Archive for March, 2011

Daylight Savings Time Sets Off Spring Cleaning—and a Safety Check

The catchy phrase “spring ahead” signals change for Americans. It’s a reminder to move clocks ahead one hour for daylight savings time. And it’s an optimistic forecast that warmer and sunnier weeks are ahead. With these seasonal changes, millions take on “spring cleaning” of homes, garages, and yards.

When you’re longing to get outside in the spring months, consider several simple steps to enhance safety for you and your family. After all, the numbers show where the danger is: Home accidents result in 10 million emergency room visits each year in the U.S., according to Home Safety Council estimates. Many injuries occur in garages and near doorways to a home.

Here are some suggestions for an effective spring safety sweep:

Check fluids. Look under sinks, in bathrooms, closets, garage and basement for liquids that include chemicals. Look for potentially hazardous liquids including: cleaning solvents and disinfectants; oil-based paints, primers and thinners; gasoline, kerosene, motor oil, anti-freeze, windshield washer, and other car products; insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers; and charcoal lighter fluid.

Safely discard any liquids that are unneeded or expired, based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Proper disposal is usually best accomplished with a community-based program. Typically, pouring hazardous materials down a sink, on the ground, or in a storm sewer—or placing them in the garbage—is not a safe option.

Cap, label and raise. Safely cap containers containing chemicals of any kind. If these materials need to be kept, make sure they are labeled correctly. Raise up (out of the reach of children and pets) any containers with hazardous materials.

Ventilate.  Make sure petroleum-based products and other products with noxious fumes are not stored in a confined space such as a basement or closet. Nor should they be near a heat source. Springtime also is a good time to have chimneys professionally cleaned. 

Check alarms. Housing codes typically require smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms in a residence. Consider adding these safety devices in garages and basements. Check the batteries in all smoke and CO alarms.

Clean up clutter. Many trip-and-fall or fall-from-above accidents happen because houses are cluttered near doors. Garages, basements, and attics are places where many homeowners put things out of the way—only to find them “by accident” come springtime. Clean up for safety’s sake.

Separate for safety. In the garage and basement, make an area for bikes, balls, and toys—away from potentially dangerous areas and items such as fuels, paints and power tools.

Prepare for an emergency. Make sure all entrances and exits to your home, including through the garage or basement, are clear. Place a first-aid kit and flashlight in the garage and basement. Mount a fire extinguisher in the garage, and train adults how to use it based on manufacturer’s directions.

Check appliances. Check appliance hoses for dishwashers, refrigerators, washers, and dryers. Danger signs: crimping, cracking or other damage on power wires, supply/discharge hoses, and vents. If you have a sump pump, test it—before spring downpours and melting snows do.

Talk to your Trusted Choice® insurance professional for additional tips on how to protect your family and home.

http://www.trustedchoice.com/Content/Articles/Spring-Safety-Checklist.aspx

Is your home underinsured?

On the Hook for Property Undervaluation

If an insured suffers an underinsured loss, whose fault is it?

According to Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, more than 60% of U.S. homes are undervalued by an average of 25%. In some cases, according to MS/B, as much as 73% of an agency’s book of homeowners business may be undervalued by an average of 35%. The problem isn’t just limited to homes. According to MS/B, 75% of commercial buildings could be undervalued by an average of 40%. If an insured suffers an underinsured loss, whose fault is it? According to one recent court decision, in some cases, it could be the agent’s.

In Martinonis v. Utica National Insurance Group, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals held the agent might be held liable for failure to adequately insure a home based on the long-term relationship between the agency and client wherein regular reliance on the agent’s advice and assurances regarding policy limits created a special relationship.

The agent obtained a homeowners policy for the plaintiffs whose home was subsequently destroyed by a fire. The policy liability limit of $469,000 was paid in full by the insurer. The plaintiffs contended that the actual damages were $1,164,012.43 and that the agent was negligent in failing to advise them to obtain higher limits. The trial court awarded summary judgment in the agent’s favor.

The Court of Appeals reversed, stating: “[T]here is no general duty of an insurance agent to ensure that insurance policies procured by him provide coverage that is adequate for the needs of the insured…[however] in an action against the agent for negligence, the insured may show that special circumstances prevailed that gave rise to a duty on the part of the agent to ensure that adequate insurance was obtained.”

The insureds presented facts demonstrating a long relationship with the agent (almost 10 years), including procurement and advice on insurance policies placed with him on a variety of other properties, that led them to rely on his expertise. The agent had previously advised the insured that their contents limit was inadequate and, following his advice, they increased that amount. However, they contended that, after expressing concerns about their dwelling limit, the agent assured them that the limits were proper.

They thought the $469,000 dwelling limit was too low. The assessed value of the house was around $400,000 and the insureds expressed concern that the assessing authorities were slow to catch up with market value. They also knew that houses in their area were selling for over one million dollars.

According to the Court of Appeals: “There is no general duty of an insurance agent to ensure that the insurance policies procured by him provide coverage that is adequate for the needs of the insured…The agent does not, in general, have a fiduciary duty to the insured in this regard…Nevertheless, in an action against the agent for negligence, the insured may show that special circumstances prevailed that gave rise to a duty on the part of the agent to ensure that adequate insurance was obtained.”

In the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs presented adequate evidence of such special circumstances, in opposition to the agent’s motion for summary judgment, to create a genuine issue of material fact on that issue. Their testimony about the long relationship with the agent, the reliance placed on his review of the adequacy of their insurance, his specific assurance on past occasions in response to inquiries that the policies had adequate limits of liability, and the specific assurance in this case that the limits were proper, were sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.

The agent’s defense rested largely on the fact that no separate compensation in addition to normal commissions on premiums was requested by or paid to the plaintiffs to reflect the services he rendered in supplying counsel and advice. However, according to the court, the absence of separate compensation does not mean that special circumstances giving rise to a duty of care did not exist. The facts were enough to create a material issue of fact in the eyes of the court as to whether special circumstances exist on the issue of duty sufficient to survive summary judgment.

Bill Wilson (bill.wilson@iiaba.net) , director of the Big “I” Virtual University

 

Erie Insurance Recognized as a J.D. Power 2011 Customer Service Champion

ERIE named to list of only 40 companies to receive distinction in U.S.

(Erie, Pa.) February 25, 2011 – Erie Insurance was recognized as a J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 Customer Service Champion, one of only 40 companies to earn the distinction in a cross-industry study of more than 800 companies.

“It’s always an honor to be recognized by our Customers and J.D. Power and Associates’,” said Terry Cavanaugh, president and CEO.  “And it’s especially rewarding to be recognized in the same ranks with top customer service brands like The Ritz-Carlton, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos.” 

To qualify for inclusion on the elite list, companies must not only excel within their own industries, but also must stand out among leading brands in 20 major industries evaluated by J.D. Power.  This group of 40 represents the highest-performing companies that deliver service excellence to U.S. customers – both within their respective industries and across all industries measured. 

Companies were identified based on customer feedback, opinions, and perceptions gathered primarily from J.D. Power’s syndicated research as well as additional, supplemental research. The five key customer “touch points” measured included people, presentation, process, product, and price. 

In 2010, Erie Insurance also earned J.D. Power and Associates’ award for “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with the Auto Insurance Shopping Experience.” 

According to A.M. Best Company, Erie Insurance Group, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, is the 13th largest automobile and homeowners insurer in the United States based on direct premiums written and the 19th largest property/casualty insurer in the United States based on total lines net premium written. The Group, rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best Company, has over 4.2 million policies in force and operates in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Erie Insurance Group ranks 484 on the FORTUNE 500. 

Erie Insurance earned J.D.Power and Associates’ award for “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with the Auto Insurance Shopping Experience.”  This recognition is based on the results of the 2010 Insurance Shopping Study, which evaluates the experience of customers purchasing a new auto insurance policy.  Erie Insurance is proud to be named a J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 Customer Service Champion and is only one of 40 companies so named in the U.S.  Erie Insurance has also been recognized on the list of Ward’s 50 Group of top performing insurance companies.  The Ward’s 50 award analyzes the financial performance of 3,000 property and casualty companies and nearly 800 life and health insurance companies and recognizes the top performers for achieving outstanding financial results in safety and consistency over a five-year period (2005-2009). 

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