How to Plan for a Workplace Evacuation

Your insurance is in place, but is your business logistically prepared should a disaster hit? If you needed to quickly evacuate your workforce, could you do it safely? Do your employees know what to do in an emergency situation?

Too often, small-business owners consider evacuation plans and other disaster-preparedness measures to be tasks that are solely for large corporations. The 2013 Staples’ Business Safety Survey revealed that more than half of small-business employees said they were not prepared for severe emergencies or that safety plans were not often communicated.

The truth is, small businesses are usually at an even greater risk than are large businesses, due to a lack of resources. To protect your people and assets, use the following four-step guide for evacuation planning.

1. Create

Create a pan of action to safely and efficiently evacuate your building. Designate evacuation routes and exits (primary and secondary) for employees. Also designate evacuation wardens. These are employees who have the authority to order an evacuation. Choose one person to be the lead warden and appoint others who can act if that person isn’t available. A good rule of thumb is one warden for every 20 employees.

Once the evacuation routes are established, mark them clearly. Make sure they are well lit and easily accessible. Don’t forget about employees who will need assistance.

The final part of the evacuation should be a regroup plan. Where will everyone meet once they are outside? Designate this location and establish a system for accounting for everyone as they arrive.

2. Communicate

Of course, the best-laid plans are worthless if no one knows about them. Write down the plan. Distribute it to all employees. Keep a master copy on file.

Post maps of the building with evacuation routes clearly marked. Make sure all emergency exits are clearly marked.

Review evacuation procedures with employees to ensure everyone is familiar with the proper protocols. Make this standard training for all employees. As part of their training, include how to assist those with disabilities or special needs during an evacuation. Include basic medical rescue duties as well.

3. Conduct

Once your employees are aware of your evacuation procedures and are trained on how to execute them, practice. Conduct drills regularly to prepare employees for the real deal. Conduct training frequently to ensure new employees have all the necessary information and seasoned employees don’t forget it.

4. Consult

What about after the evacuation? If a catastrophe closed your doors for a few days, do you have a plan in place to reopen them?

To prepare for what you may encounter after an evacuation, consult with your insurance agent. Make sure you have proper coverage in place to protect your business from a disaster. Understand your coverage and review your policy each year with your insurance carrier to make necessary adjustments as your business changes and grows.

Additionally, keep all insurance information in a safe place so you can access it in case of an emergency. Reach out to your insurance provider as soon as possible after an incident to expedite any claims.

General Liability vs. Professional Liability: The Difference?

Business professionals bear the burden of responsibility in two distinct arenas: general liability and professional liability. Both types of coverage are necessary to secure sufficient protection for your business. Here’s the difference:

General liability offers protection against costs associated with property damage, medical expenses, settlements, and slander.

For example, if a customer comes into your store, slips, falls, and sues your business for his medical costs, your general liability insurance will pay for these expenses. Another general liability situation would be a contractor who causes damage to a client’s home and is sued for repair costs.

Professional liability protects your business against claims that you did not do your job properly. In other words, any time you offer a professional opinion or perform a duty, you are professionally liable for the results and are vulnerable to lawsuits.

For example, an accountant who offers tax advice might be sued by a client who loses money after taking that advice. Another company might be sued after failing to file important documents appropriately.

Professional liability insurance is also called Malpractice Insurance and Errors and Omissions Insurance. When business owners hear these terms, they may assume this coverage is necessary only for doctors and similar professions. However, even an honest clerical mistake can be considered an error in professional services and result in a lawsuit.

To fully protect your business, consider holding both types of policies. Your insurance agent can help you determine the coverage that is best for your operations.

Is Insurance Cheaper If I Buy or Lease a Car?

An automobile is a significant investment. In addition to the sticker price, consumers must consider all the other costs associated with car ownership.

With this in mind, you may wonder whether you are better off buying or leasing a car.

When it comes to insurance, your total premium is not typically affected by your decision to buy or lease. For the same car, your insurance will cost the same whether you own it or lease it.

Why? The rates are based on your driving record and the car itself, not how you purchase the car.

However, your ownership arrangement may affect how the insurance is set up. If you lease a car, the lender has an interest in the vehicle. Because of this, they will require that you add them to your insurance policy. If their name is on the coverage, and a claim is made, they will be able to receive payment for the portion they are still owed on the vehicle.

Other than this stipulation, obtaining insurance on a leased car follows the same procedures as an owned vehicle. Your coverage and insurance options should remain the same.

Where you will see a difference in premium quotes is among various vehicle options. If you want to lease a brand-new car, your premiums will probably be higher than if you purchase an older model. Keep in mind that the difference in premium has to do with the condition of the car and the cost to make repairs, rather than the lease option.

Because premiums can vary greatly based on the car, it’s a good idea to get a quote from your insurance agent before purchasing or leasing any vehicle. You don’t want to be surprised by any costs after you’ve already completed the paperwork to buy or lease your new ride.

To ensure the car is within your budget, consult with your insurance agent before you sign on the dotted line. Your insurance provider can answer any questions you have about coverage for a specific car you might be considering for purchase or lease. Contact them for details.

Your Smart Phone Can Make Your Insurance Plans Smarter

It seems like there’s an app for everything these days. Insurance is no exception.

With a helpful app, you can enhance your insurance coverage with additional features and convenience. Using the right app can keep your policies organized and allow you to prepare for situations that require claims.

For example, do you have an evacuation plan in place that your family can use if disaster strikes? An app can help you plan ahead so everyone knows what to do and where to go during a natural catastrophe.

Develop the plan in your app, then share it with family and friends. Preloaded checklists and preparation steps offer guided tools to assist you.

An insurance app can also keep all your policy and carrier information organized and easily accessible. If you need to file a claim, use simple guides to walk you through the process and track your progress.

As with most apps, a host of options is available. The Insurance Information Institute recommends the Know Your Plan mobile app, which offers disaster preparation. This award-winning app allows you to use premade lists or create your own, make notes, and share these digital documents with others.

Your insurance provider may also offer an app specific to your coverage. Common features for these apps include digital insurance ID cards, virtual assistance, and bill pay options.

Check with your agent to find out whether you can download a company-specific app or another recommended app to make your insurance plan even smarter.

Changing Your Life Insurance Beneficiary

If you have dependents, such as children or a nonworking spouse, you probably have a life insurance policy. We hope you do. But it is important to remember that as your life circumstances change, your policy needs to change as well.

When you purchased a life insurance policy, you named at least one beneficiary (the person or people who will receive the proceeds of the policy in the event of your death, usually a spouse, child, or another relative for whom you would like to provide).

While you chose the amount of the life insurance benefits and the beneficiary when you purchased the policy, you may be able to alter them during your lifetime, depending on the designation type you chose at the time of policy issuance.

Specifically, when you purchased your policy, you probably chose the type of beneficiary designation: revocable or irrevocable. A revocable designation allows you to change beneficiaries after the policy is in force, while an irrevocable designation does not allow you to do so without the consent of the beneficiary. Most policies have a revocable beneficiary designation.

Why would you want to change your beneficiary designation? A variety of circumstances can warrant this action.

You might want to change a beneficiary if the life circumstances of the person or people you support have changed. Perhaps you have had a child or adopted one. Perhaps someone in your family has died, and you do not need to support that person (or you need to support that person’s children). Perhaps you have divorced. Perhaps a child has reached adulthood and no longer needs your support.

Because there are so many variables that can affect your policy, it is a good idea to review your personal circumstances each year to determine whether a change needs to be made.

If it does, changing your beneficiary designation is usually an easy task. Simply contact the insurance company and ask how to proceed.

Keeping Tabs on Your Vitals Is…Vital

One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to visit your doctor yearly for wellness exams. Your physician will help you maintain your health by providing a yearly flu shot, a tetanus booster every 10 years, and the shingles and pneumonia vaccines. Annual health checks can also help you avoid the two leading causes of death in the US: heart disease and cancer. What tests should you include as part of your health maintenance plan? Here’s an overview.

Heart Disease Screens 

Get your blood pressure checked every two years and have your cholesterol, heart rate, and blood sugar checked at your annual wellness exam. In your 50s, your doctor may prescribe a daily aspirin, which helps prevent heart attacks. In your 60s, a yearly ankle-brachial index test measures plaque buildup in your leg arteries, to help diagnose peripheral artery disease.

Cancer Checks

Human beings are susceptible to more than 200 types of cancer. Lung and colon cancer are currently two of the deadliest. In the US, women have a one-in-eight chance of a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Cancer screening can save your life.

Lung Cancer Screenings

The low-dose helical computed tomography test screens for lung cancer. It reduces deaths among heavy smokers aged 55 to 74. If you meet the risk criteria, including exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens and a family history of lung cancer, your doctor may run this test annually.

Colon Cancer Tests

Between the ages of 45 and 75, everyone should get a colon cancer screening, or a colonoscopy. If your first test reveals no polyps and you have no risk factors, you won’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years.

While experts consider the colonoscopy to be the most accurate screening for colon cancer, sigmoidoscopy and high-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests are also available. If either test shows polyps or other abnormalities, your doctor will recommend a colonoscopy.

These various screenings might not top your “fun activities” list, but they can help keep you healthy and even save your life. If it’s not already on your 2019 calendar, schedule your next exam today.

Cancer Policies: Are They a Good Investment?

If you’re considering purchasing a cancer supplement policy, you’re not alone. Many people debate this, but most aren’t sure whether it’s worthwhile. If you have a family history of cancer or other circumstances put you at higher risk of cancer, then a cancer policy could be a good investment.

Your health insurance agent can offer several types of cancer plans. One is a lump-sum cancer plan. This can be a good choice if you have a higher than normal risk of cancer. Lump-sum cancer plans pay a specific benefit amount. These are flexible plans because they typically do not require that you use the money for health care costs only. Instead, you can use it to defray lost income if you are unable to work, thereby putting the cash benefit toward your mortgage or living expenses. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance suggests that if you’re buying a lump-sum plan, you should purchase enough coverage to pay at least two years of mortgage payments.

You may hear cancer supplemental policies referred to as “critical illness” coverage. This is actually a different type of policy. Except for the lump-sum cancer policy, cancer policies pay only for cancer, while a critical illness policy covers several critical illnesses. These can include heart attack, stroke, organ transplant, and paralysis.

Whether you are considering a critical illness plan or a cancer supplement, contact your health insurance agent. Your agent can help you choose the plan that best meets your needs.

Some of these plans have age thresholds, so buying them when you are younger can be a big advantage in both cost and plan availability.

Growing Company? New Business = New Insurance Needs

Is your business experiencing growth? While this is good news for the entrepreneur, it also comes with challenges. As your business grows, it undergoes changes and encounters new needs. As you adjust your revenue projections, expand your market, and invest for continued growth, don’t forget another area that should be examined. It’s likely that your insurance needs are also changing.

To ensure your coverage adequately matches your current risks, remain in close communication with your insurance provider. Your agent can make recommendations for appropriate changes to your policies. Consult with your agent if you experience any of the following situations that often warrant an adjustment in insurance coverage:

Staff changes: Are you hiring additional staff? Have you transitioned from part-time staff to full-time employees? Are your workers taking on new duties? As you bring on new employees or expand work tasks, it’s important to update your insurance policies to reflect these changes. Appropriate coverage is necessary to protect you and your business if workplace injuries should occur.

New address: Have you outgrown your location? Relocating to a new setting to accommodate your expanding business involves a lot of work. In the midst of moving, don’t forget to update your insurance. The new building may have a different risk profile that alters the coverage you need.

New features such as security systems may also affect your premiums. Before you choose a new location, discuss the insurance ramifications with your agent so you can budget appropriately.

Equipment upgrades: The equipment your business uses directly affects your insurance premium. If you purchase new equipment to meet growing needs or update old equipment to modernize your business, you must also update your insurance policy.

Expanded services: Are you offering new services or new items? This can affect your liability. Review your current list of goods and services with your insurance agent to verify that you still have appropriate coverage. Add further liability coverage if needed to protect your business from new or additional risk.

Increased revenue: If your business is growing, you are likely experiencing an increase in revenue. While this is good news, it can affect your insurance needs. Keep an eye on policy limits to make sure they remain in alignment with your revenue streams. As you grow, you will probably need to increase coverage limits. Consult with your agent to determine when this bump in coverage should occur.

Specialized growth: Consider any unique needs of your business based on your industry and the types of products and services you offer. As you expand these specialties, you may need to alter your insurance coverage with more specific policies.

For example, if you have grown from a mom-and-pop paper-invoicing shop to a fully digital enterprise, you may want to consider adding cyber insurance.

Vehicle additions: Whether you add a company car for your own use or expand your fleet of delivery vehicles, it’s essential to update your commercial vehicle insurance coverage.

The policy details will depend on the type of vehicles you purchase, how they are used, and who will be driving them. Work with your insurance agent to create policies that are suited to your growing needs.

Deck the Office Halls…and Avoid Damage

A little festive cheer can boost office morale and make surroundings more appealing to employees and customers. With this in mind, many businesses decorate for the holidays; however, it’s important to also keep safety in mind. Unsafe decorating practices can lead to personal injury or property damage. To avoid these disasters and the ensuing claims, use the following precautions:

The gift of gravity: Don’t take chances when stringing lights on doorways or windows. Rolling office chairs do not make good step stools. Always use a stable, well-positioned ladder to reach decorative heights.

A sprinkling of good cheer: As you decorate, it might be tempting to hang items from sprinkler heads. Don’t do it. The decorations can prevent the system from working properly.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: Do you plan to plug in lights or other electrical décor? Inspect all cords before using them. If any items have frayed cords, exposed wiring, or damaged prongs, do not use them. These pose a fire hazard.

An extended holiday: If you need to use extension cords for your decorations, be careful about placement. Avoid stringing these cords in high-traffic areas or under rugs, as they can create a tripping hazard.

Stuffed with goodies: Be careful not to overload circuits when powering electrical decorations. You may cause shorts that damage office equipment or cause overheating that starts a fire.

To all a good night: Put a system in place to ensure all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations are turned off at the end of the day or before everyone leaves the building.

The Importance of HSAs and FSAs As Deductibles Climb

Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are both great vehicles to reduce your tax liability if you are enrolled in a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

The FSA: Employers establish FSAs so their employees can deposit money to cover the cost of visit copays, prescription copays, and other uncovered medical expenses. As an employee, you may take a tax deduction, depending on federal and state rules, equal to the amount spent on allowable medical expenses, which includes copays and some other uncovered medical expenses. Your employer or its FSA administrator will reimburse you for out-of-pocket medical or dental expenses based on the paperwork you submit.

The HSA: If you have a high-deductible Affordable Care Act or other high-deductible plan and your employer does not offer an FSA, the HSA may be right for you. The HSA works like the employee-sponsored FSA, but you must establish your plan through a bank or credit union that offers HSAs. Any amount you deposit is tax deductible up to certain limits.

Individuals and families are limited in the amounts they can contribute to an HSA. In 2018, the limit was $3,450 for individuals. For families in an HDHP family plan, the 2018 limit was $6,900. Contribution limits are increasing slightly in 2019. For an individual, the 2019 limit is $3,500 and the family plan’s new limit is $7,000. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses in 2018 were $6,650 for an individual plan and $13,300 for a family plan. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses allowable in 2019 will increase to $6,750 for an individual plan and $13,500 for a family plan.

With today’s hefty out-of-pocket costs, an HSA or FSA plan makes sense. However, keep in mind that the rules of many plans require you to use all the money you deposit or you will have to forfeit it. Although some plans provide a short year-end grace period, estimating your projected out-of-pocket medical expenses before funding your plan for the year can help you avoid forfeiting any of your deposit. Your health insurance agent can provide additional information or resources about these accounts.

Are You Covered for 2019? Don’t Miss the Deadline!

It’s a busy time of year. The holidays have rushed in and you’re probably swamped with shopping, decorating, parties, and visits from the in-laws. In the midst of year-end chaos, don’t miss an important deadline. Open Enrollment for 2019 coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends on Saturday, December 15.

Have you signed up for a plan for next year? If not, contact your insurance provider right away to make sure you have coverage when the calendar flips to 2019. ACA coverage is provided through the Health Insurance Marketplace for those who don’t have health insurance through another source, such as an employer or Medicare. Cost for the insurance is based on your income.

Your insurance agent can walk you through the various options available and help you complete the necessary paperwork. To sign up for a plan, you’ll need information about the size of your household, basic contact information and social security numbers for those being covered, employer information, income amounts, and current policy numbers if you have 2018 coverage.

What happens if you miss the deadline? Certain individuals may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Others may be eligible for an extension. For example, those whose current plan was discontinued and those who have had certain life events, such as getting married, usually qualify for an extension. Additionally, some states offer state-based marketplaces that have deadlines later than December 15. Areas affected by hurricanes have also been given extensions.

Contact your agent to determine if you qualify for any of these special circumstances and to get your coverage process underway.

How Food and Exercise Could Lower Your Premiums

At least one life insurance company is beginning to offer customers financial incentives for working to stay healthy, and others may follow suit.

Under this program, customers can reduce their annual life insurance premiums by as much as 15% if they improve and report on their eating, drinking, and exercise habits.

This innovative program benefits insurers and their customers alike. Insurers get healthier customers, which ultimately reduces their payouts and helps them become more profitable.

Customers, meanwhile, get reduced premiums, and they could end up living longer as well. According to an insurer that currently offers this incentive, the program’s policyholders take twice as many steps as the average American. More steps mean more exercise, which could mean more years of life!

How much could you save with such a program? It depends.

If you are a 50-year-old woman, a $1,000,000 30-year term life insurance policy will cost you $2,349 annually, according to NerdWallet as of September 2018. Saving 15% would reduce that by $352 a year.

But the numbers are even more compelling if you buy a $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy, which costs $17,760 annually, according to NerdWallet. In that case, you would save $2,664 a year.

This kind of benefit could inspire more people to buy life insurance. Around half of Americans (172 million) have some form of life insurance coverage, according to LIMRA, an insurance industry research group. And according to a survey by LIMRA and the nonprofit insurance group Life Happens, 63% of Americans who have not purchased coverage say it is because they believe coverage is too expensive. This kind of discount could make life insurance more affordable for many.

It could also encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps a financial incentive is just what some people need to make healthy foods and exercise look more appealing.

Does My Insurance Cover Every Catastrophe?

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers damages and losses to your property and possessions. It also provides liability coverage to protect you if an accident occurs on your property.

Does this coverage include every catastrophe that could devastate your home?

No. Two disasters in particular are not typically covered by a traditional homeowner’s policy.

The first is earthquakes. These disasters are usually excluded from homeowners’ insurance policies.

To obtain coverage for damage due to earthquakes, you will need to take out a special earthquake policy or add a rider. These often feature a percentage deductible rather than a dollar amount. If you’re not in an area that is prone to earthquakes, don’t stress too much over this coverage. You can probably skip it.

The second catastrophe that is often excluded is flooding. If your property is located in a flood zone, this fact was probably disclosed to you when you purchased the property. It’s common for mortgage lenders to require flood insurance.

If you’re unsure about your property’s flood-zone status, contact your local government office to determine if your home is in a flood zone. If it is, you will need separate flood insurance. Your insurance carrier may provide this, or you may need to contact the National Flood Insurance Program.

And a third situation has become a more prevalent concern in recent years. Homeowners may wonder if terrorist attacks are covered under their policies.

While most policies don’t mention terrorist attacks specifically under the covered conditions, they also don’t exclude them. Since most policies cover damages caused by fire, smoke, and explosions, terrorist acts are typically covered.

If you’re unsure about your coverage for a specific situation, contact your insurance agent to review your policy. Year end is a good time to review your coverage and determine if you should make any changes to meet your current insurance needs.

Don’t Let Road Rage Ramp Up Your Claims

You’re running late. Construction traffic is making things worse. Then, an SUV cuts you off, nearly clipping your bumper. What’s your reaction? Many drivers suffer negative consequences when road rage rears its ugly head.

One of those consequences is insurance costs. Did you know that damage or liability that results from aggressive driving isn’t typically covered by your auto insurance policy? If it is determined that you caused the damage with “risky behavior,” you may pay for it in repairs and increased premiums. To avoid these costs (and the road rage that leads to them), use the following tips:

Slow and steady wins the race. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Patience runs short when you’re in a hurry.

Let it roll off. Many times, other drivers are clueless about what they’ve done. They might be lost, affected by sun glare, or oblivious to how their driving has affected you. Don’t take it personally.

Keep your distance. When you get stuck behind a slow driver, don’t succumb to the temptation to tailgate. If they stop, the resulting rear-end collision will be deemed your fault.

Lay off the horn. Reserve honking for emergency situations. It’s designed as a warning sound, not an aggression valve. Insistent honking only annoys, startles, and stresses other drivers and leads to more aggressive behavior.

Remain nonconfrontational. Don’t stop to confront other drivers. Additionally, if other drivers are demonstrating road rage behaviors, try to put distance between your vehicles. Don’t engage with the drivers in any way. Always put your safety first.


Do You Need Short-Term Medical Insurance?

Temporary life situations sometimes require short-term medical insurance. You might be between jobs, a recent college graduate, newly divorced, or retired but not eligible for Medicare. Maybe you missed open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or you cannot afford ACA coverage because you do not qualify for subsidies.

A short-term medical insurance policy can help you bridge the gap between group or other health insurance on the one hand and Medicare or group health at your new job on the other.

What are the pros and cons?

Short-term health plans often take effect within 24 hours of application and premium payment. If you drop a short-term plan, it may impose no penalties and may refund the unused premium. Premiums may be lower than for ACA plans, and short-term plans may offer more doctor and hospital options.

However, if you have preexisting conditions, short-term plans either will not accept you or will accept you but exclude those preexisting conditions. Maternity care, preventive and mental health care, prescription drugs, and substance abuse are benefits that short-term plans may not cover. Additionally, you usually cannot renew your short-term policy but instead must buy a new one.

While it is easy to apply for short-term plans online, the plans vary widely. A licensed health insurance agent can help find the best plan for you, at no additional cost.

What changes are coming?

Previously, rules limited short-term medical insurance to three months. As of October 2018, new rules allow insurers to offer short-term policies of up to 364 days, and you can renew the same plan for up to three years.

However, in many cases, the individual mandate penalty (the fine paid if U.S. citizens don’t maintain health coverage that meets minimum standards) continues to apply until 2019 because these plans do not meet ACA minimal essential coverage.

Still, short-term medical coverage may be just what you need to fill a short-term gap in health coverage. Contact your health insurance agent for more information.

Life Insurance 101: Your Policy Options Explained

Life insurance may seem simple, but many people who purchase it don’t understand their myriad options.

The two most popular types of life insurance are whole and term, both of which pay your beneficiaries when you pass away. What’s the difference?

Term life insurance pays your beneficiaries if you pass away during the term of the policy. The term can vary. For example, policies can cover five, 10, or 15 years. Premiums on term life insurance are generally the most affordable of all life insurance premiums because the insurance company does not take on the risk that you will outlive the policy.

Whole life insurance pays your beneficiaries when you pass away, period. In other words, it is in effect for your entire life, as long as you pay the premiums.

But this benefit comes with a cost. As you age, your risk level increases, and your premiums are likely to increase as well. This does not appeal to most people, so to make these policies more palatable, some life insurance companies charge you higher premiums earlier in the policy’s term and lower premiums later.

A third type of life insurance is less known to most people. It is sometimes referred to as a separate type of insurance called “return-of-premium term life insurance.” Other times it is referred to as a “rider” or “add-on” to a term life insurance policy.

Regardless of terminology, it is similar to the term life insurance policy mentioned above, but if you haven’t yet passed away when the term expires, some or all of your premiums are returned.

The catch: Return-of-premium term life-insurance policies can be expensive. They typically cost about 30 percent more than term life insurance (but potentially less than whole life insurance).

Additionally, not all insurance companies offer return-of-premium term life insurance.

If you aren’t sure which kind of policy is best for you, a financial professional can help you decide.

Claims: What to Expect and How Your Agent Helps

You need to make an insurance claim for damage to your property. What should you do first? What can you expect?

If you’re not familiar with this process, it can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, your insurance agent will partner with you to walk you through the necessary steps. The following tips can also help clarify what to expect and what is considered “normal” for this process.

More than one check is normal. As you work through the claims process, you can typically expect to receive more than one check. Often, homeowners receive an initial sum that is an advance for repairs, but it does not represent the final settlement amount. You can still receive additional funds as expenses are documented and claimed. A separate check is also common for personal belongings, since insurance companies often cut checks for each category of damage. If you incur additional living expenses, such as hotel stays, you may receive yet another check for reimbursement of these claims.

Making direct payments is normal. In some cases, your insurance company may pay contractors directly for the work they complete on your property. However, use caution with this process, since it gives you less control of your claim. Make sure the work is done to your satisfaction before your insurer pays the contractor.

Mortgage company involvement is normal. Lenders often require borrowers to name them in their homeowner’s policy. If you have a mortgage on your property, the lender will likely be involved in the claims process. Checks for repairs may be made out to both you and your lender.

This lets lenders ensure the needed repairs are made on a property in which they have a vested interest. The same may be true if you are part of a homeowners’ association.

Many more questions are normal. Most homeowners have questions as they go through the claims process. Don’t hesitate to contact your agent with any inquiries. Your agent’s expertise is invaluable in helping your claim go as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

Pests on the Prowl: Protect Your Car from Wildlife

When you consider potential sources of damage to your car, what comes to mind?

Most people think of fender benders, major accidents, and natural disasters. There’s another category that many vehicle owners overlook: wildlife.

Did you know animals can cause serious damage to your car? This goes beyond a deer jumping in front of your vehicle on a country road. Other, smaller creatures can wreak havoc on your car, even while it’s parked. Squirrels, rats, mice, and even woodchucks have been known to nest in cars and chew wires or cause other damage.

To prevent these pests from wrecking your ride, use the following tips.

Hide it: One of the most effective ways to protect your car from wildlife is to park it in a garage. Keep in mind that rodents can squeeze through the tiniest openings, so it’s important to make sure the garage is well-sealed.

Clean it: If you make a drive-through run, don’t keep that burger wrapper in your car afterward. Keep your interior free of all food and garbage to avoid any enticing aromas or leftover crumbs that could attract pests.

Treat it: Products are available to treat your wires, making them less desirable to wildlife. Bad-tasting sprays and treated tapes are possible deterrents. These may prove helpful if you are unable to park your car indoors.

Drive it: Wildlife are most likely to infest cars that remain immobile for long periods of time. To keep critters at bay, drive your vehicle regularly.

Travel Insurance: When to Buy and When Not to Buy

You may already know that travel insurance usually covers your travel losses if you must cancel your trip. But did you know that travel insurance comes in many forms, from lost travel loyalty points and travel delay to emergency evacuation, known as repatriation? Due to its wide range of available coverage, travel insurance is a staple for many American travelers’ trips. So, when should you invest in this policy?

To buy: One of the most important times to buy travel insurance is when you travel abroad. If you are on Medicare, it pays anywhere in the U.S. if the practitioner accepts it. If you have a Medicare supplement policy, check to see whether your insurer covers you abroad and whether any coverage limits might apply. If not, you will definitely want travel insurance to meet the gap should a medical emergency arise outside of the U.S., because ordinary Medicare won’t cover the event.

Not to buy: If you are making a last-minute or inexpensive domestic trip, you probably don’t need travel insurance. In these cases, you aren’t at risk of losing large, prepaid deposits. You’re also staying within U.S. borders, so you don’t need to be concerned with evacuation coverage. If you’ve landed a great last-minute deal on a trip in the States, it’s likely your potential expenses don’t warrant travel insurance coverage.

Choosing travel insurance: Each policy differs significantly in what it offers. Fine-print coverage limitations can make choosing the best policy difficult. Ensuring your travel insurance pays as expected is easier when you buy it through your trusted insurance adviser. Work with your health insurance agent, who knows travel coverage and is familiar with which policies will best suit your travel plans.

Workplace Injuries: First Five Steps

An accident occurs at your place of business. Your employee is injured. What should you do first?

Your choice of response can take the situation in entirely different directions. Simple slips and falls can result in clear-cut claims or costly lawsuits. With the proper plan in place, you can achieve the former and avoid the latter.

If one of your employees suffers an injury, take the following initial steps to move the situation in the right direction.

1. Prepare: This step should already be completed before any injury occurs. It’s essential to have a plan in place for workplace injuries.

Your plan should be a written document that is posted for all employees to follow. Provide training to ensure everyone knows what protocols to follow in the case of an accident.

2. Examine: Assess the injury immediately. What type of injury is it? How serious is it? If you have any staff members trained in first aid, involve them in this initial examination.

For severe injuries, enlist the help of emergency medical professionals. For non-emergencies, speak with your employee about what medical care he or she may need in the immediate future, and decide on next steps.

3. Document: The incident should be well-documented. Remember that workplace injury plan you developed? You should have the proper forms readily available, and complete them right away.

Submit these to the appropriate parties, such as your insurance provider. Ensure proper forms are also provided for the employee’s doctor. The physician may need return-to-work authorization forms or temporary work restriction forms. This makes the process go more smoothly and keeps you, the employee, the insurance carrier, and the doctor on the same page.

4. Treat: Make sure your employee gets the medical attention he or she needs. An immediate visit to a clinic or an occupational health doctor will help establish the nature and extent of the injuries.

A delay can result in unnecessary complications, both physically and financially. Because of this, it can be helpful to establish an ongoing relationship with a specific medical facility or physician to handle any and all workplace injuries at your business.

The medical provider can have all your standard forms on file and remain familiar with your incident protocols. This relationship can help streamline the process for both you and the injured employee.

5. Follow up: Let the employee know you care about his or her welfare. Follow up to find out how the doctor visit went. Ask how your employee is feeling. Remove your boss hat for a moment and simply offer person-to-person concern.

Then, replace that employer cap and work with your employee to develop a return-to-work plan. Find out what else, if anything, the person needs from you to facilitate a full recovery.

Workplace injuries are never welcome, but following these crucial steps can make them less disastrous and keep the experience as positive as possible for all parties involved.

Your insurance agent can provide additional assistance with this process. With in-depth knowledge of workers’ compensation claims, your agent is an invaluable resource you should not hesitate to tap in these situations.