Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Protecting Yourself from Liability

In an increasingly legalistic world, in which disputes are settled in courts or tribunals, it is essential for businesses to appreciate and understand liability. Liability is the state of being responsible for something; if you're liable for something, you're responsible for it. Simply the act of owning and operating a business means you accept a great deal of responsibility. You are expected to ensure the safety of your customers, to keep dealings with clients and partners fair and to the law, and to protect their employees from injury. To help you navigate the legal waters of business owning, we've outlined a few ways to lower your risk of liability.

1. Buy liability insurance
First and foremost, you must have liability insurance. The most earnest efforts to improve safety at the workplace could still go out the window if an accident happens. You cannot predict or stop an accident and if it happens on your property, the likelihood is you will be liable to cover any medical or legal expenses.

2. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Make sure you have signs up around your place of business to ensure that people understand the risks around them. If someone slips on a recently washed floor without a sign, you're almost guaranteed to be found liable. However, if someone slips despite a big yellow sign warning them that the area is slippery, you will have better chances of not being found liable. Without a sign, there is an expectation of safety. If a sign clearly tells you there is danger, and yet you ignore it, you cannot expect safety.

3. Use contracts
Be sure that you keep your business deals contractually based. Avoid verbal agreements and opt for written contracts which clearly outline what is being exchanged for what. Be sure to explicitly include the goods or services included in the deal.

4. Use waivers
Include clauses in your contracts in which the client or partner waives certain rights. In particular, include clauses which prevent a client from suing you or making a claim against you.

As a business owner, liability issues must be understood and appreciated. You must protect yourself from the costs that could be incurred if someone is accidentally hurt on your property or a client sues you over a contract. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a business owner to be sure that you avoid liability.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

How To Save Money on Your Home Insurance Premiums

Home insurance premiums can put serious financial strains on a household. While protecting yourself from risk is incredibly important, there's no arguing that insurance premiums can be expensive. What few people know is that there are a tricks that can help to reduce the cost of your premiums. 

1. Increase your deductible
This is the quickest and easiest way to see an immediate reduction in your home insurance premiums. A deductible is the amount of money you agree to pay an insurance company to have your claim indemnified. Deductibles can range from around $200 to $2000 dollars or more, and the higher your deductible the cheaper your insurance premiums. Saving money on your premiums, therefore, can be as simple as calling up your insurance company and asking to increase your deductible. 

2. Avoid risks that your insurance company may charge for
Ask your insurance provider if there are any particular risks that could make your home insurance more expensive. Owning certain domesticated animals like snakes and wild animals can increase your premiums, while making home improvements like pools and hot tubs can also cost affect your rates. 

3. Combine your insurance
Combining your home insurance policy with your car insurance or commercial insurance can save you a considerable amount on your insurance premiums. Talk to your insurance broker and ask how much you could save by buying all of your insurance through them. 

4. Be sure you're not paying for unnecessary risks
If you are in a region of the country that never experiences earthquakes, for instance, buying earthquake insurance makes no sense. Similarly, if you live far from areas that flood, buying a policy that covers floods is unnecessary. Go through your policy with your insurance broker and trim any risks that you feel are unnecessary. 

5. Invest in security and safety
While a security system can be an expensive initial investment, it could save you money down the road on your insurance premiums. Other investments such as wind-resistant shingles can also make your home less of a risk. Ask your insurance company about what you can do to reduce your insurance premiums. 

Monday, 29 August 2011

7 Tips That Will Help To Stop Car Thieves

Car thieves are often highly sophisticated professionals with state-of-the-art equipment. They can also be teenagers with expensive drug habits and time on their hands. In any event, there are a number of simple steps that you can take to prevent your car from being stolen. The most important goal is to make your car the least attractive option on the street; the more of a challenge it appears to a car thief, the more likely he or she will avoid your car. 

1. Keep your valuables hidden
Car thieves will often walk past your vehicle and check for valuable contents in view. Never leave your purse, phone, tablet device or wallet on the seat or dashboard. Take them with you when you leave your vehicle or hide them in the glove compartment. Alternately, if you have a sweater that you're not wearing, cover up the valuable item so that it's not visible to thieves. 

2. Don't leave your car running unattended
If you're running into a store to quickly pick something up, avoid leaving the car running unattended! With the keys in the ignition and car running, it's the perfect opportunity for a car thief. Stop an opportunistic car thief by turning off your car and locking up before making any errand. It will also save you on gas! 

3. Don't leave your keys in the ignition
Some 20% of stolen cars had the keys in the ignition. It only takes one more step to turn on the vehicle and drive away. 

4. Roll up the windows
Even on a hot day, be sure to keep your windows rolled up when you have locked your vehicle. It takes only seconds for an experienced car thief to use a coat hanger to unlock the door and get inside. From there it will only take a little longer to hotwire the car or steal the valuables inside.

5. Park in well-lit areas
Dark alleys and poorly lit streets and parking lots are attractive to car thieves because there is a reduced risk of being spotted and reported. Park in busier areas with good lighting to deter car thieves. 

6. Invest in a tracking device
If your car is stolen, the next step is recovering it. A GPS tracking device can be installed, meaning that wherever your car goes, you will know its precise location. In this way, police can follow the signal and quickly recover your vehicle. 

7. Invest in a car security system
Often the blinking light of a car alarm system is enough to scare car thieves away. But if they're more persistent, a sophisticated car alarm system is your best bet against thieves. While it is a costly initial investment, you could potentially see a reduction in your car insurance premiums. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

What To Do In The Event Of An Earthquake

While earthquakes are rare occurrences in Canada, knowing how to prepare for an earthquake can be important when travelling in countries where earthquakes are more frequent. In the event of an earthquake, there are a number of accepted safety practices which could save your life. To help you understand what to do if you encounter an earthquake on your travels or, perhaps, in Canada, we've compiled a list of some of those practices.

Find shelter
The safest places in your home are under desks and archways and in hallways, corridors and corners. Avoid windows, which are prone to shattering, as well as cupboards and shelving units which could empty their contents in the event of an earthquake. In general, the most dangerous aspect of an earthquake is falling objects and collapsing structures; if you feel an earthquake, get to the strongest support structure you can find that is far from falling objects.

If you're outside, stay clear of buildings and get to the most open space you can find. If you're in an urban setting, either find an open space or go inside a sturdy structure. Avoid areas around buildings where falling debris could strike you.

Plan an earthquake strategy with your family
Design a strategy for dealing with an earthquake, and test your children on it regularly. Teach them how to react to an earthquake and designate a meeting place if you lose contact with them. In addition, help them to memorize important emergency and family phone numbers.

Stay informed
Stay tuned to radio stations for directions on where evacuations are taking place, and how to get to safe zones. If cell phone towers are still up, use your 3G connection to find alerts online.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Questions to Ask When Buying Home Insurance

With all the clauses and conditions involved in home insurance policies, it is often difficult to know what your policy actually covers you for! Talking with your insurance broker and asking the right questions is incredibly important when buying home insurance. To help you with the process, the Insurance Experts at Sharp have compiled a list of a few important questions to ask.

What is the building value of your home and is there guaranteed replacement cost coverage? 
Your home's building value is the amount of money your insurance company estimates it will cost to rebuild your home in the unlikely event it is destroyed. There are different ways of calculating this estimate, and your building value will vary from provider to provider. As well, as time goes on, buildings costs will change, and it is important to know how your company will adjust the building value for inflation and increased construction costs. Knowing your building value will give you an idea of what your premiums are actually paying for!

Guaranteed replacement cost coverage is a kind of coverage that guarantees your house will be rebuilt to the standard it was originally built. That means that regardless of the building value associated with your home, your insurance company will replace your house in the event it is destroyed.

Is flood and sewage-backup coverage included? 
As one of the most claimed perils, flood coverage can be essential for homeowners living in flood-prone areas. It is not always offered in home insurance policies, and therefore it is important to ask your insurance broker whether or not it is included. Sewage-backup is also a common problem, and is not always included in home insurance policies. Be sure you know whether these two important perils are covered.

How much will you be covered for smaller losses? 
Most home insurance policies cover you in the event of a loss to smaller items like jewelry, bicycles or tools. They will typically set a limit on the amount that can be claimed. Knowing how much you're covered for will give you an idea of what you can claim in the event that something is stolen or otherwise destroyed.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Moving to Canada from another country? Need car insurance?

Moving to another country can be an exciting experience. There is a new culture and society to learn about, new food to try and a new climate to enjoy. If you're a driver and would like to have a car in your new home, it is important that you take a measures before leaving your country of origin so that you can be properly insured in Canada.

1. Obtain a letter of experience
This is an essential when applying for insurance in Canada. Your Canadian insurance company will want to see what kind of driving experience you have in your country of origin. Be sure this letter is on company letterhead and that you obtain an original copy. This letter will include:
  • Your personal information
  • Your policy number
  • The start and end dates of your policy
  • Any extra drivers on your policy
  • Claims you made, accidents, and traffic violations
It should be noted that your insurance company reserves the right to consider you a "new driver" if they don't think your letter is credible. If so, you may be forced to pay "new driver" premiums. Be sure to shop around; if one company does not recognize your experience, another may.

2. Get a Canadian driver's license
Before getting insurance, you must have a valid Canadian driver's license. Your existing driver's license may be equivalent to a full license in Canada, so talk to the ministry of transportation in your province about exchanging it. In Alberta, there are a number of countries which have "Reciprocal Licensing Agreements", meaning that individuals from nations who sign the agreement can have their licenses exchanged without requiring a test. To learn more, check out the Alberta Ministry of Transportation article on license exchange.

3. Shop around
One of the most important aspects of buying insurance is shopping around. Find a provider who is able to get you the most coverage for the least amount of money. In Canada, one individual can be given wildly different quotes by different companies. It takes very little time and effort to fill in a few online quotes or make some calls. You could save thousands of dollars on your insurance for only an hour's effort!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Top 3 Insurance Myths Debunked

There are many misconceptions surrounding insurance. Many people come to conclusions about the industry and insurance in general based on hear-say and rumours. As with anything, it is important to look to credible sources when forming opinions. 

1. The more you pay, the better your policy
Insurance rates fluctuate drastically from policy to policy and person to person. One individual may pay hundreds of dollars more for the same policy as another individual because of differences in their personal information. For instance, an individual with an impaired driving charge may be completely denied coverage from one insurance company while being accepted and offered competitive rates at another. 

2. Red cars cost more to insure 
This is one of the most common insurance myths. Your auto insurance rates are calculated primarily on your driving record, make and model of vehicle, and the repair cost of your vehicle. The fact that your car is red has nothing to do with your insurance premiums. If it does, you should switch companies fast! 

3. If a friend borrows my car and causes a collision, it won't affect my premiums
This is certainly false. Your insurance policy is tied to your vehicle; any collisions caused by a friend will be attached to your policy. For this reason, you should be very careful when lending your car out to a friend. There is nothing wrong with a friend borrowing your car from time to time, but keep in mind that your insurance premiums could go up if they cause a collision. 

4 Reasons to Contact Your Insurance Company

As an insurance policy holder, there are a number of changes that you are obliged to discuss with your insurance company. Insurance works on the concept of "Utmost Good Faith," meaning that you and your insurance provider must be honest with each other about anything that could affect your policy. At the Insurance Experts blog, we have compiled 4 of the major reasons to call your insurance company.

1. Increase or decrease in usage
When you first purchase a policy with an insurance company, they will ask a number of questions with regards to how often you plan on using the vehicle. They will often ask you how long your commute is, how often you use your vehicle for pleasure trips, and what proportion of your vehicle's usage is for business. You'll often arrive at an estimated number of kilometres a year and your insurance company will adjust your premiums based on that amount.

If you find that you're using your vehicle more frequently, or less frequently, you should contact your insurance company. Additional use of the vehicle increases your likelihood of a collision, since you are more exposed to the dangers of the road. Conversely, if you use your vehicle much less than expected, you are less of a risk because you aren't on the road as often. If you're finding it difficult to estimate how much time you're using your vehicle, keep a logbook in your glove compartment to record trip lengths and trip purposes. If you are using your vehicle for business more than you had originally thought, this is also something to mention.

2. Modifications to your vehicle
Making significant changes to your vehicle may affect your premiums. You don't need to worry about reporting a new steering wheel cover or replacement floor mats, but major structural changes to the vehicle should be noted. For instance, performance mods like a new suspension or turbocharger should be reported. Additionally, changes to the vehicle that make it an increased theft risk, such as new rims or bodywork, should be reported. If you're in doubt, call your insurance company and ask.

3. Change of address
Your neighbourhood is taken into account when calculating your premiums. Living in the downtown core of a major city entails certain risks that do not affect those living in small rural communities; additional traffic and crime typically mean that urban-dwellers are subject to higher premiums. Even within cities, different neighbourhoods have different levels of risk. Therefore, if you move you should make sure to contact your insurance company.

4. Driver changes
If at any point an additional driver begins to use a vehicle on a regular basis, be sure to contact your insurance company. If your son or daughter reaches the driving age, you should let your insurance company know. If a neighbour needs to use the vehicle to pick up groceries every week, you should let your insurance company know. Changes to the drivers of a vehicle mean that the risk of insuring that vehicle changes. Again, if you're ever in doubt about what changes should be made known to your insurance company, don't hesitate to ask your insurance company.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

What To Do After A Car Accident

Even the best drivers may be involved in a traffic collision. A momentary lapse of vigilance on your part, or that of another driver, could mean that you have to make an insurance claim. To help you through the process, we've included a step-by-step list of what to do after an accident.

1. Keep your cool and check for injuries
Nothing good can come of playing the blame game after an accident. Stay as calm as possible and make sure that nobody is hurt. Avoid confrontation with the other driver and focus on making sure all parties are safe and that the cars are out of the way of traffic.

2. Move cars to a safe place
As just mentioned, moving the cars out of the way of traffic is important for preventing further damage to your vehicle. Do so only if the accident is minor and nobody is seriously injured. If someone is seriously hurt, call an ambulance immediately and do not move the car unless absolutely necessary.

3. Turn off vehicle and put your hazards on
Fuel leaks from the vehicle can turn deadly if your vehicle remains on. Put on your hazard lights to alert other drivers of your presence.

4. Notify the police
Even if the accident is minor, contact the police. You're required to do so.

5. Get names
Write down the information of all parties involved in the incident, as well as witnesses. Get license plate numbers and addresses along with names. It's also essential that you get the insurance information of the other driver.

6. Call your insurance agent 
Contact your insurance agent; he or she will be able to guide you through the process and give you further advice on how to handle the situation.

7. Document the scene
Gather evidence of the accident. Don't go "CSI" with your camera and photograph every inch of the scene, but it is important to get a few wide shots of the accident as well as some close ups of the damage. In the digital age, you don't have to worry about film; take as many photos as you can! However, keep in mind that the police and insurance companies will do their own thorough investigations if it is deemed necessary. If you're with Sharp and have an iPhone, you can use the app we've developed to guide you through the process.

8. Do not admit fault
The focus of conversation between you, the other driver, and the police officer is to determine the facts. Do not admit fault at this point or accuse the other driver of being at fault. Be truthful about what happened, but do not state that you are at fault.

Driving in Bad Weather

Driving in poor weather can be a terrifying experience. Knowing how to approach stormy conditions will give you the confidence to face anything Mother Nature throws at you. At Sharp, we've compiled an extensive set of tips for dealing with rain, snow, ice, fog, high winds and thunderstorms to help you navigate some of t he more treacherous weather conditions. 

Before going into the various techniques you can employ to better approach unfavourable weather, it should be noted that the old adage "an ounce of preparation equals a pound of cure" is certainly applicable here. In the information age, it is easier than ever to know weather conditions before you hit the road. Mobile apps like WeatherEye can keep you up to date on the move; Twitter accounts like @WeatherCalgary or @WeatherEdmonton can give you up-to-the-second weather updates. Knowing what to expect, or whether or not to drive at all, can save you a lot of trouble. 

  • Drive slowly and cautiously in rainy conditions. Hydroplaning, which occurs when your vehicle's tires ride overtop of water, can occur if you drive too fast. If you feel yourself losing control of your vehicle due to hydroplaning, take your foot off the gas, keep your wheels pointing straight ahead and only brake if absolutely necessary. As you slow down, the weight of your vehicle will reestablish contact between your tires and the road. 
  • Make sure your headlights are on. Visibility can be a serious problem in rain; headlights will ensure that you can see the road ahead of you through the rain. Adjust your speed in accordance with visibility 
  • Keep your windows clear. Your windows can fog up in rainy weather and so it's a good idea to keep your defroster and windshield wipers on to improve visibility. 

Snow and Ice 
  • Clean ice and snow from all windows, the hood and the trunk. Snow from your hood can blow onto the windshield when driving, reducing visibility. Snow on your trunk can do the same for drivers behind or beside you. 
  • As in rainy weather, driving slowly is essential. The road is slippery and the faster you drive, the more likely you are to slide. 
  • Be especially cautious when driving over bridges. They ice over and become slippery much more quickly than other roads. 
  • Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. Stopping distances in snowy weather can be anywhere from three to twelve times longer than in optimal conditions. 
  • Use brakes cautiously. If you hit a patch of ice and begin to slide, do not necessarily hit the brakes. If your brakes lock-up (meaning the wheels do not move at all), you may lose steering control. 
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, press the brake pedal down firmly. Anti-lock systems are able to determine the level of slip and compensate accordingly to maintain steering control. 

High winds
  •  In high winds, be especially cautious of other drivers. Be careful around taller vehicles like trucks, vans, SUVs and trailers, which are more prone to being blown around by high winds. Look out for loose items in the back of trucks and keep your distance if it looks like their cargo may be blown from the vehicle. 
  • Be wary of over hanging tree limbs and other foliage that could come loose and hit your vehicle. 
  • Reconsider driving if you have a taller vehicle or are towing a light trailer. 

  • Turn your headlights to low-beam. High-beams will actually reduce visibility, as the additional light will reflect off of increased water molecules in the air. 
  • Improve visibility by keeping your defrosters and windshield wipers on. 
  • Adjust your speed according to visibility. Remember that you should be able to see at least as far as your stopping distance. 

  • Drive slower than usual and be especially aware of drivers around you. High winds can push vehicles around and it's not unusual for people to stop their cars completely to avoid a fallen tree branch or power line. 
  • If there is extensive hail or lightning, try to park safely beneath an overpass. Hail can cause your vehicle serious damage and lightning could do much worse. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Driven to Distraction: The Cost of Not Paying Attention to the Road

In 2009, according to US Department of Transportation, 5,747 people were killed and 448,000 people were injured in accidents where distracted driving was reported. In that same year, 20% of injury crashes involved reports of distracted driving. The reality is that you cannot drive safely if your attention is not entirely focused on the road. By doing other things you are risking your life and the lives of those around you. To help you understand what constitutes "distracted driving," we've compiled a list of some of the major causes of distracted driving.

1. Talking or texting on your phone
Trying to talk on your phone without a headset is not only dangerous, but it could cost you an expensive ticket. In Alberta, you could face a fine of $172 for talking or texting on your phone. If you must communicate while on the road, install a hands free device that will allow you to talk without having to divert your attention from the road.

2. Adjusting the radio or climate controls
Before you leave on your commute, get an idea of the weather you'll be experiencing and adjust your climate controls accordingly. If you must change the temperature, do so at a stoplight. This goes for the radio as well. Don't focus your attention on finding the right music; set up your iPod playlist or radio station choice before you leave.

3. GPS or maps
Navigating while you're driving is not a safe idea. Have your intended destination programmed into your GPS ahead of time and listen to the cues; don't try to fiddle with inputting an address while driving. If you're driving with someone else, ask them to be your navigator. They can work with the maps or GPS unit while you keep your eyes on the road.

4. Eating or drinking
If you have to finish your breakfast in the car, you should reconsider your morning routine. Finish your food before you get in the car. Your upholstery will thank you, and you'll be less likely to cause a collision. Put the coffee in the drink holder and wait till you get to work to start sipping. If you need the caffeine before you leave, drink it at home. If you have to brake hard, spilling scalding coffee on your legs is not going to be a pleasant experience.

5. Passenger distractions
Rowdy or rambunctious passengers can often be more dangerous than anything else. Be sure to let your passengers know that that kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. They should be respectful of the fact that you're driving and do as much as they can to help you stay focused.

6. Grooming
For some, the morning routine is just so packed with things to do that they feel they need to put on their makeup in the car. If you're finding that you don't have enough time in the morning to do your personal grooming, make more time at home. It's not fair to those who share the road with you; it's not right to put other people's lives at risk because you didn't manage your time properly.

Avoiding these distractions on the road will help you to be a safer driver. Most people can admit to having done a few of these in their time; we're all human. It's a matter of recognizing that they're dangerous habits and making an effort to avoid them in the future.

Demerit Points and Insurance Rates

One of the biggest fears as a driver is receiving a ticket that results in demerit points. Once enough demerit points are accumulated, your license could be suspended and you may be forced to plead your case to the Ministry of Transportation. Not only will you have to pay a fee for the ticket, but you could also find yourself without a way to get around! What's worse, your insurance premiums could go up.

The relationship between insurance rates and demerit points is, however, largely misunderstood. There is a widespread assumption that demerit points automatically result in an increase in your insurance rate. This is not the case. While there are many traffic violations with demerit points that could result in an increase in your premiums, there are also some that do not.

The insurance industry categorizes traffic violations into minor, major, and serious violations. Minor violations do not typically result in premium increases. Major and serious violations, by contrast, usually entail some increase. Serious violations like careless driving can earn you upwards of 6 demerit points and a 100% increase in your insurance premiums; minor violations like turning left improperly can result in 2 demerit points.

What's important to note is that a violation such as turning left improperly, which results in demerit points, does not usually result in an increase in premiums. That's right: a traffic violation that earns you demerit points may not mean your insurance will increase.

That being said, it should be noted that driving safely is always in your best interests. Financially, a safe record means you'll be paying the lowest possible premiums. More importantly, however, you will be doing your upmost to keep those around you --and yourself-- as safe as possible. In the end, that's what's most important.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Protecting Your Home and Family From Wildfires

Photocredit: John McColgan/USDA
During the summer months, wildfires rage through parts of Canada, invariably destroying large swaths of land and rural communities. While there is not much you can do if your home is caught in the centre of a wildfire, you can take measures to protect your home.

Property tips
  • Invest in fire-resistant Class A rated roofing materials to ensure that your roof will not catch fire.
  • Use tempered glass when installing windows; regular kinds of glass can easily crack under intense heat.
  • Keep your lawn and surrounding areas free of flammable material and make sure your firewood is kept far from your home.
  • Reduce the density of trees around your home and plant new trees sparsely, to slow the advance of a potential wildfire. 
Emergency preparation 
  • Make sure to have fire extinguishers around the house, and be sure your family understands how to use them.
  • Maintain your smoke alarms regularly: check batteries frequently and replace them as needed.
  • Prepare an escape plan and make sure every member of your family knows it by heart.
Keep in mind that in the event of a wildfire, follow the instructions of emergency personnel. If it is deemed to be in your best interest to leave your premises altogether, it is a wise idea to take their advice seriously.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Keeping Your Business Accident Free

As a business owner, you are concerned with providing your customers with the best possible service. You never want to have a dissatisfied customer, and you certainly don't want someone to hurt themselves on your property. While you may have Liability Insurance to cover you in the event that someone sues you, it's much better practice to simply maintain a safe working environment. It will save you money in the long-run and more importantly, will prevent a customer from harming themselves at your place of business.

Protect customers from slips and falls
One of the most common reasons for suing a business is that someone slips or falls and incurs serious medical expenses. To protect your customers, be sure to keep your premises clean and free of slippery areas.

  • If someone has mopped the floor, be sure to have a sign placed nearby that clearly informs customers that there is a risk of slipping. Put the sign in the middle of the area to ensure that customers see the sign before passing the affected area. 
  • Secure rugs and mats so that flipped up corners don't trip somebody. 
  • Have a schedule of snow removal in winter months that ensures customers won't fall on an icy sidewalk. 
  • As a manager, maintain an ethic and culture of safety at your place of work. Rewards for following and enforcing general safety practices will help to ensure that your employees take an active role in keeping your workplace safe. 
  • If you have a staircase, be sure that your railings are firmly attached and that there are no broken steps. 
  • If there is a parking lot, fix all potholes quickly.
  • In general, think about your business as if it were your home: would you be comfortable with your children being at your place of business? 
Prepare for the worst
  • Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Keep First Aid kits handy and, if possible, have your employees trained in First Aid so they know how to use them. 
  • Most importantly, be sure you have a Liability Insurance plan. It is a must-have for businesses. Medical and legal costs can very easily soar into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it's simply not worth the risk to go without. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

How to Prevent Flooding in Your Basement

Basement flooding can be disastrous.
Photo: Marvin Nauman/FEMA
Flooding, be it natural in origin or the result of sewage and drain backups, can be one of the most difficult problems to deal with as a homeowner. Not only can it cost you thousands of dollars in repairs, but it's an awful situation to be in: you may have to leave your home while it's being fixed, and valuable items in your basement could be destroyed. Since a lot of people store files and old home videos in the basement, it's important to take measures to protect yourself from such an event. 

Keep the gutters clean
  • Be sure to clean your gutters at least twice a year. Grab the ladder and do the whole house in an afternoon. Leaves and other debris can cause the water to overflow the gutter and drain down into the basement, causing flooding. 
  • Make sure your downspouts direct the water at least 3 metres from your home. This will ensure that water doesn't drain into the basement. 

Invest in a backflow valve and sump pump
  • Backflow valves (also known as check valves) allow sewage to exit the home through the sewage pipes, but stops sewage from going the other way. When sewage is forced back into your house, which would normally cause a sewage backup, a flap closes and prevents it from doing so. 
  • To prevent rain water from flooding your basement, a sump pump is a highly effective solution. Excess rain water is pumped safely away from the house, stopping you from being inundated. 
  • Be sure to check with your municipality first, since these kinds of installations often require a permit. 

Take preventative measures
  • If you live in a flood-prone area, keep your valuables off the floor. Instead of storing your old photo albums in a box on the ground, install a shelf so that in the event that you're overwhelmed with flood water, your most priceless memories will be safe. 
  • Finally, you can elevate your furniture with shims and casters, to give yourself a little bit of time before your couches and chairs are destroyed.  

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Importance of Keeping a Home Inventory

One of the most important things to do as a homeowner is keep an accurate inventory of your home's contents. This ensures that in the event of a fire, flood or burglary, you will have a verifiable list which proves to an insurance company that you owned a particular item. For instance, if you recently purchased a home theatre system, keep the receipt and include it in a home inventory; this will make any future claim much easier.

Make lists
One of the first things you should do when buying a new home is to create an inventory of all the important valuables you own (with serial numbers where applicable) along with a copy of the accompanying receipts. List all of the rooms in your home, and write out the important items within each room. These items could include antiques, jewelry, electronics, art, tools, instruments and other items. Keep the inventory, receipts and serial numbers in a secure place away from the home.

Video tour and photos
To supplement your inventory, take your videocamera for a tour of the home and show off important items. Go room by room, showing items clearly for the camera. If you can show their serial number, that will provide additional verification to the serial numbers in the inventory.

Keep appraisals up-to-date
For valuables that need to be appraised, be sure to have your appraisals up to date. You will  usually only be reimbursed for the appraised value of an antique or other valuable item. This means that if an item appreciates in value before you make a claim, you may not be able to claim the true value of the item.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Exposed Door Hinges and Home and Commercial Security

Most doors are installed in such a way that they swing open inside. This means that the hinge remains hidden when closed, concealing the hinge pins from would-be thieves. Many garages and sheds, however, have doors that open outward, meaning that it only takes a few seconds to remove the hinge pins and take out the door without tampering with the lock. Rather than reinstalling the entire door, a number of quick additions can be made to make sure the exposed hinge pins remain where they are.

Crimped pins
One of the simplest and most effective forms of protecting your hinge pins is to replace them with crimped pins. Crimped pins are longer than the hinge and are crimped at the end so that they can't be removed. Unfortunately, you won't easily be able to remove the door if you need to!

Safety studs
Safety studs provide an alternate protection against would-be thieves. Small studs are installed on one side of hinge, fitting perfectly into a gap in the other side. When the door is closed, the stud and gap lock together, ensuring that even if your hinge pin is replaced your door will not move.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Cheap Car Insurance: How to Save on Your Premiums

In the age of the internet, finding cheap car insurance is easier than ever. Taking an hour to get free quotes online could save you thousands of dollars on your car insurance. Furthermore, once you have a policy there are many ways to reduce your premiums.

Shop around
If there's one thing that will save you money on your car insurance, it's getting as many free quotes as possible. On the Sharp Insurance website, for instance, it only takes a minute or two to get a free quote. Insurance companies have different formulas for calculating risk and so you may find that quotes may vary dramatically from company to company. It is therefore in your best interest to get as many quotes as possible.

Think before you buy
If you're in the market for a vehicle, be sure to do some research about how much your car will cost to insure. Some cars cost considerably more than others to insure. Honda Civics, for instance, are notorious for being thief magnets, and some SUVs are known to roll over easily. Check out this article for the ten least expensive cars to insure in Canada.

Drive safe and save
Driving safely is not only in the best interests of your health, and the health of those around you, but it will save you a ton of cash as well. Your driving record is the single most important factor in determining your premiums; a clean driving record maintained over many years is your ticket to cheap car insurance. Consider that an increase in your premiums of $100 a month, a few dollars a day, will end up costing you $12,000 over a decade! That's enough to buy you a decent car!

Take a driving course
Individuals who take a driving course will see immediate savings on their insurance premiums. It shows the insurance company that you're serious about safe driving and that you have some defensive skills under your belt. It will also mean that you're not a danger to those around you on the road.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Frequently Asked Insurance Questions

At Sharp, we love nothing more than to have customers ask us questions about insurance! We are passionate about what we do (some might say we're insurance nerds!) and are thrilled to answer any and all questions about policies, premiums and insurance in general. Here are our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we receive.

Why do I need insurance? 
Insurance can be expensive; we get that. Over a lifetime, you spend a great deal of money on insurance and it's easy to question why people who are responsible drivers, homeowners and businessowners need to buy insurance. Unfortunately, life is full of uncertainty. The most defensive driver can lose vigilance for a moment and cause an accident. The most careful homeowner can still encounter a flood or a fire. A businessowner with state-of-the-art security gadgets and alarm systems can still be robbed by tech-saavy thieves. Insurance allows you to pay relatively small monthly payments in the event that tragedy strikes and you are forced to foot a bill in the thousands --or even millions-- of dollars.

If someone borrows my vehicle and gets in an accident, will my premiums go up? 
When someone is driving your car, it's essentially as if you're driving it. In one sense this a good thing because your insurance will cover damages and allow you to make a claim as if you were driving. In another sense, this also means that your premiums could go up. This is often a matter left to the discretion of your insurance company, who will decide if your decision to lend the vehicle to someone who got in an accident means you're a greater risk.

If I increase the deductible on my home insurance policy, will my premiums be cheaper? 
Yes. One of the best ways to reduce the cost of your premiums is to increase the price of your deductible. Remember, though, that increasing your deductible means that it will cost you more to make a claim. If you're fairly certain that you won't need to make a claim, then it is to your economic advantage to increase your deductible.

If you have any further questions, be sure to contact the insurance experts at Sharp. We're more than willing to answer them!