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.

For consumers looking to help the environment by “going green” there are actually a wide of insurance discounts available to you.  Over the next two blog posts we are going to share some of the discounts that offered to owners of vehicles with eco-friendly features.

Green Vehicle Insurance Discounts

  • Hybrid discounts. For owners of hybrid vehicles, some insurance companies are offering discounts of up to 10 percent.  Some auto insurance companies are doing the same for electric cars as well.   Additionally, some insurance companies have been offering a policy endorsement that allows hybrid vehicle owners to to upgrade to a similar model after a total loss.
  • Alternative fuel discounts. For cars that use alternative fuels like biodiesel, natural gas, ethanol, hydrogen, or electricity, insurance companies have been offering additional discounts on your auto premiums.
  • Pay as You Drive Programs. For other vehicle owners who are taking the initiative to drive less by carpooling, biking, or using public transportation, some insurance companies are offering significant discounts for the mileage decreases.   Depending upon the program, the insurance company may take mileage readings or install a GPS system.   The information is then taken by the insurance company to compare it against average drivers; and, if your mileage is significantly less, you will qualify for large discounts.

If you would like to find out more about what discounts are available to your “green” car, then please feel free to contact our office.

Landslides occur when masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope. Debris flows, also known as mudslides, are a common type of fast-moving landslide that tends to flow in channels.

What causes landslides and debris flows

Landslides are caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope. They can accompany heavy rains or follow droughts, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. Mudslides develop when water rapidly accumulates in the ground and results in a surge of water-saturated rock, earth, and debris. Mudslides usually start on steep slopes and can be activated by natural disasters. Areas where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation on slopes are particularly vulnerable to landslides during and after heavy rains.

Health threats from landslides and debris flows

In the United States, landslides and debris flows result in 25 to 50 deaths each year. The health hazards associated with landslides and mudflows include:

  • Rapidly moving water and debris that can lead to trauma;
  • Broken electrical, water, gas, and sewage lines that can result in injury or illness; and
  • Disrupted roadways and railways that can endanger motorists and disrupt transport and access to health care.

What areas are at risk

Some areas are more likely to experience landslides or mudflows, including:

  • Areas where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation;
  • Areas where landslides have occurred before;
  • Steep slopes and areas at the bottom of slopes or canyons;
  • Slopes that have been altered for construction of buildings and roads;
  • Channels along a stream or river; and
  • Areas where surface runoff is directed.

What you can do to protect yourself

Before intense storms and rainfall

  • Assume that steep slopes and areas burned by wildfires are vulnerable to landslides and debris flows.
  • Learn whether landslides or debris flows have occurred previously in your area by contacting local authorities, a county geologist or the county planning department, state geological surveys or departments of natural resources, or university departments of geology.
  • Contact local authorities about emergency and evacuation plans.
  • Develop emergency and evacuation plans for your family and business.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated.
  • If you live in an area vulnerable to landslides, consider leaving it.

During intense storms and rainfall

  • Listen to the radio or watch TV for warnings about intense rainfall or for information and instructions from local officials.
  • Be aware of any sudden increase or decrease in water level on a stream or creek that might indicate debris flow upstream. A trickle of flowing mud may precede a larger flow.
  • Look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences, or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
  • Listen for rumbling sounds that might indicate an approaching landslide or mudflow.
  • Be alert when driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to collapsed pavement or debris.
  • If landslide or debris flow danger is imminent, quickly move away from the path of the slide. Getting out of the path of a debris flow is your best protection. Move to the nearest high ground in a direction away from the path. If rocks and debris are approaching, run for the nearest shelter and take cover (if possible, under a desk, table, or other piece of sturdy furniture).

After a landslide or debris flow

  • Stay away from the site. Flooding or additional slides may occur after a landslide or mudflow.
  • Check for injured or trapped people near the affected area, if it is possible to do so without entering the path of the landslide or mudflow.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for emergency information.
  • Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities.
  • Consult a geotechnical expert (a registered professional engineer with soils engineering expertise) for advice on reducing additional landslide problems and risks. Local authorities should be able to tell you how to contact a geotechnical expert.

Your home is protected by dwelling coverage (also called “Coverage A”). The amount of dwelling coverage is usually based on the cost to rebuild your home. Most standard policies cover your home at Replacement Cost Value (RCV). That means if your home is insured up to $250,000, then you may get up to that amount to rebuild if your home is destroyed. Just make sure your dwelling coverage amount is enough to cover you in case a complete rebuild is necessary.
Your belongings
Your belongings are covered by “personal property” coverage on your policy. When insuring your belongings (meaning everything you own inside of your home and in storage), you can choose between Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost Value (RCV). Most insurance policies default as ACV, but you can usually switch to RCV for an increased price. For example, if you paid $5,000 for a new couch 10 years ago, and it was destroyed in a fire, the ACV options would typically pay the current value of the couch (cost less depreciation) whereas the RCV option would typically pay what it costs to replace your couch, which could be more or less than $5,000, minus your deductible.
Which option is best?
Like most insurance questions, it depends on your situation. Actual cash value insurance is usually the more affordable option. But, ACV may not offer enough coverage if something is damaged. The payout amount you’ll get from your insurer will likely be higher with replacement cost insurance. So, it’s a trade-off.

According to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, offering a “bring your pet to work” policy might be more than just a nice-sounding benefit: It could actually lower your employees’ stress and make other workers feel more satisfied with their jobs.
 
Is an open doggy-door policy right for your company? Here are some factors to consider:
Do your research. If you’re leasing your workspace, be sure your landlord allows pets. You should also talk to your business insurance agent or risk-management specialist about whether you’re insured if someone is injured by your pet, or if your pet damages property. In other cases, you may need to have employees sign waivers accepting legal responsibility for their own pets’ behavior while in your office. Of course, if, as part of your business, you and your employees handle food or beverages, or offer personal care services (particularly day care or elder care), you need to carefully check any licensing bureau regulations about the presence of pets.
Start slowly. Instead of announcing to your employees that pets are welcome anytime, start by allowing the pets in your office or retail shop one day a week. Be sure to give employees plenty of warning before you begin allowing pets, and have open discussions about any concerns (allergies, accidents, disruptions, etc.) and how you can accommodate them.
Create a pet policy. Even though you hope employees will use common sense when bringing pets to work, it’s wise to put guidelines in writing. You might also require employees to prove that their pets (dogs especially) will respond to basic commands like “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Down.” Consider limiting the number of animals allowed in your office at one time, and asking employees to sign up in advance to bring in their furry pals. Also, require employees to prove that pets’ vaccinations are up to date. Keep copies of that information in the office, in case you’re questioned.
Consider your image. Pets can be great icebreakers with new customers, and can give your business a reputation for being laid-back and friendly. That can work well if it fits in with your company’s goals and values.. However, if you run a very “buttoned-up” type of business, pay attention to whether your clients are annoyed by the presence of pets. If animals make your business appear less professional to your key customers, they might not be a good fit.
Set clear boundaries. Remember that every employee will not be an animal lover. Be sure to respect workers’ wishes to keep pets away from their office spaces. You should also enforce “pet-free” zones and keep animals out of the office kitchen/cafeteria, restrooms and some meeting rooms.
Make pet-exercise part of company culture. Encourage dog owners, in particular, to take their pets out for regular walks throughout the day. Even though they’re away from their work, your employees are getting exercise that can lead to better health and higher productivity. If necessary, go along with your workers and their dogs – making these outings your “walk and talk” meetings. You never know what fresh business ideas might come from your canine commutes!