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STORM SEASON
Important Note:

June through November our agency may become prohibited from binding coverage should a “Tropical Disturbance” enter the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

In these cases we may be unable to bind new coverage quoted in open proposals until the storm leaves our area and our binding authority has been restored.

Please arrange your coverage protection early to avoid this type of delay. While we regret any inconvenience, the carriers impose these restrictions on all agencies.

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

6 Steps to Take Following a Vehicle Collision

Vehicle collisions happen each day to drivers of all ages. They are part of life in big cities and small towns. Knowing the correct actions to take following an auto collision can have a lasting impact on insurance premiums and possible legal repercussions. Take the correct measures to stay protected. Here are 6 steps to take following a vehicle collision:

1. Get to Safety

The action to take following an auto collision is getting to safety. Depending on the situation, this could mean moving a vehicle safely to the shoulder or exiting the automobile immediately. Always place safety as the top priority above all else. Create distance from moving traffic and other hazards before moving ahead.

2. Evaluate for Injury

A vehicle collision sends the adrenaline response into overdrive. Shock can distract from injuries. Check for personal injuries and encourage all others involved to do the same. If any back or neck injuries are suspected, immobilization is recommended. Any medically trained personnel can perform first aid if the situation allows.

3. Contact First Responders

After moving to safety and applying immediate first aid, call 911 and request aid. This is recommended any time there’s a vehicle collision, regardless of severity. Injuries may take days or longer to appear. Additionally, insurance carriers may reference official records following a vehicle collision.

4. Collect Information

With safety and first aid under control, it’s time to collect pertinent information from the people involved. More than driver name and car insurance carrier, thoroughly record the scene. Take photographs of the vehicles, damage, and the scene. Speak to the first responders to gather any relevant information. Trauma can affect short-term memory. Record responses for simple reference and accuracy.

5. Be Cooperative 

Following a vehicle collision, you may be in a heightened state of emotional response. This can make it challenging to be cooperative with other drivers and first responders. Other drivers are likely energized as well and may be challenging to communicate with. Be part of the solution.

6. Exercise Neutrality

One of the first gut responses following a vehicle collision or other trauma is talk it out. It’s perfectly natural yet following a vehicle collision a casual remark may cause trouble. After a vehicle collision, stay neutral with other drivers, witnesses, and responders. This includes remaining silent on social media channels. Inadvertently admitting fault may lead to increased insurance premiums and more.

Afterward, contact an insurance agent to report the collision and begin a claim. Agents are ready to help overcome vehicle collisions so you can get back on the road. Auto collisions are equal-opportunists and can happen anywhere. Prepare with comprehensive auto insurance and drive protected.

Personal Auto Policy Voided Because of Business Driving

Entrepreneurs utilizing personal vehicles for business may want to consider extra insurance protection. Making deliveries and service calls with personal vehicles may limit insurance coverage. This can be true for accidents while working or while on personal business. A local small business owner learned this the hard way. On the way to visit a friend there was a collision resulting in significant damage to the vehicle. Although her personal policy would generally cover the damages the insurance company denied the claim. Personal auto insurance policies extend to protect many small business owners yet in some cases, vehicles employed for specific commercial purposes may be excluded from coverage.

Most small business owners are protected under personal auto insurance policies. In some cases though, the commercial purpose for the vehicle may limit or forfeit coverage. For cars and trucks performing deliveries, equipped with commercial license plates, carrying passengers and emergency vehicles extra insurance coverage is necessary. In this case, the driver owned a small business selling heaters and a small part of that included deliveries.

The owner recently switched insurance carriers online to save money. Checking the box during the quotation process, they reported 30% of the vehicle mileage related to business purposes. Reviewing the insurance claim and the business services after the collision, the claim and repayment were denied. Shocked, the business owner learned the limits of personal auto insurance protection too late. This leaves the owner with a damaged personal and business vehicle, without compensation from the auto insurer.

Business owners mixing personal and business trips with the same vehicle may want to consider extra insurance protection. For more information on personal and commercial auto insurance policies contact an agent. We’re always keeping up with insurance-related topics that may impact health or wallet. For any questions about insurance, call anytime for answers.

Making Workers Safe With Guardrails

Construction sites are active environments. Active transfer of people and materials creates the potential for anything to happen. Site safety is a regulated industry. Safety standards and guidelines in place by OSHA and the International Code Council help maintain site and worker safety

These agencies recommend safety measures developed following years of real-world learning. In the early 1990’s, builders discovered gaps in standardized building safety ordinances. By 1997, the ICC published the first international safety guidelines: the International Building Code (IBC). Alongside OSHA, these agencies set the standard for construction site safety measures.

ICC and OSHA regularly publish standards recommending guardrails on construction sites, keeping workers safe. These safety standards help keep workers safe and reduce insurance costs:

1. Guardrails for Construction Sites

Guardrails help prevent falls on construction sites for workers and visitors. Builders can seal-off areas and secure open walkways for safety. Construction guardrails are for securing:

  • Platforms
  • Stairs
  • Rooftops
  • Pits
  • Wells
  • Materials

Guardrails are required anywhere 30 inches or more separate two walking surfaces. Per ICC and OSHA regulations, rails are to be constructed of rigid materials built to a height of 42 inches above the platform. OSHA regulations stipulate areas separated by 6′ of difference or more be equipped with guardrails or fall-protection system.

2. Construction Site Guardrail Installation

Site guardrails are subject to OSHA and ICC guidelines on proper construction. Regulations for guardrail construction protect workers and visitors. Builders employing properly constructed guardrails:

  • Keep workers safe on constitutions sites
  • Keep visitors and passerby safe
  • Keep access limited to authorized persons
  • Keep insurance rates low
  • Keep building costs low
  • Keep construction companies operationally compliant

Properly constructed guardrails built to code limit builder insurance and legal obligations. This translates to saved time and reduced costs for construction companies and builders alike. Load requirements are determined by architectural design. The forces and stress-levels specific to a site determine guardrail load limits.

3. Guardrail Load Requirements

OSHA and the ICC set guardrail load requirements for the construction industry. Load requirements may vary due to the site and architectural layout. Construction site guard rail general load limit guidelines express rails be able to support:

  • 50lbs of weight per foot
  • 200lbs of direct force, anywhere rails are present

Rails may shift during building, and wear-and-tear is a part of guardrail construction. Regular inspection of guard rails by site managers and safety personnel helps keep rails safe and compliant.

4. Staying Compliant

Construction companies and builders following the guidelines in place by OSHA and the ICC will avoid penalties and fines. Local authorities enforce construction site safety. Each governing body has authority to issue fines and other reprimands for non-compliance. Repeat violations result in increased severity of penalties. Fines may reach as high as $100,000 per violation.

Construction companies also have the moral obligation to workers for creating a safe work environment. Builders work on reputation, among other traits. Companies holding positive reputations and safe track-records are much more likely to secure bids and contracts. Safe employees can perform better knowing the site is safer, keeping building and insurance costs low.

Construction and insurance topics directly affect health and pocketbook. Topic suggestions are always welcome. Contact an agent for any insurance-related questions or for an insurance quote.

Getting a Better Car Loan

Recently, Congress passed on a major chance for increasing customer securities. Last summer, the car industry obtained an exemption from the new interest rate reform law. Although brokers for home loans are subject to these new policies, auto dealerships are not. The same auto giants that brokered roughly 80% of customers’ $850 billion in car loans may continue charging high-interest rates unchecked. If you have to take out a vehicle loan, don’t assume your auto dealer will offer you the best interest rate. There are many ways the auto dealer may up your rate, pad your loan with charges, or use longer-payback loans to attract you with a lower payment.

When it comes to an auto loan, you’re much better off obtaining pre-approved loans from a bank or a local credit union before visiting a car dealership. The loan pre-approval process can help you set a reasonable budget for your auto purchase. There are several things to keep in mind when selecting a car to buy. You should be able to pay at least 20% of the sticker price up-front for your car. You should also be able to pay your loan back in four years or less. Finally, make sure the monthly loan-payback rate won’t exceed 10% of your gross earnings. A large deposit will guarantee you never owe a greater amount on the vehicle than it’s worth.

If the auto dealer offers you a much lower interest rate, you can choose not to take the bank loan. Regardless, a pre-approved rate can give you extra confidence, knowing what rate you can expect to pay.

Dealers Hide Costs: Avoiding Extra Fees

The Center for Accountable Loaning found auto buyers pay an extra $20 billion each year. This is due to auto dealers raising interest rates on loans they provide. Car dealers inflate their own profits with extra fees such as:

  • Charges for cleaning your car
  • Marketing Fees
  • Life Insurance for settling your loan if you die, and more

Ask about any fees before you buy – and balk if you see any.

If a car dealer offers you better terms for your auto loan, you can always skip the bank loan. Know what to expect for a car payment. Getting pre-approved means you’ll walk into a car dealership knowing how to manage your auto loan. We are always looking for great information about any insurance topics that may impact your health or your wallet. If you have any insurance-related questions, reach out to us for help.

One Insurance Mis-Step Can Risk Your Business

In 2008 Leo Welder started ChooseWhat.com. Within a year he was being sued by J2 Global for using the term “e-fax”. It was totally out of the blue and unexpected. Sadly, he found his insurance didn’t protect him from this claim. Yes, he purchased insurance but was missing coverage for intellectual property litigation.

Both companies eventually settled but only after Mr. Welder had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (How many startups have that amount of capital freely available?)

After the lawsuit, Mr. Welder decided to add an E&O policy to help protect his company from these concerns.

No matter how smart you are or how diligent you are in caring for your clients, you can still find yourself in legal and economic problems. However, even with these concerns, many startups haven’t investigated getting necessary insurance for their risk profile. (Typically because they are either trying to save money or as an oversight.)

The critical thing to understand when contemplating risk management is that problems arise from gaps in protection. With that in mind, here are recommendations from business owners and insurance experts to avoid liability problems in a business.

Cover All Your Bases

Every organization needs basic liability insurance coverage. This can protect your business from a huge number of costs from libel to customer injuries. The average liability plan is one of the least expensive types of insurance protection you can own.

Most business owners admit that they avoid insurance to keep costs low. The question to ask… is it worth it? Be sure to talk to your insurance agent and review any needed changes for your risk profile.

Here are some areas of risk to ponder:

* Do you have company cars?
* Do you or employees drive personal cars for business related activities?
* Do you attend trade shows?
* Do you store client data online?
* Is your company dependent on a key employee?

The list above is an example of what an insurance advisor will walk through with you. What you’ll end up investing in insurance is going to depend a great deal on your specific risks. (If you run a business that has low liability footprint such as copywriting or consulting you’ll have a different risk profile than if you are a construction contractor.)

If you are just starting your business, take a close look at Business Owners Plan. This could include some or even all of these policies into one affordable package. In order to qualify, you’ll probably need to have a business that employs less than 100 workers and has less than $5 million in annual sales. These policies are designed specifically for start-up companies and smaller companies. They work to decrease your risk to lawsuits.

Important: Update Your Policy As Needed

Your company is always changing and insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Be sure your insurance coverage keeps pace.

If your business size rapidly changes, if your employee count changes, if your services change… all of these are reasons to review your insurance.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistic. Yes, one insurance misstep can potentially damage your business. The good news is one call to our team can help you understand your risk profile and help you be certain you have the exact coverage you need for your company.

Who Pays For the Wedding?

Nearly all weddings can be quite expensive, the average wedding cost hovering around $28,000. Luxury weddings can easily cost $100,000 or more. (Your location has a huge influence on cost.)

* Rural weddings can cost an average $18,000…
* East Coast cities see an average cost of around $85,000…

These high costs have led to a dramatic increase in financing weddings.

Tradition has long held that the bride’s parents will cover the bulk of the costs but this is a heavy responsibility to bear that is calling more and more for cost-sharing.

Here’s a common cost sharing plan:

* 45% – Bride’s parents
* 43% – The couple
* 12% – The Groom’s parents

Costs can invariably run out of control. This is particularly true for an event as emotionally charged as a wedding.

Wedding Planners and Financial Planners can offer some great help for controlling costs…

1. The Wedding Planner

An effective wedding planner will provide solid and time-tested help on how to best make the wedding a success. The advice
offered by the wedding planner usually includes the following:

a. Budget

The wedding couple needs to understand their financial constraints. They need to prioritize what they need to make their wedding successful. Both partners of the couple should be involved in determining priorities.

b. The Date and Venue

Wedding costs will go up for weddings held on Saturdays, especially during the months of April through October. Good deals can be found by having week day weddings. The venue of
the wedding is equally important with 5-star locations in the heart of the city being the most expensive.

c. Be Realistic

It’s best if both partners have clear and realistic expectations of what their budget will allow them to accomplish. A bit of clever work can often stretch a budget.

2. The Financial Adviser

Given the high costs of weddings, involving a financial adviser can be helpful.

a. Avoid Large Loans

Big loans can take a long time to repay. Some advisers suggest a home equity loan with low repayment rates may be a good way to go.

b. Give Lump-sum Gifts

A lump-sum gift can be given to the couple and spaced out in a way that is strategically valuable to the couple.

c. Be Conservative on Guest-lists

The guest-list count should be as low as realistically possible. The rule of thumb is to cut the list until it is no longer realistically possible to cut it further.

Final thoughts…

If you are thinking about getting married or if you have a child that is tying the knot, be sure to reach out to us for money saving tips. We’ll also help you understand how life changes may impact things like your insurance as well.

Steps to Take if You Think You’re Handling Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber compound that naturally appears in rock or soil. It may also be found in building and construction materials or while doing maintenance or repair work.

In fact, many roof and installation materials, plaster, caulk, and pipe-insulation materials can contain asbestos. This is because it had been an effective insulating material.

Being exposed to asbestos is dangerous as it can lead to lung problems including a variety of cancers. Asbestos exposure has been linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma cancer, and asbestosis. However, the time from exposure to development of these conditions may take years.

Precautionary Steps

There are a few key steps to take in order to protect your team from asbestos exposure. Use these three steps before starting a work project.

* Always ask if the job that you’re about to complete involves working in an environment that could contain asbestos. If the answer to this question is “yes,” then you’ll need to supply workers with the training and safety equipment to minimize exposure. (And bill your client accordingly.)
* You’ll also need to provide warning signs in the area that note the danger of being exposed to asbestos.

In construction, you hold the responsibility to ensure that employees in the area and any members of the general public are kept safe from asbestos exposure.

Protect Team Members

Minimize employee exposure to asbestos by requiring workers to:

* Wear a head covering, coveralls, gloves, and respirators.
* Avoid smoking in areas that may have asbestos present.
* Eat and drink in safe zones away from these areas.
* Shower before leaving the job site.
* Remove any traces of the material from their clothing. Clothing and footwear exposed to asbestos should be left at the job site.
* Never bring clothes home to clean them… the company is required by law to leverage professional garment cleaning instead.

Require Education

If workers are to be exposed to asbestos, they need to be given training on how to work safely in such an environment.

Training should be mandatory and understood by all levels of the crew including workers, job site managers, etc.

And if your company regularly handles materials such as asbestos, be sure your insurance addresses this risk. Have questions? Give us a call today!

Quick Life Insurance Review

How Examining Your Current Insurance Policy Can Save You Money

The costs of things usually increase with inflation, but the rates of life insurance has experienced the opposite effect. Lately, some rates have actually decreased. If you haven’t shopped for life insurance within the past decade, it may be time to see if you can save some money. This is especially true is your health hasn’t changed since you got your old policy. Be sure to check with us as we may be able to find a comparable policy for a much better price.

The first step is to look over your existing policy. You may find that you initially didn’t get as much coverage as you needed. This could be true if you couldn’t afford to buy the insurance you needed. Of course, the opposite could be true as well. You may have originally secured a large insurance policy because your kids still lived at home. If the kids have now moved out and are independent, you may want to decrease the amount of your new policy.

Next, you want to see what options are available to you. There are many different types of life insurance such as term life, and whole life. Term insurance tends to be more affordable than the others. It allows you select a plan for a set number of years. The downside of term insurance is you may outlive your policy. If you are unsure which option is best, you want to spend some time going over the different options with your insurance professional.

Making a change to your life insurance policy may seem like a big deal. But we can help you through the process of getting the best deal based on your current circumstances. Of course there are many potential ramifications for making changes to your life insurance policy including potential tax issues. That’s why it is so important that you talk with your agent to get the best advice possible. And one last point… if you do make a change to your life insurance, be sure that you don’t cancel you old policy until your new one has gone into effect. You don’t want something happening in the gap between the two policies.

Protecting Your Passwords is Financially Critical

Think about a computer system password as being a front door to your wide range and also secrets. It can be made from flimsy wood or as impervious as a titanium bank vault. Here’s how you can finest secure your citadel.

Usage passphrases

Cyberpunks utilize advanced software application that can run countless combinations of letters and also signs quickly. Your protection: longer passwords. Former hacker Kevin Mitnick advises 20 characters or longer. The method: Utilize a sentence or phrase you develop, such as “My Auntie Sylvia has actually loved me given that I was a kid.” It’s ultra-hard to hack however very easy to keep in mind. For a lot more protection, add a number or sign at the end, together with an uppercase or two.

Include a 2nd door

Two-factor verification services include an added layer of safety to your most crucial digital accounts. You log in to an account using your typical password. Next off, the two-factor verification site sends your phone a six-digit code that you need to get in before getting. For a listing of web sites that offer two-factor authentication, go to twofactorauth.org.

Subscribe to the AARP Cash Newsletter for a lot more on rip-offs and also customer defense

Maintain your passwords in a vault

Never ever keep passwords in a file on your computer system. Rather, utilize password supervisor apps that save passwords in a well-protected digital space. All you need is a master password to access the checklist. Popular variations that utilize cloud modern technology consist of LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password. Applications that place the vault on your disk drive include RoboForm, Password Safe or KeePass.

Revitalize consistently

Yearly, change the passwords on all your essential accounts. With hackers swiping information on millions of accounts at a time, this will certainly aid keep you safeguarded if their focus turns toward you. Likewise alter your password if you’re informed by a web site that its safety and security has actually been breached.

Vary your passwords

That’s the golden rule, cybersecurity specialists say: Why allow one key unlock every one of your digital doors?

5 Key Actions in Case of a Ransomware Attack

Imagine this: you are seated at home working on your computer, either answering your email or polishing a work related presentation. Suddenly, a message blinks on your screen. The message curtly demands that you send cash to a certain destination, failure to which you will be unable to access any of the documents stored on your computer. You also discover that your keyboard has become unresponsive. Logically, you decide to restart the computer. The screen comes right back on, but to your shock, you are still unable to access any of your files and folders. It dawns on you that your data has been remotely locked via a device on your network, and that no matter how much you try you cannot access it.

The above scenario clearly illustrates what happens in a typical ransomware assault. This has become an acute problem globally, with the WannaCry attack being the latest ransomware attack to affect the largest number of individuals on a worldwide scale. The victims are usually at a loss on what to do.

You can use a ransomware attack as a learning point, and consequently take measures to enhance your protection against similar attacks in the future. Here are five steps that you can take if you have been a victim:

1. Do not pay the Ransom Money

Internet security experts advise that it would be a disastrous mistake to pay off the aggressors. For one, it is an indicator that you have given up control of the situation to the attacker, and that you trust they will amicably resolve the situation. Honestly, this never happens. The aggressor is only interested in ripping you off. Once you pay the ransom, it is unlikely that they will unlock your documents. If in the unlikely event they do, be certain that they will see you as soft victim and mark you for repeated blackmail attacks. Giving in to the attackers’ demands also gives them the impetus to continue perpetrating further attacks on more victims.

Christopher Budd, a security supervisor for the electronics security firm Trend Micro, emphasized the above point in a business article he wrote last July. In the article, he advised victims of ransomware attack not to pay, but to keep in mind that they are handling bad guys. He reiterated that giving in would not guarantee that, as a victim, you would get back all your documents. It would only help the criminals perpetuate this criminal activity. As a worldwide communications threats expert, Christopher Budd definitely understands the pitfalls of giving in to the aggressors.

2. Use a Backup to Reinstall Your Files

Using a computer back up system comes with numerous advantages. Many people use computer backups to access their data in case the computer breaks down. In the same way, the backup will come in handy in case you fall prey to ransomware attacks. You will be able reinstall all your files and folders from the backup system, without having to refer to the aggressors. For this to be effective, ensure that you have set your system to automatically backup all the data that you handle via the computer. Once the backup system is well set, it will operate automatically and you do not have to keep thinking about it; unless something happens and you need to access the data.

3. Update Your OS and Anti-virus

It is important that you regularly update your OS and anti-virus with the latest versions. Microsoft is quite aggressive in addressing security concerns. Actually, the latest update of Microsoft’s Window 10 is fully secure against WannaCry -the latest global ransomware assault. There are several firms and individuals, however, who still use earlier versions of windows, or do not activate automatic updates on the later versions. These firms and individuals would not be protected in case an attack is imminent.

4. Engage the Services of Your IT Division or an Anti-Virus Firm.

The personnel in the IT department of your company may have the technical expertise to recover your data in case your computers are attacked. Inform them immediately you notice the problem, and allow them to try and salvage the situation. Conversely, you may opt to ask anti-virus companies to assist. There are some anti-virus software that could help, but do not peg most of your hopes on this.

5. Reformat Your Hard disk

This is a tough decision to make, because it means you will lose all your data. However, it is a good move compared to the alternative of giving in to the aggressors. So, if all the other solutions are not tenable, go ahead and reformat your hard disk and reinstall the OS. Take the entire ordeal of the attack as a lesson well learnt, and ensure to back up your data once you are back in business.

Importance of Identity Theft Protection

Of course, these kinds of attacks indicate that your computer has been violated. Attackers may have gotten access to important information from your system, in addition to holding it hostage. Just as it is important to protect your computers and devices with operating system updates and anti-virus / anti-malware software, it’s also important to protect your identity. Many carriers offer identity theft insurance endorsements on homeowners or renters insurance policies. Some also offer stand-alone identity theft protection options. If you are concerned about the financial implications of having your identity stolen, be sure to check with us for advice on your best options.