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    Tuesday
    Jan082019

    Hand Over the Keys! Having the "Big Talk" with a Senior Driver

    Even though we know we’ll probably have to face it eventually, it’s a discussion all adults dread: the “Big Talk” about driving with a senior parent or grandparent. No one looks forward to telling their parent or grandparent it’s time to hang up the keys. However, when you notice your aging mom has dropped her driving speeds to 30 mph below the speed limit or you discover that your dear old dad no longer acknowledges stop lights, it’s time to have the talk.

    If you have an aging family member who shouldn’t be behind the wheel, here are a few tips for broaching this delicate topic with them:

    Know the warning signs

    If you don’t spend a lot of time with your senior parent or grandparent, you may be uncertain about whether or not it’s time for them to stop driving. However, there are a few warning signs you should keep an eye out for that will help you make the decision.

    For example, every time you visit, you may notice new dents and scratches on their car, their garage door or their mailbox. They may tell you about multiple near-accidents (although some will claim it wasn’t their fault) or they might continually receive traffic tickets or warnings. They may complain that they often miss street turns or can’t see traffic signs at the side of the road. These are all signs that it’s time to have the “Big Talk” with your senior parent.

    Don’t hesitate

    It’s natural to be anxious about telling your mom or dad they need to stop driving. Your parents have been telling you what to do for your entire life. So, it’s awkward when the tables turn and you suddenly have to tell the people who raised you what’s best for them.

    However, look at it this way: your parent will be better off getting this advice from you and the rest of your family than receiving an order from the state motor vehicle department. As family members and people who love and know them, you and your relatives are the best candidates for telling your parent it’s time to give up driving.

    Broach the topic delicately

    Once you’ve determined the time has come for the driving discussion, try to get the all of the adults in your family involved. Work together to come up with the best approach for telling the senior driver it’s time to hang up the keys.

    When you have the discussion with your parent or grandparent, try to keep the conversation adult-like. Do not treat the senior like a child—talk to them as you would about any other adult matter. Instead of being accusatory and saying things like “You did this” and “You’re not doing that,” try to use “I” to describe how you perceive the situation. For example, you may say, “I think you’re having a hard time seeing the road,” or “I worry about you having a terrible accident.”

    If your parent resists, point out that they have a responsibility to others, as well. You may want to talk about how horrible they would feel if they killed or injured an innocent person because of a driving mistake. Typically, this is enough to convince a person that they shouldn’t be on the road.

    However, if your parent simply refuses to give up driving and they haven’t had any accidents, you may have to give in and allow him to keep driving for another year. As they are still sharp of mind, they may still be able to manage a car.

    On the other hand, if your parent has the beginnings of dementia, they should absolutely not be behind the wheel. If your loved one is suffering from the onset of dementia, you may have to sell the car and tell them it just isn’t available anymore or disable the car and tell them it no longer runs. This may seem cruel, but remember—it’s for the safety of your loved one and other drivers.

    Be sensitive

    Although you may tempted to firmly tell your parent, “Hand over the keys!” this is probably not the best way to approach the matter. Try to understand that this is going to be a tough transition for you loved one. After all, how will mom make it to her beauty parlor appointments or to church? How will dad get to the doctor or his poker parties? Try to see things from their perspective, and be sensitive to their feelings.

    Many seniors fall into a deep depression after they stop driving because they feel a loss of freedom and control over their lives. This is why it’s so important to come up with alternatives to driving. As you discuss the change with your parent, discuss possible solutions for how they will get around. Maybe you, your siblings and other relatives could take turns driving them to their appointments and functions. Alternatively, you could purchase a mass transit pass for them so they can take the bus or the subway. You may also consider hiring a home-care agency that will transport your parent from point A to point B.

    Whatever you do, don’t just firmly lay down the law with your parent and banish him or her to their house forever. Put yourself in their shoes, be delicate and offer clear solutions.

    Thursday
    Jan032019

    Workers' Comp Alone May Not Fully Protect Your Business from Workplace Liability

    Workers' compensation is designed as a trade off between the interests of employers and injured employees.  In most circumstances, employers receive immunity from lawsuits by workers who are injured on the job or the survivors of those who are killed in work related events.  In return, injured workers are not forced into an unpredictable system of lawsuits with long waiting periods for damages and no guarantee of compensation.  They receive medical expenses and compensation for lost wages, or when work-related injuries or disease lead to death.  Benefits are guaranteed to the worker's survivors.

    For the most part, the system works just as it was designed. There are a few exceptions, however, when courts allow workers who have on-the-job injuries or occupational disease, or their survivors, to pierce the employer's immunity and file a personal injury lawsuit.  As workers' compensation is a matter of state law, the rules as to when courts permit these lawsuits will vary somewhat from state to state.  Most importantly, they will be based on the unique facts of each case.  Nevertheless, there are general circumstances that make courts more likely to find in favor of an injured worker, or his or her survivors.

    The key issue the courts usually consider is whether the employer intentionally created a situation that would be, in the words of one court, "substantially certain" to lead to a worker's injury or death.  On this basis, an Oregon court held that an employer could lose its workers' comp immunity by ordering an employee to perform a task that the employer knows is unreasonably dangerous, such as doing work without safety equipment, and thus is substantially certain to cause injury.

    If evidence exists verifying the employer knew it was substantially certain employees could be seriously injured or killed, and then deliberately concealed the information from them, the courts are even more likely to permit an injured employee to sue.  This is what happened with companies that manufactured or installed asbestos.  Ordinarily, workers' compensation would have been the employees' exclusive remedy for lung disease and cancer caused by working with asbestos.  But in some instances, workers were able to show that the employers had known about the diseases and nevertheless told them there was little risk or need for safety precautions.

    In another example, a Florida employer occasionally and deliberately shut off a workplace ventilation system and misrepresented the potential harm of toxic fumes and the need for safety equipment.  The court ruled that due to the employer's deliberate misrepresentation, injured employees were not limited to workers' compensation as their exclusive remedy, but could also sue.  Similarly, a New Jersey court held that an employer lost the exclusive remedy protection of workers' comp when it removed the warning labels and safety devices from machinery. 

    Liability for concealment of risks can even be based on an employee's inability to read or understand warning labels or safety instructions, according to a South Dakota court.  The court's ruling held that if the employer does not clearly explain the hazards and safety precautions so that the employees understand them, it might lose workers' comp immunity. 

    In certain cases, the employer can protect itself if it can show the worker fully understood the risks and decided to do the job anyway.  In one case, a widow sued the employer after her spouse fell to his death on a construction job, arguing that the numerous citations the employer had received for failure to provide guard rails showed that the employer should be liable for her husband's death.  But a Florida appeals court rejected her claim, finding that the danger of working on an elevated construction site without a guardrail was, or should have been, obvious to an employee.  Therefore, the deceased had chosen to accept the risk and the widow's exclusive remedy was workers' compensation benefits.

    However, not all risks are obvious, and where they are not, courts are likely to find that the employer has a better understanding of the risks than the employee.  

    There is one other situation that almost always exposes the employer to potential lawsuits by injured employees:  failure to maintain workers' compensation insurance.  If the employer doesn't have insurance, injured workers or the survivors of those who die from job-related injuries have no barrier to filing a lawsuit, which can be a very costly proposition.

    We can help you identify and manage potential risks, which may not be covered by your workers' comp policy.  Give us a call today for more information.

    Tuesday
    Jan012019

    Men vs. Women Drivers: Does Gender Really Matter on the Road?

    For years, insurance companies have regularly charged female drivers less for auto insurance coverage than males. Insurance companies claim it’s because women drivers statistically have fewer car crashes. However, no studies have actually proven that there is a difference between men and women’s driving abilities.

    Looking at the stats

    Over the past ten years or so, male fatalities have outnumbered female fatalities 2-to-1 in car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Men also have a higher rate of collisions that result in just property damage—also a 2-to-1 ratio.

    According to the American Insurance Association, men are involved in 50 percent more fatal crashes per 100 million miles driven than females. This divergence is most prominent in drivers in their late teens and early to mid-20’s. 

    Examining the male crash phenomena

    No one can pinpoint exactly why men have more car crashes than women. Many researchers argue nature versus nurture theories. Some researchers blame natural male biochemicals—one study claims that high testosterone levels in men causes them to take more risks behind the wheel. On the other hand, some researchers say that men are products of their culture. These experts say society has taught males to act more competitively in general, which makes them more aggressive drivers on the road. Other studies point out that women are better multi-taskers, which makes them better drivers.

    However, many people simply don’t buy into any of these studies. Skeptics say a person’s gender simply cannot predict whether or not they are a safe driver. The National Organization for Women’s Insurance Project points out that men simply have more crashes than women because they drive more miles each year. Because men are on the road more, they expose themselves to a more risk.

    The gap narrows
    Recent statistics show that the gap is narrowing between men and women crashes. Between 1975 and 2003, female fatalities in car accidents increased 14 percent, while male fatalities dropped by 11 percent.

    Some experts say this is simply because women are on the road more these days. On top of that, an increasing number of women are becoming more aggressive on the road. If this trend continues, experts say insurance companies may soon stop taking gender into account as they calculate drivers’ insurance premiums.

    A few states lead the way

    Despite the latest research, insurance companies in most states continue to use gender as a factor in calculating premiums. Of course, insurers also take other things into account, including annual mileage, the type of car, the person’s previous driving record and even their Zip code (whether they live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area).

    However, a handful of states, including California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, no longer allow insurance companies to use gender as a factor to assess risk and calculate premiums.

    Thursday
    Dec272018

    Understanding the Difference Between Claims Made & Reported and Pure Claims Made

    Under a claims-made policy, the insured is required to file claims during the policy period or during the extended reporting period (ERP), if applicable. However, there are two distinct types of claims-made policies. One is the "Claims-Made & Reported Form" and the other is the "Pure Claims-Made Form." While the differences of the policies are subtle, not understanding the differences can have a significant impact on your coverage.

    The most commonly used claims-made policy is the "Claims-Made & Reported Form." This policy requires that not only must the claim be made during the policy period or ERP; it must also be reported during this same period. This means that the insured has a designated time frame within which claims can be filed.

    The "Pure Claims-Made" Form is less prevalent. It also requires that a claim be made during the policy period or the ERP. However, the major difference between this and the "Claims-Made & Reported Form" is that under this type of policy, the insured is only required to report the claim as soon as possible. This means that the report of a claim may happen after the policy's expiration.

    If your company's professional liability policy is a "Claims-Made & Reported Form," then time is an important factor when a claim needs to be filed. It is your obligation to report a claim or a potential circumstance that could lead to a claim to your carrier within the policy period or the ERP. If you attempt to handle the situation internally to avoid reporting it to your carrier, the delay could negatively affect your coverage. Professional liability polices are very specific as to how and where to report a claim. Failure to comply with these provisions can negate your coverage. The "Pure Claims-Made" policy, on the other hand, only requires that the claim be reported as soon as practical, which allows for more flexibility. This means that the claim can be reported at any time in the future even after the policy expires.

    In addition to the issue of claim reporting time, many "Claims-Made & Reported Form" policies have an awareness provision that allows the insured to report any circumstance that may lead to a future claim. Such notice must also be given during the policy period or ERP.

    When a circumstance is reported, it's considered to have been reported during that policy period even if it results in litigation after the policy has expired. Because each policy has a different reporting provision, it is important that you know your policy's reporting requirement to ensure your coverage remains in effect.

    Keep in mind that any extended reporting period provided by the policy only extends the period in which a claim may be reported. The wrongful act that precipitated the claim must have taken place before the policy expired.

    Tuesday
    Dec252018

    The Right Homeowners Insurance Can Be a Homesaver

    Homeowner's insurance is an essential purchase. Mortgage holders require their borrowers to keep this coverage in force while the mortgage has a balance. However, the coverage is just as important for those who own their homes free and clear. Few individuals have sufficient funds to rebuild a destroyed home. For this reason, it is important for homeowners to have the right coverage, not just any coverage. Failure to consider a few factors can leave them with a too-small claim check or even no claim check at all. Probably the most important of these are the amount of insurance on the home and the perils that could possibly damage it.

    Insurance industry consulting firm MSB has estimated that as many as two-thirds of American homes are underinsured, by an average 21 percent. This means that a home that would cost $100,000 to rebuild is probably insured for only $79,000. It is important for the insurance limit to reflect building costs in the area, not the prices that homes are selling for. It should also take into account the cost of rebuilding to comply with local codes, the expense of not buying materials in bulk, and any custom features the home has. For a nominal fee, MSB offers an online tool to help homeowners calculate their insurance needs at www.accucoverage.com.

    Homeowner's insurance typically covers damage caused by fire, lightning, vehicles, windstorms, and several other perils, but it does not cover everything. For example, it does not cover damage caused by flooding. Too many people fail to consider this; more than 40 percent of New Orleans homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina lacked flood insurance, and the insured rate was higher there than in other affected areas. Homeowners who live near ponds, creeks, lakes or oceans should give serious consideration to buying flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, and even those who do not live near water should think about it. Officials with the NFIP estimate that one in four flood claims occurs in low- to moderate-risk areas.

    Other perils that the policy may not cover include earthquakes, mudslides, mold infestations, and gradual rotting of building components. Homeowners in areas with frequent seismic activity should consider separate coverage for earthquakes and other types of earth movement.

    The amount of insurance and the scope of the coverage have a major impact on the policy's cost, but another influential factor is the deductible -- the amount the homeowner pays out of pocket before the company pays. Higher deductibles result in lower premiums because the company is spared the expense of handling small losses that fall below the deductible. Each homeowner must decide the deductible amount that she can comfortably afford. Since homeowners often pay insurance premiums for many years without suffering a loss, the savings from the higher deductible discount may well offset the higher out-of-pocket expense if a loss occurs.

    There are several other considerations homeowners have when they buy insurance. Do you have expensive pieces of jewelry, collectibles, musical instruments or artwork? Do you run a business out of your home? Do you or your children own laptop computers? Are you a landlord? Do you own snowmobiles or boats? Operate a home day care center? You may need special coverage for all of these. To identify your coverage needs and determine the cost of insuring them, speak with a qualified insurance agent who insures many homes. She can present options and provide information about the financial strength of companies and their claims handling practices.

    Homeowner's insurance is not just another expense. It is a vital part of a homeowner's financial plan. Take the time to make certain you have the right coverage at a reasonable cost.

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