The Perzel Agency Blog

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Apr 30 – Looking for Better Car Insurance Coverage?

Common Auto, Home, Life Gaps That Might Surprise You

Car Girl Fixing A Flat

By: Greg Bengel

Even the most careful people sometimes have car insurance coverage gaps that could put themselves, their families and their belongings in danger.

And it’s not just about car insurance. Coverage gaps in your home and life insurance can leave you vulnerable, too. Here are six of the most common coverage gaps—and why you might want to consider closing them.

Not having Transportation Expenses coverage Does your policy cover a rental car or other form of transportation if your car ends up in the shop after an accident? At ERIE, it will if you have a coverage known as Transportation Expenses.

Transportation Expenses coverage can apply to two types of claims: a comprehensive claim (resulting from something other than collision, such as fire, theft or vandalism) and a collision claim (resulting from physical damage to your vehicle caused by rolling over or hitting another vehicle or object).

After a comprehensive occurrence, an ERIE policy automatically provides a set coverage for a rental car. You can also purchase higher limits that let you rent a more expensive vehicle. But with collision claims, you must purchase Transportation Expenses coverage in order to receive a rental car allowance. (The only exception is Virginia, where coverage is offered at no additional cost.)

Transportation Expenses coverage for collision claims can save you big bucks down the line, and the coverage starts at just $8 a year per vehicle with ERIE.

No personal catastrophe liability coverage (a.k.a. an umbrella policy) Whether you’re at fault for an accident or not, you could still get hit with a personal injury or liability lawsuit. That’s bad news since lawyers’ fees, hospital bills, pain and suffering payments, and more could potentially exhaust your auto and homeowners policies (and possibly even your net worth).

An umbrella policy adds an extra $1 to $5 million to your liability limits with premiums that start at $150 per year. That should give you enough coverage—and peace of mind.

No flood insurance Insurance companies can’t cover floods at reasonable rates since they tend to be so devastating. But the federal government offers it through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It’s definitely worth considering since people who live outside of high-risk flood areas file more than 20 percent of NFIP claims. What’s more, just one inch of water can cause major damage to your home.

ERIE partners with American Bankers Insurance Company to offer Customers flood coverage. There’s a 30-day waiting period for the policy, so it’s best to start the application process ASAP.

No coverage for your valuables Have any expensive jewelry? Electronics? Artwork or furs? Since most ERIE homeowners policies have a $3,000 limit for theft of personal items, you might want to consider an inland marine endorsement. It will provide coverage if any valuables worth $3,000 or more are misplaced, lost or stolen.

No life insurance beyond your group coverage A group life insurance benefit typically offers about two times your annual salary, which is almost never enough. “You may need more like six to eight times your salary just to break even,” says Greg Wieser, director of Life Marketing.

Another downside to group life insurance is that you lose it when you take a new job. In tough economic times, employers may also reduce or eliminate coverage.

ERIE offers a variety of affordable term life policies. Just one is ERIE LifeSense℠, which gives you up to $90,000 of term life coverage in as little as 15 minutes with no medical exam required.*

Not keeping your homeowners insurance up to date Done some recent home renovations? If so, you definitely want to let your ERIE Agent know. If you don’t, you run the risk of coming up short if you have to rebuild after a total loss.

“Report all remodeling or renovations,” advises Terry McConnell, vice president, Personal Lines Underwriting, “and let your Agent determine if they affect your home’s replacement cost.”**

Concerned about an insurance coverage gap? If so, make sure to contact your ERIE Agent to discuss your concerns or request a review of your insurance needs.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Apr 17 – What’s On Your Mind?

Driving  distracted may push our brains, and our consciousness, to their physical limits

What's On Your Mind 

By Rachel Adelson

Welcome  to your new home theater. Enjoy the cushy seats, wrap-around speakers,  satellite radio, docking station for your smart phone and touch-screen display.  Feel free to check e-mail, program the radio, look up restaurants or watch a  movie. Just please—don’t kill anybody.

In today’s competitive market, auto makers and  portable electronic device makers are providing an increasing array of  technologies meant both to support driving and to provide information and even  entertainment. The problem is that the “infotainment” isn’t just for  back-seaters (i.e., restless kids). Now we can have Internet, including access  to things like YouTube, on the  dashboard—tempting even the most conscientious drivers.

According to the National Highway Transportation  Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes  involving distracted or inattentive driving; more than half a million were  injured. What’s more, 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near crashes  involve some type of distraction that takes the eyes off the road, according to  the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s 100-car study for the NHTSA. The  same group found that texting, above all, makes us more than 20 times more  likely to crash.Of distraction-related crashes, those caused by  portable electronics appear to be rising the most. Jim Brown, ERIE’s manager of Material Damage, says that  relative to the other primary causes of crashes—bad driving, impairment, fatigue—distraction  may be the smallest segment, but it’s growing at the fastest rate.

These little luxuries distract hugely from the  job at hand. Evidence is mounting like a 10-car pile-up that eyes off the road,  hands off the wheel and minds on text-chatter can make safe drivers dangerous,  with sometimes fatal consequences. The problem’s gotten so bad that Oprah  Winfrey devoted a show last January to the subject, calling distracted driving  “America’s  New Deadly Obsession,” and in the spring, she started the “No Phone Zone”  campaign.

Your  Distracted Brain            

One reason distraction-related crashes are  growing so fast is that our brains and bodies can only go so far. Additionally,  the mental process needed to drive requires several areas of the brain to work  together, like dancers in a ballet. Distraction can disrupt this choreography.  (Imagine Larry the Cable Guy trotting on stage during The Nutcracker.)

The problem is that when we’re driving, we may  not consciously know if we’re distracted. Dr. David Strayer, a psychologist at  the University of   Utah, and other experts  explain this phenomenon by noting that people tend to think they’re  better-than-average drivers and multi-taskers, and thus may not recognize the  impact of distracting activity.

Another expert, Dr. Linda   Angell, points out this is partly because normal, routine  driving seems automatic—when it really isn’t.

In fact, “routine driving is inherently  multitasking by itself,” says Angell, who’s a professor at Wayne State   University and president  of Touchstone Evaluations, an independent research lab that evaluates products  and their effects on human experience, including distraction and driving.  “Driving may be highly practiced, but there’s a lot of unexpected activity  going on all the time; it requires more attention than we may be conscious of.”

So, what’s really happening upstairs when you’re  behind the wheel?

Highways  and Byways of the Brain            

Advances in technology, such as functional  magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have allowed scientists to discover what  parts of the brain become more or less active as we perform day-to-day tasks.  Neuroscientists studying driving have used this imaging system to capture  pictures of “the driving brain.”

Here’s some of what they’ve found: Driving  cranks up the brain’s motor cortex. This section helps control our  motor skills. It activates movement of our hands, feet and head  during driving.

The visual cortex deep inside the brain  lights up. As drivers scan the scene, their eyes transmit  sensory input to the brain, which makes sense of the world outside.

Driving activates the parietal lobes. Angell’s colleague, Dr. Li Hsieh, at  Wayne State University  (and a co-founder of Touchstone Evaluations) explains that these lobes  coordinate visual and motor responses—making sure, for example, that you step on  the brake for a stop sign.

Driving gooses a central cortical strip. Activations in this strip are associated with how we pay attention.

The frontal lobes serve as the big boss. Right at your forehead, this section coordinates responses and activity among  all the different regions. It monitors and conducts your mental traffic, and is  important for all behavior, including safe navigation on the road.

“That frontal cortex is responsible for  maintaining task goals, updating information, keeping us on task,”  Strayer explains.

But, the frontal cortex is like an overworked  boss: it hates interruptions and may need longer to catch up after one. That’s  why a ringing cell phone or text alert that might make a driver happy can make  the big boss inside kind of slow. It’s an interruption of the mental  ballet—producing another lane in the mental traffic to manage.

Unfortunately, driving may not always allow time  for a slowed-down brain to catch up with changing conditions, such as a sudden  stop ahead or a rain-slick road.

“The goal is to minimize distraction effects to  allow people to compensate adequately,” says Dr. Richard Young, a professor at  Wayne State University School of Medicine and another co-founder of Touchstone Evaluations.

Indeed, the human brain seems able to compensate  for low-level demands—listening to soft rock, chatting lightly with passengers,  mulling over work, as shown in real-world research on naturalistic driving from  Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).

But are we pushing it?

The  Brain in Overdrive             Because of what happens in the brain—unknowingly  to someone who is driving — distraction works a little differently than other  dangerous driving mistakes, such as driving while intoxicated. Alcohol and  drugs slow the entire nervous system and impair judgment in ways that a driver  cannot turn off or compensate for (you cannot decide not to be drunk once you  are inebriated). But some drivers may believe distraction is harmless, all the while  taking eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off the drive.

Deterring Distraction

Something that seems so simple — keeping eyes on the road, hands on the wheel — still somehow eludes millions of drivers. Here are easy  tips on deterring distraction.

But as scientific and statistical studies  together have shown, distractions can turn otherwise conscientious drivers into  little more than crash-test dummies.

Strayer’s lab, for example, claims that driving  and talking on a cell phone may compete for the same neural circuitry.

It could explain why, in simulated driving, cell  phone conversations lead to worse driving than talking to a passenger.

Some scientists, such as Strayer, theorize that  talking to someone not physically present may ignite your imagination, causing  you to picture mental images that interfere with spatial processing, or your  ability to size up what’s around you (kind of important in driving).

According to Strayer, eye-tracking studies show  that undistracted drivers scan the world from side to side for input, but  cell-phone drivers tend to stare straight ahead, not changing their glance  patterns when needed. Glazed, somewhat dazed, “they look but don’t see,” he says.

It  Goes Beyond Gadgets            

It’s also not just cell phones and other  “interactive” gadgets that compete for a driver’s attention. Strong emotions  can distract. (After a divorce for example, crash rates are known  to increase.)

Dr. Marcel Just, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s  Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, found that listening to spoken sentences  dampened activity in certain parts of the brain. In his laboratory studies,  people simulating driving while listening to spoken sentences had more  “virtual” crashes and also veered more from the lane, compared to simulated  driving with no listening.

“Technology that’s in the car but not related to  driving,” Just notes, “is enabling risk that people greatly underestimate.”

Texting, for example, wins the toxic trifecta by  taking eyes, hands and minds away from driving all at once. A Virginia Tech  study showed that texting is 23 times (that is 2,300 percent) more likely to  result in a crash than ordinary baseline driving.

There are other high-risk combinations. Dr.  Young points out that if alcohol and drowsiness each make a driver four times  more likely to crash than normal, together they raise the odds to 16 times  more likely.

What does it all mean? Driving distracted just  isn’t worth the risk.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Apr 11 – Cyclists: Insure Your Ride

Einstein On Bike

If you’re a two-wheel traveler, don’t give bike thieves an easy ride. Lock it up and be sure you’re properly insured. Cities and suburbs are hot spots for theft, but universities and college towns rank high on the list too.

Experts estimate that it takes only 7 seconds to steal a locked bicycle. More than 217,200 bicycles were reported stolen in the U.S. in 2011, the latest available figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A good bicycle can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a basic model to several thousand dollars for a racing bike. It’s an investment you’ll want to make sure is insured appropriately.

Insurance Coverage for Your Bike Bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. This coverage will provide reimbursement, minus the deductible, if a bike is stolen, or damaged in a fire or other peril for which coverage is provided under the policy.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies also provide liability protection. If you injure someone in a bicycle accident and he or she sues you, you will be covered up to the limits of your policy. Most people have $100,000 to $300,000 worth of liability protection as part of their standard policy, but higher amounts of coverage are available. Your homeowners or renters insurance policy also includes no-fault medical coverage in the event you injure someone.

Keeping Your Bike Secure Of course, the best protection of all is to keep your bike safe. To help avoid theft, safety experts recommend the following tips:

  • Always lock up your bike, even if it is in your garage, an apartment stairwell or a college dormitory. If you’re outside, lock it up in a visible, well-lit area.
  • Lock your bicycle to a fixed, immovable object like a parking meter or permanent bike rack. Be careful not to lock it to items that can be cut easily, broken or removed.
  • Consider using a U-lock. For proper locking technique, position the bike frame and wheels so that they take up as much of the open space within the U-portion of the lock as possible. The tighter the lock-up, the harder it is for a thief to use tools to attack the lock. Always position a U-lock so that the keyway is facing down toward the ground. Do not position the lock close to the ground as this makes it easier for a thief to break it.
  • Don’t lock up your bicycle in the same location all the time. A thief may notice the pattern and target you.
  • Consider registering your bike with the National Bike Registry. Registering the bike may also increase the likelihood of you getting a bike back if it’s stolen.

Filing a Bike Claim Before you have to file a claim, the Insurance Information Institute suggests that you: •Save your receipts – When you buy your bicycle you’ll probably purchase expensive equipment to go with it. Be sure to save all your receipts. The cost of a helmet, patch kits, pumps, extra inner tubes and other essentials can add up quickly. If your bike is damaged or stolen, having receipts can help speed the claims process.

  • Add your bicycle to your home inventory – Everyone should have an up-to-date home inventory. This can help you purchase the proper amount of insurance and will make the claims filing process easier if there is a loss. Erie Insurance offers a household inventory form to make the tracking of personal possessions easier.
  • Take a photo of your bicycle and document any serial numbers – If your bike is stolen, proof of ownership will be important.

To help ensure your bicycle is insured properly, contact our agency. We can review the coverage and discuss bicycle theft risks and how they can be avoided.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Apr 03 – What You Should Know About Employment Liability Claims And Costs

Judges Mallet

You’d like to think that your employees would never dream of filing charges against you or your business for discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment or sexual harassment. Unfortunately, it can, and does, happen.

These days, hiring, firing and day-to-day employee management can be a risky business. Responding to charges like these can cost thousands of dollars and months of investigation, even when the allegations are found to be groundless.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) reported that nearly 100,000 workplace discrimination charges were filed in 2012. The year-end data shows that retaliation, and race and sex discrimination, which includes allegations of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, were the charges filed most frequently.

With Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance in place, you won’t have to face an employment claim on your own. It can help protect against liability damages and defense costs. All EPL charges must be defended, whether the charge is groundless or not.

Big trouble for a small business Not sure if you need the coverage? Consider some of the costs.

“The initial administrative steps to respond to a claim could cost a business a minimum of $5,000 to $6,000,” said Paul J. Siegel, a partner at Jackson Lewis, which specializes in workplace law.

Case settlements vary, explained Todd Cincotta, EPL product manager with Hartford Steam Boiler, which works with ERIE in offering EPL coverage. “The average settlement is more than $20,000”

Most EPL cases do not go to trial, less than 1 percent, but Siegel said trying a case could cost $100,000 or more. “If not resolved early, and especially after a motion for summary judgment is denied, settlements of up to $250,000 are not uncommon,” he said. According to recent Jury Verdict Research statistics, Siegel said a quarter of all cases settle in the $100,000 to $249,999 range, while awards for cases that proceed to trial can far exceed those amounts.

Mediation or investigation could also require several months:

  • If the charge filed against your business is eligible for mediation, the average EEOC mediation case requires 84 days.
  • If the charge is not dismissed by the EEOC and requires further investigation, an average EEOC investigation takes 182 days.

Coverage to help protect small businesses EPL coverage from Erie Insurance can help protect you and your business. It’s affordable coverage that is easy to add to your business policy as an endorsement. An additional premium or cost is required. With EPL coverage, you’ll have access to:

  • An EPL resource website, which includes model employee handbooks, employment policies checklists and a library of web-based training topics.
  • A legal helpline that connects you to an experienced attorney so you can talk about specific employment issues and concerns.

If a covered claim occurs, you’ll have access to claims professionals and attorneys who have experience in employment law.

Contact our agency to learn more about the benefits of Erie Insurance’s EPL coverage. Consider consulting your tax professional to determine whether your premium—the amount you pay for insurance coverage—may be a tax-deductible expense.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Posts In April

Looking for Better Car Insurance Coverage?

What’s On Your Mind?

Cyclists: Insure Your Ride

What You Should Know About Employment Liability Claims And Costs

 

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