I hope that you find these articles of interest. If you have a topic for future discussion, please let me know. Please call anytime, we can answer questions or be of help with your business or personal insurance needs.
Dog Owners are Liable When Their Pets Bite
There were over 77 million domestic dogs residing in homes across the United States between 2015 and 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are over 4.5 million dog bites reported each year. While some insurers will cover most dogs, some will not insure a long list of specific breeds. Some insurers do not discriminate by breed and instead determine a dog's status by individual evaluation.
Dog Owners Are Typically Liable For Bites
If their pets bite guests or people who come on their property, owners are almost always liable for the damages. A dog does not have to be on a list of vicious breeds to make an owner liable in some cases. If an owner knew of a dog's tendency to bite and it can be proven through records of similar incidents, the owner is liable. In some other cases, the owner is not liable if the dog did not have a known propensity to bite and was not considered a vicious breed. For example, a mellow cocker spaniel biting a person for the first time may not result in responsibility by the owner. However, a pit bull biting a person for the first time would likely result in the owner being held liable.
In some states, insurers are not allowed to deny coverage to people with certain breeds of dogs, and they are not allowed to cancel policies if people obtain questionable breeds. However, dog owners are required to buy additional liability insurance in some states if they own certain breeds of dogs. There are three types of laws that put liability on dog owners. They include the following:
A bite statute places automatic liability on the owner for any injuries.
A one-bite rule places liability on the owner only if he or she knew of the dog's propensity to bite.
Negligence laws place liability on an owner if the owner is careless in controlling the animal.
Impact Of Dog Bites
In 2015, dog bite claims made up almost 35 percent of all liability claims among homeowners. The total amount paid by insurers in claims was over $570 million. Although the number of bite claims decreased by more than 7 percent in 2015, the average claim cost increased by 16 percent. The average claim cost in the United States in 2015 for claims of this type was over $37,000. California led the nation in the highest number of claims at almost 1,700 for the year. Claim costs have risen steadily over the past few years, which is mostly due to the rising costs of medical care and the larger settlement awards for lawsuits.
Not all claim amounts were attributable only to dog bites. In addition to biting people, dogs also knocked down children and elderly individuals, which resulted in additional injuries. They also knocked cyclists off of their bikes and caused damage to both the cyclists and their bikes. Other factors also increased the severity of some incidents and led to higher claim amounts.
Dog owners can help reduce the number of claims made by being responsible. Keep pets in crates or in a locked room when guests visit or when service workers come to the house. For outdoor pets, provide sturdy fencing and a locked gate. Always display signs that alert people of the dog's presence. If there is no fence around the yard, keep the dog on a leash when taking it outdoors. To be safe, do not let strangers pet the dog. One incident can be costly and may even result in the dog being put to sleep in some places. To learn more about preventing costly dog bites, discuss concerns with an agent at 314-351-HALO (4256).
Stay Protected from Deer Collisions
The vehicle body damage caused by hitting a deer can be very costly. One research finding showed that the average cost of deer collision damage was nearly $4,000.
Safe driving is a must when deer are plentiful. Between spring and fall, it is common to see more deer on the road. Deer are difficult to see when it is dark, and they often dart out in front of vehicles at the last second. The likelihood of running into a deer is higher when there is water or a forested area nearby. However, deer are also common in brush and plains, so drivers everywhere should be vigilant and take steps to prevent accidents.
Research shows that American drivers are three percent more likely to hit a deer in the following year than they were last year. These animals are most active around sunrise and sunset, which are both times when it is especially difficult to see well on the road.
Experts recommend all drivers verify accident damage coverage on their insurance policies. Damages due to hitting deer are typically covered on a comprehensive policy and not a collision policy, so it is important to know this before setting out on the road. If an accident does occur because of a deer, covered drivers should contact their agents immediately. Starting a claim in a timely manner is very important. When a deer collision happens, keep the following considerations in mind:
If a deer that has been hit is blocking the road and creating a hazard, call local law enforcement immediately to report it.
Always keep a safe distance from a deer after hitting it. If the animal is not dead, it may attack and has very sharp hooves.
In some cases, a deer collision may be unavoidable. However, many collisions happen when people are not taking all of the necessary precautions. The following tips should be remembered and practiced when driving:
Always wear a safety belt, and stay alert and aware of sensible speeds based on current driving conditions.
Never depend completely on deer whistles, reflectors, fences or detection devices.
Always use high-beam headlights at night when there is no oncoming traffic, because these lights will hit the reflective part of a deer's eyes.
Watch closely for silhouettes of deer or their reflective eyes on the roadsides.
When a deer is spotted on the roadside or in the middle of the road, brake firmly but do not swerve into another lane. It is less risky to hit a deer at a slower speed than to run into another vehicle or lose control of the automobile and roll it.
Keep in mind that when one deer is sighted, it is very likely there are more nearby.
Do not try to navigate around a deer in the middle of the road. If possible, pull to the side of the road, put the emergency flashing lights on and wait for it to cross.
Defensive driving is a good habit to practice at all times, especially when deer are abundant between spring and fall. To learn more about adequate coverage or to review a policy, discuss concerns with at 314-351-HALO (4256).
The Scary Truth about Texting and Driving in America
The average text takes a person's eyes off the road for several seconds, which is enough time to swerve off the road or hit a car that is braking quickly. When a person is traveling at 55 miles per hour, that is enough time to drive across the length of a football field.
Approximately 500,000 young Americans are injured as a result of distracted driving.
According to statistics, about 50 percent of drivers under the age of 35 who carry cellphones are guilty of reading or sending text messages while they are driving. More than 35 percent of teens report nearly being in an accident because of another distracted driver or because of themselves when they are distracted. Drivers who text while the vehicle is in motion are at least 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who do not text while driving. It is interesting that nearly 60 percent of drivers still claim to be better than the average driver despite the same percentage admitting to regularly texting while driving.
The number one reason American teens die is because of distracted driving. Although most people are proud of their multitasking abilities, it is important to avoid multitasking behind the wheel. Over 20 percent of teens who text and drive do so because they are bored. When getting behind the wheel, it is best to turn a phone on silent or shut it off. If the phone is too much of a temptation to pick up and use while driving, shut it off instead of putting it on silent. If this is also too difficult, there are apps and devices designed to disable phone features while a vehicle is in motion. Friends who text while driving should not be trusted. Ask the person to stop, and provide a reminder about how unsafe and careless it is to text and drive. It endangers the driver, passengers, pedestrians and other motorists.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects statistics each year about the use of cellphones while driving and the related accidents or deaths. NHTSA started a campaign to combat this dangerous practice. Since Americans understand the dangers of multitasking while driving but still do it, the campaign is designed to show them how they are actually closer to driving blind than driving distracted. They also seek to look past the dangers and focus on why people feel compelled to remain in constant contact with friends, family members and social media while driving. With a strong plan for success and innovation in conveying a very important message, NHTSA hopes to see positive results in the future statistics they collect. To learn more about staying safe while driving and how to report distracted drivers, discuss concerns with an agent at 314-351-HALO (4656).
Are Annuities Safe?
Annuities have historically been extremely safe savings and income vehicles, though consumers should take care to make sure they understand the terms and conditions of their own individual annuity before contributing money.
First, annuities are not like mutual funds. If you have an annuity, you don't own a share of a basket of specific securities. Instead, when you buy an annuity, you are buying a contract - a set of contractual and legally enforceable promises from a life insurance company. Contractually, the insurance company must keep these promises that it makes in writing to you. And the life insurance industry has an excellent track record of honoring its financial commitments to annuity holders over many, many years.
Promises and Guarantees
Annuities are financial products that are specifically designed to convert a lump sum or a series of premium payments into a stream of future income. When it comes to safety of capital. For example, the simplest and most readily-understood type of annuity, the lifetime income annuity (LIA) simply exchanges your lump sum premium into a contractual promise of a specific amount of income for as long as you live.
When it comes to deferred annuities, a fixed annuity is simply a promise from your insurance company that you will be credited a specific percentage rate for a specific period of time - similar to a bank CD, except annuities also enjoy the benefit of tax deferral. While annuities routinely come with surrender charges if you withdraw your money from them within the first few years of owning them, and there is also normally a 10 percent excise tax on most withdrawals prior to age 59½ (the same tax applies to IRAs and 401(k)s as well), fixed annuities are extremely safe if you are able to keep your money in them for at least as long as the surrender charge period.
What about variable annuities?
Variable annuities do involve potential market loss, depending on the circumstances. When you own a variable annuity, your eventual performance and the amount of income you can later enjoy is tied to the performance of the particular subaccounts that you select.
However, since these are also contracts, rather than shares, when you purchase a variable annuity you can often hedge your bets by purchasing one or more riders, such as a guaranteed minimum income benefit, or guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit. So while there is potential that your variable annuity will not perform as hoped, and you could even lose money, you can still hedge your bets. No matter how poorly the markets perform, or the insurance company's general fund performs, they still have to keep the promises in the contract.
All in all, annuities are excellent tools for risk reduction. Those with little or no tolerance for market risk will likely prefer fixed annuities. Variable annuities may lose money, but you can still get your guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit or guaranteed minimum income benefit even if markets tank. Indeed, if stock and bond markets do substantially decline, annuities are often a great place for investors and savers to be.
That said, annuities are not insured by the federal government. All annuity benefits are contingent upon the claims-paying ability of the insurance company. State insurance commissioners do have a guaranty fund, however, that protects consumers against insurance company failures, up to certain limits.
To learn more about annuities, discuss concerns with an agent at 314-351-HALO (4256).