Distracted Driving Nowadays the first thing that comes to mind when talking about distracted driving is texting and cell phone use, but the fact is it isn’t just texting or using a cell phone. Any activity that diverts a driver’s attention puts that driver, passengers and everyone else sharing the road at serious risk.

A partial list of what counts as a distraction besides texting and cell phone use are: eating and drinking, smoking, attending to or disciplining child passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player or adjusting temperature controls.

Traffic safety experts classify distractions into three main types: Manual, visual and cognitive.

  • Manual distractions are those where you move your hands away from the task of controlling the vehicle. Reaching for a soda in the drink carrier is an example of a manual distraction.
  • Visual distractions are those where you focus your eyes away from the road. You drop your soda, and when it spills all over the floor of the car, you look down at your ruined shoes and stained slacks: that’s a visual distraction.
  • A cognitive distraction is when you’re mind wanders away from the task of driving. You start to consider whether you can afford to replace the clothes you just ruined, and what stores have sales this week, and you’re no longer paying attention to the essential job of driving — cognitive distraction.

This is why texting has such a bad reputation: it always involves all three types of distraction, all at once.

Researchers found that talking on a cell phone quadruples your risk of an accident, about the same as if you were driving drunk. That risk doubles again, to eight times normal, if you are texting.

Sending or receiving a text message distracts a driver for about five seconds; at highway speeds that represents a distance of about 300 feet in which the car is essentially out of human control, driving itself.

According to the NHTSA, over 3,331 people were killed and over 387,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents connected to drivers who are distracted. That represents 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 17 percent of all accidents that caused injuries.

Young drivers are at the greatest risk for distracted driving incidents. Some researchers speculate that this is because inexperienced drivers are the most likely to overestimate their ability to multitask.

Insurance Options after Retirement in TexasInsurance plays an important role in your life no matter what stage of life you’re in. But the real challenge comes with managing your assets after you retire. Besides life and health insurance, your auto and home insurance are important to maintain during retirement.

Auto Insurance

Mature drivers are some of the safest on the road. They have fewer accidents and tend to drive safer cars. Your insurance company may give discounts to safe drivers between the ages of 50-70, so be sure to ask. Bear in mind that statistics show that older drivers also have higher rates of fatal crashes based on miles driven. In fact, more so than any other group except very young drivers. As an older driver, you should expect to see your rates begin to rise. Many states mandate discounts for seniors who have successfully completed driver refresher training. The AARP, for example, offers one such state-certified program.

If you’re a senior driver, it’s good to know that you are considered among the most experienced drivers on the road. Being mobile and getting around is important to you, especially if public transportation is not readily accessible. Yet, as a group, older drivers, particularly after the age of 70, are involved in more serious accidents and more vulnerable to injury. It should be an individual and family decision when it is no longer safe to get behind the wheel.

Home Insurance

Unlike auto insurance, where the state sets minimum coverage limits, the bank that holds your mortgage usually requires you to have homeowners insurance. Once you pay off your mortgage, it’s still important to have protection in case of fire, burglary, and natural disasters. Ask if your insurance company provides discounts for retirees, because you spend more time at home; take time to properly maintain your property; and take prompt action to correct small problems before they become big problems.

If you work at home, you may need a supplemental liability policy that covers your work-related activity. Consider also an umbrella policy to protect your accumulated assets. Real estate, securities, and savings could be wiped out by one lawsuit. Umbrella coverage adds another layer of protection above what is provided in your standard homeowners and auto policies. Generally, an umbrella policy is very affordable, and provides an additional million dollars or more in liability insurance.

Business Owners Insurance Odessa, TXIf you’re a small business owner, carrying the right insurance coverage is essential to protecting your business and personal assets. Fire, theft and vandalism can shut down your business or require replacement of expensive equipment. A business owner’s policy (BOP) can protect you against all of these risks and more. It is simply a policy that provides both property and business liability insurance in one packaged policy and is designed to cover the basic needs of small to mid-sized businesses at an affordable rate.

Here are three of the most common BOP insurance myths and why they are wrong:

Myth 1: Business owner’s insurance policies are only for bigger businesses, so you don’t need one.

The exact opposite is true. Business owner’s insurance policies are designed specifically for small businesses. A BOP insurance policy conveniently rolls property damage and business liability insurance into one policy, making full coverage very affordable.

A business owner’s policy also includes business interruption insurance, which compensates you for any business income you lose due to a covered peril. A major disaster can shut your business down for weeks or even months. Business interruption insurance will ensure that you survive the closure.

It’s not just disasters that can close a business. A kitchen fire can easily shutter a restaurant for weeks. The property damage portion of a BOP covers damages to the kitchen equipment, and business interruption coverage helps cover any lost income.

Myth 2: Your general liability insurance covers a business interruption and business property loss.

Absolutely not.  General liability does not protect you from property damage or business interruption, both of which can be very costly.

General liability covers acts you commit, or things that happen at your business location. If a customer slips and falls in your grocery store, or a customer gets food poisoning from a pizza served at your shop, general liability covers their medical expenses as well as any resulting lawsuits.

A general liability policy does not cover damage to your business property. The property damage portion of a BOP covers loss or damage to your physical space, equipment, inventory, machinery, furniture and supplies, as well as losses due to theft.

Myth 3: Your personal umbrella policy covers a business equipment loss.

Personal umbrella policies are designed to cover personal, not business, liability. While coverage does extend to business equipment in certain circumstances, low coverage limits usually apply.

Personal umbrella policies cover bodily injury and property damage liability and pay legal fees for libel, slander and false arrest. Unfortunately, business coverage is extremely limited. In most cases, the maximum allowed for business equipment under a personal umbrella policy is $2,500. A personal umbrella policy is usually associated with a homeowners or personal auto policy and only extends coverage to business property if those underlying policies offer business coverage, which is rare.

Home Insurance Midland, TXHome sweet home is a well-loved place to be. That’s why making sure you have the right homeowner’s insurance is so important. Owning a home is a lot different than renting.

The typical homeowner’s insurance policy covers damage resulting from fire, windstorm, hail, water damage (excluding flooding), riots and explosion as well as other causes of loss, such as theft and the extra cost of living elsewhere which the structure is being repaired or rebuilt.

Your homeowner’s policy also covers your legal liability (up to policy limits) if you, members of your family or even your pets hurt other people or their property, not just in your house, but away from it, as well.

Three ways to insure the structure of your home:

  1. Replacement Cost. Insurance that pays the policyholder the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation, but limited to a maximum dollar amount.
  2. Extended Replacement Cost.An extended replacement cost policy, one that covers costs up to a certain percentage over the limit (usually 20%). This gives you protection against such things as a sudden increase in construction costs.
  3. Actual Cash Value. This covers the cost to replace your home minus depreciation costs for age and use. For example, if the life expectancy of your roof is 20 years and your roof is 15 years old, the cost to replace it in today’s marketplace is going to be much higher than its actual cash value.

Tips for Insuring Your Home to Value

It is best to insure your home for the total amount it would cost to rebuild your home if it were destroyed. That’s not the market value, but the cost to rebuild. If you don’t have sufficient insurance, your company may only pay a portion of the cost of replacing or repairing damaged items. Here are some tips to help make sure you have enough insurance:

  • For a quick estimate on the amount to rebuild your home: multiply the local building costs per square foot by the total square footage of your house. To find out the building rates in your area, consult your local builders association or a reputable builder. You should also check with your insurance agent.
  • Factors that will determine the cost to rebuild your home: a) construction costs b) square footage of the structure c) type of exterior wall construction—frame, masonry or veneer d) the style of the house (ranch, colonial) e) the number of rooms & bathrooms f) the type of roof g) attached garages, fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows or unique interior trim.
  • Check the value of your homeowner’s policy against rising local building cost each year. Check with your insurance agent to see if they offer an “Inflation Guard Clause.” This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area.
  • Check the latest building codes in your community. Building codes require structures to be constructed to minimum standards. If your home is severely damaged, you might have to rebuild it to comply with the new standards requiring a change in design or building materials. These generally cost more.
  • Do not insure your home for the market value. The cost of rebuilding your home may be higher or lower than the price you paid for it or the price you could sell it for today.

Advise your insurer and increase the limits of your homeowner’s policy if you make improvements or additions to your house.

Liability Insurance Odessa, TXTrailers come in all shapes and sizes and for some folks they’re an absolute must-have. For others they may be needed to transport a horse or livestock, and still others need a utility trailer to carry equipment for their lawn care or pool cleaning business. There are open trailers and enclosed trailers, but they all run the same risk of being involved in a collision when being driven with property in tow.

The question is: Are you covered for liability in the event that your trailer causes property damage or worse – bodily injury to another person? If your car insurance policy does not provide this coverage, you should purchase trailer insurance liability coverage so that you’re fully protected.

If you want customized insurance that covers you for liability risks involving your trailer, speak with your independent insurance agent for help finding the right coverage for your budget.

Do I Need Trailer Insurance Liability Coverage?

Accidents involving vehicles that are towing trailers are not uncommon and these large and often heavy trailers can cause serious property damage and injuries when they collide with other vehicles or objects. Mistaken turns, collisions with objects while backing up, and clipped cars while changing lanes are some common trailer mishaps that lead to liability concerns for the driver.

Runaway trailers are another hazard. If a trailer breaks free from your vehicle while you are towing it, it can roll out of control. In most cases, the trailers do not stop until they have hit another vehicle or object. It is a good idea to purchase a breakaway kit to help prevent such an incident. These will stop the trailer if it becomes disengaged.  However, a stopped trailer on the roadway can still be very dangerous to other vehicles and drivers.

What Is Trailer Liability Insurance?

Trailer liability insurance can provide coverage for injuries and damages caused by various types of trailers including boat trailers, horse trailers, fifth wheel RVs and utility trailers. It can also cover legal fees in the event that someone takes you to court. If you have a trailer for commercial use, commercial trailer liability coverage can protect your business in the event of a lawsuit.

Commercial and Personal Policy Differences

On a Commercial or Business Auto policy, trailers must be listed to be covered for Liability coverage and Comp and Collision.

For Personal Auto Policies the Liability extension of the coverage includes the trailer or towing vehicle. Comp and Collision are not included and must be added.

To fully understand that you are getting the most comprehensive coverage based on your needs, contact your insurance agent, whether you are purchasing a trailer or borrowing or renting one. Discuss and understand all the details with your auto insurance agent before you take to the road.

Boat insurance midland odessa, tx

Boat Insurance

If you’re an avid angler then you are serious about catching fish. Your success depends on your boat and equipment, keeping both in tip-top shape is important. An on that same note, keeping your insurance current is equally important.  Whether you fish just for fun or compete in tournaments, be sure your insurance is what it should be to meet your needs.

Ask your independent insurance agent if your fishing and boating insurance includes the following and discuss what you may or may not need. If you compete in fishing tournaments you will want to ask whether that is included in your policy.

  • Damage Coverage
  • Disappearing Deductible
  • Consequential Damage Clause
  • Fishing Equipment
  • Protection & Indemnity (P&I)
  • Medical Payments
  • Tournament Fee Reimbursement
  • Towing and Emergency Assistance
  • Unlimited Trailering within the continental United States

And remember the importance of safety when you’re boating or fishing. In Texas alone, there are over 250,000 registered boats and the state enforces strict boating and fishing laws. Make sure you and your crew are well informed and well prepared before you leave the shore.

And if you’re new to the game and don’t have boating insurance yet, check with one of our independent agents about getting a fast, online quote here.

The bass, trout and who know how many more are out there waiting for you. Don’t let the worry of damage, injury or loss complicate your fishing fun. Contact your independent today and get all the details worked out.  You might even want to invite him to join you for a fishing trip!

Texas Cyber Insurance Policy Nowadays, even if you’re a small business, you probably need cyber insurance. The fact that over 40 percent of small businesses have been targeted in the last two years should be taken seriously. As most business, large and small, is increasingly reliant on the internet, playing it safe is just common sense. The unseen ‘bad guys’ are out there and they seem to be getting smarter by the day.

So what exactly is cyber insurance and what does it cover?

Basically cyber insurance covers your business in the case of a data breach that is related to sensitive customer information. That would include Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, health insurance info, account details and such.

So exactly what does cyber insurance cover?

Cyber insurance covers legal fees and other expenses and it also assists in the following ways:

  • Customers are notified about a hack or breach
  • Personal identities of affected customers are restored
  • Compromised data is recovered
  • Damages to your computers and computer systems are repaired

Contact your independent insurance agent to find out more about cyber insurance. While it is still relatively new to the insurance industry, there are many fine products available to ensure better security for your business.

The National Cyber Security Alliance* advises that updated computer systems, strong passwords and a well trained staff are three important ways to avoid a security breach. In addition to your cyber insurance, think defensively when it comes to protecting your business and the security of your customers.

Renters Insurance Agent Odessa, TXIf you rent a house, apartment or mobile home you should renters insurance coverage. Why?

Personal effects are not protected by the landlord’s insurance policy. Your landlord’s insurance covers damage to the building but does not protect your personal possessions.

If your personal effects are lost, damaged or stolen, renters insurance provides coverage. Renters insurance also protects you against liability claims if a visitor to your rented home or apartment is injured.

How you are compensated depends on the type of loss and the amount of coverage you have in place. You can purchase “actual cash value” (depreciated) coverage for your personal property, or you can buy replacement cost coverage for your personal possessions.

Although you aren’t required to carry renters insurance by law, your landlord can require renters insurance in your rental lease agreement. Having renters insurance protects you so that regardless of what happens on the premises, your renters insurance will cover you.

If you are required to relocate due to repairs from fire, smoke or water damage, for example, your renters insurance can cover temporary accommodations.

Renters insurance is very affordable. Depending on where you live and the coverage amount you choose to carry on the policy, the cost is around $100-$250 per year. The national average for renters insurance is $15 to $30 per month.

Texas renters insurance is very affordable. The average cost is around $15 a month for $10,000 of personal property coverage and $100,000 of liability. You can get more coverage if you need it which might total $20 a month.  Consider what it would cost if you had a major loss and did not have renters insurance. The loss of electronics, jewelry or valuable collectibles could be in the thousands, making the cost of renters insurance minimal by comparison.

Considering the affordability of renters insurance, why do so many people run the risk of not having it?

Insurance Agent Odessa, TXYou may have wondered about the phrase Independent Insurance Agent. What exactly does that mean? And why should I use them? In this week’s blog we will try to clarify that for you.

Insurance agents who work for one company are referred to as ‘captive agents. They will only sell insurance policies from one insurance company. The only way you can buy insurance policies from those companies are through their exclusive agents.

Independent agents, on the other hand, can sell insurance products from a variety of insurance companies.

There are pros and cons to both. For captive agents, knowing the ins and outs of a certain company’s policies has an advantage. Ideally, they know their company’s policies thoroughly. Independent agents however, are able to shop around, negotiate and get you the best price on comparable policies from a number of different insurance companies.

Independent insurance agencies are licensed through 99.5 percent of all insurance companies. An MGA (managing general agent) is used for hard to place commercial risks. Unlike traditional agents, an MGA is vested with underwriting authority from an insurer. Many independent agents are not big enough to get direct contracts with insurance companies, so they broker through an MGA.

Agents working as brokers operate on a lower commission rate because the MGA keeps part of the commission and charges a monthly fee to write policies through them. Brokers have no binding authority through the policies they write through an MGA and are required to tell the insured they are not the “agent of record’.

Working with an independent insurance agent serves you in many ways. They not only find you competitive pricing, they make sure you’re fully and correctly covered. Working with you face-to-face, an independent agent is more like your personal adviser, taking the time to listen to you and understand your individual needs.

Independent agents are often your neighbors who share an interest in the community and the challenges of living in the area. An independent insurance agent also offers the convenience of one-stop shopping by providing you with auto, home, renter, business coverage and whatever specialty insurance you may need along the way.

Tornado Home Insurance Coverage in TexasTornado Alley, a swath of land from Texas to Nebraska, is most prone to destructive vortexes, but the fact is, tornadoes can strike anywhere. Random tornadoes have formed in areas far outside of Tornado Alley in recent years, touching down in cities from outside Sacramento, California, to Long Island, New York.

For those of us living in Texas, being prepared for the possibility of a tornado goes with the territory.  And one major factor is homeowner’s insurance. Keeping your homeowner’s insurance current and comprehensive can be a life-saving or a life-altering decision. If you’re not sure what your homeowner’s insurance includes, visit with your independent insurance agent.

Also know the safest places to take refuge from a tornado, whether you’re at home or away from home.

Safe Shelter at Home

The basement, if your home or building has one or the innermost rooms with the fewest windows, such as a hall closest or bathroom, are safe places to shelter inside a home. Bathrooms can offer additional protection because pipes reinforce the walls and lying in the bathtub provides an extra barrier from flying debris.

Safe Shelter Away From Home

If you’re away from home a concrete, single-story structure may be your safest bet. Big box stores have roofs that can get ripped off in high winds so try to avoid those. If you’re in one of these stores, take refuge in the bathroom, which is a concrete structure. Avoid the storefront.

Usually tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, but they can double back so keep an eye on the skies. When a twister is close, you may decide to pull over to a low-lying area but avoid underpasses, which can amplify wind speeds and turn into a wind tunnels. Once parked, the NOAA recommends getting as far away from your car as possible. While your car may feel like it offers protection, violent tornadoes can hurl cars hundreds of yards. Being in your car is safe in a lightning storm, but definitely not during a tornado.

If you’re running away from your car or you’re caught outside, look for an open field and lay face down in a spot lower than ground level. If you can’t find a ditch, crouch by a strong building. Cover your head with clothing, a purse or a backpack and your hands, but don’t clasp your hands together. Lay one hand over the other then if one hand takes a hit from a hailstone or debris, your other hand is still functioning.

Even though you may never suffer the ugliness that a tornado can disseminate, it’s always best to be in a state of readiness and prepare for the worst. Tornadoes are one of nature’s deadliest disasters.