Winterize Now, Prevent Cold-Weather Problems Later

While you are enjoying the beauty of autumn, don’t forget to set aside time to winterize your home. Properly preparing your home for winter can help minimize insurance claims that are common during colder months – saving you time and money in the long run. Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Winterize the Outside

One of the first lines of defense against cold temperatures and winter storms is a strong home exterior. While the weather is still nice, winterize your yard and the outside of your home by doing the following:

  • Survey your landscaping. Trim trees with overhanging limbs that could block your walkways or endanger your home or vehicles during heavy snowfall and ice storms.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalks, porch, deck, steps, and handrails to make sure they are in good repair.
  • Examine your roof closely. Remove moss, clear debris, and make any necessary repairs.
  • Remove debris from gutters so heavy winter rains and melting snow can flow freely and not damage your roof or walls. Consider installing gutter guards to keep gutters clear from additional debris.
  • Inspect and clean the openings of attic vents, exhaust ducts, and the dryer vent.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Seal around windows and walls where air-conditioning units are installed.
  • Make sure your snow blower and other snow removal equipment are in working order. Having cleared walkways will help ensure no one is seriously injured on your property.

Keep Things Cozy on the Inside

When the weather outside is less than enjoyable, your home can be a cozy retreat. After you winterize the exterior of your home, here are some items to inspect on the inside:

  • Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once or twice per year. Test the alarms to ensure they are working properly once a month.
  • Inspect your fire extinguishers to ensure they are ready for use. For safety tips, visit https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safety-equipment/Fire-extinguishers.
  • Before turning on your heating system, replace the filter and have the system professionally serviced. Replace the filter regularly throughout the season.
  • If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, have the chimney or flue inspected each year.
  • Check the insulation in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Improper insulation can cause a variety of problems ranging from bursting pipes to snow melting too fast to be carried away efficiently.
  • Keep things warm. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal up drafty areas around doors and windows.
  • Maintain an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you are not at home. The temperature inside walls can be a lot colder than the air in the rooms, putting pipes at risk of freezing. Seal any drafts and leave interior doors open to help keep an even temperature from room to room.
  • Check your emergency supplies. Ensure you have adequate food and water, along with a battery-powered radio. You’ll want a week’s worth of supplies, or more if you live in a remote area.
  • Avoid deadly carbon monoxide. Do not use your oven or stovetop to heat your home, and never use gas-powered generators or barbecue grills indoors.

Don’t Let the Cold Get to Your Pipes

It’s hard to think of a worse start to a winter day than waking up to frozen pipes. Here are some tips to help you prevent what could easily become a very messy and expensive situation:

  • Before cold weather arrives, drain sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines. Detach, drain, and store outdoor hoses. If possible, close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs for draining. Keep them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. If you can’t shut off the water from the inside, pick up some foam faucet covers.
  • If you have pipes located along exterior walls or in unfinished or unheated spaces – such as a garage, attic, basement, or crawlspace – wrap the pipes with heating tape or cover them with insulation wraps or foam.
  • During severe cold spells, you may want to leave all faucets, both hot and cold, running at a slight trickle. Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathroom so your pipes aren’t shut off from the warm air.
  • If you end up with a frozen pipe, quickly shut off your main water supply, and call a licensed plumber to address the situation.

What other steps do you take to winterize your home? Share your ideas in the comment box below. If you own a cabin or vacation home, remember these tips are equally as important for unoccupied dwellings.

Social Engineering – A Risk You Can’t Ignore

Cyber attacks are continually on the rise, and 98% of cyber attacks rely on social engineering. This risk is not unique to large businesses – 43% of data breach victims are small businesses.

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is the “use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes.” A hacker who is attempting social engineering might use email, postal mail, phone, or direct contact to gain illegal access to your computer system, convince you to give away sensitive information, or gain access to crucial company data. Social engineering is particularly dangerous because it takes advantage of human error rather than weaknesses in software and operating systems.

Social engineering is the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information — these tactics are popular among cyber criminals because it is easier to exploit a person’s natural inclination to trust than it is to discover ways to hack your software.

Examples of social engineering include the following:

  • Phishing: emails, phone calls, or text messages from someone posing as a legitimate organization with the goal of convincing individuals to provide sensitive information.
  • Pretexting: this is a scam where the perpetrator will create a fabricated scenario to build trust in order to convince their victim to willingly hand over sensitive information.
  • Baiting: this is similar to phishing, but the baiter will offer an item or good to entice the victim to provide certain information.
  • Quid Pro Quo: these attacks promise a benefit in exchange for information. The difference between this and baiting is that baiting promises something in the form of a good, whereas quid pro quo promises a service.
  • Tailgating: this type of risk is different from other types of social engineering as it involves the perpetrator physically entering your business. It is one of the most common and innocent-appearing security breaches. Tailgating occurs when someone who lacks proper authority follows an employee into a restricted area of the company.

Wire Fraud Through Social Engineering

Wire fraud is one of the crimes that is committed through social engineering. This can occur when a criminal deceives employees to wire money to pay phony vendors. This is not your typical “foreign prince” type of email that screams fraud. These types of sophisticated events occur when a criminal gains access to an email account belonging to someone in the business who has access to company finances. The criminal will silently monitor emails, waiting for an opportunity when financials are being discussed.

The following real-life scenario illustrates how easily this crime can occur:

A 20-employee manufacturing facility in a small rural town was nearly the victim of a social engineering scheme. This company has vendors and clients internationally and uses a third-party foreign exchange service for large transactions. A hacker was able to infiltrate the email of the manufacturer’s chief of sales and discovered this relationship with the foreign exchange service.

Acting as the chief of sales, the hacker started a conversation with the account manager of the exchange service and attempted to initiate a transfer to a “new vendor” (presumably himself and his associates). Following their established protocol, the account manager at the exchange service mentioned that he would call later that day for voice verification. The perpetrator then gave the account manager a “new mobile number” because he was “on the road.” The account manager called that number, talked with the perpetrator posing as the chief of sales, and verified the transaction.

Luckily for the manufacturer, the account manager still felt like something wasn’t right and decided to call the manufacturer directly. At this point, the jig was up, and no transfer was initiated. Upon further investigation, the perpetrator had set up email “rules” so all emails in the conversation with the account manager at the exchange service were automatically sent to the “trash” folder. The chief of sales had been using his email at the same time as a hacker and had no idea.

If it were not for two-factor verification on the part of the foreign exchange service, this small-town manufacturer would have lost tens of thousands of dollars. The manufacturer has since set up two-factor authentication on all email accounts to hopefully prevent something like this from happening again.

Insurance Coverage for Social Engineering Risks

Due to the nature of social engineering, cyber and crime insurance policies do not generally cover losses that result from this risk. To protect your business, you need to have a “social engineering fraud coverage extension” added to your crime policy. When considering this type of coverage, it is important to thoroughly review the policy language to make sure you understand what is covered and what is not. Discuss this policy with your insurance agent to ensure you have the coverage you need to protect your business.

Social engineering coverage extensions vary among insurance companies. Options to look for include coverage for the following:

  • Vendor or supplier impersonation
  • Executive impersonation
  • Client impersonation
  • Losses beyond use of computer, email, or phone

Mitigating Risk and Protecting Your Business

While it is difficult to completely prevent the risk of fraud by social engineering, there are steps you can take to protect your business. Social engineering tactics are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, so it is important to stay informed and be aware of current techniques. Here are a few tips to help protect your business.

  • Develop specific protocols including dual control, separation of duties, and two-step verification for activities that involve access to sensitive information or company finances. Enforce these guidelines, and regularly educate employees on new or continuing risks.
  • Be on the lookout for red flags, such as requests to change account numbers, expedited requests, or requests for unusual amounts.
  • Limit information that is shared publicly. For example, if you are out of the office and not checking emails, do not broadcast this on social media. Be careful with information that is shared publicly about specific job duties. Job descriptions that are publicly available should be reviewed to ensure no sensitive information is included.
  • Be aware of red flags in emails, such as the following:
    • Email sent at an unusual time, such as 3:00 a.m.
    • Subject line that is irrelevant or doesn’t match the message content.
    • Attachment included that you were not expecting or that doesn’t match the message content.
    • Bad grammar or spelling errors in email subject line or message content.
    • Misspelling in hyperlink.
    • Emails that only have long hyperlinks with no further information in the message body.
  • Regularly update your antivirus / anti-malware software.
  • Be suspicious of tempting offers – if it sounds too good to be true, it could likely be an attempt at social engineering fraud.

Remember, social engineers carry out their schemes by manipulating human feelings, such as curiosity or fear. If you feel alarmed by an email or a request, trust your gut. Paying attention and being alert can help protect against many social engineering attacks.

Contact us to discuss this risk and ensure you have the right coverage to protect your business.

References:
https://www.varonis.com/blog/data-breach-statistics/
http://resources.infosecinstitute.com/common-social-engineering-attacks/#gref
http://www.riskmanagementmonitor.com/beware-of-coverage-gaps/
http://www.rmmagazine.com/2016/02/01/6-tips-to-reduce-the-risk-of-social-engineering-fraud/
http://www.verizonenterprise.com/verizon-insights-lab/dbir/2017/
https://www.incapsula.com/web-application-security/social-engineering-attack.html
https://www.social-engineer.com/2017-verizon-dbir-social-engineering-breakdown/
https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/security-awareness/5-social-engineering-attacks-to-watch-out-for/
https://www.webroot.com/us/en/home/resources/tips/online-shopping-banking/secure-what-is-social-engineering

Do You Have the Right Insurance for Your Business?

Part of risk management involves not only having insurance but having the right coverage included in your policy. Here are four elements of your insurance policy we recommend reviewing regularly with your agent.

1. Do you have adequate insurance to rebuild your business property and replace your merchandise and possessions?

A building and personal property (BPP) policy covers the building, your business personal property, and the personal property of others. Categories covered include furniture, fixtures, merchandise, personal property owned by you and used in your business, tenant improvements (if leasing/renting), etc. To ensure you have adequate coverage for all of these assets, the value of your property needs to be accurately reported and updated annually to reflect inflation and other changes in costs.

2. Do you have the right insurance in place to protect the personal property of your employees?

To protect the property of your employees, you will need personal effects and property of others coverage added to your policy. This coverage extends up to $2,500 worth of business personal property coverage to your personal effects as well as that which belongs to your officers, partners, and employees. This coverage also protects the personal property of others in your care, custody, or control. Limits higher than $2,500 can be purchased if needed.

3. Does your current policy provide coverage to help keep your business open after disaster?

Business interruption insurance is essential to ensuring a quick resumption of your business after a disaster. Without it, your business may have to close down completely while the premises are being repaired, which may leave you susceptible to losing out to the competition. There are three types of business interruption insurance: business income coverage, extra expense coverage, and contingent business interruption insurance. Talk with your insurance agent to ensure you have the right type of policy and sufficient coverage to protect your business.

4. Will your current insurance policy protect your assets from a lawsuit?

A commercial general liability (CGL) policy protects your business assets against many common liability claims, including bodily injury, property damage, personal injury (including slander or libel), and advertising injury (damage from slander or false advertising). A CGL policy will cover the cost of defending or settling claims. The two major forms of liability insurance policies are occurrence and claims made. An occurrence policy covers you for the policy amount you had in place when the actual injury occurred, not when the claim was made. A claims-made policy covers you for the policy amount you have in place when the claim is made.

“One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is that they don’t buy the right type of insurance and often have gaps in their coverage. Business owners should contact their insurance agent or company representative annually to make sure their insurance is adequate.”

Loretta Worters, Vice President, Insurance Information Institute

A regular review with your insurance agent can help ensure your policy is kept up to date with the changes in your business and industry. Contact us  today for a review.

Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Want cheaper insurance? You are not alone.

This is the biggest reason why new people call our agency. They want a better rate. And when I say “they,” I mean everybody. Nobody wants to overpay for insurance or feel like they are being cheated by their insurance company.

People have a lot of different motivations for seeking a better rate: their current company keeps increasing the rates each year; they pay a lot more than their neighbor; they haven’t had a claim, yet their rates keep increasing. The list goes on.

On top of that, consumers are seeing ad after ad, every day, telling them that company XYZ could save them X amount of dollars on their premium. It is no wonder they are shopping for a lower rate.

But we forget one simple thing that is so important in the insurance buying process:

Cheaper insurance is NOT always better!
And what’s cheapest is not always best.

Now, I don’t want to diminish the role that price plays when you are buying insurance. I spent a lot of time shopping around for my own insurance. I wanted to find the best rate. And I do the same thing for my clients. I try to find them a competitive rate among the companies I represent.

But there are a couple things I don’t do: I don’t skimp on coverage, and I don’t use an insurance company that I don’t know or trust.

The number one consideration when shopping for insurance should be coverage!

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered when it comes to coverage. Do you have the right coverage? Do you know what coverage you need? Do you have enough liability coverage? Do you run a business from your home? Do you have any farm animals? Do you know the different coverages that companies offer and which ones you do or do not want?

A good agent will help you navigate your particular risks and make sure you have the right coverage for your situation. And believe me, every situation is a little bit different.

The number two consideration should be the insurance company you use.

You want to work with a company that is stable, has been around for a while, and has good financial ratings. You want a company with great claims service and superior all-around customer service.

If you decide to work with a substandard insurance company, and they are not willing or able to step up and pay when claim time comes, then that policy is not worth the paper it is printed on.

I also lump the insurance agent you choose into this consideration as well. A good agent/agency will have great customer service and they will recommend reputable companies to do business with.

The number three consideration is price.

If you don’t have the right coverage, or you are not working with a dependable insurance company, then it doesn’t matter how cheap your policy is, because at the end of the day your policy may not be doing its job of providing the service and financial protection you need if a claim occurs.

As I said earlier, cheaper insurance is not always better. The right insurance policy is one that combines all three considerations, or what I call the right value: great coverage with a great company at a competitive price.

If you want someone to help you find the right coverage and value, talk to us. It’s what we do every day.

The Real Cost of Workers Compensation Claims

Workers compensation insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages for employees who are injured or become ill at work. This coverage is required by most states and can be the most expensive line of insurance for most employers.

In addition to the cost of workers compensation insurance, there are a variety of indirect costs that can impact your profits when employees are injured at work.

The following graphic illustrates the direct and indirect costs of workers compensation claims.

Reducing Costs with an Effective Safety Culture

Developing an effective safety culture can help reduce workplace injuries and reduce direct and indirect workers compensation costs.

Here are a few key things you can do to improve your safety culture:

Establish a written safety program.

Your safety program should include training on preventing workplace accidents and injuries as well as incentives for maintaining an accident-free environment. Getting commitment from management and employees is key.

Be selective in your hiring process.

Choose new hires who share the same safety culture values. Provide accurate job descriptions to job applicants, obtain previous work references, and conduct criminal background checks. Also, conduct a pre-start post-offer drug test and obtain a motor vehicle report (MVR) for new hires.

Reduce human error.

Ensure employees know the correct methods and procedures to accomplish their work responsibilities. Require employees to demonstrate skill proficiency before performing tasks on their own.

Prevent accident recurrences.

Investigate and document every injury and near-miss. Identifying why and how the accident occurred and making proper corrections can help prevent future incidents.

Contact us to learn more about risk management resources to support your safety efforts.

What You Need to Know About Life Insurance

Life insurance can help your loved ones meet their expenses and maintain their standard of living in the event of your untimely death.

“Two-thirds of Americans recognize they need life insurance yet many do not have adequate coverage to protect their families.” ~ James Scanlon, LIMRA Market Research

Words to Know

Beneficiaries: the person(s) who receive the death benefit when you die. These are individuals you choose – they can be a spouse, children, parents, business partner, etc.

Premium: the cost of the policy. This can be paid monthly or yearly. The cost depends on a variety of factors, including your age, your health, the benefit amount, and the type and length of the policy.

Death benefit: the amount paid to your beneficiaries when you die. You choose the amount when you purchase the life insurance policy. The death benefit is generally income tax free.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?

How much life insurance you need depends on your personal and financial circumstances as well as what you’d like to accomplish with the death benefit should you pass away prematurely.

Many experts recommend aiming for 10 to 15 times your income. At a minimum, you should purchase at least enough coverage to pay your funeral expenses (an average cost of $7,000 to $10,000) and your debts. As your family grows and changes, you may need to reevaluate the amount of coverage you have.

Here are a few things to consider as you determine the amount of insurance to purchase.

  • How much money will your family need to cover the lack of your income? Are you close to retirement, or are you providing for a young family? The coverage you will need is tied to the amount of income you would need to replace in the event of a premature death.
  • What debts do you have that your family will need to pay? These may include a mortgage, automobile loans, student loans, and credit cards.
  • What specific expenses would you like to cover for your family in the future? General living expenses, college, weddings, etc.
  • Will your family need to replace your annual income, or will your spouse’s income be sufficient?
  • Choose a policy with premiums you can afford long term. You are better off purchasing a smaller policy with lower premiums you can fit into your budget. If you purchase a policy with premiums beyond your capacity to pay, you risk letting the policy lapse due to missed payments.

For further guidance in determining how much life insurance you need, download our life insurance planning checklist.

Types of Life Insurance

There are two main types of life insurance: term and permanent.

Term Life Insurance

A term life policy is the simplest and usually the most affordable type of life insurance.

A term policy offers protection only for a specified number of years. You choose the term (length of time you want the policy to last). Typical terms are 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. The policy expires at the end of the term and is no longer in effect.

If you pass away while the policy is active, your beneficiaries will be paid the death benefit that is specified by the policy.

Example: In 1998, John purchased a 30-year term life insurance policy for $500,000. He passed away 21 years later (in 2019). The policy was still active since it was within the 30-year time frame and John had not missed any monthly payments. His beneficiaries received a death benefit from the insurance company for $500,000.

If you pass away after the policy has expired, your beneficiaries will not receive a death benefit since the policy is no longer in effect.

Permanent Life Insurance

The two main functions of permanent life insurance are to:

  1. Pay your beneficiaries in the event of your death.
  2. Serve as an investment account that has a cash value you can access or borrow against while you are living. The longer you have the policy, the more cash value it will have.

This type of insurance provides lifelong protection until maturity, usually until the insured is age 95 or older. Permanent life insurance policies can include whole life, universal life, or variable universal life.

While permanent life insurance can be significantly more expensive than term, permanent insurance is a good choice if you want long-term coverage with a predictable premium and a way to accumulate cash funds for emergency needs or opportunities.

Younger families often purchase term insurance and convert to permanent insurance later. Premiums may be higher with the renewed or converted policy.

Talk with Your Insurance Agent

Purchasing a life insurance policy can be intimidating. Your insurance advisor can help make the process easier by offering advice, performing a needs analysis, and explaining coverage options and costs.

Contact us for further guidance on determining the amount and type of insurance that is right for you.

Why Do My Car Insurance Rates Keep Going Up?

Hands on car steering wheeling with front window

People with good driving records rightfully expect to benefit by getting lower car insurance rates. And they expect insurance rates to go down as their car gets older. For the most part, car owners expect to be able to connect their insurance rates with factors they can see. Unfortunately, auto insurance rates rise for many reasons that are not related to a particular driver’s record or the age of the car.

Below is a list of some factors that affect your insurance rates in ways you may not expect.

1. Rising Cost of Repairs

“Vehicles have become more advanced, both in terms of safety and technology,” said Ben Guttman, an executive broker with North Central Insurance Agency in Baltimore, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. This means there are more expensive parts to fix even in a small accident, and the cars are designed to protect the passengers even at the cost of being totaled.”

JoAnne Murray, president of Allan Block Insurance Agency in New York City, cites the rising cost of parts as a reason for rising insurance prices. “A side-view mirror can cost $1,000. Bumpers are more than $2,000. The days of a minor fender bender where the cost to repair was under $1,000 doesn’t exist. This drives up the rates,” she says.

2. Distracted Driving

“The main cause for rising costs is distracted driving,” Guttman says. “When you aren’t watching the road, it not only increases the likelihood of a wreck but also increases the severity. What would have been a small fender bender if you had hit the brakes a second earlier, now is a total loss.”

Cell phones have become ubiquitous, and car controls have become more complex. Climate and audio features now often involve a touch screen with several menus. Texting while driving or forgetting to set controls before pulling onto the road means that drivers look away from the road for longer periods, turning an avoidable danger or a small accident into a serious collision. Enough major accidents over time add up to high rates for everyone.

3. Your Credit

Your credit rating also affects your insurance rates in many states. Some estimates suggest that your insurance rate can increase as much as 27 percent if your credit score reduces from excellent to fair. If your credit score drops from excellent to poor, your insurance rates could double in cost.

4. Uninsured Drivers

In 2015, 13 percent of the drivers in the U.S. were uninsured. That means that one of every eight cars you pass today could be driven by someone who does not carry insurance on their vehicle. Processing claims involving uninsured drivers has become very expensive, increasing the cost of insurance too. Many car owners take out Uninsured Driver Coverage, which covers some costs if you’re in an accident, the other driver is at fault, and that driver doesn’t carry liability insurance.

5. Increases in State Speed Limits

Many states are raising their speed limits, which leads not only to more accidents, but to worse accidents with more significant damage, more severe injuries, and more fatalities. Rising medical costs also raise the price of covering injuries from an accident.

6. Extreme Weather

Extreme weather is becoming more common across the U.S., according to a 2017 report from Farmers Insurance. Everything from hail storms to flash floods are increasing and persisting past the winter months into April and May. Eventually, such patterns could increasingly affect insurance rates.

7. Changing Your Insurance Policy

Adding a new driver to your policy or changing the primary driver can raise your rate, as can removing a car from your policy or separating your home insurance from your car insurance. If your insurance policies are bundled, you may be getting discounts for multiple cars or multiple policies that you are not entirely aware of. Splitting the bundle can reduce or eliminate the discount.

Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Rates

There are some reasons for auto insurance increases that won’t change until most people change the way they drive. But there are steps you can take to improve your insurance rates.

      • When you buy your next car, consider a car with simpler engineering, with more mechanical and fewer computer-controlled parts to maintain. Look at well-cared-for pre-owned cars that could give you a better rate because they are cheaper, to begin with, and have a shorter life expectancy.
      • Just as separating an insurance bundle can raise your rates, bundling your homeowners or renters insurance with your car insurance and insuring all of your families’ cars with one company can save you as much as 25 percent in insurance costs.
      • Do the math on raising your deductible. A higher deductible can mean a lower monthly rate. But keep the deductible to an amount you can afford and set that amount safely aside so that an accident or theft doesn’t leave you worse off than a higher payment.
      • Talk to your insurance agent about your insurance plan. Different insurance plans have different structures with various fees, financing rates, or service charges. Changing your payment plan may lower the overall cost. If you have more than one car, you may not need rental coverage to rent a car if one of them is damaged. If you have AAA, you might opt out of roadside coverage.
      • Continue all the auto safety checks, regular maintenance, and safe driving habits you already practice. They are not the only factors that affect your car insurance rates, but they do have an impact, and they keep you, your family, and other drivers safe.

Our team at Griffin Owens Insurance Group would be glad to talk to you about your car insurance and explore how you can save money while staying safe. Call us at 703-471-0050 or email us with any questions. We are here to help.

Home Improvement: Beyond Homeowners Insurance

If you’re about to renovate your kitchen, finish your basement, add a room to your house, or dig a pool, you have probably been careful about researching excellent, reliable contractors to do the work. Be sure to review your homeowners insurance, too, to understand how changes in your home can change your insurance needs.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in five job-related accidents in the U.S. last year were in the construction industry. That’s not counting the accidents that can happen after your renovation or addition has been safely completed. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re covered.

• Ask your contractor for a copy of their certificate of insurance. This request is standard and should be easy for them to provide. The contractor’s certificate should indicate their General Liability Insurance, Workers Compensation Insurance, and Property Insurance. Even the best and safest contractors may have accidents, and construction sites are especially vulnerable to weather anomalies and minor mishaps.

• Request the certificate and talk to your insurance agent. Anything your contractor isn’t covered for, you could be responsible for as the property owner. And if you’re doing the work yourself, you will need your own insurance.

Make sure that the General Liability Coverage taken out by you or your contractor protects you against any damage to your neighbors’ property, as well as to your own.

Ask your agent also about Builder’s Risk Insurance to cover possible damage to uninstalled appliances, furniture, and materials.

• Talk to your insurance agent about how your project may decrease your insurance. Are you making changes that make your home safer? If you are replacing old wiring or outdated plumbing, reinforcing or rebuilding a roof, or adding a security system, sprinkler system, or fire alarm, your improvements will make your home safer, and that can result in a discount to your insurance rates. You may want to include one or more of these safety improvements in a project you’ve already envisioned.

• Ask your insurance agent if your changes will increase your insurance. Many home improvements increase the value of your home, and therefore, your homeowners insurance should also increase. You’ve just made your home more valuable, probably increasing its resale value. Certainly, you’ll want that value back if the unthinkable does happen. And your insurance company may have a rule about the percentage of the value of your home that has to be covered.

• Find out if you need additional types of insurance. Adding a swimming pool or adding a deck, especially a second-story deck, could raise your General Liability Insurance. An accident doesn’t have to be your fault or the fault of your contractor to make you liable for damages.

If you’re finishing a basement for use as living space, find out about the risk of flooding, and talk to your insurance company about Flood Insurance. Flood, earthquake, and other disaster insurance are not generally included in a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Making your home your dream house should be a positive experience. If you’re about to start a construction project and are not sure about where you stand with any of these points, call your insurance agent right away.

Or you can contact the Griffin Owens Insurance Group at 703-471-0050 or by using the simple form at Griffin Owens Contact. At Griffin Owens, we have experience in a large variety of business, personal, and financial insurance solutions. We’d be glad to talk with you about preparing for your home improvement project.

Aging in Place. Planning to live well.

According to the US Census Bureau by the year 2030, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65 and represent 20% of the US population. And, for the first time in US history, older adults will outnumber children.
These statistics are really not much of a surprise. In fact, it is not unusual to know retired adults who are caring for their retired parents. Older adults are living longer and the implications are clear, the growing number of aging adults in the United States will impact all areas: medical delivery, economic stability, and housing.
To ease the challenges of growing older many are choosing to “age in place”. A concept whose popularity has increased each year. It is a popular choice for a variety of reasons: living costs can be lower than an assisted care residence, the mortgage has been paid off, the neighborhood and the neighbors are familiar and provide comfortable surroundings, and the home is filled with memories and treasures providing emotional support and comfort.
Are you thinking about aging in place? Successful aging in place requires thoughtful planning and implementation to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Consider Home Modifications. Adapting your home now may help prevent falls in the future. Adding handrails to the bathing area, putting in place non-slip rugs and floor surfaces, changing the location of the washer/dryer to the main level, chair lifts for staircases, and even adding larger handles and door pulls may help prevent injuries.
  2. Consider emergencies. Add flashing lights to doorbells and fire alarms, wear pendants and necklaces for emergency contact at the push of a button, and install home security alarms to prevent intruders.
  3.  Learn alternate transportation options. While you may be driving today, consider the options for travel should you no longer find driving comfortable. While you may love the inside of your home, you need to be able to move freely outside the home as well.
  4. Find reputable home maintenance agencies to help with repairs. Those chores that you may have done earlier will not look so appealing as balance and mobility changes. And, those chores need to be done as frequently as before.
  5. Insurance Review. Contact your insurance agent for a full review of coverage including home, car, personal property, and liability. Consider reviewing life insurance and long term care insurance riders. There are products now available to help cover long term care expenses that may meet your needs.

Aging in Place is a current trend and promotes independent living. For families, there are so many considerations regarding the home modifications, financial planning, long term health planning, insurance and finding the right home care provider. According to the Homecare Association of America, “homecare benefits seniors… keeping seniors safe, healthy, engaged and active, Value of Homecare.

To promote independent living, we can help create a plan and support your family.

Call 703-471-0050 or connect with us at  Griffin Owens Insurance Group.

Drive Smart Virginia- Distracted Driving

distracted driver on cell phone

Distracted driving is dangerous and continues to kill and injure more people each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as a result of distracted driving, 3,450 people were killed in 2016, and hundreds of thousands injured. These numbers continue to rise as technology becomes a larger part of our daily life.

Distracted driving is not a new issue; it includes anything that takes the drivers’ eyes off the road. And, seconds do matter. At 55 miles per hour, looking away from the road for 5 seconds has been compared to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. The introduction of smartphones, smart cars and texting has exponentially increased these dangers– and teenagers present the greatest risk.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) calls it an epidemic and federal, state and local governments are paying attention. For example, Texas now requires new drivers over the age of 18 to take a distracted driver course, Virginia has the “DRIVE SMART” campaign aimed at improving safety, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) launched a  “Keep the Road Code” pledge and campaign. New devices on cars are also helping through new features including blind spot warning systems, lane change alerts, back up warning signals and assisted braking mechanisms.

Companies are stepping up as well. Distracted driving by employees is dangerous and a concern for businesses.  Social responsibility, economic liability and public safety are encouraging internal rules and education in the corporate world.

With the knowledge that cellphone interactions while driving are up 57 percent over early studies, the insurance industry is helping to lead some of these initiatives, not only through education but targeted awareness campaigns. A recent study by car insurance search engine, The Zebra, confirmed that motorists ticketed for distracted driving could see their auto insurance premiums increase by an average of 16%, or roughly $226 a year. The study also found that premiums increased by 41% in one state when policyholders are charged with distracted driving violations. Social, criminal and financial implications will continue to grow as a result of distracted driving in our society.

We all need to work together to change these dangerous behaviors through meaningful legislation, targeted media campaigns, and education.

We know how important these issues are and we are trying to do our part. Throughout the year we work to educate Virginians about the dangers of taking their eyes and mind off the road. We discuss not only the risks of cell phone use but eating, drinking, grooming, reading and even tending to pets and children while driving.

As we all work together for positive change, there may be questions you have regarding insurance and your policy. Please feel free to give us a call at703- 471-0050, email or visit our website.