Farm Insurance Tips

Courtesy of iii.org

According to Deutsche Welle, an Austrian court has held a farmer liable after one of his cows killed a hiker walking through his farm. The article reported that the cow grew enraged at the hiker’s dog and charged at them. The farmer will have to pay over $200,000 in restitution for the horrible event to the deceased’s spouse and son.

I’m not well-versed on the nuances of Austrian liability law and insurance. But what if a similar (hopefully non-fatal) accident happened on a farm in the U.S. – how would insurance play a role?

Luckily, there’s a thing called “farm insurance.” It can get complicated, but often a farm insurance policy is just a hodgepodge of property and liability coverages – with a lot of customization in between for the unique needs of each farm.

Today, let’s just focus on the liability part. Imagine Farmer Joe’s cow, Betty, runs wild and breaks the leg of someone visiting his farm. What happens?

Paying for liability damages and medical expenses

The standard farm liability policy will cover damages if someone is hurt on the farm (subject to various limitations and exclusions, of course). So when Betty breaks someone’s leg, Farmer Joe’s insurance will help cover any damages he has to pay. The farm policy will also pay for some medical expenses, regardless of who is at fault for the injury. Medical expenses usually include first aid and other necessary services.

Feats of strength are not covered

Easy enough. But imagine another scenario: Farmer Joe is holding a cow race on his farm and has invited his neighbors to watch. Betty breaks loose from the race track and breaks his neighbor’s leg. In this case, Farmer Joe is probably not covered for any injuries arising out of races, strength contests, or stunts. Nor is he covered if someone got hurt while riding Betty for a fee.

Lots of policies, lots of options

There are many types of farms: dairy farms, cattle ranches, horse farms, poultry farms, agritourism farms. There are many different types of insurance coverages available for each unique situation. Here’s just a taste:

  • Horse farms and ranches (property and liability)
  • Commercial equine (liability for horse-breeding operations)
  • Equine (business coverage if a horse becomes ill or dies)
  • Livestock insurance (covers animals other than horses)
  • Crop insurance
  • Farrier (property and liability for people who shoe horses)
  • Riding instructor
  • Roadside farm stand and farmers’ market insurance
  • Agritourism (corn mazes, on-premises hay rides, petting zoos)

It’s always important to talk to an insurance agent about your coverage needs. You may not think that you have farm liability exposures, but if you live in a semi-rural or rural area and own livestock, it’s probably a good idea to double check.

You can read more about farm and ranch insurance here.

Carjacking Safety Tips

Courtesy of iii.org

Having your vehicle stolen is bad enough, but carjacking—having it taken while you’re behind the wheel—is potentially dangerous, even lethal. Foil would-be car thieves and keep yourself safe with these precautions.


Having your vehicle stolen is bad enough, but carjacking—having it taken while you’re behind the wheel—is potentially dangerous, even lethal. Foil would-be car thieves and keep yourself safe with these precautions.

Motor vehicle theft takes a human as well as a financial toll

A motor vehicle—car, SUV, truck, bus or motorcycle—is stolen in the United States approximately every 45 seconds. In addition, parts of cars, like airbags and catalytic converters (which are stolen for their recycling value) are stolen out of the cars themselves. Cars and car parts stolen in the United States often wind up on overseas markets, making recovery impossible.

And, though armed auto theft represents a small percentage of the incidents, carjacking is a violent crime that can add a dire emotional toll and even bodily harm to the financial loss.

Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive portion of a car insurance policy. However, as always, it’s better to prevent a loss than to deal with the fallout of having your vehicle stolen.

Prevent motor vehicle theft

There are a number of things that make your vehicle attractive to thieves—including make, model and the value of certain parts. Know that it’s not always the most valuable, the flashiest or the most expensive car makes and models that are most desirable. So whatever your car, don’t make it convenient for would-be criminals. Take these precautionary measures—and check with your insurer; some may even help lower your premium.

  • Keep your doors locked and windows shut anytime you’re not in your car, even for a few minutes.
  • Make valuables invisible. Don’t give thieves more motivation to break into your car. If you have to leave personal property in your car, keep it in the trunk. Even in areas you think are safe, don’t leave a purse or other valuables on the car seat unattended.
  • Park in secure, highly trafficked and well-lit areas. In public parking garages or areas, stay as close as possible to guard booths or store entrances. Best case, keep your car in a garage and always lock the door to your home garage.
  • Make use of anti-theft devices. Use a security device like a steering wheel lock or a gearshift column lock—the more difficult it is to take the car, the less likely a would-be thief will target your vehicle. Most new cars include tracking devices, which can help locate a stolen car, but these are available for purchase and installation into older cars, as well. Check with your insurance pro about how your anti-theft device might qualify you for a discount.
  • Exploit your vehicle identification (VIN) number. The VIN number is utilized by a number of law enforcement agencies and databases and insurance databases to make it harder for car thieves to sell a stolen car or its parts.

The VIN is usually found on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car. Mark your VIN prominently: Use paint or an indelible marker to put the VIN under the engine hood and trunk lid and on the battery. This will make it harder for thieves to unload the car, and make it easier for the police to identify the vehicle if recovered.

If the worst happens and your car is stolen, you’ll want to file a police report. Then check that your policy covers car theft and get the claims process started. Notify your insurance professional about the incident as soon as possible—the longer you wait, the harder it will be to remember the details. Note that many insurance companies now use mobile apps, which can help you get the claims filing process started immediately.

Prevent carjacking

Although carjacking is relatively rare, because carjackers are armed when they commit their crimes, it is especially dangerous. Avoid being a carjacking target with these additional precautions:

  • Always have your mobile phone handy—and charged.
  • Avoid being alone in your vehicle in certain areas, such as high crime neighborhoods, isolated roads and intersections and desolate areas of parking lots.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pay special attention to people who seem to be lurking or cars that suspiciously follow you into driveways. Call 911 and use your key fob or other car alarm if you feel a threat.
  • Be wary of how carjackers lure victims. These include bumping your car, pretending to be stranded motorists or flashing their lights as if there were something wrong with your car. In each of these scenarios, you might be tempted to pull over—only to have your car taken. Stay inside with the windows shut and the door locked and, if you feel a threat, drive to the nearest police or fire station.
  • Practice safe parking. Stick to well-lit areas. If you have any doubts about where you parked after the fact, find a security guard to accompany you to your vehicle.
  • Don’t sit in your car with the door unlocked or the windows rolled down.
  • Don’t stop at isolated ATMs, which might put you and your bank accounts as well as your car in danger.

 

Pets And Health Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

The pet insurance industry got its start almost a century ago in Sweden where about half that country’s pets are now insured. In North America, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Nationwide, sold its first pet insurance policy in 1982 to cover the dog playing Lassie on television.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports North America’s pet health insurance sector posted record growth in 2017, with combined gross written premiums hitting $1.2 billion. This represents a 23 percent increase in gross written premiums over 2016. The total number of pets insured in the U.S. and Canada reached 2.1 million at year-end 2017 up by 17 percent from 2016. According to NAPHIA, there are 12 major pet insurance companies in North America.

Pet ownership in the United States

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.

NUMBER OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS THAT OWN A PET, BY TYPE OF ANIMAL

PetNumber
Dog60.2
Cat47.1
Freshwater fish12.5
Bird7.9
Small animal6.7
Reptile4.7
Horse2.6
Saltwater fish2.5

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

View Archived Tables

TOTAL NUMBER OF PETS OWNED IN THE UNITED STATES, BY TYPE OF ANIMAL

(millions)

PetNumber
Freshwater fish139.3
Cat94.2
Dog89.7
Bird20.3
Saltwater fish18.8
Small animal14.0
Reptile9.4
Horse7.6

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

View Archived Tables

TOTAL U.S. PET INDUSTRY EXPENDITURES, 2007-2017 (1)

YearExpenditure
2007$41.2
200843.2
200945.5
201048.4
201151.0
201253.3
201355.7
201458.0
201560.3
201666.8
201769.4 (2)

(1) Includes food, supplies and over-the-counter medicine, veterinarian care, live animal purchases and grooming and boarding.
(2) Estimate.

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

BASIC ANNUAL EXPENSES FOR DOGS AND CATS (1)

ExpenseDogCat
Surgical vet$474$245
Routine vet257182
Food235235
Food treats7256
Kennel boarding322164
Vitamins5846
Groomer/grooming aids8430
Toys4730

Airbnb And Renting

Courtesy of iii.org

Before you consider renting out your home, your guest room—or even your couch—first contact your insurance professional so you fully understand the financial risks and can take the proper precautions. Here’s some general information to jumpstart your insurance conversation.

If you are considering renting out your home, your guest room or even your couch your first step should be to contact your insurance professional. Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb can be a great way to bring in extra money and are increasingly popular; however, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Peer-to-peer home rental

Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb are increasingly popular and can be a great way to bring in extra money. However, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

If you are doing the renting

If you are the one using a peer-to-peer network to rent a space from someone else, check your own homeowners or renters insurance policy. In most cases, if your personal possessions are stolen or damaged off-premises, you can simply file a claim with your own insurer. And if you accidentally injure someone, you should also be financially protected.

Occasional home rental

There may be times when a major event in an area—the Super Bowl, say, or a graduation at a major university—depletes local hotel space. In these cases, it’s fairly common for people to rent out their home or part of it for the extra cash it brings in.

Many insurance companies take this situation into account when creating a homeowners or renters policy and, with sufficient advance notice, will extend your coverage to the renter on a one-time basis. Other insurance companies may require the purchase of an endorsement to the policy to provide broader coverage for the renters in your home.

In both cases, be sure to let your insurance company know ahead of time, so you can be prepared.

What To Do In A Tornado

Courtesy of iii.org

When atmospheric conditions are right, tornadoes can strike with little warning and cause grave amounts of damage in a very short time. These tips can help minimize your risk and keep you and your family safe.


What is a tornado?

A tornado—also known as a twister—is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground. Tornado intensity is measured by the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, which rates tornadoes from 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage.

How common are tornadoes?

An average of about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide each year. Twisters are more common in the central United States, though they can occur almost anywhere in North America, including in large cities.

Tornadoes can happen at any time of year or at any time of the day or night, though they happen most frequently between early spring and July, and between the hours of 4pm and 9pm.

What are the warning signs of a tornado?

Signs that a twister is coming include:

  • Dark greenish skies
  • Large hail
  • Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
  • Loud roar, like a train

Despite the fact that meteorologists are now better able to predict them, tornadoes can strike with little warning. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared well before a tornado approaches. For tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and planning advice to cover a variety of situations, get the I.I.I.’s Know Your Plan app. It’s a great tool to help get you and your family—including pets—organized and ready to act more quickly if disaster strikes.

In communities with a history of tornado activity, there may be a tornado warning siren and/or a digital messaging system to alert residents that there is a twister coming and that they should seek proper shelter immediately.

What’s the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

Both tornado watches and tornado warnings are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/ National Weather Service. However, there are critical differences between the two alerts.

  • A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Be alert to changes in the weather, account for all family members, and listen to local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Move cars inside and keep car and house keys with you. If time permits, move lawn furniture and equipment inside to minimize flying debris. If a tornado siren sounds, stay inside and take cover.
  • A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been spotted or is indicated on weather radar in your area. This means danger is imminent and you may only have seconds to take cover.

What to do when a tornado has been sighted

When a tornado warning sounds or a tornado has been sighted, do not try to outrun it. Stay calm but quickly seek shelter in the safest place possible.

  • If you are at home, the safest place to be is underground. Basements are usually the most protected area, but if this is not an option take cover in central part of the house away from windows—for example in a bathroom, closet, interior hallway or under a heavy piece of furniture.
  • If you are in an office building or skyscraper, go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building—away from glass and on the lowest floor possible—and crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter and, if they are not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off elevators, you could get trapped if the power is lost. If you are in a tall building you may not have enough time to evacuate to the lowest floor.
  • If you are at school follow the staff instructions and go to an interior hall or room in an orderly way as directed. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
  • If you are in a car or truck, abandon the vehicle and seek shelter in sturdy structure. If you are in open country, seek shelter in the nearest ditch. Lie flat, facedown on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.
  • If you are in a mobile home, get out! Even if the home is tied down, you are probably safer outside.

Safety precautions to take after a tornado

Tornadoes can cause dangerous damages, so take caution with potential hazards after the storm.

  • Stay in your shelter until after the storm is over or until emergency personnel have arrived.
  • Check the people around you for injuries. If necessary, begin first aid or seek help.
  • Check your utility lines and appliances for damage. If you smell gas, open the windows and turn off the main valve. Don’t turn on lights or appliances until the gas has dissipated. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power.
  • Outside, watch out for downed power lines and stay away from any puddle with wires in them. These could be carrying deadly live current.
  • Be aware there may be leaking gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. The oil from these can be present in water or on the ground, so avoid using matches or lighters.

Recovering from a tornado

Damage caused by tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners and business insurance policies, and under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

If you sustain tornado damage:

  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible and start the claims filing process. After tornadoes and other disasters, insurance companies will reach out to those with the worst losses first.
  • Take photos of any damage. A photographic record is useful when making insurance claims.
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further loss from rain, wind or looting; these costs are reimbursable under most policies, so save the receipts.
  • Make a detailed list of all damaged or destroyed personal property. If you have a home inventory, it will be extremely useful here. Don’t throw out damaged property until you have met with an adjuster.
  • Don’t rush to sign repair contracts. Do your homework, deal with reputable contractors and get references. Be sure of payment terms and consult your insurance adjuster before you sign any contracts.
  • If your home is uninhabitable because of tornado damage, your homeowners or renters insurance provides coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) such as hotel bills or meals out. Save all related receipts and, if you have vacated your home premises, make sure your insurance representative knows where and how to contact you.

 

Understand Flood Watches And Warnings

Courtesy of iii.org

Floods occur in every region and 90 percent of all natural disasters the United States involve some type of flooding. Minimize the damage and losses from a flood by taking these precautions.


Understand flood watches and flood warnings

There are different alerts for floods, depending on the type of and immediacy of the potential danger. Educate your family and yourself about your community’s flood warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding in your area, move immediately to high ground.

Take practical measures to protect yourself, your family and your property

Preparedness is paramount when it comes to encroaching floodwaters. Here are precautionary steps to take well before the threat of a flood is upon you.

  • Maintain a supply of emergency provisions, such as flashlights, batteries, a battery-operated radio, a first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Maintain a supply of building materials and tools so you can fortify your house from a storm. These would include plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels and sandbags.
  • Make a home inventory listing all of your possessions to help facilitate the claim filing process if your belongings are damaged or destroyed.
  • Locate switches for gas, electricity and water and know how to shut them off. In the event of an evacuation, you’ll want to turn these off before you leave.

For more preparedness tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and evacuation planning advice to cover a variety of disasters, get the I.I.I.’s Know Your Plan app. 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.

Rent Without Wasting Money

Courtesy of iii.org

There are more options for renting a car than ever before—bricks-and-mortar, peer-to-peer and membership-based car sharing services. While this means more choice for renters, it also creates more questions about insurance coverage. Use these tips to properly insure yourself when renting a car, and avoid wasting money on duplicative coverage.


If you’re looking to rent a car, depending on your needs and location, there are a number of alternatives—the traditional brick-and-mortar companies, peer-to-peer car services and car sharing programs—each with its own insurance parameters. It pays to understand your existing coverage first, and then look at your rental insurance options.

No matter what company or what kind of company you’re renting from, the most important step is to read and understand the car rental or car sharing agreement. Most companies clearly state what is covered as well as the supplemental coverage that can be purchased. If you don’t understand, have the rental or car sharing company representative walk you through.

If you’re renting a car, check your own coverages first

Before you enter an agreement with any type of rental service, maximize use of the insurance you’re already paying for and avoid paying for duplicate insurance.

If you own or lease a car and/or have homeowners insurance, call your insurer to first check the following:

  • How much coverage you currently have on your own car – In most cases, whatever auto insurance and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car (providing you are using the rental car for recreation and not for business).
  • If you still have collision or comprehensive – If you dropped these coverages on your own car as a way to save money on your car insurance, you may not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged. Insurance rules vary by state, so it is best to check with your insurance professional for the specifics of your policy.
  • If you are covered for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges – Check to see whether your insurance company pays for—or provides a rider for—additional fees.
  • Whether your homeowners or renters insurance covers the loss of possessions – These policies (not your car insurance) generally cover your belongings if they are damaged or stolen out of your vehicle.

The credit card you use to rent a car may also provide some insurance. Though coverage is likely to be limited—for example, it may only cover the deductible if you make a claim—it’s worth knowing what protections it will provide.

  • Know that benefits differ – Insurance coverage can depend on the company or bank that issues the card or even the level of card. For example, a platinum card may offer more robust coverage than a green card. If you have more than one card, you may want to compare what insurance they offer for car renters.
  • Contact the credit card issuer to find out what they cover – If you are depending on a credit card for insurance protection, ask the company or bank that issued the card to send you their coverage information in writing.
  • Credit card insurance benefits are usually secondary – That is, they will kick in after your personal insurance policy or the insurance coverage offered by the rental car company are utilized.

Insurance if you’re renting from a brick-and-mortar car rental

Brick-and-mortar car rental companies are generally found at airports, train stations or other locations where travelers converge. These traditional rental companies allow you to simply reserve or select a vehicle from one of the many generally available on any given day. The insurance you’ll be offered is fairly standard (though, like all car insurance, it varies by state).

Depending on what type of auto and/or homeowners insurance you carry, you may want to consider some of the insurance coverage provided by the rental car company. While auto insurance regulations, costs and coverage will vary by state and insurer, consumers renting from traditional companies can generally choose from the following coverages:

  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) – Also referred to as a collision damage waiver, an LDW is not technically an insurance product—it is designed to relieve or “waive” renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. Waivers may also provide coverage for “loss of use,” in the event the rental car company charges for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed, as well as towing and administrative fees. The LDW may become void if the accident was caused by speeding, driving on unpaved roads or driving while intoxicated. However, if you carry comprehensive and collision auto insurance, you may already be covered for damage to a rental car.
  • Liability Insurance – By law, rental companies must provide the state required minimum amount of liability insurance coverage—often this does not provide enough protection. If you carry your own auto insurance and have opted for higher liability limits (which is recommended), you’ll be adequately covered. Non car-owners who are frequent renters have the option of purchasing a non-owner liability policy, which can provide the additional liability needed.
  • Personal accident insurance – This covers the driver and passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. Whether or not you should consider this depends on your health insurance and the personal injury protection (PIP) provided by your auto insurance, which will likely cover medical expenses.
  • Personal effects coverage–This provides insurance protection for the theft of items from a rental car. Consider this if you do not carry homeowners or renters insurance to cover this type of loss.

Insurance if you’re using a car sharing service

With car sharing programs, for a monthly or annual membership fee, consumers can pick up a vehicle at a wide range of locations for periods ranging from minutes to days. These programs are popular in urban settings where owning a car can be expensive or difficult, but where it’s convenient have a car available when it’s needed. Coverage options vary widely, but there is usually some insurance included.

The insurance offered by these types of companies is not standardized so read the insurance coverage information carefully (it can usually be found on the service’s website). If you have any questions, call the company’s customer service line. And contact your auto insurer if you feel you need more information to make an educated insurance coverage decision.

  • Car sharing programs (like ZipCar) generally include insurance costs in the fee. However, if the car is involved in a collision or is stolen, the renter may be billed for a specific dollar amount that is stated in the membership agreement. For an additional cost, customers can purchase a “waiver” to avoid paying the accident fee.
  • Many car sharing programs limit coverage for young drivers to the minimum state required amount of liability. Renters under the age 21 should read the insurance coverage carefully. If it’s not adequate to their needs, they can look into whether their parents’ auto insurance would cover them for the difference, or purchasing their own non-owner liability policy.

Insurance if you’re renting from a peer-to-peer service

Peer-to-peer car rental networks enable consumers to rent personally owned cars from others. Insurance coverage varies widely, depending on location and service.

  • Peer-to-peer rental services (like Turo) may offer a range of insurance options and, under some circumstances, the driver may decline coverage.

 

Next steps: When considering these options for your rental car, it helps to have a general understanding of your auto insurance coverage.

9 Ways to lower insurance costs

Courtesy of iii.org

1. Seek out other discounts

Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also get a discount if you take a defensive driving course. If there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at college without a car, you may also qualify for a lower rate.

2. Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Car insurance premiums are based in part on the car’s price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. To help you decide what car to buy, you can get information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org).

3. Ask for higher deductibles

Deductibles are what you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim.

4. Reduce coverage on older cars

Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars. Or you can look it up online at Kelley’s Blue Book (www.kbb.com). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.

5. Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer

Many insurers will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce the rates for long-time customers. But it still makes sense to shop around! You may save money buying from different insurance companies, compared with a multipolicy discount.

6. Maintain a good credit record

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Most insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. Research shows that people who effectively manage their credit have fewer claims. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.

7. Take advantage of low mileage discounts

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who car pool to work.

8. Ask about group insurance

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or from other associations. Ask your employer and inquire with groups or clubs you are a member of to see if this is possible.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts for the following:*

Antitheft Devices
Auto and Homeowners Coverage with the Same Company
College Students away from Home
Defensive Driving Courses
Drivers Ed Courses
Good Credit Record
Higher deductibles
Low Annual Mileage
Long-Time Customer
More than 1 car
No Accidents in 3 Years
No Moving Violations in 3 Years
Student Drivers with Good Grades

*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

The key to savings is not the discounts, but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.

 

Drunk Driving Holiday Risks

Courtesy of iii.org

Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 51 minutes in 2015.

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving. According to NHTSA 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2015, up 3.2 percent from 9,943 in 2014. In 2015 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities.

The definition of drunk driving had been consistent throughout the United States until March 2017. All states and the District of Columbia defined impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 percent. In addition, they all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. Generally the BAC limit in these cases is 0.02 percent. In March 2017, the governor of Utah signed a bill, effective December 30, 2018, that lowered the limit defining impaired driving for most drivers to 0.05 percent BAC, the lowest in the nation.

Anti-drunk-driving campaigns especially target drivers under the age of 21, repeat offenders and 21-to 34-year-olds, the age group that is responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other. Young drivers are those least responsive to arguments against drunk driving, according to NHTSA.

To make sellers and servers of liquor more careful about to whom and how they serve drinks, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or have case law holding commercial liquor servers legally liable for the damage, injuries and deaths a drunk driver causes. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws or have case law that permit social hosts who serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes to be held liable for any injury or death. (See chart below and Background.)

Recent developments

  • Latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that the 10,265 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2015 accounted for about one out of three highway deaths (29 percent) on U.S. roads. There were 9,943 such fatalities in 2014.
  • Ignition interlock systems require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer-like device to ensure the individual is sober before allowing the vehicle to start. According to a report released in January 2017 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, traffic fatalities have declined by 7 percent in states that mandate ignition interlocks for first-time drunken-driving offenders. The researchers studied traffic fatalities for about five years before states began passing interlock laws in the late 1980s through 2013, when all states required them under some circumstances. See Background, Repeat Offenders.
  • Drunk Driving by Gender: Latest NHTSA data show that 14 percent of women drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 (1,761 drivers) were alcohol-impaired, only 1 percentage point lower than in 2006. In comparison, 21 percent of male drivers involved in fatal crashed were alcohol impaired in 2015, down from 24 percent in 2006.
  • Drunk Driving by Age: According to data from NHTSA, in 2015 the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol impaired was highest for 21 to 24 year old drivers, at 28 percent, followed by 25 to 34 year old drivers, at 27 percent, and 35 to 44 year old drivers, at 23 percent. The percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes was 19 percent for 45 to 54 year olds, 16 percent of 16 to 20 year olds, 14 percent for 55 to 64 year olds, 9 percent for 65 to 74 year olds and 6 percent for drivers over the age of 74.
  • Drunk Driving by Vehicle Type: NHTSA data for 2015 show that 27 percent of motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes were alcohol impaired, compared with 21 percent of passenger car drivers and 20 percent of light truck drivers. Only 2 percent of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were alcohol impaired.
  • Social Host Liability: The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in February 2012 that social hosts could be held liable for off-premise injury to people caused by the drunk driving of a guest only if the host served alcohol or made it available. People who host “bring your own” parties are free from liability, even if the guest is underage. The court rejected an attempt by the parents of an injured 16-year-old to sue a party’s 18-year old host. The younger person suffered injuries in a crash in a car driven by someone who brought his own alcohol to the party. At issue was the fact that the driver, not the party host, supplied the liquor. Although the lawsuit contended that the host should be found negligent for allowing the driver to drink at her home, the court said that earlier rulings showed that hosts can’t be responsible for their guests’ drinking if they don’t control the supply of alcohol. Massachusetts law and court cases have held social hosts liable if they supply alcohol (See chart: STATUTES OR COURT CASES HOLDING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE SERVERS LIABLE).
  • Also in February 2012 the New Mexico Supreme Court said that circumstantial evidence of a driver’s intoxication was sufficient to support a jury finding that the driver was intoxicated, overruling a decision in a 2004 case. Evidence presented in the earlier trial showed that a driver who struck and killed a motorcyclist had a 0.09 percent blood alcohol content five hours after the crash. The owners of the gas station where the driver worked and consumed a number of beers bought at the gas station pleaded ignorance of the driver’s condition. The court ruled that the blood test results were enough to prove that the driver was intoxicated. The ruling holds liquor sellers responsible for liability where evidence is available under the existing dram shop law.

Insurance and Annuities

Courtesy of iii.org

Fixed vs. variable annuities

In a fixed annuity, the insurance company guarantees the principal and a minimum rate of interest. In other words, as long as the insurance company is financially sound, the money you have in a fixed annuity will grow and will not drop in value. The growth of the annuity’s value and/or the benefits paid may be fixed at a dollar amount or by an interest rate, or they may grow by a specified formula. The growth of the annuity’s value and/or the benefits paid does not depend directly or entirely on the performance of the investments the insurance company makes to support the annuity. Some fixed annuities credit a higher interest rate than the minimum, via a policy dividend that may be declared by the company’s board of directors, if the company’s actual investment, expense and mortality experience is more favorable than was expected. Fixed annuities are regulated by state insurance departments.

Money in a variable annuity is invested in a fund—like a mutual fund but one open only to investors in the insurance company’s variable life insurance and variable annuities. The fund has a particular investment objective, and the value of your money in a variable annuity—and the amount of money to be paid out to you—is determined by the investment performance (net of expenses) of that fund. Most variable annuities are structured to offer investors many different fund alternatives. Variable annuities are regulated by state insurance departments and the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Types of fixed annuities

An equity-indexed annuity is a type of fixed annuity, but looks like a hybrid. It credits a minimum rate of interest, just as a fixed annuity does, but its value is also based on the performance of a specified stock index—usually computed as a fraction of that index’s total return.

A market-value-adjusted annuity is one that combines two desirable features—the ability to select and fix the time period and interest rate over which your annuity will grow, and the flexibility to withdraw money from the annuity before the end of the time period selected. This withdrawal flexibility is achieved by adjusting the annuity’s value, up or down, to reflect the change in the interest rate “market” (that is, the general level of interest rates) from the start of the selected time period to the time of withdrawal.

Other types of annuities

All of the following types of annuities are available in fixed or variable forms.

Deferred vs. immediate annuities

A deferred annuity receives premiums and investment changes for payout at a later time. The payout might be a very long time; deferred annuities for retirement can remain in the deferred stage for decades.

An immediate annuity is designed to pay an income one time-period after the immediate annuity is bought. The time period depends on how often the income is to be paid. For example, if the income is monthly, the first payment comes one month after the immediate annuity is bought.

Lifetime vs. fixed period annuities

A fixed period annuity pays an income for a specified period of time, such as ten years. The amount that is paid doesn’t depend on the age (or continued life) of the person who buys the annuity; the payments depend instead on the amount paid into the annuity, the length of the payout period, and (if it’s a fixed annuity) an interest rate that the insurance company believes it can support for the length of the pay-out period.

A lifetime annuity provides income for the remaining life of a person (called the “annuitant”). A variation of lifetime annuities continues income until the second one of two annuitants dies. No other type of financial product can promise to do this. The amount that is paid depends on the age of the annuitant (or ages, if it’s a two-life annuity), the amount paid into the annuity, and (if it’s a fixed annuity) an interest rate that the insurance company believes it can support for the length of the expected pay-out period.

With a “pure” lifetime annuity, the payments stop when the annuitant dies, even if that’s a very short time after they began. Many annuity buyers are uncomfortable at this possibility, so they add a guaranteed period—essentially a fixed period annuity—to their lifetime annuity. With this combination, if you die before the fixed period ends, the income continues to your beneficiaries until the end of that period.

Qualified vs. nonqualified annuities

A qualified annuity is one used to invest and disburse money in a tax-favored retirement plan, such as an IRA or Keogh plan or plans governed by Internal Revenue Code sections, 401(k), 403(b), or 457. Under the terms of the plan, money paid into the annuity (called “premiums” or “contributions”) is not included in taxable income for the year in which it is paid in. All other tax provisions that apply to nonqualified annuities also apply to qualified annuities.

A nonqualified annuity is one purchased separately from, or “outside of,” a tax-favored retirement plan. Investment earnings of all annuities, qualified and non-qualified, are tax-deferred until they are withdrawn; at that point they are treated as taxable income (regardless of whether they came from selling capital at a gain or from dividends).

Single premium vs. flexible premium annuities

A single premium annuity is an annuity funded by a single payment. The payment might be invested for growth for a long period of time—a single premium deferred annuity—or invested for a short time, after which payout begins—a single premium immediate annuity. Single premium annuities are often funded by rollovers or from the sale of an appreciated asset.

A flexible premium annuity is an annuity that is intended to be funded by a series of payments. Flexible premium annuities are only deferred annuities; that is, they are designed to have a significant period of payments into the annuity plus investment growth before any money is withdrawn from them.