Tag Archives: Integrity First Insurance Services

You Got Into a Car Crash…Now What

Automobile collisions can happen so fast that it’s easy to become disoriented, and you may not be thinking straight immediately after the accident. So, what do you do next?

Ideally, you’re prepared and have your license, vehicle registration and auto insurance card readily available. It’s also a great idea to keep an emergency kit in the vehicle just in case you need it. While every crash is different, you should always follow these five important steps.

1. Safety First

The first step is to secure the scene. If the vehicles are drivable, move them to the shoulder or as far away from traffic as possible and turn on your hazards to warn other drivers. Assess the situation and check to see if anyone has been injured. If so, dial 9-1-1 immediately to get medical help.

It’s worth investing in road flares and orange warning cones or reflective triangles to further warn other drivers. Crack the flares and place them in front of and behind the vehicles along with the cones or triangles.

2. Call the Police

The second step is to call the police – even if it’s just a minor collision – to file an official report documenting the incident.

The police will speak with and collect information from all drivers, passengers and witnesses to the accident. They will note the precise location, the date and time of the accident and document all injuries and damage to property. You’ll be asked to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of car insurance. The police will then take this information and complete their official report.

Accident reports vary by state, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles outlines state guidelines in an easy to reference accident guide and many of these apply to most situations. Police reports can take anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks to complete, depending on the complexity of the accident. Always ask for a copy of the accident report number and note the names and badge numbers of the responding officer(s), so you can request a copy of the report once it is available.

3. Gather Information and Document the Damage

While the police are on their way it’s important to exchange information with the other drivers involved. Use your smartphone to take photos and gather the necessary details. You’ll need the contact information of the driver(s) involved, any passengers, the registered owner of the vehicle(s) and any witnesses, the make and model of their vehicle(s) and license plate number(s), as well as their insurance information. If you don’t have a smartphone, keep a pen and notebook handy in your glove compartment.

Take pictures of the damage you can see and the scene of the accident as you observe it. This will provide protection against false claims. Write down the events as you remember them, describing the collision in as much detail as possible. You should also take pictures and video of all of the drivers and their passengers. Doing so will help the police and your insurance company.

4. File a Claim

You should file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. They will need the same information provided to the police. Even if you’re in a minor fender bender, report it so you’re protected against unforeseen or future claims, because sometimes injuries and damage aren’t readily apparent.

You should also make your insurance agent aware of the accident, as he or she can help spot red flags and help resolve problems.

5. Know Your Rights as a Driver

Familiarize yourself with state laws and know your rights. Accident claims in California are regulated by the California Department of Insurance, and drivers’ rights under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations (www.insurance.ca.gov) mandate that insurance companies must:

  • Advise you of benefits, time limits and coverage;
  • Acknowledge and investigate a claim while providing forms and instructions within 15-days;
  • Respond to communications within 15 days;
  • Accept or deny the claim after it is filed;
  • Pay reasonable towing expenses;
  • Offer a fair settlement reflecting covered damages;
  • Pay the claim no later than 30-days from the settlement date; and
  • Advise you whether or not they’ll recoup costs from the other party.

It pays to do your homework before you choose an insurance company. Check reviews to see what their current customers are saying about the company, make sure they offer 24/7 claims service, and check to see if they stand behind the repairs made by their body shops. Mercury Insurance, for example, guarantees all repairs made by their direct repair facilities for as long as you own your vehicle.

Dangers of ‘Connected’ Vehicles

Mercury Insurance is launching a campaign to educate the public and policyholders about the dangers of ‘connected’ vehicles. Improvements in technology that often have the goal of making vehicles safer are turning cars into 4,000-pound computers on wheels, vulnerable to being hacked.

Mercury is providing this online informational site allows your customers and consumers to enter their vehicle make, model and year to score its vulnerability on a scale of 1 to 6 and learn about specific ways a hacker might be able to unlock or even take control of it.

https://blog.mercuryinsurance.com/how-hackable-is-your-car/

Tips for Protection

Forbes reports that by the year 2020, there will be 152 million connected cars worldwide. Connected vehicles transmit wireless signals and radio waves, making them susceptible to thieves who can, among other things, hack into a car’s electronic ignition and steal the vehicle. They can also remotely take control of the vehicle away from its owner while driving, which can lead to a potentially dangerous situation out on the road.

Mercury Insurance recently connected with cybersecurity expert Craig Smith to learn how consumers can protect their vehicles against cyberattacks. The author of “The Car Hacker’s Handbook,” shared the following tips:

  • Remove dongles when the vehicle isn’t in operation. A dongle is a small device that plugs into the on-board diagnostics port under a car’s dashboard and can be used to monitor driving habits and a vehicle’s performance. Some companies offer apps that connect to them via Bluetooth to monitor driving habits that can help improve gas mileage or measure the miles you drive to set accurate insurance rates. Consumers who wish to use a dongle in their vehicles should try to use it sparingly and take it out of the car when it isn’t being driven.

Note: Since these devices can increase the risk of a cyberattack, Mercury doesn’t use this technology to monitor our customers’ driving habits.

  • Lock key fobs in a metal drawer or refrigerator. Cybercriminals can break into a vehicle to steal its contents by intercepting the key fob signal to open the vehicle, then tricking the vehicle into thinking the owner’s electronic key fob is closer than it really is. This type of attack involves amplifying the key fob’s signature and is mainly a concern when vehicles are parked on the street.

Placing keys in a metal drawer or refrigerator at night can help protect against this kind of hacking activity by blocking out or reducing the signal of the keys so that they aren’t transmitting when not in use. Parking in a well-let area will also help if you don’t have access to a garage.

  • Disable in-car wireless services. Remote hackers will look for vulnerabilities in a device that is capable of wireless communications that transmit through cellular or radio waves, such as Wi-Fi.Wireless systems like telematics, satellite or digital radio, internet, Bluetooth or wireless key fobs can provide entry points for attackers. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see what features the vehicle has and then decide which wireless systems are important and only enable those options. The other systems should be disabled.
  • Visit your service department if you suspect you’ve been hacked. There are no pre-determined signs if a vehicle has been hacked, so if your vehicle is performing strangely, take it into the dealership to discuss the problem. It could just be a normal configuration problem or a bug in the particular software version the car’s computer is using.

How Hackable is Your Car? Enter your vehicle details in Mercury’s infographic to see.

Additional Resources

Stricter Laws For Hand-Held Devices While Driving

cell-phone-in-hand-while-driving

What Californians Need to Know About Assembly Bill 1785

Smartphone technology is ever-evolving and while these phones conveniently allow us to carry the Internet in the palm of our hands, they’re also a source of distraction for modern-day drivers.

Many states have passed laws against hand-held cell phone use to combat distracted driving, and California’s is about to get stricter.

Distracted driving has declined since 2009 due to laws regulating cell phone use for drivers, but it continues to be a big problem and it’s the cause of many collisions.

The new law Governor Jerry Brown recently signed, Assembly Bill 1785 (AB1785), prohibits ALL hand-held use of electronic devices while driving. Drivers should be encouraged knowing that the law is intended to protect them by keeping their undivided attention on the road. So, put down those smartphones while driving because it’s now against the law to:

  • Read, write or send a text message.
  • Hold your phone and talk.
  • Check or post to social media.
  • Take a video.

Basically, it’s against the law to use technology in your hands in any way while behind the wheel.

This new law requires drivers to mount their smartphones to the windshield or dash, similar to the mounting of GPS devices in vehicles, provided that the device’s use is activated by a simple swipe of the screen to turn features on or off. These conditions impose much stricter rules surrounding cell phone use in vehicles with the aim of reducing distracted driving crashes that are caused by smartphone or electronic device use.

Mercury Insurance wants to remind everyone that distracted driving is not worth the risk. Visit our Drive Safe website for driving tips, vehicle tips and tools to help keep you and your family safe behind the wheel.

 

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Ends Soon

health-insurance-1

Open Enrollment for health insurance ends January 31, 2017. This is the deadline to change or get health insurance.

Please call Integrity First today @ (805) 495-1122. We can help find the best coverage available for the lowest premium.  We can help with Covered California, the marketplace exchange, or direct.  You may eligible for a subsidy to help pay your health insurance.  We offer Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and more.

After January 31, 2017 you will need a special exception to buy medical insurance. If you do not have medical insurance there will be a fee/penalty.

The fee for not having health insurance in 2016 & 2017

The fee is calculated 2 different ways – as a percentage of your household income, and per person. You’ll pay whichever is higher.

Percentage of income

2.5% of household income
Maximum: Total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the Marketplace
Per person

$695 per adult
$347.50 per child under 18
Maximum: $2,085

Please call us today @ (805) 495-1122

Understanding Car Safety Ratings

Understanding-Car-Safety-Ratings

Although newer vehicles are generally more expensive to insure than older ones, consumers can often get discounts if their new vehicles have the latest safety features. Advances in crash and accident avoidance technology mean that consumers who buy a new vehicle equipped with the latest safety features are often less likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.

Safety ratings are a function of two major factors: prevention—how well the vehicle is designed to prevent an accident—and, crashworthiness—how well the vehicle performs in a crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks its Top Safety Picks based on good, acceptable, marginal or poor performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and evaluations of seat / head restraints for protection against neck injuries during rear impacts. Crash tests are conducted on a half-dozen types of vehicles, including large cars, mid-sized cars, small cars, minivans, mid-size SUVs, and small SUVs. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for a full report on recalls and defects.

Currently, some of the top-rated safety features are:

  • Adaptive front airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Side curtain airbags
  • Knee airbags
  • Electronic stability control
  • Anti-lock braking systems
  • Brake assist
  • Tire pressure monitors
  • Back-up sensors
  • Park assist
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Smart headlights
  • Crash-alert systems (such as OnStar)
  • Built-in car seats

Technology is ever-improving, and, as time goes by, manufacturers and the government are standardizing these features. Doing your homework ahead of time and knowing what your options are can make the decision-making process smoother and get you into that new car faster!

Technology to Help Prevent Texting While Driving

technology-against-texting-and-driving

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that cell phone distractions while driving claim 6,000 lives and are the cause of 1.6 million crashes a year.

Today, distracted driving kills more people than drinking and driving, and research has shown that drivers under the age of 25 are more likely to use cell phones while driving.

So, what is being done to combat this epidemic? Educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving is important, but it clearly isn’t enough. What can we do? One place to start is technology, because technology can play a powerful role in helping to remind drivers to refrain from using their cell phones while they’re on the road. Here’s a look at three inventions designed to put an end to distracted driving.

1. The SMARTwheel

The SMARTwheel is a high-tech steering wheel cover that was designed by six New Hampshire teens with the goal of ending distracted driving.

The idea came about when 14-year-old T.J. Evarts noticed that his friends who had recently gotten their licenses were often using their phones while driving. Knowing how hazardous texting and driving is, Evarts set out to find a way to deter his friends…and the SMARTwheel was born.

The cover easily slips onto the steering wheel and tracks when a driver has both hands on the wheel. Removing one or both hands from the wheel triggers a buzzer and flashing lights. The device even records trip data and grades driving habits using a mobile app connected to smartphones through Bluetooth so parents can track their teen’s driving habits.

2. ParentBlocked

ParentBlocked is a smartphone app that allows parents to disable and control their children’s cell phones at certain times of the day through remote access.

The app was created by concerned single mom, Lisa Mullins, who worried that her teenage daughter would be too tempted to use her cell phone while driving.

It allows parents to approve downloads and pick and choose which features they want to manage – for example, parents can disable texting and social media sites when teens should be focused on other activities, like driving. PB Safe Driving Mode will automatically shut down cell phone functions if your teen is moving faster than 10 mph but still allow emergency calls.

3. Drivesafe.ly

DriveSafe.ly is a mobile app that eliminates reading and typing on smartphones by using iSpeech software. The app reads text messages and emails aloud and drivers are able to respond to messages through speech.

Tech entrepreneur and iSpeech founder Heath Ahrens is the creator of the hands-free app, which is compatible with Bluetooth and radio transmitters. It also comes with a customizable auto-response. These features keep drivers connected while reducing distractions and promoting safe driving.

Distracted driving takes lives and these apps can help make a difference. We encourage all parents to visit the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge website where they can find resources and tools to reinforce the message and encourage safe driving habits and behaviors. There is even a Drive Safe Agreement for parents and teen drivers to sign.

 

Distracted Driving

distracted-drivingTexting, cell phones, eating and other distractions are causing an increase in traffic accidents

OMG! This is nothing to LOL about. Texting while driving is a leading cause of accidents for teenagers and it claims thousands of lives each year. 1 Texting while driving also reduces a driver’s reaction time so much that it’s the same as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, which would make you legally intoxicated.2

Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that drivers are four times more likely to get into an accident when texting and driving. In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in traffic accidents involving distracted driving, including texting, with an estimated 424,000 people injured.3

Distracted driving is more than texting. Distracted driving occurs any time a driver takes their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel or their mind off their primary task, which is driving safely.

Activities that can cause distracted driving include:

Texting
Using a cell phone or smartphone
Eating or drinking
Talking to passengers
Grooming (shaving, applying makeup, etc.)
Reading
Reading a map
Using a navigation system
Watching a video
Adjusting a radio, CD or MP3

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this is similar to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. 4 Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers. 5 Those simply aren’t good odds.

At the very least, a traffic accident caused by distracted driving is certain to lead to an increase in a driver’s car insurance rates.

These common sense steps can help prevent accidents and save lives:

Text messages can wait until your car is turned off.
Pull over to the side of the road to read that map.
Input the address into the navigation system before you leave.
Don’t blast the radio.
Allow enough time so you can eat at the restaurant and not while you’re driving.

Car Insurance Thousand Oaks CA

Do I Need Car Insurance Before Buying a New Car?

Find out what your Thousand Oaks, CA auto insurance needs for a new car.

Whether you’re choosing a flashy sports car for yourself or gifting your loved one with a new ride, deciding on a new car is a fun process! Selecting the make, model, and even color can sidetrack you from switching your auto insurance coverage. But when exactly do you need to purchase auto insurance when buying a new car?

Simply put, you don’t need auto insurance before you buy a new car, but you will need it before you drive the car home from the dealer’s lot.

If you know the exact car you’re going to buy, you can call your insurance agent with the information. After selecting the appropriate and available coverage for you and that specific vehicle, your agent can add the new car to your existing insurance policy.

Some people are more impulsive! They find themselves at an auto dealership wanting to buy a new car and immediately drive it home. For this situation, your auto insurer would still have to be called, but it can be done from the dealership. Supplying the agent with the necessary information about the vehicle, with the intent of driving the car off the lot immediately, means an insurance binder can be issued. This insurance is then effective immediately. It will serve as your insurance policy for the new car until your agent can add the new car to your existing policy.

If you don’t have an auto insurer because you don’t have a car currently, the car dealership may be able to refer you to one. This circumstance is a little trickier to work around as you’re not updating a current policy, so an insurer is unlikely to insure you over the phone then and there. To be prepared for this, establish a relationship with an insurer before you buy the shiny, new set of wheels.

Never drive a car without auto insurance! If you can’t get insured right away, leave the car at the dealership. For the best value of auto insurance within the Thousand Oaks area of California, contact Integrity First Insurance Services!

Holiday Recipe Thousand Oaks CA

Holiday Favorite: Candied Pecans Recipe!

Crunchy, sweet, salty – these pecans impress all!

Who doesn’t love pecans around the end of the year? From pecan pie to sweet potato and pecans, to candied pecans, they are a fall favorite and winter must-have! This recipe for candied pecans is not only simple but creates an incredibly satisfying and moreish snack!

Alongside your fire-roasted chestnuts, add these nuts to your Christmas table!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 pound pecan halves

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).
  2. Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Whisk egg white and water together in a separate bowl until frothy. Toss pecans in the egg white mixture. Mix sugar mixture into pecan mixture until pecans are evenly coated. Spread coated pecans onto a baking sheet.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, until pecans are evenly browned, 1 hour.

From Integrity First Insurance Services, we hope that you enjoyed this recipe as much as we did! Before the festive season kicks off, secure your insurance services from us in Thousand Oaks, California.

Flood Insurance Thousand Oaks CA

Warning: Winter Storms Are Coming, Get Flood Insurance Now!

Prepare your home and business for predicted floods and storms.

While the weather is dry and sunny in Southern California, be warned that it’s not due to continue: El Nino is coming and this winter is predicted to be a wet one! Despite California not being known for it’s rain and flooding, this only makes our land more precipitation-intolerant. The land has been in such a drought that experts say that when it does rain, the land will become overwhelmed with water and flooding will occur quite rapidly.

What are viable flood defenses that you can put in place to protect your building? You may be turning your homeowners insurance policy, expecting that to cover damages in the event of flooding – but you’ll be disappointed. Standard homeowners insurances don’t provide any flood insurance coverage whatsoever. Due to the extensive damage and destruction flooding can do to a house and belongings, insurers smartly decided to withdraw this coverage, instead setting up flood insurance as a stand-alone policy.

Luckily, your Californian flood insurance policy would apply to homes, condos, mobile homes, businesses and rentals that are in flood zone areas. At Integrity First Insurance Services, our flood insurance policy can offer:

  • Building, contents, replacement cost coverage
  • Standard flood insurance coverage
  • Optional excess flood coverage
  • Affordable rates!

Before you rule out any additional coverages, ensure that you select the best policy, at the best price for your home and belongings. Luckily, personal property needn’t be lost forever and your home can be restored without breaking the bank!

Serving the Conejo Valley within California with quality insurance, contact Integrity First Insurance Services, located in Thousand Oaks.