It’s the Apocalypse, wait its just Snow.

Sitting here today as Oklahoma weather shows it’s ugly face, and everyone preps as if the zombie apocalypse is about to occur, you know rushing to the grocery store fighting over bread and milk.  Nevertheless I thought since everyone else was stocking their cabinets with food and supplies I would prep you all with some winter driving tips!

RCI Snowy Vehicle

Winter Weather Driving Tips from The Weather Channel:

1. Make sure both you and your vehicle are properly equipped to handle the roads and the weather. My husband laughs at me because when the weather rolls around I put snacks & blankets in my car. I don’t want to starve or freeze to death! I think the amusing part here is that we do not live in Montana where you go MILES without seeing anything or anyone. Bottom line here, dress accordingly and be prepared for anything.

2. Slow down & drive smoothly. Speeding to get out of the weather is not going to help anyone. Patience is a virtue (I am not saying I have much of one myself), but driving slower and being more cautious is going to be your saving grace.  Keep your lane changes to a minimum, and do not lay on your brakes.

3. Do Not Tailgate. Obvious as it may be tailgating provides a ton of accidents and claims.  I also know that driving on a busy road makes tailgating hard to avoid.  If you leave too much space between you and the car in front of you other drivers jump right in. Stop and go traffic is the worst. A fender bender in the freezing rain and snow is not the way you want to spend your time. These fender benders are so frequent when roads wet or icy some cities run programs like Tulsa’s “Operation Slick Streets” which means that officers will not respond to non-injury accidents. They suggest you exchange insurance information and if you are close to a Quick Trip you can pick up a collision report to fill out.

4. Do Not use Cruise Control. Hopefully this will keep your speed down as well as keep you more aware of your surroundings.

5. Pull over or stay home. Of course if you are able to stay home and out of the weather that would be your best bet. If you do have to get out then remember that there is no shame in pulling over or waiting till the weather lightens up before heading on your way.

http://www.weather.com/life/safety/autosafety/article/five-winter-driving-tips_2011-10-30

While working on this I have read on cityoftulsa.org that Tulsa has in fact enacted the “Operation Slick Streets” this means it is getting rough out there. Hopefully everyone has their milk and eggs because as of this morning there was not a lot left. Everyone remember these driving tips and be safe as you head home!

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Things Your Burglar Won’t Tell You…

I have read this quite a few times on different websites, but it is wonderful information and very simple tips for keeping your home safe from burglars.The Burglar

This list came from the City of Calabasas Law Enforcement relayed by actual burglars.

1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste … and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
5. Form a Neighborhood Watch Group. They can help you work with your neighbors to improve security and reduce risk of burglary.
6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.
7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom-and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
8. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door-understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.
9. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)
10. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
11. Helpful hint : I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
12. You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.
13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at http://faketv.com/ they also have a great video so you can see the “Fake TV” in action.)
14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
16. I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go back to what he was doing. It’s human nature.
17. I’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
18. I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I’d like. I’ll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.
19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It’s easier than you think to look up your address.
20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation.

21. If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.
22. If I am ambitious enough to invade your home while you are there – you may want to consider “answering” my door knock through the door – “Hello – who are you – no, I don’t want any – go away or I’ll call the police” And I will go away. So DO NOT OPEN IT! But if I hear your voice speaking with me – I will move on to another home that may let me in!
23. Maybe I will work with someone claiming to sell magazine subscriptions – I always know when someone is home or not – by knocking on the door!
24. I look to see if your trash cans are put out on trash day – or I’ll look to see if anyone has taken in the trash cans by nightfall – a dead giveaway that no one is home!
25. Those car keys you left in the ignition or on the hook in the garage – allows me to drive away from your house in luxury with your property – and your car.
26. I love computer laptops – easy to carry and easy to sell! But I fear that you had enough gumption to install a locater program to locate your laptop like – LoJack for Laptops, or if you have an Apple computer, iPad, iPhone – Mobile Me!
27. I love homes that are not well lit! Homes with overgrown bush and shrubbery so I can hide if someone walks or drives by. It allows me to hide!
Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.
28. And when I get rid of what I have stolen – I know that hardly anyone keeps serial numbers or has engraved their ID on anything anymore. Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase and original value, and serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from home — this is a good precaution in case of fires or other disasters. Make a photographic or video record of valuable objects, heirlooms and antiques. Your insurance company can provide assistance in making and keeping your inventory.
29. And I love neighborhoods where the neighbors do not talk to one another – they have no idea what’s going on!

How Good is Your Insurance Company?

Working for an Independent Agent means we have the ability to represent many different insurance companies, not just one. This is great for our clients because it gives them options and it allows us to find the best possible coverage for them. When new potential clients come into our office in small town Claremore, Oklahoma, we get asked the same questions over and over. One of those questions is about claims. How does this company handle their claims? This is a very valid question and one that should concern every Oklahoma Insurance policy holder. If the company has a cheap premium but handles your claim poorly, is the cheap premium worth it? The old saying, “You pay for what you get” is true in insurance as well.

With Storm Sandy, I’m sure there are people that are realizing that their insurance is not covering what they thought it would cover or that their insurance company is not handling their claim with the promptness they need and deserve. But, there is a company that is going above and beyond to help their clients, Safeco Insurance. Claim personnel that would normally handle a claim over the phone are traveling to the East Coast to help their agents and clients. They’ve added additional supplementing staff, such as SERVPRO, Innovation Property, and other local restoration companies to help with the vast amount of claims. Also, due to the shortage of gas or at least access to gasoline, Safeco’s parent company, Liberty Mutual, has provided a gasoline tanker so the claim adjustors can stay on the road and out in the field helping their clients. I don’t know about you, but that is exceptional claim service. That would be something I would want from my insurance company.  A good company can be considered great if they take care of their clients in time of crisis and need. Safeco Insurance and Liberty Mutual have done just that for their clients dealing with Storm Sandy.

As I mentioned before, RCI Insurance Group is an independent agent. We offer Safeco Insurance for our Oklahoma clients. Isn’t it a relief to know that there are insurance companies out there that can handle a claim crisis with that kind of response? Wouldn’t you want that kind of an insurance company for all your insurance needs? I know I would!

 

If you’d like to read more about how Safeco Insurance and Liberty Mutual took care of their agents and clients on the East Coast, click here.

Warnings for Flood Damaged Vehicles

As Storm Sandy makes its way across the Midwest states, I’m in awe of the devastation left in its wake. This storm has left many East coast states buried in several feet of water. It’s crazy how much water came from that storm alone.  The pictures show buildings with severe flooding and too many vehicles almost completely covered in water.

People with water damaged vehicles will begin trying to sell their vehicles. If you’re going to be buying a new car or potentially buying a new vehicle, please be sure to check vehicle for water damage. It’s more than just spotting a waterline. According to an article for MSN Autos, Jim Jacobson, a 30-year veteran of the car sales business and owner of Jacobson Auto Sales, “…Instead of declaring the car totaled by flooding, the insurance companies just paid to have it cleaned out, or the owner never made a claim. But if there’s been floodwater inside the car, it’s almost certain that there will be problems down the road, from corrosion on electrical connections and ABS and airbag sensors to failed transmissions. Or it will just smell bad.”

If a vehicle has been totaled for flood damage, there is a marked title given to that vehicle. Most insurance companies will be very hesitant, if not totally against, writing an Auto Insurance Policy for a marked titled vehicle. At RCI Insurance, most of our companies will not want to write an Oklahoma Auto Policy for vehicles that have either a salvaged title or a flood damaged vehicle. However, people have found that if they move their vehicle from state to state and retitle their car in several different states, the marked title gets removed and a new title is given to the vehicle (also depends on the state’s laws about titling a vehicle and marked titles).

Since you can’t always trust the title of the vehicle to be truthful, here are a few ways to check and see if a vehicle has had water damage. If it has, walk away and don’t purchase it. Many experts say there will almost ways be problems later on with a vehicle that has had water damage. Even if you’re buying from a Car Dealership or a private owner, check these areas in the car.

  1. Buy a title history. The Justice Department database has made these reports a little easier to read. You still want to look them over carefully, especially if the vehicle has been titled in other states.
  2. When you sit inside the car, smell it. Does it smell moldy or rusty or musty? Sniff the upholstery. The only way a moldy smelly can be taken completely out of upholstery is if the cleaners use bleach. Since bleach can’t be used on the upholstery without damaging it, chances are if there’s been water damage, you’ll smell it.
  3. Most auto carpet has plastic backing. Check it out. If it’s damp, smells wet, or muddy, or even has an odd odor chances are it’s had water damage.
  4. Check the bolts of the seats, if they’re rusty or loosened that could be a sign of flood damage. The seats have to be removed for the carpet to be cleaned.
  5. Look for a scum line or silt in out-of-the-way locations. Be sure to check the glove box and under the dashboard. These areas can be easily overlooked when the car is being detailed. And be sure to check the trunk as well. Look for waterlines, moisture, check under the spare tire, and the floor mat. You want to find any signs of flooding.
  6. Check out the turn signals and headlights. These are expensive to replace and many times aren’t when there’s been flooding. See if there is any mud, silt, or water in the lights.
  7. Look for rust or corrosion. If you can’t or don’t know how, have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic. You want to know if there is any rust on the chassis and suspension.

These are just a few suggestions when car shopping after flooding has taken place recently. Remember that some dealerships are obligated by law to inform potential buyers of a flooded or salvaged vehicle. You can’t guarantee that they will tell you everything about the car. So be prepared and find out everything you can about a vehicle before you buy it.

 

If you’d like to read more information about this, visit the website, MSN Autos, here.

 

Oklahoma Business Coverage: Claims Made or Occurrence?

What is the difference between “Claims Made” vs. “Occurrence” policy?

Commercial or Business Insurance are usually offered in two forms. One is a Claims Made Policy and the other is an Occurrence Policy. There are some large differences in the two that every Oklahoma business owner should be aware.

For example, if you are contractor and build a wall, chances are that wall will exist long after you have retired from your business. A number of years later, the wall allows water in and causes damage. Upon inspection, your work is found negligent. How does your Oklahoma Business Insurance handle a claim from so long ago?

It depends on the types of coverage you chose and whether the policies were “Claims Made” or “Occurrence” policies.

Claims Made Coverage provides coverage only so long as the insured continues to pay premiums for the initial policy and any subsequent renewals. Once premiums stop, the coverage stops for any claims not known or made to the insurance company during the coverage period.

Occurrence Coverage is insurance that provides coverage for the act when it occurs – regardless of when it is reported. If you had coverage under an occurrence policy in 2000 and the claim is reported today (they just found the defect in the wall, like the story above, for example) then the claim is covered.

In my opinion, Occurrence Coverage is the better choice to keep your business protected without any gaps.

Why Are Claims Such a Hassle?

Why are claims such a hassle?  That’s a very valid question, especially considering that is the reason you purchase insurance protection….in case of a claim.

I will attempt to address a couple of issues very briefly.   As companies have suffered extreme losses these past few years, adjustors are being required to provide more and more documentation as to why certain payments are justified.  The majority of the time you as the policyholder are the only one that can provide the information the adjustor needs.

Right or wrong, companies are scrutinizing claims in more detail than I’ve seen in the past 25 years.  We can fight it, or do our best to provide them with information they request, as long as the request is part of the insurance contract.

Let’s take an example.  You have hail damage to your roof.  You believe you’re entitled to a new roof.  You have replacement cost coverage.  What does that mean?  Let’s assume the damage is from the recent storm.  Your roofing contractor and the adjustor agree on the scope of the work and the price.  At that time the adjustor should request a check for a depreciated amount, not replacement cost.

You then replace the roof.  You will then need to provide the company with paid receipts and possibly pictures of the new roof.  The company may request the adjustor come back to the home and do an inspection.  At that time the Replacement Cost Recovery should be paid.  If you were able to complete the repairs/replacement for less than the amount agreed upon, you will only receive up to the amount you paid.  That’s all the insurance company is obligated to pay.

Conversely, if you (or your contractor) went over the agreed amount, the company is not obligated to pay the amount over the agreed amount.  What if you or your contractor discover additional damage that wasn’t included in the initial estimate or scope?  You need to contact the adjustor to get that amount approved before proceeding with the work.

Take the same type of loss, but let’s assume the company is aware you had a loss three years ago and were paid substantial money to replace the roof of your Oklahoma commercial property.  The hail damage on the roof appears to have not only new damage, but old damage as well.  They may very well want proof (in the form of receipts etc.) that you actually replaced the roof 3 years ago.  Companies are not in the business to pay multiple times for the same repair or replacement.

I recently received a question from a client.  He wanted to know why the company was asking for proof (receipts) he had replaced his roof 3 years ago.  Not only are companies examining claims closer, they are also underwriting the policies a lot stricter.

In order to provide “replacement cost” on your roof, the company at the time they issue the policy may want to make sure your roof is the age you say it is.  Different companies have different guidelines.  Without proof, you may only qualify for “ACV” (Actual Cash Value) or depreciated value on your roof.

Believe me when I tell you we don’t like the current insurance environment any better than you do.  We may even dislike these challenges more than you, since we fight with underwriters daily on your behalf.  If it seems we’re asking more questions and requiring more information, it is simply because the companies are asking more and more questions.

Ultimately, the more detailed information we can provide to our underwriters the better your premium and coverage will be.

Hired and Non-Owned Auto Liability

In Oklahoma, businesses sometimes need additional business insurance to go with their policies. One of those coverages, would be hired and non-owned auto liability. Hired and non-owned auto liability coverage provides bodily injury and property damage coverage for rented and non-owned vehicles and commercial vehicles used by employees for use in the business.

For example, Jane rents or borrows a car to go visit a client and causes a wreck on the way to her client’s home or office. The people she hit are going to try to get Jane’s company to pay for the damages because she was doing business related activities at the time of the accident.

Bob the Builder owns a construction company and hires Larry the contractor to come in and install windows in the home that Bob is building. While backing into the driveway to unload the windows, Larry backs into the client’s new Mercedes. On impact, one of the windows falls out of the back of the truck and knocks the client in the head. When the client wakes up, he is going to sue and Bob the Builder’s hired and non-owned auto coverage would kick in and protect his company.

Sue owns a restaurant and has an employee run to Walmart to pick up lettuce because they ran out. On the way to Walmart, the employee causes an accident. Because the employee was performing work related duties, the people who were hit can look to the restaurant for payment for the damages. Sue’s hired and non-owned liability would cover at this point.