Erie Auto Insurance "Xtras"

By: Nicole Vattimo

Erie insurance is a terrific company that is constantly receiving industry recognition for its claims and customer satisfaction. But, we at Forbes Insurance wanted to take a minute to shout-out Erie for the ways it helps clients through superior coverage offerings. The following coverages are standard in Erie personal auto policies, while not all are automatically offered by other carriers.

Check out Erie's blog, "Understanding Auto Insurance: ERIE 'Xtras,'" for more on the below included coverages:

  1. Road Trip Coverage - Erie offers up to $75 per passenger in the vehicle for travel expenses if you don’t reach your destination and aren’t close to home.
     
  2. Pet Protection - If your pet is hurt in a covered accident while riding in your car, Erie will help cover the vet treatment costs up to $500 per pet (up to two pets, with a total limit of $1,000).
     
  3. Locksmith - If you lock your keys in your car and carry comprehensive or collision coverage, Erie will reimburse you up to $75 for the cost of locksmith services on your insured car.
     
  4. New Car Addition - Erie gives you 7 days to add a new vehicle to your policy, so if you forget initially, it's okay. Just be sure to contact your agent within 7 days so you have the proper coverage.
     
  5. Personal Items - If personal items are damaged in a car accident, Erie gives you up to $350 toward your personal items not covered by other insurance.

For any questions about your exact coverages, always feel free to contact your Erie agent.

Source: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/underst...

The Benefits Of Having An Insurance Agent

While purchasing insurance online can be convenient, there are true benefits to working with an agent, in-person for your insurance needs. Agents are required to have industry licenses and complete continuing education; meaning that when you need guidance and advice, they are equipped to give it. Their industry knowledge can help with everything from choosing the appropriate coverages, to navigating the claims process.

Technology is great, but sometimes having a real person to guide you is better.

Smartphones Are Killing Americans

By: Nicole Vattimo

Here is a very interesting article, originally published on Bloomberg, that discusses the surge in U.S. traffic fatalities and how they are linked to smartphone use, but are not being properly reported as such. The article, "Smartphones are killing Americans, but nobody’s counting," states that over the past two years, traffic fatalities have increased by 14.4 percent.

"In 2016 alone, more than 100 people died every day in or near vehicles in America, the first time the country has passed that grim toll in a decade," the article reports.

The problem is that many of these fatalities are not being attributed to distraction or mobile-phone use. Why is that an issue? Well, because regulators are not getting an accurate picture of just how dangerous cell phones are for drivers, and how many accidents they are actually causing. Without solid evidence (think numbers and stats) to indicate how many accidents are caused by cell-phone use behind the wheel, lawmakers and regulators can not push for new and improved laws or safety features.

The article talks about how cell-phone use has changed too; how actual calls are not happening as often as texting and social media. But, I would take it one step further and suggest that using our phones for music in our cars is another distraction. My family has Apple Music, which does sync with my car's stereo, but many times to change playlists, I find I have to look at my phone.

Additionally, have you seen the technology packed into most cars today?! Most new cars have touch screens, which, in my opinion, are tricky to use while driving, that can display: music options, navigation, car diagnostics, movies, and more. It's insane how many distractions are built right into the car stereo today.

Take a read of the full article here: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/smartphones-are-killing-americans-but-nobody%E2%80%99s-counting/ar-AAtQOp7?li=BBnb7Kz

Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/...

Zombies Have Bad Days Too

Check out Erie's latest blockbuster...and it's perfect for the season. Have a wonderful Fall and a Happy Halloween from all of us here at Forbes Insurance.

With all the buzz around the new season of AMC's The Walking Dead, what if a literal zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow? While it's highly unlikely that zombies will really take over, it's good to know that insurance is there to protect you when things go wrong, like a telephone pole falling on your house or your TV getting fried by an electrical surge.

Erie Launches Teen Driver-Safety Initiative Called Shift

By: Nicole Vattimo

Shift is Erie's initiative to help inform teens about safe driving and get them engaged through safe driving pledges, completing challenges, creating and sharing content through the program's website, and referring friends to the contest.

Shift began on Sept. 11, and Erie recently reported more than 1,000 students are participating, representing schools across Erie's footprint. The primary goal of the program is to communicate important facts to help keep teens safe. Check out Erie's graphic below for some of these staggering statistics.

And, if you're interested in learning more about the initiative, visit jointheshift.org.

Photo Credit: Erie Insurance

Photo Credit: Erie Insurance

Why You Should Consider Life Insurance If You Own A Business

By: William Forbes

We have a quote printed on the wall of our office from financial guru, Suze Orman, which says, "If a child, a spouse, a life partner, or a parent depends on you and your income, you need life insurance." This quote sums up pretty perfectly why you would need life insurance on a personal level. But, what about the people who depend on you in a business capacity?

Are you the owner of a business, or are you a partner in a business? If yes, then you have people who depend on you for the success of the business and their financial livelihood.

When a key member of a business passes, it can mean a few things for his/her family, as well as for the other employees: the sale of the business, the retention of the business, or liquidation of the business. The point here is to avoid liquidation, as it often results in a below market value.

There are several types of life insurance policies that can be beneficial for business use and to help prevent a company's liquidation upon the passing of an owner or key employee:

  1. Buy and Sell Policy. In a sole proprietorship, this policy is designed to allow competent associates of the deceased to purchase the business, using life insurance for funding. This means that if anything ever happened to you as the owner, your associates would have the proper funding needed to purchase the business and keep it running. Or, alternatively, your family would have the funds needed to keep the company running through a proper sale process.
     
  2. Cross Purchase Plan. In a partnership, each partner would purchase a buy and sell agreement on the others, naming himself as the beneficiary and the others as insureds. This would give each partner the proper funding to purchase a set share of the deceased partner's interest.
     
  3. Key Person. Most often used by corporations, here a business owner would take a life insurance policy out on a key employee (think CEO or other top executive). If the key employee ever died, the company would be the beneficiary of the policy, which would provide funding while a replacement was being trained.

These are just a few examples of using a life insurance policy to protect your business. For more information on these and other options, talk to our agency. Life insurance can provide needed security for more than just your immediate family members.

Lane-Departure And Blind-Spot Technology In Cars Are Reducing Accidents Says IIHS

By: Nicole Vattimo

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) recently published findings that indicate lane-departure and blind-spot warnings in cars are effectively reducing accidents. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Lane-departure warnings lower rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes of all severity by 11 percent.
     
  • Lane-departure warnings lower the rates of injury in these types of crashes by 21 percent.
     
  • The IIHS feels the above results are modest; perhaps because many drivers turn off lane-departure functionality in their vehicles.
     
  • If all passenger vehicles had been equipped with lane-departure warning, nearly 85,000 police-reported crashes and more than 55,000 injuries would have been prevented in 2015.
     
  • Blind-spot detection lowers the rate of all lane-change crashes by 14 percent and the rate of lane-change crashes with injuries by 23 percent.
     
  • Police reports include information on the circumstances of a crash, making it possible to look specifically at the types of crashes that particular technologies are designed to address.

Take a read of the full report for more information about these findings and how the studies were conducted: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/stay-within-the-lines-lane-departure-warning-blind-spot-detection-help-drivers-avoid-trouble

PA Employers May See Workers' Compensation Rate Increases

By: William Forbes

Pennsylvania employers could be facing an increase in workers' compensation rates starting in November, due to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. 

According to this recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The court struck down a key part of the workers’ compensation law passed in 1996 to limit benefits for the most severe workplace injuries. Under that provision, an employer’s insurance provider could request that injured workers undergo a medical assessment after two years out of the workplace."

If the medical assessment found that the employee was less than 50% injured at that time, then the insurer was able to cap partial benefits at 10 years. However, if the employee was found to be more than 50% injured, he/she was able to receive full benefits for life.

The new ruling dictates that these medical assessments will not happen, which means more workers could end up receiving lifetime benefits. As a result of these and other changes made by the court, the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau proposed a cost hike that, if approved, will take effect after November 1.

For more information on the rate hike, and the court's ruling, see the full article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/career-workplace/2017/08/24/Workers-compensation-insurance-court-ruling-premiums/stories/201708230302

For questions about your workers' compensation policy, contact your agent. 

Erie Customers Can Now Start Auto Glass Claims Online

By: Nicole Vattimo

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about what to do if you have a cracked windshield (link here). Today, I want to follow up on that post to share that Erie Insurance customers can now go to erieinsurance.com to start an auto glass or windshield claim online. This is an easy and convenient way for customers to quickly get a glass claim reported and be connected with Erie's glass partner, Safelite® Solutions.

How To Get Started:
1. Navigate to erieinsurance.com
2. Once on the website, use the top navigation bar to go to "Service" and then to "Start A Claim"
3. On the "Start A Claim" page, use the link for "Starting an auto glass claim online"

Once you start the online glass-claim form, you will be asked to submit information including your policy number, phone number, and details of the claim (e.g. when, how, and where the damages occurred). Safelite will collect the claim details and follow up via phone call to schedule the repair. Safelite can also work through email or text, based on the customer's preferences.

If you have further questions or concerns about reporting an auto glass claim, always feel free to reach out to your Erie agent.

Could Oversharing On Social Media Cost You Your Insurance In The Future?

By: William Forbes

This article from Consumer Reports interviews representatives from the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Insurance Information Institute on this subject and uncovers some interesting info.

The idea here is that by sharing photos of your family away from home on vacation, or posting about new and expensive purchases, you could be opening yourself up to theft. So, by sharing these types of posts, you could be violating your insurance policy's "reasonable care" clause, "which stipulates that policyholders do everything they can to make their home burglar-resistant and secure from risk," says the article.

Please don't be alarmed. We've never heard of an insurance company denying a home claim because of social media; and the experts in the article don't say that they know of a claim being denied either. But, they do posit, in the future, insurers may review people's social media activity in certain instances.

Beyond the issue of insurance claims, however, I think this article makes a good point about not oversharing on social media in order to protect your safety, home, and belongings. It's smart, especially in today's internet-connected society, to protect yourself by not letting the world know where you are and what you are doing at any given moment.

The article suggests waiting until you return home to post vacation photos, and to be careful of how much personal information you are giving away in comments. For example, try not to disclose where you are vacationing, how long you're there, your hotel details, etc.

check out the full article for more information: https://www.consumerreports.org/social-media/is-social-media-putting-your-home-at-risk/

What To Do If You Have A Cracked Windshield

By: Nicole Vattimo

With the increased activity on roads today, it's inevitable that at some point you'll likely have to deal with a chipped or cracked windshield. The good news is, most insurance companies will cover your windshield if you are carrying comprehensive coverage. 

Below are a couple key things to remember regarding windshield damage and claims:

1. Get your windshield repaired as quickly as possible. Getting the windshield looked at and repaired by a professional shortly after the incident is important for two reasons. Firstly, some insurance companies (including Erie) will waive your deductible if the windshield can be repaired, rather than replaced. That means a repair is free. However, if you wait around and let a small chip turn into a larger crack, you may have to replace the windshield entirely - meaning you will likely be subject to your comprehensive deductible. Secondly, a damaged windshield is less strong and therefore provides less protection for the vehicle's occupants. This matters if you are involved in an accident.

2. Take your car to a certified auto-glass installation technician. Make sure the professional you work with to repair your windshield is certified. You want to be sure the windshield is installed properly to avoid future issues with its functionality. Additionally, many cars have front-facing cameras mounted in the windshield, and most automakers specify that these cameras need to be recaliberated after a windshield replacement. You want to be sure the technician working on your car knows how to do this properly. 

Erie makes it super easy for customers to get their windshields repaired properly through the company's partnership with Safelite® Solutions. Call your Erie agent to get contact information for Erie's dedicated Safelite line.  

For more information about getting a windshield repaired or replaced, check out Erie's blog: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/handle-windshield-repair.

Who Insures Interior Improvements In Your Rented Office Space

By: Nicole Vattimo

If you lease a building or office for your business, did you know it is your responsibility to insure interior improvements and alterations? If you are renovating the interior of your rented office space, talk to your insurance agent about insuring things like: flooring, light fixtures, wall coverings, wiring, plumbing, cabinets, shelving, or anything else that is attached to the ceiling, walls, or floors.

It is not usually your landlord's responsibility to insure these types of items. And, if you don't add them to your business policy, you may be underinsured.

For more on this topic, check out ErieSensehttps://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/business-betterment-general-business?utm_source=businessbuzz&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Agent_June_BusinessSense_27062017_141234&utm_content=22957579&utm_term=_141234_141241.

Volvo Plans To Phase Out Gasoline Engines

By: William Forbes

Bloomberg just reported that Volvo is planning to phase out the sale of gasoline engines. The auto maker says starting in 2019 all new models will run on hybrid or fully-electric motors. "That means that by about 2025 Volvo will make its last full-gasoline or diesel car -- the first major manufacturer to make such a pledge," said the article.

For more, check out the full article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-05/volvo-cars-joins-electric-race-with-plan-for-five-battery-models.

Commercial Auto Policies: Hired and Non-Owned Coverage

By: William Forbes

This is a great article from ErieSense on commercial auto policies and some of the coverages they offer (link here). I wanted to specifically highlight something called "hired and non-owned" coverage.

This coverage protects you, the business owner, when your employees are driving their personal vehicles for work use. And, also, when your employees rent vehicles for business use. It provides liability coverage if you are sued following an accident.

It's important to remember that coverage is not automatically extended to an employee's personal vehicle, when he/she is driving it for work use. To get this protection, you must have hired and non-owned coverage on your business auto policy.

If you are a business owner with a commercial auto policy, talk to your agent to verify your coverages.

(Full link to article: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/business-auto-coverage)

Making Your Home Playground Safe

By: Nicole Vattimo

ErieSense posted an article that's especially relevant in these summer months, when the kiddies are out of school. The post addresses home playgrounds and how to keep them safe for use. The post advises homeowners to do these six things:

  1. Measure out a distinct play space.
  2. Make sure the playset is installed properly.
  3. Install a shock-absorbing surface beneath the playground (i.e. mulch, wood chips or shredded rubber).
  4. Check the hardware for sharp, exposed edges, and to be sure it's not rusted.
  5. Be sure there are no fall hazards by installing guardrails on ramps or platforms.
  6. Perform regular monthly maintenance on the playset.

For more information on these tips, check out Erie's blog post: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/home-playground-safety.

For questions about your homeowners insurance, always contact your agent.

What Is My Policy Declarations Page?

By: Nicole Vattimo

If you are asking: What is my policy declarations page and what can I find there? This post is for you!

The declarations page of your policy is where you will find much of the pertinent information about the insurance policy. It provides information about the insured (that's you), the policy, and the insurance company.

Usually at the top of the page, your name and address is listed, along with your policy number, the dates of the policy period, and your agent's name and contact info.

Moving down the page, you will see a description of the vehicle(s) or property being covered.

An auto declarations page provides the make and model, VIN, and usage info (i.e. pleasure, work commute, etc) for all vehicles on the policy. You will also see a listing of the drivers included on the policy. Along with this info, your auto coverages, the cost of those coverages, and any deductibles will be given for each vehicle.

On a property declarations page, you will see a description of the property, the estimated replacement cost of the dwelling, and the amount of insurance provided for the dwelling, other structures, and personal property. The declarations page will also provide the amount of liability coverage provided, and any deductibles that apply to the policy.

In addition to information about the vehicle(s) or property being insured, the declarations page will list your total policy premium, and will usually list any discounts and/or endorsements you may have.

Because of all the information it provides, the declarations page is typically where you will look to answer questions about your coverages or the costs of those coverages. However, always contact your insurance agent for detailed information about your policy, or to help you with any questions you may have.

Why Are Car Insurance Prices Rising?

By: William Forbes

Being an insurance agent, I get asked every day, "Why is the cost of my car insurance going up?" And, the majority of the time this question isn't even coming from one of my clients. I get asked by friends, family, my supermarket cashier...it seems to be a question on everyone's mind.

Believe it or not, there are some very specific reasons for the increased cost of auto insurance; and none of them have to do with insurance companies being out to get us (I hear this suggestion quite a bit as an agent, too).

Forbes recently published an article (link here) that does a nice job of explaining some of the reasons. As stated in the article, "the driving force in the upward march in premiums is an auto insurance industry that’s been finding it increasingly difficult to sustain healthy profit margins."

This means auto insurers are finding it difficult to make a profit off insurance premiums, when the expense of running an insurance company is considered.

The article points to a few main reasons why profits have been down for insurers:

  1. More costly accidents. Both the severity of accidents and the number of fatal car accidents have been trending upward. So, fulfilling these types of claims, particularly those that include high medical costs, is very costly.
     
  2. A decline in investment revenue. The article explains that insurance companies hold large investment portfolios, and when interest rates and investment income is lower, they can't offset losses.
     
  3. Bad weather. As comprehensive claims from bad weather (tornadoes, hail, flooding) continue to rise, so does the amount insurance companies pay out to their insureds. I would also add to this that cars are getting more expensive to repair - the cost of parts is increasing, and added technology features make what used to be simple repairs, more costly. For example, windshields now have cameras in them, and this increases the cost of replacing them.

For a deeper dive into these three points, check out the full article on Forbes.com. And, if you have questions about your policy, always feel free to contact your agent.

(Here is the full link to the article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ccasazza/2017/05/23/why-are-car-insurance-rates-still-going-up/#3315a8cb7753)

What To Do With Your Home Insurance If You Plan to Rent Out Your House

By: William Forbes

We've seen an increase in the number of our clients who have decided to rent their houses out, rather than sell them. If you plan to do this, it's important to adjust your home insurance policy to be sure you are properly protected.

First, you will want a renters policy, which will protect your home's structure and the small amount of personal property (furniture, decor, etc.) you may have inside the home. You'll also receive liability coverage, in the event that someone is injured on the property.

But, almost more importantly, carrying a renters policy as a landlord will provide protection if there is a home claim that prevents your renter from living on the property for a time. In this case, your renters policy would provide up to 12 months of fair rental value. This means during the time the house is out of commission, you will not lose the rental income that typically comes from your renter.

Once you become a landlord, it is also important to talk to your renter about carrying his/her own renters policy. This protects a renter's personal property, and provides important liability coverage to your tenant. It might also be beneficial to be listed as an additional insured on your tenant's policy, which provides you an important line of sight to his/her policy and coverages.

Give us a call if you have questions about renters or tenant policies.

A Low Credit Score Could Mean Higher Home Insurance Costs

By: Nicole Vattimo

Earlier in the month, HuffPost published an interesting article (link here) on how our credit scores impact our homeowners insurance premiums. The article dissects a study completed by Quadrant Information Services. It's probably not surprising that the study found there is a direct correlation between a poor credit score and a higher homeowners insurance cost. What surprised me, however, was just how much higher your insurance premium could be if you have a lower credit score, when compared with someone who has a high score.

According to the article, "The study found that if you have a fair (i.e. median) credit score, you may pay 36 percent more for home insurance than someone with excellent credit. That’s up from a 32 percent increase in 2015 and 29 percent in 2014."

So, not only are you paying more for home insurance if you have an average credit score, but exactly how much more is increasing over the years.

"What’s more, if you have poor rather than excellent credit, your premium more than doubles, increasing by an average of 114 percent (up from 100 percent in 2015 and 91 percent in 2014)," says the article.

What percentage more you will pay if you have less-than-stellar credit varies state-by-state, with some states weighing a credit-based insurance score more heavily than others. The article lists the states that place the most importance on credit score, and explains what goes into calculating your credit-based insurance score.

The article also discusses why insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores. In short, credit scores are predictive of loss behavior. Meaning people with lower scores tend to have more insurance losses.

Interestingly, there are three states, California, Maryland and Massachusetts, that ban the use of credit in setting home insurance prices.

The article discusses the arguments against using credit score in insurance. The top arguments against this practice: (1) it is unfair to consumers in lower socio-economic demographics, and (2) "there’s no uniformity or standardization to how this data is used" since different insurers weigh credit scores differently. Meaning some may consider them heavily, while others don't.

Since we are all consumers of insurance, in some way or another, I think it's a very worthwhile read to better understand what may impact your premium, and what is happening in the insurance industry at large.

Full link to HuffPost article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-poor-credit-can-triple-your-homeowners-insurance_us_590b4c30e4b046ea176ae88b