Who Insures Interior Improvements at Your Leased Office or Building?

If you lease a building or office for your business and make improvements to the space - such as remodeling the interior - it is a good idea to review your business insurance coverage.

Generally, if you've made any after-the-facts alterations, it's up to you, not the property owner or landlord, to insure them.

For example, let's say you've leased space for your beauty salon, retail business or medical office and you install new sinks, counters and shelving. You would need to insure those items.

In the insurance industry, we call these changes improvements and betterments. Essentially, it means that you're responsible in a leased space for insuring any alterations you have made, such as flooring, light fixtures, wall coverings, wiring, plumbing, cabinets, shelving or anything else that is attached to the ceiling, walls or floors.

Because these improvements might be essential to your business operations, it's important to understand who is responsible for replacing them if they become damaged. If you do not update your business insurance to cover these improvements, you could be underinsured and without the means to fully repair or replace the improvements, if a covered loss occurs.

With an ERIE Insurance policy, the improvements and betterments are part of business personal property coverage.

For more information,  get in touch with your local ERIE agent.

Do the Hustle: What You Should Know about the Rise of the Gig Worker

There's an exciting career revolution taking place - say hello to the "gig economy" (AKA, the side hustle), a booming new job market character by workers who call their own shots, set their own schedules and control their own destinies.

According to the Chicago Tribune reports, "There's no hard data yet on the size of this labor force. Some say it represents less than 10 percent of the domestic workforce but is growing rapidly, while other studies say it makes up nearly 25 percent. The U.S. Department of Labor is conducting a study to determine its size."

No doubt, it's a trend that is on the rise. That - of course - got us thinking: What do insurance needs look like in the gig economy?

  • The Gig Gap: For decades, having a job meant being an employee of a company - often for life. Today, it's a different story. Many people are a part of the "gig" economy. Upsides like freedom and flexibility attract people to this work. Yet there are downsides like hustling to find jobs and managing a fluctuating income. Another lesser known one is not having enough - or even any - business coverage. Fortunately, there are easy ways to fix that.
  • You're Invited: Remember the "exchange chain letters?" If you sent a single kitchen towel to the first person on a typewritten list and then mailed the letter to six of my friends, you'd receive the bounty of 36 kitchen towels. These days, invitations continue, but the requests aren't coming through the U.S. Postal System 0 they're coming via email, text and more often than not, social media.
  • How to Cash in on the Gig Economy: Whether you're a new graduate looking for a job, a retiree looking for some extra cash or a stay-at-home parent hoping to grow your nest egg, there are many advantages to joining the gig economy. Here are a few.
  • [INFOGRAPHIC] Evolution of the Gig Economy: Gig economy. Side Hustle. Welcome to the 21st Century workforce. Check out a few ways some of the most popular side gigs have evolved over time.

Ask ERIE: When Should I Add my New Teen Driver to my Auto Policy?

ERIE requires new teen drivers to be added to a parent or guardian's auto policy or take out their own policy once they get their license. If your teen driver only has a learner's permit, he or she is automatically covered under your policy - so no need to touch base with your agent just yet.

ADD TO MY POLICY OR GET THEIR OWN?

Deciding whether to add newly licensed drivers to your existing auto policy or have them take out their own policy comes down to the car they're using.

If they're using your car, they will be covered under your policy the same way you are. This means they get policy benefits like Feature 15, which never allows your policy to be surcharged for an at-fault accident after your auto policy has been in force for 15 years. The only things your teen driver won't have are certain rights like the ability to modify deductibles and other coverages - those are reserved for the main policyholder.

You'll want to take out a policy in your teen driver's name if he or she holds the car title. If you buy your teen driver a car and you hold the title, you can still add the young driver to your policy. This is usually a less expensive option since your teen benefits from your driving record.

No matter how you choose to insure your teen driver, it is important to do it as soon as he or she is licensed. Every driver in your house needs protection - and that's especially true with inexperienced teen drivers. ERIE also aims to assess a fair and accurate premium based on all the drivers in your house, and that's impossible to do when drivers aren't properly disclosed.

If a new teen driver isn't added to a policy and gets in an accident, ERIE typically covers the claim. However, you may be charged back premium from the time when the teen driver became licensed and should have been added to the policy up to the present time.

KEEPING COSTS IN CHECK

Teen drivers are typically more expensive to insure because they lack a solid driving record and get into more accidents on average than more experienced drivers. That said, there are a few ways to keep car premiums for new teen drivers under control.

They include:

  • Choosing ERIE Rate Lock: With this optional feature, your low, locked-in premium will never change - even if you submit a claim - until you add or remove a vehicle or driver, or change your primary residence.
  • Changing your deductibles: You can choose to have different collision and comprehensive deductibles for your teen driver than for yourself under the same policy. Choosing a higher deductible typically lowers the premium.
  • Taking an accident prevention course: ERIE offers a discount to teen drivers who complete certain accident prevention programs. Many states only let insurers offer discounts for certain approved programs, so talk with your ERIE agent before enrolling your teen in a course to make sure it is discount eligible.
  • Maintaining a clean driving record: ERIE has a youthful driver discount for teens who maintain a clean driving record and who meet a few other requirements. We can tell you more about it!

As a parent or guardian, you play a big role in helping your teen drive responsibly. Take the time to talk with your teen about the importance of driving safely and avoiding distracted driving.

Will Self-Driving Cars Eliminate Distracted Driving? Most People Think So, Says New National Survey

If you had a self-driving car, how much attention do you really think you'd need to pay to the road?

That's what we wanted to find out when we asked nearly 3,000 licensed U.S. drivers in a new national survey to coincide with Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The survey, commissioned by ERIE Insurance and conducted online by Harris Poll, finds almost 6 in 10 (59 percent) think that self-driving cars will eliminate the problem of distracted driving.

We're still years away from a future where self-driving cars are the norm. But that hasn't stopped these survey respondents from making plans for what they'd do with their own downtime behind the wheel of a self-driving car.

SURVEY SAYS: NAP

Sleeping promises to be a popular pastime in self-driving cars. Roughly half of licensed drivers (51 percent) say one of the biggest advantages of self-driving cars would be the ability to go longer distances without worrying about being drowsy while driving. About one-fifth of licensed drivers (19 percent) say they'd sleep or nap while operating a self-driving car.

How else would people spend extra time? Other survey responses include:

  • Texting (34 percent)
  • Checking and sending emails (34 percent)
  • Reading (27 percent)
  • Playing video games (11 percent)
  • Meditating (10 percent)

A small percentage admitted they'd use their commutes to - ahem - get a little cozy. Seven percent of licensed drivers say they would engage in "romantic activities" while operating a self-driving car, with men almost four times more likely to do this than women (11 percent vs. 3 percent, respectively).

When asked to write in what they would do, a few others said they would pray.

One honest driver admitted he'd be "a nervous wreck."

SLOW YOUR ROLL

We can daydream all we'd like, but the reality is a future with totally autonomous vehicles is likely a long way off.

"The term 'self-driving car' suggests I can hop in my car, enter a destination and have it take me from point A to point B. But that car doesn't exist yet," said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Currently, driving distracted has stark consequences. In 2013, ERIE Insurance analyzed police data found that daydreaming was the most fatal distracted driving behavior behind the wheel. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error is a factor in 94 percent of car crashes.

"While we believe that fully autonomous vehicles will greatly reduce that number, it's hard to predict how soon they will be widely available," said Cody Cook, ERIE Insurance vice president and product manager of ERIE's auto department. "Current technology is going a long way to keep us safer on the road, but the last thing we want is for people to become over-confident as this technology continues to evolve. Unfortunately, our survey finds that many people are getting ahead of themselves - making plans for what they'll do in the car instead of paying attention to the road."

RUSH HOUR HAPPY HOUR?

The prospect of self-driving cars also raises some interesting questions about a serious topic: Driving under the influence. It's hard to speculate how current drinking and driving laws would change (or not change). Still, 13 percent of our survey respondents believe you wouldn't get cited for DUI/ DWI if you have a few drinks and then operate a self-driving car.

One-third (33 percent) believe that one of the biggest advantages of self-driving cars will be the ability to get home safely if under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

However, a much smaller percentage of those 21+ (5 percent) admit that they would drink alcoholic beverages while operating a self-driving car.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

What are we calling this new class of vehicles, anyway? "Self-driving" or "autonomous" are the current front-runners. But those terms largely ignore the fact that car operators may still need to pay attention to the road and be ready to take control.

So, we posed the question to our survey respondents: What else should we be calling these new vehicles?

Many of the suggestions revealed drivers' fears about the safety of self-driving cars. Responses included:

  • "Boy are you lazy"
  • "Potential disaster car"
  • "Bad Science car"
  • "Take your chances car"
  • "Accidents waiting to happen car"

"While some of the responses may have been written in jest or taken on a lighthearted tone, if our survey gets people talking about a serious issues like distracted driving, it will have served its purpose," said Cody. "We hope people will remember that despite technological advances, it's still critical - for now, anyway - to keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on what you are doing."

Methodology: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of ERIE Insurance from February 28 - March 2, 2017, among 2,932 U.S. licensed drivers ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Leah Knapp at ERIE Insurance.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a First Time Renter: 7 Things to Help You and Your Pet Have a Paw-some Move!

Meow!....Meow!....Meow!

That's how my feisty, food - and attention-loving cat Olivia wakes me up every morning for her breakfast...at 6a.m. Good thing I never bothered buying an actual alarm.

Early mornings aside, having a pet to come home to and keep me company is really nice, especially since I live alone. In fact, finding a pet-friendly place was one of my must-haves when I was looking for a place.

Before I moved her in, however, I had to make sure I had everything I needed to make her feel right at home. Besides forgetting to buy a kitty litter scooper initially (only mildly necessary), everything went off without a hitch.

Here are the seven things that I kept in mind before, during and after moving my kitty in.

  1. Get the okay. Your obvious first step is to clear your potential pet with your landlord well before signing a lease. Since my building allows me to have up to two cats at no extra charges, I just notified my landlord of my intent to get one.
  2. Get the essentials. On the drive to pick up Olivia, I stopped for some supplies. Friends and family had given me a litter box and bowls for food and water. All I needed to get was some food and kitty litter. It's a good idea to also pick up things like flea treatment, hair ball remedy, a brush and nail clippers (if you're comfortable or used to trimming claws yourself) so these things are on hand. You might also consider one of those calming collars that can help reduce a pet's anxiety as they adjust to a new place.
  3. Make her comfy. To help her settle into her new home, I also picked up a kitty bed, treats and toys. Ironically enough, her favorite toy is one that I made myself and didn't cost a dime. (Who'd have thought an old golf putter and some yarn would come in handy?)
  4. Safety first. Before I drove anywhere with my feisty feline, I made sure I had a safe way to transport her. For both their safety and yours, pets should be secured anytime you take them in your vehicle.
  5. Update her info. Let your vet know that you've got a pet on the premises. It's also a good time to update your furball's microchip, if he or she has one. Olivia does not - so I just let her vet know she'd moved from my parents house to mine.
  6. Give her time. Every pet is different, so let them settle in on their terms. Olivia had lived with my parents for almost 12 years - so it was no surprise that a new space was scary for her. She spent the first afternoon hiding under a chair. Now, she's queen of the castle.
  7. Socialize thoughtfully. This is more for those who already have a pet and are introducing a new one. be aware that your furry friends might not take to each other right away. Make sure there's enough space to split them up until they get used to each other, if necessary.

Taking these steps will help you and your furry friend to have a positive experience during their "move-in-day" and for many days to come.

 

Today's insurance tips and ideas brought to you by ERIE Insurance.

 

What Happens if my Neighbor's Tree Falls in my Yard?

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Trees can be tricky, but for the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard. So if your neighbor's tree falls in your yard, your homeowners insurance would typically help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused, after your deductible.

The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbors yard, your neighbor should file a claim with his or her insurance company.

In most cases, neighbors are able to work things out without too much trouble. If there's ever an issue, you can rely on your claims adjuster to help straighten everything out.

 


The Claims Process

If a tree falls on your house, make sure to take some photos. Then call your claims adjuster, who will evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowners coverage comes into play. It's recommended that you call your claims adjuster before you contract to have the tree removed.

Sometimes trees fall on cars. If it's not safe or possible to remove the tree from the car yourself, you should call a professional to remove it. (Again, talk to a claims adjuster first and take a few photos of the fallen tree on your car.) Depending on the damage, both your homeowners and the optional comprehensive coverage you may have under your auto policy could provide coverage for the loss. 

 

Preventing Tree Damage

Preventative measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble.

"A homeowner should be concerned about the health of their trees," says Gary Sullivan, Vice President of Property Subrogation Claims at ERIE. "The best thing to do is to regularly have large trees trimmed." (The Tree Care Industry Association lists accredited tree care professionals.)

To learn more and to ensure you have the right coverage for your home, contact an ERIE Insurance Agent in your community - like us! 

 

Today's insurance tips and ideas brought to you by ERIE Insurance.

Stuff to Store? Read These Self-Storage Tips

If you're like me, you sometimes look around and wonder, "How did I accumulate all this stuff?!"

Thankfully, we're not alone. Nearly 11 million households have items in a storage unit. That represents a 65 percent increase from 10 years ago.

Whether you're about to get married and combine households, a parent looking to free up space or a retiree looking to downsize, a storage unit may be just what you need. But before you start throwing things in boxes to haul off to your local storage facility, consider these self-storage tips.

  • Is the facility clean? Before you store your belongings in a storage unit, make sure that it is well-maintained. Ask if routine cleaning is performed on empty units. Also ask to see an empty unit to make sure it is mold and dust free.
  • Is it climate-controlled? Based on where you live, you may want to consider a climate-controlled facility. Many items are susceptible to pests and extreme temperatures. For example, leather, wood, wicker, electronics, musical instruments and photographs could be severely damaged if exposed to humidity or frigid cold. Keep in mind that some items should never be put in a storage unit including medications and medical supplies; combustible, flammable, hazardous or toxic chemicals; and weapons, ammunition or construction equipment. Many facilities have rules governing acceptable items. Use common sense when deciding what to store.
  • Is it accessible? Does the storage area offer drive-up access? Or will you be lugging boxes up flights of stairs? Depending on what you're storing, that information could be very important. Also, take a look at when and how often you'll need to access your items. Some facilities provide access only during certain hours of the day and limited access on weekends. If you'll be making regular visits to retrieve items, it's best to make sure you have easy access.
  • Is it safe? One of the most important self-storage tips is to consider the safety of your unit and the facility as a whole. In addition to a lock - which you should always have on your unit - some facilities offer extra security like video surveillance or password-protected gates.

Another way to make sure your itemsare protected is to insure them. Although most homeowners policy cover personal property in a storage unit, it is good to contact someone to make sure you have appropriate coverage. This is especially important if you have pricey items like jewelry and artwork that may need to be covered separately with an inland marine policy.

 

 

Today's insurance tips and ideas brought to you by ERIE Insurance.

On the Horizon: Better Seat Belts for Seniors

One of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make is to buckle up. Now, researchers want to make the standard seat belt even safer for seniors who account for tens of millions of drivers in the United States.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, close to 600 older adults are injured each day in car crashes. Common life-threatening injuries include cracked ribs and broken pelvises. If the seat belt is positioned incorrectly around the neck or under the arm of an older driver, it can cause injuries and even fatalities.

Better Safety Solutions

Researchers at Ohio State University are collaborating with automakers to investigate other options to help reduce severe injuries in drivers 65 and older. Just one includes an inflatable seat belt. The project is also using simulations and smaller crash test dummies to help design better protection for older drivers.

Inflatable seat belts are in the back seats in some Ford, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz models. Ford introduced inflatable seat belt technology in 2011 saying it would enhance safety for backseat passengers like young children.

In addition to inflatable seat belts, future technology may offer a personalized car key fob to activate a customized safety system within each vehicle. The key fob could adjust a seat belt based on a driver's individual physiology. To learn more, check out the source article on Reuters for more information.

 

Today's insurance tips and ideas brought to you by ERIE Insurance.

 

What Should I Do if I Start Hydroplaning?

If you can't avoid traveling on wet roads altogether, it's best to drive slow and steady. But what should you do if you start hydroplaning anyway?

The first thing to do is relax, as frantic movements will only make your situation worse. As you feel your car lose contact with the road, calmly but firmly grip the steering wheel with both hands. Don't slam on the breaks or make dramatic motions with the steering wheel - these actions will jeopardize your control of the car.

Instead, aim the nose of your vehicle forward and calmly make slight adjustments with the steering wheel to keep your vehicle going in the right direction. Then take your foot off the gas and allow your car to slow down naturally as you continue to navigate. Resist the urge to slam on the brakes.

But what if you are going to hit something?

If you're headed toward another car, tree or median, then you may be forced to apply the brakes. How should you apply the brakes depends on the car you drive.

If your car is equipped with regular brakes, pump them regularly and lightly as you continue to steer in the direction you want to go. If your car has anti-lock brakes, you should brake as normal by applying steady pressure to the brakes. Just try not to slam on the brakes. The process for braking when you're hydroplaning is actually very similar to braking when you are skidding on ice.

Hydroplaning is scary, but you truly can handle it with extra precaution and a little knowledge.

 

Today's insurance tips and ideas brought to you by ERIE Insurance.

 

Cyber Crimes Still Common - AND Expensive

We've reported before on how common - and how expensive - identity theft can be. Sadly, it appears that this is still the case.

Research from Hartford Steam Boiler shows that 37 percent of Americans' accounts were hacked in a recent year. That's a surprising statistic - and it wasn't the only shock contained in the report. Other ones included:

  • Cyber crimes cost you. Victims of cyber crimes nearly always spent money to recover from an attack. The main costs were to restore data and purchase software. In 23 percent of these cases, people spent between $1,000 and $5,000 per incident.
  • Young people are affected the most. Almost half of those who experienced a cyber attack (42 percent) were between 18 and 24. Another 34 percent were between 55 and 69, while 22 percent were older than 70.
  • Cyber extortion is on the rise. A cyber extortion threat or demand was experienced by 11 percent of respondents. More than half (53 percent) of them refused to pay, although some of them paid multiple times - 15 percent of them four or more times.

Experts warn that these kinds of crimes will likely only grow as a result of the many devices Americans use on a regular basis. While there are many steps you can take to prevent identity theft, no measure is 100 percent fullproof. That's why it's worth looking into identity recovery coverage. It will help you undo identity theft damage and reimburse you for covered losses like lost wages, administrative expenses and even some legal fees. It protects everyone in your household, including your children. You would be surprised how affordable this coverage can be!

 

Today's insurance tips and ideas brought to you by ERIE Insurance.