Shun Those Cell Phones While Driving

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In my opinion, it is not the act of talking on...

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More than 20 percent of injury crashes in the United States involve reports of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of those killed in distracted-driving related accidents, 18 percent involved the usage of a cell phone. Another study indicates that using a cell phone while driving, whether it is a hand-held or hands-free device, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.

Cell phones, and particularly smart phones, are considered one of the leading driver distractions. As a result, more and more communities are placing restrictions on drivers’ use of cell phones. The following tips are offered to motorists with regard to cell phone use in vehicles.

  • You should wait until the car trip is complete before placing a call. Your cell phone’s voicemail feature should answer a call while you are driving.
  • Absolutely essential calls should only be performed while stopped. However, it is not wise to pull over on the side of the road where a rear-end collision is possible. Instead, you should pull into a parking lot to perform this task.
  • The phone should be placed where it is easy to see and reach.
  • You should take advantage of speed-dialing capabilities.
  • You should never drive and talk on the cell phone during stressful, emotional, or complex discussions since the risk of an accident is heightened.
  • You should consider using a hands-free cellular phone since some studies indicated that these are safer to use.
  • You should never text message while driving.

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Copyright 2011
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Don’t Become an Auto Theft Victim

Every 30 seconds, a motor vehicle is stolen in the United States. Using Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that annual property losses from these thefts are approximately $5 billion. Although technology and aggressive law enforcement actions have lowered the auto theft rate in recent years, you should still be cognizant of this loss exposure. The following tips may prove helpful in reducing the chances that your vehicle or property in it may be stolen.

  • When temporarily leaving your vehicle, never leave it running or with the keys in the ignition.
  • Always lock your car and roll up the windows, even if it is in your driveway. If you have a garage, park your car in it, and close and lock the garage door.
  • Park in busy, well-lit areas.
  • When purchasing auto stereo equipment, choose items that can be removed and locked in the trunk.
  • When using valet parking or taking your car in for repairs, leave only the ignition key with the attendant.
  • Turn your wheels sharply toward the curb when parking since this makes it extra difficult for thieves to tow the vehicle. Always use your emergency brake, and leave the transmission in park or in gear.
  • Look into various antitheft devices for your auto. Ask about auto insurance discounts for antitheft devices, including alarms and window etchings.

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Copyright 2011
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Do You Need Pet Insurance for Buddy?

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Veterinary bills are increasing much faster than the overall rate of inflation. Part of this reason lies in the advancements of medical techniques and the increasing number of veterinarian specialists. These trends, however, come at a price. For example, performing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on the spine of a cat can cost upwards of $2,000. Removing a tumor on a dog can cost $4,000, and implanting a pacemaker can cost over $7,500. Even dealing with a dislocated ankle can run you around $5,000.

As a result, pet insurance sales are increasing rapidly. Is this a wise purchase? Much of the decision depends on how you view your pet. If you are emotionally close to your pet and see it as a loving family member who is nearly irreplaceable, then consider the following questions. If the answer to any of the questions below is yes, you should look into purchasing this coverage.

  • Are you willing to go into debt to provide health care for your pet?
  • Are you on a fixed or limited income?
  • Would you be willing to spend over $5,000 to save your pet in a life-threatening situation?

If you decide to purchase this protection, you should carefully compare the rates and policy provisions of at least three well-established pet insurers.

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Copyright 2011
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Workers’ Compensation SOL for Asbestosis

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Chest X-ray in asbestosis shows plaques above ...

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In NC, the claim of an employee who was diagnosed with asbestosis six years later was not barred by the statute of limitations because he promptly filed his claim after he was diagnosed.

Actual Notice Required to Trigger Duty to Defend

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Insurers need actual notice to require a duty to defend. If you are an insured and you have been served with a lawsuit the first thing you need to do is notify your insurer in writing. If you fail to notify your insurer you will have to prove to the court that you had a good faith reason for the failure. This is becoming harder and harder to do. Great American Ins. Co. v. C.G. Tate Construction Co., 315 N.C. 714 (1986). See also Kubit v. MAG Mutual Ins.

Insurance Not Responsible for Expert Witness Fees

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Most of the time the insurance company will be responsible for expert witness fees when the insurer has a duty to defend but not in Bain v. Unitrin Auto and Home Ins. Co. The N.C. Court of Appeals, held that where the insured hired the expert witness on his own before filing a counterclaim that gave rise to the insurer’s duty to defend the insurer was not responsible for the expert’s fees even if the expert testified regarding the counterclaims that the insurer was defending.

January’s Tip of the Month

Lower Your HO Insurance Costs

Homeowners insurance premiums often take a substantial bite out of a family’s budget. You may, however, be paying too much for this coverage. The following are some approaches you can use to reduce your homeowners insurance costs.

  • Try to increase your deductible to the highest one you can afford, even if the premium savings do not appear to justify it. This will decrease your premium and increase the likelihood that your loss history will be excellent, since minor losses will be paid by you and not your insurance company. A loss-free record over time saves premium dollars. For example, if you currently have a $250 deductible on your homeowners policy, consider increasing it to $500 or $1,000.
  • Consider purchasing a monitored burglar alarm. Alarms have proven successful in reducing burglary rates. In addition, most insurers provide premium discounts to consumers with these alarms, some as high as 20 percent.
  • Maintain your home in optimum condition. If a repair is needed, perform it as soon as possible. For example, loose or missing roof shingles should be repaired or replaced immediately. A home in excellent condition is much less likely to experience a loss.
  • Buy your home insurance and your auto insurance from the same company. Discounts normally apply when you do.

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Copyright 2011
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Don’t Blog Yourself into a Lawsuit!

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IBM CIO Report: Key Findings

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The Internet is a fascinating place that is opening up new forms of social interaction, activities, and organization of information. Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are creating revolutionary ways to interact with people all over the world. In addition, websites such as Amazon, Yelp, and Angie’s List allow people to post online reviews of businesses of all types. The explosive growth in these types of activities in the last few years is truly amazing.

These undertakings, however, have a dangerous element. Blogs and postings of a negative nature (even if they are true) can result in unpleasant and costly lawsuits against the author. Note that it may still take time before there is a good body of caselaw to support freedom of speech online in blogs, forums, and social media publishing sites. And remember that freedom of speech does not mean you can say anything you want anywhere. Freedom of speech implies responsibility; its use should generally be for the benefit of the greater good. So the following are some risk management tips to consider before posting or blogging negative comments on the Internet.

  • Check your facts carefully and thoroughly document your sources. Truth is a complete defense in a libel case, although you still may run into expensive legal bills defending yourself. If you find that your facts are incorrect, remove the inaccurate content and consider issuing a correction or retraction.
  • If you purchase a product online and have an unpleasant experience with the seller, it might be wise not to post a negative comment or rating on the website. If you do post an adverse comment, be sure that it is objectively written, based on solid facts concerning your own direct experience, and not written in an inflammatory manner.
  • If you are a blog master and someone is posting false and incendiary statements on your site, remember that you may be held liable for these remarks since you are the “publisher.”
  • Seek protection for your rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, has a mission to safeguard the rights of those who use digital media and to provide legal guides to bloggers both large and small. It also offers helpful ideas to those bloggers and online posters to avoid libel suits.
  • Make certain your homeowners policy includes a personal injury endorsement to cover libel and slander suits. Most standard insurance company policy forms do not provide this automatically, and it can be added for a small additional premium. Also, consider buying a personal umbrella policy, which generally provides broader personal injury coverage.
  • If your blog is a money-maker, look into business liability coverage since the typical homeowners policy contains numerous business-related exclusions and restrictions. If you operate a small home-based business in conjunction with your blog or online business, consider requesting that a home-based business endorsement be added to your homeowners policy.

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Copyright 2010
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Florida Court Provides Some Relief to Builders

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Chinese Drywall

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A Florida court ruling provides some relief for home builders regarding the use of defective Chinese drywall. In Marlene Bennett v. Centerline Homes, Inc., et al., No. 2009-CA-014458, Fla. Cir., 15th Judicial Cir., Palm Beach Co. (a consolidation of a number of separate lawsuits), the court issued two rulings that limit home builders’ liability for injury or damage caused by defective drywall. First, the court ruled that home builders would not be held strictly liable for the alleged defects in the same way manufacturers and distributors of defective products can be held responsible for damages. This ruling prevents homeowners from establishing liability on the part of the builder merely by showing that a defect exists, and the defect caused damages. Rather, it requires demonstrating another legal basis for liability, such as builder negligence. Second, the court held that the economic loss rule prevents homeowners from filing tort claims that exceed the contractual remedies for economic loss, which will restrict homeowners’ recovery for economic damages (e.g., reduction in market value) to the terms spelled out in the home-purchase contract. It remains to be seen whether the decision, handed down November 10, 2010, will be adopted by other courts hearing cases pertaining to the use of defective drywall.

via http://www.IRMI.com

November’s Tip of the Month

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Day 18 Hail the Turkey Fryer!

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Avoid Turkey Fryer Dangers

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, thoughts turn to turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Delicious deep-fried turkey, historically prevalent in the southern states, is growing in popularity around the country, thanks to celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse. The only problem is that the turkey fryers used to create this succulent dish are unsafe and not certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

Turkey fryers are devices, resembling a large commercial coffee pot, that are filled with oil heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Turkeys are placed in this hot oil to fry the birds.  The big problem, though, is that people often fill the fryers too full of oil, and it overflows when the bird is placed inside. This cascading oil hits the heating flames below, causing an instant fire. In addition, the turkey fryers are often quite unstable and easy to tip over. Lastly, many of these fryers lack adequate thermostat controls. Thus, the units have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion. For these reasons, UL does not certify any turkey fryers with its trusted UL mark.

UL and other safety organizations strongly urge people to discard their existing turkey fryers. But for those people who insist on using their turkey fryers, UL offers the following tips:

  • Always use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other burnable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce the chance of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended since most units lack proper thermostat controls. If people do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets close to the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer. Test it beforehand with water.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby.

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Copyright 2010
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.