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Coming Together




It's been a difficult period for so many people in the Woodward area.  The destruction and tragedy is absolutely heartbreaking.  But there is a silver lining to all the heartache:  This community has come together in one collective embrace.

From local companies donating equipment, manpower, and supplies, to neighbors assisting neighbors clearing rubble, to all the proceeds pouring in to storm relief for victims, Woodward is sending a message to the state and to the nation--not only will we overcome, we will emerge from this event stronger and better than ever!  Northwest Oklahomans are indeed, as the old song goes, "the salt of the Earth."  We've been verifying that every single day by unrelenting selfless giving, and we can all take extreme pride in that very fact.

We would be remiss without tipping our caps to all the people and entities and organizations in Oklahoma and other states who also have jumped into action to offer assistance.  Thank you!!  It's gratifying to know that in a world where it seems all the news is constantly negative, bleak, and bad, we still come together and stand, shoulder to shoulder, to make a difference in each others' lives.  It's a great message that resonates; it's a message that encourages; it's a message that's timeless.

Take pride, Woodward; we're in this together, and that's a very comforting thing to know!

Beware of Scams!



You've carefully inspected your roof and have decided you don't have any significant damage--at least not enough to surpass your $1,000 deductible.  Satisfied you won't have to file a claim, you sit down to enjoy dinner, only to hear the doorbell ring.  Two strangers are at the door, and a pickup sporting a metallic sign advertising an out-of-state construction contractor you've never heard of is parked in your driveway. 

One of the strangers advises they've just inspected your roof, and it's their professional opinion it's a total loss.  Furthermore, they tell you, while all the other contractors are charging so much per square foot to replace a roof, they will charge exactly half that amount IF you pay the entire balance in advance. 

Sound too good to be true?

It is!!

After a significant hail event, there is one thing you can be certain of:  con artists will make an appearance.  Before you ever sign a check to a contractor, please take the following steps:

*Notify your agent, or your insurance company.  Before you agree to any roof replacement, file a claim with your carrier.  An adjuster will then inspect your roof, determine the extent of damage, and settle your claim accordingly.  In most cases you can expect a settlement coming in two phases:  the first being an ACV (Actual Cash Value) payment (cost of new roof minus depreciation); then, upon satisfying your insurer replacement has been made, a follow-up check for the balance of your Replacement Cost (minus your deductible).

*Once the adjuster has signed off on your roof as a total loss, pick a local company with a proven reputation to perform the work.  If all the locals are swamped and won't be able to work on your roof for weeks, if not months, and you decide to hire an out-of-town contractor, do some homework!

*Is the contractor licensed?  Is he willing to give you referrals for other folks in town he has done work for?  Customers in other towns?  Can he show you proof of professional liability insurance?  If the answers to any of the above questions is "No," you need in turn to say "No!" to that contractor!

It's truly unfortunate that following a natural calamity there are those willing to take advantage of others' misfortunes.  Don't be a victim of a scam!  Be diligent, cautious, and thorough in your research.  As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention. . ."

Why Bother With Liability Insurance?




You are the consummate business owner; you run a safe, professional organization.  And now you're staring at that bill from your insurance company for commercial liability insurance.  "Come on," you tell yourself, "none of our customers are ever going to be injured--and we're not going to damage anyone else's property." 

Better think again!  All business have NUMEROUS liability exposures.  If you have a physical location that customers and other people come into, slips and falls are a constant exposure.  Let's face it:  people slip, and when they fall they often are injured.  Even if you can show your business wasn't negligent regarding the injury, if you're sued your liability insurance carrier will come in to defend you and litigate the suit.  At their expense--not yours!

Operate a restaurant?  Food poisoning is a huge exposure--and a very expensive one to defend without liability insurance.  Or do you run an auto service business?  Service people do make mistakes, so when that employee performing an oil change gets distracted and actually forgets to put in new oil after draining the old--and you're presented with $7500 bill for a brand new engine for your customer's car--you'll be very glad you have garage liability insurance!

Whether you're in the oil and gas industry, run a warehouse, or operate a hair salon, you have acute liability exposures--exposures that could threaten the survival of your business without coverage.  And no matter how carefully and professionally you conduct your operation, accidents do happen.  So the next time you think twice about paying that liability premium keep this in mind:  Your business depends on it!

All that Glitters. . .



Fewer things are more elegant and gorgeous than jewelry.  A diamond ring, a pendant, a necklace that's been in the family for generations--how valuable they are to us!

But. . .check your homeowners policy.  By far most of them have only limited coverage for precious jewelry, should the jewelry become lost or stolen.  And those are your biggest exposures for jewelry!  If you lose that $10,000 wedding ring while on vacation in the Bahamas, you're not going to be very happy when your homeowners insurer only cuts you a check for, say, $2,500.  So what to do? 

Endorse your homeowners policy!  For only a few extra dollars you can insure your jewelry to value, giving you peace of mind.  And not only can you endorse your policy for jewelry; you can cover other valuables, including art. . .firs. . .guns. . .a valuable stamp collection. . .precious mints.  There's no need for you to be unprotected!

(If you are not a homeowner you can protect your valuable assets by purchasing a Personal Articles Floater.  Just call your agent.)

Any questions about your valuable possessions?  Give us a call today!

What to do in the event of a Loss.



You've just experienced a fire loss. . .or a windstorm loss. . .or you've been victimized by theft.  What now?  Here are some tips to help you minimize your loss and get the claim process underway:

*Secure the premises!  Board up or cover up damaged windows and/or doors; place tarp over a damaged roof--do what you can to secure your property and reduce additional damage.

*Keep your receipts.  Did you have to buy that tarp?  Purchase plywood?  Hire workers to help you secure your home or business?  Keep track of all expenses to turn in to your claims adjuster.

*If a crime has occurred notify the authorities.  Keep all police or highway patrol reports and records given to you and store them in a secure place.

*Homeowners, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words!  Take digital pictures or videos of the contents of your home--your furniture, appliances, floor coverings, window coverings, and valuables--and keep them in a secure place.  Your adjuster will be extremely grateful, plus you won't be relying on memory to restore your home to its condition prior to the loss. 

*In a vehicle accident that occurs on a public roadway, unless there's injury or unless the vehicle no longer operates get off the road quickly and move to a secure location, like a nearby business parking lot.  This is for your safety, as well as the safety of the motoring public. 

*Call your agent!  (And we hope that's us!)  If your insurance company only allows direct reporting of claims, keep its claims phone number in a safe place.  (If you're one of our valued Insureds we feature the claims contact numbers of all our companies on our Companies Page.) 

*And as a refresher here is our contact info:
580-256-3391
800-299-3391
Fax: 580-254-3132
After hours or on weekends:  580-334-0301
mail@figley-salz.com

Is your operation shut down? Protect yourself!




A fire.  Devastating.  Costly.  But thank goodness you, a prudent business owner, carried sufficient limits of insurance--both for your building and the building's contents.  You'll be able to rebuild and restock--hopefully within a year. 

A year?  Can you afford to be shut down for a year?  Of course not!  So you'll rent a temporary location, expedite shipping costs for emergency stock and supplies, buy office equipment, furniture, and computers, plus continue paying your employees.  But how can you afford to take on all this additional expense?  Do you want to have to go get an exorbitant loan?

There is insurance coverage for this!  It's called Time Element coverage, and it pays you for your loss of Business Income that you otherwise would have earned had you not had your loss, plus pays your Extra Expense you must incur to resume operations.  If you have a Business Owners Policy (BOP) chances are good this coverage is included; if you have a Commercial Property policy you do not have Time Element protection--you must buy it.  And in the event of a total loss it's worth every penny!  Check your commercial policy carefully, and if it does not include this vital coverage give us a call today! 

Helpful Tips to Reduce Homeowners Insurance Costs



If you would like to see the premium on your homeowners policy go down (And who wouldn't!) here are a few tips that could go a long way in reducing insurance costs:

*Raise your deductible!  If you currently have a $250 deductible, consider raising it to $500--or even $1,000--and you will see your homeowners premium go down.  After all, insurance is there to indemnify you in the event of  a costly loss; it's wise to self-insure for losses of $500 or less, or $1,000 or less.

*Consider multi-policy discounts.  Do you have your cars insured with another insurance company?  Consider moving them to the same insurer who insures your home; very often you will benefit from a multi-policy discount.  At Figley-Salz it's not even an option; our homeowners markets will not insure your home unless they also insure your autos.  That's a win/win!

*Reduce the risk of theft.  Consider installing a burglar alarm or at least dead bolt locks on all outside doors.  Many insurance companies will reward you for taking these security measures by lowering your premium.

*Ask about discounts for safety features such as sprinkler systems, burglar alarms, dead bolt locks, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers.  Insurance underwriters are more apt to share the love if your home offers features like these! 

*In the event of a total loss, are you planning to rebuild your home exactly as it was?  Then you need to insure at Replacement Cost.  Thinking about replacing your home with a dwelling less costly?  Or maybe just taking the insurance settlement, putting the check in your pocket, and walking away?  Then you might wish to consider insuring at Actual Cash Value (ACV), which is cheaper than replacement cost.  Actual Cash Value is Replacement Cost minus depreciation.

*Loyalty often is rewarded.  Ask about discounts if you stay with the same insurance company for several years.

*Ask what other discounts are available.  For example, if you are over 55 and retired, you very well may qualify for lower rates. 

*Insure the house, not the land!  When deciding how much insurance to buy, don't factor in the cost of the land your home is on.  It is your home, not the land, that is at risk from the perils covered in your policy.

*Most important:  When you want to seriously reduce your homeowners insurance premium, always contact your agent for ideas and suggestions.  And we hope that agent is us!

Stay Safe!



Believe it or not, we are on the verge of severe weather season.  As a matter of fact, as you are very much aware, deadly twisters have recently made national headlines.  Because we all know how violent and destructive these storms can be, now's a great time to review some tornado safety tips!

*In the event of a tornado warning seek shelter below ground, in a basement or storm cellar.

*If your home doesn't have a basement or cellar go to the first floor and seek an interior room, such as a closet or bathroom or under a stairwell.  Bathrooms offer additional protection in that the plumbing serves to reinforce walls and floors.  Rule of thumb:  Put as many interior walls between you and the outside as you can! 

*To protect yourself against flying debris or collapsing walls and/or ceilings cover yourself with padding, such as blankets, pillows, or a mattress.

*If you're in a public building, such as a school, office building, or mall, go to an interior hallway or small interior office or shop on the building's lowest level.  Get on the ground next to a wall and cover your head.  Stay away from windows!

*If you're in a mobile home, get out!  Seek a public shelter or a nearby sturdy building, if you can get there fast.  If not, take shelter out in the open by lying flat on low ground and covering your head with your arms.  If possible stay away from cars or trees or any other potential debris that could be blown on top of you.

*Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado.  If the tornado is visible, far away, and traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles away from the storm.  Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible.  Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building.  If in open country run to low ground away from any cars; lie flat and face down, protecting the back of your head with your arms.  Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which offer little protection against flying debris.

*In your home, have a working flashlight, battery-operated radio, and extra batteries.  Have enough non-perishable food and bottled water to get by for a few days without power.  Cooperate fully with civil authorities and emergency personnel.

*Above all, don't panic!  Stay calm; that way, you'll stay safe. 

Flooding is not covered by your Homeowners Policy!



Flooding happens everywhere, and during all seasons.  Almost every week we see images on the nightly news of communities and geographic areas that have experienced severe flooding.

If you have a homeowners policy, you can be sure of one thing:  it does NOT cover damages caused by floods!  For protection from this peril you must purchase a separate flood insurance policy.  Flood coverage is offered by the federal government through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP); it's available via insurance agencies, including Figley-Salz. 

For those of you who obtained a mortgage for a property located in a flood zone, you already know your lender requires you to buy flood insurance.  If you own your home outright, or did not have to purchase flood insurance when you obtained your mortgage, and you wish to see how much at risk your home is for flooding, please go here:

http://www.floodsmart.gov

Damage from floods can be catastrophic, but if all you have is a homeowners policy you have no protection from this peril.  Even if you don't live in a flood plain, please understand that ALL lands are susceptible to flooding; all it takes is too much rain falling on already-saturated ground.  For true peace of mind, give us a call today!

*NOTE*:  When buying a flood policy, please be advised coverage will not begin until 30 days following purchase. 

 


It's A Seller's Market!




What a difference a year makes!  Not that long ago it was a Buyer's Market, with a glut of homes and properties for sale that were driving prices down and causing several properties to languish, with no buyers, for months and months. 

Fast forward to today!  The oil and gas industry is bustling, the windmill farms are expanding, and people are moving to Woodward and the surrounding locales.

New citizens = new home buyers!

Is your growing family squeezed into its current home?  Thinking of getting a larger home to spread out?  Now's the time to sell your existing home and buy a new one!  There's an ever-growing demand for housing by folks moving into the area; put your home on the market and let its equity pave the way for you to buy a new house!  Or, if you're recent empty nesters, now's the perfect time to sell that sprawling house in exchange for a tidy and affordable condo!

Who to call?  This area is fortunate to boast several reliable and professional realtors, with Figley-Salz being one of them!  We've been helping people buy and sell properties for more than 80 years; we know the market, we know your neighborhood!  At Figley-Salz we won't inflate the price of a property just to obtain the listing; we'll evaluate a property and be honest and upfront on what we think it will bring on today's market.  You don't have time to have your home sit on the market because it's over-priced--and constantly be disappointed because the offers coming in are thousands of dollars below the asking price.  Let us put your home on the market, advertise it, and put it on the Multi-List, making it accessible to most of the other realtors in the area.  Not only that, we're happy to offer you the home seller tips, advice, and suggestions to make your property more attractive to buyers.  The better a home shows, the faster it goes!

We're thrilled to offer several residential/commercial lots for sale; check out our Real Estate Page for land just waiting for your dream home or business!  And Sara Cramer, our real estate sales associate, is more than willing to assist you in buying or selling your home or business.  It's a Seller's Market:  call Sara today.  Her cell is 580-334-4396, and our office is 580-256-3391.  Let us go to work for you!

Auto Coverage Now Required With Homeowners Policies




In Oklahoma, home insurance losses these past few years have been, for lack of a better word, horrific.  The spring storms have just been unimaginable.  Therefore, the insurance companies we represent that underwrite homeowners insurance have, without exception, insisted that they will not issue a monoline homeowners insurance policy.  In order to insure homes, they also require insuring the home owners' autos.  Unlike homeowners insurance, auto insurance has been, and continues to be, profitable for the insurance carriers.

So if you contact us for an insurance quote for your home (and we hope you do!), you will also need to furnish us information on your vehicles.  Our quote will include coverage for your home and your autos.  This is a win/win for you.  Why?  It gives us a chance to review and evaluate your current auto policy--to see if you're carrying sufficient liability limits, make sure you're carrying Uninsured Motorists, and whether or not you need Comprehensive/Collision coverage for any or all of your vehicles.  Plus--depending on the insurance carrier, your home and your vehicles--you could very well qualify for an overall discount ranging from 5 to 10%!

At Figley-Salz, we want to insure your home and vehicles.  If you own or operate a business, we wish to insure that enterprise, too.  Let us serve your insurance needs.  We'll be happy to do so!

580-256-3391
800-299-3391
mail@figley-salz.com
 


You Can't Make This Stuff Up!







Who says insurance claims are run of the mill?   We thought you might enjoy reading about the following claims ACTUALLY FILED--and paid by the insurance carriers! 

During the Holidays a dog somehow locked itself inside a refrigerator and ate the family's Thanksgiving ham while waiting to be found.  The pooch suffered from a mild case of hypothermia but sustained no serious injuries.  Pet insurance paid the animal's medical expenses.  The refrigerator needed a thorough cleaning!

Some damaged items cannot be replaced. . .like mummies, for instance.  An insurance adjuster once handled a claim for two Egyptian mummies.  Insured at $40,000 a piece, they were stored behind glass in two individual sarcophagi inside someone's home.  The homeowner had a party, a guest had too much to drink, and broke the glass of the two cases.  Fortunately the mummies were left unscathed, but the wooden cases were scratched, and the insurance carrier paid to have the sarcophagi restored.



What to do when it's next to impossible to determine a claim's value?  Such was the case with a damaged toilet seat painted by artist Jackson Pollock.  The homeowner had been friends with Pollock, and during a party one night the eccentric artist had one too many, locked himself in the bathroom, and painted the toilet.  Decades after Pollock's death the home was severely damaged by fire--including the toilet seat.  Adjusters were scratching their heads trying to figure out the seat's value. 

Because Pollock's paintings were selling for $1 million each at the time of the claim, adjusters had to come up with a settlement between that amount and a $20 toilet seat.  The claimant ended up settling for $820 cash. 

So. . .if you ever experience a strange insurance occurrence, chances are something stranger has happened before!

Source:  www.articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/Insure



Earthquake Insurance

 

A couple of months ago we advised that, due to the sudden outbreak of earthquakes in central Oklahoma, the insurance carriers offering earthquake insurance in the Sooner state were issuing a waiting period before they would begin to bind this coverage again.  We now have some markets that have announced they will issue either stand alone earthquake policies or endorsements to existing homeowners policies providing coverage for earthquake damages. 

 

But be forewarned!  The deductibles for earthquake insurance are substantial, ranging anywhere from 1% of the building limit (for instance, a $1,500 deductible for a $150,000 building) to a deductible amount of $20,000.  In essence, this is insurance that will only respond if earthquake damage is severe.  And the minimum premium for a stand alone earthquake policy is $2,000. 

 

Due to what we've seen in recent months, there is indeed an earthquake exposure in Oklahoma.  If you would like to enquire about this insurance and see how much it would cost for your home or business, by all means contact us!

 

580-256-3391

800-299-3391

mail@figley-salz.com

 

 

Get An Insurance Check Up!

 

We suggest that, in this new year of 2012, you get an insurance check up.  Why do we suggest this?  Well, we're happy to explain!

 

Most insurance consumers know full well that if they buy a new car as a replacement or as an addition to call their agent to report it; however, there are a host of other activities many people do that radically change their insurance exposures--yet they never let their agent know (until it's too late!).  For instance, did you recently start a home business, either full or part-time?  The standard homeowners policy offers only minimal insurance for a home-based business (virtually negligible coverage for business liability and business equipment), so getting the proper coverage is a must!

 

Valuable items (jewelry, art, guns, furs, collectibles) have very low limits for theft coverage under a homeowners policy --unless the policy is endorsed to cover these valuables up to their replacement cost.  If you've recently purchased valuable items that are theft-prone it's very much in your best interest to call your agent and get the proper coverage for these possessions.

 

Did you add a swimming pool?  Install a wood-burning stove?  We can guarantee your agent and your homeowners underwriter very much want to know this!  Anything you've done to your home or business that increases a fire hazard or a bodily injury exposure needs to be reported to your agent:  the sooner the better!

 

Speaking of businesses, if you as a business owner obtained new equipment (a forklift, new computers and hardware, expensive tools, etc.) and you want to make sure this property is covered call your agent.  If you are in the business of say, general construction and you've decided to add roofing as a new service to your operation it is vital you let your agent know you're doing a new line of work.  If you're a restaurant proprietor who's  decided to begin serving liquor. . .your agent needs to be advised.  Opening a branch, or acquiring an existing business?  Get on the phone!

 

Not reporting a huge new exposure such as any of the above, and then finding out the hard way (a claim) there is little, or no, coverage, is a very expensive lesson to learn!  If you're not sure, or want us to take a look at your policies and exposures to give you peace of mind you have adequate insurance, call or come by.  We'll be glad to give you an insurance check up!

Medical Payments: What Are They?

 

Take a look at the Declarations Page of your auto policy.  Or your homeowners policy.  Or (if you own or run a business) your commercial general liability policy.  Chances are you'll find a dollar amount--generally much, much smaller than your liability limits--for Medical Payments.

 

So what are Medical Payments?

 

Think of Med Pay as a kind of No Fault layer of protection on your policy.  Let's say you and a friend are on your way to a sporting event, with you driving your car.  It's a cold, icy day, and you're driving carefully, within the speed limit. . .but you still hit a patch of black ice, lose control of your vehicle, and careen into a ditch.  Your friend is banged up as a result, and you call an ambulance just to be on the safe side to get him to the nearest ER and get checked out.  In this case, the Medical Payments portion of your auto policy would be triggered, and your insurance carrier would pay for your friend's treatment (up to the limits on the Medical Payments portion of the policy)--even though you the insured were not negligent.

 

The same could be applied to an auto accident with another vehicle where neither driver was at fault--or both drivers contributed to the accident.  Any subsequent injuries could be paid out of the Medical Payments limits before any Liability limits are tapped.

 

Here's another example.  You own a business, and a customer comes into your office and trips over the leg of a chair in front of a desk and falls.  The customer complains of back pain, so you phone an ambulance to transport her to the hospital for medical treatment.  The chair wasn't placed in a high traffic area to indicate negligence on your part, so think of your Medical Payments limits as a goodwill gesture to pay for injuries that occurr on your premises.  Med Pay is a great enhancement to have on any liability policy, and as a general rule it's not expensive.  So if you don't have Medical Payments on your policy be sure to ask for them! 

Insure to Value!

 

Following a total loss, the last thing you want to find out is it will cost $200,000 to rebuild your home, and $110,000 to replace your contents. . .and for years you've been carrying a homeowners policy with a $155,000 limit on the structure and $75,000 for the contents.  Now THAT'S adding salt to an open wound!

 

Even with the real estate market down, it's still expensive for new construction; if you've been carrying the same limits on your home and contents for years and years, chances are very good you're underinsured--and you don't want to get caught off-guard in the event of a loss.  Give us a call and let us do a cost estimator on your home; sure, if the current limit is too low and we write you a policy with a higher limit you'll be paying more in premium, but wouldn't you rather be paying a few extra dollars more for insurance than having to absorb thousands and thousands of dollars because you were underinsured?  Make sure you insure to value!

 

(This is not only true with homeowners.  If you own a business then make sure your building and contents are insured to value.  In the event of a total loss you need sufficient limits to rebuild and restock.  Give us a call today!)

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

 

The first winter precipitation of the season always carries a little excitement--even though by February everyone is tired of it.  (Well, let's hope by February we're all sick of too much winter precip!)  So we decided to check out two things when it comes to snowfall:  1) What location holds the record for the most snowfall during one winter; and 2) what location, year after year, averages the most snowfall each winter?  You might be surprised to learn that, in all the world, both locations are in the United States!

 

The world record for the highest seasonal total of snowfall was measured in the United States at Mount Baker Ski Area, outside of Bellingham, Washington.  During the 1998-99 season, Mount Baker received 1,140 inches of snow!  Now that's a lot of shoveling!

 

Located in south central Alaska, the Chugach Mountain Range averages the most seasonal snowfall, winter after winter.  Each year an average of 600 inches of snow falls on these mountains! 

 

Finally, closer to home, it should come as no surprise that record snowfalls for Oklahoma have occurred in this region.  Beaver has the distinction for having the most snowfall of any Oklahoma town during one winter--87.3 inches during the winter of 1911-12!  In February 1971 (and those of us who were in this area at the time remember it well!), Buffalo experienced the most snowfall in one month--36 inches!  And we all remember the freak snowstorm that hit northwest Oklahoma in March of 2009 that walloped communities with 20 to 25 inches of snow!

 

So while it's very unlikely this region will ever experience a winter with 600 inches of snow, it's always with anticipation we look forward to the season's first snow.  It also lends magic to the Holiday Season!  But while we marvel at its beauty, let's remember to drive carefully!

 

Stay Warm, But Stay Safe!

 

It's hard to believe after such a brutal summer, but the cold weather season is here!  Many of us use space heaters to supplement (key word:  supplement!) our home heating, but these appliances should always be used carefully and with safety utmost in our minds.  Here are some tips to remember as we get all cozy inside as the cold rages outside!

 

--Before using your space heater read the operating instructions.  By reading the instructions you'll learn how to use the product safely and maintain it properly.

 

--Never use your space heater near water!  The box or instruction manual will tell you if the heater is intended for use in locations such as bathrooms or outdoors; if this information is missing, do not use your space heater in either of these areas.

 

--Carefully inspect your heater, its cord, and its plug before using.  Never use a heater that is damaged.

 

--Space heaters are never intended to replace your home's heating system.  Use your space heater ONLY as a supplementary source of heat!

 

--Keep combustibles--such as draperies, clothing, and furniture--at a safe distance--at least three feet away--from your space heater.

 

--Use space heaters only on a level floor; don't place it on a table or chair, or on an uneven surface. 

 

--Pay special attention to children!  Remind them not to poke their fingers or objects through the protective guard.  Even the slightest contact with a heating coil can cause electric shock, or start a fire.

 

--Avoid using an extension cord with your heater.

 

--Unplug your space heater when not in use.

 

No doubt it's going to be a cold winter.  So stay warm--but stay safe! 

Earthquake Insurance

 

We've all been surprised and concerned over the recent outbreak of moderate to strong earthquakes in central Oklahoma.  Because such an outbreak is so rare very few homes and businesses in Oklahoma carry earthquake insurance.

 

So the question becomes:  Is earthquake insurance available?

 

The answer is yes, it's available.  But, the insurance carriers--due to this outbreak--are waiting 30 days from the occurrence of the quakes before they will bind earthquake coverage on a business or residence.  And, should there be another strong outbreak, they will probably extend such a deadline another 30 days.  Let's hope this doesn't happen!

 

So if you are interested in purchasing this coverage for your home or business, a waiting period is required.  We will certainly get the word out when earthquake coverage is available for purchase again! 

Have A Happy, And SAFE, Halloween!

 

Halloween is a great holiday for kids to have a grand time!  Unfortunately it's also a time when children can be placed in unsafe surroundings or situations.  To make sure this upcoming Halloween is not only fun, but safe, here are a few tips and suggestions:

 

*Small children ALWAYS should be accompanied by an adult.  And the adult should be carrying a flashlight.

 

*Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup or face paint and decorative hats as safer alternatives.  When shopping for costumes look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant. 

 

*Plan costumes that are bright and reflective.  Make sure any costume shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping or entanglement. 

 

*Small children should never carve pumpkins!  Let them draw a face on the pumpkin with markers; then the parents can do the cutting.

 

*If older children are going trick or treating without adult supervision, plan and review a route that is acceptable to you.  Agree on a specific time when they should be home.

 

*Only go to homes with a porch light on and NEVER enter a home or car for a treat.

 

*Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk; don't cut across yards or use alleys.

 

*Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks.  Never cross between parked cars or out of driveways. 

 

*Don't assume the right of way!  Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters; just because one car stops doesn't mean others will!

 

*In addition to a flashlight the accompanying adult should also have a cell phone.  Older children without adult supervision should also be carrying a cell phone. 

 

*It's always best to visit neighborhoods where you know most of the people, or neighborhoods known to be safe and well-lit.  Halloween is not the time of year to explore an unknown part of town!

 

*Wait until the kids are home to sort out and inspect Halloween treats.  Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious items.

 

And above all, have fun! 

Tips for Teens

 

So you've got a brand new teen driver at your household?  How exciting!  But, as we all know, driving entails a world of responsibility.  Make sure your teen driver realizes how much power he or she is commanding every time they get behind the wheel!  And to help you, mom and dad, deal with your new insurance situation, here are some helpful tips to reduce costs and give you more peace of mind:

 

*If you put your 16-year-old in a brand new sports car, be prepared to part with some serious coin when it comes to insurance.  Teen drivers are very expensive to insure, and putting them in late-model sports cars (or expensive cars) only adds to that expense.  It's always a good idea beforehand to contact your agent and get a ballpark figure of how much it will cost to insure a vehicle you and your teen have your eyes on.  And we hope that agent is us!

 

*Does your teen make good grades?  Many auto insurers will give discounts to student drivers who make A's and B's.  Also, many insurers give discounts if your teen takes and completes a driver education program.  Contact your agent for details.

 

*If you have a choice put your teen as the primary driver of your oldest, least costly vehicle.  This will also save on insurance rates.

 

*Always check the crash safety rating and average repair cost of the vehicle you're thinking about getting your teen.  This, too, will affect insurance rates.

 

*Have your teen use their smart phone (but not while driving!), or have them keep in the vehicle a disposable camera in the event of an accident, so that they can take pictures to record the damage to all cars, along with the placement of cars.  BUT, if the accident occurs in traffic first get out of the traffic and move to a safe and secure spot.  When there's an accident it's always smart to document, document, document.

 

*If it's a minor crash it might be better to pay for damages out of pocket and not report the incident to your insurance company.  (If there are injuries then you absolutely must report it.)  For a teenager, having an accident--even a minor one--may cause your rates to increase substantially.  When in doubt whether or not to report an accident please contact your agent.

 

And be safe out there! 

Where the wind comes sweeping. . . .

 

Goodness, has it ever been windy in this area!  (Let's keep our fingers crossed these winds will bring much-needed, beneficial rains.)  As everyone knows who lives in northwest Oklahoma and the surrounding environs, this is windy, often blustery, country, the calm days being the exception to the rule.  When it's not storming, a typical windy day features sustained winds in excess of 25 mph, with gusts above 40.  But when compared to the surface winds that took place on New Hampshire's Mount Washington on April 12, 1934, our windy days are small potatoes!

 

Atop the mountain, Mount Washington Observatory had been established two years earlier, in 1932, to measure the severity of winters in that area.  Accordingly the observation station was still staffed in April of 1934, as most winters at that elevation in that region last until May.  During that time the area became sandwiched between a low pressure ridge moving in from the west, and a huge ridge of high pressure to the north and east, creating an extremely tight pressure gradient.  Winds in excess of 100 mph began blowing on April 11th; by the afternoon of the 12th the wind speed had reached an amazing 231 mph out of the southeast!  This would prove to be the highest natural surface wind velocity ever recorded by means of an anemometer, anywhere in the world. 

 

Let's hope there are no 230 mph winds in store for this area, but it's always a good idea to minimize risks for damage during prolonged windy periods.  Tree limbs are an obvious culprit for damage, with limbs crashing down to damage roofs, vehicles, and fences.  This is a good time of year to trim trees with long, extended branches--particularly if those branches extend over your neighbor's property.  Is your yard fenced?  If you have fence panels that have worked loose from battering winds, be sure to repair and reinforce those panels; otherwise you run the risk of having the whole fence come down!  Light lawn furniture can become airborn during particularly windy stretches; be sure these objects are safely stored away.  In northwest Oklahoma the wind does come sweeping down the plain; let's all make sure that when it does, the damage is minimal!

 

Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs

 

Is your job dangerous?  Or, if you're an employer, do you think your workers compensation insurance rates are too high?  Well, chances are those rates are a fraction of the workers comp rates for the following Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs, as determined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics!  Here they are:

 

1.  Commercial Fishing.  Despite technological advancements and safety training, equipment, and procedures, commercial fishing remains the deadliest job in America.  (Based on number of deaths per thousand employed.)  They don't call the reality show Deadliest Catch for nothing!

 

2.  Loggers.  And they have their own reality TV show, too!

 

3.  Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers.  Fortunately, the major airline pilots make up a tiny, tiny portion of this category!

 

4.  Farmers and Ranchers.  Which make up a large segment of our population here!  We appreciate and applaud your efforts to put food on America's tables.  Be careful out there!

 

5.  Mining Machine Operators.  Based on the photo above, no other words are necessary!

 

6.  Roofers.

 

7.  Refuse and Recyclable Materials Collectors.  Who knew garbage could be so dangerous!

 

8.  Truck Drivers.  Long hours and thousands of miles on the road can take their toll. 

 

9.  Industrial Machinery Installation, Repair and Maintenance Workers.  Industrial machinery is big, heavy, and powerful; working around it is always dangerous!

 

10.  Police and Sheriff's Officers.  They put their lives on the line every single day, and we are grateful and appreciative! 

 

And just because your job is not on this list doesn't mean you don't need to do everything possible to make yourself and your coworkers as safe as possible.  Always practice workplace safety.  No need for you to become a workers comp statistic! 

 

 

 

Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost

 

You're thinking about putting your home on the market.  It's a nice, neat home, 1500 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, two-car garage.  So you call a realtor (and we hope that's us!) and have them come out to give you an estimate of the market value of your home; they tell you the market value is $108,000. 

 

Wait a minute. . .

 

You take out your homeowners policy and discover the Replacement Cost of your home is $157,500!  If it costs $157,500 to replace the structure, why isn't it worth that much on the market? 

 

Based on the cost of construction, materials, labor, etc., replacing a home is overwhelmingly going to be more expensive than the fair market value of a house.  Market value reflects so many other factors, including age of the dwelling, condition, location, and demand.  All property--your home included--depreciates over time.  Which brings us to Actual Cash Value.

 

It is always cheaper to buy insurance for dwellings at Actual Cash Value (ACV).  Actual Cash Value is Replacement  Cost minus depreciation.  The older a house, the worse its condition, the more the depreciation off Replacement Cost value.  If you carry ACV on your homeowners policy you do not carry a sufficient limit to rebuild your home exactly like it was, based on current construction costs.  To some consumers this is perfectly acceptable, because in the event of a catastrophic loss they are content with taking the ACV settlement and not rebuilding.  But for the vast majority of homeowners, we can't stress enough the importance of insuring your home--and its contents--at Replacement Cost Value.  In the event your home is destroyed, you'll be able to rebuild and replace!

 

As always, feel free to give us a call for more details! 

 

Workers Comp 101

 

So you don't own or run an operation where your employees are exposed to dangerous work.  (Working in the oilfield, roofers, heavy equipment operators, construction, to name but a few examples.)  Your operations are primarily an office environment.  With the exception of perhaps one or two sales associates who spend the majority of their time out making sales, everyone else in your operation sits behind his or her desk. 

 

Should you be concerned about work-related injuries?

 

Yes!!

 

All employees are exposed to injury.  Some injuries are even unique to office work, like carpal tunnel syndrome.  An injured employee taking time off from work is costly--to your business, and ultimately to your workers compensation insurance premium.  (The higher your Loss History, the higher you pay.)  Keep your workplace safe!  Here are just a few suggestions, many of them plain common sense:

 

--Minimize any clutter between offices and desks.  Clutter on the floor, between desks, around desks, and in hallways are major tripping hazards.  Put files, reports, printouts, and other similar materials in file cabinets and on shelves where they belong!

 

--Make sure all rooms and passageways are well lit.  Stumbling along in the dark will definitely result in someone stumbling to the ground for sure!

 

--Are there any doors that are difficult to open, or close?  And we're not just talking about doors going into buildings or rooms--think about pulling open heavy metal filing cabinet doors full of material.  Anything in your office that causes physical exertion to open or close should be repaired or resolved.

 

--Ergonomics.  Ergonomic chairs and keyboards are a wonderful investment, going a long way to prevent carpal tunnel and back injuries. 

 

Make your workplace as safe as possible.  Your employees will appreciate it, and you'll appreciate the workers comp savings!

Personal Liability. What is that?

 

We all understand why we need liability coverage for our cars:  If we cause an accident resulting in property damage and/or bodily injury to other vehicles, property, or persons, our liability insurance will address those expenses. 

 

But take a look at your homeowners policy.  The vast majority of them include limits for Personal Liability.  They could be $100,000 per occurrence, $300,000 per occurrence, even $600,000 per occurrence. 

 

So what is Personal Liability Insurance? 

 

Let's start with your home and its surrounding premises (your yard, the driveway, etc.).  Slips and falls are a major exposure here, so if the mailman slips on one of your children's toys left on the sidewalk and injures his back, your Personal Liability coverage is triggered.  And, as with our illustration above, if Fido gets a little too aggressive with the air conditioner repairman and causes an injury, Personal Liability will address those expenses, too.  (But careful here!  Some policies exclude damage or injury caused by pets, or are endorsed to exclude injuries from certain breeds of dogs.  Always check your policy carefully!)

 

But here's the really neat thing about Personal Liability Insurance:  It's always with you, wherever you are!  (Most homeowners policies offer coverage for Insureds in the U.S. and its possessions.)  So if you're on vacation and accidentally drop that digital camera from the second floor balcony of your cruise ship and it lands on the noggin of a passenger down below, Personal Liability is there!  Did you slice your drive at the country club and take out a window of one of the elegant retirement homes that nowadays surround golf courses?  Personal Liability will respond! 

 

And you don't have to be a homeowner.  If you're a tenant you need renter's insurance for your personal possessions; while you are getting this coverage ask your agent to include Personal Liability coverage as well.  Accidents do happen, and they can be costly.  Personal Liability is vital!

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

 

Close your eyes and think about every room in your home--even about the contents in your garage.  From memory, can you recall all the different types of furniture, flooring, window coverings, accessories, clothing, and other belongings in every room?  Very few of us could!  So, in the event of a catastrophic loss--a tornado, or a fire--could you recall, and subsequently replace, the contents of your home?

 

Fortunately, almost all of us have cell phones with cameras and video recorders these days!  It takes only minutes to go through your home and take pictures of every room, giving you an actual visual of the contents in each.  Better yet, turn on your phone's camcorder and make a video, with you or someone in your family narrating what types of furniture, flooring, and window coverings are in the frame.  In the event of a total loss, you'll have actual video documentation of the contents of your home--something both you and your adjuster will appreciate!

 

Have you purchased a new living room suit recently?  Thinking about getting a new flat screen?  Have you bought new bedroom furniture?  Going to install new flooring in the kitchen?  Keep those invoices and/or receipts as you make improvements to your home, and keep them in a safe place!  If you carry Replacement Cost for the contents of your home (and we certainly recommend that you do!), these documents are invaluable! 

 

Document, document, document.  If you ever experience a severe loss, you'll be glad you did!

 

 

Make Your Home Sale-Ready!

 

Are you contemplating putting your home on the market?  If so, we hope you'll call us:  We've been helping clients sell and buy homes for over 80 years!

 

Did you know there are a few minor things you can do to your property to help it sell faster?  Follow these tips, and you'll have an offer on your home sooner rather than later!

 

--A fresh coat.  How does the exterior of your home look?  Could it stand a new paint job?  Perhaps the trim needs to be touched up?  Freshly painted exteriors make most homes look newer, more vibrant, and fresher; plus the curb appeal is priceless!

 

--Interior painting.  Is there a bedroom that is in need of fresh paint?  Living room?  Garage?  A room with peeling paint or wallpaper is an instant turn-off to potential buyers; a room that is gleaming with a fresh coat of paint says "Buy me!"  There's not much cost to you, or labor, to paint a room, and in the long run it can mean more dollars in your pocket!

 

--Bathrooms can be deal makers--or deal breakers.  Before putting your home on the market, thoroughly clean all bathrooms--then make your family commit to keeping them clean.  Messy bathrooms, stained tubs and showers, outdated toilets--all chase buyers away.  Put in fresh shower curtains, replace old and ugly commodes, and have your bathrooms gleaming and shining. 

 

--Clutter-free equals quick sell.  Stacks of newspapers, books, magazines, board games, toys, etc., drive buyers away in droves.  If you have a room (or rooms) with too much clutter, pick it up and put the items away in a closet or other form of storage.  In fact, stuffed closets are an eyesore as well; it's well worth the investment to rent a storage unit and put excess clutter there while your home is on the market, just to keep closets at a minimum of occupancy.  

 

--The portrait gallery.  Does your living room have dozens of family pictures and portraits on the walls?  This may be a source of pride and family unity to you, but to a buyer it's too much on the eyes.  Minimize wall coverings while your home is on the market.  When it comes to selling a property keep this rule of thumb in mind:  Less is more!

 

--Flooring.  Worn out, or dirty, carpet or flooring is an instant deal breaker.  Replacing carpet or linoleum can instantly take your home from no-go to must-show!  Ask yourself this:  Would you rather be out a few hundred dollars for new flooring, only to recoup it by selling your home quickly, or have your house--bad flooring and all--just sit on the market?  Listings that linger cost their owners untold thousands!

 

--Kitchens.  Do cooktops and ovens and microwaves look rundown and worn out?  Has the dishwasher worn out its welcome?  In need of a new sink?  An investment here and there in the kitchen can mean the difference between turning a quick sell and having a home sit totally neglected by buyers. 

 

--Landscaping.  Keep that yard mowed, neat, and trim.  Keep flower beds clean and weed-free.  If trees are in need of trimming, make that investment!  The first thing to attract the eye of a buyer is how your home appears on the curb.  Make it a positive first impression!

 

Most buyers are looking for properties that are ready to move into with minimum preparation.  If your home tells a buyer, "I can move into this place tomorrow!", you're going to make a quick sell!  The better a home shows, the faster it goes!

The Higher Your Credit Score, the Lower Your Premium!

 

It might seem odd, but most insurance companies look at credit scores when determining rates for homeowners and auto insurance policies.  Why?  Believe it or not, statistically speaking insurance consumers with higher credit scores tend to file less auto and homeowners claims, while the opposite is true for consumers with low scores. 

 

So not only is it a good rule of thumb to have a good credit history for future borrowing worthiness, it also helps you save on your insurance dollars!  And if your credit score is on the weak side, now is as good a time as any to start consolidating debt, cutting back on non-priority expenses, and living within one's means. 

 

Do you have a family budget?  If you don't, it's a good idea to come up with one.  If you don't have a check balancing program like Quicken on your computer, we recommend installing software of this nature; the program really keeps track of your expenses, categorizes them, and gives you an excellent idea of where most of your dollars are being spent.  This will assist you in coming up with a realistic budget that everyone can strive to live within.  After all, there are so many expenditures that can be cut (cell phone plans trimmed back, rolling back to basic cable, adjusting the thermostat to conserve energy, buying more generic brands at the grocery store, using coupons, we could go on and on!); you'll be amazed at how a tweak here and there will really add up in the long run, giving you more dollars to pay off debt.  And then you'll see those credit numbers move north!

 

Credit scoring for personal lines insurance has been implemented for the better part of a decade, and it looks like it's here to stay.  So protect a high credit score, and pay less insurance premium dollars! 

 

 

Communication Is Key!

 

Own or operate a business?  Are you proud of that brand new sign you just had erected out front--sleek, slick, and expensive--that sign all your customers are raving about?  Here's another question:  Did you let your insurance agent know you put this sign up?  If so, good for you!  If not, trouble could well be brewing on down the road. . .

 

Most Business Owners policies and Commercial Property policies have very limited coverage for signs attached to your premises, or for outdoor signs (many have no coverage at all for outdoor signs!).  Anyone who has just erected a sign knows these structures aren't cheap; so just think of how much it will hurt your bottom line when those inevitable High Plains winds come roaring in, either sending it to the ground, or causing substantial damage! 

 

So be sure to contact your agent whenever you place a new sign on your building, on your lot, or at another location; otherwise you'll be rolling dice that eventually will turn up snake eyes.  Your agent will have your insurance carrier endorse the policy to add the sign as another insured structure; once it's insured, let those winds blow with peace of mind!

 

And we're not just talking about signs; many organizations install communication towers, transmittors, satellite dishes, etc., for a myriad of reasons.  This type of equipment, too, has only minimum coverage on most Business Owners and Commercial Property policies.  So get on the phone to your agent whenever you add expensive property to your premises or your contents.  When it comes to insurance excellence, communication is key! 

Tire Safety: Prevent Those Blowouts!

 

This agonizing heat is brutal on everyone and everything--tires included!  Take a drive on any highway in this area and you'll see ample evidence of tire blowouts--mainly in the form of shreds of rubber scattered along the roadway.  If you've never experienced a blowout, trust us:  It can be terrifying, and extremely dangerous if you lose control of your vehicle as a result.  Obviously the best way to prevent blowouts is to practice tire safety.  We thought we'd share a few tips!

 

 

*If you don't know how to read a tire sidewall, now's a good time to start!  Learn everything from the size of your tire, to its maximum load capacity, speed capacity, its temperature grades and treadwear number (the higher the number, the longer it should take for the tread to wear down). 

 

*Know the proper inflation for your tires, and check them monthly (especially this time of year).  An underinflated tire increases heat, and on already blazing hot road surfaces this is a dangerous combination!  If you don't have a good tire gauge, get one; knowing in advance your tire is underinflated is vital information to know!

 

*Rotate, rotate, rotate.  For maximum mileage, rotate your tires every 5,000 miles. 

 

*Inspect and evaluate.  Check for wear on the shoulders, wear in the centers, irregular tread bars, and other signs of obvious wear.  And all you need to check your treads is a penny.  Place a penny in one of the treads; if the top of Abe Lincoln's head can be seen, the treads are worn and need replacing. 

 

*Buy only new tires.  It's never a good idea to buy used tires--you're only borrowing inevitable trouble. 

 

So practice tire safety.  Not only will it give you better peace of mind when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, you'll also improve your car's fuel economy, putting more money in your pocket!

 

Additional Insureds--If you own the building, you want to be one!

 

Think of all the different groups that, by the good nature of the buildings' owners, meet at churches, schools, hospitals, or office buildings.  Whether it's a booster club meeting at the high school, a scout troop holding weekly meetings at a church, or a local livestock association meeting in an office building, all these groups are doing activities not related to the normal operations of the host buildings. 

 

Let's say a civic club is holding their quarterly fundraiser in a school building, and one of their large displays is blocking a fire exit, and a fire ensues.  As a result, a few people are injured, and claims are made against the school, which owns the building.  Of course the school is covered under its liability policy, but shouldn't this coverage be secondary--not primary?  After all, the party at fault is the civic club.  Can this problem be remedied?

 

You bet!  If the civic club has a general liability policy, the school would be covered under this policy by being added as an Additional Insured.  So in the example cited above, the school could seek coverage under the club's policy for any claims made against it. 

 

Granted, many clubs and troops and other organizations have no insurance, finding it cost prohibitive.  But if you're the owner of a building, or the administrator of a public building, and you allow other groups to routinely meet on your premises, ask them if they carry liability insurance.  (If they are doing any activities or operations that place your building at substantial risk insist they carry liability insurance!)  If they do have a general liability policy, insist on being added to it as an Additional Insured.  It's peace of mind coverage you'll be glad to have!

All That Glitters. . .

 

Fewer things are more elegant and gorgeous than jewelry.  A diamond ring, a pendant, a necklace that's been in the family for generations--how valuable they are to us!

 

But. . .check your homeowners policy.  By far most of them only have limited coverage for precious jewelry, should the jewelry become lost or stolen.  And those are your biggest exposures for jewelry!  If you lose that $8,500 wedding ring while on vacation in the Bahamas, you're not going to be very happy when your homeowners carrier only cuts you a check for, say, $2,500!  So what to do?

 

Endorse your homeowners policy!  For only a few extra dollars you can insure your jewelry to value, giving you peace of mind.  And not only can you endorse your policy for jewelry; you can cover any other valuables, including art. . .furs. . .guns. . .a valuable stamp collection. . .precious mints.  There's no need for you to be unprotected!

 

(If you are not a homeowner you can protect your valuable assets by purchasing a Personal Articles Floater.  Just call your agent.)

 

Any questions about your valuable possessions?  Give us a call today!

Plan Ahead & Be Safe!

 

With the drought extreme and this oppressive heat, fire conditions are exceedingly dangerous.  It always pays to plan ahead and be prepared in the event of a fire; here are some common sense tips and suggestions:

 

--Are you a smoker?  Never throw your cigarette butt out your car window!  Countless grass fires begin by discarded cigarettes.  Another rule of thumb for smokers:  Don't smoke in bed.  Falling asleep with a lit cigarette in your hand is a recipe for disaster.

 

--Do you have a charcoal grill?  Enjoy your outdoor cookouts, but be safe!  Don't grill around grass or other vegetation, and it's vital to place your grill where it's shielded from gusty winds.  And don't leave your grill unattended! 

 

--In your home, do you have a fire escape plan?  It's best to have a plan with at least two ways of escaping every room in your dwelling.  Test windows and doors; do they open easily enough, are they wide and/or tall enough?  

 

--Choose a safe meeting place outside the house.

 

--Always sleep with your door closed.  This will keep deadly smoke and heat outside your bedroom, giving you valuable time to escape.

 

--In a fire time is critical.  Don't waste time getting dressed, or looking for pets or valuables.  Just get out!

 

--In the event of a fire, follow these crucial steps.  Stay low!  Feel all doors before opening them; if a door is hot, get out another way.  And our schools teach this to our kids, because it is exactly what you must do if your clothes catch on fire:  stop, drop, and roll!

 

--Install smoke detectors.  Check them once a month, and change batteries at least once a year.  At least one smoke detector should be installed on every level of a structure.  Purchase only smoke detectors labeled by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).

 

--Matches and lighters are dangerous!  Store them where kids can't reach them, preferably in a locked area.  Teach children that matches and lighters are "tools" only to be used by adults. 

 

--Make sure you have a safe fire escape method for all situations.  You may have installed a very expensive home security system, but if it delays you escaping from a fire you have a false level of confidence!

 

For more tips and information, feel free to visit here:

http://firesafetytips.com/default.htm#additional

And be safe!

Down, Fido!

 

A few months back we blogged about dogs.  If you own a dog and your agent doesn't know about this exposure, you need to get on the phone and call him or her.  To review, some homeowners policies exclude third party injuries caused by certain agressive breeds of dogs; some policies exclude property damage and/or bodily injury caused by pets of any kind.  To be sure you have protection check your policy carefully--or call your agent. 

 

Yes, dogs are lovable and adorable, but the reality is dogs bite, causing injuries and claims.  Just how expensive are these injuries?  You may want to take a deep breath before you read on!

 

The Insurance Information Institute reports insurance companies paid out a staggering $412 million in dog-bite claims in 2010--and the average cost per claim has steadily increased.

 

On average, a dog-bite claim cost $26,166 last year, compared to $24,840 in 2009.  Insurance companies received 15,770 dog-bite claims in 2010.

 

Think about it.  If your homeowners policy doesn't cover injuries caused by pets--or excludes injuries caused by a certain breed which you own--you could be faced with a claim over $20,000. . .or more. . .that you'll have to pay out of your own pocket.  Make sure you're protected! 

 

Plus, take common sense safety steps.  Have a fenced back yard, or keep your pet on a leash when it's outside.  Even if your furry loved one has a friendly disposition and is not aggressive, all dogs are unpredictable, and all dogs yield to their instincts when they feel threatened.  Be safe!

 

(Source:  American Agent & Broker, June 2011)

Play Ball!

 

Sports fans, who doesn't enjoy an exciting game of football, an NBA playoff game, or a hard-fought baseball game?  As we all know, these are physical games, and players get injured--often to the detriment of their teams and themselves.  So how do players and professional franchises protect themselves?  If your answer is "Insurance," you would be correct! 

 

Randy Johnson.  Roger Clemens.  One would assume that either their teams, or the pitchers themselves, would have insured their valuable arms during their fabulous careers.  Yet professional sports teams take an all-or-nothing approach; why insure a body part when you can insure the entire package?  Rather than insure their franchise player's parts, these teams take out disability insurance on the athlete himself. . .

. . .like the St. Louis Cardinals did, when they took out a $12 million disability policy on former slugger Mark McGwire. 

 

Teams take a wildly divergent approach to insurance.  Years earlier, the San Francisco Giants insured only one player--Barry Bonds. 

That policy wasn't renewed in 2001, as it was the final year of Bonds's contract, and the deductible was more than the premium!

 

Sometimes players take on the insurance burden themselves--especially players who have sustained injuries and want to be attractive to teams willing to risk signing them.  Outfielder Juan Gonzalez and quarterback Kurt Warner are two examples of players who insured themselves for millions of dollars.

 

Of course, some athletes are so successful--and so rich--they are beyond insurance.  Tiger Woods, for example, makes so much money that to insure himself against injury would cost him upwards to $20 million a year--often more than he makes in winnings per year (most of his money comes from, or used to, from endorsements).  And had Tiger been able to purchase insurance, based on his recent spate of injuries the policies would be paying dearly!

 

So the next time you cheer on your favorite athlete, keep in mind there's a good chance insurance has got his or her back!

 

*Source:  Bankrate.com

Will You Be Caught Unprepared?

 

This has been a devastating season for tornadoes--nationwide--resulting in hundreds killed and injured, and billions in damage.  You and your family cannot afford to be unprepared in the event one of these deadly storms approaches; if you don't have a tornado preparation plan, now's the time to make one!

 

*At home, have a tornado plan in place, based on the dwelling you have.  Know where you can take shelter in seconds, and have a family tornado drill at least once a year.

 

*Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster.

 

*Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlight, both in working order.  Have bottled water on hand and non-perishable food that will last for several days.  A First-Aid kit is always handy.

 

*When a tornado watch is issued, think about your family drill and check to make sure your supplies are available.  Turn on local TV, radio, or NOAA Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings.

 

*If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where there are bathrooms, storage rooms, or other interior areas away from windows, and the shortest ways to get there. 

 

*After the tornado, keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.  Carefully render aid to those who are injured.  Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity.  Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.  Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings in danger of collapse.  In case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks, do not use matches or lighters!  Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from energency personnel or local officials. 

 

For complete, detailed summary of safety tips and recommendations, please visit here:  http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html .

 

Very Costly

 

We're not even halfway through 2011, but already we've witnessed several catastrophic disasters with damages in the billions.  It began with the devastating earthquake/tsunami in Japan last March, and has continued with a record-breaking onslaught of severe weather in the south.  Last month's tornadoes that tore through Alabama and other southern states caused tens of billions in damage; even here in Oklahoma we've had numerous weather-related occurrences this spring.  And now we're witnessing catastrophic flood losses up and down the Mississippi River Valley.

 

Hurricane season has yet to begin, and we're just entering the most dangerous part of the severe weather season here in America's heartland.  More catastrophic damage could lie ahead.

 

Insurance companies protect themselves for major losses such as these by purchasing what's called reinsurance.  In essence, when a certain event (for example, a tornado) causes an insurer to pay claims to a certain limit (say $40 million), their reinsurance is then triggered to come in and pay all remaining losses.  Accordingly the reinsurance companies are on the verge of paying out billions of dollars in catastrophic claims.

 

Following losses such as what we've just witnessed, the reinsurance carriers will renegotiate their contracts and rates with insurance companies, resulting in increased costs to purchase reinsurance.  The insurance companies will then increase their premiums to insurance consumers to defray these increases, causing premiums to go up for homeowners, personal auto, and commercial insurance. 

 

All insurance market models point to increased costs for insurance products as we move toward the second half of 2011.  Which reinforces the very real and sobering reality that catastrophic losses affect us all.

 

 

Dry as a bone. . .

 

Dry and windy conditions these past months have everyone thinking drought. . .and hoping for much-needed moisture!  While we're all concerned with lack of adequate rainfall we thought it would be interesting to take a look at places that are REALLY dry.  If you think we've got it bad here in northwest Oklahoma, think again!

 

*With just 0.03 inches of rain per year, Arica, Chile is the driest place on earth.  For over 14 years, from October 1903 to January 1918, Arica had the longest period without rain ever recorded--a drought of 173 months!

 

*Las Vegas, Nevada, has the dubious distinction of being the driest city in the United States, averaging just 4.5 inches of rain annually.  The driest year on record is 1953, when just 0.56 inches fell in the city.

 

The drought in our region has been classified as D3 (Extreme), and is forecast to linger.  Let's all keep hoping that drought-busting rain arrives; the sooner, the better!

 

Yes, Insurance can be Entertaining!

 

We've blogged before about some strange insurance claims and some strange policies in the past, and because this type of information is so entertaining we thought we would share even more!  So we give you more strange claims and coverages:

 

*Wasp attack.  A driver once claimed that the reason for his accident was wasps, specifically wasps flying up his pants causing him to hit the gas while at a traffic signal.

 

*Paternity insurance.  No doubt lots of guys have nightmares about fathering a child "accidentally", but during his heyday in the 1980s Van Halen front man David Lee Roth reportedly took out a policy that would have paid $1 million for each bundle of joy.  And no, we don't know if there was ever a claim!

 

*Fantasy football.  Yes, people take their fantasy football seriously, but would you go so far as to buy insurance that protects your fantasy team if one of its players is actually injured?  Fantasy Sports Insurance will reimburse your entry fee in the event a specific player has to sit out. 

 

*Mustache insurance.  If your mustache is the moneymaker you can insure it.  Bowler Merv Hughes insured his mustache, not his bowling arm, for over $300,000.

 

*Horse erectile dysfunction.  This insurance only sounds strange, but is practical, as lots of potential lost earnings are involved.  This coverage is intended for breeders of race horses to protect them in the event the horse sustains injury or disease affecting its reproductive health. 

 

So next time you think insurance is dull and bland you might want to revisit that thinking.  As you can see, insurance can be very entertaining!

 

(Source:  pffirewall.com. )

Uninsured Motorists: It's Your Friend!

 

There is often confusion when it comes to Uninsured Motorists.  Who. . .or what. . .is covered? 

 

On an auto policy, whether it is personal or commercial, the liability limits apply to Property Damage and/or Bodily Injury You the Insured cause to third parties.  Uninsured Motorists coverage furnishes insurance for Bodily Injury done to YOU the Insured. 

 

For example, you and your family are in your vehicle driving to dinner; an uninsured vehicle rear-ends you, causing injury to you and your family members.  Chances are pretty good the uninsured driver will not have the funds to pay for your injuries out of pocket; thus the Uninsured Motorists (UM) coverage of your auto policy will be triggered, and will pay up to the limits on the policy.  You don't even have to be in a vehicle for this vital coverage to be used; if you're a pedestrian walking down the street and are injured by a motorist driving an uninsured vehicle your UM coverage will apply.  Keep in mind UM covers Bodily Injury only.  It does not cover Physical Damage.

 

According to several studies, about one-fourth of all vehicles in Oklahoma are uninsured.  Because of this, we strongly recommend you carry UM limits on your auto policy equal to your Liability limits.  Uninsured Motorists covers You and other passengers in your vehicle.  It's definitely your friend.

Renter or Landlord: Make sure you're covered!

 

So you just signed a lease for a nice, tidy house--or a cozy apartment.  Even though you don't own the place, you still need insurance!  After all, you still need coverage for your furnishings and belongings (your TV, stereo, computer, furniture, jewelry, etc.), plus you need liability coverage for third party property damage and/or bodily injury. 

 

Call your agent (and we hope that's us!) and ask about renter's insurance (known as an HO-4 policy).  This policy will protect your possessions and offer liability coverage--generally at a very affordable price. 

 

On the other side of the equation, if you own a rental property, call your agent and ask about a dwelling policy (depending on perils insured against you can choose from a DP-1, DP-2, or DP-3).  This provides coverage for the dwelling itself, plus at your discretion can also offer liability protection.  As a general rule dwelling policies are less in premium than homeowners policies (often due to the fact there are less perils insured against, so check your policy carefully); but it's just good business sense to make sure your rental properties have coverage against fundamental perils like windstorm and fire.  You may not live there, but you sure want to protect it!

 

Employers: Discrimination complaints could be your biggest exposure!

 

 

If you're an employer, you know this all too well:  discrimination lawsuits are on the rise!  In a sluggish economy, laid off and/or disgruntled workers often sue their former employers, claiming discrimination based on age, gender, or race.  And an employee doesn't have to be laid off; thousands file lawsuits annually against their current employers claiming they are subjected to intolerable working conditions.  (Sexual harassment lawsuits being a prime example.)  And these lawsuits aren't cheap; according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the average discrimination lawsuit costs $235,000. 

 

Naturally, as an employer, you should have policies and procedures in place to prohibit and prevent harassment and discrimination.  But just taking preventitive measures doesn't protect you from a lawsuit; in the event you are sued, or a complaint filed with the EEOC, you MUST respond and defend yourself--and without the proper insurance, you must do so at your expense!

 

"But wait," you tell yourself, "I have commercial liability insurance.  I'm covered."  Here's the sad truth:  commercial general liability insurance does NOT cover these types of lawsuits.*  Discrimination/harassment suits from former or current employees are covered under Employment Practices Liability (EPL) policies, and these policies must be purchased separately.  Many studies indicate it's not slips and falls, or product liability, or negligent work, that are a business's largest exposure:  it's discrimination/harassment claims from employees!  If you don't have EPL insurance, contact your agent! 

 

*A handful of commercial liablity policies offer limited EPL coverage (generally very limited), or can be endorsed to provide limited EPL coverage.  If in doubt check your liability policy carefully, or contact your agent. 

 

 

Why Bother With Liability Insurance?

 

 

You are the consummate business owner; you run a safe, professional organization.  And now you're staring at that bill from your insurance company for commercial liability insurance.  "Come on," you tell yourself, "none of our customers are ever going to be injured--and we're not going to damage anyone else's property."

 

Better think again!  ALL businesses have NUMEROUS liability exposures.  If you have a physical location that customers and other people come into, slips and falls are a constant exposure.  Let's face it:  people slip, and when they fall they often are injured.  Even if you can show your business wasn't negligent regarding the injury, if you're sued your liability insurance carrier will come in to defend you and litigate the suit.  At their expense--not yours!

 

Operate a restaurant?  Food poisoning is a huge exposure--and a very expensive one to defend without liability insurance.  Or do you run an auto service business?  Service people do make mistakes, so when that employee performing an oil change gets distracted and actually forgets to put in new oil after draining the old--and you're presented with a $5500 bill for a brand new engine for your customer's car--you'll be very glad you have garage liability coverage! 

 

Whether you're in the oil and gas industry, run a warehouse, or operate a hair salon, you have acute liability exposures--exposures that could threaten the survival of your business without coverage.  And no matter how carefully and professionally you conduct your operation, accidents do happen.  So the next time you think twice about paying that liability premium keep this in mind:  Your business depends on it! 

 

 

What to Do in the Event of a Loss

 

You've just experienced a fire loss. . .or a windstorm loss. . .or you've been victimized by theft.  What now?  Here are some tips to help you minimize your loss and get the claims process underway:

 

*Secure the premises!  Board up or cover damaged windows and/or doors; place tarp over a damaged roof--do what you can to secure your property and reduce additional damage. 

 

*Keep your receipts.  Did you have to buy that tarp?  Purchase plywood?  Hire workers to help you secure your home or business?  Keep track of all expenses to turn in to your claims adjustor.

 

*If a crime has occurred notify the authorities.  Keep all police or highway patrol reports and records given to you and store them in a secure place.

 

*Homeowners, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words!  Take digital pictures or videos of the contents of your home--your furniture, appliances, floor coverings, window coverings, and valuables--and keep them in a secure place.  Your adjustor will be extremely grateful, plus you won't be relying on memory to restore your home to its condition prior to your loss.

 

*In a vehicle accident that occurs on a public roadway, unless there's injury or unless the vehicle no longer operates get off the road quickly and move to a secure location, like a nearby business parking lot.  This is for your safety, as well as the motoring public. 

 

*Call your agent!  (And we hope that's us!)  If your insurance company only allows direct reporting of claims, keep its claims phone number in a safe place.  (If you're one of our valuable Insureds we feature the claims contact numbers of all our companies on our Companies page.)

 

*And as a refresher, here is our contact info:

580-256-3391

800-299-3391

mail@figley-salz.com

 

 

Is your operation shut down? Protect yourself!

 

A fire.  Devastating.  Costly.  But thank goodness you, a prudent business owner, carried sufficient limits of insurance--both for your building and the building's contents.  You'll be able to rebuild and restock--hopefully within a year.

 

A year?  Can you afford to be shut down for a year?  Of course not!  So you'll lease a temporary location, expedite shipping costs for emergency stock and supplies, buy office equipment, furniture, and computers, plus continue paying your employees.  But how can you afford to take on all this additional expense?  Do you want to have to go get an exorbitant loan?

 

There is insurance coverage for this!  It's called Time Element coverage, and it pays you for your loss of Business Income that you otherwise would have earned had you not had your loss, plus pays your Extra Expense you must incur to resume operations.  If you have a Business Owners Policy (BOP) chances are good this coverage is included; if you have a Commercial Property policy you do not have Time Element protection--you must buy it.  And in the event of a total loss it's worth every penny!  Check your commercial policy carefully, and if it doesn't include this vital coverage give us a call today!

Helpful Tips to Reduce Homeowners Insurance Costs

 

If you would like to see the premium on your homeowners policy go down (And who wouldn't!) here are a few tips that could go a long way in reducing insurance costs:

 

--Raise your deductible!  If you currently have a $250 deductible, consider raising it to $500--or even $1,000--and you will see your homeowners rate go down.  After all, insurance is there to indemnify you in the event of a costly loss; it's wise to self-insure for losses of $500 or less, or $1,000 or less.

 

--Consider multi-policy discounts.  Do you have your cars insured with another insurance company?  Consider moving them to the same insurer who insures your home; very often you will benefit from a multi-policy discount.  Check with your agent!

 

--Reduce the risk of theft.  Consider intalling a burglar alarm or at least dead bolt locks on all outside doors.  Many insurance companies will reward you for taking these security measures by lowering your premium.

 

--Ask about discounts for safety features such as sprinkler systems, burglar alarms, dead bolt locks, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers.  Insurance underwriters are more apt to share the love if your home offers features like these!

 

--In the event of a total loss, are you planning to rebuild your home exactly as it was?   Then you need to insure at Replacement Cost.  Thinking about replacing your home with a dwelling less costly?  Or maybe just taking the insurance settlement, putting the check in your pocket, and walking away?  Then you might wish to consider insuring at Actual Cash Value (ACV), which is cheaper than Replacement Cost.

 

--Loyalty often is rewarded.  Ask about discounts if you stay with the same insurer for several years. 

 

--Ask what other discounts are available.  For example, if you are over 55 and retired, you very well may qualify for lower rates.

 

--Insure the house, not the land!  When deciding how much insurance to buy, don't factor in the cost of the land your home is on.  It is your home, not the land, that is at risk from the perils covered in your policy. 

 

--Most important:  When you want to seriously reduce your homeowners insurance premium, always contact your agent for ideas and suggestions.  And we hope that agent is us!

 

Stay Safe!

 

Yes, this past winter has been a load, but believe it or not, tornado season is here!  All of us who live in this neck of the woods know full well how destructive these violent storms can be, and all of us have heard, in one manner or another, tips and advice on what to do when facing such danger.  We feel these safety tips can't be emphasized enough! 

 

--In the event of a tornado warning seek shelter below ground, in a basement or storm cellar. 

 

--If your home doesn't have a basement or cellar go to the first floor and seek an interior room, such as a closet or bathroom or under a stairwell.  Bathrooms offer additional protection in that the plumbing serves to reinforce walls and floors.  Rule of thumb:  Put as many interior walls between you and the outside as you can!

 

 

--To protect yourself against flying debris or collapsing walls and/or ceilings cover yourself with padding, such as blankets, pillows, or a mattress. 

 

--If you're in a public building, such as a school, office building, or mall, go to an interior hallway or small interior office or shop on the building's lowest level.  Get on the ground next to a wall and cover your head.  Stay away from windows!

 

--If you're in a mobile home, get out!  Seek a public shelter or a nearby sturdy building, if you can get there fast.  If not, take shelter out in the open by lying flat on low ground and covering your head with your arms.  If possible stay away from cars or trees or any other potential debris that could be blown on top of you. 

 

--Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado.  If the tornado is visible, far away, and traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles away from the storm.  Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible.  Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building.  If in open country run to low ground away from any cars; lie flat and face down, protecting the back of your head with your arms.  Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which offer little protection against flying debris.

 

--In your home, have a working flashlight, battery-operated radio, and extra batteries.  Have enough non-perishable food and bottled water to get by for a few days without power.  Cooperate fully with civil authorities and emergency personnel. 

 

--Above all, don't panic!  Stay calm; that way, you'll stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be careful what you pay for. . .

 

Yes, these are tough economic times, when every penny counts.  Particularly for our friends in the business community, there is suddenly an inundation of agents and brokers clamoring to write commercial insurance for prices that just seem too good to be true.  But with quotes that are anywhere from 20% to 50% lower than your existing policy--even if the insurance company is an excess market--how can an owner or manager turn down such savings?  Here's how!

 

An excess (or non-admitted) insurer is not regulated or overseen by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.  Their rates are not on file with the Department; they are not subject to claims guidelines established by the Department.  If a non-admitted carrier declines your claim--or just refuses to pay it--you the insured cannot look to the Insurance Department for relief, but instead must take legal matters into your own hands. . .and at your expense.

 

Even worse, should the insurance company become insolvent, because it is non-admitted it is not subject to the Oklahoma Property & Casualty Guaranty Fund, which offers relief to claimants if admitted insurers become insolvent.  So when excess markets become insolvent, there is no relief to insurance claimants--other than, again, taking matters into your own hands. 

 

Something else to consider:  Does the excess market policy have the same coverages as the admitted market policy?  You definitely want a policy from the excess insurer that is just as broad as the current one from your admitted carrier.  Many common protections under an admitted insurer (theft is a good example) are often not covered under an excess carrier.  Filing a claim for an occurrence you knew was covered under your old insurance company, only to find out it is now excluded under your new excess policy is a very costly lesson to learn!   

 

So those 30% savings that looked so good when you cancelled your policy with an admitted market and went with an excess market suddenly look like a pittance when you suddenly become legally liable for a $150,000 claim--and the insurer either refuses to pay the claim, or can't, due to insolvency.  Before making such a decision call your agent who represents the admitted market; find out about the financial stability and financial rating of the excess market:  make an informed decision!  Because when it comes to a complicated matter like a commercial insurance policy, very frequently cheaper isn't better! 

You can't make this stuff up!

 

We realize it's hard to find the humor in an accident--but sometimes we do a second glance when we read the statements made by the folks who caused them.  The following are actual statements made to adjustors and documented on insurance claim forms.  (Believe us, we couldn't make this stuff up!)  So enjoy. . .and be glad it wasn't you!

 

--"The pedestrian ran for the pavement, but I got him."

 

--"I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way."

 

--"My car was legally parked as I backed into another vehicle." 

 

 

--"The gentleman behind me struck me on the backside.  He then went to rest in a bush with just his rear end showing."

 

--"Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have."

 

--"The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth."

 

 

 

--"I left for work at 7:00 a.m. as usual when I collided straight into a bus.  The bus was 5 minutes early.

 

And our favorite:

 

--"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment."

 

Always good to find a little humor in every situation!

 

(Source:  www.swapmeetdave.com)