Thanksgiving on the road: best driving times & tips


illustration woamn driving with turkey tied ot the roof of her car

Will your Thanksgiving festivities entail traveling 50 miles or more? If so, you’ll be joining 55 million other folks, according to AAA, who predicts this will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since they began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005. That’s up by about a million over last year. Of those travelers, 49.3 will be motorists.

If you will be driving to your destination, try to get your car checked now. Be sure to check windshield wipers and fluid, tire pressure and oil and gas levels. AAA predicts they will respond to 368,000+ calls for roadside assistance over the holiday, with the top three reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. In addition to car maintenance, Gas Buddy will help you find the best gas prices wherever you are – and you can plan out expenses in advance using their Trip Cost Calculator. If you will be driving in states beyond your home state, brush up on traffic laws with the AAA Digest of Motorist Laws. This handy tool covers everything: headline use, distracted and impaired driving laws, accident reporting and more.

Best times for Thanksgiving road travel

If you’ll be on the road, AAA says that in the Boston metro area, avoid traveling between 4:30-6:30 PM. Google offers tools that might help you avoid the worst traffic times. Below, see the heaviest times mapped for major metro areas (click above link for larger). You can also use their calculator for avoiding traffic – enter the major metro departure city for various days to see predicted traffic patterns based on prior years.

chart illustrating worst traffic over Thanksgiving weekend
Here are some other safe Thanksgiving traveling tips:

 

What’s an insurance rider?


Insurance concept with hand pressing social icons on blue world map background.

Every industry has its own business jargon and insurance is certainly no exception … in fact, we may have more than our fair share, and a lot of lingo can be quite confusing to the average person. One question that we get on the regular is “what’s an insurance rider?”

An “insurance rider” is more commonly known as an “endorsement,” a term which might also be confusing! The concept is actually pretty simple: an optional, written addendum to a basic insurance policy that modifies the terms of the insurance contract in some way.

Generally, an endorsement would be added to protect the insured by expanding or limiting the coverage in some defined manner. An endorsement or rider can occur at the start of a policy or can be added midterm. Depending on whether you are adding or limiting your coverage with the endorsement, it may have an impact on your premium

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a great source of education on this and other insurance matters. See: What is an Insurance Endorsement or Rider? They offer this definition and explanation for how endorsements work:

An endorsement, also known as a rider, adds, deletes, excludes or changes insurance coverage. An endorsement/rider can also be used to increase standard limits of coverage and take precedent over the original agreement or policy.

An insurance endorsement/rider is an amendment to an existing insurance contract that changes the terms of the original policy. An endorsement/rider can be issued at the time of purchase, mid-term or at renewal time. Insurance premiums may be affected and adjusted as a result.

You can have an endorsement/rider on your homeowners and renters policy, life insurance and auto insurance policies. It can include adding or deleting people and locations to your current insurance policy. Endorsements/riders are important because they address issues or items not in the original contract or policy.

  • Additional Coverage – An endorsement that adds or includes coverage that would otherwise be excluded.

  • Exclusions – Some endorsements exclude coverage for certain types of claims.

  • Modification of Coverage – An endorsement can expand the scope of existing coverage.

Examples: for a standard homeowners policy, common endorsements might include coverage for a home business, coverage for damage incurred during natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or windstorms, coverage for property’s replacement value rather than cash value or – as discussed in a prior post – an endorsement might expand coverage limits for valuables.

A specific endorsement may not be available from every insurer or in every state. A good insurance agent will likely inform you of any common policy options, but when discussing a specific type of insurance with your agent, ask if there are any options that would expand your coverage.

NAIC offers the reminder that because a rider/endorsement is part of the legal terms of your policy, be sure to keep a copy with the policy.

Posted in Glossary

Last-Minute Halloween Liability Issues


costumed kids trick or treating

Halloween is scary enough, we don’t mean to add to your fright, but if you are a homeowner or an apartment dweller, there are some safety precautions you should take to greet the little ghosts and goblins who will be ringing your bell or roaming the streets.

A few years ago, Christopher Boggs wrote a great Guide to Homeowners Liability for Injury to Trick or Treaters. He notes:

When the porch light is on, trick-or-treaters are considered invitees; the homeowner is inviting them onto the property (though not for a mutual benefit). Because of this relationship, the homeowner owes the candy seekers the level of “reasonable” care that falls under Ordinary Negligence.

Now anytime you have anyone visit your home, they could suffer an injury or an accident – that’s why you have insurance. But on Halloween, a steady stream of small feet traipsing across your porch in the dark increases the risk. Plus, you are giving out food.

Here are some tips to minimize Halloween hazards and reduce your risk.

  • Keep porches and walkways well-lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards
  • Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway
  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Keep pets away from kids to avoid bites, scares or allergic reactions. Even friendly pets can be overexcited or upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish or overly protective.
  • Avoid mystery treats. Distribute labeled treats and tell parents what they are and if they contain nuts.
  • Provide alternative allergy-free treats – consider small non-food trinkets.
  • Be cautious about any spooky pranks for kids or guests – make sure they are safe and not too scary to young children.
  • If you are hosting an adult party, you have particular responsibility to take care in the serving of alcoholic beverages. See our post on holiday parties and liability issues.
  • If you are driving any time on Halloween, be super cautious. Little monsters may be out at any hour and frequenting normally quiet neighborhoods. Be particularly cautious at dusk an early evening.

Protect your home and car too!

Halloween is a huge night for vandalism. Here are a few tips to protect your property from fire, theft and vandalism.

    • Don’t overload electrical circuits with lights.
    • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
    • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.
    • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
    • If you don’t have shelter for your car, consider stopping at the car wash for a coat of wax that may offer some protection.
    • If you are out trick or treating with your kids or partying with your peers, make your home looks occupied. Leave lights and the TV on.
    • Doorbell cams and motion activated lights can offer added protection.
    • If your car or home is egged, deal with it right away that night or in the morning before damage can set in. See How to Remove Egg Stains From Your Car’s Paint Job and 4 Ways to Wash Egg off your home

    Call your agent

    If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won’t forget them later.

Spooktacular guide to Halloween events in New England


a dark iillustratin of a haunted ymansion, a full moon and fluing bats for Halloween

It’s time to get your ghoul on! Between now and early November, there’s no shortage of spooky, haunted happenings to scare and delight you. We’ve selected a variety of haunted events and spooky places to help you enjoy the season over the next week. What’s the Weather Forecast for Halloween? Here’s the Farmers’ Almanac Prediction.

But remember – there’s one spooky place you want to avoid on Halloween at all costs!

New England Halloween Happenings

Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular – from Zipline rides to Family Fun Nights, come enjoy thousands of carved pumpkins. Providence, RI

Sturbridge Village, The Legend of Sleep Hollow – “Recognized as one of the country’s top five Halloween plays, The Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale.

The Haunted Graveyard, Bristol CT– At dusk, take a terrifying 1 mile journey through darkly glittering catacombs to an eerie graveyard, to a vampire’s haunt, to a witch’s lair, then onto a misty lake and an ancient temple.

Haunted Happenings in Salem MA – What better place to experience Halloween than the city of the witch trials? There are a variety of events to choose from – this site says:“A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England. From the Grand Parade and Family Film Nights on Salem Common, to ghost tours, haunted houses and so much more.” Get an event calendar, a free guide & more.

Portsmouth NH Halloween Parade 10/31 – in its 25th year, this grassroots, all-inclusive celebration of community, creativity and free expression walks, stalks, dances, trumpets and drums its way through downtown Portsmouth.

Spooky World – Spooky World presents Nightmare New England and the Haunted Hayride. It is New England’s largest haunted attraction. (Litchfield, NH)

Posted in Events

How to avoid rogue tow truck scams


couple watching their car loaded on a tow truck

Bad enough if you are in an auto accident – that’s stressful enough. You might be injured or at the very least, shaken up. Suddenly a tow truck appears on the scene saying they are from your insurance company. While that might seem like lucky timing, it should actually raise your suspicions. High pressure tactics from rogue tow truck operators can lead to exorbitant towing and storage fees or your car being taken to a body shop that is in league with the tower. The National Insurance Crime Bureau recently released a public service announcement to raise awareness about rogue tow truck operators and how to avoid becoming a victim.

NCIB offers these tips:

  • Never give permission to a tow truck operator who arrives unsolicited to take your vehicle.
  • If you or law enforcement did not call a tow truck to the scene, do not deal with that operator.
  • Do not provide tow truck operators with your insurance information.
  • Do not provide tow truck operators with personal lien holder information.
  • Determine that the tow truck signage is identical to what appears on any documentation the tow truck operator provides (they may say they “work with” your insurance company).
  • If the tow truck does not display signage identifying the name of the tow company, ask for company identification.
  • If a tow operator’s legitimacy is in doubt, call the police.
  • Do not give a tow truck operator permission to tow your vehicle until they:
    –Provide a printed price list, to include daily storage fees and miscellaneous charges that will apply if they tow your car (if the prices seem too high, ask the police or your insurance company to call a towing service for you).
    –Provide printed documentation indicating where the vehicle is being towed if it is not a location of your choosing.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud offers more information on tow truck cons and scams, as well as extensive tips to for what to expect and what your rights are.

Check out the full article but here are a few tips from their list:

Think ahead: Join an emergency road service club or organization such as AAA. Also know your auto insurer’s roadside assistance program, with the tollfree number printed on your insurance card. They’ll set you up with reputable towing firms and repair shops.

Photos. Take a photo of the scene, including the tow truck. Use your cell phone or a disposable camera stored in your glove compartment.

Complain. File complaints if you’re scammed. Contact your insurer, state insurance department, local Better Business Bureau and the police.

Know your rights. State laws protect you if your vehicle is towed while you were away, such as while shopping. Confirm and complain if you suspect violations of these rules in most states:

  • The property owner or manager of a business that had your vehicle towed must be at the scene and sign the towing authorization in most states;
  • The operator must leave a small sign at the scene. It should have the firm’s name, address, phone, reason for towing, and who requested the tow;
  • Towing firms must take a photo of your vehicle in the “illegal” spot and notify the local police department to ensure the car is not classified as stolen. Get the photos from the towing firm (though expect a fee); and
  • The towing operator must release your vehicle if you will not or cannot pay the requested towing free. This is true in most states, and then becomes a matter for civil courts.