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5 Surprising Household Hazards

We know you do everything you can to keep your house safe, especially if you have small children or adventurous pets. You’ve tied up the drawstrings on your blinds, placed non-slip grips on the shower floor, secured your cleaning liquids in an upper cabinet, and changed the batteries in the smoke detector, so everything checks out as safe, right? Well, not necessarily.

There will always be hazards anywhere you go, so home will never be completely safe, but here are a few common household hazards that are easy to miss, and easy to fix.

Trash Cans

A trash can that closes well is important to keep curious noses and little hands from digging into rubbish that could contain a multitude of hazards. Items like broken glass, toxic substances, and spoiled food can still pose a threat, even after they’re in the trash can. So, forego the cheap flip lids and purchase a lid that closes well enough to keep kids and dogs away.

Broken Garage Door

Electronic garage doors are made to sense objects (or people!) underneath them and retract to keep injuries from occurring. Like all electronic things, garage doors experience malfunctions and breakdowns which, in this case, can be harmful or even deadly. If your garage door starts acting funny or experiences some damage, call a professional to come service it for you – an important fix of this magnitude shouldn’t be left up to instructions from the internet.

Window Screens

You want to throw those windows open with abandon because the weather outside is irresistable! We get it, but don’t think that a child is safe just because the window has a screen. The small, transparent frame that keeps bugs from getting in isn’t enough to catch the weight of a falling or pushing person, so make sure the windows on your upper floors have bars! At least until the kids get older.

Treadmills

Treadmills can easily be one of the most dangerous items in your house for both children and adults if they aren’t operated with care. Falls on a treadmill can result in traction burns, broken bones, pinched skin and snagged clothing, and more. Every treadmill should come with an attached safety magnet to be worn during workouts. Make sure every user wears the clip, and turn on the safety switch or unplug the treadmill when it isn’t in use.

Electronic Appliances

From blow dryers to microwaves, electronic appliances have the ability to malfunction and cause fires or electrocution. Always pay attention to any unusual display messages on your appliances, and carefully follow instructions for proper use. If you know you’ll be running many outlets at once, invest in a surge protector to protect you and your other appliances.

And Don’t Forget Home Insurance

No matter what happens in your house, a good home insurance policy with liability coverage will always have your back. Independent agents have the ability to shop multiple carriers for good policies that fit your unique risks and budget! So, if you don’t have your home insurance policy yet, get in touch with your independent agent to find the right coverage for you.

How to Handle a Parking Lot Accident

Parking lots are considered one of the most dangerous places to drive for a reason. With limited visibility, crowded spaces, and mediocre signage, parking lots are hot spots for fender benders on a daily basis. When an accident happens in a parking lot, there are typically three characters who have an important role to play in resolving the wreck quickly and calmly: the driver, the victim, and the witness. Here, we break down what you should do in this situation according to your role:

If You Are the Driver

As the offending driver, there are several scenarios you can find yourself in here. The number one thing to remember is, no matter what, don’t drive off! You may be panicking and thinking you can get away with it, but hit-and-runs are pretty serious offenses in most states, and parking lot surveillance cameras are more common than you’d think.

If the car was parked, go inside the establishment and try to track down the driver. The best way to do this is to get a customer service representative to describe the victim’s car and make an announcement over the intercom. If the driver doesn’t appear, it’s time to take all the matters into your own hands. If the damage to the car is as minor as a scratch or small dent, write a note that includes your name, number, and explanation of the accident and secure it onto the other driver’s car. If the damage is more extensive, call the police to come document the accident in the parking lot. This professional documentation helps police track down the other driver, and it can protect you in the long run when it’s time to file an insurance claim.

If You’re the Victim

If your car is the one that got hit, it is important to contact your auto insurance agent as soon as you can. The faster an accident is reported, the more accurate the claim will be. If the other driver is still at the scene, make sure you write down their name, phone number, driver’s license number, address, and insurance company.

Whether the other driver is still there or not, record evidence of the accident. Take pictures of the damage and look for witnesses in the parking lot. Before you leave, go into the store and ask the manager if he or she has any security camera footage you can check. If the other driver left, this last step can help you and the police track them down!

If You’re a Witness

As a witness, you may feel like you aren’t involved in the accident, but you actually play a very important role here. If you see a parking lot accident happen, you should provide assistance to the victim and driver. If the offending driver drove away, then help the other driver document the damage. Also provide them with your contact information so the police or insurance company can contact you later if needed. Having a witness on hand can really help the victim later on. It isn’t against the law to turn your head and not help out, but it is the right thing to do and a generally accepted social rule to stop and help if you witness an accident.

Will My Home Insurance Policy Cover My Dog’s Breed?

As dog owners, we love our furry little companions more than anything. Unfortunately, some insurance companies don’t if your pooch falls under certain breed categories. There are a number of breeds that many insurance companies are hesitant to offer coverage for because statistics show that they are more likely to bite and cause injuries. This, of course, can cause problems when it comes time to buy home insurance. Be prepared to work with an independent agent who can shop multiple carriers if you own a full-breed or mix of one of these breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Rottweilers
  3. Doberman Pinschers
  4. Great Danes
  5. Perro de Presa Canarios
  6. Chow Chows
  7. German Shepherds
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malamutes
  10. Siberian Husky
  11. Bull Mastiffs
  12. Wolf Hybrids

What to Keep In Mind

The average claim payout for dog bites is $30,000. If you’re found responsible for rehabilitation costs and/or lost wages, not to mention your legal fees, you could quickly find yourself in a lot of financial trouble. Your homeowners policy should include liability coverage, typically starting somewhere around $100,000. If you own a dog that made it on this list, ask your provider how much more it would cost to upgrade that amount to $200,000 or more.

On that same note, some carriers may require you to purchase an umbrella policy if your dog is labeled as an aggressive breed or has a bite history. Whether it is required or not, you may want to consider this additional policy because it raises your liability coverage close to the $1 million mark. Plus, it could come in handy for any incident that occurs on your property, not just dog bites.

Prevention

Every dog is a liability, regardless of its breed. Reduce the likelihood of a dog-related lawsuit by socializing & training your dog early on, playing non-aggressive games, and being aware of your dog’s behavior and removing it from situations it finds stressful. As always, make sure to spay/neuter your dog, heavily supervise it around small children, and keep it securely fenced or on a leash when outside.

If you own one of these breeds, it may be more difficult to procure home insurance, especially at a good rate. If you’re in the market for a new home right now, contact Langlois Insurance Agency at #815-485-2106 to get ahead of the curve and find a company that will insure your home (and your pup) at an affordable rate. We always love to hear from our customers!

All the best,

Matt Langlois

How Can Your Business Be Prepared for a Fire?

A fire at your business might seem improbable, but it is not impossible. Hopefully, you’ve insured your equipment and space, but even so a fire can be a major setback and, even worse, can seriously endanger everyone present. Fire prevention and safety should be practiced and encouraged in the workplace, and there are specific measures that can be taken for everyone’s safety. It is vital that everyone in the workplace is familiar with your fire plan, and there is equipment that every business should have handy.

What is your fire plan?

While the equipment and materials in your business may be costly, nothing is more important than everyone’s individual safety. That means that your first priority should be educating each employee in fire safety and devise an escape plan in the event of a fire. Any decent sized building should have an evacuation plan displayed for everyone to see. Of course, never include elevators in these plans.

Several local governments can arrange for a fire marshall to visit your business and instruct everyone. Sometimes, if a marshall cannot visit, a building’s property manager can assess the structure and inform everyone of the best ways to escape in the event of a fire.

Equipment

Almost every fire code that you’ll ever be subjected to will require at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your business. It’s never a bad idea to have more though, since they can put out small fires quickly and save valuable equipment from being damaged. Fire blankets are not always required, but having one on hand could save someone’s life.

Most laws will also demand that you have a sprinkler system and smoke detectors in place. Make sure to test the batteries in your smoke detectors routinely, since they can be your first indication of danger. In some scenarios, particle detectors capable of alerting you of other chemicals may be a wise investment. Lastly, having a first-aid kit in a known location, like the kitchen, can be instrumental in treating any injuries caused in a small fire.

Training

The correct response to a fire is the best way to combat it. Make sure your employees know to call 911 in case of a fire and remain calm. At least one fire drill should be conducted each year, just to be positive that everyone knows how to exit the building properly.

If there are no employees trained in first aid, then hosting a workshop or class could prove valuable. When going over fire safety, teach everyone how to operate a fire extinguisher. Lastly, make sure that all of your employees know how to deal with different types of fires, such as grease and electrical fires.

Fires are unpredictable and can cause a lot of damage, so being ready to prevent or handle one can save lives and money. For more tips and advice, contact one of our agents. If you aren’t insured in case of a fire, we can help with that as well. Preparation is key to fire safety!

Smoke Detector Best Practices

Every homeowner knows that smoke detectors are crucial, but do we really utilize them to the fullest degree?

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms. This number is drastically lower than the number of deaths caused by home fires before smoke alarms were required in every home, but it is still too high considering the advanced technology we have to prevent fire deaths today!

Keep reading to learn some basic tips about smoke alarm usage and routines to keep your home safe for years to come.

Place Smoke Detectors Strategically

Unsurprisingly, most deadly house fires occur when everyone is asleep. If your family sleeps behind closed doors, it is important to install a separate smoke alarm in every bedroom. This ensures that no one sleeps through the sound of more distant alarms or the smell of smoke. If anyone in your family is hard of hearing, you should install alarms that also flash bright light so they can be alerted visually.

To avoid nuisance alarms from normal smoke and steam, don’t install the detector in close proximity to your stove or your bathroom. At the same time, avoid placing them by windows, doors, and air ducts, which can keep hem too ventilated and interfere with their operation. Depending on how much control you have over the installation process, opt for interconnected fire alarms that trigger the entire network to go off when one sensor is triggered.

Keep A Maintenance Schedule

If we said that checking our smoke detectors was easy to remember in our busy day-to-day lives, we’d be lying. That’s why it’s best to make it easy for yourself and just set a reminder on your mobile device reminding you to test your alarm system once a month just to make sure everything is in working order.

Batteries in your smoke detector need to be changed once per year. This not only ensures that your alarm should always have battery power, but it will prevent the dreaded “chirping” noise that comes when smoke detectors have dying batteries.

Every 10 years, the smoke alarms themselves should be replaced. An easy way to keep track of this is to keep a sticker on the back of the battery cover with the replacement date written on it, so you’re reminded each month of when you’ll need to replace your smoke detectors.

Make A Fire Escape Plan

Have you developed and practiced a home fire escape plan with your family? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t – only 26% of families have, according to the American Red Cross. Regardless, this is an important tip to take from the home fire prevention experts. All a smoke detector does is alert you to the presence of a fire. From there, it is up to you to get out of your home safely. Panic can seriously impede safety measures and waste precious minutes in an emergency, so it is imperative for your family to have a plan in place and know exactly what to do if your home catches fire.

Potentially Save on Home Insurance

Some types of smoke detectors can reduce your home insurance premium cost. This mostly applies to central monitoring systems that connect to emergency services and alert the authorities when the system is triggered. These are particularly useful for homeowners who travel a lot, but they are a great safety option for anyone to have. However, these systems cost more than the average smoke detector. Ask your independent agent if a home insurance discount could help offset the cost of a central monitoring system!

How to Lower Your Teen’s Auto Premiums

Giving your teenagers spending money already hurts your wallet, but just wait until they start driving and you have to pay for insurance every month. New drivers are the most accident-prone demographic in terms of driving, and insurers know that. Since teenagers are four times as likely to crash as an adult driver, their rates are incredibly high. Even with a clean record, it will cost several hundred dollars at the least to insure a teenager. Adding them your own insurance policy is certainly more cost effective, but even then, teenagers can still cost you thousands of dollars annually just to drive. Thankfully, there are several discounts available for teenagers that can make premiums more affordable.

Good Student Discounts

If you have a kid in middle school, encourage them to strive for the Honor Roll now. Most insurance agencies will offer a significant discount if your teenager has received good grades in recent years. Typically, as long as your teenager has maintained a B average or better, you can get an academic discount. Some agencies will even allow this discount to continue through college or until they turn 25. It may be up to your teenager to secure this cash saver, but in some cases, their premiums can drop by 25%!

Defensive Driving Courses

If you remember being 16, then you probably remember thinking that you were invincible or a safe enough driver. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes something as extreme as an accident to make new drivers realize the dangers they face on the road. Rather than waiting for a fender bender or worse, enroll your teenager in a safe driving course. Not only can you receive a discount on the insurance, but it may be intense enough to make your teenager reconsider texting while driving.

Safe Vehicles

Unless your teenager really deserves a treat, odds are that their first car will not be a new car. Used cars are cheaper and cost less to insure, but if it’s too old, there may be an issue. It can vary by insurer, but cars made after 1994 or so are generally considered safer, which means that the amount you pay monthly is less. There is, however, a balance in choosing cars. Since newer cars feature cameras for backing up and automatic brakes, they are safer than older cars which means you can possibly get more discounts. It comes down to whether or not you trust your teenager more with a 2003 Camry or a brand new Volkswagen.

As insurance experts, we can help you choose what the best course of action is and what discounts your teen may be able to receive. Contact us today and see how much you can save!

How to Protect Your Home While Traveling

It’s been a long winter and we are all starting to look forward to Spring.  If you are one of the lucky ducks that gets to travel during spring break, it is important to properly protect your home while you are away. Home burglaries, water and fire disasters are not fun to think about, but often do happen when homeowners are gone.  So, in order to fully enjoy your awesome trip that you have planned, we have put together this Traveling Checklist to assist you.

Make it look like someone is at home

With social media updates, it is pretty easy for would-be-burglars to know if someone is away from home. So here are a few tips and tricks to make it look like someone is at your house, even when you are away:

  1. Park a car in your driveway. Make certain, though, to take out all valuable items, key FOB, and garage door opener.  And, make certain that the car door is locked!
  2. Stop all mail and newspapers. If your trip is last minute and can’t do this, have a neighbor grab your mail and newspapers for you.
  3. Look into lawn maintenance while you are away. If it’s the winter, have the driveway & sidewalk shoveled. If it’s in the summer, have someone mow your lawn.
  4. Put a lamp near the window on a timer light so the house isn’t pitch black 24/7 while you are away.

Adjust your thermostat

The worst thing to come home to is burst pipes! So, if you are vacationing in the winter, don’t lower the temperature below 55 degrees. Even though it seems tempting to save a few bucks and turn off the heat while you aren’t home, this could hurt you in the long run and cost you money. Keeping your home warm all winter – even when you’re not at home – prevents pipes from freezing.

Have a friend or family member check on your house

While you are out of town, it is a good idea to have someone keep track of your home. They can alert you – and the authorities, if necessary – of any issues that happen while you are away. They can check for burst pipes, broken windows, etc…

Lock your oven control panel

This is a new one that I just learned from a local restoration company, ServiceMaster. Did you know that there have been house fires from homeowner’s pets jumping on the range and accidentally switching the range on? So, as an added precaution – especially if you are leaving pets home alone – lock the oven and surface burners.

Unplug electronics & appliances

It is a good idea to always unplug all computers, televisions, and any other accessory that won’t be used while you are out of town. This will not only help you reduce your energy consumption, but will also protect these items in case of electrical storm.  It is important to note that you should not refrigerator, automatic timers, sump pump or any of your security systems.

Turn off important water valves

To prevent risk of water damage while you are out of town, locate all your water valves for your dishwasher, sink and washing machine.  Turn them off so that water isn’t able to flow into the pipes.

And, most importantly, have fun on your upcoming vacation!  And, as always, if you have any questions or comments on any of your insurance needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Langlois Insurance Agency.  We always love to hear from our customers!

Warmest Regards,

Matt Langlois

Insurance Checklist for the New Year

I almost feel like we are going into an episode of The Jetson’s as we enter into 2020. And, as an insurance agent, I’m wondering where all of the flying cars and houses on the moon are…

But, on a serious note, the start of a new year is always a great time to reevaluate your insurance needs since your life probably changed during the past year, which may require an updated insurance policy. For example, perhaps you got married, had a baby, purchased a new house and/or car.

So, I always suggest to my insureds that if they did have any life changes, they set up a time to chat with any of us at Langlois Insurance Agency to review your policies to ensure that they meet your current needs. We can help you determine if your coverage is adequate or if changes should be made.

Life Insurance

Life Insurance should be reviewed on a yearly basis. Life inevitably brings changes, such as a births, divorces, remarriages or even a new mortgage or new job. And, all of these are signs that you might need to make changes to your life insurance policy. So, as we enter into 2020, please call me at #815-485-2106 to make certain that your loved ones are properly covered with adequate life insurance.

Homeowners & Rental Insurance

The start of a new year is also a great time to update your home inventory and make sure your homeowners or rental policy is up-to-date.

Here’s a tip that I like to give my insureds – every January, take your video camera and/or phone camera and record all the contents in your home. Take extra care in getting photos or video of your prized possessions. Remember to note valuable antiques, artwork or jewelry so we can help determine if you are properly covered.

Auto Insurance

Have you purchased a new car? Or, have you had any changes to your driving habits? If so, it is important to review this with any of us at Langlois Insurance Agency to ensure your auto policy will cover you in case of an accident.

Health Insurance

You may have recently enrolled or changed your health insurance whether through your employer, Medicare or your state exchange. Make sure you have new insurance cards and paperwork before you visit a doctor. We can also discuss if you need Medicare Supplement Insurance and the benefits that come with it. It is our privilege to help guide you to the best possible Medicare Supplement Insurance plan to meet your insurance needs.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Fraudulent Activity

Did you know that the Equifax data breach of 2017 exposed the personal information of more than 145 million people. A data breach can potentially expose your data, which puts you at risk for identity theft or other fraudulent activity. Here are some tips on how you can protect your identity in the coming year:

• Don’t give out any personal information–like your social security number or bank information–over the phone.

• Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. If this is something that interests you, please let any of us at Langlois Insurance Agency know and we can discuss this further with you.

We hope that 2020 brings you and your loved ones much health and happiness. And, as always, if you have any questions about your insurance needs, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at #815-485-2106.  We always love to hear from our customers!

Warmest Regards in the New Year,

Matt Langlois

Term and Whole Life Insurance: Explained

Unless you are a life insurance specialist, like me, life insurance is nobody’s favorite subject of conversation. Most people associate life insurance with expensive monthly premiums and, more importantly, their own mortality. For that reason, many people aren’t sure how life insurance works, or what their options are. However, thinking about your life insurance policy is very important! It is intended to lessen the impact of death on your loved ones, and it doesn’t even have to be expensive. Below, we discuss the major differences between term life insurance and whole life insurance to help you determine which one may be best for you.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is a simpler, cheaper type of life insurance that’s a great way to institute a policy without having to cut too deep into monthly expenses. Term life is purchased for a specific time period, anywhere from 5 to 30 years. Death benefits will only be paid if the death occurs during the term of the policy. More often than not, term life will become much more expensive as you age. After the age of 50, the cost of term life quickly creeps up to the cost of permanent life insurance, so you should look into getting it sooner rather than later. Also, these policies can also be converted into whole life insurance in some cases, which is another option if you feel like it may be the time to consider whole life.

Whole Life

Term life insurance covers you for a set period of time, while whole life does exactly what you’d expect: it covers you for your whole life. Not only does it provide death benefits when the time comes, but it also provides a cash value accumulation that builds during the life of the policy. This means that you can actually see payoffs of your premium at a certain time, sort of similar to a retirement policy with your employer. It usually takes anywhere from 12 to 15 years to build up a considerable cash value. This cash value is based on how much the return on investment is worth.

Acquiring a whole life policy does usually mean a medical examination, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, with a higher premium, whole life insurance can be purchased without a health examination. This type of insurance works great for estate planning, and although it is initially more expensive, you can potentially save money through whole life insurance in the long run. Be sure to see what works best for your finances by speaking with a risk advisor today.

Choosing What’s Right

There are many different factors to take into account when deciding what kind of life insurance is right for you. When you come into Langlois Insurance Agency to discuss the best life insurance “fit” for your needs, we will consider several factors:

  • Your current age
  • State of health
  • Financial needs (for yourself and family)
  • Plans for funeral and death expenses
  • Children’s ages
  • Long-term health expenses
  • Mortgage and current debts
  • Retirement plan
  • Future monetary needs of your children
  • Your estate
  • Your thoughts on paying a full term policy and never receiving the value of it

Although that may be a long list, factoring in as much as possible is important because life insurance is a big investment. Give our agency a call today at #815-485-2106 so we can help find you the best policy for you and your family. We always love to hear from our customers!

Warmest Regards,

Matt Langlois

How to Get Your Home Ready For a Safe Halloween

Witches and ghouls are scary for the kiddos, but as your trusted insurance advisor, I know that the real terror of Halloween lies in vandalism, lawsuits and liability claims. Use these tips to make your home and belongings safe on Halloween night, both for you and your spooky visitors.

Light Up the Night…

Little trick-or-treaters are so excited to get candy, they tend to run up the driveway to your home. Make sure your porch and walkway are well lit and unobstructed so they don’t stumble on their way to the door. Not only could a fall ruin their fun night, but a real injury could come back to haunt you as a homeowner. Play it safe and keep it bright outside.

Homeowners that greet lots of trick or treaters need to clear their property from potential hazards:

  • Clear walkways from leaves, decorations, extension cords and debris
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting
  • Maintain stairways, railings and porch areas so they are safe for children

Also, different towns may have different times for trick or treating. Younger children are usually out early, and older children may be out well after dark. Therefore, if you are out & about driving, try to avoid busy areas, keep your headlights on and slow downAs parents, we can help protect our children by dressing them with reflective clothing, having them use flashlights and glow sticks.

…But Don’t Use the Candles

Those glowing Jack-o-lanterns are super spooky and cool, but costumes, straw, and paper decorations are all very flammable. Use battery operated tea lights instead of real candles so your Jack-o-lantern only looks dangerous.

Hide Your Car

Halloween is a notorious night for automobile shenanigans. From toilet paper and water balloons, to eggs and paint, vandals can pull “pranks” that wind up doing real damage to your car. If you’re not out and about on Halloween night, keep your car locked in the garage or at least park it behind the house.

Keep Your Pets Inside

Our furry friends don’t understand the spirit of Halloween. All they know is that masked figures keep ringing the doorbell to their home. And it is understandable that they get scared and defensive. No matter how sweet your pup usually is, he may still turn into Cujo on Halloween if he’s under enough stress! Don’t put your home insurance policy’s liability limit to the test over a dog bite or other, unintentional injury; keep your dogs safely in the house until the night’s excitement is over.

Be All In or All Out

Trick-or-treaters expect to get candy when they knock on your door, but it is understandable that you may not be in the spirit of the holiday or have the finances to supply candy every year.

When it comes to Halloween, it’s in your best interest to stick to your plan. If you give out candy, have your porch light on and be prepared for the foot traffic. If you’re not giving out candy, turn out the main lights and make it appear as if you aren’t home to the best of your ability. Greeting trick-or-treaters with no candy is awkward, and in some cases, it can lead to the worst kind of person being vindictive and coming back later to vandalize your home. It sounds bad, but it happens more than you’d think.

If, unfortunately, you may become the target of some pranksters, here’s what you should do:

  • Contact authorities and get a police report right away
  • Submit a claim for vandalism to your car or home. The police report will be helpful during the claims process.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at #815-485-2106 with any or your insurance questions or needs.  We always love to hear from our customers!

Warmest Regards,

Matt Langlois

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