The Number Of Homeowners Insured Against Earthquakes Drops Despite Rising Threats And Damage Costs

Recent research shows that about 10 percent of American homeowners have earthquake insurance. In 2012, the percentage was slightly higher. Western states had a higher concentration of homeowners with this type of coverage. However, the number had decreased from 27 percent in 2012 to 22 percent in 2013.

Experts say that the famous Northridge earthquake happened 20 years ago. At that time, nearly 30 percent of homeowners in California had earthquake insurance. However, they estimate that the number of California homeowners with this type of insurance today is only about 10 percent. Although the number of people buying coverage has become lower, the possible costs of earthquake damage have only grown. This is partially due to the constant growth of urban areas and the vulnerabilities of older buildings. Not all of the older buildings have been brought up to code.

Since 1900, experts say that earthquakes have happened in all 50 states in the U.S. In 2011, there was an earthquake in Virginia that was so strong most of the people along the East Coast felt it. There was an earthquake in Cuba recently that was felt as far away as Florida. The big 6.7 magnitude quake in Northridge hit on January 17, 1994. Experts say that it was the most expensive earthquake in history in terms of damages. It cost an estimated $15.3 billion in insured damages alone. When calculated with inflation increases, that would be about $24 billion if the same quake and same damages occurred in 2013. This damage amount is comparable only to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Andrew and the famous attacks on the World Trade Center.

Although there have not been any events as devastating as the Northridge quake, California is still the state that is most at risk for a huge earthquake. Experts say that powerful quakes are more likely to hit Southern California than any other part of the state during the next three decades. This was the finding of a 2008 study released by USC’s Earthquake Center and the U.S. Geological Survey. Sixty percent of the costliest earthquakes in America have occurred in California. The figures were based on insured losses.

During the 30 years preceding the quake in Northridge, experts say that insurance companies received less than they paid out for that quake alone. Earthquake insurance costs have certainly increased since the Northridge incident, but it is still as important as ever for business owners and homeowners to have this vital coverage. Experts point out that it is not only vital for California residents but also residents everywhere. Nobody knows when or where an earthquake will happen, and it is best to be prepared instead of facing catastrophic financial losses.

It is important for homeowners to remember that earthquakes are not covered under standard American homeowners insurance policies. To obtain coverage, they must purchase separate policies from private companies. In California, residents can obtain coverage from the California Earthquake Authority, which is a publicly managed and privately funded organization. It was established in 1996 following the Northridge quake. However, they do not extend coverage to any industrial, business or commercial properties. To learn more about options and how to obtain coverage, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website to request a call back.

OSHA Stands Ready to Assist Small Businesses

With everything small business owners have to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And depending on your industry, just keeping up with the changing regulations and requirements regarding workplace safety can be a challenge  – much less actually bringing your company in compliance. Larger companies can afford to have dedicated safety and compliance staff. Smaller companies too often flounder until they get in serious trouble – or worse, a worker gets injured or killed on the job.

Fortunately, help is out there. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognizes many of the challenges that small businesses, especially, face, and has made resources available to assist.

If you are a small business owner or manager responsible for workplace safety, don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of these programs and outreach services.

On-Site Consultations

If you let problems go uncorrected and you don’t ask for help, and an OSHA inspector visits and discovers the problem, if a worker gets hurt on the job because of your negligence in complying with OSHA and state regulations, or if an employee or competitor simply observes and reports a violation, you could be in for tens of thousands of dollars in fines and penalties.

However, OSHA would rather help you identify the problem and correct it now, rather than enforce it later. That’s where the on-site consultation program comes in.

In an on-site visit, OSHA will send a consultant to your workplace or worksites to conduct a walk-through and inspection. The consultant will first brief you on the scope of the visit, his or her responsibilities as the inspector and your responsibilities as the business owner or executive.  They will then walk with you and conduct a detailed inspection of your business and help you identify potential safety issues. They will also help advise you on strategies to correct them.

In many cases, the OSHA inspector will have training materials and other tools you can use to create your own in-house safety compliance program.

Shortly after the end of the visit, the OSHA consultant will provide you a detailed written report with recommendations and requirements. If there is a safety issue, you will be given an abatement period to enable you to correct the problem. If you can correct issues within the timeframes provided, you will not generally be responsible for any fines. For the most part, the OSHA consultation problem is a free look. However, in some instances the inspector finds a hazard so severe that they do order an immediate shutdown until the hazard is corrected.

On-site consultants do not cite or report you to OSHA enforcement officials for hazards discovered during a site visit. You will not be fined for anything discovered during an on-site consultation. You will have the opportunity to correct these hazards before enforcement gets involved. Only where there is a failure to make agreed to or required improvements will OSHA enforcement officials get involved.

Compliance Assistance

It’s not enough just to correct visible safety hazards on the ground. A successful compliance effort also requires ongoing documentation. You should be keeping careful maintenance records, documenting lockout/tagout policies, ensuring vehicle and heavy equipment operators are licensed and qualified, and any number of other tedious paperwork tasks that all too easily fall through the cracks. OSHA provides compliance assistance visits to monitor your ongoing efforts and help your administrative staff keep records up to date. It’s up to you to request the visits, however.

OSHA also developed a “QuickStart” program designed to get new businesses or businesses with long-neglected safety compliance programs up and running fast. The QuickStart program is a step-by-step guide to managers about how to build the skeleton of a system for ongoing compliance. OSHA has developed specific QuickStart programs for the construction and health care industries as well as general industry.

If you have many Spanish-speaking employees, see also OSHA’s Hispanic outreach program materials here. You may also want to make use of OSHA’s Diverse Workforce/Limited English Proficiency Coordinators.

Online Resources

OSHA has made a broad array of resources, tools and training materials available online here. The backbone of the program is the Safety and Health Management Systems E-Tool. OSHA also publicizes statistics and data, and maintains an extensive library of electronic publications available free for download.

$afety Pays

Curious to see how your safety track record actually impacts your firm’s or your industry’s profitability? OSHA maintains a $afety Pays website, that helps you crunch the numbers to see firsthand what workers compensation costs do to your business’s bottom line. You can even generate a report of costs and the sales needed to cover those costs – a valuable tool to show employees when they understand that it also impacts the amount of money available for pay increases!

ACBI has a vast variety of tools and materials to educate and assist you with OSHA related topics.  Call us today at 203-259-7580 or visit our website to request a call back.

OSHA Plans Big Increase in Workplace Health Inspections

If you’ve got workers, keep them safe. The latest federal budget slashed a lot of money from the military. But it fully funded all requested enforcement activities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing workplace safety standards. That said, OSHA has also announced that while it is expanding its enforcement efforts in certain industries, and substantially expanding its workplace health inspection program, some types of site inspections will see reductions. These include safety inspections and state level inspections.

Specifically, the new budget allocates $552.2 million to OSHA, and $208 million specifically to support enforcement activities. That represents an overall OSHA enforcement activities budget increase of $17 million over the prior year.

OSHA has indicated it will focus enforcement issues on more dangerous industries, focusing on preventing the most common causes of workplace fatalities:

  • Falling
  • Electrocution
  • ‘Struck-by’ accidents
  • ‘Caught in between’ accidents

OSHA also plans to increase scrutiny of these kinds of worksites:

  • Refineries
  • Excavation and trenching
  • Primary metal industries
  • Sites that contain isocyanates
  • Hazardous machinery
  • Nursing and care homes
  • Combustible dust
  • Shipbreaking,
  • Worksites that include crystalline silica
  • Worksites that contain lead
  • Worksites that contain hexavalent chromium

As part of this effort, OSHA stated it plans to conduct nearly 40,000 site inspections during the fiscal year 2014, already underway as of October 2013. Of these, 31,400 will be safety inspections, and 7,850 of them will be health inspections, according to the agency. Overall, the agency plans to conduct 450 more health inspections in FY 2014 than it did during the previous fiscal year, but fewer inspections overall, according to reporting from the Society for Human Resource Management. OSHA is projecting that it will actually conduct 2,200 fewer safety inspections than they did last year.

The reason: OSHA cites man-hour allocation issues. Some site inspections are much more man-hour intensive than others, and therefore much more costly to perform. OSHA is seeking to get more bang for the buck invested.

OSHA’s force of compliance officers is likely to increase scrutiny not just on simple fixes, but to conduct more involved compliance checks, such as process safety management, PSM Covered Chemical Facilities, Petroleum Refinery Process Safety Management programs, bloodborne pathogen countermeasures, and respiratory protection protocols.

State-Level Inspections to Decrease

OSHA is projecting fewer inspections by state-level occupational safety agencies, and attributes the decline to state budget problems. OSHA projects that the 27 state-plan agencies will perform about 50,350 inspections, which represents a decline of about 2 percent compared to 2012.

Why Married Retired Couples Should Pay Attention to the Social Security Two-Life Benefit

Financial experts said the top Social Security strategy is to maximize the two-life benefit. This strategy applies to retired married couples, and it involves delaying collection of the larger of the two peoples’ benefits longer. This is done until the target beneficiary reaches the age of 70. The lesser of the two benefits is later commenced when that person reaches retirement age, and this helps maximize Social Security payouts.

File And Suspend With this method, the spouse entitled to the greater benefit claims it. However, that person avoids drawing against the benefit. Couples who are financially able to wait to draw the benefit after the top wage earner reaches the age of 66 must allow the benefit to grow at an annual rate of eight percent. That money must remain untouched until the person turns 70. At that point, it is maximized. The spouse who earns less is able to collect 50 percent of the higher earner’s maximized benefit. In some cases, this is more than what the lower earner’s benefit would have originally been.

Restricted Application In some cases, the lower earning spouse may not benefit from the first option. If that individual would receive a more generous benefit than 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit, he or she would file a restricted application. This type of application lets the lower earner claim a spousal benefit, but it also lets that individual’s benefit grow until the higher earner turns 70. At that point, both individuals can collect their maximum benefits.

Important Considerations Experts also pointed out several other important considerations connected to these strategies. Many advisers think about crossover points with Social Security payouts. However, those crossover points are not relevant for married couples, because the adviser’s goal is not to target the crossover point but the two-life benefit instead. Since a surviving spouse receives a larger benefit and the odds are likely that one will outlive the other, targeting this benefit is key. For people who are single, crossover points are more important to consider. A single person could start collecting early and receive a smaller benefit, or he could wait until later and still receive the same amount. Regardless of the age the person lives to be, he or she will still receive the same benefit.

Eliminating Investing Payout Strategy When individuals expect to pass away at an earlier age, it is more sensible to start collecting benefits early. In addition to this, people who expect to outlive the average mortality point should delay claiming benefits until they reach the age of 70. In the past, it was possible to collect Social Security benefits, use the payout to invest and then pay the Social Security Administration back later. After doing this, a person could start over at a higher rate. However, there are now time frames for paying back benefits received during the span of one year, so that put an end to that type of strategy.

To learn more about options and what choice is best for individual circumstances, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

What Drivers Need to Know about Backover Accidents

When it comes to avoiding objects while traveling in reverse, rear cameras are more effective than parking sensors. However, they are not helpful in every situation. Researchers recently conducted a study with drivers in an empty parking lot in Los Angeles. Their study results showed that cameras were more helpful than parking sensors in preventing backward crashes into pedestrians. They also found that cameras alone worked better in these situations than cameras and parking sensors combined.

Children are often the unfortunate victims of backward pedestrian crashes. There are many driveway tragedies of this nature every year in the United States. Experts estimate about 300 people are killed and about 18,000 are injured annually in backward pedestrian crashes. These accidents typically occur in driveways and parking lots. Elderly people and young kids are more likely to be killed than older kids or younger adults. Many vehicles have large blind zones, and this increases the backover risk. Trucks and SUVs are commonly involved in these accidents, because it is hard for drivers to see children who are playing or lying on the ground from a higher blind zone.

This study was the second study that examined parking sensors and cameras affecting visibility for backover collisions into pedestrians. The first study used people of varying sizes from small children to average-sized men in over 20 different vehicles. All of the vehicles chosen were made between 2010 and 2013. Researchers carefully looked at how each type of technology improved detection and visibility in each of these vehicles.

During their study, researchers placed a painted pole behind a vehicle to show the varying heights and head sizes of kids who were between 12 and 15 months, between two and three years and between five and six years. They analyzed which parts of the pole were visible. The pole with the band representing the youngest age group was far more difficult to see than the ones with bands representing older children. Unless the driver was further than 27 feet away from the pole, the smallest height could not usually be seen. Large SUVs were the worst offenders if they did not have any added technologies. However, small cars ranked the highest in this area of safety.

One exception to this was the Hyundai Sonata, which had a high trunk and a sloping rear window. The blind spot on this vehicle was more than 40 percent larger than the blind spot on a Ford F-150 truck, which had side mirrors designed for enhanced visibility while towing. On average, experts said that backup cameras reduced blind spots by about 90 percent. Parking sensors were also helpful in reducing blind areas. However, parking sensors only added between two and three percentage points beyond those provided by just cameras.

Disasters that Insurance Policies do not Cover

Every year, many home and business owners discover there are certain disasters their policies do not cover. It is important to consider these issues before they happen and cause damage that will have to be paid for out of pocket. Earthquakes, floods and acts of terrorism are three types of disasters that a policy will not cover.

Flood Damage Protection

Every home and business owner needs to know if his or her property is located in a flood zone. If it is, it is crucial to purchase a flood policy. Business owners should also find out how often floods have happened in that particular area in the past. In some cases, the government is slow to map out flood areas, so it is important to ask more than one source. To purchase a flood policy, discuss options with an agent. Flood insurance is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program. If a building is in a flood zone and its floor plans do not conform to plain building codes, the government requires it to be torn down after damages are more than 50 percent of its market value. People may purchase ordinance or law coverage, which is helpful for covering the costs of tearing down a building. Business owners should also make sure their properties are compliant with any coinsurance clauses in their policies.

Earthquake Protection

Homeowners and business owners do not have earthquake protection in their policies. People who live in areas that are prone to earthquakes should purchase this coverage. Even if most earthquakes are small, history has shown that any areas prone to quakes will eventually have ones that are large enough to cause significant damage. For homeowners, there are special earthquake insurance policies, and there are endorsements available for commercial properties. There are different types of deductibles for earthquake policies. They are calculated on a percentage of the coverage instead of a specific dollar amount. For example, a building owner who insures a property at five percent for $200,000 would have to pay for the first $10,000 of damages. It is important for business owners to remember that interruption protection only applies for losses that occur due to covered disasters or incidents. If a business does not have earthquake protection and has to shut down for a while, there will be no compensation for lost income. However, homeowners and businesses may have an option to add an endorsement to add earthquake coverage or purchase a seperate policy.

Acts Of Terrorism Protection

In 2002, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act was passed. It ruled that only businesses purchasing special coverage would be compensated for losses resulting from acts of terrorism. Many policies already include this, however you need to check your policy to be sure. The only exception for this type of insurance is workers’ compensation, which only provides coverage for deaths and injuries resulting from acts of terrorism.

Nearly every business or home needs one or more of these types of coverage. Homeowners and business owners who are not protected could end up paying thousands out of pocket for damages. The premiums for these types of policies or endorsements are affordable, so it is important to discuss options and review coverage as soon as possible.  If you have any questions, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website. 

Renters Insurance and Misconceptions with Millenials

In a recent study, researchers discovered that millenials are renting in larger numbers than ever before. Their study examined more than 1,000 people who were between the ages of 23 and 35 in an online survey in early 2014. In addition to discovering that more millenials were renting, they also found that most did not have insurance for the properties they occupied. Experts said that about 75 percent of the people surveyed did not know they could obtain renters insurance for about the same cost as a pair of movie tickets.

They concluded that there was a clear misconception with this group of young people about how important it is to have renters insurance and the true cost of coverage. Leaving belongings at risk when about $20 per month can buy adequate coverage is an unwise move. Renters often live in properties with multiple units, and they may not always realize how high the risk of fires and other disasters are in these places. Although property owners are responsible for repairs to the structure in the event of most disasters, they are not responsible for tenants’ belongings. It is up to renters to make sure their possessions are protected.

In their research, experts also found that about 40 percent of people who did not have renters coverage did not think it was necessary. They said nearly 70 percent of all young adult renters replied that the cost to replace all of their belongings would exceed $5,000. Renters who had coverage said they bought policies because they wanted the peace of mind to know they were protected.

There were some other observations researchers noted about renters coverage. Two of respondents’ biggest fears included theft and fires. About 40 percent said their biggest fear was fire damage, and about 30 percent said their biggest fear was theft. Less than five percent responded that their biggest fear was a zombie apocalypse. Nearly 25 percent of the renters surveyed said they would rescue their laptops first. This included comparisons with mobile phones, hidden cash and heirlooms. About 40 percent of respondents said they did not know stolen property was covered in a renters insurance policy. About 30 percent of participants said they did not believe party mishaps would be covered, but they were surprised to find that many types of damages to personal property or the structure that are typical at parties were covered.

About 70 percent of survey participants said they had rented for more than three years, but nearly 50 percent had rented for more than five years. More than 55 percent of those respondents did not have coverage. Since 2008, one of the nation’s top insurers paid more than $180 million in renters insurance claims. The average claim that year was about $4,000. In an effort to raise awareness of how valuable renters insurance is, one major company launched an advertisement to target millenials. At more than 85 million, this is the world’s largest demographic. The advertisement illustrated a fire and the damage sustained from it, and it outlined the importance of renters coverage. Renters insurance is quick and easy to buy, and millenials everywhere should make sure they always have it.

To learn more about this type of coverage and how affordable it is, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Common Estate Planning Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them

Estate planning is complex. There are a lot of financial, legal and family dynamics issues that interlock, and everything affects everything else. Furthermore, the estate tax is still out there, waiting to take a 40 percent chunk out of anything anyone leaves behind over $5.34 million – the current estate tax threshold and percentage for 2014. Estate planning mistakes tend to be big – and it’s worth considerable investment of time and expertise to make sure you get it right. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make with their personal estate planning, and how to avoid them.

  • Waiting too long. It’s not just that sometimes people die suddenly and unexpectedly – although that’s true, too. It’s also that your health can change over time as well. Life insurance is among the most crucial estate planning tools, for example. But getting type II diabetes, or putting on a bit of weight, or a bad blood test or elevated blood pressure reading can quickly make life insurance a much more expensive and less efficient tool. It’s important to start getting the building blocks of an estate plan into place as early as possible, when your health is at its best. Procrastination can make things much, much more difficult for yourself and your heirs.
  • Forgetting to update key documents. Life goes on. Your key planning documents should reflect that. Ensure that your last will and testament, living will, health care directives, life insurance, retirement plan documents, trusts and other key documents name the correct heirs and beneficiaries. You should also make sure any life insurance death benefits are appropriate and sufficient to cover your heirs’ liquidity needs after your death, and/or the death of your spouse.
  • Underestimating liquidity needs of your estate. Closing out an estate is expensive – and relatives often need cash now, to take care of travel costs, hotel costs, and to compensate them for time away from work while they put a home up for sale, liquidate or sell a family business, etc. And that’s before paying any kind of estate tax. Unless the ready cash is there to pay the federal tax, your heirs may be forced to sell valuable assets for much, much less than they are truly worth.
  • Going it alone. Estate planning is a lot more complex than anything you can get from a mass marketed consumer book. Leave the “For Dummies” books for the dummies. Get professional and experienced tax and legal advice, and get it early and often. Estate planning mistakes are often impossible to undo – and wind up costing your family many, many times more than these professionals make in fees.
  • Failing to provide for pets. Nobody wants a beloved pet to wind up in a kill shelter after they die or become disabled and are no longer able to care for them. Arrange for your pet’s new home… and use life insurance, a will provision or other arrangements to ensure resources are there to feed your pet and provide needed veterinary care and a forever home after you’re gone.
  • Hanging on to wealth too long. If you don’t need the money, and your kids are responsible with money, a strategic gifting program can provide immediate, tangible and important benefits to your children and grandchildren, while getting money out of your taxable estate. Gift laws are generally liberal.
  • Accidentally disinheriting stepchildren. Thousands of children live in non-adoptive or informal family arrangements where they were absolutely part of the family, but where there was never any finalized, formal adoption procedure making it legal. The problem is that state intestate laws generally make no provision for these arrangements, even well into the children’s’ adulthood. If you raised and loved children who were not legally your own, for whatever reason, it is crucial to make a will, and to look carefully at named beneficiaries on retirement plan and other documents. If you fail to do this, your state’s intestate laws will send your legacy to your estranged second cousin in prison before it will send a dime to a beloved stepchild or informally adopted child.
  • Overusing jointly-held property. While these can be convenient arrangements in the short run, improperly titling illiquid assets like real estate can cause big headaches when one of the parties on the title passes away. What happens to the ownership interest of the deceased individual? Does it pass to the surviving owner or owners? Or to the deceased individuals’ heirs? If it goes to the heirs, will they have any use for the property? Or would they rather have cash? If the latter, have you looked at some mechanism to provide a life insurance benefit to the co-owner so he or she can purchase your heirs’ interest in the property? This is a common business planning technique, it can apply to property ownership, too.
  • Exposing property to double taxation. Another negative side effect of jointly-held property is this: Unless attorneys are careful with titling, the entire property can show up in the taxable estate of the first owner to die – even if that owner only held a fractional interest. So the estate tax would accrue. And then it would accrue again, when the second owner dies. The same property gets hit twice with an estate tax. A good planner or advisor can help you avoid this issue with the use of trusts. Since a trust doesn’t die, it never incurs an estate tax. And you can control and update trust documents to ensure that you always have appropriate named beneficiaries and change them as you need to.
  • Leaving life insurance to one’s own estate. Once you do that, creditors get first crack at the assets. Probate courts will pay themselves, their attorneys, and your creditors out of anything that goes to your estate first, before your heirs see the first. If you name individual beneficiaries on life insurance, that money goes to them in a matter of days, not months – and it bypasses the IRS and any and all creditors and goes straight to your loved ones.

If you would like to discuss Estate Planning with a professional, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Questions to Consider Before Purchasing Commercial Auto Insurance

One of the most important insurance decisions for businesses or people who use their vehicles for work these days is buying commercial auto insurance. Whether it is one or several vehicles being used, a person will have to purchase insurance for all of them. There are several important issues to consider before choosing a policy. The following paragraphs outline some questions that every buyer should consider for his or her own needs and why these issues are important.

What Defines Commercial Vehicle Usage?

While some people may not use their vehicles frequently for commercial reasons, personal policies still exclude using them for commercial use. In addition to this, every policy has a definition of what is considered to be commercial use. This means policyholders must be clear about the differences to avoid having their claims denied.

What Strategies Will Reduce Commercial Vehicle Premiums?

There are several options for lowering premiums on individual or fleet policies. These depend on individual circumstances and insurers’ offerings.

How Many Vehicles And Drivers Does The Company Need?

If an insurer offers commercial coverage, the available options may be distinguishable by the number of vehicles and drivers needing insurance. If there are multiple vehicles and drivers, fleet coverage may be the wisest option. Rates vary depending on insurers and how they base their prices. However, the number of vehicles and the class they fall under both play important roles in determining pricing. In some cases where there are fewer vehicles, individual coverage may be best. Discuss concerns with an agent and compare policy options before choosing.

What Type Of Vehicle Is Being Leased Or Purchased?

Sports cars and luxury cars may seem like classy statements that earn people respect, but it is important to remember the cost of insurance. Since insurers look closely at the types of vehicles chosen, selecting a mid-size sedan with several safety features may be a smarter option.

What Are The Drivers’ Records?

Individual drivers’ records are considered closely. If they have multiple claims on their records, this will cause premiums to increase. It is important to be aware of all drivers’ current records. When there are injuries or accidents, it is crucial to make employees understand they must report them immediately.

What Kind Of Deductible Is Affordable?

The amount a person is willing to pay for a deductible will also affect the premium amount. As a rule, higher deductibles mean lower premiums, and lower deductibles mean higher premiums.

Are There Anti-Theft And Safety Devices In The Vehicle?

Theft is still one of the most important concerns in urban settings. Insurers will consider several issues when insuring a vehicle. The following are included: – Whether GPS or alarms are included in the vehicles. – The business’ location, because many urban areas are not treated the same. For example, places with higher crime rates will lead to higher premiums due to increased theft risks. – What kind of air bags, cameras, beepers and other safety features a vehicle has. – Whether or not GPS and alarms are included in the vehicles.

Will State And Federal Laws Impact Coverage?

Specific vehicles and the types of items they typically transport will be subject to federal laws. In some states, they will also be subject to additional state-level laws. It is important to review legislative requirements on both levels before shopping for insurance to understand how they will impact individual circumstances.

There may be other questions that arise when researching or considering this type of coverage. It is essential to have, so call ACBI at 203-259-7580 to discuss any concerns and make the process easier.

Making your Smart Phone “Insurance Smart”

You have the phone and the capabilities that come with it. Using the phone to manage all of your insurance affairs is not only smart, it will put you ahead of the game if you need to access your insurance information or if you end up having a claim. There is no better place than having all the information and tools on your smart phone because it is likely with you at all times. The best news is, the resources are there and putting in place what you need is a snap.

The first thing you should do is to see if your insurance company has an app for your phone. If they do, downloading such an app is a no-brainer. These apps are available as a free added value service to you. The best part is that most of these apps have a number of capabilities. This includes nearly everything from accessing your policy information to submitting a claim and everything else in between. For example, if you get into an accident, some apps included the capability to take photos and submit them along with a claims form you complete right on your phone. This means you can submit a claim within minutes after the accident happened, along with all the photos documenting the incident.

While reporting a claims incident is probably the most valuable advantage of these apps, another advantage is having access to your policy information anytime you need it. What is your policy number? When does your policy renew? When is your next payment due? How much coverage do you have? All of this is right at the tip of your fingers. For example, if you need your policy number and information for your job or you are driving kids on a field trip and the school needs it, these apps make it easy to access all this information.

While most insurance carriers do have apps, even if your carrier does not have an app, the phone itself can be a valuable resource. For claims situations, the phone’s camera is just about the best mobile documentation tool you can have. Also, if you are away from home, the ability to connect to the internet to look up resources such as the nearest towing company, the insurance company’s website, and of course your agent’s phone number can be your greatest asset. Best yet, you can use the phone’s map to get directions to the closest place you may need to get to.

In addition to insurance company apps, there are a number of other applications that may be available. One example is a home inventory app that will help you to setup and organize photos or video of your entire home inventory. This can come in handy in the unfortunate event that you have a fire or are burglarized, as insurance companies will need an entire inventory to complete forms when processing the claim. Another example of a helpful app is a document storage and sharing app such as box.net or dropbox.com. These apps allow you to store and share documents and images virtually in what is referred to as a “cloud” format. This basically means that you can upload and save images from a computer to the cloud, and then you will have access to those images from your smart phone or any other computer.

Investing a little initial time to download and setup apps and other resources to make your phone insurance smart is well worth it. It will not only save you time when you need this information, it will allow you to be significantly ahead of the game, even possibly being able to provide enough evidence to prove you are not at fault in an auto accident. You are 95% there by having a smart phone, and the benefits are too great not to take that next step in using the insurance-ready resources that are available.