Archive for October, 2011
There are over 240 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. At a given time, as many as a third of those are on the American roadways, and it is estimated that one-fourth of those are being used in the course of work.
Running errands, making deliveries, visiting customers – we all use a car for a variety of reasons. Even for those whose employment is not based on driving, it’s fair to say that your vehicle is an essential part of your employment. This presents an important question: If you are involved in an accident in the course of employment, are you covered by your personal auto insurance policy (PAP)?
Like most insurance questions, the answer depends on circumstance. For example, what kind of car are you driving? Does the car belong to you or someone else? What type of business are you in?
Consider the language found in the typical PAP. At a glance, many policyholders are shocked to see that the PAP appears to exclude coverage for the use of any vehicle in the course of business other than farming or ranching. However, a very broad exception to this exclusion allows coverage for the business use of a vehicle provided it is one of three types: 1) a private passenger auto, 2) a pickup or van, or 3) trailer while used with the aforementioned. This exception suggests that as long as the vehicle is one of these three types, coverage remains intact after the accident.
But policyholders should proceed with caution, since some PAPs are not as generous. For example, some versions may be more restrictive towards pickups or vans, possibly including a gross vehicle weight (GVW) limitation or a clause that restricts coverage to owned pickups or vans only. Be sure to consult your policy before driving any pickup or van for work.
Further, policyholders should understand that any coverage permitted for business use of personal vehicles by the PAP is not intended for these three vehicle categories:
Commercial-type vehicles. The PAP restricts business use to private passenger autos, pickups and vans. While they can be purchased personally, box trucks, tractor trailers, shuttle busses and other commercial-type vehicles do not fit this description; such vehicles require a commercial auto policy.
Furnished or available for regular use. Often called the “company car” exclusion, this provision is dangerous and must be remedied if the exposure exists. The reason is that a typical PAP will exclude coverage for a vehicle that is regularly available to the policyholder but is not specifically insured under the PAP. For example, if you are furnished a company car as a benefit to your employment, make certain that you are covered by your employer’s auto insurance policy. If not, specific action is required to extend coverage under your PAP; it will not do so automatically. The good news is that this coverage change is usually inexpensive and can be done easily; just be sure to request the change now, before the accident happens. While the definition of furnished or available for regular use varies by case, err on the side of caution. Don’t assume that because you don’t take it home with you each night or that you only drive it occasionally you’re in the clear. Regardless, a vehicle owned by your employer could be considered available for your regular use. This exclusion presents a potential gap that is too risky to ignore; your Trusted Choice® insurance professional can help you take the appropriate steps to close it.
Vehicles that are the business. A PAP will not cover your vehicle if you use it to carry people for a fee, such as a taxi, limo or shuttle. The only exception is a share-the-expense car pool. And if you’re planning to make a few extra bucks delivering pizzas, auto parts, newspapers or other goods, proceed with caution. Many PAPs also remove coverage for vehicles that are used to deliver food or other types of property for a fee.
While in most cases the PAP will cover you for business use of a personal vehicle, there are situations where it will not. Such situations are not uncommon and, if not remedied, could result in significant financial detriment for you and your family. Consult us for advice on how to close potentially devastating gaps in your PAP today.
Halloween is just around the corner and many consumers may not realize how scary this ghoulish night might really be for their personal safety, their property…or their pocketbooks. As a Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent, we can help families better prepare for Halloween hazards that may come in disguise or under the cloak of dark.
To help families and businesses have a good time and protect themselves against more scary Halloween risks, Trusted Choice® offers the following safety tips:
• Prevent Accidents: Remove or move lawn furniture, or any other obstacles, to avoid accidents or damage. Ensure your home’s entry is in good condition, free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on your property.
• Fire Dangers: Prevent fires by making sure pumpkins containing candles are placed at a distance where a child’s costume cannot be ignited or a curious guest may tip it over. Extinguish all candles before going to bed and use battery operated lights wherever possible.
• Costume Safety: Be careful with costumes. All disguises should be made from flame-resistant materials and shouldn’t be too long or contain sharp accessories. Try to avoid masks that may obscure vision and try to use hypo-allergenic make-up instead.
• See and Be Seen: Encourage each trick-or-treater and adult chaperones to carry a flashlight. Apply light-reflecting material to costumes.
• Don’t be a Scary Driver: Drive sober, slowly and even more carefully than usual on Halloween. Watch for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes in the road.
• Power in Numbers: When walking, travel in groups and cross only at corners and crosswalks—never between parked cars—and stay on well-lit streets.
• Unwelcomed Guests: Scare away potential property vandals who often use the chaos of Halloween night to strike by keeping outdoor lights on.
• Pet Safety: Keep pets inside. Warn your children to stay away from animals as they go door-to-door. Halloween night can be stressful, even on the friendliest dog or cat or other creatures.
• Candy Inspection: Cavities aren’t the only candy-related risks on Halloween. Inspect all children’s treats. Never eat unwrapped items, collect candy only from those you know and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray and/or inspection service. Throw away any suspicious candy.
Have fun and be safe! Your Friends at The Turner Agency.
Even before they start school, many children become involved in extra-curricular activities. Adults charged with getting groups of kids from home or school to the ball field and back home again are usually more concerned with maintaining their sanity than thinking about their auto coverage. However, hauling kids around could have a serious affect on your coverage.
In an auto accident, drivers can be legally liable for their passengers’ injuries. Most personal auto policies will extend coverage for injuries to passengers when driving your own car. But what if you rent or borrow a large van to take the soccer team out of town for a weekend tourney? While most auto policies will cover your actions in a car that isn’t yours, many contain restrictions on the size and type of vehicle they will cover.
School employees, such as teachers and coaches, who use their school’s vehicles to haul students and players from place to place have another reason to be concerned. In addition to possible size restrictions, there’s a concern with regular usage; specifically, your personal auto insurance policy may not pay for your liability from an accident in a vehicle that is not yours but is provided for your regular use. In addition to uncertainty with whether or not your policy will even respond, another serious concern is adequate limits of insurance. A serious injury to a single passenger could mean thousands of dollars in medical bills and other costs stemming from the injury, and those dollars increase with the more passengers that are involved. There are published accounts of accidents involving adults driving in a car pool in which damages greatly exceeded $1 million.
Yet, many adults continue to purchase auto liability limits based on the minimum required by state law. In South Caroina the minimum limits are 25/50/25—not likely sufficient when you consider the severity of certain injuries and the number of passengers involved. Remember also that this limit applies for all injuries caused by an accident for which you are liable, including passengers of other cars.
Adults driving kids to athletic and other events should consider maintaining the highest liability limits possible, as well as a personal umbrella policy (click here for more on personal umbrella policies.) The umbrella can provide much higher limits of liability, some well over $1 million.
Today’s drivers are faced with a multitude of distractions that pose a risk for accidents. Understanding your personal auto insurance could help bring at least a little peace of mind. Contact us if you have any questions at 288-9513.
The Turner Agency Inc.
Regardless of your feelings about Global Positioning Systems (GPS), they continue to occupy the dashboards of millions of U.S. vehicles each year. The pervasiveness and expense of the technology has drivers asking if their GPS systems are covered bytheir auto insurance.
Personal Auto Insurance
Whether its finding alternative routes to beat traffic or an Italian restaurant for the family, drivers rely on their GPS to get them places without the stress of winding up who knows where with an empty tank, no cellular service and shrieking children.
If you depend on your GPS to maintain safety and sanity in your personal vehicle, you should call us and request that your auto insurance policy be endorsed to cover the system. Failure to make this request will likely result in no coverage for the system after a loss. This is because most personal auto policies strictly limit or totally exclude coverage for GPS and other electronic devices in your car that are not used to operate the vehicle. Some policies will offer limited coverage for GPS devices that are built into the vehicle by the manufacturer or even some portable systems; however this is not the case for all policies and those that do include coverage are limited. Contents in a car that are not factory installed are typically covered under your homeowners insurance.
Moral of the Story? Call Us!
Regardless of the level of dependence you invest, losing the ability to use your vehicle’s GPS system because it is damaged in an accident or stolen is frustrating and expensive. Call us to discover how much coverage your current auto policy will offer towards replacing the damaged system. If your current auto policy does not offer any coverage, we can discuss with you how to close this gap. Call The Turner Agency at 288-9513.
Those that design personal auto insurance policies learned years ago that folks living in the same house will take turns driving the family cars. That’s why auto insurance policies are designed to provide coverage not just for the person specifically named on the policy (you) but also your spouse and family members.
But whether it’s attributable to a child’s dream of independence or a parent trying to save money by pawning off costs on the kiddos, many family members who live in the same house have their own cars and their own car insurance. If this is the case in your home, there is a danger lurking in that folder where you keep the auto insurance policy; a danger that if unknown can be very costly.
Here’s the problem: most policies contain a limitation for the use of a vehicle that is owned by a family member and not specifically covered by your insurance policy. While the limitation may not apply to you or your spouse, it does apply to any other family member who is normally covered by your policy. Consider the following example:
Al and Peg have children living at home—a 19-year-old daughter, Kelly, and 17-year-old son, Bud. Kelly has her own car and car insurance with liability limits of $25,000/50,000/10,000. The first two numbers represent limits that apply to bodily injury suffered by a third party— the first is the maximum per person, the second is the maximum per accident. The third number is the limit that applies to property damage— this could be to another car or any other property belonging to a third party.
Al and Peg have much higher limits of $100,000/300,000/100,000. Bud is still whining that he doesn’t have a car. One night, with her permission, Bud takes out Kelly’s car and causes an accident that seriously injures the other driver. Since it was Kelly’s car, her policy limits will apply. Unfortunately, the cost of the other driver’s injuries is much greater than the $25,000 limit on Kelly’s policy. Bud looks to his parents’ car insurance for help. His search is in vain: Kelly’s car is owned by a family member and therefore not covered by his parents’ policy.
Were the situation different and it was Al or Peg who borrowed Kelly’s, car, the limitation would not apply. Were Bud to borrow the neighbor’s car the limitation would not apply. But since it was a family member’s car and it was Bud driving, the limitation applies. And since Bud has no insurance of his own to turn to, the family could be responsible for the remainder of the other driver’s injuries out-of-pocket.
Unfortunately there is no easy fix for this limitation. The best method is avoidance, but telling the kids not to drive each other’s cars may be more ideal than realistic. If your current household arrangement could make this scary situation a reality for your family, consider encouraging your kids to increase their liability limits to a level more sufficient to pay for a serious injury. This way more of the cost will be absorbed by the insurance company and less by your family.
Contact our Personal Lines account managers at The Turner Agency with any questions. The number is 288-9513.
by Denise Long, Personal Lines
Several of The Turner Agency employees have been working with trainer Graham Sesler as part of the Ultra Fit Program and have achieved great success thus far! Graham Sesler is offering a special for anyone who donates to Susan G. Komen of Greenville. Here are the details:
RECEIVE FOUR ULTRA FIT, WORLD-CLASS PERSONAL TRAINING SESSIONS WHEN YOU DONATE $75 OR MORE TO SUSAN G. KOMEN OF GREENVILLE!
A ll you need to do is see Stephanie Miller at the local Greenville chapter, specify that you are teaming up with Ultra Fit, donate, and ask for a receipt. Then call Graham to set up your sessions!
Here’s the address and contact info for Susan G. Komen of Greenville:
301 Halton Road, Suite D-2, Greenville, SC 29607
Phone: 864-234-5035 · Fax: 864-234-5036
Email: info@komenscmm. org
Graham also encourages you to check out Ultra Fit on his website.
Graham has helped over 300 people in this area to lose 100 lbs. or more! That’s not including the thousands who have lost 99 lbs. or less. He also specializes in body sculpting and can help you lose those last few pesky pounds in order to get in the absolute best shape of your life!
Home fires caused 2,565 deaths (not including firefighters) and almost $7.8 billion in damage in 2009, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). While it’s impossible to completely prevent fires, there are several measures you can take to protect your family, home and valuables from the flames.
Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test these devices monthly to make sure they are working properly and replace the batteries annually. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting at least one smoke detector on each level of your home. Never disable these detectors even if they go off while cooking or showering.
Install fire extinguishers. The NFAP recommends keeping extinguishers near exits of your home and in the kitchen where most house fires start. A multi-purpose extinguisher that is large enough to put out a small fire but isn’t too heavy to handle is ideal. Be sure to read all the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly operate the device.
Create a home escape plan. Draw a map of your house that includes all the doors and windows and discuss a fire escape plan with all family members. Practice the escape route at least once a year.
Keep it clean. Remove leaves and debris from around the property and clean out the gutters. It’s also important to trim back any shrubs or tree limbs that are close to your home. All of these things can be potential fire hazards.
Make sure your home is fully insured. Talk to your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent to ensure your home is fully covered for fire loss and that you have loss-of-use coverage in the event your home becomes uninhabitable.
Take a home inventory. Make a list of everything valuable in your home and document it with photos and video. Keeping a record of all your belongings will help you file a claim if you experience a fire or other loss.
Protect important documents. Keep a copy of your homeowner’s policy, home inventory, and other important documents, such as passports, legal documents and birth and marriage certificates in a fireproof lockbox or at an off-site location.
October 9-15, 2011 is National Fire Prevention Week. Celebrate by creating or reviewing your family’s home escape plan.
Home Escape Plans Save Lives.
Fall is officially here, and with it comes the National Fire Protection Agency’s National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 9 -15. This year’s theme is “Protect Your Family from Fire,” which makes now a good time to come up with a fire evacuation plan or review the one your family already has in place.
A small fire can escalate into a major blaze in less than a minute, and a sound escape plan greatly reduces fire-related deaths and protects your family if a fire occurs. Whether you have established an fire evacuation route or are coming up with one now, these are some important safety reminders and instructions you can you use when reviewing or planning your home evacuation plan.
- Plan two ways out of every room in your house — this way if one path is blocked by flames or smoke there is an alternate path out. For example, a bedroom door can be the primary escape path and a window the secondary one. If you intend to use an upper-story window as an evacuation option, be sure to store a collapsible ladder in the room in a well-known place. The U.S. Fire Administration advises consumers to only purchase ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
- Practice escaping from the house with a blindfold, in the dark, or with your eyes closed. This will prepare you and your family to navigate through smoke if it is blocking your exit route. Remember to stay low to the ground to avoid the smoke and keep your mouth covered with a piece of clothing, blanket, or towel since the toxic gases from smoke can cause disorientation or fainting.
- Make sure doors and windows open easily. Check windows to make sure they are not stuck, and that everyone in the house knows how to open them and remove the screen if necessary. If you have security bars on your windows, check the quick-release device to make sure they can be opened immediately, and practice opening the locks with everyone in the house.
- Designate a meeting place that’s away from the house, such as the end of the driveway or a place on the sidewalk. Hold a fire drill to ensure everyone in the house knows where to meet. Also pick someone to be in charge of going to a neighbor’s house and calling 911.
- Time is of the essence during a fire, so don’t waste time trying to save property. Remind your family members of this, too, especially children who may want to save their toys. A homeowners policy will help with the replacement cost of your property, and while some items are impossible to replace, they’re not worth a life.
- Teach children not to hide or be afraid of firefighters. Remind young kids that firemen will help them in the event of an emergency.
- In the event of a fire, check a closed door using the back of your hand to feel the door, doorknob, and the crack between the floor and door frame to make sure the fire is not outside the door. If any of these things feel hot, use the second escape path from the room. If the door is cool, open it slowly and brace your shoulder against the door. If heat and smoke come in, close the door quickly and use the other escape route.
For more information on National Fire Prevention Week or fire safety procedures, visit www.nfpa.org. You can also contact The Turner Agency or your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent for more information on protecting your family from the flames by obtaining or reviewing your homeowners or renter’s insurance policy.