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Thursday, 28 March 2013

According to an article on the Daily Finance, “Identity theft is not just stealing and using someone's credit cards, but also gathering information such as names, Social Security numbers, passwords, and address information. An identity thief may reroute your accounts to his own address, open new ones in your name then run up these accounts, spending thousands of dollars. These thieves will then abandon the unpaid accounts, leaving you with damaged credit. An identity thief may also assume your identity altogether, using your name and social security information for an alias, to steal money, or to get a job.”

 Javelin Strategy & Research recently released its Identity Fraud Survey Report, people under the age of 25 and those earning more than $150,000 are the most likely victims of identity theft.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the greatest risk for identity fraud because they are the least likely to take safeguards such as shredding documents and using anti-virus software and firewalls. Over five percent of those surveyed in this age group reported having been victimized at least one time in the past year. Most believe they are not a target because they have little or no income, not realizing that successful identity thieves can wreak havoc on your life with just a name and social security number. By the time most people realize their identity has been compromised it can take years to recover. You won't be able to buy a car, get a nice apartment, or purchase a home. Identity theft can also prevent you from getting a private college loan. Future employers may also turn your down for jobs based on a credit history that reflects irresponsibility.

Of those who responded, more than seven percent with annual incomes above $150,000 said that they had been victims of identity theft. They are also 65 percent more likely to monitor their accounts online, which allows them to spot a fraudulent event before large amounts of money are lost. Often people who do focus mainly on online accounts and identity tracking forget that identity thieves will scrounge for paper records in garbage cans left on the side of the road or receipts casually tossed away.  The time, costs, and hassle of reporting the theft and reestablishing your identity are enormous and can takes months or even years.

The problem with disposing of documents is knowing what you can shred and how long you have to keep things. The Fraud Prevention Unit has a list of suggestions for shredding on their website, as do many other online sites and communities, but they’re not all state specific or situation specific. Your favorite insurance agent is holding a community Shred It event on Saturday April 27 from 1-3 in Flemington NJ. Onsite will be accountants, financial advisors, and licensed insurance agents who can help you sift through the forms and make suggestions on what you can get rid of and what you must keep. I highly suggest you stop by for some fun! We’ll have food, face painting, music and a state of the art, technologically advanced truck-sized document shredder that can take care of all your paper-shredding needs!
Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 10:13 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 09 August 2012
There comes a certain point in your life when you can look back with a sense of pride at what you have been able to accomplish. Your hard work has paid off and you now are the proud owner of a house, a few cars, and maybe a treat- a vacation home, a boat, a motorcycle, nice jewelry- and all the other amenities associated with the good life. Including, unfortunately, lawsuits.
Hopefully, you will never be served with legal papers or involved in a costly lawsuit. But in the event you are, it will be imperative that you have the right amount of insurance to cover your legal liability. If that happens, do you have enough liability insurance? If there were a vehicle accident for which you were at fault, and a child were permanently disabled, would your auto insurance policy offer enough coverage to pay for the skilled care the child would need for years to come? If a young parent were killed in a freak fall on your property, would your homeowners insurance cover the support he would have provided his children as they grow up? We'd all like to believe that such catastrophic losses would happen only to other people. 
Consider what would happen if there were a settlement (or judgment, if it goes to court) of $800,000 as a result of an auto accident for which you were responsible. Let's say you have insurance with a limit of $300,000 per accident. What would happen? The auto insurer would pay its $300,000. Then virtually everything you own would be fair game for seizure to pay off the additional $500,000, except for assets that may be protected in some states, such as your home. Better yet, your earnings could be garnished for years to come. With stakes this high, it just makes sense for many people to purchase the added protection of an umbrella policy. 
An umbrella insurance policy is insurance that provides additional coverage once the liability limits on your homeowner's or auto insurance policy are exhausted.  Umbrella policies are typically sold with limits of $1 million to $10 million.  In the example above, if you had a $1 million umbrella policy, once you satisfied the deductible, the auto insurer would pay the auto policy limit of $300,000, and your umbrella insurance would pay the other $500,000 of the $800,000 settlement or verdict.  Your assets are safe.
For some people an attractive feature of an umbrella policy is that it provides coverages above and beyond what is found in their homeowner's or auto policies. Your homeowner's and car insurance policies cover bodily injury and property damage, but not personal injury. Your umbrella will cover that plus personal injury.  Generally, the types of personal injury covered include false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation, invasion of privacy, wrongful entry, or eviction.  You can also buy umbrella policies that include coverage if you are held liable in the course of serving on the board of a nonprofit organization.
Another important aspect of this coverage is it not only pays damages, but also lawyer's fees and defense costs should you be the defendant in a lawsuit. Even if a lawsuit is obviously a nuisance suit, you still have to pay the costs for mounting a defense. In this age of rising litigation expense, it is good to know that you are well equipped to handle it before the need arises.
Anyone who has something to lose should have at the very minimum $1 million umbrella, but if you really have a lot to lose and don't want to gamble with your life's wealth, your options are at least $5 million policy, if not more. The coverage you get should be discussed with your agent, and it may not be a bad idea to get input from a personal injury attorney as well.
Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 02:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 25 July 2012

How many of you wonder when you should add your teen driver to your auto insurance policy? And how many answers have you received from your friends and neighbors? The truth is you should inform your auto insurance company to have them added to your policy soon as they start learning to drive, whether they are starting with a learner's permit or going straight to the license,.  This is usually much more cost-effective than placing them on their own auto insurance policy, especially if you are a safe driver with a clean record. 

They will also be eligible for more coverage under your insurance policy. Statistics show that teens are more prone to accidents than those in other age groups, so starting out with the right amount of insurance coverage is extremely important. Plus both parents can be named in any suit brought against them due to an accident if they live in your household and are still your dependents. Contact your insurance agent to discuss what limits are available to you.

Some considerations:

·   You may qualify for a multi-policy discount if your child's car is covered under your policy.

·   You may save money if you switch your children to "occasional drivers" under your policy when they leave for college, unless they are taking a car with them. 

·   Encourage your child to earn good grades, and take a driver training course.  Some insurers discount due to good grades and for completion of training courses.

·   Serve as a good role model; your child will learn by example, so it is important to demonstrate good driving habits early on (i.e. not talking on the phone, using seatbelt, not drinking and driving.)

Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 01:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 02 July 2012

Many children drown or are injured in residential pools every year. By implementing a good set of safety rules, parents can help keep their kids and visitors safe. Some people may think it sounds rude to lay down a list of rules in front of guests, but the cost of a liability lawsuit would be much worse. To avoid sounding like a stickler, simply explain to pool guests that their safety is important and that they can help out by following the safety rules. Parents should review these rules with children frequently and quiz them to ensure they understand thoroughly. The following tips are helpful for developing a strong set of pool and spa safety rules.

1. Specify all requirements. This should be the most important step. Decide who can go in the pool and at what time. For example, children should have specific blocks of time when they are allowed in the pool, and they should not be allowed to go in when an adult is not present. Teach them it is dangerous to run. Instead of just telling them not to run, explain how they can slip, fall into the pool and possibly drown. Discourage horseplay or rough water games. Children who cannot get along in the pool should understand that there will be consequences. Kids should also understand how important it is to stay away from drains and filters.

2. Have an emergency plan. Even if strict rules are set in place, pool accidents may still happen. It is important to know what to do. Make sure a cordless phone is always near the pool. If an accident happens, it will be easier for someone to call 911. Adults should learn how to perform CPR. The Red Cross offers low-cost classes, and some hospitals or health clinics offer free classes. Make sure kids know how to dial 911, and they should know what address to tell emergency response teams to locate.

3. Teach kids how to swim. Although toddlers may not be up for actual swimming lessons, it is good to put them in the water with floating pool toys. Do not leave them alone, but let them get accustomed to the water. When children are old enough for swimming lessons, enroll them in beginner courses. Let them continue until they complete all of the courses. Adults who have never taken swimming lessons should also learn how to swim. As a backup, it is helpful to have a life-saving floating raft attached to a rope or pole.

4. Keep the pool area safe. When the pool is not in use, make sure it is covered. Purchase a pool cover manufactured by professionals. Never use a tarp. Some nets work well as pool covers, but they become weathered over time, so be sure to replace them every few years. Nets may also be easy for some children to remove. The optimal choice is a durable hard cover with a locking mechanism. Make sure there is a fence around the pool or yard. The fence should stand at least four feet high. If a house is used as a fourth side to enclose a pool, install door alarms. This will alert parents when kids enter the pool area. It is also helpful to install underwater alarms or surface wave alarms. If parents do not deactivate these alarms, they will go off when kids enter the pool.

If a child is missing, be sure to check the pool first. This is a thought that no parent wants to dwell on, but it is best to rule out that possibility first. Parents should always carefully watch kids who are playing in the pool. Accidents can happen in a second, and children can start drowning in less than a minute. Check drain covers frequently, and make sure they are compliant with current regulations. A pool service company will be able to provide information about current drain cover specifications. Remember to keep any gates to the pool area locked. Homeowners may be liable for uninvited people who wander into an unlocked pool area and get injured. 

Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 01:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 23 April 2012

Buying life insurance can be complicated and frustrating, but these tips to buying life insurance will help make the process easier. At Raritan Valley Insurance Services, we are here to help! Let us navigate the waters for you!

Know Who You are Trying to Protect

The basic idea behind life insurance is to protect people who are financially dependent on you.  Typically this would be a spouse and children.  When you are thinking about buying life insurance, ask yourself who are the dependents you want to protect?  And how long do they need financial protection? 

If you have teenagers and all you want to do is make sure that their college education will be paid for, then a short term policy is enough.  If you have small children, then you need to think about a longer term. Life insurance is your backup plan to provide for your family if you die.

 If there is no one who is financially dependent on you, then you probably have no need for buying life insurance, especially if you have some through your benefits at work. For example, if you are a senior citizen, have no spouse and your children are grown, you might want to re-think your need for life insurance.  If may not be in your best financial interest to keep it.

Know How Much Insurance You Need

Once you know who you want to protect with your life insurance policy, then you need to figure out how much you need. 

Some insurance agents will tell you that you need a policy with face value that will cover you for 15 times your annual income.  What this means is if you make $100,000 a year, then the face value (and the benefits paid if you die) will be $1,500,000, 15 times your annual income.

Others will tell you something like 3 or 4 times your annual income plus outstanding debts is enough. When making this decision, remember that you are buying a product that will protect your family financially if you cannot do so.  You are not buying a product to make them wealthy.

Know Which Product to Buy

The two most common forms of life insurance are term life and whole life.

Term life is just plain insurance on your life.  It covers you for a set term, or number of years.  If you are 35 years old and have small children, then you might want to consider a 20 year term policy.  This will be in force until your children are financially independent.

Whole life is a combination of term life with some kind of investment product which builds cash value. For most people, using life insurance as an investment is not the soundest strategy.  However, it can make good economic sense for wealthy people given certain tax advantages.  If this seems to fit your situation, make sure you get an opinion from an estate planner and not just the person trying to sell the insurance.

Also, whole life insurance can be expensive. If you can’t afford the whole life policy, then look at the term. Use as much of the money you save on premiums as you can to make other investments that will build wealth.

There are many variations of whole life insurance, as well as other products such as universal life.  These can all be complicated and difficult to understand.  Before buying any of these products, get an opinion from a qualified insurance professional who has no interest in you buying these products. In the right circumstances, they can be good choices, but they are certainly not for everyone.

Know Your Options

You should never put all your eggs in one basket.  As with any major purchase, it’s best to shop around and find the best fit.  At RVIS, we are the experts.  We will quote you all of the best options available. 

Know Who You are Buying From

Buying life insurance is not like buying a product and your relationship with the company is over.  When you purchase life insurance, you are assuming that the company will still be in business 10 or more down the road. You are also assuming they will honor their commitments and pay what they have promised to pay.

So before you buy life insurance, check out the company. A.M. Best is one well-known and respected rater of insurance companies; there are many others.  Also check with the Better Business Bureau.

Follow these tips to buying life insurance, and you’ll be in a much better position to make a sound financial decision and get the coverage and peace of mind you are looking for.

As always, if you need assistance with life insurance, please contact your RVIS agent at (908)237-1800.


Posted by: Sarah Maloney AT 10:44 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Now that your blood pressure has recovered from giving your teenage driver their first driving lessons, it's time to add him or her to your insurance policy. But teenage drivers and young adults are historically risky clients for insurance companies - and rates generally reflect that. What is the best way to manage the situation? Here are some things you and your new driver can do to keep premiums affordable.

Tell Junior to Hit the Books

Insurance actuaries - the bean counters who actually figure out the odds and set insurance rates - have long known that there is a correlation between good grades and good driving records. Kids who have the discipline and focus to do well in school statistically also have the judgment and impulse control not to get into a lot of accidents.

Many insurance companies offer a discount to students with good report cards. If your youngster has a GPA of 3.0 or better, you may qualify for a discount on your insurance premiums. One idea: Compare the difference in premiums with and without the discount - and make junior pay the difference himself!

Keep it in the Family

Insurers like it when everyone in the family signs up. So much so, in fact, that many of them will discount premiums on family members. It is generally much more efficient to add a young driver to an existing policy than it is to get a separate policy.

Use Multi-Line Discounts

Many companies will offer a discount if you use them for multiple lines of insurance. For example, if you have your homeowners or renters insurance policy with a company, and your life insurance, consider placing your car insurance with the same carrier as well.

Get an Older Car

Older cars are generally less expensive to replace than a new car. This means that if your young driver totals a 10 year old car, the insurance company has to pay less to replace the car than if she wrecks a brand new one. This translates to much lower insurance premiums if you carry collision coverage. Don't skimp on safety - but don't needlessly pay too much for a car for a young driver, either.

Skip Collision Coverage

You may want to consider skipping collision coverage altogether. For older cars, the bigger risk isn't the cost of the car - it's the covering your teenage or young adult driver against liability. You can recover from the cost of a single clunker. You can't recover from a $100,000 judgment. If your family can afford to replace an old car, consider dropping collision altogether and adding to liability coverage.

Avoid Tickets and Accidents

The last part seems obvious to adults; It may not register yet with the kids. Impress on them the importance of maintaining a good driving record. Moving violations get recorded, and reported to the insurance industry. Even a single accident or moving violation can cause your premiums to skyrocket. And a single DUI conviction? Better invest in a bus pass, because those are the only wheels your kid will be taking for years. Coverage is nearly impossible to find once a young driver gets a DUI. 

Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 09:45 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 28 October 2010

Another nod to those wacky insurance gods. We're only half joking when we say you should get the kids to sign it....

Halloween Trick-Or-Treat Liability and Indemnification Agreement

______________________(hereinafter referred to as "Trick-Or-Treater") agrees not to sue, harass, or trick _____________________________(hereinafter referred to as "Benefactor") for providing free, delicious Halloween treats.

Trick-Or-Treater acknowledges and understands that no warranty, either expressed or implied, is made by Benefactor as to the nutritional content of the goody. This document is offered in order to duly warn Trick-Or-Treater that unforeseeable risks of harm may lurk in the Tootsie Rolls, Pop Rocks, Blow Pops, Baby Ruths, chewing gum, Butterfingers, caramel apples, and any or all other consumables that may be offered.

Trick-Or-Treater is hereby informed that Benefactor's snacks may contain any or all of the following: calories, carbohydrates, sodium (salt), fat, peanuts, sugar, and marshmallow goo.

Trick-Or-Treater acknowledges that overeating may incur risks including, but not limited to, ruining dinner, tummy aches, nougat stuck in teeth, sticky fingers, and chocolate-stained clothes.

Trick-Or-Treater hereby holds harmless Benefactor from all liability for personal injury suffered by Trick-Or-Treater - which may be caused, in whole or in part, by any element or agent of Benefactor's candies.

Trick-Or-Treater agrees that neither he/she, nor his/her parents, little league coaches, or piano teachers will sue Benefactor or his/her agents for any injury that Trick-Or-Treater suffers, in whole or in part, from consuming edibles collected from Benefactor's premises. This indemnification includes an agreement not to haul Benefactor into court on the basis of:

1) Failure to warn of potential for overeating because candy tastes too good and is provided at no cost;
2) Failure to provide nutritional information or adequate educational information on exercise options;
3) Failure to state that candy corn is not really corn;
4) Failure to warn the lactose intolerant away from milk duds;
5) Failure to offer "healthier alternatives," "organic alternatives," or "lame treats no kid wants;" and
6) Failure to provide information about other venues offering alternative, "healthier" Halloween goodies.


TRICK-OR-TREATER: _________________________                              DATE:____________


WITNESS:____________________________    WITNESS:__________________________

Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 07:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 29 September 2010

When a child still living at home buys a car, should it be insured under the parents' policy or under a separate policy? Too often, this decision is made on a purely financial basis without much thought about the possible coverage ramifications to all parties involved.

It is not uncommon when there is a youthful driver in a family with an auto that the insured is advised to title the car in the child's name. This evidently will lower the premium with some carriers but, more importantly, it is believed it will lower the liability risk of the parents. Uh oh...

First, keep in mind that the "ISO standard" personal auto policy includes an exclusion throughout the policy that says that, under the parent's policy, there is no coverage for any resident family member (other than the parents themselves) using the auto of another resident family member unless that auto is insured under the parents' policy. In other words, if a couple has a 16-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son living at home, and the son insures his car under a separate policy, the 16-year old daughter has no coverage under her parent's policy while driving her brother's car...she must rely solely on the limits and coverages provided by her brother's policy. Second, if the parents have an umbrella policy, it is unlikely that it will provide excess coverage over claims covered by their son's auto policy.

We posed this situation to our Virtual University faculty and got the following responses, all from insurance professionals with 15+ years experience:

"Insuring the child's car under a separate policy has potential gaps. For example, in the current ISO policy, if there are other family members in the household, the parents' policy provides no coverage for them while driving the child's separately insured auto...only the limits under that policy would be available. Depending on the wording of the parents' umbrella, if there is no coverage under the parents' auto policy, there might be no coverage under the umbrella...that's particularly true when the "umbrella" is actually an excess policy.

"I'm not sure titling the car in the child's name will abdicate the parents of responsibility. Depending on any statutes to the contrary, they may still be held liable. If so, THEIR policy should protect them. So, you can see from the above that there are dangers in insuring a child's car under a separate policy. However, depending on the unique circumstances of an accident or exposure, there are dangers from insuring him/her on the same policy.

"First, I would never advise an insured to do this if their child is still under 18 (the age of majority in our state), because the parents still have parental responsibility and, thus, a liability exposure for the child's use of the auto.

"In our state, when a kid goes to get his license, the parent(s) must sign the application. By doing so they agree to "pay up" if the kid is driving ANY auto. So putting the kid's car in the kid's name does nothing at all but create huge gaps in coverage.

"I take a hard line approach here, as I did when I was an agent. When the kid gets a car, you put the car in the name of the parents and add it to their policy. This stuff of two policies in the house with two different limits is foolish.  Fact is kids cost a lot to insure and you can't do much about it. For someone to try and "massage the system" in order to save a few bucks is opening them up to a huge liability problem.

"This has become quite a common situation, and has even been carried further by at least one major personal auto insurer who recommends and sells real minimum limits to all youthful operators, owners or not. Their main purpose is to lower the premium and get the account, regardless of whether it serves the interests of the clients. I believe this does affect the personal umbrella. Umbrella carriers are not tickled about having youthful operators on the policy at all, and they certainly aren't going to drop down over inadequate limits in those cases. I believe nearly all of the "maintenance of underlying limit" provisions will result in a gap in these cases.

"I have seen this exact situation happen. The parents bought a sixteen year old a hot car and it had a material impact on the family insurance premium. They were wealthy, but cheap, so they bought a separate policy with lower limits in the name of the kid. The worst possible accident (multiple injuries including one paralysis) happened when the kid was clearly at fault. They tried to involve the parents' auto and umbrella without success, so the parents were left without insurance coverage. The most severely injured person had high uninsured motorist (UM) limits, and their UM carrier successfully subrogated against the parents, recovering a large judgment. Despite the fact that the insurance agent had written the parents advising them against their changes involving the kid, the parents sued the agent because their insurance did not cover them. The parents efforts to recover from the agent were unsuccessful since he had documented recommending that they not do this to save money.

"This presents several problems, depending on the state where the family is located and the insurance companies issuing the policies.. First, there will be a gap if there is coverage. Second, an umbrella policy responds AFTER the underlying limits are tendered. I am familiar with another case where an individual had a gap and had to cough up the difference ($200,000) before the umbrella carrier responded. Third, does the umbrella provide excess over specifically identified policies? It may be the umbrella would not respond at all to the childs' auto policy since it wasn't listed in the underlying.

Copyright 2000 by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 01:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, 02 March 2010

Parents of teens and young adults know the pattern all too well. A child hits the magic age when he can finally get a learner's permit to drive. After multiple tries, he passes the driving test and gets his license. Mom and Dad open their wallets and tell the insurance company about the new driver. Their insurance policy covers him during high school, while he's in college, and while he's back home. At some point, however, he moves out on his own for good. Maybe he moves to a city with convenient mass transit, and his job doesn't pay well enough for him to buy a car, so he goes without.

One day, he asks out that girl in the accounting department he's been flirting with for a month. Meeting her at a subway stop just won't do, so he grovels at the feet of the best friend with a new set of wheels. The friend, though appalled at the shameless pleading, agrees to lend him the car. Young Romeo picks up his date, pulls out into traffic, and rear-ends a Lexus at the first red light. Flustered, he pops it in reverse and backs hard into the BMW behind him. Two questions immediately come to his mind: 1) Will she still want to go to the movie? and 2) Does he have insurance coverage for this little adventure?

Bad news for Romeo: His date takes a cab home and his friend sort of forgot to pay his car insurance bill; the insurance company cancelled the policy. Then he gets an idea: It hasn't been all that long since he lived with Mom and Dad. Maybe their insurance will pay for the repairs.

Every insurance policy has specific descriptions of who the insurance company will cover. The standard Personal Auto Policy published by the Insurance Services Office says that the person whose name is on the policy and any "family members" have coverage for the ownership, maintenance or use of any auto. Maybe Romeo's in luck.

Maybe not. The policy also has a specific definition of the term, "family member:" A person related to the person named on the policy. The family member must be related by blood, marriage or adoption and must also be a resident of the other person's household. Romeo has moved out of his parents' home, which is why he got the job, met the girl, borrowed the car and had the double dent-fest. Is he still a resident of his parents' household?

Chances are, the insurance company will decide he's not, and it may have the law on its side. A California court ruled in 1975 that an adult son who lived in a separate apartment on his parents' street and who relied on his parents for financial support was not a resident of the parents' household and not entitled to coverage under their auto insurance.

Circumstances may change the answer. Courts have recognized that college students, though they live elsewhere the majority of the year, are still residents of their parents' household. A self-supporting child who lives in her old bedroom and pays rent to her parents also qualifies as a resident.

It's when the move away from home looks permanent that the break in coverage may occur. Even if she doesn't own a car, she should consider buying an auto insurance policy with a special coverage called Named Non-Owner Coverage. This will cover her liability for injuries or damage she may cause while renting or borrowing a car. Coverage will apply after other available insurance (such as the car owner's coverage) is used up.

And, while it wouldn't have salvaged Romeo's date, it would have saved him a whole lot of money.


Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 12:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Want to have a real scare on Halloween? How does calling your homeowners insurance company to file a claim sound? I know that just gave you a chill! According to a recent study, homeowner’s insurance property claims rises by 150% just on October 31!  “What?!  No, can’t be. It’s all in the name of fun,” you say. Unfortunately, Halloween is considered to be the worst holiday for the insurance industry. And it’s not just because some crazy people put things in the kid’s candy…

Claim Scenario #1: Devil’s Night
Growing up, what we called Mischief Night was always the night before Halloween when the neighborhood trouble makers would go out & smash pumpkins or toilet-paper trees. The worst kids in our development would egg a car left out in the driveway. Unfortunately, many areas of the country are not so lucky- their trouble makers set fires, rob or vandalize houses, wreak havoc for several nights leading up to the holiday. Detroit’s Devil’s Night is so notorious for their city-wide mayhem that Hollywood turned it into a film, The Crow, in 1994.

Claim Scenario #2: The Haunted House
Everybody always loves trick-or-treating at the houses that go all out with smoke machines, flashing lights, candles in the windows, scary skeletons popping out of the bushes. Until the candle in the window catches the drapes on fire, the flashing lights and smoke caused little Joey, dressed as a ninja with a mask, to trip and fall on your front porch, and the skeleton pops out & gives Grandpa, who was nice enough to offer to take the kids out, a heart attack. Now that’s a fright night!

Claim Scenario #3: Fuzzygirl, the Wonder Dog
Yep, even Fido can cause a claim- and not even for biting anyone! If you’re sick and twisted like me, you find enjoyment in dressing your pup in a superhero outfit on Halloween (and other days.) I justify it by saying she can’t mind too much- she’s getting treats! But she also gets super excited every time the doorbell rings. And that one time, if she goes flying out the door to say hi to a new friend and trips over her outfit, she’s definitely big enough at 50 pounds to knock a little kid off the steps and onto the concrete sidewalk.

Claims Scenario #4:
Picture this: Little Suzy the Cowgirl just left a house that gave her a whole fistful of candy- what a score! She’s running to the next house with her head in her bag/bucket/pillow case to check it out. In the meantime, Mom’s driving her three sons through the development, trying to break up the fight over who has more candy, no I have more candy, no you have more Snickers, wait you don’t like Snickers, give those to me, Mom he took my Snickers! She turns around to yell, swerves- and doesn’t see Little Suzy crossing the street to hit up the next house.

What’s the moral of the story, you ask? Don’t decorate, don’t go out, don’t get dressed up and don’t have fun?! No, not even close. I love Halloween! It’s my favorite holiday of all! Just remember to be safe. Think your plans through. We want everyone and their homes to make it through the night in one piece.

1) Keep any paper and cloth decorations away from Jack O’Lantern candles or even better, use battery powered decorations.
2) If you’re going to decorate the walkway, be sure to clear it completely of anything a child can trip over.
3) Whenever possible wear make-up, not masks, to help ensure that children have a clear, unobstructed view of their surroundings.
4) If driving, keep a careful eye on the sidewalk as well as the road. Know that kids will more than likely be darting out from between parked cars.
For more tips, check out the Halloween Safety website or for a laugh check out this indeminification agreement amusingly written by the Independent Insurance Agents of America (who help to prove that insurance people ARE fun!)
Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 02:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Social networking Web sites, such as MySpace, Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn, are growing increasingly popular with young people and adults alike. These sites allow people to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and to make new connections. However, as with most other Web sites, these sites allow the posting of communications that the posters may come to regret. These posts can cause hard feelings and may result in significant financial loss.

In the winter of 2009, a teenager from Oceanside, New York sued Facebook, four of her high school classmates, and their parents for $3 million. The suit accused the four classmates of bullying and humiliating her in a forum on Facebook. They allegedly posted derogatory and false statements about her that were intended to hold her up to “public hatred, ridicule and disgrace.” Whether or not the allegations prove to be true, the teenagers and their parents need legal defense and possibly resources to pay judgments against them. They may look to their homeowner's insurance policies to cover these costs, but will the policies respond?

A standard policy will probably not cover this. The policy pays amounts for which the policyholder (the insured) is legally liable, plus the costs of legal defense, for bodily injury or property damage done to someone else. The policy defines bodily injury as meaning bodily harm, sickness or disease; it defines property damage as injury to, destruction of, or loss of use of physical property. Neither of these definitions includes saying or publishing something that injures another’s reputation or feelings. Consequently, the policy is unlikely to cover a post on Facebook. The girl from Oceanside did not allege that her classmates hurt her body, made her sick or passed her a disease; she accused them of making her life miserable. The policy does not cover that offense.

Insurance companies may offer special personal injury coverage that can be added to homeowner's policies. This coverage pays for the insured’s liability for several offenses, including oral or written publication of material that violates someone’s privacy. If any of the Oceanside classmates’ parents have this coverage, their insurance may cover the claims.

Another potential source of coverage is a personal umbrella policy. An umbrella provides additional insurance in situations where a loss has used up the amounts of liability insurance under homeowner's or auto policies. It also covers some liability losses that those policies do not cover, such as personal injury losses. Umbrellas typically carry a deductible of $250 or $500. Suppose one of the parents in the Oceanside case does not have personal injury coverage on his homeowner's policy, but he does have an umbrella. The umbrella will pay for his and his child’s defense and their shares of any judgment, minus the $250 deductible. If he does have the coverage on his homeowner's policy, this policy will pay until its limits are exhausted, and the umbrella will pay the rest, up to its limit.

The costs of enhanced homeowner's policies and personal umbrella policies will vary from one insurer to another. Also, the terms of umbrella policies vary among companies. An insurance agent can provide information on coverage options and prices.

Communicating online has become an ordinary part of life today. Web sites like Facebook offer new and exciting ways to meet new people and to stay in touch with people all over the globe. However, they bring with them their own unique risks. Anyone using sites like these should be careful with what they and their children are saying, and they should make sure they have proper insurance backing them up.



Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 01:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 24 August 2009

It's that time of year- school is back in session! And for some college freshmen, it's the start of a whole new world. Sending a child off to college is always an exciting and anxious time for parents. They worry about their child's safety, whether she has everything she needs, how she'll get along with her roommates, and whether she's ready for independent living. Between making sure that textbooks and supplies have been purchased, tuition bills paid and course registrations completed, it's natural that parents won't think about insurance considerations. However, accidents can happen at college just as easily as they can at home, so it's worth taking a few minutes to think about insurance coverage.

A homeowner's insurance policy may not cover a part-time student or one over a certain age. For example, policies often state that a person has coverage if she is a full-time student and was a resident of the policyholder's household before moving out to attend school. They also limit coverage to students who are either under the age of 24 and related to the policyholder or in the policyholder's care and under the age of 21. This could become an issue when the child is attending college at a later age, or at graduate school, law or medical school, where students are often in their mid-twenties. The parents should discuss this with an insurance agent and consider asking for a change to the policy that would eliminate these restrictions.

A typical policy covers the student's belongings while at college, but limits coverage to 10 percent of the amount of insurance covering the parents' personal property. For example, if the policy shows a limit of $100,000 for coverage of personal property, it will cover the student's property up to a maximum of $10,000. If this amount of insurance is too low, parents should consider higher limits.

Many colleges require students to own a laptop computer. A standard homeowner's policy will cover a laptop, but only for a small number of causes of loss. These include perils like fire, theft, lightning, explosion, and vehicle damage. The policy does not cover damage from someone dropping the computer, spilling a beverage on it, or damage to its circuitry from a power surge. However, many insurance companies offer special computer coverage that will pay for damage from these types of accidents. An agent can explain to the parents what the coverage includes and how much it will cost.

The homeowner's policy will also cover the student's liability for any injuries or damages she may cause to others while at school. For example, the policy would pay for repair or replacement of dormitory furniture that she may accidentally damage.

If the student brings a car to college and the parents' auto insurance policy lists it, the student will have coverage for its use. Of course, the student could also buy her own policy. If she does, she should buy liability coverage in an amount at least equal to what the parents have. Purchasing only the minimum limits required by state law could leave her owing a large amount out of pocket if she causes serious injuries to others in an accident. If she doesn't bring a car with her, the parents' policy will cover her while using someone else's car unless it's regularly available to her. The car owner's policy should also provide her with coverage.

Parents' insurance policies will automatically cover many student situations. However, parents should read their policies to verify the coverage they have. A discussion with an insurance agent is in order if anything is unclear or appears inadequate. A little bit of advance checking can save a lot of worry and expense later.


Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 02:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 20 August 2009

If there’s one thing homeowners insurance companies hate more than diving boards, it’s a trampoline.  In the past week, one of our companies did ten home inspections and found two of them had a trampoline in the backyard. The company’s response? You have 30 days to remove the structure or we will cancel your insurance.  

Obviously, one of the main problems with trampolines in the number of injuries they cause. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics treated 211,646 trampoline injuries sustained by children under age 19 in 2003. About three-quarters of these young children were injured on the trampoline while under direct adult supervision. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone so far as to say “Trampolines should be used only in supervised training programs for gymnastics, diving or other competitive sports. A professional trained in trampoline safety always should supervise the use of trampolines.” View the full report here. It is a bit of an extreme stance, but one that parents should carefully consider before buying a trampoline.


Insurance companies are also worried about uninvited jumpers, as trampolines are considered an “attractive nuisance” - they tempt people to use them even when they do not have permission to do so.  It’s not uncommon for neighbors and friends to jump while the homeowner is away, since surely nothing bad will happen. It’s also not uncommon for those same uninvited jumpers to sue for huge sums when they are injured, even if you did not give them permission to use it!  And while most courts will consider this trespassing, it still takes thousands of dollars to defend and get the suit dropped. 

If you do purchase a trampoline for your children- or yourself- please consider the following list, provided by the Outdoor Fun Store

Trampoline Safety Rules

  1. DO NOT attempt somersaults. Landing on your head or neck can cause serious injury, paralysis, or death, even when landing in the middle of the bed.
  2. DO NOT allow more than one person on the trampoline at a time. Use by more than one person at the same time can result in serious injuries.
  3. Use trampoline only with mature, knowledgeable supervision.
  4. Trampolines over 20 inches (51 cm) tall are NOT recommended for use by children under 6 years of age.
  5. Inspect the trampoline before each use. Make sure the frame padding is correctly and securely positioned. Replace any worn, defective or missing parts.
  6. Climb on and off the trampoline. It is a dangerous practice to jump from the trampoline to the floor or ground when dismounting, or to jump onto the trampoline when mounting. DO NOT use the trampoline as a springboard to other objects.
  7. Stop your bounce by flexing your knees as your feet come in contact with the trampoline bed. Learn this skill before attempting others.
  8. Learn fundamental bounces and body positions thoroughly before trying more advanced skills. A variety of trampoline activities can be carried out by performing the basic fundamentals in various series and combinations, performing one fundamental after another, with or without feet bounces between them.
  9. Avoid bouncing too high. Stay low until you can control your bounce and repeatedly land in the center of the trampoline. Control is more important than height.
  10. Focus your eyes on the perimeter of the trampoline. This will help control your bounce.
  11. Avoid bouncing when tired. Keep turns short.
  12. Properly secure the trampoline when not in use. Protect it against unauthorized use. If a trampoline ladder is used, the supervisor should remove it from the trampoline when leaving the area to prevent unsupervised access by children under 6 years of age.
  13. Keep objects away which could interfere with the performer. Maintain a clear area around the trampoline at all times.
  14. Do not use the trampoline while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  15. For additional information concerning trampoline equipment, contact the manufacturer.
  16. For information concerning skill training, contact a certified trampoline instructor.
  17. Bounce only when the surface of the bed is dry. Wind or air movement should be calm to gentle. The trampoline must not be used in gusty or severe winds.
  18. Read all instructions before using the trampoline. Warnings and instructions for the care, maintenance and use of trampolines are included to promote safe, enjoyable use of the equipment.



Posted by: Malena Farrell AT 08:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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