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Sony Pictures chief executive, Michael Lynton, compares the cyber his company is dealing with to having your house robbed or burned to the ground. Even though the media had a field day with the cyber crimes committed against Sony, Lynton says the instance is less of a disaster than anticipated. Fortunately the cost associated with the breach will be completely covered by insurance.

The attacks that surfaced on Nov. 21, about seven weeks ago, have been traced and pinned on the North Korean government by the U.S. government. Experts have estimated damaged caused by the breach to cost up to $100 million but Lynton reassures that the damages are “well within the bounds of insurance.”

What happened?

• Cleaned out loads of data
• Online distribution of email
• Disclosure of sensitive employee data
• Pirated copies of new movies

The attacked allegedly launched by hackers employed by the North Korean government as determined by an FBI investigation was in response to the release of “The Interview.” The comedy film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen depicts the assassination of leader Kim Jong-Un. North Korea denies being behind the attack but sees the film as an “act of war.” Despite its rocky start, the film is currently playing in theaters.

As we welcome the New Year most of us would have made resolutions more or less revolving around health and humanitarianism. To solidify this annual promise to ourselves we raise our glasses in a toast and drink up and continue the night without any lingering inhibitions. Hopefully we won’t forget to take an extra sip in honor of our DD’s; designated drivers.

With all the increased awareness, various options for alternative modes of transportation (Uber, Lyft, buses, your feet, your mom), instances of drunk driving and fatalities due to drunk drivers/driving should be at all time low. According to the NHTSA, in 2013, alcohol inspired crashes were 2.5% lower than that in the year prior. That is an average of 52 deaths a minute on US highways. It may be lower but the numbers are definitely still shocking and disappointing.

Insurance coverage for drunk drivers depends on the type and policy. The truth is accidents and fatalities due to a DUI or DWI automatically void any coverage the offender may have had.

Don’t Drink & Drive

- Loss of license.
- Retrieval of license and continuation of policy with a filed SR-22, which some companies don’t offer.
- Liability insurance, which only applies to damages caused to the other party.
- Full coverage with collision and comprehensive, may or may not cover a driver in the event of a DUI or DWI.
- Some policies may have a “drunken clause.”
- Insurance rate increase and loss of any and all discounts.
- A DDC (drunk driving conviction) will affect your insurance status for up to three years.
- Policy will not be terminated in mid coverage period with an SR-22 but may not be renewed.
- Considered a high-risk driver.
- Look for non-standard insurance providers.

In all 50 states the level of blood alcohol concentration to be considered legally intoxicated is at .08% and most state penalties for convictions are increased for levels higher.

The Insurance Information Institute recently published a whitepaper that outlined the perils of data breaches and how stand-alone insurance can help businesses suffer from financial loss. The number of data breaches increased significantly from 2011 to 2013; in 2011, there were 419 as opposed to 614 in 2013. Today, we have already seen 311 breaches that have cause over $8.5 million in damage.

The most recent high-scale victims include eBay, Target, Neiman Marcus, and JPMorgan Chase. This proves that no matter the scale of the business, hackers have the ability to perpetrate their ill-doings and steal millions from businesses. The average cost of these data breaches fall at around $201 per record, and about $3.3 million worth of lost business per breach. Those companies who have placed security against breaches can reduce costs by at least $14 per record; however there is nothing that can safeguard a business completely.

At the moment, traditional commercial package insurance policies do not have data breaches covered entirely. Business Owner Policies do have electronic data loss covered, but only if the cause of the loss is covered. For example, computer viruses or harmful codes are covered, but any loss due to an employee’s actions is not.

Because of this, specialized cyber insurance risk coverage is now available as a stand-alone policy. Risks include:

- Loss/corruption of data
- Business interruption
- Liability (includes: breach of privacy, transmission of virus, failure of security, and   allegations of copyright infringement, libel, slander and defamation)
- D&O/management liability
- Cyber extortion
- Crisis management
- Criminal rewards
- Data breaches
- Identity theft
- Social media/networking
- Cloud computing

Insurance agents should consult with their current carriers to determine if any of them offer this type of insurance. From there, insurance agents can offer this new policy to their commercial insurance policyholders, or even use this new product as a means of reaching new clients. Data breaches are becoming more frequent, and the best way to truly protect a business from data breaches is to purchase this new policy.

In all of the hustle and bustle of holiday sales, the common shopper can easily get distracted and forget safety precautions when it comes to auto theft. A mall parking lot during Christmastime is like a buffet of treats for burglars. Not only are vehicles apt for theft during this time, but so are the items left inside.

Let’s call it shopper’s negligence: accidentally leaving the car unlocked with valuable personal items and gifts in plain sight. Many people come back to their cars while shopping to drop off bags, and then go back into the mall for more. Thieves anticipate this occurrence and wait for it to happen all day.

Many people assume their comprehensive coverage will cover their vehicle and everything in it, but you should always double check with your carrier just to make sure. Comprehensive does not necessarily cover the things inside of your car that aren’t related to your car. No matter if your vehicle is parked at the mall, in the driveway, or in the garage, if gifts are being stored in your vehicle make sure they stay out of sight. If a thief can see items of value in your vehicle, they are more likely to break in.

Being careful with your car during this time of year is essential to keeping your holiday, as well as your wallet full of cheer. The Los Angeles Police Department gives some tips to auto theft prevention:

- Avoid driving alone or at night.
- Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device.
- If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area.
- Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows.
- Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked.
- Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside.
- Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
- Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car.
- Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels. Do not put them down or on top of the car in order to open the door.
- When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
- Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.
- Ask mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location.

The only person that can prevent theft of your property is you. So stay smart and safe this holiday, and be sure to take necessary precautions whenever possible.

The worst thing people assume about driving is that an accident will never happen to them. But the roads are filled with so many terrible, distracted, and aggressive drivers that the roadways are more perilous than you may think.

When it does happen to you, the best way of dealing with it is to be prepared and know exactly what you need to handle the situation properly. Remember that the more organized you are about documenting the accident, the easier the claims process will be. Keep your calm, and follow these steps.

Before you leave the car
Assess the situation. Ideally you’re supposed to leave the cars on the scene of the accident so that the police officer can judge what happened and who is at fault. But if you’re on a busy road or expressway, then you need to pull over to the nearest safest place, which is most likely a shoulder or a parking lot.

Call the police
If necessary, tell them you need an ambulance so they will notify the nearest medical unit. Take note of any injuries, minimal or serious. If the police cannot come to survey the scene, you should drive to the nearest police department and file an incident report after taking the steps below. Having an official report will be extremely helpful if there is more damage than you initially thought to the involved vehicles, and if the other driver decides to sue for damage or injuries.

Assess the damage
Take photo evidence for insurance claims purposes. Even if the accident is your fault, taking photos will help you later for repair purposes. Make sure that the weather is notable in the photos, and also take note of the date, time, and location.

Gather contact information
Get the names and contact information of everyone involved in the crash, including any witnesses. For all drivers involved ask to see their licenses, their car registration, and their insurance cards. Remember: when talking to the others involved, steer the conversation away from placing blame or discussing their type of insurance. This could lead to unnecessary and unwelcome confrontation. As long as you have their insurance policy number, know who their provider is, and have their contact information, you’re set.

Start the claims process
As soon as you can, contact your insurance provider to give all fresh information because you will most likely forget certain details the longer you wait to call. The photos and notes you take will help your case. Depending on who your insurance carrier is, you may be able to start the claims process in a phone application to upload your photo evidence, reserve a rental car, and request reimbursements for towing and glass claims, along with finding other information. When speaking to your insurance provider you will often end up being transferred to multiple people, so be sure to keep record of your correspondence, and get every person’s name that you speak with along with their title and contact information.

By keeping all of the evidence you gathered organized, and following the steps provided here as well as by the police and your insurance provider, you will have a smoother claims process.

If you have updated your auto insurance policy recently and use one of the leading providers, you have most likely come across the electronic proof of insurance option. You no longer have to fumble through the glove box to find that little piece of paper or worry about losing it, because your proof of insurance can be easily accessed on your phone at anytime, allowing you to drive paperless.

E-cards make showing your insurance coverage easy, convenient, and it’s even environmentally friendly. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) promotes that this will “save insurance companies the cost of printing and mailing ID cards to policyholders. It will also save law enforcement and court personnel time and money because they will no longer need to process tickets written to drivers who had coverage but not that little piece of paper.”  In 2011 no states allowed the use of cell phones to provide proof of insurance, but as of 2014, 37 states have enacted e-card laws, according to the PCI.

But what if your phone is dead when you get pulled over? Or what if you’re pulled over in a dead zone and can’t access the insurance application? Depending on your insurance provider the application may allow you to download a version to your phone so that you don’t need internet access to view it. But not all applications are created equal, as this advanced feature is not yet an option with all providers. Check with your provider to see if this feature is available with their phone application. In these cases, having a plan B is always ideal, so it may be best to have that little piece of paper in your glove box in addition to the e-card.
The convenience of this modernized proof of insurance makes many jump straight onto the bandwagon immediately, and rightly so, but some of the issues arising are in regard to the Fourth Amendment. When surrendering your phone to the police officer and he takes it back to his patrol car to run the information, what’s to stop him from invading your privacy and sifting through the contents of your phone? Technically, the Fourth Amendment legally protects your rights, but unless the Fourth Amendment takes physical form and sits in the passenger seat of the patrol car, there is no way to guarantee that the officer won’t go through your phone, with or without your consent.

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unwarranted and unreasonable searches and seizures of your personal property, of which extends to your mobile device as it is either on your body or in your vehicle.

As new states usher into legality this type of proof of insurance, most of them specifically state that an officer does not have consent to look through the phone.  However, many also state that the owner of the device is liable for any damage if the officer happens to drop the device or another accident occurs. Despite the Fourth Amendment, and some states’ legislation, if you give your phone to an officer you are technically liable for whatever happens. Legally, however, you are protected by the Fourth Amendment if the officer tries to cite you for anything found on your phone outside of the insurance application e-card.

As it stands, no states require the use of an e-card to show proof of insurance, and hopefully it stays that way for those who are uncomfortable with allowing an officer unsupervised access to their phones. But for those who applaud the modernization and simplification of insurance (and have nothing to hide), bring on the future of auto insurance.

Now more than ever, insurance agents must consider adapting their agency operations to accommodate consumer buying habits.

Walmart and Overstock.com breaking into the insurance industry are prime examples of companies adapting to modern consumer habits. Consumers are no longer interested in traditional agencies because performing daily tasks online have become so commonplace and efficient. Most conventional errands have transitioned to online from shopping and paying bills, to something as simple as ordering food delivery. Even banking, as complex as it is, has moved to the Internet—people rarely venture to the bank anymore because they have the convenience of checking balances, transferring money, and even depositing checks online.

In order for insurance agents to keep up with consumers, they must make headway for enabling online insurance transactions. As the Internet becomes more convenient, consumers prefer less personal interaction. Thus insurance agents should consider how they can transform their agency into an online platform, one where clients can not only purchase a policy, but also manage it.

Personal relationships with clientele are a stronghold for agents providing the best policies for consumers, but speaking with an agent just to manage an account is not always the most efficient method for a consumer. Online management is the most convenient way for consumers to interact with their transactional tasks, and if it can be done online, it’s most likely done on a mobile device. According to a Google report, 86 percent of people still use their phones as search engines rather than computers,  showing that modern consumers want their desired information to be immediately accessible and portable.

For this reason, there are insurance companies that operate entirely online, like Esurance, that cater specifically to consumers who wish to never speak with a human about their policies. But for agents requiring personal interaction, the online model can be combined with personal touches to provide a better business relationship. Get your clients in the door by offering insurance products online, then follow-up and interact through email more than phone.
The Internet has made life considerably easier for consumers, and once you set an online insurance agency in place, you will also reap the benefits of such convenience. It is not just a thought to ruminate on, but a decision that must be made sooner than later.

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