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

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

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.

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.

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.

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)

Erie Insurance Earns Top Ranking From J.D. Power

By: William Forbes

Erie Insurance recently received the highest ranking in Customer Satisfaction for their auto insurance purchase experience. As an agency that proudly represents Erie, we couldn't agree more with the ranking. Our clients tell us all the time how happy they are with Erie - the product, customer support, and claims management.

Check out Erie's press release below for more information on the ranking:

Erie Insurance Earns Top Ranking in J.D. Power Insurance
Shopping Study

(Erie, Pa.) May 3, 2017 – For the fifth year in a row, Erie Insurance received the highest ranking in Customer Satisfaction with the Auto Insurance Purchase Experience in the J.D. Power Insurance Shopping Study. In 2017, Erie Insurance received a score of 879 out of 1,000.

“In this digital age, we strive to provide our agents with the right tools to reach customers in ways they prefer and expect, but still reflect our hallmark of service,” said Tim NeCastro, president and CEO of Erie Insurance. “A customer might start an insurance search online, but we believe it should end with a handshake.”

The Insurance Shopping Study provides a detailed look at the customer experience in shopping for a new auto insurance policy. It explores what prompts someone to shop for insurance and which factors contribute to the purchase decision. Three factors were measured to determine overall satisfaction. They are, in order of importance: price, distribution channel and policy offerings.

(Link to release on Erie's site: https://www.erieinsurance.com/news-room/press-releases/2017/jd-power-2017)

Erie Insurance Conducts a Poll on the Topic of Self-Driving Cars

By: William Forbes

Here at the Forbes Insurance blog, we've been paying attention to the trend of self-driving cars and the industry conversations happening around that topic.

Recently, Erie Insurance commissioned a national survey that asked nearly 3,000 licensed, U.S. drivers what they thought of self-driving cars and how their behavior behind the wheel might change if they owned one. In a blog post on Erie Sense (link here), the company reported on the results.

Not surprisingly, sleeping was a popular answer for what drivers would do with their downtime behind the wheel of a self-driving car. The blog says, "Roughly half of licensed drivers (51 percent) say one of the biggest advantages of self-driving cars would be the ability to go longer distances without worrying about being drowsy while driving."

The next most popular responses were texting, sending emails, and reading. These are also not too surprising. However, the survey did have some humorous responses; including a small percentage of drivers who would, reportedly, use the time for "romantic activities." The survey also asked respondents to come up with a new name for: self-driving car. Among the responses were: "Bad Science car" and "Take your chances car."

Back to more serious subject matter, Erie's blog highlighted an important point with regard to self-driving cars. The article discussed the fact that, at least in early models, self-driving cars still require a human operator to be alert and ready to take over control of the vehicle. Because of this, it will be very interesting to see how the insurance industry handles fault when it comes to accidents in autonomous vehicles.

The blog also touched on a scary topic: drinking and driving. Thirteen percent of respondents to Erie's survey said they believe "you wouldn’t get cited for DUI/DWI if you have a few drinks and then operate a self-driving car." Even though 13 percent may seem small, this stat is surprising and frightening.

For more survey results and information on the poll, check out Erie's full blog post: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/distracted-driving-survey.

Product Spotlight: Erie's New Auto Security

By: William Forbes

What is it?

New Auto Security is an endorsement you can add to your Erie auto policy. It provides new vehicle replacement for a vehicle under two years old, in the event of a total loss. This means if you total your new car, Erie will pay to replace your vehicle with the latest model year (minus your deductible). If your new vehicle is involved in an accident and is not a total loss, Erie will pay to repair your car without a deduction for depreciation. This coverage could be a huge financial help if you have a new car that's involved in an accident, as cars depreciate the most during the first five years you own them.

But, the endorsement is not only for new cars. If you've had your car for more than two years and you're involved in a total-loss accident, Erie will pay the cost to replace the car with a model that’s two years newer.

Benefits:

  1. New vehicle replacement - in the event of a total loss, Erie will pay to replace your new car (under two years old) with the latest model year.
  2. Repair coverage - Erie will pay to repair your new car without a deduction for depreciation.
  3. Gap coverage - Erie will provide coverage for the difference between the actual cash value of the car and the amount due on the lease/loan.
  4. Better vehicle replacement - For cars older than two years, in the event of a total loss, Erie will pay to replace your car with a model two years newer.
  5. The endorsement can be added to your policy at any time, not just with the purchase of a new vehicle.

Please get in touch with us if you have questions about New Auto Security.

Claims Increase the Cost of Insurance

By: William Forbes

In last week's blog, I shared a story from Crain's Chicago Business, which said State Farm has just reported its worst year ever in terms of claims reported and the amount of money it lost insuring cars. The article hit on a number of trends insurance agents are seeing across the industry - distracted driving is leading to increased claims, and the increased claims are driving the price of insurance up for all of us. Even those of us who do not report claims are feeling the effects, as insurers raise rates for everyone in an effort to maintain profitability.

And, now, on the heels of that article, NBC News 10 recently published findings from an annual study conducted by insuranceQuotes that indicates people pay more for insurance after reporting a single claim. The article says specifically, "drivers now pay an average of 44 percent more for car insurance after making a single claim of $2,000 or more." Reporting a second claim is even more costly.

I'm not writing about these articles to scare people away from reporting claims. There are times when insurance claims are necessary, and in those cases, that's why you pay for insurance. The point I would like to make, however, is that you should really have a detailed discussion with your agent before you report a claim. Having a conversation with your agent is an important part of managing your finances. The fact is, reporting claims will result in higher insurance premiums, and possible surcharges.

More broadly, the increase in claims across our state have caused insurance premiums to go up for everyone. Even if you don't report claims, your bill is being affected by these industry trends. That's why it's so important for us, as a community, to put an end to distracted, aggressive, and unsafe driving.

Check out the NBC article here: http://turnto10.com/i-team/consumer-advocate/study-looks-at-impact-of-claims-on-car-insurance-rates 

Crain's Reports State Farm Suffers Worst Car Insurance Losses Ever

By: William Forbes

Take a read of this recent article published by Crain's Chicago Business, titled, "State Farm suffers worst car insurance losses ever."

The article touches on a trend we are seeing across the insurance industry. Reported claims are on the rise, and this results in higher insurance rates for all of us. In addition, the article makes a good point that State Farm's losses are a clear sign of how distracted driving is impacting insurance companies.

Erie stands out as one of the few companies that's been able to keep its rates level over the years.

Full link to article: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170228/NEWS07/170229881/state-farm-suffers-worst-car-insurance-losses-ever 

5 Times You Must Contact Your Insurance Agent

By: William Forbes

I'd like to use today's blog to remind my clients, and anyone who has insurance, that there are a handful of times when it's absolutely necessary you pick up the phone and contact your agent. If you have made any of the changes listed below, or have been involved in a claim, it's so important to get the details to your agent. Regarding the situations below, if you don't inform your agent, you may not be covered by your insurance policy.

I can't stress enough how important it is to tell your agent about:

  1. A Change of Address - Without the proper address on file, your insurance company may be sending critical communication to the wrong location. Even if you do not receive these communications, you are still responsible for the information detailed inside. Additionally, if you have homeowners or renters insurance, you want to be sure your policy is set up to protect the correct property. Finally, counties and cities have different insurance ratings, meaning if you move and don't inform your agent, you could be missing out on savings. It's your responsibility to inform your agent of a change of address.

  2. Additional or Replacement Vehicles - When you replace one vehicle on your policy with a new one, or if you plan to add another vehicle, it is crucial that you inform your agent. Generally, in Pennsylvania, it is your responsibility to inform your agent of an additional vehicle within 14 days. While you get a bit longer to report a replacement vehicle. I tell my insureds to report either as soon as possible, to avoid issues with coverage.

    One thing to note here - many people think when they purchase a new vehicle the dealer will contact their insurance company. This does happen in some cases; but, it is the insured's responsibility alone to report new and replacement vehicles to insurance. Don't rely on your car dealer to add a vehicle to your policy.

  3. Adding or Excluding Drivers - If you have someone who is regularly driving your car, or if there is someone prohibited from driving it (called an exclusion), you need to inform your insurance agent. In the event of an accident, without the proper drivers listed on the policy, coverage may be denied.

  4. Structural Changes to a House - Putting an addition on your home? Installing a pool? Any structural changes to your home need to be detailed in your insurance policy. These changes can affect the value of your home, and can mean it's time for new or additional insurance coverage to protect your family.

  5. A Claim - If you've had a home or auto claim, involve your agent. Your agent is your insurance advisor and can help you through the process. Including your agent is about more than just getting your claim reported. An agent can guide you through the claims process, and can act as your advocate with the insurance company.

Insurance Coverage on your Rental Car

By: William Forbes

I wanted to note this Huffington Post article (link here), titled: "No, Car Rental Insurance Is Not Mandatory," as this is a confusing topic for many of my insureds. When you rent a car from a company like Avis, for example, the insurance you carry on your personal vehicle will cover you on your rental car.

Though this is true, there still can be benefits to purchasing an additional insurance plan through the rental company.

It's also important to note that if an accident occurs involving the rental vehicle, you would be subject to current deductibles on your personal auto insurance.

Here are a few reasons why you may want to purchase additional rental insurance:

  1.  If you're involved in an accident, the rental company may waive your deductible.
  2. If you are traveling outside the United States, purchase additional insurance, as your personal policy will not afford coverage overseas. Canada is the only other country where your personal coverages will transfer.
  3. The rental company may provide coverage for "loss of use" incurred on one of its vehicles. Loss of use covers you If you're in an accident involving the rental company's vehicle and it is unable to rent that car out to other customers until the damage is repaired. Without this coverage, you would be required to pay the rental company a specified amount based on how many days the vehicle is out of commission.

One other thing to remember, when purchasing a rental, the company may require you to provide proof of insurance when you pick up your rental car. Therefore, it's a good idea to bring your insurance declarations page with you to the rental counter when you pick up your vehicle in order to avoid any hassles.

Check out the Huffington Post article for more information on this topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-car-rental-insurance-is-not-mandatory_us_5842c25de4b0cf3f64558a1a.

Insurance Concept of the Week: Subrogation

Each week we will post and define an industry term or concept for our readers.

Subrogation is the transfer of your rights to the insurance company to sue or seek recovery from a third party. For example, if you get into an auto accident and your car is damaged, your insurance company will take care of repairing your vehicle. Then, on your behalf, your insurer will collect from the at-fault party to cover the cost of the repairs, and even get your deductible back in some cases.  

Your Driving Route Could Affect Your Insurance Price

By: William Forbes

USA Today recently posted an article about insurers using predictive technology to help personalize insurance rates. Specifically, the article focuses on insurers that are looking into weighing the risk involved with different travel routes and using that information to help determine an insured's rate. The goal of this rate method would be to customize insurance rates based on an individual's personal driving habits, but also to "promote and reward customers who mitigate risk," says the article.

We've seen rate and policy customization as a major trend in the industry recently.

Check out the full article here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/11/14/route-risk-patent--car-insurance-rate-price/93287372/

5 Things to Consider Before Reporting a Claim

By: William Forbes

Reporting a claim is not always as simple as calling your insurance company and receiving compensation. Claims, whether they are small or large, affect your insurance policy. Below are five things I recommend my insureds consider before reporting a claim. I point these items out because it’s important that customers understand when and why they should report a claim. Educating yourself about the claims process means being a savvier insurance consumer. 

1.       Report the claim immediately to your insurance agent or company.

The official guidelines for reporting a claim differ from company to company, so it’s important to check in with your agent or insurer to understand how quickly you need to report a claim. However, as a good rule, it’s important, whichever company you are with, to report claims as soon as they happen. This leaves less chance that details will be forgotten, and reduces the chance that there will be any questions about the claim’s authenticity from your insurance company.

2.       Is the claim cost larger than your deductible?

If the claim is not larger than your policy deductible, there is really no reason to report it. In this case, you are financially responsible for the cost of the repair, and there is no benefit to involving the insurance company. You don’t want a reported claim on your policy when you aren’t receiving any financial assistance from your insurance company.

3.       Can you handle the claim financially?

Simply put, insurance policies aren’t home- or car-maintenance accounts. Insurance is for catastrophic losses. Or, in other words, losses that create a significant financial hardship. Though insurance will pay for minor claims, you may end up hurting yourself in the long run, as multiple claims will drive up the policy premium.  This means you pay more for your insurance plan each year. Additionally, multiple claims increases the likelihood that your insurance company could cut your policy altogether.

4.       Often claims raise the annual premium of your policy.

Though many companies today have accident or claim forgiveness, which means your rate won’t increase for your first claim, it is important to understand how claims generally affect your overall policy premium.  The number of claims reported, along with the severity of each, can adversely affect the total price you pay for insurance.

5.       Claims stay on your policy record for a specified period of time.

Auto claims typically stay on your record for three years. Home claims stay on your record for five years. Having claims on your policy record can affect you when you shop for insurance. They often make it harder to receive the best possible rate, and certain companies will not accept new insureds with multiple claims.  

There is much to consider when deciding whether to report a claim. The best advice I can give is to talk to your agent about each claim. Agents are there to provide you with guidance and education, as well as help you through the claims process. Knowing all the facts can help you make a smart financial decision.