Protect Yourself from Auto Insurance Fraud

Eighty billion dollars. That’s how much insurance fraud costs American consumers each year, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. This amount of money could buy new vehicles for 2.4 million people (which would cover every driver in Oklahoma.)

This alarming cost takes many forms. It might involve staging an accident to make false injury claims. Or it might include inflating damages to get a higher insurance payout.

Whatever scam is involved, the cost of the fraud ultimately gets passed along to consumers as they are forced to cover false claims, investigations, legal activities, and (potentially) higher insurance premiums.

To protect yourself from these costs, take the following precautions against insurance fraud.

Drive defensively: Never tailgate. Other drivers may take advantage of the situation to stage an accident.

Report accidents: Even if the damage is minor, always report any auto accident to the police. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report. This will provide proof if the other driver tries to make false claims down the line.

Document everything: Take pictures of the vehicles involved in an accident. These images will document what damage (or lack of damage) is present to prevent false claims or exaggerations. Additionally, record the details of the incident. This should include license plate numbers, contact info and driver’s license numbers of all drivers, and contact info for any witnesses.

Avoid scammers: If anyone appears at the scene of an accident and attempts to guide you to an attorney or a specific doctor, turn them away. This is a red flag that they are attempting insurance fraud. The same is true for doctors who insist that you file an injury claim even if you’re not hurt. If this is the case, you may need to find a new doctor.

Consult quickly: Regardless of fault, report auto accidents to your insurance company as soon as possible. We’re here to help you navigate any claims and protect you from insurance fraud.

Weather Forecast: High Chance of Auto Claims

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

While it’s not the official motto, this inscription found on the James Farley Post Office in New York City is often referenced as the slogan for the US Postal Service.

But how do those drivers manage to keep their trucks on the road and safely deliver all the mail? They most likely follow some of these best practices for navigating roads in inclement weather.

During heavy rain, don’t try to drive on a flooded road. Just six inches of water can cause you to lose control, and it can stall most cars. Keep in mind that it’s hard to tell the depth of the water, and the road below it may be washed out. If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, keep the wheel straight, and brake softly if necessary.

Hail is another element that can cause havoc on the road. If you encounter hail, don’t try to plow through it. As soon as it is safe to do so, pull over to the shoulder of the road.

Better yet, attempt to find shelter to minimize the damage to your vehicle commonly associated with hail. As you stop, allow plenty of room for braking.

When the roads are covered in snow, the best thing you can do is slow down. Drive slowly, accelerate and decelerate slowly, and put more distance than usual between your car and other vehicles.

Of course, if you’re not on the Post Office payroll, you might have the option to simply stay home during inclement weather, which is highly recommended.

Three Tips for Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance isn’t usually in our daily thoughts, but it can be one of the most important financial choices you make, so thinking about it sooner rather than later is critical. Here are three tips that will help you as you think about which type of life insurance is right for you.

Understand your reasons for purchasing life insurance. When purchasing life insurance, most people think about their financial responsibilities, such as covering their mortgages and other debts. But, likely, you are purchasing life insurance for those you will be leaving behind, such as your spouse and children. What do they need to obtain financial stability when you are gone? For example, do they need the payout to cover your salary for several years or simply help with funeral expenses?

Determine the amount of life insurance you need. Investors are more likely to buy too little than too much life insurance. In fact, among those with life insurance, 20% admit they do not have enough, according to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer Study. Sometimes this occurs because they purchase life insurance using an automated process (for example, one that says simply to buy X times your salary in life insurance). To avoid this mistake, we recommend you understand your life insurance needs and work with an experienced professional to fulfill them.

Buy the right kind of life insurance policy. There are many types of life insurance products on the market with varying features. These differences can have a significant effect on your beneficiary should you pass away. At a minimum, understand the difference between term life insurance policies (which cover a specific period) and whole life insurance policies (which cover your entire life), but there are many other nuances to life insurance as well.

Purchasing life insurance can feel overwhelming, so when you decide to buy a policy, it is always advisable to work with someone who understands your unique needs and can guide you through the selection process.

Please feel free to contact me for assistance. I’m here to help.

It’s Not Too Late to Get That Flu Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flu vaccination early in the flu season. Still, it also suggests vaccination later in the season as well. So if you haven’t yet had your flu vaccine, it’s a good idea to get one.

While flu season peaks between December and February, influenza viruses can strike as late as May. According to the CDC, respiratory issues and flu viruses peak in December, January, February, and March. And while we expect flu viruses to taper off in spring, early 2019 saw flu viruses continuing later into the year, according to WebMD.

The flu can lead to serious health problems, especially in children and elderly people. For those with chronic medical conditions (for example, chronic pulmonary disease), the flu can be deadly.

The CDC has reported between 36,400 and 61,200 flu-related deaths from October 1, 2018, through May 4, 2019.

Older patients are especially vulnerable if they have conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. Because patients with chronic conditions may not be able to cough as readily as non-compromised patients, they are less able to clear their airways, which can lead to secondary infections such as pneumonia. And as we age, our ability to generate an immune response weakens.

We simply don’t respond as well to infections. This can make a “simple flu” a severe life-threatening condition in some cases.

If you decide to get a flu shot and your doctor is out of vaccines, call your local pharmacy or health department to see which facilities still have some available. This simple preventive measure just might save your life.

Should I Consider Dental Coverage?

Proper dental care is a vital part of staying healthy. MedicareAdvantage.com  reports that poor dental care can lead to severe health conditions, including heart and respiratory disease, strokes, diabetes, and cancer.

Due to these concerns, you may want to consider dental coverage as part of your Medicare options. Medicare Advantage Plans (plans offered by private healthcare companies) provide Part A and Part B Medicare benefits, and some plans now cover many dental health procedures.

A plan that includes dental coverage usually covers standard procedures, such as oral exams, x-rays, cleanings, extractions, and fillings. Some policies also cover crowns, bridges, implants, dentures, and gum disease treatment. However, some plans limit coverage in specific ways, such as the number of cleanings, extractions, or x-rays included per year.

To find the best plans, seniors should look for those that address dental conditions seniors often encounter, such as dry mouth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), physicians prescribe more than 500 medications that cause dry mouth in seniors who have conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The ADA describes dry mouth as a frequent cause of cavities in older adults. The ADA also reports that gum disease and mouth cancer often occur in seniors.

The cost of dental care is another reason to purchase a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes dental coverage. The average annual cost across the US for an individual dental insurance policy is between $348 and $546. Paying for dental care out of pocket is prohibitive for most seniors, who need two annual checkups (which include exams, x-rays, and cleanings) and cost an average of $576 per year for both exams.

The average premium for a Medicare Advantage Plan that covers dental is about $420 per year. That plan also may cover prescriptions and eye care.

If you’re approaching enrollment age for Medicare, be sure to contact us for more information on finding the best plan for your medical and dental needs.

New Employee Orientation Checklist

Dave is new to the team. He’ll start working with your company in a couple of weeks. You’re excited about what he has to offer, and you’re looking forward to welcoming him to the business.

But how exactly should you do this? What’s the best way to integrate Dave and allow him to help your business succeed?

For the best results, follow a three-step new employee orientation checklist.

1. Prep

Make room for Dave: The specifics for this will vary depending on the type of product or service you offer. It might mean clearing a desk space for Dave. It might mean creating an inbox for him. Maybe it means ordering Dave a company uniform. Whatever Dave will need to work as one of your employees, get those items ready.

Send emails: Send Dave an email that welcomes him to the business and provides any information he will need for his first day on the job. This could include where to report, who to ask for when he arrives, and any documentation he may need to bring as a new hire. Send a second email to the rest of the team to let them know Dave is joining your company.

Gather documents: Prepare handouts that outline any important information Dave will need on his first day. These could include company policies, an organizational chart for the company, or a to-do list for his first week.

2. Onboarding

Orientation: On Dave’s first day, orient him to the company. (Introduce him to other team members, give him a tour of your facility, etc.)

Policy review: The key to this orientation is a review of safety policies, accident reports, and security access. To prevent future incidents, injuries, and insurance claims, it is essential to ensure Dave understands the proper procedures in each of these areas. If Dave is accessing sensitive information, be sure to establish protocols for how this will happen and what you expect of Dave regarding this access.

Documentation: Ask Dave to sign any necessary disclosures or liability forms based on the type of work he will be doing for you. He should also sign a form stating he has received and reviewed all your company procedures.

3. Follow-up

One-week check-in: Check-in with Dave after a week to make sure he has completed any paperwork, benefits enrollment, or new hire training that should be completed in the first few days of employment.

Two-week meeting: Schedule a time to meet with Dave two weeks after he starts. Ask him how things are going and take time to answer any questions Dave has.

Three-month review: After 90 days, provide an informal review of Dave’s performance. Let Dave know about this meeting in advance, including what he can expect at the meeting.

Following these steps will help you establish a smooth process for onboarding new team members. By keeping everyone on the same page with company policies, you can also minimize your risk for costly insurance claims.

If you have any questions about what policies to review with your team, feel free to contact me. I’m just a phone call or email away.

Watch Out for These Top 5 Small Business Blunders

Blockbuster passed up the chance to partner with Netflix 20 years ago. Kodak held a patent for a digital camera way back in 1977 but didn’t make it public.

Where might these businesses be today if they had made different decisions? Where might your company be in 20 years if you make smart choices?

To guide your enterprise in the right direction, avoid the following blunders commonly made by small business owners.

Overreaching: Small business owners can’t be everything to everyone. Find your target market and create a solid marketing plan to reach that audience.

Insufficient coverage: Small business owners often don’t have the capital to cover disaster expenses. A fire or lawsuit can cripple the company. It’s essential to establish sufficient insurance coverage. Contact me to review your business needs and put the proper policies in place.

Underpricing: Cheaper prices don’t always lead to success. While your goal might be to attract more customers, setting your prices too low may fail to meet your expenses. Stay competitive, but set rates that will keep you in business.

Lack of guidance: Entrepreneurs need support to get their businesses off the ground. You might be an expert in your product or service, but you might need help with certain best business practices. Reach out to mentors and experts for the guidance you need for success.

Giving up: As a start-up, you might not make money in your first year. That’s okay. Even FedEx, established in 1971, didn’t turn a profit until 1975. If you don’t see profit right away, don’t give up.