What to do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans

By Beth J. Harpaz

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

What do you do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans? The Associated Press asked Pauline Frommer of Frommers.com and the Frommer travel guidebook series for advice.

WHERE TO START

Frommer says it all depends on “how you booked that vacation.” If you booked an air-hotel package through Expedia, contact Expedia. If you booked it “a la carte” booking hotel, cruise and airfare separately on your own contact each vendor or company separately.

HOW ABOUT REFUNDS?

If you’re going to a Caribbean island that suffered some damage but the hotel reopens, Frommer says you’re likely not going to catch a break.

On the other hand,  “If you’re going to a place that seems like it’s been blown off the map, like sadly St. Martin, you may have a better chance of getting a refund,” she said.

Often travel providers try to “get you to shift your plans.” Many of the cruise lines are announcing they’ll still go to the Caribbean but just to a different island than originally planned.

“If you’ve already been to those Caribbean islands and you were hoping to see ones that are not currently accepting visitors, you may be out of luck,” she said. There are also cases where seven-night cruises are reduced to four-night cruises and cruise lines seem to be giving money back in those cases.

For cancelled cruises,  “they’re giving not only full refunds but depending on the cruise lines, they’re giving a little extra: 25 per cent off another cruise or 50 per cent.”

Airline policy is. “fluid,” Frommer said, with some waiving change fees for future travel if you rebook before a certain deadline, allowing you to apply the cost of the flight you no longer want to a new destination. But details vary, so contact the airline.

Be prepared to spend time online or on the phone. “Patience will be a real virtue right now,” Frommer said. If you booked through a travel agency, they may be able to make those changes for you. As a last resort, “contact your credit card company. They may be able to duke it out for you.”

HOTELS, HOME RENTALS AND THIRD-PARTY SITES

If you booked a home rental and made a deposit through a site like Homeaway.com or VRBO.com, they “act as the middleman” and “set up lines to help you get through to the individual owners,” Frommer said. “They’re not going to get you your money back but they are trying to facilitate communications. … However they will not step in if you can’t get your security deposit back.”

WHAT? NO REFUND IF WE PAID FOR LODGING IN ADVANCE?

“That’s a lesson we’re all learning,” Frommer said. “It’s in their contracts that usually they’re off the hook for all but the most egregious of circumstances, for example, if it’s a scam and there’s no home there. But with natural disasters, there’s often an act of God clause that means they do not owe you anything when things go horrifically wrong on a huge scale.”

Again, Frommer said, “it all depends on how you booked.” If you made a reservation with no money down, “you should be able to cancel without penalty.” But if you paid in advance for a discount on a hotel booking website,  “you could be on the hook.”

TRAVEL INSURANCE

“The majority of travel insurance policies will cover you in those cases if you’re travelling and the place is unsafe,” Frommer said. But “you cannot buy the insurance after the storm has been announced. Once it’s on the radar, you’re out of luck.”

Insurance may also fail to kick in if the hotel reopens even if the “beach is gone and the trees are down and all of its neighbours are in rubble. … If you can get there and stay there safely, it’s considered your vacation, even if it’s not the vacation of your dreams.”

New school zone survey shows more parents driving aggressively in school zones

New school zone survey shows more parents driving aggressively in school zones

BCAA’s second annual School Zone Safety survey shows that driving in school zones has gone from bad to worse. In fact, this year’s survey shows a marked increase in concern across the board. Particularly alarming is that hostile/aggressive attitudes amongst parents such as honking or using profanities has jumped almost 30 per cent (51% to 66%).

Last year, Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s Director of Community Engagement called school zones the “wild west”. Shocked by this year’s results, Pettipas is more determined than ever to get parents (the worst offenders) to make—and keep— a ‘new school year’ resolution to improve their driving habits.

“We asked over 300 school faculty and staff and over 400 parents or guardians what they’re seeing in their school zones, and it’s very concerning to see that unsafe driving in school zones has increased,” says Pettipas. “There’s no excuse for hostile behaviour and breaking traffic rules. Parents and motorists have to start driving safely, we don’t want someone to get hurt.”

In addition to more hostile/aggressive attitudes, BCAA’s School Zone Safety survey also reveals an increase in unsafe driving behaviours and ignoring traffic rules amongst parents and guardians dropping off or picking up their children: Over 80 per cent witness parents not following rules of the road, including not stopping at a marked crosswalk (82%) or driving over the speed limit (93%). Distracted driving has also increased and remains high (82% to 86%).

Shawn, a parent himself, understands how stressful school zone driving can be. “We appreciate the honesty of parents and guardians who participated in the survey and shared what they’ve been witnessing in their school zones,” says Pettipas. “Because parents and guardians are in school zones every day, improving safety in school zones can really start with them, and the first step is to improve their driving habits and keep the right attitude.”

BCAA provides tips for parents and motorists to help make school zones safer:

  1. Avoid running late. A great deal of stress arises from feeling rushed. Give yourself plenty of time in the morning and consider completing tasks and preparing your child’s school items the night before.
  2. Focus on what you can control. No matter what’s going on around you, be patient and courteous. Reacting with extreme frustration may aggravate the situation and increase the risk of unsafe behaviours.
  3. Follow the rules, which includes school drop off and pick up procedures and rules of the road such as driving within the speed limit, stopping at marked cross walks and not driving distracted. If everyone follows the rules, problems and misunderstandings are less likely to occur.
  4. Pay close attention while driving. Expect the unexpected and look out for safety risks such as kids darting from cars, along with kids who are cycling and other pedestrians.
  5. Reduce congestion. Consider walking or cycling your child to school or park a few blocks      away   and walk your child the rest of the way to school.

When it comes to rules of the road, BCAA reminds drivers of sections within the BC Motor Vehicle Act which address common driving mistakes made in school zones:

  • Speeding. School zone speed limit is 30 km/hr between 8AM-5PM on school days unless otherwise posted. In playground zones, a 30 km/hr speed limit is in effect from dawn to dusk, 365 days of the year.
  • Crosswalks. Drivers must stop for pedestrians crossing the road at a crosswalk. The best and safest rule is for drivers to stop once they see a pedestrian standing on the curb at a crosswalk and to wait for as long as it takes for all pedestrians to reach the curb on the other side.
  • Crossing guards/patrollers. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists must follow the instructions of a school crossing guard or student patroller.
  • Distracted driving. Using an electronic device while driving, including holding the device in a position in which it may be used, is considered to be distracted driving and is against the law. For parents and guardians dropping off or picking up their child from school, BCAA recommends they avoid using their cell phone altogether within a school zone, even when their car is parked and idling at the curb.

But the onus is not entirely on drivers. It’s also important for pedestrians and cyclists to follow the rules of the road. BCAA recommends that parents teach their kids how to walk or cycle safely near or on the road.

Visit bcaa.com/blog to learn more about school zone safety.

About the survey

Results are based on an online study conducted from July 15 to July 21, 2017, among a representative sample of 720 adults in British Columbia, including 307 who currently serve as principals, teachers or school staff at a British Columbiaelementary school, and 413 parents or guardians who drop off and/or pick up a child from school. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error for the entire sample—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.7 percentage points.

About BCAA

The most trusted organization in British Columbia by its Members, BCAA serves 1 in 3 B.C. households with industry-leading products including home, auto and travel insurance, roadside assistance, Evo Car Share and full auto service at BCAA’s Auto Service Centres. BCAA has a long history focused on keeping kids safe on the road and at play through community programs such as its School Safety PatrolCommunity Child Car Seat Program and BCAA Play HerePlease visit bcaa.com.

Examples of common driving offences and fines

Motor Vehicle Act section

Description

Fine

Driver penalty points

179(1)

Failure to yield to pedestrian

$167

3

147(1) and (2)

Speeding in school or playground zones

$196-$253

3

179(4)

Disobey school guard/ patrol

$167

3

214.2 (1) and (2)

Using electronic device while driving or emailing or texting while driving

$368

4

 

SOURCE British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA)

Photo: Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s Director of Community Engagement asks parents and drivers to make a ‘new school year’ resolution to drive safe.

Marsh CEO Peter Zaffino to Join AIG as Deputy to CEO

Peter Zaffino, CEO of insurance broker Marsh & McLennan Cos. (MMC) , will be tapped to be deputy to new American International Group Inc. (AIG) CEO Brian Duperreault, according to a report by Insurance Insider.

AIG hired Duperreault earlier this year as it looked to turn around its insurance operations following the departure of former CEO Peter Hancock.
Zaffino held various roles at Marsh, which he joined in 2001. Duperreault is also a Marsh alum, after serving as the company’s CEO between 2008 and 2012.

AIG shares were down 0.8% to $62.78 in afternoon trading Wednesday.

 

Check out these 5 unexpected and strange insurance policies

Check out these 5 unexpected and strange insurance policies

Excerpted article was written By

We’ve all read the stories of celebrities and athletes insuring their body parts for incredible amounts. But sometimes, the risk being insured can be more interesting than the policy itself. And we may even be covered by a policy we never knew existed.

1. Turmoil in Thailand

Thailand has become the tourist capital of Southeast Asia. Each year, approximately 16 million visitors arrive in the country looking for adventure, and most of them will have some sort of travel coverage to keep them protected. But what many visitors don’t know is that they already have a little insurance coverage, courtesy of the Thai government. See, Thailand has experienced more coups d’état than any other country in contemporary history, making large protests and the odd military takeover a relatively commonplace occurrence. As a result, the Thai government has purchased an insurance policy that promises to provide $10,000 to each tourist harmed in any political turmoil.

 2. “Take us to your insurance broker.”

Some people say there’s no “official” evidence that any higher intelligence has ever made contact or visited Earth. Others disagree … um, adamantly. Whether intelligent life beyond us exists in the universe or not, over 30,000 people throughout Europe have purchased alien abduction insurance. Now, why they think they’d be selected for abduction over the other 7 billion people on the planet or how they know that kidnapping would be at the top of a visiting alien’s agenda is another story, but … good luck to them.

3. Paranormal policies

“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?” Apparently, your friendly neighborhood insurance company, that’s who. The owner of the Royal Falcon Hotel in Suffolk, UK has taken out a policy to insure him against damages caused by his “supernatural guests.” The policy offers up to £1m in the event that his staff or customers are killed or hurt by the ghosts, poltergeists, or other abnormal phenomena that allegedly live on the property. Simon Burgess, the policy’s chief underwriting officer, told the BBC that, “There has been paranormal activity there, and we will treat any claims very seriously, and carry out our normal psychic investigation.”

4. Hole-in-one!

We’ve all seen the almost-impossible, full-court free throw challenges at basketball games. And many golf courses offer amazing prizes to anyone getting a hole-in-one. Of course, nobody really expects anyone will actually win one of these unlikely challenges … nobody, that is, apart from us savvy insurance types.

Prize indemnity insurance is the most popular way of covering these highly valued promotions, with the risk carefully calculated and a series of rules explicitly laid out. Unfortunately, the rules are often overlooked. In fact, one golfer had his hole-in-one prize rejected because the prize indemnity policy for the course needed 2 witnesses and the tournament he was in could only provide one. Oh well, he still has a 1 in 12,000 chance of hitting another once-in-a-lifetime putt, right?

5. Where there are winners, there are losers

Picture this: you’ve built a wonderful midsize company with happy employees, good products, and a healthy bottom line. Then, out of nowhere, the manufacturing department wins the lottery jackpot. The next day, nobody in manufacturing shows up and the company goes from happy, lottery-playing workplace to failing to fulfill their orders and losing the credibility they spent years building. This worry is so prevalent with business owners in the UK that they can now take out a policy protecting them from lottery winners who decide to suddenly leave work after winning.

Source: Esurance

 

For injured paws and claws, insurance may come in handy for some pets

By Aleksandra Sagan

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Monica Finlay’s childhood yellow Labrador, Amy, had a few surprise accidents that cost her parents a lot of money.

“She blew out her ACL and that was really expensive,” Finlay says.

“Then, right at the end of her life, she blew out her other ACL.”

That experience is partly why she and her husband have been spending $45 a month for pet insurance since they got their German shepherd mix, Ozzie, about six years ago.

Pet insurance plans cover some veterinary costs, but pet owners are divided on whether they’re worth it.

Medical costs over an animal’s lifetime can be steep.

Cats cost their owners at least $100 a year, while dogs cost at least $200, according to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Those numbers only cover routine visits and don’t take into account emergencies, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

Monthly fees vary depending on factors such as the animal’s breed, age and location, as well as what the plan covers. Owners can choose from accident, illness and wellness coverage, which covers the routine visits most plans don’t.

Plans often have a combination of a maximum payout amount each year, a deductible (an amount the owner must pay before the insurer pitches in) and a co-pay (a percentage of the bill the owner is responsible for). Many plans won’t cover future costs for pre-existing conditions.

Fees vary. But the average yearly cost of insuring an adult cat for accident and illness coverage with Pets Plus Us, for instance, is $370, while for a dog the cost nearly doubles to $734.

It’s estimated only about one to three per cent of all domestic cats and dogs in the country have some type of insurance, like Finlay’s dog Ozzie.

Finlay says insurance has covered Ozzie’s roughly $2,500 of annual medical costs since they discovered he has allergies to about 22 things, including beef, chicken and wool.

“It would have been really cost prohibitive to keep him if we didn’t have pet insurance,” she says, adding the insurer pays 90 per cent of those costs save for a one-time $500 deductible.

But not all pets need such expensive, ongoing care and the monthly fees could add up to more than what the insurer needs to pay.

Michelle Van Dyk-Houghton chose not to insure her dog Brooke or her cat Ginger after weighing the monthly cost of insurance versus the potential savings.

Instead, she and her husband set aside $100 to $200 a month for animal care and draw on those funds when needed.

“If we don’t need it, then it’s money that we still have,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’m just giving it to an insurance company to kind of be gone forever.”

Not all pet owners are able to take out insurance though.

When Marli Vlok’s first guinea pig fell ill with what she believes was fibrous osteodystrophy, a metabolic bone disease, she paid more than $900 for Ember’s teeth to be trimmed three times and about $700 for a visit to a specialist.

She looked into pet insurance for her other guinea pigs, but couldn’t find a plan that would cover them.

Vlok routinely shells out between $40 and $70 for vet visits and has paid about $300 for two sets of X-rays for Onyx.

She says she keeps about $500 on hand for vet purposes at all times, but would prefer to pay for insurance.

“They’re one of those pets that you have a very good chance that they’ll be absolutely healthy,” she says.

“But when things go wrong, it’s expensive wrong.”

Boxer, ex Olympian Custio Clayton claims he was profiled by Montreal police

By Sidhartha Banerjee

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL _ A professional boxer and former Canadian Olympian claims he was the victim of racial profiling when he was pulled over and detained by Montreal police on Tuesday.

Custio Clayton, 29, says a police officer accused him of being a drug dealer, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a squad car while she searched his vehicle.

“I guess seeing a black guy driving a big car, that has to be the reason why,” he said on Wednesday during an interview with The Canadian Press.

The native of Dartmouth, N.S., who has lived and trained in Montreal since 2014, said he was humiliated.

“I always try to do the right thing,” Clayton said. “Even though you try to stick to yourself and try to do the right thing, some people are always going to look at you the way they want to look at you and that’s what I feel happened yesterday.”

Clayton had just returned from training in Cornwall, Ont. and was minutes from home when he was stopped.

He was driving a courtesy car a new rental SUV supplied by his insurance company.

The officer initially refused to tell him why she had stopped his vehicle, he said.

He said she eventually told him he was under arrest for suspicion of being a drug dealer and having drugs in his car.

“I didn’t know what to say anymore,” said Clayton.

The father of four said he sat handcuffed in a police car while she searched his vehicle, finding only child car seats and boxing gear.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve had handcuffs on and been accused of something that I know I’m not,” Clayton said he’d told the officer.

Clayton said the female officer was apologetic after her search turned up empty and told him it was the first time she’d been wrong in 20 years of policing.

She gave him a ticket for having improper paperwork for the rental and let him go.

Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boisselle said the force is aware of the claims but he wasn’t prepared to comment.

“For now, we have to look at everything that happened in that incident,” he said.

Undefeated since turning pro in 2014, Clayton just missed out on a medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.

He is scheduled to fight next week in Cornwall, and said his focus is on that fight.

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