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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

What To Do After You've Been In A Car Accident

Car accidents can be traumatic and stressful situations, and it's often difficult to know what do to. Knowing that you have insurance to cover damage to your vehicle can provide you with considerable peace of mind, but regardless of how well you're covered the process of dealing with an accident can be difficult. To help you get an idea of what to do after you've been in a car accident, here are a few tips from the insurance experts at Sharp Broker Services.

1. Remain calm and check for injuries 
While it is much easier said than done, it is to your advantage to keep a cool head after an accident. Your first impulse may be to yell at the guy who rear-ended you, but nothing good can come of that. Check to see if anyone is hurt and call an ambulance if necessary. 

2. Turn off your engine
In the case of a serious accident, be sure to turn the vehicle off. Fuel leaks caused by the accident can be flammable and could injure you and those around you.

3. Do not admit fault
The fault of the accident is determined by the police or by the insurance adjustor. You must always give police officers an honest account of what happened, but at no point should you expressly admit to fault.

4. Do not argue with the other driver
The accident happened. Arguing about it will do nobody any good and may cause emotional (or physical) harm. Speak calmly and assertively to the driver you had the collision with, but never raise your voice or speak aggressively to him or her.

5. Gather information
One of the most important steps in the process of making a claim is demonstrating what happened. Take photographs of the scene, gather witness contact information and the information of the other driver, and record license information. Those who are insured with Sharp Broker Services can utilize the versatile iPhone app, which includes all the steps needed for dealing with an accident and uses the internal GPS system to record the exact location of the accident.

6. Call tow truck
If your car is no longer roadworthy, call the nearest tow truck service to have your car taken to a local repair shop. Contact your insurance broker at this point, to determine the best way to move forward. They may recommend you to a different repair shop with whom they have a special agreement.

7. Breathe easy
The hard part is now over. Your insurance broker will help you move forward with the next steps in making a claim. Depending on your coverage, you may be entitled to a rental vehicle for the duration of the claim process.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

How to Ensure Your Home's Valuables Are Covered

Wedding rings can sometimes be expensive and
almost always have sentimental value. 
Valuables such as jewelry can be some of your most cherished --and expensive-- possessions. If your home was victim to a break-in, would your valuables be covered by your insurance provider? And if so, do you have the appropriate documentation to prove that something in particular was stolen? An insurance company paying out on a home insurance claim will request some form of proof that you owned something that was stolen. Here are a few quick tips to help you with the process of documenting your possessions.

Get out the video camera
One of the best ways to document your valuables is to go through each room of your home with a video camera and describe all the valuables you want covered. You should explain and describe each object and zoom in on any serial numbers that may be engraved into the item. Also, be sure to keep the video recordings in a secure place, so that they won't be destroyed in the event of a fire. Better yet, upload your video files online to ensure that they won't be damaged. With the advent of cloud computing, hosting your video files on a far-away server is easier than ever.

Keep those receipts
A good habit to get into is keeping all receipts of jewellery purchases. Like videotapes, it's important to store them somewhere that's firesafe. You can either invest in a fireproof file cabinet or store them at an external location. Also, keep in mind that receipts fade; photocopy or scan them immediately after purchase.

Have up-to-date appraisals 
For items that improve in value with age, make sure to have current appraisals from certified appraisers. Insurance brokers will base their claim payouts on certified appraisals that you provide. If they are out of date, it may be difficult to adjust for the increased value. To find an appraiser near you, visit the Canadian Association of Personal Property Appraisers' website.

Web-based help
There are simple web-based systems of storing information about your valuables. Knowyourstuff.org is one such system. Its simple inventory allows you to document the items in your house in case you encounter a burglary, fire or other event that ruins valuables.

Insurance Premiums and Buying a Car

When buying a car, the first thing that comes to mind is not usually your insurance premiums. That's something you can sort out after buying the car. You're more interested in the motor's performance, or the sound system, or maybe fuel efficiency. But when it comes to buying a car, insurance premiums should be one of the first things you think about. The reason for this is that insurance premiums can vary dramatically from car to car.

Most people are fairly aware of the fact that someone driving a higher calibre vehicle, like a Ferrari Enzo for instance, is probably paying more for insurance than someone driving a standard vehicle like a Toyota Corolla. However, most people would not suspect that Honda Civic owners pay considerably more for theft insurance than Buick Le Sabre owners. As it happens, Civics have the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most broken-into vehicles in North America, and so statistically when an insurance company pays out a theft claim, it's more likely to be for a Civic than any other vehicle. Given this likelihood, insurance companies must increase the premiums for Civic owners to compensate for their increase number of payouts. Other vehicles that tend to be the target of theft include the Cadillac Escalade and the Acura RSX.

Other factors come into play when insurance companies determine premiums for vehicles. A vehicle's safety record is essential when determining liability insurance premiums. If a particular vehicle is less safe for some reason, it's likely that more individuals will be hurt driving them, and therefore insurance companies will pay more for medical bills in these unfortunate events. Therefore, cars with strong safety records tend to have less expensive premiums attached to them. Volvos, for instance, tend to have lower liability insurance rates because they are considered some of the safest vehicles on the road. The Buick Rendezvous and the Ford Ranger, which have a bad habit of rolling over in single-vehicle accidents, are some of the least safe vehicles on the road and can have large premiums associated with them.

When buying a car, there are many factors to consider. You want a vehicle that you can consider your own, that you can drive with pride, and that serves your purposes well. However, it is also important to think about how your vehicle choice will affect your premiums. You could be paying hundreds of dollars more each year, or more, because of the car you choose to drive. Moreover, the premiums for a particular vehicle can also be an indication of its safety rating; buying a car with lower premiums may not only save you money, it may save your life.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Five Tips to Help You Extend the Life of Your Vehicle and Maintain its Value

In today's economic climate, owning and maintaining a vehicle is pricier than ever. Fuel prices are at record highs, labour costs can take a dent out of your wallet, and importing parts for your vehicle can be prohibitively expensive. But while there isn't much you can do about these inevitable costs, there are certain things you can do to make your car last longer, maintain its value and even improve your fuel efficiency. 

Change the oil
It sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people prematurely damage or even destroy their engines by forgetting to change the oil. Motor oil reduces the friction between the engine's internal parts, lessening wear and tear. As oil gets old, it loses its natural lubricative qualities and internal parts are exposed to more friction. Changing your oil every 5,000 km will make sure that your engine's internal parts remain lubricated and increase the life of your motor, as well as decreasing the need to replace parts. 

Change the cooling fluid 
The car's cooling system is also an important system to keep in mind. Make sure that you maintain a proper coolant level and that the coolant is changed at regular intervals to keep your engine at the appropriate temperature. Too much heat can put extra stress on the engine's internal parts, especially in vehicles that have aluminum heads, blocks or radiators. Save yourself the headache and added costs of replacing parts that have been damaged by overheating. 

Cover your vehicle
Another way to decrease the damage caused to your vehicle is to keep it protected in a garage or under a car cover. Not only will this decrease the likelihood of theft, but it will protect your car from the sun, falling treebranches and bird droppings. This simple measure prevents longterm damage to your car's exterior. 

Mind the interior
Maintaining your engine and car's exterior is important, but you should also take good care of your car's interior. Ripped upholstery, dirty carpet or scratched plastic will invariably decrease the value of your car. Moreover, the way you care for the interior is indicative of how well you take care of other, more important parts of your vehicle. Somebody who has let their car's interior fall into disrepair is probably the kind of person who isn't too concerned about proper maintenance of the engine. Get into the habit of keeping your interior clean and presentable. It will increase the value of your vehicle and show potential buyers that you care about your vehicle. 

Maintain pressure
Keeping your tires at the appropriate air pressure will reduce the friction between your tires and the road. That means your car will need to expend less energy to go the same distance. Less energy needed means less fuel needed! That's right, filling up your tires will  save you money at the pump. What's more, it will increase the lifetime of your tires and keep you safer on the road. 

As a car owner, you don't have a choice when it comes to buying fuel and paying for maintenance. You can, however, make a difference in maintaining the value and extending the life of your vehicle. These few tips, if implemented, could save you thousands of dollars and keep your car on the road for longer. 

How to Make Sure Your Car Insurance Premiums Don't Go Up Over the Summer

For most of us, the summer is a time of carefree adventure and good times. It's a time for camping with friends, taking a long roadtrip somewhere or just hitting the beach. With many of these activities comes an increased use of your vehicle. As you use your vehicle more frequently, your risk of collision and other mishaps increases. However, being conscious of the fact that summer has its own set of risks can act as a reminder to practice safe driving.

Roadtrips call for long, extended periods of driving, often until late at night or early in the morning. But while the story of how you and a friend drove straight for 36 hours may make an interesting anecdote at a party, there are serious risks that accompany driving for long periods of time without proper rest. The point of a roadtrip is to see the country, meet interesting people, and enjoy the company of your fellow roadtrippers. Why not stay overnight somewhere to get a better feel for the place you're in? That way you will get a taste for the town while also getting a proper night's rest.

Summer is also construction season and with construction means construction speed zones. Be sure to look out for construction signs as you drive to your destination. Speeding in a construction zone not only puts workers at risk, but also could land you a very expensive ticket. What's more, your insurance company may decide to increase your premiums afterwards.

Finally, with the advent of summer comes the increase in likelihood of thunderstorms. We've seen our fair share of thunderstorms in Alberta in the last few weeks, and it is likely to continue. Thunderstorms could mean broken branches falling from trees on your vehicle, or heavy objects in your yard flying into your car. To avoid this, remove weak tree branches and put heavy objects inside a shed or your house. That way you won't have to worry about objects flying into your vehicle, causing damage.

Staying mindful of a few things will not only make you a better driver, but it will make sure that your carefree days of summer remain carefree. Making sure to get proper rest while on long roadtrips, watching out for construction zones, and taking precautions before a thunderstorm will all contribute to you having a safe and happy season.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Will insurance cover business losses in the event of a disaster?

If there's one thing business people dislike, it's a loss of productivity. In the event of a natural disaster or some other kind of damage to your business, the property damage is often a secondary concern to the potential loss of business income. If a thunderstorm knocks over a tree onto your restaurant, you're naturally going to be concerned about the damage to your place of business, but most sensible business people have an insurance policy to cover property damage. What is often not covered is the hit you will take in the ledger books. 

Shutting down your business for repairs can mean thousands of dollars in lost sales and customers and, potentially, the loss of long-term clients. If you're a business providing an essential service, clients may have trouble coping with a loss in operational capacity, even if it wasn't your fault. In a fast-paced business world, reliability is essential and those who can't deliver may not get the clients in the future. 

So what can you do? Consider chatting with your insurance broker about Business Interruption Insurance. For a relatively inexpensive add-on to your regular commercial insurance, you can insure your business against the potential loss of income you may experience in the time it takes you to repair the damage. If it takes a week for the tree to be removed from your restaurant patio and for the deck to be patched up, your provider will pay out for the income lost in that time period. Ultimately, it just makes business sense! 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The All-in-One Insurance iPhone App

Since the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007, hundreds of thousands --if not millions-- of apps have been created. Some apps are incredibly useful: shake your iPhone with the Urbanspoon app and it will find a restaurant in your area and give you the price range, type of cuisine and proximity to you. Another app lets you edit video you shoot with the iPhone's onboard camera and allows you to add transitions, titles and additional audio tracks. Of course, there are also apps that make it easy to waste hours of your life. Anyone who has the Angry Birds app understands how quickly a few innocent games can turn into a serious obsession!

As the first independent broker to create an iPhone app, we wanted to develop something useful, versatile, and easy to use. We wanted to make an app that would allow you to keep track of your policy as well as help you through the claim process.

Access to policy
One of the features of our iPhone app allows policyholders to read and review their policies. If you're ever curious about whether you're covered for a particular risk, you can quickly peruse your policy to find out. And if you still aren't sure if you're covered, the app has the contact information of your Sharp insurance broker who will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Accident claim process 
The last thing you want to do after getting in an accident is whip out a camera and a piece of scrap paper and begin to document the event and gather witness information. Rather than scramble to jot it all down, the Sharp app uses the iPhone's built-in GPS to record exactly where the accident occurred and the phone's clock to record the time. Furthermore, handy forms let you input witness contact information and other situational information. You can also record evidence of the accident with the phone's onboard camera. In short, the app is an all-in-one device for the post-accident claim process. At a time when you're stressed and perhaps even traumatised, the app makes the process simple.

Services 
Finally, the app includes a directory of tow truck, taxi and mechanic services should you require them. If you find yourself in an accident and need a ride home, the app has a list of local taxi companies and their contact information. Should you need to tow your vehicle, the app will provide you with the phone number of the nearest towing company.

With all these features, it's easy to see why the Sharp Broker Services iPhone app is a useful addition to your phone. If you have a policy with Sharp, click here to download the app. If you do not currently have a policy with us, check out our free online quotes and see just how much we can save you on your insurance!

Preparing your home for severe thunderstorms

The threat of severe thunderstorms is often met with an indifferent response. Most people are used to being through a thunderstorm from time to time, and while a few shrubs may get torn up, typically you and your family are not in serious peril. While most will not experience serious property damage after a thunderstorm, a few tips will help to minimize the possibility of encountering any damage at all.

The first thing you should do to prepare your home for a coming thunderstorm is to trim any tree branches that are close to the house or where you store your vehicle. A thunderstorm could dislodge weak branches and send them flying into car or home windows. Larger branches could cause serious structural damage to your home, or at the very least ruin a patch of shingles. Cutting down cracking branches or ones that otherwise look weak may reduce the chance of damage to your home or car in the event of a thunderstorm.

In addition to trimming weak tree branches, clearing the yard of any large objects that may go flying into the house can reduce your risk of home or car damage as well. Strong winds can throw garbage cans or lawn implements into the side of your home, damaging the siding. A flying recycling bin could put a dent in your ride.

While thunderstorms may not inspire the same kind of fear that a tornado will, there are still ways to minimize the lesser levels of risk that accompany them. Trimming tree branches in and around the house and clearing the yard of large objects will reduce the risk of damage to your home and car and give you peace of mind knowing you're prepared for thunderstorms when they come.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Vancouver Riots and Car Insurance: A Reminder of the Importance of Comprehensive Coverage

The recent, embarrassing riots in Vancouver are an important reminder of how valuable Comprehensive Insurance can be for policyholders. According to CTV British Columbia, as of Thursday morning, 102 claims for car damage had already been made in Vancouver. For car owners without Comprehensive Insurance, damage done to your car in a riot will not be covered.

What does Comprehensive Insurance cover? 
Comprehensive Insurance reimburses you for damage done to your vehicle from causes other than collision. This includes weather damage from hail and floods, loss of your vehicle due to theft, and damage caused by fire, glass breakage, falling objects, explosions, earthquakes, windstorms, and vandalism or malicious mischief. Most importantly, in light of the recent riots in Vancouver, it covers riots or other forms of civil commotion. That means that if your car was stuck in the middle of a riot zone and a group of rioters turned it over or broke the windows, you would be covered. 

Why consider Comprehensive Insurance? 
Aside from the obvious reasons of protecting your vehicle against a whole host of different threats, Comprehensive Insurance will cost you very little a month. Considering how many risks you are covered for, it makes financial sense to invest in Comprehensive coverage. You can also rest assured that should there be any civil commotion, such as a riot like that experienced in Vancouver, your vehicle will be covered. 

In light of civil disturbances such as the G20 riots in Toronto and the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver, it makes sense to consider Comprehensive Insurance. Not only that, but should you encounter weather damage or damage from theft, you will be covered. In terms of value for your dollar, Comprehensive Insurance covers you against many risks while remaining relatively inexpensive. 

Preventing Smoke and Fire Damage

Dealing with smoke and fire damage can be an exasperating and emotionally trying experience. Smoke and fire can destroy precious memories in the form of photographs, photo albums, diaries, and other irreplaceable keepsakes. Unlike basement flooding, discussed in the last post, fire and smoke can spread to all areas of the home, making it a particularly destructive form of damage. There are, however, means of preventing fire and smoke damage in your home. 

Invest in a monitored fire alarm system 
A monitored alarm system differs from a regular alarm system in that it sends a direct message to the fire department or a third party company that contacts the fire department on your behalf. This provides you and your family with additional protection by contacting the fire department in the quickest possible time, thereby minimizing the damage done to your home. It could save the lives of your family while also stopping damage to your home.  

Avoid the "octopus" outlets
"Octopus" outlets can be incredibly convenient, but they are known to cause electrical fires. If you're finding that you don't have enough outlets, use a power bar or consider rewiring your house to include more outlets. "Octopus" outlets are not a safe alternative and should be removed and replaced as soon as possible. 

Avoid bare lightbulbs in closets with clothing
A 100-watt bulb can heat up to 150 degrees Celsius, enough to be a serious fire hazard. Make sure to avoid this risk by covering it with a glass fixture or installing LED lights instead. This measure will ensure that your closet does not become the source of a fire! 

With these and other tricks, you can reduce the risk of fire and smoke damage in your home. It is always wise to invest in fire insurance as well, since sometimes all the prevention in the world can't stop a fire. In the unlikely event that your home is damaged by fire and/or smoke, you can rest assured that you won't be saddled with the costs. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Preventing Basement Flooding

Basement flooding is one of the most aggravating occurrences for homeowners. It is also one of the most preventable. A few simple alterations and additions to your home can decrease your chances of being inundated with a basement deluge. In light of the heavy rains hitting Nordegg, Jasper and Hilton-Grande Cache today, the Insurance Experts at Sharp Insurance would like to provide you with some helpful tips to stop basement flooding before it begins. 

How do basement floods happen? 
Basement floods happen for two primary reasons. The first is when water seeps into your home from leaks in the basement walls and cracks in the basement windows. The second is when your sewer and/or storm drainage system backs up, causing water to surge into your basement through the basement floor drain. Any remedy for basement flooding should address these two possibilities. 

How do I prevent basement flooding? 
The first thing you should do when heavy rains hit is make sure that your downspouts are directing water from the eavestroughs away from the house. A broken connection may allow water to seep into the basement. Ensure that the downspout is displacing water at least 1.8 metres away from your house as well. 

This measure will prevent water from seeping into the basement through cracks in the basement walls and direct water away from the weeping tile, a duct which funnels water into the storm sewer. By diverting water away from your storm sewer, you may be able to prevent it from overflowing. There are also additional benefits to keeping water away from the house: less water around the foundation of the house means less shifting. 

It is also important that you clean out your eavestroughs. Too many leaves and other debris in the eavestroughs can mean that water will spill over alongside the house, increasing your chances of basement flooding. If the eavestroughs overflow when clean, it's time to invest in a larger eavestrough. 

Investing in a sump pump may also help you avoid flooding. Any water that makes its way into your basement will be pumped away from your home, stopping water from causing damage. A sump pump may be an expensive initial investment, but it could save you the cost of replacing destroyed items in your basement. 

Finally, ensure that your home insurance plan includes flood coverage. While these measures will help in the event of heavy rains, a torrential downpour can overwhelm even the biggest downspouts and best sump pumps. The added flood coverage may save you future headaches and a great deal of money. 

Do I need car insurance for rental cars?

Anyone who has rented a car has been asked those fateful words: "Would you like to add rental insurance to your car?" As a sceptic of additional fees in just about any context, I have often flatly refused the service. "No thanks, my car insurance covers that," I'll reply. When I walk away, however, I often question whether or not I am indeed actually covered. What would happen to me if I were involved in a collision? Do I really even know for sure whether my car insurance package insures me against rental car damage?

The truth is: not every car insurance package is created equally. Insurance policies are complex and it is often difficult to determine what exactly one is covered for! This is where the importance of having a trustworthy insurance broker comes to play. In Canada, there are three main ways in which individuals can acquire insurance: 1) the government, 2) the insurance providers themselves, or 3) insurance brokers. At Sharp Insurance, we believe strongly that you should be dealing with someone you trust and someone who is closer to a friend than a business associate. Namely, we believe that individuals should be working with brokers, the people who know and understand your needs.

So when you're in line to rent a car, remember that you can always count on a broker to give you the straight facts. In particular, Sharp Insurance can go through your policy with you to ensure that you know exactly what you're covered for. For a free quote, go to the Sharp Insurance website and see how much you an save!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

3 Security Methods That Will Save Your Business Money on Insurance

Theft is a serious problem for businesses in Canada. The modern burglar is able to pick through just about any lock and, in some cases, is armed with a knife or firearm. Insurance brokers understand that investments in security can pay dividends in terms of minimizing risk and so in this installment of the Everything Insurance blog, we will be discussing a few investments that will save you money on your business insurance premiums.

1. Keep the lights on
According to the US Department of Justice, the biggest deterrent of would-be burglars is light. The cover of darkness is the best way to avoid getting caught for burglars and so they will often avoid buildings that are well illuminated. To the environmentally conscious business person this may seem like a waste of energy, but provided only a portion of the lights are turned on each night, the ecological footprint can be minimized.

2. Deadbolts
A quick and simple method of improving your overall security is to replace your regular locks with deadbolts. They tend to be fairly inexpensive and if installed on every door they can save you a substantial chunk of change. Not only can deadbolts reduce your insurance premiums, they are a considerable deterrent for would-be burglars. Ultimately, a skilled burglar can eventually get through one, but an added disincentive may make a would-be burglar consider robbing another business or, hopefully, avoid robbing altogether!

3. Comprehensive security system
A sure-fire way to make a burglar reconsider robbing your business is to install a sophisticated security system. It is such a strong deterrent of burglars that insurance companies are more than willing to reduce your premiums. It just makes sense: if you are at a lower risk level, then you should not be paying a particularly high premium.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Does my insurance cover forest fires?

For those living outside of urban regions, the prospect of forest fires is a serious concern. As was seen in British Columbia last year, where the region experienced the driest spring since the 1930s, forest fires can put families at risk and threaten to destroy commercial and personal property.

As an individual living in regions that have historically been prone to forest fires, it is imperative that you know what kind of coverage your insurance plan contains. In the historic wildfires of 2003, many homeowners were not covered for their losses because they did not have insurance at all, or their plan did not extend to forest fire coverage.

With over 7,000 wildfires occurring each year in Canada, burning close to two million hectares of land, it is essential that individuals in fire-prone regions consult their insurance brokers and ask tough questions. Do not assume that a fire insurance plan necessarily includes forest fire coverage; be sure to specifically request extra coverage. For you and your family's sake, seriously consider talking with your broker about fire insurance coverage.

If this is something you would like to consider, talk to the insurance experts at Sharp Insurance. Our brokers understand the importance of protecting your family at the most affordable rates and will guide you through the process of selecting the best plan for your needs.

4 Ways to Save On Home Insurance

Buying a home is one of the most important investments you'll make in your life. It's also the most expensive investment you'll make in your life. But more importantly, it's where your children grow up and where you spend the most cherished times with your family and friends. A home insurance package allows you to protect your investment but also your family. And while home insurance isn't cheap, there are ways to make it more affordable.
 
1. Raise your deductible 

A deductible is an agreed-upon sum of money that someone with an insurance plan will pay the insurance company before the company will pay a claim. For instance, if your home insurance has a $500 deductible and you experience some flood damage, you will have to pay the insurance company the $500 in order to have your claim paid.

With home insurance, as with other kinds of insurance, an increase in your deductible amount can often result in a decrease in your insurance premiums. If your deductible is set at $1000 you will likely pay a higher monthly premium than if your deductible is set at $5000. Thus, a way of saving monthly is to increase your deductible. Of course, if you were to experience a claimable event in the short-term, such a plan of action would not be in your best interests. However, if you are fairly certain that you will not need to make a claim in the near future, you will likely save some money by decreasing your monthly premiums while increasing your deductible.

2. Do not insure your land

While your land does have value, it is unlikely that anything will cause it damage that is significant enough to require insurance coverage. Your home, on the other hand, has value and is at risk. When calculating the amount of coverage you need, do not include the value of your land into your calculations. Keep in mind that it is only the house and its contents that you need to insure. This tip could save you a large chunk of change.

3. Consider home security

Some insurance companies will offer discounts to homeowners who invest in security devices for their home. This is not just a good idea because it will reduce your premiums, but also because it will provide your family with added safety. Smaller items like burglar alarms and heavy-duty locks will bring small deductions, while larger one-time investments like complex home-security systems will bring substantial deductions.

4. Stick with your insurer

Long-time customers will often benefit from reduced premiums over time. As you begin to develop a sense of trust with your broker, you may be offered reduced rates. Talk to your broker about whether you can make the best of your customer loyalty!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Real Facts Behind Distracted Driving

With all of the distractions of modern life - the iPads, iPods and cell phones - it is difficult to avoid the temptation of using these devices while driving. What's the harm of sending a few texts while you drive? What's wrong with checking your next turn on the Google Maps page loaded on your laptop? Today, Everything Insurance will examine the real facts behind distracted driving.

The truth is regardless of how safe you may think you are, statistics show that you are putting yourself and those around you at an increased risk of collision when you are distracted. According to studies by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 25-30% of collisions are caused by distracted drivers. This includes people doing their makeup, changing the track on their iPod, eating or drinking, dealing with their children, reading maps, and, of course, texting or calling on their cell phones. 

With such strong data suggesting a link between distracted driving and higher rates of collisions, it is no wonder that the Alberta government is taking legislative steps to prevent distracted driving. Sometime this year, the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act will be put into place, giving powers to the police to charge fines as high as $172 for those found to be driving while distracted.

According to the act, distracted driving can mean anything from personal grooming to entering information into a GPS Unit. The government is quick to suggest that this will not "penalize drivers for taking a sip of coffee, chatting with passengers or blowing their nose." They are interested in those who "decide to put themselves and others at risk by watching movies, browsing for and downloading 'apps', apply makeup or shaving all while trying to navigate through traffic."

So before you decide to crack that new level on Angry Birds while coasting down a relatively straight patch of road, remember that your loss of focus will reduce your reaction time, thus putting everyone on the road at risk. Moreover, you may be fined under new legislation and to the tune of $172. Do what's best for you and the people around you, put down your electronic device and focus on the road!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Why should I take a driver education course?

In Alberta, you are not required by law to take a driver education course. According to the Ministry of Transportation website, you are "strongly encouraged to take a professional Driver Education Training Course" but should you choose not to, you are free to take that option. The question then arises: do I really need to take a driver education course when it isn't mandatory?

The answer is a resounding yes. There are a few good reasons why you should. First and foremost, it will make you a better driver. While it's possible that a friend or family member may be an excellent driving instructor, it's likely that they have forgotten a few things along the way. The instructors at professional driving courses are trained in safe driving skills and know tips and techniques that can stop you from being a danger behind the wheel. Simply put, a driver's education course could save your life and the lives of those sharing the road with you.

Secondly, having a driver's education course under your belt could save you money on car insurance. A broker understands that someone who has taken a professional driver education course is less likely to cause a collision. He or she knows that someone with training is better able to navigate the roads and is more capable of avoiding accidents and other claimable incidents.

It just makes sense. Think of how you might analyse a similar situation. Imagine if you had to choose someone to drive your child to school. Would you rather have someone who has taken a rigorous course on how to avoid collisions? Or would you choose someone who learned to drive from their Uncle Steve? It's a pretty obvious choice.

So, when you or a loved one is getting their license for the first time, consider taking a driver education course. It will save you money on your insurance and could save your life!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Alberta Flood Insurance

In light of recent events in Southern Alberta, it is important to briefly discuss flood damage and how flood coverage in your home insurance package can help you. Flood damage is a particularly devastating kind of damage. Entire sections of your home may need to be redone and memories in the form of family photos can be lost forever. What's worse, you may not even be covered.

In the last ten years, flood insurance claims have steadily been on the rise. In 2005, claims for water damage outstripped fire damage claims. Climate change accounts for a great deal of added extreme weather and insurance companies have had to keep up, to the order of $5.3 billion in 2009! Given the increased risk, especially for those living near or in flood regions, an insurance plan that covers flood damage is a sound economic decision. When it comes to the safety and security of your family and home, it's not your risk to take.

Most people aren't even aware of whether or not their home or business has flood insurance. Some people assume it's a part of the plan while others never think it will happen to them. If recent events in Quebec, the Southern US, and Southern Alberta are any indication, it can happen to you and the consequences can be serious. To avoid that predicament, consider talking to your insurance broker about options with respect to your existing plan or how a new plan can better protect you from flood damage in your home or business.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Home Insurance

In this installment of Everything Insurance, I will be discussing the Top 5 reasons why you should insure your home. Home insurance is not on everyone's priority list, but there are many good reasons why it should be.

1) The first reason you should consider home insurance is that a house is often the biggest investment you will make in your life. If you're like most people, the most you'll spend on a car is $40,000-$50,000. For some highrollers out there, it may be closer to $100,000, but typically you won't be spending excessive amounts of money on a car. A home, however, tends to be the kind of investment you spend a lifetime paying for. Without insurance, you will be leaving yourself vulnerable to unexpected events that could, in the blink of an eye, obliterate the investment you've made.

2) The second reason you should consider home insurance is that a house is not only the most expensive investment you will make, but it's also the foundation of a quality life. Your home is your domain, the place where you feel safe and secure. For most people, it's where they feel most comfortable. Of all the possessions to protect in your life, your house may be the most important!

3) The third reason why home insurance should be a priority for you is that your home is where you raise your most important asset: your children. The environment in which your children grow up can have a profound influence on their success. If your home were to, God forbid, burn to the ground because of a stove left on, you may have to uproot your children and move to an entirely different neighbourhood. They may have to change schools, readjust to a more modest lifestyle, and generally be denied some of the opportunities they had before.

4) Another important reason for considering home insurance is that you may be legally responsible for injuries that occur on your premises. Liability insurance, which covers you in the event that you become legally responsible for injuries or damages caused to a third party, is an important consideration when owning a home. For example, should a friend take a tumble on a slippery kitchen floor and sustain a serious injury, you may be on the hook for medical expenses. Liability insurance, part of a complete home insurance package, covers you in that unlikely event and may also save a friendship!

5) Finally, home insurance provides you with peace of mind. Even if you never end up making a claim, the simple knowledge that you are covered takes a significant worry off your shoulders. You can take comfort in the fact that should some unexpected water or fire damage, for instance, destroy all or part of your home, you and your family will be covered.

For a free quote on home insurance from Sharp insurance, click here.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Alberta Auto Insurance and Lending a Car to a Friend

Have you ever wondered whether your Alberta auto insurance covers you in the event that you lend your car to a friend and he or she gets into a collision? Almost every car owner will encounter a situation where a friend will request to borrow his or her car. Maybe you're at a barbecue and you run out of briquettes. Your friend volunteers to pick some up from the corner store but needs to borrow your car. The first thought that runs through your head is: "If I lend my car to a friend, will I be covered?" The answer to this question is complicated, but for the most part as long as your friend has a valid driver's licence you can be sure your Alberta auto insurance will cover you.

The first thing that you need to know is that if a friend borrows your car, it will essentially be as if you're driving the car. This is good in the sense that your insurance plan covers your friend in the case that he or she gets into a collision. In short, you won't be on the hook for thousands of dollars of damages. However, this also means that if your friend is at fault in the collision, your insurance provider may choose to increase your premium as if you had been driving the car. That means you should use your discretion when lending out your vehicle. Don't let anyone drive your car, unless you know they are competent behind the wheel.

The situation could also change if you lend your vehicle to a friend on a regular basis. For instance, if a neighbour borrows your car every few days to run errands or pick up groceries, he or she may constitute a "secondary" or "occasional" driver on your Alberta auto insurance plan. This means that they will have to be insured to use your vehicle or else you will not be covered in the event that there is an accident. However, if your friend borrows it rarely, it's likely that they will not need to be included in your insurance plan.

Ultimately, though, even if you know that your insurance plan covers someone borrowing your vehicle, there are other reasons to be careful when lending out your vehicle. Firstly, the process of making a claim can often be stressful. Secondly, making a claim on behalf of a friend can put a serious strain on a friendship. They may immediately pay for the deductible, but what about increased insurance premiums because of their accident? You can avoid serious headache by taking care in choosing who you allow to drive your car.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Do I need insurance?

One of the most commonly asked questions by people starting a business or buying a home for the first time is: "Do I need insurance?" What is the purpose of insurance? Some wonder why they need insurance when the risk of theft or property damage seems to be low. The reality is that in an uncertain world, insurance provides a means of spreading risk out among many people. While it's possible that you may never encounter a fire or a burglary --and we certainly hope you do not--, the possibility of such a dramatic loss means that an insurance plan is in your best interest. In this, the first post of the "Everything Insurance" blog, we will discuss why you should consider an insurance plan and moreover, why insurance is important for society at large.

The need for insurance was understood as far back as 5000 BC in China. When merchants transported their goods by river they would redistribute their cargo across multiple boats in order to limit the risk of losing a large boatload of product. They understood that if a merchant were to come across some dangerous rapids and lose an entire boatload of product, he or she would be totally wiped out. By making use of many boats, a merchant could lose a small boatload of product and still survive. The same principle applies to the modern insurance industry and the need for this kind of insurance remains the same.

To take a modern example, imagine that you own a small business. You've invested your life savings into your business, not to mention a good deal of blood and sweat! Now imagine what would happen if an electrical fire were to wipe out everything. Your financial future would be in jeopardy and all the effort you put in would be wasted. Instead of shouldering that loss alone, an insurance plan allows you to pay a small premium so that you are covered in the event of such a loss. In the same way that Chinese merchants spread their goods out among many boats to ensure they didn't lose one large boatload, an insurance plan allows you to spread out risk among many planholders so that everyone pays a small premium instead of a few members individually paying for large losses.

So how is insurance good for society at large? Ultimately, it allows individuals to pursue their business and personal dreams without worrying about encountering a serious financial loss! Entrepreneurs can feel that their investments are secure, and individuals can purchase cars and homes with peace of mind. In the end, it is about quality of life. With coverage, you can help to ensure that you and your family remain financially secure and happy!

Sharp - The Insurance Experts

Sharp Insurance has been providing amazing Car, Home and Business rates for people all over Alberta.  And now we are excited to be starting our new "Everything Insurance" blog.   Follow us!  http://www.sharpinsurance.ca