3 tips for improving visibility when driving this winter

With harsher winter weather picking up in full swing these next few months here in Connecticut, staying safe on the roads is of utmost importance for drivers living here. Having poor visibility while on the road is a guaranteed way to reduce your safety while putting yourself and other motorists at risk. Having a clear view is the first step in preventing accidents on the road and protecting yourself as well as the passengers of your vehicle.

Below are 3 tips for improving visibility when driving this winter.


The majority of people only clear off about 60-70% of their windshield and that unfortunately leaves room for limited visibility while driving this winter. Make it a habit to clear off 100% of your windshield as well as the rest of your car as falling snow can endanger other drivers on the road. To start off, there are 2 quick ways you can speed up the process of clearing your vehicle’s windshield and windows every morning.

The first way to defrost your car’s windshield in less time is to heat up some water to a lukewarm temperature and pour it onto your car’s windows. This will cause the ice to melt and make scraping it away much easier. A good extra step is to fill up a jug of water with your morning shower so you don’t have to wait around for water to heat up prior to applying it to your car.

The second solution is to use a commercial de-icer or make your own using rubbing alcohol and a few drops of dish soap. This can also help speed up the process of removing ice and snow from your car in the morning when you’re in a rush. Spray the solution on any icy areas of your car’s windows and wait 60 seconds for it to take effect. Once it starts working it will be much easier to remove ice from your and save you time.

For other creative solutions you can visit this WikiHow article for easier methods of de-icing and removing snow from your vehicle.


Wiper blades functioning at full capacity can often mitigate weather no matter how harsh the conditions are. Worn or damaged windshield wipers can leave a dangerous layer of snow, ice, sleet, or can cause streaks on your windshield that impair your ability to see the road. The good news is there are cost-effective ways of extending the life of your wiper blades.

According to this guide by consumer reports on replacing wiper blades, a good method is to “put windshield washer fluid or glass cleaner on a damp sponge or rag and wipe debris off the rubber and the windshield where the wiper rests. You might be rewarded with a couple more months of a clear windshield without spending money on replacements.”

If your wipers are too worn to fix, it is best to find replacements that are specially designed to handle freezing temperatures and icy weather. In this case you don’t have to break the bank to buy excellent wiper blades. Most good quality blades can be purchased for $25 or under. This consumer report buying guide can help arm you with the right knowledge before you start shopping for new wipers.


Headlights are the number one way to be seen when driving in poor conditions so it’s much safer to always have them on when driving. Most modern cars use plastic headlight lenses that become cloudy over time. These aging lenses reduce the effectiveness of your headlights, setting the stage for a low-visibility driving environment.

A cost-effective and common cleaning solution for our car’s headlights is toothpaste. Try it for yourself by covering each light with toothpaste, scrubbing the cover, and washing it off with warm water. After you’ve cleared your headlights it’s also a worth applying a layer of wax to prevent snow and ice from sticking to it. In her blog “One Good Thing,” author Jillee outlines 25 other creative and cost-effective hacks to make driving this winter a little bit easier. It’s definitely worth a read here.

Remember to stay safe on the roads this winter and put an emphasis on maintaining clear visibility.

Happy driving!

How to protect your business from cyber threats

As cyber security threats continue to grow in the United States, it’s necessary for all businesses, large and small, to be educated and prepare in the event they become a victim of an attack. Small businesses face the same threats as larger corporations but often have fewer resources to protect themselves. However, there are cost-effective methods to protecting any sized business.

Most hackers intend to steal sensitive data such as customer credit cards or other personal credentials like social security numbers. This information is used to make purchases, apply for loans, or other types of identity theft and result in a maelstrom of legal and financial trouble.

If your business uses the Internet for any facet of your operations, especially email and payment processing, understanding the most common threats can save you time and money.

3 Common Cyber Attacks

Below are 3 of the most common cyber threats that can affect your business.

Phishing: The fraudulent method of sending emails posing as reputable companies to trick individuals into revealing personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers online. This can be prevented by instilling good practices for everyone to follow such as checking the email address before opening or clicking links within the body of an email or accept downloads in order to read the email.

Inside attack: When an employee within your business uses their administrative privileges to abuse confidential information. This is common with disgruntled employees, former or otherwise. This can be avoided by revoking all access as soon as an employee leaves your company or before if you know about the termination in advance.

Malware: Malicious programs that are installed on a computer without the user knowing its intent is to cause damage or gain access to sensitive data. This can be prevented by restricting administrative rights on a pc to not include downloads.

Whether it’s minor business interruption or a major financial loss from a data breach, sometimes you fall victim as there is no guaranteed method to predict an attack. Apart from training your employees and having a more secure network infrastructure, Cyber Insurance offers a way to protect your business and become whole again in the event of a loss resulting from a cyber attack.

Cyber Insurance: Often overlooked, many companies believe this type of insurance is only for large corporations and can be expensive. However, more companies are offering affordable plans for businesses of any size that will match your budget to your risk needs.

The most common type of coverage is First-Party liability, which covers the general costs incurred because of a data breach. First-party liability includes legal expenses, business interruption (the loss resulting from the temporary shutdown of your business), and customer notification.

Third-party liability, the second most common coverage type, protects you if sensitive information about your customers is stolen and covers the defense costs if that customer decides to sue you for negligence among other reasons.

If you’d like a thorough review to know how Cyber Security coverage can protect your business, please call our agency at       203-787-6781 and speak with our insurance experts today.

The dangers of distracted driving

Distracted Driving kills and injures

In 2016, 3,450 people died from distracted driving according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and, in 2015, 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle incidents involving distracted drivers.

 

What is Distracted Driving?

Any activity that diverts your attention from driving which includes talking or texting on your phone, eating, drinking, conversing with passengers, playing with the entertainment system, etc is consider distracted driving. The biggest culprit is texting as it diverts your attention for at least five seconds and, when traveling at 55 mph, you’ve driven the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

 

Distracted driving comes in three different forms: Cognitive, Visual, and Manual.

• Cognitive distraction: When a driver’s mind isn’t focused on driving. Such as when they speak to another passenger or they are preoccupied with personal worries.
• Visual distraction: When a driver looks at anything but the road ahead. This includes using electronic devices such as GPS, entertainment systems, etc.
• Manual Distraction: When the driver takes one of both hands off the wheel for any reason. Eating and drinking in the car, adjusting the GPS, or entertainments system, searching for something in the car.

 

The Cost

Distracted driving can cost more than your insurance rates. It could cost you your life.

• About 481,000 drivers use cell phones during the day and the largest age group that are distracted at the time of fatal crashes are teenagers.

• Distracted driving can drive up insurance premiums by an average of 16% or about $226 a year. It represents a auto insurance premium increase of 7,944% since 2011. These numbers vary by state of course.
What you can do to protect your family and your wallet.

• Turn off your cell phone or utilize an app that automatically sends a message to anyone trying to contact you that you are driving and will contact them later.

• If you always need to be reachable, then utilize a hands-free device only for emergencies because they have proven just as distracting as using a cell phone.

• When driving with pets and children, keep pets in carriers and children in seatbelts before leaving. If a situation arises, pull over first and handle the situation then.

• Eat before or after you drive.

• Program GPS before leaving.

• Educate young drivers in the household about the dangers of distracted driving.

 

April is national safe driving awareness month. Stay safe and avoid distracted driving. Call or email L.H. Brenner today for more safety tips and let us show you how save money on your insurance.

The five cyber criminals you need to know about

CYBER SECURITY

In this digital age, everyone is vulnerable to a cyber-attack from cyber criminals. You should be on the lookout for five most common cyber criminal types that can harm you or your business.


THE ENGINEER

The Engineer is a cybercriminal that poses as someone within a company or maybe a friend in your email address book. This person reaches out to obtain sensitive, confidential, financial or otherwise protected information. For Example, your HR Manager sends an email asking for another copy of your W-4 to have on file.

The Engineer gains access to PII (Personally Identifiable Information) by encouraging victims to engage in risky behavior by appearing as a known and trusted acquaintance.  PII usually includes names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, account numbers, credit card numbers and other financial or personal information.

You should always check the email address of the person requesting the information. If possible, always attempt to reach out to the person directly to confirm their request and avoid leaving voicemails or responding to the email directly.


THE PHISHER

The Phisher often uses email that appears as a legitimate source and can contain a link or attachment that allows phishers access to sensitive financial information. For example, the Phisher poses as your mortgage company with an encrypted email that instructs you to log-on to their website. Once you click on the link or attachment, the phisher gains access to the network and any information they wish to access available on that network.

Installing Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware software can block the malicious attack for personal home networks or work. Businesses can train employees how to respond to an attack and ensure proper security protocols are in place to quarantine the affected computer. Separating the network and utilizing authentication protocols between important data and the network further secure the business.


THE HACKER

The Hacker utilizes weak, default, or stolen passwords to access information. They leverage malware to capture keystrokes from an infected device and gain access to valuable data from you or your business.

Strong passwords are a great first defense against hackers especially when used alongside multi-factor authentication. The extra authentication is usually a text message or phone call with a separate security pin that must be provided for a successful sign-in. And, you should always keep your operating systems, applications, and software updated and patched to increase security.


THE DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE

Employees are insiders and a vindictive employee can present a threat to a business. They know how to access data and knowledge of what is stored and where. Both consumer personal data and confidential business information can be compromised by a current or former employees.

Protect your business by restricting access to sensitive data to only those employees that need access and monitor internal account usage to prevent attacks from within and external. Also, be sure to delete access to your computer system for terminated employees as soon as possible.


THE EXTORTIONIST

The extortionist uses code and ransomware to freeze access to the computer unless the user pays a fee. They use facades such as posing as the IRS or FBI and scaring users into paying through untraceable sources such as bitcoin.

Users need to utilize security rules, frequent backups, and encryption to protect their data. Seeking professional I.T. consulting is a safe bet for both home users and businesses.


RISK

Cybercriminals can steal an individual’s identity or a business sensitive data which leads directly to financial loss whether it is from costs to protect yourself from further harm or with legal fees to argue against incurred debt.

Preventing and resolving attacks cost individuals and businesses too. Whether it is from following local laws, regulations, language and concepts, industry practices, and exposures or litigation management

*Sometimes local laws and regulations require a cyber policy be issued by a locally licensed carrier.


SOURCE OF RISK

There are many sources of attack including hackers, Human Error, Employees, third-party vendors, and customers.

There are many items that are at-risk such as laptops, computer networks, wireless networks, PDA’s, cell-phones, paper files, websites, and the cloud.

Among the losses associated with a cyber crime, the following are the most common:

FIRST PARTY CLAIMS
  • Hardware or software malfunction
  • Data Corruption
  • Denial of Service Attack DNS
THIRD-PARTY CLAIMS
  • Copyright and trademark infringement
  • Data privacy breach
  • Internet media liability (Defamation)
  • Unauthorized access, Unauthorized Use
  • Statutory/ Regulatory Liability (Federal and State)

 

RESOLUTION

Apart from the normal security protocols and training, insurance exists to make you or your business whole when you are a victim of a cyber security attack. L.H. Brenner can offer many types of insurance to protect you including:

Security and Privacy Liability Insurance – This covers claims from third parties such as customers, vendors, etc.

Event Management Insurance – This covers security failure or privacy breach by paying costs of notifications, public relations, etc.

Network Business Interruption Insurance – This covers financial loss when the business cannot continue to run because of the attack.

Cyber Extortion Insurance – This covers when a cybercrime denies access to the business unless a fee is paid.

Cyber Media Insurance – This covers copyright infringement, trademark infringement, defamation and invasion of privacy.

Buying pet insurance and questions to ask

Pets aren’t just companions anymore but a member of your family. Like any member of the family, they can have health issues and those bills can get expensive. This is where Pet Insurance steps in to protect both your budget and your family. You don’t want to be in a situation where you must get a second job or pull money from your savings to pay for your pets unexpected medical bills.

There are two main types of pet insurance offered: Percentage of Invoice and Benefit Schedule.


Percentage of Invoice gives you percentage of the cost of the treatment back and varies depending on the type of treatment.

Benefit Schedule gives you an allowable amount that has a set cap based on the treatment.

There are also tiers within most plans which are usually broken down into emergency only, standard, and comprehensive.

Emergency/catastrophic will provide coverage for surgeries, hospitalizations, chronic conditions, exams, lab tests, etc.,

Standard usually covers preventative visits, routine treatments, vaccinations, etc.

Comprehensive covers the catastrophic, standard, and more.

Emergency coverage is the least expensive while comprehensive can be more costly. Most policies average $20-50 per month with a $500 deductible but it is up to you to determine if the plans that include preventative care are worth the cost or if you should pay out of pocket and use the insurance for catastrophic situations such as emergencies or sudden illnesses.


THERE ARE A FEW IMPORTANT QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK BEFORE PURCHASING A PET INSURANCE POLICY.

Are Exam Fees included?

These costs could add up if you regularly bring your pet to the veterinarian.


Are you penalized if you have a claim?

Like automobile insurance, sometimes the rate increases at renewal when you have a claim. It is important to know if you will be penalized for using the coverage.


Is there an item deductible or a per-incident deductible?

Is there a separate deductible for each treatment, emergency transportation, medication or is there one deductible for the year?


Does it include wellness/preventative?

If you have a pet that has a condition and needs to be treated regularly, does the insurance include wellness/preventative care? For these situations, having this coverage included in the insurance may protect your budget better than paying out of pocket.


Pre-existing conditions?

Does the policy cover or exclude pre-existing conditions? Like health insurance for humans, sometimes any medical treatment related to a pre-existing medical condition is specifically excluded.


Why do you need it?

As members of your family, it’s important to everything you can to help your pet live a long, happy, and healthy life. Unexpected illnesses happen and, as we learn more about our pets, we understand that disease, allergies, and illness can come at any age in any breed whether your pet is pure bred or mixed. You owe it to yourself to do everything in your power to protect your loyal companion.


Is it worth it?

Pet insurance is peace of mind to protect your family without risking your assets, wages, or success. It allows you to rest easy knowing you have a plan for your pet to live the happiest life by your side.


How does it work?

Here’s how the process works:

  1. Take your pet for treatment.
  2. Pay your Vet bill.
  3. Submit a claim to get reimbursed.

At L.H. Brenner, we have researched the best pet insurance carriers and can offer you a free quote to help you get started with protecting your pack. Contact us today to get started!

The difference between flood insurance and water backup coverage

WATER DAMAGE VS FLOOD VS WATER BACKUP INSURANCE

Picture this: you leave for vacation and, after a wonderful time with rest and relaxation, you bring your dirty laundry down to the basement only to discover you are knee-deep in standing water. Later, you discover that a frozen pipe burst and filled the basement. Your basement is now flooded but does your Homeowners Insurance cover the damage?

If you have Flood Insurance, what does that cover?

What if there is sewage backed-up in your basement? Do you have to clean up that mess yourself or does insurance cover the damage and clean-up?

If you find you’re unsure, please read below.


WATER DAMAGE

Most Homeowners Policies would cover damage caused by frozen pipes but not to the pipe itself. Water damage such as plumbing leaks and other damage caused by the overflow or accidental discharge of water or steam from a drain or pipe that is not on the residence premises are covered. Damage caused by water or steam from a plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, or automatic fire extinguishing system is also covered; however, the defective or leaky plumbing, system, or appliance is not covered.


What is flood? According to FEMA, flood is defined as:

A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of 2 or more acres of normally dry land area or of 2 or more properties (one of which is the policyholder’s) from:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
  • Mudflow; or

A collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water because of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that results in a flood as defined above.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, during a 2016 poll, only 12 percent of U.S. homeowners have Flood insurance. Is the gap due, in part, to the lack of knowledge or do homeowners believe they are already covered under their homeowner’s policies? Homes in moderate to low-risk regions are still likely to have a claim for flood damage. According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods in the past five years and 20 percent of those claims come from moderate to low-risk areas.


Do you know the difference between Flood Insurance and Water Backup Coverage?

Homeowners insurance doesn’t typically cover damage caused by flooding though you may be able to purchase separate flood insurance directly through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, also known as the NFIP, or through an insurance broker that writes flood insurance with the NFIP.

Flood insurance provides limited, if at all, coverage for rooms such as crawlspaces and basements and their contents according to the NFIP. Items in these spaces, like a furnace, are usually covered under building coverage. Others, like a washer and dryer, are usually covered under personal contents coverage. Some items, like personal effects, may not be covered at all when kept in these below-ground rooms.


FLOOD INSURANCE – WHAT DOES FLOOD INSURANCE COVER?
  1. It may help protect: The physical structure and foundation of your home; plumbing and electrical systems; central air and heating systems; attached structures such as cabinets, bookcases and paneling; and a detached garage. Other detached structures typically need their own policy.
  2. How it usually pays: Replacement cost for a primary residence and actual cash value for a vacation home, if you cover your home at the required limits which are usually $100,000 coverage on contents and $250,000 in building coverage. Replacement cost is the cost to replace at today’s value whereas Actual Cash Value takes depreciation into account.

PERSONAL CONTENTS COVERAGE
  1. It may help protect: clothing, furniture and electronics; curtains; some portable appliances; freezers and the foods within them; and certain valuables like art, up to a specified limit.
  2. How it usually pays: Actual cash value basis.

WHAT ISN’T TYPICALLY COVERED BY FLOOD INSURANCE?
  • Moisture or mold/mildew damage that “could have been avoided by the homeowner by taking swift action”
  • Currency, precious metals, and paper valuables like stock certificates
  • Outdoor property such as decks, fences, patios, landscaping, wells and septic systems, and hot tubs and pools.
  • Living expenses, like temporary housing (if flood damage deems your home uninhabitable)
  • Cars and other self-propelled vehicles (but your auto insurance may offer some coverage for your car)

WATER BACKUP COVERAGE

Regarding water backup from an outside sewer or drain, this coverage can be added to your existing homeowner’s policy. Most homeowner’s do not realize they are responsible for the maintenance and repairs of their house or sewer lateral which is the pipeline between the city sanitary sewer main and the building. There are several common causes of sewer backups according to the Civil Engineering Research Foundation.

  • Aging sewer systems. According to The American Society of Civil Engineers, the nation’s 500,000- plus miles of sewer lines are over thirty years old on average.
  • Combined Pipelines-Pipes that combine storm water and raw sewage into the same pipeline are exposed to more volume than they can handle during rain storms. This is what causes raw sewage to spew into basements and other low-lying drains.
  • Tree roots – Small roots of trees and shrubs make their way into sewer line cracks and service pipe joints as they seek moisture and cause more damage as they grow. The owner of the problem tree is responsible and, when the issue arises from a combination of city and private trees, the costs are sometimes split.
  • Sanitary Main Blockages – If there is a blockage in the main line, sewage can back up into homes and businesses through floor drains. Thankfully, this usually happens slowly giving homeowners enough time to fix the problem before it worsens.

WHAT DOES WATER BACKUP COVER?
  • Most water damage if the cause is sudden and accidental. According to the insurance information institute, you’ll likely be covered if something such as your drywall becoming drenched after your water heater bursts or a pipe ruptures and saturates the ceiling below.

WHAT ISN’T TYPICALLY COVERED BY WATER BACKUP COVERAGE?
  • Damage caused by neglect (unresolved maintenance issues)
  • Replacing or repairing the source of the water damage such as a water furnace or burst pipe.
  • Water backup from an outside sewer or drain though you can typically purchase sewer or water backup coverage as an extra coverage on your homeowner’s policy to protect against this type of damage.
  • Flood; no coverage is offered for flood damage no matter the source of water. Flooding can occur from storms, over saturated ground, overflowing or surging bodies of water like rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans.

 HOW TO PREVENT BACKUPS IN YOUR SEWER LATERAL:
  • Properly dispose of grease by disposing of it once it cools and throw it out. When pouring it down the drain, it will harden as it cools and block the drain, the property line, or main city line.
  • Properly dispose of paper products that do not deteriorate quickly such as paper towels, disposable and cloth diapers, hygienic wipes, feminine products, etc.
  • Periodically cut tree roots if you continue to have problems with overgrowing.
  • Replace your line with new plastic pipes that prevent tree roots from entering your line.
  • Correct illegal plumbing connections such as French drains, sump pumps, and other flood control systems that are connected to your sanitary sewer.
  • Install a backwater prevention valve in the basement of your home or business to prevent backflows.

WHENEVER THERE IS A POSSIBLE WATER DAMAGE ISSUE, DO THE FOLLOWING:
  • Wet-vacuum and/or remove spillage
  • Mop floors and wipe walls with soap and disinfectant
  • Flush out and disinfect plumbing fixtures
  • Steam clean or rem wet carpets or drapes
  • Repair or remove damaged wallboard or wall covering
  • Cleanup ducts

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF?

Buy Flood Insurance even if you are in a low to moderate-risk zone. Costs tend to be low in these areas and are well-worth the cost for peace of mind. If you have a particularly high-value home, you can purchase excess flood insurance coverage to supplement your primary policy’s limits.

Check with your insurance agent or provider to determine what your homeowner’s policy covers and ask how your policy will respond to a water damage coverage claim. Ensure you add water backup coverage to your policy if you don’t already have it.


At L.H. Brenner, all of our staff are knowledgeable about these important coverage’s. If you would like to discuss homeowners coverage’s with us, please call. We would be happy to discuss this important insurance coverage with you.

What you need to know about jewelry insurance

Happy Valentine’s Day! Now that the day of love has passed and many of you are celebrating with sparkling pieces of jewelry or other beautiful gifts, you may not be considering insurance on these items.

The reality is that most insurance policies have strict limits on the amount of coverage for items like jewelry, artwork, wine, etc. unless you specifically schedule those items on your homeowners or renter’s policy. This protection covers the items if it is transported from one location to another. Scheduling these items or obtaining a separate personal inland marine policy (PLIM), also known as a personal articles floater, can protect those items that mean the most.


Scheduling can cover items such as:

  • Jewelry
  • Furs
  • Fine Art
  • Cameras
  • Silverware
  • Musical Instruments
  • Stamp Collections
  • Coin Collections
  • Golf Equipment
  • Computers and related equipment

The common theme among these items is that they are valuable, portable, and are usually subject to limited coverage on a homeowners or renter’s policy, especially if the property is brought outside the country.

Scheduling valuable items covers them for additional risks such as accidental loss and places a specific value on the item that you provide via receipt, appraisal, etc. The biggest benefit is that a scheduled item is not subject to the policy deductible. Meaning, if you lose your $5,000 engagement ring down the drain, your policy would cover your for that amount rather than considering a $500, $1000, or $2,500 property deductible.


You may be wondering how much will this cost me? The great news, most jewelry riders or PLIM policies cost the same per year as that Valentines Dinner you had. Of course, the more valuable the item, the more it will cost but they average $150-$200 per year.

While nothing can replace the sentimental value of your most prized possessions, it can make you whole again. Call LH Brenner today to speak to our experts about protecting that beautiful necklace or new ring for your sweetie!