Burglaries on the Increase?

An article in today’s Sunday Telegram cites evidence that home burglaries are on the rise in Cumberland County. The county Sheriff’s Department says they investigated 54 burglaries from December to February, double that of last year.

While we haven’t yet seen an increase in burglary claims this year, it’s always a good idea to be vigilant and to take measures to keep your home safe.

Here are some suggestions from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

  • Be sure your outdoor lighting illuminates all entrances to your home.
  • Cut back shrubbery to discourage burglars from hiding near window and doors.
  • Keep windows and doors locked at all times. Make certain your garage door is closed and locked.
  • Install a peephole in your front door.
  • Windows and sliding glass doors should be secured with auxiliary locks. Special door pins, available at home improvement stores, can prevent your sliding doors from being lifted from their tracks during a burglary attempt.
  • Deadbolt locks should be used on all exterior doors (single or double cylinder with a minimum one inch throw is recommended).
  • Never hide or store keys or tools outside.

The Sheriff’s Department also offers these hints if you’re planning to be away from home for an extended period:

  • Let trusted friends and neighbors know that you’ll be away.
  • Make your home appear occupied. Attach timers to lights and television sets and set them to turn on and off at different times.
  • Have your newspaper and mail held, or picked up by a friend or neighbor.
  • Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
  • Open some of the drapes or blinds on your windows. During daytime hours, it gives the appearance that someone is home, and during the evening, lights inside the house are more visible.

Myth Buster: “Most Ticketed Vehicle List” Full of Surprises

If you had to guess what kind of vehicle is most likely to tickets, what would you choose? A flashy sports car like Ford’s Mustang or the Porsche 911? A “pocket rocket” like the VW GTI that attracts a younger buyer? Guess again.

According to ISO’s Quality Planning Corporation‘ s recent study, The Hummer H2/H3 actually leads the pack. Why? That’s the subject of great debate. Is it that Hummers attract a buyer who’s independent and “type A”? Does the stance of the vehicle itself change the way drivers interact with traffic and roads? Who knows. But Hummers are over 450% more likely to be ticketed than the average vehicle.

Rounding out the top 10 are three Scion models, the Toyota Solara and Matrix, all of which appeal primarily to younger drivers, and a couple of the higher powered Mercedes models. Another surprise is the Subaru Outback Station Wagon, over 2.5 times more likely to be ticketed than the average vehicle.

So which vehicles are the least likely to be ticketed? Well, some are not surprising: three Buicks and an Olds make the bottom 10. Interestingly, some other SUVs and a few pickups make the “least ticketed” list: Chevy’s Suburban, Tahoe and CK pickup, and the GMC Sierra. Each of these is less than half as likely to get a ticket as the average vehicle. The absolute least likely: another surprise – theJaguar XJ sedan.

The study compared a vehicle’s violation count per 100,000 miles driven for a one year period from 2007 to 2008.

Complaint Dept. – Who’s Your Insurance Advocate?

Almost 200,000 consumer complaints were filed with U.S. insurance departments in 2008, according to data released today by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

Not surprisingly, claim handling generates the highest number of complaints. Perceived delays in handling claims are historically the top consumer complaint, followed by denial of a claim, and an unsatisfactory settlement or offer. 2008 was no different.

Claims Leads the Charge
While the complaint reasons remained the same over the past three years, NAIC data indicates that 5300 fewer claim complaints were filed in 2008 than 2007. Underwriting complaints (premium and cancellation) also decreased for the third consecutive year. Policy service (questions, billing, etc.) generated relatively few complaints, indicating that most insurance customers were able to get their routine questions answered satisfactorily.

Medical Insurance Generates Most Complaints
Health insurance was once again the most common type of coverage people complained about, followed by auto and homeowners insurance. Homeowners policy complaints decreased by 13,500 from 2006 to 2008, reflecting less underwriting turbulence in the property market.

What does this mean?
The way we see it, the NAIC report reinforces the value of a local independent agent, one who knows you and can advocate and advise clients on all aspects of their insurance, from claims to underwriting to service.

Who’s in Your Corner?
An independent agency like Noyes Hall & Allen can provide advice in a different way than an agent who’s an insurance company employee (direct writer), or one who represents only one company (captive agent). And, of course, being able to sit across the table from your agent, instead of talking to the next representative in queue at a remote call center is inherently more valuable.

If you have any questions about your insurance, we’re here to help!

Name Your Price? We Help You Do that Every Day.

Progressive Insurance, the nation’s 4th largest auto insurer, recently introduced “Name Your Price®” auto insurance on their web site. In ads featuring Flo, their quirky shopgirl spokesowman, the company hopes to connect with consumers’ desire to control their expenses in today’s economy.

In Progressive’s press release, spokesman Dale Willis said “Drivers want to customize their car insurance so they get the best possible coverage at a price that’s right for them, especially in times of economic uncertainty.”

The program is available in 16 states (not Maine). A countrywide rollout is planned for this year.

We respect Progressive’s culture of innovation. They are the Bill James of insurance: experts at analyzing data in new ways to find the right premium for virtually any risk. In fact, we have offered Progressive products to our clients for decades. They also sell directly to shoppers through their Progressive Direct brand.

What About Coverage?
Naming your own price sounds good – maybe too good. The problem: it’s easy to forget why you wanted to buy insurance in the first place: to protect your assets.

Insurance isn’t like shopping at the mall. There are no “sales”, and prices don’t magically drop. Every premium reduction is funded by a decrease in coverage or increase in deductible.

Who’s Advising You?
Tough economic times may motivate you to reduce your expenses. It’s not only smart; it’s necessary. There’s certainly no shame in trying to save money. Clients call us all the time with that goal in mind. We help them decide what changes to make to meet their budget – in effect to “name their price”. The difference is, we explain to them how their choices affect their coverage.

Who’s advising those Progressive shoppers when they “name their price”? So far, Progressive has chosen to offer this option on their “Progressive Direct” web site, not through local independent agents like Noyes Hall & Allen.

Although Progressive employs agents in their call centers to handle shoppers’ questions, the shopper has to request that contact. Most people are likely to avoid that – and make decisions on their own. Even if they do choose to speak with a Progressive Direct agent, the agent has no knowledge of the online shopper, their circumstances, or the area where they live. And, if the shopper has any follow up questions, they’re unlikely to speak with the same agent again.

We think it’s better to deal with a local insurance advisor – someone who can get to know you; the same person you can speak with any time you have questions. For information about how you can save money on your insurance, contact us today.

11 More NH&A Clients are Heating Assistance Winners!

As the long winter of 2008-09 rolls on, 11 more Noyes Hall & Allen clients were winners in the February’s drawing of Concord Group’s A Warm Hand heat lottery. Combined with December and January’s drawings, Noyes Hall & Allen clients have received $3,700 worth of oil, gas or other heating fuel assistance, courtesy of Concord Group.

We know that many people struggle with paying winter heating bills. We have seen cases where using space heaters, wood stoves and other alternate heating methods have caused fires. We hope that this fuel assistance program will help to reduce these fires.

More good news! It’s not too late to sign up! Concord’s last drawing takes place the 15th of March. If your homeowners policy was provided by Concord Group on October 31, 2008, you’re eligible. Sign up today!

Good luck!

Maine Ins. Commissioner: Consider Flood Insurance

Two days after this post on our blog, Maine’s Insurance Superintendent, Mila Kofman, echoed our recommendation to consider flood insurance, especially following this winter’s heavy snowfall.

Her bulletin points out that “now is the time for home and business owners to seriously consider the advantages of flood insurance”. She further points out that 9 of 11 federal disaster declarations in Maine from 2000 to 2008 involved spring flooding, and that the damages “impacted every county in Maine on multiple occasions”.

Don’t forget that flood damage is not covered by homeowners or standard business policies, and that the National Flood Insurance Program has a mandatory 30 day waiting period before coverage takes effect (unless it’s a new property purchase). Now really IS the time to think about protecting your property.

For more information about flood coverage, visit the Bureau of Insurance’s flood information page, read our February 18 blog post, or contact us via our web site, or on Twitter.