Monday, November 28, 2011

Santa Claus is Coming...and so is the "Smartphone Scrooge"

In spite of the poor economy, parents are determined to make this Christmas the best one yet for their kids.

One of the hottest items on 2011 Christmas Lists will be a smart phone. These clever little devices are packed with fun gadgets, games, and ringtones which make them a top choice among teens, while capabilities like parent controls and GPS locators make them a smart choice for parents. Many parents have found that the peace of mind in being able to keep in touch with their kids is well worth the cost of a cell phone.

Unfortunately, Identity thieves love smart phones, too! Identity thieves attack where you’re most vulnerable and that’s exactly what they are doing when it comes to kids and smart phones.

Cell phones come equipped with simple ringtones. There is a vast market of clever ringtones that can be downloaded for free. However, many of these ‘free’ ringtones are offered by identity thieves as bait. Often what is downloaded is a great deal more sinister than a ringtone. Many of these sites can attach viruses used to steal personal information and use it for Identity Theft.

Parents should safeguard themselves by attaching strict Usage Guidelines to the gift of a smart phone. The following are some guideline suggestions which are important to the security of your personal business and the safety of your kids:

- Don’t send text messages to receive free ringtones. Use the ring tone that came with the phone. It is the only sure-fire way to avoid identity theft with ringtones. Only buy ringtones from reputable cell phone service providers like AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Read the terms and conditions before you allow your kids to make any purchases.

- Don’t put personal information like banking, credit card numbers, or even date of birth on cell phones. The less personal information there is on a phone, the less thieves have to work with.

Most phones have the capability of setting a PIN number for the phone.But most users never that option considering it an inconvenience. To stay safe, set a PIN number that your child can remember. If the phone is lost or stolen, thieves can’t open the phone and get to personal information.

Children should follow basic safety precautions to prevent losing the phone or leaving it unprotected where thieves can steal it. Advise them to let you know immediately if they can’t find their phone.

For more information about how to protect you and your family from identity theft for less than $5 a month, visit our website at or email or call 845-565-2200

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What you need to know before becoming a volunteer

On Sept. 16, 1997, the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 became effective. Concerned that volunteers have been deterred from offering their services to nonprofit organizations because of liability concerns, Congress went to work to enact a law that would limit volunteer liability. This federal law is good news for all those who volunteer, or have always wanted to volunteer, for nonprofit organizations.

I’d like to volunteer for a nonprofit organization. Am I protected from liability?

Yes. The Volunteer Protection Act provides liability protection for harm a volunteer may cause as long as:

  1. the volunteer was acting within the scope of his or her volunteer responsibilities;

  2. the volunteer was properly licensed, certified or authorized for the activity which caused the harm (if required or appropriate);

  3. the harm was not caused by the willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence or conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the person harmed; and

  4. the harm was not caused by the volunteer while operating a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other vehicle for which the state mandates the operator or owner to be licensed or to maintain insurance.

Are there exceptions to volunteer immunity I should know?

The Volunteer Protection Act will not provide immunity if the volunteer has engaged in misconduct that:

  1. constitutes a crime of violence or an act of international terrorism;

  2. constitutes a hate crime;

  3. involves a sexual offense;

  4. violates a federal or state civil rights law; or

  5. if the volunteer was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.

Do I qualify as a volunteer under the act?

A “volunteer” is defined under the act as an individual performing services for a nonprofit organization or a governmental entity who does not receive compensation (other than reasonable reimbursement or allowance for incurred expenses) or any other thing of value in lieu of compensation, in excess of $500 per year. The term includes a director, officer, trustee or other direct service volunteer.

I volunteer as a director of a nonprofit organization. Can I expect my homeowners insurance policy or umbrella policy to extend coverage for harm I may cause as a volunteer?

No. A homeowners policy shows little promise of providing a director or officer any protection in the event that a lawsuit arises.

The reason? The typical directors and officers lawsuit involves a wrongful act that inflicts financial injury to someone, whereas a homeowners policy covers an insured whose negligence causes an accident that produces bodily injury or property damage to a plaintiff. The homeowners policy, if so endorsed, also may provide coverage for personal injury offenses, such as libel or slander.

The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 is a big step in the right direction to providing volunteers with immunity; however, because there are still some limitations and qualifications on immunity, check with our agency to be sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage.

Call or email us at (888) 565-2212 or

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Insuring your in-home business

Did you know?
Approximately 40 million Americans operate full- and part-time businesses from their homes. The home-based business represents a substantial investment of time, money and property. Yet many business owners do not have the coverage necessary to protect themselves and their businesses.

Is my in-home business covered under my homeowners policy?

Not sufficiently. Many homeowners policies provide only a limited amount of coverage for business-related exposures. Depending on your policy, your homeowners insurance may cover your business, but probably only to a maximum of $2,500 for business equipment in the home and $500 for equipment away from the premises. A stolen business credit card, a power surge causing the loss of important computer data and a lawsuit over a business-related matter are not covered.

How can I get the most appropriate coverage for my home business?

There are three ways. First, you may be able to add a home business endorsement to your existing homeowners policy.

Coverage generally includes business property coverage; business liability, including product, personal injury and advertising liability; loss of business income protection; valuable papers coverage; and accounts receivable.

Second, you can purchase several individual business insurance policies to provide the various coverages you need, such as business property, general liability and business income insurance.

Third, you can purchase a business owners package policy designed for smaller businesses, which combines the necessary property and liability insurance coverages you need in a single policy.

I run a day-care service in my home. Does my homeowners liability insurance extend to my business?

No. Care providers must purchase liability insurance specifically for their business. You
can, at any time, be held liable for injuries that are proven to be the result of events that
occurred while the child was in your care.

An occurrence policy will cover you at any time in the future should you be held liable for a child’s injury. You also may get coverage for children’s injuries that do not fall under liability. Accidental/medical insurance will cover injuries that are not due to negligence on the part of the provider.

What other types of insurance should I consider for my business?

If you use an automobile for your business activities, be sure that your automobile insurance will protect you from accidents which may occur on business-related errands. You may need to purchase a separate business auto insurance policy depending on your type of business and the kind of vehicle you own.

You’ll also need health insurance to cover medical costs if you become ill or injured, and disability insurance in case you become unable to work because of sickness or injury. Also, you may want to consider a small group insurance program if you have employees.

If you hire an employee, you may need to buy workers’ compensation insurance in the event that the employee is hurt on the job and needs medical treatment and income. Under certain state-specific circumstances, workers’ compensation insurance also may extend coverage to you in case you are injured at work.

Be sure that your in-home business is properly and adequately insured. Our agency can help you get the most appropriate coverage for your home business.

Not sure if you have an in-home business or want more information? Call or email us today! 888-565-2212 or

PIA Your Professional Insurance Agent … We want you to know about the insurance you're buying.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flood Damage: Are you covered?

Is my home insured for damage that may result from flooding caused by a hurricane or other storm?

Not necessarily. Generally, coverage provided by a standard home or business policy does not include damage caused by flooding or mudslides. It is important to note this type of damage could be extremely destructive to your property and without insurance you could be devastated financially.

How can I get insurance coverage so I’m protected for flood damage from a natural disaster?

First, contact our agency. We have access to comprehensive information and we can help you determine if you need flood insurance. Throughout the United States, more than 20,000 communities participate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, which offers flood insurance. An NFIP policy typically includes coverage for: removing contents; sandbagging (to reduce damage); repairing flood damage and rebuilding; clearing away debris and mud; and compensating for personal belongings
and business inventories.

How much protection can I get?

You can obtain flood coverage up to $250,000 on your home, $100,000 on its contents and $500,000 for businesses.

Is flood insurance really necessary?

That is a question you should discuss with our agency. However, you should know that lending institutions may require flood insurance as a condition of securing a mortgage, home improvement loan, home equity loan, commercial loan, etc. Flood insurance also is a prerequisite for receiving federal disaster assistance when property is located in a special hazard area.

It is important to note that not only high-risk areas are prone to flooding. Flooding can occur anytime and anywhere. One-quarter of NFIP claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

Can I buy flood insurance at any time?

Yes, but in most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period between the time flood insurance is purchased and the time coverage is in force.

How can I prepare for a catastrophe such as flooding?

Along with obtaining flood insurance protection, you should heed storm warnings and follow evacuation procedures such as boarding up windows and storing outside items inside; shutting off utilities; and preparing an emergency kit that contains food and water, a portable can opener, clothing, blankets, flashlights, first-aid supplies and a battery-operated radio.

Also, maintain a current household or business inventory of your property and possessions and keep it in a safe place such as a safe-deposit box. An up-to-date inventory will prove useful when filing your insurance claim.

Flood facts

On the eastern coast of the United States, flooding occurs mainly during hurricane season, which runs primarily from June through October. Hurricanes affect coastal and inland areas. These areas can be inundated by torrential rains that result in widespread flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 75 percent of households located in federally designated special flood hazard areas carry no flood insurance.

Looking for Flood Insurance?
Call us 888-565-2212 for a quote or visit our website to get a
Flood Quote

For more information & Tips visit

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top 10 Insurance Tips for Hurricane Season

By Ted Besesparis, PIA

2011 is predicted to be an active hurricane season. Don’t be caught unprepared! The steps below will help you minimize hurricane damage and get back on your feet if you are struck.

Just like hurricanes come in many shapes and sizes, so do insurance policies. The frequently asked questions included here provide information about what policies usually cover, along with some tips on filing claims. To find out about your coverage, consult your policy and contact your professional insurance agent.

Frequently asked questions
1. I have reported my claim, now what should I do?
You should take all steps necessary to prevent further damage—securing property, temporarily boarding windows and roof, drying out carpets and personal property, etc. If the insured does not do this and further damage results, it may not be covered.

You should not undertake any permanent repairs, nor dispose of any damaged property before an adjuster has been able to see the damage. When there is water damage to the contents of a home, you should remove water-soaked contents such as carpeting and furniture, however you should not dispose of such items before an insurance adjuster sees them. You can place such items outside under a tarp. In the case of perishable items (i.e., food) that must be disposed of, first take photographs of that property to substantiate the claim. If you do not, some damages may not be covered.

You should retain all receipts for emergency repairs and for items which might qualify under additional living expenses (such as water, ice, rental charges at another location if the home is uninhabitable, etc.).

2. Is there anything I can do to speed up the claims process?
Although the adjuster will contact you as soon as possible, priority will be given to the most severe losses. Also be aware that larger claims will be settled in stages, not all at once. While waiting for the adjuster, there are a number of things you can do:
· You may wish to secure a
repair estimate (preferably at
least two) for the adjuster to

review. This will help the
adjuster with the settlement

· Take pictures of the damaged property. If you have pictures of the property before the loss, these should be provided to the adjuster.

· Make a list of all damaged property, including a description, age, original cost, place of purchase and estimated replacement cost. Any receipts or canceled checks for these items also should be included.

3. What if my home is so damaged I can’t stay in it?
Under most homeowners and dwelling forms, coverage is provided for additional living expenses. If the home is uninhabitable due to a covered peril and you must temporarily relocate, most policies will reimburse for the reasonable expenses incurred over and above your normal living costs. For example, it would probably cover all reasonable housing expenses since you will be paying a mortgage payment, but would only cover food expenses over and above what the policyholder normally would pay for food.

It is imperative that you retain all receipts for these expenses in order for them to be considered as a part of the loss. The expenses must be in line with normal living costs and must be a necessary and direct result of the loss.

Most policies limit recovery under additional living expenses to a percentage of the amount of coverage on the home itself.

4. What coverage is there for trees that are down?

There is no coverage under standard dwelling and homeowners policies for damage to trees by “weather perils” (such as wind). However, if the tree falls and causes damage to some other type of covered property (such as a house or fence), the damage to the house or fence would be covered. Separate windstorm coverage can be purchased as an added endorsement.

5. Power was out for five days and the food in my freezer and refrigerator spoiled. Is it covered?

Generally, most residential policies do not cover food spoilage resulting from power outages due to the “power failure” exclusion. A small number of companies provide some very limited coverage (i.e., $250-$500) as a coverage enhancement. Aside from this, coverage is generally not available.

6. When power finally came back on, a power surge damaged some of my electrical equipment. Is it covered?

Most homeowners policies provide coverage as “sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current”; however, coverage does not apply to loss of transistors, computer chips and similar items. Therefore, damage from a power surge would not be covered for property such as televisions, VCRs, computers or similar items.

7. The adjuster was here last week and I still haven’t gotten my check. How long is this going to take?

After the adjuster has visited the insured, he must complete detailed paperwork on the loss, which is subsequently submitted to the carrier for review. After everything has been checked, the carrier will issue the claims draft to the insured. If the adjuster is carrying a heavy claim load, there is often quite a delay in completing the paperwork by the adjuster, since they generally must do this at night, as well as the delay at the company as it deals with thousands of claims to review at one time. Often, an insurance agent can check with the adjuster to find out exactly when the paperwork was submitted to the carrier. If the papers have been sent in, the company also may be able to provide a status report.

8. I’ve just received my claim check and it’s not enough.

If the check is for a lower amount than the insured expected, it is usually due to policy terms that require settlement on an actual-cash-value basis with replacement cost being paid at the time repairs or replacements are actually completed. Check with your agent or company.

9. What is the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost coverage?

If the policy indicates that settlement will be on a replacement cost basis, then payment will be made for the actual cost to repair or replace at today’s prices, limited only by the total amount of coverage that was purchased. If the adjustment basis is actual cash value, settlement will be made by determining the replacement cost at today’s prices and subtracting from that amount a reasonable amount for depreciation, age or obsolescence. Some policies provide coverage for the home on a “guaranteed replacement cost” basis. In this situation, the carrier will pay whatever it costs to repair or rebuild the home, regardless of policy limits.

10. I was told I was ‘underinsured.’ How can this be?Too often, homeowners neglect to review their homeowners insurance. Changes to your home such as the addition of a room or an increase in your home’s value may affect your coverage. Call your professional insurance agent for the best advice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is a Hurricane Deductible?

Weather, weather everywhere...what's going to happen next? I know what you are thinking...fires, rain, tornados, now earthquakes, and oh comes Irene...a hurricane. With so much going on, you might be asking am I covered? What is my deductible? How much damage do I have to have to put in a claim? The answer to all of this depends. Comforting, I know.

Well with Irene knocking at our door like that unwanted relative you knew was coming but you hoped you could ignore, let me clarify a few things for you as far as insurance definitions go. Specifically speaking, the differences between a Hurricane deductible and a Wind deductible.

When Is Hurricane Season Anyway?

The Atlantic Hurricane season officially starts from July to October, but can range anywhere from June all the way through November. During this time, every costal state from Florida to Maine could potentially be affected by these named storms.

What is the Difference Between a Wind Deductible and a Hurricane Deductible?

Depending on the policy you have, there are two different kinds of deductibles.

1.) Hurricane Deductible - A Hurricane deductible is as it states, soley from damage from a Hurricane. Some companies use a specific "mile-per-hour" wind speed while others state that the Hurricane would have to be designated by the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center.

2.) Wind Deductible - A wind deductible is more stringent in that it applies to any wind damage, not specific to a Hurricane or a particular "mile-per-hour" wind.

How Do I Know What I Have and What the Triggers are?

For New York State, a Hurricane or wind deductible is mainly applicapable to the downstate counties - ie. Suffolk, Nassau, the five boroughs, Westchester, and sometimes Putnam, Rockland & Orange Counties. Check your policy or call your agent to be sure what the triggers are (ie. when these specific deductibles would apply) and what the % of your deductible is. For these deductibles, they are often higher than your main deductible. For example, if you have a $1000 deductible on your homeowners policy but you may have a 5% Hurricane deductible. Depending on the trigger the company sets, if you have a house valued at $500,000, your hurricane deductible would be $25,000 instead of your normal $1000. In some cases with certain companies you can "buy-back" coverage to lower your deductible. It is important to check your policy so that you are prepared as far as what your deductible would be and what the triggers are based on your carrier.

Where Can I Get More Information?

Hurricane deductibles as of 9/1/2009 by company can be viewed on the New York State Department of Insurance Web site at in the Homeowners Resources Center under "Windstorm Deductibles".

If you are unsure of what your policy contains or when to put in a claim, contact your agent or your insurance company. They can review your coverages and make any changes necessary so that you are not only prepared, but are comfortable with the insurance you are purchasing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ten Things All Car & Truck Drivers Shoulds Know About Motorcycles

  1. Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don't "recognize" a motorcycle - they ignore it (usually unintentionally)

  2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car's blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you're changing lanes or turning at intersections.

  3. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

  4. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

  5. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

  6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle's signal is for real.

  7. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don't expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

  8. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can't always stop "on a dime."

  9. When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle - see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.

  10. If a driver crashes into a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian and causes serious injury, the driver would likely never forgive himself/herself.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Do I Have Any Control Over My Auto Insurance Rates?

In today’s market, where affordable personal auto insurance seems less and less available, you may wonder if there’s any way to control rising premiums. You’ve already taken one step by choosing an independent insurance agent, representing multiple companies, so we can give you the right insurance to fit your needs. Besides choosing the right insurance company, there are some other tips to help you control the rates you pay for auto insurance.

An operator’s driving history affects rates and could predict future claims activity. Obeying the rules of the road and driving defensively are your best ways to lower premiums.

A major factor in the rating of the coverages that pay to repair your car is the type of vehicle you own. In assigning a rate, most insurance companies begin with the cost of the vehicle and the model year. Generally, the higher the cost of the vehicle and the newer it is, the higher the rate. However, further adjustments are made for the vehicle’s weight, body type, engine performance, actual loss experience from past years for that model, etc. We can give you a premium comparison for vehicles you are considering purchasing or leasing, which will give you some control over the cost of your insurance.

Some people prefer to assume more of the risk of loss on their autos and save on premiums. It may make sense for you to remove coverages on older vehicles, or increase your deductibles on newer vehicles. A common rule of thumb is that for vehicles more than 10 years old, many do not cover them for other-than-collision (or comprehensive) or collision coverage (physical damage). However, to obtain glass coverage on a vehicle, you would have to maintain other-than-collision coverage.

Your employment opportunities and lifestyle most likely will dictate the kind of use your vehicles get and the location at which they are garaged—two things that impact your premiums. However, there is a way you can gain some control over the rating of your vehicles. You may want to consider driving the lowest-rated vehicle (for example, an older vehicle without physical damage coverage) for activities that have the highest rate for use (for example, business use or long-distance commuting to work).

Always pay your premiums on time. Issuing cancellations, processing late payments and then issuing reinstatements, add significant costs to the servicing of auto insurance policies. Some companies have a low tolerance for late payments under policies that are eligible for their preferred pricing.

Many insurance companies have established a link between a person’s credit history and that person’s probability of having a car accident. As strange as this may sound, there appears to be an objective basis for using credit analysis, known as insurance credit scores, to predict which policyholders will have greater-than-average loss experience or less-than-average loss experience. Managing your credit and your credit report will help to lower rates on your auto insurance.

There are some standard discounts, such as those for taking a driver-training course or a defensive-driving course, qualifying as a good student, insuring multiple vehicles on the same policy, installing certain anti-theft devices and maintaining certain safety equipment (for example, passive restraints, anti-lock brakes or good student discounts). Some insurance companies have developed their own discounts for such things as buying your homeowners policy from the same company. Our agency would like you to take advantage of every discount that is available to you, so don’t hesitate to call us for a discount review.

Lawmakers are working on bills that would help prevent fraud. If you are concerned about your auto insurance costs, be sure to contact your state legislators and urge them to reach agreement on reforms to drive the cost down.

Information provided by Professional Insurance Agents of NY
"Your Professional Insurance Agent … We want you to know about the insurance you’re buying."