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    Tucson Insurance Blog

    Thursday
    Oct312013

    Where's the Insurance? Beware of Uninsured Drivers

    About twenty years ago, a famous hamburger chain ran a series of commercials featuring a cute octogenarian named Clara Peller.  This feisty little old lady claimed her fifteen minutes of fame asking that now famous question, “Where’s the beef?”  While it may have been funny to watch her put fast food restaurant owners on the spot, it is not at all funny if you’re in a car accident and you ask the other driver for their insurance card only to find out they have none.

    Unfortunately that’s a scenario that happens all too frequently.  As the cost of living rises and paychecks don’t meet needs, people start making decisions about where to cut expenses.  One of those decisions may be to eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of their car insurance.  They need the car and take the calculated risk that they won’t get into an accident, but invariably, they are wrong.  In fact, the possibility of an uninsured motorist hitting you is greater than you may realize.  There are some states in which almost 32 percent of all drivers do not carry automobile insurance.  The national average is 14 percent.

    You can protect yourself from an uninsured driver, or even an underinsured driver, whose negligence causes you to be involved in an accident. The first way is with uninsured motorists (UM) coverage.  It provides insurance protection for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, caused by an uninsured driver.  This type of policy permits you to collect from your own insurance carrier just as if it provided liability coverage for the uninsured driver.

    Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are injured in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance.  Uninsured motorist coverage also pays for injuries that result from a hit-and-run accident.  Policy owners choose the coverage limit when they buy their policy.

    Uninsured motorist property damage coverage protects you if your vehicle is damaged in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance.  Other protection provided by this type of policy varies from state to state.  If available, the deductible for uninsured motorist property damage is usually $250.  This is often substantially less than the collision coverage deductible found in your auto insurance policy.

    The other policy alternative is underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage.  This provides insurance protection for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, caused by a negligent motorist who is not sufficiently insured and whose negligence results in an accident.  The bodily injury portion of this kind of coverage pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are injured.  It usually pays the difference between the coverage limit you select and the other driver’s bodily injury coverage limit.

    Underinsured motorist property damage coverage protects you if your car is damaged in an accident caused by a driver with insufficient auto insurance coverage.  Other specific protection provided by this type of coverage varies by state.  As with bodily injury, property damage coverage pays the difference between your policy’s coverage limit and the other driver’s property damage coverage limit.

    When you are deciding whether or not to buy either of these coverages, keep two very important points in mind.  Both UM and UIM coverage are broad in scope because they provide benefits for you and your family members’ injuries that occur in your own covered car, in cars you don’t own, and as pedestrians.  Despite all of this protection, the cost for this coverage is reasonable compared to liability coverage and physical damage coverage for your own car.

    Tuesday
    Oct292013

    Protect Your Company from Identity Theft Liability

    If your business does not properly dispose of personal information from customers or employees you could be fined, sued or involved in a costly class action lawsuit.  Effective June 1, 2005, the new strict information Disposal Rule changed the way nearly every business in the United States must handle sensitive personal information. 

    Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America.  The Federal government has recognized that improper disposal of sensitive information is a key cause of identity theft and is firm in its commitment to prevent identity thieves from obtaining personal information. 

    The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act is an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The new Disposal Rule portion of the law requires companies to properly dispose of all paper or electronic personal data by reasonable measures such as shredding or burning for paper records.  Third party companies that specialize in proper information disposal can be contracted to handle this responsibility.

    If you do not comply with the new Disposal Rule, your company could be subject to civil liability for actual or statutory damages as a result of your inaction leading to the identity theft; class action lawsuits, if a large number of employees or customers are involved; and federal fines of up to $2,500 for each violation, and state fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.

    When implementing information disposal practices, consider the following:

    - Have a valid reason for requesting the information that you gather.

    - Acquire data in a private manner that cannot be seen or overheard.

    - Install effective security on systems that store personal data.

    - Make sure that sensitive data is treated as highly classified and is access controlled.

    - Make all paper and electronic documents unreadable before disposing of them.

    - Train all personnel in proper procedures for identifying, handling and disposing of personal information.

    - Consider conducting background checks on all employees with access to identifying information including mailroom staff, clean-up crews, customer service technicians and temporary workers.

    - For your protection in case of a lawsuit, formalize your information disposal program including maintaining detailed documentation of each security measure you establish.

    Friday
    Oct252013

    Teenage Drivers Are a Threat to Everyone

    Teenagers and fast cars are a Hollywood legacy that dates back to James Dean. The “Rebel Without A Cause” and his Porsche 550 Spyder were the ultimate symbols of teenage rebellion during the 50s. Despite all the Hollywood hype surrounding a teen’s need for speed, the problem with teenage reckless driving has serious consequences that reverberate beyond the drivers themselves.

    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s report Fatality Facts: Teenagers 2003, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teenage drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

    As if those statistics weren’t bad enough, the Automobile Club of America (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety published a study that shows the majority of people killed in teenage driver crashes are people other than the teens themselves. The Foundation study analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995 through 2004.

    The research data indicates that young drivers represent a little more than one-third of all fatalities caused by crashes in which they were involved. However, almost two-thirds of those killed in crashes are other vehicle occupants and pedestrians.  Between 1995-2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers took the lives of 567 people in Minnesota, of which 212 or 37.4 percent were the teen drivers themselves. The remaining 355 or 62.6 percent included 171 passengers in the cars driven by 15- to 17-year-old drivers, 155 occupants of other vehicles, and 29 non-motorists. The AAA of Minnesota is using this data in their lobbying efforts to beef up state driving laws.

    As a result of their findings, the AAA is suggesting a two-pronged approach to solving the problem. The first is a graduated licensing law (GDL). Graduated licensing requires that a new driver be given driving privileges in three stages: a learner’s permit, a probationary license and finally full driving privileges.

    The AAA made it their goal in 1997 to pass GDL laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This goal was finally achieved when Wyoming and Montana enacted laws in 2005. The legislation requires teens to obtain more supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience as well as phased-in driving privileges. However, not every state’s GDL laws are as comprehensive as they should be.

    The second part of their approach involves educating parents. Parents are encouraged to prevent their teenagers from riding with other teen drivers, or transporting other teens during the first year of driving.  To help parents overcome any awkwardness about enforcing these rules, especially if other parents may not be following the same track, the AAA has designed a new parent discussion guide. It encourages parents to work as a team to ensure their teens gain driving experience in the safest driving environment possible during that first year. For more information, log on to http://www.aaapublicaffairs.com/Main/Default.asp?CategoryID=14.

    Monday
    Oct212013

    Should Your Business Be Concerned About Silica Lawsuits?

    In America, asbestos litigation has become a huge problem for both businesses and insurance carriers. According to a study released in May 2005 by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, more than 730,000 people filed claims for asbestos-related injuries from the early 1970s through 2002.

    The study also stated that the number of asbestos claims increased dramatically through the 1990s and into 2002 because of suits filed by people who are claiming non-cancerous injuries. These cases account for 90 percent of all new claims, adding to the large numbers of asbestos litigation brought by the cancer-stricken.

    In the midst of this there is a new threat that promises to be as big a player in the litigation arena as asbestos has been. That threat is silica.

    Silica is a major component of sand, rock and mineral ores. Overexposure to dust containing microscopic particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs. The scar tissue reduces the ability of the lungs to extract oxygen from the air. This condition is called silicosis, which is disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal.

    According to A Guide To Working Safely With Silica, published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “Each year, more than 250 American workers die with silicosis. More than 1 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica. There is no cure for the disease, but it is 100 percent preventable if employers, workers and health professionals work together to reduce exposures.”

    Working in a dusty area increases the possibility of your employees becoming exposed to silica as does working in certain occupations such as construction, mining, foundry work, glass manufacturing and stone cutting.  Despite the occupation, following some basic procedures can reduce silica exposure:

    • Be sure that employees use the engineering controls you have installed to reduce silica dust levels, and make sure they are properly maintained.  Employees should report any malfunction immediately.
    • Minimize dust by following good work practices, such as removing dust with a water hose or a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate filter rather than blowing it clean with compressed air. Wet sweeping is preferable to dry sweeping.
    • Use less hazardous materials than crystalline silica for abrasive blasting.
    • To reduce exposures below permissible levels, insist that employees wear and correctly use approved particulate respirators when engineering controls alone are not adequate.
    • Remind employees that facial hair interferes with the respirator seal to the face, making most respirators ineffective.
    • If you must sandblast, use type CE positive pressure abrasive blasting respirators.
    • Participate in air monitoring, medical surveillance, and training programs.

    As important as it is to monitor silica exposure on the jobsite, it is just as important to monitor your employees to see if they are practicing good silica hygiene before, during and when they leave work. Train them to change into washable work clothes on site. If possible, provide them with a shower so that they can wash and change into clean clothing before leaving. Insist that they avoid eating, drinking, or using tobacco products in work areas where there is dust or other toxic materials.  Most importantly, they should wash their hands and face before eating or drinking.

    To further help you prevent silica exposure; OSHA has developed The Silica eTool. It includes current information that will assist businesses owners in identifying potential silica hazards by choosing correct sampling and analytical techniques, comparing monitoring results with acceptable exposure limits, and selecting appropriate control options. To download it, log on to http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/silica/index.html.

    Thursday
    Oct172013

    Black Boxes Are No Longer Just for Planes

    A black box, also known as the Cockpit Recorder or Flight Data Recorder, documents all of the data transmissions on an airplane, such as altitude, air speed, and voice and sound transmissions.  Typically, black boxes aren’t black at all.  They are brightly colored, which makes them easier to find in the wreckage following an accident.

    Everyone knows that airplanes have black boxes.  What you may not know, however, is that your car may have one too.  This box, which is approximately the size of a carpenter’s tape measure, is installed in about 70 percent of all new car models.  It is usually fitted under your dashboard or seat, and it kicks into high gear when your car’s airbags are deployed.

    These event data recorders (EDR) as they are known, can record information only in the 5 to 10 seconds before and after it senses an airbag is about to be deployed.  EDRs record the following data:

     

    • Vehicle speed
    • Engine speed 
    • Brake status
    • Throttle position
    • If the driver’s seat belt is on or off
    • If the passenger’s airbag is on or off
    • If the IR Warning Lamp is on or off
    • Time from vehicle impact to airbag deployment
    • Ignition cycle count at time of the crash
    • Ignition cycle count at investigation 
    • Maximum velocity before deployment
    • Velocity vs. time for frontal airbag deployment
    • Time from vehicle impact to time of maximum velocity
    • Time between the air bags about to deploy and deployment if it is within five seconds

     

    Insurance carriers and police officers use the information gathered by the box to reconstruct the events leading up to a crash.  General Motors has been installing black boxes in their cars since 1999, and several other car manufacturers have been installing them since 1996.  Crash investigators, insurers, police and government researchers say such information is the cornerstone to learning how to build safer cars.  Privacy advocates say EDRs are a way to obtain data that can be used to incriminate drivers.

    The controversial practice of installing black boxes in cars will become even more hotly contested when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a new rule in 2006, requiring carmakers to standardize black box technology.  The standardization will necessitate that all data is recorded and stored in the same way, which will make it is easier for researchers to recover the information.  However, only a few states have addressed the privacy concerns associated with black boxes and have enacted laws that ensure the car owner’s ownership rights to the data.


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