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Posts Tagged ‘personal insurance’

Preventing Accidental Poisoning

Preventing Accidental Poisoning

America’s poison help lines received over 3.1 million calls in 2013 alone. While accidental poison exposure of children younger than the age of 6 accounted for nearly 50 percent of incidents, kids weren’t the only ones in harm’s way. Ninety-two percent of reported poison-related deaths were of adults. More than 90 percent of poisonings occurred in the home.

Whether your family includes young children and teens or is comprised of adults alone, consider the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ tips to prevent accidental poisoning in your home.

  1. Learn to recognize potential poisons – A poison is anything that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. Even products you might consider safe—such as vitamin C tablets, mouthwash or hair spray—can become a poison. Additionally:
  • Some poisons may be harmful if they touch your eyes or skin.
  • Others may be toxic if you breathe or swallow them.
  • They can by solids, liquids, sprays or gases.
  1. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medicines are among the most common household poisons.
  • Never take larger or more frequent doses than prescribed by your doctor or recommended on OTC drug labels.
  • Read all warning labels before taking any medication. Some may become poisons when taken with other drugs or alcohol.
  • Turn on a light before taking medications at night to ensure you have the correct bottle and are taking the right amount.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottles and containers. Pill sorters may be convenient, but they can also increase your chance of accidental poisoning.
  • Dispose of unused, unneeded and expired prescription drugs at National Drug Take Back days. You can find a DEA authorized collection location in your area at this website.
  1. Household chemical products (cleaning, personal care, pesticides, etc.) are also common household poisons.
  • Read the label completely before using any household or personal care product.
  • Keep all chemical and personal care products in their original bottles and containers.
  • Never mix cleaning products together or you may create toxic gases.
  • Turn on fans and open windows before using chemical household cleaners.
  • Never apply pesticides or other chemicals without wearing protective clothing.
  1. Proper storage of potential poisons is essential.
  • If you have children—or if youngsters sometimes visit your home—store all medications and household products in a secure cabinet out of sight or out of children’s reach.
  • Always secure child safety caps every time you use a medication.
  • Put medications and household products away as soon as you are done with them.
  • Ask guests to your home to keep their medications out of the sight and access of children as well. They should not leave drugs in their purses, backpacks or coat pockets.
  1. Remain calm if a poisoning occurs.
  • Prepare for such a situation by programming 1-800-222-1222 (the Poison Control Center) into your family’s cell phones.
  • Call the poison control center number if the exposure victim is awake and alert. If he or she is not, call 911.
  • You’ll need the victim’s age and weight as well as the time of poison exposure and the type of chemical (medication, household product, etc.).
  • The emergency operator or poison control center will provide you with further instruction.


Should You Buy Disability Insurance?

Should You Buy Disability Insurance?

What would happen if you were permanently injured or became too ill to work? You might qualify for disability payments from Social Security, but would you be able to survive on the average payout ($1,165/month as of April 2015)? Maybe you have some savings, but would they be adequate to cover your living expenses until you’re old enough to collect retirement benefits? If you answered “no” to either of these questions, you should consider buying disability insurance.

Like every other type of insurance, a disability policy is designed to protect something. You buy homeowners insurance to protect your home and the personal property within it. You buy life insurance to protect your family when you eventually pass away. Disability insurance basically protects your income—something that’s especially important during your peak earning years (now defined as age 40 to 55.) Not only do most professionals earn their highest salary during this time, they actively use it to pay down debt and save for retirement.

As most insurers won’t offer disability policies to individuals over the age of 59, now is likely your best time to buy one that will carry you through to full retirement age. As with health and life insurance, the older you are, the more expensive obtaining disability insurance will become. Less than perfect health can make it more difficult, though not impossible. You may still be offered a policy, but it may include exclusions for health issues—such as back problems—for which you’ve regularly sought treatment.

Before you pursue an individual disability insurance policy, check with your employer about group policies. If the company you work for offers one, you may be able to obtain coverage without going through medical underwriting. This can make the process easier and save you money. If your employer does not offer supplemental disability insurance, you’ll want to find a provider who offers guaranteed renewable policies with fixed costs and terms.

In general, experts recommend a disability insurance policy that will replace 60 to 70 percent of your salary. Women are often charged more for the same amount of coverage as men because they are 35 percent more likely to become disabled. Increasing the waiting period on the policy—from 90 days to 180 days, for example—can decrease the price. So can choosing a shorter term. If you and your partner buy policies together, you may also score a discount.

When you apply for a disability insurance policy, the underwriter will look at your health (unless you’re getting insurance through your employer), occupation and finances. You may need to provide tax returns as proof of income. It can be an invasive process, but when you consider the peace of mind disability insurance affords—especially during those peak earning years we mentioned earlier—it’s more than worth any minor hassle. Contact us to discuss the benefits of disability insurance further and explore your options.


Home Window Safety

Home Window Safety

You expect your home to be a safe place for your children—maybe even the safest. However, according to recent data from Safe Kids Worldwide, 2,200 children die each year from injuries sustained in the home. Caregivers take another 3.5 million kids to the ER after home accidents, and almost 2 million of them are treated for fall-related injuries. Some of these deaths and injuries involve falls from windows.

While National Window Safety Week takes place in April each year, anytime is a good time to assess window safety in your home. The National Safety Council offers the following suggestions to help you keep your children safe from life-threatening falls.

Always supervise – Nothing feels better than a fresh spring or summer breeze through open windows. However, if you choose to keep yours open during warm weather months, keep an eye on your children and teach them to play well away from the potential fall hazard.

If you can’t supervise, keep them closed – If you cannot stay with your children, close and lock the windows before leaving the room.

Don’t rely on screens – Most window screens are designed to keep insects out, not children in. They cannot withstand the weight of a child (or a pet) and will not prevent a fall.

Move the furniture – If you have small children, or if little ones are visiting your home, move furniture away from the windows. This will remove their temptation to climb up and potentially fall.

Ventilate in inches – Rather than opening windows wide, crack them a few inches. You’ll still get a breeze while keeping children (and pets) safe from falls. You may also want to consider installing limited-opening hardware on windows within your children’s reach. This hardware will prevent them from opening the window more than a few inches.

Bedroom Windows Save Lives

While falling from a window can lead to injury, it may be necessary for your children to use their bedroom window to exit your home in the event of an emergency—such as a fire. You’ll want to make certain they can safely do so. Consider these additional tips from the National Safety Council.

Test the windows – Make sure bedroom windows open easily and are not sealed shut by paint or swollen shut by weathering. If you cannot open them quickly and easily, replace them.

Buy escape ladders – If you have bedrooms on the second or third floor of your home, equip each one with an emergency escape ladder.

Practice – Teach your children how to open their windows and attach the escape ladder. Practice fire escape routes, both during the day and at night (when most house fires occur).

Download the National Safety Council’s window safety activity book for kids here. And remember: we’re here to help you protect your family. Please don’t hesitate to call with home safety or insurance-related questions.

Buying Cruise Insurance

Buying Cruise Insurance

From weather delays to onboard mishaps, protecting yourself and your vacation is something you should consider before you set sail on your next cruise.

Covered Events

The unfortunate events covered by cruise insurance vary depending on policy. Common ones include missed departures and delays, cruise operator cancellations, emergency traveler cancellations, lost and stolen luggage, medical emergencies, medical evacuations and cruise operator financial default.

Two special insurance features most travelers find particularly desirable are 100 percent refund policies and trip interruption coverage. The first will reimburse your pre-paid travel expenses in the event that you need to cancel your trip for any reason including a job loss or medical emergency. The second will reimburse your expenses if you need to cut your vacation short and fly home.

Buying Direct from Cruise Operator

Most cruise operators offer passengers some form of insurance protection, through it is often more limited in scope than comparably priced third party policies. For example, most do not cover cancellations due to operator financial default, terrorism or political unrest. If traveler cancellation is covered, there may be a cut off several days prior to departure. And medical coverage is often quite limited, usually excluding pre-existing conditions.

In the event of a covered situation requiring reimbursement, most cruise lines will pay up in the form of non-transferable credits towards future travel. Most often, expiration dates and strict redemption rules accompany these vouchers. Cash reimbursement is quite rare.

Purchasing Third Party Insurance

If you want broader coverage and cash reimbursement, you’ll have to purchase your cruise insurance through a third party provider. TravelGuard, TravelSafe and InsureMyTrip are three popular companies offering a range of cruise insurance products.

When reviewing your options, consider a ‘primary’ policy. It may cost a bit more, but coverage kicks in the moment something goes wrong—reducing or eliminating the time you’ll wait for reimbursement. If you chose ‘secondary’ coverage, you must attempt to collect on a primary policy before your cruise insurance will cover a thing. For example, if someone steals your camera while on the ship, a secondary policy will only cover your loss after you’ve attempted to collect on your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Cost of Investment

Whether you choose to purchase directly from your cruise operator or from a third party, expect to pay 5 percent to 10 percent of the cruise price for insurance. While this may be as much as $1,000 on a $10,000 cruise, the cost is minimal compared to the potential losses you’ll incur if you have to cancel your trip due to an emergency, the ship malfunctions and you find yourself stranded in a foreign port, or the cruise line goes out of business.


Buying a Used Car? Look Out for VIN Cloning

Buying a Used Car? Look Out for VIN Cloning

While car theft has been a great concern for car owners, it is less of a concern because of the improvement in technologies such as transponder keys, tracking and recovery systems, improved integrated active alarm systems, etc. But while car theft has dropped, car thieves have not given up… and the most common car crime today is VIN switching or VIN cloning.

How VIN Cloning / VIN Switching is Done

  1. Thieves steal your car.
  2. They then look for a model that is the same as yours.
  3. Thieves will make a copy of that vehicle’s VIN.
  4. They will create a fake VIN plate for your car which makes the car easy to sell.

What’s terrible bout this is that you may buy a car thinking it has a clean bill of health. But the real car’s history may be masked.

Worse, the police can seize the car if it was in fact stolen and you’ll likely be out of the money you spent on the car. (Some states like Wisconsin require auto dealerships to reimburse consumers when the dealership has sold a car with a bad VIN but not all states require this.)

Protect yourself from VIN Cloning

Here are some of the things that you can do so that you can protect yourself from VIN cloning and avoid buying used cars that have been stolen.

Check the Address of the Seller

Criminals will not let you know their address. If you are the buyer, always go to the seller and meet at his or her house. If he says that he is a motor dealer, go to his place of business. A legal trader will not have a problem with you visiting his business site. He will also have printed invoices and a legit landline number.

If the seller asks to meet at a convenient location, make sure to bring a friend.

Right to Sell

Buying from a private individual is riskier than buying from a car dealer because when things go wrong, you might not be able to find the seller if he or she is just a private individual.

To see if the seller has the right to sell, meet at the address indicated on the registration papers. Go into the house and don’t just meet outside the house. If the person has nothing to hide, then there should be no problem getting inside the house. If you find something unusual, walk away right at that very moment.

Question Low Prices

Be wary of cars that are being sold at an insanely low price. If there is some bodywork damage in the car, then the seller might go a bit lower. However, if the seller is willing to accept any price, then alarm bells must sound off because a car thief will settle for any amount instead of getting caught with a stolen car.

Check the Documents

Inspect each and every document that will be handed to you. Try to spot any forgeries. Check the VIN on all the records, the door sticker, dash, car frame, service and title records. All of the VIN indicated there must match. Check for any signs that it may have been tampered with.

Check the CARFAX if there are any clone alerts.

The odometer must match the mileage that is reported on the document. Check if there are any registrations between states. If there are, then this is a cause for alarm as this might be a stolen car.

Get a Mechanic

You can always get an expert mechanic to check on the car if there are any anomalies.

Why to Choose a Safe Deposit Box Over a Home Safe

Why to Choose a Safe Deposit Box Over a Home Safe

Whether you want a safe place to stash heirloom jewelry from your great-great-grandmother, a treasured collection of rare coins, stacks of savings bonds or your last five years’ worth of tax returns, a safe deposit box at the bank is a better choice than a home safe for a number of reasons.

  1. A safe deposit box is a better value. Even the cheapest home safe is going to cost you upwards of $100 dollars. A safe deposit box, on the other hand, typically rents for $15 to $500 a year depending on size. Unless you’re storing large valuables, the up-front cost of renting a safe deposit box is going to be less than purchasing a residential safe.
  1. A safe deposit box offers better protection from fire. Fireproof home safes are even more expensive than their basic counterparts are—and there are significant limits to how much actual protection they offer. For example, some fire resistant residential safes still allow contents to reach 350 degrees. While that might protect paper documents, it’s more than the heat required to damage items like computer disks and 35mm slides. Most only offer 30 minutes of protection as well—not enough if it takes emergency responders longer to extinguish the blaze. Fire is not an issue for a safe deposit box, however. Located in a sealed bank vault, they offer the ultimate protection for your items.
  1. A safe deposit box offers better protection from thieves. While the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing notes that the number of reported single-family home burglaries nationwide has declined 32 percent since 1990, they’re still increasing in some metropolitan areas—and a home safe is an easy target for a would-be thief on the prowl. Banks, on the other hand, are more secure than the average home. Even when a robbery occurs, few of the criminals bother with the safe deposit boxes. According to the FBI, only 18 of the 5,014 bank robberies that occurred nationwide in 2011 involved the safe deposit vault.
  1. Home safes are notoriously easy to “crack.” Just watch one episode of A&E’s Storage Wars and you’ll see how easy most residential safes are to break into. And anyone can learn to do it. A quick Google search of “how to crack a home safe” returned more than 43,700,000 written and video tutorials. Safe deposit boxes, on the other hand, are housed within a bank vault, which is much more difficult to break into.

IMPORTANT: While bank robberies involving safe deposit boxes are rare, it’s still wise to add a rider to your homeowner or renter’s insurance policy to cover the items you store within one. The minimal cost you’ll incur is preferable to running the risk of an unforeseen loss.


Dog Bite Prevention

Dog Bite Prevention

Americans love their dogs. According to the American Pet Products Association, more than 56 million U.S. households included at least one canine companion in 2014. Unfortunately, raising a pooch isn’t always just wagging tails and slobbery kisses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that dogs bite 4.5 million people every year. About 885,000 of those incidents result in injuries requiring medical attention, and about half of those serious injuries occur on children.

In addition to the shock and horror you’d naturally experience should your dog attack a stranger, visitor to your home, or even a family member, dog bite incidents are expensive. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than 33 percent of the homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid in 2013, costing more than $483 million. The average cost per dog bite claim nationwide was $27,862—a pretty significant chunk of change.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of your dog or family’s involvement in a dog bite incident. Consider the following:

  1. Choose your pet carefully. There are varying opinions on whether dogs of certain breeds are more dangerous than others are or if home environment has more to do with a dog’s nature. Talk to your veterinarian about potential behavior and health issues associated with specific breeds. Speak with your insurance agent about breeds excluded from coverage under your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  1. Socialize your pet early. Well-socialized puppies are more likely to grow into adult dogs who feel comfortable around a variety of people and other animals. Continue to expose your dog to new situations—under controlled circumstances, of course—as he or she gets older.
  1. Wait until your child is old enough. Because half of all serious dog bite incidents involve children, experts recommend waiting until your own are at least 4 years old before introducing a dog to your home. At that age, children are better able to understand how to behave around pets.
  1. Never leave a baby or young child alone with a dog. You should also teach your children not to approach strange dogs or to try to pet dogs they do not know. Instruct them to ask the dog’s owner for permission before approaching or petting.
  1. Keep your dog healthy. From controlling parasites to spaying and neutering, regular veterinary care can influence how your dog feels and directly affect how he or she behaves. Make sure to vaccinate your dog against rabies and other infectious diseases according to recommended guidelines. And take your pet on plenty of walks to keep it healthy and provide mental and physical stimulation.
  1. Obey all pet-related laws. License your dog as required by your community, city and county. Respect leash laws and, if you ever leave your dog alone in a fenced yard, ensure the area is truly secure.

Whether you already own a dog or are considering bringing a canine into your home, give us a call to review your insurance liability coverage for bites and other pet-related injuries.



Before Tossing Those Electronic Gadgets Consider This

Before Tossing Those Electronic Gadgets Consider This

You’d be surprised to know that simply tossing away electronic gadgets can potentially inflict damage including large financial losses

In the age of hard drives and solid-state memory and its humongous capacity to store information, a lot of details about one’s self is actually stored in many different electronic devices. Therefore, throwing electronic devices indiscriminately and hastily can potentially leave one exposed to the headaches that result from having one’s identity stolen.

The use of technology in daily life has spawned various cases of identity theft. Identity theft protection is something to be vigilant of in this day and age.

Whether using electronic gadgets for personal use or for business, ensure that the data stored in these devices are safe. This is not just for personal benefit and protection, but for the clients’ and company’s reputation and safety, as well.

Here are tips on how to dispose electronic gadgets properly and how to employ identity theft protection effectively.

Before tossing that old Palm, Blackberry, iPhone, tablet, old computer, or any other device that may store information, be sure to do the following for identity theft protection.

  1. Delete all sensitive and private information from the hard drive / memory of all electronic office equipment to be disposed of.

Most people know that disposing or re-selling old laptops and smartphones requires deleting old data from these. After all, it is common sense to NOT want the next user to gain access to personal and business information contained within these. Yet many people fail to adequately remove sensitive information.

Many more are surprised to learn the same identity theft protection principle can apply to copiers, printers, and fax machines. More often than not, electronic devices like these, which were manufactured after around 2002, were equipped with high storage capabilities. This means that when these devices were used, digital information about users have been stored inside these devices.

When disposed of hastily and without deleting sensitive information from the hard drive / memory, traces of one’s identity and personal information may end up in the wrong hands.

These information includes tax returns, voided checks, driver’s license, social security card, client information, just to name a few.

Irresponsible disposal could get one’s business in trouble. How? One’s business could be slapped with HIPAA fines or lawsuits related to professional liability issues.

  1. Remove the hard drive from the electronic office equipment prior to throwing it away. This is common sense identity theft protection procedure that’s not often done. However, it only takes a minute to do so, so be sure to make it an official protocol.

  2. If a person has no time to remove the hard drive himself, enlist the help of an e-waste company which specializes in destroying hard drives and deleting data from these.

However, if a person is doing it himself, allow for sufficient time to overwrite files from hard drives. Overwriting simply means replacing data with random information to prevent hackers and identity thieves from rebuilding data contained within the hard drive. It is highly recommended to leverage multiple-pass overwriting which is more time consuming but does a better job of removing the data.

  1. Use the company’s own fax machine, printer, or copier instead of renting or using these from a third-party provider. This way, sensitive personal information of clients cannot be stored in public and vulnerable hard drives.

  2. Keep up-to-date on information regarding data breaches, vulnerabilities, and ways to employ identity theft protection.

Legally, businesses, whether big or small, are held financially accountable for data breaches of people’s sensitive personal information. When a company fails to protect their client’s sensitive personal information, hackers and thieves could take advantage of data that’s supposed to be private. Customers will most likely file a lawsuit because of the company’s professional negligence.

Be proactive in creating a comprehensive cyber risk management plan for the company and its clients so that it won’t get caught by surprise whenever a data breach does happen. Preparation and proactive identity theft protection saves the company and client from headache, and not to mention precious dollars, from lawsuits and profit losses.

It pays to keep the company’s reputation clean. On top of these tips, it is also good to invest in an insurance product such as appropriate professional liability coverage, or identity theft insurance which can help defray costs of expensive negligence law suits if ever these happen. In a wired world where data breaches, identity thefts, and cybercrimes frequently occur, it is best to invest time, effort, and resources in making sure the company data is always safe and secure.


What to do if Your Tax Refund is Stolen

What to do if Your Tax Refund is Stolen

Imagine this: You’ve collected your W-2, your mortgage and student loan interest statements and your investment earnings documentation. You log into your online tax preparation software and spend the next hour inputting your information. When you hit “submit,” you breathe a sigh of relief; your taxes are complete for another year. Then you get an email saying the IRS has rejected your tax forms. Someone somewhere has already filed in your name.

Tax refund theft is happening more frequently these days than ever before. According to a government accountability office report, scammers snapped up more than $5 billion in 2013 tax returns last year. The IRS expects that number will grow even larger as identity thieves utilize some of the 6.5 million Social Security numbers stolen last year alone. In fact, some states are already seeing a spike in suspicious 2014 returns. According to The Washington Post, most of those were filed using TurboTax, one of the largest providers of tax preparation software.

Officials state filing early is one of the best ways you can protect yourself, essentially by beating criminals to the punch. Hopefully you won’t find yourself among the defrauded. However, if you are, here’s what you need to do to remedy the situation.

Report the fraud to the IRS.

The IRS identity protection division handles fraudulent tax return cases. You’ll need to fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit, which will create an alert on your account. The IRS may ask you to file your return on paper while they work to confirm your identity. You’ll then receive an identity protection personal identification number—or PIN—that you’ll need to use along with your Social Security number on future tax returns. You may also want to report the fraud to your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission.

Review your credit report.

If a thief had enough of your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return, he or she may also attempt to open new credit cards or take out loans in your name. Check your credit report at all three credit-reporting agencies as soon as you become aware of the fraud. At minimum, follow up annually. You can request a free credit report from each agency once a year at You may also want to put a freeze on your credit account. This will restrict anyone from pulling your credit report without your authorization, which will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open credit cards or loans in your name.

Change your passwords.

It may be easier to use the same password on all your financial accounts, and never change it, but you’re increasing your vulnerability to identity theft when you do so. If your information is compromised at one company, criminals will try to use it at others. Don’t let them get lucky. Create unique passwords for every account, and make them a long mix of numbers, letters and symbols. You might also want to take advantage of multi-factor authentication settings when available. These require a user to provide a code or other information in addition to their password when signing into an account, thereby increasing your protection.




Pet Insurance Basics

Pet Insurance Basics

Americans love their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners in the U.S. spent more than $58 billion on their cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and other critters in 2014. Of that expenditure, $15.25 billion was for veterinary care and $13.14 billion on related supplies and medications. We can all agree, that’s a lot of scratch! But while some pet moms and dads have to pay for routine wellness exams and unexpected vet visits and treatments out of their general household budget, others are thinking ahead. They bought pet insurance, and can rest assured their furry family member’s healthcare needs are covered.

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance helps you pay veterinary bills if your pet suffers and injury or illness. Some plans even chip in on routine medical care, though it’s usually most helpful when unexpected accidents strike. Those are the ones that usually require expensive procedures—such as cancer treatments that cost tens of thousands, hip replacements in the neighborhood of $10,000, and ACL repairs that carry fees upwards of $2,500. Any of these would decimate the average American’s emergency savings account. However, pet insurance makes these treatments financially possible.

How Much Will it Cost?

Just like your own healthcare insurance, pet insurance is not free. However, it’s likely more affordable than you may think. According to, you may find basic policies for as little as $10 a month. Policies with broader coverage will carry a higher price tag, of course. According to, accident coverage—that would cover your pet’s care if it were hit by a car or fell out a window, for example—can be had for $15 a month. Accident and illness policies start around $20 a month. A premium policy, covering a broad range of services as well as reimbursement for various treatments and preventative care, will cost more. It’s even possible your employer may offer discounted pet insurance as a supplementary benefit. Ask your company’s human resources officer.

Can All Pets Get Health Insurance?

As was the case with human health insurance before the Affordable Care Act, not all pet insurers are going to cover all pets. Plans vary, but some will not apply if your pet is more than 10 years old, is a certain breed (like Great Dane) or species (like horse), or has serious pre-existing conditions. Purchasing pet insurance before your cat or dog needs it is the best way to ensure he or she will be eligible for coverage. Buying a plan while your pet is younger is also a good idea.

As is always the case in life, no two situations are identical. Ask your personal insurance agent to help you select a pet insurance plan that offers the solutions you need at a price you can afford. Your pets—and your wallet—will thank you.