Top 10 Small-Business Insurance Claims

There’s a common mentality among insurance policy holders: “It’s a fail-safe, but I probably won’t need it.” Perhaps it’s denial, or perhaps it’s part of a natural self-preservation mentality. For whatever reason, many assume insurance is “for the other guy.” Someone else may need to make a claim someday, but I probably won’t.

While it’s good to take steps to reduce the likelihood of claims, it’s also good to know that many small businesses do indeed rely on their insurance coverage for incidents. In fact, a study by financial services company The Hartford revealed that 40% of small businesses incur property or liability losses each 10-year period. What types of losses are businesses experiencing? Here are the top 10 insurance claims they make (and some tips on how to avoid them).

1. Theft: The top reason for small- business claims is burglary and theft. Some of these crimes are committed by outsiders. Others are the result of dishonest employee activity. Strong, consistent security measures and employee accountability can reduce the chances of these claims.

2. Water: Coming in second is damage caused by water from roof leaks, snow, ice, and frozen pipes. To minimize the risk of water damage, inspect roofing and plumbing features and perform maintenance regularly.

3. Wind: Hail and wind damage are frequent culprits when it comes to small-business damage. These elements can destroy equipment, buildings, and commercial vehicles. To protect assets, store vehicles and equipment indoors as much as possible.

4. Fire: Don’t underestimate the destructiveness of this force. Fire can cause major property damage and even wipe out a business. Always follow fire safety guidelines to ensure warning, extinguishing, and evacuation measures are up to date and fully operational.

5. Accidents: Customer slips and falls take the number five slot. Some businesses are more vulnerable to this risk than others. To minimize risk, keep interior and exterior walkways free of ice, water, debris, and damage.

6. Injuries/Damage: In addition to slips and falls, customers sometimes sustain other injuries or damage to their property. Establish protocols for creating a safe environment to reduce the chances of these occurrences.

7. Liability: Businesses that sell products run the risk of product liability claims. Perform proper testing before releasing anything to the public. Ensure consumer warnings and warranties are worded appropriately.

8. Objects: Some claims are the result of injuries caused by moving objects. Customers or employees may be struck by falling products, mobile equipment, or vehicles. Again, solid safety protocols can help keep your work environment accident-free.

9. Libel: A third party may sue a business for reputational harm. These claims resulting from libel and slander suits don’t account for a huge proportion of claims, but they still make the top 10. Businesses should use caution when mentioning anyone in media reports or marketing efforts in order to reduce the likelihood of libel claims.

10. Vehicles: Auto accidents complete the list of top small-business claims. To prevent these, small-business owners can enact a vehicle safety program. Proper training and qualifications for commercial vehicle operators is key. Is your business prepared for these incidents? Do you have the appropriate policies in place? If you’re unsure, contact your insurance provider to review your policies and make sure your company is covered.

General Liability vs. Professional Liability: The Difference?

Business professionals bear the burden of responsibility in two distinct arenas: general liability and professional liability. Both types of coverage are necessary to secure sufficient protection for your business. Here’s the difference:

General liability offers protection against costs associated with property damage, medical expenses, settlements, and slander.

For example, if a customer comes into your store, slips, falls, and sues your business for his medical costs, your general liability insurance will pay for these expenses. Another general liability situation would be a contractor who causes damage to a client’s home and is sued for repair costs.

Professional liability protects your business against claims that you did not do your job properly. In other words, any time you offer a professional opinion or perform a duty, you are professionally liable for the results and are vulnerable to lawsuits.

For example, an accountant who offers tax advice might be sued by a client who loses money after taking that advice. Another company might be sued after failing to file important documents appropriately.

Professional liability insurance is also called Malpractice Insurance and Errors and Omissions Insurance. When business owners hear these terms, they may assume this coverage is necessary only for doctors and similar professions. However, even an honest clerical mistake can be considered an error in professional services and result in a lawsuit.

To fully protect your business, consider holding both types of policies. My office can help you determine the coverage that is best for your operations.

Deck the Office Halls…and Avoid Damage

A little festive cheer can boost office morale and make surroundings more appealing to employees and customers. With this in mind, many businesses decorate for the holidays; however, it’s important to also keep safety in mind. Unsafe decorating practices can lead to personal injury or property damage. To avoid these disasters and the ensuing claims, use the following precautions:

The gift of gravity: Don’t take chances when stringing lights on doorways or windows. Rolling office chairs do not make good step stools. Always use a stable, well-positioned ladder to reach decorative heights.

A sprinkling of good cheer: As you decorate, it might be tempting to hang items from sprinkler heads. Don’t do it. The decorations can prevent the system from working properly.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: Do you plan to plug in lights or other electrical d├ęcor? Inspect all cords before using them. If any items have frayed cords, exposed wiring, or damaged prongs, do not use them. These pose a fire hazard.

An extended holiday: If you need to use extension cords for your decorations, be careful about placement. Avoid stringing these cords in high-traffic areas or under rugs, as they can create a tripping hazard.

Stuffed with goodies: Be careful not to overload circuits when powering electrical decorations. You may cause shorts that damage office equipment or cause overheating that starts a fire.

To all a good night: Put a system in place to ensure all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations are turned off at the end of the day or before everyone leaves the building.

Workplace Injuries: First Five Steps

An accident occurs at your place of business. Your employee is injured. What should you do first?

Your choice of response can take the situation in entirely different directions. Simple slips and falls can result in clear-cut claims or costly lawsuits. With the proper plan in place, you can achieve the former and avoid the latter.

If one of your employees suffers an injury, take the following initial steps to move the situation in the right direction.

1. Prepare: This step should already be completed before any injury occurs. It’s essential to have a plan in place for workplace injuries.

Your plan should be a written document that is posted for all employees to follow. Provide training to ensure everyone knows what protocols to follow in the case of an accident.

2. Examine: Assess the injury immediately. What type of injury is it? How serious is it? If you have any staff members trained in first aid, involve them in this initial examination.

For severe injuries, enlist the help of emergency medical professionals. For non-emergencies, speak with your employee about what medical care he or she may need in the immediate future, and decide on next steps.

3. Document: The incident should be well-documented. Remember that workplace injury plan you developed? You should have the proper forms readily available, and complete them right away.

Submit these to the appropriate parties, such as your insurance provider. Ensure proper forms are also provided for the employee’s doctor. The physician may need return-to-work authorization forms or temporary work restriction forms. This makes the process go more smoothly and keeps you, the employee, the insurance carrier, and the doctor on the same page.

4. Treat: Make sure your employee gets the medical attention he or she needs. An immediate visit to a clinic or an occupational health doctor will help establish the nature and extent of the injuries.

A delay can result in unnecessary complications, both physically and financially. Because of this, it can be helpful to establish an ongoing relationship with a specific medical facility or physician to handle any and all workplace injuries at your business.

The medical provider can have all your standard forms on file and remain familiar with your incident protocols. This relationship can help streamline the process for both you and the injured employee.

5. Follow up: Let the employee know you care about his or her welfare. Follow up to find out how the doctor visit went. Ask how your employee is feeling. Remove your boss hat for a moment and simply offer person-to-person concern.

Then, replace that employer cap and work with your employee to develop a return-to-work plan. Find out what else, if anything, the person needs from you to facilitate a full recovery.

Workplace injuries are never welcome, but following these crucial steps can make them less disastrous and keep the experience as positive as possible for all parties involved.

Your insurance agent can provide additional assistance with this process. With in-depth knowledge of workers’ compensation claims, your agent is an invaluable resource you should not hesitate to tap in these situations.

Peer-to-Peer Home Rentals: Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you considering renting out your home, guest room, or basement? Peer-to-peer home rentals and services such as Airbnb have grown in popularity. Discovering the income potential in these opportunities may entice you to hand over your keys.

While this may be a good option for you, it’s important to first consider the insurance implications involved. Do you have the right coverage for peer-to-peer rentals? If a renter starts a fire in the home, will you be covered? Always consult with your insurance provider before pursuing any rental arrangements.

If you will be renting all or part of your property on a regular basis, your homeowner’s policy is likely insufficient. You may need business coverage, such as a hotel or bed-and-breakfast policy. Month-to-month home-sharing liability policies may also be available that suit your circumstances. On the other hand, if the rental situation is a one-time occurrence, you might be covered by your current homeowner’s policy, or you might be required to add an endorsement.

Either way, notify your carrier about your intent to determine whether your current coverage is appropriate. Your agent can help you make any changes needed to ensure you and your property are fully protected.

Additionally, if you are considering renting someone else’s peer-to-peer rental space, confirm your coverage with your carrier. Typically, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for stolen possessions and accidental injuries you cause to others. However, you should verify this with my office before making any rental agreements.

When it’s Time for Teenagers to Take the Wheel

He has matured past the tricycle phase, grown beyond the bicycle stage, and is ready to try his hand at something with an engine. Your teen says he’s ready to drive. Are you ready?

Whether or not you’re emotionally up for the task, you can at least prepare yourself financially. Take the following steps before your teen takes the wheel.

Assign for savings: Which car will your teen drive? If possible, ask your insurer to assign your teen to the car with the lowest value. Keep in mind that this must be the car that the teen drives. By linking your teen to the least-valuable car, you can save on insurance premiums.

Boost your coverage: If you currently have minimum liability insurance, consider increasing your coverage. You may be fortunate to have a responsible teen, but statistics are still stacked against him. Research shows that teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents than adults, and their chance of being held accountable for a crash is twice that of adults. You’ll be grateful for greater coverage if your teen has an accident that results in costly repairs or lawsuit payments.

Balance the cost: As you raise your liability, you may pay higher premiums. To balance this, consider raising your deductible. Higher deductibles typically result in lower premiums. You can apply this savings to your increase in overall coverage.

Make the call: As with any life changes that may affect your insurance, contact your agent to discuss what solutions are best for your new teen driver.

Car Sharing and Auto Insurance: What You Need to Know

More and more car owners are looking to their vehicles as sources of potential income. The family sedan is no longer simply a tool to get to work, and it does more than deliver pizzas.

Peer-to-peer car-sharing services have made it possible to “rent” a personal vehicle to other drivers who are seeking transportation. If you don’t drive your car every day, this can be a fairly simple way to earn a little extra cash.

However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind regarding car sharing and auto insurance. Using your vehicle in this way can greatly affect your coverage.

First, your policy may not cover your vehicle while it is being driven by other people under a car-sharing agreement.

Your carrier doesn’t have any information about who is driving your car or their driving record, so the coverage cannot extend to them. If someone is in an accident or your car is stolen while he or she is using it, you may not have coverage.

Second, you are making money with this arrangement. This puts your vehicle use into a business category, rather than personal. Again, this might negate coverage from your personal policy.

Due to these circumstances, car-sharing services typically offer their own auto insurance.

If you’re considering offering your vehicle for peer-to-peer car sharing, first consult with my office.

Someone here can advise you about your coverage and help you determine if this is a viable option for the use of your vehicle.

Take a Bite Out of Crime (and Your Insurance Premium)

Listing every potential crime that could occur against your business would be a daunting task. Small-business owners face risks from employee crime, nonemployee crime, and cybercrime. Any of these could result in claims that cause your premium to rise.

The good news is, you are not helpless against these crimes. There are effective steps you can take to keep your workplace protected against each type of crime. Putting these safeguards in place will prevent loss, injury, and increased costs. Help keep your business crime-free with the following tips:

Prevent Employee Crime

  • Vet your people: It may involve a lot of legwork, but it’s worth checking into the people you hire. Contact references and perform background checks for any potential employees. Be sure you are hiring trustworthy people.
  • Avoid violence: Do you have a written workplace violence-prevention policy? If not, develop a comprehensive plan that covers the consequences of committing acts of violence in the workplace and procedures to follow if such an event should occur.
  • Require audits: Reduce the opportunity for internal theft by requiring audits for all employees who handle invoicing, receipts, or payroll. These regular audits require extra effort, but the accountability can help prevent major losses.
  • Establish safety: Ensure every employee is properly trained on safety procedures and is aware of all company policies. Business owners who do not meet OSHA standards run the risk of breaking laws regarding safety regulations. Avoid penalty fees and lawsuits by remaining in compliance with all standards.

Prevent Nonemployee Crime

  • Use surveillance: Keep all areas of your business in sight. Use security personnel, mirrors, or surveillance cameras. Encourage employees to engage customers. A vigilant eye is helpful to protect your assets and avoid theft claims.
  • Install security: Apply physical security measures at your business. Install quality locks or a company-wide security system. Limit access to high-risk areas.
  • Light the way: Dark areas invite dark deeds. Ensure all areas of the property are well-lit. Add exterior lighting if none is present. Change all burned-out bulbs right away. Keep things bright and welcoming for employees and customers, and uninviting for crime.

Prevent Cybercrime

  • Back it up: Keep backup copies of all records either on additional storage devices or off-site. A loss of data could mean anything from a minor setback to a major cost. A large breach can spell disaster for a small company.
  • Monitor access: Limit the number of employees who can access all company information. Be especially prudent about access to finances and personal client information.
  • Be software smart: Use strong passwords and proper firewalls to protect your data. Remain current on software updates to keep defenses strong. Change passwords regularly. Negligence in these procedures can prove costly.

As you make these efforts, you will make your company safer, more inviting, and more cost-effective.

Protect Your Rep or it Could End Up Costing You

How can business owners best protect their companies? You may have heard the most common small business claim is theft. This is true, but it’s not the most costly one. Reputational harm claims top this list. These claims include libel, slander, and violation of privacy.

The average cost for these claims is $50,000. If the claim involves a lawsuit, the price skyrockets. Costs to defend and settle the suit raise the average cost for these types of claims to more than $750,000. Typically, around one-third of all general liability claims result in a lawsuit. For small businesses without proper coverage, these suits can prove devastating.

Of course, the preferred solution is to avoid these claims altogether. To protect your business from reputational harm claims, take the following precautions.

Ask permission, not forgiveness. Would you like to post photos on your website or use them in your marketing materials? Do you plan to use a quote or other content for your next marketing campaign? Before you launch your initiative or post your social media blast, get permission to use these items. Copyright and privacy suits can prove costly. Obtain written permission to avoid reputational harm claims. Additionally, ensure all employees are aware of your permission policies.

If you can’t say something nice… Cutthroat competition can make criticizing competitors a tempting tactic. Don’t do it. When speaking publicly or with customers, avoid criticizing competitors. If you never say anything negative about them, they will not have any ammo to use for a slander suit.

Do I Need Extra Insurance for Exterior Rebuilds?

You’re planning your next remodeling project. Perhaps you’re expanding your home to enjoy more living space. Maybe you’re replacing the 1990s siding. Whether your project is a minor exterior renovation or major roofing repair, it’s important the work is properly insured. This may or may not involve the purchase of additional insurance.

In dealing with a contractor: If you are planning to hire a contractor to perform the work, protect yourself and your property with proper coverage. For example:

  • Ask for proof of insurance. Examine dates and coverage carefully to ensure coverage is current and legitimate.
  • Ask to have your name added in writing as an additional insured on the contractor’s liability policy. Some contractors offer this free, but you may have to pay a small fee for this service.
  • Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage includes workers’ compensation. You don’t want to have to pay for injuries occurring to contract workers on your property.

By placing yourself as an additional insured on your contractor’s policy, you’re also covering the gray areas that include situations such as a roofer’s ladder falling over and damaging your neighbor’s property. The additional-insured documentation should protect you in these types of third-party cases.

For major projects, such as additions or new homes, you might want to consider purchasing temporary builders risk insurance. This will cover mishaps during construction.

Contact my office: Whatever type of project you’re planning, contact your insurance agent early in the process. Your agent can advise you on the best type of coverage to add. He or she can also make the proper adjustments to the value of your home.

If you are building an addition, for example, your home will be worth more than when your homeowners policy was originally written. Communicate with your agent to ensure you have appropriate coverage based on the new value of the property.