Liability Coverage


distracted drivingIf you haven’t heard yet, April is “Distracted Driving Awareness” month. Although we aren’t perfect, I think the majority of us consider ourselves to be excellent drivers. Every now and again, however, I think that we can all honestly say that there may be something that causes us to take our eyes off the road, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Whether it’s a text, an incoming call, or even your crying baby in the backseat, it’s a distraction none the less. Although texting is probably the most common thing that you hear about these days, surprisingly, it is not the number one reason with respect to distracted driving.

Using data collected from 2010 and 2011, an analysis was performed by an insurer out of Erie, PA. By using some of the top resources and information such as police report data in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and also the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the insurer was able to determine the top ten distractions involved in fatal car crashes.

Still think texting was the number one reason? Think again! The analysis reported that a whopping 62% of distracted drivers were either “lost in thought” or “generally distracted”….aka daydreaming. When I think about it, I can honestly say that I have definitely been guilty of daydreaming while at the wheel. With the busy schedules we keep and the hustle and bustle of getting from here to there, it’s easy to “zone out” while you are driving. Our minds are in a constant state of thought. Whether you are thinking about what you should make for dinner, wondering if you packed everything you needed for your weekend getaway, or simply trying to decide what exit you want to take, you are putting yourself, your loved ones, and others at risk. So the question now is how do you stop daydreaming and stay focused on the road? There are a number of things that you can do to accomplish this.

1 – Control Your Emotions: Do not let a fight with a friend or significant other interfere with your drive. Before you get behind the wheel, make the decision to put your emotions aside and make a plan. For example, tell yourself “When I get home, I’m going to call my friend Jenny to vent, because she gives good advice and perspective”.

2 – Pump Up the Jam: Put together a playlist or cd with music that gets you going. Songs that have 100-175 BPM (beats per minute) can help keep you alert.

3 – Let Some Air In: Open your windows. Seat warmers and heaters during the winter months, although cozy, can relax you right into the thought of being snuggled up in your own bed. Crack the windows, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Just like a cold shower can wake us up, so can a blast of cold air.

Whether it’s daydreaming, texting, or putting on your lipstick, there is no doubt that distracted driving is a growing epidemic. Be mindful of how you are feeling, both physically and mentally, before you start the ignition. Consider your drive a mission, even if it’s just to the grocery store, and get from point A to B in one piece. Carry on and drive safe!

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AccidentsMost of us know that each individual state requires that you carry auto liability insurance. In the state of Arizona, you are required to carry at the least 15/30/10. To break it down, what this means is that you have up to $15k (per person) and $30k maximum (per accident) for BI (bodily injury) should you cause injury to someone during an accident for which you are at fault. The $10k is the maximum coverage for PD (property damage) that was caused by you. Although your premiums for this type of coverage are very cheap and may be within your tight budget, there are several things to consider before making a quick, impulsive decision that might end up haunting you for the rest of your life.

The average cost of a vehicle these days is a little over $30k. Sure, you wouldn’t be responsible for the cost of a brand new vehicle if you caused an accident because we all know that the value of a car depreciates immediately after you drive it off of the lot. In fact, the average cost of an accident in which there is ONLY property damage was $9078 in 2011, according the AZ Motor Vehicle Department. You have $10k in coverage, no big deal, it’s just under your limit right? Keep in mind that this is an average figure only! This doesn’t guarantee that any damages caused by you won’t be over $10k. You should also consider that property damage is not just limited to someone else’s vehicle. You can damage a number of things…a lamp post, a yard, or even a house. PD coverage also pays for your legal defense costs if you are sued as a result of these damages and you don’t need to be an expert to guess how much that could run you.

Now it’s time to get serious and address bodily injury. If you have the required state liability limits in the state of Arizona, then you are covered up to $15k (per person) which maxes out at $30k (per accident). We all know that accidents happen and according to the AZ Motor Vehicle Department, the average cost per incident in 2011 in regards to BI was $22,746 and this was just for Non-incapacitating injuries. The average cost per incident for incapacitating injuries jumps to $70,854 and the average cost per incident for accidents that involved fatalities was $1,438,200. I don’t think anyone is in disagreement that 15/30 is definitely not enough BI coverage for anyone.

What can you expect if your insurance coverage comes up short? It’s simple really. If the amount of BI and/or PD exceeds the limits of your coverage, you are at risk of being sued. Depending on the amount in which you are sued for, you can potentially have your wages garnished for the rest of your life. Think for a moment of the victims as well. Not only have you disrupted your own life financially, mentally, and possibly physically, you have also disrupted someone else’s life in the same manner. Think of it in terms of your family and if the tables were turned. It’s not something we are necessarily comfortable thinking about, but what would the implications be if someone caused an accident involving you or your family members and they did not have the coverage to make you whole again? It’s a disturbing scenario.

We choose not to write state limits for any of our clients. It’s something that we feel strongly about and believe it is in the best interest of our clientele to carry liability limits of at least 100/300/100. If you currently have state liability limits, ask yourself “How much am I really saving in the long run?” There is no better time than now to get with your agent or insurance carrier to discuss increasing your auto insurance limits. Be safe, but most importantly, be protected! Call our office for a free quote today at 480-288-5900!

These days you can buy nearly anything online, even your insurance.  Although it may seem like you are saving time and money by obtaining a policy online, it may not be so convenient later.

One of the biggest advantages of working with an agent is that they have time to sit down and talk with you, in turn allowing you to establish a one on one relationship.  Just one visit with an agent can prove to be beneficial in respect to knowing what your options are and choosing the best possible coverage that fits your needs.  In addition to this, based on your answers to a few simple questions, an agent is able to find possible discounts that you may be qualified to receive.  Purchasing insurance can sometimes be stressful and an agent can alleviate some of that stress, if not most of it just by understanding and being able to relate to you.  After all, we are human and it’s comforting to know that someone has your best interest at heart.

Ben Franklin said it best, “Time is money”. Although an online agency provides you with a phone number where they can be reached, you may not be able to speak with a live person. I’m sure that we have all experienced the downfalls of 800 numbers and the “customer service” they provide.  One could spend 30 minutes or more being looped from one automated message to the next only to reach a live person who ends up transferring you somewhere else. Being able to reach your agent by phone without having to guess which automated option to choose can save you both time and aggravation.

One final advantage to working with an agent who is local is that they can work with you in regards to your coverage.  They can adjust your limits and/or deductibles without sacrificing the important coverage that you need resulting in a policy that is tailored just for you and your pocketbook.   Online agencies give you the freedom to choose the coverage you want according to what you can afford, but an agent can recommend coverage that will protect you and your family all while keeping you within your budget.

For example, the required liability coverage amounts in the state of Arizona are 15/30/10.  Sure, you may get a huge savings up front, but will you pay for it in the end?  If you cause an accident which results in bodily injury more than $15,000 or property damage more than $10,000, you are financially responsible.  Just to give you an idea, according to the National Safety Council, the average cost of injury in a car accident is $61,600 and the average price of a new vehicle is a tad over $30,000 according to Forbes.  Saving a couple of dollars by reducing coverage could cost you thousands in the long run.

With all of the decisions that you make in life, don’t let choosing the right policy overwhelm you when you have an agent right who is right around the corner.  Make an appointment today by calling us @ 480-288-5900.  We can help you protect what matters most!

Are you liable if your tree falls on your neighbor’s car? (image via flickr)

Everyone knows that if you rear-end the car in front of you or start a fist fight in a bar, you are liable for the damage your actions cause.  Liability in these cases is pretty clear cut because your direct action was the cause of another’s injury.  But there are many circumstances where fault is not necessarily the determining factor in liability and where there is no direct link between your actions and the resulting injury.  In order to adequately protect yourself from damage and injury claims you need to have insurance policies that offer the coverage you need.  The key to being protected is to understand both the obvious risks you face and those that are not so obvious.  To help you identify where you may have some hidden risks, here are some common questions about who is liable for indirect injury.

Am I Liable…..If My Child Causes a Car Accident in My Car?

While there are state specific laws that govern liability and insurance, in this case the answer is most likely yes.  If your son or daughter is driving a car that lists you as the registered owner, it is very likely that you could be sued for damages if your child causes an accident.  In order to protect yourself, you need to have a solid insurance policy that lists your child as a driver on any car they may drive.  You may also need an umbrella policy which can protect your assets in the event you are sued.  Check with your insurance agent if you are concerned that allowing your child to drive your car opens you to a liability risk you are not protected against.

Am I Liable……If My Dog Bites Someone on My Property?

This is another case where state law dictates certain rules about liability, but it is a good bet that if your dog bites someone, regardless of where you are at the time, you may be found liable for any injury.   Here in Arizona, unlike other states, there is no “one-free-bite” law which means that pet owners can be held liable for a dog bite even if there was no reasonable expectation that the dog might bite someone.  This means the first bite could land you with a lawsuit.  The law doesn’t only apply to humans either; it also applies to if your dog bites another animal.  If you are unclear about your rights as a property owner, ask your local police department.  If you are concerned about potential liability from a dog bite, talk through your concerns with your insurance agent to ensure you have the coverage you need to protect yourself and your assets as some policies include exclusions regarding animals.

Am I Liable…..If My Tree Falls on My Neighbor’s Car?

Like the other scenarios, this one is not as cut and dry as it may seem. In most cases like this, in order to prove negligence on your part, which is what would be required in order for you to be liable for the damage, your neighbor would have to prove you had a reasonable expectation that the tree might fall and damage his property.  If there is no reason that you would believe that the tree posed a real danger to your neighbor, it is unlikely you will be found liable for the damage.  It is still a good idea to talk to your insurance agent to determine if you would be protected from this type of liability claim.  They can also offer advice on steps you can take to decrease your liability risk.

 

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Insurance is simply a transfer of risk from you to an insurance carrier, but what is commonly known as an insurance policy is really you placing a bet.  I am truly a dealer of insurance who shops your insurance needs through several carriers based on your risk tolerance and what you stand to lose.  The only difference is as an agent I am on your side and not the house’s side.  I help my clients by educating them on what certain types of coverage can do for them and they make the final decision as to what they think might happen and what they are betting won’t happen. 

One of my biggest pet peeves are the insurance commercials announcing, “Legal For Less!”.  Yes you are legal, but you’re also asking to be dealt a losing hand.  I have prospective clients come to me and ask for this type of coverage, but I honestly won’t even take their money because it isn’t a good bet.  An example of this is in auto insurance.  The state minimums here in Arizona for Bodily Injury are 15k per person and 30k per occurrence and 10k for Property Damage.  For Property Damage if you were to get in an accident and cause damage to a vehicle or other property greater than 10k, then you are personally liable for the difference.  Your wages can be garnished and there are very few cars on the road worth less than 10k, so why is this a common bet that people place?  The number one reason that is given is money.  For as little as a Venti Frappachino a month one could increase their limits to the next level 25/50/25 and have 25k in Property Damage.  I advise my clients to carry liability limits of 100/300/100.  This way you are risking less from what you have to lose personally and allowing the insurance carrier to foot the bill.  Increasing your coverage will not cover you for EVERYTHING, but it does hedge your bet towards a winning hand.  The next time you look at your insurance declaration pages ask yourself-  “Where are you placing your bets and could you be gambling it all away?”