The "Contents Pack-out" Trap and How to Escape It

“Contents Pack-out” is a term used by water and fire restoration contractors, and insurance companies. It is the process in which the contractor sends trucks, boxes and workers to your home. They pack up all of the damaged personal property in your home or business and transport it back to their warehouse. Once the personal property is at the warehouse, the contractor begins the cleaning and restoration process.

Insurance companies do not like to replace personal property. They would rather clean or repair it and give it back to you. That drastically slashes their claims cost, which makes them happy.

I’ve been an insurance adjuster for over 16 years, and in the insurance business for over 35 years. I’ve seen very few instances where seriously damaged personal property can be just cleaned or repaired successfully. Most fires burn or infuse toxic chemicals into personal property, like wood or textiles. Same goes for a flood loss. My personal opinion is that replacement of damaged personal property is better than repair or cleaning.

So, what is the trap?

Insurance adjusters like to swoop in with their favorite approved restoration contractor and do a “pack-out.” But your insurance policy has a limit on Personal Property. All of the money that the insurance adjuster authorizes to have your contents cleaned is paid against the policy limit. So, if the restoration contractor cleans a bunch of your damaged property, but you reject it as damaged, the contractor still gets paid. But you have less money now to replace your damaged personal property.

The trap is that a pack-out can penalize you when you are submitting your insurance claim!

Here’s the Escape Strategy

1. You own the personal property…not the insurance company and not the restoration contractor. It is YOUR DECISION what gets repaired and what gets replaced, not the adjuster.

2. Call in your own restoration contractor for a second opinion. It shouldn’t cost you anything, but even if it did, it would be money well spent.

3. Make sure every single item that gets removed from your home is listed on an inventory sheet.

4. Based upon your contractor’s opinion, negotiate the replacements with the adjuster and settle the claim.

If you have experienced a property loss, whether fire, wind, flood or other, you need to know winning insurance claim strategies. The insurance company will not tell you the claims process, but I will. I will show you how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, go to the website listed below.

The Car Rental Industry

Market Overview

The car rental industry is a multi-billion dollar sector of the US economy. The US segment of the industry averages about $18.5 billion in revenue a year. Today, there are approximately 1.9 million rental vehicles that service the US segment of the market. In addition, there are many rental agencies besides the industry leaders that subdivide the total revenue, namely Dollar Thrifty, Budget and Vanguard. Unlike other mature service industries, the rental car industry is highly consolidated which naturally puts potential new comers at a cost-disadvantage since they face high input costs with reduced possibility of economies of scale. Moreover, most of the profit is generated by a few firms including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis. For the fiscal year of 2004, Enterprise generated $7.4 billion in total revenue. Hertz came in second position with about $5.2 billion and Avis with $2.97 in revenue.

Level of Integration

The rental car industry faces a completely different environment than it did five years ago. According to Business Travel News, vehicles are being rented until they have accumulated 20,000 to 30,000 miles until they are relegated to the used car industry whereas the turn-around mileage was 12,000 to 15,000 miles five years ago. Because of slow industry growth and narrow profit margin, there is no imminent threat to backward integration within the industry. In fact, among the industry players only Hertz is vertically integrated through Ford.

Scope of Competition

There are many factors that shape the competitive landscape of the car rental industry. Competition comes from two main sources throughout the chain. On the vacation consumer’s end of the spectrum, competition is fierce not only because the market is saturated and well guarded by industry leader Enterprise, but competitors operate at a cost disadvantage along with smaller market shares since Enterprise has established a network of dealers over 90 percent the leisure segment. On the corporate segment, on the other hand, competition is very strong at the airports since that segment is under tight supervision by Hertz. Because the industry underwent a massive economic downfall in recent years, it has upgraded the scale of competition within most of the companies that survived. Competitively speaking, the rental car industry is a war-zone as most rental agencies including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis among the major players engage in a battle of the fittest.


Over the past five years, most firms have been working towards enhancing their fleet sizes and increasing the level of profitability. Enterprise currently the company with the largest fleet in the US has added 75,000 vehicles to its fleet since 2002 which help increase its number of facilities to 170 at the airports. Hertz, on the other hand, has added 25,000 vehicles and broadened its international presence in 150 counties as opposed to 140 in 2002. In addition, Avis has increased its fleet from 210,000 in 2002 to 220,000 despite recent economic adversities. Over the years following the economic downturn, although most companies throughout the industry were struggling, Enterprise among the industry leaders had been growing steadily. For example, annual sales reached $6.3 in 2001, $6.5 in 2002, $6.9 in 2003 and $7.4 billion in 2004 which translated into a growth rate of 7.2 percent a year for the past four years. Since 2002, the industry has started to regain its footing in the sector as overall sales grew from $17.9 billion to $18.2 billion in 2003. According to industry analysts, the better days of the rental car industry have yet to come. Over the course of the next several years, the industry is expected to experience accelerated growth valued at $20.89 billion each year following 2008 “which equates to a CAGR of 2.7 % [increase] in the 2003-2008 period.”


Over the past few years the rental car industry has made a great deal of progress to facilitate it distribution processes. Today, there are approximately 19,000 rental locations yielding about 1.9 million rental cars in the US. Because of the increasingly abundant number of car rental locations in the US, strategic and tactical approaches are taken into account in order to insure proper distribution throughout the industry. Distribution takes place within two interrelated segments. On the corporate market, the cars are distributed to airports and hotel surroundings. On the leisure segment, on the other hand, cars are distributed to agency owned facilities that are conveniently located within most major roads and metropolitan areas.

In the past, managers of rental car companies used to rely on gut-feelings or intuitive guesses to make decisions about how many cars to have in a particular fleet or the utilization level and performance standards of keeping certain cars in one fleet. With that methodology, it was very difficult to maintain a level of balance that would satisfy consumer demand and the desired level of profitability. The distribution process is fairly simple throughout the industry. To begin with, managers must determine the number of cars that must be on inventory on a daily basis. Because a very noticeable problem arises when too many or not enough cars are available, most car rental companies including Hertz, Enterprise and Avis, use a “pool” which is a group of independent rental facilities that share a fleet of vehicles. Basically, with the pools in place, rental locations operate more efficiently since they reduce the risk of low inventory if not eliminate rental car shortages.

Market Segmentation

Most companies throughout the chain make a profit based of the type of cars that are rented. The rental cars are categorized into economy, compact, intermediate, premium and luxury. Among the five categories, the economy sector yields the most profit. For instance, the economy segment by itself is responsible for 37.7 percent of the total market revenue in 2004. In addition, the compact segment accounted for 32.3 percent of overall revenue. The rest of the other categories covers the remaining 30 percent for the US segment.

Historical Levels of Profitability

The overall profitability of the car rental industry has been shrinking in recent years. Over the past five years, the industry has been struggling just like the rest of the travel industry. In fact, between the years 2001 and 2003 the US market has experienced a moderate reduction in the level of profitability. Specifically, revenue fell from $19.4 billion in 2000 to $18.2 billion in 2001. Subsequently, the overall industry revenue eroded further to $17.9 billion in 2002; an amount that is minimally higher than $17.7 billion which is the overall revenue for the year 1999. In 2003, the industry experienced a barely noticeable increase which brought profit to $18.2 billion. As a result of the economic downturn in recent years, some of the smaller players that were highly dependent on the airline industry have done a great deal of strategy realignments as a way of preparing their companies to cope with eventual economic adversities that may surround the industry. For the year 2004, on the other hand, the economic situation of most firms have gradually improved throughout the industry since most rental agencies have returned far greater profits relative to the anterior years. For instance, Enterprise realized revenues of $7.4 billion; Hertz returned revenues of $5.2 billion and Avis with $2.9 billion in revenue for the fiscal year of 2004. According to industry analysts, the rental car industry is expected to experience steady growth of 2.6 percent in revenue over the next several years which translates into an increase in profit.

Competitive Rivalry Among Sellers

There are many factors that drive competition within the car rental industry. Over the past few years, broadening fleet sizes and increasing profitability has been the focus of most companies within the car rental industry. Enterprise, Hertz and Avis among the leaders have been growing both in sales and fleet sizes. In addition, competition intensifies as firms are constantly trying to improve their current conditions and offer more to consumers. Enterprise has nearly doubled its fleet size since 1993 to approximately 600,000 cars today. Because the industry operates on such narrow profit margins, price competition is not a factor; however, most companies are actively involved in creating values and providing a range of amenities from technological gadgets to even free rental to satisfy customers. Hertz, for example, integrates its Never-Lost GPS system within its cars. Enterprise, on the other hand, uses sophisticated yield management software to manage its fleets.

Finally, Avis uses its OnStar and Skynet system to better serve the consumer base and offers free weekend rental if a customer rents a car for five consecutive days Moreover, the consumer base of the rental car industry has relatively low to no switching cost. Conversely, rental agencies face high fixed operating costs including property rental, insurance and maintenance. Consequently, rental agencies are sensitively pricing there rental cars just to recover operating costs and adequately meet their customers demands. Furthermore, because the industry experienced slow growth in recent years due to economic stagnation that resulted in a massive decline in both corporate travel and the leisure sector, most companies including the industry leaders are aggressively trying to reposition their firms by gradually lessening the dependency level on the airline industry and regaining their footing in the leisure competitive arena.

The Potential Entry of new Competitors

Entering the car rental industry puts new comers at a serious disadvantage. Over the past few years following the economic downturn of 2001, most major rental companies have started increasing their market shares in the vacation sector of the industry as a way of insuring stability and lowering the level of dependency between the airline and the car rental industry. While this trend has engendered long term success for the existing firms, it has heightened the competitive landscape for new comers. Because of the severity of competition, existing firms such as Enterprise, Hertz and Avis carefully monitor their competitive radars to anticipate Sharpe retaliatory strikes against new entrants. Another barrier to entry is created because of the saturation level of the industry.

For example, Enterprise has taken the first mover advantage with its 6000 facilities by saturating the leisure segment thereby placing not only high restrictions on the most common distribution channels, but also high resource requirements for new firms. Today, Enterprise has a rental location within 15 miles of 90 percent of the US population. Because of the network of dealers Enterprise has established around the nation, it has become relatively stable, more recession proof and most importantly, less reliant on the airline industry compared to its competitors. Hertz, on the other hand, is utilizing the full spectrum of its 7200 stores to secure its position in the marketplace. Basically, the emergence of most of the industry leaders into the leisure market not only drives rivalry, but also it varies directly with the level of complexity of entering the car rental industry.

The Threat of Substitute

There are many substitutes available for the car rental industry. From a technological standpoint, renting a car to go the distance for a meeting is a less attractive alternative as opposed to video conferencing, virtual teams and collaboration software with which a company can immediately setup a meeting with its employees from anywhere around the world at a cheaper cost. In addition, there are other alternatives including taking a cab which is a satisfactory substitute relative to quality and switching cost, but it may not be as attractively priced as a rental car for the course of a day or more. While public transportation is the most cost efficient of the alternatives, it is more costly in terms of the process and time it takes to reach one’s destination. Finally, because flying offers convenience, speed and performance, it is a very enticing substitute; however, it is an unattractive alternative in terms of price relative to renting a car. On the business segment, car rental agencies have more protection against substitutes since many companies have implemented travel policies that establish the parameters of when renting a car or using a substitute is the best course of action.

According to Tracy Esch, an Advantage director of marketing operations, her company rents cars up to a 200-mile trip before considering an alternative. Basically, the threat of substitute is reasonably low in the car rental industry since the effects the substitute products have do not pose a significant threat of profit erosion throughout the industry.

The Bargaining Power of Suppliers

Supplier power is low in the car rental industry. Because of the availability of substitutes and the level of competition, suppliers do not have a great deal of influence in the terms and conditions of supplying the rental cars. Because the rental cars are usually purchased in bulk, rental car agents have significant influence over the terms of the sale since they possess the ability to play one supplier against another to lower the sales price. Another factor that reduces supplier power is the absence of switching cost. That is, buyers are not affected from purchasing from one supplier over another and most importantly, changing to different supplier’s products is barely noticeable and does not affect consumer’s rental choices.

The Bargaining Power of Buyers

While the leisure sector has little or no power, the business segment possesses a significant amount of influence in the car rental industry. An interesting trend that is currently underway throughout the industry is forcing car rental companies to adapt to the needs of corporate travelers. This trend significantly reduces supplier power or the rental firms’ power and increases corporate buyer power since the business segment is excruciatingly price sensitive, well informed about the industry’s price structure, purchase in larger quantities and they use the internet to force lower prices. Vacation buyers, on the other hand, have less influence over the rental terms. Because vacationers are usually less price sensitive, purchase in lesser amounts or purchase more infrequently, they have weak bargaining power.

Five Forces

Today the car rental industry is facing a completely different environment than it did five years ago. Competitively speaking, the revolution of the five forces around the car rental industry exerts some strong economic pressure that has significantly tarnished the competitive attractiveness of the industry. As a result of the economic downturn in recent years, many companies went under namely Budget and the Vanguard Group because their business infrastructure succumbed to the untenability of the competitive environment. Today, very few firms including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis return a slightly above-average revenue compared to the rest of the industry. Realistically speaking, the car rental sector is not a very attractive industry because of the level of competition, the barriers to entry and the competitive pressure from the substitute firms.

Strategic Group Mapping

As a moderately concentrated sector, there is a clear hierarchy in the car rental industry. From an economic standpoint, disparities exist from a number of dimensions including revenue, fleet size and the market size each firm holds in the market place. For instance, Enterprise dominates the industry with a fleet size of approximately 600,000 vehicles along with its market size and its level of profitability. Hertz comes in second position with its number of market shares and fleet volume. In addition, Avis ranks third on the map. Avis is among one of the companies that is having issues recovering its revenue margins from prior to the economic downturn. For instance, in 2000 Avis returned revenues of approximately $4.23 billion. Over the course of the next several years following 2000, the revenue of Avis has been significantly lower than that of 2000. As a way of reducing uncertainty most companies are gradually lessening the level of dependency on the airline industry and emerging the leisure market. This trend may not be in the best interest of Hertz since its business strategy is intricately linked to the airports.

Key Success Factors

There are many key success factors that drive profitability throughout the car rental industry. Capacity utilization is one of the factors that determines success in the industry. Because rental firms experience loss of revenue when there are either too few or too many cars sitting in their lots, it is of paramount importance to efficiently manage the fleets. This success factor represents a big strength for the industry since it lowers if not completely eliminates the possibly of running short on rental cars. Efficient distribution is another factor that keeps the industry profitable. Despite the positive relationship between fleet sizes and the level of profitability, firms are constantly growing their fleet sizes because of the competitive forces that surround the industry. In addition, convenience is one of the crucial attributes by which consumers select rental firms. That is, car rental consumers are more prone to renting cars from firms that have convenient rental and drop off locations. Another key success factor that is common among competing firms is the integration of technology in their business processes. Through technology, for instance, the car rental companies create ways to meet consumer demand by making renting a car a very agreeable ordeal by adding the convenience of online rental among other alternatives. Furthermore, firms have integrated navigation systems along with roadside assistance to offer customers the piece of mind when renting cars.

Industry Attractiveness

There are many factors that impact the attractiveness of the car rental industry. Because the industry is moderately concentrated, it puts new market entrants at a disadvantage. That is, its low concentration represents a natural barrier to entering the industry as it allows existing firm to anticipate sharp retaliations against new entrants. Because of the risks associated with entering the industry among other factors, it is not a very attractive sector of the marketplace. From a competitive standpoint, the leisure market is 90 percent saturated because of the active efforts of Enterprise to dominate this sector of the market. On the other hand, the airport terminals are heavily guarded by Hertz. Realistically speaking, entry in the industry offers low profitability relative to the costs and risks associated. For most consumers, the main determining factors of choosing one company over another are price and convenience. Because of this reason, rental firms are very circumspect about setting their rates and that generally force even the industry major players in the position of offering more to the consumers for less just to remain competitive. Hertz, for example, offers wireless internet to its customers just to add more convenience to their travel plans. Avis on the other hand, offers free weekend specials if a customer rents a car for five consecutive weekdays. Based on the impact of the five forces, the car rental sector is not a very attractive industry to potential new market entrants.


The rental car industry is in a state of recovery. Although it may seem like the industry is performing well financially, it is nonetheless gradually regaining its footing relative to its actual economic position within the last five years. As a way of insuring profitability, besides seeking market shares and stability, most companies throughout the chain have a common goal that deals with lowering the level of dependency on the airline industry and moving toward the leisure segment. This state of motion has engendered some fierce competition among industry competitors as they attempt to defend their market shares. From a futuristic perspective, the better days of the car rental industry have yet to come. As the level of profitability increases, I believe that most of the industry leaders including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis will be bounded by the economic and competitive barriers of mobility of their strategic groups and new comers will have a better chance of infiltrating and realizing success in the car rental industry.


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“Ovation Travel.” Wall Street Transcript. May. 2002 . LexisNexis. 14 March 2004.

“Avis Offers New Deal for Free Weekends.” Newswire. Feb. 2004 . LexisNexis. 15 March 2004.

Insurance Appraisal Clause – Resolving an Impasse in Your Claim

What if, after all you’ve done, you and your adjuster/insurance company are at an impasse on the value of your property? It’s now time to invoke the Appraisal Clause in your insurance policy. The Appraisal Clause is found in all insurance policies, and was designed to establish a procedure to allow disputed amounts to be resolved by disinterested parties. The appraisal clause can be found in every homeowners policy, in every policy covering commercial buildings, in all business policies, as well as in every renters policy…even automobile policies.

The Appraisal Clause is usually found in the policy under the Heading “Conditions” and/or “What to do after a loss.”

Don’t confuse the Appraisal process with Arbitration. The Appraisal Clause does not bind either party to its findings. In arbitration, the findings of the arbitrator are usually binding on both parties.

The Appraisal Clause is meant to be the method for determining disputed values. Appraisal cannot be used to determine what is covered. That is for a court of law to decide. If you have dispute with the company on whether or not something is covered, then you must file a lawsuit against your insurer to get that determination.

HERE’S A REALLY IMPORTANT TIP!!! You don’t have to wait until you’re hopelessly deadlocked with the adjuster or insurance company to invoke the Appraisal Clause. The Appraisal procedure has been invoked more often by insurers, who have greater understanding of the terms and conditions of their policies. But you, the insured or policyholder, can do it any time.

I’m not suggesting that you become uncooperative. But occasionally, I talk to people who are having real difficulties with their adjuster or insurance company. Taking the claim to Appraisal sometimes stops all the drama.

In my experience as both an appraiser and an umpire, I’ve found that disputes can be resolved more quickly by appraisal than the resolution you might get with litigation. The cost of the appraisal process is also significantly lower that the cost of litigation.

Here’s what the Appraisal Clause reads in my Homeowner Insurance policy:

“If you and we fail to agree on the amount of loss, either may

demand an appraisal of the loss. In this event, each party will choose

a competent appraiser within 20 days after receiving a written request

from the other. The two appraisers will choose an umpire. If they

cannot agree upon an umpire within 15 days, you or we may request

that the choice be made by a judge of a court of record in the state

where the “residence premises” is located. The appraisers will

separately set the amount of loss. If the appraisers submit an

agreement to us, the amount agreed upon will be the amount of loss.

If they fail to agree, they will submit their differences to the umpire.

A decision agreed to by any two will set the amount of loss.

Each party will:

a. pay its own appraiser, and

b. Bear the other expenses of the appraisal and umpire equally.”

Each party appoints an independent, disinterested appraiser. In past experience, I’ve seen the insured or policyholder try to appoint the Public Adjuster who is handling his claim as the appraiser. This should never be done, as that PA is not a disinterested party.

The appraisers evaluate the loss independently. The appraisers can still negotiate and reach an agreed amount of the damages. But, if they cannot agree, they work together to choose a mutually acceptable umpire. If the two appraisers cannot agree on the selection of an umpire, either side may appeal to the local court for the appointment of someone to serve in that capacity.

An umpire must also be a disinterested party, and must be impartial, of good moral character and possessing a good reputation. He also must be willing to listen. No umpire should be chosen that has any financial interest in the outcome of the appraisal. Any other consideration other than the hourly rate of compensation for the umpire is not acceptable.

Once the umpire has been chosen, the appraisers each present their loss assessment. Often, this involves informal testimony from the parties involved in the claim. To help the umpire gain a more complete understanding of the details of the loss, the appraisers and the umpire sometimes meet at the loss location and review the loss details. The umpire will subsequently provide a written decision to both parties. If any two parties agree to the amount of the loss, that amount becomes the claim amount. However, if one of the parties does not agree, then the case can still be turned over to legal counsel for litigation.

Question: May the insured or insurer reject the other parties’ choice of appraiser?

Answer: In 2005, the New York Department of Insurance issued a ruling on this question as follows:

“Whether an appraiser appointed by either of the parties is competent and disinterested (or “independent”) is a question of fact for a jury and is outside the determination of this Department.”

ANOTHER TIP!! Notice that there are very specific time limits in the Clause. You MAKE SURE that you choose your appraiser and notify the adjuster within the time limit in your policy. The time limit for both appraisers to choose an umpire begins on the day that both sides choose their appraiser.

Watch very carefully to see if the insurance company and/or adjuster chooses their appraiser within that time limit. If they do not, they have violated the terms and conditions of their policy. You can file a complaint with your state’s Department of Insurance for Unfair Claims Practice violations.

My recommendation, in the event of an appraisal, is to call a Claims Consultant. You might also consider contacting a public adjusting company in your area. The Claims Consultant or PA know insurance policies, know the Appraisal Clause, and know property values. The Claims Consultant or PA are the perfect choices for helping you prove the values of the property of your claim.

Five Tips for Choosing the Right Auto Body Shop

Choosing an auto body shop doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience. Estimates from different shops will likely fluctuate, sometimes to the point where you wonder if you are getting quotes for the same repair on the same vehicle. Consider these five tips to help guide you in making your decision:

1. Get Multiple Estimates

This one is obvious. Not only will multiple auto body shop quotes give you some idea of the “middle ground,” you’ll feel better knowing that you did your homework and you aren’t simply going with the cheapest… or worse yet, the most costly proposition.

2. Are They Certified and Insured

Do they seem reputable and carry all the appropriate certifications insurance?

Is the location a direct repair facility for your insurance company?

If you are completely new to the facility and going in with very little information on them, check for appropriate licensing hanging on the wall near the register.

Things can go wrong with any repair shop and your vehicle will be living there for a while, so you want to make sure that the repair facility you choose is protected in the event of fire, theft, or natural disaster.

3. Parts and Warranty

What is the warranty on repairs? Depending on whether they are a direct repair facility for your insurance company, you will likely get anywhere between 1 year and a lifetime warranty. Comparing warranties between locations can be a big indicator of the quality of parts and workmanship. You want to hire someone willing to stand by their craft.

Do they use aftermarket or used parts? Used parts don’t necessarily mean quality is bad, but when comparing quotes, you want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If one location is offering used parts and another new, and their estimates are the same, look closer. What is making up the extra cost in the estimate for the shop offering the used parts? The per-hour labor costs may be higher at that particular shop.

What kind of paint matching technology do they use? You want to be sure that they can make an exact match of the paint code for your vehicle, and that they are using a high-quality coating.

4. Reputation

Do they have a good local reputation? Are they part of a social network where you can check for reviews? Ask around to friends and family; almost everyone has used an auto body shop at some point, and you’ll be surprised how much information you can gather by listening to other people’s experiences.

5. Trust Your Gut… and Relax

If you are searching for an auto body shop, you and your car likely just went through a stressful experience. Trust your gut after visiting the location; you want to leave feeling that the customer service seems knowledgeable about their industry and genuine about service. If anything about the experience seems not above board, keep looking, and use the tips above to guide you until you find a professional you can feel good about.

Neck Injury? Whiplash Do’s and Don’ts

Whiplash can be a very serious neck injury. The neck is hyperextended, the muscles sometimes torn or stretched. Nerve damage can result. In really severe instances, the spine can sustain permanent damage. In most cases, whiplash results from a car accident. The victim is driving along when suddenly their auto is struck from behind, causing their head to snap in the direction of the body’s momentum. What’s actually happening in this scenario, is that the body is unexpectedly thrust forward, the head lags behind and then “whips” forward in an effort to catch up to the body. Though this is the most common occurrence, it’s certainly not the only one. Whiplash victims are sometimes pedestrians who are struck by cars. Other whiplash injuries include, but are not limited to falling off a horse, motorcycle or bicycle. Typically, the symptoms range from stiff neck or back muscles to headaches or sometimes, much worse. Because the symptoms range in severity and sometimes don’t show up immediately, whiplash is an injury to be taken very seriously. Proper medical care should be sought and one should consider filing a whiplash injury claim.

Stated below are your basic do’s and don’ts for filing your whiplash injury claim:

Do: seek medical help immediately. Very often the symptoms of whiplash are not felt right away. Many times the victim is “caught up” in the emotional rush of the accident and is not aware of any discomfort.. Other times, there is simply a gradual intensifying of pain. Whatever the case, the full details of the injuries must be reported and documented by a doctor.

Do: plan and keep regular office visits to your doctor or caregiver. When dealing with whiplash, new or developing symptoms often arise. They must also be treated and documented.

Do: hire or consult with a personal injury solicitor or whiplash attorney. The insurance companies have lots of “small print” that you must be aware of. There are provisions and special terms that must be gone over and fully understood. A top notch, experienced attorney can help you recover any out of pocket expenses incurred by you, such as automobile or medical costs.

Don’t: Delay. Far too often whiplash victims put off treatment. This isn’t very smart for 2 reasons:

Almost 50% of whiplash victims report new symptoms two years from the date of accident. Whiplash symptoms may grow gradually. Delaying treatment will often cause existing milder symptoms to evolve into more painful ones and cause new symptoms to develop.

If whiplash related injuries are not fully reported and documented, It makes it much more difficult to get full compensation from the insurance company.

Don’t: Rely solely on x-rays to find whiplash injuries.Soft tissue damage does not show up. A comprehensive exam must be given and the victim’s medical history must be taken into consideration.

Don’t take the insurance first offer if you agree to settle. They will low ball you, for certain. Do your due diligence. find out what payout averages are. Speak with other whiplash victims. Pick your lawyer’s brain.

Minor may be the accident, whiplash is not…

Does Travel Insurance Cover Fear of Flying?

Fear of Flying has been a problem for many people since passenger flights began. It is a fear or phobia, the same as many people may fear spiders, public speaking, or heights. Fear of flying has probably increased dramatically in the past decade – especially since 9/11. It’s understandable. How many people happily boarded planes after that terrible event? After all, when you think about it, flying is not a very natural thing for humans to do – we weren’t born with wings!

In today’s tight security climate we hardly ever get to see the pilots or cockpit crews who have our lives in their hands. It might be helpful to remember that they are human beings too – with lives and families of their own – and they fully intend to return home to them! Gone are the days when you might be lucky enough to obtain the captain’s permission to visit the cockpit on a long-haul flight. The pilots are locked in behind a bullet proof door and the entire process of flight is a mystery for many passengers! It’s a real shame.

Fear of flying is an annoying and often debilitating problem for those afflicted but, not only that, it can also cause disruption to holiday plans, affect career paths, and cause financial losses. Those who are required to fly frequently on business could find themselves held back in their career or even out of a job because of their fear of flying.

Most people, if they were honest, would admit to feeling some jitters or nerves before take off or landing, or when experiencing turbulence. Some have a stronger reaction, perhaps exacerbated by an existing anxiety condition.

It’s no secret that many people make out their will before flying! We all know about the statistics that you are much more likely to be involved in a car accident than a plane crash, but for many this is little consolation.

It is normal for a lot of people to feel the urge to cancel their flights or holidays if there has been a recent problem with hijacking, terrorism, or a plane crash. Fear of flying is a valid condition which is recognized medically. The anxiety can be so bad that it can cause physical reactions such as panic attacks, sweating, trembling, palpitations, dizziness, intestinal problems, clammy hands and nausea. Blocked ears during descent can be a problem – especially for children – but there are simple techniques to alleviate this pain which can be learned; chewing gum can help.

Most people will know of someone who is afraid of flying. They may be unable to go on holiday abroad because of it, although for many people their desire for a holiday in the sun may eventually outweigh their fear! It is often a form of claustrophobia, combined with a lack of understanding of how an aircraft operates and stays in the air. Young mothers are one group who tend to be more susceptible because of their protective instincts towards their children.

If someone you know is afflicted, you could make a difference in their life by encouraging them to seek help. There are several independent companies, as well as major airlines, which offer courses to help people overcome their fear of flying. Virgin Atlantic offers a Flying without Fear programme. British Airways/Aviatours offers a one-day course. The course instructors include trained pilots and psychologists.

During the courses the various stages of flight and the noises associated with them are simulated. For example, the sound of aircraft engines powering up or down can cause fear that something is wrong or the plane is going to crash. The loud whirring and clunking noises of the wheels (landing gear) being lowered and locked into place can be very frightening for those who don’t understand what is happening. The courses may include relaxation techniques and end with an actual short flight where everything is explained as it occurs. Once a passenger has a basic understanding of the way an aircraft works the fears are usually greatly diminished. Other self-help methods are available such as books, DVDs, CDs and computer courses. Online support forums may be helpful for those who wish to share their thoughts and fears with other sufferers or hear from those who have found successful ways to cope.

Natural approaches, such as relaxation techniques and hypnosis can be very helpful. It’s worth checking if your GP would be willing to prescribe something to help you stay calm during a flight. It’s never a good idea to resort to drinking alcohol or taking sleeping tablets. Alcohol combined with the dehydrating effects of flying can make you feel even worse, and who wants to start their holiday in a groggy haze after taking sleeping pills!

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that travel insurance does not provide compensation for cancelled flights due to a fear of flying. The cancellation would be deemed ‘self-inflicted’ and you would find yourself personally liable for any financial losses. Therefore, if you want to be able to join your family and friends for holidays in the sun, it is never too late to obtain help for your fear of flying. One of the methods outlined in this article may hold the key to overcoming the fears and unlock many years of flying and happy holidays abroad!

Car Parking Systems With Efficient Parking Solutions

The space in our world is not going to increase but the number of cars travelling on the roads certainly will. What we need is car parking systems that manage these spaces for us in a more convenient manner and utilizes the limited space we have in the best possible manner.

For the developing communities where businesses are growing every day and almost every family owns more than one or two cars the need for efficient parking is more pronounced than it was a few years back. The increase in number of cars is posing a problem for shopping plazas, organizations and malls that are faced with the challenge of providing easy parking for their customers or employees as it directly interferes with the sales outcome.

Many companies are feeling the need to develop such parking software systems that make it easy for their employees to park their cars. Some companies have such parking software that have a charge system making the process simple and easy to operate. The charges can be different for different areas and the charges can be set by allotting budget codes. For example on Saturdays and Sundays no charges are taken. Car parking fees can be automatically calculated. The organized spaces not only save time but also prove to be beneficial from a security point of view.

While designing spaces for parking systems it is important to consider the ventilation systems. Very often we see that not much consideration is given to this aspect resulting in dark suffocating underground car parking spaces. Exhaust fans or other ventilation system must be there to ensure circulation of fresh air.

Today very easy to use parking systems that clearly display free spaces and allow the users to identify the availability of free space instantly are quite popular.

Conventional parking systems are no longer the answer to the growing need for parking spaces. Parking systems are being designed for managing the car spaces in a more coherent and orderly manner, accommodating more number of cars within the available space. There are puzzle parking systems and multi-level state of the art automated systems for vehicle parking being used that prove beneficial in reducing wastage of space.

The emphasis today is on automated procedures that are quick and require less time and effort and for this purpose more car parking lots are using car parking software that are responsible for the parking procedures.

Japanese Car Auction Inspection Reports Demystified

Car auctions in Japan are a great way for car importers around the world to source good quality, low mileage cars and other used vehicles at great prices.

However, in order to make the most of the opportunities these Japanese car auctions give you as a car dealer, you have to make sure that you understand the car inspection reports. As a well-informed buyer, you can make sure you sift out the gold and avoid costly mistakes.

In this article, we will look together at who makes these auction inspection reports and what you can find in them.

If you are at at serious about buying cars from car auctions in Japan, you need to read on.

Quick Primer: What are these Japanese Car Auctions?

There are about 86 different auction locations in Japan. A typical day will see anything from about 7,000 to over 40,000 used cars and other vehicles sold at these auctions all around the country.

A good Japanese car exporter will give his customers access to all these auctions through an online system. You may be a continent or two away from Japan, and yet sit down in front of your computer and tap right into this huge selection of RHD and LHD cars right away.

Enter a bid at the click of a mouse, and let the car exporter in Japan handle the rest. A few weeks later the car will be arriving at the port for you to pick up.

Used Car Inspections at Japanese Car Auctions

Car auctions in Japan employ seasoned mechanics to inspect all the vehicles they sell. These inspectors work on site in the case of most auctions, or off site at car dealerships in the exceptional case of Aucnet.

The auction inspection covers every aspect of the car, from mechanical areas and chassis, to the exterior and interior condition. The car auction inspectors are thorough in their approach, with the only caveats being that they do not drive the car at any more than parking lot speeds, and obviously they cannot dismantle the vehicle to check out really hard-to-reach places.

The Auction Inspector’s Report

The car auction inspector write his notes on the o-kushon hyo (auction sheet). He will use a combination of scoring systems, written descriptions and a diagram of the exterior to give readers a good idea of the condition of the used car.

Overall Auction Grade

Car auctions in Japan assign an overall grade to each of the cars entered in the weekly auction.

I do not recommend that you rely solely on this grade when you consider whether to enter a bid or not. You will need to check the other detailed information that the inspector has written on the auction sheet as well.

(A good Japanese car exporter will be able to give you a professional translation of these details.)

That said, the overall auction grade has a role to play in helping you narrow down the field of potential bidding candidates. Here is a quick summary of the different grades:

Grades 7, 8, 9 or S – These refer to brand new cars with only delivery mileage.

Grade 6 – This grade can sometimes be equivalent to the grades above, but cars with this auction grade will usually have a little more than just delivery mileage.

Grade 5 – These are vehicles in superb condition, very close to brand new standard, but with several thousand kilometers on the odometer.

Grade 4.5 – A car in excellent condition, but with up to a few tens of thousands of kilometers on the clock.

Grade 4 – A good, solid car usually having less than 100,000 km on the clock.

Grade 3.5 – A higher mileage vehicle or one which will need some work to clean up.

Grade 3 – Either a very high mileage car or one which is generally rough.

Grade 2 – Very rough vehicles usually with corrosion holes being the reason for this low grade.

Grade 1 – Usually a heavily modified car which has had a different engine or transmission fitted, or which has an aftermarket turbo charger. Other possibilities are used cars with flood or fire extinguisher damage.

Grade R, RA, A and 0 (zero) – These are cars that have had some kind of accident repairs. At one end of the scale the repairs will be a single panel replaced due a minor parking ding, whereas at the other extreme there are vehicles that must have rolled in an accident which have had almost every panel replaced.

Ungraded vehicles – These are sold as-is by the auction with no or almost no information about their condition. As such they are very risky and can result in escalating additional costs if they cannot drive or move.

Some of these grades are more common than others. For example, grade 3.5 and 4 used cars will make up about 50% of any given day’s auction, whereas there will only be a handful of grade 1 cars on the same day.

Interior and Exterior Grades

Japanese car auction inspectors assign letters to indicate the interior and (sometimes) exterior condition of the car. Again, these are very broad designations, just like the overall auction grading, and it is really important to read the details of the inspectors’ comments to get a full picture of the condition.

Essentially, “B” is considered “average condition, considering the age and mileage of the car”. So an interior grading of “A” means that the interior is above average, and if it is “C” then it is below average.

The “Car Map”

This is a diagram of the exterior of the car, and is usually found at the bottom right corner of the auction sheet.

The auction inspector will mark this with a combination of letters and numbers to indicate damage to the outside of the vehicle.

Here are some basic designations:

A = scratch

U = dent

S = rust (from the Japanese word sabi)

C = corrosion

W = unevenness in the panel (usually caused by panel beating)

These letters are also usually followed by a number to indicate the severity. So “1” is the least severe, and “4” is the most severe. In practice, the Japanese are so fastidious about these things that something like “A1”, which means the smallest scratch, is really barely visible to the eye.

Japanese Car Auction Inspectors’ Comments

In addition to the above, the inspector also will write comments about the used car as he reviews it. Obviously, the higher grade the car is, the less likely it is to have extra information written about it. So a grade 3 car will have many more comments than a grade 5 car.

The exception to this can be cars that have a large number of modifications and aftermarket parts fitted that the inspector then lists on the auction sheet.

Although it may seem that the overall grade, the interior and exterior grades and the car map give you enough information in order to place a bid, I strongly advise buyers to make sure that they get these comments professionally translated before they make the final decision to bid.

A grade 5 or above car may hold no surprises, but with anything below that it is possible that the inspector has written something which could influence your decision to go ahead with a bid or not. This is why it is very important to look for a Japanese car exporter who offers professional-quality translations of auction sheets.

Concluding Remarks

Car auctions in Japan offer a great selection of used cars to source at good prices, and the auction inspection regime means that you can get a good, detailed picture of the condition of any vehicle prior to bidding.

Although it may seem daunting to be buying used cars from halfway around the world, these Japanese car auction inspection reports make the process of finding good vehicles easier and more reliable.

Defeat Your Homeowner Association

First, this article is written from the viewpoint of a California resident. Much of the information presented here is relevant to other states, but you should check your own state’s laws to make sure they are the same or similar.

For most people buying a new home in today’s America there is usually a mandatory membership to a homeowner association, referred to as an “HOA.” These organizations are essentially mini governments that posses the power to make and enforce laws, including the right to foreclose on a family’s home, townhouse or condominium.

The original intention in the creation of the HOA envisioned an active participation by all of the members; a tight knit community where common problems were dealt with by the community members through the offices of the HOA.

The reality is nothing like the vision.

Today, in most cases an HOA is a very small number of people who actively keep the authority of the HOA in their hands, and their hands alone. Usually these circumstances are brought about by a lack of participation by the majority of the HOA members.

The lack of member participation creates a certain rational for the Board of Directors, who interpret the other member’s disinterest as the reason they must keep the HOA’s authority to themselves. The community becomes divided between those who control the Board of Directors, and everybody else.

For everybody else, an HOA is typically not easy to deal with. They wield the authority to foreclose homes, levy steep fines, and often control aspects of the community members’ lives that typical Americans believe are a precious homeowner’s private right, like what your kids are allowed to do while playing in their own backyard.

Homeowners often find themselves in a contest with their HOA over these rights. Can I park my car in my driveway? No, says the HOA because we few active members passed a law that says you can’t park a car in your own driveway unless you use the car every day.

Can my kids play basketball in our own backyard? No, says the HOA, because we few active members passed a law that says no basketball courts are permitted that can be seen from the street. And, by the way, you are not allowed to cover that open fence to limit our visibility into your backyard because we few active members have passed a law that says we have the right to see into your backyard.

Can I tint my windows? No, says the HOA, because… Well, you get the picture.

Now the part you have been reading to find. How do you defeat your HOA?

First, you must make sure you continue to pay your HOA dues. Most homeowners who get into a fight with their HOA over issues like a rule restricting backyard activities, use of your own driveway and garage, and denials of your planned home improvement projects, often get angry and stop paying dues.

This is a mistake. Pay your dues. However, you can usually omit paying those late fees and fines. In California, an HOA cannot foreclose your home based on accumulated late fees, fines, and other expenses like the ‘cost of collecting’ your unpaid late fees and fines.

They can sue you in small claims, or even in the limited jurisdiction of the Superior Court because then they will get attorney fees, which will be huge. The resulting judgment, however, is far more difficult to use to foreclose on your home because it has no priority over existing liens, meaning the HOA would need to pay off your mortgage to get your home using a lawsuit judgment. (In California, the moment you lose such a lawsuit, go the State Bar and demand Fee Mediation – HOA lawyers charge you like they are first class lawyers, but charge their clients like they are 1st year noobs.)

But, let’s not let it get that far, OK? Here are a few basic rules to live by when dealing with your HOA.

HOAs typically don’t have a properly elected Board of Directors. As soon as you receive that annoying letter telling you to stop your kids from playing in the backyard, send a letter back asking to have a copy of all the Governing Documents.

Hopefully, the HOA will ignore or deny this request.

They are not allowed to deny or ignore a request for copies of the Governing Documents.

Obtain a copy of all your Governing Documents and read them to see what constitutes a properly elected Board of Directors. In those communities where member participation has been limited to just those few who want to be Board Members, there typically has never been a “quorum” attained to properly elect the Board.

The Board, therefore, is usually sitting by default.

Default Board’s are limited in the scope of their authority, and in some cases have no authority at all.

In all your correspondence, constantly remind the Board that they are not properly elected.

Follow these basic steps;

1. Demand a ‘meet and confer’ with a Board Member to discuss the issues. The HOA is not permitted to deny your request to meet and confer. Record the meeting on video.

2. Demand a hearing before the Board. Record the meeting on video.

3. Appeal the Board’s decision. Record the Appeal Hearing on video.

4. Demand Mediation after the Board affirms their previous decision at the Appeal.

Typically, HOA Board of Director members are not well versed in the laws governing the operation of an HOA. many will be passingly familiar with the portions of the relevant foreclose laws, and of course they will know the HOA’s rules and regulations by heart.

However, I have found that often the Board of Directors are not familiar with the requirement to meet and confer in good faith. Therefore, it is common that the Board of Directors member who appears to meet and confer, will meet but not confer. There is a good faith requirement that renders inappropriate the kind of responses the typical HOA Board of Directors member will offer in response to your questions.

For instance; you have received a letter saying you must move you 1966 Ford Mustang from your driveway because it is not driven every day. OK, you say, “what proof do you have that its not driven every day?”

“We have an anonymous tip from another homeowner” replies the HOA Board member.

“OK, you had a complaint. But, what proof do you have that the Mustang is not driven every day? A mere complaint is not proof and does not rise to the level of a violation. You are supposed to investigate to determine whether the complaint was fact or mere opinion. So, what proof do you have?”

There is a very large probability that the “complaining member” was none other than the Board of Directors themselves who merely discussed your Mustang at their last meeting. So, no proof exists.

Write a summary of the meet and confer. State that the Board Member did not have any proof of the violation, and therefore no violation exits.

When the HOA sends you its next letter, usually a threat to move the Mustang or face steep fines, you send a letter denying that any violation exists. Remind them they are not properly elected, and that the results of the meet and confer were favorable to you, not the HOA.

The HOA is supposed to set a hearing where evidence of your violation is presented, and then rule on the evidence and testimony provided at the hearing. Make sure you demand such a hearing, and make sure you attend. It’s a good idea to record the meeting by video.

Not surprisingly, the HOA will rule in its favor, even when you have evidence that proves no violation existed, or they had no evidence that proves a violation existed.

Demand an appeal. Make sure you attend, and yes, record it on video. At the Appeal Hearing, point out that the Board Members are not properly elected and did not have facts to support their previous ruling.

When the Board affirms their prior ruling, demand mediation.

At the mediation, point out to the mediator that the Board is not properly elected, failed to meet and confer in good faith, called a disciplinary hearing without any proof that a violation existed, ruled against you without any proof that a violation existed, and affirmed their ruling despite a lack of evidence and/or evidence to the contrary.

Mediators will only want to split the matter in two; if you have been fined $1000, they will encourage you to offer $500.


Your next step is the most crucial. The HOA will expect you to pay, or in the most unlikely situation, to file a Superior Court action to enforce the Governing Documents.

Instead, you file what is called a “Writ of Mandate.” This is the proper venue to appeal the Board’s ruling.

While this will cost you some attorney fees, it is the winning move. HOA’s and their lawyers typically are not familiar with this particular judicial option and will be totally out of their depth when confronted with a Writ of Mandate.

The Writ Court will, however, entertain you because you are appealing an administrative body who has the obligation to accept and rule according to the evidence and testimony presented. And, then they fail to rule according to the evidence, they can be reversed by the next higher court. In California, the next higher court above the Appeal Hearing of an HOA is the Superior Court’s Writ Judge.

If you have carefully compiled the evidence indicated above, you are highly likely to prevail. The fines will be reversed, the late fees etc will be voided, and your attorney will be paid by the HOA.

Thereafter, the HOA is likely to turn a blind eye on your Mustang, or your kid’s backyard basketball court, and look for easier victims.

A Close Look At Auto Demographics

It’s well known in the automotive industry that consumers may prefer certain cars during specific times in their lives. Younger drivers tend to like cars that are really aggressive and sporty like the Ford Mustang or something a bit quirkier like the Fiesta. Older drivers may prefer something a bit more comfortable and easygoing like the Ford Taurus. Demographics is important to car manufacturers because this information is used to create advertising and market products toward specific demographics.

Let’s take a look at a car that tends to appeal to people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds; this car is the Toyota Prius. I’ve seen the Prius driven by young professionals as well as families and even seniors. Even though old and young drivers may vary drastically when it comes to their taste, everyone seems to recognize environmental problems and wants to make a difference when it comes to keeping the planet cleaner. The cost of gas is another factor that seems to affect everyone regardless of their age or stage in life.

Most folks attending college or on the verge of building careers are generally cash strapped. As a result they tend to favor economical and efficient cars such as the Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta or Ford Edge. Ford’s cars offer excellent mileage and some models are even nearing the 40 mpg mark which is great for a young person on a budget. Cars like the Honda Accord and For Edge are also quite popular with young drivers.

Sports cars like the Mustang and Camaro are also a big hit with teens; males in particular. Car modification is popular with younger drivers. This may include lowering the car to the ground, adding rims and beefing up the sound system. Both of these cars have a lot of horsepower and are well known for their speed. Quirky cars like the Nissan Rogue can also be popular because they are quirky and epitomize fun and youthfulness.

Middle aged folks are usually getting settled into their careers and may want something a bit more sophisticated and conservative. Most have access to disposable income now and thus can afford pricier autos such as those in the middle-level luxury segment. Cars such as the Toyota Avalon and those from Volvo fit the bill exactly.

Older seniors tend to like the big and comfortable sedan’s. This may include the Ford Taurus or bigger cars like those from Cadillac and Buick. Seniors tend to prefer the classic styling of these cars.