Halloween is one of children’s favorite holidays.  The chance to dress up in a costume and fill bags with candy is a sure way to excite any youngster.   For parents, though, the night can be a little stressful as you worry about your kids’ safety.
To help make sure the night stays safe and enjoyable for you and your children, we have put together a brief list of Halloween safety tips.   We encourage you to take a look at it just in case there is a tip or two that will help you avoid any potential accidents or danger.
Trick-or-treating

  • Make sure your children take flashlights so they can avoid tripping over obstacles on the sidewalk or in yards.  Flashlights and glow sticks will also help your children be seen by motorists.
  • If you allow your older kids to go out without your supervision, make sure they go out in a group.  Don’t ever allow your kids to go out alone or even in pairs; make sure they go out with at least 3-4 other kids.
  • Map out their route so you know where they will be and when they should be home.
  • Tell your kids to only stop at familiar homes where you know the residents and where the outside lights are on.
  • Instruct your kids to WALK from house to house and NEVER run.
  • Make sure your kids know to never enter anyone’s home, to never accept rides from strangers, and to never take shortcuts through yards or other dimly lit areas.

Costumes:

  • Costumes should be light enough to be clearly visible to motorists.  You may even want to add reflective tape to both your child’s costume and bag.
  • Make sure your child’s costume is labeled flame-resistant.
  • Costumes should be short to prevent trips and falls.
  • Try cosmetic face paint rather than a mask.   Masks, especially on children, may not fit properly and can obstruct vision.
  • Be sure to remove all face paint that night to prevent skin irritation.

Candy

  • Don’t allow your child to eat any candy before you have a chance to inspect it for choking hazards or tampering.
  • Only permit your child to eat candy that is unopened in its original wrapper.  Any homemade or unwrapped candy should be discarded.
  • A good way to prevent your kids from eating any candy before they get home is to make sure you give them a meal or snack right before they go out.
  • Above all else, limit the amount of candy your child eats after they get home or you will be dealing with one big stomachache.

Adults

  • Use additional caution when driving a vehicle.   Lookout for children who might run into traffic from behind parked cars or other obstacles.
  • Turn on your porch and any other exterior lights to welcome trick-or-treaters to your home.
  • Remove any obstacles from your lawns, steps or porches that could be a tripping hazard for children or adults.
  • Keep all jack-o’-lanterns from doorsteps or steps where a child could brush by the flame with their costume.
  • If you keep your jack-o’-lantern inside, place it on a sturdy table away from curtains or other ignitable decorations and out of reach from children and pets.

One of the most misunderstood and underutilized insurance coverages is gap insurance.
The easiest to explain gap insurance is to start from the moment you buy or lease a new vehicle.   As soon as you drive off the lot, your vehicle starts to depreciate.  In fact, many vehicles lose up to 20 percent of their value within the first year.   Since most new vehicles are financed, what happens is the value of your vehicle depreciates at a faster rate than what you owe.   And since insurance policies pay the current market value of your vehicle in the event of a claim, there are scenarios where you may still owe money to the finance company on a total loss.
Gap insurance is available to cover the gap between what your vehicle is worth and what you still own on it.  Gap insurance is a good idea to consider purchasing if you:

  • Made less than a 20 percent down payment on a new vehicle.
  • Financed your vehicle for 60 months or longer.
  • Leased the vehicle.
  • Purchased a vehicle that depreciates faster than the average.
  • Rolled over negative equity from an old car loan into the new loan.
Most car dealers will offer gap insurance as part of your purchase; however, what many people don’t realize is that most insurance companies will offer gap coverage as well, but at a much cheaper rate.  For approximately $20 a year, you may
be able to add gap coverage to your policy.
If you are interested in adding gap coverage to your auto policy, please feel free to give our office a call.

We all know that everyone wants to save as much money as possible on their auto insurance.   However, there are some mistakes that can be made that will cost you more money in the long run if you are not careful.
We wanted to spend this post showing what Arvada and Denver residents how cheap car insurance can backfire on you and cost you more money.
Here are seven ways cheap car insurance can backfire:
1. Not enough liability insurance to cover your assets
Many states have minimum limit requirements of only $10,000 or $15,000.   Unfortunately, those limits are no longer enough to really protect you and your family from any real claim.
All it takes is to hit an SUV and your insurance limits will be completely exhausted leaving you on the hook for the difference.
Also, many consumers are told they have full coverage, but don’t realize the limits on the policy they were sold were grossly inadequate to protect them and their family.
Tip:  We recommend most consumer purchase a car insurance policy with limits of at least $100,000.   Though more expensive, the limits are necessary to protect you and your family.
2. Raising the deductible too high
We all know that raising your deductible can help lower your auto insurance premiums.   However, you have to be careful that you don’t raise the deductible so high that it makes doing repairs on your vehicle unaffordable.
Tip: Try not to purchase a car insurance policy with deductibles higher than $1,000 on both comprehensive and collision coverage.
3. Watch out for the fine print
In many cases purchasing a cheap auto insurance policy can restrict or limit the coverage within your policy.
These are often considered no-frills policies that limit the coverage and protection provided by the policy.
Tip: Work with an insurance agent that understands all of the coverages and exclusions contained in your insurance policy to be sure he or she can provide proper advice on whether the policy you are purchasing is a good value.
4. Higher rates for tiny infractions
Cheaper auto insurance policies tend to be less forgiving with minor traffic violations or accidents resulting in high rate increases or your policy being non-renewed by the insurance company.
Tip: Ask the insurance company or agent presenting your quotes about their practices when customers have small infractions.
5. Bad customer service
Take a look online and talk to neighbors and friends about the reputation of the insurance company you are thinking of purchasing your policy through.  While the premiums may be cheaper, you could suffer when it comes to customer service or a claim.  You can also check with your state’s Division of Insurance to find out what types of complaints have been filed against the insurance company.
Tip: Try to only work with companies that have an ‘A’ rating from an agency like A.M. Best and that you have verified have a good, solid reputation.
6. No extras when you need them
Cheap auto insurance policies may skip on additional policy options that can really come in handy at a later time.   For example, rental car reimbursement (pays for a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired for a covered claim) and emergency roadside assistance (provides services like towing or tire replacement) cost less than $20, but may be left of off your policy for the savings.
Tip: Make sure your insurance quotes show the optional coverages and price breakdown so you can make an informed decision on their purchase.
7. Not enough protection for you and your passengers
In an effort to save money, many consumers will forego necessary insurance coverages like uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage.   These two insurance coverages are vital, especially if you are involved in an accident where the other driver does not carry enough coverage or it is a hit-and-run accident.
Tip: Purchase uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage with limits that at a minimum mirror your current liability limits.
The key to saving money
The real key to saving money on your insurance is to thoroughly evaluate all of your available options and make an educated decision.   The easiest way to do that is to work with an independent insurance agent.   An independent insurance agent can provide you with multiple insurance quotes from a variety of top-rated insurance carriers.   This allows you to save money on your premiums without falling victim to any of the pitfalls above.

 

Here are our top tips and tricks for preventing lightning losses:
1. Install a lightning protection system.  A lightning protection system supplies structural protection by providing a specified path on which lightning can travel. When a building is equipped with a lightning protection system, the destructive power of the lightning strike is directed safely into the ground, leaving the structure and its contents undamaged.
The system includes a lightning rod or air terminals at the top of the house that can be disguised to look like a weather vane and wires to carry the current down to grounding rods at the bottom of the house.
2. Use surge protectors. Today’s sensitive electronic equipment is particularly vulnerable to lightning. To assure the highest level of protection, UL-listed surge arrestors should be installed on electrical service panels. Installations typically include surge arrestors for the main electric panel, as well as incoming phone, cable, satellite and data lines.
Surge arrestors protect against damaging electrical surges that can enter a structure via power transmission lines. By filtering and dissipating the harmful surges, arrestors prevent electrical fires and protect against electrical discharges that can damage a building’s electrical system, computers, appliances and other systems.
3. Unplug expensive electronic equipment. As an added precaution, unplug expensive electronic equipment such as TVs, computers and the like if you know a storm is approaching.


Do’s and Don’ts for Lightning Safety
1. Stay indoors. Take shelter in a home, large building or fully enclosed building.  Hard topped-vehicles are generally safe shelters, as well.
2. Avoid areas where you will be the highest object. If you are caught in an open field with no nearby shelter, and your hair begins to stand on end (an indication that lightning is about to strike) drop down and crouch with hands on knees, rocking up on the balls of your feet. (The idea is to make as little contact with the ground as possible.) Never lie down flat or place your hands on the ground.
3. Certain locations are extremely hazardous during thunderstorms. Avoid lakes, beaches or open water, fishing from a boat or dock, riding on golf carts, farm equipment, motorcycles or bicycles. Take shelter in tunnels, subways, even ditches or caves if necessary—but never under a tree!
4. If caught on high ground or in an open area, seek shelter in a low area and stay away from trees. A small grove of bushes or shrubs is preferable to lone trees.
5. To avoid side flashes (voltage from a nearby struck object) stay clear of fences or isolated trees. Keep away from telephone poles, power lines, pipelines or other electrically conductive objects.
6. Stay off the telephone! In your home, don’t stand near open windows, doorways or metal piping. Stay away from the TV, plumbing, sinks, tubs, radiators and stoves. Avoid contact with small electric appliances such as radios, toasters and hairdryers.

Going on our blog post from last week about the insurance discounts available to Denver and Arvada residents, this week we wanted to share with our Denver and Arvada residents the auto insurance discounts that are available to them:
1. Multi-Policy Discount.  Just like for homeowners, the quickest and easiest policy discount is the multi-policy discount that you can obtain simply by combining your home and auto insurance policies.
2. Multi-Car Discount. By insuring multiple cars with the same insurance company on the same policy, you will be eligible for reductions on your premiums.
3. Passive Restraint.  Purchasing a vehicle with factory-installed safety belts and air bags will qualify for a discount.
4. Antilock Brakes.  Factory-installed antilock brakes on all four wheels will help as well.
5. Anti-Theft Devices.  Active and passive disabling devices like alarms or vehicle recovery devices will add significant premium discounts to your auto policy.
6. Good Student Discount.  If you have teen drivers in your household, you will want to see if you can qualify for a good student premium discount.   Usually maintaining a B or equivalent grade point average.
7. Low Mileage Discount. One of the biggest discounts available is the low mileage discount.   Many insurance companies will reduce your premiums significantly for driving your vehicle less.
If you have any questions on the discounts available to you for your auto insurance, of if you would like to receive quotes on your autos, please feel free to contact our office.

One of the questions we receive frequently is in regards to the difference between a nonrenewal of your insurance policy versus a cancellation of your insurance policy.
There are some major differences between the two that can help you avoid potential headaches and frustration in the future.
For example, did you know that most states do not allow insurance companies to cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days unless:

  • You fail to pay the premium
  • You have committed fraud or made serious misrepresentations on your application.

Nonrenewal, however, is a different matter. Either you or your insurance company can decide not to renew the policy when it expires. Your insurance company must give you a certain number of days’ notice and explain the reason for not renewing before it drops your policy. If you think the reason is unfair or want a further explanation, call the Colorado Division of Insurance.   They can work with both you and the insurance company to resolve any disagreements.
Insurance companies can use any number of reason for canceling your policy.  Your policy may be cancelled because of prior claims or an increased risk you present to the insurance company.  However, they can also cancel your policy because they no longer wish to write that type of insurance or they may be scaling back on the number of policies they want to write in your area.
A nonrenewal is not the end of the world.   Our agency specializes in finding coverage for families whose policies are being nonrenewed and we can help you find the right coverage you need without increasing your premium.
If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call.
 

Claim #1: Stow-Away

In Seattle, a couple failed to tie their mattress securely to the top of their SUV. As they were driving on the freeway, the mattress loosed itself from its moorings and landed in the middle of the highway, causing a three-way crash.
As two good Samaritans stopped to help, the female driver hopped back into the SUV and fled the scene, leaving her male passenger to deal with the aftermath. Shortly thereafter, one of the good Samaritans also left. A few miles down the road, however, he spied a man’s head “bobbing around in the backseat.” It turned out to be the male passenger from the incident, who had stowed away, hoping to escape the accident scene undetected!
Applicable Insurance Coverage: As this was a hit and run, the insurance coverage that would apply in this situation is uninsured motorists coverage.  It provides protection in cases where the at-fault part does not carry insurance.

Claim #2: Accident Happy

The next insurance claim seems more like a well-crafted comedy scene rather than an embarrassing accident.
A driver somehow managed to cause 3 separate accidents in less than 1 minute.  First, he was involved in a minor rear-end collision in which he smashed the taillight of the car ahead of him.   Next, as he reversed slightly to survey the damage, he struck the front bumper of the vehicle behind him.  Finally, as he opened his door to exit the vehicle he knocked down a passing cyclist.
Applicable Insurance Coverage:  Since the driver managed to cause property damage to the two vehicles and cyclist, the general liability section of his auto insurance would cover the claim(s).

Claim #3: “Hail” Storm

In our 3rd scenario, a claims adjuster in Kansas received a rather suspicious claim for heavy hail damage to a car.
While there had been a recent hailstorm in the area, the adjuster was skeptical that it had caused perfectly symmetrical, round divots across the entire surface of the damaged car.  The claim was rejected as the damage had clearly been caused by a ball-peen hammer.
Figuring the client would be so embarrassed at being caught at an obvious attempt at insurance fraud, the adjuster assumed the matter was closed.
Instead, the man actually filed a police report claiming that an unknown assailant had beaten the car with a ball-peen hammer.  He then filed a new insurance claim for the damages.  Needless to say that claim was also denied.
Applicable Insurance Coverage: Had this been a legitimate claim the comprehensive portion of the individual’s auto policy would have paid the claim.

Claim #4: Blown Away

In our 4th incident, the claimant was driving around in his pickup truck and had his shotgun riding, well, shotgun.
Arriving at his destination, the client went to grab his gun and hop out of the cab.  Unfortunately, he lost his grip and the gun discharged causing extensive damage to the truck’s headliner, seat covers, dashboard, and windshield.
Applicable Insurance Coverage: Comprehensive coverage paid for the damage caused by the shotgun.

Claim #5: The Thief

Our last incident didn’t actually result in a claim payment, but it’s funny enough that we thought it was worth mentioning.
A homeowners insurance company received a claim where the customer requested the company pay for the loss of his stolen dentures.  Confused by the idea that someone would steal another person’s dentures, the adjusted decided to investigate further.
As the adjuster looked into the claim, he learned that not only had the claimant witnessed the theft, but that he had failed to file a police report.  Turns out that the client, while on vacation in Atlantic City, had sneezed so hard that he blew his dentures out of his mouth into the sand.   A passing seagull, thinking the dentures were food, snatched them up and flew off.
The insurance company ultimately denied the claim and suggested the customer file a products liability claim against the adhesive cream company.

Last week we talked about going through the claims process on your homeowners insurance.   This week we are going to share some tips and tricks to avoid any potential scams after you file your insurance claim.
Hiring a Contractor

  1. Get multiple bids before you sign any contracts.
  2. Avoid contractors that encourage you to spend a lot on temporary repairs.  While temporary repairs are covered by your policy, they can erode the limit available for permanent repairs.
  3. Investigate the background of any contractor before you hire them.  Ask for referrals and check prior jobs.  Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to check with the state contractor’s board and Better Business Bureau to make sure the contractor hasn’t received any complaints.
  4. Avoid contractors that ask for significant sums of money before they perform any work.  This is a common fraud scheme where the contractor will take the money and never perform the work.

Public Adjusters and Attorneys

  1. Be cautious in hiring a public adjuster.  It’s also a good idea to be extremely cautious with any adjuster going door-to-door soliciting business after a catastrophe.
  2. Before hiring an attorney or adjuster, try working with our office and your assigned adjuster first.  State laws require the insurance company to be forthright and responsive.   If they are not, then it might be prudent to bring an attorney.
  3. Verify the credentials of the person you are looking to hire, especially if your claim is unique or complicated.  Ask for referrals and verify their background just as you would a contractor.
  4. It’s important to keep in mind that you will have to pay a public adjuster 15 percent and an attorney as much as 30 percent of your total claim settlement.

 

We are often asked by our Denver and Arvada clients the best way to file a homeowners claim.  With that in mind, we want to provide the following list of tips to ensure your claim goes smoothly.

1. Report Any Crime to the Police
If you are the victim of a theft or your home has been vandalized or burglarized, report it to the police. Get a police report and the names of all law enforcement officers that you speak with.
2. Contact Our Office Immediately
Our office stands ready to assist you with any insurance claim, whether you are our client or not.  We are here to answer your questions, help you fill out the necessary paperwork, and help guide you through it.
3. Make Temporary Repairs
Take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.
4. Prepare a List of Lost or Damaged Goods
Avoid throwing out damaged items until the adjuster has visited your home. You should also consider photographing or videotaping the damage. Prepare a home inventory, make a copy for your adjuster and supply him or her with copies of receipts from damaged items.
5. If You Need to Relocate, Keep Your Receipts
If your home is severely damaged and you need to find other accommodations while repairs are being made, keep records of all additional expenses incurred. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the “loss of use” of your home.
6. Have an Adjuster Inspect the Damage to your Home
Your insurance company will probably arrange for an adjuster to come and inspect your home.
Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement, state laws require that you be sent payment promptly. In most cases, your claim will be processed quickly. If you have any questions about the claim filing laws in your state, call our office.
During the winter months, it is very common to see deer hopping across roadways.   As part of the deer migration season, there is a dramatic spike in the movement of the deer population, resulting many deer-related accidents.
In fact, there are an estimated 1.22 million deer-vehicle collisions every year with the average claim costing approximately $3,414.   Additionally, studies show that total losses as a result of animal collisions are also on the rise.   There are approximately 5,000 total losses and 200 fatalities due to animal collisions, with the majority of those being due to deer.
Damage caused by an accident with deer is usually covered under the comprehensive portion of an automobile policy.   The comprehensive portion of the policy includes coverage due to  fire, theft, vandalism or malicious damage, riot, flood, earthquake or explosion, hail, windstorm, falling or flying objects, damage due to contact with a bird or animal and windshield damage.
However, if you swerve to miss a deer or animal and crash into a tree or guardrail, it would actually be the collision portion of your policy that would cover the claim.

Be Aware

  • Deer are not just found on rural roads near wooded areas; many deer crashes occur on busy highways near cities.
  • Deer are unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights, blowing horns and fast-moving vehicles. They often dart into traffic.
  • Deer often move in groups. If you see one, there are likely to be more in the vicinity.

Take Precautions

  • Drive with care when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland.
  • When driving at night, use high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams will better illuminate the eyes of any deer on or near the roadway.
  • Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before or after sunrise. These are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not proven effective.
In the event your vehicle strikes a deer, try to avoid going near or touching the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you and further injure itself. If the deer is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists, you should call the police immediately. And contact your insurance professional as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car.