The following items are Hot Topics that we have saved online from the "STAYING IN TOUCH" Newsletter we send out to our clients bi-yearly.  The information is compiled and copyrighted by The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.  We hope you find the material useful.
Impaired Driving - Not A Good Policy
Drinking and driving is not only illegal, it is socially and morally irresponsible. Despite the horrific costs of impaired driving, measured not only in lives lost, injuries sustained and damage to property, the practice still continues.

Many Ontario drivers don't realize they lose important insurance protection if they are convicted of a drinking and driving offense. The financial consequences that they and their families will suffer in terms of loss of coverage's can be considerable.

Did you know, your insurance company will not pay for loss or damage to your vehicle if you are unable to maintain proper control of your vehicle because you are driving under the influence of intoxicating substances? Likewise, your insurance company will not pay for loss or damage if you are convicted of an offence such as impaired driving, driving with more than 80mg of alcohol in the blood or if you refuse to provide a breath sample.

Whether you drive a car, motorcycle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle, you could face life-long financial devastation by losing your income replacement benefits if you suffer a critical injury, or, at the very least, you could destroy your vehicle and get nothing for the value of it.

Please don't drink and drive.

If you are involved in an accident and are convicted of a drinking and driving offense, your Ontario Automobile Insurance policy will not pay:

  • the Income Replacement Benefit;

  • the Non-Earner Benefit; and

  • Compensation for Other Expenses.
New Boating Rules
In an effort to reduce accidents and save lives, the Canadian Coast Guard introduced new regulations for all power driven pleasure craft last year. A summary of the highlights follows:

New Age and Horsepower Regulations (as of April 1, 1999)

  • No one under 12 years of age can operate a boat of more than 10 horsepower unless accompanied and directly supervised by a person 16 years of age or older.

  • A person between the ages of 12 and 16 cannot operate a boat with more than 40 horsepower unless accompanied and directly supervised by a person 16 years old or older.

  • A person under 16 years of age is prohibited from operating a personal watercraft (PWC).

New Recreational Boat Operator Competency

To keep our lakes and waterways safe, drivers of power driven pleasure craft will be required to show proof of competency to operate such a craft. Because of the large number of boaters on the waterways today, a graduated system has been put into place. You should be aware of the following regulations:

  • Effective September 15, 1999, a person born after April 1, 1983 will require proof of competency on board to operate any boat fitted with a motor;

  • Effective September 15, 2002, any person operating a boat fitted with a motor and less than 4 meters in length (including PWC), will require proof of competency on board;

  • Effective September 15, 2009, all operators will require proof of competency on board.

These regulations also apply to non- residents operating their pleasure craft after 45 consecutive days in Canadian waters. An operator's card or its equivalent issued to a non- resident by their state, will be considered as proof of competency.

What is Proof of Competency?

Proof of competency can take three forms:

  • Proof of having taken a boat safety course prior to April 1, 1999;

  • A pleasure craft operator card from a Canadian Coast Guard accredited course provider following successful completion of an accredited test. Boaters must receive a mark of 75% or more to obtain this card, which is good for life;

  • A completed rental boat safety checklist (for power driven rental boats)

It is important that you become aware of the new boating regulations.

Graduated Licensing in Ontario

The Graduated Licensing system was put in place in Ontario a couple of years ago to cut the risks new drivers face. Statistics show new drivers are more likely to get into automobile accidents which are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 16 and 24.

The program is divided into three distinct license levels: One, Two and a Full Drivers License.

Level One licensees must be at least 16 years of age, pass an eyesight test and pass a written test of their understanding of the rules of the road. There are five other Level One conditions:

  1. a fully licensed driver, licensed at least four years, must accompany drivers in the front seat at all times and that person must have a blood alcohol level less than .05%;

  2. the driver's own blood alcohol level must be zero;

  3. drivers must not drive between midnight and 5 a.m.;

  4. a seat belt must be available for each occupant; and

  5. drivers are not allowed to operate any vehicle on Ontario's 400-series highways or on Ontario's high speed expressways, such as the Queen Elizabeth Way or the Don Valley Parkway.

Level One lasts a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of five years, but can be reduced to eight months if the new licensee successfully completes an Approved Driver Education Course.

Level Two licensees must pass a road test after completion of Level One and can expect to stay in the second phase for a minimum of 12 months. There are two conditions for this level:

  1. drivers must have a blood alcohol level of zero; and
  2. a seat belt must be available for each occupant.

To qualify for a Full License, a licensee must pass a road test at the end of Level Two. For new drivers in Ontario, it takes at least 20 months to earn full driving privileges.

If the police stop a Level One or Level Two driver for any reason, and the driver is charged with and convicted of breaking any of the above conditions, that driver's license will be suspended for 30 days.

8 Travel Tips
to save you money and inconvenience

We've seen it all when it comes to unpleasant vacation problems, especially those that involve air travel. Not only can they be costly, they could spoil your vacation.

Here's a checklist to help prevent common travel problems from happening to you.

  • Make a list of what you are packing and keep it with you in your carry- on bag. If checked bags are lost or stolen, this list can help identify your property and let you know if anything is missing.

  • Always carry your valuables and important documents including money, traveler's cheques , credit cards and driver's license with you. Also keep jewellery, keys, medications and cameras with you since many airlines refuse to accept responsibility for these items if checked.

  • Be sure to lock your bags. This helps avoid accidental openings and discourages theft. Since small luggage locks can be opened and closed without your knowledge, any loss may not be detected until it's too late. We suggest "zip ties" be used. This way if someone tampers with your luggage it will be obvious and you can present your claim immediately.

  • Always remove all old baggage claim checks and destination tags to help avoid incorrect routing.

  • Identification helps. According to airline carriers, correctly identified items are returned to their owners "most of the time". Bags should have your name, telephone number and address clearly marked both inside and outside.

  • If your luggage is lost, call the airline daily for an update on your missing bags. After five days you should file a claim based on the assumption your bag or bags are lost. When filing a claim, itemize the contents of your bag( s) along with their estimated value, attach copies of any receipts you may have and include a copy of your plane ticket and baggage claim checks. As a word of caution, you may have to wait up to six months to be reimbursed and don't expect to receive the full amount you requested.

  • Read your airline ticket carefully. Many have a clause which limits the amount paid on lost items based on the weight of the article. Usually airlines pay $9.07 per pound. Obviously this is not enough when it comes to jewellery. If your luggage containing 3 pounds of expensive jewellery was lost, your claim is limited to $27.21 U.S. Talk to us about other options.

  • Finally, remember goods illegally acquired or not declared at customs may not be covered by your insurance company if lost or stolen.

Whenever you travel by air, train, bus or ship, always use common sense and follow these tips to prevent a loss. Your policy may have limitations or deductibles. If you have any doubts or questions, please check with us before you travel to make sure your possessions are adequately insured. Enjoy your trip.

Road Rage: The Growing Monster

It's affecting drivers around the globe. It claims hundreds of lives every year - and Canada is currently feeling its monstrous grip.

It's called road rage, a condition that often involves anger or violence associated with on-road driving activities. Many government agencies have determined that road rage is not a myth or an invention of the media. Rather, it's a real and serious problem that manifests itself through bizarre and often violent behaviour. Since 1998, in Canada alone over 12,000 road rage incidents have been reported in the media!

What can be done? Most experts agree that the first step is to prepare yourself so you will not be the next victim. This means avoidance at any cost. You never know if the driver beside you is a ticking bomb or has concealed weapons in his or her vehicle. It's best to avoid any altercation with other motorists - period! Governments and other groups are currently trying to solve this problem through regulations, enforcement and increased penalties. Solutions take time. Don't become a victim - take preventative measures now!

Here are some Do's and Don'ts that you can use to prevent a road rage attack:

DO.....

  • move over to allow tailgaters to pass
  • allow plenty of time for any trip you take
  • leave law enforcement to the authorities
  • use the passing lane only to pass
  • contact police with a description of the vehicle, licence number and driver if you are confronted with road rage
  • ignore gestures from other drivers
  • avoid eye contact with other motorists
  • be considerate and courteous

DO NOT.....

  • tailgate or flash your lights at other drivers
  • insist on the right of way if challenged by another driver
  • make eye contact, hand gestures or show irritation with aggressive drivers
  • assume all foolish or aggressive acts by other motorists are intentional
  • honk your horn unless absolutely necessary
Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud occurs when someone makes an insurance claim that is completely false or files a claim for more than the value of the goods actually lost, stolen or destroyed. Fraudulent claims affect the cost of everyone's insurance. The Canadian Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that $1.3 billion worth of insurance claims that are paid in Canada every year are fraudulent. This works out to 10- 15% of every dollar you pay for insurance.

If someone you know is committing insurance fraud on a home, car or business policy, you can report it to Crime Stoppers. Crime Stoppers is an international non- profit civilian program that assists police in solving crimes through tips reported by ordinary citizens who have knowledge or suspicion that crime has taken place. If your tip helps the police or an insurance company catch an insurance fraud, you may be eligible for a cash reward. Your call will remain completely anonymous.

The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario has supported Crime Stoppers for many years.

An innovative alliance between Crime Stoppers and the Canadian Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, which began in Ontario in 1995, to report insurance fraud tips has resulted in 51 arrests, 49 denied claims and has prevented the payment of more than $1.2 million worth of fraudulent home, car and business insurance claims across Canada in the past 5 years.

"The message of the Crime Stoppers program is They Cheat /You Pay," said Maid Mary Lou O'Reilly, Executive Director of the Coalition. "With the level of support we've seen for our partnership with Crime Stoppers, we know that Canadians understand this message and they no longer turn the other way when a neighbour brags about 'ripping off the insurance company.' They know what it's costing all of us."

It is important for everyone to help prevent insurance fraud and in doing so, help reduce the premiums we pay.

Warning! Is Your Driver's License Still Valid?

In Ontario all new drivers, regardless of age, must complete a two level "Graduated Licencing" program before they qualify for full licence privileges.

These drivers have a maximum of five (5) years from the start date of their Level One licence to earn full licence privileges. If they do not receive their Class G licence (full licence) within this 5 year period, they must reapply and start the licencing process over again. According to information provided by the Ministry of Transportation, an estimated 125,000 Ontario drivers will see their Level One and Level Two licences automatically expire this year.

If you received your Level One or Level Two licence in 1994/ 95 and have not "graduated" to a Class G licence, your licence may have already expired. This means you could unwittingly end up driving without a licence. Not only is this against the law, but driving without a valid licence invalidates your insurance coverage.

If this applies to you, call your nearest Ministry of Transportation Test Centre to book your appointment.

Why You Should Always "Insure to Value"

At 4 a. m. one morning, Dave and his family were awakened by their smoke alarms. "I've had emergency training, but when I crawled on my hands and knees and opened the bedroom door, I was absolutely amazed at the clouds of smoke in my home. If it hadn't been for the smoke detectors, none of us would be here today." Dave and his family were fortunate, they were able to crawl to the door, get out of the house and call the fire department.

The fire in Dave's home was caused by a crack in the electrical cable coming into his home, which short- circuited and the arcing caused the subsequent fire, which began at the electrical box and moved through the false ceiling of his basement's recreation room. Dave and his family escaped in their pyjamas. At this point, it is important to note that Dave had done all the correct things with his insurance. He had filled out the appropriate forms and was insured to what he believed was to value - $150,000 on his home and $110,000 on his contents. Because the damage to the basement weakened the foundation, Dave's insurer paid $170,000 to replace the dwelling since he had the replacement value clause in his policy.

Contents were an entirely different matter. Dave said the most important thing you have to remember, is that whatever value you insure for includes sales tax. Therefore, he suggests that you remember whatever amount of insurance you have on contents, the limit is approximately 87 per cent of that value since sales tax is required to be paid. Most people would admit that $110,000 on contents and $150,000 on one's home is more than adequate - not according to Dave.

He remembers some of the immediate out- of- pocket expenses for which he was not prepared - two pairs of glasses, three sets of contact lenses, dental retainers and prescription drugs. He also found it surprising that he had to hire a locksmith to come and cut new keys for his cars, which had to be broken into and pushed out of the way for the fire department.

Other things, such as identification, licenses, credit cards, and passports had to be replaced. They had no keys, no place to live, no identification and no credit cards. His insurer responded within hours with a cheque for $3,000 to tide them over while they found temporary living quarters and shopped for clothes.

Dave is not wealthy, does not have extravagant tastes, but he does insist that insurance on contents be increased to adequately cover his possessions.

May we suggest that you closely review the value of all your contents including personal items, a partial list of which has been mentioned above, to ensure that in the event of accidental loss, your insurance will be in a position to replace all your goods. Dave's comments were that the least of his worries were things like jewellery - he was happy to get out alive.

As a note, when Dave's house was re- built, he did insure it and his contents fully to value and within a few months of moving back in, thieves in broad daylight entered his home and stole most of his new electronic equipment, stereo, VCR, TV including some items of jewellery that he had replaced for his wife. Dave's comment however, is if anyone wants to hear why they should insure to value, he'd be only too happy to tell them.

e-Sense Keep Your Online Information Safe & Secure

As you've no doubt recently experienced or heard, Canadians are driving their mouses to online shopping sites in greater numbers. Consumers are looking, comparing and buying stuff for a number of reasons which include: saving time, perceived and real savings, convenience and thrill. If you have yet to conduct a purchase over the internet, chances are that you will in the near future, so the following is a little something for you to consider.

There are estimates that online transactions could top $40 billion by 2002. With this much e-commerce going on, there is a real fear that individuals may be giving up sensitive information they shouldn't.

Security and privacy issues can be confusing and difficult to understand. When was the last time you went to a site to review these policies of the company you were thinking about transacting business with? Was there a privacy policy at all? Did you read it?

Before you blindly enter a site, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself: Is knowing that the information you supply may be shared with other companies important to you? Can you change your mind at a later date about the information you supplied? Does the site use "cookies" or other ways to track your behaviour? Will the site work with cookies disabled? How does the company protect the information you have supplied them? Does the company provide a question and answer section on their site giving you this level of comfort?

Companies wanting your business should provide you the answers you require at well-constructed web sites in helpful and easy to understand language. But remember, it's up to you to do the research.

Be informed before you transact! For additional helpful information try the Ontario Privacy Commissioner and go to the "If you wanted to know" section.

Your Insurance Broker, Your Trusted Partner

When it comes to insurance matters for you, your family or your business, you can count on us for guidance and informed advice. With constant change touching all aspects of our lives, it's reassuring to have someone you can trust.

We continually upgrade our professional knowledge through seminars and courses. We put service and attention to detail first on our list - and yours. We answer your insurance questions. We provide the best possible coverage at the best possible price. And, we work for your best interests every day of the year.

From choosing a policy to assisting you with your claim, we're proud to be your insurance broker.

Thank you.

12 Tips to Save $$$

1.

Check the policy carefully for correct information.
Postal codes, ages and location addresses can affect your rate.

2.

Are you getting the additional age discount for mature adults?

3.

Check deductibles. Higher deductibles results in savings.

4.

Are you paying for coverage you don't need?
If your car is over 5 years old, you may want to take off the collision.
Keep jewellery you don't wear in a safety deposit box.

5.

Are you an abstainer? (non drinker)

6.

Are you a non smoker?

7.

Have you been consistent with one insurance company, or do you switch every few years?
The companies give loyalty discounts.

8.

Install an alarm system in your home and car.
Take advantage of the special prices we have arranged for you.

9.

If you have a small claim, pay it yourself and save your insurance for the big one.

10.

Combine both your house and car policies for the extra discounts. Not all companies do this.

11.

Pay up front rather than monthly, or look at a 3 pay policy.

12.

Talk to one of our brokers who has your interest in mind.
Discounts That Save $$$

HOME AND CONDO DISCOUNTS

AUTO DISCOUNTS

  1. Over 45, mature
  2. Combine house & car policies
  3. Claims free
  4. Alarm system
  5. New home
  6. Non smoker
  7. Mortgage Free
  1. Multiple vehicles
  2. Combine house & car policies
  3. Age 45 plus
  4. Good driving record (no accidents, less than 2 tickets)
  5. Abstainer (non drinker)
  6. Short commute to work
  7. First claim Free - Option
What You Should Know About Car Rentals

There are some very serious contractual gaps in coverage for rental vehicles, particularly when you are renting in the United States. People who do not own their own vehicles need to be extremely careful.

Even if you purchase their Collision Damage or Physical/ Loss Damage Waivers, some rental car contracts exclude the following:

  • theft of the vehicle
  • glass, tire and undercarriage damage
  • animal collision
  • flood and hail damage
  • damage above the windshield

Incredibly, some rental contracts even include a contractual shift of liability to the customer. Each car rental company, for their own reasons, provide certain coverages and exclude others. The above list is not complete and it is not intended to criticize any particular car rental company. It is mentioned here to warn renters of possible shortcomings in the rental contract process.

If you own your own vehicle, we suggest your best strategy is to contact us and purchase the OPCF 27 rider on your personal policy. If you are covered under a business policy (and the business owner agrees to cover you), we suggest the OPCF 27b rider. These riders will extend your coverage on the same basis provided by your standard automobile policy.

Our advice whenever you rent a car is to read the contract carefully. Don't assume you're fully covered by purchasing the rental company's Physical/ Loss Damage Waiver coverage. For your peace of mind, talk to us about including this coverage on your own auto policy.

It's the most convenient and inexpensive way to know you're adequately covered. Ask about the limits available.

Silent, Invisible, Deadly

Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer - and for good reason. This colourless, odorless and tasteless gas overcomes and kills hundreds of people each year.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is created by the incomplete combustion of any fossil fuel. Furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, gas appliances (stoves, ovens, clothes dryers) and water heaters are all common sources of carbon monoxide. Faulty ventilation and malfunctioning appliances can cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home. That's why the installation of a carbon monoxide detector in your home is crucial.

These detectors measure the level of carbon monoxide present in the atmosphere in parts per million. When the sensor detects a predetermined level of the gas in the air an alarm sounds.

When choosing a carbon monoxide detector always look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved logo on the unit before you buy. Once purchased, carefully read the instructions for proper installation and follow all maintenance suggestions. Although carbon monoxide detectors are important for home safety, they should not replace an annual inspection of heating and other gas producing appliances by a competent professional.

Fight Credit Card Fraud

Here's what you can do to help keep your credit cards out of the hands of fraud artists and thieves:

  • think of credit cards as cash
  • never leave your cards unattended
  • always know the location of your cards
  • destroy expired cards
  • sign the back of any new cards immediately
  • report lost or stolen cards immediately
  • protect your PIN - memorize it and do not write it down
  • be careful how, when and to whom you give your card number and related information
  • destroy personal financial information - don't just throw it away
  • if you are not going to be using your cards for an extended period of time lock them away in a safe place
  • always verify your account statement and report any discrepancies immediately
  • make certain you get your card back after every transaction
  • keep your card in plain view when making a transaction
  • make certain that if you are being sent out a new card that it arrives within a few days of the date promised
  • take extra care if you have cards with large credit limits

(from the Financial Post)

Banks And Your Insurance

If proof were needed to illustrate the public's disapproval of Canada's big banks getting involved in the insurance industry, the results of a recent survey by Decima Research clearly make the point.

The survey, conducted last year when the government was considering the mergers of four of Canada's chartered banks, reveals some very interesting figures:

Statement: [Very/Somewhat Likely]
If banks were allowed to sell insurance out of branch offices, do you think they:

  • Would apply a service charge for insurance related transactions [81%]
  • Might try to sell you other products when you buy insurance [79%]
  • Might make getting a loan or mortgage harder to get if you don't buy your insurance from them [48%]
  • Would use personal information obtained from applying for a mortgage or loan in an effort to sell other banking services [75%]

Statement: [Agree/Strongly Agree]

  • If banks were allowed to sell insurance out of their branches, in a few years they would likely dominate the insurance market [67%]
The Ice Storm of 1998

Ever wonder where your premium dollars go, especially when you don't make a claim?

Well, in the aftermath of the ice storm of 1998, by far the worst natural disaster in Canadian history, over 840,000 insurance claims were handled. At the peak of the storm more than five million people were without power and claims departments were receiving as many as ten calls per minute. Insurance companies worked throughout this ordeal in state-of-emergency conditions with adjusters and field staff often working out of independent broker offices, personally visiting customers' homes to inspect damage and get repairs started as quickly as possible.

Insured losses totaled $1.5 billion and it's testimony to the industry's prudent long term management of your premium dollars that not a single insurance company failed as a result of the huge claim payout.

As a matter of interest, a study by Standard & Poors released in September 1998, found claim activity pumped nearly $900 million into the economies of Ontario and Quebec. The study also determined that insurer payments led to the creation of some 16,000 jobs and generated over $330 million in tax revenue.

The people of eastern Ontario and Quebec have very positive feelings about their insurance brokers and the companies they represent as a result of their handling of the storm's devastation. They are now aware of the true value of adequate insurance coverage. Those of us lucky enough to escape the storm's wrath now know precisely where our premiums have gone.

Who Pays For My Lost Income If I Am In An Automobile Accident And Cannot Work?

Every day on average, there are over 600 automobile accidents in Ontario. If you are injured in one and cannot work, your auto policy provides an income replacement benefit to partially replace the income you have lost . The policy will pay 80% of your net income based on your pre-accident employment earnings. Net income is basically your take home pay (gross pay less employment insurance premiums, CPP payments and income tax deducted). The maximum payment is $400 per week. For most people, this amount is adequate. However, if your income is above average, you should consider purchasing increased benefit coverage from us. It is important to note that any payments made from other sources (such as your employer or any private disability plan) are deducted from the amount payable.

Here's how it works. If you are injured in an automobile accident, you may be eligible to get a payment every two weeks to partially replace the income you have lost. You can qualify if you suffer physical or psychological injuries within two years of an accident. The first seven days of your disability are not covered by this plan. Payments will begin within 14 days after the company has received your completed benefits application form and if your disability continues, a payment will follow at least every two weeks. You may require a certificate from a qualified medical person and the insurance company will pay for this certificate. Also, you are expected to participate in rehabilitation or treatments that are reasonable, and if you refuse, benefits can be reduced by 50%. There are lesser income benefits available to caregivers (such as full- time homemaker who looks after dependent children) and non- earners (such as a full- time student). If this describes your situation, we can explain the various benefits available.

We urge you to consider your own situation and minimum income needs in the event you became disabled in an automobile accident. Benefit coverage beyond the $400 weekly maximum is available at a reasonable cost. Contact us for more information.

Secure Your Home

No one wants to go through the horror of a home break-in. Unfortunately, over 108,000 breaking and entering offences were committed in Ontario in 1997 (Statistics Canada). Here are some crime prevention strategies compiled by the Metropolitan Toronto Police and the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario to help you reduce your risk and increase your peace of mind.

OUTSIDE YOUR HOME:

  • keep shrubs and bushes trimmed back so your home is visible from the street and by neighbours
  • keep basement windows clear so you can see in and out
  • outside areas should always be well lit, especially near doors and windows
  • take down old TV antennas as they can be used as ladders by burglars
  • never leave items such as ladders, shovels and pieces of wood around your house
  • keep your garage, storage and garden sheds locked
  • make sure second floor windows and doors have functioning locks and are well secured
  • make your home look occupied at all times (have neighbours pick up mail and always leave the lights on)
  • get to know your neighbours (if they know your routine, they can report any unusual activity and may be witnesses if you do have a break- in) 

INSIDE YOUR HOME:

  • keep lights on timers (a television on a timer is a greater deterrent)
  • never divulge information to telephone callers you don't know
  • never attach your name, address, or licence number to your key chain
  • install durable dead bolts that extend at least one inch into the door frame
  • check all your window latches and locks frequently

 

 
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