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    Tuesday
    Feb122019

    Tackling Child Safety Seat Challenges

    If you’re about to hit the road with young kids in tow, listen up. It’s extremely likely that you either have the wrong child safety seat in your car or that your seat is not installed incorrectly. As a matter of fact, nearly three out of every four child seats in U.S. cars show an obvious mistake in selection or installation that could pose a risk to the child’s safety.

    Of course, with a barrage of different child seat options, safety regulations and complex installation instructions, it’s no wonder parents often get confused. However, one tiny child seat blunder could result in tragic consequences. So before you strap in your precious cargo and get motoring, take a closer look at that child safety seat.

    Here are a few things every parent or caregiver should know about child safety seats:

    The right seat

    Countless parents make their first child safety seat misstep in the store simply by purchasing the wrong type of seat. Here’s a quick guide on what type of seat you should buy your child:

    • Rear-facing seats: Infants should ride in rear-facing child safety seats for as long possible, according to pediatricians and safety experts. You should not switch your child to a forward-facing seat until she is both one year old and weighs 20 pounds or more.
    • Forward-facing seats: Once your child has his first birthday and reaches the 20-pound mark, you can switch him to a forward-facing seat. Your child can continue to ride in a forward-facing seat until he grows tall enough that his ears are level with the top of the seatback, his shoulders go beyond the top-most harness slots or he reaches the seat’s weight limit, as specified by the seat’s manufacturer. (Refer to the seat’s manual or look on the back of the seat for the weigh limit.) Forward-facing seats typically have a weight limit of 40 pounds.
    • Booster seat: Once your child is too big for a forward-facing seat, you should switch him to a booster seat. (The average child typically moves into a booster seat around the age of four.) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, your child should continue riding in a booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4’ 9” tall. Here’s another way to test whether your child still needs a booster: if he can bend her knees comfortably at a 90-degree angle when he sits with his spine flat against the seatback, your car’s shoulder belt straps across his chest (as opposed to his throat), and the car lap belt fits across his hips (not his stomach), then he is probably ready to ride without a booster seat.
    • Back seat: Once your child is big enough to stop riding in a booster seat, he should ride in the back seat of the car until he is at least 13 years old. Of course, he should wear a lap and shoulder seat belt at all times, as should everyone in the car.

    Some states have passed specific child safety seat laws, so make sure you know and abide by the law in your state.

    The perfect fit

    Another child seat mistake many parents make is the way the harness fits on their child. Experts say many parents do not pull the harnesses snugly enough on the child.

    To ensure that your child’s harness fits properly, try the “pinch test.” If you pinch the car seat strap lengthwise and there is a loop of any size between your thumb and forefinger, the harness is not tight enough.

    Proper installation

    Of course, the biggest challenge with child safety seats is installing them correctly. Because every car and child seat is different and installation manuals are often incredibly confusing, parents are bound to make mistakes when installing their child’s seat.

    Luckily, in 2002, the federal government mandated LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). This system improves child safety by eliminating the need to use seat belts to install a child safety seat in a car, and it also makes the installation process a little easier. Cars with the LATCH system have anchors located in the back seat where child safety seats can easily be fastened. Nearly all vehicles and child safety seats manufactured on or after September 2002 include the LATCH system. However, if you have an older car or child seat, you will still need to use the seat belt to install the seat.

    To ensure that your child’s safety seat is installed correctly, find a child safety seat expert in your area. You can find a list of certified CPS (Child Passenger Safety) Technicians and Child Seat Fitting Stations at www.nhatsa.gov or seatcheck.org. You can also call 866-SEAT-CHECK or the NHTSA hotline at 888-327-4236.

    Thursday
    Feb072019

    Is Stress a Ticking Time Bomb in Your Company?

    There seem to be very few constants in modern life; but one thing we're able to count on is that stress is a normal part of our world.  It permeates almost every part of our lives and sometimes the best we can hope for is to keep it under control.

    Finding ways to keep stress under control is a major priority for business owners when they are developing their Human Resources policies.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have researched how much time is lost at the workplace due to employees missing work to deal with stress and anxiety disorders.

    When compared with all nonfatal injury and illness cases, the anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases involved a higher percentage of long-term work loss.  In 2001, 42.1% of these cases involved 31 or more days away from work, with the average number of days lost totaling 25.  Compare that to the average number of days lost for all other nonfatal injury and illness cases, which was 6.

    There is also the issue of compensation claims that are filed for stress-related illnesses. An employee cannot sue in court for these types of claims if the stress is the result of the ordinary course of work.  However, if the employee can prove that the stress is the result of on the job harassment or discrimination, they can then pursue that claim in court.

    If an employee is filing a stress claim that cannot be litigated, they have two options.  If they are seeking a monetary award, they file through workers' compensation.  In this instance, they must prove that the stress has risen to a level, which makes it impossible for them to continue to work.

    If they are merely seeking unpaid leave, they file under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Under this statute, they must prove that the level of stress is high enough to meet the definition of a medical condition as outlined in the Family Medical Leave Act.  This may or may not be the way it is defined by the American Medical Association.  If they prove their case, they are entitled to three months leave.  Keep in mind that your company must have 50 or more employees for one of your staff members to file under the FMLA.

    For companies with 15 to 49 employees, workers can file stress claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  They can be awarded leave time sometimes over and above what FMLA provides.  However, historically the courts have not been welcoming of stress-related claims filed under the ADA unless the employee can prove discrimination.

    What can you as an employer do to lessen the number of stress-related claims?  Begin by making the fair treatment of employees at every level a cornerstone of your Human Resources policy.  You should also be sure that your Human Resources Department has an open-door policy when it comes to employee grievances.  This means that employees can file complaints or grievances against any member of the staff without fear of retribution.  Finally, consider instituting an employee counseling program managed through your health insurance carrier.

    The importance of any steps you take to alleviate workplace stress will be of special importance if you are hit with a stress-related claim.  Documentation is key to winning such a case.  The other important factor in your success is turning over the claim to your workers' compensation carrier in a timely manner to give them as much time as possible to investigate the legitimacy of the claim.

    Tuesday
    Feb052019

    Ten Safety Tips for Driving in the Rain

    With the dawning of Spring often comes a deluge of rain showers and thunderstorms. While a soft Spring rain may seem innocent enough from the safety of your home, even a gentle shower can cause major problems on the road. Thousands of car accidents each year are caused by rain and wet roads—and motorists who don’t know how to drive on them.

    During and after a rainstorm, a film of water quickly forms on asphalt roads. This sheath of water causes tires to lose traction, which means drivers can easily lose control. However, slippery roads are not the only danger to driving in the rain. Drivers also lose visibility during a rainstorm. Heavy rain can be absolutely blinding, fogging up the windows and even blocking your headlights. These things all add to an extremely dangerous situation.

    If you find yourself on the road during a rainstorm, follow these safety tips to ensure you arrive alive:

    1. Be especially careful when the rain first starts. When the roads are dry for a long period of time, engine oil and grease builds up on roads and highways. As soon as the first drops of rain start to fall, the water mixes with this build-up making the roads incredibly slick. This is why the first few hours of a rainstorm can be the most hazardous for drivers. If the rain continues to fall for a few more hours, the water will eventually wash away the greasy build-up.
    2. Slow down. You should always drive at a slower speed when the roads are wet. The faster you drive in a rainstorm, the more likely you are to have an accident. Leave the house earlier than usual to give yourself additional travel time so you won’t feel the urge to rush.
    3. Brake earlier and slower. When you need to slow down or stop on wet roads, ease on the brakes earlier and with less force than you would normally. This decreases your risk of hydroplaning and keeps a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. It also alerts any drivers behind you to slow down. If you stop too suddenly in a rainstorm, you could get rear-ended.
    4. Turn off cruise control. When you have cruise control turned on during a rainstorm, your car could actually speed up if you hydroplane. Plus, when you use cruise control, you’re probably not paying as much attention to the road. Turn off the cruise control and stay alert at all times when driving in the rain so you can react quickly if necessary.
    5. Avoid big “puddles.” If you spot a huge puddle in the road up ahead, drive around it or take a different route. Sometimes seemingly shallow puddles can actually be 5 or 6 feet deep—and that amount of water can cause serious problems for your car’s electrical system. Depending on how deep the water is, it could even float your car. If you aren’t sure just how deep a puddle is, steer clear of it altogether.
    6. Turn on your headlights. Even if just a few raindrops are falling, turn on your headlights. Not only will this help you see the road, but it will help other drivers see you. However, don’t use your high beams in the rain. This can actually reduce your visibility and blind other drivers.
    7. Turn on your defroster. Your windshield can fog up quickly during a rainstorm, which can cause you to lose sight of the road. Turn on your front and rear defrosters and the A/C to defog your windows.
    8. Keep an eye out for pedestrians. In a rainstorm, a pedestrian’s view of the road could be obscured by their rain slicker hood or umbrella—which means they may accidentally step into the road at the wrong time. If you are driving in a city or another area with pedestrians, keep a close eye out for people in the road.
    9. Pull over when things get bad. If the rain is falling so hard that you can barely see the car in front of you, pull over and wait for the rain to slow down or stop. After all, it’s much better for you to make it to your destination a little late than not at all.
    10. Don’t brake if you hydroplane. If you feel your car starting to hydroplane, don’t brake suddenly or turn the steering wheel. This could send you into a skid. Instead, ease off the gas pedal slowly and steer straight until you feel your tires regain traction. If you have to brake and don’t have anti-lock brakes, tap the brake pedal lightly. If you do have anti-lock brakes, you can brake normally.
    Thursday
    Jan312019

    Stress Management Programs Decrease Worker Illness, Increase Productivity

    Lowering the stress level of your corporate environment may not only improve your employees' well being but also boost your bottom line.  The demands on today's workers are increasing and along with it, workplace stress.  Decreased productivity and morale and increased sickness, absenteeism and accidents are just a few of the side effects that can be counteracted by making yours a "healthy organization."

    Job stress, as defined by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities of the worker.  A stressful corporate environment should not be confused with a challenging work environment, which can actually energize employees to master new skills.  When, however, the job demands cannot be met, the excitement of challenge turns to exhaustion and stress. 

    Stress causes the body to go into its programmed, biological "fight or flight" response where the nervous system is aroused and hormones are released.  Unresolved stressors keep the body in this activated state leading to physiological wear and tear.  Some of the early signs of job stress include mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family and friends.  This sets up a scenario for increased illness and accidents.  In fact, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers who report high levels of stress. 

    Both working conditions and worker characteristics cause workplace stress.  It is true that what is stressful for one person may not be for another. However, scientific evidence suggests that certain working conditions, such as excessive workload demands and conflicting expectations, cause stress to most people. 

    NIOSH researchers examined so-called "healthy organizations," or those that have low rates of illness, injury and disability and are also competitive in the workplace.  NIOSH found that these companies have the very positive combination of low-stress work and high productivity.  Specific organizational characteristics that were identified included recognition of employees for good work performance, opportunities for career development, an organizational culture that values the individual worker and management actions that are consistent with organizational values. 

    While it is helpful to provide stress management training and employee assistance programs to help your employees cope with difficult work situations, also implementing organization change to become a more "healthy organization" has been shown to cause the most direct, long-lived results. 

    To create a "healthy organization," NIOSH suggests that companies:

    - Ensure that workload is in line with workers' capabilities and resources;

    - Design jobs to provide meaning, stimulation and opportunities for workers to use their skills;

    - Clearly define workers' roles and responsibilities;

    - Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs;

    - Improve employee communications;

    - Provide opportunities for social interaction among workers; and

    - Establish work schedules that are compatible with the demands outside the job.

    There is no one-size-fits-all program to achieve these goals.  Factors such as the size and complexity of the organization as well as available resources and unique types of organizational stress must be considered.  In all situations, however, the process for developing effective stress prevention programs should include problem identification, intervention and evaluation.  Employers can either hire outside consultants or work through the process internally. 

    In the identification stage, information should be gathered about employee perceptions of their job conditions and level of stress and satisfaction.  This can be accomplished through group discussions or formal surveys.  If possible, objective measures such as absenteeism, illness and turnover rates should also be considered.  The collected information should help identify the offending job conditions and the location of stress problems.

    Next a set of intervention strategies should be designed and implemented.  Before any intervention occurs, employees should be informed about the changes.  The last step is evaluation to determine if the desired effects are being achieved.  Interventions should be evaluated on both a short and long-term basis as some steps may produce initial effects but not long-lasting change.  To create true and permanent organizational change, evaluation must be a continuous process.

    Tuesday
    Jan292019

    Beyond the Law: Setting Stricter Limits for Your Teen Driver

    Research shows motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths. Tragically, 3,490 teenage drivers (between the ages of 15-20) died in car accidents in 2006 alone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

    The IIHS, along with other driving safety groups, has spent decades studying teen vehicle fatalities to determine what specific behaviors put teenage drivers in the danger zone. Their research reveals that driving at night, driving with passengers, receiving a learner’s permit before the age of 16 and getting a full license before the age of 18 put teens at a much higher risk of having an accident.

    Unfortunately, state laws have failed to keep pace with the latest research. Many critics say states simply aren’t doing enough to protect teens on the road. That’s why the IIHS is imploring parents to step up and set stricter driving limits for their teen drivers.

    If you want to keep your teenager safe on the road, consider the following advice the IIHS has to offer:

    Make them wait

    According to the IIHS, 16-year-olds have the highest rate of car crashes than drivers of any age. Sadly, many of these accidents prove to be fatal. This is why the institute strongly encourages parents to wait until their child turns 16 before allowing them to get a learner’s permit and until 17 to get a driver’s license.

    Once the teen receives their learner’s permit, the IIHS says parents should put their teen through a learner stage that lasts at least six months. Parents should supervise a minimum of 30-50 hours of their teen’s driving before allowing them to get a full license.

    After the teen earns their driver’s license, the institute says parents should restrict their teen’s driving until he or she is at least 18 years old. Specifically, teens should not drive at night and be limited to just one or no non-adult passengers.

    Restrict night driving

    Once your teen has earned his license, it’s crucial to restrict him from driving at night until he is at least 18. A 2003 IIHS report shows that driving between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. triples a 16-year-old’s risk of having a fatal car crash.

    Not only is it harder to drive in the dark because of low visibility, but teens are typically more tired at night. Driver fatigue is a major contributing factor when it comes to night-time teen crashes. Of course, the chance of teenagers consuming alcohol also increases as soon as the sun sets. According to the NHTSA, 31 percent of teen drivers killed in 2006 had been drinking.

    Limit teen passengers

    More than half of all deaths in crashes of 16 and 17-year old drivers occur when passengers under the age of 20 are in the car with no adult supervision. When a teen driver has a teen passenger in the car, they are twice as likely to have a fatal crash, according to IIHS. When a teen has three or more teenage passengers, their risk of a fatal crash is three times higher than if they had no passengers.

    Of course, it’s no surprise why this is the case: passengers often cause distractions for teen drivers. However, researchers also believe that teens often “show off” for their teenage passengers by speeding and making riskier choices on the road.

    Don’t let state laws dictate the driving limits for your teenager. The research shows that state legislation is simply too lenient for most teenagers. As soon as your child is old enough to understand, start preparing him or her for your unique household driving rules. If you make the idea of “no driver’s license until you’re 17” a family mantra, your teen will be prepared for it when the time comes.

    Of course, if you tell your 15-year-old she’ll have to wait until she’s 17 to get a full driver’s license, you’ll probably meet some serious resistance. You’ll also have to listen to endless complaints when you tell your teen he can’t drive at night and is not allowed to have passengers. While it’s never fun to play the “bad guy” or upset your teen, it will be well worth it in the long run. Stick to your guns—after all, it could save your child’s life.

    For more information on teen driving safety, visit www.iihs.org.


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