You already know kitchen safety is important — but you might not know how frequently kitchen mishaps happen. Did you know that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.?
Prevent kitchen fires.

  • Play close attention to what you’re doing and to your surroundings.
  • Keep flammable items, such as oven mitts and towels, away from the stove.
  • Store a small fire extinguisher nearby.
  • If a stove top fire starts, turn off the burner. Cover a grease stove top fire with a lid (water can spread the fire).
  • Install smoke detectors, but keep them at least 10 feet from your stove to reduce the chances of false alarms. Test detectors monthly.

Beware of burns.

  • Turn pot handles in so they won’t get knocked.
  • Let microwaved food cool for a minute or two before handling.
  • Remove any lids carefully to avoid steam burns.

Banish bacteria that can make your family sick.

  • Clean your hands before and after handling food.
  • Wash counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water when switching from one food to another.
  • Disinfect counter tops and cutting boards regularly. Use 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. Let sit for several minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Store cleaners, soaps and sprays where children and pets can’t get to them.
If you keep them down low, lock them up or use a safety latch. Detergent pods are especially dangerous for kids, who can mistake them for food. If you have kids under age 6, use traditional detergent.

There are a number of benefits to adding a rider to your homeowners insurance policy.
Increased coverage: Most home insurance policies contain “sublimits.” A sublimit is essentially a limit within a limit. For example, you may have a $100,000 limit in personal property coverage for your belongings. But your limit on jewelry may be $2,500. That means if your piece is worth $7,000 and you don’t add a rider for it, your insurance company won’t pay out more than $2,500 on a claim involving that item.
Low or no deductibles: Your personal property coverage may have a high deductible. Riders, though, often have low deductibles or none at all. Let’s say you have a musical instrument worth $3,000, and it’s stolen. If your property deductible is $2,000, then you’ll only receive $1,000 on an insurance claim. But, if you added a rider for that instrument and the rider deductible is $50, then your insurance payout would be $2,950.
Accidental loss coverage: Many basic insurance policies won’t protect you against loss by “mysterious disappearance.” That means if you accidentally lost your wedding ring at the gym, you may not be covered. However, had you scheduled the ring, you would be covered even in the “mysterious disappearance” scenario.

Depending on its age and condition, a car that has been in a major accident generally has less resale value than the same vehicle in pre-crash condition. Even if the car repairs meet the highest quality standards, potential buyers are unwilling to pay as much for a car they know has been previously damaged.
This difference between what the pre-accident car was worth and the market value of the post-repair car is known as diminished value.
Note that diminished value doesn’t apply to all cars that have been damaged and repaired. Older model cars may actually be worth more after an accident because new parts have been substituted for many of the old parts.
Will my insurance company pay for diminished value?
A diminished value loss may or may not be covered, depending on a number of factors, including who was to blame for the accident, coverages provides by your policy and state regulations.
If the accident is your fault
Except in a very few states, the language in the collision section of the standard auto insurance policy clearly excludes coverage for diminished value when the policyholder is at fault in a crash.
That means that if your car policy includes optional collision coverage and you ram your car into a lamppost, your insurer will pay for repairs to the car, minus the deductible. However, in most cases, the company would not compensate you for diminished value.
If the accident was clearly caused by another driver
In all states except Michigan, if an accident is the fault of another driver, you would receive compensation for diminished value. This is because legally the third party has an obligation to make the victim of the accident “whole” again; in this case, to restore the victim’s car to its pre-accident fair market value.
In other words, the at-fault driver’s insurer is responsible for repairing your car and for paying you the difference between the car’s resale value before the accident and after the repair. This cost is usually covered by the liability portion of his or her insurance policy.
If the at-fault driver is uninsured and cannot pay for repairs, receipt of payment will depend on whether you have purchased uninsured motorist’s coverage. About half of the states allow recovery for diminished value under this coverage.
Proof of diminished value
In order to recover the amount by which the car’s value has been diminished (whether under the at-fault driver’s liability policy or under the policyholder’s own uninsured motorist or collision coverage), it is the policyholder’s responsibility to prove the repaired vehicle is worth less than before the accident. Payments may be reduced by the degree to which the policyholder was to blame for the accident.

If you rely on your car, rental reimbursement is an inexpensive and invaluable option that you’ll want to consider adding to your auto insurance policy.
On average, a car is in the repair shop for two weeks after an accident and renting a replacement vehicle for that amount of time can be costly. Many insured drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance does not automatically cover the cost of their rental because they’ve overlooked the policy option known as rental reimbursement.
Rental reimbursement coverage is available for a nominal extra amount with almost every auto insurance policy, although the option is often bypassed by those who are shopping for the lowest cost premium.
But there are a number of other ways to save money on auto insurance and, if your car is in the shop for an extended period, rental reimbursement can be a bargain. Even if your accident is another driver’s fault, the details of a claim may take time and you may have to wait get his or her insurance company to agree to pay for your rental car. With your own replacement rental coverage, there’s no waiting.

Collision is commonly confused with comprehensive. They’re both optional coverages and pay to repair or replace your car (if it’s totaled). But they cover separate events. In short, collision covers accidents (other than with animals) and comprehensive covers events that are beyond your control such as theft, vandalism, hitting an animal, fire, glass breakage or an act of nature.
Think of it this way: Collision is colliding with another vehicle or object (other than animals). Comprehensive is all other events. Accidents with animals are covered by comprehensive (and not collision) because these accidents are considered out of your control. Also, you can’t add only collision. You have to add comprehensive first and then collision.

With warmer temperatures arriving earlier than usual, water season is well underway. Whether you’re out on your boat every day or just on weekends, boat insurance should be top of mind during the summer months — and even beyond.
Boat Insurance on the Water
Naturally, you want to protect you’re boat while you’re using it. It’s important, though, to understand the associated coverages to ensure you are properly protected. Choose from standard and specialized coverages, including:
  • Liability, which protects other people and property if you’re responsible for an accident
  • Comprehensive, for incidents such as vandalism, flooding, and fires that may happen to your boat
  • Collision, for instances in which you hit another object and damage your boat
  • Fishing Equipment, which protects your gear on board or while it’s being transported on or off your insured boat
  • Uninsured Boater, which protects you in case an uninsured boat collides with yours.
Boat Insurance off the Water
Protecting your boat while it’s on the water is an easy decision, but what about when it’s not on the water? What about when it’s sitting in a slip or even in your yard?
In fact, nearly 20% of all boat claims are filed between Labor Day and Memorial Day — when boating isn’t at its peak. Most of these claims are filed due to vandalism, theft, fire, or flooding, which can happen at any time, not just during warmer months.
And what about injuries? You’re most likely responsible if someone gets hurt on your boat, but did you know you could be responsible for injuries around your boat, too? If you bypass boat insurance, you won’t have liability coverage to protect you in cases that involve injury, which means you may be responsible for paying someone’s medical bills whether you’re using your boat or it’s sitting unattended.
Whether you store your boat in a marina or in your yard, you may want to rethink any decisions to cancel your boat insurance while it’s not being used.
What to Consider before You Buy Boat Insurance
Before you make any changes, be sure to check your policy and review it with your agent to make sure you’re getting the most for your money. Remember to look at what you have, then purchase boat insurance that covers your way of life. If you own a home, cars, a business, etc., you may want to consider a higher level of boat insurance coverage or an umbrella policy to protect your assets.

The start of summer is the perfect time to gather with family and friends for good food and fun times. This year, celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in a safe way. Our 4th of July safety tips cover a few key summer safety topics to keep you and your family safe this holiday.

Sparkler and Fireworks Safety

More than 50,000 fires are caused by fireworks every year. Take the proper precautions when operating fireworks.

  • Never disassemble or try to make your own fireworks.
  • Don’t point sparklers, or fireworks at yourself or others, especially while they’re being lit.
  • Only light fireworks on the ground and in areas that are dry and fire resistant.
  • Don’t attempt to light multiple devices at the same time.
  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks or sparklers.
  • Always keep a portable fire extinguisher close by. Also keep a water hose or buckets of water nearby to put out fires.

Water Activity Safety

As July is one of the hottest months of the year, many families turn to water activities to beat the heat. However, even fun water activities have serious risks if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

  • Review safe boating practices.
  • Never consume alcohol while driving a boat.
  • Before boating, always check that there are enough life preservers on hand for every passenger.
  • Set water safety rules for your family.
  • Pools should be enclosed completely with a fence to restrict access to the area. Consider installing wireless outdoor sensors that will alert you via phone or with a chime inside your home if the sensors are activated.
  • Keep a first aid kit near the pool.

Grilling Safety

July is one of the peak months for grilling fires. Enjoy grilling your favorite meals this summer while also keeping your family safe.

  • Check gas grill hoses for cracks, holes and leaks.
  • Keep children away from grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and explosions.
  • Never grill indoors, in the garage, in any enclosed area or on a surface that might catch fire.
  • Keep the grill at least two feet away from decks, siding, branches and any outdoor equipment that can catch fire quickly.

Did you know that almost two-thirds of residential lessees in the United States don’t carry renters insurance according to the Independent Insurance Adjusters & Brokers of America (IIABA)? A renters policy is more important, accessible, and affordable than you might think. But renters are often unclear about what renters insurance is and what it covers.
Here are the top 5 myths—and the facts—about renters insurance:

  1. The landlord’s insurance covers your possessions. Don’t count on it. Most landlords’ insurance covers only the building and damages due to negligence. Coverage for some of the most common causes of property damage and loss, such as theft, vandalism, and fire, is entirely up to you. Without renters insurance, you may have to bear the financial burden of a loss on your own.
  2. Renters insurance is expensive. In this case, the numbers speak for themselves. According to the IIABA, the average renters policy costs just $12 a month for up to $30,000 in personal property coverage. That’s solid coverage for less than the cost of a couple of cups of coffee a week.
  3. You don’t need insurance if your stuff isn’t expensive. Most renters’ belongings cost more than they think. In fact, the average person has over $20,000 worth of belongings that are probably not covered by a landlord’s policy.
  4. Renters insurance covers only your possessions. In fact, renters insurance covers much more than just your personal property: The average policy also includes up to $100,000 in liability coverage. That means in the event of a covered loss your insurer will help cover the costs if you’re held responsible for injuring another person or damaging another person’s property, including your landlord’s. Moreover, this coverage applies whether the incident occurred within your residence or elsewhere.
  5. Renters insurance is hard to get. You can place a quick call with our agency. Answer a few questions and we’ll get you an instant rate quote.

After a disaster, you most likely want to fix your damaged home as soon as possible. However, did you know this is also a prime time for fraudulent contractors to scam you out of money? To help protect your home and your wallet, here are five tips to keep in mind when you’re hiring help for your home project.
1. Be Cautious of Door-to-Door Contractors
Be leery of any contractor who approaches you unsolicited. They may tell you they just completed a job in your neighborhood, have materials left over from another job or that they’re running a “one day only” deal — whatever the story, don’t buy it. A reputable contractor should have enough business from advertising and referrals to help keep them busy without knocking on doors, so make sure to reach out to contractors you find through respected sources.
2. Find a Reputable Contractor
You can find dependable contractors in online listings, referrals from friends and family or organizations like the National Association of General Contractors. You can also search on the BBB website to learn more about the contractor and check for a history of complaints.
Also, be sure to ask your contractor for proof of liability insurance, licensing, bonding and any references. A trustworthy contractor will typically have these handy and be more than happy to share them with you.
3. Consider Multiple Bids
You may want to consider getting multiple bids on all of your contractor jobs to help ensure potential quotes are consistent and fair. And when it comes to price, the lowest may not be the best. If one bid is dramatically lower than the rest, you may want to get more information from that contractor to see if there are any extra charges that may get added later on and ultimately make that contractor more expensive.
4. Don’t Pay the Full Amount Up Front
It’s unconventional to pay for 100 percent of the work up front. If your contractor suddenly insists on payment up front, it’s a red flag. Once paid, you may never see that contractor — or your money — again.
Make sure you receive a contract with details of the work to be performed and the costs involved.. Typical payment terms are about 10 percent up front and the rest upon completion of the work. Also, it’s best to avoid paying in cash — instead, use a credit card or check so you have a paper trail.
5. Educate Seniors on Scams
Scammers have learned to target the elderly. Make sure your older family members are familiar with the common red flags. Also, if you’re older and living alone, it’s a good idea to run any home improvement projects by people you trust.
With a little research, you may be able to avoid a potential home improvement scam and find a contractor you can trust.

Summer is the perfect time and perfect weather to spend outside getting your yard and outdoor spaces in tip-top shape. But before you head outside, we want to remind you that simple precautions can ensure your work is disaster free.
Here are our top 10 yard work safety tips that can help you — and your family — avoid a trip to the emergency room.
1- Know your equipment. Before operating a new lawn mower read the owner’s manual and all of the safety information. Ditto for your weed trimmer. Check with the manufacturer of your tools to make sure there haven’t been any safety recalls.
2- Practice Ladder Safety. You’ve heard it again and again, but always check to make sure your ladder is firmly set on a level surface. Never set ladders on boxes or other objects to make the ladder reach higher areas. Lock or barricade any doors that may open toward ladders. Also, never stand on the top rung or step of a ladder – your balance could be jeopardized.
3- Watch your children. Every year, thousands of children nationwide are injured by lawn-care tools. That’s why we recommend keeping small children inside while you’re mowing or trimming. At a minimum, do not allow children younger than 12 to operate a push lawn mower and anyone under the age of 16 to operate a driving lawn mower. Do not take children on rides with a riding mower.
4- Check your extension cords. Before use, check your extension cords for cracks and seal them with electrical tape. If you find any frayed wires, replace the cord. And remember, never run extension cords through puddles.
5- Protect your body. This one is simple: wear protective gear. We all know that lawnmowers hit rocks, sticks and other items that can be turned into flying projectiles. Wear long pants to protect your legs from flying objects and wear non-slip, closed toe shoes instead of sandals. Don’t forget your eyes and ears! Sunglasses will protect you from sun and earplugs can eliminate loud noises from machinery that could cause a substantial amount of hearing loss.
6- Store tools and materials in safe places. A range of injury can be caused by stepping on, landing on or being hit with garden tools like shovels, rakes and trowels. Do not use these tools when in close proximity to children. When not in use, store them in safe, enclosed areas. If you have small children or pets, weed killer or lawn fertilizer can be deadly. Seal bags and store at heights where small children cannot get in to potentially harmful materials.
7- Don’t dig without approval. Check with your local utility companies before you dig trenches, holes or any other cavity in your yard. You do not want to be responsible for accidentally hitting gas, electrical or sewer lines – the results of which can be extremely hazardous, not to mention expensive.
8- Be conscious of electricity. Don’t leave electrical tools plugged in while not in use. When ready to use a tool, make sure equipment is in the off position before you plug it in. And, as is obvious, always turn equipment off and unplug it from an outlet before you attempt to fix the machinery.
9- Get green smart. Before you or your children do any “hands on” weed removal, be sure you know how to identify poison ivy, sumac, oak and similar toxic plants. Find out ahead of time how to treat the rashes they cause to reduce the irritation.
10- Be Smart. It’s obvious. Never operate lawn machinery or use heavy garden tools while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.