Insurance Blog
Items filtered by date: December 2016

 

Who is liable if a holiday guest gets food poisoning or drives home drunk? As millions of Americans host and attend holiday parties across the street and across the country, many may be unaware of the risks they may be taking. Party hosts need to understand their responsibilities when inviting people into their homes and serving food and drinks.

If you’re hosting a holiday party, make sure you follow these important safety tips:

  • Do your homework. When hosting a holiday party, you should look to the liability portion of your homeowners or renters insurance policy to protect you if you are sued and found liable for an accident involving a guest who consumed alcohol or got sick after consuming food at your home. Make sure you regularly review your liability coverage limits to ensure you are adequately covered should an accident or illness occur.
  • Watch what you eat and feed others. Even if food was prepared outside your home by a caterer, another guest, a local deli or the neighborhood pizza joint, you could be held liable if someone becomes ill from consuming it on your property. Make sure that you check food and don’t put anything out that you suspect may be undercooked, spoiled or contaminated. Use only reputable food purveyors. Follow proper food handling, heating/cooling and storage recommendations. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Know your state laws and statutes. In many states, party hosts can be held liable if a guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident. Many courts have found hosts liable for damages their party guests cause as a result of consuming alcohol and then driving motor vehicles. Many states have also enacted statutes that can be interpreted as mandating non-commercial social host liability. 

So, if a guest or third party is injured in an accident that is related to alcohol consumption and the drinking can be linked to you, you could be held responsible for the payment of medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work and—in the worst case—claims for wrongful death resulting in huge monetary settlements.

  • Mix up the activities, not just the cocktails. If the party centers around drinking, guests will likely drink more. Schedule entertainment or activities that do not involve alcohol. Provide safe, filling food for guests and alternatives to alcoholic beverages.
  • Party elsewhere. Host your party at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license, rather than in a home or office, to decrease your liability.
  • Call a cab, get a room or have a slumber party. Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who cannot or should not drive home.
  • Just say no. Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated. Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end. Stay alert and always remember your responsibilities as a host. You might also consider hiring an off-duty police officer or professional bouncer to discreetly monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
  • Consider an umbrella policy. While holiday partygoers and hosts alike should act responsibly and know their limits, consumers need to acknowledge that most risks cannot be entirely eliminated. But planning ahead and learning about what’s involved in hosting a reception is the best defense. Purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy—providing $1 million or more in additional coverage over the limit of a standard homeowners or renters policy—may be a prudent move for the frequent party host.
Published in Blog

Here are important shopping tips from the mass.gov website, the official blog of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for you to use and share!

 

With the holiday season underway, knowing your rights as a consumer might be just as important as knowing where to get the best deals.

The Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation (OCABR) and the Office of the Attorney General (AGO)provide important tips about consumer protection, theft, warranties, and more so you get the most out of your gift buying.

  • Make a Plan Before You Shop — Make sure you shop smart by planning your trip before you leave the house. Compare deals ahead of time, and bring advertisements for deals with you. Before you make a purchase, learn the store’s policies on refunds, cancellations, returns, and layaways.
  • Understand Consumer Protection Law — Familiarize yourself with consumer protection law before you shop to help ensure fair business practices. Consumer rights include the right to be given true information about what you’re buying, to choose between various competitive goods, and to be protected from hazardous products. Businesses violate consumer protection law if they:
    • Charge customers higher prices than what is advertised
    • Do not post a return policy where customers will see it
    • Do not meet warranty agreements
    • Fail to provide relevant information about a product or service or tell customers misleading information

If you believe that a business has misled you or violated consumer protection law, you may want to take steps to resolve a consumer problem with the business or consider filing a complaint with the AGO. The AGO uses complaints to track unfair and deceptive business practices and also offers a free and voluntary mediation service that may assist in resolving your dispute.

  • Learn Gift Certificate Laws — Review gift certificate law in Massachusetts before you use your certificate. Gift certificates must be valid for a minimum of seven years and have no fees. If no expiration date is provided by the retailer, the card is good forever. Customers can take the remaining value on a gift certificate in cash after using 90 percent of the certificate.
  • Stay Safe While Shopping Online — Take precautions to keep your transactions safe if you decide to do online shopping. Pay with a credit card, which has extra consumer protection. Only purchase from known sellers, and check that the sites you visit are secure by looking for “https” before the URL.
  • Know What to Do in the Event of Identity Theft — Follow steps to protect yourself against identity theftif your credit or debit card is lost or stolen. Report the lost or stolen card to the card issuer right away. Call the three major credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be put on your credit file. Change your credit or debit card, account, and PIN to prevent additional fraudulent transactions from happening.
  • Be Aware of Warranties — Make sure you know what types of warranties are on the products you buy. Consumers can be protected by both express and implied warranties (oral or written promises and implied ones) on products, and a warranty can exist even if a seller does not use the word “warranty.” Warranties ensure that products are sold as they are portrayed and that you are entitled to repairs, replacements, or refunds if the products are not functioning properly. It is illegal for a business to fail to honor a warranty.

By becoming an informed, prepared consumer, you can have a safer and more satisfying shopping experience this holiday season.

Questions about safe shopping? Tweet @MassGov  and share this post with friends and family.

Published in Blog
Sunday, 04 December 2016 20:54

Social Media and Identity Theft

 

Here's a terrific article by Dahna M. Chandler from the IIABA's (Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America) Trusted Choice portal.

Are you setting yourself up to be among the nine million people that the Federal Trade Commission estimates have their identities stolen each year? You may be doing so by the way you use social media, especially Facebook.

At last count, according to TechCrunch, there are nearly 1.4 billion users on Facebook alone. Of those, 890 million are daily users. Not all users are honest users. Moreover, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center  study, 79% of adults use Facebook just in the United States. And most of them use multiple platforms. Yet Pew found that most people on Facebook only know about 50 of their (average) 155 friends. Two-thirds of their connections on Facebook are strangers. And this is true across social media platforms.

But it’s not really the frequency with which you use social media that leads to identity theft. It’s how you use those social networking platforms. Remember, you don’t know most of the people you’re connected to well. But based on what you share—which is often shared by others, too—identity thieves may use your social media platforms to get to know you very well. Then, they can assume your identity.

Being a Tell-All Makes You a Target for Identity Thieves

You may be making the common identity thief’s work easy by what you reveal on social media, especially if you use poor security. You may think sharing pet pictures and names, favorite stores, purchases or intended purchases, or family pictures is no big deal. But that’s like walking through a mall showing everyone everything in your wallet. Did you know that identity thieves can use that information to build a personal profile on you?

“People share way too much on social media,” says credit expert Beverly Harzog. Her latest book, “The Debt Escape Plan: How to Free Yourself from Credit Card Balances, Boost Your Credit Score, and Live Debt Free,“ discusses identity theft through social media.

“Very little is needed by identity thieves to break into someone’s accounts,” she continues. “What you share can be used to hack your credit card, bank and other financial accounts.” Those accounts, of course, contain even more information about you that can be used to create a complete profile. Thieves use that information both to steal other assets and create ID documents that can be used to commit other crimes.

Most people on Facebook only know about 50 of their (average) 155 friends. Two-thirds of their connections on Facebook are strangers.

Harzog gives the example of giving your dog’s name on social media. “Some people use their dog’s name on Facebook or other social media and then use the dog’s name as part of their password someplace else,” she states. She says it’s common for people to use personal information they share—like kids’ names and birthdays and those of their significant others—on social media as part of passwords, too. Then the most determined identity thieves, who are adept at using that information to determine your complete passwords, can hack your accounts.

Moreover, weak passwords coupled with poor social media security settings make you a bigger target. So what’s the solution? Clam up online and lock down your social media profiles.

You Do Have Things to Hide on Social Media

Thieves of all kinds like easy victims; identity thieves are no exception. Therefore, don’t make yourself one. Maintain some mystery about your life online and hide information you don’t want stolen. Says Harzog, “Determined thieves will scan a year of your social media postings and piece a lot of things together about you that can be used to steal your identity.”

So if you’re a private citizen, stay that way. To maintain your privacy, there are lots of things you shouldn’t talk about or share on social media. Many of them are pretty obvious by now, like your travel plans, schedules, full birthdate, social security number or credit card or bank account numbers. But what else should you avoid sharing on social media or, if you must, share with care?

  • The types of credit cards you use and how you make purchases. You can talk about where you bought things but not what you used to make the purchase, particularly if you’re naming your credit card carrier.
  • Your banking information. Don’t reveal where you bank or the name of your credit union. Have those conversations privately, using secure email or phone.
  • Your home phone number. This is especially true of it’s the phone number you use for your credit card or bank accounts. Even if that’s not the case, that information can be easily used to determine your carrier and, ultimately, your address, which for most people is the one they use on their bank accounts or credit cards.
  • Your full address. It’s okay to say where you live generally, like your city, but not specifically, like your street and house number. Even revealing your neighborhood may put you at risk of identity theft. Stick with the closest metro area when revealing where you live.
  • Your hometown. Again, stick with metro areas, especially if you’re from a small town. And if you do reveal your hometown on your social media profiles, don’t use it as an answer to security questions online or part of a password.
  • Your high school or college alma mater. Be careful sharing this information if you use it as part of your security set-up on any other accounts, especially financial accounts.

Doubling Down on Security

Harzog says. “Don’t use any part of the information you share on social media as part of your passwords.” Use strong passwords and don’t use any information revealed on social media as answers to security questions, either. Make up your own randomized passwords, where possible.

Also, make sure your privacy settings are strong on social media and vet every online connection you make carefully. Using these strategies, you can protect yourself from the prying eyes of those who would rob you of your financial security by stealing your identity.

 

Published in Blog

 

Winter will be storming into the area bringing snow, ice and plummeting temperatures that can wreak havoc on plumbing. A ruptured pipe can cause extensive, costly damage and disrupt your life or business. Worse, floodwater can pose numerous safety and health risks, ranging from electric shock to illness from waterborne pathogens or even toxic mold.

With your family or business on the line, you will want to do everything you can to prevent water from freezing inside your plumbing; or if the unforeseeable happens and you find your pipes frozen - taking the steps to prevent pipes from bursting and safely thaw them.

A frozen pipe will not necessarily burst if the faucet valve is open to release pressure moving down the pipe.

Start with prevention:

Here are five steps you can take right now to reduce the risk of frozen pipes. Make sure you winterize your property outdoors, draining pools and irrigation systems and hoses, insulating and covering outdoor faucets and securing doors and windows in garages and outbuildings with water supplies. Also, be sure to follow these tips from the American Red Cross:

  1. Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  2. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  3. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  4. Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  5. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

If pipes freeze, don’t panic, do this:

If you wake up one morning and the water won’t come on in your kitchen, don’t panic. While horrifying visions of water filling crawl spaces and mold spores sprouting may be unavoidable, a frozen pipe will not necessarily burst if the faucet valve is open to release pressure moving down the pipe. Take a deep breath, and then follow these American Red Cross tips to safely thaw your pipe:

  1. If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  2. Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  3. Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  4. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  5. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

These tips should help minimize the risk plumbing ruptures from frozen pipes. But sometimes nature simply shoves aside our best efforts and the worst happens. And of course, make sure you call your agent at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker to make sure you have protection in the event you find yourself facing a water damage catastrophe from frozen, ruptured pipes. 

Published in Blog

Checklist: Six Important Tips to Avoid Ice Dams, Roof Leaks, and Frozen Pipes This Winter

 

  1. Inspect your roof before the first snowfall, and replace all damaged shingles.
  2. Improve your attic’s insulation. Ice dams are caused by snow melting under a blanket of snow on a warm roof.
  3. Check and clean all gutters and downspouts; clogged gutters often lead to ice dams.
  4. Ensure that all gable, ridge and soffit vents are clear, and that attic insulation doesn’t cover soffit vents.
  5. Use a roof rake to clear excessive snow near the roof edge; be careful not to damage shingles.
  6. Insulate pipes located near outside walls and in crawl spaces. If a pipe has frozen before, it will freeze again!
Published in Blog
Sunday, 04 December 2016 20:16

Developing a Cold Weather Plan

A cold weather plan for your facility should be an integral part of your overall maintenance plan for the building and equipment as well as part your emergency response/contingency plan that helps your business respond to and manage an emergency event. Here are some tips to help you develop your cold weather plan.

 

Creating the Plan. Develop a written plan to include actions to be taken during these junctures:

  • Before the onset of winter
  • When a winter storm is imminent and/or damaging cold temperatures are expected
  • After a winter storm and/or prolonged cold weather A plan is only as good as its execution. With that in mind, it is critical to the successful mitigation of damage to your facilities from the winter weather to include the following elements as part of your Cold Weather Plan:
  • Accountability for overall implementation, including pre-winter inspections
  • Defined roles and responsibilities for outlined activities and responses
  • Initial and annual training
  • Annual review of plan to include evaluation of effectiveness and identifying improvement opportunities
  • To aid you in developing your plan, ask your team to consider some “what ifs,” such as:
  • What if you lose heat to the building? What is your contingency plan?
  • What if the facility is closed (weather, holidays, etc.) AND extreme weather is expected? How will you monitor your facility? Will someone be checking on the facility daily?
  • What if a fire protection sprinkler pipe freezes and bursts? Is there someone on the premises who knows how to shut the system off? What about other systems that use water?
  • What if there are areas that you know could be susceptible to freezing? How are you going to monitor them and what steps are you going to take should the temperature become dangerously low?

Before the Onset of Winter

Inspect the Building Develop a checklist to ensure:

  • Openings around exterior walls such as windows, doors, or other openings are sealed
  • Equipment penthouses are secured from cold air infiltration
  • Louvers are closed or sealed
  • Dampers on ducts leading to the outside are closed (if possible)
  • Attics and other areas susceptible to the cold are properly insulated
  • Adequate air flow to maintain heat in all areas of the building to a minimum of 40ºF
  • Roof is in good condition or make repairs as needed – Drains, drain pipes, and gutters are free of debris – Roof cover is free of cracks or blisters – Decking is free of rust or other signs of deterioration – Flashing is secured – There are no cracked or bent roof supports (beams, columns, joists)

Check Utilities and Process Equipment

  • Check and repair heating systems as needed to include boilers, furnaces, ovens, process heaters, etc.
  • Inspect process, water, condensate, steam lines subject to freezing for proper insulation or heat tracing
  • Drain, blow out, or flush lines for seasonal or idle equipment
  • Check alternate fuel supplies for operability and supply adequacy

Check Water-Based Fire Protection Equipment

  • Make sure all your equipment has been checked in accordance with national fire protection association (NFPA) 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Equipment
  • Be certain that central station water flow alarms are working properly
  • Ensure areas including concealed spaces (attics, above false ceilings, under raised floors, etc.) are heated to 40ºF or greater
  • Dry sprinkler systems – Drain water from low point drains – Ensure piping is properly pitched and replace broken or missing pipe hangers – Check system for air leaks and repair if needed – Make sure low air pressure alarm is functioning
  • Fire pump – Check pump house temperature » Electric engine driver—should be maintained at 40ºF or greater » Diesel engine driver—should be maintained at 70ºF or greater – Ensure suction source is protected from freezing

Identify and Align Resources. The time to identify needed resources is before the winter season starts. Resource needs are going to vary depending on your location and operations. You may need resources such as:

  • Qualified contractor to remove snow and ice from the roof
  • Emergency generator
  • Fuel supplies for critical operations such as fire protection equipment, processes, or on-site generators
  • Snow removal services to ensure access to the property

When a Winter Storm and/or Deep Freeze Is on the Way

  • Monitor weather reports for information to include power outages, potential damage, access to facilities and prepare for action
  • If needed, activate the emergency response team
  • Monitor temperatures in areas susceptible to freezing or significant temperature fluctuations
  • Monitor snow loads of roofs, especially in areas subject to drifts, and take action as needed
  • Clear snow from outside sprinkler control valves and hydrants to keep them accessible
  • Prepare for possible power outage
  • Remove ice dams

After the Storm

  • If needed, conduct a damage assessment and secure resources to complete repairs
  • Initiate salvage operations
  • If power was lost, make sure you have a plan to bring electrical loads back on line to prevent power surges that could damage equipment

For additional resources on cold weather hazards and developing a contingency plan visit the Hanover Risk Solutions website under Preparing for Severe Weather.

 

Thank you to our friends at Hanover Risk Solutions who provided this terrific information!

Published in Blog
Sunday, 04 December 2016 20:06

Driving in Ice or Snow? Go Nice and Slow!

From IIABA Trusted Choice®

Cars driving in the snow

When staying home is not an option and you must brave winter roads, Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents advise you to remember the ageless moral of the tortoise and hare: Slow and easy wins the race.

From snow blizzards and white-outs to the dreaded black ice, the hazards of winter roadways must be negotiated carefully if you and your vehicle are to arrive at your destination safely. Even with the use of de-icing agents and sand, your chances of slip, sliding away into a ditch, barrier or other car are great. Beyond keeping your vehicle in top winterized condition, caution is the rule of the winter road.

Here are a few helpful winter safe driving tips direct from the experts at AAA:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. To regain traction and avoid skids, apply the gas slowly. And remember that it takes longer to slow down on icy roads, so allow extra time to brake before a stop.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads, including accelerating, stopping, and turning. Allow extra driving time. Driving slowly also gives you time to maneuver.
  • The safest following distance on normal dry pavement is three to four seconds. On ice or snow, allow eight to 10 seconds of following time. You need the increased margin of safety in order to provide the longer stopping distances required on ice and snow.
  • Know your brakes. Threshold braking is the best way to stop, regardless of the type of brakes on your vehicle. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. If a wheel locks, release the brake and reapply.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. On slippery roads, it’s much easier to accelerate while the car is still rolling than to start moving from a full stop. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on a slippery hill will cause your wheels to spin. Increase speed before you reach the hill, and let that energy carry you to the top. If possible, allow the car in front of you to crest a steep incline before attempting it yourself.
  • Never stop while going up a hill. Starting from a full stop on a hill can be impossible. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.

If you can, stay home and watch the snow from indoors. Even if you drive well in the snow, others on the road may not.

Sources:
http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/roadway-safety/winter-driving-tips/
http://exchange.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/How-To-Go-On-Ice-and-Snow.pdf
http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/weather_events/snow_ice.htm http://www.drivingfast.net/track/threshold-braking.htm#.UM5NAXfWbyY
Published in Blog

Contact Us Today

Bedford, MA - 781-275-2114

Hudson, MA - 978-562-5652

Wayland, MA - 508-358-5383

Winthrop, MA - 617-846-0731

Memberships/Awards

trusted choice Baldwin Welsh Parker

S5 Box

Login

Register

You need to enable user registration from User Manager/Options in the backend of Joomla before this module will activate.