Cover Those Personal Injury Loss Exposures

The homeowners policy liability section covers only “bodily injury” and “property damage.” Thus, any type of non-bodily injury such as personal injury is excluded without the attachment of a personal injury endorsement.

Examples of personal injury claims include wrongful eviction, wrongful entry, and oral or written publication that injures a party’s reputation. This latter event is becoming particularly problematic with the rapid growth in social media.

So here are some tips to pass on to your clients to carefully manage their personal injury loss exposures.

Exercise caution when posting on social media sites. Anything negative you share on the Internet is permanent. Avoid highly controversial subjects, sensitive political issues, or inflammatory remarks. Taking the high road is the best approach.

If you are blogging or communicating on social media, be careful that you have your facts straight. If it is a close call or a gray area, why say it at all?

Exercise caution in the case of product disparagement. There are lawyers and business owners who are willing to threaten lawsuits when it comes to negative comments about their products.

Provide strict ground rules for your children on social media and closely monitor their activities. Keep the computer in a public part of the home in order to closely watch their activities. Screen who your children “friend” on Facebook. Place strict limits on the amount of time your children spend online. Provide age-appropriate and concrete explanations of libel, slander, sexting, and their ramifications.

If you are on a not-for-profit board, such as a home owners’ association, exercise due care in dealing with others on sensitive matters. Be especially careful regarding newsletters that go out to the community.

Procure a personal injury endorsement with sufficient limits to provide protection for a personal injury claim. But remember that this endorsement does not provide protection for business-related activities. Also, purchase a personal umbrella policy that provides higher liability limits for a variety of personal liability claims, including personal injury.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2015
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.


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Mitigate Your Water Damage Exposure

Torrential rains and flooding continue to impact many parts of the country, causing a big jump in water damage claims. Mechanical breakdowns are also culprits when it comes to these types of losses. But there are many ways you can protect your home from these unfortunate events, including the following.
◾Procure flood insurance, even if your home is not in a high-risk flood zone, as many of these losses occur in moderate- to low-risk flood zones. For high-value homes, also look into excess flood insurance available from private insurers.
◾Your home’s drainage system should be checked to verify that proper water drainage occurs. For example, gutter downspouts should extend the proper distance from the foundation.
◾Your yard should be properly graded to slope away from your home to allow surface water to adequately drain. French drains can also assist in this process.
◾A sump pump system should be considered in your basement to keep unwanted water out of this vulnerable part of your home.
◾Periodically check your washing machine hoses since these hose failures cause millions of dollars of water losses each year. Hoses should be replaced at the first sign of wear. Consider upgrading to the heavy-duty wire mesh hoses or stainless steel hoses during this replacement.
◾Ascertain the location of your main water shutoff valve. Water shutoff valves should be installed on water lines under toilets and sinks and water lines leading to outside faucets.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2015
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.


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Weigh the Pros and Cons of Travel Insurance

The summer season is now upon us, which means vacation plans for millions of Americans are taking shape. One loss exposure many people fail to consider concerns vacation-related losses. Travel insurance can be purchased to cover this potentially large exposure.

Travel insurance is a specific type of insurance that is available to a person who will travel in the near future. It is designed to protect an insured from a wide variety of travel-related losses, including trip cancellation or interruption; emergency medical events; emergency evacuation; lost or delayed baggage, personal effects, passports, and visas; and legal expenses.

It is important to look at the pros and cons of travel insurance and the scenarios in which it may be a wise purchase. On the positive side, travel insurance is probably a wise idea for the person who engages in adventure travel. For example, say that you are hiking in the Andes and are seriously injured in a fall. You need to be airlifted off the mountain, with a cost of $50,000. Travel insurance would be invaluable in this scenario.

Indeed, even nonadventure travelers to foreign countries should seriously consider travel insurance that provides medical care. Prior to this decision, however, you should check with your current health insurer to see if it provides coverage in the country you are visiting. If your existing policy does not provide coverage, travel insurance is probably a wise choice.

If your health is a bit on the precarious side, travel insurance may be a good idea, particularly for complex trips involving numerous flights and connections. If your medical problems necessitate a cancellation or delay in the trip, your travel insurance will typically pay your associated costs. Be aware, however, that any health conditions you have may need to be disclosed up front to the insurer.

Another situation where travel insurance may be advisable is the planning of a destination wedding, in which a huge chunk of the expenses are nonrefundable, such as airline passes for family friends and venue reservations. If an event interferes with the wedding, the nonrefundable expenses could be large and daunting.

On the flip side, travel insurance can be expensive. The cost may be anywhere from $200 to $400 to insure a $6,000 domestic trip. In this case, you are purchasing travel insurance for financial annoyance. Travel insurance should be purchased for financial disaster, such as the airlifting example above, and not for financial annoyance.

Travel insurance often contains a host of exclusions. Thus, consumers should read the policy carefully to see what is and is not covered. For example, some travel insurance policies may not cover medical evacuation or may have severe restrictions on this coverage.

Lastly, deal with a reputable travel agent when deciding to procure this coverage. This travel agent will properly vet the travel insurance company, verifying that it is financially stable and has been in business for many years. There have been cases of financially insolvent travel insurers denying claims right and left due to financial difficulties.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2015
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Still need health insurance in 2015??

As your broker, I’m here to share helpful information and answer your questions. In an effort to assist people who were unaware of the tax penalties for not having medical coverage in 2014, the federal government has provided additional time to obtain medical coverage by April 30, 2015. This extra time should help people obtain medical coverage and reduce their Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax penalty in 2015.

You may be able to enroll in medical coverage for yourself and your family by April 30, 2015, if you meet the below requirements:
•Live in a state with a federal health care exchange and are not currently enrolled in 2015 medical coverage
•Attest that, when you filed your 2014 tax return, you paid the penalty for not having minimum essential coverage in 2014; and,
•Attest that you first became aware of the individual mandate after the 2015 open enrollment period (i.e. after February 15, 2015).

I can help guide you through the process of determining if you meet the requirements, how you can potentially reduce tax penalties for not having the minimum essential health coverage, and how to apply for health coverage.

Please contact me today at 865-675-6500.

Kym Clevenger

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Coaching Your Teenage Driver

Research indicates that the greatest risk of auto accidents is among teenage drivers. The California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that the fatal crash rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is 2.7 times higher than for drivers of all ages. So here are some tips for parents to pass on to their sons and daughters who are now getting behind the wheel for the first time.

Establish initial ground rules for the use of the car. These rules, perhaps in the form of a contract, should include restrictions on the number of friends in the car, circumscribed use of the radio, where and how the car may be used, and curfew times. Curtailment of the right to drive should be spelled out.

Ban cell phone use. Parents should emphasize that the cell phone must be turned off and unavailable while the teen is driving.

Prohibit drinking and driving. Parents should emphasize that there be no exceptions to this ironclad rule.

Keep distractions to a minimum. This includes talking with friends, eating, and flipping the radio dial.

Practice defensive driving. Techniques include maintaining a safe distance from cars ahead of the driver, closely monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes, and taking a defensive driving class.

Follow the speed limit. Research indicates that high driving speed is a significant contributor to fatal teen accidents.

Choose a safe auto for your teen. Autos with excellent crash safety records and the latest safety equipment, including air bags and electronic stability control, could reduce your teen’s chances of being injured in an auto accident.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2015
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Be Aware of Winter Driving Hazards

Severe winter weather can be both intimidating and dangerous for automobile travel. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that over 500,000 automobile accidents in the United States are caused each year by snow, sleet, and ice on the nation’s roads, highways, and freeways. And nearly 2,000 motorists per year are killed due to these treacherous weather conditions. So here are some winter weather driving tips to pass on to your clients and prospects.

Watch weather reports or check the Internet prior to a long-distance trip. Delay the trip if bad road conditions are expected due to snow, sleet, or ice.

Dress warmly, keep your cell phone by your side, make sure you have at least half a tank of gas, and bring an emergency kit with you. A warm blanket should be part of the kit.

Accelerate or decelerate slowly on snow or ice. Drive slower than normal.

The normal following distance of 4 seconds for dry pavement should be raised to 9 or 10 seconds for winter weather conditions, giving you a wider safety margin.

Try not to power up hills, since applying extra gas on snow- or ice-covered hills can start your wheels spinning. Instead, try to get more inertia prior to the hill since this momentum will help carry you to the top.

If you become snowbound, stay with your vehicle and phone for help. Tie a brightly covered piece of cloth to your antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. Put your emergency flashers on as well.

If possible, periodically start the engine and heater to maintain some level of warmth in your vehicle.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2015
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.


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Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes


Being prepared and informed may help you to avoid the messy and often expensive issue of frozen pipes. The American Red Cross provides information and suggestions around how to prevent water pipes in the home from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action

Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

To Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Future Protection

Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.

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