Did you know that Christmas trees alone result in $130 million dollars in property damage annually? More importantly, these fires present real risk towards family and friends. When showcasing a live tree in your home, the combination of tree dryness, electrical malfunction with lights and poorly located heating sources can make for a deadly combination.
But if your holiday is just not complete without a live tree, follow these safety precautions to keep threats at bay:
  • Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire, so look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles readily.
  • Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out
  • Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights have been tested in a lab by the UL or ETL/ITSNA for safety and throw out any damaged lights.
  • Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement and be sure to plug into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.
  • Keep all your holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and décor.
  • Bedtime means lights off; don’t forget to turn your Christmas tree light switch each night
  • When your tree begins to drop its needles, it’s time to say goodbye to your evergreen foliage until next year.
With nearly 70 percent of the nation’s roads in snowy regions, the majority of Americans have had a “white-knuckle” driving experience in their past. Winter roads claim the lives of 1,300 people every year and injure 116,800, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Fortunately, new features including forward collision alerts and lane departure warnings, are protecting Americans on slick roads. The following five features have been instrumental in protecting families on the road during the winter season.

1. Forward collision warning and auto-braking

Vehicles can sense hazards in the road, warn the driver and brake the car to prevent a crash. If a driver is following someone who slams on the brakes, for example, a combination of sensors, laser beams and cameras detect the problem and alert the driver. Assistive technology automatically applies the brakes to prevent a crash. The driver resumes control as soon as he or she applies pressure to the brake.

2. Lane departure warning system

Keeping drivers in their respective lanes on slippery roads is essential to highway safety. If a car starts to drift into another lane, the driver is alerted to the hazard by a buzzer, warning light or vibration.

3. Adaptive headlights

Visibility can be an issue on winter roads. Traditional headlights shine straight ahead, but adaptive headlights react to the steering wheel. If a driver turns the wheel to the right, the headlights follow to increase visibility.
Insurance companies have noticed a 10 percent drop in the number of property damage liability claims in cars that have adaptive headlights, according to a study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

4. LED taillights

When snow is falling, spotting taillights ahead can be a trying task. Halogen light bulbs were the standard, but now more manufacturers are moving to LED bulbs. LED bulbs outshine halogen bulbs, which gives winter drivers an edge when visibility is low.

5. Traction control

In slippery conditions, tires can lose traction and spin. The traction control feature helps tires grip such slippery roads. In wet conditions, tires can lose traction and spin. Traction control uses sensors to measure rotational speed in tires and triggers the engine to adjust the level of power the vehicle needs to regain control. If needed, the sensors can pump the brakes to keep the driver from losing control.

After winter or large thunderstorms, we will often find numerous new potholes. And if you’ve hit one before, you know that dreaded feeling; the heavy thud, praying the flat-tire light doesn’t come on, listening for the telling grinding of some loose part in your car. In fact, did you know that pothole damage accounts for nearly 500,000 insurance claims every year?
Here are a few tips to help avoid them:

  • Leave more space between you and the driver ahead of you. This is just general good driving practice, but it comes in handy avoiding potholes too. After all, the more space between you and the other guy, the more likely you are to notice a pothole and calmly dodge it.
  • Slow down. Ratchet your speed back a little bit to improve your reaction time. Also, hitting a pothole at lower speeds typically doesn’t cause as much, or as serious damage as hitting one at higher speeds.
  • Watch out for water. After a rainstorm or snow, potholes can fill with water. That makes them harder to see, and harder to judge how deep they are. That makes them even more mysterious and dangerous! So when in doubt, avoid them.

That’s why it’s important to stay alert, slow down, and keep an eye out, to avoid some costly damage and some serious stress.

For renters insurance, finding the right balance means choosing accurate, appropriate limits for your personal property and liability coverage. For the best results, this process may require a bit of effort. But if you’re strapped for time, there are some shortcuts you can take, too.
Inventory your possessions
Personal property coverage is probably the main reason you purchase a renters policy. The coverage will reimburse you for covered damage, loss, or theft of your personal possessions up to a certain dollar amount, so you’ll want to make sure you get that amount right.
Performing a home inventory is a good way to determine how much property coverage you need. This inventory lists your personal possessions, along with details about their age, purchase price or current value, and other identifying information. Document the items with receipts when possible. When you’ve completed the list, total the amounts to determine your coverage value. (You’ll also want to put an extra copy of the list in a safe place, in case you need it to support a claim.)
Assess your liability
Your renters policy’s liability coverage protects you if someone injures themselves in your home. It also protects you in case you or a family member causes damage to others’ property. Some policies will pay for defense and court costs, in addition to settlement costs.
The typical renters insurance policy offers $100,000 in liability coverage. Whether this limit is sufficient or not depends on numerous factors and we recommend working with agent to determine the proper coverage.
Supplement coverage if necessary
Keep in mind that your policy will exclude certain perils (such as earthquake and flood losses) and limit coverage on some items (such as computers, firearms, and silverware). If you have special insurance needs, talk to your agent about extending limits or adding separate policies.

Who is covered—and when?

Your auto policy will cover you and other family members on your policy, whether driving your insured car or someone else’s car with permission. Your policy also provides coverage if someone not on your policy is driving your car with your consent.
Your personal auto policy only covers personal driving, whether you’re commuting to work, running errands or taking a trip. Your personal auto policy, however, will not provide coverage if you use your car for commercial purposes—for instance, if you deliver pizzas or operate a delivery service. Note, too, that personal auto insurance will generally not provide coverage if you use your car to provide transportation to others through a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft. Some auto insurers, however, are now offering supplemental insurance products (at additional cost) that extend coverage for vehicle owners providing ride-sharing services.

Spring
Coming out of the cold of winter, spring weather is often welcomed with open arms. But, despite warmer temperatures, spring often comes with its fair share of rainy days. That means riders must know how to properly navigate slippery roads and dress for a soggy ride.
Possibly the most slippery time during a rainstorm is in the first few minutes, according to the Motorcycle Safety Association (MSF). Rain water begins to fill in the dimples of the asphalt and oil residue can float to the top, making for a very slick surface. The MSF suggests simply pulling over and waiting for the rain to pass.
When it comes to your riding attire, opt for breathable, waterproof or water-resistant clothing. If you don’t already have rain gear, consider getting some before the next downpour.
Summer
Summer has its own set of conditions that require a certain amount of attention.
Warm, even hot weather can result in your motorcycle’s tires having better grip than during more temperate times. Rubber gets softer and more elastic as it heats up, providing better road contact. You will likely be able to notice the improved traction of the bike’s tires when riding on asphalt, which may allow you to lean more confidently into turns, compared to colder seasons.
Despite the rising temperatures, it doesn’t necessarily mean wearing as little as possible while on your motorcycle is a good idea. During a long, hot ride (especially in sunny, dry climates), you should take precautions against sunburn and dehydration. Consider wearing breathable layers and in the most extreme conditions, you may try a wet layer of lightweight clothes with a breathable, protection layer on top of that. The wet clothes will be cooled by the wind flowing through the breathable outer layer that can also slow down evaporation.
Fall
Crisper air and falling leaves are the telltale signs that summer is over and fall is here. Before you have to worry about snow and ice, you may need to prepare for wet roads and slippery leaves littering your favorite stretch of road.
As leaves turn from green to yellow, orange, red and brown, they often fall to the ground, sometimes obscuring the surface of the road from the eyes of motorcycle riders. Be careful when riding over and through leaves, as they may be covering potholes or imperfections in the road that could affect your control of your bike. In addition, says the Illinois State Police, wet leaves could be slick and affect your wheels’ traction or make it more difficult to stop quickly.
Winter
Even the most fervent motorcycle riders will consider putting their bike away during the coldest months. Wind, snow, ice and frigid temperatures generally don’t make for great motorcycle riding conditions.
Before you hit the frozen road, check your tires. First, check the tread on your tires by doing the same “penny test” you might do on your car’s tires. Take an Abraham Lincoln penny, hold it between your thumb and forefinger so that the head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln’s head into one of the grooves of the tire’s tread. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, you have a safe amount of tread. If you can see above Lincoln’s head, then you need a new tire.
Keeping your body warm and protected can require some serious gear, so plan ahead. Depending on the temperature, consider thermal underwear, glove liners, balaclavas and other base layers. Hypothermia due to severe wind chill can be a concern, especially riding a motorcycle. When the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, traveling at 60 miles per hour can result in a wind chill of approximately 0 degrees Fahrenheit. To help warm your extremities, which are generally most susceptible to cold temperatures, consider using chemical heat packs on gloves and boots, or even outfit your bike with grip, seat and foot warmers.
Regardless of the season, through proper preparation and the use of the right equipment and gear, you can safely enjoy your motorcycle year-round.

Earthquakes typically occur without warning, so there’s no time like the present to help make sure your home is safe. Consider these precautions to help protect yourself and your belongings before an earthquake happens.
Scan Your Home for Potential Hazards
Household items can be shaken loose or fall during an earthquake. Make sure heavy items like mirrors or wall art are not hung directly above a bed or couch. With that in mind, go room by room and take stock of any objects that might fall if they are jostled by an earthquake. Consider moving these pieces away from where someone could be sleeping or sitting.
Store Items Safely
Consider moving heavy, fragile items such as china and glassware to lower shelves or cabinets closer to the floor. You may also want to use bolts or latches on drawers and cabinets to help keep them closed.
Keep Furniture and Appliances Secure
Some top-heavy furniture like a bookcase or even a TV stand should be anchored to wall studs. If you’re not comfortable bolting the furniture yourself, consider bringing in a professional.
Stock an Emergency Kit
Before an earthquake occurs, consider building an emergency kit for you and your family. This kit should include at least three days’ worth of food and water, a whistle, a flashlight and a fire extinguisher. Remember, you want to customize your kit to your family’s specific needs. If you have a pet, make sure to also include items for your furry friend like their food, water, carrier and leash.
Know How to Shut Off Utilities
It’s important to know how to shut off the utilities to your home in case of an emergency. It’s worth having a wrench handy in order to turn off the utilities after an earthquake occurs to help prevent gas leaks or electrical sparks from igniting items in your home. If you’re not sure how or where to shut off your utilities, contact your utility company or speak to a professional.

In many states, uninsured coverage is optional, but remember that about 13% of drivers don’t have insurance. You’ll usually have the option of choosing the dollar limits of your coverage. For the bodily injury portion that covers your injuries, consider matching the amount of your liability coverage. Some states will give you no other option but to choose identical limits.
For example, if your limits of liability are $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident, consider choosing the same limits for uninsured motorists coverage and underinsured motorists coverage. If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, each injured passenger(including the driver) can collect up to $50,000. If two passengers collect the full $50,000, then you’ve reached your $100,000 maximum per accident.
Your uninsured motorists property damage (UMPD) limit is a different (and much easier) story. This is the part that covers your car. You can select a limit that closely mirrors the value of your vehicle. If your car is worth $25,000, and you don’t have collision coverage, then you should consider that much in UMPD coverage.

According to the Insurance Research Council, 24 percent of Americans view claim padding behavior as acceptable, and 10 percent of Americans believe insurance fraud doesn’t hurt anyone.
However, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that fraud may cost insurance consumers $29 billion a year. Why should that matter to you? Because customers end up absorbing a lot of the cost, which may amount to about 14 percent of your personal car insurance premium.
Additionally, schemes that involve staged car accidents or fake crashes put other drivers and their passengers at risk on the road.
Types of car insurance fraud
Here are some of the most common types of car insurance fraud to look out for:

  • Injury fraud – either through staged car accidents or fraudulent claims leading to payments for unnecessary medical treatment or treatment not actually received
  • Exaggerated claims damages – used to cover the deductible
  • Conspiracy with medical providers and attorneys – receiving unnecessary medical treatment or getting payments for treatment not actually received
  • False registration or documentation – registering a vehicle in a place where premiums are lower, understating annual mileage or misrepresenting the use of a commercial vehicleHelp fight fraud

What you can do:

  • Understand your rights and responsibilities in your insurance policy, and contact your agent with any questions.
  • Fill out and carefully check your insurance application forms for mistakes.
  • If you get in an accident, make a detailed record of all persons involved, and take pictures at the scene.
  • Refuse to sign any documents or agree to any terms at the site of an accident.
  • Call the local police if you suspect car insurance fraud.

CARFAX reports that 271,404 once-flooded cars are now back on American roads—and that’s only counting the ones on file with insurers and state regulators. Most dealers will disclose previous water damage, but there are operators who omit mentioning such history, sending cars out for sale across the country.
How can you check what you can’t see? Here are five ways to tell if a car might have been waterlogged:
Follow your nose.
That new-car smell is a badge of honor—on new cars. But in a used vehicle, a heavy scent of air or fabric freshener, freshly shampooed carpets and brand-new seat covers may be cause for suspicion, not celebration. (An unmasked musty smell could also be a sign of water damage.) Other red flags:

  • Loose, stained or non-matching upholstery or carpets
  • Damp carpeting (check the padding if you can)
  • Rust around doors, under the dash, on the pedals or inside the hood and trunk latches
  • Mud or silt in the glove box or under the seats
  • Brittle wires under the dash (try to bend them)
  • Fog or water droplets inside any lights or instrument panel
  • Moisture or sitting water in or around the spare tire
  • A new stereo (the original may have been replaced because of water damage)

Ask for proper paperwork…
Obtain the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), then get a vehicle title history report from CARFAX or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System ($3.50 at CheckThatVIN.com), or a free flood check from CARFAX, plus a free VIN check from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
… Then read it all carefully.
Check the title, ownership and repair documents for consistency. Titles with “Flood” or “Salvage” stamps are self-explanatory—but unscrupulous dealers might scrub them.
Take the car for a spin.
Make sure it runs and rides well, but also inspect it while it’s still in the driveway:

  • Turn on the ignition and make sure all instrument panel lights work as well—and as brightly—as they should.
  • Test everything with a switch—interior and exterior lights (including high beams and any fog lights), air-conditioning, heater, defroster, turn signals, windshield wipers and radio.
  • Check under the hood (turn off the engine first!) to make sure leaves, mud or silt don’t show up in weird places like spark plug cavities.
  • Pull out the oil dipstick; if the oil looks murky—think melted chocolate ice cream—you could be facing a serious issue.
  • Inspect the paper air filter for signs of water stains.

Go to a pro.
It’s always smart to bring a used car you’re considering to a mechanic you trust. But besides inspecting the mechanical, electrical and other systems, make sure they also check for hidden signs of water damage.