Nightmare on Elm Street

Halloween SafetyWhat do you get when you take hundreds of pedestrians trick-or-treating and add potentially impaired party-goers behind the wheel? A scary combination, that’s what.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities. What’s more, 48 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities on Halloween night in 2012 involved a drunk driver.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a nightmare on Elm Street:

BEHIND THE WHEEL

  • Slow down! Drive at least 5 mph under the speed limit, especially in residential areas. This will give you extra time to react to children who might dart into the street.
  • Light it up. Turn on your headlights — even in the daytime — to make yourself more visible.
  • Drive sober. Designated drivers are cool. If you’ll be imbibing of some witch’s brew, get yourself a DD.

PARENTS

  • Tackle it together. Make sure all trick-or-treaters up to the age of 12 (at least) are accompanied by an adult.
  • Have a plan. Review safety precautions and discuss the route you’ll take ahead of time. Remind kids never to cross the street mid-block or between cars. Go over pedestrian and traffic safety rules with your children.
  • Save it for later. Have the little ones wait to eat those treats until you’ve had a chance to go through them to make sure everything is ok. It’s sad that this precaution is necessary, but it’s also reality of the world we live in.

For more Halloween Safety Tips, visit the AAA website. And from all of us at Mason & Mason, have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Environmental Concerns and D&O

Directors & OfficersDirectors and Officers (D&O) coverage protects company and individual assets from claims regarding the management professionalism of the upper levels of companies.

The leading cause of D&O claims and payouts concerns financial reporting. The books don’t have to be cooked necessarily… they just need to be inaccurate to provoke a claim.

Relatively new accounting standards require real property values to properly reflect environmental impacts and potential clean-up costs. For example your company purchases a piece of land for $50 knowing it is environmentally impacted with an anticipated clean-up cost of $950. The book value of the property is $50 because that is what you paid, and it is the net value including clean-up. Now let’s assume new regulations require an additional $49 of remediation. You must either write down the value by $49, or if the property is held for sale, you can optionally write down only actual costs reflected in the sales price.

Of course, as with most future conditions, it can be difficult to predict what costs will be when we re-mediate the site.

Unfortunately, directors and officers must make management decisions in real time while arm-chair stakeholder quarterbacks get to review results with the power of hindsight. Will the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) decide on a conservative cost structure and reduce the value of the stock? Or, will he choose a more optimistic scenario and not reveal the full extent of the environmental impact thus falsely inflating values?

In today’s regulatory and transparent business environment, adequate D&O limits are a requirement of good management. Also, the CFO might want to consider environmental impairment insurance.

In the spirit of insurance and great risk management, the CFO can swap a premium (known expense) for a future potential claim (unknown loss), thus transferring the loss on the asset, to an expense. The asset value remains unchanged.

These valuation rules are very complex and you should consult with both a licensed insurance agent and a CPA regarding your specific needs. Give us a call… we’ll be happy to make introductions.

No Shave November! (for Jennifer Mimms)

No Shave November

Sometimes you hear a story and it just touches your heart.  That’s what happened when I learned that Jennifer Mimms had a tumor growing in her spine, which turned out to be lymphoma. And she has three young children. I mean… can you imagine?

Actually, I can. Five years ago (to this week) doctors found a tumor encased in my husband’s spinal column – just like Jennifer. The diagnosis was lymphoma - just like Jennifer. We had (have) three children – just like Jennifer.

I remember feeling overwhelmed, first by the circumstances, and then by the way our friends and family — our community — surrounded us with love and prayer, and financial support at a time when our family desperately needed it. We could not have gotten through that difficult ordeal without all of you.

When I learned what my son-in-love’s sister Jennifer was dealing with, I wanted to make sure she and her family received the same kind of support we did. And so the Mason & Mason “No Shave November (for Jennifer)” event was born. The rules are very simple, and there are so many ways you can help.

1. Join the “No Shave November (for Jennifer Mimms)” Community on Facebook.

2. Donate $10 (or more) to support Jennifer Mimms and her family (mail to PO Box 750, North Conway, NH 03845 – Attention: Heather Clement)

2. DO NOT SHAVE.

3. Invite your friends to get in on the action by telling them about the event and sending them the links.

4. Post your pics in the community facebook page.

 

It’s that easy. Won’t you join us in helping this family?
Jennifer Mimms no shave novemberAbout Jennifer Mimms:

Jennifer Mimms is a young mom of three awesome kids who are her entire life, along with her long time partner, Evan. Not too long ago Jenn started having some symptoms that made her visit her doctor. Shortly after her visit she received the shocking news that she had a tumor on her spine. After the removal of the tumor and more testing, she learned that she does in fact have cancer, a form of Lymphoma. Jenn still has a lot more tests ahead of her to figure out exactly what is wrong and where the cancer is coming from. As if life isn’t tough enough trying to raise three children in the world today, add in a medical problem this serious and it could be enough to sink a young family. Your generous donations willgo towards the basic needs of the family, such as bills, groceries and gas to get to and from treatments. Jenn is currently in the hospital for chemo treatments, five days per week.

Just keep swimming…

swimming poolBut check your insurance first!

Summertime fun often includes swimming in the pool. Whether you already have a pool in your backyard or are thinking about putting one in this year, consider whether your home insurance will cover your swimming pool (or how you might have it adjusted so that it does!)

Personal Liability Coverage

If someone is injured while swimming in your pool, the personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy will pay for it. Update this coverage amount when you install your pool to ensure it’s sufficient.

Related Structure Coverage

Your insurance company may classify your new in-ground pool as a related structure, similar to a storage shed or detached garage. Increase the related structure coverage on your homeowners insurance policy to cover damage to your pool. Keep in mind that this coverage won’t pay for swimming pool maintenance.

Geography Matters

The majority of backyard pools are found in warm climates. Based on this fact, insurance costs for your pool may be cheaper if you live in the warmer southern states and more expensive if you live in cooler northern states.

Erect a Fence

To prevent accidents in the pool, many insurance companies stipulate that you surround your pool with a fence that includes a self-latching gate. Consider whether or not you have the space and ability to erect a fence before you install a pool.

Consider the Diving Board or Slide

Some insurance companies won’t cover accidents that happen on the diving board or slide. That policy will influence whether or not you install one of those pool accessories.

Consider an Umbrella Policy

Even if your homeowners insurance policy covers your pool, consider an umbrella policy. It provides extra coverage after your homeowners insurance limits are met. The extra protection gives you peace of mind if you need to file any pool-related claims.

A backyard pool provides hours of fun every summer. Before you install one, though, talk to your insurance agent. Get all the facts about whether your company offers swimming pool coverage and how much it will cost.

And use these safety steps from The Pool Safely campaign to keep your friends and family safe.

CPVC ABC’s

CPVCChances are that you’re using chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) – a thermoplastic material – in pipes and related products, because it’s less expensive and easier to install than copper or iron piping. Failure of CPVC components can lead to extensive water damage, and repairs can be costly and complex because these pipes and fittings are located above ceilings, behind walls, and below floors.

In case of a piping mishap, here’s what to do:

Identify the material. CPVC pipes and fittings are usually yellow, cream, orange, or gray. Don’t confuse them with components made of its distant cousin polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has different chemical properties, physical characteristics, and functions. In general, it’s not advisable to combine CPVC components with those made of PVC.

Preserve the failed part for forensic analysis. This involves a complex chemical/materials evaluation that requires unique skills and specialized examination methods, using such advanced techniques as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. To avoid contamination during analysis: 1) don’t tape labels on the damaged part; 2) handle it as little as possible; and 3) if you can’t leave the part in its installed position, wrap it in aluminum foil before placing it in a plastic bag (the materials in these bags can leach out).

Never break open cracked pipes and fittings to see what’s inside. Leave this to a forensic scientist under controlled conditions.

Because CPVC failures can have a variety of causes from raw material flaws and manufacturing defects to improper installation and maintenance, determining which party is responsible can be difficult. However, using proper procedures for installing and maintaining these components can go far to reduce this risk.

A word to the wise… ;-) For more construction risk management tips, feel free to browse around our website or give us a call. You can trust the construction insurance specialists at M&M Assurance Group!

Prevent Burglary with these Landscaping Tricks

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, roughly two million burglaries occur each year. Protect your home and family from burglary when you implement five landscaping tricks that don’t compromise your home’s exterior appearance or value.

roses1. Place Hostile Plants by Entryways

Burglars typically target easily accessible windows and doors. By placing hostile plants loaded with thorns, briars and brambles near these entryways, you discourage potential burglars. Several hostile plants to consider include roses, holly, raspberries, bird’s nest spruces, needle bushes and Spanish bayonet.

2. Trim Shrubbery Near the House
Overgrown shrubs, bushes and flowering plants look untidy, and they give burglars plenty of places to hide. They also prevent neighbors and anyone on the street from seeing suspicious behavior near your home. Protect your home when you keep shrubbery trimmed to lower than three feet tall all along the exterior of your home. Remember to trim plants away from the sides of your home too.

3. Use Noisy Ground Cover
Burglars try to be as quiet as possible, but noisy ground cover around your windows and doors alerts you to their every move. Pea gravel or other crunching stones do the trick, and you can find these burglar deterrents in colors that match your existing landscaping.

4. Install Short Privacy Fencing
Tall fences and tree barriers increase privacy, but they also obscure burglars. Install short fencing with an open design instead. If you already planted trees or shrubs, trim them so that the canopy starts at eight feet or higher off the ground.

5. Turn on the Lights
Most outdoor landscaping includes lighting of some sort. Opt for strategically placed motion-activated lighting to reduce your chances of being burglarized. Place these lights near all your doors and windows and along pathways. They frighten burglars away and warn you when someone walks near your home.

The crew at Mason & Mason encourages you to use the landscaping tricks to help prevent burglary in your home. We’d also love to find you the best homeowners insurance policy to meet your needs.

Telematics – Because Safety Matters

telematicsHow safe are your company’s drivers behind the wheel – and what can you do to help them make safer decisions on the road?

More and more auto fleet managers are using wireless telematic devices mounted inside company vehicles to monitor the speed, location, and braking information of their employees.

Businesses that have installed these systems have reduced their accident rate 15% to 20% by educating drivers, according to industry experts.

“We’ve always tried to individualize training, but in-vehicle information was hard to capture,” says Beth Lowrey of Mercury Associates, Inc., a fleet management consulting firm based in Fort Smith, AR. “Now, if we see somebody who has had a hard braking event or irregular shifting patterns, we can monitor this behavior in real time through technology and train accordingly.”

To help the cause, more sophisticated telematics systems are using in-vehicle cameras and active alarms that alert drivers immediately when they violate road safety standards “When a driver sees a light flashing, they will know that they have to take action,” explains Nancy Bendickson, senior consultant with Aon Global Risk Consulting (Minneapolis, MN).

Domique Bonte, Vice President and Director of Telematics of London-based ABI Research, believes this instant feedback empowers drivers by removing the sense that the telematics system is only there to monitor them. As Bonte sees it, “This way, a driver can improve himself without his boss or fleet manager having to do so. It’s important to reward drivers for good behavior. It can’t all be about punishing the bad ones.”

To learn how telematics can help keep your drivers safe behind the wheel – and reduce your Commercial Auto premiums – feel free to get in touch with us.

Alcohol Detection in Vehicles – Smart Technology?

Automakers and the U.S. Department of Transportation have extended a five-year partnership to develop alcohol detection equipment that can help prevent intoxicated people from driving a vehicle.

This non-invasive system will be able to determine when a driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%, which is the legal limit in all 50 states. The device will be unobtrusive to the driver and is activated with the ignition switch.

Currently, Nissan has developed a new concept car with multiple preventative features against drunk-driving, including a facial monitoring system, odor sensors and analysis of driving behavior.

And then there’s this…

According to National Highway Transportation Agency Administrator David Strickland, “In this age of innovation, smart technology might be the breakthrough we need to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and endangering the safety of others on our roads.”

By early 2015, the agency hopes to have a research vehicle that incorporates two technological approaches to measure BAC: touch based and breath based alcohol detection. Research using laboratory-scale prototypes is underway, while testing on-road prototype devices is expected within the next few years.

What do you think of this new technology? Sound off on our facebook page! We’d love to hear how you feel about these alcohol detection measures.

As always, if you have questions about your auto insurance, we stand ready to help. Just give us a call.

 

It’s a Crane… It’s a Truck…

craneIf your business use several types of vehicles, it’s important that you classify them properly for insurance coverage purposes. Either of two policies might apply, depending on vehicle classification and whether the policy defines the vehicle as “mobile equipment” or as an “auto.”

As you might expect, Commercial Auto insurance covers your autos, while your General Liability Package policy covers mobile equipment.

It’s clear that bulldozers and pickups are autos. However, when it comes to mobile cranes and other types of self-propelled equipment, the waters get a bit muddier – and if you attach a crane or drilling rig to a pickup or flatbed truck permanently things can get even trickier.

Why should you care? Two words: coverage and cost. Depending on the policy under which the vehicle falls, coverage might vary in both specifics and the amount available to pay claims. Because the two types of policies rate coverage differently, the premium will change. There’s one mistake you definitely want to avoid. In the confusion, make sure you don’t wind up paying for a single vehicle under both policies!

However, there’s a silver lining in this potential dark cloud. The specialists at our agency can review your list of vehicles and check the vehicle classification, assigning each its proper policy, without charging you twice. It’s our job to get things right. If you’re unsure whether your current coverage is treating your trucks as cranes, or the other way around, just give us a call. We’re here to serve you.

 

Employee Lawsuits – Curb Your Liability

employee lawsuitsDisgruntled workers can sue your business at any time – and even if you win, you’ll be out time, money, and energy defending yourself from employee lawsuits.

The first step in reducing this risk is to ensure that every hire is “clean”, and made purely on the basis of job requirements. The Americans with Disabilities Act has very strict rules about what employers can and cannot ask during the hiring process.

To help the cause, industrial relationship experts recommend these guidelines:

    • Avoid discriminatory language when advertising job opportunities. For instance, an advertisement stating “young” or “recent grad” might discriminate against older job applicants, while “’salesman” implies discrimination based on gender.
    • Have a specific job description that gives the essential functions and abilities of the job.
    • Use a standardized interview form that asks all applicants the same questions – which must be related to the job.
    • Don’t ask applicants questions that might identify their membership in a protected class such as age, religion, or national origin, unless it’s essential to the job (For example, a parochial school can ask about the religion of a potential teacher, but not a maintenance worker).
    • Never ask whether an applicant is married, pregnant, has children, or is planning to do so.
    • Ask only questions related to the applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions, not personal items such as past history as such as drug addiction.
    • If an applicant is otherwise fit for a position, don’t refuse to hire him or her based on presumed susceptibility to injury. You can, however, set bona fide physical criteria required by a job, such as the ability to lift a certain weight.

Although these “ounce of prevention” tips can help curb hiring-related discrimination claims, your business also may need a comprehensive Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy to protect against employee lawsuits.

For more information, just give us a call. We’re in the business of protecting you.