How to Handle Stolen Vehicles and Insurance

Car Theft - Burglar

This summer is very exciting. It’s been a year since most of us could travel for a vacation, and you have big plans. You’re going to have a ton of fun!

However, remember to keep your car secure.

The number of daily auto thefts often increases from June through August – right when you’ve scheduled your amazing summer plans. In 2019, there were 721,885 cars stolen in the U.S. This statistic creates an average of around 1,978 stolen vehicles every day.

What happens to all those stolen cars? Are they recovered? When should you put in a claim? Is buying a salvaged, previously stolen car worth it?

Do stolen cars lose value?

Unfortunately, if your car is stolen and recovered, it may lose value. Note the use of “may.” Your vehicle may retain its original value, but certain conditions need to be met.

  1. Your car is recovered within the time limit specified by your insurance policy.
  2. The vehicle is in the same condition it was before its theft.

When your car is recovered within your policy’s time limit and is in the same condition as before it was stolen, it keeps a clean title. Your time limit will vary depending upon your policy and insurer but often ranges from 21 to 30 days.

A clean title is what guarantees the same resale value as before the car was stolen.

However, if your car doesn’t meet these conditions, it will depreciate, and it may even become a salvage vehicle.

For a car to become a salvage vehicle, either the cost of repairs for the car must exceed the car’s actual value, or the car is returned after the insurance payout has been made. Your insurer will write the car off as a total loss and take it into their possession. The car’s next title will be referred to as a salvage title, even if the car is in perfect condition.

Previously stolen cars with a salvage title can lose anywhere from 20% to 40% of their original value.

How do I prevent my vehicle from being stolen?

There are many easy steps you can take to minimize the likelihood of your car being stolen. A lot of crime is opportunistic – if the opportunity were not there, then the crime probably wouldn’t occur.

Some things that are free and easy to do include:

  • Lock your vehicle’s doors.
  • Remove the keys from your vehicle.
  • Don’t leave any spare keys near the vehicle.
  • Close all your windows (even if it is hot).
  • Park in well-lit areas where a car thief would be visible.
  • Avoid leaving valuables such as laptops, phones, and wallets in your car.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings.

Some other helpful anti-theft ideas for your vehicle are:

  • Install an audible alarm system if your car doesn’t already have one.

There’s a good chance your car already has an alarm system. You’ve probably accidentally hit the button for it before on your car clicker. The alarm begins to blare, and you panic as all the systems start to wail. You then fumble with your keys as embarrassment floods your system because you have convinced yourself everyone is staring at you.

Yeah – that alarm system. If you don’t have one, it is a strongly recommended anti-theft tactic.

  • Install a vehicle immobilizer system.

You’ve seen the movies where the intrepid heroes have to make a quick getaway, so they hotwire a car. It’s great because they get away! Then you remember someone owns the poor car after you watch it get totaled in an explosion.

Fortunately, most cars manufactured after the mid-‘90s can’t be hotwired. However, if your car dates back further, you can purchase vehicle immobilizer systems that will make your car lock up or seize if someone tries to hotwire it.

With a vehicle immobilizer system, no car thief or action hero will be able to make a quick getaway in your car.

  • Install a tracking system.

No, a vehicle tracking system isn’t genuinely anti-theft, but it can help you find your stolen car a lot faster. The devices you can buy are often GPS and cell tower-based, and you can usually access the information on your smartphone.

They’re also great for when you forget where you park after grocery shopping!

How does insurance apply if your vehicle is stolen?

If you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, then you are covered if your vehicle is stolen subject to the comprehensive deductible. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the amount your insurance company will pay out will be no more than the amount listed in your policy. This limit generally equals your car’s actual market value.

When you make a claim for a stolen car, there is usually a waiting period of around three to four weeks to see if the vehicle is recovered. If your vehicle isn’t recovered during this time period, you will receive a payout up to your policy’s limit.

Comprehensive coverage is important, but if you owe more for your car than the car is worth, it would be a good plan for you to consider a gap insurance policy. If your car is stolen and not recovered, gap insurance can cover at least a percentage of the rest of your vehicle loan.

What do I do if my car is stolen?

The two most important things you need to do if your car is stolen are to file a police report and an insurance claim. Remember, before filing an insurance claim for a stolen vehicle, you must file a police report.

A police report will often need information such as:

  • VIN and license plate number
  • Year, make, and model of your car
  • The place and estimated time of the theft
  • Did you have any personal property in the car when it was stolen?
  • What are identifying features of your car? (Bumper stickers, scratches, dents, etc.)
  • Do you have a vehicle location device?

When filing an insurance claim, you will probably be asked for information like:

  • Copy of the car’s title
  • Location of all vehicle keys before and after the theft
  • Names and contact information for all people with access to the vehicle
  • A description of the vehicle (mileage, service records, etc.)
  • Your auto lender’s contact information
  • Your policy account number

Can I buy a previously stolen car with a salvage title?

You can buy a car with a salvage title. It may even be an opportunity for you to buy a nicer vehicle at a discounted price. However, it would be best to do a couple of things before purchasing a car with a salvage title.

  • Do a vehicle history check. Salvage title requirements vary from state to state, and cars qualifying as salvageable in one state may not be considered salvageable in your state.
  • Have the car inspected by a reputable repair shop. There may be damage that’s difficult to see right away. Before you buy a salvaged car, make sure it is in a condition you are willing to pay for.
  • Check with your insurance company. Not all insurance companies insure vehicles with salvage titles. Make sure yours does before making any final purchases.

It is a common misconception that you can’t finance or insure a salvaged vehicle. You can find options for both!


Rental Car Insurance – Should You Buy It?

You’re standing at the counter of a rental car agency in a strange city. The agent asks if you want to purchase insurance. Suddenly you’re at a crucial decision point. If you agree, you pay a little more (or even a lot more) for your rental. If you refuse, you’ll be required to check some scary boxes and initial some lines and drive away wondering what will happen if you get in an accident.

“Should I buy insurance coverage when I rent a car?”

This is a common question we receive from our clients. The answer is “It depends.”

  • First, it depends on what type and amount of insurance you have on your personal vehicle(s).
  • Second, it depends on the vehicle you own and drive.
  • Third, it depends on whether you are willing to make claims on your personal insurance, paying deductibles and accepting possible rate increases if you have an accident in a rental car.

The Easy Answers

Here are three situations where we recommend you purchase additional insurance at the auto rental counter:

  • If you don’t own a personal vehicle and don’t have personal auto insurance, you should buy coverage when you rent a car.
  • If you don’t have collision coverage on your personal vehicle and you don’t want to buy Enterprise or Avis a brand-new car, you should purchase the add-on insurance coverage.
  • If you’re renting an exotic vehicle (such as a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Bentley), the rental company will probably require you to buy special insurance coverage.

Apart from these specific situations, the answer is still “It depends.”

Types of Risks, Types of Coverage

There are four types of insurance typically offered when you rent a vehicle:

  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)
  • Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP)
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)
  • Personal Effects Coverage (PEC)

Let’s consider each of these and see how they relate to the coverage most people carry on their personal vehicles.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

This insurance covers the cost to repair or replace the rental car if it is damaged or stolen. The vehicle must have been driven by an authorized driver named on the rental agreement, and the damage can’t be the result of recklessness or negligence.

Without this coverage, any damages will be your responsibility—or the responsibility of your insurance company, based on your personal auto policy. Coverage for rental cars is subject to the same limits in your personal policy. That means if you have a collision in a rental car worth $20,000, and your personal policy insures a vehicle worth $10,000, you’ll have to pay the difference out of your own pocket. In addition, any claims are subject to your deductible, so if you cause $400 worth of damage and your deductible is $500, you’ll be paying for those repairs yourself.

Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP)

Every state has a minimum level of liability protection every vehicle owner must carry, and rental companies are no exception to this requirement. The state minimums don’t provide enough protection for anything more than a minor fender bender. Supplemental liability protection (SLP) generally provides $1 million in additional coverage to help fill the gap between the rental agency coverage and the actual damage caused in an accident.

If your personal auto policy is a “state minimum” policy, opting for the SLP is probably in your best interest. Even if your liability coverage is higher—say, $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident—you could find yourself paying out of pocket if you are involved in a serious accident.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)

If you or your passengers are injured in an accident in a rental car, personal accident insurance will pay medical and ambulance costs related to the accident. The policy may also include a death benefit for both driver and passengers if the worst should happen.

Without this insurance, the cost of medical care related to an accident would be your responsibility (in cases where you are held responsible for the accident) or the responsibility of the other driver if they are at fault. If you have no medical coverage at all, or if you have a “high deductible” plan, you should consider opting for this low-cost coverage.

Personal Effects Coverage (PEC)

This add-on coverage helps replace your personal property if it is stolen from the rental car. The limits are generally $500 per person with a maximum benefit of $1,500.

As with most types of insurance, prevention can help you avoid problems. Don’t leave valuables in a rental car. If you purchase this policy, remember only $500/$1,500 of your stuff is covered. Items stolen from any vehicle are covered by your homeowners or renters policy, though any claims would be subject to your deductible.

What Happens If You Are in an Accident?

A good way to make the decision about rental car insurance is to consider what would happen if you were in an accident in the rental car with or without the coverage.

Scenario #1:  You back into a light post, causing $500 worth of damage to a rental car’s bumper.

If you purchased the collision damage waiver, the rental agency would repair the vehicle at its own cost. If you didn’t purchase the collision damage waiver, you’ll be responsible for paying the repairs out of pocket. You are also likely to be charged for “loss of use,” which is the lost rental income while the vehicle is being repaired.

Scenario #2:  You cause a significant accident, causing $5,000 in damage to the rental car, $5,000 to another driver’s vehicle, and injuries that require $15,000 in medical care.

If you purchased the collision damage waiver and supplemental liability protection, the rental car company will pay for repairs to both vehicles and cover the cost of the other party’s medical expenses. If you purchased personal accident insurance, the rental car company will also pay your medical bills.

If you did not purchase the rental insurance, your personal insurance collision policy will cover damage to the rental car and your liability coverage will pay for the damage to the other vehicle and the other party’s medical bills. You will be responsible for paying the deductible for the claim, and for covering your own medical costs. The rental car company will likely charge you for “loss of use,” which most personal policies don’t cover. Your insurance premiums will likely go up because of the accident.

Credit Card Coverage

While many credit cards don’t provide any rental car coverage, some cards do provide a type of collision damage waiver protection for rentals. However, these cards do not provide any additional liability coverage, so damage to other vehicles and medical expenses would still have to be covered through a personal auto policy or rental agency liability coverage.

If you’re not sure whether your card provides rental car coverage, you can find out by reviewing the “card benefits” section of your card issuer’s website. Some cards limit coverage for vehicles rented less than 15 or 30 days, so pay particular attention to the terms before you rely on your credit card company for protection.

Making Your Decision

So … you’re standing at the counter of a rental car agency in a strange city. The agent asks if you want to purchase insurance. Should you buy insurance when you rent a car?

Consider the following factors:

  • What kind of vehicle are you renting? How does the value of the rental car compare to the value of your personal vehicle(s)?
  • How much liability coverage do you have with your personal auto policy? Do you have collision and comprehensive coverage? If so, what are the limits and deductibles? Do you have an umbrella policy?
  • How willing/able are you to pay to repair or replace a late-model rental car? Are you willing to pay for “loss of use” for a damaged rental vehicle?
  • How will a claim against your personal insurance affect your rates?

If you’re still not sure, it’s time to sit down with your insurance agent to review your auto policy. Together, you and your agent can determine whether you have the right kind of coverage in the right amounts. That way, you’ll know everything you need to know to make the right decision when you’re at the rental counter.

A Successful Return to the Office During the Aftershocks of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The last fifteen months have felt more like fifteen years for many people. You may have become familiar friends with isolation and worry as the entire globe lived in uncertainty. We didn’t know when things were going to end — if ever. 

However, it’s beginning to look like our stretchy pants will be traded out for work pants! Mask mandates have either lifted or relaxed in many states as vaccination numbers continue to rise. Everyday life is reemerging. For many people, this also means a return to the workplace.

Mental Health Amidst and After COVID 

Most of us likely expected to be excited for our return to a physical workplace. However, rising anxiety levels at the thought of returning to work have baffled many people. Where is this anxiety coming from? 

Look at it like this. Humans are biologically hardwired to interpret change as a threat to their survival. Anxiety is a mechanism our body uses to help protect us from change. Feelings like anxiety and fear are extremely helpful to avoid being eaten — not so much for returning to a once-familiar workplace. 

 You and your employees had to adapt at the start of COVID by establishing new daily habits and schedules. Team meetings that used to be in-person suddenly became digital, and you had to wrestle with unfamiliar technology. Zoom became your best “frenemy” as you stumbled your way through learning when to use mute buttons and how to avoid sitting near full-length mirrors. And just when you made yourself comfortablethose brand-new habits you finally settled into are changing again. 

It’s no wonder people are experiencing a spike in anxiety. 

However, researchers have found that you, as an employer, are in a unique position to help reduce the negative mental health impacts of transitioning back to the workplace for yourself and your employees. 

You read that right. You can make a world of difference by simply being helpful and supportive leading up to and during your employees’ return to work. 

What should I do before welcome my employees back? 

For many, the way we work is never going to look the same.  

Each employee will respond differently to their returnregardless of how it may look. Everyone’s experiences and perceptions are unique and will color their worldview. A young mom may need flexibility due to a lack of childcare, others may be caring for a high-risk parent, and some may not want to vaccinate but still want to be with their co-workers. 

It will help if you have a return-to-work plan. Develop a strategy with your employees that will work for the whole office.

How are you going to handle the return to work? 

Consider your options: 

  • Complete Office Return – Everyone returns in-person and carries on 
  • Hybrid* – Some employees work in-person, some work remote, and others may do both 
  • Remote  You and your employees continue to work remotely 

*If you choose to pursue a hybrid office environment, it’s wise to set up a formal policy to decide who will work remotely and who won’t, so if an employee’s request is denied, they will understand why. 

How are you going to bring people back? 

Will you welcome everyone back all at once? Or will you implement a slower, phased return?  

There is no correct answer to this question. Your answer may vary based upon your business, your employees, and the needs of each. 

Work with your employees to create a return-to-work timeline. 

Ensure employees understand what is expected of them when they return to work and work with them to establish a timeline. By establishing a two-way dialogue, you show your employees you care for them and respect what they have to say. 

Examples of a two-way dialogue include: 

  • Surveys 
  • Open Forums 
  • Meetings 
  • Discussions 

Have a game plan for how you will handle common concerns.

There are common concerns that will probably arise during a two-way dialogue with your employees. If you establish solutions and answers for these concerns beforehand, you will save time and worry later.  

Some common concerns others have reported are: 

  • Worry of increased COVID cases after returning to the office. 
  • A lack of childcare if the facilities are slower to reopen. 
  • Living with or caring for high-risk individuals. 

Familiarize yourself with vaccine guidelines.  

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined you can ask an employee whether they have been vaccinated or not. However, once you have their answer, it is protected under HIPAA and cannot be shared with others. Additionally, the ADA requires that all medical information related to an employee’s health information be stored and maintained separately from the employee’s HR file. 

You can read more about employee vaccination here. 

Tips for Giving Your Employees a Warm Welcome 

When you welcome your employees back, focus on making it a genuine welcome. As we used programs like Zoom during the height of COVID, we had an intimate view of people’s lives. Coworkers became human as we quietly saw them interact with their pets, play with their children, and participate in meetings from their kitchen table. 

You could argue we became more interconnected because of COVID, even if we weren’t sitting face-to-face. 

Carry this trend of interconnectedness on by warmly welcoming your employees back. The following tips can help you as you begin the transition back to pre-COVID life. 

  • Emphasize mental health – COVID was an incredibly tumultuous time, and the nation’s collective mental health reached an all-time low. Support your employees as they go through the long recovery process and be an anchor for them.
  • Remain empathetic – Just because we don’t have to wear masks anymore doesn’t mean everything is over. People’s lives have changed, just like yours. Remain understanding and empathetic to your employee’s personal struggles. 
  • Stay agile – don’t expect life to return immediately to pre-COVID standards. Many employees have found they are more productive and more comfortable working remotely. You learned to be flexible with work, and it’s okay to stay flexible. 
  • Celebrate – many of your employees are seeing each other in person for the first time in months. That’s exciting! By setting aside time to celebrate, you can re-energize your employees and get them ready to tackle new challenges. 
  • Remind – for employees who haven’t been in a formal office for upwards of a year, it may be helpful to send an email with refreshers on business policy. This is also an excellent time to include any new safety and health policies that may have been introduced during the pandemic. 

Remember, reopening your business after the pandemic isn’t as simple as opening your doors. Your next step is more of a multi-phase project and may seem daunting, but we’re here to help every step of the way. Reach out to your Leavitt Group insurance advisor today to learn what actions you need to take to ensure your employees’ return to work is as seamless as possible. 



Ransomware Attacks in 2021: What You Need to Know

On May 6, 2021, hackers from the cybergang DarkSide gained access to Colonial Pipelines network and proceeded to steal 100 gigabytes (GB) worth of data before holding it ransom for 75 bitcoin – almost $5 million.  

To give context, 100 GB of information can hold approximately 59,500 pictures, 1,600 hours of music, or 700 hours of video content. That’s a lot of information.

On May 7, 2021, Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom and shut down all pipeline operations along with some IT systems to minimize the spread of the threat. It wasn’t until five days later, on May 12, when pipeline operations were finally restored.

Over these five days, panic spread through the Southeastern U.S. as countless people rushed to gas stations to fill whatever containers they could find, and the federal government declared a state of emergency.

How did this nationwide panic begin? DarkSide was able to access one of Colonial Pipeline’s older VPN networks secured by just one password.

What is ransomware? 

Ransomware does what its name suggests. It is malware that infects your computer and encrypts your files so you can’t access them. When you try to access the encrypted files, a screen notifying you of the encryption pops up and demands you pay a ransom to the hacker to regain access.

If this happens to you, the most important thing to remember is the following:

Do not pay the ransom.

There are no guarantees the hacker will return your access.

How does ransomware infect my network? 

By using social engineering, hackers can gain access to your information in a couple of different ways. 

  1. Phishing: emails, phone calls, or text messages from someone posing as a legitimate organization with the goal of convincing individuals to provide sensitive information. 
  2. Data Exfiltration: unapproved transfer of information from one computing device to another. This is not limited to computers. Data exfiltration can occur via smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

Read more about social engineering and other cybersecurity threats.

How do I protect against ransomware? 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a big, easy way to protect yourself completely against ransomware. Life would be much easier if there was.  

The best way to defend yourself against ransomware attacks is by practicing the following “Do’s and Don’ts” of cybersecurity. 

Do’s and Don’ts” of cybersecurity

What do I do if I am a ransomware victim? 

The most important thing to remember if you are the subject of a ransomware attack is this:  

Do not pay the ransom. 

In the event of a ransomware event, take the following steps:  

  1. Isolate the infection. Remove your computer from any networks, shared storage, and other computers it may be connected to. This will help limit the spread of malware. 
  2. Identify the infection as best you can. Check out this free ransomware strain identification website, called ID Ransomware. ID Ransomware currently detects 1,004 different strains of ransomware and is continuously growing. 
  3. Report the ransomware attack to the authorities. You can find a list of helpful reporting resources for different countries here. In your report, be sure to provide as much information as possible. 
  4. Determine your options. Ultimately, you have a few options. You can pay the ransom, even though it is not recommended. You can work with a professional and attempt to remove the malware and then selectively restore your system. Or you can wipe everything and start from scratch. 

Is ransomware covered by insurance? 

Ransomware attacks may be covered by cyber privacy insurance policies, but every policy varies. A cyber liability insurance policy may cover the following:

  • Ransom money: If you choose to pay the ransom, make sure to notify your insurer beforehand. If you don’t, the ransom payment may not be covered.
  • Repair Costs: the cost to restore, update, and/or replace hardware, software, or data assets damaged through cybercrime or by an unintentional loss or release of data.
  • Computer forensics experts: these professionals can help you determine how a hacker gained access to your network and may help guide you through strengthening your cyber defenses.
  • Reputation management: protection from liability related to slander, libel, copyright claims, and other harm to your reputation resulting from activity on a business website or in social media.

Contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor to learn more about protecting your business with cyber liability insurance.



How Rising Construction Costs Can Affect Your Homeowners Insurance

Construction costs are on the rise due to soaring lumber prices and the cost of other raw materials.

  • Between 2010 and 2020, the median sale price of a new home increased $106,100.1
  • Lumber prices have increased 340% from a year ago and are up 67% this year (from January 1 to April 30, 2021).2
  • The increase in lumber prices over the past year has added $35,872 to the price of an average new single-family home and $12,966 to the market value of an average new multifamily home, according to the NAHB.2

If you already own a home, you may not think these cost increases will affect you. However, they have a direct impact on the amount of insurance you should have on your home.

What is a Coinsurance Penalty?

If your home were to be destroyed by fire or another covered loss, you need to have the right amount of insurance to cover the cost to rebuild your home (the “replacement cost”). This amount is different than market value (the amount you could sell your home for).

Homeowners policies have a coinsurance clause that requires a home to be covered at a certain percentage of the home’s value – typically at least 80 percent. If rising construction costs have caused you to no longer meet the coinsurance requirement, you could face a coinsurance penalty. While you will still be covered in the event of a loss, you may not get the full replacement cost of your home.

Learn the factors that affect replacement cost and how you can avoid a coinsurance penalty:

Changes to Replacement Cost

When construction costs increase, due to changes in the market and the effects of inflation, this increases the replacement cost of your home. The replacement cost may also increase if you make improvements to your home, such as:

  • Upgrading windows, electrical, and/or plumbing
  • Remodeling the kitchen and/or bathrooms
  • Finishing your basement or converting an attic into livable space
  • Building an addition on your home
  • Adding a deck, patio, or porch
  • Upgrading the exterior of your home

If your home’s value increases, you could fall short in meeting the co-insurance clause requirements in your policy. On the flip side, if your home depreciates in value, you may be paying for more insurance than you need. It is important to assess the replacement cost of your home on a regular basis to ensure you have the right amount of coverage.

Estimating Replacement Cost

Your insurance agent can help you calculate the replacement cost of your home with an online tool called a replacement cost estimator. The estimation is based on a variety of factors, including your home’s age, location, size, building materials, and craftmanship upgrades as well as the cost of local labor.

Another option is to hire an independent appraiser. This is known to be the most accurate way to find the replacement cost of your home. An appraiser will do an in-person inspection of your home. They will also be up to date on building codes in your area, and they can give you an estimate that includes the cost to rebuild up to code.

Avoiding a Coinsurance Penalty

Here’s how you can make sure you have the right amount of coverage and avoid a coinsurance penalty.

  • Know what your coinsurance clause is. This information is usually located in the “conditions” section of your policy. Not sure how to understand the policy requirements? Reach out to your insurance advisor for assistance.
  • Know the current replacement cost of your home. You should insure your home for replacement cost (the amount it would cost to rebuild your home). Because construction costs can change rapidly, it is important to assess the replacement cost on a regular basis to ensure you have the right amount of insurance. We recommend evaluating the replacement cost every one to two years.
  • Purchase the right amount of insurance. Meet with your insurance agent to discuss your homeowners policy and keep them up to date on improvements you make to your home. They can help ensure you have the right amount of coverage.

Keeping your insurance in line with your current needs is an important part of owning a home. Reach out to your Griffin Owens insurance advisor today to schedule an insurance review.



Preparing Your Business for a Natural Disaster

Depending on where you live, you may be threatened by floods, mudslides, tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanic activity, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and any number of other potential natural disasters.

Is your business prepared in the event one of these natural disasters strikes your area?

2020 Natural Disaster Impact

  • 416 natural catastrophe events globally
  • $268 billion in losses globally
  • Costliest year on record for global severe connective storms
  • 12 named storm landfalls, including six hurricanes, in the U.S. mainland

Questions to Consider

Often, the challenge of running a business makes it difficult to think of almost anything else. You have so many other things to worry about, do you really have time to plan for a natural disaster —something that might not even happen? However, if you want your business—including you and your employees—to make it safely through and still have a business to run afterwards, take time to prepare now.

Here are a few questions you should consider as you’re making natural disaster plans for your business:

  • What disasters and emergencies are you likely to experience in your area?
  • What materials and supplies will you need to have on hand to ensure you and your employees can be safe and protected during a disaster?
  • How will you and your employees communicate with family members at work, school, and home? Do families have a plan that will allow them to be reunited after a disaster or emergency?
  • What preparations will need to be made to protect your business’ assets, data, inventory, and physical facilities?
  • How will you and your employees contribute to efforts at cleanup and/or recovery after a disaster occurs?
  • Do you have appropriate contingencies, including offsite data backups and business insurance, to allow you to “reboot” your business in the aftermath of a disaster?

Learn More! Updating Your Family Emergency Plan and Developing Emergency Plans

Do You Have the Right Insurance?

The insurance question is a big one. As you’re considering the risks of possible disasters in your area, you’ll want to consider whether your current insurance policies will help your business recover.

After Superstorm Sandy, many business owners were shocked to find their policies covered damage from wind and hail but not from flooding. Similarly, many business owners in the Katrina flood zone were surprised to find their commercial auto policies didn’t cover flood damage to their company vehicles.

While casualty insurance may pay for damage to property, equipment, and inventory, it won’t help account for the lost income that business interruption insurance would help cover.

What is business interruption insurance and how does it work? Click here to learn more.

Preparing for Emergencies and Natural Disasters

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a business toolkit to help businesses become better prepared for an emergency or natural disaster. The Ready Business Toolkit series includes hazard-specific versions for earthquake, hurricane, inland flooding, power outage, and severe wind/tornado. These toolkits offer business owners a step-by-step guide to build preparedness within an organization. The information is both helpful and free.

As you assess your risks and make your plans, you might also consider having one or more of your employees train as a volunteer in FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Having someone trained in the CERT program means you’ll have someone in house with training in fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Your CERT-trained employee(s) can help advise you about your disaster plans and can also serve as a liaison with first responders and other emergency preparedness groups in your area.

With so many resources available, it’s very doable for business owners to effectively plan for natural disasters and other calamities. By starting with some basic questions and working through the Ready Business Toolkit series, you will be able to come up with some ideas that will help protect you and your employees and ensure your business can recover no matter what catastrophes occur.

Stay Safe on the Road with Defensive Driving Techniques

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 90 percent of all auto accidents are caused at least in part by human error. You can avoid being part of this statistic by practicing defensive driving techniques.

Defensive driving goes beyond following basic traffic laws and simply knowing how to operate a vehicle. It involves making safe and well-informed decisions as well as actually anticipating dangerous situations before they occur.

Practicing these techniques can help keep you safe on the road.

Focus on Driving

Avoid activities such as talking on the phone, texting, eating, and personal grooming. Staying focused will help you see potential problems in time to properly respond or avoid them.

Stay Alert

Staying alert while driving allows you to respond quickly to potential problems – such as a child running into the street or a driver slamming on their brakes in front of you. Your judgment and response time can be adversely affected by simple daydreaming as well as from doziness or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including over-the-counter and prescription drugs). Take responsibility by getting adequate rest and refraining from substances that will affect your ability to respond in a timely manner.

Maintain an Appropriate Speed

Following the posted speed limit is fine while road conditions are clear; however, it is up to you to ensure your speed matches conditions. Slow down to maintain control of your vehicle, particularly if the road is wet or if other risky conditions are present.

Be Aware of Other People on the Road

You are less likely to be caught off guard if you pay attention to other people on the road and anticipate their actions. Paying attention and anticipating what other drivers may do will help you to adjust accordingly. Don’t assume other drivers will see and accommodate your vehicle – anticipate the worse-case scenario and be prepared to respond.

Maintain a Safe Following Distance

Keep at least three to four seconds of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you – increase this distance in bad weather or if following a large truck or motorcycle. Maintaining a safe distance helps give you adequate time to brake to a stop if necessary to avoid a collision.

Don’t be Overconfident

It is easy for someone who has had a lot of driving experience to become overconfident in their abilities and allow their driving skills to become sloppy. No matter how much driving experience you have, you could be the cause of an accident by allowing yourself to become distracted behind the wheel.

Practicing these safe driving strategies will improve your ability to respond to the dangers around you and help you avoid putting your fate in the hands of other drivers.

Thinking of Texting While Driving? Think Again.

    • Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far one of the most alarming distractions.
    • Cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.
    • 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
    • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent (at 55 mph) of driving the length of an entire football field.


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Don’t Float Your Boat Until You Know It’s Protected

We all love a day at the lake – the warm sun on your face, the sound of water against your boat, and the cool water spray as you careen across the lake looking for the perfect fishing spot or place to drop your skis.

With all the fun of boating comes risk. In 2017, there were 4,291 recreational boating accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries, and approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property.

The causes of watercraft accidents can be attributed to several factors, most of which are preventable, including:

  • Traveling too fast for the conditions.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Carelessness.
  • Operator inexperience.

You can protect your passengers and your boat with safe boating practices. In addition, it is important to make sure you have the right insurance coverage in place before you take your boat or personal watercraft out on the water. Here are some things you should know about boat insurance.

Is there coverage on my homeowners policy?

Some homeowners policies offer coverage for physical damage to boats. This coverage is subject to the policy deductible and is often very limited. Liability coverage may be provided by the homeowners policy, but only for smaller vessels with horsepower below the company’s limits, such as canoes, small sailboats, or small powerboats. Sometimes an endorsement can be added to the homeowners policy for coverage to watercraft that is otherwise excluded.

What about my auto policy?

The standard auto policy covers the boat trailer for liability with the option to add coverage for physical damage. The boat itself, however, is not covered for liability or damage.

Do I need a separate boat insurance policy?

You will need a separate boat owners policy if you own personal watercraft, such as jet skis, or a faster, larger boat, such as a runabout, cruiser, or yacht. This type of policy offers coverage for physical damage to the boat, property damage, theft, and medical payments. Additional coverage may be available for the boat trailer and accessories. The liability coverage under a boat policy is usually broader than the liability coverage available under a homeowners policy.

Some common coverages on a boat owners policy are listed below. Some of these coverages are standard and others are optional, so it is a good idea to talk with your insurance agent to make sure your policy includes coverage that meets your specific needs.

  • Physical loss or damage to the boat.
  • Damage caused to someone else’s property.
  • Theft of the boat.
  • Loss or theft of belongings.
  • Trailer or boat accessories.
  • Medical payments for injuries to the passengers and boat owner.
  • Bodily injury to persons other than the boat owner or his/her family.
  • Towing in the event of an accident.

What type of claims may be covered by a boat owners policy?

Here are a few examples of claims that may be covered by a boat owners policy. Make sure you understand your own policy and know what limits are in place.

  • Your cruiser collides with a speedboat whose operator fails to yield the right of way, causing extensive damage to your boat. The owner of the speedboat does not have any insurance coverage.
  • An expensive bass boat you just purchased is stolen from your home.
  • Your 27-foot-long sailboat is damaged by a major hailstorm while docked at the marina.
  • Your sport fishing boat is struck by lightning, incapacitating its electrical system.
  • Your son’s friend is injured while water skiing behind your boat.
  • You negligently cause another boat to overturn to avoid a collision.

If you own or are considering purchasing a boat or personal watercraft, contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor to ensure you have the right coverage.



Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim for Storm Damage

Every year, winter storms across the United States cause significant storm damage to homes, cars, and businesses. Understanding what information is needed for the claims process is an effective way to make the most of your insurance dollar. Here are six helpful tips to follow when filing a storm damage claim:

Call your insurance company as soon as possible.

Let them know the extent of the storm-related damage. If you had to evacuate your home, let them know where you are staying and how you can be reached.

Document your loss.

Make a list of your damaged property, and take photographs to substantiate your losses. If you had completed a home inventory previously, provide that information to your insurance company.

Keep receipts for additional living expenses (ALE).

If you are unable to live in your home due to an insured disaster, your insurance company will typically provide reimbursement for additional living expenses, such as restaurant meals and hotel rooms. Save your receipts so you can submit them for reimbursement.

Make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage.

It is your responsibility to make basic temporary repairs so that your home and belongings are not exposed to the elements and at risk of further damage. Reasonable expenses will be covered by your insurance, but it is important to keep receipts and not spend too much on repairs until after the adjuster has surveyed the damage.

Be organized.

Good record-keeping can make filing claims easier. It is important to make lists of storm damage, out-of-pocket expenses incurred, and the names and contact information of everyone you speak to during the claims process.

Don’t be the victim of a scam.

It is unfortunate, but fraudulent service providers prey on disaster victims. Don’t be rushed into signing contracts. Instead, collect business cards, check references, and get written estimates for the proposed job. Never give a deposit to anyone you do not know. Remember, your insurance company is a great resource when it comes to finding reputable service providers such as roofers and contractors.


Identity Theft is at an All-Time High. Are You Protected?

You were headed to your doctor’s office with little on your mind. Your last physical was a  year ago, and during that visit your doctor expressed how pleased she was with your overall health. She encouraged you to maintain your current exercise regimen and continue to make good food choices. You expected a similar response during this year’s physical.

The visit took a turn for the worse, however. When checking in for your appointment, you were informed the entire cost of tests and today’s consultation with the doctor would be out-of-pocket. You ask for more information and you find out you’ve reached the insurance payout limit for the year for preventative health services. This doesn’t make sense; you haven’t been to the doctor since your last physical a year ago. You are certain there is a mistake.

Have You Been a Victim of Identity Theft?

Suddenly you recall a conversation that occurred with your insurance agent.

Last week while reviewing your home insurance policy, your insurance agent explained that identity theft coverage was included in your policy. It was nice to hear at that time, but it was really just a side note for you. You doubted you would ever use it.

Now here you are, seriously considering the possibility that your identity has been stolen. You Google a few things on your phone and learn:

  • Of the 3.2 million identity theft and fraud reports received in 2019, 20% were identity theft complaints, which was up 46% from 2018.
  • Out-of-pocket fraud costs for identity theft victims more than doubled from 2016 to 2018 to $1.7 billion.
  • Restoring your good name takes an average of six months and 200 hours of work.
  • Your personal medical information may also be sold on the black market, where it can be used to create entirely new medical identities based on your data.
  • About 20 percent of victims indicated the wrong diagnosis or treatment was received or that care was delayed because there was confusion about what was true in their records due to the identity theft.

You need help, fast. You contact your insurance agent who immediately helps you file a claim. Your independent agent consistently strives for excellence and, when you were shopping for insurance, he insisted you receive the best value for your insurance dollars. Sure, there were a couple of less expensive options but the coverage wasn’t as thorough. Your final selection included a policy which provided a resolution specialist in the case of an identity theft claim. Your credit resolution specialist’s name is Jamal and he knows this business. With Jamal’s help and guidance, you begin the process of restoring your good name.

10 Warning Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen

If your identity has been stolen, the sooner you find out the sooner you can start mitigating damages. According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are 10 warning signs your identity has been stolen:

  1. Unexplainable withdrawals from your bank account.
  2. You are no longer receiving bills and other mail that you normally receive.
  3. Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  4. You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  5. Merchants refuse your checks.
  6. Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  7. Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  8. A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
  9. The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  10. You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.

If Your Identity is Stolen

If your identity has been stolen, you must act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage. If you have identity theft insurance, contact your insurance agency immediately if you suspect your identity has been compromised. For information on the identity recovery process, visit

The Federal Trade Commission has a printable guide with basic information on identity theft. Click here to download the guide.

Identity Theft Insurance

Many insurance companies offer identity theft insurance. The coverage options vary depending on the policy and insurance company. Talk with your insurance agent to find out what options are available so you can choose the policy that is right for you. Some benefits this coverage may provide include the following:

  • Coverage for expenses incurred to recover your identity, including phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mail costs, and (sometimes with prior consent of your insurance company) attorney fees.
  • Restoration and resolution services to assist you in the process of restoring your identity and repairing your credit report.
  • Little to no adverse impact on premium. Some identity theft policies are written to ensure your premium will not increase if you have a claim. Talk with your agent to see if this option is available on your policy.

Identity theft insurance is more affordable than you may think, and it is simple to add to your current insurance policy. Your independent insurance agent can help you find a company who offers this coverage. Contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor to learn more.

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