Halloween Tips for Homeowners

Adequate light is essential for visitors and trick-or-treaters to see where they are going. If you plan on welcoming trick-or-treaters, leave the porch light on.

Make sure your property is well lit.  Replace burned-out bulbs in exterior lights. If needed, install additional lights in the front yard to avoid someone tripping over something he or she can’t see. If you won’t be home for trick-or-treating, turn your lights off to discourage children from approaching your property.

All lighting should be grounded.  You don’t want to overload electrical outlets with holiday lighting or movable decorative objects. All outdoor lighting should be grounded, including low-voltage outdoor security lights and any Halloween lights. Be sure and only use covered electric outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).

Keep walkways clear.  Make sure all walkways and the front yard are clean and clutter-free to prevent falls. Put your car in the garage. Lock your garage doors. Sweep wet leaves from sidewalks and stairs. Move bikes, garden hoses, potted plants and skateboards away from areas that are likely to be walked on by groups of people. Decorative items and jack-o-lanterns should also be positioned at a safe distance from crowds to prevent people from knocking them over or tripping on them. Remember, kids often run from house to house and they don’t always stay on sidewalks, so, if you’re setting up a display, make sure it is well lit and visible. If you’re building a lawn display make sure to keep walkways clear. And don’t run cords over sidewalks where people might trip over them or hurt themselves.

When it comes to jack-o-lanterns, safety first.  If you plan to use candles in your jack-o-lanterns, keep them far away from primary walkways. This will help cut down on the fire hazards, such as costumes, props or decorations catching on fire. A great alternative to open flames is to use battery powered light sources or light sticks.

Make sure your little trick-or-treaters are visible to drivers.  Add reflector strips to your child’s costume, or have them carry a flash light or light stick to make them more visible at night. This will not only assure they are seen by drivers, but will also help you keep an eye on them if they get ahead of you.

Keep your pets inside.  Pets are easily frightened on Halloween, so keeping them inside will protect them from cars or inadvertently biting a trick-or-treater.

Assure you have home security.  If you will be away from your home during Halloween, don’t forget to set your security alarm system before you go. This is a prime time of year for mischief and burglaries.  To increase your home’s safety, you can also activate motion-sensitive lights and alert your neighbors that you will be away.

Test Your Smoke Alarms.  With jack-o-lanterns being a popular staple of Halloween, don’t forget to test your smoke alarms well in advance of the Halloween celebrations.

Insuring Your Home to Value

Imagine how devastating it would be to lose your home in a fire. Now imagine not being able to rebuild it completely because you didn’t have the correct amount of insurance. Selecting the proper amount of coverage is the single most important decision you can make with your Homeowners policy. Without it, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss. This is called “insurance to value.” Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs – and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away!

What is insurance to value?
Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home.  Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss.

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?
A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, taxes, school districts, the value of the land and location, and other factors unrelated to construction cost.  The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area.  It is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value.

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?
New-home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 20 bathtubs at once, securing a lower unit cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building a single home.

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

  • Work with your agent to provide detailed information at the time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote.
  • Ask us about additional coverage options that may be available.
  • Review your insurance to value calculation on a regular basis with your agent.
  • Tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.

Disclaimer: The above are merely suggestions and tips, and are not meant to guarantee individual results.

Article came from:

Mark Zoller
Marketing Manager – Atlas Insurance Brokers, LLC

Why Adding a Teen Driver to Your Insurance Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Is your teenager about to become the newest driver in the family? Getting a driver’s license is usually a joyous milestone for the new driver, but can raise blood pressure and insurance premiums for the parents. Take a deep breath—adding a teen driver doesn’t have to be scary.


Here are some positives thoughts to help guide you through the transition:


  • Car insurance will help keep your teen driver and assets protected. A new driver should have auto insurance, even if they do not have a car. Talk with your auto insurance agent. In most instances, it is best for parents to add the teen driver to their auto policy as opposed to starting a brand new policy.
  • Good grades mean greater savings because most auto insurance companies offer discounts for good students. Adding a teen driver to an insurance policy is going to increase your insurance premiums, so doing well in school is a win for everyone!
  • Planning ahead with your teen driver can help prevent accidents and prepare them for what to do if an accident happens. Talk about traffic laws and the rules of the road. Tell them who to call in the event of a breakdown. Show them where to find proof of insurance and vehicle registration.
  • Running errands and driving to extra-curricular activities and work can be less stressful with another driver in the family to share the shuttling responsibilities. Plus, it can provide your teen driver more driving experience in familiar areas.
  • Driving habits of others in the family can improve when they realize that new drivers are paying attention and are likely to mimic what they see.


When there is a new driver in the household, it is a good time to review your insurance program and consider purchasing an umbrella policy if you don’t already have one. Talk with your agent about changes needed to your insurance and any additional discounts you may qualify for.

Importance of Life Insurance for Young Families

When you’re starting a family you face perhaps the most daunting financial pressures you’ll encounter at any stage of life. Expenses like a new home and young children weigh heavily, and you’re likely still early in your career, far from your peak earning potential. Meanwhile, you need to begin saving for the future: college for the kids, a nest egg for you and your spouse. How can you address all of these obligations at once?

The key is to imagine you’re at the beginning of a long-term building process. Financial security is a combination of insurance protection, and savings and investments that accumulate over time. Start small and cover all your bases. As your career progresses and your income increases, your financial security will grow as well.

Protection First

The first step in establishing your financial security is to confront the biggest threats to it by asking yourself some tough questions: What would happen if you or your spouse or partner became sick, injured or died? All of these situations can be devastating to your family’s financial health. That’s where insurance comes in.

Life insurance can provide your family members the resources to maintain their lifestyle when you die. It can replace some or all of your income, pay off debts, cover funeral costs and can even help fund longer-range needs like college tuition or retirement. Insure your spouse or partner as well, even if he or she doesn’t work outside the home. A stay-at-home parent provides vital household services—childcare, house upkeep and transportation to name a few—that would be expensive to replace. To find out more about life insurance and if you need coverage, use our Interactive Planner.

Disability insurance is also a must. It will replace a portion of your income if you are unable to work due to a disabling illness or injury. Why is that important? Think about how long you could make ends meet if your paycheck suddenly disappeared. A LIFE Foundation survey found that a majority of workers wouldn’t make it more than a month before serious financial sacrifices would have to be made.

Many larger companies and some smaller ones offer some disability coverage to employees through a group plan. If you need more, it may make sense to buy additional coverage through your employer’s group plan, if available. Buying your own disability insurance policy independently is also option worth considering. Unlike group coverage, privately owned insurance stays with you even when you change jobs. To find out more about disability insurance and if you need coverage, use our Interactive Planner.

Be Sure to Save

Given all the costs a young family faces, the idea of saving may seem impossible. But it’s crucial to get into the habit early, and important to have a source of cash to fall back on in an emergency. Setting aside just $25 a week at a 6% annual return will turn into $31,000 in 15 years. If you have credit card debt, your first priority should be to pay it off. High interest rates on credit card debt can turn into a long-term drag on your family’s financial health.

More info on:
Getting debt under control 
Starting a savings plan

Invest for the Future

If you haven’t already, you should immediately enroll in your company’s 401(k) retirement savings plan. This will probably be the primary source of your retirement savings, so start early. Some companies even match employee 401(k) contributions, so not participating is like turning down free money.

A 529 college savings program is a good way to put aside money for your kids’ college tuition. You won’t have to pay taxes on your investment gains from the plan as long as you use the money for legitimate education purposes. In addition, some states offer tax deductions to residents who contribute to these plans. Another college savings option is a Coverdell IRA, though it has income level restrictions.

**Article taken from Lifehappens.org.  http://www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/insurance-for-young-families/

If you would like to review your life insurance needs please contact Carney Insurance Services for a review.

How Does Car Insurance Work for Uber Drivers?

Written by   //  October 21, 2015  //  Answer Financial Auto Insurance Articles

With all the talk of Uber recently, you might have considered signing up to drive for the service in order to earn some extra money. You might also wonder about the implications when it comes to your car insurance and who would pay in the event of an accident. Read on to learn all about what steps you may have to take to ensure you don’t run into any insurance surprises.

What is Uber?

Uber is a ride-hailing service (sometimes referred to as “ride-sharing”) that competes with taxis and black car services. Passengers hail an Uber from the smartphone app and arrange for a car to pick them up, often for less than the cost of a traditional taxi.
While Uber has a number of commercially-licensed black car services, it also has a product called UberX. UberX allows local drivers to respond to notifications on the Uber app by driving customers in their own (non-luxury) cars.

From a business perspective, Uber is similar to taxi companies in that they do not own or operate the cars, and drivers are not directly employed by them. However, unlike traditional taxi medallion companies, almost anyone can drive for UberX and competitors like Lyft, Sidecar, etc. In some states the only requirements for UberX drivers are car insurance, appropriate age, health, completion of a driving test, and passing a background check.

Driving For UberX Could Invalidate Your Personal Auto Insurance Policy

Your personal auto insurance policy may not provide coverage for you if you drive for a service like UberX. This is because personal car insurance policies have a list of exclusions, and they often include “driving-for-hire.” If you are driving for UberX or a similar service, you should check with your insurance company to confirm whether your policy covers this “commercial driving.” If it does not, you will want to consider purchasing supplemental commercial auto insurance, though for many part-time drivers, this may not be financially feasible.

Uber Provides (Some) Auto Insurance Coverage… When The App Is On

Uber requires all of their drivers to have car insurance, and provides supplemental insurance coverage, but only while the app is on. Here’s how it works: When the Uber app is off, a driver is covered by their own personal car insurance. When the Uber app is turned on, a low level of liability insurance becomes active. When a trip is accepted, a higher level of coverage kicks in and remains active until the passenger exits the vehicle. Previously Uber had only offered coverage when a passenger was in the car, but the company updated their policy after a series of accidents which resulted in various lawsuits.

Lyft and some of the other ride-sharing services point to the $1 million per incident excess liability coverage that certain states require them to carry. The policies are designed to deal with liability claims, which a driver’s insurance doesn’t cover. But these policies won’t cover a driver’s car – you must rely on your own personal auto insurance policy.

UberX Drivers May Also Need A Commercial Driver’s License

If you drive for UberX or a similar service, whenever you pick up a passenger you are driving professionally. Even though you are an independent contractor, some states will consider you to be a commercial driver. While each state’s laws are different, UberX and Lyft drivers should be aware that your state may require you to have a commercial driver’s license. (Note: Some states only require drivers to have a commercial license if they drive as a full-time occupation.) Check with your state’s DMV for their requirements.

If your state requires you to have a commercial driver’s license when driving for Uber, you could be subject to prosecution if you get into an accident and don’t have a commercial license, even if you have a commercial auto insurance policy. Things may soon get less complicated though. Several insurance companies have recently created unique auto policies that are tailored specifically to drivers of Uber, Lyft, etc. These insurance plans are currently only available in select states, but provide an alternative to a traditional commercial auto insurance policy.

In the end, if you’re looking to start driving for Uber, your best bet is to be upfront with your insurance company about the fact that you’ll be “driving-for-hire”, find out if you need commercial insurance, and find out if you need a commercial driver’s license.

**Contact Carney Insurance Services if you have any questions regarding your policy for your an insurance quote.

A personal story. Seat belts save lives all year round

“Original Article written by Scott Stueber from West Bend Cares”

Too often in the news, we hear about people dying from their injuries because of being ejected from their car during an accident. In many cases, a simple click of the seat belt could have prevented these deaths from occurring.

Sue Gerlach, personal lines senior underwriter, shares her personal story on how wearing a seat belt saved her daughter’s life. Sue also shares additional information that can help keep you and your teen driver(s) safe.

Last December, I was driving home from work and as I got closer to home, the more slippery the roads became. After nearly sliding past my driveway, I managed to arrive safely. Because my daughter would soon be leaving work, I texted her a warning about the roads and asked her to be careful. She replied she would be. In typical Mother fashion, I watched for her arrival which seemed to take forever. Then my phone rang; it was my daughter. She flipped her car. After a deep breath, I asked if she was okay. “Yes,” she told me. “I had my seat belt on and I am fine.” I was very thankful my daughter wore her seatbelt. While her car was a total loss, the seat belt saved her from injury … or worse.

The next month, a young driver just recently licensed, stopped on the way to school to pick up a classmate. As they continued on, she hit a patch of black ice. She lost control of the car and hit a tree. While her passenger was wearing a seatbelt and was fine, the driver wasn’t wearing hers. She was ejected from the car and died of her injuries. Her parents will always wonder why she didn’t wear her seatbelt. Did she take it off when she picked up her classmate or did she just forget? Unfortunately, they’ll never know.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the first three decades of Americans’ lives. More than half of the people killed in car crashes weren’t restrained at the time of the crash. Wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a crash.

During the summer months, roadways are busy and congested. Did you know that Memorial Day to Labor Day is considered the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers? More time hanging out with friends and going to their summer jobs puts teens behind the wheel more often. Before your teen leaves home, remind them to buckle up.

Graduated licensing laws help remind newer drivers to buckle up. In addition, more people wear seat belts in states in which you may also receive a seat belt violation when pulled over for another offence. In states that fine people for not wearing a seat belt, even MORE drivers wear them. In addition, did you know that in many states, the driver could be ticketed if the passenger isn’t buckled up? Therefore, if you’re driving, make sure all your passengers are wearing their seat belts.

It’s unfortunate that we need these laws and fines to get people to buckle up. Of course, you need more than a seat belt to keep you safe. We all need to follow the rules of the road … obeying the speed limits, watching the lines on the road to prevent unsafe passing, slowing down at a yellow light and even stopping instead of speeding up. We all know what to do to be safe. So why does a tragic accident make us re-think our driving habits? Why are we always in such a hurry? Why do we always think it won’t be us in that accident?

Seat belts will always be one of the most important things you put on when you get in your vehicle.  Another important item is your paying-attention hat. Watch for distracted drivers and deer or other animals (in the country AND in the city), be prepared to stop for school buses, and above all, DO NOT look at your cell phone or text while you drive!

Remember: Be safe, be attentive, and remember to buckle up!

CLICK HERE for original article.

Buying a new home? Consider these insurance factors.

With home prices continuing to be competitive and interest rates low, many people are dipping their toes into the real estate market. Regardless of whether you are a first time home buyer, considering the purchase of a second home or an empty nester looking for a cozy smaller property, it is important to factor in the potential insurance costs of the home you are considering when calculating the overall price of owning the house, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“When people look at homes, they tend to focus on factors such as property taxes, neighborhoods, school districts and available recreational and cultural opportunities,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “But an often overlooked item is the insurance implications of a specific house.”

“You will be paying for insurance for as long as you own it, so you should factor the cost of insurance into the home buying process. You don’t want to find out that your dream home is more expensive to insure than you thought after you own it,” pointed out Salvatore.

When looking at prospective new homes, the I.I.I. suggests asking the following questions:

  • How far is the home from the fire department? Houses that are near a fire station with professional firefighters usually cost less to insure.
  • What is the condition of the plumbing and electrical systems? Poorly maintained, unsafe and/or outdated systems can cost more to insure.
  • Is the home vulnerable to wind damage? Find out if private insurance is available, or a state-run insurance program. Is there a windstorm deductible, and how high is it? A home on or near the beach may be more costly to insure than one inland.
  • Is the house at risk from flooding? Flood insurance is not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. However, it is available from the National Flood Insurance Program, which is serviced by private carriers, and from a few specialty insurers.
  • What about earthquake risk? Earthquake insurance requires an endorsement or a separate policy.
  • Is the house well built and well maintained? Homes built by reputable builders using disaster resistant materials and designed to meet current building codes are likely to better withstand natural disasters.

A knowledgeable home inspector and your insurance agent can be helpful in answering these questions. “Keep in mind, that the size, location, construction and overall condition of the house can affect the cost, choice and availability of home insurance,” noted Salvatore.

To educate consumers about the insurance implication of buying a home, the I.I.I. has created a Home Buyers Insurance Checklist. It provides information on what do before buying a house, factors to consider when looking at homes and placing a bid, as well as tips to properly insure your new home.

For related video, go to Before Buying a Home: Insurance Questions Everyone Should Ask.

Source: Insurance Information Institute (iii.org)

Ten tips to help your college student rent an apartment

As college students search for independence, a new challenge for this school year could be renting an apartment.

If you’ve been down this road before, you know renting an apartment for a college student can be stressful. If this is your first time, there are many things to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, when it comes to renting an apartment in your student’s college town, you’ll notice that rent prices can be through the roof and places may be in poor condition.

Here are some tips to help you and your college student through the process.

1.  Do your homework. Before scheduling an appointment to view the apartment, do your research. Some items to think about are:

  • Is there public transportation nearby?
  • Is it a residential area or business district?
  • If it is a business district, what type of work is performed there?
  • Are retail stores and restaurants within walking distance?

Use the power of the internet to your advantage.

  • Look for online reviews from previous renters.
  • Compare and contrast different properties.
  • Use tools such as Google Earth to look at the neighborhood as well as the condition of the property.
  • If something looks too good to be true, it may be a scam; proceed with caution.

2. Pay a personal visit. Once you have selected apartments of interest, visit each one. Make sure the pictures online accurately reflect the condition of the property. The last thing you want to do is rent an apartment without seeing it. A visit allows you the opportunity to:

  • See the actual size. This is a nice opportunity to see if their furniture will fit.
  • Check out the quality of the appliances.
  • Look in cupboards and closets. Keep an eye out for mouse droppings.
  • Identify preexisting damages such as holes in the walls or carpet stains.
  • Run the water in sinks and showers and flush the toilet.

3. Coach your kids. This is an opportunity for your kids to enter the realm of adulthood. Discuss with them what to look for and questions to ask. Lights burned out in the hallway or empty beer cans may not seem like a big deal, but can provide a glimpse of poor maintenance schedules or rowdy neighbors. While these things may not be a big deal at the time, they could be after signing a 12-month lease.

4. Discuss your expectations. Property owners may not be comfortable renting to your college student due to lack of income. Therefore, you may be asked to co-sign the lease. Before you sign on the dotted line, discuss your expectations with your student. It may not even be a bad idea to create a contract between the two of you. Once you co-sign, any damages that occur are your responsibility.

5. Make sure the lease is in writing. Signing a lease with a large apartment complex often leads to paperwork that is more thorough. Individual property owners may not follow a structured approach. If they don’t have the appropriate paperwork in place, consider renting somewhere else.

6. Test their smartphone. Depending on the construction of the building or their phone company, your student’s smartphone may not work. Have them walk through each room to make sure it works. I’m sure you’ll want to get a hold of them from time to time.

7. Understand the pet policy. Simply having a pet may cause you to forfeit your security deposit even if your pet doesn’t cause any damages.

8. Don’t forget to purchase renters insurance. Most landlords’ insurance policies cover only the building, not what’s in it. Many students think because they’re in college, they don’t have anything valuable to insure. Imagine if they lost everything in a fire. The cost to replace necessities adds up quickly. To learn more about renters insurance, check out the blogs below.

Renters Coverage? Why do I need that?

Renter’s insurance. A smart choice for college students

BUY VS RENT? Either way homeowners (aka renters) insurance is needed!

9. Make multiple visits. Visiting at night or during poor weather conditions can paint an even better picture for the both of you. No one wants to rent a place with roof that leaks or one that has poor insulation. Poor insulation can lead to increased heating costs.

10. Pros and cons. After each visit, identify the pros and cons while they’re fresh in your mind.

Original post comes from West Bend Insurance – West Bend Cares Blog.


Personal Liability Umbrella…. Do I need one?

In 2016, the fatality rate jumped 6% for auto accidents and 11% for pedestrians involved in traffic
accidents. The primary cause for these increases continues to be impaired and distracted driving and distracted walking. With the increase in accidents and fatalities the need for higher limits is greater than ever, and Carney Insurance has products to help. A Personal Liability Umbrella Policy is one of the least expensive ways to protect yourself.

Why do you need an Personal Liability Umbrella Policy?
– Personal Umbrella Insurance provides an extra layer of liability coverage. It helps guard against the impact of large and unforeseen losses, by protecting your personal assets and future earnings.
– In Minnesota, if you do not have the assets or liability coverage to cover an at-fault accident your future salary could be garnished at 25% for up to 20 years.

What to do after a Hailstorm

During a hailstorm, windows may break and high winds can knock down trees and power lines. If the hail is big enough, it can cause shingle damage to the roof of your home. It can also damage the roof and hood of your car and maybe even crack your windshield. If you’ve just been through a hailstorm, be careful and follow these tips:

  1. Make Safety Your First Priority
  • Watch out for broken glass, sharp objects and exposed electrical wires.
  • Wear proper shoes and gloves.
  • Don’t use rain-soaked electrical equipment.
  • Watch out for downed trees, power lines, and debris.
  1. Call Us
  • When it’s safe to do so, call us as soon as you can at 651-464-6001.
  • Be prepared to provide at least a general description of your hail damage.
  • Take photographs and videos of the hail damage if you can. It’s a great way to help us understand what happened and expedite the claims process.
  1. Safeguard Your Home and Your Car
  •  Prevent Further Damage
    • A hailstorm may be accompanied by heavy rain and wind. The longer your home is exposed to water, the more damage you’ll see to your roof, ceiling, walls and floors, as well as any personal belongings you have inside.
  • Hail Damage to Your House
    • Clean up any broken glass and remove debris.
    • Board up broken windows and doors.
    • Cover roof damage with tarps or plywood.
    • Move any wet items to a dry location.
    • If possible, place any damaged items in a safe, secure area where they can be inspected later.
    • Save all receipts from any temporary repairs.
  • Hail Damage to Your Car
    • Cover any broken car windows with tarps or plastic sheeting.
    • Move any wet items to a dry place.
    • If possible, place any damaged items in a safe, secure area where they can be inspected at a later time.
  1. Repair Your Home and Car
  •  Get Your House Repaired Please wait until a claims adjustor assesses the hail damage to your home before starting permanent repairs. We encourage you, however, to schedule permanent repairs as soon as possible. Call us if you need recommendations for a local repair company.
  • Get Your Car Fixed
    • For hail damage to the body or your car go to a local repair shop to start an estimate.
    • For hail damage to your windshield or other car windows’ call us for local windshield repair companies.

Home Improvements – To Upgrade or Not Insurance companies will replace damaged items and materials with the same type and quality of materials you had before the hailstorm. For example, if you had a fiberglass roof, we will pay to repair or replace the damaged area with fiberglass, but they won’t pay to replace it with more expensive slate tile. If you decide to upgrade your house with better or more expensive materials, you’re welcome to do so, but you’ll need to pay the additional expense out of your own pocket. Any time you make improvements to your property, be sure to call us to find out if your coverage is still enough, and if you’re eligible for any discounts.

Contact Carney Insurance for any issues.