Why should I complete a home inventory form?

Imagine: You’ve spent a lifetime building a happy and healthy home. You’ve filled it with family, friends, laughter, and memories. But one day you get a call saying your home is on fire, or you come home to messy remains of a break in, and all those things which reminded you every day of how lucky you are were gone. No one can imagine the devastation of losing one’s home and possessions.

Unfortunately we can never predict a loss and should you fall victim to a fire, theft, or other event, it can be incredibly difficult to remember all of your possessions and their approximate values. You shouldn’t need the added stress of trying to remember every little detail of your home, but instead should be focusing on picking up the pieces and healing. This is why it is important to create and maintain a home inventory form. Your form documents all the possessions in your home and their replacement value for the event of this very scenario, which you can provide your insurer.

What is the list and how do I make one?

The list is a document which outlines everything in your home with a brief description of each item including its value. This takes a huge step out of filing a claim. We have created a handy form which you can download and print as many times as you need.

What should I include in my list?

Everything! Go through each room in your home and record each possession. Don’t skip closets, cabinets and drawers, sheds, your garage, or your attic. If you are able, use a camera or video camera to record each room.

I’ve completed the form. What now?

  • Put it in a safe place like a safety deposit box. Do not keep it in your home! Should your home and possessions be lost in a fire, for example, your form will also be lost.
  • Make copies of important documents like the deed to your home, birth certificates and passports, car ownership, insurance documents, bank account and credit card numbers, and tax returns for at least the past 5 years. Keep these copies with your form in your safety deposit box.
  • Don’t just make the list and never think of it again. Review and edit it accordingly each year.

What else should I know?

Your standard home insurance policy will cover the value of your possessions for up to 70-80% of the value of your home. As you fill out your form and calculate the value of your possessions be aware of the value of your home. If your possessions exceed 70-80% of the value of your home it may be a good time to donate the excess or have a yard sale. Speak with your broker to be absolutely sure of your coverage and for more advice regarding how to protect yourself in the event of a loss.

5 tips to take the stress out of winter driving

October was car safety month, and over the past 31 days we’ve been sharing tips on Facebook and Twitter to help you prepare for the stressful winter driving season. Now it’s time to review! No, there will not be a test, but consider a safe winter your A+.

5 Tips to stay safe

  1. Use snow tires. Four of them. And check the pressure at least once a month. As the outside temperature drops your tire pressure will as well, and you won’t get very far on flat tires. Also be sure the tread is more than sufficient to get you through the winter. Worn out snow tires will do you no good.
  2. Check your windshield regularly for dings and cracks. Cold temperatures can turn that small crack into a serious problem, and let’s face the fact that you can’t drive without a windshield let alone without a windshield in winter!
  3. Before every trip be sure you have enough gas. No one will be willing to walk for gas in sub-zero temperatures, so this is an important one if you’d like to reach your destination before April. Keeping your tank half full also keeps it happy and healthy.
  4. Have a flashlight, first aid kit, thermal blanket, and road map.  In the event you are stranded or lost these things can keep you warm and on-track. And remember: your smartphone is not a map that does you any good with a dead battery.
  5. Check the weather. If you don’t need to drive, don’t! This is the most important and easiest tip to follow. Besides, there is more warmth by the fire and hot chocolate indoors than there are on the roads.

How else can I prepare?

If you don’t have one already, we recommend a survival kit to compliment the essentials listed in tip #4. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has a great list of items to include in your kit such as a folding shovel, cat litter, a tow chain, a compass (for your map, not your smartphone), flares, emergency food, booster cables, an ice scraper, extra windshield-wiper fluid, and antifreeze.

Remember that winter weather can be inconsistent and unexpected. Your best bet to stay safe is to stay home. If you absolutely have to drive, however, we hope these tips keep you safe on the roads this winter.

How do I prevent my vehicle from being stolen?

You may remember our recent post regarding auto theft statistics in which we explained how your insurance premium may be effected by the statistical likelihood your vehicle will be stolen. It’s true that some vehicles are more appealing than others to car thieves. However, whether your vehicle falls on “The Worst Ten” or “The Best Ten” list, the simple fact is that all vehicles are at risk of being stolen.

Why are cars stolen?

60% of recovered vehicles in Ontario were used in what is deemed “transportation crimes” in which the vehicle is used and then abandoned.

  • To commit other crimes.
  • To raise cash for other illegal activities such as drug use.
  • For joyrides.

40% are the result of organized crime.

  • To be dismantled and sold off as parts or rebuilt as cars and sold off to unsuspecting buyers.
  • To be sold at many times their market value in other countries.

According to the OPP, over 52,000 vehicles are stolen in Ontario each year, 40-65 deaths or injuries can be attributed to auto theft, and the cost to the public is $1.2 billion annually which is reflected in your insurance premium. It is increasingly important that we take precautions to protect ourselves from auto theft, and there are some simple steps we can take.

How do I prevent my car from being stolen?

  1. Park in well-lit and secure parking lots and garages.
    If you wanted to steal a car, would you do it where someone could easily spot you? No. You would stick to the dark where no one can see and no one is looking.
  2. Never leave your car running while unattended.
    “But I’ll only be gone for a minute.” Well, it only takes seconds for someone to put your car in gear and take off if you make it that easy for them.
  3. Never leave your keys in your car.
    We all have that friend or relative who constantly leaves their car unlocked with the keys inside. There is no reason to do this. Keep your keys on you at all times when you’re out and in a safe place at home.
  4. Always close the windows and lock the doors.
    A hot car is better than no car at all. So unless you’re travelling with a barking security system, close your windows and lock your doors, even when parking in your own drive way.
  5. Hide all valuables.
    Take things like purses and mobile devices with you. If you are unable to do so, hide them as best you can. Visible valuables are tempting to thieves. Even your loose Tim Horton’s change can catch the eye of a car thief.
  6. Take your vehicle registration, insurance certificate, and driver’s license with you.
    If a car thief has access to any of these documents they may be able to convince a police officer that you lent them your car. If an alert that your vehicle has been stolen isn’t yet out, this could mean the thief will get away with your car.
  7. Do not keep spare keys inside or outside the vehicle like in a wheel-well.
    Everyone knows this trick, including car thieves. Leaving your spare key in the wheel-well of your vehicle is equivalent to leaving the keys in the ignition.
  8. Use security tools like a steering wheel lock and sound alarm.
    Visible security tools will deter thieves from even trying to rip off your car. However, unrecognizable tools which literally inhibit thieves from getting away with your vehicle are also effective.
  9. Have your vehicles VIN etched into your windshield.
    Car thieves don’t want to work hard. So having to remove a windshield is a significant deterrent. It also makes your vehicle more recognizable.
  10. Have a security system installed.
    This will deter thieves and make your vehicle easy to recover quickly should it be stolen.

What else should I know?

If you are ever approached by a carjacker, do not resist. Your life and that of your family is more important than your car or anything in it!

Remember how we mentioned that stolen cars are often sold to unsuspecting customers? While it is a crime to sell stolen merchandise, unfortunately the customer in this case will likely be the party who is left to suffer. The car will be seized and it’s often unlikely the money will be recovered. When you are buying a used car do your research! Buy from a reputable dealer, research the VIN, inspect the vehicle registration, and inquire about the car’s current or previous insurer.

What should I know about heating my home with oil?

oil tank

Oil heat offers homeowners fast, efficient, and even heating throughout the home. With the benefits, however, come serious consequences. For example, just one cup of oil from your 1000 litre tank can contaminate the contents of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. For this reason it is important to assess your risk and to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your home.

Am I at risk?

If you heat your home with oil you are at risk. Spills can cause lasting environmental damage and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection surveying over 500 homeowners shows cleanup costs ranging anywhere from less than $20,000 to more than $300,000. In fact, we’ve seen claims as high as nearly $600,000 in both personal and commercial lines! These incidents put people out of their homes for months, and we’ve seen clients out of their homes for up to a year while cleanup takes place.

How do I minimize the risk?

While we cannot completely protect ourselves from spills there are steps we can take to minimize our risk.

  1. Be aware of the risk.
    Spills can be caused by corrosion, the overfilling of your tank, improper installation, improper maintenance, and breaks in your fuel line, among other things. Actively check for the smell of oil; reduce your outdoor tank’s exposure to water, snow, and ice; be sure your fuel lines are properly secured and away from high-traffic areas. The Nova Scotia Environmental Home Assessment Program has created a 21-Point Oil Tank Checkup which you can use to help guide you in inspecting your tank.
  2. Have your tank inspected by a trusted professional.
    A professional will recognize a tank that might be at risk. Such tanks might be old or damaged, improperly installed, or improperly supported. Your professional will know whether your tank meets ULC guidelines, whether you have a serious problem or simply require routine maintenance, or whether your tank is just past its prime. A professional can also offer you guidance in upgrading your system.
  3. Have a plan.
    It is your responsibility as the homeowner to report and cleanup the spill. The sooner the better! You drastically reduce your cost by addressing the spill immediately. The Massachusettes DEP has created a great comprehensive Cleanup Guide which you can use to prepare for a possible spill.
  4. Be sure you’re protected.
    Insurance for oil spills ranges from no coverage to full coverage. Know your policy!

What do I do next?

If you have concerns about whether you are adequately protected speak with your account manager. Despite our best efforts, oil spills can still happen and your account manager will have all the details regarding your policy and whether or not you are protected in the event of an incident.

auto theft

How do auto theft statistics effect the premium on my new car?

Believe it or not the value of your vehicle might not be the only factor directly effecting the cost of your insurance. In fact it may surprise you to know that, for example, the Honda Civic carries a high premium in comparison to many vehicles of the same value. But why?

What effects my auto insurance premium?

auto theftOf course your insurance is effected by the standards: the value of your vehicle, your age and gender, the amount of time you spend in your car, and your driving record. However, what you might not realize is insurance rates are also effected by the frequency at which your model of car is stolen.

For example, the 2000 Honda Civic SiR is far more likely to be stolen than the 2001 Chrysler 300M. In fact the Civic is stolen 9 times more often than the average vehicle while the 300M is stolen 9 times less. For this reason it is likely the Civic will carry with it a higher premium than the 300M even though the vehicles are of comparable value.

If you’re shopping for a new vehicle this might be a factor to consider. Vehicles with more theft-prevention features will reduce your risk and so your insurance premium.

What do I do next?

The Insurance Bureau of Canada recently published its Worst and Best Ten list. You can use this document as a guide in determining which vehicles might be effected by high theft rates.

If you’re not sure exactly where your vehicle falls on this list speak with your account manager. Your account manager will have all the answers regarding the premium on your new vehicle.

slips and falls

Slip & Falls

slips and falls

In the past decade, the insurance industry has experienced a drastic rise in the frequency of slip and fall claims against property owners, occupiers and snow maintenance contractors in Ontario. With the increase in the number of slip and fall related lawsuits in Ontario, there has been an increase in the number of large awards from the courts for personal injury, lost employment income and other resulting expenses incurred due to slip and fall related injuries.

What this means is property owners as well as occupiers of rented or leased property in Ontario are well-advised to maintain an effective snow maintenance program that minimizes the potential for slip and fall occurrences on their property. The purpose o f this document is to briefly outline what a typical effective winter maintenance program should consist of to assist property owners and occupiers to minimize the slip and fall hazard. An effective winter maintenance program can help establish a solid defence in the event that a slip and fall incident does occur on the property and a claim is brought against the owner or occupier of the property.

OARTY members or private group homes can find slip and fall hazards in a variety of places on their property. The last thing on a person’s mind while on the property is to be wary of slip and fall hazards. As an occupier, you have to be mindful of inherent hazards that may cause slip and falls. The only way to reduce this hazard is to be aware of the conditions on the property and manage them appropriately.

Safeguard against slip and fall hazards on your property

  • The parking lot should be inspected at regular intervals for potholes, uneven surfaces, and other debris.
  • Walkways should be regularly inspected for tripping hazards and clearly marked.
  • Stairways should be regularly inspected to ensure walking surfaces and handrails are in good condition.

Snow and ice removal by a third party

  • Ensure there is a written contract or service agreement.
  • Obtain a certificate of insurance from the contractor and have your broker review the coverages.

Snow and ice removal by an employee

  • Clearly define the tasks to be performed by employees and ensure that employees are adequately trained.
  • Ensure that your employees maintain a log documenting what has been completed at what time, by whom, and note the climactic conditions.

Floors, hallways, and interior stairways

  • All employees should remain vigilant and keep an eye on conditions of floors, including carpeting.
  • Emergency exits and exterior stairways should be maintained snow and obstruction free at all times.
  • All floor mats should be replaced at regular intervals and inspected regularly on a daily basis.
  • All work by employees should be logged. Copies of maintenance contracts, certificate of liability insurance, and purchase orders or invoicing should be kept on file for third party contractors.

In the event of a slip and fall incident

  • Accident Report forms should be available on site. In the event of a slip and fall incident, a report should be completed by the claimant and/or any available witnesses. The report should include the claimant’s contact information, be dated, and witnessed by a manager or employee.
  • It is important to keep records of all accidents for a period of no less than two years.

It is important to establish and implement an inspection and monitoring procedure for identifying and managing slip and fall hazards on your premises. A routine which is undertaken on a daily basis, or more frequently when dictated by weather, may help you control and reduce the risk of slip and falls.

Please use the attached sample Snow and Ice Removal Log and Slip and Fall Incident Report forms for your reference. Contact your Risk Control Representative or Insurance Broker for more information.

Do you suffer from Road Rage?

1. I find driving to be:

  1. fun and relaxing
  2. relaxing when I’m alone on the road, but nerve wracking in city traffic
  3. challenging, but dangerous
  4. a good place where I can really let loose and express myself
  5. a place where I show the rest of the world what a bunch of incompetents they are

2. My driving skills are:

  1. good
  2. great
  3. better than most on the road
  4. superior
  5. I am the best; no one comes close to my skill

3. You are driving down the road going your usual speed when you spot a woman putting on her makeup. Do you:

  1. laugh and continue on your way
  2. drive by and give her a dirty look
  3. speed past her and yell “Forget it; It won’t help”
  4. speed past give her the finger, yell obscenities
  5. same as ‘d’ but also cut in front of her and slam on the brakes

We often joke about Road Rage, but it is a serious problem. Road Rage can result in collisions, assault, altercations, injuries and even death. If people drive responsibly, they can help make our roads safer from road rage. Here are a few tips to help you combat the signs of road rage…

  • Leave your problems at home or at work; don’t let them consume you while you’re driving.
  • Plan your route ahead of time so there is little frustration with directions.
  • Make several stops to re-focus on long drives.
  • Be courteous in busy intersections.
  • Don’t get mad or retaliate towards other driver’s mistakes.

Be safe out there…and remember, if you think you’re being followed, don’t drive home – go to the nearest Police station or busy public place.

(Copyright: Staying in Touch 2010 – Volume Twenty, Number One)