Your personal umbrella policy: Increased policy limits…and more

Accidents involving common, everyday activities may result in a worst-case scenario. Being held legally liable for injury to another person or damage to their property could exhaust your home or personal auto policy liability limits, and cause financial ruin to your family. A personal umbrella policy works hand in hand with your existing underlying insurance, adding a layer of liability limits to protect you in today’s litigious society.

A personal umbrella liability policy offers vital coverage benefits, and for a relatively inexpensive premium compared to the amount of coverage purchased. Talk to your local independent agent to find out how a personal umbrella allows you to obtain:

  • protection for claims for losses not covered by an underlying policy
  • worldwide coverage
  • rental car, special events and liquor liability coverage
  • coverage for libel, slander, defamation or invasion of privacy
  • coverage for loss of earnings while settling a claim

Review your insurance plan regularly, and seek your agent’s coverage recommendation.

An umbrella liability policy may be especially appropriate when you have certain exposures:

  • Is there a potential hazard in your backyard? Swimming pools, trampolines and other meant-to-be-fun gear can cause serious injuries.
  • Do you own a pet? When left unattended or without adequate safety controls, some pets become scared and aggressive. You could be held liable if your pet bites a neighbor or passer-by.
  • Are there any young drivers in the family? Inexperienced drivers are at higher risk of being involved in auto accidents.
  • Do you own a boat? Lawsuits can result from all sorts of water-related accidents, such as skiers being towed from your boat or from another boat. Improper and unsafe personal watercraft use accounts for most watercraft liability accidents.
  • Do you have adequate auto insurance liability limits? Most standard auto policies insure you, your resident family members and those who use your car with permission. The possibility of a serious loss – and the need for umbrella coverage – is there.

These are just a few situations where you could be held responsible for claims for loss that exceed the liability limits provided by your personal auto or homeowner policy. A personal umbrella liability policy protects your financial assets and can make the difference in your ability to meet your responsibility to reimburse others for their injury or damage.

Your Ayres Group Agent can help you review coverage options to meet your needs. Contact them today!

Source: Cincinnati Insurance

Special events: Know why, what, where and who

From luncheons to extreme sporting events – and everything in between – special events can be excellent ways for nonprofit organizations to raise money and increase visibility.

While the extra revenue may be welcome, consider any additional risks. Are the risks being assumed worth the benefits gained?

Before your organization hosts a special event, consider the why, what, where, who and how.

Why does your organization want to hold the this event? Is it to grow name recognition, recruit donors and volunteers or raise funds to support your organization’s mission? Special events can meet multiple goals.

What type of event will be most beneficial to the organization? Thewhy of the event will guide you to the what of the event. Any event involving athletic activities or alcohol will add considerable risk. Make sure you will be able to achieve your objective without risking the reputation of your organization. It can be difficult to recover from bad publicity after an accident or negative incident at a sponsored event.

Where will the event be held? The venue is critical. Determining the size, scope and cost of the venue will correlate directly to the event’s success or failure. If you’re leasing a venue, place priority on reviewing the contractual requirements of the lease. Consult an attorney before you sign any contract. Some contracts require the renter to extend insurance coverage to the venue. While this is appropriate in some instances, determine if it is reasonable for your event and consult your Ayres Group Agent for coverage advice. Location also plays into the number of volunteers and employees you will need at the event. If your event is on property you own, check local zoning regulations to make sure your event complies with any zoning restrictions, and require proof of insurance from any vendors coming onto your premises.

Who will coordinate, manage, staff and participate in the event?Consider who has the experience and expertise to manage the event and to staff it sufficiently for best logistics and safety. Consider who these individuals will have contact with and whether any additional background screening or training is necessary.

How will you conduct the event? This important question is often not considered in detail. Determine the details, including the timeline and specifics of each volunteer’s or employee’s role in the event.

By considering all these questions, clearly outlining roles and planning all details, you can better avoid hazardous surprises and assure a successful event.

Courtesy of Cincinnati Insurance

Buying a condo? What you need to know about insurance

Buying a condo is similar to buying a house. Your mortgage company will probably require you to buy condo insurance. But how do you know how much insurance you need?

Typically, condominium associations own and insure the outside structure of a condominium building, including the grounds and other features, such as a pool or tennis court. Most often, a condo owner is responsible for everything from the drywall in (wall coverings, floor coverings, cabinetry, etc.) The insurance term used to identify the condo unit’s interior finishes is Additions and Alterations or A&A. Similar to the cost to rebuild a home used for a homeowner policy (coverage A), the A&A covers the structural finishes and features; it does not include your furnishings or personal property.

ADD UP THE COSTS

When trying to determine the amount of coverage you need to replace the Additions and Alterations (interior finishes) of your condo, you will want to take into consideration anything attached to a wall or floor. You should include the cost of all wallcoverings (including paint), floor coverings, interior doors, trim-work, bookcases, built-in cabinetry, appliances, plumbing fixtures and electrical fixtures.

However, some condominium associations cover both the exterior and structural interior finishes of the building (A&A completed by the association at the time of purchase), with the exception of your personal property and furnishings. The bylaws or agreements of your condo association stipulate what part of the structure the association is responsible to replace in a loss and what part of the unit the condo owner is responsible to replace. Ask your attorney to review the contract before you buy.

REVIEW THE MASTER CONDO POLICY

By carefully reviewing your condo association’s master insurance policy, you will know how much you are responsible to replace and can get a good idea of how much coverage you may need. Make sure your insurance policy covers everything not covered in the association’s policy, such as improvements and alterations to your unit. You also need to value your personal items to determine how much coverage you need for contents; doing a home inventory will help you track your possessions. Don’t forget to include unique or expensive items, such as artwork or jewelry. Ask your insurance agent whether you need separate personal articles coverage to protect all your valuable items.

It is also important to review your loss assessment obligations. For example, if a fire damages part of a condominium building’s common areas, each condo owner is then assessed (charged) money to cover some of the cost of the repairs. Some condo insurance policies may provide coverage to help you recover some of your assessment.

Your Ayres Group Agent can help you review coverage options to meet your needs. Contact them today!

Insuring your love in all of its stages

Think of your life as a series of stages: youth, adulthood, parenthood, maturity. Each stage has its own loves, its own rewards – and its own reasons to purchase life insurance.

As you reach different stages of life and your needs change, consider how different life insurance products can help.

YOUTH

It may not be obvious to most people, but childhood is actually a great time to get life insurance, when health is not normally an issue and costs are lower. A parent or grandparent can purchase life insurance for a child or grandchild that offers three important advantages: it’s inexpensive; it provides protection for the unexpected; and certain types of life insurance could help protect your child’s or grandchild’s insurability. Term or permanent life insurance may be appropriate, depending on the situation. Your independent life insurance agent can provide more information about the available options.

YOUNG ADULTHOOD

Young adults often struggle to manage debt from student loans while trying to get a start in their careers. Whether single or married, life insurance should still be a priority to protect the future. As with the youth stage, most young adults are in better health than they will be later in life – a major insurability factor. And, even if they don’t have children, young adults may have others who depend on their income: aging parents, younger or disabled siblings, business partners or close friends. Purchasing term insurance as a young adult is an inexpensive way to plan for the future. Talk to your local agent about designing your insurance needs to plan for the road ahead.

PARENTHOOD

This is the stage when a large number of people decide to buy life insurance. When children depend on you, a permanent life insurance plan can ease your mind. If you already purchased term life insurance, this may be a time to convert it to permanent coverage. Some parents also find it useful to supplement a permanent life insurance plan with term insurance during their children’s preschool or college years. Consider a low-cost option of adding a children’s rider on your policy to protect the little ones as well. Ask your local agent to help you identify your options.

MATURITY

The children are on their own. You’re winding down your business, looking to pass it on to a relative or a trusted employee. You’ve earned your retirement. Life insurance can help you achieve your goals of financial security as you mature. Your local agent can assist in a permanent life insurance policy to safeguard your future.

Whatever your stage of life, whoever you love, whatever your plans – a well-designed life insurance program can help secure your future.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group Agent.

Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Winter driving brings inherent risks. But you can put the odds in your favor with proper preparation, car maintenance, and driving techniques.

Keeping up with car maintenance year-round is important, but it carries added significance in the winter when being stranded can be inconvenient due to travel plans, as well as being downright unpleasant waiting at the side of the road. As always, try to time your routine maintenance ahead of long-distance travel. Putting off service today can turn into an expensive problem down the road.

To be prepared for challenges winter driving poses, keep these tips in mind:

Maintain a full tank of gas. Keeping a half tank or more of gas limits the moisture that can condensate in the tank, and it means you are well positioned to tough out an expected traffic jam or survive being stuck in the snow.

Care for your tires. As winter driving safety is impacted by traction, it is key to make sure your tires are in top shape. Check tire pressure monthly, topping off as necessary. (Cold winter temperatures can lower tire pressure.) Inspect your tires for tread depth, an important factor in wet and snow traction. The tread should be at least 1/8 an inch, easily gauged by using a quarter and measuring from the coin’s edge to Washington’s head. Look for uneven tread wear, which typically indicates poor wheel alignment or worn suspension components. If you do invest in new tires, be sure to have your vehicle’s alignment and suspension checked before having the tires mounted to avoid premature wear.

Accelerate slowly to reduce wheel spin. If starting from a standstill on slick snow or ice, start in second gear if you have a manual transmission or gear-selectable automatic so the vehicle is less likely to spin the tires.

Reduce your speed and drive smoothly. In slippery conditions, tires lose their grip more easily, affecting all aspects of your driving: braking, turning, and accelerating. Keeping the speeds down will give you more time to react to slippage or a possible collision, and it will lessen the damage should things go wrong.

Allow longer braking distances. Plan on starting your braking sooner than you normally would in dry conditions to give yourself extra room, and use more gentle pressure on the brake pedal.

Don’t lock your wheels when braking. Locked wheels can make the vehicle slide or skid. If you have an older vehicle without an antilock braking system (ABS), you may need to gently apply the brakes repeatedly in a pulsing motion to avoid having them lock up the wheels. If your vehicle has ABS, simply depress the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. The shuddering sounds and pedal feeling is expected (don’t lift off the brake); the system is doing its job.

Perform one action at a time when accelerating, braking, and turning. Asking a vehicle to do two things at once–such as braking and turning, or accelerating and turning—can reduce your control. When taking a turn on a slippery surface, for instance, reduce speed sufficiently, and slowly apply the brakes while the vehicle is still going straight.

Avoid sudden actions when cornering. A sudden maneuver—such as hard braking, a quick turn of the steering wheel, sudden acceleration, or shifting a manual transmission—can upset a vehicle’s dynamics when it’s taking a turn. Rapidly transferring the weight from one end or corner to another can throw a car off balance. In slick conditions, this can cause it to more easily go out of control.

Beware bridges and overpasses. These can freeze before the roads.

Be ready to correct for a slide. Should the rear end of the vehicle begin to slide during a turn, gently let off on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. This will help straighten it out. Electronic stability control will also help keep control in a slide situation. But remember, safety systems may bend the laws of physics, but they can’t overcome stupid. If you’re turning and the vehicle keeps moving straight ahead, you may be tempted to turn even more. However, it is better to slow down and turn back straight for moment until you can regain traction and then make your turn.

Don’t let four- or all-wheel-drive give you a false sense of security. 4WD and AWD systems only provide extra traction when accelerating. They provide no advantage when braking or cornering. Everyone has four-wheel brakes…

Be extra wary of other motorists. They may not be driving as cautiously as you, so leave extra space, avoid distractions, and be predictable, signaling clearly ahead of any turns or lane changes. If you feel you’re being ‘pushed’ by someone wanting to go faster, pull over and let them go.

Don’t pass snow plows. The road is likely more treacherous in front of the trucks, and the added speed needed to complete the pass can risk sliding. Instead, hang back and let the trucks do their job. Don’t follow too close, as there is a high risk of windshield-threatening pebbles being thrown up from sanding machines.

What to Do If You’re Stuck

Try to shovel a path out. With the front wheels straight, rock the car by shifting between drive and reverse and applying light throttle. Shift directions the moment the wheels start spinning. Spread sand in your tracks. Once freed, keep going until you reach firm footing.

If the car isn’t moving, don’t spin the wheels; they’ll just dig deeper into the snow. You may need to jack up the car to put a traction aid under the drive wheels, but make sure the jack is on firm ground. You can use sand, cat litter, twigs, weeds, planks, even your car’s floor mats or trunk liner. Make sure others stand clear before you apply power.

Finding an insurance program you can bank on

Whether you operate a bank, savings and loan, credit union, household finance or mortgage company, you need to protect your organization’s own assets to ensure that you remain open for business. Your clients depend on you for services such as mortgages and other loans, night depositories, checking and savings accounts and ATMs.

A financial company’s assets go beyond traditional assets such as buildings and contents. Your insurance coverage should be tailored to include unique exposures you may have, such as:

  • Broad coverage for damage to special property such as bulletproof glass, night depositories, vaults and ATMs
  • Protection for your interest in a mortgaged property in the event it is damaged or destroyed and the borrower’s coverage is inadequate or has lapsed
  • Coverage for dwellings and other properties acquired in foreclosure, assuring that coverage is adequate despite the possibility of the property being vacant
  • Your interest in other collateral property such as autos, RVs and boats that are damaged or destroyed where there is an error or omission in procuring or maintaining physical damage coverage on those items
  • Both liability and physical damage protection for autos that are repossessed

Ask your Ayres Group insurance agent to place your policy with a carrier that provides broad coverage for common exposures of financial companies. Your assets should be as safe and secure as your clients’.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group agent.

Study says voice-to-text no safer than regular texting

So much for all those systems that allow you to convert your voice to text messages. Reuters reports that a new study by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M has found the technology to be no safer to use while driving than employing a traditional handheld device. The study found that drivers took around twice as long to react to situations on the road as they did while they weren’t texting and that eye contact with the road decreased as well.

The study used 43 participants who were tasked with driving around a test course, first without any electronic devices and then with a voice-to-text system. Interestingly enough, using the speech-to-text device actually took longer than simply typing out a message on a phone. Despite this fact, the drivers said they felt safer while using the hands-free option. Researchers said that this response could lead drivers to attempt to text even when it isn’t safe to do so.

Innocent employers go to court every day

Misunderstandings can lead to disastrous consequences for your company, but there are things employers can do to protect your business. Imagine these scenarios:

  • A manager terminates an employee based on negative performance evaluations. The terminated employee sues the employer for pregnancy discrimination, alleging she was fired based on her pregnancy and leave of absence.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sues a manufacturing company for race and gender discrimination in their hiring procedures. The EEOC alleges Asian applicants were turned down for all positions except administrative ones.
  • A former employee alleges that after he informed his employer of the need for a kidney transplant, he was terminated.

Even if the employers in these examples were completely innocent and the allegations are unfounded, they may nonetheless incur significant defense costs. What would your company do if these claims were filed against it? Would your company have the resources to pay for litigation costs that may take months or even years to resolve?

HOW DOES INSURANCE FIT IN?

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) protects your company against the financial consequences of employment-related lawsuits and from allegations that an employee’s rights were violated. Lawsuits can result in defense costs and possible state or federal fines and penalties if your company is found liable. Complaints and charges could be brought by past, present or prospective employees.

Allegations could include:

  • Wrongful termination of employment
  • Wrongful failure to employ or promote
  • Failure to create and provide workplace employment procedures
  • Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Wrongful retaliation
  • Breach of oral or written employment contracts

Top-trending employment practice claims also include:

  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Illegal background checks
  • Health-related employment discrimination
  • LGBT gender identity discrimination
WAYS TO REDUCE RISK

Take action to mitigate the risk in employment decisions:

  • Discuss employment practices liability insurance with your attorney, risk manager and local independent insurance agent.
  • Minimize the risk of lawsuits by educating your managers and employees.
  • Create employment procedures that extend from pre-employment all the way to termination and beyond.
  • Maintain accurate and thorough documentation regarding any employment action that occurs, including steps your organization takes to prevent and solve disputes.
  • Develop an employee handbook detailing company policies for discipline, termination and prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Ask interview questions that are nondiscriminatory when recruiting and selecting talent.

Employee-related complaints, charges and allegations could seriously damage the reputation and bottom-line results of your company or organization. Take action. Seek advice from your attorney and your risk management team, including your Ayres Group Agent.

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

A checklist for safe snowmobiling

Whether it’s to enjoy the thrill of the ride or the beauty of nature, to go places unreachable by other means or just to spend time with family and friends, millions of people enjoy the outdoors on snowmobiles.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), representing the four North American snowmobile makers, reports 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in the United States. Snowmobile-related activities account for $26 billion in economic activity annually, including accessories, supplies, gasoline and tourism. While some use their machines for work, about 80 percent use them for leisure activities.

Snowmobiles are generally registered and regulated by individual states, and no central system compiles reports on snowmobile accidents, injuries or fatalities. Of those tracked by several states, most are the result of collisions with trees or other fixed objects with excessive speed or alcohol impairment as the most common contributing factors.

ISMA promotes safe snowmobiling through its Safe Rider program, and cites dozens of ways to protect yourself and those around you.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Ensure your snowmobile is in proper mechanical operating condition before going on a ride. Check gas, oil, belt condition and carbides under the skis before each ride.
  • Dress for the conditions! Layering clothing, including a windproof outer layer, is the best way to stay warm on cold days. Fingers and toes typically get cold first, so be sure to wear warm gloves (mitts with liners are best) and insulated boots.
  • Wear a safety-certified helmet in the right size. You should have a clear face shield on the helmet or a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.
  • Avoid riding alone, especially at night. If you do, make sure you tell others the route you will be taking so they will know where to look if you are overdue.
  • Stay on the marked route when riding trails on private property. Hidden objects, such as fences, tree stumps and stretched wire, may be concealed by snow.
  • Slow down! Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that allows ample reaction time for any situation.
  • Stay RIGHT when riding on trails, especially on corners or when cresting hills to avoid colliding with other snowmobiles coming from the opposite direction.
  • Carry a first-aid kit. At a minimum, it should include a flashlight, knife, duct tape, compass, map, tow rope and waterproof matches.
  • Carry a fully-charged cell phone; it can be a terrific asset if trouble arises, but keep in mind that cell phones have limited service range in remote areas.
  • Use caution when crossing roads — come to a complete stop, make sure no traffic is approaching from either direction, then cross at a right angle to traffic.
  • Don’t drink and ride! Drinking alcohol before snowmobiling or during your ride slows your reactions, impairs your judgment and is a leading contributor to snowmobiling deaths.
  • Stay next to the markers if a trail crosses waterways. Ice conditions are never guaranteed, as rapidly changing weather and moving water affect the thickness and strength of ice.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. See your local Ayres Group Agent agent for insurance coverage and advice.

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

Now that you have the keys — what does that mean?

All your hard work paid off and now you finally have your driver’s license. Hours in the car with Dad gripping his seat and days spent in driver’s ed were worth it because the keys are now in your hands. I remember the feelings of freedom, independence and excitement when I received my license. But with the look in my dad’s eyes as he handed the keys to me, I knew driving came with added responsibility.Here are things to keep in mind to make sure your driving experience is safe and fun.

STAY SAFE ON THE ROAD

Your choices when driving may affect yourself and others.

  • Never use alcohol or drugs when you know you will be getting behind the wheel of a car.
  • Make sure every passenger in your car is using a seatbelt. Follow any restrictions your state may have on the number of passengers allowed depending on the driver’s age.
  • Be aware of other drivers around you, and drive defensively by anticipating the actions of other drivers.
  • Concentrate on your driving and keep distractions to a minimum. Turn the radio down, don’t use your phone while driving and never text and drive.
  • Learn what to do in an event of an accident or breakdown. Know who to call and what resources you need. Program emergency numbers and contacts into your phone.
  • Keep your registration and proof of insurance information in the car.

BEING SAFE SAVES MONEY

Driving responsibly increases your safety and the safety of other motorists. Follow these guidelines to keep your insurance premiums as low as possible:

  • Obey all traffic laws. Getting a ticket may increase the amount of your insurance payments.
  • Avoid situations that may lead to accidents. Involvement in just one accident could increase your cost of insurance.
  • Consider choosing higher physical damage coverage deductibles.
  • Drive a standard vehicle. Sports cars and high-performance vehicles may be cool, but those vehicles mean higher insurance costs.

CREATE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT WITH YOUR PARENTS

All the above tips may seem like common sense, but they are important to remember and to be reminded of often. One way to have a great driving experience is to create a written agreement with your parents and establish rules. A written agreement can help keep you and your parents on the same page.

  • How many passengers are permitted in your car?
  • Can you listen to the radio?
  • Do you need to be home by a certain time?
  • You can download a sample contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Getting your driver’s license is exciting! But to keep the keys and be a responsible driver, develop good driving habits that will stay with you forever. Have fun and stay safe!

 

Need insurance for a new driver?, contact your local Ayres Group Agent

 

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance