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    Does Your Homeowner's Insurance Cover a Stolen Cell Phone?

    You just realized your cell phone has been stolen. Not only are you out the cost of the phone, but more than likely, the thief is placing hundreds of dollars of charges on your phone bill right now.

    As people increasingly rely on cell phones, this type of loss is becoming more common. In fact, a recent Better Business Bureau report indicated that an estimated 600,000 cell phones will either be lost or stolen this year. Unfortunately, a homeowner's policy probably won't be of much help in protecting you in this unfortunate event. Here's why.

    The most popular homeowner's policy, the HO-3, provides the broadest coverage. It insures you for direct physical loss to all personal property described in Coverage C, as long as the loss was caused by a covered peril and not specifically excluded. The theft of the phone is considered a direct physical loss of property, but not the thief's subsequent use of the phone. Unlike charges made on a stolen credit card, which have limited homeowner's insurance coverage via a separate "Additional Coverage" grant, there is no such grant for unauthorized cell phone charges.

    Here's how to protect yourself from cell phone theft and fraudulent charges:

                        Keep as close watch on your cell phone as you would your wallet or purse. Be mindful of where your phone is at all times and be careful about who you lend it to.

                        Password-protect your phone. Read the user guide that came with your phone to find out how to "lock" your phone or enable the "password" feature to prevent a thief from making unauthorized calls.

                        Call your cell phone provider as soon as you realize your phone is missing. Be sure to keep detailed records, including the date and time you called your carrier, the name and ID number of the representative to whom you spoke, and what instructions you were given.

                        File a police report. This is an official record of the theft and your carrier may require you to provide a police report number when you report your missing phone.

                        Ask your carrier to open an investigation. If your phone company isn't working to resolve the situation, request an investigation. This should stop collections agencies from taking action, as well as delay the reporting of non-payment of charges to credit bureaus.

                        Contact the Federal Communication Commission. The agency will forward your complaint to your service provider and mandate that they respond within 30 days. You can log on to http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html to file a report.

                        Contact your state attorney general's office. They handle complaints about cell phone fraud, in addition to disputes about contracts. Find your state attorney general by logging on to http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php.

                        Contact your state's public utility commission. You can find your state's commission by logging on to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners web site at http://www.naruc.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=15.


    Attitude Adjustment: Change Employee Behavior to Reduce Injuries

    Despite common belief, the majority of workplace injuries are not caused by unsafe conditions, but rather employee behavior. These “misbehaving” workers often overestimate their physical limits and make unsafe choices—such as lifting a 300-pound piece of equipment without assistance.

    When DuPont conducted a study of all its workplace accidents over a 10-year period, they discovered that 96% of the incidents resulted from employees working beyond their limits. A 2006 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Study showed that more than 50% of all workplace injuries were a result of overexertion, falls, twisting the wrong way and other such “behavioral” accidents. These injuries led to an estimated $46 billion in annual worker’s compensation costs.

    The OSHA factor

    Considering these eye-opening statistics, it’s obvious that workers need an on-the-job attitude adjustment. Some believe the industry should turn to The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to reverse this disturbing trend. Unfortunately, OSHA may not be the solution.

    Although the organization has acted as the watchdog for workplace safety for the past 30 years, OSHA generally focuses on making the workplace safer as opposed to changing employee behavior. After all, it’s a lot easier to modify a facility or repair a piece of machinery than it is to change the way a worker thinks and acts. Plus, many employers are wary of opening their doors to OSHA in fear that the organization will become overly involved in their every day affairs.

    Taking charge

    Because OSHA doesn’t seem to be the answer, it looks like employers are on their own when it comes to changing employee behavior. That means business owners must take the initiative to educate employees and cut down on preventable workplace injuries.

    Here are a few steps employers can take to cut back on “behavioral” accidents:

    • Appraise the situation: Take a closer look at past employee injuries that have occurred in your workplace. If you notice any patterns or trends, it’s time to make significant changes in that area. For example, if most injuries occurred when employees were attempting to carry heavy boxes, focus on teaching workers to safely move boxes with the assistance of another worker or a forklift.
    • Get supervisors on board: Ensure that your front line supervisors make injury prevention a top priority. Not only should they constantly enforce safety guidelines, but they also need to raise awareness throughout the ranks.
    • Work as a team: Workplace injury prevention requires plenty of teamwork. Make sure that all your employees understand the importance of working together and keeping an eye out for their fellow workers.
    • Create incentive programs: Consider offering your workers special rewards for sustaining a safe workplace. For example, let workers know that if there are no injuries within a 6- or 12-month period, they’ll be rewarded with a party, gift certificates or even an extra vacation day. This will give them greater incentive to make safe choices on a daily basis.
    • Hire the right people: Try to employ safety-conscious, reliable workers who are genuinely concerned with injury prevention.
    • Train your workers: Without the proper education and training, workers cannot be expected to perform their jobs safely. Ensure that all your employees are well-trained in safety guidelines and offer refresher courses each year.

    Changing human behavior is no easy task. It will take loads of time and hard work to change your employees’ ways, but it will be well worth the effort in the long run. If you can successfully adjust your workers’ attitudes, you’ll enjoy lower insurance premiums, more productive workers and fewer injury-related absences.

    You may even be eligible for inclusion in OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). This program recognizes small businesses with an exemplary safety and health management system. If you receive this prominent recognition, your worksite will be exempt from programmed inspections as long as your SHARP certification is valid.


    Minimize the Likelihood of a Homeowner's Insurance Non-Renewal or Rate Increase

    Almost three million households have lost their homeowner's insurance since 2003 according to a 2007 national telephone survey conducted on behalf of Trusted Choice and The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.  Two-thirds of the households that lost coverage were located in the South. Only half of the non-renewed households said they were able to find other coverage.

    As part of the current study, respondents were asked about changes they've made since 2003 to secure their home in the event of a natural disaster. Overall, a mere 28 percent of households indicated they have taken steps to secure their homes. Even in the South, where the threat of hurricanes is an annual occurrence, only 31 percent indicated that they had secured their homes.

    The survey results also showed that about 35 percent of all American households had experienced a homeowner's insurance rate increase in the previous 48 months. Twenty-two percent of the respondents answered that they had received anywhere from an 11 to 25 percent rate hike, while 13 percent said that they had received more than a 25 percent increase.

    Trusted Choice offers the following tips to lessen the possibility of non-renewal or rate increases:

    ·   Monitor your claim activity - Insurance companies track how many and what type of claims you file. Frequent claim activity, no matter how small, can impact your rates and chance for renewal.

    ·   Stick with one insurance company - An insurance company is more inclined to look past an item on your claims record if you are a long-term customer. Changing insurance companies on a regular basis makes it difficult to build a relationship with an insurer.

    ·   Bundle your coverages - Keeping your homeowner's and auto policies with one insurer makes you a more attractive customer. An insurance company may think twice about dropping your homeowner's coverage if it may mean losing your auto insurance business, too.

    ·   Review your deductibles - Make sure that your deductible isn't so small that you will be submitting every potential claim for payment, nor so large that it will cause financial hardship in the event of a loss. 

    ·   Home improvements help - Your home's wiring, plumbing, heating and roofing should be in good repair at all times. At least twice a year, walk through your home and inspect it for developing problems.

    ·   Know a house's claim history before you buy it - Ask for a disclosure report, which can be obtained from your real estate agent or the seller's agent. Insurance companies will be wary of a home with previous structural or water-damage claims.

    ·   Consult your insurance agent - Working closely with an agent may be the easiest way to stay insured affordably.  And they will be your advocate when you have a claim or other problem. 


    Curtail Workers' Comp Costs in a Tough Economy

    Workers’ compensation costs are always a concern for employers—but in today’s tough economy, employers should be more watchful than ever. As financially stressed employees grow increasingly worried about their money problems, many are preoccupied and less attentive on the job. This can greatly increase the risk of an injury. Plus, when employees become anxious about potential layoffs, workers’ compensation claims may increase as workers look for a way to maintain their income.

    This is precisely why employers need to take every possible measure to rein in workers’ comp costs right now. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure employees stay happy and claims don’t mushroom out of control:

    Open the lines of communication

    Everywhere they turn, employees are hearing bad news about the economy. Consequently, workers are growing increasingly anxious about their job security and financial well-being. Now more than ever, it is absolutely critical for employers to keep the lines of communication open with their worried employees.

    However, while it’s important to give workers the morale boost they need, it’s also important to be truthful. Don’t sugar-coat a bad situation. Studies show that employees who work for employers who are truthful, fair and supportive have lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

    Research also shows that workers trust their immediate boss more than the company’s senior leaders. Therefore, direct supervisors should offer their employees plenty of support right now and immediately address any widespread anxiety or rumors.

    Keep a close watch on claims

    Although employers should always meticulously monitor claims, this becomes even more vital in a rough economy. That’s because many workers may attempt to abuse the system when they are feeling financially stressed.

    As you scrutinize the amount and type of claims being filed by your employees, keep an eye out for suspicious trends or patterns. This may help you identify potential abuse. If you suspect any type of exploitation, report it immediately.

    Give employees the right title

    If your company has recently gone through lay offs or experienced a reduction in workforce, some workers may have changed positions or taken on additional responsibilities. If this is the case, ensure that your employees’ job classifications are up-to-date.

    Encourage good health

    Companies with wellness programs, fitness opportunities, nutritious food choices and other health-related perks have healthier, more productive employees. Healthy employees are less likely to suffer from illness or injury—which means they are less likely to miss work.

    This is why it’s so important to adopt some sort of wellness program for your employees and establish a relationship with a qualified occupational medical provider. Find physicians who follow ACOEM (American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine). Although they may be more expensive, it’s well worth the cost. These experts will take time to understand your company’s needs and ensure your workers stay healthy, productive and on the job—which will save you untold amounts of money in the long run.

    Educate your employees about finances

    In our current economic downturn, many of your employees are likely struggling to manage their finances. They don’t know where to turn for financial advice and expertise.

    To relieve some of their stress, consider sponsoring office workshops and classes about financial matters like reducing credit card debt, investing wisely, securing a home loan and saving for college. This will give your employees the financial guidance they need while ensuring that they stay happy and productive on the job.


    In any economy, whether it’s up or down, one thing is always clear: every day a worker is off the job, the employer loses money. Although you may be focused on other company problems right now, such as a reduced workforce, dwindling budgets and a decrease in sales, it’s important to maintain your focus on workers’ compensation issues.

    Try to cut back on illnesses and injuries with a wellness program and other health perks. If an employee is injured, do everything possible to return that worker safely to the job as quickly as possible. After all, the longer an employee is out of work, the more difficult it is to get him back to work—and the higher the price tag for the employer.


    Thorough After-Flood Cleanup Minimizes Mold Growth

    If you and your home are the victims of a flood, your cleanup must be thorough to ensure that mold growth is eliminated to the greatest extent possible. You should completely dry wet structures as soon as possible after the event. However, while you want to act quickly, approach the cleanup process carefully, to avoid the mishaps and accidents that can occur in the less-than-safe environment that a flooded home can be.

    The following tips, courtesy of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, can help you to thoroughly clean up while protecting your own health and safety:

    • Keep children and pets out of the area until you have completely cleaned it.

    • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles during cleanup.

    • Discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected, including mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam rubber items, books, wall coverings and paper products.

    • Discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood water.

    • Clean all hard surfaces such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

    • Use fans, air conditioning units and dehumidifiers to help dry the area.

    • Wash your hands with soap and water after you have finished cleaning. Use water that has been boiled for one minute and then cooled. You can also disinfect water for personal hygiene by creating a solution of household bleach mixed with water.

    • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent, separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens. Use a self-service laundry for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite wastewater system has been professionally inspected and serviced.

    • Get immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

    If you need to turn off the main power and have standing water inside your home, remember to do so only when you are in a dry location. If you must enter standing water to reach the main power switch, call an electrician to turn it off. Never use an electric tool or appliance to turn off power while standing in water. Be sure the electrician checks the house's electrical system before turning on the power.

    If the house has been closed up for several days, enter only long enough to open doors and windows, and then leave them open for at least 30 minutes before you stay inside for any length of time. This allows potentially hazardous air to circulate out of the rooms, while letting fresh air inside.

    As always, don't hesitate to call a qualified professional for advice and/or help with the cleanup process.

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    Copyright © 2013, Stanley M. Davis Insurance. All rights reserved.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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