Entries Tagged 'Commercial Insurance' ↓

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.

Is Employment Practices Liability Insurance a Must?

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) is a form of errors and omission insurance and protects your business against employee claims of discrimination, which could be based on age, sex, disability, race, or other traits. EPLI also covers suits regarding harassment or wrongful termination. In fact, as its name implies, its key function is to provide coverage if your employment practices are called into question.

If you’re the owner of a small to midsize business, you may assume this coverage is for large corporations. But bear this in mind: Although large corporations have hefty teams of lawyers on retainer to handle any employee lawsuits, it’s actually small and/or new business owners who are most vulnerable to these suits. As soon as you hire your first employee, this coverage becomes crucial.

Can you afford EPLI? The real question may be, can you afford not to have it? Claims and awards continue to increase, and you are at risk from discrimination claims in the same way as you are at risk from other types of liability claims.

Plus, EPLI may be more affordable than you think.

Its cost is based on several factors. The top variables include the number of people you employ, your turnover rate, your established rules and employee practices, and whether you’ve had any suits filed against you in the past.

Regardless of size, EPLI should be part of any company’s risk management plan. Discuss EPLI policy options and costs with your insurance agent, who can help you select the coverage you need.

Do You Need a Supply Chain Interruption Policy?

Is your business completely self-sufficient? If your operations are like most in today’s marketplace, you rely on the delivery of goods from others. While you may find these sources reliable, it’s possible their supply could one day fail. Are you prepared if the chain should break?

If materials or finished products are delayed, your business suffers. A significant delay or cancellation can cause a complete shutdown of operations. And lacking the resources it needs, your business could come to a temporary standstill or even close.

Many business owners underestimate the effect this supply chain failure can have. It’s important to note that it can take more than two years to recover, as this type of failure affects distribution, costs, service, and ultimately your bottom line. From small businesses to global corporations, companies need proper protection against broken links in the supply chain. The right insurance can’t stop the chain from breaking, but it can stop your business from doing the same. For proper coverage, business owners have two main options.

Option 1: Contingent Business Interruption Insurance

Contingent business interruption (CBI) insurance reimburses lost profits and extra expenses caused by the interruption of someone else’s business. Your company does not have to suffer shared damage for coverage to apply. The point of the policy is to provide for your business when your supplier can’t. This coverage is appropriate when:

  • You rely on a single supplier for materials.
  • You depend on one manufacturer for most of your merchandise.
  • You purchase the bulk of your products from one business.
  • You rely on a leader property (a neighboring business) to help attract customers.

While CBI offers helpful protection, it is limited. The policy only provides coverage if your supply chain is interrupted due to physical property damage at a “partner’s” business. If it has a fire, for example, you’re covered. However, if its employees can’t get to work due to road closures, you aren’t. In short, CBI doesn’t cover all perils or circumstances that could negatively impact your supply chain.

Option 2: Supply Chain Insurance

Supply chain insurance offers broader coverage than CBI. Like CBI, it covers disruptions to your supply chain caused by property damage to your supplier’s business. However, it also covers losses due to other events. Remember that fire that wasn’t covered by CBI? Did the thought of road closures scare you? Supply chain insurance offers a broader umbrella that includes these threats. This type of policy can cover:

Public health emergencies, natural disasters, industrial accidents, riots, labor issues, road closures, political upheaval, regulatory action, financial issues.

Make Your Chain Stronger

Obtaining the proper insurance coverage is essential to protect your business from supply chain risk. To determine which option is best for your operations, talk to your insurance agent and take the following steps to avoid making a claim:

  • Evaluate your supply chain. What risks and weaknesses exist? Do you need to make changes?
  • Identify backups. What other suppliers and vendors could you use in a crisis?
  • Create a contingency plan. This includes securing appropriate insurance coverage for your business.

Understanding the Legal Limitations of Liability Claims

Operating a business in our litigious society involves risk. A lost lawsuit can cripple or even bankrupt a company. If a product is deemed unsafe, the manufacturer’s reputation, as well as its finances, are at stake.

Liability coverage

There is insurance coverage available to protect your company. And there are also legal limitations to consumer lawsuits. Obtaining the right insurance coverage, plus having a good understanding of the law, can give you a big edge.

However, don’t rely solely on an understanding of the law. First and foremost, ensure your company is covered. You can’t predict when a lawsuit will occur, and even cases that are dismissed can result in costly legal fees. It’s essential to always have the right liability insurance for your company.

Legal limitations

Legally, consumers have a limited time in which to file a liability claim under the statute of limitations. This varies by state. All states allow at least one year to file, and many have two-year limits. Some provide three years, but few set it higher than four years.

The statute of limitations kicks in when the injury occurs or when the injured person discovers the injury, depending on state law. Some states impose “statutes of repose” that establish a second deadline for discovery.

The law, however, can’t protect you from being sued. So, if you offer products or services to the public, consult with my office; we can help you obtain the exact coverage you need. Fortunately, there’s no statute of limitations on good advice.

FAQs on Employee Benefits Liability Coverage

A good benefits package can enhance your business by attracting employees and retaining current staff. But there’s a downside: errors in the administration of benefits can result in lawsuits against your company. If this happens, your employee benefits liability (EBL) policy will kick in. How? Here are some FAQs on this important coverage.

What is employee benefits liability coverage? Employee benefits liability insurance protects your company against suits that result from administrative errors. If someone managing your employee benefits makes a mistake and this error results in a lawsuit, EBL protects you from the associated costs. These types of suits are not covered by general liability policies, making this additional coverage a very important add-on; EBL coverage is typically added to your general liability policy as an endorsement.

What kinds of mistakes? Employee benefits packages can be extremely complex. From life insurance policies to maternity leave, these benefits involve minute details and significant administration. When an error is made, affected employees can suffer major financial losses. EBL is available to cover these situations, including:

  • Descriptions of benefits and eligibility. When explaining coverage to your employees, you or your benefits manager may convey incorrect information, and the employees are more than likely to make benefits choices based on this erroneous info. This decision could cost them down the road, and they may hold you liable for their financial burden. If a lawsuit is filed because of your error, EBL has you covered.
  • Losses of electronic and/or paper records. Maintaining records of all benefit information is essential. If your HR department accidentally loses a benefit file, the loss could prove costly. If your employee suffers because this information is missing and sues you, your EBL insurance covers the costs.
  • Enrollment, maintenance, and termination of employees and beneficiaries. If your benefit packages are complex, it can be easy to miss a detail. One mistake on a form could omit an employee’s beneficiary from that person’s plan. Mistakes such as these are covered by EBL insurance.

What plans are covered? EBL offers coverage for a full range of benefits. These include insurance benefits, financial benefits, disability and worker’s compensation benefits, and other fringe benefits such as tuition reimbursement and maternity leave.

Who needs EBL insurance? If your staff includes a large number of employees and you offer a full benefits package, it’s wise to have this policy in place. If you have few workers and offer few benefits, you may not need it, although it’s always wise to check.

As the goal is to provide coverage against large claims by employees or their dependents should they suffer financial loss due to your mismanagement of their benefits, the size of your risk will determine the coverage required. When in doubt, discuss EBL coverage with your agent, who will help you review your insurance policies and decide whether EBL coverage is necessary for your business.

Mistakes happen. If they do, EBL can provide you with peace of mind. And it may prevent the unthinkable: a suit that will sink your company.

Technology Can Cut Workers Comp Claims

How much do you spend on workers compensation?

Between insurance premiums and claim payouts, this figure could be significant. But by improving safety measures in your business, you can significantly impact this cost.

To keep these expenditures down, many business owners are turning to technology.

Today’s tech often gets a bad rap (”Employees are on their smartphones instead of working.” “Robots are stealing jobs.”) But technology can also prove useful in making work environments safer and reducing costs. Following are a few tools that business owners can implement in their company operations to cut risk. The results should be lower insurance costsĀ and safer employees.

Instant access - Upload manuals, instructions, and safety reports to your company website, and allow employees to access this information easily on tablets and phones while on the job. They can quickly reference the appropriate procedures for potentially dangerous situations. In case of an accident, they can easily and instantaneously complete required reporting.

Apps - Most employees now carry smartphones, and many apps are available to boost on-the-job safety. With the addition of a few apps, a smartphone can also be a flashlight, a level, or another tool. Does your business have a unique need? Work with an applications developer on the perfect app for your employees to make their jobs easier and safer.

Cameras and video - Surveillance cameras can help protect against break-ins and theft, but portable cameras and videos can do so much more. They can record safety walk-throughs for future reference and review, take pictures of hazards to report them, and photograph accident sites for accurate, instant reporting.

Drones - In addition to handheld or hard-hat-mounted devices, drones are great tools for photographing or recording a worksite for safety evaluation. Reviewing these images allows analysis of risk factors that could pose safety concerns or cause errors.

Personal sensors - Like boots, hard hats, safety harnesses, and vests, sensors can be used as personal safety equipment. These can let employees know if they have been standing too long or their heart rate is too high.

Site sensors - Sensors can be set up in at-risk areas of worksites to detect specific safety concerns: they can alert employees if they are in an area where it’s too hot to safely work, or alert them to potential hazards ahead that may cause slips or falls.

Self-driving vehicles - Unmanned trucks and cars are still a fairly new idea, but are quickly gaining acceptance. Construction crews in particular are interested in applying this new technology. Drivers of roadwork vehicles are often in danger of being struck by passing traffic. Removing drivers from these trucks would eliminate this safety hazard.

What technology could benefit your business? A quick review of your recent incidents may reveal where you need to beef up safety protocols. Once these at-risk areas are determined, consider what technology could improve employee safety in those situations. Spending a bit on technology could save you a bundle on your workers compensation claims.

Resolve to Save on Business Insurance in 2017

Your business plan for 2017 might look nothing like your competitor’s. But they likely have a common theme: Boost the bottom line. Of the myriad ways to do this, one method is simple: Cut your insurance costs. How? Here are some tips for business owners:

Reduce risk: Fewer claims = savings. Set up procedures that prevent potential claims. Burglar alarms, employee training, and slip-and-fall precautions are great examples. Make a list of your biggest potential losses from accidents, and set up ways to prevent or minimize them. Having the appropriate measures in place will keep your operations running smoothly and your insurance costs low.

Bundle it up: Small businesses are often eligible for a business owner’s policy (BOP). This typically bundles your general liability, property, business interruption, and other riders together in one policy at a discounted rate. Check with my office to see if your business qualifies. Common requirements include a business location and a low-risk profile.

Classify correctly: There are hundreds of worker’s compensation class codes that correspond to various positions. Each has its own ranking for potential risks, and each has its own price. Since your worker’s comp premium is based partly on your class codes, be sure you have designated each employee correctly. Don’t overpay by placing employees in a higher-risk code than required. It might seem simpler to tag everyone under one code, but this is rarely the right move.

Lump your sum: Many business owners pay for their coverage on a monthly basis. This is often done for budgeting purposes. However, paying annually might save you money. Ask about payment plan options that could reduce your overall cost.

Revise restrictions: What are your current policy deductibles and limits? Have you reviewed them lately? If you have fairly low risk, it could be worth taking on a higher deductible to lower your premium. If your business has changed in the past year, you may be able to lower your policy limits. Or if you need to raise your limits, an additional umbrella policy might be the best option.

Make it a habit to review your policies at the end of each year to see what changes might save you money in the next four quarters.

Strengthen safety: Consider beefing up your safety measures in the next year. A safe work environment reduces worker’s comp claims and liability lawsuits. Develop or strengthen safety-training programs. Ensure all new employees are properly trained in your safety measures. Host workshops and training sessions regularly to ensure everyone is engaged. Incentivize safety by rewarding employees who maintain good records.

Call my office: Don’t let the calendar flip without contacting your agent. A quick call to your provider could save you crucial dollars in the next year. Your insurance pro is a valuable resource. Keep lines of communication open as your business needs change. This will ensure your policies not only meet your current demands, but also take less of your hard-earned money.

The Nuts and Bolts of Contractors Insurance

Are you a general contractor, contractor, or subcontractor? Or do you hire them? If so, you need to understand contractors insurance.

Typically, contractors insurance will come into play if a business focuses on one or more of the following: construction, carpentry, plumbing, cleaning, electrical work, landscaping, painting, snow removal, and more.

These categories cover a wide range of businesses and needs. Since every business is different, insurance options range from standard policies to a mix of appropriate coverages. However, some issues are common to almost every contractor, including:

  • Bodily injury and property damage: Many contractors work with heavy machinery and tools. If you do, or you hire workers who do, you should be concerned with potential accidents related to your equipment.
  • Product liabilities: If you deliver a product or serve food, you must consider potential injuries to those recipients, and illness.
  • Medical and disability: In addition to the safety of others, it’s also important to consider an owner’s own health. An owner needs coverage in case of becoming ill or being injured.
  • Errors and omissions: If you provide consulting advice, such as that provided by landscapers or others, you risk liability. Coverage is needed in case a client experiences loss as a result of the advice.

To cover each of these areas, companies will need an appropriate bundle of policies that meet the specific needs of the operations. Options include:

  • General liability: This is the standard that everyone needs. It covers bodily injury and property damage. For medical costs, it covers anyone injured during the course of the work. For property costs, it includes the project contractors are working on plus third-party claims.
  • Completed operations/products: This covers any products sold or distributed, as well as any issues caused on a completed project.
  • Contract liability: This policy provides coverage in the case of a contract dispute. It may or may not be included with general liability coverage.
  • Commercial vehicle: If vehicles are used in the business, companies need this coverage for asset protection, as well as providing coverage for accidents.
  • Workers’ compensation: The regulations for workers’ compensation vary by region. In the case of solo contractors, it’s likely they won’t be required to carry this insurance, but it’s not guaranteed. Be sure to check with an agent about local requirements. If a company has employees, this coverage is needed to protect workers from injury, illness, or death. It provides for employees if they must miss work and for the contractor in case of an employee lawsuit.
  • Professional liability: This is also known as errors and omission insurance. It protects the contractor in the event of an error that causes a client financial loss. It covers legal defense and settlements.

It’s common for businesses to change and grow. Contracting businesses can be particularly dynamic. As companies expand and develop, they need to maintain communication with their agents. Company owners should also review policies annually to determine their needs and make any changes necessary to meet those needs.

Why Your Company May Need Pollution Insurance

Today’s marketplace likes green practices, and most companies are striving for a smaller environmental footprint. From printing less to recycling more, businesses are looking more and more green.

However, even green companies make messes. Even if your business operations are as green as can be, you may still need pollution liability coverage. Your standard liability coverage may not cover this type of incident, so you might want to investigate supplementing it with an environmental liability policy.

The professionals at greatest risk (and therefore in greatest need of this coverage) are contractors. Most job sites pose pollution risks, despite the use of best practices. Broken pipes, leaking fuel tanks, oil spills, and other hazards happen, and they can result in contaminated soil and/or potential health hazards. But contractors are not alone. Any company, no matter how careful, can experience a fire or a spill.

This type of insurance is available to property owners, specialists, and just about any company with the potential for a pollution-related problem. Typically it covers cleanup as well as third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage resulting from a pollution or contamination event, whether it happens suddenly or over a period of time.

There also are environmental policies for specific types of businesses, such as errors or omissions policies for environmental consultants, and contractors’ policies for remediation firms. Call my office about the coverage and limits that are appropriate for your business. When a pollution disaster strikes, your pollution insurance could mean the difference between cleaning up and shutting down.

How to NOT Fail a Workers’ Comp Audit and Ace It Instead

Audits are a necessary part of your workers’ compensation policy. Your premium is only an estimate of what you owe and is based on the projected payroll for the coming year. Once the actual payroll is determined, your premium is adjusted; you either end up paying extra or you receive a partial refund from your insurance carrier. The audit is what determines this result.

The purpose of the audit is to establish whether your coverage accurately reflects your risks. As part of the process, your insurer checks to make sure your employees are properly classified, and that your rates are accurate.

If the information you provide to your insurance carrier is not correct, your policy will not provide the proper coverage. So when the incorrect information is checked, you will fail the audit.

What constitutes insurance fraud?

It is very much in your interest to provide the right information and cooperate with the audit. You may know of some business operators who have fudged information and were prosecuted for insurance fraud. Others may have failed to provide updated information or refused to allow their insurers to visit their facilities, which are breaches of their insurance contracts and allow the insurers to cancel or not renew policies.

Other no-nos include underreporting payroll, providing incorrect job descriptions, and employing contractors without informing the insurers.

Acing the audit

For the best results, always provide up-to-date, accurate information to your insurance carrier. Maintain open communication for a successful partnership that provides the appropriate coverage for your employees.