For posts that do not fall under any other category.

Rental Risk

The next time you rent a car, you should seriously consider purchasing the collision damage waiver. You might think the cost is prohibitive, but the risks of not purchasing the waiver are likely greater than you think.

Assume for a moment that you’ve rented a car and you’re then involved in an accident while driving that car. You may be liable for the damage done to that car. Most people realize this. But what many don’t realize is that you may also be liable for the rental company’s “loss of use”. In other words, while the rental car is being repaired, it is unavailable for rent. Which means the rental company loses the revenue that car would typically generate. If the repair time is longer than expected, this could add up to a huge out of pocket expense for you.

So, the next time you’re renting a vehicle, think carefully about what you’re willing to risk financially. Purchasing the collision damage waiver could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.

Killer Phones

Researchers are trying to understand why traffic related deaths have surged nearly 15% in the past two years. Speed, driving distance and drinking have all increased in recent years, but none of these factors explains the spike in deaths.

Although NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) data doesn’t show it, the cause is fairly obvious – distracted driving. From 2014 to 2016, smart phone use increased by about 80%. How phones are used has also changed. People are talking less and using apps more – up to 80% more. Texting, posting on social media and interacting with other apps all require significantly more attention – attention that should be focused on driving, not on a phone.

The substantial uptick in fatalities has largely involved bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians – all of which are easier to overlook as a result of distracted driving.

So when you get behind the wheel, put your phone down or, at the very least, use it in hands-free mode. It can help save a life – possibly yours.

When Teens Crash

According to a recent study, teens are more likely to be involved in a crash or near miss after they get their license than before. It sounds counter intuitive, but the data shows that in the first 3 months after getting their license, teens are 8 times more likely to be in a crash or near miss as compared to the previous 3 months on their learner’s permit.

The study, published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” indicates that, after obtaining their license, teens are 4 times more likely to engage in risky behavior, including rapid acceleration, sudden braking, hard turns and more. For parents of teens, the study suggests that a continuation of adult supervision may be appropriate – at least for the first few months a teen has their license.

Knowing all of this, you may want to keep closer tabs on your teen’s driving. Of course, you run the risk of irritating them if you’re too attentive. Considering the risks though, that’s a small price to pay.

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Even the smallest drips/leaks can add up quickly and cause substantial, costly damage. So be proactive when it comes to water damage. Start with these steps …

Install a water shut-of device
This is the surest, easiest way to prevent wide-spread damage in the event of a leak.

• Turn off the water when traveling
This is the only way to prevent a leak from occurring while away.

• Arrange for property checks while way
Ask family, friends, neighbors or a caretaker to check your property for leaks and other issues when you travel. Even if they don’t find a problem immediately, it’s still better than finding it when you return.

Check/install pipe insulation

Pipe insulation can be a life saver when temps drop. It’s simple, cheap and one of the best ways to help prevent burst pipes.

The Problem With Smoke Detectors

It’s common knowledge that batteries need to be changed in smoke detectors. A good rule of thumb is to check/change them in the spring and fall – when clocks are adjusted for daylight savings time. But what if your smoke detectors are hard-wired?

You may not know it, but smoke detectors have a limited life span. Eventually, the sensors wear out and they lose their ability to detect smoke. For this reason, fire safety experts suggest completely replacing smoke detectors every 10 years. This goes for battery and hard-wired models.

After 10 years, it may be difficult to remember that this change should take place, so be sure to create some kind of reminder for yourself that won’t get lost or fail to alert you. Setting a reminder on your phone or with an online calendar is a good idea. Multiple reminders are also recommended – in case one fails.

Frozen Pipes

Now is the best time to protect yourself. Last winter’s bitter cold caught many homeowners by surprise and led to unexpected repair bills and cleanup costs related to burst pipes and the resulting water damage. A crack in a pipe as small as 1/8” can gush water up to 10+ gallons an hour, causing serious damage. To lessen the chances of a burst pipe, here are some steps you can take:

Insulate exposed pipes in crawl spaces and attics, even in climates where freezing is uncommon. The more insulation, the better.

Wrap pipes in appropriate (indoor/outdoor) UL approved heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables. Install/apply as directed.

Use caulk or insulation to seal all cold air leaks near pipes. Even tiny openings can cause a pipe to freeze.

Disconnect outdoor hoses and use indoor valves to shut off and drain water from pipes leading outside.

We would be happy to discuss the above suggestions with you. Please call or visit our office today.

Rating Teen Drivers

In addition to the many, many studies conducted by insurance companies, the industry also relies on 3rd party studies to help them better understand risk and price their products accordingly. Recently one study was conducted to rate the ability of new drivers. Interestingly, novice male teens rated better than new male drivers in their 20’s. Some might assume this might have something to do with playing video games, but that wasn’t the case. Video game experience had no effect on driving skills.

The study also showed that both male and female teens who played sports are better drivers than those who did not participate in sports. This would seem to clash with the relatively high rate of teen accidents, but based on the results of the study, the authors hypothesize that the disparity is most likely due to inattention to safety considerations rather than lack of technical driving ability. Subsequently, the study authors have proposed placing a greater emphasis on safety training as opposed to mandatory driver education.

Rants & Repercussions

The Internet has made it significantly easier to express yourself. But that’s not always a good idea. This is especially true when voicing your opinion,
complaining or venting your frustrations. These days, the news is filled with stories of people being sued for comments they’ve made or acts of Internet-based revenge they’ve taken on people/companies.

Sadly, many people believe they can say/do whatever they like online and the perceived anonymity of the Internet will protect them. Typically, that’s not the case though. The same may also be true of your homeowners insurance.

Whether deliberate or accidental, your damaging rant may open you up to charges of harassment, defamation, libel or slander. While most homeowners policies contain liability coverage, this usually only applies to bodily injury and/or property damage. The bottom line? You may incur significant financial damages and possibly prison!

So if you’re prone to outbursts of excessive vitriol on the Internet, may we suggest putting down your phone or stepping away from the keyboard, taking a deep breath and counting to ten. Then, give us a call to learn more about personal injury coverage and whether your homeowners insurance is sufficient for your needs.

Beware of Hurricane Cars

This year, the U.S. was hit by 3 significant hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria. The damage caused by these storms impacted millions in the regions where they hit. The same may be true for people hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

Typically, thousands, if not hundred of thousands of vehicles are damaged in hurricanes that hit populated areas. Many of these cars are considered “totaled”, but they may not be consigned to the scrap heap. They’re often cleaned up, shipped to distant locations and sold to unsuspecting buyers.

So what can you do to avoid these clunkers? Check the vehicle history. Using the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can search a variety of sites to learn if a vehicle has been marked as salvage or beyond repair. CarFax, VINcheck and National Motor Vehicle Title Information System are three such sites. Some sites/services are free, but others do charge a fee, so be sure to do your homework. The National Auto Defense Association (NADA) offers 10 tips to help you spot and avoid “swamped” cars. Visit our blog for a link to more details.

Ice Dam Damage

As the weather turns cold, we once again urge our customers to do what they can to learn about and prevent ice dams. They can cause significant damage, which can go unnoticed until it’s too late. We’ve written about ice dams in the past and even posted an informative video to our website. To view it, visit the Homeowners page on our site, scroll down and look for the video labeled “Preventing
Ice Dams”.