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The Perzel Agency Blog

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May 28 – One Card or Two?

Credit Cards

One Credit Card, Two Cities and a Shopping Cart Going Nowhere

By Kathleen Felong

I was standing in line at a discount department store recently waiting to complete my purchase. A weekend warrior, I was redecorating a bedroom, and my cart overfloweth: a designer quilt stripped of its designer price; a pack of 400-count sheets (that would emerge from the dryer with an equal number of wrinkles); and an oversized hand-embroidered pillow to add the right frou-frou to my guest room.

I was the customer you don’t want to be behind in any checkout line. Unfortunately for my fellow shoppers, it was about to get worse.

As we waited for my credit charge to clear, my cashier got a confused look on his face and asked me to wait. He walked over to a manager, who picked up a phone to call the credit card company. Customers stacked up behind me, heaving sighs, until the manager returned with my card and waved others around me to some newly opened lines.

It wasn’t a good omen.

“Declined,” she said. I began to argue with her. We have great credit, and an ample limit. And I had been using the card all morning I told her.

“Sorry,” she said. “You’ll have to call the company to find out why.”

Double trouble As I slunk out of the store, it hit me. While I was busily charging myself into home makeover heaven, my husband was several states away helping relocate our son to Atlanta.

And he was using the same credit card—our one and only. Somewhere, a HAL-like computer had detected the incongruity of one card, two cities, multiple purchases—and it thought it caught a whiff of fraud.

I called the company, and got a service rep who confirmed my suspicion. He removed the hold on the card and put a note in the file that explained the familial circumstance.

My embarrassment turned to relief. Not only because my card was restored quickly, but because the fraud detection was there in the first place. I view it like going through airport security—a minor inconvenience that can help keep me safe.

Working in insurance, I know enough about fraud. And, I like to be proactive in protecting what’s mine. That’s why my husband and I added Identity Recovery Coverage to our ERIE homeowner’s policy last year. (By the way, the coverage costs less per year than my frou-frou pillow. Call your ERIE Agent to find out more.)

Once I cleared things up with the credit card rep, he suggested my husband and I get separate cards to avoid adding injury to absence in the future. Then he asked if I would stay on the line to hear about a special offer for identity theft protection.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’ve got that one covered.”

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

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May 20 – The Age of The Brain and Distractions

Older Driver

How the brain reacts to distraction at different stages of life

By Rachel Adelson

Statistics on crashes and scientific studies of the brain present conflicting data on whether younger or older drivers are more affected by distracted driving.

Teens Who Care

Don’t text and drive. That’s the warning teens at Pittsford Sutherland High School in Pittsford, N.Y. issued to teen drivers in a public service announcement produced in partnership with the Erie Insurance Lookin’ Out program.

Pittsford Sutherland teens Greta Antonsdottir, Hilal Arshad, Jonathan Fricke, Teddy Hamlin, Ed Hoi, and Henry Wells submitted the winning PSA designed to build awareness and positively impact teen driving behavior. They wrote, produced and are featured in the 30-second commercial, “Warning: Bad Texting Conditions.” In the 30-second commercial text messages fall like rain onto a car windshield, cloud the driver’s vision and cause a crash.

See the PSA and check out Lookin’ Out on Facebook.

The worst offenders of distracted driving, according to the NHTSA, are also youngest and the least experienced: men and women under 20. The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16 percent), followed by drivers 20 to 29 years old (12 percent).

But when it comes to cognition, older drivers are naturally more distractible. “Internal thoughts may be particularly hard for older adults to filter, starting in middle age but increasingly after age 65. We have some evidence that auditory stimuli are hard for them, too, to tune out during visual tasks,” reports neuroscientist Dr. Cheryl Grady of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.

“I would advise any driver, but particularly an older one, to avoid distraction as much as possible—not using the cell phone, programming GPS systems, fiddling with the radio and CD player, and so on,” she says.

But experience may already be helping older drivers understand that, since the younger, less experienced drivers have the highest crash rates. Teens and young adults are more likely to carry their mobile devices into the car, using MP3 players and texting – which means the temptation for distraction could be more prevalent.

The solution? Stay safe at any age and keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

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

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May 12 – Premium Audits Can Benefit Your Business

Audit

While you may dread the thought of going through a premium audit, the process might just be more beneficial than you realize. It helps ensure that the insurance company doesn’t overcharge or undercharge your business. Learn more about how it works.

Premium Audits Can Benefit Your Business

Insurance companies conduct audits to help ensure that the estimated amount of premium you pay for your insurance coverage reflects your business operations accurately.

Premiums for workers’ compensation insurance and for general liability insurance are calculated based on estimates of exposure (payroll, receipts, sales, etc.) expected to be incurred during the policy period. The audit conducted at the conclusion of the policy period determines the actual exposure incurred during the policy term.

If the estimate is too high, you’ll receive a refund, usually a credit to your current policy. If the estimate is too low, you’ll receive a bill for the additional premium for the audit period and the current year.

Online option

Some companies have a new online option that streamlines the process. When you receive the audit notification letter, it will provide the website address for completing the audit online. Through the secured website, you can attach supporting documentation such as payroll reports, ledgers, contracts and certificates of insurance.

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

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May 1 – How to Help your Child Prepare for a Unpaid or Paid Internship

Family

If your child is preparing for an unpaid or paid internship opportunity, congratulations! Internships are a great way for students to learn about themselves, gain experience, network and more.

If you’re excited about the opportunity but concerned about everything that comes with it, don’t worry—that’s very natural. In this series, you’ll get information about:

Why internships matter: Both unpaid and paid internships are growing in popularity as more companies use them as a screening tool for future hires. Learn why both unpaid and paid internships matter more than ever.

Where your child should look for one: There are several ways your child can learn about and apply for opportunities.

How to help your child find housing: Internships are often far from home and campus, which means the search for housing is on. Learn how to help your child find safe, budget friendly housing.

How your child can protect his or her possessions and know what’s insured: Learn some simple safety tips for keeping things safe and sound.

What personal safety precautions your child should take: Safety is always a concern, especially in a new city. Learn some ways your child can stay safe while he or she is an intern.

Finally, check out an article by one of ERIE’s own interns. It lists helpful tips your child can use to make a lasting impression during his or her internship.

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

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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 May

One Card or Two?

The Age of the Brain and Distractions

Premium Audits Can Benefit Your Business

Help Your Child Prepare for an Internship

 

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