Archive for the ‘commercial coverage’ Tag

Insurance & Restaurants   Leave a comment

View More: http://deathtothestockphoto.pass.us/brick-and-mortar

Everyone loves to eat out, which in recent years has led to the development of many new restaurants. This can include a wide variety of types of service, from a food truck to a place of fine dining.  As the restaurant industry grows, so do the needs of those involved in the industry – especially their needs for appropriate insurance to protect themselves.

The food industry has reported both job creation and revenue growth over the course of the last six years. This includes a 3.8% revenue increase, and over 14 million people currently employed in the industry.  While it is great that the food industry is doing so well, what does this have to do with insurance?  It means that there is a growing market of business owners that need specialized coverage based on their risks.

For example, if you own a food truck, it’s likely that if you had a fire or other devastating loss it will take you some time to find or build a replacement vehicle.  While this is taking place, do you have coverage to replace the income you’re losing?  How will you pay your bills?

If you own a more traditional restaurant, do you have coverage for a power outage?  What about a power outage due to power lines downed in a storm?  What if your food spoils while the power is out – is your inventory covered for spoilage?  Similarly, if you have a refrigerant/contamination issue – do you have coverage?

The special types of coverage that are listed are just a few of many that agents and restaurant owners alike need to be aware of to help both industries grow and flourish.  Feel free to call or email with questions or concerns you might have!

Identity Theft, Flood Insurance, and antique coverage – Part Two   Leave a comment

Hello everyone, we’re back again! This time we are going to briefly review the debacle that is flood insurance.  Operated by the National Flood Insurance Program (under the auspices of FEMA) or NFIP for short, flood insurance has gone through quite the upheaval lately.  This is due, in large part, to the fact that the program is about $20 BILLION in debt.

As a result, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012 in an attempt to bring the NFIP’s budget deficit back in line.  This was to be accomplished primarily by removing subsidies from policies in heavily flood-prone areas so the premium reflected the real risk of insuring a homeowner in such an area.  As you can imagine, this created quite a bit of backlash from property owners along the coast, particularly those in Louisiana.

The resultant premium increases imposed by Biggert-Waters were shocking and dramatic, far higher than what was originally predicted.  Instead of removing subsidies over time, as was initially proposed, they were yanked all at once for thousands of property owners nationwide.  For example, one of our clients saw her premium jump from a little less than $500 to nearly $3,000 in one year.

Thus Congress & the Senate recently passed the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act.  Boiled down, the HFIAA basically sets annual limitations on premium increases to attempt to raise rates in (very small) steps.  However, even a glance at FEMA’s overview page outlining the changes reveals confusing and challenging definitions and procedures.  When I called the company about getting our client’s premium scaled back due to the change, I was told, almost word for word, “We don’t know whether the new act is going to affect her premium, so we are going to wait until FEMA tells us to do something.”

Very simply, I would summarize all the changes to flood insurance this way:  Our government took a program that was quite literally drowning in debt, put together a knee-jerk and poorly executed solution, and reversed it in a similarly ineffective fashion in response to public outrage.  This article puts it all together perfectly.

The government had a chance to fix a broken program that had previously served constituents relatively well.  It had its problems, as most government programs do, but it was completely blindsided by the severity of storms like Katrina and Sandy.  Instead of scaling up property owner premiums over 5 or 10 years to more accurately reflect the risk that they carry, a “NOW NOW NOW” followed by a “LATER LATER LATER” mentality prevailed.  As usual, it will ultimately be the property owners and tax payers who foot the bill.

Sammy is this covered

Sammy thinks these flood changes are all wet….

Christmas Outtakes   Leave a comment

As promised last weeks, here are some of the more amusing outtakes from last week’s photoshoot for our Christmas “card”:

Sammy

She just couldn’t stay awake!

These next three would’ve made an amusing gif.  It appears almost as though she’s singing “Joy to the World!” like Clark Griswold.

Sammy

JOY

Sammy

TO

Sammy

THE WORLD!

This is one of my favorites of all of them:

Sammy / Mork

Nanoo Nanoo
Oh, wait – too young for that joke?

These last pictures show just how hard it is to keep Sammy’s attention, even with treats!

Sammy steps

Who’s upstairs?

Cute bored dog

Are we done yet? Pretty bored over here…

Sammy looking down

What’s that?

Sammy treats

I’m coming to get my treat now!

Sammy housetop

Up on the housetop, click click click….

(for reference on that last one)

Before you have work done on your home….   Leave a comment

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Good morning!  Today we have a very simple recommendation for you to consider before having a contractor come to do work on your home.

Before you have a contractor (any type of contractor) come in to your home to work, you should have them provide you with a current certificate of insurance.  A certificate (example below) will reflect the liability coverages that the contractor is carrying.  Liability coverages pay for injury or damages suffered by another – like yourself – for which the contractor is responsible (liable).  Thus, you will want confirmation that your contractor has the appropriate coverage in place!

What is the appropriate coverage, you ask?  Well, there are a few things to look for on the certificate:

  • General Liabilitythis is a catch-all for many types of injuries and damages.  It covers a broad range of incidents, such as someone (including you!) being injured at your home as a result of the contractor’s work, or the damage that’s done to your home if the contractor does the repairs improperly (important note – it does not cover the correction of the original mistake, but it DOES cover the damage that’s done as a result of the mistake.  The contractor is on the hook to pay for the correction).  Pennsylvania law only requires a contractor to carry $50,000 in coverage, but most good agents will not write a GL policy for less than $300,000 in coverage.
  • Voluntary Property Damagethis is a critical coverage for ALL contractors to carry, and it is OFTEN MISSED by both agents and contractors.  Basically, VPD will pay for damage that results from the contractor taking any of your household items into their “possession” – for example, carrying your TV across the room to do work behind it, and the TV is dropped.  This type of incident is NOT covered under general liability; thus the contractor without it would have to pay this claim out of his own pocket!
  • Workers Compensation – this provides protection for the employees of the contractor if they are injured while working.  Why is this coverage important to you?  If an employee is injured while working at your home, and the contractor doesn’t carry WC coverage, YOU could be on the hook to pay for the employee’s lost wages and medical expenses!  The most common scenario is that the contractor would be required to pay these expenses, but if he does not have the means to do so, they will most likely pursue you next.  Even if you aren’t found to be liable, you will have a claim against your homeowners policy to pay your defense expenses.
  • Generation and policy effective datesWhile reviewing the certificate, be certain to review two items of particular importance – the date the certificate was generated, and the policy effective dates!  Make sure, of course, that the policy is within its effective dates and is not expired.  And make sure the date that the certificate was generated (at the top right hand corner of the certificate) is relatively recent (within the past week or two).  Less scrupulous contractors have been known to pass off older certificates, being fully aware that their coverage has cancelled (due to non-payment, for example).

I hope that this information is helpful to you in protecting your home and your claims record!  Be cautious, and if you have questions after receiving a contractor’s certificate – ask your agent to review it with you!  Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!

ACORD certificate

Example copy of the most common form of a certificate of insurance

 

 

 

 

A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (physical damage)   3 comments

Dog Blog

I’ve been waiting for a little while now….

OK OK I know that I said I’d be back to finish up auto coverages a few days ago.  Business being what it is, it’s taken me a little while.  But here we are, and off we go!

Last week we reviewed liability and injury coverages.  This week, we are going to review the coverages in place to protect the damages to your vehicle itself and ways to save on them.

  • Collision  – Even though this is “backwards” from how the coverages appear on your policy, it’s easier to explain starting with Collision.  Collision provides coverage for your vehicle when it collides with some other inanimate object, or is hit by another moving vehicle.  In the state of PA, unfortunately, that includes when your car is hit by a shopping cart.  Some examples of collision claims:  if your car is parked and gets hit by another car (or shopping cart!), you hit a patch of black ice and slam into a tree, or you are at fault in a multi-vehicle accident.  Ways to save – see note after Comprehensive
  • Comprehensive (Comp) – Comprehensive is most easily explained as “all other covered forms of physical damage to your vehicle,” hence the name.  In PA, comprehensive coverage does pick up one type of accident that would otherwise be considered a collision – hitting an animal or pedestrian.  These damages would be covered by comprehensive.  Other examples of comp claims:  if your car is stolen, catches on fire, suffers flood damage, a tree falls on it, etc.  Windshield and other glass damage is covered by comp (unless caused by a non-animal collision).  Ways to save – Easiest and most common way to save is by increasing your deductible.  Be wary of two things, though – first is that collision is far more expensive than comp, so it’s far more effective to increase your collision deductible.  Second is that you should be aware that the savings by increasing the deductible will not offset (in one year) the increased out of pocket cost in the event of a claim.
  • Comp or collision pay for a total loss of the vehicle based on the depreciated (Blue Book) value of the car.  All other (partial) losses are paid based on the actual expense of repairs (less the deductible).
  • Rental Reimbursement (RR) – RR provides coverage if you need to pay for a rental car as a result of a covered comp or collision claim.  In other words: you have a covered claim.  Your vehicle will be in the shop for two weeks.  You need a car in the interim.  You pay for a rental vehicle.  RR coverage will reimburse you for the cost, up to specified daily limits and maximum duration (typically, $30 a day for 30 days).  Ways to save – only real way to save here, outside of not purchasing it at all, is to carry lower per day limits.
  • Towing & Labor (T&L) – T&L provides coverage in the event that you need some form of roadside assistance (change a flat tire, charge a dead battery, keys locked in your car) or need to be towed for virtually any reason (mechanical breakdown, run out of gas, etc).  No real way to save here, it’s generally very inexpensive to begin with.  Only thing to consider – if you are paying for this AND AAA or some similar road service, be aware you may be paying twice for the same coverage.
  • Gap Coverage – This provides coverage for new cars that are purchased using a car loan.  As noted above, in the event of a total loss to your car, the policy will only pay for the depreciated value of the vehicle, NOT the loan amount.  Typically, the loan amount is higher than the depreciated value, creating a “gap” in coverage.  Gap coverage fills the void by paying for the difference.  This coverage can be purchased through the dealership or on your auto policy.  Compare BOTH terms and pricing before choosing where to buy the coverage!

That about does it for this review.  There are other liability and physical damage coverages available, but these are by far the most common (at least in PA).

Relax

So just relax and enjoy the ride – knowing you are well covered!

What the Hail?!   Leave a comment

Hail

Wow! Thank goodness we didn’t see anything the size of these babies!

Some timely advice for local Pittsburghers who endured the relatively uncommon pelting of hail yesterday:

Worried about hail damage? Don’t be!

– Virtually every building (home or business) policy includes coverage for hail damage, even if you have a named perils policy.
– Same for auto policies – if you carry comprehensive, you have coverage for hail damage.
– If you are concerned about hail damage on the roof of your building – DON’T get up there to check it yourself! Hire a professional.  Also, make sure its either someone you trust, or is reputable and in good standing in the BBB or Angies List.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be present for the inspection. Sadly, some of the less-reputable “contractors” will go onto people’s roofs with a ballpeen hammer and create some “hail damage” of there own to get some quick and easy repair work.

In addition, if you have a chip in your windshield, get it fixed now before it becomes a crack!  If you carry comprehensive on your auto policy, and the chip is about the size of a quarter, most policies will pay for the repair with no cost to you.  Once it turns into a full blown crack, and it needs to be replaced, then you would pay your comp deductible and the company pays the balance.
Other questions or concerns? Talk to your agent!

(Photos courtesy of Hail Events & Scott Blair)

Windshield

Probably going to need replaced….

Windshield

Another probable replacement…..

A review of business coverages – Part 2   Leave a comment

Workers Compensation

Injured at work? Work Comp is what you need!

Good afternoon one and all!  Today I’m going to give you a brief break down of one of the more straight-forward coverages for your business – Workers Compensation.  To put it simply, Workers Compensation is in place to pay for expenses due to a work related injury, illness, or death.  In addition, it will also replace any income lost if an employee is not able to work due to any of those three things.

Virtually every employer (and employee thereof) is required to partake in Workers Compensation in the state of Pennsylvania (I won’t be covering any information for any other states).  It can be purchased by any business in the state – whether through a private company or The State Workers’ Insurance Fund or SWIF.  Coverage is written on an annual basis, and is rated based on annual payroll amounts.

Payroll is divided into class codes based upon the type of work that employees perform.  When you first write a policy, the class code is initially determined by your agent, and will be confirmed by the PA Rating Compensation Bureau or PCRB.  Final determination will be made by the PCRB and will be enforced upon all insurance companies, including SWIF.  You can always appeal the class code(s) assigned to your business.

Each class code has a rate, as determined by base rates each company files with the state.  Simply put, your WC premium is determined by multiplying your payroll amount (divided by 100) times the applicable rate, and then adding in the PA Employer Assessment (which functions similar to a tax).  If you write your coverage through any company other than SWIF, you will also pay a flat Expense Constant.

At the end of each policy term, your policy will be audited – either by your insurance company or an independent auditor hired by your company.  Not every company audits every year, but most do.  Audits, especially for small businesses, are typically a short form that’s mailed to you to complete and return.  The audit is used to determine the actual payroll for the prior policy term (not calendar or business year), and typically requires W2 or other tax form verification.  Occassionally, an auditor will actually come to your business to review your information, but it is still often a simple process.

I feel like I’ve bored you enough.  Work Comp is generally a very dry, straight forward coverage to discuss.  I hope that you stayed awake, and if you have additional questions on how it works, PLEASE feel free to call or email us!

PS – we are running a contest on Facebook.  Every person who likes my page in the month of February is entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift card to either Darden Restaurants or Big Burrito Group.  Already liked my page?  NOT TO WORRY!  For every person that you refer to my page, you are entered to win a $50 gift card to the same!  (everyone can “enter” to win this card – new and old “likers”)  If they are picked as the winner for the $100 gift card, and you referred them, then YOU WIN the $50 card!  Need another link, in case you missed the first one?   Here’s another one…  LINK   or was it LINK

Anyway, have a good day, and don’t hurt yourself!

Pittsburgh!

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with Workers Compensation. But I love our city. And you’re probably tired of hearing about WC

A review of business coverages – Part 1   Leave a comment

Insurance confusion

Feeling down because you don’t understand your business insurance? The Dog Blog is here to help!

Today is the first part of a series reviewing various business insurance coverages.  Insurance companies will handle the various coverages differently, but some generalities can be made.  Many companies often use standardized forms provided by the Insurance Services Office, but certainly not all do.  Today’s coverages we will review are the Commercial Package Policy and Business Owners Policy.

The Commercial Package Policy (CPP) in its simplest form is the combination of two business coverages – most commonly general liability and commercial propertyThe CPP can be written a la carte to include a variety of different coverages, but is almost always written with GL & property.  General Liability protects business owners from a wide variety of legal exposures, such as a customer getting injured at their location, damages due to a product failure (although the actual product itself is typically NOT covered), or a wide variety of other lawsuits.  Commercial Property protects business owners against a loss to their building, contents & furnishings, inventory, or other goods.   The CPP can also include things like tool coverage, equipment breakdown, professional liability, auto, and crime – it can be built “from scratch” to meet your needs specifically, and is often used for larger or more complex businesses.

The Business Owners Policy (BOP) is a package that automatically includes a variety of coverages to provide a more efficient and competitive method of insuring a business.  The package includes general liability, commercial property, business income protection, and often also includes a variety of coverage enhancements.  Business Income coverage replaces lost income when business operations are interrupted due to a covered property loss.  For example, if there is a fire at a retail store and they cannot operate for 3 months, the income lost for those 3 months is replaced by the insurance company. 

The BOP is meant to streamline coverage for less complex businesses such as small retail operations or a medical or professional office (but the BOP does NOT offer malpractice coverage!).  If a BOP is available, it is often going to be more competitively priced than it would be to try to piece together similar coverages via a CPP. 

As I mentioned previously, each insurance company is going to handle coverages differently, and ultimately if you have questions you should call your agent Thanks for tuning in!

Restaurants & Caterers – some great things to know   Leave a comment

The article that I’m pasting below is something that I wrote for the New North Business Matters insurance issue (yours truly is on page 18).  I’m going to post it here, as I haven’t really put anything up in quite a while during the research phase for the Marcellus Shale post(s).  I’ve read quite a bit about Marcellus Shale and the implications for homeowners and businesses, and it’s actually quite troubling.  I’m hoping to have something very soon (a week or less)!

Without further ado, an article I wrote providing tips and information for food service owners looking to improve their insurance:

“I’m paying for a product that I hope I’ll never use.”  It’s a common complaint of any business owner purchasing insurance, and it makes sense.  No one wants to go through the stress of a claim, even if it’s handled efficiently by the insurance company.  If you insure your restaurant properly, however, you can dramatically reduce the amount of anxiety and tension you face – both when putting the policy in force and if you have a claim.

How do you insure your restaurant properly?  There are several things you can do to soften the blow by obtaining cost effective and thorough insurance coverage.  Additionally, there are some specific coverages you can put in place to protect against the unique exposures that food service operators face.  While most of my suggestions apply to restaurants, you can modify them to fit any style of food service operation.

There are several things you can prepare to obtain the best rates If you have deep fat frying, make sure that you have a UL300 approved Ansul wet system, and that it’s under contract for service on at least a quarterly basis.  Your hoods and ducts should also be under contract for quarterly cleaning and servicing – and the filters (baffles) should be run through dish on at least a weekly basis.  The cleaner that your filtration and safety systems are, the more likely it is an underwriter will be to give you great rates.  Make sure that your service tags for all systems are prominently displayed!  And, of course, the overall cleanliness and attractiveness of your restaurant, the more desirable it will be to the insurance company.

Other things that can help reduce your rates:

  • Have an employee handbook with enforced guidelines on safety and food handling protocol.
  • Make sure that any employee that will handle alcohol on a regular basis is either TIPS or RAMP certified.
  • Hold regular safety meetings, and if you can, have a certified safety committee.
  • Make sure that ALL areas of your location(s), inside and out, are very clean and well-maintained.

Have some basic information handy when getting quotes – square footage and seating capacity of each location, gross sales (including a break down between food & liquor), and your updated annual payroll (this MUST include tips!).  The more information you have available, the faster the quoting process will be.  Anticipate filling out an application for liquor liability coverage.

The coverages below are indispensable for food service operations, yet many policies don’t address them appropriately.  Companies like Travelers, Zurich, Nationwide, Ohio Casualty, Erie, and Penn National offer excellent policies for food service operations, but PLEASE take the time to discuss the following coverages with your agent when quoting – regardless of what company offers you quotes.

Spoilage and contamination coverages: Make certain that they’re addressed by your policy – and make sure that the limits provided are adequate!  I insure an upscale restaurant who had adequate coverage for the food they maintained on premises – but not nearly enough to protect their extensive wine and liquor stock!  Make sure to review your limit AND your inventory when purchasing these coverages!

Utility Services coverage, direct damage and time element:  This is essentially an offshoot of spoilage coverage that protects against either your product spoiling, or you losing income, due to a water or power failure.  Make sure that it INCLUDES off-premises occurrences.  You MUST include off-premises occurrences, and make sure that overhead lines coverage is provided!  This means that if the power failure occurs due to something that happens off your premises, your spoiled product and lost income will be covered (distance/radius limitations will often apply).  I had a client who had this coverage and thought he would never need it…. Until someone crashed into a telephone pole down the block and he lost power for over 24 hours!

Employment Practices Liability (EPL):  Simply put, EPL provides protection in the event of a lawsuit due to sexual harassment, discrimination (age, gender, race, etc), wrongful termination, and more.  It can even include vendors and customers if third party coverage is added.

Employee dishonesty will reimburse you if an employee is stealing money, product, or other goods from the business.  If possible, make sure to specify Discovery Basis!

If you provide Valet services, make sure to let your agent know and get quotes for garagekeepers liability.  Last, make sure to include business income and extra expense coverage on the policy – actual loss sustained is the best format, if available.

Fine print time – make sure to ALWAYS discuss coverages thoroughly with your agent.  Each company will handle coverage differently.  These suggestions are good starting points, but they are by no means comprehensive or always applicable.  Your agent will go over in more detail the coverages above, and hopefully some additional things for you to consider.  Good luck and rest easy – insurance is in place to protect you and your business!

4 ways NOT to save on your insurance (and what you SHOULD have done) – part 4 (Frequency)   1 comment

Insurance Claim

Sammy attempts to demonstrate a minor claim

The fourth & final installment of our 4 ways not to save thread may ruffle your fur a little bit.  Keep in mind while reading that it’s simply a different perspective to consider.  We are going to address the issue of whether or not you should file an insurance claim.

There are quite a few websites that offer thoughts to consider, especially when it comes to whether you should file a claim on your auto insurance policy.  Truth be told, there are scant few solid answers that apply to every situation.  99% of the time, it’s ultimately going to end up being a (hopefully) well-educated decision.  Oftentimes, personal preference also plays a significant role.

Agents are always asked “If I file this claim, will my rates go up?”   As I said above, there’s hardly ever a concrete answer that’s going to apply in every situation – it’s heavily circumstance-dependent.  If you ask your agent this question, you are often going to receive the answer, “Well, maybe….  If thus & so happens, then …..”

Insurance rates are a very complicated calculation, and do not simply involve whether or not you’ve ever filed claims before.  I’ve addressed this very briefly, only glancing across the surface of the issue.  That being said, your claim history IS a major factor behind how much (or little) you are paying for your insurance coverage.

Your claim history is based on two different factors, from a premium perspective – frequency and severity.

This post is going to address frequency.  I will write a short post early next week to address severity.

Frequency of claims is something that insurance companies keep a close eye on.  With regard to auto insurance, companies often have very specific measurements they follow, monitoring things like claims frequency and your driving record (speeding tickets & other violations).  Obviously, the higher the number of claims & violations, the more likely it will be that you will either A) be paying more for your coverage, or B) not be able to obtain insurance with a desirable company.  This happened to a person I was obtaining quotes for recently.  They had not ever had any major claims, and only had one violation.  However, in the past two years, they had filed four separate, small (under $1000 each) claims.  As a result, I had a very limited number of companies I could obtain quotes from, and they ended up paying a substantial amount for coverage.

Similarly, companies watch the frequency of claims on policies like home owners or business/commercial propertyFiling multiple claims is something that will often drive your premium up – in essence, the company views you as more at risk of having at least one claim in a given year.  This is one of the reason that the rates for coverage with a higher deductible are often substantially lower (as I briefly addressed in part one of this series) – if you have a higher deductible, it significantly reduces the frequency of claims.  Unfortunately, even if you had no control over the cause of loss (IE – a windstorm or lightning strike caused damage), if you file a number of claims, your premium will in all likelihood go up.

If you are in a claim situation, I would recommend that you pull together all the applicable information – date, circumstances, item(s) damaged, estimates for repair/replacement, etc – then contact your agent.  Your agent will review the data about the loss, your personal claims history, and the guidelines of your insurance company.  They will be able to offer you thoughts & suggestions, but as I said about, in most cases, you are going to have to make an educated decision about how you want to proceed.

That’s all for this week – we are going to review severity shortly!

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