Archive | June 2014

Top 20 Defensive Driving Tips to Keep You Safe

Getting behind the wheel of your car may seem like a commonplace event, but it is likely to be the most dangerous thing you will do all day long. In the U.S., car accidents are the fifth leading cause of death. Your odds may be even higher depending on where you live and what you drive.

Although you can’t control the actions of other motorists, you have a great deal of control over how you operate your vehicle. That means you can increase your chances for a safe trip by following a few simple precautions. Here are twenty helpful tips to keep you driving happy.


1) Focus on the task at hand.

Don’t let phones, radio, air conditioning, kids in the backseat, or a heated discussion with your spouse distract you from your job as the driver. Always pay attention to the road and your vehicle. The NHTSA states that drivers under 20 are the most prone to distractions while driving, with 11 percent involved in fatal crashes while distracted.

2) Expect other drivers to make mistakes.

Don’t trust anyone but yourself.

3) Slow down.

The 2009 U.S. Census reported 33,808 fatalities due to speeding. The faster you travel, the longer it takes to stop, and the bigger the impact when you crash. But do travel along with the flow of traffic, as long as it does not exceed recommended limits.

4) Take advantage of safety devices.

Find a car with a high safety rating and large number of air bags. Invest in the right child restraints and seat belt adjusters for your family, and don’t forget to use them. According to the CDC, “Placing children in age- and size-appropriate car seats and booster seats reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half.”

5) Always, always, always buckle up.

Many car accident fatalities could be prevented each year, by simply wearing a seat belt. The National Safety Council says that seat belts reduce your risk of injury in a crash by 50 percent, and that 75,000 lives were saved by seat belts between 2004 and 2008. Those least likely to buckle up are teens, rural drivers, intoxicated drivers, and commercial truck drivers.

6) When in doubt, yield.

If you aren’t certain who has the right of way, err on the side of caution. If you know you have the right of way, but another motorist seems to disagree, give in. Better to lose a bit of time than to get caught in a collision. According the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, men have a harder time yielding the right of way, with a ratio of 1.5 to 1 for ‘failure to yield’ violations.

7) Stop on red.

The leading cause of intersection collisions is running the red light. Sometimes it’s a lack of attention to the road. Sometimes it’s glare from the setting sun. Sometimes it’s just plain hurry. The best practice is to slow down before each intersection, and evaluate the situation. Never race the yellow light.

8) Use your blinkers.

Confusion is the enemy of safe driving. Make your lane changes and turns predictable and smooth, and always signal in advance. “Nationwide, neglected or improper turn signals cause 2 million car accidents a year,” says Richard Ponziani, who conducted a recent study for the Society of Automotive Engineers. Failure to signal can invalidate your insurance claim after an accident, which means you will be financially responsible for any damage caused.

9) Let it go.

Road rage is not just an urban myth. Since you don’t know who might be behind the wheel of that vehicle that just cut you off, it’s safest to back away and overlook the offense. Road rage has led to murder over trivial offenses in all 50 states. Getting even could get you killed, not to mention the innocent drivers in your vicinity. If you suspect that another driver may be drunk, stay away, and alert the authorities as soon as it is safe to do so.

10) Keep a buffer between yourself and other motorists.

Tailgating leads to rear-end collisions, and you will be the one to foot the bill for the repairs. The NHTSA estimates that 1/3 of all traffic accidents are caused by tailgating, and could be prevented with proper distance. Allow at least two seconds of lead time in good weather, more in bad weather.

11) Monitor your blind spots, and stay out of others’ blind spots.

This is especially true of large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t see the driver in the truck mirror, he can’t see you either. Accidents involving semi- trucks often prove fatal for the driver of a car.

12) Don’t drive drunk, buzzed, high, or low.

Even an over-the-counter cold medication can alter your response times, so assess yourself honestly before deciding to drive. The average drinker can only metabolize one drink per hour. One drink equates to 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. If you are under the influence of any mind-altering substance, stay away from the wheel. NHTSA estimates 28 people die daily in the U.S. from drunk driving accidents.

13) Adjust for rain.

When the roads are slick and wet, especially in a heavy downpour or the first thirty minutes of a storm, your braking times increase. Turn off cruise control. Add extra space between your vehicle and other vehicles. Slow down as much as is feasible. Learn to detect and react properly to hydroplaning.

14) Prepare for snowy weather.

Slow down, and use snow chains if you see snow accumulating on the highway, but do not use chains on ice. If you live in an area where snow and ice are common, invest in winter snow tires. Always turn off your cruise control if you suspect ice may be present.

15) Inflate your tires appropriately, and change them when they are worn.

Properly inflated tires make for safer handling, and blowouts can cause an instant loss of control.

16) Use headlights wisely.

Anytime visibility is impaired on winding roads, during fog, rain, snow, or low light, make sure you can be seen by turning on your headlights. Only use your high beams in low-traffic areas, and turn them down for oncoming drivers.

17) Maintain your vehicle.

Regular oil changes and fluid checks can save you from surprise breakdowns on the road. If your car becomes disabled on a busy highway or interstate, the National Safety Council recommends that you try to pull over in the breakdown lane, if possible. Remember to use your turn signals, and watch for fast-moving cars. If you have parked a comfortable distance from traffic, lock the doors and wait for help. If you are close to traffic, exit the vehicle, and find a safe place to stand, away from the side and rear of the car. If you cannot reach the breakdown lane, and your car is stopped in traffic, leave the vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so, and wait for help in a secure location on the side of the road.

18) Respond safely to tailgaters.

If someone is following too closely, add twice as much space between your car and the car in front of yours. This increases your ability to see and prepare for a collision. Then carefully and gradually decrease your speed to slightly below the speed of surrounding traffic, and try to move into a right hand lane, to let the tailgater pass. Do not hit the brakes suddenly, unless you are forced to do so to avoid a collision.

19) Keep a steady pace.

Sudden increases and decreases in speed, unexpected lane changes, and unpredictable stops make it hard for other drivers to anticipate your actions. Be predictable and avoid surprising anyone around you.

20) Look far ahead of your vehicle.

Keep your eyes far down the road, and anticipate problems before you come to them. Look for erratic drivers, slow traffic, intersections, and highway debris.

Many defensive driving classes are available online and in your area. This can make a great gift for a young family member, or you can use it as a preventive exercise for yourself.

 

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What You Need to Know About EPLI Insurance

riskWe live in a litigious society. These days, it is difficult to terminate employment or run a business without the risk of a lawsuit. More and more people in this country are suing employers for wrongs, whether real or perceived, and companies, particularly small businesses, are paying the price. Your business policy’s liability insurance may not protect you from this sort of lawsuit. Instead, you will need employment practices liability insurance.

Lawsuits against Employers: Some Sobering Statistics

  • Employee lawsuits have risen approximately 400% over the last 20 years
  • Of these, wrongful termination suits have risen more than 260%
  • 41.5% of these lawsuits were brought against private employers with fewer than 100 employees
  • When employee lawsuits go to trial, the employee wins more than 63% of the time
  • The average cost to settle an employee lawsuit out of court is $75,000
  • The average amount awarded to employees in jury trials is $217,000

What Is Employment Practices Liability Insurance?

Employment practices liability insurance, commonly referred to as EPLI insurance, is specifically designed to protect employers from lawsuits brought on by employees. It provides coverage for many situations that general liability insurance does not.

Even lawsuits that are thrown out of court or are won by your company are expensive, due to the high cost of securing legal defense. Therefore, this insurance coverage is very important as financial protection for your business enterprise.

Consider the Costs of Defending Employee Lawsuits

  • Average court costs and legal fees when settled out of court: $15,000
  • Average court costs and legal fees when the case is dismissed: $50,000 to $75,000
  • Average court costs and legal fees when the case goes to trial: $125,000

What Does EPLI Insurance Cover?

EPLI insurance will provide compensation for losses caused by employee lawsuits, including all incurred court costs and legal fees.

While frivolous lawsuits commonly happen, many petitioners do have legitimate claims. Even if your company does not intentionally violate employment laws, you still can be held liable. For this reason, it is particularly important to have a well-written employee handbook and policies and procedures manual available, and to ensure that employees adhere to the established guidelines.

Some examples of reasons that a lawsuit may be filed against your company include the following:

  • Wrongful termination: This is the most common claim brought against employers in lawsuits. The EEOC states that is it illegal to fire an employee on the basis of their age, race, national origin, sex, or because of a disability. It is also illegal to terminate employment because an employee did any of the following:
    • Took a leave of absence under the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA).
    • Reported wrongdoings to authorities, as dictated by the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Even if an employee’s termination had nothing to do with any of these situations, if a judge is convinced otherwise, your company may be held liable for lost wages and punitive costs.

  • Harassment: These lawsuits most frequently involve sexual harassment, but can also include cases of workplace violence or bullying. The harassment may come from senior administrators, supervisors or co-workers. If the employee can prove that the company was aware of the problem and did nothing or made inadequate attempts to remedy it, the company may face fines and penalties if the case is brought to trial.
  • Discrimination: These cases involve situations where an employee is turned down for promotions or advancement opportunities on the basis of age, sex, race, national origin or disability. Employees typically win these cases when they are able to show a trend toward discrimination within the company.
  • Breach of contract: If your company has a contract with an employee and you violate the terms of that contract, the employee may file a claim against you. An employee who can prove that damages resulted from this breach is likely to win.
  • Emotional distress: Employees who feel that your company fosters a hostile work environment or who feel subjected to overly stressful situations in the workplace may file a lawsuit against your company. These cases are more difficult to prove in a court of law, but the resulting legal fees may still prove burdensome.
  • Other violations: Some other potential employee lawsuits that EPLI insurance can protect you from include wrongful denials of workman’s compensation, statute violations, wage and hour violations, loss of consortium, drug-testing false-positives, libel and slander.

Another employee lawsuit that is showing up in courts involves invasion of privacy. This usually occurs if employees feel they have been wronged as a result of cyber-snooping or video monitoring. This type of claim is not covered under most EPLI policies, but you may be able to get coverage through a newly created cyber liability and network security policy.

Is EPLI Insurance Expensive?

The cost of EPLI insurance coverage will vary from one company to another. Some factors that may influence cost include:

  • The number of employees
  • The amount of coverage purchased
  • Whether or not your company has an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy in place
  • Whether or not your company has had any lawsuits files against it in the past

In general, a company with about 25 employees can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 a year for a policy. While this cost may sound rather high, is it far lower than what legal fees alone would cost for just one lawsuit. The only way to know for certain how much it will cost to cover your company is to request rate quotes from a variety of insurance companies.

General Safety Obligations for Employers

OSHA laws apply to every workplace. Here are the primary employer responsibilities according to OSHA:

Employers must provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and follow all OSHA safety and health standards. Employers must find and correct safety and health problems. OSHA further requires employers to eliminate or reduce hazards first by changing working conditions rather than just relying on masks, gloves, ear plugs or other types of personal protective equipment (PPE). Switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are examples of effective ways to get rid of or minimize risks.

Employers must also:

  • Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace incident in which there is a death or when three or more workers go to a hospital.
  • Not discriminate or retaliate against a worker for using their rights.

Note that if you are in the states listed below you must also comply with state laws and regulations. To get more info go to OSHA, your state OSHA site, or the BNA State Law Summaries on HR That Works.

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Does My Home Insurance Cover My Sports Collection?

Johnny Football coming to Cleveland has everyone excited about the upcoming football season. So quick question, Sports Fans – how safe are your collectables? Would your treasured baseball card collection survive a flood? What might happen to your Michael Jordan autographed basketball in a house fire? What if burglars swipe your signed Wayne Gretzky jersey?

These questions are not designed to make you paranoid about your sports memorabilia collection, but they do bring up an important concern that all too many sports fans overlook.

What would happen to your collection in a tragic event? Does your home insurance cover the value of your memorabilia?

Should I Really Be Worried About My Sports Memorabilia Being Stolen?

No one likes to think about it, but there are some very nasty people in this world who may want to steal your belongings. Consider these examples:

  • June 22, 2013 – Potomac, MD: Signed San Antonio Spurs basketballs and jerseys were stolen at 1:38 pm while the homeowners were out for a walk.
  • July 24, 2013 – Shoreham, VT: Dale Earnhardt collectible cars and personal checks, a baseball autographed by Ted Williams, and Ted Williams action figures were stolen during multiple burglaries.
  • July 8, 2013 – Fargo, ND: Over 100 items of baseball memorabilia valued at over $4,000 were stolen from a self-storage facility.
What Does Standard Homeowner’s Insurance Cover?

Homeowners insurance is designed to protect you from the loss of personal property. In theory, that should include your sports collectibles. In reality, things are not so simple. Unless your collectibles have been specifically scheduled, your insurance company may refuse to reimburse you for them.

Do not expect to get the full appraised value for them either. Reimbursements are based on your collectibles’ actual cash value, not their collectible or appraised value. That means that, if a disaster were to wipe out your collection, you would get far less than the true value back from your insurance company. In fact, you might only get back the amount you can prove with receipts that you originally paid for your collectibles instead of their current market value.

Of course, that is assuming you would get anything at all. That depends on how your collectibles are lost or damaged in the first place. In general, homeowners insurance policies cover damage from:

  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Hail
  • Wind
  • Fire
  • Theft

However, do not expect compensation from a standard policy if the damage is caused by flooding or earthquakes. Even if flooding was caused by a hurricane, it still counts as separate damage. That’s right – a flood could wipe out your baseball cards, wash away your signed bat and glove – and your homeowners insurance wouldn’t do a thing to help you recover their value.

What Insurance Options Are There For Sports Memorabilia?

Since standard homeowners insurance is not reliable when it comes to protecting your sports memorabilia, you need something extra. One option is to add additional coverage to your current homeowners policy. This saves you from the hassle of having to find another insurance company. You may be able to work up an extended policy with your agent easily.

On the other hand, it is nice to have a collectible policy that is specifically designed to protect the value of your one of a kind cards and jerseys. Specialty insurance companies offer policies that usually cover loss and damage by:

  • Theft
  • Breakage
  • Mail loss
  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Natural Disasters

Collectible insurance policies still do have some exclusions, so be sure to carefully review any policy you are offered before making an agreement.

How Does Sports Memorabilia Insurance Work?

You do not need to keep a detailed inventory of every item in your collection to make your sports memorabilia insurance policy valid. There are two simple ways to keep your policy up to date and to avoid any issues in the unfortunate case of needing to file a claim:

  • Inventory high value items: Any items that are appraised at over $5,000 should be inventoried. That will save you from getting into a dispute when the time comes to file a claim.
  • Take pictures: This is not always required by insurance companies, but it is a good rule of thumb anyway. Photos help back up your claims and basically eliminate the chance that you will have to dispute things with the insurance company, a process that no one wants to go through.
What Information Do I Need to File a Claim?

When you buy insurance, you hope that you will never need it. Sadly, that catch-22 doesn’t always work out in your favor. If you ever have to file an insurance claim for your insurance memorabilia, you will need the following information:

  • Personal contact information
  • Policy number
  • Date of the loss or damage
  • Detailed report of the loss or damage including the location and any related events
  • Records on the lost or damaged items such as photos, inventory sheets, police reports, and recent appraisals
  • Total value of the lost or damaged items
Besides Insurance, What Else Can I Do To Protect My Collectibles?

While having a sports memorabilia insurance policy is a great way to protect the value of your collection, there are other ways to keep them safe.

  • Use protective cases: Sports cards, jerseys, and other items can get damaged simply by the passage of time. Protect them by using cases designed to keep them from fading, molding, and decaying.
  • Install a security system: Home security systems are great for making thieves think twice before swiping your memorabilia collection. As an added bonus, you may be able to convince your insurance company to lower your premiums when you let them know you have a security system in place.
  • Get a fire safe: Protecting your special items from fire is also a good idea. Many of us believe that if a fire happens we will be able to grab our most important and valuable possessions, but that is often not the case. Even if a fire is quickly managed, smoke damage alone can be catastrophic.
  • Do not broadcast the fact that you have a valuable collection: This is especially important online. Far too many people forget that everything they post online is public and can be viewed by anyone, including thieves. Never share your home address or the details of your collection on public forums or social networking sites.

Is your sports memorabilia truly important to you? Is it valuable? Is it unique? If so, it is definitely worth protecting. Get a specialty insurance policy or extend your homeowners policy to cover your collection and take preventative measures to keep them safe.