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Strategies to Reduce Employee Illness and Injury 

As a business owner, the health and safety of your employees should be a top priority. Not only are healthy employees happier, but they are more productive, too. Ultimately, having high health and safety standards will also reduce costs to your business since insurance premiums will be lower with a cleaner safety record. Additionally, having employees that are healthy and able to work will reduce costs that would arise from loss of productivity or hiring and training in the case that your employee has an accident and is unable to continue. 

Root Causes

Workplace injuries or illnesses can occur for a number of reasons. Improper application of safety procedures or protective gear, misuse of equipment, lack of ergonomic solutions, and overexertion from overtime work are common themes that lead to workplace injury–or even death. It is important to pay attention to the past injuries or accidents that have occurred at your business, so you can plan to prevent them in the future. 

Education is Key 

The best way to ensure that health and safety standards are met in your workplace is to regularly educate both management and staff about the proper procedures. While everyone may receive this kind of training in orientation, employees that stay on for several years will eventually forget what they learned and may unintentionally lapse in their duties to uphold the company’s standards. For this reason, it is a good idea to schedule employee health and safety refreshers at regular intervals. 

Develop a Plan

With regular meetings about wellness and safety comes an increased awareness of the unique safety concerns that may be present at your business. Each type of business will have its own specific concerns. Meetings can be an excellent way to hear the concerns and opinions of all employees and identify matters that may need to be investigated or procedures that may need to be adjusted. If your business does not already have a health and safety plan, use these meetings to develop one based on the input of your management and staff. 

Get Insured

Implementing high health and safety standards can do a lot to reduce the frequency of employee illness and injury, but accidents may still happen. In the case that they do, you want to make sure your company has the right insurance coverage to take care of your employees and prevent losses to your business. 

Why Stay at Home Parents Need Life Insurance

You may think that the only parents who need life insurance are working parents, but that isn’t exactly correct. A stay at home parent is more than just a mother or father. These individuals wear many hats: tutor, chef, chauffeur, housekeeper, caretaker, and more. The true value of these duties is priceless, but the economic value of them is clearly measurable. Purchasing a life insurance policy for a stay at home parent is a smart and compassionate way to ensure that your family is financially protected in the event of the unthinkable.

The Value of the Invaluable

Purchasing life insurance for a stay at home parent may seem strange since one of the purposes of life insurance is to replace the insured’s income that dependents rely on. Even though they do not earn an income, a stay at home parent’s work may be valued at over $100,000 a year. This means that in the case of a stay at home parent’s death, the surviving parent could be responsible for over $100,000 of equivalent services each year. Daycare alone can cost up to $20,000 a year, depending on the state you live in and the age of the child. Even if it doesn’t cost that much, this kind of expense can put a heavy burden on a surviving parent – and this is only one example. For this parent to continue earning an income, some or all of the work the stay at home parent previously performed will need to be outsourced. Having a life insurance policy in place for the stay at home parent can assist in alleviating these newfound financial responsibilities.

Consider Term Life Insurance

A term life insurance policy is a good option for a stay at home parent since it can cover a range of years in which the family is at the most risk in case of the stay at home parent’s death. After children are grown, there are fewer services that a stay at home parent performs, and less coverage may be needed.

Other Advantages

In addition to providing assistance with the duties of child and home care, life insurance for a stay at home parent can also provide financial help with final expenses, debts, and other common uses for life insurance.

Speak to an Agent 

If you and your spouse are considering purchasing life insurance for the stay at home parent in the family, the best way to figure out what kind of coverage is best for your needs is to speak to one of our independent agents. We are here to help you think about the difficult things so your family can be better protected.

Teens and Distracted Driving 

Starting to drive is one of the most exciting experiences for teenagers, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. According to the CDC, teenagers are the most likely age group to get into a traffic accident. Teens are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seatbelts than older drivers. They are also much more likely to become distracted while driving, resulting in a much higher potential for injury-causing or even fatal accidents. What are the most common distractions facing teen drivers, and what can be done? 

Cell Phone Usage  

Perhaps the most obvious cause of teen distracted driving is the use of cell phones while on the road. Cell phone use while driving is illegal in some states, but many people–especially teenagers–still engage in it. Both talking on the phone and texting are dangerous for the teen driver, and many teens will even open and use social media apps while driving. Distracted driving causes 15% of all injury-causing accidents, so as the most susceptible to distracted driving, teens should be made highly aware of the potential consequences of their actions.   

Talking on the phone can cause mental distraction and manual distraction, and even hands-free conversation methods can cause distraction. Texting while driving is much more dangerous, as it causes mental, manual, and visual distractions. Taking your mind off the road is never good, but focusing your mind, hands, and eyes elsewhere is an incredibly dangerous combination. When you are distracted in these ways, reactions to potential dangers are much slower or may be completely missed.   

Other Distractions  

Cell phones are a serious distraction for teen drivers, but they are not the only source. Anything that takes your hands off of the wheel and mind or eyes off of the road can cause an accident. This includes activities such as eating, changing the music, applying makeup, and interacting with passengers. This last is perhaps the most dangerous of all. Studies have found that teenagers’ chances of a crash increase significantly with each additional passenger in the vehicle. This is especially true if the fellow passengers are teen peers.  

Solutions  

It is important for parents to share the dangers of distracted driving with their teenage children, but it is even more important for adults to model responsible driving behavior. Teens will not heed warnings against phone usage or other risky activities if they regularly see their parents engaging in these behaviors.  

There are also some mobile apps that will prevent cell phone usage while a car is in motion or when manually enabled before driving. These apps can be a good way to help teens become accustomed to leaving their phone alone while driving so that in the future they can practice self-control on their own.   

Be Prepared  

Educating teens about distracted driving and helping them find ways to combat these dangers can greatly help reduce teenage traffic accidents. However, we cannot control everyone on the road, and even the safest drivers can experience a collision. Make sure you and your family are covered in the event of a car accident with the right auto insurance. 

Should I Pay My Auto Insurance Premium Monthly or Annually?

When it comes to automotive insurance, you may find yourself faced with multiple decisions to make. Should you choose a high or low deductible plan, minimum or maximum coverage, or pay premiums monthly versus an annual lump sum? Although there is truly no wrong answer, it is important to ensure you have the best possible coverage for your budget, driving habits, and lifestyle. Your local insurance agent can guide you toward the ideal policy for your needs, but this may still leave you questioning the frequency of your payments. 

Depending on your budget, it may be harder for you to pay your insurance premium up-front. However, this is still the most cost-effective way to purchase coverage. Insurers may offer what seems like a discount when you pay annually, and this absolutely benefits you as the consumer. However, what this also means is that those who elect to pay monthly or quarterly are actually being charged added fees as a penalty for delaying payments. These fees cover the insurer’s “carrying cost” of delaying collection, the back-office expense for processing multiple transactions, and the risk of consumers terminating payments earlier than expected. If you are able to pay annually without causing financial strain, this is a great option for you. 

Of course, the most ideal payment schedule remains one that you can manage. Paying annually in a lump sum could leave you strained to cover other bills such as a car payment, or you could find yourself facing significant late fees if you aren’t able to make the next year’s annual payment. Should you choose to pay monthly, a major benefit is being able to maintain a consistent budget schedule without falling behind or incurring late fees. 

One additional payment preference is using either a personal debit or credit card or setting up automated electronic funds transfers (EFT). When using a card to make a payment, you may run into additional card processing fees from the insurer. Some providers will offer an incentive discount should you choose to pay via an EFT, which comes directly from your bank and does not charge the insurance provider additional fees. 

Overall, there is no incorrect method for making payments toward your auto insurance premium. Keep your budget in mind, and be sure to speak with your local insurance agent to obtain the appropriate level of coverage. Once you understand the policy that is best for you, you can make an informed decision regarding how often to pay. Your agent can help provide clarity around the price differences between paying monthly and annually, so contact your local insurance agent today. 

How Non-US Citizens Get Life Insurance

Selecting a life insurance policy is an important step for planning ahead and taking care of the financial well-being of your family. But can you still get coverage if you aren’t a US citizen? In most cases, yes. There are very few instances where your citizenship status disqualifies you from coverage. The circumstances of your policy are different than those of current citizens, so there will be some more hoops to jump through, but there are plenty of providers who should be able to give you the coverage you need.

Learn more about obtaining life insurance as a non-citizen here:

Your Identification Makes a Difference

Whether or not you’re going to have a simple time of getting life insurance depends on the type of ID you have. If you are a green card holder, you are considered a permanent U.S. resident, and you shouldn’t have any problems applying for any life insurance policy you want. The only additional step you will need to take is sending proof of your immigration status to the insurance company.

Things start to get trickier if you hold a visa or a student visa. Visa card holders can be approved by many different carriers, but the companies have varying criteria for determining your residency. Most of these criteria are based on substantial presence and significant interest (more on that below).

The group most likely to have problems qualifying for life insurance coverage is non-citizens who hold student visas. Most insurance companies are hesitant to approve policies because they know that the visa is only temporary. However, it isn’t impossible to get life insurance with a student visa. You just need to speak with your insurance agent to determine the best route to take.

Substantial Presence & Significant Interest

Substantial presence and significant interest are the two primary factors that insurance companies consider when visa card holders apply for a life insurance policy.

To qualify under substantial presence in the United States, you typically need to have lived stateside for a minimum of one year. Many carriers require you to prove you have lived in the US for one or two years, and some require as many as five years. Ask your agent which carriers you best qualify with based on your time spent in the US.

In order to qualify based on significant interest, you need to have a vested reason to remain in or frequent the US. You must prove to the insurance carrier that you own a sizeable amount of property or assets in the country, such as a home or business.

Rely on Independent Agents

Shopping for a great insurance policy within your budget can be difficult enough to begin with. If you are not a US citizen, qualifying for life insurance can present even more obstacles. Trust an experienced independent agent to find a variety of good carriers with policies you qualify for!

6 Ways to Know if Your Brakes Are Failing

Brake failure is easily one of the most dangerous malfunctions that can occur in your vehicle. There are many reasons why brakes fail, but even if you aren’t a mechanic, you should know the signs of brake failure so you can get your car serviced as soon as you start noticing them! Here are six ways to know if your brakes are starting to malfunction.

Your Brake Pedal Has Fallen

A falling brake pedal is one of the classic signs of brake failure. When your brakes are in good condition, your pedal will stay in the same position every day. If it falls toward the floor, it will be impossible not to notice. This means that your brakes are likely out of adjustment, and it could mean that there is a mechanical failure or air in your vehicle’s system.

Your Brakes Are Squealing or Grinding

Brakes that squeal or grind aren’t just nuisances. They’re actually a pretty serious problem because these noises can indicate that your brake pads are wearing thin and/or that the brake is worn all the way down to the rotors.

Your Brake Pedal Is Vibrating

When we say vibrating, we don’t just mean the slight shudder caused by your anti-lock brake system (ABS)  when you slam on the brakes really hard. We mean a shudder that happens when you hit your brake normally, often accompanied by a chattering noise and a hard-to-control steering wheel. The chattering sound is usually produced by warped rotors, which the brakes can’t clamp onto as easily to stop the vehicle.

You Think Your Alignment Is Off

If your car is pulling to one side or the other when you brake, don’t automatically mistake it for a slight misalignment! If you notice the pulling only when you apply pressure to your brakes, it could mean that one of the car’s wheel cylinders or calipers is seized or frozen. It could also mean that you have fluid leaking on the brake pads or shoes.

You Have to Hit the Brakes Harder

If you begin noticing that you have to press your brakes harder than usual to slow down or stop, it could mean that one of your brakes or an axle isn’t performing the way it should. Don’t let this continue for a while; call your mechanic and bring your car in for a checkup as soon as possible.

What to Do

If you think your brakes are failing, it is imperative that you get your vehicle checked out as soon as you can. Properly functioning brakes can do more than save you from a fender-bender and an insurance headache – they can save your life.

How Smoking Affects Your Health Insurance Premiums 

You are probably aware of how smoking can affect your health, but do you know how it changes your health insurance premiums? 

Determining Factors 

Health insurance premiums are determined based on five factors: age, location, plan category, number of dependents, and tobacco use. Insurance companies define tobacco use as the use of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco) on an average of four times a week and within the last six months.   

Tobacco Rating 

Health insurers cannot outright deny coverage to smokers, but they can charge them higher premiums than non-smokers. The Affordable Care Act allows insurance companies to charge smokers up to 50% more for premiums. The explanation for this is simply that smokers are more likely to develop health concerns in the future, and therefore represent a greater risk for insurance companies. This surcharge is also known as tobacco rating, and states may opt out or charge below 50%. At this point most states charge the maximum 50% rate, but there are a handful that have taken the other options.  

Honor System 

It is important to point out that when applying for health insurance, lying about your smoking habits in order to receive lower premiums is considered a form of insurance fraud. In effect, by lying about tobacco use you are misrepresenting your health risks. Even if you use a smoking cessation device such as a vaporizer or an e-cigarette, many insurance companies will still consider you a smoker and raise your premiums in the same they will for tobacco product users.  

Uninsured Dangers 

Because of the higher premiums, some smokers may opt out of health or life insurance altogether. This can be a costly mistake due to the increased risk of diseases that commonly arise from long term tobacco use. If an uninsured smoker does become diagnosed with something like cancer or heart disease, they will surely wish they had insurance coverage to assist with treatment.  

Preventative Care 

There is some disagreement over whether higher insurance premiums actually help people stop smoking, but there are some providers that offer coverage for smoking cessation programs as preventative care.  

Having healthy habits is not only beneficial to your wallet; it is also beneficial to you and those who love you the most. Health insurance can help ensure that you’ll be there for family and friends for many more years to come. Reach out to one of our agents today to learn more about what you can be doing to take precautions for the future of your health. 

Tips for Using Electric Blankets Safely 

One of the most comfortable things on a cold autumn night is a warm, self-heated blanket tucked around your freezing toes! Electric blankets are one of the best modern inventions for warming up your body, but they can also pose safety risks to you and your home if they aren’t properly used. Before you get too cozy this season, take note of these safety tips for using electric blankets. 

Use a Blanket That Was Made with Safety in Mind 

In the past, electric blankets were notorious for starting house fires. Now, though less common, electric blankets are still the cause of several house fires per year. The reason? Older blankets. Blankets that have been around for awhile are more likely to be worn through, and their rheostats (the part that gauges both the blanket heat and the user’s body temperature) are more likely to malfunction. When people fall asleep with old or malfunctioning blankets, they run the risk of overheating, suffering from skin burns, and, in some cases, ignition.  

Keep the Blanket Undisturbed 

Electric blankets work best when left unobscured. As tempting as it may be to bunch up the blanket, sit on it, or lay it under your bed sheets, these things can trap heat and increase the risk of overheating and ignition. Moving the blanket around can also cause the fabric cover to slip away from the plastic heating part, which commonly leads to burns in users’ sleep. Play it safe and keep the blanket flat and uncovered while using it. 

Keep Furry Cuddlers Away 

Cats and dogs love warm spots too, and they will take advantage of your electric blanket if you let them. It isn’t a good idea to give your pets access to the blanket, though. Teeth and claws don’t mix well with a blanket full of heating coils and electric current. If left unattended, your pets could easily create shock and fire hazards for themselves and your family. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to keep them away, consider purchasing a low-voltage blanket instead. 

Protect Your Home! 

Winter weather brings an abundance of risks to your home. Make sure your house and belongings are covered by a solid home insurance policy from an independent agent! Not only can independent agents find you the best rates, but they get to know your family and understand the extent of coverage you need. Give us a call with any insurance questions you have today! 

How to Teach Your Teen to Drive in Wet Conditions 

Every driver’s safety hinges upon their skill behind the wheel. If it is your first time training a teenager on how to drive in the rain, it’s a good idea to teach them everything they need to be aware of both before and during the driving session. Many of these are things that experienced drivers do on autopilot every time it rains, so it may be easy to forget to teach a young driver. 

We’ve put together some important points for you to include in your training, so your teen doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises when he or she hits the road in the rain. 

Before Hitting the Road: Know What to Check For 

How Are the Tires? 

  • The car you have your teen driving probably has tires that are in good condition, but teach them how to measure a tire’s tread using a gauge anyway. When they’re out on their own, they need to know that a worn down tire doesn’t have enough tread depth to evacuate standing water from between the road surface and the tire. They should know how to tell when it’s time for a replacement. 
  • Also teach them how to check the pressure. Tires that have too much or too little pressure can lead to reduced traction, early tread wear, or tire failure.  

How is Your Visibility?  

  • Show your teen how to check the quality of their windshield wipers. If they leave streaks across the windshield, they are probably old and worn down. Good windshield wipers are critical for being able to see clearly in heavy rain. 
  • Make sure your teen understands how important it is to run their headlights in the rain. Many experienced drivers still don’t abide by this rule of the road! Being seen by other cars is arguably one of the most important parts of driving in the rain. Show your teen how the daytime running lights, while useful, don’t activate the rear tail lights. Without rear tail lights, it can be difficult for other drivers to see your teen’s car in heavy rain, and their chances of getting struck from behind are increased. 

On the Road: Things to Always Keep in Mind 

  • Slow down! Driving slower in the rain is crucial, especially when it hasn’t been raining for very long and the fresh water is mixing with slippery “road sludge.” A wet, slick road surface offers less grip compared to a dry surface, and braking distances can double. 
  • Teach your teen to use the air conditioner to keep their windshield from fogging up. The A/C dehumidifies the car and keeps the windows clear. If the A/C doesn’t work, tell them to crack the back windows to allow air to circulate. 
  • Make sure your teen understands how longer braking distances can really put them in danger driving in town or on the interstate. They should know to keep a further distance from the vehicle in front of them, so they have plenty of time to stop if traffic suddenly slows down.  
  • Teenagers can be nervous and use jerky movements while driving. This will improve over time, but make sure your teen knows that smooth steering inputs are paramount, especially in the rain. Jerky or rushed steering can cause loss of control on a slick road. Show them how important it is to always look far ahead and anticipate every action they’ll take on their journey. 

Everyone was a new driver once, but it is evident by the amount of needless accidents that not everyone was properly taught. Rainy weather is one of the most dangerous conditions to drive in, but making sure that your teen is prepared and confident will give you both peace of mind and decrease their likelihood of getting in an accident. If your teen hasn’t started driving yet, make sure they’re prepared to legally hit the road with car insurance! 

Winter Is Coming: Prepare Your Coverage For the Cold

We just celebrated the first day of autumn! Whether it’s still 90 degrees where you are, or the leaves are already crunching underfoot, it’s important to remember that winter will be here sooner than we expect it to be. And while some of us look forward to the cold and others dread it, we all have something in common as long as we own a home and belongings: our insurance policies need to be in order before the cold weather hits.

Insure New Home Renovations

If the warm summer weather made you want to roll up your sleeves and make improvements to your house, then you’ll want to reexamine your insurance policy before the winter hits. Depending on what kind of improvement you made, the addition to your home may not be covered under your existing policy. Before the renovation has to stand up against its first winter, check with your agent and make sure your costly project is protected with the right coverage.

Double Check Your Automobile Policy

With an uptick in holiday travel, dreary weather, freezing temperatures, and earlier nightfall, it’s no surprise that car accidents are more likely to occur in the winter. Before the weather takes a turn for the worse, check in on your auto policy and make sure your coverage is ready to handle claims for liability and collision.

While you’re checking up on your automobile coverage, consider checking in on the boat or RV insurance policies, too. If you usually discontinue or downgrade your summer fun policies in the winter, make sure these vehicles are secured from theft and fire as much as possible. Talk to your agent about where you store your boat or RV for the summer, and see what your biggest risk factors are.

Account For an Increase in Personal Property

Summer vacations are a great opportunity to load up on keepsakes, souvenirs, and decor. If your trip this year included purchases like exotic artwork, antiques, jewelry, or something else, you’ll want to use this fall season to check your personal property policy and make sure it has enough coverage to protect these new, one-of-a-kind items.

Independent Insurance Agents Here to Serve You

Having a lot of property to protect is quite a responsibility, but it is always worth it when something goes wrong. We’re here to help take the stress out of that responsibility, and ensure you’re properly covered all year round. Give us a call to go over your policies this fall, so you can cozy up stress-free when winter rolls around.