Did you know that vehicular fatalities are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. And though fatality rates for teens have steadily dropped since 1975, teens remain 3 times more likely to crash per mile driven than adults.
Thankfully, you can play a big part in keeping your teen safe. To help you navigate through this important milestone in your child’s life, here are 9 tips covering everything from safety to saving money on car insurance for teenage drivers.
If you have any questions on insuring your own teen driver, please feel free to give our office a call.


 
1. Invest in a safe-driving courseThe more practice young drivers have behind the wheel, the better. Since inexperience results in many teen motor vehicle accidents, approved safe-driving courses can help teens gain experience and helpful skills. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to get an approved list.
Safe-driving courses can be taken online or in person and usually last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Most courses are affordable, but it never hurts to shop around. And while you’re looking for ways to save, don’t forget to ask your insurer about a car insurance discount for taking an approved safe-driving course.
2. Get the safest car for your teen driver.  When it comes to choosing the right car for your teen, safety and reliability are key. Choose the safest car you can afford. Whether you buy a brand-new car or a used model, look for advanced safety features like front and side air bags, antilock brakes, head restraints, and electronic stability control. If a crash occurs, these safety features can be lifesavers.
Before you settle on a vehicle, make sure you check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for the crash test rating of the car you have in mind.
3. Implement your own graduated licensing program.  Even if your state has an excellent graduated drivers licensing program, consider implementing your own set of rules until you’re comfortable with your offspring’s driving skills.

  • Restrict nighttime driving: The IIHS reports that most fatal crashes for young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so it’s a good idea to take away the keys after 9 p.m.
  • Limit the number of passengers: It may be fun for your teen driver to play chauffeur to his or her friends, but studies have shown that the presence of passengers actually increases accident risk. Teen drivers are more likely to be distracted when they have friends in the car, and the presence of peers also leads to riskier driving practices.
  • Supervise driving: Even though your child may be a bona fide licensed driver, he or she still lacks the necessary experience to handle difficult driving situations.

4. Have a heart to heart.  Driving is a privilege — make sure that your young driver knows it. Before you hand over the keys, clearly spell out your expectations for good driving behavior.
A parent-teen contract detailing your policies regarding passengers, alcohol use, texting while driving, speeding, etc. — and the consequences should your child fail to live up to his or her responsibility — will make sure that you and your teen are on the same page.
5. Practice what you preach.  Set a good example for your young driver. Drive safely, buckle up, and avoid distractions (like texting, talking on the phone, or eating) behind the wheel.
6. Discuss driving costs. If your child has to pay for some car-related expenses (gas, a portion of the monthly insurance premiums, oil changes, etc.), chances are he or she will take driving more seriously and be safer on the road. So make sure your child knows who will pay for what and, when possible, have your teen help out with the cost of car ownership — even if it’s just buying gas every once in a while.
7. Set a zero-tolerance drinking policy.  The statistics for underage drinking are sobering. According to the Center for Disease Control, youth aged 12 to 20 consume 11% of all alcohol in the U.S. So though you might like to avoid the subject, turning a blind eye to teen alcohol use won’t make the problem disappear.
8. Keep a squeaky-clean driving record.  Since every vehicular infraction tarnishes your record and raises your insurance premiums, practice safe driving to keep your record clean. If you’ve added your child to your policy, make sure he or she also follows safe-driving practices. Since speeding is the most common driving violation in the teenage population, make sure your child follows speed limits at all times. (Investing in a vehicle tracking device could be a good option if you’d like to monitor your child’s speed.)
9. Encourage good grades. Aside from helping your young family member advance through life, good grades can also help you and your young driver save on car insurance. If your child is a full-time high school or college student and maintains a high GPA, he or she could be eligible for a Good Student discount.

A DMV may require an SR-22 from a driver to reinstate his or her driving privileges following an uninsured car accident or conviction of another traffic-related offense, such as a DUI.  An SR-22 may be required for three years for conviction of driving without insurance or driving with a suspended license and up to five years for a DUI.  If an SR-22 should expire or be canceled, the insurance company is required to issue an SR-26 form, which certifies the cancellation of the policy.
Here are the three things to know about an SR-22 if you are required to have one:
1. It’s not really insurance
While many refer to “SR-22 insurance,” an SR-22 is actually just a certificate auto insurance company files with your state to vouch for you. Basically, it verifies you have coverage. You only need an SR-22 if a judge says you do—this can happen after certain violations, or after a succession of them.
2. It’s not (too) expensive
Having an SR-22 filing might cost you a little extra (again, temporarily):

  • There’s a fee to file it.
  • Your insurance rate might go up if you need the SR-22 because of a moving violation or accident.
  • Certain states require you to pay in full when you have insurance that includes an SR-22 filing.

3. It’s not forever
In three years—give or take, depending on your state—you won’t need your SR-22. At that point, call your insurer and ask to have the filing removed from your policy.  Three years is also how long it takes, generally, to clear your driving record. So, any violations that triggered your needing an SR-22 have cleared from your record, too.
If you would like to find out more, please contact our office.

In an emergency, some people rely on their cell phones and laptops for information. But, if you don’t know that the power is going to go out, what do you do if you have no charge on your phone or computer when everything goes dark?

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can get more juice out of your electronics, even with no electricity to plug into. Consider these suggestions for how to charge your phone or laptop when the power is out.

Capture Solar or Battery Power

Being prepared means planning ahead. That includes buying extra batteries or backup chargers that work without electricity and storing them for unexpected emergencies. Examples of non-electrical chargers include solar-powered and hand-crank versions, says theFederal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Solar-powered battery chargers are portable devices that use energy from the sun to give your phone life. A small solar device can recharge a tablet or phone in approximately two or three hours if the weather is sunny.
Because many incidents of the power going out are due to bad weather, the sun may not always be an option. In these cases, consumers can purchase hand-crank chargers. Although these chargers require a lot of effort to get power, they are good to have around in emergencies.

Invest in a Camp Stove

Another option for creating power with no electricity, says Seaman, is a camping stove with a built in USB port. Some of these handy little devices can cook your food and provide a charge to your electronics at the same time, he says. They work simply by lighting small twigs in the heating chamber and turning on the attached battery-powered fan, which escalates cooking by intensifying the fire. The heat created by the fire, says Seaman, recharges the device’s battery as it cooks, providing consistently usable power to any device with a USB cord. Make sure to use a camp stove only when you’re outside to prevent a fire hazard.

Use the Computer as a Power Source

When the power goes out, sometimes having a smartphone is a greater priority than a laptop, as it can both connect to the internet and make emergency calls.  If you always keep your computer charged, it can power your phone when electricity goes out simply by plugging the phone into the USB port. Be advised, however, charging from a laptop will take longer and will only be a short-term solution..

Take Power From Your Car

Since batteries do not use electricity to power objects, they are available to use during an outage. This includes your car battery. Seaman says that the interiors of newer vehicles usually have specific charging ports for phones and computers, while older vehicles often have a cigarette lighter that electronics can plug into. Just as you might while on the go, if you can manually open your garage, run your car in the driveway — well away from the house and plug your phone or laptop into the USB or car charger port.  Remember, it’s never safe to leave a car running while parked inside the garage, even if the garage door is open. Make sure to move the car far away from the house to prevent a carbon monoxide hazard.

Conserve Power

In addition to charging electronics, finding ways to conserve what power you have left might be critical in an outage. CNN offers the following suggestions for saving battery life:

  • Turn off all apps that run in the background on your phone, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Use text messaging instead of making phone calls when possible.
  • Lower the brightness on your phone’s screen (this could also apply to a laptop).
  • Download an app designed to make your charge last longer.

Learning how to charge your phone without power may be essential if you live in a location with frequent outages. Even if you don’t, remember these tips to stay better prepared in case of an unexpected emergency.

Our hope is that you never have to experience any disaster to your home that requires submitting an insurance claim to our office.
What worries us even more, though, is submitting an insurance claim assuming there is coverage only to find out the claim is actually excluded on your policy.
With that in mind we have put together a list of the top 7 most-frequently-excluded claims on homeowners insurance policies. While we are always working to provide you with the insurance coverage you need, subtle changes we are unaware of (like a trampoline purchase for instance) may have a dramatic effect on the coverage your insurance company is willing to offer.
We hope that by sharing this list we can help uncover some potential gaps in your policy and provide you with some insight on how to properly cover them.
If you have any questions at all specific to your policy, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.


 
Mold and Water Dam
A spike in mold-related claims at the turn of the century led most insurers to strike the coverage entirely from their homeowners policies.
Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies. The peak came around 2002 when Ed McMahon filed a $20 million lawsuit against his insurance company for mold-related damages. After that, many insurance companies stopped providing coverage completely or limited their coverage to a very small amount.
Sewer Backup
The only thing worse than having a bathroom or basement overflowing with sewage is the fact that you may have pay the entire bill yourself.
Sewage backups are a standard exclusion on many homeowners insurance policies. Without purchasing the additional rider (which is usually less than $100), there is a very good chance you will have to pay for the cleanup yourself.
We will often see the homeowners try to get their cities to pay for the damages, but without being able to prove negligence it is a very difficult thing to do.
Natural Disasters
Depending on where you live, your insurance policy may exclude coverage for certain natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, and flood.
If you live in an area likely to be involved in a natural disaster, then your insurance company may be reluctant to provide coverage for the incident. For example, almost every homeowners insurance policy excludes any coverage for earthquakes, floods or landslides. That coverage must be purchased through a specialty insurance company.
Also, if your home is located in a very remote area far away from any fire station or you live in coastal area, then your insurance policy may not provide damage from fire or wind.
Neglect
Home damage that happens over a long period of time like a slow water leak or a termite infestation may leave you with the bill.
Homeowners insurance policies are written to cover “sudden and unexpected losses” that happen to your home. Insurance companies expect you to care for your home and deal with any maintenance issues that come up. This means problems like a slow water leaks or infestations are usually excluded on your insurance policy because they develop over a long period of time and should have been detected by the homeowner.
Bruce Johnson, author of “50 Simple Ways to Save Your House ,” recommends conducting regular home inspections to detect any potential problems. Tour the exterior of your home to look for cracks, decay or water damage. Check the condition of the roof and inspect the basement or crawl space for other hidden problems, including rodent droppings, termites or leaks.
Trampolines
Some hazards like a swimming pool or swing set may cause an increase in your premiums while other hazards like trampolines may outright excluded on your policy.
According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there are approximately 98,000 trampoline-related injuries every year with fractures and dislocations accounting for 48% of those injuries.
With that in mind many insurance companies are now excluding any injury related to trampolines. In fact, some insurance companies will actually cancel your insurance policy if they find out your have purchased one.
So if you have purchased a trampoline be sure to speak with our office to find out how it will affect your liability coverage and insurance policy.
Dogs
Dog bites now account for over one-third of all homeowners insurance claims with average damages totaling over $10,000.
With total damages now exceeding $310 million a year, it is easy to see why insurance companies are very leery to insurance residences with dogs. Whether or not your insurance company will surcharge for owning a dog or provide coverage at all depends upon the breed of dog you own.
Troublesome breeds like pit bulls, German shepards, Rottweilers, and huskies may make finding an insurance policy that will provide liability coverage very difficult. Providing proof of dog training and a proper fenced-in enclosure with help prove to insurance companies you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others, and they may be willing to discount your premiums for doing so.
Intentional Damage
If your rebellious teenager or estranged spouse intentionally damages your home, there is a good chance you will be paying for the damages yourself.
Intentional damages caused by an insured person – you, your spouse, dependants or any relatives living in the home – aren’t typically covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Estranged spouses are a very gray area for insurance companies: while they may not live at the residence, they may still be listed on the deed or have an insurable interest in the home, which will give insurance companies a right to deny any claim from their destruction.
* Disclaimer
The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.

 

In part 1 of our blog post on the auto insurance policy, we explained the most basic auto insurance coverages and how they can protect you and your car.  In this post, we’re going to add some additional specialty coverages that can be included on your auto insurance policy.  Many of these coverages cost very little and can provide additional protection that can greatly help. To find out how to add these coverages to your auto policy, please feel free to contact our office.

  • Custom Parts or Equipment (CPE) – Collision and Comprehensive coverage each provide up to $1,000 of coverage for custom parts or equipment, which are accessories and enhancements permanently installed in or on your vehicle. Parts and equipment offered by the manufacturer or installed by the dealer at the point of sale are not custom parts or equipment, but they are included under your standard Collision and Comprehensive coverage.
  • Additional Custom Parts or Equipment (ACPE) – This coverage is available if you have more than $1,000 of custom parts or equipment on your vehicle. If you purchase this coverage, the insurance company will pay for custom parts or equipment damaged as a result of a covered incident, up to the amount shown on your Dec Page.
  • Rental Reimbursement – If you buy Rental Reimbursement coverage, the insurance company will reimburse you for rental car charges incurred while our vehicle is being repaired after a covered accident. You can only buy Rental Reimbursement if you buy Collision and Comprehensive coverage. Rental Reimbursement may be limited to 30 days and subject to the maximum per day amount shown on your Dec Page.
  • Loan/Lease Payoff – This coverage protects you when your covered vehicle has been deemed a total loss and you owe a lender more money than the vehicle is worth. If you buy Loan/Lease Payoff and your vehicle is declared a total loss, Loan/Lease Payoff will pay the difference between the vehicle’s actual cash value and the amount you owe to the lender. However, the maximum the insurance company will often pay is 25 percent of the actual cash value.
  • Roadside Assistance – If you incur labor costs at the place where your vehicle becomes disabled as a result of a mechanical/electrical breakdown, dead battery, flat tire and/or lockout, Roadside Assistance can cover those costs. Many insurance companies also will help if you run out of gas or other fluid, or if you become stuck in snow or mud within 100 feet of a road or highway. And, if necessary, Roadside Assistance will cover towing to the nearest qualified repair facility.

Elements of an Auto Insurance Policy

Your auto insurance policy consists of sections that define every type of auto insurance coverage offered by your company. Policies are distinguished by the state in which they’re issued, and coverages available may vary among states. Your policy simply explains the types of coverage available and how or when they can be used. For your specific policy information, please refer to the terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions contained in your specific policy.
The language within the policy can be confusing,though. So we want to provide a simplified version of some of the coverages you may find within your own policy. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common coverages and what they do:

  • Liability – This coverage consists of Bodily Injury and Property Damage (BI/PD), which covers your legal liability, up to the limit you select, for damages caused in a covered vehicle accident. Under BI/PD, the insurance company pay for damages to an injured person and for property damage that you are legally obligated to pay as a result of an accident. If they cover an accident for which you are sued, the insurance company pays for a lawyer to defend you, too.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – Available in certain states and commonly referred to as “no-fault insurance,” PIP covers your medical bills and often lost wages if you are disabled or unable to work as a result of an accident. PIP also usually covers the cost of personal services you must now pay someone else to do for you. PIP coverage is subject to a limit, which is specified in your policy.
  • Medical Payments (MedPay) – This coverage applies no matter who is at fault and covers the cost of reasonable and necessary medical care provided to you as the result of a car accident. The coverage is often limited to a specified time period following the accident (usually three years) and the amount of coverage you chose when you purchased the policy.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) – UM/UIM coverage pays for damages that you are legally entitled to recover for your bodily injury. In general, this coverage provides what you would have received from the other person’s insurance company had that person been insured. UM/UIM may also protect you if the person who caused the damage does not have enough insurance. Uninsured Motorist Property Damage coverage is available in some states and provides protection for damage to property caused by a person without insurance.
  • Collision – If your vehicle overturns, or if it collides with another vehicle or object, Collision coverage pays for the damage to your vehicle. Collision involves a deductible amount you select when you purchase your policy. This amount, typically $250 or $500, is the amount you are required to pay in the event a claim exceeds the deductible amount.
  • Comprehensive – This coverage pays for damage caused by an event other than a car collision, such as fire, theft, vandalism, hail or flood damage. Comprehensive also covers damage from an animal hit. Additionally, if your car is stolen, Comprehensive will cover the cost of a rental (subject to a daily limit). Like Collision coverage, a deductible usually applies.

One of the first principles of gambling is this: Never take a risk you can’t afford to lose.
When you hire an unlicensed contractor to do work on your property, or you fail to secure the necessary permits for that work, you are doing just that.
Here’s why: When a general contractors take jobs, they will hand off parts of it to one or more subcontractors. But the general contractor has overall responsibility for legal compliance, safety, quality of workmanship and just about everything else that happens on the job site.
Now here’s the dirty little secret: If you don’t hire a licensed and insured contractor to handle your project, you’re the general contractor!
If your unlicensed contractor breaks a sewer line, you’re responsible. If a worker gets hurt and can’t work for two years, and there’s no workers compensation coverage in place, you are on the hook for that workers’ medical bills and lost wages.
To find out more about the risks involved in hiring unlicensed/uninsured contractors, please read below.  And, if you’re curious to find out how your homeowners insurance will respond to these types of situations, please give our office a call.


 
General contractors take on a ton of responsibility. With that comes an equal measure of potential liability. That’s why licensed and responsible general contractors carry a lot of insurance, from general liability insurance to workers compensation insurance.
All these different forms of insurance coverage ultimately protect the customer if things don’t go according to plan. In fact, some states won’t even issue a contractor’s license if the minimum level of insurance isn’t in place.
Additionally, all subcontractors (when preforming work for the general contractor) will either have their own insurance or they will be operating under the general contractor’s license and insurance coverage. Either way, you as the customer will enjoy a substantial level of protection simply by virtue of using a licensed and bonded contractor. Their insurance protects you from having to bear the financial consequences of a job gone wrong, or a workplace injury.
What Can Go Wrong With Unlicensed Contractors?
Many things can go wrong on a construction job, from injuries to shoddy workmanship to destruction of power, sewer or water lines. Ultimately, all issues are the responsibility of the general contractor. The general contractor and their insurance carriers are the primary payers in the event something goes awry on the job. This also means that if you are personally operating as the general contractor, you must be aware of the potential risks and litigation that could arise.
What’s more, your standard homeowners insurance or landlord liability insurance will not cover you for these events. Most of these policies exempt damage caused by the knowing use of illegal or unlicensed contractors.
Consequences for Landlords
Landlords should be very wary of property management companies that make use of unlicensed or uninsured contractors. When they do, they are potentially putting you at risk, too.
If your property manager brings in an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, and something goes wrong, courts have generally held the property owner liable along with the property manager.
The Danger of Hiring Friends as Contractors
Hiring friends as contractors doesn’t make the liability and risk issues go away. Everyone can enter an arrangement with the best of intentions, but when your buddy falls off the ladder and files a claim with his insurance company, the company may well pay the claim and then go after you in subrogation proceedings (the area of law in which insurance companies fight to get reimbursed after paying their customers’ claims).
In one California case, Mendoza v. Brodeur, a homeowner asked his neighbor to do some work for him on his home. But the neighbor got hurt on the job. The homeowner thought he was hiring an independent contractor who had his own insurance. The court rejected that reasoning, and found instead that the homeowner was the neighbor’s employer and therefore should have had workers compensation coverage in place to cover the possibility of injury on the job. Since workers compensation wasn’t there, the homeowner has to cover the costs personally.
Summary: the Risks of Hiring Unlicensed Contractors
Failing to hire an insured, licensed and street-legal contractor could potentially cost you everything you own. If the worst happens, you could be sued into bankruptcy. Additionally, most homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude damages arising from the work of unlicensed contractors, so they will not protect you. Therefore, if you have a home project that presents any sort of risk, we highly recommend hiring a licensed general contractor to assist with the job.

At the Holste Agency we pride ourselves on providing you with the best insurance services available at competitive prices. Our professional team provides a wide variety of services including personal insurance coverage, life insurance coverage, and commercial insurance coverage. We will also take the time to listen to you and ensure that we find that right coverage for your personal needs.  Please contact us today for your free estimate. We proudly serve the Denver Metro area and  look forward to working with you soon.

Are you looking for someone who understands your  insurance needs? Someone who will provide the best service possible? The Holste Agency is dedicated to helping our customers with all of their insurance needs, and we guarantee no hassles. Our professional staff are expertly trained and treat each of our clients like family. Let us assess your needs in order to provide the best service possible. Let Arvada’s insurance experts take care of you today. Call for an appointment or free estimate.

The Holste Agency can help you find Denver Metro home insurance quotes.  As an independent insurance agent, we have access to over fifty different insurance companies that will provide you with aggressive money-saving quotes on your home.  We will work closely with you to ensure you have the proper insurance coverage while still helping you take advantage of all the available insurance discounts.
For a free money-saving home insurance quote, please contact our office to find out more.