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  Dogs and Homeowner’s Insurance  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

Dogs have been family members for centuries, but recent trends in homeowner’s liability claims are changing the way homeowner’s insurance is sold. If you recently shopped for property insurance of any type, you were asked, “Do you have any animals?” If you answered yes, the agent probably wanted to know what type. If you mentioned a dog, they wanted to know what breed. “Why does that matter?” you may ask.

One-third of homeowner’s insurance claims are related to dog liability, according to the Insurance Information Institute. While most of these losses are dog bites, harm also comes to people who are knocked down by a dog. The Center for Disease Control indicates that 4.7 million people are bitten each year by dogs, and half of those are children. About 800,000 victims need medical attention, while an average of 16 cases annually result in a fatality. Illinois has the distinction of ranking #2 in the U.S.A. in terms of annual dog bite numbers. When you realize that the cost of the average dog bite claim increased by 67% between 2003 and 2014 to $32,072, it becomes obvious why insurance companies want to limit their exposure to dog liability claims.

How the insurance companies are dealing with this situation may limit your homeowner’s insurance options. Many carriers have started to deny or limit coverage if you own a certain breed or your dog is a mix of a certain breed. These breeds vary from company to company, but they are based on dog bite fatality statistics. DogsBite.org lists the following analysis of dog bite fatalities between the years 2005 and 2012:

  • Pit bull: 60%
  • Rottweiler: 13%
  • Husky: 4%
  • Mixed Breed: 4%
  • American Bulldog: 3.6%
  • German Shepherd: 3.6%
  • Mastiff/Bullmastiff: 3%
  • Boxer: 2%
  • Malamute: 1.6%
  • Labrador: 1.6%

Don’t dismiss these figures because they must all be up in Chicago. The Williamson County Animal Control sees about 80 dog bite cases per year. Some companies have decided that they will not insure the home at all if a certain dog breed is a household resident. Other carriers may require you to sign an exclusion for dog bite liability if you own a particular type of dog. Others may not offer any type of liability on the homeowner policy if a suspect breed is owned. The insurance company may be willing to give you liability coverage, but they are going to surcharge for the exposure, costing you more money.

So now that you know that dog ownership is an underwriting issue, and you are concerned that your dog might be on the prohibited list, you still need to be honest with your insurance agent. If you intentionally fail to disclose that you own a dog, that is considered misrepresentation and will result in a claim being denied if it does happen. Your policy will also be cancelled or not renewed, and you have become uninsurable (sometimes even if you get rid of the dog). Agents are being asked to “interview the dog,” and property inspectors look for signs that a dog is owned when they conduct their inspections. Are you feeling that your dog is being wrongly discriminated against? I feel your pain. I own a German Shepherd, who is my best friend, but I have learned some ways to reduce the dog bite risk.

Precautions you need to take if you are a dog owner:

  1. Educate yourself about dog breeds that would be suitable for your family and neighborhood.
  2. Spend time with the animal before you buy or adopt the dog and bring it home.
  3. Do NOT leave a baby or young child alone with a dog.
  4. Socialize your dog, so it becomes comfortable under more circumstances.
  5. Use caution when exposing your dog to a new situation.
  6. Teach your children how to behave around dogs.
  • Don’t bother an animal when it is eating or sleeping.
  • Don’t tease animals.
  • Don’t approach a chained dog.
  • Don’t run and scream if you are approached by a loose dog.
  • Avoid making eye contact with a strange dog if it looks threatening.
  • Don’t approach a mother dog with puppies.


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  Auto Insurance News – Distracted Driving Dangers  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

Recently, local news ran a story about a high school basketball team traveling to a playoff game in a school bus. The bus was sideswiped by another vehicle, left the roadway and rolled over onto its roof. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, but there were numerous injuries. The cause of the accident was distracted driving. The operator of the car that hit the bus had spilled a drink in their lap.

April has been designated by the National Safety Council as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This initiative is designed to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving and how to reduce your risk. With 3,179 people killed and another 431,000 injured due to driving distractions in 2014 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds these statistics to be alarming. More than 80% of drivers responding to the AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index feel threatened by the distracted driving of others. To bring the perspective to a more regional level, a study published earlier this year by Erie Insurance noted that Illinois ranks #6 nationwide for the number of items posted by drivers.

When we discuss distracted driving, we are talking about drivers engaged in another activity at the same time they are behind the wheel. There are three basic types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. Anything that would cause you to take your eyes off the road would be considered a visual distraction while something that makes you take your hands off the steering wheel would be classified as a manual distraction. Cognitive distractions involve thinking about something other than driving. Using a cell phone, eating, drinking, talking, grooming, reading, using a navigational system, watching a video, using in-vehicle technologies, and dealing with children or pets are all examples of activities that take away from the primary focus of driving. Texting is the worst offense because it involves all three types of distractions. Do you realize that taking your eyes off the road for five seconds traveling at 55 mph is the same as driving blindfolded the length of a football field? Several studies indicate that it takes an additional 27 seconds after finishing the secondary activity for the vehicle operator to refocus on driving. During daylight hours across our nation 660,000 drivers are fumbling with electronic devices or using a cell phone.

Although Illinois has passed legislation that makes it illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, the hands-free devices still involve distracted driving. It also makes sense that the worst impact of distracted driving can be linked to young drivers with the least amount of behind the wheel experience. Sixteen percent of distracted driving accidents involve motorists less than 20 years of age.

So what can you take away from this information? Be aware of driving distractions, and do your best to minimize them when you are behind the wheel. If you are a passenger in a vehicle, help the driver maintain focus. Instruct your children to turn off their cell phone before they put the key in the ignition. Use your best defensive driving skills so you can react quickly if you encounter a distracted driver. Distracted driving is a danger to you, your passengers, other vehicles and pedestrians.



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  Thanksgiving  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 



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  Home Insurance News  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

Homeowner’s insurance was designed to protect the property owner’s investment from the damage Mother Nature can bring such as lightning, wind, hail, freezing pipes and the weight of ice and snow among other things. The volatile weather in Illinois exposes homeowners to many perils throughout the year. Much publicity has been given to the need for crisis planning for individuals and families, also it is a good idea to include your animal family members in your crisis plan. If it isn’t a safe situation for you, it is not a safe situation for your pets.

In your disaster planning, you should have a safe place within the home as well as a safe place away from home, and you should keep your pets with you if at all possible. That may entail bringing outdoor pets inside to your basement or interior room without windows. If you need to leave your home to seek safety, you should have carriers ready for small animals and leashes for larger pets. All pets should have collars with current identification tags in case of separation. An additional safeguard could include an animal card and document. The animal card is something you would create to carry in your wallet. The card should include the type of animal, pet’s name, home address, any special care instructions and an emergency contact person’s details (for someone other than you that could access the animal in an emergency).  A photo of you with the pet would enhance proof of ownership. The animal document would have the same information as the card, but it would be stored with your estate planning information.

Just as you should have an emergency supply kit for yourself and your family, you need a kit for your pets too. Three days worth of water and dry food in an airtight,  waterproof container along with any daily medications ought to be packed and ready to go. Litter, pee pads, paper towels, plastic bags and bleach would be helpful in tending to your pets’ sanitary needs. An animal first aid kit would also be beneficial. Some experts suggest packing some familiar toys for the animals to reduce their stress.

In a worst case scenario, if something happens to you such that you are no longer able to care for your animals, an estate plan that includes your pets is a great idea. Just as you would appoint a guardian for your dependent children, you need to provide one for your animals along with some funds for their care. The ASPCA found that between five and seven million animals in the U.S. per year end up in a shelter because the pet’s primary caregiver either died or suffered a disability that would not allow them to continue to care for their animals. Of these, between three to four million pets are euthanized because a good home can’t be found for them. Include your pets in your will. You can go online to a do-it-yourself legal site to set up a trust for your pet for a fee of about $25.

One of the lessons we should have learned from Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina is that insurance can fix property, but only you can protect yourself and your pets!



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  Auto Insurance News  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

The State of Illinois raised the minimum liability limits for auto insurance effective January 1st. This will not impact most Diederich customers because we did not write policies at the old minimum liability limits; they were simply insufficient if there was an accident. Minimum liability limits now provide $25,000 worth of bodily injury liability per person, not to exceed $50,000 total for the accident. That coverage is for those in the other vehicle or pedestrians. In this day and age, it is easy for injuries to exceed $25,000 for one person or $50,000 for the incident. You would be personally responsible for any costs exceeding your insurance limits, so in order to protect your personal assets, you may want to talk to us about increasing your coverage. In some instances, higher limits can be cheaper than minimum limits, however it costs you nothing to ask.

The other aspect of the minimum insurance limit increased by the state is for property damage. The minimum is now $20,000 to repair damage to the other person’s vehicle or property. At Diederich Insurance, our minimum has been $25,000 because, once again, the base level is insufficient if you are involved in a fender bender. You could take your chances that if you were to cause an accident you would only hit a junker, but if you hit a luxury vehicle, several vehicles or a new car, you would once again be on the hook for damages exceeding your policy limits. Moving up to the next level of property damage liability would take you to $50,000, and there would be a small increase in premium. We would be more than happy to discuss the options with you!



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  Home Insurance News  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

After the long winter we have endured, it is nice to welcome the warmer weather and spring showers that bring beautiful flowers. Thunderstorms, hail, wind and severe weather are also possible. Even though these “Acts of God” are out of our control, there are several tips to reduce the chance of damage to your home. In order to prevent water from getting into your home, make sure the gutters are cleaned out and pointing away from the house. Tree limbs and shrubs within five feet of any structures, the AC unit, outdoor pools, etc. need to be trimmed back. Those of you with finished basements need to make sure that the sump pump is in good working order and has back-up energy if the power goes out. You might want to talk to us about a water and sewer back-up endorsement for your homeowner’s insurance. Inspect outdoor faucets for any freeze damage.

Pride in ownership is something that all homeowner insurance companies take into consideration during underwriting. Make sure the lawnmower is safely ready to be used, and use it as necessary. If you are considering some new landscaping, planting rose bushes, blackberry bushes, holly or other plants with thorns or sharp leaves in front of window areas will discourage illegal entry and theft.

Last but not least, let us coach you about turning in a homeowner’s claim. Insurance is not the same thing as maintenance. In order to “get someone out to look at my roof”, we have to turn in a claim to the insurance company. If they determine that the damage is “normal wear and tear” on the roof, the claim will be denied completely or depreciated to the point that you have a fraction of the money you need to replace the roof. If the cost of the repairs is less than your deductible, the claim would be closed without payment. The adjuster could also determine that there is no damage to the roof, and the claim would be closed without payment. Each of the examples above would be counted against you. Our recommendation is that you document the damage, do what is necessary to prevent further damage and contact us for further advice prior to turning in a claim yourself directly to the company. If you were to have two claims within a five year period, you can count on getting non-renewed and having to move the coverage to a high-risk carrier with exorbitant rates.



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  Auto Insurance News  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

One of the newest trends in auto insurance is referred to as “Pay How You Drive”. The concept of this rating system is that the less time your car is on the road, especially during hazardous periods such as late night and rush hour, the less chance there is of having a claim. Drivers with smooth braking and acceleration habits are less likely to have an accident than those who burn rubber or slam on their brakes. In order to earn these discounts, a small device has to be plugged into a port on the car itself. Some companies’ measuring devices are more complicated than others. Some devices include a GPS tracking feature, which allows parents to monitor teen driving and the insurance company to more easily find a stolen vehicle. As drivers reduce the amount of time they spend on the road to get these savings, they also reduce their carbon footprint and gas usage, which is an additional benefit.

At Diederich Insurance Agency we have three carriers so far that are offering “Pay How You Drive” rating options. Progressive has the “Snapshot” program, and the Hartford now has “Right Lane”. Neither of these has the GPS. Travelers has upgraded “Intellidrive”, and it does have the GPS. If you feel that you are a good driver who could earn some of these additional discounts, please let Patty or I know prior to your next renewal, and we will get you set up.



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  Concealed Carry Insurance  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

The issuance of concealed carry permits in the state of Illinois has begun. You may have completed the required training, filled out the appropriate application and paid your fee, but have you investigated the personal ramifications of using your concealed weapon? Criminal and civil lawsuits are certainly a possibility in this litigious age.

As a personal lines insurance producer with 20 years of experience, I have had to do some research to counsel my insurance customers considering concealed carry. Many people would assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover them in the event that they use their weapon for self defense. At this juncture, assumptions are all we have because there have not yet been any insurance claims, court cases or awards. Assumption is not insurance. Until precedents have been established, anyone with a concealed carry permit should consider them self vulnerable. Policy verbiage varies from company to company and “intentional” harm exclusions will come into play. Any restitution for legal fees including retainers may not occur until after a court has verified that the act constituted legal use of a concealed weapon. At that point, you could be floundering in debt or experiencing significant disruption of your normal lifestyle.

The whole purpose of carrying a concealed weapon is to reduce your vulnerability, so I would strongly urge you to purchase a product specifically designed to cover you in the event of a self-defense incident. At Diederich Insurance, we are recommending reasonably priced packages through CCW Safe. The chart below shows why CCW’s product is the most comprehensive available in Illinois today. For more information or to purchase the coverage, please go to www.ccwsafe.com/diederichinsurance or give me a call.



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  CCW Safe Announcement  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

Protecting the things that you love and are important to you has always been our mission at Diederich Insurance. With the recent passage of Concealed Carry legislation in Illinois, we know many of you will decide to carry a firearm for your own safety. The liability coverage that extends from your homeowner’s insurance is limited. We have researched several concealed carry consumer protection packages. We are pleased to announce that we can provide comprehensive protection through our new partnership with CCW Safe. This coverage can be purchased through our agency as a gift to yourself and/or spouse, or you can purchase a gift certificate for someone on your Christmas list. Please contact us at 618.457.6721 for more information.



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  Deer Hunting begins today in Southern Illinois  
  by Cindy Parroné |  
 

A quarter of a million deer hunters hit the woods today in Illinois for the first shotgun season of the year, which continues through Sunday, November 18th. The deer have already been restless and mobile because it is mating season, but with the report of gunshots echoing around them, deer are even more likely to dart out onto a roadway. This annual ritual makes November the month with the largest number of deer/vehicle accidents (DVA) followed by December, October and June.

Statistics recently released by the insurance industry found that the average property damage deer claim ran about $3,305 in the first half of 2012. With reference to bodily injury, there were 613 persons hurt and six fatalities from DVA in Illinois during 2011. The chance of hitting a deer in our state is 1:250. Illinois ranks 26th in the U.S. for DVA, and the top ten DVA counties in Illinois are well north of Jackson County.

The most common driver DVA error is swerving to avoid hitting the deer. Instead of colliding with the animal, the vehicle is likely to leave the roadway to flip in a ditch, hit another vehicle or hit an object such as a tree, utility pole or guard rail. Swerving causes more significant damage and injury than a direct deer hit. The insurance carrier categorizes an animal collision as a comprehensive claim, which is not surcharged as heavily as a non-animal collision. Avoidance of the deer resulting in contact with another vehicle or object is an at-fault, surchargeable accident.

If you want to avoid harvesting a deer with your car, consider the following precautions:

  1. Be on the lookout for deer especially at dawn and dusk.
  2. Be on the watch for deer where signs mark deer crossings.
  3. Look for deer where you have seen them or deer carcasses previously.
  4. Use caution when deer habitats such as field edges, woodlots and water are near the roadway.
  5. When driving at night, watch for headlight reflections from the deer’s eyes. Using the high beams when there is no oncoming traffic is encouraged. Flashing your bright lights at the deer can wake them from their “trance” and scare them away from the road, especially if you honk the horn a few times.
  6. If you spot a deer, slow down and use your emergency flashers to warn other drivers. Be prepared to stop.
  7. Do not follow too closely behind another vehicle. If they encounter a deer, you could end up colliding with them from behind, which would be your fault.
  8. Wear your seatbelt.
  9. Remain alert, awake and sober.
  10. Minimize distractions inside your vehicle like loud music, cell phone use, texting, map reading or conversing with passengers.
  11. Do not rely on “deer whistles”.

Drive safely Southern Illinois! May the venison on your table be a hunting trophy rather than road kill!





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