10 ESSENTIAL TIPS For Safer Winter Driving

1. Winterize your vehicle – Check your battery, front and rear defrosters, fill up the washer fluid and antifreeze, inflate your tires to the correct pressure, and keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid frozen fuel lines.

2. Clear your windshield – Never pour hot water over the windows to melt the ice and snow. This can shatter the windshield. You can create your own deicing solution by combining two parts isopropyl alcohol and one part water in a spray bottle. Keep the spray bottle in your house. Be sure to use a plastic scraper to avoid scratching the glass and use the front and rear defrosters to melt the ice. Avoid using your windshield wipers until after all the ice and snow have been removed.

3. Don’t just clear your windshield – Don’t forget to clear all of the other windows, as well as the roof, hood, mirrors, headlights and tail lights, license plates and the exhaust pipe. This will prevent accumulated ice and snow from becoming an airborne hazard for other drivers.

4. Keep a survival kit in the car – Blankets, water-proof boots and gloves, hats, and any necessary medications should be carried in the car. Keep a small shovel, jumper cables, and something that could be used for traction (e.g. cat litter, sand, etc.) in the car as well.

5. Test your limits in a safe environment – Take your car to a familiar, empty parking lot near your home after a rain, snow or ice storm. Practice emergency stops and turning at a safe speed. Be sure and watch out for light posts, curbs and parking barriers to avoid any damage to your vehicle.

6. Warm up the car the right way – To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never attempt to warm up your car in an enclosed area. Even when outside, be sure to clear your exhaust pipe before running your car.

7. Pump your brakes at the right time – If your vehicle is equipped with an Antilock Braking System (ABS), you should depress the brake pedal completely and keep it depressed. The ABS will rapidly pump the brakes for you in most situations if at least one wheel is still turning. If all four wheels have stopped turning and the vehicle is still sliding on ice, you should pump your brakes as the ABS has failed.

8. Drive in the existing tracks – To help traction, try to stay within the pathway already dug by other vehicles’ wheels. If you end up stuck, remember to keep your wheels as straight as possible and don’t just continue spinning your tires. Spread sand or cat litter around your tires and along the path you plan on taking. In a pinch, you can also use your floor mats for traction.

9. Don’t turn while braking or accelerating – In rain, snow and ice, attempt to slow down before a turn and accelerate slowly after the wheel has already turned.

10. Catch a skid – If you do start skidding, stay calm! Don’t slam on the brakes, don’t hit the gas pedal. Turn your wheel smoothly in the direction that you intend to travel. You should be able to regain control of the vehicle once it has slowed enough to regain traction. Don’t turn the wheel too much, a little goes a long way and you don’t want to be pointed in a dangerous direction if traction returns suddenly.

Of course the best way to avoid an accident is to stay off of the road in inclement weather if possible. If you do have an accident, make sure to contact the claims department. You can find a list of claims numbers here.

Stay Safe this winter!

NC REAL ID

As you know, insurance and the DMV go hand-in-hand. Proof of liability insurance is required to do a number of things at the DMV, including obtaining a driver’s license or registering a vehicle. Because what we do is so often tied into the reasons that you go to the DMV, we are trying to get the word out about a new initiative – the NC REAL ID – that you can take care of the next time you visit the DMV.

Beginning in October of 2020, federal agencies will start enforcing tougher security standards at airport check-ins, federal buildings, military installations and nuclear sites. The federal identification standard is changing, and a state-issued driver’s license will no longer be sufficient for those who want to fly, enter a federal building like a courthouse, or visit a military base.

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to recommendations from the 9/11 Commission following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The NC REAL ID is a REAL ID Act-compliant driver’s license that is just like a traditional license or ID but has a gold star at the top. Driver’s licenses and IDs without a gold star are noted “Not for Federal Identification.”

The NC REAL ID is completely optional. You will not need an NC REAL ID driver’s license or identification card to do any of the following:

Drive; Vote; Apply for or receive federal benefits (e.g., Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, etc.); Enter a federal facility that does not require an ID (e.g., a post office); Access a hospital or receive life-saving services; Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations (e.g., serve on a federal jury, testify in federal court, etc.).

An NC REAL ID, however, will be helpful for anyone who frequently:

Boards a commercial airplane; Visits nuclear sites; Visits military bases; Visits federal courthouses, federal prisons or other federal facilities.

An individual without an NC REAL ID or U.S. passport will still be able to board flights or make visits to the facilities mentioned above, but they will have to provide additional documentation with their traditional license or ID.

The cost of the REAL ID is the same as a normal renewal if obtained within six months of your current license expiration. If you are obtaining the REAL ID outside of the renewal period, the cost is the same as a duplicate ($13). A new photo will be taken, but no tests are required.

Even though the federal law is not effective until Oct. 1, 2020, anyone can get an NC REAL ID now. Simply bring the following documents (no photocopies) to a driver’s license office:

One (1) proof of identity/date of birth​: certified birth certificate or unexpired U.S. passport

One (1) proof of full Social Security Number: Social Security card, W-2 or 1099

Two (2) proofs of current physical address: driver license, vehicle registration card, voter registration card, utility bill, cable bill, bank statement

Proof of name change (if applicable): certified marriage license, divorce decree and/or court document indicating the name change (number of documents depend on number of name changes) Additional documents, as well as more information on the initiative, are available at NCREALID.gov

Sample REAL ID with the gold star

Common Insurance Claim Issues

Each client is different and has different needs for their protection and budget. The worst part of my job is explaining at the time of a claim that you don’t have a coverage for something that is important to you!  So please review and ask any questions before a claim arises. After a claim, it is too late to add or adjust coverage for that loss.

Below are some of the most common insurance claim issues.

Auto policy:

  • Not having enough liability limits. The state of NC only requires $30,000 per person and $60,000 each accident and $25,000 property damage. These limits can be used up quickly and if you are in a serious claim the other party can sue you personally. You want to make sure you have enough coverage to protect your assets and even consider a personal umbrella policy.
  • Not being aware that your deductible applies for a glass claim. If you carry a $500 deductible for comprehensive, most windshields will be less than that. To have full glass coverage you want to have a $0 deductible.
  • Not listing all drivers on the policy. A claim can be denied due to an unlisted driver or any other material misrepresentation. It is important to make sure all drivers are listed on your policy.
  • Not having optional coverage’s such as medical payments, rental or towing coverage.

 

Click here for an easy to read and understand explanation of the auto policy and what each coverage means provided by the NC Department of Insurance.

Home policy:

  • Not having a flood policy to cover a flood as your home policy excludes floods.
  • Not being aware that certain items have limits on the amount of coverage provided and would need to be scheduled to get higher limits. Items such as jewelry, furs, cameras, musical instruments, silverware, fine arts, and golfer’s equipment.
  • Not having certain optional endorsements on your policy like water back up or special computer coverage. You can read a list of the most common policy endorsement by clicking here.
  • Not having an inventory of your personal belongings in the event of a claim. Having an inventory will ensure you have the proper amount of coverage. Click here for a free app to document and track your items which will be very helpful at the time of a claim.

 

Click here for an easy to read and understand explanation of the home policy and what each coverage means provided by the NC Department of Insurance.

Click here to visit our agency customer service center to view your insurance policies, your coverage limits, print insurance ID cards, claims and payment phone numbers, update your contact information, download documents, and more.

If you would like to review your policy or make any changes to your coverage, please contact us today.

Hurricane Preparation Tips

Preparing for the storm:

• Designate an out-of-area contact that your family members can call in case you are separated.
• Prepare an emergency kit in a waterproof container or bag. Include your insurance documents, other important documents (e.g. birth certificates and vehicle registrations), phone chargers and prescription bottles. Keep this kit with you. 
• If there is time, board up windows and place sandbags around your property.
• Check your home for anything that may fly or be moved by the extremely high winds and either secure it or bring it inside.
• If possible, move any cars, RVs, boats, or other vehicles to a secure area away from weak trees, limbs or areas that could flood.
• Due to potential power outages from downed trees and power surges, stock up on clean water, non-perishable food, extra batteries and emergency backup chargers for mobile devices. If you have infant children, remember to include diapers, baby wipes and formula. Don’t forget to get food for your pets.
• Back up any important computer files and move computers above potential flooding areas of your home or office.
If you’re forced to evacuate:
• Turn off breaker boxes prior to evacuating: This will help prevent electrical surges from destroying your appliances. Also, in the event of water infiltration, it prevents shorts that can lead to fires.
• Never drive through standing water. Underlying currents could carry your vehicle away or trap you in rising floodwater. Find an alternate route. Know your evacuation route and follow the direction of your state and local officials.

After the storm:

• To file a claim, visit our customer service page here to find your policy number and a list of our carriers and their direct claim numbers.

Claims service is available 24/7.

These preparation tips courtesy of National General Insurance.

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Dispelling Myths About North Carolina Homeowners Insurance

Courtesy of the Insurance Federation of North Carolina, here are some commonly perceived myths about homeowners insurance in North Carolina, as well as the facts to dispel those myths.

 

MYTH: North Carolina coastal homeowners pay among the highest insurance rates in the country.

FACT: North Carolina’s average annual coastal homeowners insurance rate is the lowest in coastal states from North Carolina to Texas. [Source: Property Insurance Plans Service Office (PIPSO)]

 

MYTH: North Carolina homeowners insurance companies are highly profitable.

FACT: Property insurance requires a long-term investment by insurers, with profits needed in most years to offset the inevitable catastrophic losses. Over the last 25 years, North Carolina’s homeowners insurers have experienced a negative cumulative return on net worth (-2.3%). [Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)]

 

MYTH: Current “consent to rate” rules don’t adequately protect the consumer.

FACT: Consumers always have the freedom to evaluate their options and select the best combination of coverage, service and price for their individual needs.

Consent to rate is a transparent and necessary byproduct of North Carolina’s unique regulatory system, which has been in effect for over 35 years. Unlike every other state in the country, North Carolina’s rates are set using a process that collectively sets AVERAGE RATES through the Rate Bureau.

Since the Rate Bureau’s average rates ultimately serve as the maximum rate for each consumer, rating flexibility is necessary to ensure market availability and achieve adequate rates for above average risks. State law permits insurance companies to charge higher than average rates for some lines of insurance, provided the consumer consents to the higher rate.

 

MYTH: North Carolina has a low risk of hurricane damage.

FACT: Since 1960, three of the most hurricane-prone counties in the country are in North Carolina (Carteret, Dare and Hyde). The state has more than $163 billion in insured values along its coast.

In addition to population growth, the average claim severity has increased more than 155% over the past 15 years. [Source: U.S. Census Bureau; AIR Worldwide (AIR) – a respected provider of risk modeling software and consulting services used throughout the country; Fast Track Monitoring System]

 

MYTH: Catastrophe models are used by insurance companies to justify rate increases.

FACT: Computer simulated models help provide loss predictability by combining historical losses with current demographic, building, scientific and financial data to project future losses for a certain geographic area.

Catastrophe models do not calculate rates. They are simply one component that helps insurers predict and evaluate probable losses for particular concentrations of risks. Adequate rates are essential to sustaining a viable insurance market in North Carolina. [Sources: NAIC, U.S. Census Bureau, AIR]

“WHY HAVE MY INSURANCE BILLS GONE UP?”

Click the thumbnail for a larger view of some facts from our friends at Safeco

UPDATE effective April 1, 2018: The North Carolina Reinsurance Facility surcharge is increasing again from 11.45% to 13.24% due to higher sustained losses in the Reinsurance Facility. Per state law, the surcharge is combined with BI/PD premiums and charged to all policyholders with all companies across the state.

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“Why have my insurance bills gone up?”

It’s one of the most common questions we get asked when clients receive their renewal offers and see that their premiums have risen despite not having made any changes to their coverage. This can be due to any number of reasons – the easiest of which to comprehend are claims for accidents, or speeding tickets that may have been acquired during the previous year.

However, a common culprit for premium increases that most people don’t know about is something called a “recoupment charge,” which may appear on your policy labeled as “NCRF Clean Risk Allocation.” It can sound complicated but we’ll explain it to you as best we can.

As you probably know, North Carolina requires every driver to carry liability insurance, no matter how high of a risk they may be to insure. Because everyone needs coverage by law, insurance companies are not permitted to turn away high risk drivers who are seeking the required coverage. To prevent any one company from taking on too much risk, in 1973 the North Carolina Reinsurance Facility (NCRF) was created to ensure that all eligible drivers are able to purchase a policy.

The goal of the NCRF is to distribute losses proportionally across all member companies to offset the high-risk policies that some companies may take on. Insurance companies may pass, or cede, certain high risk policies to the NCRF to avoid the potential losses. The amount of state drivers covered by the NCRF can hover around 25 percent, and when many of those drivers prove to be the risks they were thought to be, the NCRF loses money. Because the NCRF typically operates at a deficit each year, the “recoupment charge” was created by the North Carolina Rate Bureau (NCRB) to help balance this out. This charge is added to all North Carolina auto policies with all companies. It increased from 4 percent to 9 percent in October 2016, and was again increased to 11 percent on April 1, 2017.

How is this rate calculated? Again, there a number of factors. One of the main reasons is inflation. The cost to repair vehicles damaged in accidents has increased dramatically, while medical costs have risen for accident injury victims. The population continues to grow in North Carolina, and with more people comes more accidents and claims.

Here are some facts from the NCRB:

-In 2015, the most recent year available, fatalities increased 8.1 percent from 2014, injuries increased 11.8 percent and reported crashes were up 11.1 percent.

-Mileage driven in 2015 was up 13 percent from the average of the preceding five years.

-Inflation in 2016 has increased vehicle repair costs by 2.4 percent and total medical care costs by 3.8 percent.

-The NCDMV estimates that there were 7 percent more crashes in 2015 due to distracted driving and 13.2 percent more alcohol related crashes.

All of these factors are considered when there is a rate increase, and clients will start to see those rate increases reflected in the premiums as renewal dates come around.

Here at Brown-Phillips, we’ll certainly do anything we can to help you offset these increases by finding other ways to reduce your premium. Are you interested in reducing your coverage or raising your deductible? Are you able to pay your premium in full as opposed to installments? Would you like to bundle the policy with a homeowner’s or renter’s policy? Sometimes these things can enact discounts that could help counteract the rising costs.

On the bright side, it’s also key to note that in spite of these changes, North Carolina drivers still enjoy the fourth-lowest auto insurance rates in the entire country. Thanks again for the chance to review and service your insurance needs.

SAFETY TIPS FOR HALLOWEEN

Whether your customers are chaperoning little ghouls and goblins around the neighborhood, hosting trick-or-treaters or going to a costume party, we’ve put together some tips to ensure the biggest risk they’ll face is a candy-induced cavity.

 

Safety tips for trick-or-treating

Don’t let your ghosts be invisible – Ensure your kids are visible while trick-or-treating by creatively decorating their costume and candy bags with reflective tape or stickers. Glow sticks and flashlights (with new batteries) will also make children more visible to drivers.

Hospital visits are horrifying – Be sure to avoid masks that obstruct vision and check that costumes fit correctly. Stick to well-lit streets and never cut through dark yards or alleys. This can prevent serious injuries from trip and falls.

It’s ghastly going alone – Until they reach the age of 12, children should be accompanied by a responsible adult. Even after that, they should not trick-or-treat alone. They should only go to houses with the front-porch lights on. Let them know to never enter a house or car to get a treat.

Plan your haunting beforehand – For children that are old enough to trick-or-treat alone, plan an acceptable route and agree on a time they should return before they leave the house. If possible, they should also carry a cell phone so they can stay connected.

 

Making your home safe for Halloween

Get your sidewalk neat before they trick-or-treat – Walk the path from the street to your door and clear anything that trick-or-treaters could trip over or slip and injure themselves. This includes gardening equipment, hoses, toys, potted plants, lawn ornaments and even Halloween decorations that block the path to your front door.

Make your yard spooky, not dangerous – Be sure to clean up before candy-fueled children charge through your yard. Remove dead branches, sticks and acorns, rake up the leaves, fill in holes and trim your hedges to prevent any injuries.

A well-lit driveway can still be scary – There’s nothing scarier for a homeowner than seeing a masked trick-or-treater blindly stagger up your dark driveway. Help them out by turning on all of your exterior lights and lining your driveway and sidewalk with lights or luminaries. Never use any open flames, which could lead to disaster and injury. Instead, use LED tea lights or other decorative Halloween lights to prevent a fire. These should also be used in jack-o-lanterns in lieu of candles.

Keep your beasts in the dungeon – It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a vampire bat or a kitten as a pet, a constantly ringing doorbell can be too much excitement for your animal. To keep your pet from sprinting out of your open front door and possibly injuring someone, keep them confined to another room in the house.

 

Safe driving tips for Halloween

No speed demons allowed – If you are driving through a residential area, drive as slow as possible. Avoid passing stopped vehicles in case they are dropping off children. You should also be especially cautious when entering and exiting driveways.

The horrors of distraction – On Halloween, neighborhoods are filled with children unexpectedly darting out into the street. Put away your cell phone and don’t look away from the road to ensure you don’t injure any trick-or-treaters. You should also never drive while wearing a mask.

Turn signals aren’t terrifying – Communicate your intentions to pedestrians and other drivers by using your turn signals. If you’re dropping off trick-or-treaters, pull over and use your hazard lights.

Drinking on Halloween can be a nightmare – It doesn’t matter if you’re driving or walking, drinking on Halloween can be a deadly choice. The combination of alcohol and the increased number of people walking in the streets at night makes Halloween the most dangerous night of the year for pedestrians.

Regular Home Upkeep to Avoid Accidents

Your home should not put your safety at risk. Skipping home maintenance and necessary repairs can increase the likelihood that you or someone you care about may injure themselves on your property or in your home. Unintentional injuries can result from electrical shocks, cuts, fires and more in or around the home. How can a homeowner do their utmost to prevent such accidents?

Regular maintenance can help homeowners keep family members and guests safer on their property. Understand what to include as part of the routine maintenance tasks and repairs to reduce potential injury risk in and around a home.

Electrical Issues

Older homes may require extensive electrical work and replacing old wiring or a circuit breaker may be necessary to insure the safety of the electric system. However, new construction homes may also experience an electrical problem over the years and a minor shock is not the worst of the issues that may occur when an issue goes ignored. When purchasing a new home, a thorough inspection is important for finding any hidden issues like these before moving in. Flickering lights and outlets that are not working properly may be signs of a problem. It is important for homeowners to know which electrical problems they may be able to safely handle themselves and those that should be turned over to be addressed by a licensed electrician. Electrical shocks and electrical fires can be deadly.

Broken Windows

Windows may break and a homeowner may need to spend an hour or two to replace a broken window pane and remove broken glass. This will help prevent the likelihood that someone in the home will be injured by coming into contact with a sharp shard of glass. But this is not the only reason to repair a broken window. Other aspects of older windows, such as broken latches, may make it easy for an intruder to get inside a home. Address such problems as part of a home’s regular maintenance. Remember to wear long gloves and cover any exposed skin when repairing a window and dealing with broken glass.

Mowing and Landscaping

It is important to address the exterior as well as the interior of a home in order to prevent an accident. Mowing the lawn regularly, trimming back bushes and trees, raking and snow removal are all important aspects of regular home maintenance. Keeping paths clear of debris and addressing uneven steps or pathways can help a homeowner avoid experiencing a slip and fall on their own property.

Do a Walkthrough

Walk throughout the rooms and entryways of a home to make note of any areas that may pose a potential hazard. Those homes with elderly residents may require additional attention to reduce the potential of a fall, such as the installation of grab bars and non-skid pads in showers. Make repairs to warped wooden floors, loose floorboards and railings to reduce the possibility of an accident. For homes that may be visited by those with mobility issues, extra precautions with rugs and exposed wiring may need to be taken to prevent an injury. Performing a safety inventory of a home should take into account the needs of and potential risks posed to all occupants and visitors, such as elderly parents, young children and pets.

Important Update about Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane, may pose a serious threat to Florida and parts of the Southeast beginning this weekend. We wanted to quickly reach out to you and make sure that you and your family are up to date and fully prepared for any potential weather conditions that may strike your area.

Basic Preparedness Tips

  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
  • Take photos or a video of everything inside your home.
  • Stock up on water and non-perishable food items.
  • Prepare an emergency kit in a waterproof container or bag. Include your insurance documents, other important documents (e.g. birth certificates and vehicle registrations), flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, phone chargers and prescription bottles. Keep this kit with you.
  • Click here to access your insurance policy information and a list of all our carriers and their claims numbers. (Scroll to the bottom for the list)
  • Designate an out-of-area contact that your family members can call in case you are separated.
  • If there is time, board up windows and place sandbags around your property.
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan.
  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”

Preparing Your Home

  • Turn off breaker boxes prior to evacuating: This will help prevent electrical surges from destroying your appliances. Also, in the event of water infiltration, it prevents shorts that can lead to fires.
  • Never drive through standing water. Underlying currents could carry your vehicle away or trap you in rising floodwaters. Find an alternate route. Know your evacuation route and follow the direction of your state and local officials.
  • Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.

Hurricane Watch

Hurricane watch = conditions possible within the next 48 hrs.

Steps to take:

Hurricane Warning

Hurricane warning = conditions are expected within 36 hrs.

Steps to take:

  • Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

Next Steps

To see the full overview of recommended hurricane preparedness tips, visit ready.gov/hurricanes.

As always, you can count on us to be there to answer any coverage questions you may have!