R.S. Semler & Associates Insurance Inc.
“Insurance of All Kinds”

R.S. Semler & Associates Insurance Inc.
870 W. Sumner Street (Hwy. 60), P.O. Box 270108, Hartford, WI 53027

Hours: Monday - Friday 8:15 am - 5:00 pm
P: 262-673-3160 F: 262-673-9466

Click here to see where we are located.
The professional independent agents at R.S. Semler & Associates Insurance Inc. are local, community members who see you as a neighbor, not just a policy number.

• We help friends and neighbors manage their risk.

• Provide personal support and service.

• Get to know you and your situation so we can better answer your questions and suggest the best coverages for you.

R.S. Semler & Associates Insurance, Inc.

We have been providing peace-of-mind to Hartford and its surrounding counties for over 45 years. We represent only the most reputable and financially stable insurance companies, which gives our clients the protection they deserve. Our specialty is tailoring policies specific to your personal or commercial needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions / Glossary

Insurance Terms & Definitions

Additional Equipment

This is an optional coverage which covers loss to custom equipment or features which were not installed by the original manufacturer


Bodily Injury Liability Coverage

This benefit covers you for accidental bodily injury which you or someone driving your car may cause to someone else. It will compensate that injured "someone else" for their injuries up to a limit of coverage which you have chosen. It also covers the cost of your legal defense.


Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive Coverage covers you for damages to your car due to things such as fire, hail, flood, theft or impact with a bird or animal. Various deductibles are available. This coverage is optional, but most lease and finance companies require you to purchase Comprehensive and Collision to ensure the car will be repaired or replaced after loss.


Collision Coverage

Collision Coverage covers you for damages to your car when it collides with another object, such as a truck, another car or a tree. In most cases, a deductible must be met before this coverage will apply. The deductible is the amount of out-of-pocket money you must pay before the auto insurance applies. Various deductibles are available. This coverage is optional, but most lease and finance companies require you to purchase Comprehensive and Collision to ensure the car will be repaired or replaced after loss.


Medical Payments Coverage

Medical Payments Coverage covers you for medical and/or funeral expenses related to injuries you sustain in an auto accident. Most states require this coverage and the limits may vary from state to state.


Property Damage Liability Coverage

Property Damage Liability Coverage covers you for accidental property damage you or someone driving your car causes to someone else. This coverage will pay for the repairs to that person's car, or other property, up to the limit of coverage which you have chosen. The cost of your legal defense is also covered.


Rental Reimbursement Coverage

When your auto is disabled due to an accident, this coverage helps pay for costs you may incur for having to rent a car during the time your auto is being repaired. This is an optional benefit.


Towing & Labor Costs

Towing & Labor Costs will help pay the cost you incur for having your car towed from the scene of an accident or from a breakdown to the repair shop. This is an optional benefit.


Uninsured Motorist Coverage

This provides you with coverage for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, you sustain in an auto accident due to the negligence of a driver who does not have any insurance. Coverage will be up to the limits of coverage you have chosen. This coverage is mandatory in most states. In some states, there may also be uninsured motorist coverage for property damage to your car.


Underinsured Motorist Coverage

This provides you with coverage for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, you sustain in an auto accident due to the negligence of a driver who has auto insurance, but not enough to pay for all of your damages. It pays up to the limit of coverage you have chosen for your car. This coverage is mandatory in most states.


What is an Independent Insurance Agent?

  • We are licensed professionals with great customer relationships and strong community ties.
  • We provide excellent service and competitive prices because we have access to over 40 insurance companies, who we receive training from, allowing us to find the best combination of price, coverage and service for the consumer.
  • We are here, in person, to assist you when you have a claim.
  • We are your consultant, working with you as you determine your needs.
  • We offer one-stop shopping for a full range of products – home, renters, auto, business, life and health.
  • We review your coverage to keep up with your changing insurance needs.
  • We provide professional and personal customer service.


What is a deductible?

A deductible is a portion of every insured loss that will be deducted from the amount the insurance company would otherwise pay. Deductibles encourage you to prevent losses and reduce the cost of your insurance. Carefully choose a deductible that you can afford at a moment's notice. Normally the higher the deductible, the less the premium. But can you write out a check for $1,000 at a moment's notice? If not, you do not want a $1,000 deductible. It is a good idea to annually review your deductibles to determine any adjustments needed due to changes in your cash flow position. One major factor to consider when deciding on a deductible is if you have a number of claims, even if they are small, your insurance premium may increase or you may lose your coverage. Insurance is designed to cover the catastrophic loss and should never be used to pay the smaller losses that you can pay out of pocket. Only you can decide which deductible is right for your unique circumstances.


How can I reduce the cost of my auto insurance?

  • Prior to purchasing a vehicle, call us to find out premiums by vehicle. Some vehicles are targeted by thieves and some are very costly to repair resulting in higher premiums.
  • Choosing higher comprehensive and collision deductibles can reduce premiums.
  • As your vehicle ages and the value declines, it might be a good idea to drop collision coverage to save money.
  • Many companies provide discounts if your home and auto are insured together.
  • If you commute, look into ride share vans or alternatives to driving to work everyday. Decreased usage may translate into a lower rate class.


What should I look at other than the limit on my homeowners policy?

Your homeowners policy contains many features that you need to be aware of such as:
  • Backup of Sewer or Drains – basic homeowners policies do not cover this, but many offer it as an option or enhancement.
  • Wind damage to trees – If you have a tree blown down on your home, most policies will pay for the cost to remove it. However, if the tree is blown down in the yard, some policies will cover the removal while some will not.
  • Cost to replace your home – All homeowners policies provide replacement cost coverage (not depreciated) up to the home value shown on the policy. If your cost to rebuild exceeds that limit, many companies offer endorsements to allow some "excess coverage" to allow for this variation.


Does my homeowners policy provide coverage for an office in my home?

Probably not. Any business activity should be discussed with your agent to ensure no gaps in the property and liability coverage under the homeowners policy relative to the business. Look into "in-home" business policies where coverage for contents, business computers, data, and liability can be provided adequately.


Do I need a personal umbrella policy?

In these times where lawsuits are the "norm," a personal umbrella policy provides coverage when your auto or personal liability limits may not be enough coverage for what a jury may award someone who sues you. If you do not have enough, where would the money come from? The fact is, you could lose everything you own and continue to pay for years to come. This policy sits on top of other insurance that includes liability protection, such as your auto, homeowners and boat policies. When coverage under these primary policies is not enough, the umbrella policy is triggered, spreading protection.


Can I legally drive without insurance?

No. Most states require you to have auto liability insurance. All states have financial responsibility laws. This means that even in a state that does not require liability insurance, you need to have sufficient assets to pay claims if you cause an accident. If you don't have enough assets, you must purchase at least the state minimum amount of insurance. If you have financed your vehicle, your lender may require comprehensive and collision insurance as part of the loan agreement.


What coverage do I need if I lease a car?

If you lease a car, you still need to buy your own auto insurance policy. The auto dealer or bank that is financing the car will require you to buy collision and comprehensive coverage. You'll need to buy these coverages in addition to the others that may be mandatory in your state, such as auto liability insurance.

Collision covers the damage to the car from an accident with another automobile or object. Comprehensive covers a loss that is caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire or theft or collision with a deer.

Leasing companies may also require "gap" insurance. This refers to the fact that if you have an accident and your leased car is damaged beyond repair or "totaled," there's likely to be a difference between the amount that you still owe the auto dealer and the check you'll get from your insurance company. That's because the insurance company's check is based on the car's actual cash value which takes into account depreciation. The difference between the two amounts is known as the "gap."

On a leased car, the cost of gap insurance is generally rolled into the lease payments. You don't actually buy a gap policy. Generally, the auto dealer buys a master policy from an insurance company to cover all the cars it leases and charges you for a "gap waiver." This means that if your leased car is totaled, you won't have to pay the dealer the gap amount. Be certain to check with your auto dealer when leasing your vehicle.

If you have an auto loan rather than a lease, you may want to buy gap insurance to protect yourself from having to come up with the gap amount if your car is totaled before you've finished paying for it.


Do I need separate rental car insurance?

Before renting a car, please consider making two phone calls. One to your insurance agent or company representative, and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

      1. Insurance Company – Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, providing you are using the car for recreation and not for business. If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident. Check to see whether your insurance company pays for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges. Some companies may provide an insurance rider to cover some of these costs, which would make it less expensive than purchasing coverage through the rental car company. Keep in mind, however, that in most states diminished value is not covered by insurers.

    2. Credit Card Company – Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card use. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card. Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. There may be no personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Prior to rental, check with them by calling the 800# on the back of your card for the most current details.
At the rental counter you will be offered to choose from the following coverages:
  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)

    Also referred to as collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDW's do, however, relieve or "waive" renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases waivers also provide coverage for "loss of use," in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees. Also check what may void waivers such as if the accident was caused by speeding, driving on unpaved roads, or driving while intoxicated.
  • Liability Insurance

    By law, rental companies must provide the state required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you choose the supplemental insurance there will be additional expense.

    An umbrella liability policy may be more cost-effective. Umbrella liability insurance is so named because it acts like an umbrella, sitting on top of your auto and homeowners (or renters) liability policies to provide extra protection.
  • Personal Accident Insurance

    Personal accident coverage offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance.
  • Personal Effects Coverage

    Personal effects coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you travel frequently with expensive items, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. This provides coverage for when you are at home and while traveling.


How do I insure my teenage driver?

As soon as your teenager begins to drive, notify your insurance agent that there will be an additional driver in the house. Note that there are good student discounts available through some insurance companies. Insure your child by adding them to your own insurance policy rather than having them purchase their own. If they are going to be driving their own car, insure it with your company so you get the multi-vehicle discount. If your children live away at school, at least 100 miles from home, you will get a discount for the time they are not around to drive the car. (assuming the car stays home)


How are the value of my car and the cost of repair determined?

There are several standard guidelines for determining the value of your car for insurance purposes. A good resource for comparison purposes is the Kelley Blue Book.


If I file a claim will my premium go up?

Practices vary from company to company. In general, an insurer will increase your premium by specific percentages for each chargeable claim made against your policy above a specific dollar amount. A chargeable claim is one the insurer considers primarily your fault. These increases generally stay on your premium for three years following the claim. Your company may also decide not to renew your policy if your driving record gets markedly worse or if you have several accidents.


How are the value of my car and the cost of repair determined?

There are several standard guidelines for determining the value of your car for insurance purposes. A good resource for comparison purposes is the Kelley Blue Book. When you file a claim, your insurance company will refer you to a claims adjuster. They will verify the loss and determine what it will cost to repair the car. The adjuster's estimate can serve as a benchmark to compare to your own mechanic's estimate. Don't allow yourself to feel pressured into accepting the insurer's estimate of repair costs without getting at least one estimate on your own. Your insurance company can't require you to have repairs done at a particular shop. But they can insist that you get more than one estimate for the work to be done on your car. Just as you want to make sure that your car is adequately repaired, the insurer wants to make sure it doesn't pay a grossly inflated repair bill. Don't be surprised if your insurance company opts to pay for the lowest bid. You don't have to accept that bid if you believe the low bid won't adequately repair your car. Don't hesitate to argue with the adjuster if you really believe his repair estimate is too low based on what your mechanic has told you. One factor that could reduce the amount of your claim for a repair job is what insurance companies call betterment. If your old car is repaired with brand-new parts, your insurer may argue that the repairs have actually enhanced the car's value and therefore they can legitimately reduce your claim by the difference between a used part and a new one.

It is up to your insurer to decide whether to pay for repairing your car or to declare it a total loss and pay you its book value. Most standard auto policies will not pay to repair a vehicle if the repairs cost more than the cash value assigned to the car. There won't be any dispute about whether to repair the car if it was completely totaled. But you may argue about what the pieces of the car were worth when they were assembled as a car. For you to get a settlement higher than the book value of your car's make and model, you will have to submit evidence such as mileage records, service history and affidavits from mechanics to show that your car was worth more. You're entitled to the market price of the car you just lost. You shouldn't get more than what you are due.


How do I file a claim?

Call your insurance agent as soon as possible, regardless of who is at fault. Find out whether you re covered for this loss. Even if the accident appears minor, it is important that you let you're insurance company know about the incident.

Ask your agent or company representative how to proceed and what forms or documents are needed to support your claim. Your insurance company will require a proof of claim form and, if there is one, a copy of the police report. Increasingly, companies allow you to monitor the progress of your claim on their web site.

Supply the information your insurer requests. Get the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak with and copies of any bills related to the accident.

Insurance Scoring

Published By: Professional Insurance Agents of WI, Inc.


What is Insurance Scoring?

Insurance scoring is based on your credit score and the likelihood that you will file an insurance claim within a given period of time in the future. Actuaries have proven a definite correlation between low credit scores and a higher than average incidence of claims. More accurate pricing helps responsible consumers. Without credit scoring most people would be forced to pay more than they should for insurance. Insurance scores are the result of consumer choices.

All the variables used in the score are the direct result of consumer choices and behaviors.

Scores reflect a pattern of behavior; one or two late pays have a minimal impact on a score.

Most people benefit from insurance scoring because most consumers manage their debt well and therefore have good credit scores.


How Are Insurance Scores Assigned?

Credit information received from the three national credit bureaus is incorporated into a "model" developed by each insurance company to determine the individual insurance score for that company. Insurance companies are required to file their underwriting model with the states department of insurance.

Insurance companies and agents only look at the final score and do not examine the details of your credit history. Private and sensitive information is not disclosed to the company or to your agent.


What Determines Your Credit Score?

35% Payment History: Have you paid your bills on time? Do public records show that you filed bankruptcy or have been the target of foreclosure, lawsuits, wage attachments, liens or court judgments?

30% Debit Owed: Owing a lot of money on many accounts may show that you're over extended.

15% New Credit/Pattern of Credit Use: Opening several new credit accounts in a short time period reflects a negative pattern of credit use.

10% Type of Credit in Use: Do you have a healthy mix of credit – credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, a mortgage loan?


Negative Impacts on Credit Score:

  • Late payments
  • High outstanding debt
  • Tax liens
  • Short credit history
  • Too many credit cards
  • High credit limits
  • Bankruptcies
  • Judgments
  • Foreclosures & Lawsuits
  • Numerous address & job changes
  • Wage attachments
  • New applications for credit (consumer initiated)


Credit Score Does Not Include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Salary
  • Occupation
  • Employer
  • Date employed
  • Employment history
  • Insurance or employment inquires
  • Where you live
  • Disabilities


What You Can Do To Maintain A Good Score?

  • Pay bills on time
  • Keep balances low on unsecured revolving debt (credit cards)
  • Apply for new cards only as needed (avoid carrying excess cards)
  • Close old unused accounts
  • Keep balances far below the card limit
  • Don't move around too much (change your address)
  • Don't apply for credit unless you've been at your address for 6 months
  • Always pay at least the minimum due
  • Don't change jobs frequently
  • Have a verifiable address
  • Check your credit report and correct any mistakes
  • Get "charge offs" removed by paying them back


How Do I Fix My Credit Score?

  • Don't try to "Quick Fix" your credit overnight, or you could end up hurting your score
  • Do create a plan that will improve your credit over time
  • Pay your bills on time (preferably more than the minimum due, on time, every month)
  • Keep credit balances low, especially on revolving debt – like credit cards
  • Apply for new credit cards sparingly
  • Keep at it
Your snapshot will improve over time if you make changes now and continue to improve.

If you show good credit behavior over time, your credit score may improve as a result.


What If I Find an Error On My Report?

If you find errors in your credit report, advise the credit bureau. Within five days after the data has been verified, changed or deleted, the consumer reporting agency must send the consumer a response describing what action has been taken. IF the information has been changed or deleted, the consumer will also receive notice of the revisions to the credit report. The entire process is usually completed in less than 30 days.

If after reinvestigation the dispute still exists, the consumer may add a statement of 100 words or less, to the credit report. That statement will be reported each time the disputed information is reported again.

Once errors are removed or corrected, it's a good idea to obtain a new copy of your credit report several months later and make sure the incorrect or erroneous information hasn't been re-reported.

It can take as long as 60 days to clean up your credit score. Wait until accounts are closed and investigations and disputes are complete before applying for new credit.

Credit Bureaus

Trans Union
PO Box 390
Springfield, MO 19064

PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian 888.397.3742
PO Box 040
Allen, TX 75013

Websites to help the consumer with Credit Score questions:

Federal Trade Commission – a free brochure on credit
www.ftc.gov or 1.877.382.4357




How to improve your credit score

Wet Weather Driving Tips

How can I drive safely in wet weather?

  • Monitor weather and road conditions and follow advice from authorities. If it's not safe to travel, don't.
  • If you must travel, slow down when visibility and road conditions are impaired, and increase the following distance between vehicles.
  • Anticipate dangers including water on the roadways, hidden lane markings, stalled cars, and poor visibility.
  • Do not drive through standing water on roadways,; you could lose control of your vehicle and the water could be concealing a wash-out or other dangerous hazard.
  • Pull off the road and wait for the rain to ease up when visibility is so limited that you can't see the edges of the road or other vehicles at safe distances.
  • To reduce hydroplaning, slow down, avoid braking hard or turning sharply, and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Be sure your vehicle is ready for wet weather driving; ensure good tire tread and proper inflation, well-maintained brakes, and streak-free wipers.
  • Keep your vehicle's windshield, windows and lights clean.
  • Never use cruise control in wet weather driving conditions.
"Motorists need to prepare for severe wet weather driving much the same as we prepare for severe winter driving," said AAA Wisconsin Regional President Tom Frymark. "It's important for everyone to monitor the weather and road conditions that may affect their driving plans, and make necessary adjustments."


AAA recommends all motorists carry the following items in their vehicles during the wet weather driving season.

  • Emergency Kit
  • Cell Phone
  • Tools & Flashlight
  • Jumper Cables
  • Flares or reflective triangle
  • Cloth or paper towels
  • Window-washing fluid
  • Shovel
  • Blanket
  • Food & Water
  • First Aid Kit
Current road conditions are available at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at http://dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/incident-alerts.htm.

Identity Theft Tips

How can I protect myself against online identity theft?

Log on to any computer and make a purchase in seconds from a store a continent away. While fast and convenient, that same technology suggests caution.

Consider these online safety suggestions:
  • Protect personal information. Do not reveal your password. Your password is the key to the personal data stored on your computer. When completing online forms, reveal only the information required.
  • Consider a company's reputation. Deal with established merchants or look for signs of legitimacy. Is the vendor's street address and telephone number listed? What is the company's return policy? Review site privacy and security policies to ensure your information will be protected.
  • Transmit financial information only over secured sites. Secured sites use a special set of security rules to protect information transmitted over the Web.
  • Three things mark a secured site: Alert that reads in part: "You are about to view pages over a secure connection." (If you do not see this message, you may have already checked a box that read, "In the future, do not show this warning.")
  • Appearance of https:// at the beginning of the Address line at the top of the computer screen.
  • Small closed padlock or unbroken key graphic at the bottom of online ordering pages.
  • Avoid phishing scams. Phishing, or brand spoofing, involves legitimate-looking e-mail messages that appear to come from real organizations to obtain or "phish" for personal or financial information.
  • E-mail messages from phishers include such phrases as, "Please confirm your banking identity," "Your account has been suspended," "Update your account information" and include a link to another page. Phishers have spoofed Web sites like eBay, PayPal, MSN, Yahoo, Best Buy, and America Online. Never send personal, private or confidential information in response to an e-mail, especially an unsolicited one.
  • If you are unsure of the legitimacy of an e-mail request, contact the vendor or bank directly.

Water Damage Prevention Tips

How do I protect my home from water damage?

For people, water is necessary for survival. However, for a house, water can be a destructive force that can lead to wood rot, peeling paint, insect infestation, shorter lifespan of roofing and siding and higher maintenance costs.

Investigate, identify and repair leaks and cracks.

The best way to prevent water damage from rainwater and snowmelt is to ensure the exterior materials of the building are properly constructed and maintained. The following are tips for identifying and eliminating sources of water intrusion in your home.

Common places where water intrusion occurs:
  • Windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners. Check for peeling paint, it can be a sign of water getting into the wood. Inspect for discolorations in paint or caulking, swelling of the window or doorframe or surrounding materials.
  • Roof: Repair or replace shingles around any area that allows water to penetrate the roof sheathing. Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents.

    To trace the source of a ceiling leak, measure its location from the nearest outside wall and then locate this point in the attic using a measuring tape. Keep in mind that the water may run along the attic floor, rafters, or truss for quite a distance before coming through the ceiling.

    Foundation and exterior walls. Seal any cracks and holes in external walls, joints, and foundations, in particular, examine locations where piping or wiring extends through the outside walls. Fill all cracks in these locations with sealant.
  • Plumbing: Check for leaking faucets, dripping or "sweating" pipes, clogged drains, and faulty water drainage systems Inspect washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or wetness. Replace them every few years or sooner if problems are found. Inspect the water heater for signs of rust or water on the floor.
  • Termite-damaged material: Check for termite damage in wood materials such as walls, beams, or floors. Any wood exposed to the exterior can potentially lead to moisture intrusion or termite infestation.
  • Prevent water damage through home maintenance: You can help prevent future leaks and water intrusion by regularly inspecting the following elements in your home and making sure they remain in good condition.
  • Flashing: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows, thresholds, chimneys, and roofs, is designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two different building surfaces meet.
  • Vents: All vents, including clothes dryer, gable vents, attic vents, and exhaust vents, should have hoods, exhaust to the exterior, be in good working order, and have boots.
  • Attics: Check for holes, air leaks, or bypasses from the house and make sure there is enough insulation to keep house heat from escaping. Among other things, air leaks and inadequate insulation results in ice damming.

    If ice dams collect around the lower edge of a roof, rain or melted snow can back up under the shingles and into the attic or the house. Check the bottom side of the roof sheathing and roof rafters or truss for water stains.
  • Basements: Make sure that basement windows and doors have built-up barriers or flood shields. Inspect sump pumps to ensure they work properly. A battery backup system is recommended. The sump pump should discharge as far away from the house as possible.
  • Humidity: The relative humidity in your home should be between 30 percent and 50 percent. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that you may have too much humidity in your home.

    Check areas where air does not easily circulate, such as behind curtains, under beds, and in closets for dampness and mildew.

    Be sure to use bathroom exhaust fans following warm showers or baths.

    When going on trips, turn the temperature up on the air conditioning, not off. The air conditioning system helps remove moisture from your home.

    If you are concerned about the humidity level in your home, consult with a mechanical contractor or air conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order.
  • Air conditioners: Check drain pans to insure they drain freely, are adequately sloped toward the outlets and that no standing water is present. Make sure drain lines are clean and clear of obstructions. Drain pan overflows usually occur the first time the unit is turned on in the spring. Clean prior to first use with compressed air or by pouring a water-bleach solution down the drain line until it flows freely.
  • Expansion joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes, and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur. If there are cracks in the joint sealant, remove the old sealant, install a backer rod and fill with a new sealant.
  • Exterior wood sheathing and siding: Replace any wood siding and sheathing that appears to have water damage. Inspect any wood sided walls to ensure there is at least 8" between any wood and the earth.
  • Drywall: Since drywall is an extremely porous material and is difficult to dry out completely, damaged areas should be replaced if any signs of moisture are present. One way to protect drywall from moisture intrusion in the event of a flood is to install it slightly above the floor and cover the gap with molding.
  • Exterior walls: Exterior walls should be kept well painted and sealed. Don't place compost or leaf piles against the outside walls. Landscape features should not include soil or other bedding material mounded up against walls.
  • Landscaping: Keep trees trimmed so that branches are at least 7 feet away from any exterior house surface. This will help prolong the life of your siding and roof and prevent insects from entering your home from the tree. Vines should be kept off all exterior walls, because they can help open cracks in the siding, which allows moisture or insects to enter the house.
  • Irrigation: Inspect and adjust the spray pattern of the irrigation heads to minimize the water sprayed directly onto the house to avoid excessive water near the foundation.
    • Act quickly if water intrusion occurs.
    • If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. If water is flowing into the home from burst piping or damaged appliances.
    • Shut off the water supply, typically found outside the house or at the meter.
    • Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials.
    • Consult with a licensed building professional who can determine the extent of the repairs necessary.
    • Water damage left unattended can result in structural failure or, potentially, mold growth.
    Should your home become damaged by a catastrophic event such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate actions to prevent further water damage once it is safe to do so.

    This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting or removing wet, damaged rugs, carpet, or personal belongings. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.

Mold Resources

To learn more about mold:

Website: US Environmental Protection Agency
Article: Mold Resources
Location: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldresources.html

Insurance Information Institute www.iii.org

Teenage Driving Tips

Driving entails risks and responsibilities for the new driver, but the consequences of your teen’s decisions can extend to your entire family. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. Per miles driven, the crash rate for teens 16 – 19 is four times higher than adults. This crash risk is even higher during the first year a teenager is eligible to drive.

Often, teens become the family chauffeur. That means younger siblings are also at this higher risk of injury as passengers in “teen” crashes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that nearly two of every three people killed in teenage driver crashes are people other than the teen driver.

As the parent of a new driver, you taken on new legal and financial liability. If your teen is involved in a crash, you may bear the cost of damages, medical expenses, legal counsel, repair costs, fines, and increased insurance premiums. Further, if your teen injures or kills a pedestrian or another motorist, the emotional and legal consequences will be overwhelming for everyone concerned.

Driver education is a good start, but it is not enough. Supplement formal driving classes/in-car sessions by sharing your experience and knowledge. Just a handful of good habits can make a life-or-death difference.

Your personal example and encouragement can help your teen learn to consistently:

  • Successfully perceive events in the driving scene
  • Make good decisions based on driver perceptions
  • Take safe and effective action to prevent potential conflicts and collisions
  • Drive the speeds limit
  • Maintain safe following distance
  • Wear safety belts
It is imperative that you make it clear to your teen that it is never acceptable to drive when impaired by alcohol, other drugs, anger or fatigue.

What’s the strongest way to deliver that message? Lead By Example


Choosing the Safest Car for a New Driver

When buying a vehicle, the insurance industry suggests you choose a late-model car. While an older car may seem bigger, heavier and therefore safer, a newer sedan probably features improved crumple zones, three-point seatbelts, and front and side airbags.

AAA has an online resource called AAA Automaker. A simple questionnaire guides you to the make and model of the car, truck, or SUV that best meets your needs.

Here are some shopping pointers that can narrow your choices:

  • Think BIG. Small cars are cute and may save on gas, but they can be harder to see on the road and may offer less crash protection.
  • Driver education is even more critical if your teen will be operating a large, heavy sport utility vehicle. Special skills are required to safely operate sport utility vehicles, pick-up trucks or vans. A high center of gravity makes these vehicles less stable and more likely to roll over.
  • Sports cars may attract admiring glances, but they can raise your insurance premiums.
  • Check the reliability and cost of ownership data on any vehicle that makes your short list.
  • Check crash test data for any vehicle you consider online at AAA.com.
  • Check the history on a used car online at AAA.com. (AAA members receive a discount on these reports.)
  • If you select a used car, schedule an inspection by the nearest AAA approved Repair Facility
  • Look for a vehicle with a warranty or purchase an extended warranty.
Visit www.AAA.com/drivingcontracts to download a printable version of the Parent-Teen Driving Agreement and the Family-to-Family Agreement. Please note that these agreements may be customized to fit your needs.


Home Question

Q: Does my existing homeowners insurance cover me if my home is rented or vacant?
A: Almost all insurers will drastically reduce or exclude your coverage if your home is unoccupied for 30 to 60 days or more, or is rented.

Q: Why don't regular property insurers want to insure my vacant or rental dwellings?
A: Your Rental or Vacant home is more likely to be burglarized, vandalized, burn to the ground or suffer frozen pipes than a home that you live in full time. You must keep in mind that no one will take care of your home the way that you would. Trust in the Vacant Dwelling Insurance Professionals to make sure your Rental or Vacant Home asset is properly covered!

Q: When is a landlord liable for an injury to a tenant or visitor to the rental or vacant property?
A: In most cases, to be held responsible for an injury on the premises, the landlord or property manager must have been negligent in maintaining the property, and that negligence must have caused the injury. The following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable:

  • It was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident.
  • The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.
  • Fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult.
  • A serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem (the accident was foreseeable).
  • The landlord's failure -- his negligence -- caused the tenant's accident.
  • The tenant was genuinely hurt.
A tenant can file a personal injury lawsuit or claim against the landlord's insurance company for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability and disfigurement, and emotional distress. A tenant can also sue for damage to personal property, such as a stereo or car that results from faulty maintenance or unsafe conditions.