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Does Homeowners Insurance Protect You Against Civil Liability Cases?

December 21, 2018

Whether a guest was injured in your home or your kid accidentally damaged a neighbor's property, there's always a possibility you could face a civil lawsuit for your liability in the incident. Learn more about how your homeowners insurance may be able to financially protect your civil liability in the event of a lawsuit.

First things first: What’s a civil liability case?

A civil action is a lawsuit filed by a private person (i.e. someone who's not a member of government) against another private person. For the most part, these lawsuits seek monetary compensation for damages that the plaintiff claims the defendant is legally liable for.

It's important to note that the defendant does not face jail time or any fines if he or she loses in a civil action lawsuit — but he or she must pay whatever monetary damages the judge awards the plaintiff.

These cases often involve contract disputes, intentional wrongdoings (like defamation, fraud, and employment discrimination, for example), and accidents revolving around the defendant's negligence. In the circumstance of the average homeowner, lawsuits regarding the homeowner's negligence are the most common.

Civil court cases and your homeowners insurance

Luckily, there's some good news if you're facing a civil liability case: typical homeowners insurance provides coverage for your personal liability up to the limits you choose for your policy. That means financial protection for others' injuries or property damage that result from your negligence — at or away from home — as well as coverage for your legal defense. Personal liability coverage can even kick into action in slander, libel, and defamation lawsuits, depending on the policy.

So if your dog bites a passerby while you're out on an evening stroll, a guest gets injured after slipping on some ice on your driveway, or your youngster accidentally breaks a neighbor's window while playing ball — you can count on your homeowners insurance to help cover the damages you're legally liable for.

Since homeowners liability coverage varies from company to company, it's important to speak with your us about your specific policy and what it covers you for.

Secure a home policy you can depend on

Accidents happen, which is why it is important to know what your homeowners insurance covers. Contact us to go over your coverages or add additional coverage. We are ready to help!

Written by: esurance


An Expert Explains: Avoiding Tax Problems if You’re a Rideshare Driver

November 9, 2018

Driving for a rideshare company, like Uber or Lyft, can be a great way to earn some cash and embrace your entrepreneurial attitude. It’s all part of the new “gig” economy, which is transforming the traditional taxi cab industry.

It’s important to know that if you’re considering driving for a rideshare company (or if you already are) there are a few things that you will need to handle on your own.

The first is insurance – you will need a special, relatively inexpensive addition to your car insurance to avoid coverage gaps. The second is taxes. And this is one you’ll need to plan for.

Rideshare Driver Tax Information

When you sign on to drive for a rideshare company, you’re technically categorized as an independent contractor by the Internal Revenue Service. That means you won’t receive a W-2 at the end of the year, like an employee of a corporation would.

Instead – and this is the most important piece of rideshare driver tax information – you’ll receive a Form 1099 that you’ll use to file your taxes.

The most significant difference for rideshare drivers is that you’re not considered employees and as such must complete the IRS Schedule C Form.

You will be on your own for filing and paying your taxes. The rideshare companies don’t withhold medicare, social security, state and federal taxes from your pay.

For new drivers who are not used to paying taxes for themselves, this can be both confusing and burdensome. It is important, though, to observe and comply with IRS regulations for independent contractors.

How do rideshare drivers file and pay taxes? Step One

The first step to accurately calculate taxes that you owe is to understand the deductions you’re entitled to.

Expenses for auto maintenance, gas, oil, parking fees, tolls or in some cases car repairs can be deducted based on IRS guidelines. Other expenses might be on the list such as mobile phone expenses related to the business, additional insurance, or even water, candy or gum that may be provided to passengers.

When deducting these as actual expenses, it is essential to keep careful records, proper documentation and all receipts.

Alternatively, rideshare drivers can use the standard mileage deduction. Rather than tracking individual costs, drivers can calculate the number of miles per trips multiplied by the annual IRS rate.

For 2018, the standard mileage rate for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) is $0.545 for every mile of business travel driven which is up one cent from 2017.

Adding tolls to the mileage provides you with the total deduction you can apply to your tax return under this process. In this instance, mileage logs provide you with proof of your expenses and ensure that you are able to take the full deduction available to you.

Step Two

As an independent contractor, you will need to be prepared to pay (possibly substantial) amounts of money when filing tax returns. Again, this is because rideshare companies do not withhold anything on your behalf.

So, you need to pay estimated federal and state taxes (and consider multiple states if driving in more than one state) quarterly. Because you are classified as self-employed, you are required to prepay taxes on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15 of the following year if you expect to owe at least $1,000 in federal tax from your rideshare driving.

It’s Not Easy

The differences between being a W-2 employee or a 1099 independent contractor can be difficult to navigate, especially for first time rideshare drivers/entrepreneurs. The best thing to do is consult with a Certified Public Accountant to help you start off on the right path.


The Dangers of Distracted Driving 

October 29, 2018

We’ve all been there. You’re driving down the road and see someone swerving in their lane; you pass them and see they’re typing away on their phone. Or maybe you’re bored on a long road trip and hear your phone vibrate, so you look at the text message only to look up and be forced to overcorrect before you end up in a ditch.

Distracted driving is an epidemic that has gained traction over the last decade largely due to cell phones and the increased popularity of texting. But distracted driving is anything that prevents you from giving full attention to the task at hand: operating a vehicle.

Know the facts

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 16% of all fatal collisions can be attributed to distracted driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also conducted a study and reported that nine people are killed and more than 1,153 are injured every day because of distracted driving.

The most common distractions – eating, using your phone, and using navigation systems. Texting and checking emails are the most dangerous instances of distracted driving because they incorporate the three facets of distraction: taking your eyes, hands, and mind off of the road/wheel. Using your phone is also dangerous as it takes your attention away for longer periods of time than other distracted driving activities – the average is five seconds.

Even talking on the phone using a hands-free device is dangerous because you can become more focused on your conversation than on driving.

So what can you do?

It’s fall, which means an influx of teenagers has begun to hit the roads. If you’re a parent, sit your child down and talk to them about:

The laws about cellphone use while driving in your state. Take this opportunity to implement household rules and educate them on the potential consequences of the act such as fines, injuries, and death. This issue is very serious and should be explained as such.

Speaking up when they’re in the passenger’s seat. Whether they notice a friend or family member using their phone while driving, your child should offer to text for them or tell the driver to put the phone away until the pair arrives at their destination.

If you want your child to be safe behind the wheel, you also must lead by example.

Put your phone away. Consider placing it in the glove compartment for the duration of your drive. If you don’t see it light up or hear it vibrate, you won’t be tempted to check it. Any text message or email can wait until you’re done driving.  Even looking at your phone for five seconds – if you’re driving at 55 mph – is like traveling the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

With so many hazards associated with distracted driving, it’s best to always avoid it. If you’re on a long road trip, stop and eat inside when you get hungry. If you get a text message, wait until you’ve gotten to where you’re going to read it. Keep your full attention on the task at hand when you’re in the driver’s seat so you can react to traffic with ease at a moment’s notice.

Written by: Shannon Ireland


Fall Driving Safety Tips

September 19, 2018

Autumn is Fraught with Driving Hazards, So Know The Risks and Prepare

Fall driving can be unpredictable because of weather changes, the end of daylight saving time and the start of school. These guidelines can help keep you, and others, safe while on the road.

Watch out for kids. Early in the school year, youngsters often haven’t developed the habit of looking for moving traffic before they cross the road leaving a school bus. It’s illegal to motor past a stopped bus in most places. And buses are beginning to use cameras to catch people who do a drive-by when the “Stop” arms are extended and the lights are flashing. Older kids driving to and from school are a danger, and in danger, too. “Teen crashes spike in September as [kids] head back to school, and happen more often during hours when school begins and lets out,” the National Safety Council reports.

Beware of darkness. It comes earlier anyway as the year ages, and that’s accelerated when clocks most places in the U.S. shift back to standard time in early November. While just 25 percent of our driving is at night, 50 percent of traffic deaths occur then, according to the National Safety Council. Also, a 50-year-old driver might need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old, NSC notes. And at 60 years and older, we generally see road signs less clearly, we have more trouble judging speed and distance, and glare begins to bother us more, according to the American Optometric Association.

Be critter conscious. You’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal — especially a deer — in November than at any other time of the year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety cautions. Deer are likely to be mating in November and that’s why you see more of them, IIHS notes. About 1 of every 100 drivers will hit a deer during the driver’s life behind the wheel, says animal-rights group PETA.

Consider dampness a threat. We think of big puddles as dangerous, and they are, because the front wheels can float, called hydroplaning, and you lose steering. But even before the puddles accumulate, rain — especially if it’s the first in a while — can pool on the oil, grime and dust that are on all roads and make the pavement slick. It also can mix with fallen leaves that are abundant in the fall and create a slippery surface. Slowing your speed helps, and, if you’re on a busy road, you can drive in the tracks of the cars ahead of you, where the road is driest.

Tend to your tires. If they have sufficient tread, they perform better on rainy surfaces, and they stop faster and steer better on dry ones. Also, proper tire pressure helps keep you rolling smoothly and safely. When the weather cools as fall heads toward winter, tires typically lose pressure and can cause your car to handle poorly. If the tires are extremely low, that can contribute to a blowout. Correct pressure will be noted on a decal pasted on the driver’s side door jamb or the door itself. The pressure that’s noted on the tire itself is the maximum for that tire, and that could be wrong for your car.

Cope with glare. The blinding distraction of sun glare waxes as summer wanes. Sounds wrong, but it’s logical, because the sun moves closer to the horizon — which keeps it pointed straight into your eyes, and makes it more likely to reflect at low angles off other cars, buildings and windows. Have your sunglasses handy. Don’t look directly into the lights of oncoming traffic when you drive at night. And keep your windshield clear so dirt streaks don’t contribute to the glare.

Article by: James R. Healey, AARP


Tips Before Sending Your Teen Off to College! 

August 13, 2018

Laundry

Believe it or not, many teens do not know how to do their own laundry! In college, mom and dad are unable to do their laundry for them every week. It is very important to teach your teen how to do laundry before they are off to college.

A month or so before they have to move into their new home, start teaching them to do their laundry on their own. It is important they are familiar with the process for a little while before they are expected to do it every week…or 3.

Cooking

Although all universities offer meal plans for the dining hall, it is still wouldn’t be a bad idea to teach your teen how to cook a few things. Some dining halls have limited hours and do not always offer the foods your teen may like.

Ramen noodles seem to be a hit with college kids and are very simple to make! Teach them the basic foods they could make from breakfast, lunch to dinner. Cooking will only come in handy if your teen has access to a kitchen. If not, being able to cook will still be helpful for down the road.

Hovering

An important tip for all parents is to not be the helicopter parent. Your teen is growing up and can now make certain decisions on their own. For instance, if you and your teen are on a college visit, allow them to ask questions that they want to ask. Try not to take over the whole tour with questions of your own. This does not mean you cannot ask any questions, but make sure your teen has time to ask the questions they wish to ask.

Now let’s say your teen has already chosen a school and has moved in. Give them some time and freedom to get adjusted. Try not to call 5 times a day to make sure they are okay. If they are starting to miss home, they will be the ones to call first. Be sure to allow them to get used to the new atmosphere and the ability to make new friends!

Financial Aid

It is no secret that higher education is expensive. It is so important to have a conversation with your teen about expenses and what you can afford. You do not want your teen to have large amounts of student debt right after they graduate and get their degree.

It is important to contact the universities Financial Aid office. Typically, their contact information can be found on the universities website. They will help you with anything from scholarship money to filling out the FASFA correctly. It is always good to talk numbers before allowing your teen to choose a university he or she cannot afford.

The Decision 

When it comes time for your teen to start thinking about college, allow them to have some freedom in the decision-making process. As a parent, it is your job to help narrow down all of the college options. The best way to do this would be to make a pro’s and con’s list of all colleges and universities that you and your teen have visited or are interested in. It can be slightly overwhelming for an 18-year-old to make a decision that will jump-start their future.

It is important to talk with your teen about the following:

  • What their interests are
  • What they would like to major in
  • What they are looking for in a university
  • How far away they want to be from home
  • What you as a parent can afford

It is good to break these conversations up, so that your teen does not feel more pressure to choose a university without all of the information needed to make the right decision.


Lots of Flooding in New Jersey

July 12, 2018

According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), everyone lives in a flood zone. Even those who don’t live near water are at risk because anywhere it rains, it can flood. Heavy rains, clogged or insufficient drainage systems, nearby construction projects, broken water mains, and inadequate levees and dams can cause flooding that put your home and belongings at risk.

Your home is one of your greatest investments. It’s important to prepare ahead should a disaster occur. Here are three simple steps to help make sure you’re ready in the event of a flood.

Create a “flood file” and keep it in an accessible waterproof and fireproof container. It should contain a personal property inventory of your home, a copy of your insurance information, copies of any critical personal documents, and a CD backup of computer documents and digital photos.

Prepare your home by making sure your sump pump works and has a battery backup, your gutters and downspouts are clear, your electronics and appliances are elevated, and any valuables and keepsakes are moved to a higher level.

Develop an emergency plan that includes evacuation routes from home, work, and school. Make sure that plan includes an out-of-town contact list that all family members can call in case you get separated. Create an emergency kit with extra drinking water, non-perishable food, first-aid materials, blankets, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries that can be grabbed easily if you need to evacuate.

It’s important to know that most home policies don’t cover flooding and just a few inches of water damage can cost thousands.

ABA Insurance offers flood insurance as an additional coverage to your homeowner’s policy. “Don’t sell yourself short! Most homeowners policies do not cover flooding of your home. In most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period before your flood insurance policy becomes effective. The time to think about flood insurance is before flooding becomes a problem!” – Bernie Lemberg

Blog credit to Foremost Insurance Group, and ABA Insurance is a proud carrier of Foremost Insurance since 2009.


Summer Safety Tips With Kids! 

July 3, 2018

Sunscreen

Sunscreen has its own season, summer! When the sun is out, everyone should be protecting their skin. Research done by The Skin Cancer Foundation has found that children who have gotten severe sunburns have a higher chance of developing Melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs in about 200,000 people per year in the United States. This Foundation recommends applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreen that is waterproof and that protects against both UVA and UVB rays is the best.

Sunscreen should be applied every 30 minutes for the best protection. Make sure skin is dry before applying. Regardless of age and skin type, always apply sunscreen to you and your children.

Poison Ivy

When it comes to playing outside, make sure you and your child are aware of what poisonous plants look like. Let’s say a ball has been kicked into a grassy area and your child wants to retrieve it. Make sure your child knows to check the area before walking through it. If they cannot tell or feel unsafe walking through a particular area, tell them to get an adult.

If you or your children have been exposed to poison ivy, here are some symptoms of an on-coming rash:

  • Itchy skin
  • Small bumps or hives
  • Redness or red streaks
  • Blisters that drain fluid when popped

Not all symptoms are severe and need medical assistance. For minor cases, home remedies like cold showers will help the symptoms to dwindle. If home remedies are not working and the rash continues to spread, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Bicycles

Bicycle accidents are common among children, especially those just learning how to ride one. According to the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, at least 300,000 children in the United States make a trip to the emergency room due to bike-related injuries.

The best way to keep your children safe on his or her bike is to make them wear protective gear, such as a helmet, shoulder pads and knee pads. If a child does get into a bicycle accident, minor injuries can be curable at home. If major accidents, like those that result in broken bones, must seek medical assistance immediately.

Swim Safety

Summer is known for laying out by the pool and swimming all day! Whether it is a public pool or a private pool at your home, the same rules apply to each. To ensure that your children are safe at any pool, go over the safety rules with them if they are old enough.

Many rules like no running, no diving in the shallow and wearing a life jacket in the deep end, all apply to almost any pool. If your child is not a very good swimmer, provide a life jacket to ensure their head is always above water and to prevent them from drowning. If there are no lifeguards, watch your children at all times or swim with them. If there are lifeguards, provide the right swim gear necessary!

Hydration

Make sure you and your children are drinking plenty of water when being outside. Dehydration can happen to anyone, especially children. It is important to eat and drink frequently throughout a hot summer day. Here are some symptoms of dehydration that parents should be cautious of:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Bee Stings

Bee stings are painful for anyone! Bees and insects are known for being practically everywhere during the summertime. Beehives can be located anywhere from trees to garages. Typically, hives are located in small areas where they are not always visible.

To ensure that your children are safe from being stung, check the area they are playing in for hives. Bug spray can also help, however, it will not kill bees. In case of a bee sting, make sure the stinger is not in the wound. Once removed, apply ice to relieve some pain and to shrink swelling. Once the sting is less inflamed, wash the area and place a bandage is necessary. If your child is allergic to bee stings, seek medical assistance immediately.


Take Caution With Christmas Lights

December 21, 2017

With Christmas right around the corner, holiday decorations are lighting up houses across the nation. But without careful management of your Christmas lights, your house could *literally* light up.

A recent report of an electrical fire in Mahwah, New Jersey stated that improperly secured extension cords were the cause of the fire that burned down the family’s home. Simple precautions could have been taken to prevent this fire and many other fires caused during the holiday season...

When using lights on or near a tree, make sure that no cords are frayed or pinched. These exposure points are easy targets for a fire. Even if your wires are properly maintained, there is still a risk of fire. Never leave lights on unattended; turn them off when sleeping or leaving the house.

Candles are another common decoration with a high fire risk. Battery-operated, flameless candles are recommended, as there is no flame to start a fire. If you are using regular candles, there are precautions that should be taken to minimize risk. Like with tree lights, never leave a candle unattended. Blow it out so the fire is not at risk of spreading. Candles should also always be left at least 12 inches away from any flammable material, to prevent the flame from jumping to the adjacent material. This can be further prevented by placing candles in a sturdy candleholder that won’t tip over if accidentally bumped.

We also need to take precautions with the tree itself to reduce the risk of the tree catching on fire. Watering the tree every day is a must; watered trees are full of moisture, whereas dry trees do not have moisture to act as a shield for a fire threat.

Christmas fires can be easily prevented as long as you stay safe and follow the precautions above. By taking simple measures to ensure the safety of your home, you can have a worry-free happy holiday!


"National Impaired Driving Prevention Month"

December 8, 2017

Did you know December is “National Impaired Driving Prevention Month”? This includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, the holidays and drunk or impaired driving go hand in hand.

Last week President Trump spoke about the impaired driving and here is a passage from his proclamation:

“On average, every 50 minutes, a person in the United States dies in a vehicle crash involving alcohol. We have seen too many lives cut short by impaired driving, and too many drivers continue to put themselves and others at risk every day. During National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we reemphasize that impaired driving is never acceptable. We recognize that we can eliminate impaired driving through our choices, and we pledge to make the right choice by driving sober.”

If you would like to continue reading the President's proclamation click here.

Besides the immediate loss of property or life, impaired driving can be a costly headache that lasts on your insurance record for up to 7 years and 10 years in California! You can be paying marginally higher on your insurance premium monthly. Some insurance companies can require for you to pay the amount due in full! Once you have a DUI on your record, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to truly shop around or be able to take advantage of promotions. The fees and red tape for “high-risk” drivers are substantial and diminish your options.

A lot of the risks, financial or physical, can be easily avoided by making smart choices.  Arrange for a designated driver if you plan on drinking at a party or call a taxi.

Our ability to safely drive a motor vehicle can also be impacted by drug use, including medical marijuana and prescription drugs.  When you drive drunk or drugged, you aren’t just putting yourself at risk, you are endangering anyone else who is in your vehicle and everyone else on the road. Be aware of your choices and the effects it can have on your future.


Thanksgiving Safety Tips

November 21, 2017

Hello, hello folks! Thanksgiving is approaching and the shopping frenzy has begun. I try to use this time to reflect and feel gratitude. This is a great time for friends and family to gather and enjoy each other’s company.

We want this time to be happy and enjoyable without any insurance-related issues. Here are some fun tips to keep your event without any snafus …

For the host:

  1. Be sure all of your smoke alarms have working batteries and your carbon monoxide alarm is working.
  2. Check you have a working fire extinguisher and it is within reach.
  3. In case of a fire, use the extinguisher and not a rag or something that can become dangerous. Try to avoid any flare-ups by tossing flour to distinguish a fire. Never use water to put out grease fires!
  4. Use proper washing and disinfecting techniques prior to cooking. When touching meat be sure to clean your hands before starting a new task and touching in order to avoid contamination.

  1. If you are deep-frying a turkey just be sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry. Water does not mix with oil and this can be very dangerous when deep-frying. Also, deep-frying should be done outside in case something goes wrong.
  2. Invest in a meat thermometer ahead of time … If your turkey doesn’t reach 165 degrees you can run the risk of your guests getting very sick. This includes the stuffing.. it needs to be 165 F.
  3. As the host, just try and be aware of the alcohol consumption of your guests. Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest holidays due to drunk driving and accidents. Remind your guests to drink responsibly!
  4. Before going to bed, be sure all candles are extinguished, the oven is off, and the deep fryer has been unplugged.

Tips for those traveling for Thanksgiving or generally any holiday this season.

  1. Give yourself extra time. Traffic will happen but with a nice mixtape, you can make it fun.
  2. Bring snacks, water, and an emergency kit packed in your car just to be prepared.
  3. Make sure everything and everyone is properly secured with car seats, seatbelts, and all objects are secured in case you need to stop suddenly to avoid a hazard.
  4. Bringing food? Great! Be sure it is in a cooler bag in order to avoid food poisoning. The other guests would appreciate you taking the extra steps.
  5. Before you leave home … don’t forget to lock everything up and turn your security on...
  6. On your way home be sure you are okay enough to drive or you have a designated driver.

The most important part of all is just being aware, having fun, and being safe. Enjoy with people you love! Happy Thanksgiving!


End of All Tips

November 15, 2017

Ah fall … if you are in the Northeast you are probably enjoying the end of the season before the leaves are all gone. I love the crisp feel of the air but don’t love the shorter days. As I realize the end of fall is near it evokes images of drinking hot cocoa, sitting by a fire, and being mesmerized by the snow falling. Winter is almost here! I look forward to it’s beauty. 

There are lots of dangers that can lurk during the day and night … even weeks after Halloween is over. Here are some tips to make this time of year a little less troublesome.

  1. Start with your home or business walkways. Keep them clear of those beautiful leaves. Slips and falls can happen from leaves as well as things that are hidden under them.
  2. The days are now shorter and nights come so much faster! Be alert when driving. This is especially important during and after rain because as temperature drops the ice starts to form.
  3. Plan ahead when going out.. the holidays are approaching and everyone is in a rush to go shopping or get errands done. A little extra time goes a long way.

  1. Don’t forget to give your car some love!! Winterize your vehicles as well as check your car for any needed maintenance. Bad breaks or tires are even more hazardous with slippery and icy conditions. Having a harder time seeing when it’s raining? Changing your windshield wiper can help. 
  2. Avoid issues by being prepared even after an accident. Some of the dangers lurk when you’re pulled over and waiting for help. Keep an emergency kit, some snacks, water, and an extra pair of warm clothing in your car. Also, some flashlights, road flares, and an extra phone charger that’s battery operated. Make a list and check it twice.. this will help you feel nice!

Just some basic things you can do as the leaves are almost done falling and we approach winter. Enjoy this time! It lasts a very short time.