Tag Archives: Integrity First Insurance Services

Personal Umbrella Policy…Do You Need One?

Daily life can be full of uncertainty. Accidents happen and things can go wrong in an instant. You want the security of knowing that when the unexpected happens, you have safeguards in place to protect you financially. Personal umbrella insurance provides an extra layer of liability coverage* designed to help safeguard you from potentially devastating claims and lawsuits.

For example, let’s say your auto insurance policy has $250,000 in liability coverage, but you are in an accident where an individual has suffered severe injuries requiring hospitalization and you’re found to be at fault. Medical expenses can quickly escalate and when you factor in compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and future care, you may find your liability limits aren’t sufficient for the damages caused. If a suit was filed and a jury awarded the injured parties more than your policy limits, your savings and equity in your home could be at risk.

No one wants to find themselves in this situation. But how do you prepare for it? Umbrella insurance can provide the coverage needed for these losses.

What is Umbrella Insurance?

While you may not think twice about buying homeowners insurance or auto insurance, the liability limits provided may not be sufficient to protect your assets.

That’s where umbrella insurance comes in. An umbrella policy provides $1 million to $5 million in additional liability coverage. While the coverage is optional, it may protect you in the instance of an unfortunate accident.

What other scenarios would an Umbrella policy cover?

  • Your dog accidentally injures your neighbor’s child
  • Your mail carrier trips over a crack in your driveway, resulting in injury and disability
  • An overgrown tree in your yard crashes through your neighbor’s roof

 When does an Umbrella policy activate?

Umbrella Insurance activates when damages from a covered claim exceed the limits in the underlying policy — everything from a lawsuit resulting from your dog biting the mailman to critical care for a driver you injure in an auto accident who is hospitalized for months.

Don’t sacrifice peace of mind and protection over the possibility of a split-second accident that could result in a lifetime of financial stress. Speak to your agenttoday about adding Umbrella Insurance coverage to your policy.

*Not all coverages may be available in all states.

Differences Between Gasoline and Diesel

Several automobile manufacturers offer diesel-powered cars, but are they a good option?

Many of us have pulled up to the gas pump at our local convenience store, absentmindedly picked up the nozzle at the end of the green hose and spent a few seconds of confusion wondering why it wouldn’t fit into the fuel filler of our car. We eventually realize it was the hose for diesel, not gasoline, and put it back on its holder.

Seeing those hoses at the gas pump does make us wonder, though. What’s the difference between a gasoline engine and one that runs on diesel fuel, and why would someone choose one over the other?

In fact, gasoline and diesel engines have much in common. Both are internal combustion engines, and each convert the chemical energy in fuel into mechanical energy. Both incorporate pistons that move up and down inside cylinders, with that movement driven by the combustion of fuel in each. Those pistons are attached to a crankshaft, which turns as the pistons move to provide the energy that moves the vehicle.

The difference between the two engines involves the way the fuel is ignited. In the gasoline engine, the fuel is mixed with air in the cylinder. The piston compresses the mixture, which is then ignited by a spark from the spark plug.

In the diesel engine there is no spark plug. Instead, it’s the compression itself which ignites the air/fuel mixture, creating the contained explosion that keeps the pistons moving.

Power versus performance

When most of us think of a diesel engine what comes to mind are the 18-wheelers we see on the interstate. While it’s true those rigs run on diesel, there are plenty of other diesel-powered vehicles on the road. They aren’t very common in the United States, but in Europe more than a third of all cars on the road are powered by diesel fuel.

The main advantages of a diesel engine compared with a gasoline one come in terms of fuel efficiency, engine reliability and power. Because diesel engines are built to withstand higher compression, they tend to be more reliable and last longer than gasoline engines. Diesel fuel is thicker than gasoline, and as such provides more power and mileage per gallon.

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, are lighter and deliver higher performance than diesel engines. There aren’t diesel engines in sports cars for much the same reasons there aren’t gasoline engines in big trucks. In addition, gasoline engines tend to be less expensive to repair simply because they’re more common.

With all that in mind, which type of engine is the best choice? The answer is that, as with many things, it all depends.

Years ago, diesel fuel was significantly cheaper than gasoline, but today the opposite tends to be true, making any savings in fuel costs relatively minor. Diesel engines tend to be more reliable than gasoline ones, but diesel-powered cars tend to cost more up front and repairs are likely to be more costly. Conversely, gasoline-powered cars are easier and less expensive to maintain and fuel efficiency is constantly improving.

Although diesel fuel used to be associated with black smoke belching from the exhaust, today’s diesel is relatively clean-burning. Newer diesel-powered cars produce lower levels of carbon dioxide than gasoline-powered cars, but higher levels of particulates and nitrogen oxides. When adding environmental concerns to the mix, gasoline engines have a slight advantage over diesel ones.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for a lightweight passenger car that will go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, a gasoline engine may be the best choice. If you’re looking for a car to tow a boat to the lake on the weekend, diesel may be the way to go.

Tips for Teen Drivers

Year after year, motor vehicle accidents continue to take the lives of thousands of U.S. teens. That’s why it’s vital for young people to treat driving as a privilege that comes with great responsibility.

To bring attention to these startling statistics and help parents teach teens safe driving habits, Mercury created the Drive Safe Challenge. The Drive Safe Challenge champions not only safe driving but provides education as well, helping young people understand traffic laws and the importance of proper car maintenance, while also offering tips on how to select the right vehicle.

As part of the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge, we asked participating Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge instructors and the social media community for their top tips for teen drivers.

1. Get to Know your Car

“Be patient with yourself; everyone started at the exact same position you are now.” —@lcfromsp

Once you have your license, it’s easy to want to get behind the wheel, start the ignition and take off before understanding all of the vehicle’s controls. Before you operate your car, we recommend that as a first step you read the owner’s manual. This will help inform how the vehicle functions and what the lights on the dashboard and instrument panel signal. Some vehicles come with a quick reference guide for the more important features and functions to make the task of learning easier.

As a best practice, we also recommend investing some time to learn basic car maintenance, too. Open the hood and check the oil levels, locate the toolkit and jack, learn how to change a tire, check the pressure and measure tire tread depths. Your teen’s vehicle should also have a vehicle emergency kit. The time you invest here could benefit your teen greatly in the future should he or she have troubles on the road.

2. Adjust your Driver Settings

“Take this seriously!” —@mamahainlen

Before you get moving, get situated and establish a pre-start car routine. Make sure your feet easily reach the pedals without your knees touching the dash. Position your seat so you can easily operate the accelerator and brake pedals without having to lift your heels from the floor. Also, adjust your seat height to ensure you have an unobstructed view of the road.

Adjust the rearview and outside mirrors to gain the largest field of view and remove as many blind spots as possible. Proper position will allow greater steering control as well as increased vision around your vehicle.

3. Remove Distractions

“Avoid distractions! Know yourself and don’t take risks!” —@malkomes1

“Nothing is more important than eyes on the road at all times.” —@billingsbeachhomes

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most crashes are the result of distracted drivers. Distractions such as drowsiness, noisy or overly active passengers, eating and multi-tasking will all result in unsafe driving conditions. Reduce or remove these types of distractions while on the road so you can focus on keeping yourself and your passengers safe while driving.

It’s no secret that technology plays a major role in distracted driving and potential accidents. Keep in mind there isn’t a call, text, song or social media post that’s worth putting your safety in jeopardy. Put your phone down and set it do not disturb mode before getting on the road. If there’s an emergency and you must make a call, safely pull to the side of the road.

Keep your eyes scanning well down the road and watchful of possible hazards from the roadsides as well. Also, note what’s immediately ahead of you to better anticipate what’s coming up next. If you’re fiddling with the radio or checking a text, your response time to make a quick stop, slow down or switch lanes will be seriously impeded. Looking forward also gives you time to plan for an impending emergency situation.

4. Maintain Distance and Remain Cognizant of Speed

“Don’t be in a rush, just drive calmly.” —@skasbaum

Rear-end collisions make up a substantial portion of total injury crashes.  Following too closely behind a car hinders your ability to come to a full stop without a collision and limits your sightlines and ability to anticipate what’s coming. Instead, allow plenty of space to break or change lanes if needed.

Understanding what’s behind or around your car is just as important. Use your rear view and door mirrors every 15 to 30 seconds to quickly detect and respond to hazards, and always check your blind spots before changing lanes. Knowing what’s around your car in addition to what’s ahead will make you a more proactive driver.

Speeding results in countless fatalities each year. In addition to breaking the law, the consequences of speeding can be much more severe. When you speed, you risk loss of vehicle control and the ability to mitigate crash severity if you do experience a collision. Always remain cognizant of the speed limit on the road you’re traveling.

You can learn more about safe driving on the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge as well as browse additional statistics, resources and driving tools. It’s never too early to start the discussion with the teens in your home about safe driving. Through education and open conversations around healthy driving habits, we can prepare young drivers to face the challenges they may encounter on the road.

Replacement Cost of Your Homes Contents

Forty percent of homeowners are not aware of what their home insurance policy actually covers, and almost one in five policyholders believe they don’t have enough insurance to repair or replace damaged or stolen property, according to a national study Mercury conducted in 2018. One specific area of confusion is the difference between “Actual Cash Value” and “Replacement Cost.”

Why is this important? Consider if your 65-in. Smart Ultra HD TV is stolen. Would your insurance company give you a settlement to replace your TV with a new one of like kind and quality, or what your TV is currently worth today after being used? The answer:  It depends on the coverage you selected when purchasing your homeowners insurance policy.

Here’s a brief explanation of the difference between the two coverages and how you might be reimbursed for a covered property loss.

Actual Cash Value – When a homeowner has actual cash value coverage to repair or replace damaged, stolen or destroyed personal property, their insurance company will pay to replace the item with like kind and quality less age and condition depreciation.

“Actual cash value is basically what it sounds like – it’s what your personal property is worth at the time of your loss, so the cost to repair or replace the property less depreciation,” said Mercury Vice President of Property Claims Christopher O’Rourke. “Depreciation rates vary depending on the type, age, and condition of property, but you can rest assured that we do our best to make sure our customers are properly compensated so they can resume their regular lifestyle as quickly as possible.”

Insurance Tip: O’Rourke recommends homeowners keep an inventory of their belongings, along with copies, scans or photos of your receipts if you have an actual cash value policy.

Replacement Cost – When a homeowner purchases replacement cost coverage, an insurance company will pay to repair or replace damaged, stolen or destroyed personal property with like kind and quality at today’s prices. The policyholder has the opportunity to recover any withheld depreciation up to the replacement cost amount once the property is replaced.

So why should you purchase replacement cost coverage?

“Chances are you might not be able to find the exact model of a TV that was purchased two years ago. With Replacement Cost coverage, you’ll be able to replace your old television with a newer model without having to absorb the cost of two years’ usage,” said O’Rourke.

Insurance Tip: O’Rourke recommends homeowners insurance policyholders review their coverage with their insurance agent annually.

“Our agents are diligent about explaining the ins and outs of insurance policies to customers, but homeowners should reach out to their agent to assess their coverage before a loss happens. One simple phone call could end up saving you thousands of dollars, especially if you’ve acquired new belongings or made home renovations,” said O’Rourke.

Homeowners Should Reassess Insurance Coverage Annually

Make sure you aren’t underinsured

Homeownership is part of the American Dream, and for many people a home is their largest single purchase and most valued asset. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize that their possessions and homes would be in jeopardy if they were inadequately insured and lost due to fire, flood or another disaster. So it’s important that you ask yourself one simple question: Do I have enough insurance to repair or replace my home if it is damaged or destroyed?

Most homeowners would say yes, but recent studies indicate that many homeowners lack sufficient insurance to rebuild after a disaster. In fact, according to Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, which provides building-cost information to insurers and government agencies, 61 percent of all homes are underinsured by an average of 18 percent.

As one of the nation’s leading insurance providers, Mercury conducts an annual review of its customers’ homeowners coverage limits based upon estimated replacement costs in their neighborhoods, and as a result of these calculations may adjust the policy limit. These estimates are tied to general factors in each area and are supplied by appraisal agencies.

This is only part of the process, however, as we recommend that you also get an insurance checkup from your agent once a year to help you make an informed decision about the coverage you need. No one wants to pay a higher premium, but construction costs have increased dramatically over the past several years and it’s important for you to make sure that any potential loss has satisfactory coverage.

This is especially important if you have made improvements to your home and have not incorporated these improvements into your coverage. And even if you haven’t made any improvements to your home, we still recommend a review to make sure that your coverage limits are adequate to cover the cost of rebuilding in your area, because every neighborhood can be a little different.

The National Association of Homebuilders annually tracks building costs, and the average price per square foot for residential construction in the Western states jumped 36 percent between 2002 and 2007.

So take a moment to reassess your coverage and protect your family’s future. To help you get started, here are a few things you should consider and discuss with your agent:

  1. When was the last time you evaluated the amount of coverage on your home? If it’s been more than a year then it’s time to talk to your agent about your coverage.
  2. Do you have extended replacement coverage? Mercury offers home insurance with additional coverage of up to 150 percent of your home’s policy limit. After a disaster, without extended coverage, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild or repair your home and replace its contents, so this benefit can really help if you suffer a loss.
  3. Have you made any improvements to your home? If so, then you should make sure that you have enough coverage to replace these new features.
  4. Get your house appraised. If it’s been several years since it was last appraised then it may be time to get an independent appraisal from a licensed professional. This will help to better establish the amount of coverage you need, but remember to have the appraiser calculate the cost to rebuild your home with similar quality features in today’s market, which may be different than the actual value of your home.
  5. Keep a detailed record of your home’s contents and unique features. Photos and video recordings of designer kitchens, big screen TVs, and other special features will greatly speed the claims process in the event of a loss.
  6. Carefully read all of your policy and coverage documents. Your agent is always willing to help answer any questions you may have, or help you find a professional who can answer your questions.

You ultimately know your home better than anyone else, so you will need to decide what’s right for you.  We are happy to assist you in evaluating your current policy limits and coverages to help you make sure that you have the right coverage.

 

Don’t Drive Angry

Why can’t we all just get along?

Many of us have had to deal with aggressively impolite drivers – people who tailgate, cut you off, lay on their horns and make inappropriate hand gestures as they speed past you in an expression of displeasure for whatever inconvenience they perceive that you’ve caused them.

“Displays of aggression on the road are becoming an all-too-common occurrence,” says Stephanie Behnke, claims innovation director for Mercury Insurance. “People who engage in these driving behaviors aren’t focused on the wellbeing of others – they don’t stop to think about how dangerous their actions are and that they’re putting themselves and those around them in danger.”

More people on the roads = aggression

fatal crashes driversAggressive driving has become more prevalent as the population and number of licensed drivers grows and traffic congestion continues to increase. According to a report compiled on aggressive driving by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academics for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), aggressive driving is a rampant problem that contributes to an estimated 56 percent of all fatal crashes.

So what exactly is “aggressive” driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Moving traffic offenses include:

  • Speeding
  • Unsafe lane changes or passing on the right
  • Following too closely
  • Failure to yield
  • Disregard of traffic control devices
  • Reckless driving
  • Failure to signal.

Two or more of these actions coupled together are considered a display of aggressive driving.

According to a 2013 report issued by NHTSA, aggressive driving continues to play a substantial role in traffic accidents. In fact, 67 percent of people surveyed in another NHTSA study on dangerous driving felt that their safety was threatened by other drivers.

Road rage

safety threatened driversWhile aggressive driving is a traffic offense, road rage – which NHTSA defines as the assault of a fellow motorist or their passengers with a vehicle or weapon – is a criminal offense. Fifteen states have passed laws to discourage aggressive driving and road rage:  Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

Seven of these states have specific provisions regarding harassment, intimidation, the creation of hazards, general lack of concern for the safety of others and the intent to injure other motorists. One state – Indiana – includes a clause about the unnecessary or excessive use of horns.

“Unfortunately, we can’t control the actions and reactions of other drivers,” Behnke said. “But, what we can do is meet road rage with anti-rage. Keeping your cool and ignoring the rude behaviors of others can help curb road rage and reduce risk, diffusing otherwise volatile traffic situations.”

The golden rule of driving

The NCHRP report mentions that frustration contributes to aggressive driving behavior. Drivers who experience frustration are more likely to project elevated levels of aggression triggered by contextual factors, such as the driver’s psychological disposition and traveling environment.

Practicing common courtesy on the road can go a long way. Instead of feeding into the rage of others, try implementing the golden rule: treat other drivers the way you would like to be treated. Resist the urge to honk your horn or brake check tailgaters, obey traffic laws and remain courteous when faced with angry motorists.

“National Courtesy Month is a great way to encourage people to think of others as they go about their daily lives,” Behnke said. “If you drive, you will encounter traffic and bad drivers, but rather than letting it get to you, try taking a deep breath and thinking about getting home safely to your family. It tends to put things in perspective.”

Practice anti-rage

Put your best foot forward and practice some of these anti-rage techniques when on the road:

  • Be mindful of those around you. Be considerate of other drivers, obey traffic laws and don’t switch lanes without using a turn signal. Check your blind spots and avoid cutting people off.
  • Think before you act. Before honking your horn or making a rude gesture in traffic, snuff the reaction. You never know the mentality of other drivers and these actions can escalate an otherwise harmless situation into a dangerous game of roadway retaliation.
  • Don’t brake check tailgaters. Brake checking other vehicles can lead to accidents. Be patient and move over to let the tailgater pass.
  • Don’t challenge other drivers on the road. Be courteous and allow merging cars into your lane. Don’t engage in speed wars or attempt to race other drivers.
  • Avoid aggressive drivers when possible. Steer clear of aggressive drivers on the road. Give them distance and don’t get in their path of travel.
  • Don’t talk on your cell phone while driving. Aside from the fact that this is illegal in many states, it takes your attention off of the road and may upset the drivers with whom you share the road.
  • Report aggressive drivers. If you feel that a driver is a threat to others on the road, take down their license plate number and call 911 to report them to the local authorities.

These tactics can help you avoid collisions while you’re on the road, but there are times when accidents are simply out of your control. Even courteous drivers can find themselves dealing with a fender bender on the roadside. Familiarize yourself with your insurance company’s claims process, so you’re prepared and know what to do in the event of an accident.

Movie Car Hacking Examples in Real Life

Hollywood has had a long fascination with automotive technology in big blockbuster films, often predicting what cutting-edge features automakers will incorporate into modern vehicles.

While living like a movie star in our everyday life is exciting, as vehicles become increasingly advanced and connected, the possibility for hacks is also making its way into the mainstream. This creates new security risks for modern-day vehicle owners, potentially allowing cybercriminals to cause havoc with your vehicle.

Here are some examples of how movie car technology has become an unintended threat:

1. Tomorrow Never Dies

James Bond fans might remember the scene from the 1997 film, Tomorrow Never Dies, where Bond uses a cell phone to take control of his BMW 750iL to evade pursuers. While Bond had Q’s help to develop gadgets to aid him in espionage for more than 50 years, car hackers have also discovered ways to commandeer vehicles—sometimes even miles away from them.

Hackers around the globe have demonstrated the ability to remotely control a vehicle – regardless if it’s a Corvette in England, a Jeep Cherokee in the United States or a Tesla Model S in China, software vulnerabilities allow hackers to input drive commands and take control. This poses a security risk to millions of drivers on the road as cybercriminals can literally take control of everything from wind shield wipers to acceleration and braking. These hackers can even turn off gauges and engines!

2. Transformers

The Transformers movie series has showcased some of the most state-of-the-art cars imaginable, featuring sentient vehicles battling over the future of humanity. The franchise’s arch-nemesis, Megatron, has a chief communications and intelligence officer – Soundwave – capable of hacking any electronic device. Although it’s unlikely that your vehicle will undergo a metamorphosis into a battle-ready machine, the technology from Transformers is already making its way onto our roads.

Autonomous vehicles are filled with cutting edge technology, including cameras and sensors. Through these ‘connected’ technologies, these vehicles speak to themselves (and potentially other vehicles around them) by understanding their surroundings. However, the connected technology in autonomous vehicles also provides an opportunity for hackers to take them over. The U.S. government has released protocols by which manufacturers must abide to harden vehicle defenses against these criminals.

3. Gone in 60 Seconds

The 2000 summer blockbuster, Gone in Sixty Seconds, shows car thieves utilizing both old and new school tactics to steal 50 cars in one night. One scene pairs old schooler Donny Astricky with his accomplice Mirror Man, who uses a copy of an electronic key to gain access to a Jaguar XJR X308.

Automotive tech has made modern cars a lot safer in 2016, right? Yes and no.

Present day hackers are using vehicle key fobs to unlock cars. Craig Smith, founder of Open Garages, a community for sharing and collaborating on automotive research, recommends “Keeping your electronic key fobs stored in a metal box like your refrigerator to keep hackers from picking up their signal and opening up your vehicle with a copycat signal.” While taking this measure may seem extreme, the danger is real.

Car thieves are also using laptops to steal vehicles. This year, a pair of hackers targeted a Jeep dealership in Houston, Texas, making off with over 30 cars during a six-month period by overriding the security software used by all Jeep vehicles.

Find out if your vehicle is vulnerable and the steps you can take to protect it.

Additional Resources

Teens and Their Parents Learn Skills for a Safe Driving Experience

Teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road, and drivers under the age of 20 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.1 The most important thing parents can do to help keep their young drivers safe on the road is to teach them good driving habits and lead by example.

tampa bay drive safe challenge

That’s why, in 2016, Mercury Insurance created its Drive Safe Challenge, a comprehensive website with tools – tips, videos, quizzes and much more – parents and teens can use to help prepare for life behind the wheel. In addition, Mercury has gone out into the community to offer free defensive driving programs that include hands-on driving skills training and interactive classroom sessions.

Mercury most recently teamed up with the Tampa Bay Lightning at AMALIE Arena for one of these community events on January 15. Participating teens and their parents learned collision avoidance and emergency maneuvers from professional driving instructors and participated in an interactive classroom session led by Tampa Police Department officers and the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

One of the teens, Nicolas DeMalteris (17), said of his experience “I ran over half of the cones on the distracted driving course. I had to text while driving. I don’t think it would be very smart to drive [distracted] on the road, and I won’t do it ever again.”

Mercury Insurance and the Anaheim Ducks hosted a similar event for teens and their parents on December 9, 2017 at Honda Center. Teens were able to meet Ducks Forward, Rickard Rakell, in addition to learning hard-braking, maneuvering on wet surfaces, and swerving to avoid objects in the road. This was the Ducks’s second time partnering with Mercury on the event.

“The Anaheim Ducks’ involvement in the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge underscores our commitment to making our community a safer place,” said Anaheim Ducks Vice President and CMO Aaron Teats. “The teens who participated today [December 9] learned valuable knowledge and skills about being safe on the road so we’re glad to lend a hand to such an important cause.”

Visit http://drivesafe.mercuryinsurance.com to learn more.

Best Regards,

Jason Mayling
Integrity First Insurance Services, Corp.
License #0834720
Email: jmayling@integrityfirstins.com
Phone: 805-495-1122 | Toll-free: 800-696-9193 | Fax: 805-371-8759
Web: IntegrityFirstIns.com | Blog: IntegrityFirstIns.com/blog

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