What Superlative Would Your Insurance Win?

November 13, 2009

Car insurance may not be all that glamorous, it probably would not win “Most Fun” in the high school yearbook and it may not be the hottest industry on the stage.  When the spotlight hits, though, it is undeniable what a star good insurance coverage can be.  Understanding the ins and outs of insurance can be complex, but it is of utmost importance to keep yourself educated about what your insurance policies are doing for you and how they will perform when you need it most.

Why Is it So Important? Like a good doctor, insurance is in place to heal you when you’ve been broken. It’s there to fix the worst case scenario. The goal of both medicine and insurance is to pick up the pieces and put them back together so that you look the same as you did before the loss occurred. Doctors may mend a broken arm or leg, while insurance fixes a broken car or home. What we must remember is that insurance is an important part of restoring your life, but it can be equally important when you are not the victim in an accident.

Car insurance liability limits are in place to pay for any bodily injury or property damage that you cause (and are found legally liable for) to another person. People often think that because they have insurance, they are covered, plain and simple. The fact is, though, that insurance has LIMITS. If the costs to rectify an accident fall outside of those limits, the victim may have no choice but to sue you for the remainder, causing you complete financial devastation. No bueno.

Want Some Examples?  My friend, [Low Limit] Lisa works for an NFL team and I recently discovered that her car insurance liability limits are shockingly low.  Her limit is 25/50/50: her insurance company will pay up to $25,000 to each person injured, but they will only pay a maximum of $50,000 total per accident (so they’ll only pay a max of $25K to two people) and they will pay a max of $50,000 for damage caused to property.  Let’s play pretend and imagine that she is pulling out of the player parking garage…

  • Lisa hits a player, damaging his $100,000 car and breaking his $10 million running back leg
  • Player sues Lisa for damages in court
  • To fix the car, pay for his medical bills and make up for the wages he is losing while out of work, the court awards $500,000
  • Lisa is now liable for $425,000 out of pocket
  • Superlative: Most Likely to Drive Lisa into Deep Debt for Decades

We may not all work for professional sports teams, but we do interact with people and face risks on a daily basis. This one is a true story:

  • My friend–we’ll call him Crash–was in a car accident last year
  • He was at fault for hitting a Mercedes-Benz operated by a NYPD detective
  • The accident wrecked the Benz, injured the detective’s shoulder, put him through surgery and rehabilitation and kept him out of work for 6 months
  • The court awarded the detective $90,000 in a settlement.
  • Crash’s insurance company paid for an attorney to represent
  • Crash’s liability limit was a Combined Single Limit (as opposed to the split limits of 25/50/50 we saw earlier) of $500,000
  • Superlative: Most Likely to Suffer NO Financial Loss

Another example:

  • A restaurant owner has a teenage son who drives his car into someone’s luxury home
  • Their insurance carries a $100,000 liability limit on property damage 
  • Homeowner sues and court awards $2 million in damages
  • Superlative: Most Likely to Foreclose Their Home and Sell Their Restaurant In Order to Pay the Remaining $1.9 Million

We never expect that we’ll be in such a position, but that is why insurance is so essential: it is our backup plan when the unexpected actually happens. Increasing your liability limits will cost a little more, but it is the smartest, easiest way to truly protect yourself and the life you’ve built in the event that the unthinkable occurs. Think of ways to cut back in other areas of your life–maybe you can put that Starbucks money toward having coverage that wins “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Talk to your insurance agent or call/e-mail us for guidance: 914-598-3004 or jaime@assetsecurityrm.com


NJ Motorists Must Comply w/ New Law or Get Caught on Thin Ice

October 21, 2009

NJ Legislators have passed a law requiring drivers to clear snow and ice from cars or be subject to a fine.

Let me set the scene: It’s the day after a snow storm and you need to head to the market, so you’re shoveling your driveway and digging your car out of the snow.  You clean off the snow and ice that have accumulated atop your vehicle and then you finally hit the road (if you haven’t stopped to take another shower and a nap because all that work got you perspiring and tired!).

You’re on the road now and even though the snow has stopped, you see snow and ice flying at your car from all directions because the cars in front of you failed to clear their cars of the wintery mix. Besides being a nuisance, snow and ice on cars presents a serious safety hazard. In the event that a sheet of ice becomes dislodged from a car, it could find its way to another car’s windshield, causing property damage, an accident or injury.

In an effort to protect drivers from this hazard, a recent New Jersey law requires motorists to make all reasonable efforts to remove ice or snow from vehicle or face a fine.  The lawstates that a police officer may stop a motorist whose vehicle has accumulated ice or snow which may pose a threat to persons or property.  The driver will be subject to a fine of not less than $25 or more than $75 for each offense, regardless of whether any snow or ice actually dislodged from the motor vehicle.  The law assures “no motor vehicle points or automobile insurance eligibility points shall be assessed for this offense.”

Though you may not live in New Jersey, take it upon yourself to clear your car of snow and ice before driving. The consequences of failing to do so could be much greater than a $75 fine.  If a piece of ice takes flight from your car, you could be held liable for damaging one’s property or causing bodily injury to another.


OH, DEER…

October 6, 2009

The Insurance Information Institute (III) reported that deer-to-vehicle collisions are on the rise, spiking 18.3% over the last five years. The average property damage cost of these incidents was $3,050 and if your policy does not cover deer collision, guess who’s paying. Unless you can harangue that deer to write you a check for a cool $3,000, the money will be coming out of your pocket.

Here’s How it Works:

  • All states require motorists to have liability insurance. This means that if you are responsible for causing an accident, your insurance company will pay for any bodily injury or property damage to others…
  • …But there is no mandate that you must insure against damage to your car.  Even the most cautious and conscientious driver can be involved in an accident, though, so you may consider securing collision and comprehensive coverage.  
  • Collision coverage pays for loss due to collision with another vehicle or object (like a tree that came out of nowhere!). It also covers loss due to upset (if your car does a triple lutz or a back flip).
  • Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for any direct damage to your vehicle other than collision. This includes: fire, theft, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, missiles (whoa), falling objects, hail or water, flood, vandalism, riot and civil commotion, glass breakage, contact with birds or animals (oh deer!)

Contact us for a complimentary policy review to ensure that your coverage protects your car adequately: 914-598-3004 or jaime@assetsecurityrm.com

Take Preventative Measures:

The III offers these defensive driving tips to avoid hitting a deer:

  • Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise. These are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland. Deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others may be nearby.
  • When driving at night, use high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
  • Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car/deer crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
  • Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

If your vehicle strikes a deer, get your car off the road, if possible, and call the police.

Happy and safe driving!


Gettin’ Busy: Growing Your Business Online

October 2, 2009

Last week I traveled to Boston for Safeco‘s “Bricks & Clicks: Growing Your Business Online” workshop. I was a bit apprehensive because I thought I already knew everything there is to know about using the internet and the resources which it has to offer (ooh, the arrogance of today’s youth)!  My apprehension was met, though, by an incredibly informative workshop led by sharp, knowledgeable instructors. They were able to artfully deliver engaging presentations on topics that normally would have lulled me to sleep.  The wealth of information, ideas, advice, tools and resources the workshop provided was almost overwhelming, but exciting nonetheless.

I’ll share with you some of the valuable INSIDER information (ooh la la)! I learned and will be implementing on our re-vamped site!

What Your Customers Want:

  • People want to manage their affairs and finances online
  • …and they want to do it on their own time—are you there (with your online presence) when they need you?
  • Online shoppers (i.e. looking for insurance quotes) want speed, convenience & objectivity à they want a virtual producer, available after the 9-5
  • People network online; they refer, endorse and review
  • Users look for relevancy, familiarity, quick answers/info and calls to action—what should they do next?
  • LISTEN! They’ll tell you what they want! If not, ASK! 

How You Can Deliver with Your Website:

  • Clarify: What you need, want and don’t want. Create a PLAN.
  • Find out: Who is visiting and from where are they navigating?
  • Ask: What do my customers/prospects expect when they get to my site?
  • Address: User needs in terms of aesthetics, content, usability—you know what they say about first impressions!
  • Try: The 5-sec test & have others test it for you: what will people glean from your site in 5 seconds? Will they know who you are and what you do?
  • Engage: Identify valuable content! Keep it current and succinct.
  • Use: Free advertising in your favor! Put customer feedback & testimonials on your website and use them to your advantage—they show your value to prospective customers!
  • Create: a plan to review your site regularly. Keep it current!
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Improve the volume & quality of traffic to a website from search engines via search results
  • Use: Free SEO tools like Google’s—www.google.com/webmasters/start  and check your page rank here: www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php  
  • Or: Hire a SEO company. They improve your organic rating, ensure search-engine friendly content, conform to search engine guidelines, improve your site’s relevance in search results
  • Use: E-mail marketing to build and strengthen customer relationships (marketing, upselling/cross-selling, newsletter); measure your results
  • Have: A strategy! Be creative, implement an organized deployment plan (have a database or hire vendors/e-mail services that do it for you [i-contact, constant contact, jango mail, mail chimp, responsys, cheetah mail, epsilon, yes mail, exact target]
  • Track and measure: Your marketing efforts! Is it working? What can you do to make it better?

Social Networking

Visit us on:

Asset Security Insurance on Facebook Asset Security Insurance on Twitter Jaime Randle on Linked In

  • It’s your digital business card! Extend your hub of connection, control your online reputation and reach out!
  • A human approach to business and marketing
  • Have a conversation w/ your audience & clients
  • Engage audiences in an authentic way to provide helpful info, solve problems & build relationships to achieve business goals
  • Address problems, concerns, what’s going on in your industry, news, relevant seasonal info, self-written articles, guest spots on your blog, community events and info
  • Listen (gather feedback & customer insight)! Talk (spread the message about your company/product/service)! Energize (enthusiastic customers use the power of word of mouth)! Support (tools to help customers engage w/ you and each other)! Embrace (integrate customers into how your business works & use their help for new products or improved services)!

If you are a Safeco agent, seriously consider attending a Bricks & Clicks workshop in your area. I enthusiastically endorse the program!

Now go get busy!


Floody Waters: Insure Your Home/Business & Ensure Calm After the Storm

September 29, 2009

Philippines, Typhoon Ketsana, Tropical Storm, Flooding
Erik de Castro, Reuters • Typhoon Ketsana ravages The Philippines

Flooding in the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana has left millions in The Philippines devastated–the homes of nearly 1.9 million were flooded; displaced–nearly 380,000 people have been brought to evacuation centers; and dead–the death toll has risen to at least 240 and it is expected to increase as many remain missing (The National Disaster Coordinating Council).

The Philippines may seem worlds away from us, but just days ago, flooding in our state of Georgia has left many devastated, displaced and dead.  A woman in Georgia affected by the flood suggested that she “knows it’s not Katrina,” to which Vice President Biden replied, “For someone who is in a situation the people here in this shelter are in, it is Katrina. It is not Katrina in its scope by any stretch of the imagination, but the impact on their lives, on your lives, we understand it is Katrina.”

In a flash, disasters such as these remind us how inherently unpredictable and unforgiving nature is. Even if a hurricane or tropical storm doesn’t rip through your area, flooding is still a real threat. Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Whether floods are rare, unexpected or frequent where your home or business is, a flood risk is always present and it takes just an inch of water to cause damage to your property and disruption to your life or business.

Your homeowner, condo, renter and business policies do not cover damage by flooding (in fact, flooding is explicitly excluded), so it is important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains, snowmelt and other conditions that impact the U.S. Consider the possibilities of what flood damage can do to your assets… and then strongly consider protecting your home and business. If your home or business is covered by flood insurance, you can rest assured that there is calm after the storm.

Call or e-mail us at Asset Security to discuss protecting your home and business against flood damage. 914-598-3004 or jaime@assetsecurityrm.com.

Not-So-Fun Flood Facts…

  • Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states.
  • Everyone lives in a flood zone.
  • Your car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
  • Your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9% chance of fire.
  • One-third of all claims paid are for policies in low-flood-risk communities.
  • Floods are the #1 most common natural disaster in the United States.
  • 90% of floods aren’t declared federal disasters leaving the full cost to rebuild up to the home or business owner. Flood insurance protects you whether or not a disaster is declared.
  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) awarded over $16 billion in flood claims in 2005. Source: http://www.floodsmart.gov

  • The Social Side of Business

    September 28, 2009

    Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, oh MY! Don’t mind the Wizard of Oz allusion–diving into the social media world is not nearly as frightening as lions and tigers and bears (oh my). 

    While I was in college (a mere 2 years ago), Facebook exploded onto the social scene, shrouding earlier social networking sites and creating a fresh avenue for communicating with (and stalking) friends and acquaintances. Now that social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs are captivating people and entities outisde of college dorms, I am interested, as a burgeoning businesswoman, in learning how to maximize these resources as a tool for business development.

    Used to the traditional face-to-face networking and referrals of yore, many older businessowners are ambivalent toward social networking sits, but hey! It’s 2009!  The amount of people that are connected via social media is phenomenal and is growing at an even more phenomenal rate. In business, we must take advantage of this trend to reach customers on the go, market to prospects and stay connected in an increasingly wired world.

    I recently participated in a webinar called “The Social Side of Business: Using Social Media to Create Real Business Relationships,” hosted by Anita Campbell of SmallBizTrends.com with guests Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, Pamela O’Hara of BatchBlue.com and Partha Dutta of MobileTribe.net. Here is some useful information I gleaned from the webinar:

    Shashi says: Create Social Media Plan

    • Set up alerts (i.e. Google Alerts) for yourself and business; keywords people may use to find you/your products
    • Spend 15-20 mins each day looking at the alerts–you could find a customer praising you on a forum or someone giving you a great (or not-so-great) review on Yelp.com
    • Join and setup profiles on 3 social networking sites
    • Choose 3 blogs in your field to read and comment on. Get connected with your peers and experts in your industry; join the conversation!
    • Answer questions yourself and become an expert in your niche on sites like LinkedIn
    • Measure your efforts–i.e. How much revenue? How many leads? How many people read your posts? Are customers evangelizing?
    • Encourage your customers to submit reviews about you (Google, Yelp, etc.)
    • Attend one local event each month to help with networking efforts

     

    Pamela says: Build a community

    • She created SBbuzz.biz and invited small business owners to talk about their processes
    • The goal: help small businesses understand technology, social media, twitter; meet and learn from other owners what their needs were and what was working for them
    • She now has 12K+ followers and hundreds of members
    • She built a community, which drove more traffic to her site and attracted new customers

    Partha says: Connect, Converse and Share!

    • You can use the web to manage customer interaction, reach a wider audience, retain customers and get feedback
    • People are on-the-go! You can give them relevant and timely responses
    • Talk maximally with minimal cost!
    • Build relationships on the go; invite new friends, send updates to fans (Facebook) and/or followers (Twitter)
    • Make it real work: start small with social networking sites and incorporate it into your daily work–you will build up relationships and a following
    • Create a community around your company

    Summary: Milk Social Media for All it’s Worth (which is a lot)!

    If you are still weary, intimidated or unsure of what to share, realize:

    • There are people out there interested in what you’re doing! Be a useful, helpful and entertaining resource.
    • Every business has something valuable to offer their community–Simply having something valuable to say and offering advice will encourage people to come to you for information!
    • Engage, educate and entertain your current customers and prospects–they will look forward to seeing what you have to say.

    Uh, It’s 2009!

    September 23, 2009

    I am always surprised at the number of people who ask, “this button?” when asked to snap a photograph on a digital camera. Maybe it’s because I’m young, sprightly and technology savvy, but I can’t help but think, “Uh, it’s 2009! Yes, it’s that big button on the top, in the same position the button has been for decades, even on those ancient 35 mms.”

    In the same vein, I realized, “Uh, it’s 2009(!) and our company has yet to establish a strong online presence!” Incorporated 3 years ago, the owners of Asset Security (with 40+ years of combined experience) have dedicated their focus to serving their clients. While nothing is more important than our loyal clients, something had to be done about getting savvy for 2009 and beyond! After all, this is an age where everyone and their grandmas (but not my grandma, in fact) are interacting with the world online. In my own internet experiences, I have realized that if a company does not have website, I immediately furrow my brows as a bewildered looks washes over my face and I think, “Uh, it’s 2009! Who doesn’t have a website?”

    To bring Asset Security up to speed, a great team at Safeco (one of the excellent insurance companies Asset Security represents) laid a phenomenal foundation for our website as a gift, recognizing Asset Security as one of the top agents in the country (Safeco Conference of Champions 2009). To augment the design element of our site, we hired a company found through Elance. Elance is a great resource for any individual or business, as it offers an “immediate, cost-effective and flexible way to hire, manage and pay independent professionals and contractors online.”

    A website is only the first step, though. Social media trends are growing faster than the speed of light (this is a rough estimate, as it has not yet been scientifically tested) and is THE way to connect, converse and share information. Facebook began as the college student’s online playground and as a recent college graduate, I know the ins and outs, ups (great way to connect with friends!) and downs (great way to procrastinate studying!) of utilizing Facebook for social purposes. Now that I’m all grown up, it is time to get the most out of Facebook (become a fan!), Twitter (follow us!) and other avenues of networking for business.