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hands-free cell phone driving

New Hands-Free law goes into effect February 23

In an effort to reduce distracted driving to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths, the new law, An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving bans the hand-held use of cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. The law becomes effective February 23, 2020; therefore, now is the time to prepare and change habits.

Hands-Free Mobile Phone LawWhat drivers can and cannot do

Under the new law:

  • Drivers cannot use a mobile electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode. The law defines “hands-free mode” as using the device without the user holding or touching the device except that a device may require a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature, i.e. devices using Bluetooth technology are allowed provided the use guidelines are met.
  • Drivers cannot look at texts, images or videos displayed on a mobile electronic device, with the exception that a driver may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle.
  • Drivers stopped at a light or in traffic on a public way cannot use a hand-held device. Drivers may use a hand-held device if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way, i.e. pulled over to the side of the road or in a parking lot.
  • Drivers may use a hand-held device as an exception in response to emergencies including:
    • the vehicle was disabled;
    • medical attention or assistance was required;
    • police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or
    • a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway. 

NOTE: The law does not apply to first responders who are on duty and driving emergency service vehicles.

You can be pulled over just for being on your phone

Unlike the previous no texting while driving law, the new law makes holding a cellphone or electronic device a primary offense, which means you can be pulled over just for being on your phone.

Fines and required education for offenses

Offenders of the law are subject to fines as follows:
  • First offense - $100 fine;
  • Second offense - $250 fine, and;
  • Third or subsequent offenses - $500 fine.

After a second or subsequent offense, operators will be required to complete an educational program on distracted driving prevention.

Your insurance will be impacted for repeat offenses

While a first or second offense is not categorized as a “surchargeable incident” under the statute, a third or subsequent offense will be considered surchargeable and will impact your insurance premiums.

Distracted driving due to the use of electronic devices is a serious problem. While this law addresses distractions due to mobile devices, distractions also exist in the form of driving while drowsy, level of activity inside the car, eating while driving, multi-tasking and other situations. For your safety, we encourage compliance with the new law as well as to reduce and eliminate other distractions so that you can focus on the road and the task of operating your motor vehicle. 

Being alert and avoiding distractions is the best way to avoid accidents…it saves money, it saves headaches, it saves lives.

Read an official copy of H.4203, which is the version of the Hands-Free Use Act that was signed into law.

 

Your renters insurance guide

What to look for when shopping for renters insurance

If you rent a house or apartment and experience a fire or other disaster, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs of repairing the building. To financially protect yourself you will need to buy renters or tenants insurance.

renters insurance protections

Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes three key types of financial protection: 

  • Coverage for personal possessions
  • Liability protection
  • Additional living expenses (ALE)

The big difference is that renters insurance doesn't cover the building or structure of the apartment—that's the landlord's responsibility.

The following questions will help you choose the right coverage when you are shopping around for renters insurance or discussing your needs with an insurance professional.

Coverage for personal possessions

Coverage for your personal property is a key component of renters coverage, protecting you from theft, fire and a host of other unfortunate events.

1. How much insurance should I buy?

Make sure you have enough insurance to replace all of your personal possessions in the event of a burglary, fire or other covered disaster. The easiest way to determine the value of all your personal possessions is to create a home inventory—a detailed list of all of your belongings along with their estimated value.

2. Should I choose replacement cost or actual cash value coverage?

Actual cash value policies include a deduction for depreciation (that is, the idea that items lose value over time). Replacement cost coverage is pricier but can be well worth the extra expense if your belongings are damaged or destroyed (think about how much you'd get for your TV used versus how much it would actually cost to replace).

3. What disasters are—and are not—covered?

Renters insurance covers you against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and certain types of water damage (such as from a burst pipe or when the tenant upstairs leaves the water running in the bathtub and floods your apartment).

Like standard homeowners policies, most renters insurance policies do not cover floods or earthquakes. Flood coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. You can get earthquake insurance as a separate policy or have it added as an endorsement to your renters policy, depending on where you live.

4. What is my deductible, and how does it work?

A deductible is an amount of money you responsible for paying before your insurance coverage. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and a fire destroys $5000 worth of furniture, the first $500 is your responsibility and your insurance company will cover $4500.

Renters insurance deductibles are generally specified as a dollar amount, which can be found on the Declarations page of your policy. In general, the larger the deductible, the lower your insurance premium.

5. What is a “floater” and do I need one?

A floater is a separate policy that provides additional coverage for more costly valuables if they are lost or stolen. If you have expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, sports equipment or musical instruments, consider adding a floater to your policy to protect against their loss.

6. Am I covered if I am traveling or away from home?

Most renters polices include what is called off-premises coverage, which means belongings that are outside of your home are covered against the same disasters listed in your policy. For example, property stolen from your car or a hotel room while you’re traveling would be protected.

liability protection

7. What is liability insurance?

Renters insurance provides liability protection that covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage done by you, your family members and even your pets. This coverage pays for the cost of defending you in court, up to the limit of your policy.

Your renters policy should also include no-fault medical coverage as part of the liability protection. Medical payments coverage allows someone who gets injured on your property to simply submit his or her medical bills directly to your insurance company so the bills can be paid without resorting to a lawsuit.

8. Do I have enough liability insurance?

Make sure the amount of liability coverage provided by your policy is sufficient to protect your financial and other material assets in the event of a lawsuit.

9. Do I need an umbrella liability policy?

If you need a larger amount of liability protection, consider purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy. An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage provided by your renters or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander.

Additional living expenses

Additional living expenses (ALE) coverage provides coverage if your home is destroyed by an insured disaster and you need to live elsewhere for a time.

10. What does ALE cover?

The additional living expenses portion of your rental insurance policy pays for hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your rental home is being repaired or rebuilt. Essentially, it covers the expenses you would not have to incur if you had your usual roof over your head.

11. How much does ALE cover?

Most policies will reimburse you the full difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses; however, there are generally limits as to the total amount the insurer will pay or time limits specifying how long you’re eligible for the ALE payments. Make sure you’re comfortable with the limits of the policy you choose

Multiple policy and other discounts

12. What types of discounts are offered on renters insurance?

Insurance companies often offer discounts on renters insurance if you have another policy with them—for example, car insurance or business insurance.

You may also get a discount if you:

  • Have a security system
  • Use smoke detectors
  • Use deadbolt locks
  • Have good credit
  • Stay with the same insurer
  • Are over 55 years old

Discounts may vary widely by insurance company and by state, so review your options carefully. 

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Independent Contractors

 

Does your business use “independent contractors”? If so, are you in compliance with Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law (MICL)? (M.G.L. c. 149, §148B) Established in 1990, the law initially focused on the construction industry; however, changes in 2004 created a very strict “three prong test”, which expanded implications to many other types of businesses. As a result, many businesses that have used “independent contractors” can no longer classify these workers as such.

Three Prong Test

In order to be classified an “independent contractor”, a worker must meet ALL three of the following criteria:

  1. the worker is free from employer’s control and direction in performing the service, both under a contract and in fact;
  2. the service provided by the worker is outside the employer’s usual course of business; and
  3. the worker is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same type.

What Should Businesses Do?

Companies using independent contractors need to re-evaluate these relationships to determine whether the worker classification is proper under the MICL. After the evaluation, it may become clear that certain workers are misclassified under the MICL test and should be treated as employees. If an employer identifies an issue but does nothing, they risk stiff penalties as noncompliance with the MICL is not taken lightly.

The Attorney General can issue civil citations and institute criminal prosecution for both intentional and unintentional violations of the MICL. Willful violations can result in substantial fines or possible imprisonment. In some instances, fines levied may be in triple damages.

Because of this law, many businesses may stop using certain (or all) independent contractors, or decide to change the status of these workers to employees. While independent contractors are important to many businesses, the MICL and three-prong test make improper classification a greater risk that Massachusetts businesses must address.

Get more information on the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law.

 

lawsuit protection

Liability insurance is for everyone.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be sued like one. The legal fees to defend yourself in a lawsuit can be financially crippling regardless of whether you’re ultimately found responsible or not. If found liable, you can’t predict what a judge or jury will award, but huge settlements are common especially when bodily injury is involved. In a serious accident the personal liability limits of an auto, home or renter policy may not be enough, which is why an umbrella policy is an important consideration.
 

lawsuit protectionWhat’s at risk? Your savings, your home, your future income, etc.

One reason given for purchased higher liability limits is, “I don’t have a lot of savings or other assets.” What this view fails to consider is your future income and earnings potential. If you think you’re struggling now to make ends meet, imagine what would happen if in addition to losing your savings and other assets that your wages were garnished. Regardless of your economic status, you have something to lose.
 

How can you improve your protection?

Increase the personal liability portions of your policies. Often the difference in premium is minimal compared to the additional protection you get. Here are some of the specific areas to consider.

Auto Insurance

  • Optional Bodily Injury to Others - pays for damages to people injured or killed in an accident if you are legally responsible for the accident.
  • Property Damage - pays for damages to someone else whose auto or other property is damaged in an accident if you are legally responsible.
  • Medical Payments - pays for reasonable expenses for necessary medical and funeral services to yourself and your passengers incurred as the result of an auto accident. 

Home, Condo or Renter Insurance

  • Personal Liability – pays if you are found responsible for unintentional injuries to another person or damage to property.
  • Medical Payments to Others - pays for claims and lawsuits as a result of someone getting hurt, and pays for the medical expenses incurred by that person

Umbrella

  • Provides an extra layer of protection over and above your auto, home or other policies also referred to as excess liability. Covers lawsuits, settlements and jury awards. Available in increments ranging from $1 million to $10 million.

To discuss improving your personal liability coverage or if you have questions, please give us a call. We’re glad to explain and provide a premium comparison.

No matter how responsible and safe you are, the risk exists that one day you or someone in your household could be sued for causing “injury” to someone due to an accident, negligence or some other liability situation. The news is filled with examples of what can happen if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

home insurance

Use these guidelines to protect your home and your assets with adequate insurance coverage

If disaster strikes, you'll want enough homeowners insurance to rebuild the structure of your home, to help replace your belongings, to defray costs if you're unable to live in your home and to protect your financial assets in the event of liability to others. Use these guidelines to help determine the coverage and amounts you need.

Determine how much insurance you need for your home's structure

home insuranceStandard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters such as damage due to fire, lightning, hail and explosions. Those who live in areas where there is risk of flood or earthquake will need coverage for those disasters, as well. In every case, you'll want the limits on your policy to be high enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home.

The price you paid for your home—or the current market price—may be more or less than the cost to rebuild. And if the limit of your insurance policy is based on your mortgage (as some banks require), it may not adequately cover the cost of rebuilding.

While your insurer will provide a recommended coverage limit for the structure of your home, it’s a good idea to educate yourself as well. To make sure your home has the right amount of structural coverage, consider:

Major factors that will impact home rebuilding costs

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure

For a quick estimate of the amount of insurance you need, multiply the total square footage of your home by local, per-square-foot building costs. (Note that the land is not factored into rebuilding estimates.) To find out construction costs in your community, call your local real estate agent, builders association or insurance agent.

Details that can impact home rebuilding costs

  • The type of exterior wall construction—frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house, for example, ranch or colonial
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof and materials used
  • Other structures on the premises such as garages, sheds
  • Special features such as fireplaces, exterior trim or arched windows
  • Whether the house—or a part of it—was custom built
  • Improvements you've made that have added value to your home, such as the addition of second bathroom, or a kitchen renovation

Other considerations

Whether or not your home is up to code

Building codes are updated periodically and may have changed significantly since your home was built. In the event of damage, you may be required to rebuild your home to the new codes and homeowners insurance policies (even a guaranteed replacement cost policy—see below) generally won't pay for that extra expense. If you suspect that elements of your home are not up to current building codes, consider getting an endorsement to your policy called an Ordinance or Law, which pays a specified amount toward bringing a house up to code during a covered repair.

Whether your home is older with hard-to-replace features

Lovely, special features on older homes—like wall and ceiling moldings and carvings—are expensive to recreate and some insurance companies may not offer replacement policies for that reason.

If you own an older home, you may have to buy a modified replacement cost policy. This means that instead of repairing or replacing features typical of older homes—like plaster walls—with like materials, the policy will pay for repairs using today's standard building materials and construction techniques.

Allowing for possible increased cost of building materials

Inflation can impact rebuilding costs. If you plan on owning your home for a while, consider adding an inflation guard clause to your policy. An inflation guard automatically adjusts the dwelling limit to reflect current construction costs in your area when you renew your insurance.

After a major catastrophe such as a hurricane or tornado, construction costs may rise suddenly because the price of building materials and construction workers increase due to the widespread demand. This price bump may push rebuilding costs above your homeowners policy limits and leave you short. To protect against this possibility, a guaranteed replacement cost policy will pay whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster. Similarly, an extended replacement cost policy will pay an extra 20 percent above the limits (possibly more, depending on the insurance company).

Determine how much insurance you need for your possessions

Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for your belongings at about 50 to 70 percent of the insurance on your dwelling. However, that standard amount may or may not be enough. To learn if you have enough coverage:

Conduct a home inventory of your personal possessions

In order to accurately assess the value of what you own, it's highly advisable to conduct a home inventory. A detailed list of your belongings will not only help you figure out how much insurance you need, but it will also serve as a convenient record. In the event any or all of your stuff is stolen or damaged by a disaster an inventory will make filing a claim much easier.

There are several apps available to help you take a home inventory, and our article on how to create a home inventory can help, as well.

While you're reviewing your possessions, think about whether you want to insure them for actual cash value (where the policy would pay less money for older items than you paid for them new) or for replacement cost (which would cover to replace the items). The price of replacement cost coverage for homeowners is about 10 percent more but is generally a worthwhile investment in the long run. (Note that flood insurance for belongings is only available on an actual cash value basis.)

If you think you need more coverage, contact your insurance professional and ask about higher limits for your personal possessions.

Take stock of your expensive items

There are limits on how much a standard homeowners insurance policy will cover for items such as jewelry, silverware, collectibles and furs. For example, jewelry coverage may be limited to under $2,000. Some insurance companies may also place a limit on what they will pay for computers.

Check your policy (or ask your insurance professional) for the limits of your coverage for any expensive items. If your home inventory includes items for which the limits are too low, consider buying a special personal property floater or an endorsement. This will allow you to insure valuables individually or as a collection, with significantly higher coverage limits.

Determine how much additional living expense insurance you need

Additional Living Expenses (ALE) is a very important feature of a standard homeowners insurance policy. If you can't live in your home due to a fire, severe storm or other insured disaster, ALE pays the additional costs of temporarily living elsewhere. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

If you rent out part of your house, this coverage also reimburses you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

Many policies provide coverage for about 20 percent of the insurance on your house. But ALE coverage limits vary from company to company. For example, there are policies that provide an unlimited amount of coverage, for a limited amount of time, while others may only set limits on the amount of coverage. In most cases, you can increase ALE coverage for an additional premium.

Determine how much liability insurance you need

The liability portion of homeowners insurance covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members or pets cause to other people, as well as court costs incurred and damages awarded.

You should have enough liability insurance to protect your assets. Most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance, but higher amounts are available and, increasingly, it is recommended that homeowners consider purchasing at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of liability coverage.

If you own property and or have investments and savings that are worth more than the liability limits in your policy, consider purchasing a separate excess liability or umbrella policy.

Consider an umbrella or excess liability policy

Umbrella or excess liability policies provide coverage over and above your standard home (or auto) liability policy limits. These policies start to pay after you have used up the liability insurance in your underlying policy. In addition to providing additional dollar amount coverage, umbrella or excess liability often offers broader coverage than standard policies.

The cost of an umbrella policy depends on how much underlying insurance you have and the kind of risk you represent. The greater the underlying liability coverage you have, the cheaper the umbrella or excess policy. To write an umbrella or excess policy, most companies will require a minimum of $300,000 underlying liability insurance on your standard homeowners policy.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

home water damage

Water damage is among the most common reasons for making a property damage claim. Home, condominium, renter insurance and commercial property policies cover a variety of types of property damage caused by water. However, not every instance of water damage is covered by insurance. Damage being covered by a policy can depend on the cause of water damage and the type of policy you have, and whether or not you’ve purchased optional coverages.

Water damage causes

Causes of water damage can be categorized in several ways:

  • Sudden or accidental discharge or overflow – a burst pipe; washing machine malfunction; toilet, sink or tub overflows
  • Weather related damage – weight of ice, snow or sleet; ice dams; freezing pipes; wind damage; roof damage due to hail or falling trees. 
  • Sewer backup – back up discharge from a sewer system or sump pump into your property
  • Flood – excessive rainfall or a sudden thaw causing a rapid rising, overflow or accumulation of water. Not every situation meets the insurance flood definition
  • Seepage and gradual damage – infiltration of water into a structure caused by surface water such as rain or runoff, or saturated ground.

water damageWhat’s usually covered

Sudden or accidental discharge - Overflow of water - Weather related damage. Most standard policies cover damage from a “sudden or accidental discharge, or overflow of water” or “weather related damage as outlined above, but situations and policies vary, so it’s wise to review the specific language of your insurance policy to be sure you understand any limitations.

What’s typically not covered

Flooding - Sewer Backup. Most standard policies do not provide coverage for backups of sewers or drains, or flooding. The good news is that you generally have the option to purchase coverage for these situations. Coverage for sewer back up can usually be added to a standard policy through an endorsement. To be covered for flooding, you need to purchase a separate policy, typically from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Be aware that not every situation of rising or rush water meets the NFIP definition of a flood. The NFIP definition is specific regarding flooded area and number of properties involved in order for a water event to qualify as a flood and have flood insurance coverage apply.

Seepage and Gradual damage. Seepage is a situation where water enters the home by some other means than the above qualifying covered loss situations. For example, surface water coming in through cracks in the foundation or other openings. Seepage is typically not covered by insurance policies because it is viewed as a maintenance issue. If you have seepage or drainage issues, speak with a contractor about how to remedy the situation.

Gradual damage is something that happens slowly overtime due to aging materials, normal wear, or other issues, which is why periodically inspecting your property and making preventative repairs for proper maintenance is important. Some examples include leaky plumbing causing damage to ceilings, walls or floors; deteriorating roof materials allow water to enter; rot, corrosion or mold. If water damage is not sudden or accidental, but rather results from a problem that went undetected for some time, there is typically not coverage.

What to do if you have water damage

Don’t wait to call your insurer. If you notice damage to your home, call your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible. Your insurance professional can offer advice and may be able to arrange for assistance to help prevent further damage. They may be able to help get experienced professionals out faster to address the problem than if you call on your own.

Take steps to prevent further damage. You are responsible for preventing further damage. While waiting for the insurance adjuster and starting clean up, you may feel the need to move things or throw something away. Before you do so take a few minutes to document what has occurred and any possessions or materials. If the situation is an emergency and you need to take immediate action to prevent further damage by hiring a plumber or contractor, keep receipts and records of any expenditure.

Be proactive

If the above general overview has raised questions for you, speak with your insurance professional. Confirm what coverage you have and what optional coverage is available such as flood or sewer backup protection. By making adjustments to your insurance and following a good maintenance and prevention plan, you can reduce the chances of damage to your home. Also, if a claim does happen you‘ll be better prepared.

Note:  The above descriptions of damage and claim coverage are only general in nature. Claim situations and policies vary; therefore, final claims determinations depends on the circumstances and the coverage provided by the specific policy.

party etiquette

 

A good host is a responsible host when it comes to serving alcohol

Parties and social gatherings are often a big part of the holiday season. But hosts who serve alcohol should take steps to limit their liquor liability and make sure they have the proper insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

alcoholic drinkSocial host liability, the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, can have a serious impact on party throwers. Social host liability, also known as “Dram Shop Liability” laws vary widely from state to state, but 43 states have them on the books. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

“Because you can be held legally responsible for your guests’ actions after they leave your party, hosts need to be particularly careful,” said Loretta Worters, vice president of the I.I.I. “While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by the drunken guest (as they are also negligent), the host can be held liable for third parties, and may even be liable for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.”

Before planning a party in your home, it is important to speak with your insurance agent or company representative about your homeowners coverage and any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have for this kind of risk. Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but it is typically limited to $100,000 to $300,000, depending on the policy, which might not be enough.

Whether you are hanging out with a small group of friends for cocktails or throwing a big family bash, remember that a good host is a responsible host, and needs to take steps to ensure guests get home safely if they have been drinking.

How to protect yourself and your guests

If you plan to serve alcohol at a holiday party the I.I.I. offers the following tips to promote safe alcohol consumption and reduce your social host liability exposure:

  • Make sure you understand your state laws. Before sending out party invitations, familiarize yourself with your state’s social host liability laws. These laws vary widely from state to state. Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.
  • Consider venues other than your home for the party. Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks.
  • Hire a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and are better able to limit consumption by partygoers.
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Be a responsible host/hostess. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Rental car insurance

car rental

Protect yourself while renting—without wasting money

If you're looking to rent a car, depending on your needs and location, there are a number of alternatives—the traditional brick-and-mortar companies, peer-to-peer car services and car sharing programs—each with its own insurance parameters. It pays to understand your existing coverage first, and then look at your rental insurance options.

No matter what company or what kind of company you're renting from, the most important step is to read and understand the car rental or car sharing agreement. Most companies clearly state what is covered as well as the supplemental coverage that can be purchased. If you don't understand, have the rental or car sharing company representative walk you through.

If you're renting a car, check your own coverages first

Before you enter an agreement with any type of rental service, maximize use of the insurance you're already paying for and avoid paying for duplicate insurance.

If you own or lease a car and/or have homeowners insurance, call your insurer to first check the following:

  • How much coverage you currently have on your own car – In most cases, whatever auto insurance and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car (providing you are using the rental car for recreation and not for business).
  • If you still have collision or comprehensive – If you dropped these coverages on your own car as a way to save money on your car insurance, you may not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged. Insurance rules vary by state, so it is best to check with your insurance professional for the specifics of your policy.
  • Whether your homeowners or renters insurance covers the loss of possessions – These policies (not your car insurance) generally cover your belongings if they are damaged or stolen out of your vehicle.

The credit card you use to rent a car may also provide some insurance. Though coverage is likely to be limited—for example, it may only cover the deductible if you make a claim—it's worth knowing what protections it will provide.

  • Know that benefits differ – Insurance coverage can depend on the company or bank that issues the card or even the level of card. For example, a platinum card may offer more robust coverage than a green card. If you have more than one card, you may want to compare what insurance they offer for car renters.
  • Contact the credit card issuer to find out what they cover – If you are depending on a credit card for insurance protection, ask the company or bank that issued the card to send you their coverage information in writing.
  • Credit card insurance benefits are usually secondary – That is, they will kick in after your personal insurance policy or the insurance coverage offered by the rental car company are utilized.

Insurance if you're renting from a brick-and-mortar car rental

Brick-and-mortar car rental companies are generally found at airports, train stations or other locations where travelers converge. These traditional rental companies allow you to simply reserve or select a vehicle from one of the many generally available on any given day. The insurance you'll be offered is fairly standard (though, like all car insurance, it varies by state).

Depending on what type of auto and/or homeowners insurance you carry, you may want to consider some of the insurance coverage provided by the rental car company. While auto insurance regulations, costs and coverage will vary by state and insurer, consumers renting from traditional companies can generally choose from the following coverages:

  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) – Also referred to as a collision damage waiver, an LDW is not technically an insurance product—it is designed to relieve or “waive” renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. Waivers may also provide coverage for “loss of use,” in the event the rental car company charges for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed, as well as towing and administrative fees. The LDW may become void if the accident was caused by speeding, driving on unpaved roads or driving while intoxicated. However, if you carry comprehensive and collision auto insurance, you may already be covered for damage to a rental car.
  • Liability Insurance – By law, rental companies must provide the state required minimum amount of liability insurance coverage—often this does not provide enough protection. If you carry your own auto insurance and have opted for higher liability limits (which is recommended), you’ll be adequately covered. Non car-owners who are frequent renters have the option of purchasing a non-owner liability policy, which can provide the additional liability needed.
  • Personal accident insurance – This covers the driver and passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. Whether or not you should consider this depends on your health insurance and the personal injury protection (PIP) provided by your auto insurance, which will likely cover medical expenses.
  • Personal effects coverage–This provides insurance protection for the theft of items from a rental car. Consider this if you do not carry homeowners or renters insurance to cover this type of loss.

Insurance if you're using a car sharing service

With car sharing programs, for a monthly or annual membership fee, consumers can pick up a vehicle at a wide range of locations for periods ranging from minutes to days. These programs are popular in urban settings where owning a car can be expensive or difficult, but where it's convenient have a car available when it's needed. Coverage options vary widely, but there is usually some insurance included.

The insurance offered by these types of companies is not standardized so read the insurance coverage information carefully (it can usually be found on the service's website). If you have any questions, call the company's customer service line. And contact your auto insurer if you feel you need more information to make an educated insurance coverage decision.

  • Car sharing programs (like ZipCar) generally include insurance costs in the fee. However, if the car is involved in a collision or is stolen, the renter may be billed for a specific dollar amount that is stated in the membership agreement. For an additional cost, customers can purchase a “waiver” to avoid paying the accident fee.
  • Many car sharing programs limit coverage for young drivers to the minimum state required amount of liability. Renters under the age 21 should read the insurance coverage carefully. If it's not adequate to their needs, they can look into whether their parents’ auto insurance would cover them for the difference, or purchasing their own non-owner liability policy.

Insurance if you're renting from a peer-to-peer service

Peer-to-peer car rental networks enable consumers to rent personally owned cars from others. Insurance coverage varies widely, depending on location and service.

  • Peer-to-peer rental services (like Turo) may offer a range of insurance options and, under some circumstances, the driver may decline coverage.

Source:  Insurance Information Institute

ToysforTotsTrainLogo-BIG.jpg

Join us in making the holiday happier for kids in need. 
Drop off a toy by Tuesday, December 10.

Toys for Tots 2019Murphy Insurance Agency is again holding a Toys for Tots Drive and is reaching out to customers and the community for donations to help kids and families in need this 2019 holiday season. Donations of new, un-wrapped toys are needed for children ages newborn to 12 years. Drop off your donation of a new, non-wrapped gift at any of our seven (7) locations in Bolton, Groton, Harvard, Hudson, Marlborough, Mendon and Medway. 

Deadline for donations is Tuesday, December 10, so that the Marines have time to deliver them. Go to our Toys for Tots Resources Page for giving guidlines and ideas on what to donate. If your family or your coworkers are looking for charitable activity to do this holiday season, we hope that you'll consider joining our effort.to help families in our area.

Collected toys are distributed to children in surrounding local communities.Thank you for supporting families in need this holiday season.

host liquor liability

Do you sponsor corporate functions, holiday parties, meetings or other social events where alcoholic beverages are served? Do you rent to tenants who sell or serve alcohol? If so, you need to be aware of liquor liability exposures and the extent of coverage provided by your insurance for claims related to selling, serving or furnishing alcoholic beverages.

liquor liabilityA Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy contains language that excludes liquor liability coverage if your company or organization is in the business of manufacturing, distributing, selling, serving, or furnishing alcoholic beverages. However, if your business doesn’t involve alcoholic beverages, a CGL policy provides Host Liquor Liability coverage for an organization or person for certain events or functions that are incidental to the named insured’s business.

If a guest or employee at a company sponsored event overindulges and injures others (nonemployees) due to their intoxication, an unendorsed CGL will protect the insured from claims made by persons injured by the over served employee or guest.

Keep in mind that if you are selling liquor by the drink or charging an admission for an event, it can create a situation where coverage is excluded under a CGL, which would require separate coverage for your protection.

A landlord that has a tenant whose business involves alcoholic beverages needs to be sure that they are protected. In some states, the landlord can be held liable for actions of a tenant.  While naming a landlord on a CGL, as a form of indemnification, is often part of a commercial lease, a CGL will not provide liquor liability protection for a landlord due to the exclusion. The landlord would want to be named on a liquor liability policy.

Does hiring a bartender eliminate liability?

Hiring a professional bartender, who is trained to recognize and handle circumstances of intoxication, can reduce your risk. It does not, however, necessarily absolve you of all potential liability, and lawyers tend to sue all possible parties if an incident occurs. Having a bartender at least establishes someone else as being primarily responsible.  It may also help in defending a claim and can potentially reduce damages you might have to pay. Prior to an event, be sure to obtain a Certificate of Insurance from the bartender to be sure that he/she has adequate liquor liability coverage.

Certain types of events may have other types of increased liability depending on the circumstances. Our Associates can help you determine if you need to purchase special coverage and identify ways to reduce potential lawsuits. You may also want to discuss concerns with your legal counsel. Some businesses find it easiest and safest to prohibit drinking during business hours, including business lunches, dinners and other company events.

Other articles:

7 Steps to Limiting Liquor Liability

How to create a drug and alcohol policy

 

The information provided in these articles are only general descriptions and should not be relied upon as complete, correct or accurate for your specific situation. All coverage informaiton is subject to policy provisions, endorsements and may be  subject to your meeting underwriting qualifications. Murphy Insurance Agency is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other noninsurance professional services. Consult an appropriate professional for advice regarding your own situation.