Gilbert Insurance https://gilbertinsurance.com High-quality insurance for Reading, North Reading, Stoneham and Greater Boston. Fri, 10 Apr 2020 19:45:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 Supporting Local Businesses & Non-Profits in a Time of Crisis https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/supporting-community-during-crisis/ Thu, 09 Apr 2020 18:13:27 +0000 https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/workplace-safety/business-insurance-coronavirus-copy/ During the COVID-19 pandemic it is important for everyone to do their part to stop the spread and flatten the curve. For many, this means staying at home, practicing good social distancing, and waiting for the worst of the storm to pass. For others, such as nurses, doctors, and other medical/ health care professionals, it means battling coronavirus on the front lines, putting themselves at risk every day to care for those that need it most.

While it is important to do everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19, if you’re not a medical or healthcare worker, you may be wondering what you can do, other than staying at home, of course, to help your community during this crisis. At Gilbert, we understand your desire to help your neighbors. Which is why we have created a guide to local non-profits and relief efforts across Greater Boston that would greatly benefit from any help you can give.

If you’re looking to help your community in ways that are outside of donating to non-profits and relief efforts, consider supporting local businesses from the comfort of your own home. While it is clear that staying in your home and practicing social distancing are the best ways to prevent the continued spread of the virus, it also disproportionately hurts local businesses that survive on customers coming into their establishment. This is why we at Gilbert have compiled a list of ways to help your local businesses during this difficult time.

Order takeout from your favorite restaurants.

While restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, and other staples in your community are not allowing people to come in and sit in accordance with the mandate by the governor, many are still offering takeout or delivery services. This is their only source of income, and a great way to eat the food you love while keeping yourself, your family, and restaurant employees safe.

Purchase a gift card.

Whether you’re buying gift cards to your favorite local restaurants, or to places that you frequent such as hair salons, nail salons, the barber, a local boutique, or beyond- the money that you are spending goes straight to helping your neighbors keep their businesses alive during these economically difficult times.

Donate to or promote fundraising efforts.

Many local businesses have created fundraisers in order to keep their businesses a float. Whether or not you are able to donate yourself, sharing their fundraising efforts on social media is a great way to bring exposure to the community staple that you love in their time of need.

As long-time members of the Reading and Malden communities, Gilbert Insurance is lucky enough to work with many small businesses in the area. From landscaping companies, to catering operations, to businesses somewhere in between, Gilbert recognizes that it is more important than ever to commit to helping our neighbors and their livelihoods- and we urge you to do the same.

Whether you’re ordering your favorite Italian dish from the Venetian Moon in Reading, donating food to Bread of Life in Malden, or something else entirely – your efforts to help your community do not go unnoticed. Aside from staying home and keeping a good social distance (six feet apart), coming together and supporting our community is one of the best ways we can get through this pandemic.

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COVID-19-Related Business Losses https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/business-insurance-coronavirus/ Mon, 06 Apr 2020 05:05:53 +0000 https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/uncategorized/gilbert-insurance-acquires-aljane-insurance-copy/ Are COVID-19-related business losses covered by commercial insurance coverage?

Across the North Shore and Greater Boston region, businesses of all sizes and industries are experiencing considerable operational issues due to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. At Gilbert Insurance, we are trying our best to help relieve some of the stress and uncertainty business owners like you are feeling as a result of this strange situation.

This includes providing you with as much information as we can about the most common commercial insurance policies and whether they might provide any coverage for COVID-19-related business losses. Below, we share an initial, general understanding of three types of insurance coverage that most business carry, and how/if they would respond to a coronavirus claim:

1. Property Insurance

Commercial property insurance includes two very important areas of coverage – Business Income and Extra Expense – that are designed to help reimburse you for loss of income and additional expenditures due to a halt in your operations as a result of a covered peril. Both of these coverage areas are triggered when there is a direct physical loss or damage to property at your business premises, caused by a covered peril.

Civil Authority, a coverage area found in some commercial property policies, is designed to provide protection against a loss of income as well as additional business expenses that result from a government shutdown of your company. These types of closures are typically implemented in response to a natural disaster, like a hurricane, tornado, or other severe storm system, that may affect an entire neighborhood, or an even larger area, depending on the breadth of the risk. However, civil authority coverage is activated if your losses are the result of direct physical loss or damage to covered property, caused by a covered peril.

2. General Liability

Commercial general liability coverage is triggered by a third-party claim of bodily injury, sickness, disease, property damage, or negligence that is made against you or an employee of your company. Typically, in these types of claims situations, your general liability insurance pays for costs related to your legal defense, including attorneys’ and court and expert witness fees.

In this COVID-19 era, the most likely scenario is that a claim would arise from a customer, or other visitor to your business, who believes that you or an employee have been negligent in failing to protect them from being exposed to the coronavirus.

As is the case with many other types of uncertain situations in business, the best avenue for safeguarding your company against a potential COVID-19 general liability claim may be to prepare yourself for one by taking the proper preventative measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published,“Getting Your Workplace Ready for COVID-19”, that lays out some simple and low-cost ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other contagious illnesses, in the workplace.

Here are just a few of the preventative steps the WHO recommends:

  • All surfaces (e.g., desks and tables) and objects (e.g., phones, keyboards) should be wiped down with disinfectant regularly
  • Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace and refill them regularly
  • Make sure that staff, contractors, and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water
  • Ensure that face masks and/or tissues are easily accessible at your workplace for people with a runny nose or cough, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them
  • Brief your employees, contractors, and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community, anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (99 degrees Fahrenheit or more) needs to stay at home

3. Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to help employers cover the costs related to employees who are injured or get sick as a result of their employment. These costs may include an employee’s medical expenses, a portion of their lost wages, permanent disability, and, in the worst cases, a death benefit to an employee’s beneficiary.

To qualify for workers’ compensation, the employee’s disease or injury must be caused by the conditions of employment; e.g., a waiter hurts his back lifting restaurant trays or an office manager gets carpal tunnel from typing on a keyboard all day.

Workers’ compensation may be available to an employee if they contract the coronavirus due to any work-related reason. Those who are deemed eligible could receive payments that partially replace their paycheck and cover some or all of their related medical care costs.

Again, implementing the preventative measures outlined above and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) should help prevent the spread of not only the coronavirus in your workplace, but other infections as well, including colds, flu, and stomach bugs. Taking these and other critical steps should help business owners create an exceptionally clean and hygienic workplace and help them protect their customers, contractors, and employees today and in the future.

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of business insurance coverages. Nor should it be considered the insurance industry’s final decision on how these coverage areas may respond to a COVID-19 claim.

According to Agency Checklists, a Massachusetts online publication featuring insurance industry news items, some plaintiff law firms have already hypothesized that COVID-19 coverage might exist for a business that has to cease operations because its premises had become contaminated with the virus. In fact, on March 16th, a New Orleans restaurant filed a lawsuit against Lloyds of London, claiming it had suffered property damage because the coronavirus contaminated surfaces in their establishment.

Gilbert Insurance will continue to monitor this extremely fluid situation and work with our insurance partners to understand these and other policy types that may relate in some way to a COVID-19 claim, as well as how each provider is likely to treat such a claim. In the meantime, if you would like to file a business interruption claim with your carrier, please let us know and we can help you do that.

How Gilbert Insurance is providing additional support

In the coming weeks and months, we understand that you may have many questions about your insurance coverage as related to COVID-19. We encourage you to take some time to revisit the language in your specific commercial policies, paying particular attention to the details in your coverage that refer to limitations and exclusions.

If this review only brings up more questions for you, or you believe you have a justifiable claim to report, feel free to contact the Gilbert team for assistance. While each claim will be decided by your specific provider, our team can help you report your claim and make sure that you receive a written decision from your company.

We also wanted you to know that many of the top providers we work with are implementing one or more of the following new guidelines to ease the financial challenges you may be having during this pandemic:

  • A 30-day grace period on payments that are due
  • Waiving late fees for all policies
  • Not charging a fee for payments made over the phone with a customer service representative

Please check with your specific carrier for more information on what assistance they are offering customers during this difficult time. Also, remember that most of our carriers allow you to sign up for electronic billing, which enables you to access your account 24/7 and quickly pay your bills from wherever you are as long as you have online access.

At Gilbert, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for local businesses like yours. In the weeks to come, we will be sharing additional information from your insurance providers as well as details about other potentially helpful resources, like the new Small Business Administration Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for COVID-19.

Most importantly, Gilbert Insurance will continue to be available to you via phone and email during regular business hours. If you have any questions, concerns, insurance transaction needs, or simply want to update us on the status of your business, our staff welcomes the opportunity to hear from you.

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Gilbert Insurance Agency, Inc. Announces the Acquisition of Aljane Insruance, Inc. of Medford, MA https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/gilbert-insurance-acquires-aljane-insurance/ Mon, 30 Mar 2020 17:31:25 +0000 https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/workplace-safety/covid-19-response-remote-customer-service-copy/ Gilbert Insurance Agency, Inc. is pleased to announce the acquisition of Aljane Insurance, Inc. of Medford, Massachusetts. Mark Gilbert, President of Gilbert Insurance, says, “We are honored that Janine Bandino, who has run the Aljane Insurance since 2010, has entrusted us with taking care of the insurance needs of their clientele.”

The Aljane Insurance Agency, founded by Ms. Bandino’s father, John Bandino, in 1972, has been serving the personal and business insurance needs of Medford individuals and families for almost 50 years. Ms. Bandino says, “It has been a pleasure running the Aljane agency for the past ten years and working with generations of loyal clients. I have no doubt they will find the transition to the Gilbert Insurance Agency, which has been a family-owned and operated business since 1951, smooth and easy. Mark Gilbert and his experienced team are known for their industry knowledge, professionalism, and exceptional customer service.”

Gilbert Insurance, headquartered in Reading, Massachusetts, has insured thousands of individuals, families, and businesses in the Greater Boston and North Shore area over the past 70 years. The agency works with many of the top local and national insurance companies, enabling them to offer their clients the best coverage at the most competitive rates. This is just one of many reasons Gilbert has become the go-to local agent for homeowners, drivers, renters, condo owners, and local businesses.

Mr. Gilbert explains, “All clients of Gilbert Insurance, including our new Aljane customers, have access to quality, affordable insurance solutions through our strong carrier relationships. More importantly, our team is always available to offer knowledgeable guidance and personalized support.”

This is the second acquisition for Gilbert in the last two years. In 2017, they purchased Danca-Edgeworth Insurance formerly of Malden, Massachusetts, another well-established, family-owned insurance agency. But, while Gilbert Insurance continues to grow, the agency always strives to be more than just an insurance agent for its clients. Mr. Gilbert says, “We want to be there for our clients throughout all the stages of their life, protecting their loved ones and their most valuable assets. We will also always focus on providing the best customer experience possible. This means being responsive to our clients’ needs at all times, but especially when they have questions, concerns, or a claim.”

With the acquisition, Gilbert Insurance Agency will now have two convenient locations. The main office is located at 137 Main Street, Reading, and the second location is at 402 Salem Street, Medford.

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COVID-19 Response – Remote Customer Service https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/covid-19-response-remote-customer-service/ Tue, 24 Mar 2020 16:34:34 +0000 https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/auto-safety/massachusetts-hands-free-cell-phone-law-copy/ Customer Support Via Phone & Email is Available.

As your insurance agent, it is always our job to offer our clients the best protection possible. We are currently taking steps to do just that during the current COVID-19 outbreak, including closing our office until further notice to all walk-in business. The health and wellbeing of our clients and our employees is Gilbert’s number one priority, as such there are many ways we can still be there for you and practice appropriate social distancing, for example:

  • We are all working from home through our online systems with only a small support staff in the office
  • We will be available by appointment only for any transactions that can not be handled over the phone or email
  • We are wiping down all surfaces throughout the office with disinfectant daily, and as often as is required, and practicing social distancing to keep our employees in the office safe
  • We offer many self-transact options, including:
    • Links to file a claim or make a payment directly with your insurance carrier on our website
    • Easy access to our customer service team who are standing by to answer your questions, or make changes or additions to your policy over the phone, or through email
    • Our RightSignature program, where you can sign any forms needed to complete your insurance transaction
    • A helpful resource center, which has links to town websites, Registry of Motor Vehicle services and forms, and MEMA & FEMA, the state and federal Emergency Management Agencies, and more

Although we love to see our clients in person, we hope you all take the necessary precautions to stay at home. As you can see, we can accommodate most common transactions through our website, over email, or via a quick phone call to either our Reading or Medford office.

We also wanted to share some links that we have found to be most helpful as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve:

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Massachusetts Hands-Free Cell Phone Law https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/auto-safety/massachusetts-hands-free-cell-phone-law/ Wed, 05 Feb 2020 13:08:41 +0000 https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/auto-safety/new-massachusetts-commercial-auto-marking-rules-copy/ Understanding The New Massachusetts Hands-Free Cell Phone Law

After years of debating how to curb hand-held cell phone use by drivers, Massachusetts lawmakers and Governor Charlie Baker have finally come to an agreement on legislation that bans the use of all cell phones and other electronic hand-held devices, including headsets, headphones, and navigation devices, while operating a motor vehicle.

When this law, signed by Governor Baker in November 2019, officially takes effect on February 23rd, 2020, Massachusetts will join fellow New England states like New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, that have already instituted similar hands-free laws. The common goal of these states is to substantially reduce the number of distracted driving accidents caused by drivers when using a hand-held electronic device.

The Gilbert team has pulled together some essential information about this new road rule to help you and other drivers in your household stay on the right side of the law. More importantly, we believe that if you understand and follow this law, you will be much more likely to stay safe behind the wheel.

Gilbert Insurance Answers Your Questions About the New Hands-Free Law

Can I still use my cell phone while driving in Massachusetts?

Under the new law, Massachusetts drivers are only permitted to use their hand-held electronic devices and cell phones while in hands-free mode. The law also states that drivers cannot read text messages or view any other content on their phones. But this should not come as much of a surprise as texting and driving has been illegal in Massachusetts since 2010. The only exception to the new hands-free law is the use of directional navigation. However, you must have your phone mounted to your vehicle’s windshield, dashboard, or center console when performing this function.

Driving while using a phone is an obvious distraction. But, what might not be as apparent is that using your phone while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Route 128 or at a stop sign or red light is just as disruptive. That is why, under the new rule, it is also against the law to engage in these activities.

The requirements of the hands-free law may seem challenging to abide by, especially if you’re typically pretty active on your mobile device while driving. However, complying with these rules will probably be much easier than you think, particularly if you have a car manufactured in 2015 or after.

Virtually all newer vehicles come equipped with Bluetooth technology that allows you to connect your phone to your car and receive and place calls hands-free. If you have yet to fully utilize your vehicle’s Bluetooth capabilities, there is no better time than now. We recommend that you refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to link your smartphone or other mobile device to your car or truck.

What if my car is not equipped with hands-free technology?

Fortunately, there are plenty of hands-free driving devices available today. You may want to consider purchasing a Bluetooth speaker, or similar technology, that clips to the visor of your car along with a universal magnetic phone and GPS mount. These gadgets should allow you the freedom to operate your devices while also driving with your hands at ten and two and your eyes on the road ahead.

If the new hands-free law has you thinking about using your new AirPods in the car – please refrain. In Massachusetts it is illegal to wear headphones or earbuds while operating a vehicle because it hinders your ability to hear emergency sirens and horns.

Aside from gadgets and gizmos, there’s always the option of simply putting your phone out of sight while you’re driving. Try storing it in your bag, center console, or glove compartment and only pull it out in case of an emergency. If you do need to use your phone while driving, just remember to always mount it to your dashboard or windshield and try to keep conversations short.

If the temptation to use your phone in the car is too great, there are several distracted driving smartphone apps that you can download. LifeSaver, for example, auto-detects when your cell phone is in a moving vehicle and temporarily suspends phone use. This state-of-the-art technology will not only keep you and your loved ones safe, but it also reinforces focused driving.

Are there any exemptions to this new hands-free cell phone law?

Yes, the new hands-free law has a few exemptions that are worth mentioning. Public safety personnel and emergency first responders who are on duty and driving emergency vehicles are allowed to use their phones.

Also, in the event a driver is experiencing an emergency, needs to report a disabled car or vehicular accident, or requires medical, police, or fire department assistance, hand-held phone use is permitted.

Lastly, it is acceptable for drivers to use “a single tap or swipe” to enable Bluetooth while operating a vehicle as well as use their hand-held devices when parked and not in an active lane of traffic.

Is there any penalty for not following this law?

When the new hands-free law takes effect on February 23rd, there will definitely be penalties for violating it. If you are caught breaking this law, you may be fined up to $100 for a first offense, $250 for the second, and $500 for any offenses after that. In addition, motorists who infringe on the law more than once will need to complete a mandatory distracted driving prevention program.

However, there is a short grace period between the effective date of February 23rd and March 31st. During this time, first-time offenders may only receive a warning from police if caught using a hand-held mobile device. But, after this small window of time, drivers should expect to receive a significant fine if pulled over for violating the rules. So, it’s smarter and safer for drivers to begin practicing these new driving behaviors today.

Will violating this new hands-free cell phone law affect my car insurance rates?

Your first two offenses will not be considered a surchargeable incident by the state of Massachusetts, and therefore will most likely not affect your car insurance rates. However, if you have multiple reported violations, both the state and your auto insurance provider are likely to treat the incident just like they would any other traffic law offense or at-fault accident, and your policy premium is probably going to increase.

While breaking the law has negative implications, obedience has its rewards. Many of the top insurance carriers are now compensating customers for driving safe and distraction-free. When drivers refrain from risky behaviors like using hand-held devices, stopping short, and making erratic turns, they can earn redeemable points and even qualify for additional cost-saving discounts. Check with your specific insurance provider to see if they have a safe driving app that you can sign up for.

How is Gilbert Insurance here to support you and other drivers in your household?

The Gilbert team is dedicated to providing you with more than just quality and affordable car insurance options. We are also committed to providing you with information, insights, and tips related to your vehicles and the rules of the road. Our team will continue to stay on top of the latest Massachusetts driver laws and regulations and share any potential impact we think these requirements may have on you and your family.

For the most up-to-date information on the new hands-free cell phone law and other similar topics, please regularly check our blog and Facebook page. You can also call us anytime at (781) 942-2225 for help with your personal insurance needs, to request a complimentary review of your current policies, and to get a free policy quote.

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New Massachusetts Commercial Auto Marking Rules https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/new-massachusetts-commercial-auto-marking-rules/ Thu, 14 Mar 2019 20:26:14 +0000 http://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/home-safety/protect-your-home-and-property-in-all-types-of-new-england-weather-copy/ Understand the Massachusetts State Marking Regulations for Your Commercial Vehicles Before You Get Pulled Over

More and more reports keep coming into our office that commercial auto drivers are being pulled over by Massachusetts state police for not registering their commercial vehicle with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Unfortunately, these drivers do not seem to be aware of the Massachusetts State Marking Regulations that require both putting a DOT number and the company’s name on many types of commercial vehicles.

The Gilbert team has pulled together some valuable information about these relatively new requirements, which were announced last summer, took effect on September 1, 2018, and are clearly now being readily enforced.

Gilbert Insurance Q & A on Massachusetts State Markings Regulations for Commercial Vehicles

Do I need a USDOT number?

Every motor vehicle engaged in intrastate commerce – meaning you perform trade, traffic or transportation exclusively in the state of Massachusetts – and having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds, must be permanently marked with a USDOT number. To find out for certain if you have vehicles that are subject to this requirement, go to the FMCSA website and use their step-by-step interactive tool that will help you determine if you need to get a USDOT number.

What is the process for getting a USDOT number?

You can get a USDOT number by going to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website. There is no cost to getting a USDOT number.

Are there additional state markings requirements that I should know about?

Yes, beyond the USDOT number requirement, commercial vehicles must also clearly display the legal name of the business. Or, if the company is a DBA, then the name of the registered owner of the vehicle must be visible. There are strict guidelines for how this information should be displayed, including that the company name and USDOT number must be:

  • Plainly visible from each side of the truck or from the front and rear of the vehicle
  • On the truck body, not on window glass
  • In permanent letters that contrast sharply in color with the background on which the letters are placed
  • Readily legible during daylight hours from a distance of 50 feet while the vehicle is stationary

It’s also critical that you continue to maintain the legibility of these markings over time.

What types of vehicles are affected?

If you use heavy duty pickup trucks, panel trucks, walk-in vans, big box trucks, cargo vans, large utility vehicles, bucket trucks, or any other type of large commercial vehicle, for business purposes, then you are most likely subject to this new regulation and will need to display your company’s USDOT number and legal name on every single one of your commercial vehicles.

Other vehicles that are subject to this USDOT number requirement include motor vehicles used to transport:

  • Hazardous materials in a quantity requiring containers, tanks or drums
  • More than 15 passengers, including the driver, and are used in intrastate commerce, such as large vans or buses used by private transportation companies
Are there any consequences if my commercial vehicles are not in compliance with these regulations?

Any driver pulled over in a vehicle that is found to be subject to these requirements, but not yet meeting them, may face heavy fines and/or vehicle confiscation.

What are the reasons behind these Massachusetts State Marking regulations?

Massachusetts state authorities wanted to bring more transparency to business activities and improve the safety of our roadways. Specifically, both law enforcement officials and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation anticipate that these tougher requirements will help them:

  • Improve the current commercial vehicle tracking system
  • Increase visibility of vehicles used for business purposes
  • Quickly access information about the parties involved at the scene of an accident or any other traffic violation
  • Simplify the lookup process for a company’s safety rating data, which includes prior inspection violations, crash counts, and audit and compliance reviews
  • Improve overall safety performance of commercial motor vehicles
  • Reduce commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries
  • Remove high-risk commercial motor vehicle drives from our highways

These regulations are also based on current federal DOT regulations for interstate commercial vehicles. In other words, motor vehicles traveling across state lines to conduct business were previously required to display this same information.

Now, with these changes to Massachusetts intrastate marking requirements, our state will be aligned with the already established federal interstate marking requirements. In addition, a majority of other states across the U.S. have adopted these same requirements, including our neighbors, Maine, New York, and New Jersey.

What if I still need help determining if and how these Massachusetts State Marking Requirements may affect my business and my commercial vehicle(s)?

For further assistance and helpful and knowledgeable counsel on this issue, we highly recommend that you contact either one of these Massachusetts transportation compliance experts:

Or, call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) directly at (800) 832-5660.

How will Gilbert Insurance continue to serve you?

Your Gilbert team is here to provide you with much more than insurance advice. As your local commercial insurance professional, Gilbert will continue to make every effort to stay on top of any rule changes, like these Massachusetts State Markings Requirements, that might impact you, your business, your vehicles, your employees and more. And we want to do everything we can to help you avoid any of the consequences of non-compliance. For the most up-to-date information on business trends and topics that could affect your company, please regularly check our blog posts and our facebook page. You can also call us anytime at (781) 942-2225 with questions about commercial auto insurance, to request a complimentary review of your current policies, or for help making an informed decision about protecting all aspects of your business.

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Protect Your Home and Property in all Types of New England Weather https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/auto-safety/protect-your-home-and-property-in-all-types-of-new-england-weather/ Mon, 03 Dec 2018 20:27:10 +0000 http://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/understanding-flood-insurance-cost-saving-options-for-home-and-business-copy/ How to Prepare for a Rain, Wind or Snow Weather Event

Rain, wind, snow, repeat. As Bostonians, we are all too familiar with this predictable cycle of weather. From the heavy rains and river floods of spring, to the violent thunder and lightning storms of summer, to the gusty winds and overflowing gutters and drains of fall, to the freezing temps and noreasters of winter, we barely have time to catch a breath – never mind take in the sunshine – one season to the next.

Certainly, the main cause of anxiety over flood insurance is the high premium that you often have to pay for But, while we all know the drill, why is it that many of us do not take the time to prepare for what Mother Nature surely has in store for us year after year?

As your local insurance professional – and area residents ourselves – Gilbert Insurance wants to make sure that you have the critical information you need to protect your property and your personal belongings from the many different faces of our infamous New England weather.

What to do to prepare your home for a rainstorm:

Rain can be beautiful and peaceful to watch, but it can also be angry and powerful, especially when accompanied by strong winds. Heavy rains in particular can wreak havoc on your home and cost you a significant amount of money in repairs.
To ensure that your home is adequately prepared for a downpour any time of year, we recommend that you thoroughly assess your home’s structure. The beginning of both spring and fall are excellent times of year to walk around your property and to make a checklist of any repairs that need be made, such as:

  • Loose or missing shingles on the roof
  • Old or neglected caulking around your windows or doors
  • Broken or blocked gutters and downspouts
  • Cracked windows
  • Rotted wood around foundations, door and window frames
  • Damaged chimney flashing

In order to keep water out of your home and your belongings safe during a storm, make sure that you prioritize repairing any issues you find. While water damage to your home or belongings as a result of any of these issues will typically be covered under the dwelling portion of your standard home or condo insurance policy, your insurer may deny any claim you try to make for a leaky roof, cracked foundation, or broken gutter if you had prior knowledge of this issue but neglected to fix it.

What to do to prepare your home for a windstorm:

Powerful windstorms can send debris flying through the air and cause trees or tree limbs to come crashing down on your home, garage, shed or even a fence on your property. That’s why it’s a good idea, at least every spring, to assess any damages to the trees in your yard (and your neighbor’s yard if their trees are hanging over your property). You might find that winter’s many hazards, such as heavy, wet snow and sheaths of ice, have left some tree branches loose or unsafe. These should be pruned or remove, along with any diseased or rotted trees, as soon as possible. We actually wrote an entire blog post on safeguarding your trees and tree-related insurance claims that you can read for more tips surrounding this topic.

When a windstorm is brewing in your area, we strongly recommend battening down the hatches by:

  • Bringing in or tying down lawn furniture
  • Taking down outdoor umbrellas
  • Picking up kids toys and bikes that have been left outside
  • Putting cars in the garage, if possible
  • Safely storing gas grills and propane tanks

Items such as these can take flight during a strong windstorm, picking up enough speed to shatter windows, dent car doors and smash your shrubs, flowers, and other foliage. But, by taking the proper precautions, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in home repairs.

However, if, after all your hard work, fierce winds still managed to get the best of some of your property, then your home insurance should cover the damages because you’ve taken all the proper steps to prevent the loss from happening in the first place.

What to do to prepare your home for a snowstorm:

According to U. S. Climate Data, Boston gets an average of 44” of snow per year, with the bulk of that snow hitting in January, February, and March. Not only does all this snow impact your safety on the roads, but it also leaves your home exposed to many winter-related hazards. It’s a wise idea to prep your home for winter as early as possible and to take the following precautions before any snowstorm:

  • Bring in all the kids winter toys and tie down any outdoor furniture, like benches or that metal fire pit you set up on your backyard
  • Stock up on enough de-icing salt and sand to cover your walkways and driveways throughout the winter months
  • Tune up your snow blower, make sure you have plenty of gas in it, and put it someplace where it’s easily accessible
  • Clean out your gutters of any remaining fall leaves and excess debris that could block the drainage system
  • Prepare your basement, and other flood-prone areas in your home by testing your sump pump to make certain it is in proper working order
  • Check for drafts and weather shield your windows and doors against the cold winter air
  • Protect your pipes by looking for any signs of leaks, sealing up any cracks or holes near the pipes, and wrapping them in insulation
  • Purchase and store extra water that you can use in case the power goes out for flushing toilets and more
  • Make sure you keep a good, lightweight snow shovel in an accessible place (if it’s covered with a foot of snow it’s not going to be very helpful!)

Winter in New England is about as predictable as picking winning lottery numbers. But, no matter how much snow we get any given year, during these harsh winter months our homes are always susceptible to burst pipes, ice dams, broken windows, leaking roofs and more. The good news is that, in most cases, the damage caused by these perils will be covered under your standard homeowners policy. However, it’s important to note once again that your home must be maintained properly for your insurance carrier to pay out on claims such as these.

In the last 70 years, Gilbert Insurance has filed weather-related claims for our insured from some significant storms including, the Blizzard of ’78, Hurricane Bob and the Halloween “No-Name Storm” in 1991, Winter Storm Nemo in 2013, and, most recently, Winter Storm Grayson in January 2018 whose record-breaking high tides, wind, and snow left thousands throughout the Northshore digging out and cleaning up.

Our team wants to assist you in protecting your home and belongings from damages that can be caused by storms like these by doing more than just providing you with the proper insurance coverage. Helping you adequately prepare your home for all types of harsh New England weather is equally as important to us.

If you would like to work with a local agent who is widely experienced in dealing with the extreme ups-and-downs of this area’s weather patterns and who will partner with you to safeguard your home, then please contact the Gilbert Insurance team today. We’re more than happy to talk you through which common New England perils are covered by your standard home insurance and what additional precautions and protections you may want to consider.

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Understanding Flood Insurance & Cost-Saving Options for Your Home & Business https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/home-insurance-feature/understanding-flood-insurance-cost-saving-options-for-home-and-business/ Wed, 20 Jun 2018 16:54:55 +0000 http://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/three-reasons-why-you-absolutely-need-renters-insurance-copy/ There are many reasons why bringing up flood insurance with homeowners and business owners in the North Shore and Greater Boston, MA, can elicit lots of eyeball rolling and sighs of exasperation.

Certainly, the main cause of anxiety over flood insurance is the high premium that you often have to pay for coverage. But, not to be overlooked, is the frustration caused by the changing rules, regulations, flood maps and zones that are regularly put forth by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Over the past 41 years since congress established the NFIP, which is the federally backed flood insurance program, there have been tidal waves of confusion around flood insurance.

That’s why the Gilbert Insurance team would like to use this blog to not only provide important information about Flood Insurance that could answer some of your questions and concerns, but also to share some astonishing industry news – you might be able to significantly lower your flood insurance premium.

What is a flood event?

First, it’s key that you understand how a flood is defined by the insurance industry. This way, you will be 100% clear on what type of flood event your policy is designed to cover. The insurance industry’s definition of a flood is:

A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land areas or two or more properties (at least one of which is the policyholder’s property) from any of the following:

  1. The overflow of inland or tidal waters
  2. The unusual and rapid accumulation or run off of surface waters from any source
  3. A river of liquid and flowing mud on the surfaces of normally dry land areas, as when earth is carried by a current of water

In addition to providing coverage for these situations, a standard flood insurance policy also provides coverage in case of a flood caused by land collapsing along the shore of a lake or other body of water as a result of erosion or due to undermining caused by waves or currents of water that exceed anticipated cyclical levels.

A good question to ask yourself now, and one that the Gilbert team always addresses with our clients, is, “What is the likelihood that one or more of these flood situations is going to happen in my area?” Understanding this risk is critical because it is one of the primary factors used in determining your flood insurance premium.

How are flood insurance rates determined?

Your property’s location and what flood zone it has been assigned to are the primary factors that will determine your flood insurance rate, along with the amount and type of coverage purchased and the design and age of your structure.

For homeowners and business owners who are not completely familiar with the idea of flood zones, these are geographic areas to which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the NFIP, has assigned varying levels of flood risk. Thus, each zone reflects the severity or type of flooding in the area. Most important, EVERY home and business has been classified into a zone; whether you live along the North Shore’s rocky coastline or in one of Greater Boston’s many inland communities, there are no exceptions.

Below is a high-level overview of the Flood Insurance Risk Zone Designations that your property might be assigned to:

  • Zone B, X, or C are considered moderate to low risk areas where flood insurance is not mandated, but is available through the NFIP for all property owners as well as renters.
  • Zone A, AE, A1-30, AH, AO, AR, or A99 are communities that are high risk areas and property owners in these areas are mandated to have flood insurance.
  • Zone V, VE, or V1-30 are high risk coastal areas where property owners also have mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements.
  • Zone D denotes areas that have possible but undetermined flood risk or areas where no flood hazard analysis has been conducted, so flood insurance is not mandatory, but highly recommended due to the uncertainty of flood risk.

This may make Flood Zones seem rather simple, but, in actuality, the way that they are defined and applied is quite complex. The NFIP has evaluated every piece of property, and determined how often they believe that area will flood and how severe the flood event could be, in order to establish the proper flood insurance rates.

Making this process more confusing is that, over the past decade, the NFIP has continuously revised their rates and flood zone maps. These changes have often resulted in substantial and unexpected flood insurance costs and premium increases for both homeowners and business owners.

Why do flood insurance rates keep climbing?

Since its inception in the late 1970s, the goal of the NFIP has been to subsidize flood insurance rates in order to enable homeowners, businesses, and even renters to insure their property against flood damage with reasonably priced coverage.

But, in 2012, after almost 25 years of providing these subsidies, the federal government decided that the costs of the flood program had gotten out of control. So, they passed a law removing subsidies and raising everyone’s flood insurance rates. While people already in the program were grandfathered in, new property owners found themselves hit with extraordinarily higher flood insurance rates than previous owners.

To make matters even worse, coinciding with these increased rates, the NFIP also decided that, to further help reduce the flood program costs, they would get more people involved in the federal flood insurance program.

How do you force people to be part of a program if they don’t want to be? Well, the NFIP did this by redrafting all the flood maps and expanding many of the flood zones to include many more privately- and commercially-owned properties. Many properties that were once designated as having low and no flood risk became part of higher risk areas, leading to – you guessed it – even higher flood insurance rates.

How can Gilbert Insurance help lower your flood insurance rates?

There is no doubt that these rate and map changes have had a significant impact on the bank accounts of homeowners and business owners like you. At Gilbert Insurance, we have heard many stories from property owners who were previously assigned to a low, moderate or undetermined flood zone, who now are required to purchase flood insurance because their property has been reassigned to a higher-rated zone.

At Gilbert Insurance, the last thing we are going to do as your insurance agent is sit idly by and watch your flood insurance rates skyrocket. Instead, we have been diligently cultivating relationships with top quality insurers who have recently entered into the flood insurance marketplace. Through these partnerships, we may be able to provide access to much more affordable options than through the NFIP.

Another service that we offer our clients that can often save them many dollars is researching whether or not their property has an NFIP elevation certificate. This is a tool used to provide elevation information, specifically how far above sea level your property sits, and it is part of the rating information that determines the premium that the NFIP charges for your property. However, if you do not have a certificate, then your property is automatically placed in one of the “A” flood zones, or high-risk areas, which means you could be paying much more for your flood insurance than you should be. The certification process could demonstrate that you deserve a much lower rate through the NFIP, so we strongly suggest that you work with your Gilbert agent to find out if you need an elevation certificate.

There is so much more information that we would like to share about flood insurance, like how Flood Insurance is different from homeowners insurance, that will not only answer more of your questions about this critical protection for your home and business, but might also save you money. For more information, please contact us or come visit us in either our Reading or Malden, MA, offices. A member of our Gilbert team would be glad to assist you with all your flood insurance needs, including identifying your property’s flood zone, reviewing the elevation certificate process, and searching for a quality and, hopefully, lower-priced flood insurance option for you and your valuable property.

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Renting In Boston? Three Reasons Why You Absolutely Need Renters Insurance https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/general-insurance/three-reasons-why-you-absolutely-need-renters-insurance/ Tue, 03 Apr 2018 16:24:53 +0000 http://gilbertinsurance.com/factors-commercial-auto-insurance-rates-massachusetts-copy/ Living in Boston or in a neighboring city, such as Somerville, Malden, Medford and Everett, certainly has its perks; renowned restaurants, lively bars, boutique shopping, vintage movie theaters and trendy coffee shops are all easily accessible to residents. And while these advantages are likely some of the main reasons you’ve chosen to embrace city living, we also recognize that they can come with a hefty price tag.

Allow us to state the obvious – renting an apartment can be very expensive here in the Boston area. In fact, our beloved city was ranked one of the most expensive places to live in the US by Money – Time Magazine. With average rents ranging from $1,500 to $2,300 a month, many renters are dependent on a high-paying job, side hustle or a roommate (or two) in order to make their monthly rent financially feasible. And let’s not forget your other monthly expenses like gas, electricity, the internet, Netflix, cell phone bill, and groceries.

At this rate, taking your dream trip abroad, buying a house someday, and paying off your student loans, might seem far, far away. So, why would you want to even consider adding another monthly expense at this time? Let us explain.

Whether you’re renting a one-bedroom apartment in the West End of Malden, a two-family in Everett, or cozying up in a luxury unit at the Avalon in Somerville’s Assembly Row, renters insurance is extremely important to have. Now, don’t panic – you can afford renters insurance in addition to your other expenses. As your local insurance agent, Gilbert is here to not only talk about the reasons you need renters insurance, but also to share some tips on how to save money by doing so! So, keep calm and read on.

Reason #1: Most Apartments In (And Around) Boston Are Actually Requiring It

Many residential management companies are now requiring their tenants to have insurance while living on their property. For example, both Quarrystone at Overlook Ridge in Malden and Station Landing in Medford require their tenants to have a personal policy with a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage. Individual landlords who lease their personal condos, townhomes and multi-family units are also following suit.

While an insurance requirement may seem like a total nuisance, it is actually to your benefit, much like working with a local insurance agent. A proper renters insurance policy will safeguard you and your things, as well as provide you peace of mind in the event of a disastrous situation. Similarly, partnering with Gilbert means you will have access to friendly agents who will personally make sure that you and your things are always protected. In addition, as long-standing Bostonians ourselves, our team will not only share insurance advice and cost-saving tips, we can also help you pick out the perfect restaurant to wine and dine your partner at for your anniversary this year!

But let’s get to the best part – at Gilbert, we work with a variety of reputable insurance providers, like Arbella Insurance, which means we have access to renowned policies at a great price. In fact, Arbella offers our clients a variety of unique insurance options, including one of the most popular among renters – Carpartment Insurance. Through this program, you can purchase renters insurance for as little as $3 a week when you bundle your auto and renters policies together with Arbella. This bundle-and-save option could save you 15% or more on your insurance premiums. Looks like you might be able to save for that big trip to New Zealand after all!

Reason #2: It Provides Proper Protection For Your Personal And Prized Possessions (Say That Three Times Fast!)

Most renters assume that their apartments are covered under the landlord or property owners’ insurance policy, when, in actuality, that insurance only covers the damages that occur to the physical structure of the building.

So, what does this mean for you and your things? Let’s say a pipe bursts during the winter, your entire apartment floods and your sofa, laptop and distressed wool rug – that you budgeted three whole months for from West Elm – are all destroyed. If you don’t have a personal renters policy in place, there’s a good chance that your landlord or management company will cover the structure damages of your apartment only, leaving you to absorb the cost of repairing or replacing your damaged things. Ouch!

A proper renters insurance policy should include Personal Property coverage which protects just about all of your personal items. In some cases, depending on the policy you have, you can receive up to 100% replacement cost protection for your belongings in the event of a fire, smoke damage, vandalism, theft, and even some damages due to a bad storm or natural disaster (excluding floods and earthquakes).

Reason #3: You Can Split the Bill with Your Roommate

Living with a roommate can have its benefits – you’re never lonely, you always have someone to binge-watch Stranger Things with, as well as split the cost of food and wine with. What you may not know is that you and your roomie can also share the cost of renters insurance. Often, a renters insurance policy can be designed to cover up to two unrelated people under one single policy, which means you can add your roommate to your insurance for no extra charge. How awesome is that?!

However, if you do happen to live with two or more people, the remaining roommates will need to purchase their own separate policies.

It is important to keep in mind that your renters policy will not cover theft or intentional damage done to your things by a roommate, regardless of whether or not these items are covered under your insurance policy.

Ready To Get The Insurance Process Started?

You’ve found the perfect apartment; with easy access to public transit, making your commute to work a breeze, close to scenic running routes that may just inspire you to start training for a half marathon this year, and, as a bonus, exposed beam and brick which pairs well with your modern yet eclectic design taste. The next step in your rental journey is to partner with a local agency, like Gilbert, who will look out for you, your things and your budget.

So, give our team of friendly agents a call today at (781) 942-2225 to discuss our bundle-and-save options and receive your free renters insurance quote. Or, if you’re in the neighborhood, stop into one of our convenient locations in Reading or Medford. We can’t wait to meet you!

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Gilbert Insurance Guide to Tree Claims https://gilbertinsurance.com/blog/home-insurance-feature/tree-claims/ Wed, 28 Feb 2018 18:46:58 +0000 http://gilbertinsurance.com/?p=836 Spring is in the air, and while this season often brings with it warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, and school vacation, as New Englanders we know to expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to the weather forecast. And while we hope the weather has officially taken a turn for the best, there is no denying that your trees handled quite a bit this winter. The combination of snow, ice, and below freezing temps takes its toll on your saplings, leaving them susceptible to possible damage now and in the future.

Did you know tree collapses are a common weather-related insurance claim? Not only are they frequent during the winter, the mild temperatures of spring often reveal tree-related damage inflicted by the snow and ice of winter’s past. As the weather begins to change, now is the perfect time to review your current insurance policy to make sure you don’t get stuck with any surprise bills this year. The knowledgeable team at Gilbert Insurance has put together some important tips to help you better prepare and possibly even prevent a tree-related claim.  

Safeguard Your Trees

It’s always better to prevent something from happening than to react to the aftermath. Below are a few quick tips to help you properly prepare your trees.

  1. Prune — Trimming your trees and shrubbery not only keeps them healthy, it also gives you a chance to remove any dead, diseased, or unsafe branches that may cause damage.
  2. Inspect — Hire a professional arborist to examine your trees for any ice or snow damage. A trained expert can clearly identify what branches are unsafe as well as remove them.
  3. Fertilize — Fertilizing and mulching your plants helps the soil remain moist and provides your shrubs and trees with the nutrients they need to stand up against harsh weather conditions.
  4. Remove — It is recommended that any tree limbs or branches that are dead or diseased be removed as they can easily break and cause damage to your property. For those larger branches, we always encourage you to hire a professional.

Fallen Trees and Insurance

If you’ve taken the proper steps to protect your trees, but heavy snowfall, rain, and extreme winds still manage to wreak havoc on your property or vehicle — are you covered?

When it comes to insurance and filing a claim for tree damage, not all claims look alike. If a tree falls because it is rotted, but does not damage your home, you’ll likely have to bear the cost of removing the tree yourself. It is important to note that trees, shrubs, and plants are only covered for specific things like fire, lightning and vehicle damage. However, if a tree falls on your home due to wind and snow, which are perils that are not specified, your homeowner’s coverage will likely pay the cost of removing the tree and repairing the damage.

Filing a Claim

When filing a claim for tree damage, or anything else, it’s important to take the necessary steps to properly document your insurance claim. Below are a few tips to ensure the claims process is fast, smooth and stress-free, so you can get back to living your life that much sooner.

  1. Take photos from multiple angles to establish the extent and cause of the damage.
  2. Jot down as many details as possible. Was there a storm? What were the conditions? What was damaged? This information coupled with the photos will help you authenticate what happened.
  3. Call Your Local Insurance Agent and provide them with all the damage details so they can assist you with the claims process.

In many instances, damages resulting from a fallen tree are covered by your home or auto insurance. However, if you are unsure, now is the perfect time to review your policy with a knowledgeable and trusted, Gilbert Insurance agent, so you can be sure that you are properly covered. Get in touch with us today at (781) 942-2225 or stop by our office at our Reading or Malden location.

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