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Protect Yourself from Halloween Horrors!

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. From trick-or-treating to a great holiday bash there is tons of fun to be had by all. But, like any good insurance agent, I’m here to spoil the fun by reminding you that Halloween festivities can also be the cause of accidents and lawsuits. So, here are some tips and advice to avoid potential insurance claims.

Confine your pets. While you may think your dog, or cat, is great with children and completely docile, a 10 year old dressed as Kim Jong-un demanding candy at your door may scare the heck out of your pet and cause him/her to act out of character. When I rescued my dog, Mowgli, he was just a puppy (a high strung, bark-at-every-noise, puppy) for his first Halloween. I had been doing training with him and one of the exercises the dog trainer suggested was to have friends and family come to the door and ring the bell so that he would become used to people coming to the house. I thought it was a great idea to take advantage of the Halloween foot-traffic to help train him. Definitely not a great idea. Mowgli’s shrill barking could probably be heard in Windsor Locks that night. One little Superman jumped so high he almost flew off my porch. The point is, scare children with your spooky decorations, not with your barking dog.

Keep walkways, and your front lawn well-lit and free of any potential hazards. Make sure those spooky decorations are out of the way and cannot be tripped over. If you have a hole in front lawn that you have been meaning to fill, now is the time. You do not want any obstructions preventing those costumed kiddos from getting their loot. And don’t assume they are going to use your walkway. They will take the most direct route to “candyville”, which will most likely be your front lawn. And please, use battery operated lights instead of candles in your jack-o-lanterns. They even make ones that flicker just like a real candle and when the pumpkin walls start to collapse due to chipmunk damage, like ours do, an LED light will not burn your house down, or scorch the costume of a confection-seeking child the way an open flame can.

Hand-out store bought treats. If you’re like me, you’ll want to hand out healthy, homemade granola and Larabars™ to the kids in your neighborhood. However, Halloween is not the time to push your anti-processed-sugar agenda. Unless you’ve got some Products Liability on those Kind Bar™ knockoffs, stick with store bought treats and do not repackage them in anyway. Not only will this avoid you having to clean the eggs off your siding the next day, but will ensure that no one sues you when their little Witch turns green (for real) from food poisoning, or has an allergic reaction to your homemade treats. And, by-the-way, if you have vandalism coverage on your Homeowners policy, the damage from the rotten eggs should be covered.

Do not allow any little Storm Troopers or Darth Vaders to enter your home. The first year my daughter, Elodi, trick-or-treated she was only 7 months old. Needless to say, she does not remember much. Her second Halloween never happened due to our freakish October storm that left us all without power for several days, if not weeks, and instead was spent enjoying the hum of a friend’s generator while we ate random “treats” from our snow-packed cooler before it all spoiled. By her third Halloween, Elodi was more than ready to hit the streets and beg for candy. We explained the rules, i.e. ring the doorbell, shout “trick-or-treat”, get your loot, say “thank you” and move onto the next house. But 3 year olds don’t always follow the “rules” and after she rang the doorbell of the first house and the homeowner opened the door, rather than shouting, “trick-or-treat”, she walked right into the house and proceeded to follow the owner’s kitty into another room. It took a few houses for her to get the hang of things. You’d be surprised how many people will allow a toddler dressed as a unicorn with a baby doll hanging from its neck, by its neck, (her own added costume accessory) into their home. The last thing you want is a child wearing an ill-fitted costume with an obstructed, masked view to running through your house. Hand out those treats on your front porch or stoop. Better yet, if the weather is nice enough, set yourself up outside and avoid having any children walking up and down your front steps at all. When my son, Raiden, was 2 years old, he was much more interested in handing out candy to trick-or-treaters than going from house to house himself. So we set up a few chairs on the front lawn. He was delighted that all these dressed up characters came right to him, and I was a happy insurance agent knowing no caped candy crusader was going to be tumbling down my steps. If a rebel Princess Leia does break through your protection shield and enter your home, your Personal Liability on your Home policy provides your second line of defense.

Limit your driving. With all those sugar hunters on the loose, running from home to home in the dark, you’ll want to be extraordinarily careful if you are behind the wheel. The safest bet is to refrain from driving at all Halloween night. However, with the holiday falling on a Saturday night this year, I’m sure many of you are planning on attending a monstrous bash. If so, avoid being on the road at peak treating hours.

No matter what your plans are this Halloween, you can be safe and still have some fun. As always, if you have any questions on what your insurance policy covers give us a call!

Is Your College Student Properly Insured?

It’s Back-to-School time! Time to go through the kids’ closets and hope that capris are the next fashion fad for growing boys; time to post all those “First Day” pictures on social media; time to groan over the college tuition bills, and time to read your Automobile and Homeowners’ policies… wait, what?
If your son or daughter is heading off to college to start their next chapter in life, your Home and Auto coverage may be the last thing on your mind. However, it’s important to know what your insurance policies say about college students living away from home.

First, let’s take a look at your Homeowners’ policy. In general, a Homeowners’ policy will provide coverage for an insureds’ Personal Property anywhere in the world. The first question you need answered is, “Is my college student living away from home still considered an ‘insured’?” On most Home policies, as long as your child’s primary residence is still your home, the child continues to be defined as an “insured” and, therefore, her personal property is insured while she is living away from home to attend college. Some Home policy forms also require the child to be a “full-time” student and under 24 years old in order for coverage to be afforded. However, unless endorsed, the policy will only cover 10% of the Coverage C (Personal Property) limit for property located anywhere other than the residence premises. If your child is living in a dorm room, 10% is probably adequate to cover her personal belongings in her room. If your child is renting an apartment, in which you own all the furnishings, you’ll want to consider endorsing your Home policy to provide more coverage, or, better-yet, obtain a Renters’ policy for that location. A Renters’ policy will also provide additional liability coverage for the rented location that you would not be able to obtain on your Home Policy.

What a relief to know that the $2,500 laptop computer you just bought her for college will be covered on your insurance, right?! Well, maybe. A standard, unendorsed, Home policy provides Named Peril coverage for Personal Property. Theft is probably one of the most likely causes of loss for a laptop and, good news, Theft is a Named Peril. (Noted: There is no Theft coverage for students away at school for the first 45-60 days, depending on your policy.) However, Accidentally-Dropped-And-Danced-On and Beverage-Poured-Over-Keyboard are not Named Perils. To obtain more comprehensive coverage for laptops and computer equipment you will need to make sure your Home policy is endorsed properly.

Now, onto the Automobile policy. You might think when your child leaves for college, without a vehicle, that you can save some premium dollars by removing her as a driver on your Automobile policy. However, in order to protect your assets and your child’s future earnings, she needs to remain on your Auto policy. Just because she did not take a vehicle to school with her, does not mean that she will not drive, or occupy, a vehicle. Keeping her on your policy provides auto liability coverage that will help protect her when she is driving a friend’s vehicle that isn’t adequately insured, or if she comes home for a weekend and wants to use your car. In addition, staying on your policy also provides her with continuous insurance coverage, which will be beneficial when the time comes for her to get her own Auto policy. Many carriers offer a distant student discount for full time students who are away at college more than 100 miles from your home, so you may be able to save some premium dollars even though you are keeping her listed on your policy. Another great way to save money on your insurance premium is through a Good Student Discount. Good Student Discounts are not just for your high schoolers. Undergraduates, and even Grad students, depending on their age, can see fairly substantial savings simply by maintaining a “B”, or better, average.
As you can see, when it comes to how mom and dad’s Personal insurance will cover their college-bound child it’s, well, personal. Coverage is going to largely depend on what form your policies were written on, what endorsements were included, and who the carrier is that writes the policy. We may not have a solution for that huge tuition bill, but we can help you protect you and your child from possible gaps in your insurance coverage.

Dr. William T. Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU presents Hannah with her CT Outstanding CSR of 2015 Award!

Hannah Fontenot named 2015 Outstanding CSR of the Year in Connecticut!!

AUSTIN, TX (June 2015) – The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research has announced that Hannah Fontenot of Rabbett Insurance Agency is the 2015 Outstanding CSR of the Year recipient for the state of Connecticut.

To qualify for this top state honor, Hannah submitted the winning essay on the topic, “In today’s political, economic, and social environment, the use of the English language has undergone significant change. Even in our insurance industry, words, partial words, and titles can have a multitude of meanings—some of which are unclear and even vague. In the current insurance agency environment, the meaning of the term, ‘Customer Service Representative,’ has frequently been replace with the terms ‘Account Manager,’ Account Executive,’ ‘Client Service Advisor, etc. In your judgment, is there any important difference in the meaning of these titles in terms of one’s knowledge, expertise, compensation, and responsibilities? Do you believe these different titles make a difference to your clients, coworkers, and insurance companies?”
Additionally, Ms. Fontenot was selected for having demonstrated outstanding service and professionalism within the insurance community.

“Hannah was chosen as a state winner for exemplifying the characteristics and qualifications required to be eligible for the prestigious National Outstanding CSR of the Year Award,” stated Dr. William T. Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU, President of The National Alliance. “She represents the backbone of the insurance community, those customer service representatives distinguished for providing exceptional service on a daily basis.”

Hannah receives a framed certificate, embossed with the special Outstanding CSR of the Year bronze medallion symbol, and is now one of the 35 individual eligible for the national honor. The National Outstanding CSR of the Year Award carries a $2,000 cash prize and a scholarship for the recipient’s employer to any program offered by The National Alliance. The national winner also receives a distinctive gold and diamond lapel pin cast with the Outstanding CSR of the Year emblem. Additionally, the winner’s name will be inscribed on a sculpture permanently displayed at the national headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Further information regarding the 2015 Outstanding CSR of the Year Award, contact The National Alliance, P.O. Box 27027, Austin, Texas 78755-2027; 8010-633-2165; website: www.TheNationalAlliance.com.

Congrats Shannon Rabbett, PIACT YIP of the year (with Richie Clemens and Nick Ruickoldt) #PIACTConv

How Many More Weeks of Winter?

If you are like me you have been over Winter since the first sign of snow we got back in November. Unfortunately for us we still have a few more weeks until it is all fun in the sun. And, if this February is anything like it was last year then we have a few more winter storms to deal with as well.

 

Mid-Winter maintenance is important to help prevent losses to both your home and automobile. Many of us are used to clearing away snow and ice from our homes to help prevent damage from the adverse weather but, many of us neglect to take the same measures with our autos.

 

Here are a few things that can be done to help protect yourself and your auto in this frigid weather:

  • Have a mechanic check your car’s battery, breaks, fluid levels, as well as the heating and exhaust systems to ensure that your car is in good safe working condition.
  • Try and keep your gas tank full during winter months. Not allowing the gas to go below half a tank will help avoid freezing in extreme cold temperatures.
  • Maintain an adequate supply of windshield washing fluid that is rated for cold weather. Washing away mud and melted snow that may limit visibility is important in reducing accidents. Also, make sure your wipers are in good condition.
  • Install snow tires or all- weather tires with adequate treads and maintain the recommended air pressure.
  • Prepare for an emergency. Keep blankets, flares, a bag of sand or kitty litter to help with traction, shovel, windshield scraper and snow brush, tool kit, tow rope, booster cables, and a flashlight with extra batteries in your trunk.

When there is severe weather it is best to avoid driving in it if possible but, if you must venture out into the storm, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  •    Drive with your headlights on and be sure to keep them clear to improve visibility for yourself and other vehicles.
  • Avoid using cruise control in snow or icy conditions, you want as much control of your vehicle as possible.
  • Know how to brake on slippery surfaces. Vehicles with anti-lock brakes operate much differently from those that do not have anti-lock brakes. You should consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for instructions on how to brake properly if your vehicle starts to skid.
  • Remember that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads that are covered in snow and ice. Reduce speed and increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility worsen.
  • Avoid passing snow plows and sand trucks. The drivers have limited visibility and the road in front of them can be worse than behind.

Tremors or Godzilla

With all the seismic, seemingly unusual, activity happening in the Plainfield, Connecticut area this week, you might think it’s a sign that Godzilla is waking up again. Or an incredibly clever marketing ploy from the creators of the Tremors movies, promoting the 25th anniversary of their first movie. However, the cluster of quakes we have been experiencing, sometimes referred to as “earthquake swarms” are not uncommon in our area. New England has a history of earthquake activity that can be traced back to colonial times according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The true cause of these small quakes continues to be investigated by scientists. The possibilities include an ancient fault line that was formed 400 million years ago, and a process called glacial rebound, which is the reshaping of the earth that was compressed thousands of years ago by the weight of glaciers which once covered our area.

Moderate to large earthquakes with the potential to cause extensive property damage are rare in Connecticut. Homeowners and Property insurance policies in our region do not automatically include earthquake coverage for this reason. However, coverage for quakes is available, and can be added to a Home or Property policy by endorsement.

If you do have concerns or questions regarding earthquake coverage please give us a call

An Inch or Two of Prevention

If you still believe in the meteorology profession, we are in for another brutal winter.

January brings colder weather and usually lots more snow. So while you are dusting off your snow shovels and stocking up on ice melt, there are a few things you should be thinking about as well to prevent winter related losses.

Ice Damming:

An ice dam can form when water from melting snow refreezes at the edge of your roof-line. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.

To avoid damming:

  • Clear downspouts- this will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt.
  • Use a roof rake- using a roof rake to clear the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after a major winter storm will help prevent ice dams from forming. A good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy wet snow and ice on your roof, you should try to have it removed.

Frozen Pipes:
With extreme cold temperatures, there is potential for pipes freezing and bursting, especially when it becomes impossible to maintain your home due to a power outage. If your pipes do burst, turn off the water supply immediately. This way, only water in the pipes will be released, rather than water continuing to pump into your home.

To avoid frozen pipes:

  • Wrap pipes that are at risk in insulated heat tape and keep the building heat at an adequate level throughout the winter.
  • Open cabinet doors to circulate warm air to pipes on outside walls.
  • If you’re going to be out of the home for even a short time, shut off the water supply.

Frozen sidewalks:
Frozen sidewalks are slip hazard we have to deal with regularly. Whether the ice is a result of frozen rain or melting snow that has frozen over again, frozen sidewalks need to be cleared.

To avoid frozen sidewalks:

  • Remove ice promptly with a shovel or ice scraper. Apply ice melt or sidewalk salt to the area.
  • Make sure that all down spouts from gutters are depositing the melted snow away from your sidewalk and that there is no pooling of water occurring.

Snow, ice and high winds can wreak havoc on our homes, however, the good news, your Homeowners policy should cover you if you should suffer damage from winter weather. So give us a call if you have any coverage related questions.

Stay safe and stay warm Windsor!

Fighting Lycans on Your Roof!?!

While superhero cartoons are still his favorite, my son Raiden has recently developed his mother’s love for HGTV. On a rainy Saturday morning in my house, from the living room you may hear, “Mom, come check out the cool water feature in this backyard,” or “Seriously, they’re going to pick the ranch?!”

Recently my husband and I were going over our “To Do List”, and Raiden overheard us talking about washing the moss off of our shed roof. He quickly interrupted and informed us that the shed was not what we should be worried about. “The roof on our house is going to crash in!” he exclaimed, “There may be mold on the shed, but we’ve got lichens on our roof!” (At this point I am pretty sure my MMORPG-Dungeons & Dragons-Loving husband had visions of werewolves assembling on our roof to defeat evil lycans and save our home from impending doom.) However, Raiden further explained that we have algae built up on our roof and, due to its acidic nature, it can penetrate the shingles and cause damage over time.

A quick google search will tell you there is a difference between moss, algae, lichens, and lycans. The experts have varying opinions about the damage that lichens may cause to your roof. Some believe that the black streaky stains on our roof which are caused by lichens, other than being unsightly, are completely harmless; while other experts say lichens are a “gateway biological growth” that open the door for the more damaging algae and moss to grow. What the experts do agree on, however, is that algae and moss are the bigger worries, especially moss. Moss has roots, holds more water, and causes the edges of shingles to lift, which then allows water to seep in.

Being an insurance agent, I know what a critical issue plants on the roof is to carriers. Often we get notices that state “remove mold from the roof” on home inspection reports.

Speaking of home inspections, we have seen an increase in them over the last couple of years due to all of the catastrophic weather events we have been experiencing in our area. These types of reports are ordered by most carriers when a new policy is issued and may require both and interior and exterior inspection. Home inspections may also be ordered periodically throughout the lifetime of a policy.

So other than those pesky lycans (sorry couldn’t resist), what will the home inspectors look for?

Home inspectors will focus on the safety in your home and on your property, as well as maintenance or repairs that should be done in order to prevent a potential loss or claim. The following is not a comprehensive list of how to maintain your home, but here are the most common requirements we see as a result of home inspections.

Electrical: If an interior inspection is ordered, the home insurance inspector is going to make sure your wiring and electrical panel are up to code. In this part of the country, many of us live in older homes. Knob and tube wiring is the most common electrical issue we see arising from insurance inspections. If you do have knob and tube wiring in your home, be sure to tell your agent before they write the policy, as some carriers will not insure a home with this type of wiring in it.

Stairs and railings: Railings on stair and decks must be in good condition and meet height requirements, and be free from debris. If you have a set of 3 or more stairs without a railing, inspectors will, most likely, require a railing to be installed.

Walkways: Walkways and patios should be free of cracks and debris. This includes driveways as well. We see many reports coming back requiring a homeowner to repair crumbling concrete or brick.

Swimming Pools: If you have a pool, the insurance carrier requires that it is surrounded by an approved fence and gate with a working lock mechanism. Diving boards and slides are unacceptable exposures and they will require removal.

Trampolines: If you even whisper the word “trampoline” with a personal insurance professional in the room, they will become visibly uncomfortable. The insurance carriers are not against your children having fun, rather they identify exposures that have a history of claims activity. While trampolines may be a great way for the kids to work on their gymnastics skills, they are the cause of tens of thousands of emergency room visits each year. Every carrier handles the trampoline exposure differently, but none of them want one on your property. Some may cover a claim resulting from a trampoline and then either require you to remove it from the property, or cancel your Homeowners insurance policy completely. Some policies have a “trampoline exclusion”, this means, that if your neighbor’s child is paralyzed as a result of falling off your trampoline, your Homeowners insurance will not respond, and you will be on your own to defend yourself in a lawsuit and pay the damages and medical bills that result.

Attractive Nuisances: I can guarantee that if you have an un-fenced half-pipe in your backyard, visible from the road, Raiden will be running up the side of it with his little sister in-tow, before I can even yell “Get away from that attractive nuisance!” Skateboard ramps, trampolines, pools, tree houses, and mobile equipment are all examples of attractive nuisances. They are dangerous and simply irresistible to a child. Being drawn to an attractive nuisance is a defense for trespassing. So, as in the example above with your neighbor’s child getting seriously injured on your trampoline, even if you didn’t invite him or her on to your property, you are still liable if they get hurt. Depending on the exposure, the home insurance inspector is going to make it mandatory that you remove attractive nuisances from your property or requires that you make it less inviting, such as installing fencing around a swimming pool.

Roof: Other than clearing/cleaning the biological growth on the roof, the inspector will also make a mandatory recommendation that any curling or missing roof tiles be replaced. They will also mandate the removal of any branches overhanging or touching the roof.

So, what should you do? Every home and yard is unique. Therefore, other requirements or recommendations may arise from a home insurance inspection. Your local independent agent will want to know many details regarding your home before the policy is written to avoid any potential issues at the time of the inspection. Also, following your inspection, make all necessary corrections quickly and correctly to avoid any lapses in coverage.

Think Twice About What you Post Online!!

Most thieves are opportunists. Posting or sharing certain things online makes their “job” a lot easier.

As one women in Texas has recently found out, posting photos or videos of your high value items online could let potential robbers know what you have to steal. Last week Theresa Roemer’s closet was featured in an article showing off her many high value assets. Within a few days of that article being published and photos of “the largest closet in America” being circulated all around the internet, it was broken into and many of her high value items were stolen.

Another thing to avoid posting online, your vacation plans! Yes we all know you deserve that relaxing break, but when posting specific details such as dates and times when you will be away from your home lets burglars know when your home will be empty. Not only does this give them plenty of time to completely empty your home of all your valuables, chances are that the crime will go unnoticed for several days giving them plenty of time to cover their tracks.

So remember, no matter how excited you are about your new TV or how you can’t wait to have your toes in the sand next week, some things are better left off line.