When a Tree Falls, Could You Be Liable? 5 Ways to Avoid Tree Problems

 

As we enter into the Fall season and hopefully get some more rain in California this year, it’s time to make sure we’re taking care of our trees.

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Trees are pretty amazing. They produce oxygen. They serve as natural air conditioners, both by blocking sunlight and through evaporation. And they even absorb sounds, helping to keep things peaceful.

These benefits are great reasons to keep the trees on your property in good shape. Another reason? Unhealthy trees can actually pose great danger to your home and property, as well as to your family and other people.

With these tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation, you can help prevent tree trouble – and potentially save yourself from a home insurance claim:

  1. Inspect trees frequently. The size, color and condition of leaves, and overall leaf cover, are good indicators of a tree’s health. Cavities or dis-figuration can be a warning sign, although they don’t always mean a tree is a hazard. Just keep a close eye on it. Dead branches are a big risk, because they can fall easily. Those that cross or rub can create weak spots.
  2. Plant in an appropriate space. Putting in a tree that will grow to be large? Don’t put it near power or sewer lines, or close to your home. And avoid brittle trees – their limbs are weak and more likely to break and fall. Examples include Silver Maples and Willows.
  3. Prune correctly. Cut outside the branch collar, and prune regularly as trees age. Don’t allow a tree to be topped.
  4. Leave it to an expert. Once a year, have a qualified arborist thoroughly evaluate the trees on your property. An arborist can identify ones that need to come down immediately, as well as those to watch. In particular, trees that have been topped, or that have lost large limbs unexpectedly, could cause trouble. Taking down trees can be very dangerous, so leave it to a professional.
  5. Remember, you’re responsible. Property owners are generally responsible when their hazardous trees cause damage or injury to others. So keep your trees healthy, your space beautiful and your liability low!

 

5C0B552746When a tree does fall, you may or may not have coverage through your homeowners policy for any damage it may cause.

If you’d like to discuss your coverage, please give us a call today. It may be a good time to think about adding extra liability coverage to your insurance portfolio with an umbrella policy.

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5 Dos and Don’ts When Flying Your Drone

pexels-photo-57544.jpegYou see them in the news, hear stories about them delivering future packages to your door, and maybe you’ve even seen them flying around in your backyard.  Drones are everywhere!  But how much do you know about safety when flying your drone?

Here are 5 essential tips to help keep you and your fellow drone operators educated:

  1. Do know your drone — and your capabilities. Practice your maneuvering skills, including safe landings, in an open field or empty parking lot. You could even join a local club to learn how to fly. Once you do, be sure to stay away from people, wildlife, public events and, yes, your neighbor’s pool party.
  2. Don’t forget to register your drone. In the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), your drone isn’t a toy. It’s an Unmanned Aircraft System, one you need to register with the agency.
  3. Don’t fly above 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport. If you do, you’ll violate FAA guidelines.
  4. Do get authorization for commercial use. If you use a drone for commercial purposes, such as taking photos for your real-estate business, you must get FAA authorization Just using a drone for personal recreation? No authorization required.
  5. Do understand the risks. Drones can weigh up to 55 pounds, so there’s the potential for them to cause some serious damage – damage for which you might be liable. However, not all homeowners insurance policies provide liability coverage for hobby or model aircraft. Give us a call to find out what kind of coverage you might have or need.

Hey, we get it. Drones are affordable, fun to fly and have a number of interesting uses, such as aerial photography and video. Just remember to be smart and safe while yours is in the sky. And, if you’re being impacted by someone else’s drone use, it’s best to talk it through.

Stay safe!

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4 Tips to Think About When Insuring a Second Home

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It’s summer time!  The season to go out and enjoy a good vacation.  Everyone loves a good getaway and if you’re lucky enough you may be off enjoying that time in your own vacation home.

However, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to protecting your investment in a vacation home, and you definitely want to protect it. We here at Riskguard Insurance Solutions, Inc. can help by making sure you have the insurance coverage you want.

To that end, here are four things that may impact the coverage you choose and how much you’ll pay for it:

  1. Separate Policy: Your seasonal home won’t be part of your primary property policy. It needs its own policy, and you can expect it to be similar to the one for your primary residence. However, you do need to watch out for “named perils” coverage, under which your policy explicitly lists the perils it will cover. If a peril isn’t listed, no coverage. We typically steer homeowners away from this type of coverage, in favor of broader coverage.
  2. Location and Occupancy: The “where” of your vacation home is no doubt among the primary reasons why you bought it. But, it will also impact your insurance costs. Rural areas are hard for emergency responders to reach, and waterfront homes are prone to flooding. These added risks can mean added insurance costs, such as the need for a separate flood policy. If the home is unoccupied or rented for much of the year, there are even more insurance considerations.
  3. Personal Property: Establishing and maintaining a separate inventory of the things you keep at your vacation home will help you select an appropriate level of personal property coverage. If it’s filled with expensive skiing and snowboarding gear, for example, you may need increased coverage or to schedule some of the more valuable items separately.
  4. Extra Liability Protection: If you plan to regularly host guests at your summer or winter retreat, you should consider an umbrella policy, which will help to increase your liability limits in case someone is seriously injured on your property. This can go for invited and uninvited guests alike.

We know you want to relax and enjoy your chosen spot in the sun – or snow. Having the right insurance coverage helps you do just that, so give us a call and let us help.

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3 Essential Tips About Fire Extinguishers

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Whether your home is a three-story Tudor, a skyline-grazing apartment or an RV on wheels, you need at least one fire extinguisher for it. But if you don’t have the right one, or you haven’t checked it recently, you may have a false sense of security rather than a fire-fighting device.

There are a few important things to know about fire extinguishers, but they aren’t complicated. Here are three things to help you get up to speed:

  1. There are extinguishers for each type of fire. Class A: ordinary combustibles, such as wood; Class B: flammable liquids or gasses, such as gasoline or propane; Class C: energized electrical equipment like appliances; Class D: combustible metals; and Class K: cooking oils and greases. An extinguisher that isn’t rated for the fire you’re trying to fight likely won’t help.
  2. Multipurpose extinguishers are widely available. Typically rated for Class A, B and C fires, they are good for most living areas and also work on small grease fires. You need at least one for each level of your home, and one in the garage is a good idea, too. Store them in an accessible area and inspect them regularly for rust and other damage. Also follow any maintenance instructions included with the device. Some need to be shaken regularly, for example.
  3. Remember “P.A.S.S.” when you use your extinguisher. Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle at the fire’s base. Squeeze the lever. Sweep the nozzle back and forth. And always keep your back to an exit when fighting a fire. You need to be able to escape quickly if necessary.

Even more important than knowing how to use your fire extinguisher is knowing when not to use it. If you’d be putting yourself at risk trying to fight a fire, leave the area immediately. You should already have a family fire escape plan in place, so don’t hesitate to use it if there’s any question about your safety.

After all, your life is irreplaceable. Your insurance, however, can help you rebuild your home and replace your belongings. If you’d like to check up on your coverage, give us a call today.

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Cooking with your Agent, Kelson Herman!

This post is an expanded article from the Riskguard Insurance April Newsletter.

 

 

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Kelson Herman (agent) pictured with his 8 lb son and 12 lb brisket last August

Cooking with your agent!

This past year has been a big year for me and our company.  After 20 plus years as Irene Herman Insurance, we decided to incorporate and become Riskguard Insurance Solutions, Inc.- same staff and same great service, but with a new name!

In addition to these company changes, my wife, Christine Kao (commercial lines agent), and I welcomed our son into the world this past July.  Fatherhood has been a big adventure to say the least!

A baby has kept us pretty homebound, but it’s also sparked my interest in cooking especially smoking meats.  With my inspiration coming from the acclaimed Franklin BBQ in Austin, TX, I have been experimenting on smoking brisket, ribs, turkey, and salmon.  It’s been a delicious culinary journey.

 

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Insurance brothers, Kelson (left) and Christian (right), smoking salmon and halibut

 

It’s hard to share a smoking recipe, but I can at least share what I do for a rub for brisket and a recipe for homemade BBQ sauce that would go great with your meal as well .

So my magic rub for brisket?

50% salt and 50% course ground pepper.  That’s it!

 

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As for the sauce…

BBQ Sauce for your Brisket:  A simple sauce to cut through the meat.  

(Recipe credit to Aaron Franklin’s book “ A Meat-Smoking Manifesto”)

“Sweet Sauce” by Aaron Franklin

IMG_563114 oz. ketchup

5 oz. water

2.5 oz. apple cider vinegar

2.5 oz. white vinegar

4.5 Tbsp. brown sugar

2.5 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. chili powder

0.5 Tbsp. Kosher salt

0.5 Tbsp coarse-ground black pepper

1 tsp. cumin

 

Mix it all in a pot and simmer until everything has melted together, about 20 mins.  

Remove from the heat and let cool.  

Transfer into air tight jars and store in the refrigerator for a month or longer.

Happy BBQ-ing!

 

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How Will a Speeding Ticket Affect My Insurance?

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Slow down, save money … and lives

How many times has the following happened to you? You’re speeding down the highway when you spot a California highway patrol car. You quickly hit the brakes and slow down, relieved that you didn’t get caught … this time.

Now take a minute to think what could have happened if you hadn’t been so lucky.

First, your speeding could have hurt somebody — or yourself. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, speed is a contributing factor in more than 30% of fatal crashes and nearly 20% of non-injury accidents. That’s a big risk to take.

Second, getting a ticket could put a big hit on your wallet. Of course, that’s not nearly as important as the health and safety impacts of speeding, but in this economic climate, more and more people are watching every dime. And who wants to write a check to the state for speeding?

At Riskguard Insurance, we want you to be safe. We also want to make sure you get a great price on the insurance coverage you need. Thankfully, easing up on that lead foot can help accomplish both.

How a ticket impacts your insurance

  • If you get a speeding ticket, that violation can stay on your driving record for three years or even longer. And because your driving history plays a large part in determining how much you’ll pay for insurance, the fewer tickets you have, the better.
  • Different carriers have different policies when it comes to checking your driving record and dealing with drivers who have violations. If you receive a ticket, and it’s your first in several years, you may not see much of an increase — depending on the severity of the offense. In fact, many states will allow you to enter a deferment program if it’s your first ticket, keeping the violation off your record if you complete a safety course and avoid further tickets.
  • But that second ticket (or third, or fourth …) can bring some serious financial penalties. While there are too many variables to say specifically how much each additional violation will increase your premium, it’s safe to say that the jump will be significant. And unfortunately, you can be stuck paying those higher premiums for years.
  • Significant violations can have a bigger impact as well. If you’re going 20 miles per hour over the limit, you’ll likely pay more than someone with a ticket for 5 mph over. Insurance companies know that speeding increases the risk of accidents, and they’ll view you as an increased risk — for good reason. In fact, if you have a serious violation, or too many tickets, your insurance carrier could drop your coverage altogether.
  • For younger drivers (typically under the age of 25), it’s especially important to avoid tickets, because companies already view these drivers as riskier than the general population.

And keep in mind, even if your premium doesn’t go up, having a violation on your record could prevent you from receiving the lowest possible rate on your insurance.

Of course, we think the best policy is simply to obey speed limits. Not only will you avoid tickets and possible insurance hassles, but your risk of accidents will decrease. And you’ll get better gas mileage. Sounds like a good deal to us!

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How Can Your Home Become More Energy Efficient?

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Is your home as efficient as it could be?

Drafty windows. Leaky faucets. Dirty air filters.

All are common issues and they’re not only annoying — they also cost you money in decreased energy efficiency and higher utility bills.

Would you like to save $200 to $400 a year on your energy costs? That’s how much the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program estimates that homeowners can save by incorporating technologies to make their homes operate more efficiently.

Of course, helping to protect you and your family is our goal at Riskguard Insurance Solutions, and keeping your home well-maintained usually means your home will be safer as well. Those are goals we all should share. Several of the tips below from the National Association of Home Builders will help you accomplish both.

Do a home-energy audit

Making your home more efficient can seem like an overwhelming task. But “auditing” your energy efficiency is something you can do yourself, and it’s relatively simple. This will show you where your home loses energy, how efficient your heating and cooling systems are, and ways you can decrease your electricity use. Just inspect the areas listed here and note the problems you find.

Where’s the air? Air commonly “leaks” from homes through gaps around baseboards, electrical outlets and windows or doors. Stopping these drafts can save up to 30 percent of your yearly energy costs. 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 … insulate! Check to see if the amount of insulation in the ceiling and walls is sufficient. Your attic door 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 — the area should be completely filled with insulation.

Do a systems check. Efficient heating and cooling systems 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. Lighting can account for up to 20 percent of your home’s total electricity use, so consider compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which last longer and use far less energy than incandescent bulbs.

The only thing left to do after you complete your audit (and make any necessary changes)? Figuring out how to spend the money you’ll save each year!

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