Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thanksgiving Message From The President

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am feeling very blessed and now that  the Thanksgiving Holiday is here, now is a perfect opportunity for me to express my gratitude. 

To our loyal clients, thank you for all the trust that you have in our agency and staff . You are all very open to our knowledge and expertise as we insure the property and assets you have worked so hard for. To my amazing and knowledgeable staff,  I am so blessed to have your commitment and dedication to the firm and our clients. I truly appreciate my entire team! To my family and friends (and my dogs Dobie & Gracie), thank you for all your love and support.  There are no words to truly express how lucky I feel to have you all in my life.

May everyone have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

– Heidi Petschauer

Rate Increase On Directors and Officers Liability Policies

While it is true that insurance companies are in business to make money, and most insurers are looking for increases of between 5% and 15% on an annual basis, the  D&O (directors and officers) market remains an anomaly. Now that the worst of the financial crisis appears to be over and bankruptcy filings are declining, most carriers are willing to settle for very low rate increases on their D&O book of business provided the risk is a good one.  Why, when other lines of business are looking for more aggressive increases, is this market behaving differently?

The answer is that previously many carriers actively fought to obtain and retain this business.  Now, having suffered significant losses, they are actively underwriting their books and they are being much more selective as to which policies they will offer to renew and what terms and conditions they are willing to offer. Thus, they are underwriting more by experience of a risk than by market segment, size of risk, or size of premium. This is especially the case with smaller privately held companies.

As for publicly traded companies, the underwriting philosophy is not much different.  The huge swings in pricing are a thing of yesterday.  The renewal premiums on publicly held policies will be rather flat even though it is widely believed that pricing and retention on such policies are not really where they should be. As a result, carriers will be reviewing and scrutinizing all underwriting data and carefully choosing the accounts they want to provide with the most aggressive pricing. In view of the losses which carriers were forced to absorb during the financial crisis, they are trying desperately to get back to making their books profitable once again. One way of accomplishing this is by increasing retentions and making sure that the premium charged are reflective of both the exposures presented as well as the loss history of the account. Basically, they will pick and choose what they care to write rather than automatically offering a renewal.

So, it is suggested that you determine the largest retention you can live within an effort to keep your premiums reasonable and then use this to negotiate any proposed rate increase offered by your carrier. Talk this over with your agent or broker, prior to your renewal, to ensure that you obtain the most cost effective renewal proposal available in the market.

Karen Skoler, CPCU

Keep Your Buildings From Freezing During Winter Months

Homes, offices, apartments, warehouses, and all other personal or commercial buildings are not immune to damage during the winter. Winter weather inevitably brings freezing conditions and this can spell disaster. So therefore, it is necessary to put strategies in place to avoid such occurrences whenever and wherever possible.

Steps to take to avoid damage:

  • Inspect for damaged water lines, air drafts, heating systems, and make repairs promptly.
  • Keep the cold out by sealing areas with caulk, foam, insulation and use temperature monitoring devices to make sure that the measures implemented are actually working.
  • Keep warmth in and keep water moving to avoid the freezing of pipes and possible breakage. Insulating pipes is always a good idea, especially in unheated areas.
  • Be aware of water flow volume and make use of both “home” as well as “away” settings.
  • Configure temperature settings with existing alarm system, some of which can be controlled with mobile applications.

frozen-ice-189996_640Steps to take if there is damage:

Once there is a damage of any kind, it is necessary to mitigate the problem and to prevent further damage. Here are some suggestions regarding the type of action to take once something happens:

  • Shut off the main water valve.
  • Implement any sprinkler impairment program.
  • In the case of a frozen line, remove any ice plug and administer heat.
  • Be sure to implement any emergency response and a business continuity plan.
  • Contact a water remediation contractor.
  • Remove high value or water sensitive equipment and material.
  • Be sure to take pictures and/or video of any damaged areas and/or equipment.

Remember the old adage from Ben Franklin – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – and save yourself the extra stress this winter.

Karen Skoler, CPCU

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10 Thanksgiving Fire Safety Tips

8210557842_4ffce3a8ac_zDid you know that on Thanksgiving Day the amount of kitchen fires are two times more likely to occur than on any other day of the year? That seems reasonable, as most of us are celebrating a holiday that resonates because of the amount of food preparation that takes place. That is why we want you to be prepared for the worst, while enjoying the holiday.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as the day of feasts approaches:

  1. Install a fire detector in or near the kitchen.
  2. Never leave the kitchen when frying or grilling food.
  3. Use a timer when cooking.
  4. If using a deep-fryer, keep the fryer outside, away from any walls.
  5. Avoid loose clothes or long sleeves while cooking.
  6. Make sure all candles around the house are securely placed.
  7. Keep kids away from cooking areas.
  8. Keep all flammable things – oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, towels – away from the stove top and oven.
  9. Keep the floors clear of any objects you may trip over.
  10. Make your fire extinguisher functions properly, and place in or near the kitchen.

We hope that you take these tips and put them to use while you prepare for Thanksgiving. Then, the only thing you will have to worry about is overeating. Have a wonderful holiday!

Protect Your Holiday Gifts With Off Premises Theft Coverage

Dear Sherri,

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I’m planning on doing all my holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving, which is commonly known as “Black Friday.”  I will be leaving many gifts in my car while I shop the entire day.  If someone breaks into my vehicle or worse, steals the vehicle with all the gifts in it, will I have coverage for the gifts?

Sincerely,

Worrying at the Mall

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Dear Worrying at the Mall,

As the famous Reggae singer, Bobby McFerrin sang, “Don’t worry, be happy.” As long as you have “Off Premises Theft Coverage” on your Homeowner’s or Renter’s policy, you are covered.  In some states the coverage is automatic while in others you must purchase this coverage separately.  Of course, don’t forget that your deductible will apply in this type of situation.  Now, what I’ve said applies to most of us, but if your last name is Gates or Rockefeller, keep in mind that most policies have a limitation for jewelry, furs and fine arts.  If this is you, I want to be your new BFF and my ring size is a 7 and my birthstone is a DIAMOND!  If you are purchasing these types of items be sure to check with your agent to confirm how much coverage on valuable items you have for each classification.

Happy Shopping!

Sherri Cosentino

How To: Lower The Cost of Homeowners Insurance

In the age of super-consumerism, everyone is looking to make the most of their money.  Insurance is no exception, so here are some valuable tips to keep in mind when purchasing or renewing your insurance :

  • Raising Your Deductible – Basically, your deductible is the “skin” you have in the game, or the amount you will need to pay when your claim is finalized! The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. This allows you to use  your insurance as protection against larger losses, the nature of which you can’t possibly pay on your own. You must determine how much of a loss you can comfortably retain. Similarly, if you live in an area susceptible to a flood, windstorm, earthquake or the like, your policy might contain multiple deductibles. We recommend that you review these with your agent on a yearly basis.
  • Don’t Confuse Market Value With The Cost To Rebuild-Keep in mind that the land on which your home is built, is not at risk for damages due to fire, windstorm, earthquake or theft.  Therefore, the value of land shouldn’t be included in the value of your home and need not be calculated in the cost to rebuild. Keep in mind that the higher the values, the greater the cost.
  •  The 80% Rule-You must insure to at least 80% of your home’s total replacement cost for an insurance company to fully cover the cost of damages to your home from an insured event. For instance, if it costs $500,000 to rebuild, you must insure for a minimum of $400,000 regardless of whether you suffer a complete loss to the home or even a partial loss. If not, you run the risk of becoming a co-insurer and will have to come up with additional monies over and above your deductible amount. Since capital improvements such as additions and alterations can increase your home’s value, be sure to let your agent know of any improvements   that could increase the replacement value of your home.
  • Purchase All Your Policies from One Carrier-This strategy assists you in getting a bigger bang for your buck and  ensures you are getting discounts on all your policies. Often you can “bundle” your homeowners, auto and umbrella policies to take advantage of discounted premiums you wouldn’t otherwise get with individual policies.
  • Improve Your Resistance To Loss & Improve Home Security-Such losses ranging from roof damage to slips and falls on cracked sidewalks can easily be avoided by checking your home for defects at least every six months. Attention to brick work, concrete, leaders and gutters, downspouts, shutters, railings, stairways, roof shingles, wiring, boilers, heating and air-conditioning are just a few of the areas you will want to check for any needed repairs. We strongly recommend that you check to make sure smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, fire and burglar alarms are always in good working order. Most carriers provide discounts for any devices that are installed to prevent loss.
  • Pay Your Bills On Time-A good credit record can be a significant asset in underwriting and  ensuring the best pricing from your insurance carrier. We also recommend you check your credit report on an annual basis to identify any errors that may appear.

At a time when every dollar counts, these simple suggestions can really make a difference!

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

Seniors at the Wheel – Will their auto insurance rates change?

Seniors are referred to as drivers over the age of 65—some of whom are still very active and many of whom are continuing members of the work force.  Decreases in vision, hearing, slower motor responses, and changes in cognition have been said to challenge this demographic as they grow older.

Did you ever think that with more of the population aging, they might be doing a better job of acknowledging their limitations? Some seniors I spoke with tell me that they no longer drive at night because it is harder to see and they are not as sharp as they are during the morning hours. Others tell me that they stay out of rush hour and start their days later and end them earlier so that they can avoid heavily traveled roads, especially in inclement weather. Still others advise that they stay off major thoroughfares, and instead drive on side streets and roadways they have driven on all their lives. With the baby boomers fast approaching their 70’s what can we expect?  Will their auto insurance rates go up or down?  Is it possible that seniors can be said to be driving more cautiously with fewer accidents?  Could it be safer roads, reduced speeds, traffic conditions, safer vehicles, the use of seatbelts, daytime running lights, or even the lengthening of daylight savings time in some areas of the country?  The fact is that over the past decade it is reported that fatality rates for senior drivers have come down more dramatically than for any other age group.   For this reason, auto rates for the age group of 65-75 have decreased in many states with many carriers simply due to the claim statistics.

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Most of all, it is reported that older drivers actually drive fewer miles per year than their younger counterparts.  Some insurance carriers also take this into consideration when calculating rates for the senior demographics.  Of course, we haven’t yet gotten to the point where the “baby boomers” are over 75 years of age. That will take a few more years and it should be interesting to watch the results in insurance rates for this demographic.

It is important that seniors realize their driving ability can change as they age even though they may have been driving their entire life with an excellent safety record.  In order to continue to drive safely, it is crucial for seniors to recognize that changes can happen and to regularly assess their driving skills.

 

By Karen Skolar, CPCU

Health Insurance Open Enrollment for 2015 begins November 15th

If you do not have health insurance at this time, November 15th is the quickly approaching date for you to take advantage of the opportunity to be eligible to purchase a policy.  Did you know that as of January 1st 2015, any adult without health insurance earning above the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  income threshold, is responsible to pay a penalty of $95.00 or 1% of their annual income (whichever is higher)?   Did you know that there is a limited time for you to apply for coverage?

So maybe you lost the health insurance sponsored by your employer or you no longer qualify to be on your parent’s plan due to your age.  Beginning on November 15, 2014 you have a chance to be proactive and purchase health insurance for an upcoming January 1, 2015 effective date.  This is called “Open Enrollment”.  If you haven’t applied for coverage by February 15th, 2015 you will need to wait until the next Open Enrollment period scheduled for November 15, 2015.

What is Open Enrollment?

This is a period during which an individual can apply for health insurance with fewer restrictions than at any other time during the year. It is important for those individuals who are not covered under their employer’s insurance, or simply are uninsured, to pay close attention and remember the dates for Open Enrollment:  November 15, 2014 through February 15th, 2015. During Open Enrollment, insurance companies are supposed to waive underwriting guidelines and any requirement for evidence of insurability. When Open Enrollment ends individuals seeking coverage need to be “qualified” for Special Enrollment, or they will have to wait until the next scheduled open enrollment period on November 15, 2015! Special Enrollment or qualifying events include, but are not limited to: divorce, marriage, birth, death and loss of employer sponsored coverage.

•How can individual insurance be purchased?

A number of Health Insurance Companies are offering Individual health coverage either directly through health carrier websites, via the New York State Health Exchange, or off the Exchange through independent insurance brokers.

• What penalties will you be responsible to pay if you are not covered?

In 2014: $95.00 or 1% of income (individual)

$285.00 or 1% of income (family)

In 2015: $325.00 or 2% of income (individual)

$975.00 or 2% of income (family)

In 2016: $695.00 or 2.5% of income (individual)

$2085 or 2.5% of income (family

Although the penalty may seem minimal in 2014, as you can see, it will increase for the upcoming years. Keep in mind that you will be responsible to pay the greater amount; percentage of income, or fixed dollar amount.

Health_topic_imageSome people feel that the premium for a health insurance plan seems unnecessary and excessive for a young healthy individual. However, we strongly suggest that you keep in mind that “accidents do happen” and the cost of an emergency room visit, x-rays, MRIs, hospital stays and doctor visits add up and can be devastating to you and your family’s financial situation.

We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to purchase health insurance during this year’s Open Enrollment.

By Narima Prashad
Account Executive