What you can’t see, can hurt you…


The cold weather has finally returned to Calgary. This means that our furnaces will be running more to keep our homes warm. Make sure your family is safe this winter by having all your fuel burning appliances inspected and your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are all working properly.  Barry from our office recently had a carbon monoxide fright; here’s what he had to say about it:

“The other night I was woken up by the ear piercing sound of our carbon monoxide detector going off at around 2am. Needless to say, that is a sound you do not want to ever hear in your life, let alone in the middle of the night in winter.

It was the alarm right outside of the bedroom. I grabbed it out of the wall and did the exact opposite thing that a person in this situation should do, and assumed it was a false alarm. I pulled the battery out and it shut off. As soon as I put the battery back in, it started beeping again so I gathered my wife, our dog, and my in-laws (staying with us for the holidays) and moved everyone outside to fresh air. My wife called 911 and the fire department was dispatched to our house. They advised us not to go back in, and of course it was cold and we were all in pajamas, so my wife drove the whole gang a few blocks away to my parent’s house to stay warm while I waited for the fire department to show up.

Minutes later two Calgary City fire trucks showed up. I found out later that one was a Hazmat team. They were all business when they arrived and I directed them to where the alarm was plugged in and where it was now. They checked the entire house, starting in the basement (as that is where most carbon monoxide leaks originate) but had no sign of anything on their meters. Hazmat followed up and they couldn’t get a reading anywhere either so…. Good news!!! False alarm!

We had been doing some renovations and there was a lot of dust in the air for a few days which they said could have triggered the alarm… either that or it was just a faulty alarm. We have since replaced that one and still have 4 in the house, two in the basement and two on the main floor. It was quite an experience and I was relieved to hear that we did the right thing by finding fresh air and calling 911. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! “

Remember carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no color, smell or taste. If your detector goes off get your family outside and call 911 right away.

This brings me to the next point. When did you last replace your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors?  We are all told to make sure to replace the batteries every time we change the clocks in spring and fall, but that may not be enough.  Both smoke & carbon monoxide detectors have expiry dates.  The average lifespan of these detectors is only 7 years!   If you can’t remember the last time you replaced these units it’s probably time to do it now.   New detectors are not very expensive and you can get combo units that monitor both smoke and carbon monoxide. When you do replace them put a sticker on them with the date you installed them so you know how old they are in the future.





What is a deductible?

Deductibles are one of the most misunderstood parts of a car insurance policy. Basically the deductible is the portion you agree to absorb financially in the event of an accident. For example if your deductible is $500 and the repairs to your car cost $8,500, you will be responsible for paying the first $500 and the insurance company will pay the remaining $8,000 to repair your  vehicle.

So how do I choose a deductible amount?

There are many deductible options available. Which one is right for you will depend on your own unique situation.  Typically the higher the deductible the lower your insurance premiums will be.  Here are a few examples of when a higher deductible may benefit you:

  • If you own a high value vehicle a higher deductible will help to keep premiums low.
  • If you recently added a newly licensed driver to your policy.
  • If you have traffic convictions. In some cases your policy may be surcharged depending on the number and type of traffic convictions.   A higher deductible can help to offset some of the surcharge.
  • If you have prior at fault claims. Your driving record may have been impacted by recent at fault losses on your policy. Moving up to a higher deductible can help offset some of the premium increase you may have experienced.

To help determine what deductible is right for you talk to one of our agents. We can walk you through the pros and cons of each deductible option and provide you with cost estimates on each to help you make the right choice for you and your family.

Why do I have to pay my deductible if the claim wasn’t my fault?

The important thing to remember here is that a deductible is always paid. Usually the deductible will be paid by the party responsible for causing the accident.  (If you caused the accident you will pay your deductible.  If the other driver caused the accident, their insurance will pay your deductible).  However, there are instances where you may be told you have to pay your deductible, even though the claim wasn’t your fault:

  • If the responsible driver fled the scene and we don’t know who to go after.
  • If the responsible driver has no insurance.
  • If the claim is a complex multi vehicle accident. Determining who is responsible for what can be a time consuming process. In these cases it may take the insurance claims adjusters months to properly determine fault.
  • If the drivers involved offer different accounts of events leading up to the accident.

Generally speaking the deductible will be reimbursed to you at a later date once fault has been finalized by the claims adjusters.

One of the best things you can do to help protect yourself from having to pay your own deductible in a claim that wasn’t your fault is to sell your car and take the bus to install a dash camera in your vehicle.  Dash cameras don’t lie.  They can provide valuable information about the accident and help prove which driver’s statement is correct.  They are inexpensive, easy to install, and can prove extremely valuable to both the insurance company and police in the event of a claim.

Remember, if you do ever suffer a claim, you have us on your side. We work for you, not the insurance company.  You can lean on us for advice and help in dealing with your claims process.


Holiday Shopping

Holiday ShoppingThe holidays are finally here and some of you, like myself, may still be searching for the right gifts for the loved ones on your list. Here are a few ideas for the tech lovers in your life that also might help in the event they ever have to make an insurance claim.

Dash cam – Insurers in Canada don’t yet offer a dash camera discount. According a recent survey by 10% of Canadian drivers already drive with a vehicle equipped with a dash cam.  More than 25% said that while they don’t currently have a dash cam in their car, they think it’s a good idea.  The best part is they aren’t even all that expensive.

No matter how much you choose to spend on one, they’re well worth the investment. The footage they capture can make all the difference in the event of an accident where the drivers are providing different statements to the police and insurance adjusters.    With the camera footage it becomes a lot easier to identify and prove exactly what really happened.

Connected car – If you’re giving your child their first car for Christmas chances are you did your homework and tried to find them a safe, reliable and affordable automobile.  When it comes to pre-owned cars though you never really know what problems you may face down the road.  Some telecommunication companies, Telus for example, are now offering connected car plans that can be added to your phone plan.  It’s a small device that plugs into the diagnostic port on the vehicle and can alert to potential issues with the cars systems.  It can push alerts to your smartphone alerting to any diagnostic trouble codes, if your battery is low, or if you left your lights on.  Pricing starts at around $15 a month

Smart Thermostat – These are becoming more and more popular.  Not only are they more energy efficient but they can also provide a huge advantage over traditional thermostats from an insurance perspective.  These thermostats can send a push notification to any device running the companion application (smartphone or tablet) alerting you if the temperature dips below a pre determined value.  This is extremely valuable feature during our harsh Canadian winters as theres nothing worse than coming home from a hard day at work to find a pipe froze and burst in your home.

Smart plugs and lights – Remember those days of setting up light timers before going on vacation.  What about coming home alone late at night to a dark house?  Wouldn’t it be great if your lights turned on automatically everyday without having to think about it?  Or if they turned on when you pulled your car into the driveway?  Well the good news is this is all doable.  And it doesn’t have to be expensive if you don’t want it to be.  Smart plugs are super affordable now.  You can pick these up for a about $40.  They can run on a preset scheduled &/or use your phones location to determine when to turn on an off.   If you’re really adventurous a lot of them can be paired with IFTTT service so you can have a light turn on and off according to the weather, or sunset / sunrise.   Whatever set up you decide is right for you it provides added security for you and your family.  It might just be enough to deter a burglar if they think someone is home.

Wifi Water sensor – Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the new technology that’s offered to homeowners.  One example of this is a wifi water sensor.  For less than $70 you can set up a smart wifi water sensor in your home.  Typically you would want to set this up in your utility room near your hot water tank and floor drain.  If it comes in contact with any water it sounds an audible alarm in the home and sends a push notification to any smart devices running the companion application (smartphone or tablet for example).  Being notified early on gives you a better chance of minimizing the damage caused.   If cost is no object you can also get systems that not only sound an alarm and push a notification but also physically shut the main water line off as well in the event it detects a leak.

Wifi camera system – Much like vehicle dash cams, insurers don’t yet offer discounts for wifi camera systems.  However that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.  These systems can send push notifications to any smart device running the companion application (smartphone or tablet) alerting you to motion within the home or surrounding property.  They are also great for pet owners allowing them to check in on their fur babies and some systems even allow for two way communication allowing you to talk to your pets. Prices start at about $75 and go up depending on how many cameras you want and what features you’re looking for.

There is a lot of really great tech products out there these days and they are all pretty affordable. They can make life easier and provide peace of mind.  And in some cases provide valuable data to the insurance company in the event of a loss.

Happy shopping…..


Sources:,   Huffington Post,   Telus


Vehicle Theft

Car Theft

We are only a few weeks away from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) releasing their figures for the top ten most stolen vehicles of 2017. We promise to share that info with you just as soon as it’s available. The 2017 list is available here.

Unfortunately statistics in Canada show a vehicle is stolen every 7 minutes. That’s nearly 75,000 vehicles stolen every year!   Those costs add up pretty quickly.  According to IBC it adds up to nearly $1 billion each year ($542 million for insurers to fix or replace the vehicle, $250 million in police, healthcare and court system costs, and millions more in correctional services).

75,000 is a lot of stolen cars. So where do they all go? What happens to them?  Typically these vehicles are stolen for one of these reasons:

  • To sell abroad. Once stolen these vehicles may be loaded into shipping containers and sent abroad where they are sold for many times their original market value. Inspectors at the port of Montreal have seized roughly $8 million worth of stolen vehicles from the port each year since 2009.
  • To sell to unsuspecting consumers. Vehicles may be given a false VIN and sold to unsuspecting shoppers. Many buyers are unaware that thieves can replace a VIN from a stolen vehicle with one that belongs to a legally registered vehicle. This is a process called “VIN cloning” or “retagging”. This process is used by thieves in an attempt to hide the vehicles true history.
  • To sell the vehicle in parts. Sometimes a vehicle is worth more in pieces than it is as a whole. Thieves take the vehicle to a “chop shop” and disassemble the vehicle and sell the parts for profit. The engine, transmission and frame are often scrapped as they are all marked with the vehicles VIN. The remaining parts typically do not have the VIN and are sold to unsuspecting or dishonest salvage yards or mechanics.
  • To commit another crime. These vehicles are typically recovered within 48 hours of their theft as they have been abandoned after the thieves are done with them. These vehicles usually are damaged and may not be repairable.

Generally car thefts are lower among newer model vehicles. Advancements in vehicle security and ignition systems have helped to reduce the number of thefts.  In addition to that many automakers are now including, or offering the option, to have the VIN etched into the body panels and glass before the vehicle is delivered to the consumer.

When shopping for a used vehicle, make sure you do your research on the vehicle before signing the bill of sale and handing over your hard earned cash. Buying your vehicle from a trustworthy dealership is a good start.  Services like a Carfax report can indicate a potential VIN clone and confirm vehicle mileage.

There are also additional steps you can take to protect the vehicle you already own from theft:

  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times, even while driving.
  • Never leave your keys in or on the vehicle when it’s parked. If you have one of those little magnetic spare key holders get rid of it.
  • Never leave your car running and unattended. I know that one’s hard to do in our cold climate, but honestly your car will warm up quicker if you just get in and go. Expert mechanics also say that warming up the car in the cold before you drive actually does more harm to the engine longevity than just driving right away.
  • Don’t leave valuables inside your vehicle .
  • Avoid high crime areas. Know where you are going and plan your route accordingly.
  • Install an anti theft system.
  • Park your vehicle in well lit areas. Thieves prefer to work in the dark.
  • Make sure you have theft coverage on your automobile insurance policy.

Ultimately if a thief really wants a vehicle they will find a way. Vehicles are just metal and they are in no way worth more than your life.  Don’t ever put yourself in harm’s way for your vehicle.  Cars can be replaced, you can’t.

Sources : Insurance Bureau of Canada, Global News, Carfax, Popular Mechanics, Geico


Cyber & Privacy Insurance


In today’s data driven world where sensitive information is stored and transferred electronically, organizations like yours, which handle, receive, collect and store all kinds of information are vulnerable to costly and damaging liabilities from data security breaches.

Whether your customer’s data is compromised by a hacker, virus, cyber thief, or simply because of lost or stolen computers, laptops, flash drives or smart phones, data security breaches can have serious ramifications. There are substantial financial costs involved in finding and remedying a breach, including the cost of notifying customers –now legally mandated in Alberta. It is estimated that 1/3 of all Canadian businesses have been subject to some sort of Cyber attack or at least a probe attack. The risk to you is that sensitive client data can be stolen. By law, you are required to take action by notifying all of your clients of a breach of their information. This can be a costly process. In the event of a data breach you may also be exposed to litigation by your clients if sensitive data is stolen. You can also suffer financial damage due to the interruption of your business operations as well as damage to your reputation as a safe place to do business.

Cyber criminals don’t kick down your front door –they get your employees to open it for them by sending them infected emails. Educating your people about these things is the most cost effective way to protect your business from Cyber attack. We also recommend that you employ third party consultants to assess your IT security. We can’t help you with your computer system’s security measures against these types of attacks, you need to have a detailed discussion with your IT service department / provider to ensure you have done everything possible to thwart cyber attacks with the most up to date fire walls, security software and antivirus software.

In addition to risk mitigation steps that can be taken, we can now provide you with a Cyber and Privacy Insurance policy. It can provide coverage for:

  • Legal claims against you arising from unauthorized access to data containing identity information and the failure to provide notification of data breach where required by law.
  • Legal fees associated with defending legal action against you as well as liability coverage in the event of a legal settlement against you.
  • Security breach remediation and notification expenses
  • Expenses incurred to restore data lost from damage to computer systems due to computer virus or unauthorized access
  • Money paid due to E Commerce extortion
  • Loss of income, and the extra expense incurred to restore operations as a result of a computer system disruption caused by a virus or other unauthorized computer attack.
  • Loss of monies due to fraudulent transfer instructions to a financial institution can also be provided.

Cyber and Privacy Insurance should be considered if you handle or store any sensitive customer, employee or business information on your computers as you are at risk of Privacy Breach and/or Cyber attack. If you store information electronically or deal with credit cards, social insurance numbers, addresses, bank account information you are of interest to cyber attackers. If the risk of a cyber attack has struck a nerve with you, we encourage you to call us to look at how we can help you protect your business. If your business was exposed to a ransom ware attack and you are asked to cough up $30,000.00 the true cost would be much more than $30,000.00. There are costs for a forensic investigation, payment to lawyers to go through the notification process, public relations costs to mitigate reputational harm, etc. In a serious incident total costs could easily reach $100,000.00.

Claims Examples


Example #1:

An online mortgage company reported a breach after several former employees gave mortgage lenders access to confidential customer records. Over a two year period, lenders obtained access to private client information, such as social insurance numbers, income and employment data, and used it to market their own mortgages. The mortgage company incurred the cost of notifying their clients, and the cost to protect the privacy and identity of the firm’s clients, restore their identity to pre-theft status if required and report any security breach to credit agencies. Total remediation costs were in excess of $75,000.

Example #2:

A mid-size accounting firm was broken into and laptop computers were stolen. Some of the information contained in these laptops was personal, including the social insurance numbers and bank account information of the firm’s clients. Overall, a total of nearly 10,000 of the firm’s clients were affected by this theft. Although the police investigating the case suspected that the theft was a simple “smash and grab,” the firm had not encrypted the information found in these laptops, making it easily accessible. There was a one month lapse between the time of the theft and the time the firm notified their clients.

The firm had to incur significant remediation costs, both to notify the clients and to retain a company to protect the privacy and identity of the firm’s clients, and restore their identity to pre-theft status as required and report any security breach to credit agencies. Total remediation costs were $150,000.

Although this example involves an accounting firm, it could apply to professional practices of all kinds, including medical clinics, medical professionals, business consultants, brokerages or any other type of professional dealing with sensitive and confidential information.

Example #3:

A medical clinic employee accidentally emailed a file with client names, medical records and provincial health card numbers to an unauthorized individual. The medical clinic notified its clients of the breach immediately. Two months after the breach, one of the clinic’s clients was a victim of identity theft and sued the clinic for damages. The final settlement was $50,000 and the cost to defend the clinic was $25,000.

Call us now so we can send you a Cyber Solution Insurance Application and we will put together a quote for you.


Fall Safety Tips


The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler, and the leaves are beginning to drop from the trees. Fall is officially here.  With proper safety precautions in mind your family can enjoy the crisp autumn weather while avoiding some of the dangers that come with the season.

When the weather turns cold most people start to spend more time indoors using fireplaces, furnaces and heaters to keep warm. There is nothing quite a cozy as a fire but it does present some safety hazards.  Be sure to keep these tips in mind to keep your family warm and safe.

  • Service Your Furnace – Before the cold autumn and winter weather sets in, be sure to call your local heating company to have your furnace serviced and inspected.
  • Use Fireplaces Safely – Keep that fire where it belongs by using a fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying out.  Never leave a burning fire unattended, and make sure its completely extinguished before going to bed.
  • Use Space Heaters Carefully – Space heaters are a great way to warm up a chilly room, but make sure you read the instructions on the heater before you use it. Make sure you maintain proper clearances around the unit to prevent fires.
  • Exercise Candle Caution – Candles are a great way to give a room a cozy warm feel, but they also cause fires. According to the National Candle Association there are almost 10,000 home fires each year in the US that started from improper candle use.  Never leave a candle unattended and always keep them away from pets and children.

There is nothing more beautiful than a drive out to Alberta’s Rocky Mountains in the fall, but this season brings with it some unique hazards for drivers. Being aware of potential dangers can keep you and your family safe.

  • Poor Visibility – Falling leaves, while beautiful, can obscure your vision. Shorter days are part of the season, meaning the sun rises later, sets earlier, and doesn’t get as high in the sky.   Make sure you have a good pair of sunglasses in your vehicle to wear when the sign is bright.
  • Children – The shorter days make it more difficult to see children playing, walking to school, and riding bicycles. Be aware of your limitations in visibility and slow down if you can’t see well.
  • Slow Down on Wet Roads – Rain, and wet snow is common during fall in Alberta. Make sure you keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.  Wet roads make it more difficult to stop quickly.  When wet leaves are on the road they make the road even more slippery and it can be hard to get good traction.



….but first lemme take a selfie


Would you ever consider sending a “selfie” to your life insurance company?

Insurers across Britain are rushing to purchase computer programs that can analyze a photograph to determine if that person is a smoker, ill or has been ill, or is likely to have a shorter than normal life expectancy.

Facial analytics is a growing scientific field which is picking up steam in the UK and USA. It’s reasonable then to assume it’s only a matter of time until it comes to Canada.  It’s based on the theory that the faster someone ages physically, the shorter their expected lifespan will be.

Usually when someone buys life insurance, they are asked about their health. In some cases the insurer may not check if the answers given are true.  In other cases they may ask for permission to check medical records or run a blood test.

In the future when you buy coverage you may be asked to submit a “selfie” using the insurance company’s application on a smartphone before being accepted for coverage. The insurer’s software would then analyze the photo to determine if the customers face matches the declared level of health.  For example. A smoker may have small creases around the lips, hollow cheeks could indicate hidden drug use, and a bulbous nose may be a sign of heavy drinking.

The system could then also be used to catch people who pick up bad habits later in life by comparing photos taken several years apart and analyzing the changes.

Part of the science behind this is based on a Danish study of twins. The study was conducted using 1,826 twins in Denmark aged 70 or older.  Independent assessors were asked to estimate the age of the subjects by looking at photos of their faces in 2001, then seeing which of the twins had died by the time a follow up was done in 2008.  The study found that if one of the twins had died it was more likely to be the one that looked older.

So back to the original question, would you consider sending a “selfie” to your life insurer if you thought it would result in reduced premiums?   What about if they asked you for your Fitbit data?