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Marijuana Legalization Update - 5 things you need to know.

Marijuana legalization continues to be a hot topic in 2019. Most states have legalized marijuana in some form, and there is much speculation around federal activity. NCCI is monitoring legislative, judicial, and other developments as this issue evolves. Our latest update addresses the top five questions on the minds of our workers compensation industry stakeholders.

  1. What is the status of marijuana legalization?

    Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and remains classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. However, there is ongoing activity at the federal and state levels to address marijuana legalization and related issues. The current status of state marijuana legalization is shown in the map below:

    • Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states plus DC
    • Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states plus DC
    • CBD oil/non-psychoactive forms of marijuana are legal in an additional 14 states under certain circumstances
    • Three states currently do not have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, but two of them (Kansas and Nebraska) have pending legislation
    Infographic
  2. What is happening legislatively in 2019?

    NCCI is tracking marijuana-related legislation in more than 20 states, as well as at the federal level.

    Federally, legislation to decriminalize marijuana is pending before Congress. Decriminalization at the federal level is viewed as unlikely in the short term. Meanwhile, Congress is also considering measures that allow for state regulation of marijuana without federal interference and provide protections to financial institutions that serve marijuana-related businesses that are legal under state law.

    Federal legislation providing protections to financial institutions is already advancing. On March 28, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 1595, which provides financial institutions and insurers that provide services for legitimate cannabis-related businesses with a safe harbor from criminal prosecution.

    Regarding state legislative activity, as of April 1, an additional 15 states are considering legalizing recreational marijuana and 8 are considering legalizing medical marijuana. NCCI is also tracking several state bills addressing the issue of medical marijuana reimbursement in workers compensation.

  3. Are insurers required to reimburse for medical marijuana in workers compensation?

    One of the emerging workers compensation issues is whether medical marijuana is reimbursable. Insurers are increasingly receiving requests to reimburse for medical marijuana use for workers compensation treatment. Given the friction between state and federal law, states are faced with the challenge of whether to approve medical marijuana treatment for work-related injuries. This issue is being addressed through legislation as well as in the courts.

    Over the years, states such as Connecticut, Minnesota, New Mexico, and New York have permitted reimbursement for medical marijuana in certain circumstances. New Mexico has even established a maximum reimbursement amount for medical marijuana in its workers compensation fee schedule.

    Other states, including Florida and North Dakota, have enacted laws prohibiting payment of workers compensation benefits for medical marijuana. Louisiana passed legislation in 2018 which provided that medical marijuana reimbursement is not required for workers compensation purposes.

    During the 2019 legislative session, several states—including Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont—have considered or are considering legislation to authorize the reimbursement of medical marijuana in workers compensation.

    On the other hand, Kentucky and Oklahoma lawmakers proposed legislation similar to the Louisiana law, which does not prohibit reimbursement, but also does not affirmatively require employers and workers compensation insurers to pay for medical marijuana.

  4. Have there been any new rulings from the courts regarding medical marijuana reimbursement?

    In addition to state legislation, state courts are addressing the issue as to whether medical marijuana is reimbursable in workers compensation.

    In March 2019, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the state’s medical marijuana law does not prohibit reimbursement under workers compensation. However, the court did not rule that the insurer is required to reimburse. The supreme court remanded the case to the compensation appeals board to provide additional legal support on the federal issues involved in the case; specifically, whether federal law would be violated if the insurer is ordered to reimburse for the payment of medical marijuana.

    In 2018, the Maine Supreme Court ruled in the Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co. case that employers are not required to reimburse for marijuana as a workers compensation treatment. The court determined that because marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Maine’s medical marijuana law is preempted and cannot be used as the basis to require reimbursement.

    The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents and the Vermont Department of Labor have also recently denied reimbursement for medical marijuana treatment for workers compensation claimants.

  5. Have there been any new developments regarding research studies or a test to determine impairment?

    One outstanding workers compensation issue is whether medical marijuana is a viable alternative to opioids for pain management and getting employees back to work sooner. Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, research has been limited to date.

    Another outstanding issue is how to determine “impairment” for marijuana and the impact on workers compensation benefits if an employee is injured on the job and tests positive. There are efforts under way to develop tests similar to breathalyzers and other methods currently available to test blood alcohol levels, which would better help define what could be considered appropriate “impairment” levels.

    Until those tests are fully developed and implemented, states and state courts are addressing this issue on a case-by-case basis. For example, in November 2018 the Oklahoma state court of appeals ruled in Rose v. Berry Plastics Corp. that the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in an employee’s blood after a workplace accident does not automatically mean that the employee should be denied workers compensation benefits due to impairment.

    There is also pending legislation in Oklahoma (SB 305) which, among other things:

    • Clarifies instances in which an employer may take action against an employee or applicant who tests positive for marijuana
    • Provides that employers will not be required to permit or accommodate the use of medical marijuana on their premises or reimburse a person for costs associated with the use of medical marijuana
    • Authorizes employers to have written policies regarding drug testing and impairment

    The legislation has passed the Oklahoma Senate and is awaiting action in the House.

    We will continue to track these developments. Stay tuned for updates on marijuana legislation and other hot topics throughout the year. 

 

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134  

 

Source: www.ncci.com



POSTED JUNE 27, 2019 9:19 PM
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Work Comp

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) injuries in workers compensation (WC) have recently attracted the attention of legislators and other system stakeholders. With more focus on compensating those who suffer from PTSD due to a work-related event, it’s important to understand:

  • Why PTSD injuries in WC may become more prevalent
  • What is the definition of PTSD injuries
  • Who is affected
  • Where these injuries impact the WC system
  • Their potential cost
Why could PTSD injuries become more significant to WC?

While PTSD and other mental injuries are not common in WC, some experts believe the frequency may rise due to unreasonable workloads, long hours, and poor work-life balance.1 Several states are exploring expanding PTSD injury compensation, especially for first responders. These typically include firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians, but could possibly expand to occupations such as correctional officers, emergency dispatch operators, and child protective services employees. Florida, for example, recently enacted Senate Bill 376, which provides workers compensation indemnity benefits to first responders suffering from PTSD under certain circumstances, and does not require a physical injury to have occurred.

Worker advocates and other groups have raised awareness of PTSD and emphasized the importance of reducing the stigma associated with mental injuries in WC2 that could increase the number of claims filed and deemed compensable. PTSD now has its own category in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, called “Trauma- and Stress-Related Disorders.” The previous edition classified PTSD as one type of anxiety disorder.3

What are PTSD injuries?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least one month:

  • At least one reexperiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms4

As it relates to WC, PTSD injuries are a subset of mental injuries, broadly defined in the following three categories:

  • Physical-mental - a physical injury that progresses to include a mental injury or disability
  • Mental-physical - a mental condition that causes some physical injury or disability
  • Mental-mental - a mental injury or disability that arises without a physical injury

Although PTSD injuries can arise in any of these three categories, to be considered work-related—and thus compensable under WC - a required degree of stress typically needs to be established, unless the state has established a presumption that PTSD is compensable.

Who is at risk?

Any worker witnessing violence or a horrific accident while on the job might develop PTSD or other mental injuries. This may even apply to workers who witness stressful content over video or other media as part of their jobs.5

First responders are particularly susceptible to mental injuries, and the incidence of PTSD is estimated to be significantly higher for first responders compared to the general population.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about 55% of the general population will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives6 and, as a result, about 7%-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. In comparison, the National Center for Biotechnical Information concluded that the prevalence of PTSD among emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is greater than 20%.7 Various sources have reported the prevalence of PTSD among firefighters to be in the 7%-37% range.8

Where and how do PTSD injuries impact the WC system?

All 50 states and the District of Columbia specifically address WC compensability for mental-mental and mental-physical injuries, either by statute, regulation, and/or case law. WC laws vary greatly across the country, with approximately half of the jurisdictions allowing compensation for mental-mental injuries or illnesses under limited circumstances. Compensable mental-mental injuries must typically be considered extraordinary and the predominant or substantially contributing cause. Other jurisdictions generally allow for compensability only for mental-physical injuries.

Potential Cost

WC data on PTSD is not readily available. This is due to both the scarcity of PTSD data in general, and the data reporting requirements for WC. In particular, first responders-who likely have a greater exposure to events leading to PTSD—are generally employees of state municipalities and political subdivisions. These employers are often self-insured and not required to report data to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Hence, reliable statistics on mental injury claims and costs are not readily available.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact portion of system costs associated with PTSD, an individual PTSD claim has the potential to be very costly. For example, if a work-related mental injury renders a claimant unable to return to any employment, then the claimant may be eligible for lifetime indemnity benefits. On the medical side, there could be continual psychiatric visits and medications prescribed. There are also potential complications that could result in significant injuries, such as health issues directly related to PTSD,9 and the possibility that injured workers could harm themselves.10

In addition to the potential costs associated with a single claim, catastrophic events such as terrorist attacks and mass shootings can affect many workers simultaneously, which could result in a large number of PTSD claims from a single event.

In summary, although PTSD is more common among first responders, it can affect employees in any industry or location. PTSD injuries can be devastating to injured workers and their families, and have the potential to be very costly for the WC system. PTSD and other mental injuries may become more significant in the future due to increasingly stressful work conditions, greater awareness of these injuries, and broadening WC eligibility requirements. Stakeholders should continue to raise awareness about the impact of PTSD on employees and the WC system.

 

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 

 

Source: www.ncci.com



POSTED JUNE 27, 2019 5:00 AM
Insurance Options for Green Businesses

Across the country, businesses are choosing to go green. In addition to helping the planet, environmentally friendly practices and facilities can enhance the reputation of a business and lower its energy and water costs. Businesses are also encouraged to go green by government tax credits and other incentives.

While environmentally friendly buildings and equipment can provide numerous benefits to businesses, they also add costs and risks. Insurers have responded by offering policy options to protect a business’s investment in going green.

Green endorsements for commercial property insurance:

Traditional commercial property insurance covers replacement or repair of damaged property, using similar materials to the original construction, or basing repayment on the value of the original equipment or building. But what if you want to go green when repairing or replacing insured property or equipment? Most standard policies will not account for this scenario, unless the policy has wording that specifically recognizes and covers the increased cost of green materials. However, several insurers offer green endorsements, add-on components - to commercial property policies. These green endorsements include coverage for:

  • Green Materials and Equipment - A green endorsement on your commercial property insurance will cover the higher cost of environmentally certified materials and equipment - even if your original property and equipment were not green certified. Some policies will also specifically enable you to elevate your building to green certification when you rebuild.
  • Green Construction and Related Costs - Covers costs for green design and engineering, recycling, certification fees and other costs.

For instance, green rebuilding can take longer than traditional construction, so you may want to consider extending the time frame of your business interruption coverage. You may also need to upgrade your commercial property insurance if you add new environmental features to your building or operations, such as installing a vegetative roof to your building.

Green insurance continues to change:

Building green means a smaller carbon footprint and higher energy efficiency, but an added benefit is improved safety and resilience to withstand windstorms and other weather-related events.

While green endorsements on a commercial policy may cost more, having a green building in conjunction with improved building codes (which enforces impact-resistant windows, hurricane shutters, reinforced doors and roof straps) could ultimately protect your property from being badly damaged or destroyed in a future weather-related disaster.

Your business may also be able to save on insurance as a result of other green initiatives. For instance, some auto insurers have begun to offer personal auto insurance discounts for hybrid and electric cars. Similar discounts may be available for your commercial vehicle policy.

Because green insurance options continue to evolve, give us a call about green coverage and potential savings during your annual insurance review.

 

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134

 

Source: www.iii.org



POSTED JUNE 13, 2019 5:00 AM
Background on: Gun Liability

Overview

The idea that insurance can help prevent deaths from firearms often rises to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness following mass shootings.

Advocates of the idea believe that if gun owners were required to purchase insurance, the cost of the insurance would provide them an incentive to own fewer firearms and/or more carefully store the firearms they own. However, no U.S. insurance company offers separate, stand-alone gun liability coverage. In considering whether insurance is an appropriate mechanism to prevent mass shootings, it is important to note that no insurer – primary or excess – provides liability coverage for illegal acts. Looking ahead, there is very little likelihood that insurers would develop such coverage.

Excess personal liability coverage for firearms owners is available, though typically only through membership in a firearms association.

Acts that are intended or expected to cause harm are also generally excluded, though some policies will provide coverage in cases for which bodily injury or property damage results from the use of “reasonable force” by an insured to protect persons or property. “Self-defense” coverage for firearms owners is available, though rarely found.

Historic perspective

Mass shootings often reopen national debates about gun liability and gun control. There is no universally recognized definition for mass shootings in the United States. The FBI uses a broad definition that includes shootings where an individual kills people in a confined and populated area.  This includes domestic incidents but excludes gang and drug violence and is not limited by number of victims. The FBI’s list of fatalities does not include perpetrators, who often commit suicide at the end of their spree. Using this description, the FBI says there were 220 active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2016. Another classification includes four or more people shot or killed, including the perpetrator, and is commonly used by the press.  USA Today reported that from 2006 to 2017 there were 361 mass shootings.

The Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, a terrorist attack/hate crime, took 49 lives (excluding the perpetrator) and wounded 58 people and was the deadliest terror attack in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks. The December 14, 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was the deadliest mass shooting at a school in the United States. Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 7 and six staff members were killed in the shooting. Also killed were the perpetrator’s mother at her home, and the perpetrator by suicide.

According to Wikipedia, the Las Vegas concert shooting in 2017 was the deadliest mass shooting in contemporary U.S. history (1950 to February 2018). There were 58 fatalities, not including the perpetrator. The top 10 deadliest shootings are shown below:

Top 10 Deadliest Mass Shootings, United States, 1950-2018

        Deaths Rank Year Incident State Total (1) Perpetrators 1 2017 Las Vegas shooting NV 59 1 2 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting FL 50 1 3 2007 Virginia Tech shooting VA 33 1 4 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting CT 28 1 5 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting TX 27 1 6 1991 Luby's Cafeteria shooting TX 24 1 7 1984 San Ysidro McDonald's shooting CA 22 1 8 1966 University of Texas tower shooting TX 18 1 9 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting FL 17 0 10 2015 San Bernardino shooting CA 16 2

(1) Includes perpetrators.

Source: Wikipedia.

The Columbine High School shooting of 1999 resulted in 13 deaths (not including the two perpetrators) and would rank number 11 in the chart above.

 

Odds Of Death In The United States By Selected Cause Of Injury, 2017 (1)
 

Cause of death Number of
deaths, 2017 One-year odds Lifetime odds Accidental poisoning by and exposure to
noxious substances 64,795 5,027 64      Drug poisoning 61,311 5,313 68      Opioids (including both legal and illegal) 43,036 7,569 96 All motor vehicle accidents 40,231 8,096 103      Car occupants 7,248 44,939 572      Motorcycle riders 4,832 67,409 858      Pedestrians 7,450 43,721 556 Assault by firearm 14,542 22,399 285 Exposure to smoke, fire and flames 2,812 115,832 1,474 Fall on and from stairs and steps 2,493 130,654 1,662 Drowning and submersion while in or
falling into swimming pool 723 450,511 5,732 Fall on and from ladder or scaffolding 569 572,441 7,283 Air and space transport accidents 385 846,024 10,764 Firearms discharge (accidental) 486 670,204 8,527 Cataclysmic storm (3) 132 2,467,570 31,394 Flood 27 12,063,673 153,482 Lightning 19 17,143,115 218,106 Earthquake and other earth movements 13 25,055,321 318,770 Bitten or struck by dog 36 9,047,755 115,111

(1) Based on fatalities and life expectancy in 2017. Ranked by deaths in 2017.
(2) Includes all types of medications including narcotics and hallucinogens, alcohol and gases.
(3) Includes hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, dust storms and other cataclysmic storms.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics; National Safety Council.

View Archived Tables

 

Deaths In The United States By Firearm, 2015 And 2016

  Number Percent of total Deaths caused by firearms 2015 2016 (1) 2015 2016 (1) Accidental discharge of firearms 489 495 1.3% 1.3% Suicide by firearm 22,018 22,938 60.7 59.3 Assault (homicide) by firearm 12,979 14,415 35.8 37.3 Legal intervention 484 510 1.3 1.3 Undetermined intent 282 300 0.8 0.8 Total  36,252 38,658 100.0% 100.0%

(1) Preliminary.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Report, sourced by the National Safety Council.

View Archived Tables

 

The regulatory environment

State: In 2013, a handful of states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York) introduced legislation that would mandate the purchase of gun liability insurance after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting. These laws were designed to assure that gun owners had liability insurance. None was enacted.

Federal: In 2013 and 2017, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Firearms Risk Protection Act. The 2017 legislation, introduced in March 2017 and referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and investigations in April 2017, would amend the federal criminal code to prohibit a firearm purchase by or sale to a person who is not covered by a qualified liability insurance policy. Additionally, it would require the owner of a newly purchased firearm to be covered by a qualified liability insurance policy. A qualified liability insurance policy would cover the purchaser specifically for losses resulting from use of the firearm. The law would not apply to a firearm purchase or sale for the use of a federal, state, or local government. The bill also included a fine for violators. To date, the federal government and states have not enacted laws mandating gun liability.

The current state of gun liability

Personal insurance: Insurers rarely offer any separate gun liability insurance policy. Most individuals have some property and liability coverage for firearms in their standard homeowners’ policy. Additional liability coverage is available through a personal umbrella policy. A few policies cover losses from accidental shootings in excess of the homeowners’ coverage.

When there is liability insurance, it only covers accidental shootings and in some cases, acts of self-defense. There is no coverage for criminal or other intentional shootings.

Although every insurance company adopts its own policy, many companies use standard homeowners and personal umbrella policies written by Insurance Services Office (ISO). The standard homeowners policy is known as an HO-3. That policy specifically mentions firearms once, as property that is covered if stolen. Firearms are not mentioned in the liability section of the policy, implying that firearm liability would be covered. A homeowners’ policy covers all liabilities that are not specifically excluded.

Not all accidents are covered, per the terms of the policy. For example, if a relative living at the same home were accidentally shot, the accident would not appear to be covered.

The policy explicitly says it will not cover “expected or intended injury.” The policy is designed to cover accidents, not intentional, criminal actions, such as a homicide or an attempted homicide. A mass shooting would not appear to be covered. A critical point is that covering an intentional, illegal act like armed assault would violate standard underwriting principles.

Although acts that are intended or expected to cause harm are generally excluded, some policies restore coverage in cases where bodily injury or property damage results from the use of “reasonable force” by an insured to protect persons or property.

The personal umbrella liability policy, a close cousin of homeowners’ liability insurance, handles liability in much the same way as the homeowners policy. The policy covers liability above the limit of the homeowners’ policy, extending up to its own limit of liability, often $1 million. For example, if an insured is liable for a $1 million loss, the homeowners’ policy would pay its limit, say $100,000, and the personal umbrella policy would pay the remaining $900,000.

Group personal insurance: Personal firearms liability insurance was available from some organizations to cover acts of self-defense. It included personal protection plans with individual benefits administered by a national broker and underwritten by insurers. Membership in the sponsoring organization was mandatory. These policies had offered protection against civil liability, the cost to defend against civil and criminal legal actions and immediate access to attorney referrals. They also included supplementary payments as needed for bail, criminal defense legal retainer fees, and lawful firearm replacement, among other benefits.  However, in 2018, the major broker of these policies, along with insurers, were compelled to pay settlement charges brought by the New York State Department of Financial Services, which stated that the gunowners liability programs violated state law. As a result, the broker and most insurers have stopped administering the programs.

Commercial insurance: Active shooter events occur in confined or populated areas where the perpetrators intend to kill many people. A number of coverages can be triggered by active shooting incidents, including general liability, business interruption and property insurance. Workers comp insurance is implicated in shootings in the workplace while commercial general liability insurance coverage might also be implicated in shooting in a shopping center or a movie theatre.

 

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134

Source: www.iii.org



POSTED JUNE 13, 2019 5:00 AM
We are free because of the brave.

Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc. wishes you and your family a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend! Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 27th, 2019 in observance of those who have lost their lives serving our country.

Dan can be reached on his cell in the event of an emergency at 708.436.2973

You will also find 24/7 phone numbers for claims and billing for our companies on our website: www.zeiler.com

For more on this holiday, Click Here.

 



POSTED MAY 21, 2019 5:00 AM
2nd Annual Cruise for a Cause - Benefitting Sertoma Centre, Inc.

Be a part of the 2nd Annual Cruise for a Cause - Chicago's largest fundraiser on the water. Hosted by our very own Mitchell Zeiler, the event will benefit Sertoma Centre, Inc. This organization works with individuals who have intellectual disabilities throughout the Chicagoland area. Mitchell has volunteered his time with Sertoma for the past three years on their Associate Board. 

 

Because of the success of last year's event - this year the cruise will be hosted aboard the Odyssey II and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Andrew Weishar Foundation and The Tom Hopkins Memorial Foundation

Cruise the Chicago skyline for a cause! The cruise will feature a grand finale firework show over Navy Pier with live entertainment and premium cocktails are included.

To purchase tickets or for sponsorship opportunities, Click Here.

Any questions? Contact Mitchell Zeiler at 708.408.5779 or mitch@zeiler.com 

 

 



POSTED MAY 17, 2019 2:32 PM
Is your home as efficient as it could be?

Drafty windows. Leaky faucets. Dirty air filters.

All are common issues in homes across the country, and they're not just annoying - they also cost you money in decreased energy efficiency and higher bills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program estimates that homeowners can save 5% to 30% on annual energy costs by incorporating technologies to make their homes operate more efficiently. Think that's not a big deal? Based on typical energy costs, it could mean savings ranging from $105 to $627, according to Energy Star.

See how your home stacks up:

Energy Star also offers a Home Energy Yardstick that allows you to compare your home's efficiency to similar homes across the country and get advice on how to improve. It takes just five minutes. Learn more here.

That sounds pretty good to us. And even if you’re not the handiest person when it comes to home maintenance, checking your energy efficiency is something you can easily do yourself. (Although if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, Energy Star recommends a professional home-energy audit.)

Just follow the tips below - you'll see where your home loses energy, how efficient your heating and cooling systems are, and ways you can decrease your electricity use.

First, just for reference, here's how the average energy bill breaks down:

  • Heating: 29%
  • Electronics: 21%
  • Water heating: 13%
  • Cooling: 13%
  • Appliances: 12%
  • Light: 12%

Where's the air?
Air commonly leaks from homes through gaps around baseboards, electrical outlets and windows or doors - if you feel like you're running the heat all the time to no avail, that warm air might be escaping. Stopping these drafts can save up to 30 percent of your yearly energy costs (it will keep the cool air inside during the summer, too). Be sure to check your home's exterior as well, paying particular attention to areas where two different building materials meet. When you find leaks, seal them with caulk or weather stripping.

Don't wait to insulate
Check to see if you have enough insulation in your ceiling and walls. The attic door or hatch should be insulated and close tightly. For walls, make a small hole in a closet or other inconspicuous place and probe into the wall with a screwdriver - if the area isn't completely filled with insulation, you're probably losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer.

Check your furnace and AC systems
Heating and cooling systems that work correctly and efficiently can save you frustration as well as money. Make sure ducts and pipes are insulated properly, and have your equipment checked and cleaned by a professional each year. Filters for forced-air furnaces should be replaced as soon as they are dirty, or every 30 to 60 days.

Let there be (efficient) light
More than half of the light sockets in the U.S. still contain an inefficient bulb, according to Energy Star - and the average home has about 70 sockets! LED bulbs use 90% energy versus regular bulbs, and they last a lot longer, too. Many will still be going after 20 years.

Anyone can take steps to save energy - whether you're a hardcore do-it-yourselfer or someone simply tired of sending a big check to the power company every month. Just don't forget what might be the most important thing of all after you finish your audit and make your home more efficient: Deciding how to spend the money you’ll save!

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 

 



POSTED MAY 14, 2019 2:40 PM
Safeco Insurance: Do I need to tell my insurance company if my dog bites someone?

You probably don’t think your dog would ever bite someone, let alone cause a serious injury, but dog bites are more common than you might realize. 4.5 million occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most victims are young children.

Keep in mind that it’s not just bites that cause injuries. Dogs can knock down pedestrians or cyclists, too, which often leads to severe medical issues as well.

Those injuries also have a bigger impact on homeowners insurance than you might realize: The Insurance Information Institute says dog-related claims accounted for more than $600 million in insurance payments in 2016.

With those numbers in mind, it’s understandable that insurance companies want to know if you’ve got a dog in your household. Some will even refuse to insure you if you have a specific breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior, regardless of whether your dog has ever bitten someone.

Despite that, you should never hide the fact that you have a dog from your insurance company. If you do, and your dog then causes an injury, your coverage could be invalidated - leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more.

When a bite happens:

OK, so your insurance company knows about your dog, but do you have to tell them if the dog bites or injures somebody? That depends. If it’s a minor incident, you might consider paying out of pocket for any medical expenses in an attempt to avoid the claims process and a potential increase in your premiums. In some instances, insurance companies will not renew your policy or will exclude your dog from coverage after paying for a dog-related claim.

However, this might violate your policy, which probably requires you to report changes in your circumstances. If you don’t report a bite, and the dog then bites someone else later, the insurance company might deny you liability coverage for the second incident. Give us a call to outline your options.

Another risk is the threat of future claims from the victim. Injuries aren’t always immediately apparent, and complications can arise later. The victim might decide down the road to sue you. And if you’ve waited too long to report the incident to your insurance company, it might be too late to make a claim and receive all the protection your policy was meant to provide - which can include help with attorney fees, medical bills, and more.

A $33,000 mistake?

How would your budget look if you had an unexpected $33,000 expense? The average claim payment for a dog injury in 2016 was about that amount, and that’s with an insurance company working on behalf of the insured. If you’re on your own, you could wind up paying even more.

Our advice? Start with us and discuss your specific situation. Even if you decide not to file a claim - which is always an option - you’ll get guidance from a professional who can help you assess the risk.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com 

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED MAY 14, 2019 5:00 AM
Snowmelt Protection Tips

As winter ends and temperatures begin to rise (and then sometimes fall again), the accumulating water from melting snow and ice leaves your home susceptible to damage. Protect your home ahead of time to minimize your risk. 

 

Safety First

Trained contractors can help you in the most crucial areas of your home, including plumbing and heating. If you are unable or unsure of how to remove snow from your roof, fix a leaky pipe, seal windows and doors, or test your water heater, contact a professional to ensure you and your home are safe from harm.

Dan Zeiler 

 

dan@zeiler.com

 

708.597.5900 x134 

 



POSTED JANUARY 08, 2019 7:40 PM
Why Your Car Is More Likely To Be Totaled

Soaring Cost Of Parts Means Your Car Is More Likely To Be Totaled In An Accident

Not only are new vehicles becoming more expensive than ever – when last we looked, the average transaction price was in excess of $36,000 – the cost of parts and repairs following an accident is becoming so prohibitive that what might look repairable to the layperson might be considered a total loss to an insurance adjuster. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for motor vehicle repairs were 61.07% higher in 2017 than they were in 2000.

In particular, sophisticated safety features like forward collision mitigation and blind-spot warning systems that employ multiple sensors and/or cameras embedded in bumpers and fenders are driving up repair costs and, in turn, the number of cars being totaled after crashes.

Airbags and related parts can likewise be prohibitively costly to replace following a collision and could cause a lower-valued car to become totaled even with otherwise minimal body damage. Generally, a car is declared to be “totaled” when the cost of repairs plus its scrap value equals or exceeds its pre-accident value (in some states this status is based on the cost of repairs exceeding a set percentage of the vehicle’s value).
 
But it’s not just complex high-tech elements that are becoming prohibitively costly to replace. As the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports, the skyrocketing prices of even reasonably essential components is helping fuel an increase in auto thefts. Vehicle thefts rose last year by more than 4%, fueled largely by so-called chop shop rings that dismantle stolen cars and sell their parts to unscrupulous vendors.

As an example, the NICB computed the cost of 15 common replacement components for a few of the models on its most-stolen “Hot Wheels” list – we’re talking low-tech stuff like a headlamp assembly, fender, trunk lid, and alloy wheels, but not major components like the engine or transmission. Part prices were pulled from a database of over 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017. (Check out the NICB's handy infographic on car-part prices here.) 

Altogether, the 15 essential items cost nearly $11,000 to purchase for a 2016 Toyota Camry midsize sedan, which was the most-stolen new car reported by the NICB for that particular model year. The most expensive part here is a quarter body panel at just over $1,700. And that’s not including the cost of labor, which when added would handily bust the threshold for a total loss on most 2016 Camry trim levels. It would seem to be even easier to total a 2016 Nissan Altima, with a lower residual value and higher replacement costs at over $14,000; here, the NICB says a headlamp assembly costs just over $2,000 each.

Prefer a pickup truck? Those same 15 parts would cost over $21,000 in a full-size GMC Sierra 1500, with a headlamp assembly again being the costliest culprit, at nearly $2,300. Adding labor charges to the sum of these parts would certainly be enough to declare all but the costliest 2016 Sierra models total losses.

"For the professional theft ring, stealing and stripping vehicles for parts has always been a lucrative business," NICB senior vice president and COO Jim Schweitzer says. "On today's cars and trucks, the parts are often worth more than the intact vehicle and may be easier to move and sell. That's why we see so many thefts of key items like wheels and tires and tailgates. There's always a market for them."

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 

 

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2018/02/15/the-sum-not-the-whole-is-greater-when-it-comes-to-the-skyrocketing-cost-of-car-parts/#508e20d853df

 

 


POSTED JANUARY 08, 2019 7:18 PM

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