Archives for 2013

Blog Posts For 2013

Christmas Travel Safety Tips

Christmas is one of the busiest travel times of the year, with many of us traveling by car and by train, bus or plane to spend the holiday with family and friends. Travel in general can be risky, and traveling in winter can be especially dangerous.

The American Red Cross provides holiday travel safety tips so you can arrive safely at your destination.

If you are traveling by car…

  • Make sure your vehicle is in good shape for the trip.
  • Start out with a full tank of gas. Check the tire pressure and fill up on wiper fluid before you leave.
  • Plan your trip in advance, but also be ready for a change in course. Construction, road closings and traffic can change your plans.
  • Keep directions and maps handy at all times.
  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Be well rested and alert for your trip.
  • Follow all road signs and use caution in work zones.
  • Avoid distractions like eating, loud music and cell phones.
  • Observe all speed limits.
  • Make frequent stops and rotate drivers on long trips. If you get tired and you are the only driver, stop and get some rest.
  • Be respectful of other motorists.
  • Don’t follow too closely behind other vehicles.
  • Clean your vehicle’s headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows before you head out.
  • Turn on your headlights as dusk approaches.
  • If you have car trouble, pull off to the side of the road and call for help.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times. It should include water, snacks, a flashlight, a first aid kit, extra cash, blankets, gloves, a hat, medications and anything else essential for you if you were stranded.
  • Pack an ice scraper, towrope, jumper cables and sand or cat litter (for traction if you get stuck).

If you are traveling by train, bus or plane…

First, take steps to avoid catching or spreading the flu:

  • Handle your own belongings as much as possible, rather than having them handled by someone else.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Carry hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes and use them to wash your hands and rub down surfaces like armrests and tabletops.
  • Bring your own pillows and blankets.
  • If you have to cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue or your sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your face or eyes.

Then, remember to:

  • Plan ahead. Contact your travel agent to book your vacation in advance.
  • Leave an hour earlier than normal to be ready for long lines.
  • Bring plenty of reading material to occupy yourself during delays.
  • Pack as light as possible to comply with baggage limits and weight allowances. Consider shipping gifts to your destination in advance.
  • Stretch your legs often on long trips to avoid developing blood clots in your legs.

Use common sense and discretion as you travel this Christmas, and get to your destination safely. Be sure to contact us if there is anything we can do to help you prepare for your trip.

Purchase Insurance From an Independent Agent for Personal Service and Better Coverage

At United Insurance Agency, we are proud to be an independent insurance agency with experienced, professional agents who get to know you and your family. We pride ourselves on personalized, local service and strive to make every relationship a long-term partnership.

You might wonder how a local agent differs from buying a policy online or over the phone. We believe that your insurance agent should serve as a trusted advisor who provides personal consultation to you and your family, now and in the future. We represent several insurance companies, we are deeply rooted in our community and we are knowledgeable professionals who provide personal consultation and an individual assessment of your needs.

  • We are local. As residents of your community, we understand the area in which you live and can make coverage recommendations according to local needs, risks and requirements.
  • We have resources. If you are a small business owner, we probably have resources that you otherwise would have to find on your own. We can help you with employee communications, questions about employee benefits and all kinds of other materials and research.
  • We provide personal service. Every person is unique and has different insurance needs. As an agent who works closely with you, we will be able to suggest appropriate types and amounts of coverage. If you shop online for insurance, you will be quoted a policy based on very limited demographic and geographic information; you may not be getting the best coverage for your needs. For business owners, the right agent can assess your needs, know your assets (and maybe even specialize in your industry), and find the coverage that will maximize your protection.
  • We offer convenience. When you work with an independent agency, you will develop a relationship with a real person. You will always talk to the same person or team of people and have access to a local office. You will always be one call away from answers to questions, obtaining additional coverage, making coverage changes and more. Independent agents can offer multiple policy types from multiple insurance companies, so you can get all of your insurance needs met in one place. If you are a business owner, you can even have your business and personal insurance needs met with one agent who will really know you and understand the risks you face in all areas of your life.

Conversely, buying direct means there is no agent involved; you simply provide your information online and get a quote—which sounds pretty easy, and it probably is. But, are you really getting your needs met? Insurance is highly personal. It involves evaluating your lifestyle, your assets, and what you would need to protect yourself, your family, or your business in the event of a serious loss. Will an anonymous, online application really provide enough information to return the best coverage options for you? After you have a loss or when you need to file a claim is too late to find out that you need more personal attention and better coverage.

Have you ever tried to purchase insurance online? Tell us about your experience. Then call us to learn more about how personal service, community involvement and unlimited product offerings will be the foundation for us to build a long-term relationship.

Basic Safety Precautions and Physical Fitness for Hunters

As hunting season approaches, it is a good idea to refresh your knowledge of some fundamental hunting safety rules. The most common cause of accidents and injuries among hunters include falling from treestands, incorrect identification of a target and self-inflicted injuries. In addition, heart attacks and other injuries due to poor physical fitness are common among hunters.

Basic Safety

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation offers the following hunter safety tips.

  • Assume every gun is loaded.
  • Point your gun in a safe direction and control the muzzle at all times.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

New York law does not require hunters to wear orange, but more than 80% of big game hunters and two out of three small game hunters wear it as an essential safety precaution. Remember, deer and other game animals do not see hunter orange—they can’t tell red or orange from green and brown. But hunter orange prevents other hunters from mistaking a human for an animal and accidentally shooting in your direction.

Treestand Safety

Hunting from treestands is a very common practice. To avoid falls and injuries when using a treestand, remember to:

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Inspect your treestand prior to each use.
  • Always wear a fall restraint when you are climbing, sitting or descending from an elevated position.
  • Pull your gun or bow up with a rope. Firearms should be unloaded, with the action open and the safety on.

Basic Physical Fitness

Something that every hunter should consider, but probably doesn’t, is the basic physical fitness that hunting requires. In fact, heart attacks take a higher toll every hunting season than careless hunting practices. Hunting requires you to carry gear, spot and (hopefully!) shoot your target, and then carry the carcass for a distance. If you are not physically active or you smoke or have high blood pressure, this sudden physical activity and the excitement of the hunt can cause a strain on your heart and lead to a heart attack.

To stay physically fit—and in prime condition for hunting season—the Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of physical activity five or more times a week. You don’t need to do any high endurance fitness routines; you simply need to get moving every day with activities like walking, biking, jogging, gardening, hiking, bowling or even dancing. Take advantage of opportunities to walk a little farther or move a little more, such as parking your car farther away from the door at work or getting off the bus a stop early and walking the rest of the way. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, and go for a walk instead of loading up on fast food during your lunch break.

We know it might be too much to ask, but try to make healthful, low-fat meal choices. It will help you feel energetic and will reduce the strain on your heart when you are hunting and every day.

Are you ready for hunting season? What safety precautions do you take? Do you consider physical fitness as part of your preparation for hunting?

Workers Compensation is an Essential part of Risk Management

Business ownership is a challenging endeavor – in addition to worrying about your customers, cash flow and overhead, you must also be aware of your liability risks. For many business owners, risk management is a key process that may dramatically impact the future of the company and its success.

There are many strategies for managing the risks associated with operating a business, including insuring the entity, creating a comprehensive employee handbook and conducting thorough background searches on potential employees. Purchasing the appropriate workers compensation coverage is also an important step to reduce your entity’s financial liability.

Workers Compensation and Business Risk Management

New York workers compensation insurance is not only required by law, but is also an invaluable protection for employees and business owners alike. The protection workers compensation offers to your business dramatically decreases the financial risks and expenses you may incur in the event of an employee injury on the job.

Without the proper workers compensation insurance, you may be held liable for the losses and costs resulting from an employee injury, including:

Medical bills: The costs of medical care from even a minor accident can quickly add up; care for more serious accidents can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment expenses.

Ongoing care: If your employee requires ongoing physical therapy or routine treatment following their injury, you may be held responsible for paying the costs associated with their treatment. These costs can quickly become unmanageable without the proper workers compensation insurance.

Lost wages: Without workers compensation coverage, you may be ordered to pay a large percentage of your employee’s lost wages.

Legal fees: If an employee suffers an uncovered injury in the workplace, they will likely hire an attorney and file a lawsuit in an effort to recover for their losses. The legal costs, combined with any resulting judgment ordered in the case, can be very costly.

Purchasing the right workers compensation coverage for your business can significantly reduce your risks and your potential liability in the event of an employee injury.

Do you consider workers compensation part of your company’s risk management strategy? Share your opinion with your neighbors in Buffalo, Rochester, West Seneca, Niagara County, Lancaster, Hamburg, Clarence, Kenmore, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda and Cheektowaga by posting in the comments section below.

Directors and Officers Insurance for Shooting and Hunt Clubs

It is common for members of non-profit organizations to assume board or management responsibilities without considering related risks. It is essential directors and officers carry insurance to cover liability for board and individual actions.

Why are Directors and Officers Liable?

Any organization, particularly a sportsmen or hunt club, faces the possibility someone could claim negligence or illegal activity and sue the group or individual board members or managers for damages.

A lawsuit commonly follows a serious injury, death, or incident of abuse. However, injuries aren’t the only causes for claims. Suits claiming mismanagement include those involving employment practices (wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, etc) and fiduciary irresponsibility (mismanagement of funds and projects). If one of these situations arises, a lawsuit could land right on your organization’s doorstep.

What Does Directors and Officers Insurance Cover?

Director and officers insurance (D&O) will cover the legal costs should someone sue one of your officers. It would help pay for the cost of an attorney and other legal fees. If your board member loses the lawsuit, the insurance would pay for the legal losses up to the policy limit.

D&O insurance covers issues not included in your general liability coverage. Without this protection in place, it will be hard for your group to find qualified officers.

Are There Exclusions?

Director and officers insurance has exclusions, including damages if the lawsuit is a result of an intentional illegal action. This insurance also won’t cover a suit from one director/officer against another. Lastly, some policies exclude work related suits, like wrongful termination.

Your club is there to serve its members, a place to relax, not worry about lawsuits. Do you know the terms of your director and officers insurance? Have any of your directors/officers expressed concern about their liability risk in the past?

Do You Know the Replacement Value of Your Gold Jewelry?

From your engagement ring to family heirloom pieces, the greatest value of your jewelry may be as a reminder of a milestone, a relationship or your heritage. If those are stolen, lost or damaged, there will be no compensation for the personal loss.

Yet, you do deserve fair compensation for the monetary value. So, ask yourself, “Do I know what my jewelry is really worth?” and, “Is it insured for replacement value?”

Do You Need an Appraisal?

Many people are unsure as to whether they will require coverage for their jewelry beyond that included in a homeowners or renters insurance policy. To help you determine whether you need an appraisal and scheduled property insurance for your jewelry, consider the following:

• What are the limits of your current personal property insurance? Many people believe that their home insurance plan will cover a lost or damaged piece of jewelry. While this may be true for some pieces, the protection offered by your home insurance plan is often limited; more valuable items may not be adequately covered. If you own a valuable piece, including a wedding ring or antique family heirloom, it is important to discuss additional coverage with your agent.

• What risks are covered? Under your home insurance or a separate personal property policy, jewelry is insured against repair or replacement costs of lost, stolen or damaged pieces.

• How do you determine the value of your jewelry? Many jewelry stores will provide statements of value and updates as long as you own an engagement ring or other piece. This allows you to be sure that you purchase the right amount of coverage, and that your jewelry is adequately protected. Antique jewelry and custom pieces may require professional appraisals. Once an appraisal is complete, your personal insurance agent can offer advice on different coverage options and available policies.

• Where should you begin? Inventory your jewelry (you may be surprised at how much is in that chest). Do a quick check of prices on comparable pieces, and consider appraisals on heirlooms and older pieces, especially gold.

Have you had a piece of jewelry appraised, or lost it in a burglary, fire or other disaster? Did you feel you received a fair settlement from your insurance company?

As Independent Insurance Agents, We Offer Real Options

As a consumer, you should only expect the very best from your insurance agency. If you only look at the products of one insurance company, how sure can you really be that your policy is the best? When you work with an independent insurance agent, you have real options. This way you know you’ll be matched up with the best insurance company for your needs.

Compare All Your Insurance Options

Different insurance companies offer very different product lines. To find the right coverage at the best price, you need to carefully review all your choices. But who has time to drive to or call every agency?

With an independent agent, you don’t have to. These agents sell products from multiple insurance companies. In one meeting, you’ll compare the rates and coverage terms of nearly all your different insurance options. This way you’ll be able to find the best insurance without wasting your valuable free time.

Smoother Transitions Between Different Insurance Products

Your life is always changing. Your insurance needs to keep up. The plan you put together today could be completely inadequate a few years down the road. As time goes by, you might need more coverage for a growing business or family. Later on, you might also be able to qualify for new discounts or could be better off with a new line of insurance.

When you only work with one insurance company, these changes can lead to problems. Since each company can only offer so many products, your old company might not have suitable options for your new situation. In some cases, your insurance company may end your coverage altogether because it doesn’t want to deal with your new risk level.

With an independent insurance agent, you will never have these problems. Since the agent represents multiple companies, you will have access to a variety of options that may meet your needs. If your current company becomes a poor fit, you can immediately switch you to a company that works.

The advantages of an independent agent over a non-independent agent are quite clear, but are they enough for you to consider switching agencies? How do you think non-independent agents can compete against this type of insurance agency? Let us know what you think.

Want to learn more about independent agencies? Contact our Amherst, New York, office to find out how we can help you.

Does Everyone Need an Umbrella Policy?

Have you asked yourself if you should have excess personal liability insurance, more commonly known as umbrella insurance? If your assets or income potential exceed the limits of liability coverage under your home insurance or auto insurance, the simple answer is, yes.

Your umbrella policy begins to pay when your other liability policies are exhausted, or if you are sued for an action such as slander or libel that is not covered under home or auto insurance.

Typically umbrella insurance is a great value. Adding this coverage to your package can cost just a few dollars a month, for which you receive $1,000,000 or more toward legal expenses and damages if you are sued.

Who can benefit from umbrella or personal liability protection?
• Business owners: While your business insurance likely offers a great deal of protection for your company’s interests, you may be held personally liable for any losses or claims not covered by your business policies. Adding a personal liability or umbrella policy to your coverage plan can help you address any lawsuits or claims.
• Parents: Despite our best efforts as parents, children do not always make the best decisions. If your child makes a mistake that leads to another party’s injury or loss, you may be held responsible for their damages. Umbrella insurance enhances the protection offered by your home and auto policies, and significantly reduces the chances of out-of-pocket expenses in the event of another party’s loss.
• Professionals: Individuals who offer professional services, including doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers and others are often exposed to liability from clients who feel they have been misrepresented or misled in some way. Adding a personal liability policy on top of existing business insurance coverage is important to avoid uncovered losses and out-of-pocket expenses in the case of a lawsuit.
• Wealthy families: Unfortunately, individuals and families with wealth often become the target of frivolous law suits. Such legal action can be very expensive – umbrella policies offer protection against these expenses, and may also cover the costs of adverse judgments.
• Property owners: Property ownership opens you to a wide range of liability. If a visitor to your commercial or residential property is injured, you may be held responsible for their losses. Umbrella policies offer protection against these costs, and provide the financial assistance you need during ongoing legal proceedings resulting from such an incident.

Do you carry an umbrella policy? Have you thought of how you will handle expenses if you are sued?