Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Do Your Employees Use Cell Phones While Driving?

If they are involved an accident while driving or texting, your company may be held liable for the damages. My client, Zoom Safer, issued a great white paper on this topic. Their paper accurately describes the growing problem of distracted driving and the legal issues involved. I highly recommend that you give it a read here.

The following excerpt from their paper summarizes the issue perfectly:

Yoon v. Wagner, a case from Virginia serves as an excellent cautionary tale in this regard. In Yoon, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a car driven by an attorney working for the law firm Cooley Godward. At the time of the accident, the attorney was talking on her cell phone with another lawyer. Even though the phone call occurred well outside of the normal time and space of the attorney‟s employment (the accident occurred at 10:30 pm), the court nevertheless held that the lawyer was within the scope of employment, thus subjecting Cooley Godward to vicarious liability. Despite the late hour of the accident, the court pointed out that part of the lawyer‟s job was to log billable hours through phone calls and that this particular call had been designed to benefit the attorney‟s firm. In the end, the lawyer was ordered to pay the plaintiffs $2 million out of her own pocket, and Cooley Godward settled with the plaintiffs for an additional undisclosed sum.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What is Your Burning Insurance Question?

As an agent, I'm always hearing people's opinions about insurance. I'm also answering a lot of questions. Insurance is a tough subject. It's a large mysterious promise that seems to make up its own rules as it goes along. People place their faith in insurance to rebuild their homes after a fire. To keep their businesses open after a disaster. To replace their laptop when it's stolen.

I understand their concerns. They have a lot riding on the policy. If the policy doesn't respond like they thought, then what next? Who has $300,000 laying around to rebuild a house?

Insurance is a promise against the unknown. With so much riding on this promise, why don't people take the time to learn more about it? I understand why. Insurance is not a very sexy topic. Who wants to sit around on a Saturday afternoon and read their insurance policy? I certainly don't, and I do this for a living!

However tedious it might be, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't do it. Let me make it easy for you. Send me your burning insurance questions. Let me try to demystify the beast.

This doesn't mean that you don't have to read your insurance policy. You don't get off that easy.

I hope to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Weather Driving Tips

The wind is howling & snow is whipping past my window. Our offices have been closed for the past 3 days due to the historic DC snowstorm. Just when the roads get clear, Mother Nature dumps another foot of snow on top of us.

The roads will be icy for several days to come. I received the following information about Winter Driving from John Malerich, Loss Control Rep. at Allied Insurance Company. Good information to keep in mind during these winter months. Thanks, John.

In a CTRE study, crash rates were calculated for sections of Iowa’s Interstate highways when snowfall exceeded 0.2 inches per hour. The rates were compared to crash rates for the same highway sections (same month, weekday, and time) when the weather was clear. When road surfaces were icy or snowy, or weather conditions were snow or sleet, crash rates were 13 times higher than during clear weather. – Iowa State University, Center for Transportation Research and Education.

An easy way to look at surviving winter weather is to break it down to key steps:

1. Prepare your vehicle for the expected weather conditions
2. Plan your trips
3. Modify your driving as needed based on conditions
4. Be ready for emergencies (including the potential to become stranded)

Prepare Your Vehicle
Prepare your vehicle for winter. While winter conditions can vary greatly throughout the USA and Canada, a seasonal check-up of key maintenance items is important:

· Check windshield washer levels, and wiper blade condition – you’ll need both working properly to clear your windshield of rain, slush and accumulating grim or salts thrown up from the road
· Tire pressure must be monitored – for every 10-degree drop in air temperature; your tires will lose 1-psi of pressure.
· Tire tread depths are also vital – thin treads compromise stopping ability and handling, especially in slush, snow, and rain.
· Your batteries should be in good condition and able to hold a charge – they not only help to start your engine, but you may need that battery power if stranded at night to power emergency lights.
· Your engine’s fluid levels should be confirmed and topped off as needed.
· Any erratic behavior by the engine or transmission should be investigated by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.

In addition to a full maintenance check-up, be sure to follow your company’s procedures for pre-trip inspections – document any problems and get assistance to be sure that your vehicle is ready for the weather conditions you expect to encounter during your trip (even if it is sunny and warm at your location, you may find dramatically different conditions at higher elevations, or at your destination).

Plan Your Trips
Take time to become familiar with your planned route and several alternatives in case one route becomes impassible due to traffic conditions, crashes or severe weather. You can determine traffic, road and weather conditions prior to leaving by using the internet, checking TV or Radio stations, or by calling designated traffic hotlines in your area.

Many states support “511” phone lines that provide updated traffic and road conditions for their state. Other hotlines may apply for your destination state and these are published on most state’s web sites or in phone books.

If you anticipate extreme weather (blizzards, etc.), make sure your teammates know your planned route and check in times (so that they can send help if you miss designated check-ins, etc.)

Modify Your Driving as Conditions Change
When road conditions are slippery, look farther down the road than normal so that you can anticipate emergencies and avoid the need for sudden maneuvers. Most skids are caused by last-second stops and turns on slippery pavements.

Be extra cautious with hills. Slow down as you come to the top of a hill – you may be surprised at the last minute to find a stalled vehicle or other obstacle that was not obvious as you climbed the hill (especially if the obstacle is located just over the crest of the hill in a “blind spot”).

Moving more slowly also helps you to deal with the downgrade side of the hill where loss of traction and gravity are working against you.

When possible, avoid driving through an area where other vehicles have had trouble with the road conditions. The same conditions that caused their trouble may still exist and could create trouble for you, too.

Leave extra space between your vehicle and others. This anticipates sliding and some loss of control is possible. Additionally, snow or ice may fly off of vehicles ahead of you causing poor visibility.

After all precautions are taken and good practices are followed there still will be occasions when conditions become too hazardous to proceed. There may be times when it would be safer to pull off the road at the first safe place, notify your company of the delay and wait until conditions improve before continuing.

Be Ready for Emergencies (In Case You Become Stranded)
Generally, it is best to stay with your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation. If you do leave the vehicle, leave a plainly visible note indicating when you left, what direction you were headed (intended destination) and a contact number to call to verify you’ve arrived safely.

To signal for assistance you could light two flares and place one at each end of the vehicle a safe distance away. You could also hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.

If you are sure the vehicle's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of fuel available (you may need to follow other guidelines based on the type of vehicle and engine configuration).

Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by bundling up and eating food that you’ve packed for emergencies. Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.

You should be prepared in case of an emergency situation on the road. A few items that could be helpful:

A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack - A shovel - Jumper cables - A bag of salt (to melt ice) or cat litter (to provide traction in snow) -Tool kit and fresh First Aid supplies - Working flashlight and extra batteries - reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth - Exterior windshield cleaner - Ice scraper and snow brush - Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container - Non-perishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy - Heavy woolen mittens, socks, cap, blankets.

Good luck out there.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Information theft can happen to you

Think it can't? Below is a post from a great blog (Profitprogram) that I follow about information security. In the post, Dave Stelzl shows us how easy it is for hackers to gain access to your information.

Protect yourselves on the front end by improving your network security. Protect yourselves on the back end with
privacy liability coverage.

Hackers for Hire!

Posted: 03 Feb 2010 03:54 AM PST

SHARE – Here’s a simple way to gain access to other people’s computers. More importantly, here is a simple way for people to gain access to your client’s data. Note in this article that no one is hacking through firewalls and criminals are difficult to catch. In fact, most people don’t know they are being hit and social engineering is used to cleverly gain access to the desired data. Thanks to our friends at Presidio for passing this along!

For the full article, click