Teen drivingWe’ve all heard the saying “it takes two” and when it comes to teaching your teen good driving habits, it couldn’t be truer.  Take yourself back a bit if you will and try to remember the first time your parents handed you the car keys. The excitement was nearly uncontainable and the freedom you felt was like nothing you had ever experienced up until that point in your teenage life.  National Teen Driver Safety Week starts October 20th and carries on through the 26th.  This year, the NTDSW theme is “It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving.”  Hold on tight with these tips to help you and your teen overcome the (sometimes stressful) training that it takes to become a great driver!

For Parents

Set the bar high. Lead by example by following the rules of the road. Don’t talk or text on your cell phone and always wear your seatbelt.

Practice makes perfect.  Well…maybe that’s a stretch, but the more practice your teen has at driving, the more likely they are to make good judgments and begin developing habits that will keep them safe behind the wheel. Start by driving during the daytime and slowly graduate into driving at night.  Keep track of your training hours by downloading a driving log at http://www.teendriversource.org/index.php/tools/for_parents/detail/42 or by using a phone app like www.timetodriveapp.com.

Reward responsible behavior.  Reinforce responsible behavior by rewarding your teen with greater privileges that will allow them to become more independent.

Set boundaries and expectations.  Communicate with your teen and be clear on what you expect from them.  Be firm, but also provide an explanation in regards to the do’s and don’ts of driving and help them better understand that it’s not about control, but safety.

Be reliable. Showing your teen that you are available for their support anytime and anyplace is essential.  Peer pressure can take on many shapes and forms.  Make certain that your teen knows they can count on you by creating a code word they can use if they are in an unsafe situation.  If they call or text you, pick them up immediately, no questions asked.

For Teens

Know the facts.  You’re young, but you are NOT invincible.  Teenagers (16-19) are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than all other age groups. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Educate yourself and know what situations (not all are obvious) can put you at risk.

Be involved. Groups like Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD) and Project Ignition provide education and tools that promote good decision making skills when it comes to driving.  Let your voice be heard and make a difference in your community!

Listen well and don’t resist. Although it seems as though parents just don’t understand, they do.  Believe it or not, your parent was 16 once and behind the wheel for the first time too.  Sure times have changed, but not too much is different in respect to being a teenage driver.  Listen to your parents and be attentive to the direction they are giving you.  They aren’t telling you what or how to do something to be mean or controlling.  They want you to make the right choices so that you come home safe and sound.

Don’t be afraid to call your parents.  You may think that your parents will be angry with you if you call them in the middle of the night asking for a ride home.  Trust me, your parents want you to be safe and if it means coming to pick you up, no matter what the situation or what time it is, don’t be afraid to make that call.  It may save a life, even your own!

Whether you are the parent or the teen, it takes two to make safe driving a success. Be smart, be responsible, and above all be calm when you get behind the wheel!

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!

Do you know how divorce may impact your insurance policies? (image via flickr)

No one likes to think that it will happen to them but with a 50% divorce rate, it is happening to a lot of us.  The last thing you want to think about while you are divvying up your life is insurance, but it should be at the top of your to do list.  In order to ensure you are protected during and after the divorce, you will need to review and make changes to the insurance policies you have individually and together.  Here are 5 of the most common ways getting divorced impacts your insurance.

Policies that Protect Home and Property

These are your homeowner’s policy or your renter’s policy and provide coverage for damage to your home and/or loss or damage to personal property.  Odds are that at least one person is changing residences as a result of the divorce and when they leave, they will be taking property with them.  It is a good idea to reassess your homeowner’s or renter’s policy to ensure you still need all the coverage you have.  For example, if you have a rider that covers an expensive piece of art you may no longer need that rider or to pay for the additional coverage if your former spouse is taking the art.  If you are moving from a home you own to a rented space, you will want to switch your homeowner’s policy for a rental policy.

Policies that Protect Your Cars

There will definitely be changes to your auto policy unless one of you doesn’t drive.  At a minimum, the policy will need to be changed so that it only includes you as an authorized driver.  If you have more than one car, the coverage for any vehicles you no longer own can be removed as well which will save you money.  Don’t wait to make these changes.  As long as you are both listed on the policy, you are both liable for any claims against that policy.

Policies that Cover Your Life

Most people think that one of your first insurance changes you would want to make would be to your life insurance.  You don’t want to take the chance that something happens to you and your former spouse gets your life insurance payout.  However, there are several reasons why you may not want to make any changes to your life insurance as part of the divorce.  First, if you have children, you may want your life insurance proceeds to go to your spouse because they will be the primary caretakers for your children.  Second, if your spouse is paying alimony and child support and something happens to them, life insurance proceeds can help replace that lost resource.  One change you may consider is changing these policies, the ones meant to provide for the care and raising of children, from whole life policies to term policies.  This would enable you to provide means for their care until they are old enough to care for themselves without having to pay premiums for life.

If you are unsure about the insurance implications of your divorce, work with your agent.  They can help you determine what insurance you need going forward and what changes you need to make in order to have the amount of protection that works for you.

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Does your insurance policy cover “acts of God?” (image via google)

If you own a car, own a house, or have a family, it’s a good bet you have some kind of insurance.  Odds are you have at least some kind of coverage for the car you drive and the place you live.  If you have personal insurance, you understand the importance of protecting yourself, your financial future, and your property.  But even savvy insurance consumers don’t always know all the ins and outs of their policies.  Here are 4 things customers commonly do not know about their personal insurance policies.

1.     Your Car Insurance Won’t Buy You a New Phone

If you have car insurance and your car is stolen, you know your policy will replace your car or reimburse you for its loss.  But, most car insurance policies will not replace or reimburse you for any personal property that was in the car at the time it was taken.  This also holds true for items stolen from your car.  Let’s say you leave your laptop under the backseat and your cell phone in the center console and someone breaks the window and steals both.  Your car insurance will cover the cost of repairing the window, but you are on your own for the loss of your laptop and phone.

2.     Losing Your Home Won’t Make You Homeless

One thing many people don’t realize about their homeowner’s policy is that it provides for the payment of expenses you incur if you have to live somewhere other than your home for a period of time while repairs are made.  For example, there is a fire in your house that causes significant enough damage that you will have to live somewhere else for 6 months; your policy will pay for the initial stay in a hotel as well as your rent and some other expenses.

3.     Life Insurance Benefits are Not Automatically Tax Free

If you die, the proceeds of any and all life insurance policies go to your beneficiaries’ tax free, right?  Not always.  Whether or not your life insurance payout will be subject to taxes completely depends on the details of your policy.  If you have a term policy where you are the policy owner and your spouse is the beneficiary, if you die during the policy term, the payout will likely be tax free.  However, if someone else, like your parent is the policy owner, there may be tax implications.  Talk to your insurance agent and an accountant to ensure you have a complete understanding of any tax implications.

4.     Natural Disasters are Not Generally Covered

An unfortunate truth in the world is that Mother Nature is unpredictable and sometimes leaves devastation in her wake.  Another unfortunate truth is that many of these disasters are excluded from standard personal insurance policies.  While most people know that flooding is not covered by their homeowners policy, they don’t realize that damage caused by tornados, earthquakes, and other “acts of god” is not covered without purchasing additional coverage.

The best protection you have is to read your policy all the way through and make sure you understand all its provisions and exclusions.  If you are unsure about whether or not something is covered, ask your insurance agent for clarification.

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Does your business need umbrella coverage? (Image via FreeFoto)

When it comes to buying the insurance you need to protect your small business, the wide range of options can be confusing and overwhelming.  There are so many different types of policies and different level of coverage that it isn’t always easy to know if you have all the coverage you need, if you are underinsured, or if you have policies that provide coverage for risks you don’t face.  One of the most common questions small business owners ask about the coverage they need is about umbrella coverage and whether or not they need it.

Surprisingly, although it is the type of insurance almost everyone and almost every business should have, it is not as well understood as the other common coverage types like auto, liability, and worker’s comp.  This can have serious, long lasting consequences for business owners of all types.  To understand why Umbrella coverage is so critical to small businesses, you need to first understand what it is and what it does.

Umbrella insurance is a kind of liability coverage.  These policies extend, like an umbrella, over most of your other liability policies like your business auto and your general liability.  If there is a claim that breaches the upper limit of one of your base policies, the Umbrella policy provides coverage over and above that limit.  For example, if you or one of your employees were at fault in an auto accident where your company’s car caused damage in excess of the $50,000 property damage limit on your business auto policy, your company would be responsible for paying every dollar over that limit out of pocket.  The insurance company pays $50,000, you pay the rest.   Now, if your business has a $5M Umbrella policy, the insurance company for your base policy would pay for any damages up to $50,000 and then the Umbrella carrier would pay for any damages from $50,001 to $5M.  To break this down, having that Umbrella policy in place could mean the difference between your company paying nothing and your company being responsible for millions of dollars of damages.

When looked at from this perspective, it is clear why many businesses must have an Umbrella policy in place to protect the viability of the business.  In order to determine if your business needs this type of coverage, here are some things to consider.

If your business requires you or any employee to operate a motor vehicle as part of doing business, you must have an umbrella policy over your business auto policy.  Car accidents can lead to incredibly expensive liability lawsuits and even minor accidents can result in medical bills that exceed your business auto policy limits.  Don’t take the risk; if your business has auto coverage, you need an umbrella policy.

If your business has assets, you need umbrella coverage.  It doesn’t take much these days for someone to file a lawsuit and even if you win, the cost of defending yourself can wipe out your available cash and even your businesses assets.  If you lose, the situation can quickly compromise your entire business.  Umbrella coverage protects you from the high costs associated with getting sued.

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Are your custom car parts covered by your insurance policy? (image via Beaulieu_Hants on Flickr)

You have a sweet ride.  You have spent a lot of money making it as unique as you are including a custom paint job, an aftermarket exhaust, and custom alloy wheels with chrome rims.   You installed a hi-end stereo system with subwoofer, amp, and speakers.  You park your car in the same place every day while you are at work.  You just left work and are heading across the parking lot to your space.  At first, you are merely confused to find some other car in your spot.  But as minutes tick by and you look around for your car, confused, understanding settles over you.  You had a sweet ride.  Now, someone else is driving it.

This is not the moment that you want to find out that all those custom parts aren’t covered by your auto insurance policy.  Unfortunately for you, that is most likely what you will find out when the auto adjuster meets with you to talk about your car.   Standard policies do not generally cover add-ons and upgrades like custom wheels and special speakers.  This means that any loss to your vehicle that damages these parts won’t be covered by your insurance company.

How to Determine What is Covered and What is Not

The best way to figure out what your auto policy covers is to read the entire policy that was provided with your policy when you bought it.  Your auto policy usually comes with at least two standard pieces, the Dec Page (Declaration Page) and the full policy document.  Each year at renewal, your insurance company likely sends you a new Dec Page which lists start and end dates, limits, coverage’s, and deductibles.  Most insurance companies do not provide the full policy document at renewal unless it has fundamentally changed.  If you have had your policy for several years, it is likely a good idea to call the insurance company and request a new copy.  This saves you from having to dig through old paperwork to find it and also ensures you have the most up to date version.

The policy document outlines every detail about your policy and includes what it covered and what is excluded.  Most insurance companies have a standard policy form that they use for all policies.  Unless you requested additional coverage’s or different limits, it is likely that your policy follows this standard form.

You can also discuss your policy with your agent and ask them to walk you through your policy and explain what is covered and what is not.

How to Cover Your Customizations

Once you understand what is covered, you can talk to your insurance agent about how to get your custom parts and features covered.  The extra coverage you need and which insurance company you use will determine how the additional items you need to insure will be covered.  You may need to schedule the items, which will add them as covered items to your original policy.  You may need to purchase a rider which adds additional coverage to your policy to provide coverage for your custom items.  You may also need to buy a separate policy in order to secure the coverage you need.  You agent can assist you in determining the best way to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until the worst happens to determine if your custom car has the coverage you need.  Check your policy and talk to an agent today.

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Do you know losing a job will affect your insurance? (image via fairfaxcounty on flickr)

Times are tough and the economic turmoil of recent years continues to claim jobs almost every day.  The loss of a job presents problems on several fronts, first and foremost, the loss of income.  For many people who become unemployed, this problem overwhelms any others and makes it difficult to see how losing a job impacts other areas of your life.  Unfortunately, not dealing with these other areas can lead to more problems down the road.  One of these areas is your insurance coverage.

The last thing you need when you lose your job is to add to your family’s financial burden by purchasing insurance policies.  However, if you are like most people, you have been getting at least some of your insurance coverage through your employer.  Some of this coverage, like health and disability coverage was provided by your employer.  Other types of coverage like life, auto, and even homeowner’s coverage were purchased through your employer.  When your job goes away, in almost all cases, so does this coverage.   You may find yourself without life insurance, auto coverage, or a homeowner’s policy which further endangers the financial future of your family.

Here are things you must consider in terms of your insurance policies when you lose your job.

Health Insurance

Most people will have the option of continuing employer offered health insurance through the COBRA program once their employment ends.  This can be a lifesaver for families where the primary insurance provider suffers a job loss.  However, be prepared to pay significantly more for the same coverage.  Shop around to see if you can find an individual policy that is more cost effective.

Life Insurance

If your life insurance was provided by or through your employer, you will need to find a new individual policy to meet your life insurance needs.  This should be a top priority in order to protect your family’s future.  Temporary loss of your income is challenging enough; don’t take the chance that the worst happens and your family must figure out how to move forward without you while also dealing with the permanent loss of your income.

Disability Insurance

Life insurance is important, but disability coverage is just as important, especially for those in their middle years with families.  People in this age group are actually more likely to become disabled than to die, according to the Social Security Administration. This means that protecting your family’s finances may mean you need to secure a disability insurance policy that is separate and distinct from your employment.

Auto and Home

Many employers offer group insurance coverage for auto and homeowner’s policies that enables their employees to purchase this coverage at a discount.  When your employment ends, these policies may remain in effect but the cost to keep them may increase because you are no longer part of the group.  There is also a chance that this coverage will no longer be available.  Make an appointment with your insurance agent to discuss these policies and make sure you have the coverage you need at the best possible price.

Losing a job is difficult enough; make sure you don’t compound the problem by failing to attend to your family’s insurance needs.

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