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.

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 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 your insurance agent: 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.

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.

A Home Inventory Can Help You before and after a Disaster

If disaster struck, could you recall every item you own? And what you paid for it?

After a fire or a flood, a complete home inventory will help you verify your losses and settle insurance claims faster. It can also help you and your agent determine how much insurance you need. To prepare an up-to-date home inventory, follow these easy steps:

List it: Make a list of all your possessions. Walk from room to room, noting what each space contains. Include basic information such as the make and model and the cost. For major appliances, record the serial numbers. Don’t forget any items you have stored outside or off-site.

Document it: Keep sales receipts, contracts, and appraisals with your list. As you purchase new items, be sure to add them to this inventory. To stay organized, you may want to create an envelope system to group receipts based on type of item. Be sure to store your inventory and all receipts in a fire-safe box or in a safe deposit box to ensure it’s available after a disaster.

Picture it: For a thorough record of your belongings, take pictures. Capture entire rooms and/or individual big-ticket items. You may also want to shoot a video of your inventory. Walk through your home and describe the contents as you record them. These photos and videos can be extremely helpful when making an insurance claim.

Your insurance agent can be a great source of help when you’re creating your home inventory by providing tips, recommending inventory apps, and - most important - offering advice on the right coverage.

How to Enjoy a Claim-Free Holiday Season

No one puts “insurance claim” on their holiday wish list. Most would rate this item right below a lump of coal. Yet, due to a lack of safety measures, this is what many people get.

Accidents and fires related to decorations are fairly common during the holiday season, but they are avoidable with the proper precautions. Avoid holiday hazards and enjoy a claim-free season with these tips:

Trim the tree with care: Will you be using a real tree? Keep it stable and hydrated with a large, non-tipping tree stand that holds water. Place the tree away from heating ducts, doorways, and busy areas. Well-placed and well-watered, your tree will stay fire- and accident-free for the season.

Keep your cords nice, not naughty: Exercise caution when working with electricity. Don’t overload your outlets. Use extension cords sparingly. Check flickering lights. Immediately replace those with loose connections or corroded sockets.

Be cautious with candles: Candles add ambiance and appeal to your space, but they can also cause devastation. Keep them away from flammable materials. Never leave them burning unattended. If you don’t want to worry about extinguishing candles before leaving or going to bed, consider using the flameless ones this year.

Don’t fall for outdoor lighting: Yes, your roofline may look great with perfectly strung lights, but don’t risk your life to get them up there. Use proper safety measures and products designed for outdoor use.

Take the time to do décor right. Be happy, healthy, and, most of all, wise this holiday season.

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.

Guess Which Holiday Tops the Fire Claims List?

That’s right. Thanksgiving is the number one fire insurance claim day; claims are typically twice that of any other day in November.

Most Thanksgiving fires boil down to cooking error; unattended stovetops and grease fires top the list. But there is good news: most of these fires are preventable, and all of them can be covered by insurance. To create a safe atmosphere for your holiday gathering, take the following steps:

Don’t get distracted: Many Thanksgiving Day fires occur because the cooks get distracted. Family time, football, and festivities pull them away from the kitchen, and the unattended food goes up in flames. Keep a close eye on anything currently “under fire.”

Put a lid on it: If you experience a grease fire, don’t try to put it out with water. While cooking, keep a lid nearby to smother the fire. Slide the lid over the pan, and turn off the element.

Don’t try to fry: Many hosts want to impress their guests with a deep-fried turkey. It might taste good, but it may not be worth the risky process. If you do go this route, fry the turkey outdoors, away from buildings and trees; carefully determine how much oil you need; and never leave it unattended.

Insure your holiday: Homeowners insurance typically covers your home and its contents if they are damaged by fire. If you aren’t sure what your policy covers, or what the limits are, now’s a good time to review your policy with my office

And have a safe Thanksgiving!

‘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.