What are My Liabilities When Hosting a Party at Home

Courtesy of iii.org

Whether you’re hosting a Super Bowl party for 50 or greeting the New Year with a few friends, if you’re planning to serve alcohol at your home take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you have the proper insurance.


Social host liability is the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest. Social host liability can have serious consequences for party throwers.

Social host liability law

Also known as “Dram Shop Liability,” social host liability laws vary widely from state to state, but 43 states have them on the books. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest (as the guest is also negligent), the host can be held liable for harm to third parties, and even for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.

Social host liability—insurance considerations

Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but limits are typically $100,000 to $300,000, which, depending on your assets, might not be enough. Before planning a party in your home, speak to your insurance professional to review your homeowners coverage for any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have that would affect your social liability risk.

Protect yourself and your guests

Remember that a good host is a responsible host. If you plan to serve alcohol at a party, promote safe alcohol consumption and take these steps to reduce your social host liability exposure:

  • Make sure you understand your state laws. These laws vary widely from state to state (see final chart). Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.
  • Consider venues other than your home for the party. Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks.
  • Hire a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and are better able to limit consumption by partygoers.
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Limit your own alcohol intake as a responsible host/hostess, so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

Are You Protected From Wildfires?

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Facts about wildfire risk

The deadly destruction of a wildfire is not to be underestimated. Hard to contain, wildfires consume everything in their wake and wreak havoc on lives, landscapes and homes. Wildfires:

  • Occur in 38 states – California is the state most associated with wildfires and, in fact, eight of the 10 most costly wildfires in the U.S. have occurred there. That said, Texas has been known to have twice the wildfires as California in a given year and 38 of U.S. states have areas at risk.
  • Like dry conditions – Drought conditions, dry undergrowth and the presence of combustible and flammable materials contribute to wildfire hazard.
  • Are more dangerous in combination with development – The risk of damage increases as housing and business development expands into the wildfire-prone wildland-urban interface (WUI)—such as mountain, foothill or grassland areas.
  • Spread mostly on the wind – Direct flame contact and radiant heat from a wildfire can ignite combustible materials. However, research has shown that homes burned during wildfires most frequently catch fire from live embers (or “firebrands”) that are blown by the wind.
  • Thrive on house “togetherness” – Because of the dangers of the embers, close proximity of homes and presence of combustible features both increase the chances of a home going up in flames. Fire spreads rapidly when homes are less than 15 feet apart, making homes that are clustered near others more likely to burn. Features like fences and attached decks made from combustible materials often hasten the spread of fire.

Wildfire preventative building features

Wildfires need fuel to spread—like wood, plastic, wood-plastic products and foliage. Don’t help your house feed the flames—fit or retrofit your home with features that deter fire. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and others have this advice:

  • Maintain five feet of non-combustible “defensible space” around your home – Keep a five-foot diameter space of gravel, brick, or concrete in the area adjacent to your home.
  • Maintain an expanded “defensible space” between five and 30 feet from your home – Keeping this area as unattractive to wildfires as possible will reduce the risk. Move trailers/RVs and storage sheds from area, or build defensible space (see above) around these items. Remove shrubs under trees, prune branches that overhang your roof, thin trees, and remove dead vegetation.
  • Use non-combustible siding – and maintain a six-inch ground-to-siding clearance
  • Regularly clean from your roof and gutters – to keep debris from being ignited by wind-blown embers. Use noncombustible gutter covers.
  • Get a Class A fire-rated roof – Class A roofing products offer the best protection for homes.
  • Use non-combustible fences and gates – Burning fencing can generate embers and cause direct flame contact to your home.
  • Cover vents and create soffited eaves – Use 1/8-inch mesh to cover vents, and box-in (create soffits) on open eaves to keep embers out.
  • Use multi-pane, tempered glass windows – Close windows when a wildfire threatens.
  • Fireproof the deck – At a minimum, use deck boards that comply with California requirements for new construction in wildfire-prone areas. Remove combustibles from under deck, and maintain effective defensible space around the deck.
  • Keep combustibles far away from the house – Combustible structures in the yard such as wood, plastic or plastic-wood playground equipment should be at least 30 feet away from the house. Experts indicate that evergreen trees, palms and eucalyptus trees have more combustible qualities than others—keep this type of vegetation 100 feet away from the house.

Umbrella Insurance Policy-What is It?

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If you are ever sued, your standard homeowners or auto policy will provide you with some liability coverage, paying for judgements against you and your attorney’s fees, up to a limit set in the policy. However, in our litigious society, you may want to have an extra layer of liability protection. That’s what a personal umbrella liability policy provides.

An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander.

For about $150 to $300 per year you can buy a $1 million personal umbrella liability policy. The next million will cost about $75, and $50 for every million after that.

Because the personal umbrella policy goes into effect after the underlying coverage is exhausted, there are certain limits that usually must be met in order to purchase this coverage. Most insurers will want you to have about $250,000 of liability insurance on your auto policy and $300,000 of liability insurance on your homeowners policy before selling you an umbrella liability policy for $1 million of additional coverage.

Business Owners Insurance Policies

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It may sound like a dance craze from the 1950s, but a BOP—a Business Owners Policy—can protect your small business against today’s most common risks. Fire, burglary, liability and business interruption losses are all covered under a BOP.

Since a BOP is prepackaged, there is only one policy to review and it can be more cost effective than purchasing separate policies. Additional coverage can be added in the form of endorsements or riders.

Since a BOP insurance policy is specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses, the type of business can influence eligibility. Normally, companies with 100 employees or fewer and revenues of up to about $5 million or less are candidates for a BOP. Some types of businesses, such as restaurants, may be ineligible for a BOP because of the specific risks inherent in the business and may need to consider buying the individual coverages separately.

Combining three insurance policies into one package

In a single, convenient package, a BOP provides the core insurance that most small businesses need, including:

  • Property insurance—Protection for your building or office space, as well as property owned by your business, such as equipment and inventory.
  • Liability insurance—Coverage for costs that arise if someone is injured at your business or by using your products or services.
  • Business interruption insurance—Also known as Business Income insurance, this coverage replaces lost revenues in the event that your business has to shut down due to fire, wind damage or other covered losses.

You can tailor a BOP to meet your needs

It’s important to understand that a BOP doesn’t cover all risks associated with running a small business and the coverage limits are usually lower. If you have employees, you may be required to carry workers compensation insurance, depending on your state. If you have a business-owned vehicle, you’ll need coverage beyond your personal car insurance. You might also consider insurance for relatively new risks such as computer system break-in or business identity theft.

There are unique risks associated with your small business; an insurance professional can help you find the coverages that are right for you. Here are some other types of insurance to explore and ask about:

  • Professional liability insurance
  • Employee practices liability insurance
  • Business vehicle insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Health and disability
  • Flood and sewer back-up
  • Cyberrisk insurance
  • Terrorism insurance

Increasing your coverage with excess and umbrella insurance

You can increase the protection provided by your BOP and other business insurance policies by adding an excess liability or umbrella insurance policy. This type of supplemental policy boosts your coverage beyond the limits of your primary insurance policies. Depending on the policy, your umbrella coverage is designed to broaden and increase coverage, “filling in the gaps” left by other types of liability insurance by covering additional areas of risk and even reimbursing you for deductibles. Your insurance professional can advise you about combining an umbrella policy with a BOP or other business insurance.

8 Questions to Ask for Car Insurance

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Make sure your car coverage reflects your needs and budget

The vehicle you own, your personal priorities and your budget all factor into your unique auto insurance needs. Before comparing policies and insurers, evaluate how you use your car and what risks you face to figure out what options make the best sense for you.

1. How much do you drive?

Do you absolutely need your car every day—for instance, to commute to work or drive the kids to school and activities? Do you drive 100 miles a month or closer to 1,000 or more? Make sure your policy reflects how much you use your car. If you don’t drive a lot, you may want to opt for mileage-based insurance.

2. Will you be using your car for work?

If you use your car not just to get to work, but to perform tasks for which you get paid, commercial auto insurance is a necessity. A personal auto policy will not provide coverage if you transport paying passengers through a ride-share service, deliver pizzas, drive as a courier or use your car for other commercial activities.

3. What type of car do you drive?

Insurers have mountains of data, and they know in precise detail what types of cars, makes and models are more—or less—likely to incur claims. A flashy sports car with a powerful engine may be more likely to be stolen and its bodywork costs will be more than on a mid-sized sedan—and your insurance will be priced accordingly. Some types of cars—such as modified or classic cars—require special insurance. By the same token, you may receive discounts if you have a “safe” car—one with the latest safety features and a good safety record.

4. How much do you love your car?

If you love the way your vehicle looks and take pride in its appearance, you’ll likely want it fixed perfectly—or replaced with the same model—if it gets damaged. That means you’ll probably to consider the fullest range of insurance—including collision, comprehensive and glass coverage. On the other hand, if you drive a beater, see cars merely as transportation and want to save on premiums, you might prefer to limit your policy to liability.

5. Where do you live—and park your car?

Where you live will impact your insurance rates—and it may be a factor in what coverage you purchase. For example, cars parked on the street in urban areas face a greater risk for theft or vandalism, so comprehensive coverage might be a good option. You may discover that your premium rates are lower if you move from a city to a suburb.

6. Who else will be driving the car?

Generally, your car insurance will cover other occasional drivers. However, if other drivers live with you and use your car—whether a spouse, a teen driver or a housemate—they should be listed on your policy.

7. What are your legal obligations?

Nearly every state requires that you carry minimum liability coverage for your car. At the very least, you need to make sure your policy complies with state mandates. However, the levels of required coverage are generally pretty low. Keep in mind that, if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Depending on your assets and financial risk tolerance, to be safe, you’ll probably want to purchase a higher level of liability coverage.

8. Is your car financed or leased?

If you still owe money on your car or have to return it in good condition when a lease expires, you’ll likely be required to insure the car for its full value—and even for any gap between what you owe and the car’s market value. Collision and comprehensive will cover damage to your car—and supplemental gap insurance will cover the rest.

Keep in mind that your insurance options and costs will also be affected by your age, gender and driving record. Be aware too that your credit score can also impact your insurance rates. Once you’ve looked at your needs and priorities, and understood how insurance options will match them, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision about the types and levels of coverage to buy.

Auto Accidents & Distracted Drivers, Continued

Courtesy of iii.org

BACKGROUND

Cellphones play an integral role in our society. However, the convenience they offer must be judged against the hazards they pose. Their use contributes to the problem of inattentive driving, which also includes talking, eating, putting on make up and attending to children.

As many as 40 countries may restrict or prohibit the use of cellphones while driving. Countries reported to have laws related to cellphone use include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Botswana, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. Most countries prohibit the use of hand-held phones while driving.

Supporters of restrictions on driving while using a cellphone say that the distractions associated with cellphone use while driving are far greater than other distractions. Conversations using a cellphone demand greater continuous concentration, which diverts the driver’s eyes from the road and his mind from driving. Opponents of cellphone restrictions say drivers should be educated about the effects of all driver distractions. They also say that existing laws that regulate driving should be more strictly enforced.

Earlier Studies: Over the past decade numerous studies have been conducted on driver inattention, in particular focusing on the use of cellphones. Below is a summary of some these studies.

Motorists who use cellphones while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study of drivers in Perth, Australia, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The results, published in July 2005, suggest that banning hand-held phone use will not necessarily improve safety if drivers simply switch to hand-free phones. The study found that injury crash risk didn’t vary with type of phone.

Many studies have shown that using hand-held cellphones while driving can constitute a hazardous distraction. However, the theory that hands-free sets are safer has been challenged by the findings of several studies. A study from researchers at the University of Utah, published in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors, the quarterly journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, concludes that talking on a cellphone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk, even if the phone is a hands-free model. An earlier study by researchers at the university found that motorists who talked on hands-free cellphones were 18 percent slower in braking and took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked.

A September 2004 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drivers using hand-free cellphones had to redial calls 40 percent of the time, compared with 18 percent for drivers using hand-held sets, suggesting that hands-free sets may provide drivers with a false sense of ease.

A study released in April 2006 found that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event. The study, The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the NHTSA, broke new ground. (Earlier research found that driver inattention was responsible for 25 to 30 percent of crashes.) The newer study found that the most common distraction is the use of cellphones, followed by drowsiness. However, cellphone use is far less likely to be the cause of a crash or near-miss than other distractions, according to the study. For example, while reaching for a moving object such as a falling cup increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times, talking or listening on a hand-held cellphone only increased the risk by 1.3 times.

Employer and Manufacturer Liability: Although only a handful of high-profile cases have gone to court, employers are still concerned that they might be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones. Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cellphones. In response, many companies have established cellphone usage policies. Some allow employees to conduct business over the phone as long as they pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot. Others have completely banned the use of all wireless devices.

In an article published in the June 2003 edition of the North Dakota Law Review, attorney Jordan Michael proposed a theory of cellphone manufacturer liability for auto accidents if they fail to warn users of the dangers of driving and talking on the phone at the same time. The theory holds that maker liability would be similar to the liability of employers who encourage or demand cellphone use on the road. Holding manufacturers liable would cover all persons who drive and use cellphones for personal calls. Michael notes that some car rental agencies have already placed warnings on embedded cellphones in their cars.

Be Sure to Protect Your Valuables Today!

Courtesy of iii.org

The holidays are a time of giving and receiving gifts, but would you be able to replace those gifts if they were destroyed in a fire or other disaster? A home inventory is the best way to protect your personal possessions, yet only 50 percent of homeowners said they had an inventory in a 2016 Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) survey. That’s where Know Your Stuff®, the free, award-winning home inventory app can help.

The I.I.I.’s Know Your Stuff® home inventory app allows you to enter information on mobile or desktop and syncs across all your devices so you can access it anywhere, at any time. It can help you:

  • Purchase enough insurance to replace the items you own, if they are stolen or damaged.
  • Get insurance claims settled faster.
  • Substantiate losses or charitable donations for tax purposes.
  • Keep track of items that require maintenance or repair.
  • Declutter and organize your home.

“With the average property damage and liability claim costing more than $9,000 and about one in 15 insured homes having a claim each year, it’s important for homeowners to protect their assets,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I. “Renters should also consider taking a home inventory.”

To simplify the task of creating an inventory, the Know Your Stuff® app allows you to take photographs of your possessions and organize them according to the room in which the items are located.

With the Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory app, you get:

  • Secure free cloud storage of your inventory data. You can also store and manage all your insurance policy information, including contact information for your insurance professional and your policy numbers.
  • Downloadable reports for easy recordkeeping and claims filing.
  • A tool that is backed by the expertise of the I.I.I., a leading independent insurance research and communications organization.

Know Your Stuff® also allows you to keep track of multiple properties and insurance policies. An opt-in service provides integrated weather alerts for your area as well as updates and tips on how to prepare your home against severe weather.

Auto Insurance Myths

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https://www.iii.org/article/8-auto-insurance-myths

When purchasing an auto policy, it’s important to understand the factors that affect your policy costs and coverage. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information that passes for “common wisdom”—here, we separate myth from facts about car insurance.


Myth 1 – Color determines the price of auto insurance

It doesn’t matter whether your car is “Arrest Me Red” or “Hide In Plain Sight White”—the color doesn’t actually factor into your auto insurance costs. The price of your auto policy is based on many factors, such as car make, model, body type, engine size and the age of the vehicle, as well as the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Insurers also take into account the age, driving record and sometimes the credit history of the driver.

Myth 2 – It costs more to insure your car when you get older

Quite the opposite, in fact—older drivers may be eligible for special discounts. For example, those over 55 years of age can get a reduction in their auto insurance premium if they successfully complete an accident prevention course (available through local and state agencies as well as through the AAA and AARP). Retirees or those who aren’t employed full time—and therefore, who are driving less—may also be eligible for a car insurance discount. Older driver programs and discounts vary by state and insurance carrier and driver age, so if you think you may qualify, check with your insurance professional.

Myth 3 – Your credit has no effect on your insurance rate

Your credit-based insurance score—which is derived from your credit history—may matter. A good credit score demonstrates how well you manage your financial affairs and has been shown to be a good predictor of whether someone is more likely to file an insurance claim so many insurance companies take it into consideration when you want to purchase, change or renew your auto insurance coverage. People with good credit—and, therefore good insurance scores—often end up paying less for insurance.

Myth 4 – Your insurance will cover you if your car is stolen, vandalized or damaged by falling tree limbs, hail, flood or fire

This is only true if you opt for comprehensive and collision coverage along with your standard policy. If a car is worth less than $1,000, or less than 10 times the insurance premium, purchasing these coverages may not be cost effective—but you do need to have collision and comprehensive insurance to fully protect your vehicle from all types of damage.

Myth 5 – You only need the minimum amount of auto liability insurance required by law

Almost every state requires you to buy a minimum amount of auto liability coverage but buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket for losses incurred after an accident—and those costs may be steep. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident. If you have substantial personal financial assets to protect in the event of a lawsuit, you may even want to consider an umbrella liability policy.

Myth 6 – If another person drives your car, in the event of accident, his or her auto insurance will cover the damages

In most states, the auto insurance policy covering the vehicle is considered the primary insurance. This means that the car owner’s insurance company must pay for damages caused by an accident, regardless of who is driving. Policies and laws differ by state, so make sure you understand the rules before allowing another person to drive your car.

Myth 7 – Soldiers pay more for insurance than civilians

If you are in the military—regardless of which branch—you actually qualify for a discount on auto insurance. You’ll need to supply documentation that lists your name, rank and the time that you will be enlisted in the service (in some situations, you might be able to have your commanding officer make a phone call on your behalf). Shop around—some auto insurance companies provide discounts for former members of the military, as well as their families.

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Myth 8 – Personal auto insurance also covers business use of your car

If you are self-employed and use your vehicle for business purposes, personal auto insurance may not protect you so it’s important to purchase business vehicle insurance. If you have other people—such as employees—using your vehicle, regularly check their driving records.

 

 

Emergency Evacuation Tips

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In the event of a sudden, catastrophic event, you may have just minutes to gather your family and get out of your house—possibly for good. What would you take? Where would you go? Planning ahead for the worst can help minimize the impact of a tragedy and may even save lives. This five-step plan can help get you and your family on the road to safety.


Some of this information is also covered in the I.I.I.’s Know Your Plan app. Check it out for preparedness tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and evacuation planning advice to cover a variety of disasters. It’s a great tool to help get you and your family—including pets—organized and ready to act more quickly if an emergency strikes.

For your evacuation planning:

1. Arrange your evacuation ahead of time

Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your evacuation.

  • Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
  • Map out your primary routes and backup routes to your evacuation destinations in case roads are blocked or impassable. Try to have a physical map of the area available in case GPS satellite transmissions are down or your devices run out of power.
  • Pre-arrange a designated place to meet in case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation. Make the location specific, for example, “meet at the big clock in the middle of town square” not “meet at the town square”. Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person for your family.
  • Put all evacuation plans in writing along with pertinent addresses and phone numbers and give them to each member of the family. Note that many home printer inks are NOT waterproof, so take appropriate precautions to ensure legibility.
  • Listen to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

2. Plan what to take

Many families choose to have a “go bag” ready with some of these critical items. Consider packing the following for an evacuation.

  • Prescriptions and other medicines
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
  • Special equipment for infants or elderly or disabled family members
  • “Comfort items,” such as special toys for children
  • Computer hard drive and laptop
  • Cherished photographs
  • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)

3. Create a home inventory

Making a home inventory and having it handy will be useful if you need to apply for disaster aid. It will also:

  • Help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions.
  • Speed the insurance claims process, if necessary
  • Substantiate any losses for income tax purposes.

4. Gather important documents

Keep the following important documents in a safe place that you can easily access and take with you in the event of an evacuation. And while for most of these you’ll need an original, it’s a good idea to make digital copies and keep them with you on a thumb drive, as well:

  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Drivers license or personal identification
  • Social Security cards
  • Recent tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Wills and deeds
  • Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
  • Financial information such as bank, savings and retirement account numbers and recent tax returns
  • Home inventory

5. Take the 10-minute evacuation challenge

To ensure that you and your family are fully prepared for a sudden evacuation, do a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.

Next steps link: Watch two families practice a 10-minute evacuation.

Back to School & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

With burglaries constituting approximately 50 percent of all on-campus crimes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it is more important than ever that college students and their parents review their insurance coverage.

For students who live in a dorm, most personal possessions are covered under their parents’ homeowners or renters insurance policies. However, some home insurance policies may limit the amount of insurance for off-premises belongings to just 10 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal possessions. This means that if the parents have $70,000 worth of insurance for their belongings, only $7,000 would be applicable to possessions in the dorm. Not all insurers impose this type of limit, so check with your insurance professional.

Expensive computer and electronic equipment, sports equipment, and items such as jewelry may also be subject to coverage limits under a standard homeowners policy. If the limits are too low, a special personal property floater or an endorsement can be purchased to cover these items. There are also stand-alone insurance policies for computers and cellphones.

Students and/or their parents may also want to consider purchasing a stand-alone policy specifically designed for students living away at college. This can be an economical way to provide additional insurance coverage for a variety of disasters.

Students who live off-campus are likely not covered by their parents’ homeowners policy and may need to purchase their own renters insurance policy. Your insurance professional can tell you whether your homeowners or renters policy extends to off-campus living situations.

For students going off to college, the I.I.I. recommends the following:

  • Leave valuables at home if possible 
    While it may be necessary to take a computer or sports equipment to campus, other expensive items, such as valuable jewelry, luxury watches or costly electronics, should be left behind or kept in a local safety deposit box.
  • Create a “dorm inventory”
    Before leaving home, students should make a detailed inventory of all the items they are taking with them, and revise it every year. Having an up-to-date inventory will help get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
  • Engrave electronics 
    Engrave electronic items such as computers, televisions and mobile devices, such as your smart phone, with your name or other identifying information that can help police track the stolen articles.

The I.I.I. offers the following advice to guard against theft of your personal belongings on campus:

  • Always lock your dorm room door and keep your keys with you at all times, even if you leave briefly. And, not just at night—most dorm thefts occur during the day. Insist your roommates do the same.
  • Don’t leave belongings unattended on campus. Whether you are in class, the library, the dining hall or other public areas, keep book bags, purses and laptops with you at all times. These are the primary areas where property theft occurs.
  • Buy a laptop security cable and use it. A combination lock that needs decoding may be just enough to dissuade a thief.
  • Most campus fires are cooking related so be careful about the types of hot plates or microwaves you to bring to school, and how you use them.

In the event a student is planning to have a car on campus, choose a safe, reliable vehicle and do some comparison shopping to find the best auto insurance rate. You should also check with your own insurance company as it may offer a multi-policy discount. If you decide to keep the student’s car at home, be sure to let your auto insurance company know, as many insurers will give discounts for students who are living at a school at least 100 miles away from home.