Monday, January 7, 2019

Lax Marijuana Laws Have Given Motorists the Wrong Impression

THC DUIs Carry the Same Legal Punishment as Driving Drunk

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Driving under the influence of marijuana can carry the same legal consequences as drunk driving. That is what several people are learning the hard way over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break.  Although research on traffic fatalities and marijuana usage remain scant, marijuana users face a tougher battle if a police officer suspects the driver is under the influence. As more states opt to legalize the use of marijuana, Blais Insurance would like to shed light on the process of being charged with a THC DUI and the insurance repercussions that would entail.

Unlike testing for alcohol, marijuana usage is typically determined by a blood or urine test. This poses an immediate road block for law enforcement officers who are trying to determine whether someone is high at traffic stops.

Motorists who are simply suspected of being under the influence of marijuana in Rhode Island can be asked to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, which usually spells trouble even for the casual marijuana users because THC can remain in someone’s blood for weeks or months.

If THC turns up in the BAC, motorists will be charged with a DUI regardless of whether you were sober at the time of the stop. Depending on the circumstances of the first offence, motorists could be forced to pay up to $500, may be required to serve up to 60 hours of community service, and could have their license suspended for a period of up to 1 year.

Research around marijuana and car crashes have created conflicting results about the risk of being involved in a car accident, but medical experts agree that it is always safer to drive while you are not stoned. The reason is because marijuana impairs judgement, motor coordination, and reaction time, which the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated are all essential skills needed to safely operate a motor vehicle.

After motorists come to terms with their DUI ruling, insurance companies typically catch wind of the developments when your policy is up for renewal. This is when insurance premiums are increased by a few hundred dollars on average to thousands of dollars in certain parts of the country. The increased rate is usually a reflection of the risk a motorist may present for any insurance provider.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies are taking proactive approaches to this issue by seeking training from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recognize signs of marijuana use. Even medical marijuana users could face tough penalties if they are caught driving while under the influence of marijuana, experts warn.

As the country’s marijuana laws continue to evolve, Blais Insurance encourages motorists to treat marijuana the same way you would treat alcohol when it comes to driving. Even if you smoked once, stay at home to avoid the avalanche of legal and insurance-related troubles that could come your way.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Insurance Takes Precedence in Water Loss Preparedness

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Contrary to popular belief that most water-related claims happen during the spring or summer months, homeowners in the Northeast region report more water-related losses during the winter. To help homeowners mitigate their risks for water or flood-related losses during the next couple of months, Blais Insurance would like to share some preventative strategies that can help policyholders protect themselves from these types of losses and save money in the long run.

Frozen pipes and melting ice dams are usually to blame for water-related losses in the colder months. These events can cost homeowners thousands in property damage, but most experts agree that certain precautions can help reduce the likelihood of these things happening.

Consumers will find a trove of information online that explain ways to reduce the odds of significant water-related losses, but most fail to mention the insurance aspect of prevention. By understanding your homeowner’s insurance policy and the flood insurance gap coverages that are available, homeowners will be better prepared in the event of a catastrophic loss.

Most homeowners insurance policies cover water damage up to a certain extent. And in most cases, homeowners can work with an insurance agent to have a more comprehensive policy in place. One of the things Blais Insurance, or any other insurance agency, would do would be to accurately assess the policyholder’s individual risk for water-related losses and determine whether their property might be underinsured.

Insurers we work with like to determine whether homeowners are underinsured because they want policyholders to be able to replace expensive cabinets, moldings, or other high-end features in a home that may not be adequately protected in their current policy.

Reevaluating insurance needs provide the biggest benefit to homeowners who have remodeled their home recently or purchased a home that is relatively new.

Once insurance needs have been addressed, homeowners can take the initiate to examine parts of the home that may give way to intense pressure from outside elements. If homeowners know their home has the tendency to form ice dams, for example, they may want to consider calling a roofer to close any shingle gaps, examine the home’s insulation, or install mechanisms such as heating cables.

Another problem that may cause homeowners stress, headaches, and financial woes include frozen pipes. Fortunately, homeowners can avoid calling a plumber by taking a few precautions during cold spells. Those precautions include wrapping heating tape on pipes that are susceptible to freezing, turning up the thermostat in your home, and letting the faucet  drip water.

Finally, homeowners can take an extra step to protect their home from water damage by performing regular maintenance on appliances that use water. Dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, and water heaters are responsible for a surprisingly large proportion of water damage incidents.

With water damage being the leading cause of property damage for homeowners, we urge homeowners to consider the precautions mentioned above. Blais Insurance has been protecting families in Southeastern New England from significant losses for more than 100 years. If you have questions about protecting your property from water damage, speak with one of our agents at 401-725-0070.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not’ in …Rhode Island Anymore

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Tornadoes in our state? Keep these safety tips in mind

Tornadoes in Rhode Island are so rare that it is justifiably hard to compare it to other naturally occurring events. With various reports indicating that tornados did in fact touch down in Lincoln and other neighboring communities last month, and with some researchers saying the Northeast will experience more tornadoes in the coming years, many families may be wondering what they should do if another tornado touches down in our small state. To help families know what steps to take the next time a tornado warning is issued, Blais Insurance would like to share a tornado tips crash course that may help keep your family safe.

Believe it or not, Rhode Island has seen about a dozen tornadoes touch down in the state over the course of American history. To put that into perspective, the center of the United States, also known as Tornado Alley, has seen hundreds of tornadoes in 2018 alone.

It is important to consider that tornadoes in Rhode Island have the potential to greatly exceed the damage caused by a similar tornado in the Great Plains. The reason is because properties and people are more densely populated when compared to some Midwestern regions. Another reason is because people from that region have likely participated in tornado safety drills either at school or at work.

Since most longtime Rhode Islanders have not taken part in any tornado drills, Blais Insurance would like to share some tornado preparedness tips to help families stay safe the next time a tornado comes roaring through our backyard. These tips will be essential in keeping your family safe, especially if a tornado appears without warning like the one we recently experienced.

Stay Away from Windows

Strong winds will throw debris strong enough to break a window. Families should stay from windows to avoid being cut from flying glass.

Do Not Try to Outrun a Tornado
Tornadoes can appear without warning and begin to cause destruction immediately. As easy as it may seem to drive away from a tornado, experts who study these vortexes say that motorists should pull over and seek secure shelter instead to avoid an injury or an automobile accident.

Every Second Counts So Head Indoors, and Underground

Flying debris can become dangerous projectiles that can harm you.  It is important that people, whether they are at home or outside, head to a basement or lowest floor with few to no windows to avoid injury.  

Cover Your Head

When you find a safe place to hide, use your hands and arms to protect your head. It is also encouraged to use blankets to cover yourself if they are available.

Keep A Radio Handy

For families that are fortunate enough to have a battery –powered radio available, tune in to a local broadcast to find out when it is safe to go outside.

Tell Your Friends and Family You Are Safe

Once the tornado has passed, call or text your loved ones to tell them you are safe. This will prevent emergency lines from being jammed when others need immediate medical assistance.

Property and other valuable belongings can easily be replaced. Blais Insurance is always here to help protect you and your family from all types of losses, but we would like to remind you to heed our safety tips because loved ones are irreplaceable. Call us at 401-725-0070 to learn about our insurance products and services, and to learn why families have trusted us with their insurance needs for over 100 years.