Entries Tagged 'General Insurance' ↓

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.

‘I Only Sell Online. Why Do I Need Insurance?’

There’s an easy - and important - answer to this question. The truth is, online entrepreneurs need protection just as much as traditional brick-and-mortar (B&M) businesses. Specific coverage will vary somewhat, but commercial insurance is still a must. Here’s why:

  • Your physical assets, whether inventory or equipment, still need protection.
  • You are not immune to lawsuits simply because you never see your customers in person.
  • You may suffer cyberattacks that cripple your business.

With this in mind, online business owners should discuss with their insurance agent what types of insurance coverage are appropriate for their operations. And soon.

Typically, online business owners should carry:

Commercial property insurance: Many home-based business owners assume their homeowners policy will cover their business assets. This is generally not the case. For proper protection of inventory, tools, materials, or equipment, you should have a commercial property insurance policy. This will provide coverage in case of theft or damage. Without it, one storm or one criminal could bankrupt your operations.

Commercial liability insurance: What happens if a customer sues you? Any lawsuit related to your business operations will not be covered by your homeowners policy. You need commercial liability insurance to provide coverage for the settlement and your defense costs. Even if you win the case, attorney fees add up quickly. Some companies are more likely to be sued than others, but anyone who provides a service or a product (either online or via B&M) is vulnerable.

Cyber liability insurance: Internet security is essential in today’s online marketplace. Even with the best protocols in place, you are still at risk. If your system is hacked, you may lose sensitive information about your business and your clients. You may suffer costly downtime. And it may impact your customers as well. With so much at stake, you can’t afford not to have cyber coverage.

Workers’ compensation: Do you have employees? Even if they don’t work in a B&M location, both full- and part-time employees must have workers’ compensation coverage. Consult with your insurance agent on exactly what coverage you need based on your operations and employee responsibilities.

Professional liability insurance: Those who don’t sell a product can still get sued. If advice provided in a consultation causes harm, or is perceived to have caused harm, you might get sued. This policy will cover you in these potentially costly cases.

Products liability insurance: This coverage is only needed by those who sell a product rather than a service. Even if you believe your product is completely benign, it’s a good idea to have coverage in place. You might be surprised at how children (or even adults) can hurt themselves. As they say: Better safe than sorry.

Loss of income: Do you have a backup plan for a business interruption? Loss of income insurance offers coverage if your online business ceases due to a fire or other covered disaster. With it in place, you can bridge the gap and get things flowing again. Without it, you might be up the creek without a paddle.

How to Make Your Insurance Claim as Easy as PIE

There’s been an incident. You need to start the claims process. To many in this scenario, this responsibility not only looms large, but can feel intimidating. Whether the situation involves an employee injury, an auto accident, or property damage, follow this PIE recipe to make the process faster, easier, and less intimidating.

Photograph: Capture images of the scene. Photograph vehicle damage, physical injuries, and the location of the incident. Documenting everything when it happens will help provide accurate information for all parties involved.

Inscribe: In addition to taking photos, write down all the details. Things may seem crystal clear at the time, but memories fade. Create clear notes that cover who is involved, where it happened, what time, what the circumstances were, and any other pertinent data. This material will be helpful for insurance providers as well as for you when you review the situation later on.

Expedite: File the claim ASAP. The sooner you can get all the information to your insurance provider, the better. Fresh information is clearest. Supplying details right away also allows the carrier to provide quicker and more accurate service.

As you go through this process, keep in mind that your insurance provider is your partner, there to help you through every step. Like you, the insurer wants your claims process to be as efficient and painless as possible.

Contact my office if you have questions, and respond as quickly as possible to your insurer’s requests. Providing additional documentation or statements in a timely way will help create a seamless process for your claim.

Nonprofits: Unique Insurance Coverage for Unique Needs

What special insurance considerations does your organization have? If you are a nonprofit, the list might be lengthy. You provide unique services and therefore have unique needs. And it’s important to keep these in mind as you set up your insurance coverage. Following are several areas that nonprofits often overlook:

Cyber liability insurance: It can be tempting to assume only for-profit businesses are at risk from cybercrime, but this can be a costly assumption. In our technology-driven society, everyone is at risk. If you take donations online or store donor data digitally, this coverage is especially important.

Funds transfer fraud: This typically involves an outside party hacking into your financial accounts and illegally transferring funds. What’s important to note is that this crime isn’t covered by cyber liability insurance; set up a separate endorsement for this coverage, which is essential to protect your financial assets.

Volunteer coverage: Does your organization depend on volunteers? If so, potential volunteer injuries must be considered. Since they will not be covered under workers’ compensation or general liability, other coverage must be obtained. A separate volunteer accident policy is needed. And if volunteers use their vehicles for your services, non-owned auto coverage should also be in place.

International insurance: Do you partner with organizations overseas or send employees on international trips? Is much of your work conducted internationally? If so, an international general liability policy is critical.

Nonprofit tip: Review your policies each year with my office to ensure you have the proper coverage for your dynamic organization.

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.

Business Owners Need More Than SPF Coverage in Summer

For some business owners, seasonal changes mean significant business changes. Have you considered what summer means for your company, aside from sunny, warm days? Does your business have the appropriate insurance for the coming season? Consider the following factors as you evaluate your summer insurance needs:

Increased workload: If your company is heavily seasonal, such as landscaping or construction, your workload is likely much higher in the summer. Do you hire extra employees during this time? Ensure your workers’ compensation policy is adequate. Do you purchase or lease additional equipment? Verify that this additional equipment is covered, and check any limits on your policies.

Increased driving: Summertime may mean more driving time. Check commercial auto insurance policies to ensure you have proper coverage for every vehicle and driver. It’s important to keep in mind that coverage for the vehicles is different from the coverage for employees.

Increased time off: Summer is also prime vacation time. While regular employees are away, you may hire temporary staff to keep things running smoothly. Check whether your commercial policies provide appropriate workers’ compensation for temporary staff, as well as whether you’ll incur any additional liability.

It may be necessary to get extra riders on your commercial policies to carry you through the summer season. Or you may need to rethink your yearly coverage. Contact my office to review your policies and determine if your current coverage meets your summer business needs.

Will Fully Automated Cars Be Fully Insured?

For those eager to try an autonomous vehicle, the future is now. Earlier this year, the Canadian province of Ontario announced it will take applications for driverless test car licenses, providing there is a licensed driver to take over if necessary. This raises a question: How will the insurance industry handle automated vehicle coverage?

Underwriting: Currently, an insured’s accident history and the average number of miles driven are used to price vehicle insurance. But soon the self-driving features of a particular model may become the important factors influencing insurance prices.

“Black boxes”: As well, monitoring driver activity may become the norm. Insurance companies currently offer policies based on driver behavior data gathered through telematics devices (black boxes.) While not in wide use now, these may become more usual as insurers push for increased monitoring of driverless cars.

Costs: Theoretically, the number of accidents should fall as automation increases. With human error taken out of the equation, the result should be reduced cost. Fewer accidents could mean cheaper rates for collision and other types of insurance.

Actually, costs may shift. Manufacturers and suppliers may be held more liable for accidents due to product failure.

Complex parts will be expensive to replace.

Repair costs may increase.

These new complications may make it difficult to ascertain if consumers will see a reduction in costs overall.

The Ontario initiative should yield not only accident stats, but also important insights into the public perception of driverless vehicles. Because, this, too, remains to be seen.

Happy New Year! It’s Time to Review Your Insurance Coverage

Exercise more. Eat better. Learn something new. It must be New Year’s resolution time again. As 2016 approaches, it’s a good opportunity to make New Year’s insurance resolutions by reviewing your coverage and deciding if changes are needed. As you examine your policies, consider making these resolutions for next year:

Update home inventory: Is your home inventory up to date? What have you sold, donated, or pitched in the past year? What devices will the family splurge on this Christmas? An up-to-date home inventory is essential to make the most of your coverage in case of theft or disaster. Include all items and their cost. Store this list off-site or in the cloud.

Assess car policies: Does your vehicle coverage accurately reflect your car’s value? As autos age, you may want to reduce coverage. Who drives the car? Are primary and occasional drivers designated properly?

Check for savings: Are you currently taking advantage of every savings opportunity? A call to my office will be worthwhile. Check for new programs, multiline discounts, and changes in policy requirements; they may save you a few bucks in the coming year.

Life changes: Be sure to discuss with my office any life changes, such as marriage, divorce, death, or births as well as home purchases, renovations, job changes, and health concerns. These can impact your insurance needs and may affect everything from your homeowner and life insurance policies to health insurance. You may even need commercial insurance if you’re starting your own company in the New Year.

Avoid Potential Disasters with These Holiday Hacks

This holiday season you want festivities filled with fun, family, and fab food…not insurance claims. Unfortunately, with each holiday season comes the potential for disaster. As you celebrate this season, keep the following in mind. It may not help with in-law issues, but it will, at least, give you peace of mind.

Cooking: According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of residential fires in the U.S. From deep-fried turkeys to pie bake-a-thons to reheating contributions to potluck suppers, cooking for the holidays offers the potential for kitchen fires. To improve your odds, closely monitor long cook times and take precautions to avoid spillovers.

Decorations: Festive decorations can also be fire hazards. Don’t leave candles unattended, especially with young kids around, and plan to clean out your fireplace by Thanksgiving. Water your Christmas tree often, don’t use lights with frayed wires, and don’t overload outlets.

Theft: The holidays are busy times for everyone, including thieves. Take steps to protect your property and your finances. Check your credit card statements and remain vigilant for cyber criminals. Protect more expensive purchases by placing them in a safe rather than under the tree. Also, check your homeowners insurance to make sure purchased gifts are covered; for high-value items, you may need to add a rider to your policy.

Finally, if Santa brings you something nice, don’t forget to add it to your home inventory for potential fire or robbery claims. And enjoy your peace of mind this holiday season.

What Are Surety Bonds, and Do You Need Them?

We often see the phrase “bonded and insured”, but what exactly does it mean? This refers to the process of bonding through surety bonds. Although they are a form of commercial insurance at their core, surety bonds work slightly differently: Generally speaking, they play a different role and fulfil a different objective than other insurance policies by financially guaranteeing that a contract will be fulfilled as originally agreed to by the parties to the contract.

Person(s) bonded will:

  • remain compliant with a law, regulation, or contract;
  • be honest and forthright;
  • act with integrity;
  • be financially responsible.

Here are three important bond categories:

Commercial surety bonds: Permit, notary, public official, and license bonds are required by law for certain types of companies.

Fidelity bonds: If you own a business, this helps protect you and your clients/customers from employee theft or any act deemed dishonest that results in a financial loss. For example, if a contractor’s employee steals some of a customer’s belongings while on the job, a fidelity bond would cover his and his customer’s losses.

Contract surety bonds: If you’re a contractor, you may need one or more contract surety bonds (which include performance bonds, bid bonds, payment bonds and maintenance bonds). These bond types guarantee that the contractor will honor contract terms, such as what supplies he or she provides, the price for the job, and the work to be performed.