Archive for December, 2010

Avoid Turkey Fryer Dangers

Posted on December 21, 2010. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , |

With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts turn to turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Delicious deep-fried turkey, historically prevalent in the southern states, is growing in popularity around the country, thanks to celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse. The only problem is that the turkey fryers used to create this succulent dish are unsafe and not certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

Turkey fryers are devices, resembling a large commercial coffee pot, that are filled with oil heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Turkeys are placed in this hot oil to fry the birds. The big problem, though, is that people often fill the fryers too full of oil, and it overflows when the bird is placed inside. This cascading oil hits the heating flames below, causing an instant fire. In addition, the turkey fryers are often quite unstable and easy to tip over. Lastly, many of these fryers lack adequate thermostat controls. Thus, the units have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion. For these reasons, UL does not certify any turkey fryers with its trusted UL mark.

UL and other safety organizations strongly urge people to discard their existing turkey fryers. But for those people who insist on using their turkey fryers, UL offers the following tips:

  • Always use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other burnable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce the chance of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended since most units lack proper thermostat controls. If people do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets close to the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer. Test it beforehand with water.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby.

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

Copyright 2010
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Living in a Customized World

Posted on December 17, 2010. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

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We live in a world of customization and upgrades. You can order thousands of drink combinations at Starbucks, Burger King wants you to “have it your way,” and if you are treating someone to an iPad this Christmas you have the option of adding a personalized inscription.

Then there are the BIG ticket items, like automobiles and homes. If you’ve recently built a home, renovated or updated a home, bought a car with add-on packages, or customized a car, it is a good time to visit with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage.

Your Home Insurance. Most estimates demonstrate that more than half of the single-family dwellings in America are underinsured by approximately 22%. If your home is insured for what you paid for it, or the appraised value, it’s possible you are underinsured. The key to properly insuring your home is calculating the cost to rebuild it at current construction costs, less the value of the land. This is called “Insurance to Value.” Things to consider, in addition to materials and labor, include: debris removal prior to rebuilding, architectural/design fees, inflation due to the effect of a major catastrophe, and the impact of local building codes. All of these can be addressed by your homeowners policy, but they may require additional endorsements or increases in the amount of insurance purchased. It is also a good idea to consult with your insurance agent if you have recently renovated or upgraded your home, to ensure your coverage is adequate.

Your Automobile Insurance. Make sure your agent is aware of any add-on packages you purchased when buying your car, or if you customized your car in anyway after purchase. Your auto insurance may fully exclude, or limit, the coverage for items that are considered “upgrades” or “customizations.” Examples: adding custom grilles, custom wheels, bedliners, etc. In some cases, endorsements may be added to provide additional coverage in the event of damage.

The most important thing to remember: ultimately you are responsible for making sure you are appropriately covered. Your insurance agent is available to help guide you through the process. Therefore, it is important for you to consult regularly with your agent and whenever your situation changes.

If you don’t have an agent, your agent does not encourage this type of conversation, or you would like insurance quotes, contact us. We are here to help!

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Don’t Blog Yourself into a Lawsuit!

Posted on December 15, 2010. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

The Internet is a fascinating place that is opening up new forms of social interaction, activities, and organization of information. Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are creating revolutionary ways to interact with people all over the world. In addition, websites such as Amazon, Yelp, and Angie’s List allow people to post online reviews of businesses of all types. The explosive growth in these types of activities in the last few years is truly amazing.

These undertakings, however, have a dangerous element. Blogs and postings of a negative nature (even if they are true) can result in unpleasant and costly lawsuits against the author. Note that it may still take time before there is a good body of caselaw to support freedom of speech online in blogs, forums, and social media publishing sites. And remember that freedom of speech does not mean you can say anything you want anywhere. Freedom of speech implies responsibility; its use should generally be for the benefit of the greater good. So the following are some risk management tips to consider before posting or blogging negative comments on the Internet.

  • Check your facts carefully and thoroughly document your sources. Truth is a complete defense in a libel case, although you still may run into expensive legal bills defending yourself. If you find that your facts are incorrect, remove the inaccurate content and consider issuing a correction or retraction.
  • If you purchase a product online and have an unpleasant experience with the seller, it might be wise not to post a negative comment or rating on the website. If you do post an adverse comment, be sure that it is objectively written, based on solid facts concerning your own direct experience, and not written in an inflammatory manner.
  • If you are a blog master and someone is posting false and incendiary statements on your site, remember that you may be held liable for these remarks since you are the “publisher.”
  • Seek protection for your rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, has a mission to safeguard the rights of those who use digital media and to provide legal guides to bloggers both large and small. It also offers helpful ideas to those bloggers and online posters to avoid libel suits.
  • Make certain your homeowners policy includes a personal injury endorsement to cover libel and slander suits. Most standard insurance company policy forms do not provide this automatically, and it can be added for a small additional premium. Also, consider buying a personal umbrella policy, which generally provides broader personal injury coverage.
  • If your blog is a money-maker, look into business liability coverage since the typical homeowners policy contains numerous business-related exclusions and restrictions. If you operate a small home-based business in conjunction with your blog or online business, consider requesting that a home-based business endorsement be added to your homeowners policy.

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

Copyright 2010
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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A Fact of Life . . . Insurance

Posted on December 14, 2010. Filed under: Individual Life & Health | Tags: , , , , , , |

No one likes to think about the worst happening, but it does happen from time to time. And, when the worst does happen, it is indiscriminant in who it may visit. Not preparing for the possibility though, can compound the difficulties caused.

If you are a one income family, do you have a plan in place should the income earner die? If you are a stay at home parent with young children, do you know how your daily contribution would be replaced should you die? Running a simple calculation of what it would cost to hire a nanny, a housekeeper, and a cook, quickly demonstrates the funds that can be necessary to keep a household afloat.

Life insurance policies can ease the complications of a life changing loss, by providing the means necessary to continue life as you know it. Replacing the income of the main bread winner, will allow a stay at home mom to stay at home. Providing the funds necessary to pay for the household and childcare responsibilities previously handled by a stay at home parent, makes it possible to afford those services without needing to increase your current income level.

Even if you are single, life insurance can provide the money necessary to pay for burial costs and outstanding loans you may have. In the absence of insurance, the burden of these things will fall upon your family.

Life insurance can also be used to bequeath money to beloved family members, or to benefit a charitable organization.

Life insurance is like any other policy, you can’t buy it after the fact. And, rates can be extremely affordable depending on your age and health status. It’s never too early to think about, but it can easily be too late.

If you have questions about life insurance, or would like to request free quotes, contact us today.

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Professional Liability Claims Triggers

Posted on December 10, 2010. Filed under: Commercial | Tags: , , , , |

If you have Professional Liability coverage, make sure you understand whether it is a “claims-made” or “claims-made-and-reported” policy. The latter can be a trap.

Both types of policies trigger coverage when the claim is made. The difference lies in when the claim must be reported to the insuring company. In a “claims-made” policy, the claim must occur during the policy term and be reported “as soon as possible” or “as soon as practical,” which may be after the end of the policy term. A “claims-made-and-reported” policy has much more stringent reporting provisions, which may cause issues for claims arising late in a policy period if they are not reported before the policy term ends or shortly after.

Take some time to understand your coverage. For Professional Liability insurance quotes, call us. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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Is Umbrella Insurance for You?

Posted on December 10, 2010. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

To help you answer the question above, it is important to understand what Umbrella Insurance is and the potential impact of not having this protective tool covering your life and family.

Personal Umbrella is a low-cost insurance policy that provides liability coverage beyond your home and auto policies. It includes coverages that may not be included in your home policy such as libel and slander.

Consider the following scenario. You are on a golfing outing with some friends. The weather is nice and the birds are singing. Caught up in the moment, you fall behind your pals who are marching up onto the 10th green. You are driving the cart and are hurrying to catch up when you hit a pedestrian who steps in front of you unexpectedly from the side of the cart path. The collision leaves the pedestrian paralyzed. Now you are being sued for $3,200,000 and you only have $300,000 worth of liability insurance on your homeowners policy.

Where will you come up with the money? A $5,000,000 Personal Umbrella policy can protect you. With Personal Umbrella coverage, a little money goes a long way. The answer to our question? YES, seriously consider it!

Contact us today for your FREE quote. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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Business Owners Beware

Posted on December 10, 2010. Filed under: Commercial | Tags: , , , , , |

Did you know that your General Liability policy may contain known-loss and late-notice provisions? These provisions and your failure to act promptly may cause your insurance company to deny your claims. If any occurrence which may result in a claim is not reported promptly to your insurance company your insurer may deny your claim.

Additionally, a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy may not cover all exposures, damages, claims and suits arising from the actions of its individual officers. A Directors & Officers (D&O) policy typically covers “wrongful acts” by individuals with the capacity to make decisions on behalf of an entity. For those acts that may be excluded from a D&O policy, other professional liability coverage may be needed.

Check with your agent to ensure you have the necessary protection for your company. Or, give us a call. It’s a great time to look into both General Liability and Directors & Officers coverage. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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Setting Yourself Apart as an Employer

Posted on December 10, 2010. Filed under: Group Life & Health | Tags: , , , , |

One of the easiest ways to set yourself apart as an employer today, is by offering a benefits package. Because of the recession, even large companies are cutting and, in some cases, eliminating the benefits they offer their employees. Being a small to mid-sized employer should not mean you are unable to provide health insurance benefits.

While employers are required to contribute a minimum of 50% of the employee’s premium, there are tax breaks available to help offset the cost. Plus, there is no question that a benefits package is one of the best ways to attract and keep high-quality, experienced, employees. Additionally, individuals with health benefits are more likely to visit a doctor when they get sick, meaning quicker recovery times and less sick days. Employee morale can also be positively impacted, when employers communicate that they value their staff and care for them.

It can be a daunting task to investigate group health options, as the number of companies offering coverage and the variety of plans available is expansive. However, there are affordable options for both PPO and HSA plans, for most employers. An independent agent can provide valuable assistance by collecting quotes from multiple insurers and identifying plans that best suit your company’s needs. It is important to know that utilizing an agent DOES NOT affect your premiums. And, when quoting identical small group plans with the same insurer, the cost will be the same regardless of the agent you use. Because of this, it is most important that you identify an agent who is experienced, knowledgable, detail oriented, and focused on meeting your expressed needs.

We want to be your advocate. Contact us for customized, personal attention, focused on your expressed needs. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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Things they don’t teach you in school . . .

Posted on December 10, 2010. Filed under: Individual Life & Health | Tags: , , , |

For individuals who don’t have access to group health coverage, it’s easy to think, “I’m healthy. I don’t need health insurance.” But, health insurance functions very much like auto insurance. We all know you can’t buy collision coverage for an accident that has already happened. The same is true about health insurance. The best time to purchase it is while you are healthy, because even relatively simple illnesses can affect both the cost of coverage and your eligibility for it.

There are health benefits to maintaining coverage, as well. Research shows that people who have health insurance are much more likely to get routine physicals. Because of the recent healthcare reform, most policies now include preventative care benefits that are covered 100% by the insurer, with no annual benefit maximums. For this reason, the cost of an annual physical should not prevent you from getting one. 

Ultimately, the utilization of preventative care benefits everyone with insurance, because it aids in the early detection of diseases and minimizes the cost of treatment. When claims are reduced overall, both you and the insurance company pay less, which can positively impact premiums. There is also a correlation to the level and quality of care you receive. Individuals with coverage are more likely to have a specific doctor they visit, which directly impacts the continuity of care received.

Individual health insurance can be confusing, as there are a lot of companies and a wide variety of plans from which to choose. If you need help navigating through it all, give us a call. We can help you set a healthy course leading to peace of mind. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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It Only Takes a Second . . .

Posted on December 9, 2010. Filed under: Individual Life & Health | Tags: , , , |

The National Safety Council reported in 2009 that a disabling injury happens every second in America. How would your “rainy day” fund hold out, if you were unable to work for 6 months or longer? Social Security Disability benefits provide some relief to those out of work at least a year. But, it can take months for the benefits to begin paying, and payouts are usually well below pre-disability income amounts.

If you are lucky enough to work for an employer who provides long-term disability coverage, you may still benefit from supplemental coverage provided through an individual policy. Standard group policies will replace up to 60% of your base salary, but generally limit benefit payouts to two years. An individual policy will provide an additional 10-20% of your income. Plus, the coverage continues even if you change jobs.

If you don’t understand how your benefits through your employer work, ask. Some things you may not be aware of:

  1. Short-term and long-term disability are very different in the amount of time they provide benefits and for what types of disability. The waiting period before benefits begin can also vary greatly from policy to policy.
  2. The best time to apply for individual coverage is while you are employed. And, you CAN NOT get coverage once you are disabled.
  3. Disability coverage ends if/when you leave your job (unless you are actually receiving disability payments).
  4. Similarly, life insurance provided through your place of employment is not always portable. And, even if you are able to take it with you, can be cost-prohibitive to maintain.

The MOST important things to know about disability, and life, insurance is that the best time to apply for it is while you are healthy. The time is now!

Contact us for more information, or to obtain quotes. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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