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Why You Need Cyber Liability Insurance

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

No matter what line of business you’re in, you probably have one thing in common with other businesses: Most businesses benefit from information databases, communicate via email, and handle other tasks on a computer – online or offline.

Technology allows businesses to communicate with customers as never before and to work more efficiently than ever. But that efficiency comes with a price – major security issues. Even the U.S. government is taking new measures due to an increase in cyber attacks; between 2006 and 2010, computer security breaches increased by a whopping 650 percent, and they have increased since.

Risks include

  • damages from unauthorized access to computer systems by third parties
  • disclosing or misusing private information, whether this is committed by the business or because the business failed to protect against unauthorized individuals obtaining this information
  • transmitting a computer virus or sending an email that causes a crash
  • defense and damage costs from alleged copyright, trademark, title or slogan infringement
  • defense and damage costs from charges of defamation, libel or slander caused by emails, website or blog content, or postings in online forums

While this is scary, you have options: cyber liability insurance (also called technology errors and omissions insurance).

What does cyber liability insurance cover? Like all insurance policies, options vary, and each business’ requirements are different. The important thing is that you get the right coverage for your needs. Cyber liability insurance typically provides coverage in six main areas:

  • Business interruption – If your company is the victim of a cyber crime, this covers revenue losses whether you experience a temporary shut-down or a long-term interruption.
  • Notification expenses – Most states have notification requirements dictating how and when a business must notify parties whose private information was possibly compromised or obtained by someone without authorization. In some cases, a business must provide ongoing credit monitoring or identity-theft insurance. This covers that.
  • Content liability – Like homeowners insurance, which protects your personal property, content liability helps pay for anything related to your online content and provides protection from copyright claims, slander, invasion of privacy and other IT claims.
  • PR and crisis management – If your company experiences a security breach, the company image is tarnished. This coverage would help pay for subsequent public relations and marketing efforts required to restore the damage done to your company’s brand.
  • Data loss and system damage – If you’ve always assumed your current commercial liability policy includes computers under personal property coverage, you may be surprised to find it that it only covers the computer itself – not what’s inside. Computer data isn’t protected under other insurance products, so this coverage is vital to the functioning of the company and its systems.

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Don’t Risk a Lifetime of Paying for a Mistake or Omission

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Congratulations! You’ve taken the courageous step of starting your own business. You’ve got your business cards, website and an “open” sign on your door. But have you got the right protection for your investment? Here’s some essential information about commercial coverage known as errors and omissions insurance (E&O insurance):

What is E&O Insurance? Often referred to as professional indemnity insurance, an E&O policy offers different coverage from commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. You need both. Commercial general liability protects against financial loss if you’re sued for death, injuries or property damage caused by your business or employees. Similar to malpractice insurance for doctors, E&O insurance covers damages incurred as a result of mistakes such as errors, professional liability incidents, and contract performance disputes.

Who Needs E&O Insurance? Those who most need this coverage include: brokers, consultants, and accounting and financial service providers. Contractors, plumbers, and electricians often face similar risks and also should obtain it.

What Does It Pay For? E&O insurance policies are used to pay for legal costs arising from mistakes. But it’s also important to remember that even if you didn’t make an error, you’ll still need to defend yourself if a lawsuit is brought against you. Why? If a claim is brought against you for negligence in the service or advice you provide, and the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, although you aren’t “guilty,” you still could be facing a lifetime of paying off the judgment ” and even have your assets seized.

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To Claim or Not to Claim: That is the Question…

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Although you buy homeowners insurance to protect against losses, many people are still hesitant to file a claim; they don’t want to their premiums to go up. And while filing claims doesn’t always mean increased premiums, often it does. It’s important to know what triggers an increase.

For those claimants who file multiple claims annually, rates definitely will increase – usually significantly. Depending on claim amount and type, insurers may even cancel policies.

Most homeowners don’t fall into this category; however, even you could face a premium increase, and you should be aware of why, how much, and for how long.

If you’re having trouble deciding whether to file or not, analyze your coverage, noting limits and exclusions. If your loss is covered, take the next step, which is to get repair estimates and talk to your agent. If damage is minor, err on the side of caution and pay for repairs out of pocket if possible, especially if costs are under or close to your deductible.

Be aware that most claims affect premiums for five to seven years. Even if you only file one claim in a five-year period, ultimately your rates may still increase. Many factors, not just your claims history, affect rate changes.

Don’t forget that you buy insurance to protect your possessions. If you have a serious loss, you may need to file a claim; that’s what it’s there for. Assess your options, discuss them with your agent and make a judgment call: Your home and possessions deserve the best protection.

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Your Credit Rating Can Affect Your Premiums

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

What factors do you believe determine insurance rates? If your answer is: At-fault accidents, violations, where you live, property value, and what you drive, you’re right.

You’d also be right if you mentioned other factors such as age, experience, claims history, and prior insurance coverage. But here’s one you may not have guessed: Your credit history. And this is something – unlike age – that you can control.

The credit link

Research firms have found a link between bad credit and increased claim-filing. They also found that individuals with better credit have fewer traffic violations and accidents than those with bad credit.

After looking at data from roughly 1.4 million policies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found insurers paid out almost twice as much for claims made by those with poor credit compared to people with higher scores.

The FTC said that credit scores are predictive of the number and cost of claims filed, and are effective at assessing risk and rates.

Good credit equals lower risk

Customers who pose less risk in all the factors used to calculate premium rates pay lower premiums. The corollary is that high-risk customers pay higher rates. The “credit” factor is similar to any other factor, such as make of car, at-fault accidents, your neighborhood, and your claims history. It will impact your rate.

While it’s unlikely you’ll start making financial decisions based on how they might affect your insurance premiums, it’s important to know how insurance companies establish premium rates.

What you can do

Understanding why credit affects rates can make you more aware of those things that affect your credit score – missed payments, high credit card debt, and even closing a credit card or an account. Controlling these factors can make a difference.

Make your good credit work for you. Not just when you apply for a mortgage, but also when you purchase homeowners insurance.


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Three Key Facts About COBRA Health Insurance

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

If you’ve ever been laid off, you’ve probably received information about COBRA health insurance. It may just seem like more paperwork, but in certain situations, it’s well worth considering. Here are three key things you need to know about COBRA:

What is COBRA insurance?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) was created to enable laid-off employees to choose to continue receiving benefits through their employers’ health insurance plan. However, they are required to pay the premiums themselves. COBRA coverage usually lasts about 18 months, so it’s not a permanent option.

Do you qualify?

If you work for a company employing 20 or more workers, you’re eligible for COBRA coverage when you’re laid off. In most circumstances, you’re also eligible if you quit your job.

However, there are other instances when you also may be eligible for COBRA coverage: Qualified dependents are eligible for COBRA; so is a divorced spouse, providing he or she is unemployed and hasn’t re-married. Another qualifying event is the death of the spouse with COBRA coverage. If you’re completely disabled or eligible for Medicare, you’d also be eligible for COBRA.

If, instead of a layoff, your employer reduces your work hours below the minimum level for group coverage, the company will no longer pay for your health insurance. You would, however, be eligible for COBRA.

How much does COBRA cost?

Employers pay for your health insurance through group plans, but once laid off, you become responsible for your COBRA premiums yourself. You’re still getting the group rate, but the coverage is expensive. Consequently, many people opt to obtain coverage in other ways.

Your health insurance plan’s premiums depend upon how much coverage you had previously, and COBRA typically defaults to the exact coverage of your former policy. Single coverage plans often range from $300 to $500 monthly, and family plans can easily cost $1,000 monthly.

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It’s Our Money: Help Combat Medicare and Medicaid Fraud

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

More than 50 million people were covered under Medicare in 2012, and large numbers are covered by Medicaid, including 31 million children who receive coverage with the help of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Unfortunately, there are also large numbers of people who abuse these programs through insurance frauds and scams. Here are three Medicare and Medicaid scams – some committed by those you’d least expect:

For rent: Those online bulletin boards that advertise a Medicaid/Medicare number for rent aren’t joking. There are people who rent out their policy numbers to others – including doctors: These providers rent their numbers then bill Medicare/Medicaid for services the policyholder never received or needed. He or she bills for “services rendered,” and the policyholder waits for a cut.

Filing multiple times: If you received two bills for the same item, it wouldn’t take you long to notice. However, with its growing piles of paperwork, our government can miss things, and paying the same bill twice has happened more than once. Why did they receive two bills? Healthcare providers knowingly send the same claim through multiple times and count on it not being caught.

Major malfunctions: Some people rely on wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or oxygen tanks. For others, medical equipment looks like a payday. Over a five-year period to 2012, more than half of medical equipment paid for by Medicare was believed to have been paid out by mistake, much to fraudsters.

Be aware. Don’t allow this kind of fraud to continue. After all, it’s our money.

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Three Key Facts About COBRA Health Insurance

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

If you’ve ever been laid off, you’ve probably received information about COBRA health insurance. It may just seem like more paperwork, but in certain situations, it’s well worth considering. Here are three key things you need to know about COBRA:

What is COBRA insurance?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) was created to enable laid-off employees to choose to continue receiving benefits through their employers’ health insurance plan. However, they are required to pay the premiums themselves. COBRA coverage usually lasts about 18 months, so it’s not a permanent option.

Do you qualify?

If you work for a company employing 20 or more workers, you’re eligible for COBRA coverage when you’re laid off. In most circumstances, you’re also eligible if you quit your job.

However, there are other instances when you also may be eligible for COBRA coverage: Qualified dependents are eligible for COBRA; so is a divorced spouse, providing he or she is unemployed and hasn’t re-married. Another qualifying event is the death of the spouse with COBRA coverage. If you’re completely disabled or eligible for Medicare, you’d also be eligible for COBRA.

If, instead of a layoff, your employer reduces your work hours below the minimum level for group coverage, the company will no longer pay for your health insurance. You would, however, be eligible for COBRA.

How much does COBRA cost?

Employers pay for your health insurance through group plans, but once laid off, you become responsible for your COBRA premiums yourself. You’re still getting the group rate, but the coverage is expensive. Consequently, many people opt to obtain coverage in other ways.

Your health insurance plan’s premiums depend upon how much coverage you had previously, and COBRA typically defaults to the exact coverage of your former policy. Single coverage plans often range from $300 to $500 monthly, and family plans can easily cost $1,000 monthly.

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Unmet Life Insurance Needs Total $15.3 Trillion

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Most Americans don’t have enough life insurance – and many don’t have any at all. For the majority of us, this is a shocking reality that could come back to haunt us at a time when we – and our loved ones – need it most.

The problem isn’t that we’re unaware. We know we need life insurance: 85 percent of Americans agree that the majority of people need life insurance, according to Life Insurance Barometer Study 2013, conducted by financial services consultant LIMRA.

Here’s why: In 2010, the LIMRA Household Trends in U.S. Life Insurance Ownership study found that if the primary wage earner died, 40 percent of U.S. households with children under 18 would immediately have difficulty paying for daily living expenses, and 70 percent would have difficulty within a few months.

No insurance or not enough

And all this information is readily available. Yet the percentage of Americans who own life insurance has declined significantly over the last 50 years, as evidenced in LIMRA’s Trends in Life Insurance Ownership study: In 1960, 72 percent of Americans owned individual life insurance. In 1992, it declined to 55 percent, and in 2010, just 44 percent of U.S. households had individual life insurance – a 50-year low.

As well, of those Americans who had life insurance in 2011, 40 percent believed they didn’t have enough, according to Genworth’s LifeJacket Study. And while a turnaround may be occurring, it’s not happening fast enough or extensively enough to help almost 40 percent of the population, who still haven’t purchased insurance. All told, the unmet life insurance needs in the U.S. has been estimated by LIMRA at $15.3 trillion.

Credibility gap over costs

Why are Americans underinsured? LIMRA cites the most common reason given by 83 percent of Americans as the cost. Interestingly, LIMRA also found that consumers believe life insurance costs nearly three times its actual price. It just may be time for you to find out the facts for yourself.

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Costs of Commercial Vehicle Accidents Skyrocket

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Depending on the type of business you own, you or your employees may drive regularly on the job. Maybe you own a delivery service or trucking business, but regardless of how you and employees use commercial vehicles, your company risks accidents. And this risk is real; there are more than 5 million commercial vehicle accidents annually.

If that doesn’t convince you to carry commercial auto insurance, consider this: The average commercial vehicle accident with injuries costs an employer $74,000, and $500,000 or more when fatalities occur. And that’s not likely to change any time soon.

But what’s a commercial auto policy like? What are the most common commercial vehicle accidents? How do you file a claim? And most importantly, how can they be prevented? The most common commercial auto claims are often covered by a process similar to those for personal auto policies, as described below:

No-fault accidents: Insurers will file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer, and the other party’s collision and/or liability coverage will pay for your repairs and incidental expenses. If the other person doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t carry enough coverage to pay your claim, your commercial policy would pay out under uninsured/underinsured motorists’ coverage.

At-fault employee accidents: Collision coverage would pay for your damage, and your liability coverage (property damage and/or bodily injury) will cover the other party’s claim.

When an employee hits an animal: Your commercial policy’s comprehensive coverage would pay for the damages to your vehicle.

Damage by something beyond your control: This includes hitting an animal, damage resulting from poor weather conditions, theft, broken glass, falling tree limbs, and more. Your comprehensive coverage would pay in this scenario.

In a minor accident, or if you or one of your employees is at fault, evaluate whether it’s worth filing a claim. If damage costs add up to less than your deductible, it may be better to pay them out of pocket to avoid harming your claim-free status. However, if you need to file, follow these steps immediately:

  • Determine if anyone is injured, and contact the police or ambulance service.
  • Contact your insurer to report the accident.
  • Collect and record important information before making a claim; this should include names, license plate numbers, witness contact information, vehicle information, and insurance information.
  • Record accident details. Take pictures of the accident.
  • Make a claim.

Preventing Commercial Auto Insurance Claims: You want to avoid claims, but accidents happen. Taking measures to prevent claims is crucial and include:

  • Keeping safety checklists in company vehicles. .
  • Coaching employees on safe driving, and setting rules, including hands-free phones only and seatbelts required.
  • Establishing commercial vehicle safety criteria and checking it regularly.

If an accident happens on the clock, you’ll be glad you obtained the right coverage, especially in an at-fault accident; when commercial vehicles are responsible, you’re more likely to see larger claims and lawsuits. And with commercial vehicle accident costs skyrocketing, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Workers Comp Protects You and Your Employees

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Whether you own a large or small business, workers compensation insurance is a must. Some states require it, but regardless of whether or not it’s required, this important policy protects your employees and your business.

Workers compensation insurance protects you from being sued. If an employee is injured on the job, that employee can sue you for injuries developed as a result of the accident. With workers compensation, an injured employee forfeits the right to sue and receives cash benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages, or other incidental expenses.

Costs

Without workers compensation, you’d be liable for damages that are probably well in excess of your workers compensation premiums. Your insurance professional can explain how rates are determined in your area. It’s important that employees notify you immediately if they’re injured while working. Plan for this eventuality and post the plan for workers to see. Naturally, your first step is to deal with the employee’s injury, then file a claim.

Claims

Workers compensation claims are investigated; ensure you provide as much information as possible. Once the claim is deemed legitimate, your workers compensation insurance will pay benefits to the injured employee. Workers compensation is a safety net for employees, but also provides protection for your business.

If you don’t have a workers compensation policy, talk to your insurance agent immediately…for everyone’s sake.

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How to Monitor Your Teen’s Driving Habits

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

As every parent knows, paying for a teen’s auto insurance isn’t pleasant. In fact, many would call it painful, as teens can cause their parents’ insurance rates to increase by as much as 500 percent.

If you’re paying, you’ll be glad to know there are now ways to make your teen somewhat responsible for their premiums. And it benefits them, even if they don’t realize it.

Monitor grades
If your teen maintains a GPA of at least 3.0, most insurers will extend a “Good Student Discount,” with savings on premiums of 3-7 percent.

You can also make your young driver responsible for maintaining good grades by tying driving privileges to marks.

Outlaw cellphone use while driving

Put your foot down when it comes to cellphone use- especially texting – while driving. There’s no bigger danger or distraction when driving, and as you know, most teens constantly communicate through texting.

Insist your teen keep the cellphone in the trunk or out of reach while driving so he or she isn’t tempted to use it. Monitor cellphone records to ensure your driver isn’t using it while driving. You’re helping prevent serious accidents, while at the same time keeping premiums low.

Control when your teen drives

The riskiest time for driving is between midnight and 6 a.m. Make it a rule that your teen doesn’t drive during these hours.

While teen drinking and driving is a lethal combination, don’t pretend it won’t happen. Encourage your teen to ask you for a ride if he or she has been drinking, and warn but don’t punish when it happens.

More accidents occur on Saturdays, so minimize the time your teen spends driving on weekends. This is difficult, because that’s when they meet friends or go to work, but try to come up with creative ways reduce weekend driving; you’ll be minimizing risks and lowering premiums.

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Don’t Skip the Forks in Your Household Inventory

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Some people think it’s mandatory to have a record of all your possessions to get homeowners or renters insurance. This isn’t true, but an inventory can still be a valuable tool. While the idea of going through every nook and cranny of your home and creating a record of every item likely doesn’t appeal, making an inventory is a good way to determine if you have enough coverage, whether it’s homeowners or renters insurance.

Both policies provide protection for personal belongings: Renters insurance allows you to choose a coverage amount, and homeowners insurance typically covers personal belongings for a percentage of your home’s value.

For example, if your home is worth $250,000, and your belongings are covered at 10 percent of your home’s value, you’ll have $25K coverage. This may be enough for some, but not for others, illustrating why an inventory is important. Here’s how to conduct one:

  • List and estimate the value of large items first, such as your sofa, bed, and appliances.
  • Record and value household items such as clothing, sheets, and towels.
  • Include the value of small things such as forks. Most of us accumulate “stuff”, and it’s easy to forget how much you’d miss eating with those forks.
  • Once you’ve estimated the value of everything, tally it up.
  • Double that amount for a rough idea of how much coverage you need. If you have valuable items, such as jewelry, paintings, or collectibles, talk to your insurance professional about scheduling them.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Health Insurance

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Whether it’s a personal policy or affordable family health insurance you seek, there’s no question about it: Shopping for health insurance can be difficult. You probably know what to look for, but here are some things you should avoid when buying health insurance.

Spur-of-the-moment purchases

With hundreds of different insurers offering different products at different rates, don’t sign on the dotted line until you check with your current insurer. You could shop around to see what’s available, but chances are your insurance professional – who knows your personal situation well – is better able to find the right health insurance policy to meet your needs.

Choosing unfamiliar dot-coms

Obtaining insurance online is tempting; but you don’t know them…and they don’t know you. It’s easy to make promises online – and many dot-com companies do just that – but can they keep them?

One of the most common promises is: “We – Company X – can give you the lowest rates from insurance provider, Company Y.” Don’t be misled into thinking this is a thorough quote comparison; the policy’s cost will likely be the same. You need to be presented with options and/or ways to cut your rates. By buying online you miss the chance to negotiate.

Researching online can help you learn what’s available, but buying online limits your options.

Getting “low-balled”

Good things don’t always come in small packages, especially when it comes to health insurance policies. Just because a rate looks good doesn’t mean you’re scoring a deal: Read the fine print. Too many people can miss important points such as who your in-network providers will be or what your deductible is. Read everything carefully and ask questions – it’s smart, and it’s your right.

Finally, if you’re unsure about the policy you need, discuss your situation with your insurance professional. He or she will give you the straight goods, unlike many of the other guys.

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Employer/Employee Health Benefits’ Concerns

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

The U.S. is easing into healthcare reform: Some of its changes are already implemented, and some are yet to come. It’s difficult for employers to know what to do in uncertain times, but one trend causing concern is the growth in numbers of employers requesting their employees have health checkups. The checkups are considered by the company in deciding how much to pay towards employee health insurance.

For example, if an employee is obese, smokes, and has high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the company may not pay as much as it pays towards “healthier” co-workers.

Supporters say this offers employees a financial incentive to get fit and healthy. Others believe it’s discriminatory and an invasion of privacy. Healthier employees tend to support the medical testing, as their costs will be reduced. There have been court challenges.

The fact is that for many employers this represents one important way to keep health insurance costs down. Many companies are unable to provide any health insurance to employees, and these employees are then required to purchase individual policies on their own. Some employees asked to get medical checkups say they prefer this to not having benefits.

As well, medical testing by employers is on the rise. A survey quoted in USA Today indicates that the number of employers who introduced such plans increased from 49 percent in 2010 to 54 percent in 2011, and growth continues; the numbers are expected to jump this year, when employers will be able to offer greater financial incentives to healthier employees.


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Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Health Insurance

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Whether it’s a personal policy or affordable family health insurance you seek, there’s no question about it: Shopping for health insurance can be difficult. You probably know what to look for, but here are some things you should avoid when buying health insurance.

Spur-of-the-moment purchases

With hundreds of different insurers offering different products at different rates, don’t sign on the dotted line until you check with your current insurer. You could shop around to see what’s available, but chances are your insurance professional – who knows your personal situation well – is better able to find the right health insurance policy to meet your needs.

Choosing unfamiliar dot-coms

Obtaining insurance online is tempting; but you don’t know them…and they don’t know you. It’s easy to make promises online – and many dot-com companies do just that – but can they keep them?

One of the most common promises is: “We – Company X – can give you the lowest rates from insurance provider, Company Y.” Don’t be misled into thinking this is a thorough quote comparison; the policy’s cost will likely be the same. You need to be presented with options and/or ways to cut your rates. By buying online you miss the chance to negotiate.

Researching online can help you learn what’s available, but buying online limits your options.

Getting “low-balled”

Good things don’t always come in small packages, especially when it comes to health insurance policies. Just because a rate looks good doesn’t mean you’re scoring a deal: Read the fine print. Too many people can miss important points such as who your in-network providers will be or what your deductible is. Read everything carefully and ask questions – it’s smart, and it’s your right.

Finally, if you’re unsure about the policy you need, discuss your situation with your insurance professional. He or she will give you the straight goods, unlike many of the other guys.

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Life Insurance Is Possible with a Serious Illness

March 1st, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Your health affects your ability to obtain life insurance, and the rate you’ll pay for it (in some cases increasing your premium by as much as 100 percent), but that doesn’t mean you need to worry if you’ve battled a serious illness; you may be able to get reasonable coverage anyway.

According to the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE), 2-4 percent of life insurance applications are rejected annually. That said, many people with pre-existing medical conditions whose applications have been approved will pay higher premiums.

What medical conditions should concern you?

You’re unlikely to get insurance with HIV/AIDS, and there are health conditions that could increase the price you’ll pay. The top five are: cardiovascular problems (such as a recent heart attack, bypass surgery, or valve surgery), stroke (even a mini-stroke), diabetes, cancer, and Hepatitis C.

While conditions such as these will likely increase your premium, it may only be for a period of time. Active cancers, for example, may lead to a denial of coverage. However, insurers may consider offering coverage – perhaps even at standard rates, and especially for some types of breast and prostate cancer – after two to five years of remission.

Insurance companies have different underwriting preferences: If you suffer from pre-existing medical conditions and want life insurance, you should talk to your insurance agent. He or she will be able to advise you on what to do if your application is turned down. Insurance companies have different underwriting preferences, so even though one may reject your application,
another one may accept it.

Your agent may contact an impaired risk specialist on your behalf. This specialized agent can make inquiries of other insurance companies at no cost to you.

You’ll only need to proceed with a formal application and medical exam if the impaired risk specialist indicates the situation looks promising.

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Should You Buy a “Claims-Made” Insurance Policy?

February 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Should You Buy a “Claims-Made” Insurance Policy?

One of the most important things to understand about commercial insurance policies is what’s called “claims-made policies.” If you own a business, you need to understand this, because if you don’t, it could cost you everything.

When you purchase standard business insurance such as professional liability coverage, you’ll likely be offered two options: a claims-made policy and an occurrence policy. The online definition of occurrence policy is: “Insurance that pays claims arising out of incidents that occur during the policy term, even if they are filed many years later.”

Claims-made policies

Most standard commercial policies are claims-made policies. Although there are many variations, Claims Made and Reported policies are most common. These policies sound simple – they pay for claims made during the time you hold your policy – but it can get more complicated: It hinges on the time period in which your policy is active.

Businesses can be sued long after they’ve finished work – and after insurance policies have been canceled.

And that’s the issue: If, for example, the materials used in your products were identified as being dangerous, or the structure your company erected turned out to be constructed in a way that pointed to negligence – and this didn’t happen until years after the work was done – you can still be sued.

Policy must be active at two points

Although your policy would cover claims just like any kind of insurance policy would, there’s a common misunderstanding. In order for a claims-made policy to cover things you’re liable for, either because of negligence or because of the use of faulty or dangerous materials, your policy needs to be active at two points:

  • when the claim is reported to your insurer, and
  • when you performed the work.

For example, say you owned a computer repair shop from 2009 to 2011. You buy a claims-made policy we’ll call Policy A. This business insurance policy is active from 2009 to 2011, and then you cancel it, either because you’re changing businesses, closing down, or purchasing a new claims-made policy.

Six months after you’ve closed down or moved on, a claim is filed against you for using defective/damaged parts during the time you were covered by Policy A (from 2009 to 2011). Unfortunately for you, in this instance, your claim won’t be covered.

All too often, a policyholder assumes Policy A would cover claims stemming from work done while insured under Policy A, even if they no longer have the policy.

It wouldn’t, though; you, the policyholder, have to meet both the aforementioned requirements for claims to be covered under Policy A.

Because Policy A is now cancelled, it’s not going to cover claims arising from work you did while insured under it.

The chance of this happening depends on the type of work you do, so take that into consideration. And although you may subscribe to the adage, “never look back,” many claimants do.

Talk with your insurance agent to find out whether a claims-made policy is right for your business.

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When do You Need Commercial Auto Insurance?

February 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

Commercial auto insurance or personal auto insurance? That is the question. How do you know which you need, and what defines a commercial vehicle?

Auto insurance carriers have specific guidelines that distinguish personal vehicles from commercial vehicles, but these lines blur when it comes to issues such as telecommuting.

If you’re driving your vehicle to and from work, you don’t need commercial coverage. However, if you use it in your job, or if you’re self-employed and use it for business, you’ll probably need a commercial policy – especially if you have passengers.

You definitely need commercial coverage if you transport people, products, food, or other goods; or if employees drive your vehicle. If you own a business, and a vehicle is in your business’ name, you’ll need commercial coverage, regardless of how often or how it’s used.

Be forewarned: If you list a commercially used vehicle on your personal auto policy, your insurer won’t pay the claim. This leaves you responsible for all accident-related expenses such as medical costs and property damage.

It’s also not uncommon to see claims and lawsuits skyrocket when people realize the involved vehicle is a commercial one. Without coverage this could cost you your business, and your home and other assets.

Commercial auto insurance isn’t that much more expensive than personal insurance, especially if usage is limited and you don’t transport people. But it’s worth the peace of mind, even if you never need to file a claim.


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Protect Your Good Jewelry, Even While Traveling

February 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

You’re traveling, and whether it’s a vacation or a work trip, you want to be prepared for gala evening events. So, you bring a few pieces of your good jewelry. Understandable, but perhaps not such a good idea; what happens if it’s lost or stolen while you’re away from home?

It may put a damper on your mood, but if you plan ahead, you might not be out-of-pocket.

Many homeowners don’t realize that the same policy that covers them for losses at home could also cover stolen items if the theft occurred outside your home.

Covering off-premises losses

Check your policy. Some insurance companies will have specific rules regarding off-premises coverage, and others may not offer this coverage. If you’ll be traveling extensively, look for a policy that includes off-premises coverage.

If it doesn’t, you may have to purchase it as a rider policy. You’ll pay extra for this coverage; however, if the worst happens, you’ll find it worth the cost.

Bear in mind that this coverage may come with limitations. Certain items may not be covered at all, while others may have certain claim limits imposed on them.

Items like jewelry and electronics could be covered, but it may not be for their total value.

Scheduling valuables

One way to this coverage gap is to schedule your extremely valuable items. This means that the insurance company agrees to a fixed value for a specific item and covers most reasons for its loss. This will also allow you to set a specific deductible for the scheduled item, but you should also pay attention to the deductible for other items; some that haven’t been scheduled are subject to a different deductible.

If you’re concerned about protecting your personal belongings at all times, make sure you purchase a policy that travels with you and your valuables.

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When I File a Not-at-Fault Claim Will my Premiums Jump?

February 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off · Uncategorized

People are afraid of doing anything that might cause their auto insurance premiums to increase – even filing a claim for damages that someone else admitted to causing.

In this situation, do you make a claim with your insurer, or do you wait for the other party to file a claim with his or her insurance company?

Although you might be reluctant to contact your insurer, you should always do so. If the other party never makes a claim, you could be left paying for the damage he or she caused. You should also immediately file a formal claim with the other party’s insurer.

If he or she disappears or has given you false information, you can rely on your own policy’s uninsured/underinsured motorists’ coverage – and rates shouldn’t go up.

In general, if you need to file a claim for damage that isn’t your fault, it’s unlikely your premiums will rise unless you have had multiple claims, especially in a one-year period. If you’ve had four accidents in a year, even if none of them was your fault, your insurer will take note.

This claims history may signal fraud, bad driving habits, or bad luck – none of which insurers like.

If you have a bad claims history, and the accident hasn’t caused major damage, both parties might consider leaving insurers out of it. But do ensure you write down the at-fault driver’s license and plate number, as well as insurance and other pertinent information.

Remember, if you’re suspicious, contact your insurer regardless.

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