Monday, December 27, 2010

What To Do When Driving In Snow & Ice

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don't go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions.

It's helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you're familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner's manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Tips For Driving Safely On Icy Roads

1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.

3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.

5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

6. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

8. Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

9. Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

What Do You Do If Your Rear Wheels Skid?

1. Take your foot off the accelerator.

2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.

3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

What About If My Front Wheels Skid?

1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.

2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

What About If I Get Stuck?

1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.

2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.

3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.

4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.

5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.

6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Water, water, everywhere...

I’ve gone back and forth over the years with clients both for homeowners and business owners about the importance of Flood Insurance. Did you know that out of all of the types of “what-if’s” that can happen that water can do the most damage? You know this if your basement has ever filled with water, your water heater broke, or even if it has rained for days and there is no place for the rain to go. Just a few inches of water can cause tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and can be both emotionally & financially draining if you don’t have the proper coverage in place.

I know what you are thinking – “But I don’t live in a flood zone. My mortgage company doesn’t require it, so why should I have it?”

Here is why:

1.) Because a flood can occur anywhere and at anytime quickly without warning. This is the definition of what we call Flash Flooding. You know that rain that comes from nowhere & has no place to go…so it goes into your house and anyplace it can travel? That is Flash Flooding.

2.) Because there is no coverage for this type of loss on your homeowners insurance.

Flood Defined
The National Flood Insurance Program defines a flood as “A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is you property) from:

· Overflow of inland or tidal water

· Unusual or rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from ANY source

· Mudflow

· Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above. “

Is Flood Insurance Really Worth It?
Take in point this scenario: You live on .25 acres and so do your neighbors and your neighbor’s pool breaks and is now on yours and their property – you now have a flood. Why? Because this is considered by the NFIP “an unusual rapid accumulation of surface waters from ANY source with partial inundation of two or more properties.” So if you have flood coverage, you would be covered up to the limits of the policy, which you would discuss with your agent.

Ok. So How Much Can I Get & What Does It Cost Me?
You can purchase up to $250,000 on your home and up to $100,000 on contents. Businesses can purchase up to $500,000 through the NFIP. The cost of the Flood Insurance can vary based on if you live in a Flood Zone and on how much coverage you need. If you are curious, you should contact you agent.

Can I Get Flood Insurance Even If I’m Not In a Flood Zone?
Yes! Actually a flood – or flash floods can happen anywhere even if your not in a “flood zone.” The good news is that flood insurance for you, is less expensive than if you live in a flood zone.

How & When Can I Buy Flood Insurance?
You can purchase flood insurance at any time, whether you live in a flood zone or not, but be aware that in most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period unless your mortgage company is requiring it. Call your agent for more information on how you can purchase flood insurance and for more information. Or visit the FEMA Website which can also give you more information. or visit

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Most Important Gear to Protect You on Your Motorcycle

If you own a motorcycle, one of the best parts about a nice day is going for a long ride. Whether it be by yourself or in a group, there is something about the wind in your face and its just you and the open road. But just you and the open road is exactly the reason why you have to take precautions to make sure you safe at the same time. Its also a reason why getting the right coverage can be more protection for you than your helmet and gear.

Its around this time, we get a lot of calls for motorcycle coverage. The customer calls us looking for coverage…cheap coverage. Cheap however, isn’t always saving you in the long run.

Did you know that in New York State Personal Injury Coverage doesn’t cover you on your motorcycle?
I know what you are thinking… What? Wait a minute I see Personal Injury coverage on the quote you gave me.” Yes, there is PIP coverage for motorcycles which is required by New York State but it only applies to injured pedestrians. Not to you. Not to your passengers.

Your reply: “Ok. Well I have health insurance, so I don’t need that PIP coverage anyways." Wrong again. Unfortunately, if you are injured in a motorcycle accident where you are driving the motorcycle, your health insurance will not pick up the tab either.

Finally your reply: “Ok. Is there ANYTHING that will cover me if I wipe out on my bike?”
Yes. Actually with many companies, you can purchase voluntary coverage called Medical Payments. While sometimes this may not be as high as the limit on a personal auto policy, many companies offer coverage anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 or higher in medical payments. This is what will cover you if you are injured on your motorcycle.

One last question: “What about my passengers who are on my bike with me?”
Your passenger would be covered under the passenger liability portion on your policy. Some companies include this directly with the Bodily Injury coverage on the liability of your policy. Other companies have this as an option. Make sure your agent includes this if it isn’t already included.

Things to Remember:
Besides protecting yourself with a helmet and the proper gear, make sure you double check your coverages before you head out to hit the open road this summer. Make sure your agent max’s out the coverage for you on your policy on your medical payments. If you are getting a quote and they are quoting you with multiple carriers find out what the maximum coverage each company offers. Be sure you know exactly what you are paying for. If you are unsure of the coverages, ask your agent to explain and review them with you so that you understand them. This is the only coverage to protect you on the open road. Know before you go, it can be just as important as a helmet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don’t Get Burned This Summer! Add an insurance review to your check list for this summer.

þ Sunglasses…check!

þ SPF 15…no…30….check!

þ Beach towel…check!

þ Bathing suit…check!

þ Book…check!

þ Extra Liability Insurance…chec…huh? what? Liability for the beach?

No. I didn’t stutter, I said extra liability. I know what you are thinking, “Amy, this is my time to take a vacation, relax, and to not worry about the details.”

But with more people on the road traveling to the beaches whether it be downstate, upstate or any state, you are going to run into more people, both figuratively & literally. Kids are out running around, across your property. You are out at the beach, camping or simply driving to your summer fun getaway, so while liability insurance or the proper coverage probably isn’t on your top priority list, it should be on your list of things to take with you before you go on vacation this summer. With more people comes more change of accidents or something happening. Nobody plans for an accident, that’s why its called one in the first place. But when it happens, the last thing you want to have to worry about is a claim gone wrong or not enough coverage. Not enough coverage is like getting rained out at the beach. Be prepared this summer. Make sure you have enough liability.

You want to be sure that if one of the neighborhood kids trips and gets hurt on you property you have enough liability. You want to be sure that if you were camping and an accident happened that you have enough medical payments or liability insurance to cover you wherever you are. You want to be sure that if you go on vacation, your home is covered properly. You want to be sure that if you got into a car accident, you have enough coverage, even if the other guy doesn’t.

I know you are thinking now, “Amy, I’m leaving in a few days for the beach. I don’t have time to do ALL of this!” That is what your agent is for. Ask them to sit down for an quick review of what you have to be sure you are carrying enough so that you don’t get burned this summer. It can take less than 20 minutes and can be well worth the time.

Not sure if you have enough? Email us for a free checklist to take the quiz.
Have a Safe & Happy Summer!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are You "On Track" about Off Premises Theft?

Off premises theft coverage: (n.) coverage provided to you off the premises you reside for the act of stealing your belongings.

So now I know what your thinking…”Amy, translate this insurance jargon into something that makes send to me…PLEASE!”

Ok, so basically if someone breaks into your car and jacks your golf clubs and your IPOD, this coverage would be able to replace those for you.

Charlie Customer
: “Oh, so this is under my car insurance right?”

Me: “No, its covered under your home, condo, or renters insurance policy.”

Charlie Customer: “Wait, someone breaks into my car and steals my IPOD and that’s part of a renters policy or my homeowners?”

Me: “Yes. Because anything that isn’t attached to the car – IPOD, your Garmin GPS, your golf clubs, etc. are all considered personal property and is covered under your home insurance.”

Ok. So now that we get that part, here’s the unique to New York downstate home insurance coverage: “Off Premises Theft Exclusion” - included in all downstate New York policies

Translation - this means if you live in Bronx, Kings, Nassau, Queens, Suffolk, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester, and New York Counties this coverage is in most cases NOT automatically included in your homeowners, renters, or condo insurance policies. This means, that if you live in these counties, and do not elect to add this coverage in (yes, this is usually at a small additional cost), many insurance companies do not automatically include coverage for your stuff if you take it out of your house. This includes when you go away on vacation, golf clubs in your car, etc. If you don't have this coverage on your policy, you will not be covered. Sorry Charlie.

-> However on a side note, If you live upstate above these counties, this coverage is automatically included and you can opt-out of the coverage if you wish.

So what do I do? How do I get this coverage?
If you live in one of these downstate New York counties and do not know if you have this coverage or not, I would encourage you to look at your policy. Take a look anyways! And also call your trusted insurance professional. Ask them what it would cost to add this on – probably less than an IPOD and a set of golf clubs.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Renters Insurance…huh?

I have heard this time and time again…and it usually begins while I’m quoting an auto policy for someone.

Us: “Ok. And do you have homeowners insurance?”

Customer A: “Me? No. No. I rent.”

Us: “Oh ok, no problem. Do you have a renters policy?”

Customer A: “Renters Insurance? No, I don’t need that. I don’t need to spend anymore money.”

Us: “Ok, I can understand that. I don’t want you to spend more money either especially on things you don’t need. Do you know what renters insurance would cover you for?”

Customer A: (silent pause) “no”

Ok…so here’s the part where we usually explain all that renters insurance covers them for – and its not just for a few t-shirts and an old T.V.

Personal Property
Yes. Renters insurance DOES cover all of your belongings. This means EVERYTHING – from your dishes, your couch, your bed, your clothes, shoes (all of them), electronics, etc. Now if your like me, I have work clothes, going out clothes, workout clothes, and more. And don’t even get me started on shoes…which now occupy a closet on their own. All of this stuff can add up after a while. Now if you golf, collect coins, dolls, baseball cards, etc. this can add up even more. So, now that your head is spinning, your probably asking well how do I know how much I need to cover? My suggestion is to start with a home inventory checklist. (Email me & I can send you one for free if you need it)

Loss of Use
Ok. So now that we have all of your stuff covered, what else is there? Well in renters insurance, there is a LOT more. The next part, which most people don’t know, is that renters insurance covers “loss of use” coverage. What this means is that in the event of a claim, or worse yet in the event that your neighbor above you has a fire & the you now have water damage, smoke damage, and no power until the electric company says its ok to come back, you have coverage that pays for you to stay someplace else in the meantime! How great is that? You don’t have to move in with friends, or worse yet, back with your parents. Some policies give you a monthly limit and other policies give you a monetary amount, check the policy to be sure you have enough coverage.

Personal Liability
So, now we have your stuff that can be replaced and a place for you to stay…but wait, that’s not all. On top of that, there is also personal liability coverage, which covers you and your family in the event that someone sues you for an event that you are personally liable.

WHAT? I know what your thinking…”Amy, that makes no sense. You lost me & how much is this going to cost me?” Let me explain it in a better way. Someone gets seriously injured in your apartment or on your property and decides they are going to place a lawsuit against you. You have liability coverage to cover you. Or wait, here’s an even cooler example: You’re a golfer (a really sucky golfer). Your out on the course with your buddies and you shank a ball into the other hole. Besides killing your chances of beating your buddies despite all of your bragging before the game, you have now also hit the guy on the next hole in the head and knocked him out. Now what? The ambulance comes, checks out the guy, takes him for a CAT Scan to be sure he checks out and the worse part is…this can ALL come back to you. But here’s the best part, a renters insurance policy’s personal liability policy has coverage which covers you wherever you are! So you can get out on the golf course & really stink it up!

Medical Payments
Ok..So this part goes hand in hand with Personal Liability. Medical Payments covers you for simple slip and falls, minor accidents where there is no lawsuit. If this turns into a lawsuit, then your liability coverage would kick in here.

Great. So Now What?
So that’s it. That’s the basics of renters insurance. But here’s what most people don’t think of, if you live in a multi-family home or apartment complex and you should ALWAYS have renters insurance. Why? Because I don’t care how much you know your neighbors, accidents happen. Someone forgets to blow out a candle or cigarette. Someone toilet overflows from upstairs into your unit. The person in 2A next to you moves in and is a horrible cook. Anything can happen. I have seen it. And sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be directly your fault for a claim to affect you. Your neighbor can have a fire and now you have smoke and water damage. And now you find out your landlord only covers the building. As much as he’s a nice guy, he is not responsible for your stuff or where you stay while the building is condemned until it gets repaired.

I know this may seem excessive to write a lot about something that is so small a policy. But I'm passionate about this because I have seen families suffer from fires and have no place to stay and lose all of their belongings. I have seen water damage from a fire in the apartment above where it wasn't even the person's fault. I saw a roof collapse on an apartment in the middle of the night and they had to figure out where to stay. And I have seen a four family where only one of the four had renters insurance. The one couple was set. Their stuff was replaced or dry cleaned. They had a place to stay (not mom & dad’s) and they had nothing to worry about. The other three? Had to figure it out on their own.

Now, I know I still didn’t address the part that’s been in the back of your mind… "but Amy, how much does this cost?” Did you know, that most policies range between $10 - $30/ month depending on what your coverage is that you need.

Did you also know that a small kitchen fire can cost you upwards of $10,000 or more? And then, after the landlord’s insurance company finds that you are at fault, their insurance company will sue you for negligence & ask for damages – which can be upwards of $25,000 for damages to the building. Yes. That’s right, they can sue you. I have seen it. But guess what? Your renters policy would cover this.

So for $10-$30 a month, you can have peace of mind and loads of coverage, and in some cases a discount on your auto policy. If you don’t have one and you rent, get a renters policy today. Talk to a trusted agent about what is right for you and your family.

If you have a story, I would love to hear your experiences or your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What is Water Back Up & Sump Pump Overflow?

Do you know what Water Back Up & Sump Pump Overflow coverage is and how it can help you? We get lots of questions about this coverage on a homeowners policy. Many people either have never heard of it, don’t know it exists, or don’t know how it would apply to them & their situation.

When we get to this coverage in the quote or policy for a customer, the conversation usually goes something like this…

Us: “And we gave you water back up & sump overflow coverage up to $5,000 on your policy.”

Customer A: “Water what? What is that? What does that mean? How much is it costing me?”

Us: “Well, water back up & Sump overflow is if your pipes or sewers back up into your house & overflow into the house. This is different from flood insurance, and your homeowners insurance policy typically does not automatically cover this for you in your home. In the event that your pipes back up into your house, which I hope that they never do, because believe me this is messy, this additional coverage would help to cover the cost of this.”

Customer "A" now ponders a few factors in this coverage and they go one of three ways –
1.) They ask how much it costs, with which we reply it ranges from company to
company. Some automatically include this with certain other coverages, while
other companies offer this at an additional price. After the thought of
cleaning up sewer or toilet water in their house on their own, they figure
the benefits outweigh the cost.
2.) They tell me no thanks because that never happens to them or they don’t
think it will.
3.) They ask me if they can go higher than $5000 for coverage in which case,
many companies do offer more coverage for this specifically.

Many people have not heard of this coverage or do not know specifically what this coverage does for someone in a real life scenario. Well, if you have had sewer pipes back up into your house, or overflow causing a gross & disgusting mess, it only takes you once to realize the importance of this, and that you probably don’t want to go through that again if you can avoid it.

My question for you would be, knowing what this coverage covers you for and knowing that without it, even though this is water damage there is no coverage unless you have this specific addition to your policy, which would you choose?

My other comment to you would be to look at your homeowners, renters, or condo owner’s policy and if you don’t have this coverage and think it would be useful to you with what you know now, please talk to your agent or your insurance carrier to find out how to add this coverage onto your policy. You can add this on for a few bucks a month. Trust me, its better than cleaning up 3 inches of messy water in your house.