Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition 2016

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For the second year in a row, Plymouth Rock Assurance teamed up with our friends from Tobey & Merrill Insurance as platinum sponsors for the 16th Annual Master Sand Sculpting Competition in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather both Friday and Saturday as Otto, our mascot, the Plymouth Rock team, and folks from Tobey & Merrill greeted and entertained beachgoers and sand sculptors alike.

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Over the last 16 years, the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition has turned into an iconic New Hampshire event, challenging artists from around the world to put their best foot forward at creating works of art using nothing but sand, water, and their imaginations. As a locally-based company, we’re proud to support events that celebrate the crossroads of artistic creativity and the local Hampton Beach community.

If you couldn’t make it up to Hampton Beach last weekend, the sculptures will remain on display through July 4. You can also check out the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition’s Facebook page for some great photos of the sculptures. And for those of you who might be reading this from your desk at work, there’s a Beach Cam that gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire setup.

Thank you to the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition and Tobey & Merrill Insurance of Hampton Beach for a wonderful weekend!

Plymouth Rock tent setup

Safe rotary and roundabout navigation

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aerial view of roundabout in wroclaw city

If you’ve spent time driving in New England, chances are you’ve come upon a roundabout or a rotary.

Considered a safer alternative to the traditional intersection, roundabouts and rotaries can be tricky to navigate if you aren’t used to them, so here are some tips on how to pass through safely:

Know what you’re driving into. Roundabouts and rotaries are different infrastructural systems and the terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Rotaries (also known as traffic circles) are large in diameter and allow for high speed vehicle entries. Once in the traffic circle, cars can weave in between one another due to the lack of clear lane markings.

Roundabouts are another alternative to a traditional intersection and are much smaller in size. Though traffic slows in a roundabout, the roundabout can accommodate higher volumes of traffic safer than a rotary can. When entering roundabouts, cars are forced to slow down and yield to cars already inside the circle. Roundabouts also have designated lanes, which make them easier to navigate than the “free for all” approach of the rotary.

Enter slowly. Enter the roundabout or rotary slowly while being mindful that cars already inside have the right of way. Traffic travels counterclockwise.

Stay in your lane. Some roundabouts and rotaries have a single lane, but others will have more than one. If you encounter a multi-lane roundabout or rotary, once inside, pick a lane and stick to it – this will help keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Keep on moving. Once you’re safely inside the circle, don’t stop moving. If you happen to miss your exit, simply continue around and try again.

Avoid large vehicles. Roundabouts sometimes will have an apron – an angled section of pavement – wrapped around the circumference of the inner island to help larger vehicles safely make the turn. Since larger vehicles might require more space to complete their turn, avoid driving next to large vehicles while you’re in a roundabout.

Exit carefully. As you approach your exit, use your right-turn signal to let others around you know that you are leaving exiting. Oftentimes roundabouts have crosswalks for pedestrians, so keep an eye out for anyone waiting to cross.

Ready or not, they’re coming! A study from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology found an 80% reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes after single-lane roundabouts replaced classic intersections. We’re likely to see more and more roundabouts sprouting up on our roads, so it’s important to cover the basics of navigating this modern wonder.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

Everything you need to know about spare tires

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flat tireIf you’re shopping for a new car, something you probably aren’t thinking about is what you’ll do in the event you run a flat. After all, you haven’t even purchased the car – why would you be thinking about roadside troubles already?

Well, flat tires are a pain. So you’ll want to make sure whatever car you purchase has the right equipment to deal with that situation (unless you plan to use a roadside assistance service.)

If roadside assistance isn’t your thing, there are a handful of alternatives – like the classic spare tire. Speaking of spares, have you ever heard it referred to as a “donut”?  Do you know if there’s a difference between a donut and a spare tire? Are they the same?

Turns out, there is a difference and it’s pretty sizable (you’ll appreciate the joke if you read on…)

Now that we’ve got you thinking about donuts, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the different types of spare tires:

  • Full size spares – A full size spare tire is a tire that is the same size as the rest of your tires. Because it’s the same size, the full size spare shouldn’t compromise your car’s driving performance once installed, which is one of its biggest benefits. Of the spare tire options, the full size spare will take up the most space in your car’s trunk, so you might want to consider trunk space when selecting your spare. Full size spares can be matching or non-matching.  A matching full size spare is identical to your other tires and should be incorporated into your regular tire rotation.  A non-matching full size spare has lighter-weight construction and shallower tread depth to reduce weight and make it easier to install.
  • Temporary spare – Also known as a “donut,” this tire is smaller than your car’s standard tires. Unlike the full size spares, there will be a noticeable performance difference when driving on a donut. Plus, the size difference between the donut and the rest of your tires limits the speed and distance you can safely drive. The trade-off is that a donut won’t take up as much space in your car when it’s not being used. If you’re trying to maximize your trunk space, the donut might be the better spare tire option for you.

If you have a spare that spends its time collecting dust in your trunk, it’s a good idea to periodically check its air pressure. How tragic would it be to find yourself in a situation where your tire is flat… and so is your spare?

It’s also important to remember that non-matching full size spares and donuts are temporary fixes and should only be driven on long enough to get your car safely to a service center. Once at the service center, a trained professional should replace the spare with the correct tire to match your set.

An alternative?

As car manufacturers become more mindful of things like trunk space and fuel economy, they are shying away from including spare tires in new vehicle models. To keep up with the changing times, there are a couple alternatives to spare tires for car buyers to consider:

  • Run-flat tires – Run-flat tires are made with reinforced sidewalls and are designed to keep your car going even after a tire has been punctured. While run-flat tires are a good option because you can essentially keep driving even after your wheel’s been punctured, there are tradeoffs to consider, like higher cost and a shorter tread life. Edmunds.com outlines potential pros and cons.
  • Self-sealing – Similar to run-flat tires, self-sealing tires are designed to withstand punctures and keep you going. Self-sealing tires tires are made with a sealant inside that can maintain the air pressure even after you, say, drive over a nail.
  • Tire repair kit – A tire repair kit is a nice alternative to a spare tire because it won’t take up nearly as much space in your trunk. Typically this kit will include an air compressor and sealant that can be used to fix a tire so long as the puncture is on its tread.

So while you’re shopping for your next car, remember to consider your spare tire options. Whether you end up with a full size spare, spring for some run-flats or self-sealing tires, or are prefer roadside assistance at least now you know what a “donut” is in car terms.

 

Boat Safety Basics

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Young father and son going for a speedboat ride together

Maritime activities are big here in New England. From our stretches of coastline to our tranquil bays, winding rivers and freshwater lakes, we’re spoiled with endless waterways that make boating in New England a treat.

Now that the weather’s warmed and summer isn’t too far off, boaters are preparing to put their vessels in the water for the season. But no matter how experienced a boater you are, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some safety basics to ensure your 2016 season is a success:

  • Know the forecast. New England weather can be unpredictable. Before heading out, make sure weather and water conditions are good. If the weather looks unfavorable, it’s best to take a raincheck on your boat day. Similarly, choppy waters can make for a bumpy ride – especially if you have a smaller boat. In that case, consider waiting until the waters have calmed down.
  • Check the tides. It’s a good idea to plan your maritime excursion around the tides, especially if you intend to ride up rivers or through waters that can become dangerously shallow at low tide.
  • Life jackets are essential. Life jackets are the single most important thing to have on your boat, so make sure your vessel is equipped with enough Coast Guard-approved life jackets for you and each of your passengers. Don’t forget to consider different sizes for children vs. adults. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey all have their own life jacket laws. In the states that don’t have specific requirements, the U.S. Coast Guard requires children less than 13 years of age to wear approved life jackets. You can learn more about your state’s life jacket requirements here.
  • Have the right equipment. Make sure your boat is stocked with the right equipment before heading out. The U.S. Coast Guard created a helpful guide that outlines federal requirements for recreational boats. You can download the guide
  • Pack enough food and water. Whether you’re going out for a quick joy ride or spending a full day on the water, be sure your boat is equipped with enough water and food for you and your passengers.
  • Be smart. Whether you’ve been boating for years or are just beginning, you’ll likely be sharing waterways with drivers of all levels. To ensure your passengers’ and your own safety, always keep your vessel at an appropriate speed, steer clear of large watercraft that may be limited in their maneuvering capabilities, and pay attention to buoys and navigational beacons.
  • Consider a free Vessel Safety Check. The U.S. Coast Guard offers complimentary safety checks for personal watercraft upon request. If you don’t pass, there are no consequences. This is simply the Coast Guard’s way of making boating safer for everyone. You can request your free safety check using this form.
  • Take a boating safety course. It never hurts to brush up on boating education. There are a variety of courses available throughout the country, ranging from basic boat safety to reading the weather. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division’s website has compiled a list of helpful courses. You can also check out The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water for additional course information.
  • Have a second mate. There should be at least two people on a boat that are familiar with its handling, operations and general boating safety. If the primary operator is unable to operate the vessel, it’s imperative that someone else can safely get everyone onboard back to shore.

This list is only intended as a starting point for your boating basics. For more information on boat safety, visit BoatUS.org, DiscoverBoating.com, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division

Are you affected by the Takata Airbag Recall?

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Interior view of 2 deployed airbags, view from driver's side with focus on first airbag and steering.

The largest airbag recall in US history just got a whole lot bigger as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adds another 35-40 million Takata airbags to the list.

Though the specific vehicles included in the expansion have not yet been announced, the NHTSA will roll out its expansion in five phases, prioritizing high-risk vehicles. According to the NHTSA, risk will be determined by the age of the airbag inflators and exposure to high humidity and fluctuating high temperatures, which accelerates the degradation of the chemical propellant – the root cause of the faulty airbags.

For our Plymouth Rock customers

Recently, some car manufacturers have notified their customers that airbag replacement parts are in short supply and that repairs may take longer than expected. Those drivers waiting for repairs have been advised to rent cars while they wait. But given the recall’s latest expansion, this could mean longer wait times with rental cars.

As the Takata recall continues to unfold, the safety of our customers is our top priority. If you are a Plymouth Rock customer and your vehicle has been affected by this recall, rest assured we’ve got you protected.  As long as the recalled vehicle is out of use, your Plymouth Rock coverage will extend to your replacement rental vehicle until the necessary repairs can be completed – consider your auto insurance one less thing to worry about during this particularly stressful time. Please remember that for coverage to apply, it is important that you do not use the recalled vehicle until repairs are completed.

If you have any questions about your Plymouth Rock auto insurance policy, do not hesitate to contact your Plymouth Rock independent agent or call our Customer Solutions team. We’re here to help.

Wait. Back up. What?

In November 2014, the New York Times released an article claiming that Takata, a popular airbag manufacturer, was aware of defects with its airbags years before it filed paperwork with federal regulator. Shortly after, the NHTSA issued a national recall of defective Takata airbags, which included a range of popular car models, from BMW and Chrysler to Ford and Honda. A number of things took place in the months that followed regarding the Takata situation, including Takata’s official acknowledgement of its faulty airbags in May 2015 and the U.S. Department of Transportation imposing the largest civil penalty in NHTSA history on Takata in November 2015.

The problem

ConsumerReports.org explains the issue lies within the airbag’s inflator. The inflator is a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which has been shown to ignite improperly with explosive force. In some cases, when a cartridge ruptures, it can send metals shards flying from the airbag – an obviously dangerous outcome to those riding in the car.

To date, 10 deaths and over 100 injuries can be linked to Takata’s faulty airbags.

Have you been affected?

If you’re not sure if your car is affected by the recall, you can use your VIN to check on the NHTSA’s website, where you can also find a list of affected vehicles.

Since the NHTSA is rolling out the latest expansion of affected vehicles in phases, consider subscribing to its Recall Notification System – this way, you’ll be among the first to know if your specific car has been included in the recall.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

Grill safety is hot!

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Horizontal photo of large barbeque cooker, with lid up, on concrete outdoor patio with woods background

Even though it’s only the beginning of May, summer is on the horizon. And when I think of summer, especially here in New England, a few things come to mind. Conveniently, they all begin with “B”: beach, baseball and barbecues.

But before we get to firing up the grill in anticipation of Memorial Day Weekend cookouts, it’s a good idea to refresh ourselves with some basic safety guidelines. After all, nearly 5,700 grill fires take place on residential properties each year, and no one wants their BBQ to be remembered as the one that went up in flames.

Before you cook

  • First and foremost, any propane or charcoal grill should only be used outside
  • If last year’s drippings tray is caked with grease or fat buildup, consider replacing it. Keep the tray clean throughout the season by removing any grease/fat after each use.
  • If using a propane grill, carefully check the hoses to and from the gas tank and look for any cracks or holes. Tighten the hose if it’s loose.
  • If starting a charcoal grill, only use lighter fluid design for grilling. Do not use gasoline or other flammable liquids

 While you cook

  • Once your grill is lit, let it heat up a bit before putting any food on. If there’s lingering residue from last time, the heat will burn it off
  • If you smell gas, turn the grill off immediately
  • Use long-handed utensils to avoid burning yourself
  • Keep children away from the grill while it’s on
  • You should be able to put the flames out at a moment’s notice, so it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby
  • This goes without saying, but never leave your grill unattended

After cooking

  • Give the grill ample time to cool off before letting anyone near it. Even once the grill is turned off, it can still be quite hot
  • When the grill has safely cooled, scrub the grates with a wire brush to remove any cooking residue
  • If you’re using a charcoal grill, allow the ashes to cool for at least 48 hours before disposing. When disposing, wrap the ashes in tin foil and place in a non-combustible container

We’ve only covered the basics. For more information on grill safety, the National Fire Protection Association and the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association are good places to start.

Does your insurance cover you in the event of a grill fire? Learn more about homeowners insurance from Plymouth Rock and our affiliate, Bunker Hill Insurance.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

#DreamSmallBiz May 1-7, 2016

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small business ownersNext week, America will celebrate National Small Business Week – a time to recognize the contributions that small business owners make to our communities.

Since many of our independent agents are small business owners and are integral to our success, we are especially appreciative of their entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and dedication to our local communities.

Small can be big. The American Dream was founded on the idea that if you work hard and persevere, you can be successful – something the “average Joe” could achieve. Even though times have changed and businesses now range from local shops to complex multinational corporations, this dream is still a part of the American ethos. The promise of self-made success is still as alive on Main Street as it is on Wall Street.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of Americans either work for or own a small business. Further, small businesses account for nearly two out of every three new jobs created each year. These numbers suggest that small businesses are a powerful economic player and regardless of size, can make a difference amid America’s vast economic landscape.

Small is local. Not only do small businesses provide jobs for the majority of the American workforce, they can offer something larger companies might otherwise not: a direct, tangible impact on the neighborhood.

When you shop at a small business, you help keep dollars local because the business owner is more likely to put that money back into the community. Not to mention, local businesses are more likely to employ people who actually live in the community, as opposed to outsourcing to faraway locations.

Small businesses also offer unique solutions to market competition.  Large companies are more immune to smaller market forces and aren’t nearly as dependent on one geographic area like small businesses are. Small business owners are especially compelled to keep local customers happy with quality products and services since the majority of their customers are likely to be people who actually live in that community. Thus, small business owners are constantly challenged to stay relevant, and innovative, and respond to their customers’ needs.

Support small. Next time you’re going out to dinner, consider skipping the chain restaurant and eating at the family-owned diner in town. Or instead of buying your groceries at the large supermarket, try picking up your produce at a local farmer’s market.

And if you’re looking for advice on auto insurance, consider talking to a local, independent agent.  Unlike a large national insurance company, independent agents can provide local knowledge, advice, and choices. Independent agents are small business owners who take the time to understand your needs and make coverage recommendations based on your unique situation. Rather than fitting you to an insurance product, an independent agent will fit an insurance product for you.

Spread the word. People trust you, so while shopping locally, remember to share your favorite experiences with others. If you’ve had a positive experience at a local restaurant or shop, let others know! These days, most small businesses have social media pages, which are great places to share your positive experiences and support your local businesses.

As consumers, we should all appreciate the resilience of Main Street business owners. Let’s show that appreciation by shopping locally – not just during National Small Business Week – but all year.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

 

 

Spring Car Tune-up Made Easy

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Need to get your car ready for road trip season but don’t know where to start? Check out our helpful infographic that covers the basics on what to do to ensure your car runs smoothly during the warmer months.

Spring clean your car!

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April is National Car Care Month according to the Car Care Council.

Why? Because winter is officially over and after months of wear and tear on your car, it’s time to show your ride some love.car cleaning

From the inside out, here are some simple things you can do to get your car in shape for the spring:

Purge. Nothing says a “fresh start” to spring like purging your car of unneeded items. Remove anything you no longer need in your car. That ice scraper on the backseat? Store it in the garage. That second wardrobe of scarves, gloves, hats and other clothing you’ve accumulated throughout the winter? Pack them away. They’re with the rest of just a painful reminder of months past.

Vacuum your interior. Starting from the top and working your way down, vacuum all interior surfaces. Don’t forget to get underneath your floot mats – you’d be surprised by where dirt and salt can settle.

Spend time on your floor mats. Throughout the winter months, you’ve probably tracked all sorts of muck into your car, so give your floormats a good wash. If you have rubber mats, great. They won’t take long to clean. If they’re carpet, it’s worth taking a power-wash to them at least twice. If you don’t have a power-washer, consider using one at the self-service station at a local car wash.

Scrub the surfaces. Leather or cloth, it’s worth wiping down your seats. And while you’re at it, give the dashboard and the surface behind the backseat (if you’re in a sedan) a good wipe down.

…and the exterior. By winter’s end, your car might be hiding under a blanket of dirt and salt. Whether you go the old soap in a bucket route or opt for a professional cleaning, the exterior of your car needs as much attention as the interior. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean your headlights, tail lights and mirrors.

Replace your wipers. Your wipers work hard throughout the winter. If the blades are worn,  it might be worth investing in a new set. While you’re at it, be sure to check the wiper fluid.

Check your tires. If you live in an area that suffers from long and snowy winters, you may have winter tires. Before it gets too warm, switch out the heavy duty tires for your all-season set since the former aren’t meant for hot temperatures – you’ll get more use out of them next winter that way. Be sure to give them a good scrub before storing.

Pro tip: You can check the tread by placing a penny between the tire’s rifts. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it might be time for a new set of tires.

It’s a good idea to schedule a routine tune-up with standard maintenance checks, including:

  • All fluids, including the engine oil, antifreeze/coolant, power steering, brake and transmission
  • Hoses and belts – make sure they’re in good shape
  • Battery
  • Brake system – these should be inspected by a professional during a standard oil change
  • Exhaust system – make sure there are no leaks
  • Heating, ventilating and AC system
  • Steering and suspension system

This year, spring into action and get your car running at peak performance. That way, you can enjoy the season with the full confidence that your car will get you to where you need to be.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

 

 

How to Avoid Potholes this Spring

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Now that winter is officially behind us, you might notice large cracks and crevices in the road. These fissures, more commonly known as potholes, are a result of winter’s wear and tear.Pothole

If hit, potholes can be pretty damaging and can affect everything from your car’s tires, alignment, shocks and struts, suspension, steering, exhaust system and even its engine.

So while you’re out on the road enjoying the warmer, longer spring days, remember to be watchful of those pesky potholes.

Here are some ways you can safely avoid potholes or deal with an unavoidable collision:

  • Steer clear. This sounds obvious and is much easier said than done. But if you spot a pothole well in advance and can safely maneuver out of its way without affecting cars in adjacent lanes, that’s your best course of action. Beware that puddles could be masking potholes beneath, so approach them with caution.
  • Go slowly. By driving slowly and leaving ample space between you and the car in front, you can increase the likelihood of avoiding a pothole. You’ll have more time to spot a pothole and react.
  • Brake slowly. Sometimes it’s impossible to safely avoid a pothole and your first thought might be to brake abruptly upon impact. Instead, try braking slowly to minimize the risk of damage. And remember to keep two hands firmly on the wheel to maintain control.
  • Inspect after impact. If you’ve hit a particularly nasty pothole, it’s a good idea to safely pull over to inspect your car for possible damage. Even if you only notice something small, consider having a professional look at your car straightaway in order to avoid further, costly damage.

Reporting potholes is a collective effort. If you see a pothole, speak up! Let local officials know, to the best of your ability, the exact whereabouts of the pothole so they can address it quickly.

Some places make it easy to report a pothole. For example, the City of Boston and Manchester, NH, have mobile-friendly apps that residents can use to report potholes and other road conditions within the cities’ respective jurisdictions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows drivers to report potholes on state roads by calling or sending an e-mail.  In Connecticut, you can report a state-road problem online. If it’s a local road, Connecticut officials encourage drivers to contact the appropriate town.

Need to report a claim? Plymouth Rock Assurance customers can easily and conveniently report their claim  online 24/7.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.