimony from non-party employees unsettled.

In March 2005, a divided Supreme Court ruled that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act authorizes older employees to recover damages from an employer when the employer’s decision adversely impacted them because of their age. The court found that the law’s language was virtually identical to that in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits limiting, segregating or classifying employees in a way that adversely affects their status because of race, color, religion, or other protected characteristics. While noting that the ADEA’s scope is narrower than that of the Civil Rights Act, the court nonetheless ruled that the ADEA, in principle, provides for recovery in so-called disparate impact cases.

The Supreme Court also ruled in 2004 that employers may make employment decisions that favor older employees over younger ones. In 2007, the EEOC announced an amendment to its rules implementing the court’s decision. The prior rules had forbidden such practices.

In August 2007, a federal appellate court held that defined benefit plans employing a cash balance formula do not violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Older employees argued that the cash balance formula discriminated against them because younger workers who received the same employer contributions would be entitled to a retirement benefit greater than that due the older workers. The court rejected this contention, saying that the employer’s plan was legal so long as the contribution rates did not discriminate on the basis of age.

Lastly, in June 2007 a federal appellate court ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission acted within its authority when it issued rules permitting employers to reduce or eliminate employer-sponsored retiree health benefits when retirees become eligible for Medicare or comparable state-sponsored programs. The American Association of Retired People had sued the EEOC on the grounds that the ADEA prohibits these practices. The court said the rules were consistent with the law’s purposes and intent; it also said that the rules actually encourage employers to provide all retirees with the best possible health benefits.

As these decisions show, employers must be very careful when they make employment decisions that will impact groups of employees in different ways. A qualified human resources consultant can advise an employer on the legal implications of a decision. Also, employers should consider purchasing an employment practices liability insurance policy. Such a policy will cover the employer for defense of age discrimination lawsuits and for the cost of judgments against the employer. An insurance agent can give advice on the availability and cost of the most appropriate coverage.

Never Let an Intersection Be Your Crossroads to an Accident

The Insurance Research Council estimates that 81 percent of all crashes occur in urban areas of which the most dangerous locations are busy intersections. Nearly 43 percent of all auto accidents that happen in a city are intersection-related.

Even though intersections can be hazardous, that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. Just remember these common sense rules for intersection driving:

·   Never wait until the last minute to get into the lane you need for your next turn. Always change lanes well in advance of reaching the intersection. Put your turn signal on before making any turn.

·   Avoid speeding through an intersection. You need time to react if a motorist fails to stop for a red light or stop sign. You also want to be sure you have plenty of time to brake if pedestrians cross against the light.

·   Be aware of other vehicles changing lanes. Keep out of other
drivers’ “blind spots” where they cannot see you in their rear and side
mirrors.

·   Stop behind the marked crosswalk. This will allow other drivers to see across the entire intersection. It will also prevent you from hitting pedestrians.

·   Don’t enter an intersection when the traffic is backed up on the
other side. You could wind up getting stuck in the middle of the
intersection if the traffic doesn’t move.

·   Watch for cars speeding through intersections after a red light. If you are waiting at a red light, don’t floor the gas pedal the moment the light turns green. Instead, quickly look both ways before proceeding through the intersection. If a motorist coming from one of the opposite directions is trying to speed through before the light turns red, you could be hit if you rush into the intersection at the instant the light turns green without looking for oncoming cars.

·   Check for cars twice before pulling into an intersection at a stop sign. It is a common occurrence to stop at a stop sign to make a left-hand turn, look both ways, and see no cars coming. Only to find that once you have begun the turn, a car has come out of nowhere and is headed straight for you. If you check twice before proceeding, you will allow enough time for the car that was hidden from your view to clearly emerge. 

Completed Operations Coverage: Vital for Contractors

A construction site is a dangerous place. Power tools, scrap wood and metal, heavy equipment – all of these can cause serious injury or property damage. Loss control efforts normally focus on prevention of accidents on job sites. However, the possibility of a loss that could drag a contractor into court does not end when the project is finished. The contractor’s work stays behind and can be the source of serious liability claims. Consider the following examples:

  • Six months after a roofing contractor finishes work at a bank, melting snow enters through the roof and ruins several network servers.
  • A railing installed by a metalworker collapses as a man leans against it. The man falls ten feet and suffers severe back injuries.
  • An overhead door malfunctions and closes on top of a new pickup truck. The owner seeks recovery from the contractor who installed the door.

Loss prevention and proper insurance are just as important after the job is done as they are while work is in progress.

Standard liability insurance policies cover a contractor’s liability for injury or damage arising out of completed operations. The insurance company considers the contractor’s work to be complete when one of these first occurs:

  • All the work required by the contract is complete;
  • All the work to be done at a job site is complete (when the contract requires work at multiple job sites); or
  • When the contractor’s work is put to its intended use by someone other than another contractor working on the same job site.

The company will provide the contractor with legal defense and pay for any settlement or judgment that results from accidents arising out of completed work. Of particular note, it will pay for the restoration, repair or replacement of any property made necessary because the contractor performed his work on it incorrectly. The company will not pay for such a loss while the job is still in progress, but it will pay after the work is completed.

For coverage to apply during a particular policy period, the injury or damage must first occur during that period. For example, assume that a siding contractor installed aluminum siding on a house. While making improvements several years later, the homeowner discovers extensive rotting of the plywood and joists inside the walls. A third party concludes that the interior damage resulted from faulty installation of the siding. Since the damage most likely began at the time of installation, the policy that was in effect at the time of the job will provide coverage. On the other hand, if a contractor builds a deck and it collapses 18 months later, injuring four people, the policy in effect at the time of the collapse will provide coverage, not the one in effect at the time of the job.

The insurance company will not pay for damage to the contractor’s own work if the damage arose out of the work. For example, if an electrical contractor’s faulty wiring fries a circuit board he installed, the insurance will not cover the damage. The insurance policy should not be confused with a warranty.

One important caveat is that a form covering a third party as an additional insured might not provide completed operations coverage for that party. The form most commonly used to add coverage for an additional insured no longer provides this coverage. A separate form has been created to address this gap in coverage. Since many construction contracts will require subcontractors to provide this coverage, subs should verify with their insurance agents that they have it.

By its nature, construction is dangerous work, and that danger continues to some extent long after the contractor has moved onto the next job. It is vital that contractors have appropriate completed operations insurance in place to protect them if something goes wrong.

 

Tips to Consider When Shopping for Auto Insurance

There is no mystery about buying auto insurance. If you want to save money, you need to understand what factors influence your premiums. Once you understand these factors, you can put your new knowledge to work and find the best coverage at the lowest rate.

Here are some guidelines to follow when shopping for car insurance:

·   When you file a claim, the deductible is the amount of money you pay toward the loss before your insurance company pays the claim. If you accept a higher deductible, your premiums will be proportionally lower. It is important to be sure you can afford the out-of-pocket expense of the deductible you select.

·   If your car has a Kelley Blue Book value of less than $2,000, you’ll probably pay more for collision/comprehensive coverage than you would collect on a claim. Insurance companies use their own criteria to determine fair market value for vehicles; however, the Blue Book can serve as a good indicator of whether you should maintain your collision/comprehensive insurance. You can find these values at www.kbb.com.

·   If you own a car that suffers from a high theft rate, or is expensive to repair, you’ll face higher premiums. Buy a car that’s not a thief magnet and/or doesn’t require expensive replacement parts and your rates will be significantly lower.

·   “Sunday Drivers,” meaning drivers who use less than the predetermined number of miles on their vehicles each year, may be eligible for a discount.

·   Where you live impacts the car insurance rates you pay. Premiums in rural communities are generally lower than in urban areas. The increased traffic and higher incidence of crime that are hallmarks of city life, increases the risk that you will eventually file a claim.

·   Most insurers give discounts for air bags and other safety features.

·   Some states require insurers to offer discounts for cars equipped with antilock brakes. There are also insurance companies that offer standard discounts for antilock brakes regardless of the geographic location in which you live.

·   Additional discounts you may be eligible for include: insuring more than one car, insuring your home with the same carrier, having no accidents in three years, being a driver over age 50, taking driver training courses, and using antitheft devices. 

Is the Loss Covered By General or Professional Liability Insurance? How About Neither?

A computer consultant is upgrading servers at a client’s site. While explaining a problem to one of the client’s employees, he gestures with one hand and knocks over a hot cup of coffee. The drink spills on the employee, causing a serious burn. The consultant reports the incident to his insurance agent, who submits a claim to the company providing his commercial general liability insurance. However, the company responds by denying coverage, citing a change attached to the policy. This change removes coverage for bodily injury arising out of the rendering of computer consulting services, advice or instruction by the policyholder. According to the company, the employee’s injury resulted from the computer consulting services.

The consultant’s policy contains this provision because losses “arising out of the rendering of computer consulting services” are more properly insured under a professional liability policy. The provision’s intent is to exclude coverage for losses resulting from errors in his professional judgment. However, its wording seems to support the insurance company’s contention that there is no coverage. The consultant argues that spilling a cup of coffee is something that could happen to anyone, not just someone providing professional services. What is the correct interpretation?

A commercial general liability policy insures the policyholder for bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury, caused by an occurrence taking place during the policy period, and for which the policyholder is liable. The policy takes this broad starting point and limits coverage with several provisions (called “exclusions”) that describe types of occurrences to which the insurance does not apply. The insurance company added a special exclusion to this policy so that it would not cover errors and omissions the consultant makes while acting in his professional capacity.

Unfortunately, if the consultant has purchased a professional liability policy, it may exclude coverage for losses involving bodily injury or property damage. Insurance companies write this provision into the policies in the belief that the CGL policy will cover these losses. The result is that the consultant may have no coverage under either policy for this incident. The company providing the CGL policy denies coverage because he was acting as a consultant at the time; the other company does not cover loss from injuries.

To reduce the chances of a situation like this occurring, professionals such as physicians, architects and engineers, and consultants should work closely with an insurance agent. The agent should explain any special changes to the CGL policy that eliminate coverage, such as professional liability exclusions. She will also review and explain the provisions of a professional liability policy. The consultant should ask how the two policies coordinate with each other, especially with regard to injury and property damage losses. The agent should have experience with the companies’ claim paying practices. She may know that a particular company is likely to deny injury claims under the CGL policy because of a professional liability exclusion.

The best way to avoid an uninsured loss like this is for the businessperson to become informed about exactly what he is buying with his insurance premium dollars. As an informed buyer, he can insist that the policies meet his needs. If a particular insurer cannot or will not do that, he has plenty of competitors to choose from. Liability insurance can be a significant business expense; the last thing any business wants is a surprise gap in coverage at claim time.

Maintaining Your Home’s Fire Alarm System

One of the most important household safety techniques you can implement is the purchase and proper installation of an adequate number of smoke alarms in your home. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers the following facts regarding smoke alarms and fires.

* One-half of home fire deaths occur in the 6 percent of homes without smoke alarms.

* Homes with smoke alarms typically have a death rate that is 40 to 50 percent less than the rate in homes without alarms.

* In three of every ten reported fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms, the devices were not operational.

The NFPA offers safety tips regarding smoke alarms for you to consider.

* New batteries should be installed in all smoke alarms annually or when the alarm chirps to warn that the battery is weak.

* Smoke alarms should be tested monthly.

* Smoke alarms should be placed outside each sleeping area and on each floor of the home, including the basement.

* Smoke alarms should be interconnected, so if one goes off, they all go off.

* Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.