Dog Bite Claims on the Rise

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 1, 2012 under Claims | Be the First to Comment

Dog bite claims increased 16 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and have grown close to 48 percent since 2003, according to figures released by the insurance industry.

On the eve of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. released figures indicating that dog bites are costing the insurance industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

I.I.I. says that, in 2011, dog bite claims amounted to close to $479 million with a total of 16,292 claims filed.

I.I.I. says the increase can be attributed to “increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years.”

According to Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm, the company paid more than $109 million in claims resulting from 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011.

California was number one on State Farm’s list for dog bite claims and money paid out, with 527 claims for an estimated $20 million. Illinois was second with 309 claims and $10 million.

In conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs May 20-26, the U.S. Postal Service released its list of the top 25 dog-attack city rankings.

Los Angeles was number one with 83 attacks, followed by San Diego with 68 and Houston with 47.

The Postal Service says that, nationwide, there were more than 5,577 postal workers attacked in 1,400 cities. The attacks on workers cost the Postal Service close to $1.2 million last year.

According to the center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 4.7 million people bitten by a dog each year and 800,000 seek medical attention for their bites. Of those bitten, more than half are children.

As part of a campaign, the participants in National Dog Bite Prevention Week have issued a series of tips to reduce the risk of dog bites.

Among the steps:
•Socialize your dog so it know how to act with other people and animals.
•Discouraging children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
•Avoid exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
•Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.

By Mark E. Ruquet,

Distracted Driving

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 7, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle crashes. That is more than 1.5 million collisions a year and 4,300 crashes daily, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Text messaging, changing radio stations, even turning around to talk to passengers can prove deadly.
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Data Show Risk Highest for New Motorcycle Riders

Posted by Benji Riggins on April 20, 2012 under Motorcycle Insurance | Be the First to Comment

Jeff Foley got a motorcycle for his 40th birthday last year followed by the weekend training course that gave him a New York license. Within the first few months, the 450-pound, low-slung cruising bike fell over twice while he was riding.
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Poll: Most U.S. Adults Support Banning Cellphone Use While Driving

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 27, 2012 under Safety | Read the First Comment

Most U.S. adults support a nationwide ban on the use of cellphones while driving, according to a new IBOPE Zogby poll.

The poll of 2,099 adults finds that 64 percent support the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation for a nationwide ban on the non-emergency use of personal-electronic devices while driving, with 41 percent saying they “strongly agree” with the recommendation.

Twenty-two percent of respondents say they strongly disagree.

The poll comes days after several risk managers told NU Online News Service that they would support such a ban.

The American Insurance Association has also said it supports the NTSB’s recommendation.

However, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Dec. 22 that he would not back a nationwide ban, saying he supports using hands-free devices while driving instead.

The IBOPE Zogby poll shows more women than men strongly support a ban (49 percent of women versus 31 percent of men).

Adults 65 and older are also more likely to strongly support a ban (58 percent) than younger adults (34 percent for both the 18-29 and 30-49 age groups).

Broken down by political affiliation, 59 percent of adults identifying themselves as Democrats strongly support a ban compared to just 33 percent of independents and 27 percent of Republicans.

Commenting on the poll, Daniel DeVries, IBOPE Zogby communications and media manager, says, “I think the numbers show some strong support almost universally, with the only major variations really appearing when it comes to age. Unsurprisingly, young people who grew up in a time of widespread cell use are more likely to disagree with the NTSB recommendation.”

NU Online News Service

Highway Safety Institute Lists a Record Number of Top Safety Picks

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 23, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced winning vehicles for this year’s Top Safety Pick. Good news for drivers: at 115, the number of winners is greater than ever this year.

The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations.

Specifically, frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. In the roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against a side of a roof at a displacement rate of 0.2 inch per second. Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure, with starting points measuring the head restraint geometry. Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested using a dummy that measures forces on the neck.

The ratings, which cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes, are designed to help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection.

In all, 69 cars, 38 SUVs, 5 minivans, and 3 pickups were recognized. The winners’ circle includes 18 new recipients for 2012, while 97 models that previously qualified for the 2011 award carry over to 2012.

“For the second year running a record number of models qualify,” said Institute president Adrian Lund. “It’s tough to win, and we commend auto manufacturers for making safety a top priority.”

Again this year every major automaker has at least one winner. Subaru remains the only manufacturer with the distinction of earning awards for every model it builds. Subaru picked up 5 awards, including one for the redesigned Impreza, a small car.

Toyota/Lexus/Scion has 15 winners for 2012, more than any other auto manufacturer. General Motors is next in line with 14, followed by Volkswagen/Audi with 13, and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura with 12 awards apiece.

The full list can be found at:

Study Shows Texting While Driving Leads to Increased Insurance Rates

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 21, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Online auto insurance quotes provider released a study which reveals that insurance rates are rising due to the increase in texting while driving. The study found that both texting while driving traffic citations and cell phone related accidents can cause monthly premiums to go up.

As part of the study, found that fatal traffic accidents caused by drivers distracted by their cell phones have almost doubled since 2005. According to the company, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that distracted driving accidents saw a marked increase in 2008, when texting found its way into the mainstream. The following year, distracted drivers were at fault in 24,000 injury accidents and caused 1,000 fatalities.

When conducting this study, the company found that those who text and drive place themselves and others in danger due to three specific factors. First, drivers are visually distracted, as they remove their eyes from the road in order to read incoming texts. Secondly, drivers are cognitively distracted, as they are thinking about the content of the text message rather than their surroundings. Lastly, drivers are limited in their ability to drive safely and to react quickly when they remove their hands from the wheel.

Though the risks of texting and driving are apparent, many drivers admit to continuing with this practice. During the study, learned that nearly 10 percent of the driving population in the United States text and drive on a regular basis. According to the CDC, drivers who fall between the ages of 18 to 29 admit to texting while behind the wheel at least once per month, while a full 25 percent of those in that age group state that they habitually text and drive.

The study found that because of the high incidence of accidents caused by distracted drivers, as many as 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam have enforced strict regulations related to texting and driving. In many states, it is now illegal for drivers to text while behind the wheel and law enforcement officials may cite any driver that is visibly seen conducting this practice. In some states, law enforcement agents may stop drivers who are texting even if no other offenses are being committed.

Because texting and driving causes serious accidents every year, being issued a ticket for this offense can cause the driver to be viewed as an insurance risk. Thus, the monthly premium can escalate very quickly. has learned that the insurance industry is not only raising premiums for those drivers who text behind the wheel, but the industry as a whole is attempting to curb the practice altogether. The industry suggests blocking text messaging services while driving by installing text-blocking apps on phones or installing sensor devices in cars that block signals on cell phones.

Read the full story at


(c) 2012 PRWEB.COM Newswire


PR Web

The Safest Cars for Teen Drivers

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 15, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

When I started driving six months before turning 16 years old — with a learner’s permit — I was terrified of the roadways.

Remember that scene in Clueless when Dionne accidentally exits onto the freeway and she, Cher, and Murray freak out? That was me. In fact, until I was about 19 years old, I had to turn off the radio when merging into moving traffic, and for the first year I avoided highways all together.

It didn’t help that I owned a beater of a car — and that’s an understatement. This vehicle was so terrible that one of my best friend’s fathers refused to let her in it. And in hindsight, I don’t blame him. It looked like it might break down or blow up at any minute. Eventually it did — break down, that is. Luckily it was in my own neighborhood, so I did what any self-respecting teen boy would do in that situation — I called my dad to pick me up and left the car where it died for someone else to scavenge.

So your kid doesn’t suffer the same fate, conduct research into a vehicle’s safety before you buy. I know that not everyone can afford a new car or even a great used car when their kid reaches driving age, but safety is never a poor investment.

To help you make the most informed decision, I’ve asked a few experts for their insight on how to choose the safest car for your new driver. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: Overall, what’s the safest type of car for teens?

A: “Teens are safest in a mid-sized, four-door sedan with four cylinders. This type of vehicle does not have too much power, but still allows the inexperienced driver to maneuver safely through traffic,” says LeeAnn Shattuck, co-owner of Women’s Automotive Solutions, a consulting firm that helps women (and men) buy cars. “It’s big enough to protect them sufficiently in an accident, but not so big that it is difficult to control. They also can’t stuff too many of their friends into a mid-sized sedan, which can be a significant distraction for teens. My insurance agent partners all say that this type of vehicle is also the cheapest to insure for a teen.”

Q: What about SUVs? They seem safe, especially since there’s a higher center of gravity. Are they good for teen drivers?

A: “Many parents think their teen is safest in an SUV because it will protect them in an accident,” Shattuck says. “But statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that teens are more likely to get into an accident in an SUV (vs. a sedan) because those larger vehicles (with a higher center of gravity) are much more difficult to control if they have to take evasive action. Because the SUVs also tend to cause more damage in an accident, insurance rates are higher.”

Q: Besides safety in accidents, what are some other concerns parents should think about when buying a car for the teen?

A: “I advise parents to avoid Hondas for their teens, especially for teen girls, since Honda Civics and Accords are the most stolen cars in America. You don’t want your 16-year-old daughter getting car jacked on her way home from soccer practice or work,” says Shattuck. “I tend to steer parents more towards the Toyota Camry or even Corolla, the Nissans, and the Hyundais. Even the Ford Focus or Fusion (or an older Taurus) are safe and reasonably reliable. If they really want an SUV (to be higher up for better visibility), I highly recommend the Ford Escape. It’s a decently reliable little SUV, easy to drive, used ones are in the $6,000 to $10,000 range, and they have relatively low maintenance costs.

Q: What are the benefits of a used car over a new car?

A: “Buying used for a young driver makes more sense than buying new since overall vehicle costs on used cars are typically lower,” says Max Katsarelas, marketing strategist for Mojo Motors. “Plus, with the rapid depreciation of a new car once it drives off the lot, buying used can save some major coin, especially when considering the accident rate of young drivers. Auto repair costs for young drivers total about $19 billion, so buying a new car doesn’t make financial sense when taking into consideration the resale value after an accident. Since a vehicle’s crash history can be seen with a Carfax report and any sign of an accident, even ‘fender benders’ drop a vehicle’s resale value considerably. Ultimately, the best bet for parents looking at cars for young drivers should buy used. For example, a new 2012 Ford Focus starts at around $18,000. A gently used 2008 Ford Focus with under 60,000 miles can be had for under $10,000. Both boast the highest safety rating, ‘Good’ from IIHS, but a used Focus can cost up to $10,000 less.

Q. If parents want to buy their new driver a new car for under $15,000, what are some of the best options?

A: Money Crashers recently compiled a list of the “10 Best Affordable Cars for College Students.” Of course, the choices are great for teen drivers in high school, too, since their parents are likely covering at least part of the vehicle’s cost. As it turns out, most of the cars on the list, as mentioned by the experts, are four-door sedans with modest sticker prices and a history of safety. While these selections and prices are based on new cars, feel free to use this guide to help identify economical used cars with good safety ratings.

Written by Mikey Rox and published on Wise Bread.

Consumer Group Publishes ‘Insiders’ Advice’ on Filing Auto Claims

Posted by Benji Riggins on March 13, 2012 under Claims | Be the First to Comment

The Consumer Federation of America, a Washington, D.C.-based group whose insurance division is directed by consumer advocate J. Robert Hunter, recently published a guide with “insiders’ advice” on filing a successful auto insurance claim, collecting a fair settlement, and dealing with adjusters.

The guide says many people are intimidated when they file an auto insurance claim, because they have never done it before or are worried about getting less than they deserve for personal injuries or damages to their car.

“You should report the loss to the insurer as soon as possible. Your insurer cannot begin the claims’ payment process until you do so,” the guide says. It adds, “It is your choice — not the insurer’s — as to where your vehicle is repaired.”

And when trying to get the insurer to address the insured’s concern, “aim higher up the company’s ‘food chain’ than the adjuster’s supervisor if you want to get your problem resolved.”

“The last thing a local or regional claims’ office wants is a call from the home office about a complaint,” the guide says. “They are evaluated based on how they resolve the complaint, which means that they’ll work hard to resolve the complaint as quickly as possible.”

It also advises the insured to “file a complaint with your state insurance department.” It says that “While the department may not help resolve your complaint, they will pass it on to the insurer. Most companies treat these complaints seriously.”

The full report, “Guide to Navigating the Auto Claims’ Maze,” can be found at Consumer Federation of America’s website.

By Young Ha |

The Problem with Tired Tires

Posted by Benji Riggins on February 16, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Addressing Lax Regulations and Auto Accident Liability

Back in the day, tires typically would wear out before they got too old. Thinning treads is the consumer indicator that a tire needed to be replaced and, 30 to 40 years ago, that was probably around the 20 to 30,000-mile usage marker.

Nowadays, tires are more durable and can last upwards of 60 to 100,000 miles. The downside, however, is consumers are unaware that steel-belted radial ply tires, despite their toughness, face aging challenges because they are made of rubber, a product that oxidizes and hardens over time.

Older tires are vulnerable to catastrophic failures since excessive brittleness from oxidation can trigger tread and belt separations. Should those tires be attached to vehicles that travel roads in hot, dry climates, then those tires will deteriorate even faster.

The challenge with aging tires is they can hide their decrepitude, unlike a mature actor relying on injectables and plastic surgery for youthfulness. Unused new tires may be stored for years before installation and look pristine, but climate, handling, and storage can exact a toll indiscernible to visual examination.

William J. Woehrle, tire group leader at Peter R. Thom and Associates Inc. and a 45-year tire industry veteran, describes the impact of current tire use and purchase habits on the problem of aging tires:

“The used tire market in online venues like eBay is thriving in part because of a resale trade in full-sized spare tires that have been salvaged and sold as new or nearly new,” he explains. “Unfortunately, these ‘forgotten’ tires probably have been mounted, inflated, and stowed in vehicles and almost certainly never rotated into service. Instead, the spare tire’s inflation pressure has been slowly oxidizing the internal rubber between the belts and increasing the tire’s susceptibility to tread and belt separations—diffusing air through the tire at a monthly rate of one to two PSI.”

Currently, there is no U.S. industry standard for when tires should be removed from service. To compound matters, manufacturers do not plan to stamp expiration dates on their wares. European countries recommend 6 years of usage. In contrast, U.S. tire manufacturers either do not offer guidance as to tire shelf life or simply suggest removal or regular inspections of 6 to 10-year-old tires. As long as a tire does not show signs of checking or cracking (the only visual traces of tire aging) and was kept in climate-controlled storage, then it may be okay to use despite its age.

Enterprising policyholders can, however, decipher a date code marked on the tire’s sidewall to determine a tire’s age. That date code is contained within the tire’s serial number and is commonly imprinted on the inward-facing side of the tire, but chances are the figures noted will be somewhat cryptic. Unfortunately, as many retail tire shop employees do not know how to read date codes, consumer ignorance is not altogether unexpected as well.

Gregory J. Quan is a Managing Engineer at Peter R. Thom and Associates Inc., a national firm of consulting automotive engineers. He can be reached at (800) 874-1664 ;

Record Number of Disasters in 2011 Reinforces Need for Preparedness, Says IBHS

Posted by Benji Riggins on February 6, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Disasters demonstrate the need for home and business owners to evaluate their risk of damage and take steps to reduce that risk ahead of time.

The record number of natural disasters in the U.S. this year demonstrates the need for home and business owners to evaluate their risk of damage and take steps to reduce that risk ahead of time, says the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

The federal government has declared 86 major disasters so far in 2011, surpassing the previous annual record of 81 last year. “No matter where you are located, you are at risk for one or more natural hazards that could significantly damage or destroy your home or business,” said Julie Rochman, president & CEO, IBHS. “A complete evaluation of how best to protect your specific property starts with knowing and understanding the type(s) of risks that may affect your area.”

To that end, IBHS provides a free ZIP Code-based tool on their public website at When a property owner enters their ZIP Code, a list of natural hazards common to the area is shown.

Once a property owner has identified the risks they may face, the next step is to determine their home or commercial building’s specific vulnerability. Then, they can use IBHS guidance to learn how to reduce the risk of damage or destruction. “There are many strategies a home or business owner can employ to prevent or greatly lessen the risk of property damage due to a natural disaster,” Rochman said. “Some of these protections come at a cost, but many of them are low- or no-cost options that require nothing more than a bit of effort on the part of the property owner.”

For example, to reduce a property’s vulnerability to wildfire, firewood and other highly combustible materials should not be located close to a home or business. This no-cost solution involves moving firewood and leftover building materials, as well as items such as wheelbarrows containing these materials, at least 30 feet from any structure.

Another example is to inspect the exterior walls of your property for gaps around pipes where they enter the walls. Also check for any gaps around electrical outlet boxes, junction boxes, circuit breaker boxes, disconnect switches and electric meters. Seal any gaps found with waterproof caulk. This will help prevent wind-driven water, such as the heavy rains that often accompany hurricanes and thunderstorms – as well as winter sleet and snow – from entering your building.

“These are just two examples of many low- or no-cost ways to reduce the risk of disaster-related property damage,” Rochman said. “IBHS’ website – – provides home and business owners with free, step-by-step instructions and information on dozens of projects that will help your protect property.”

To arrange an interview with IBHS, contact Joseph King at 813-675-1045/813-442-2845, or via direct message on Twitter @jsalking.