Thursday, May 10, 2018

RI Drivers Must Be Hands-Free by June 1st … Are you prepared?

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Beginning June 1st, a new law will take effect in Rhode Island that prohibits drivers from using a hand-held wireless communication device while driving. The goal of the law is to mitigate the growing problem of distracted driving, which has lead to needless deaths and serious injuries.

According to a National Highway Safety Administration report in 2015, distracted driving claimed nearly 3,500 lives with nearly 400,000 people seriously injured in these crashes. Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti Jr. believes this new law will save lives, stating: “Like so many other types of crashes we see, those involving drivers distracted by their cell phones are preventable. We will continue to work with your partners to educate the public about safe driving behaviors.”

This law does not include any provisions for minor drivers, who are already prohibited from using any type of cell phone while driving – including a hands-free option. Please review the below information provided by the RIDOT, which highlights specifics of the new law:

What is not allowed: Driver will not be able to hold a cell phone or other wireless device while operating a vehicle. The use of headphones or other accessories that cover both ears is also not allowed.

What is allowed: Drivers will be able to use in-car or other hands-free systems or accessories, commonly using a wireless technology called Bluetooth.

How does it work: If a police officer observes you holding a phone and talking or texting while driving, you will be pulled over and may be fined up to $100. The offense may be waived for first offenders only by showing proof of purchase of a hands-free device.

At Blais Insurance, we are committed to helping you stay informed on the latest insurance trends. Should you require additional information on how you can safeguard your family, call us today at 725.0070.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How #MeToo Might Affect You!

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

While most of the discussions around the #MeToo movement have focused on the culture of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, the movement is expected to cause ripples in the liability insurance market as more women come forward with allegations of misconduct at local levels. As the global phenomenon gains traction, Blais Insurance would like to share information on how the movement can influence rates in the liability insurance marketplace.

For individuals who are unfamiliar with the #MeToo movement, the hashtag started trending after several high-profile women renounced Hollywood executives on Twitter who made unwanted sexual advancements during their acting careers. Men in positions of authority were lambasted and many lost their endorsements, position, reputation or all three.

Just when it looked like the movement would go away on its own, #MeToo started to flare up on social media again during International Women’s Day and became a global discussion that is now taking place across 196 countries. More importantly, the movement has made it acceptable for women to openly talk about sexual harassment they may have faced at work — whether they are in the healthcare industry or working in a restaurant.

Insurance experts anticipate the movement will have ramifications for the private directors and officers liability insurance (D&O) market — a type of insurance that covers the legal costs of managers who allegedly performed wrongful acts while working for their employer.

While all allegations of sexual misconduct should be taken seriously, employers are more likely to be in hot water if the wrongful act occurred between a supervisor and a subordinate. Lawsuits of this nature may emerge from incidents involving a disrespectful remark, an inappropriate glance, or denying a promotion for arbitrary reasons.

Since rates are determined in part by the volume of claims nationwide or in a specific geographic area, #MeToo may inadvertently influence more people to file claims. If this were to happen, there is a possibility that D&O insurance premiums will increase as well.

Another possibility is that insurers will begin denying requests for D&O insurance packages if those employers are known for having a culture of sexual harassment. Employers will need to make concerted efforts demonstrating that they are doing what is necessary to mediate the problem.

With 47 percent of America’s workforce being women — equating to roughly 74 million women according to the U.S. Department of Labor — Blais Insurance warns employers that no matter the industry we might see the movement gain a foothold in pockets across New England. The potential for a large volume of claims could make insureds scrutinize employee handbooks. More likely than not, underwriters would be instructed to pay close attention to how employers address issues of sexual harassment.

With a team of dedicated professionals, Blais Insurance has been providing businesses and families with insurance solutions for more than 100 years. If you are interested in reevaluating your policy or are concerned that your business is not fully protected in this climate, speak with one of our agents at 401-725-0070.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Surveying your property is the right move after four nor’easters

 By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Just when Rhode Islanders saw the light at the end of tunnel, Mother Nature hurled another snow dusting to mark the start of spring. While the recent storm did not cause widespread property damage, the back-to-back storms and 50 mph gusts may have deteriorated parts of your home without your knowledge. In an effort to help prevent further loss, Blais Insurance urges homeowners to survey their property carefully and make calls to contractors before their schedules are filled with other projects.

In light of the tough winter we have experienced, it is certainly a good idea to survey your property for areas that mxight need your attention. Although homeowner’s insurance protects you from storm-related damages, no insurance claim will compensate you for your time, stress, and overall frustration. And with the start of spring, you can be sure that contractors will be busy which is why we recommend calling sooner rather than later.

Roof damage is one of the most overlooked types of damage from storms. While it is important to detect roof damage early, we recommend that homeowners call a professional, as they might see things that an untrained eye could miss.

While homeowners may see obvious signs of damage such as missing shingles, they might fail to notice punctures that could allow water to seep into their home. It is better to error on the side of caution and let a professional examine and repair your roof.

Other types of storm damage may include dislodged downspouts and gutters, which are critical for diverting water away from your home. This will be especially true as Rhode Islanders head into one of the rainiest months of the year.

While downspouts and roof damage should be addressed early, it is also a good idea to promptly fix cosmetic features as well such as damaged fences, exterior paint, removing damaged trees, or fallen branches.

Blais Insurance has been providing insurance solutions for families and businesses for over 100 years. If you have questions regarding your homeowners insurance, speak with a Blais agent at 401-725-0070 for assistance.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Insurance Checklist for the New Year

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

With 2018 well underway, Blais Insurance would like to remind you that now is the time to review your current insurance policies. Please click here to view a checklist created by the RI Department of Business Regulation and call Blais Insurance at 725.0070 for a complimentary policy review.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

There are several ways to reduce your chances of frozen pipes

Taking steps now can save you thousands down the road

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Southern New England residents far and wide were at the mercy of a record-long cold snap that originated from the Rocky Mountains in early January. The breathtaking cold forced Rhode Islanders to bundle up more carefully, but for some it also caused frozen pipes that could cost homeowners thousands of dollars. To help families prevent frozen pipes this season, Blais Insurance would like to share some suggestions that can help you avoid costly repairs.

Many of the precautions to prevent frozen pipes stem from our knowledge about water. Water is unique because, when it freezes, it expands. That expansion adds incredible pressure that eventually leads to cracking or bursting pipes.

While many homeowners let the faucet drip during the colder days, Blais Insurance would like to provide additional preventative measures that can help you keep more money in your pocket this winter. 

  • Drain water from all the water supply lines at your home. This extends to water that may be resting in sprinkler systems, water lines to the family pool, and other systems not traditionally used in the winter.
  • Insulate pipes that are exposed to the harsh elements of winter. Depending on the size of your home, the cost of insulating the basement, attic and some crawl spaces can be less than the average cost of fixing a ruptured pipe — which costs $5,000 on average. 
  • Doors to unconnected garages that have a water line should remain closed during the winter. Ensuring the doors are closed will aid in keeping out some of the cold.
  • On frigid nights when temperatures may dip into the single digits, homeowners can reduce the chance of frozen pipes in their home by opening cabinet doors where pipes are easily visible. The reason for this is that heat from your home will circulate into the small space.
  • Thermostats should remain consistent throughout the day and night during cold temperatures. Without realizing the potential damage that may be caused from frozen pipes, many homeowners looking to reduce their energy bill might lower their heat when they are away or sleeping. To be on the safe side, homeowners should always maintain their thermostat above the 55 degree mark.
  • Homeowners can help prevent frozen pipes by turning on the warm and cold water faucet to a trickle.
  • For an extra step beyond letting the faucet drip, worried homeowners can wrap their indoor pipes in the kitchen and bathroom with newspaper. Newspaper material is widely regarded as a basic form of insulation because of its thermal and electric resistant properties.

With the new year ahead and the season of giving behind us, many families in the United States are watching their wallets. Committed to protecting your family against the harsh cold and risk of financial loss, as well as the general disruption of life associated with a significant frozen pipe water loss, Blais Insurance is here with a team of dedicated professionals that are looking out for your best interests. Speak with a Blais Insurance agent to learn about other hazards in the winter, and how our insurance packages have you covered.