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Welcome to Spring!

What a wonderful time of year; the sun starts to shine, the birds start to sing, and the snow starts to melt. All of these are great things; however, melting snow and spring showers can cause big problems. Fortunately, with proper maintenance and simply keeping an eye on things, you can prevent or minimize the effects of most water and water related damage.

What is Water Damage?

Water Damage is loss or damage to the building, contents, or scheduled articles from sudden and accidental water escape from sewer, sump pump, septic tank, or from downspouts or eaves troughs. Insurance does NOT cover damage from problems resulting from a lack of proper maintenance such as, but not limited to, dripping air conditioners or cracked foundations.

What Can You Do?

There are steps you can take to help reduce the chance of your property being damaged by water.

You can:

• Maintain your home and/or business building
• ensure the roof and shingles are not curling, worn or deteriorating;
• put exterior hoses away for the winter – don’t forget to drain the pipe;
• keep floor drains clear of obstruction;
• ensure that there is proper grading around the building;
• move large piles of snow away from your foundation;
• keep eaves troughs and downspouts clear;
• install a sump pump;
• install backflow valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to prevent water from entering the building;
• store important documents and irreplaceable objects (such as photographs) where they will not get damaged;
• if you will be away from home during the winter for more than 3 days, turn off the water, drain the plumbing and all domestic appliances or arrange to have someone come in daily and check your home to ensure that your heat is still on.
• elevate furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels in the basement on masonry or relocate these objects;
• replace plastic or rubber water supply lines connecting appliances or plumbing fixtures in your home with flexible steel braded hoses;
• consider connecting your plumbing and heating system to a 24-hour monitored alarm service;
• consider installing a water sensor detection system with shut-off valves designed to turn off the water in the event of a plumbing failure;
• avoid finishing areas like basements that may be prone to flooding; and
• ensure you carry the sewer back up/water damage endorsement on your insurance policy.

What To Do in the Event of a Water Damage Loss?

Be careful!
Do not turn on any electrical switches until your electrical system has been checked. Turn off your main switch by standing on a dry surface and using a piece of heavy rubber, plastic or dry wood. If you have gas service, check for fumes. If you notice an odour, call the gas company immediately.

Protect it
Take steps immediately to protect your property from further damage. Board up holes or shut off water supplies to ensure your belongings are not damaged more than they have been. Move items out of wet basements and away from flooded parts of your building. Save receipts for materials you use. Your insurance company will likely cover any reasonable costs associated with protecting your property if the loss is covered by the policy.

Call your insurance representative
Let your insurance representative know what has happened as soon as possible. This representative will begin to work with you to ensure the damage is assessed, your insurance company is notified, and you are compensated as quickly as possible if the loss is covered by the policy.

Health hazards
During a flood cleanup, the indoor air quality in your home or business may appear to be the least of your problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and mould. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions and continue to damage materials long after the flood.

What is Not Covered?

Vacant dwellings, dwellings under construction, and homes or businesses without the sewer back up/water damage endorsement will not be covered in the event of a water damage loss. As well, flood, seepage and leakage are not covered. Please check your policy to ensure you carry the appropriate coverage.

“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure” – Benjamin Franklin (who probably owned a cat or two in his time)



NO-FAULT INSURANCE – A Widely Misunderstood Phrase

We drive on the parkway and park in the driveway.  The world is full of misnomers and no-fault insurance is one of them.  What does no-fault really mean?  It sounds like a dream come true.  “Hey, I just caused a car accident.  Worried?  No, I have no-fault insurance, so it’s not my fault.”  Not exactly.  Whenever there is an auto accident there will be a determination of fault.  In a no-fault system, what differs is how the claim will be paid out.

There are two concepts for no-fault insurance:  Bodily Injury and Vehicle Damage. 

In the realm of bodily injury, no-fault insurance means that claims are settled without regard for the traditional legal liability concepts.  An insured, after suffering a loss, looks to his or her own insurer to recover.  In Alberta, this coverage is mandatory and is referred to as Accident Benefits. 

For vehicle damage claims, the term ‘no-fault’ implies that no single person is at fault when an accident occurs, but that’s not entirely true. It simply means that when an accident occurs, each party involved reports the accident to his/her own insurance company, regardless of who is at fault.

The aim of no-fault insurance is to reduce costs for claims investigation, subrogation, and litigation, as well as to speed up settlements as insureds are dealing only with their own insurer.  Ultimately, the desired benefit of no-fault insurance is cost savings resulting in lower premiums. 

Under the no-fault system, depending on the province, an accident victim can still take legal action against the driver who causes an accident.  This is known as a “tort” action, and in certain situations accident victims could sue for non-economic losses, in addition to any damages or benefits that their insurance provider paid out.

The no-fault system is not without its drawbacks.  Some insurers do not agree with the philosophy.  There can also be problems with the payment of deductibles, and fault still needs to be established for premium determination.  Further, there is typically a cap on the dollar amount per claim under these agreements.  You may also lose the ability to sue or have it drastically reduced in certain no-fault jurisdictions. 

Thus, no-fault insurance is not the magical free pass as the name implies.  Every driver on the road is required to operate their vehicle in a safe and responsible manner at all times.  So, be careful out there.   



Well, that depends…..  What do you mean by “borrowed”?  This may seem like splitting hairs, but this is actually a very important distinction in determining if you will be covered by your own insurance when you drive a vehicle that doesn’t belong to you.  Non-owned vehicles that are being used temporarily generally fall into two categories:  Temporary Substitute Automobiles and Borrowed Automobiles.

Temporary Substitute Automobiles are those which are not owned by the insured or anyone living in the insured’s household (so, that Boogie Van that belongs to your creepy uncle who lives in your basement cannot be considered a temporary substitute).  A temporary substitute automobile must be substituting an insured automobile that cannot be used because of breakdown, repair, servicing, loss, destruction, or sale. 

Assuming you have an automobile policy that includes the mandatory coverages (Third Party Liability and Accident Benefits) and Section C (Physical Damage), these coverages will extend to a temporary substitute automobile.  Coverage for physical damage to temporary substitute automobiles is given by the Additional Agreements of Section C, which cover the insured’s legal liability for damage to the temporary substitute automobile. 

For Borrowed Automobiles, there is no requirement that the insured vehicle be unavailable – mandatory coverage is automatically extended when the insured or his/her spouse drives a borrowed automobile EXCEPT in this case, there is no physical damage coverage extended. 

It must be made clear that both temporary substitute and borrowed vehicles are covered ONLY if they are of the private passenger or station wagon type.  Sorry, but that U-Haul cube van you just rented to move some furniture is not covered by your policy. 

Of course, there are many other rules, regulations, definitions, and exclusions that cannot be included in one article.  The best option is to speak with a licensed insurance broker should you have any questions or concerns about your insurance coverages.   


Liability Insurance: What Limit Should I Carry?

It is prudent, nay, necessary, for businesses to carry liability insurance. Canada isn't anywhere near as litigious as Germany, who is currently ranked the most litigious country in the world at 123.2 lawsuits for every 1000 people (doeLegal Journal), but we're not quite the easy going pacifists the rest of the world thinks we are.

The truth of the matter is we are getting more and more litigious all the time.  People are starting to sue for stupid reasons. What's worse, they're starting to win their cases! Here's an example of a stupid person doing a stupid thing, and then suing and (God help us) winning her case: A woman collected $113,000 from a local restaurant after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was spilled is because the woman had thrown it at her boyfriend seconds earlier during an argument.

Not dumb enough for you? Here's another one: A man was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after he climbed over his neighbor’s fence and repeatedly shot his neighbor’s dog with a BB gun. The beagle promptly bit him on his posterior. This idiot deserves a severe beating, not a court award.

So, you see, even though you think no court on earth could possibly award an idiot for being an idiot, here is proof that it's just not so.

Personal accountability anyone? That concept seems to be disappearing faster than these frivolous lawsuits are popping up. This is why all businesses, no matter what size, no matter what the operations, need liability insurance.

Liability insurance provides protection from the negative financial impact of a claim or lawsuit from bodily injury and/or property damage to third parties. It is designed to provide a financial resource for the Insured, that is, it pays for lawsuits where another person(s) and/or their property suffers injury or damage as a result of the Insured's negligence with its operations, products, or service.

The standard $1 million Commercial General Liability policy is no longer sufficient to protect most businesses. Many believe that an absolute minimum of $2 million is more appropriate, but higher limits could be required.

The rule of thumb for determining limits of insurance is that the limit should be equivalent to the value of the assets of the company. This is not a hard rule, as individual circumstances can dictate other considerations depending on the type of industry or corporate activities in which an organisation engages or the quantum value of lawsuits arising against similar organisations within the same industry.

Another perspective is to arrange a limit of insurance that is greater than any recent court awards. This is a forward-thinking strategy as it takes the worry out of whether or not there is enough insurance.

Regardless, all businesses, great or small, should have at least some insurance for their legal liability.  To not have it could mean financial ruin.


Why does my old car cost more to insure than my new car?


We hear this question time and again. Why does my old car cost more to insure than my new car? The answer, although not difficult, is long and fairly detailed. The fact of the matter is the age of your car is only one minor detail that makes up your premium.

So, could a brand new Cadillac Escalade cost less to insure than a 1995 Buick Skylark? Probably not, but that depends. In response to competition and a public belief that premiums should reflect very individual exposures, rating has become very sophisticated; many rating categories have been developed and this has resulted in a multitude of premium permutations.

Automobile insurance ratemaking is an actuarial science. Autos are divided first into major classes including private passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, public automobiles (taxis, buses), recreational vehicles (ATVs, motorcycles), garage risks, and non-owned automobiles. Each risk is then based on the hazard presented by the territory where the automobile is used, class of automobile and its uses, drivers, and the automobile itself.

Other factors taken into consideration are the MSRP of the vehicle, body style, horsepower, costs of repairs, frequency and costs of actual claims for the year, make, model of the automobile, wheelbase, weight-to-horsepower ratio, and the theft record of individual models.

Premiums are based on actual data compiled by the General Insurance Statistical Agency and the rates charged by Insurance companies are reviewed and must be approved by the provincial Superintendent of Insurance. As well, the government of Alberta has the Grid which ensures drivers are not over charged for basic automobile insurance based on their age or gender.

So, just because your old junker's value is a fraction of your new car's value, that doesn't mean the insurance will also be a fraction of the cost.

The Cost of Driving Without Insurance

Think the cost of automobile insurance is too expensive? Think about this: if you injure someone or damage their property while operating a vehicle, you can be out a lot more than just an insurance payment.

Purchasing insurance to operate your vehicle is the law. The penalty for breaking the law can be a fine, demerit points, loss of driving privileges, imprisonment, financial ruin, or any combination of these penalties, even all of …them.

In Alberta, the fine for getting caught while driving without insurance is typically more than double the cost of one year's insurance. Driving with no Insurance, including being the owner of the vehicle and allowing someone to drive it uninsured, carries a $2875 fine.

Damaging one's own vehicle can cause inconvenience and financial hardship when having it repaired. An injury to one's self as a result of an accident can lead to a loss of income, the inability to work or even the loss of enjoyment of life.

Think you're too careful of a driver to ever have an accident? What if someone else causes you bodily injury or damages your property? Your Alberta insurance policy, when you carry at least the minimum required limits of liability, includes Accident Benefits. You are protected as a driver, occupant of a vehicle, or as a pedestrian under this coverage. This is a no-fault coverage and is available to you a lot sooner, through your own insurance company, than waiting for a court award (assuming you will be able to successfully sue the responsible party).

Driving without insurance to save money is like buying lottery tickets for your retirement fund. It may seem like a good idea when you thought of it, but in reality, it's actually pretty darn dumb.


EXPLORING INTERNATIONAL WATERS – an article by Shelley Kellelman of Capitalize Magazine

If you see a solution to a problem, you naturally want to apply it, no matter where in the world it is. "An understanding of accounting, business process and analytics can be applied anywhere," says Jeff Brown FCMA, CEO and President of PL&B Insurance. "The world stage is truly available to anyone interested in solving global issues."

Jeff graduated with a BBA from the University of New Brunswick. Early on, he realized a professional designation was essential to move up the corporate ladder. Jeff received his CMA designation in 1993 and was named an FCMA in 2013. He took on a variety of roles in the insurance industry and after purchasing shares in Pratt, Lambert and Brown from his parents, became the company's sole shareholder in 1994.

His father's advice to 'look after others and they'll look after you' has been a guiding force in Jeff's career.

"It's a simple statement, but it sums up what we all know: no one is going to pay you just because you want money. Get a great education, develop a unique vision and plan, work hard and deliver value. Success will follow."

Along with his executive roles at PL & B, Jeff applies his accounting and finance knowledge around the world.

While on a charity trip to Uganda in eastern Africa, Jeff was introduced to the process of solar water disinfection. "We knew the process had to be revisited, and people needed to be better trained if we were to entrench a permanent change in water disinfection practices," says Jeff. To do this, Jeff established his own charity in 2005 called Sun Safe Water.

Sun Safe Water has done work in Uganda, Kenya, Indonesia, and Brazil, with most work presently done in Cameroon. This relatively simple process to disinfect water uses a clear plastic bottle, sunlight and careful instruction. It is effective, inexpensive, simple, and culturally acceptable.

"Archaeologists approximately 30 years ago were wondering why ancient Romans left pans of water in the sun," says Jeff. "Remarkably, they found the sun's energy, under the right conditions, was sufficient to destroy most pathogens."

The process is dependent on a reliable supply of the right kind of plastic bottles, which led Jeff to become involved in managing a water bottling and pharmaceutical production facility in Cameroon.

With Sun Safe Water, 100 per cent of donations are directly spent to benefit the children and families of its target partners. Sun Safe Waters' simple Vision statement says it all: the world can work for everyone. Our part is to focus on practical solutions to the elimination of disease caused by the consumption of contaminated water.

"I've never thought of this work as altruistic. There is really a great deal of personal benefit," says Jeff. "The rewards are new friendships, new understanding of our world, seeing interesting landscapes and faunae, absorbing new cultures and a feeling of being alive. No matter how hard I try to be of benefit to others, it seems I get the most from these ventures."

Designated for more than 20 years, Jeff says travel and some unusual projects impact how he uses his education and expertise. He is more confident, he says, in applying his skill set in unique situations. "My interests have taken me to some very remote locations around the world, and what they say is true: it really is a jungle out there."


ONUS OF PROOF – When suing for negligence

Onus of Proof (onus probandi) is a legal term that means the burden or responsibility of proof.

When one person sues another, the law puts the onus of proof upon the person suing, the plaintiff, to satisfy the court that there is enough evidence to uphold the allegation that negligence of the person being sued, the defendant, caused the damages. In response, the defendant has an opportunity to demonstrate there was no negligence or that negligence rests elsewhere.

Concerning automobile insurance, when two motorists are involved in an accident, the one who alleges the other is negligent must prove the allegation of negligence.

In an accident involving a pedestrian, however, the motorist is presumed to be liable to the pedestrian, and it is up to the motorist to prove that he/she was not negligent.