Last-Minute Halloween Liability Issues

Halloween is scary enough, we don’t mean to add to your fright, but if you are a homeowner or an apartment dweller, there are some safety precautions you should take to greet the little ghosts and goblins who will be ringing your bell or roaming the streets.

A few years ago, Christopher Boggs wrote a great Guide to Homeowners Liability for Injury to Trick or Treaters. He notes:

When the porch light is on, trick-or-treaters are considered invitees; the homeowner is inviting them onto the property (though not for a mutual benefit). Because of this relationship, the homeowner owes the candy seekers the level of “reasonable” care that falls under Ordinary Negligence.

Now anytime you have anyone visit your home, they could suffer an injury or an accident – that’s why you have insurance. But on Halloween, a steady stream of small feet traipsing across your porch in the dark increases the risk. Plus, you are giving out food.

Here are some tips to minimize Halloween hazards and reduce your risk.

  • Keep porches and walkways well-lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards
  • Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway
  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Keep pets away from kids to avoid bites, scares or allergic reactions. Even friendly pets can be overexcited or upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish or overly protective.
  • Avoid mystery treats. Distribute labeled treats and tell parents what they are and if they contain nuts.
  • Provide alternative allergy-free treats – consider small non-food trinkets.
  • Be cautious about any spooky pranks for kids or guests – make sure they are safe and not too scary to young children.
  • If you are hosting an adult party, you have particular responsibility to take care in the serving of alcoholic beverages. See our post on holiday parties and liability issues.
  • If you are driving any time on Halloween, be super cautious. Little monsters may be out at any hour and frequenting normally quiet neighborhoods. Be particularly cautious at dusk an early evening.

Protect your home and car too!

Halloween is a huge night for vandalism. Here are a few tips to protect your property from fire, theft and vandalism.

    • Don’t overload electrical circuits with lights.
    • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
    • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.
    • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
    • If you don’t have shelter for your car, consider stopping at the car wash for a coat of wax that may offer some protection.
    • If you are out trick or treating with your kids or partying with your peers, make your home looks occupied. Leave lights and the TV on.
    • Doorbell cams and motion activated lights can offer added protection.
    • If your car or home is egged, deal with it right away that night or in the morning before damage can set in. See How to Remove Egg Stains From Your Car’s Paint Job and 4 Ways to Wash Egg off your home

    Call your agent

    If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won’t forget them later.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

When should you book your holiday flights? Experts say right now!

OK. We know that the leaves haven’t turned yet, and the smell of pumpkin spice is barely wafting through the air. We aren’t even in Halloween prime time yet. We assure you, we aren’t trying to rush things, but we’d like to offer some seriously good advice: If you plan to fly someplace for the holidays – either for Thanksgiving or for the Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa window – it’s not too early to book your plane travel now. In fact, it may be the ideal time.

According to AAA Travel’s flight booking data from the last three years, Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s generally the best time for both availability and price deals. While it’s true that there are sometimes last-minute deals for travel, there is limited availability – so if you want the best availability and choice, start looking soon.

See AAA’s advice for the best days to travel on both holidays windows: The Best Time to Book Your Holiday Flights? Now! Check their article for some detailed advice. We’re reproducing two of their handy charts.

AAA Thanksgiving travel -chart of best dates

AAA - Christmas holiday travel = best times chart

SmarterTravel offers their take on timing: The 12 Best and Worst Days to Travel This Holiday Season. They show the busiest travel days around both holidays by share of bookings from travel booking site Hipmunk. They also offer some advice on snagging the best fares.

For train travel, Amtrak offers Tips for Successfully Booking Your Trip. They say that “The earlier you book your tickets, the more likely you are to get the lowest fare available for the dates you want on the routes along your journey. You may book your travel up to 11 months in advance.” See their Tips for Savvy Travelers.

In planning your trip, consider whether you need trip insurance. If you are just zipping home on a domestic flight to visit your folks, you might not need it. Instead, before you book, check your credit cards to see if any offer baggage protection or other travel benefits when you book a flight – many do. And know your consumer rights – see the Department of Transportation’s Fly Rights: A Consumer Guide to Air Travel.

But if you are taking an expensive family trip over the holidays and traveling overseas or on a cruise, you might want to talk trip insurance over with your agent to protect your investment. The Insurance Information Institute offers a good primer: Should you buy travel insurance?

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

4 Holiday Shopping Tips for Last Minute Shoppers

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Can you believe yet another Christmas is practically here?! It is likely you still have presents to buy for friends and family, whether you are a procrastinator or someone who shops ahead of time. We all know that the closer we get to Christmas Eve, the more crowded malls are, and the emptier shelves become.  Here are a few recommendations for you last minute shoppers!

Create a gift list

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While this may seem obvious, making a list will help you brainstorm, prioritize your items, and help you plan your budget. Last minute shopping will often make you run around quicker than normal and create unnecessary stress. It will also help you from over spending or making unwise decisions.

Refrain from overbuying & overspending

 

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According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend roughly $655 this holiday season. If you are emotional shopping, chances are you’ll end up spending much more than you wanted to in the first place. It may be a good idea to use an app such as RetailMeNot or Giftagram, which alert you of discounts, coupons and other ways to save money. Be proactive about comparing deals, and wait for those bargains as well!

If you’re going to the mall, shop early in the day

 

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Many stores are open early and late during the weeks leading up to Christmas. If possible, try and go in the early hours because store staff will have had the opportunity to restock and organize shelves, which will make it much easier to find what you’re looking for. By late at night, many items have been picked over and shelves tend to be a mess. This will make it difficult for you to find the right gift in the proper amount of time.

Don’t downplay the value of gift cards

 

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According to the Retail Gift Card Association, 71% of people feel “very satisfied” when they receive a gift card at Christmas, and out of those people, 69 percent say that will buy “something needed” and 30 percent will use the card to buy something they would not typically purchase.  We should not underestimate the value of a gift card!

Don’t let last minute shopping get in the way of your spirit this holiday season! You can prevent unwanted stress by planning ahead, organizing your finances and finding ways to save money. Remember to stay focused!

As always, do not hesitate to contact an agent at Cochrane & Porter for any of your insurance needs! 781-943-1555 or info@cochraneandporter.com

Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

Gift Yourself These Insurance Coverages this Holiday Season

You may want to invest in these extra insurance coverages this season!

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The holiday season tends to be busy – we want to spend as much time as possible with our families, but we also have to tend to our other obligations. This can result in significant amounts of stress! While you are making plans with your loved ones and making sure that your shopping list is finalized, make sure you spend some quality “me time” as this is essential for your overall health and well-being.

Here are a few insurance coverages that  may help to minimize your concerns this holiday season and beyond:

Identity Theft Protection

Online shopping is becoming more and more common and with that, cyber crime is on the rise. Make sure to protect yourself from this threat and only shop at reputable companies with secure websites.  If a site is questionable or seems odd, it’s a good idea to exit out of it right away. Try not to open any emails from an unknown person. Check out our Identity Theft Protection product!

Roadside Assistance & Rental Car Coverage

Rental care and roadside coverage come especially in handy during winter time if your car gets stuck in snow! For example, a curb is underneath a snow bank and you don’t see it, resulting in a flat tire. This coverage will help you with the tire so you can get back on the road! It is typically an add-on to your regular auto policy.

Trip Insurance

Especially if you plan on traveling this holiday season, it may be a good idea to invest in this insurance! It will cover you from unforeseen circumstances such as medical emergencies. It can also help protect you from financial loss associated with trip cancellation, medical expenses, or lost luggage.

Happy holidays from us at Cochrane & Porter – we hope you have an enjoyable and safe one! Give us a call at 781-943-1555 or info@cochraneandporter.com for any of your insurance needs.

Turkey Leftover Ideas

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Thanksgiving dinner is absolutely one of the most highly anticipated meals of the year. There are many ways to make new dishes out of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Here are two (somewhat unique) ideas for meals you can make with all your leftovers!

Thanksgiving in a blanket

Ingredients

1 tube refrigerated crescent rolls
3/4 c. shredded roasted turkey
3/4 c. prepared stuffing
3/4 c. prepareed mashed potatoes
1 c. cranberry sauce
1/4 c. prepared gravy, warmed

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out Crescent Rolls. Top with mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing and cranberries (just a little bit of each). Roll up and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
3. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with gravy to dunk in.

Recipe by Delish

Leftover Turkey and Stuffing Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients
1 large egg, beaten
2 c. leftover shredded turkey
2 c. leftover stuffing
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 red and yellow bell peppers, hollowed
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
Fresh parsley (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine beaten egg, turkey and stuffing (in a large bowl). Season with salt and pepper, then mix together.
2. Spoon mixture into bell peppers and top with mozzarella.
3. Transfer peppers to baking dish and bake until peppers are tender and cheese is melty, 25 to 30 minutes. Add parsley (optional).

Recipe by Delish

These are only two out of the many ways you can make delicious meals from your leftovers. As always, for any of your insurance needs feel free to contact us at 781-943-1555 or info@cochraneandporter.com

 

Weather and travel forecast for Thanksgiving 2016

Your Thanksgiving 2016 Travel & Weather Forecast

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Whether you are hitting the road or welcoming guests to your home, here is some information you may find helpful for this Thanksgiving regarding weather and traveling conditions.

Weather
Wednesday is supposed to be in the mid-40’s, sunny and dry, and we won’t see temperatures above 51 degrees. On Thanksgiving Day, we are supposed to see a light storm pass through – expect to see some clouds and occasional showers. Black Friday will be dry but cold, so be sure to bundle up if you are taking advantage of all those sales! Throughout the weekend we are not expected to see high’s above the mid 50’s.

Best times to travel?
Over 48 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this year on Thanksgiving, according to AAA. This is roughly one million more travelers than last year!

Information about the best and worst times to travel this Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Patch:

  • The worst day to leave is Wednesday; if you do plan on leaving Wednesday, try and be on the road by 7 am and avoid driving around 3 pm.
  • The best day to return is the day after Thanksgiving (Friday). Traffic is expected to be at its worst around 4 pm — the earlier you leave, the better off you are!
  • The worst day to return is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Leave by 6 am if you need to travel on this day. 4 pm is when traffic is supposed to be very heavy.

Based on AAA.com bookings, the most popular destinations this Thanksgiving include:

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. San Francisco, California
  3. San Diego, California
  4. Orlando, Florida
  5. New York City, New York

Make sure to plan ahead and take safety breaks when necessary. It is important to make sure that your vehicle is equipped for your trip as well – Consumer Reports has a checklist of items recommended for holiday road trips.

We wish you a fun, happy and safe Thanksgiving! To those of you who are traveling, be cautious of traffic and make sure not to text and drive! As always, do not hesitate to contact an agent at Cochrane & Porter for any of your insurance needs: 781-943-1555 or info@cochraneandporter.com.

 

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Scary Myths about Home Insurance

Don’t be a victim of these homeowners insurance myths….

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Seeing as today is Halloween, I was thinking it would be appropriate to talk about a few myths about homeowners insurance that are downright scary because they can end up costing us a lot in the long run!

Myth 1: “There’s no need for me to review my policy at renewal because I chose the correct coverage the first time.”
Think about how much your life changes from year to year. For example, you inherit a diamond ring from your grandmother, or added an addition to your home; these all require important and necessary changes to your insurance policy.

Myth 2: Since I am a renter, my landlord will cover property damages.”
It is possible that your insurance company is partnered with a company that offers renters insurance to tenants, but it is more likely that your landlord’s policy only protects the building itself. Keep in mind that even if the landlord owns any appliances inside your rented home, they are not responsible for damages to your personal property.

Myth 3: “I have an umbrella policy, so I have full coverage.”
Okay, the purpose of a personal umbrella policy is absolutely to add an extra layer of liability protection on top of what your auto or home policies provide, but that does not mean you are fully covered! Here are 3 things you need to know about umbrella coverage:

  • It typically will not cover business activity. If an accident occurs in your in your home or vehicle while you are using it for business purposes, you probably won’t be covered.
  • Umbrella coverage only kicks in after you’ve exhausted your coverage on a primary policy, for example, your auto or homeowners.
  • Your umbrella policy will not help with your own injuries or losses; it provides coverage strictly for if you are sued by another person or found at-fault for injuring others or damaging their property.

There are many other myths regarding your homeowners insurance – don’t fall victim of them! Contact an agent at Cochrane & Porter if you have any questions about this: 781-943-1555 or info@cochraneandporter.com!

The Importance of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is Approaching!

memorial day

Memorial Day is next Monday, May 30th! This day is considered the unofficial start to summer. While it is a weekend to enjoy nice weather and good company, it’s purpose is to honor men and women who passed while in the U.S. military.

Interesting facts about Memorial Day:

  1. Memorial Day was originated in 1862  and was originally called Decoration Day.  It was a time for the nation to decorate the graves with flowers for those who had passed away from war.
  2. It’s typical for people to confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. Veterans Day is a day to thank and honor those who have served in the military during both peacetime and wartime. Memorial Day is the day to remember and honor all military personnel who died while serving the country, especially those who died in a battle or by wounds they sustained while in battle.
  3. The “National Moment of Remembrance Act” was passed in 2000 by Congress. This designated 3:00pm local time on Memorial Day every year as the National Moment of Remembrance – a time to honor the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace. All Americans are encouraged to pause at that time for a moment of silence.

Keep in mind there are many safety precautions to take during Memorial Day weekend – American Red Cross offers a full list of safety tips for Memorial Day.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend!

Related links
Complete history of Memorial Day
Camping safety recommendations
Swimming pool safety tips
Barbecue safety tips