Your Driving Record and How It Effects Your Premium

Your insurance company has the right to review your driving record at any time.  Typically, they’ll review your record when you apply for coverage, request changes to your policy, add a vehicle, or renew your policy.  This is to evaluate your risk potential, or determine if you are insurable at all.

Generally, what the insurance company will analyze is the number of points on your license.  When found guilty of a traffic violation (moving violations, parking tickets, at-fault accidents, etc.) you are assigned a certain number of points on your license. The more points you accumulate, the worse your record. The points on your driving record may or may not affect your insurance rate since each company has their own way of evaluating violations.

Insurers typically evaluate your points using their own system to determine the amount of your rate increase (if your rates increase at all).  Most companies, however, use the Safe Driver Insurance Plan, which lists the different types of violations and assigns a points value to each one, based on the severity of the incident.  Under this plan, as you accumulate points, your rates are subject to increase.

Your driving record isn’t the only information your insurer can use to underwrite your policy.  Insurers also use credit scores to determine rates. If you have a good credit score, your rates are likely to be lower than someone with a bad credit score. Insurance underwriters perceive a direct relationship between your credit score and the chances of you filing a claim. Someone with a history of being late on bill payments and who often opens and closes savings or credit accounts wouldn’t be viewed as a good insurance risk.

Trucks and Minivans Provide Greatest Threat of Back-Over Injuries to Children

The University of Utah completed a study that revealed some startling results about the likelihood of children being struck by a truck or minivan backing out of a driveway. Researchers found that children are 2.4 times more likely to be struck by a van and 53% more likely to be hit by a truck than by a car. The study also found that children hit by trucks or minivans are more likely to require hospitalization, surgery, and treatment in an intensive care unit than children backed over by cars.

The research was conducted using medical records and police reports that provided back-over injury data for Utah children under age 10 from 1998 to 2003. The number of state-registered vehicles was used to determine if injuries were more common among certain types of vehicles. The researchers further discovered that driveway back-over injuries represent an incidence of 7.09 per 100,000 children younger than 10 years old annually. Passenger cars account for only 1.62 injuries per 100,000 registered vehicles.  Previous reports have suggested that trucks and minivans produce a large rear blind spot, which makes them especially susceptible to this type of accident. However, this is the first study in the United States that has attempted to document the rate of injury by these vehicles.

The researchers emphasized the importance of educating parents and young children about the rules for safe play in driveways. They commented on the availability of rear cameras and sensors to warn a driver that a child or other obstacle is behind a vehicle. However, the study noted that there is no substitute for walking behind, or at least looking behind your vehicle before putting the car in reverse.

The federal government has also been working on this problem. Legislation pending in Congress would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set a standard for rear visibility that all vehicles must meet. Larger rear-view mirrors, rear sensors that sound a warning beep or cameras are among the options.

NHTSA expects to complete work on a study on the various types of back-over technology within a couple of months. The purpose of the study is to examine how effective the systems are and how they are used by drivers. The information will then be used to establish a standard.

Are You Getting the Word Out with Your Hazard Communication Program?

OSHA first established the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) on November 25, 1983; and with its complexity, it is often one of the most misunderstood of the agency’s standards and the one most frequently cited for violations. The core concept for the rule is “that employees have both a need and a right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to when working. They also need to know what protective measures are available to prevent adverse effects from occurring.”

The HCS requires that both the physical and health hazards be communicated for all hazardous chemicals. Since the majority of chemicals used in the workplace have some hazardous consequences, they will be included in this mandate. 

The communication paradigm begins with chemical manufacturers and importers. They are required to evaluate the hazard potential of the chemicals they produce or import. This information becomes the basis for labels they prepare for containers, and for the more detailed specification sheets called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors of hazardous chemicals are obliged to provide the labels and material safety data sheets to the purchasers of these chemicals.

Any workplace in which employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written plan, which describes how the communication standard is being carried out. OSHA is not looking for something that is lengthy and convoluted.  An inspector wants to see a realistic system for meeting the requirements for labeling, accessibility of material safety data sheets, and employee training.  

To comply with the labeling provision of the rule, employers can make use of the labels provided by their suppliers. The information specified on the label must include the name of the material and any possible physical or health hazards associated with its use. Labels must be easy to read, and prominently displayed.  OSHA doesn’t mandate any specific requirements in terms of size, color or text.

If an employer transfers the hazardous chemical from a labeled container to another container, the employer is required to label the second container unless it is subject to the portable container exemption. To be considered portable, the container must be used for the immediate transfer of hazardous chemicals from labeled containers, and the employee who performs the transfer will be the only one to use it.

The purpose of the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) is to provide detailed information about a chemical’s potential hazardous effects, its physical and chemical characteristics, and recommendations for protecting oneself when using it. OSHA doesn’t specify a format for the MSDS.

All MSDSs must be easily accessible to employees during their shifts. OSHA does not mandate the methodology for accomplishing this. Any methodology is acceptable as long as it meets the principal standard that employees can get the information when they need it.

If you plan to conduct your own hazard communication training, you may want to investigate Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines, which was developed by OSHA’s Training Institute. You can get a copy from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954.

After designing your hazard communication strategy, give it the acid test for compliance by seeing if it meets the following OSHA checklist:

• Obtain a copy of the rule

• Read and understand the requirements

• Assign responsibility for tasks to a specific employee

• Prepare an inventory of chemicals

• Ensure that containers are labeled

• Obtain an MSDS for each chemical

• Prepare a written program

• Make MSDSs available to workers

• Conduct training

• Establish procedures to maintain current program

• Establish procedures to evaluate effectiveness

Insure Your Boat In and Out of the Water

Millions of Americans take to the water each year during boating season, traveling the coastlines, rivers, lakes and canals all over the country. The watercraft range from simple rowboats to jet skis to small motorboats to luxury yachts. Boat owners spend significant amounts of money buying and maintaining their boats. The need for insurance protection when the boat is on the water is obvious, but many boat owners question the need for it during the off-season. However, insurance is just as important when the boat is in storage as when the owner is using it.

A typical boat insurance policy provides a package of coverages, including:

* Damage to the boat, motor, and trailer;

* Damage to portable property used in the maintenance and operation of the boat, including things like anchors, life jackets, oars, tools, skis and surfboards, lights, and fire extinguishers;

* Damage to other types of property, including sports equipment, clothing, and other personal effects;

* Damage to equipment on shore, such as boat covers;

* The cost of recovering a sunk or stranded boat;

* The cost of emergency service and towing;

* Damage to non-owned or substitute boats;

* Loss of fishing tackle;

* Liability coverage for injuries or damages for which the boat owner is legally responsible; and

* Coverage for injuries the boat owner or others on the boat suffer in an accident with an uninsured watercraft.

A boat owner will need these coverages if her boat gets into a collision with another boat, or if thieves steal scuba gear from it, or if fire damages the motor. However, losses are still possible while the boat is out of the water. Progressive Insurance reports that nearly two out of every 10 boat claims it receives from northern states occur between Labor Day and Memorial Day, when most owners are not using their boats much. Some examples of losses that could occur:

* The storage building housing the boat over the winter burns to the ground.

* Vandals damage the boat in the middle of the night while it’s in the owner’s driveway.

* A neighbor’s child, playing in the owner’s yard, runs into the boat stored there and injures his head.

* Someone steals the boat and its trailer from the yard at a repair shop.

* While the boat is stored in the yard, heavy snow melt causes a flash flood that damages the boat’s interior, including the mechanical system and the radio.

Some insurance companies offer “disappearing deductibles,” where the deductibles for collision and damage losses from other causes decrease by a certain amount for every claim-free year the policyholder has. Those companies will grant this benefit only to boat owners who keep their insurance continuously in force with them.

A professional insurance agent can provide advice on the types and amounts of coverage a boat owner needs. She can also recommend insurance companies that have expertise in boating, good claims-paying practices, and reasonable prices. Insuring a boat all year round can be expensive, but compared to the cost of a large uninsured loss, it may well be worth the cost.

Ten Loss Control Tips to Keep Your Work Laptop Safe

The growing trend of staying competitive by using the mobility and freedom provided by technology can often be a double-edged sword. While taking your show on the road to off-site business meetings is a lot more efficient and easier when everything you need to make an eye-catching presentation is right there on the laptop, the mobility of technology does open the door to losses from theft.

Here are some simple loss prevention practices that employees can adopt to ensure their laptop stays safe and secure at and away from their worksite:

1. Carry the laptop in a case that doesn’t standout or scream expensive technology with logos or emblems. The idea is that only the carrier knows the case contains a computer. To bystanders, the case could be full of useless papers or files.

2. When traveling, use the hotel safe to store your computer. Never leave an unattended computer in a hotel room. Hotels usually warn customers that they aren’t responsible for valuables left inside rooms. And, don’t think that a locked room door is a sufficient safeguard. Maid services routinely leave rooms wide open as they’re being cleaned, meaning a passer could easily swipe your computer while the maid is busy cleaning the bathroom.

3. Never leave a laptop on the seats or otherwise in plain view in a vehicle, even a locked vehicle. Trunks are also a highly-targeted area for thieves, as many assume this is where most people will try to secure their valuables. Whenever possible, take the computer with you or leave it in a more secure locked location.

4. Make sure that your laptop will be secure during breaks if you’re at an off-site meeting. Ask if the various entrances and exits will be locked during breaks and then observe to make sure the room is indeed secure before leaving your laptop. If any question, then carry your laptop with you.

5. Avoid checking your laptop as luggage during flights. There’s too much opportunity for it to be stolen or damaged. Remove the laptop from its carrying case and give it to the guard before you go through the airport security metal detectors.

6. Write down the serial number, make, and model of your laptop and keep this information separate from your laptop.

7. Even in your own office, you need to make sure that you store your laptop in a secure location when you aren’t using it, take lunch, or need to run to another area of the building. A good rule is to lock up your computer if you can’t directly see it from your location.

8. Of course, the physical computer isn’t the only loss you can suffer. Keep a regular data backup schedule to prevent lost data due to equipment failure. It’s also prudent to minimize how much intellectual property or proprietary data is stored in the hard drive.

9. Have a password system (preferably two-tiers) or a data encryption feature to protect your data.

10. Lastly, you might consider asking your employer to arm your laptop with a tracking device as a last line of defense. Tracking devices for computers operate much like a LoJack system does on your car. Once the software is installed on the computer, it will run in the background without you even knowing it’s there. Meanwhile, the program routinely reports the IP address your computer is using and who logged into it to the security company. In the event you report your laptop stolen, the security company can remotely change how frequently the above information is fed to them. Unbeknownst to the thief, the security company is tracking his/her location every time the computer goes online.

Keeping Your Identity Safe from Internet and Telephone Scams

What would you say the fastest growing crime in the United States is today? If identity theft came to mind, then you’re exactly right. Statistics by the Federal Trade Commission show that over 20% of all identity theft cases involve the internet and telecommunications. While you might think identify theft scams are easy to spot and avoid, the criminals behind such scams devote themselves to putting together emails, phone calls, and websites that appear enticingly legitimate.

Most email and telephone identity theft scams ask you to provide your Social Security number, credit card account information, or banking account information. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, unless you initiate the call and know you’re speaking with a legitimate representative from the company you’re doing business with, you should never give out any personal or financial information.

Of course, there are innumerable scams circulating the country. The following are a few of the most commonly seen:

Moving Money Scams / Nigerian Money Offers

The “can you help me move my money from my country” scams were around before the internet was even a thought. Despite people being aware of the con, these scams still make $100 million each year. The scammers will send out mass emails. They claim to be in a foreign country, often Nigeria. They ask the recipient to assist them in moving their money out of their country and promise to pay the recipient from helping them. The explanation for the request is often a heartbreaking tale or humanitarian cause like a sick relative needing a surgery.

Phisher / Account Verification Scams

These scams involve the scammer purchasing domain names that closely resemble that of legitimate and reputable businesses. One of the most recent scams involved the E-Bay domain name. The scammers purchased domain names like and and sent out mass emails asking consumers to provide their personal and credit card information. The emails often asked the recipient to verify a purchase or made threats to cancel the account if the recipient didn’t provide the information. Other companies being used in alike scams include: AOL, PayPal, MSN, Discover Card, Best Buy, and Bank of America. Even if you’ve recently purchased an item or made a transaction with a company, you should never comply with emails asking for personal or financial information. Most companies don’t conduct business in such a manner. To make sure, use the official phone number for the involved company to find out if the request is legitimate.

Get Your Free Credit Report Scams

Most correspondence related to getting a free credit report will turn out to be a scam in one way or another. Free is usually the relative word since most receive a bill charging for the service after it’s used. Other free credit report scams are simply after your Social Security number.

You’ve Won A Free Gift Scam

The phone call or email saying that you’ve won a free gift is luring. The scammer will claim the gift is free, but that they need your credit card information to cover the shipping and handling. With your credit card number in hand, they can use it for a lot more than shipping and handling. Just remember that few things are free and those that are don’t require a credit card.

You’ve Won The Canadian Or Netherlands Lottery Scams

According to the FBI, this scam has collected approximately $80 to $100 million so far. Keep in mind that you first must buy a ticket or enter a lottery to win it.  If you haven’t purchased a ticket, you haven’t won.


This is a request for your personal and financial information under the guise of a friendly questionnaire. The scammer often claims to be a childhood or old social network friend. The questionnaire may blatantly ask you for your info or be subtly collecting information related to your account passwords by asking you your birthday, favorite things, name of your kids, and such. Delete the questionnaire. Giving false information only alerts the scammer they’ve reached someone willing to respond and possibly provide inadvertent information in the future.

IRS Audit Scams

Scammers have sent out emails claiming the recipient must undergo an e-audit within 48 hours or face penalties and interest. The e-audit questionnaire asks for personal and financial information. Be aware that the IRS doesn’t correspond with taxpayers about audits via email and certainly doesn’t have anything called an e-audit.

Resume Scams

Identity theft even occurs from sending out a resume. Scammers can place a print or online help wanted ad just like a real employer can. Never place your birthday or Social Security number on resumes. That information can be collected by legitimate employers during the interview stage.

The best way to stay safe is not responding, even with a don’t contact me or remove my name from the list email, to anything you feel has the potential to be a scam. 

Reduce Customer Bad Debts with Credit Insurance

When you sell to a new overseas customer, do you worry that you’ll get paid in a timely fashion, or worse yet, will the client pay at all? How do you quickly obtain high quality, reliable credit information about a company in a small, foreign country before you ship the goods? The answer lies with credit insurance. Used extensively in Europe for years, credit insurance is now being used more often by U.S. businesses in overseas and even domestic transactions.

Credit insurance is also known as accounts receivable insurance, bad debt insurance or credit risk insurance.  The types of risks covered by credit insurance involve non-payment by buyers due to insolvency, slow payment after delivery is made and for losses that resulted from a customer becoming insolvent before delivery of goods or completion of contract, but after the goods had been produced and shipped.

During times of economic downturn or gradual expansion, credit insurance provides an extra layer of protection for your company’s growth, and helps to calm nervous lenders. Often, the credit insurance policy can be used to reduce the cost of a loan, as it is almost a certainty that revenue from a specific source will be forthcoming.

Credit insurance may enable you to sell more goods on credit terms while substantially reducing the overall risk of exposure due to non-payment. It also may enable you to take advantage of peak and cyclical selling periods and to safely expand into new product lines or territories.

Generally, it is recognized that 20% of a company’s customers account for 80% of sales. Credit insurance protects against the devastating loss resulting from the insolvency of one of your key accounts. A credit insurance contract can insure your entire accounts receivable or be custom tailored to cover just your key customers. Lenders recognize that the insolvency of a company’s key customer may jeopardize repayment of a loan. Credit insurance reduces this risk.

Credit insurance usually costs a fraction of one percent of insured sales and premiums are based on the type of business, annual sales, loss experience and countries where goods are sold. Letters of credit, an alternative to credit insurance, are more costly and can tie up your credit lines.

Premiums for credit insurance can be factored into your export prices. Buyers are often willing to pay the credit insurance premium, since your credit terms are probably more feasible than a buyer arranging financing from a bank in the foreign country.

Once a credit insurer accepts your account, it will investigate the credit background of your customers using data from banks, trade organizations, government agencies, credit and rating groups, and from its own extensive files. It will also examine your company’s sales, credit history and shipment methods.

The detailed data and information provided by credit insurers can support your decision to establish credit limits for your customers. Sales to some foreign countries that have been designated by the government as “high risk” are not eligible for insurance, but these banned countries are small in number and change frequently.

Can an Auto Accident Affect Your Ability to Reinstate Your Policy?

In January of 2006, the Supreme Court of Vermont was asked to rule on a tricky question about the reinstatement of coverage under an automobile insurance policy. The plaintiff in the suit argued that her insurance company was responsible for covering a loss that occurred after her automobile insurance policy had expired because the company was aware of the loss when it offered to reinstate her policy retroactive to the expiration date.

Even though the insured received a renewal notice a month before the policy expiration date, she failed to pay her renewal premium on time. Consequently, the policy expired on August 13, 2003. Three days later, the insured’s car was in an accident and sustained major damage. The insured reported the accident to her insurance agent on August 18, 2003. She was told that same day that coverage was denied because the policy had expired.

However, the insured also received a “Final Notice” dated August 18, 2003 generated by the insurer’s computer system. The notice stated that the insured could reinstate the policy back to 8/13/2003 if she paid her premium by August 31, 2003. The insured paid the premium and the insurance company sent her an “Acknowledgment of Late Payment,” stating that the coverage under the policy had been reinstated and remained in force without interruption.

On August 27, 2003, the insured re-submitted her claim for the August 16th accident. In a letter dated August 29, 2003, the insurer denied coverage for the accident. The company said that the reinstatement of the policy did not provide coverage for the accident, and that the policy covered only unknown losses. The letter also stated that the previous denial of coverage had never been withdrawn.

The insured sued, saying that the insurer wrongfully refused to provide coverage for the accident. Her contention was that the insurance company could have withdrawn or changed its offer to reinstate coverage concerning the accident that occurred after the policy had lapsed, but it never did. The court that presided over the trial ruled in favor of the insurance company, finding that while an insurer may decide to cover a loss already known to it, there was no evidence that this insurance company made that decision.

The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the decision in favor of the insurer. It stated that the insured could not show that the insurer was required to cover the accident because of its offer to reinstate her policy. In response to the insured’s argument that it was implied that the insurer had waived its right to deny the claim when it made the renewal offer, the Court noted that the offer to reinstate did not demonstrate any intention to reverse the previous refusal of coverage. It also added that the plaintiff couldn’t prove any change on the part of the insured’s position based upon its actions. The Court concluded that the insurer’s actions in this case were unmistakable in denying coverage for the claim. With regard to the insurer’s argument that insurance does not apply to losses that have already occurred, and that it was providing insurance coverage for future risks, the Court stated that this was somewhat inapplicable given the insurer’s prompt and proper denial of coverage without any change in that position.

In fact, it was this unwavering declining of coverage on the part of the insurance agent and company that seems to have been the controlling factor in the case. Regardless of the insured’s assertions to the contrary, the Court found nothing that suggested the insurer’s conduct would have led the insured to believe that she had coverage for the accident.

Study Shows Adults Aren’t Always Careful When Cooking At Home

The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 1999-2002, there were an average of 114,000 home fires associated with cooking equipment each year, resulting in 290 deaths and 4,380 injuries each year. The leading cause for these fires was unattended cooking.

In fact, three in 10 reported home fires start in the kitchen, and two out of three reported home cooking fires start with the range or stove.Electric ranges or stoves have a higher risk of fires, injuries and property damage, compared to gas ranges or stoves. However, gas ranges or stoves have a higher risk of fire deaths.

Because of these alarming statistics, The Hartford decided to commission Harris Interactive to create an online study of adults’ cooking habits to examine what factors were contributing to kitchen fires. The researchers questioned 2,527 adults, aged 18 and over during October 2006. Two hundred forty-three of those surveyed lived with at least one child under the age of five.

The study revealed questionable cooking habits that could increase the risk of cooking-related fires. Seventy-eight percent of those polled reported leaving an appliance such as a microwave, oven, or range unattended while cooking. One in five respondents reported leaving their house while the appliance was running.More than one-third of the respondents didn’t keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. 

The researchers noted that the overwhelming majority of respondents didn’t seem to know the safety rules to follow when preparing food at home. The following guidelines have been developed by The National Fire Protection Association to help families stay safe in the kitchen:

·                     Kids and pets should stay at least 3 feet away from the stove while cooking.

·                     Keep an eye on the stovetop while frying, grilling, or boiling food.

·                     Items that can ignite easily, such as dishtowels, curtains, or paper towels, are remain at least 3 feet away from the stove.

·                     Potholders or oven mitts should be within easy reach.

·                     Pot handles should be turned in toward the back of the stove to prevent spilling.

·                     If someone gets burned, pour cool water over the burn for 3 to 5 minutes.

·                     Be careful when removing cooked food from a microwave, because the hot steam can cause burns. Children should never use a microwave unless an adult gives them permission.

The ABCs of E&O Coverage

GL, PL, PI, BI, PD, K & R, EPLI, you name it.  The world of insurance can be a complicated maze of initials and acronyms, which are often seemingly used to confuse the insurance buyer.  Among the hodge-podge of acronyms, nicknames and “short-fors” are E & O and D & O which, when used together, have comfortably sunk into the industry lexicon as meaning anything and everything professional.

Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O) and Directors and Officers Liability Insurance (D&O) have certainly undergone change over the years.  D & O once referred to a distinct monoline (single coverage) product that protected the directors and officers of a corporation, usually publicly traded, against claims of malfeasance in protecting the interests of shareholders of the corporation.  In other words, directors and officers of the corporation are expected to use reasonable care in making decisions on behalf of the corporation, providing shareholders with maximum value.  Failure to disclose information to the public is a common allegation against directors and officers of public corporations.  Just think Enron.

Nowadays, D&O insurance is purchased by public and private corporations, and the menu of coverages available to corporations on a bundled basis is staggering.  Along with the D & O insurance you can often find Kidnap & Ransom (K & R) insurance, EPLI (Employment Practices Liability Insurance), and a host of others.

Often, E & O insurance can be purchased on the same bill as the D & O if the company provides a service that makes it eligible for E & O insurance, but typically, E & O is highly specialized and is purchased separately on a monoline basis.  That begs the question:  What is E & O?

Errors & Omissions, often referred to as Professional Liability Insurance or formerly called Malpractice Insurance, can cover professional and service providers across a broad spectrum of industries.  We’re all familiar with the trials and tribulations that doctors are facing today in the Medical Malpractice arena (or Med Mal if you prefer the “short for”).  Other professionals that carry this type of coverage include accountants, architects, engineers, and lawyers.  These classes are among the more traditional, but anyone who relies on specialized knowledge to provide a service is at risk of a lawsuit for which E & O coverage is available and essential in the litigious world we live in today.   Coverage is highly recommended for real estate agents, mortgage brokers, barbers and beauticians, morticians, travel agents, teachers, fitness trainers, printers, temporary staffing firms and recruiters.   Just about any kind of consultant, from computer to marketing to management consultants, and so on, needs the security of this coverage.  In fact, consultants are often required to carry the coverage by contract if their clients are midsize or large corporations.  This requirement provides one for companies to manage their risk.

Many people are under the impression that their General Liability Insurance, or in the case of a home-based business, Homeowners Insurance, will provide all the necessary coverage.  Not so.  These plans are appropriately designed to cover perils like bodily injury, i.e., a slip and fall in your office or on your property, but they are rarely capable of handling the kinds of exposure that E  & O covers, namely financial loss.  For example, if you are a real estate agent and you are accused of misrepresenting a property you have shown to your client, resulting in a bad decision with respect to the purchase or in some cases sale of a residential or commercial property, you can almost count on being sued.  Since the allegations have to do with the provision of expertise and the loss is a financial one, don’t expect it to be covered under the General Liability policy you purchase unless there is a specific rider.  Some insurance companies will include E & O coverage for a handful of classes such as printers or barbers/beauticians on a standard General Liability policy, but these are usually exceptions rather than the rule.

So if you feel that you may have an E & O or D & O exposure that is not currently covered, call your insurance agent today! That’s PDQ (pretty darn quickly)!