WreckCheck – Handy Mobile App for Car Accidents Eliminates Confusion About What to Do

If you are one of the 5 million people who has the misfortune to be involved in a car accident over the next year, you may not be sure exactly what steps to take to protect yourself. Car accidents are rare enough events that most people don’t have top-of-mind awareness about what information needs to be exchanged. Plus, the stress, confusion and high emotions of the event can be a recipe for problems. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) conducted a survey to find out if consumers know what to do, and they learned most people don’t. Here were some common misconceptions and associated risks:

  • Nearly 40% of respondents felt they should share their driver’s licenses, some allowing the other driver to photograph their licenses. The risk is that many retailers accept driver’s license information as a common way to verify identity over the phone.
  • 25% of consumers would share their home addresses. The risk: this information gives potential identity thieves the physical location of one’s mail or garbage, a place often searched for further financial information; It also means potential criminals know where you live, putting your personal safety in jeopardy.
  • Almost 30% of drivers think they are required to share their personal phone numbers. This is not necessary.
  • Close to 20% believe the only reason to call the police after an accident is if someone is injured. However, filing a police report can help facilitate the insurance claims process.

Car Accidents: there’s an app for that!
NAIC offers a WreckCheck mobile app that takes the guesswork out of a post-accident information exchange. When you download the app, enter your vehicle information and info about your agent and insurer. If you are in an accident, launch the app, which will guide you through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. It also offers tips for staying calm, safe and smart on the road, and makes it easy to capture photos and document the necessary information to file an insurance claim. Additionally, the app lets you email yourself a completed accident report directly, as well as to your insurance agents.
The app is free and available for both iPhone® and Android® smartphone users.

New fuel labels on 2013 cars will help consumers save

This is a guest post by Ross Insurance Agency, one of the insurance agency members of Renaissance Alliance.
The introduction of new cars every spring and summer is an annual rite of passage.Potential buyers eagerly watch for new models, makes, technologies, and innovations – as well as for the new price tag. Increasingly, one of the important features that consumers look for is good fuel economy and “green” technologies that help to minimize the vehicle’s impact on the environment. This year, consumers will have a helpful new tool to help with these concerns when buying a new car.
Beginning with 2013 models, all new vehicles will feature a revamped fuel economy and environmental impact label. The new labels were developed by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. They represent a major change designed to give consumers actionable information, more comparison tools, and better benchmarks for potential savings.
The big number in the label’s upper left is combined mileage, while city and highway mileage is included in smaller type. There is also information about the mileage range for all cars of that class so if you are buying a mid-size car,you can see the range of options and how this specific car stacks up. Another useful feature on the upper right of the label is an estimate of the additional money you will save or spend on fuel over a five year period. The label also includes an estimated annual fuel cost,and rates the vehicle for environmental impact. Finally, the label also includes a QR Code which will launch much more detailed information and additional tools if you have downloaded a scanner app on your smartphone.
There are also new labels for hybrids and electric vehicles that offer additional information specific to those vehicles, such as driving ranges. And for skeptics who think that these alternative fuel vehicles are a passing fad, a quick glance at a sample label for the electric vehicles is pretty eye-opening: An annual fuel cost of $600? Wow.
If you buy a new car this year, make sure you get the best coverage for your auto insurance in Massachusetts – look for a Renaissance Alliance Agency!

Introducing “Know Your Plan” – Disaster Prep App for iPhone

Disasters can happen anywhere – just ask the folks in Springfield who experienced the full wrath of last summer’s tornado or the Vermont communities who were flooded last year in the aftermath of a hurricane that was supposed to pass the state by. While we sometimes have warning about pending problems, catastrophic weather and disastrous natural events often take us by surprise.
Today, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has introduced a new mobile disaster preparedness app – Know Your Plan – which features property protection guidance. It includes a variety of “resources and checklists that consumers can use to to help minimize property damage due to severe weather events and other disasters. Users also can build customized checklists, and can share their checklists with family and friends via email.” Users can also access local emergency information through a built-in Google Crisis Response feed.
The iPhone app was developed with the Insurance Information Institute, and can be accessed at the iPhone store under Know Your Plan, or by searching “Insurance Information Institute” in the App store from any iPhone.
Your disaster prep should also include a home inventory. We recommend two tools for that. See Know Your Stuff from the Insurance Information Institute or myHOME Scr.APP.book from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Beach-goers: Worry less about sharks and more about surf and sand hazards

There’s a few weeks left to summer and August is a big beach month. One of the most highly touted scare stories each season are the shark attack reports. Here in New England, people may be more nervous than usual in the light of a pretty horrific recent white shark attack off Cape Cod. Thankfully, this encounter between man and beast was not fatal – you can hear the survivor talk about his experience.
It’s understandable why these events are riveting – it’s the stuff of our nightmares. But should it be? This was the first confirmed white shark attack in Massachusetts in 76 years. For all the media attention they get, shark attacks are pretty rare. Ocean observers tell us that you have more of a risk of dying from a sand hole collapse than a shark attack but you probably aren’t having nightmares about sand castles. But maybe you should be.

Another very common hazard at the ocean are rip currents. Beach-goers should be alert for these narrow, powerful channels of water that pull swimmers directly away from a beach. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, sadly illustrated by the recent drownings in Lake Michigan and the Toronto area. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, more than 80 percent of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip current and they account for about 100 drownings per year.

You can learn more about rip currents at the National Weather Service Rip Current Safety site. There’s a lot of information, current rip current weather alerts, and safety tips and resources to educate you and your kids.

Is Your Home’s Vinyl Siding Melting?

This is a guest post from Renaissance Alliance member agency Wolpert Insurance
So…your vinyl siding is melting, but the neighbor’s house isn’t on fire. What’s the deal? MAIA’s Tech Talk, author Irene Morrill, Vice President of Technical Affairs, discussed an “interesting property claim” involving vinyl siding in November 2010. Unfortunately, such claims have been reported right here in Worcester, as well as other neighboring towns and elsewhere in the country.
So, as you’re looking at the side of your house, scratching your head and wondering what happened, here are a few things to consider:
Your neighbor’s new energy-efficient windows; great for keeping their energy costs down, not so great at keeping your vinyl siding up. Although these windows do meet building code requirements,

“these windows can also warp inward and act like a magnifying glass, concentrating too much heat on nearby homes or business buildings”.

The heat which is caused by these windows can reach temperatures over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the siding to melt. ‘Low E’ glass reflects 70% of the sun’s heat, which can easily melt vinyl siding when the distance between houses/buildings is 15 to 20 feet.
Another cause of melting vinyl siding can be neighboring roofs when the heat of dark roofs re-radiate, deforming adjacent siding.

The sun’s energy strikes the roof and the heat is re-radiated and absorbed by the siding, causing it to warp. This might happen when you have a sloping, dark-colored roof that intersects a vertical wall close to a window. In effect, the building could melt itself or a close neighboring premises.

Other variables that can contribute to distorting siding:

  • outdoor temps and wind speed
  • proximity of other heat sources, i.e. ac compressors
  • color and solar absorption of the siding (darker colors absorb more heat)
  • angle of the sun and orientation of the glass relative to the siding

Unfortunately, if your home/business insurance coverage is a “named peril policy”, such instances would not be covered.
If you have vinyl siding and are curious about other insurance options available to you, please contact Wolpert or your local Renaissance insurance agency.
Photo courtesy of Irene Morrill and Tech Talk, 2010
Double-pane windows can melt more than vinyl siding