The Ins and Outs of Boat Insurance

Welcome aboard! The summer season is here; it’s time to take a fresh look at your boat insurance policy. While your standard homeowners policy may cover some things related to your boat, it isn’t sufficient to keep you covered during your summer adventures. Without watercraft insurance, you could be on the hook for costly repairs and damages to your boat and passengers.

It’s important to protect yourself both in and out of the water. Here are the basics of boat insurance.

Property coverage. Once your boat is out of the water, insurance coverage can change should something happen. Property coverage manages any physical damage that happens to your boat and equipment, radar systems and sporting equipment like water skis. This also involves transport of your vehicle. One example is if an automobile collides with your trailer on the way to your festivities.

Personal liability. This coverage is useful in the case that there’s any bodily injury or damage to another’s property. Additionally, medical payments coverage takes care of medical expenses incurred from any accident involving your covered boat.

Uninsured boaters. This insurance is also important, as it helps to cover expenses should you be involved in an accident with an under- or uninsured boater in the busy summer season.

Exemptions. Losses and damages involving racing or stunts, failure to properly maintain your boat or damage that occurs from improper storage or animals like birds and rodents are typically not covered under a standard policy.

Questions to ask. It’s important to discuss all the aspects of your policy with us, including how your boat will be valued should a claim occur, how repairs and claims are managed, how your policy deals with salvage coverage and towing reimbursement, and much more.

We can guide you through these questions and determine what’s best for you. From land to open water, we can also help you save on your premiums by bundling your boat policy with your homeowners insurance.

Why a Home Inventory Is Essential and How to Do It

Whether you rent or own, keeping a current home inventory is critical to getting on the road to recovery faster in the unfortunate event that disaster strikes. Documenting items in your home may feel like an overwhelming task. Here’s what you need to know to guide you through the process.

Document. Take detailed pictures and video of every room in your home as well as a record of each individual item. Items such as antiques should be discussed with your insurance agent to itemize them on your policy. If you already have a home inventory list, make sure to keep your list updated with any new significant purchases along the way.

Proof of value. Keep receipts, contracts and appraisals to understand what level of coverage you’d need. Things to take note of: item description, make/model/serial number and estimated replacement costs.

Don’t forget the storage unit. Personal items that are kept in a self-storage facility are covered under homeowners insurance.

Keep it safe. Store your documentation in a fireproof box or safe deposit box or keep a file on hand with your insurance agent. You can also back up the files on an external hard drive or to the cloud (such as Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud) as an additional measure.

Kick-start. To kick-start your inventory task, check out these home inventory apps to help you with the process.

After taking your home inventory, give us a call to check your current policy to ensure that you’ll be covered or set you up with a new policy today!

5 Steps to Ensuring Rock-Solid Life Insurance Plans

Life insurance may not seem very complicated, but a few key steps can help you avoid potential pitfalls.

First, have a conversation. Discussing life insurance with your loved ones can be difficult because you are referring to the possibility of your own death. But if you have loved ones who rely on your income, it is an important conversation to have.

Second, understand the role of your will. Many people believe a will can be used to dictate where life insurance proceeds will go, but that is not the case. Your life insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company, so you will need to specify your beneficiary on the policy.

Third, regardless of the policy you choose, you will need to select a beneficiary, who will receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy when you die. That, too, can be an uncomfortable discussion. Typically, your beneficiary will be your spouse, then your children. But at times it can be more complicated. For example, you may not want to leave minors large sums, in which case you may want to set up a trust.

Fourth, understand the exceptions. For example, in community property states, any property acquired during a marriage is owned by both spouses. In those states, if you want your life insurance beneficiary to be someone other than your spouse, both of you will likely need to acknowledge that in writing.

Fifth, think about taxes. While life insurance proceeds are free from federal income taxes, they can be counted as part of your estate. This means they may be subject to estate tax. If you have a large policy, you may want to consider a trust to keep the proceeds out of your estate.

We can help you understand the components of life insurance. Call or email us to discuss your policy needs.

Delayed Medical Care Can Have Serious Consequences

Have COVID-19 concerns delayed your medical care? According to many medical experts, nationwide delays in receiving routine and emergency medical care have impacted many Americans. In a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 30 percent of adults surveyed reported pandemic-related medical delays.

Delayed medical and dental care can have dire consequences. A gap in treating chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension can lead to heart attacks and strokes, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Delaying routine medical care and failing to keep routine lab appointments can cause a number of problems for your health.

Here are some tips if you’re having problems obtaining medical treatment.

Call the physician’s office and explain your symptoms or your testing needs. Don’t take no for an answer. If your provider can’t accommodate you, consider asking a family member to advocate for you. Some people are better at dealing with medical providers. If they’re willing, let them help.

If you accept an appointment far into the future, ask the provider to place you on a cancellation list in case an appointment becomes available.

Don’t skip routine tests. Mammograms, colon cancer tests and prostate exams are critical screenings. Delays can mean major health problems if serious conditions go undetected.

If you can’t get an appointment with your regular doctor, consider calling your insurance company’s helpline for a referral to a new physician. Or ask your neighbors or friends if they can recommend a physician or medical provider with more availability.

If you hesitate to visit your doctor due to concerns about exposure to others who may be sick, consider a virtual visit. Your doctor can phone you or initiate an online session. Postponing medical care can have dire consequences. Don’t wait any longer. Schedule any delayed visits to protect your health.

Here’s How to Help Your Loved One with Medicare

Most Americans become eligible to enroll in Medicare upon turning 65. If you plan to assist your loved ones in this process, educating yourself is the first step. What are some key pointers you need to know?

How much will Original Medicare cost? Premium-free Part A (hospital) is for those who have paid into Medicare taxes while working for at least 10 years. The standard Part B (medical) cost for 2021 is $148.50. When your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount, you may pay an extra charge.

When do they enroll in Medicare? Individuals can sign up for Part A or Part A and Part B during the seven-month window that begins three months before the month they turn 65. The soonest the coverage will begin is the first day of their birthday month. When a birthday is on the first day of the month, the coverage will start the first day of the prior month. When your loved one is still working, they have additional options and decisions.

What are their Medicare plan options? Once your loved one enrolls in Medicare, they have a decision to make. Their options are to remain with Original Medicare, select a Medigap supplemental plan to work with Original Medicare or select a Medicare Advantage plan. Making the right Medicare plan decision can make a major difference in the cost of care and their provider choices.

Your loved ones are our priority. Call or email us today, and we can walk you through all the steps and details of Medicare.

3 Reasons to Look Forward to an Audit

Audits are common with general liability, workers’ compensation, liquor liability, commercial and other business insurance policies. This is because when your commercial insurance policy is drafted, it’s based on an estimated risk exposure based on sales volume, number of employees and contractors, locations and common industrial risks. In most cases, the premium for your insurance isn’t a final number and fluctuates based on year-end actual numbers. The audit is an important process that determines the final premium.

Most cringe at the thought of an audit, but did you know there are several ways that an audit benefits you and your business? Let’s take a look at why you can look forward to your audit.

Changed mindset. Audits aren’t always spurred by something negative. They don’t have to mean that a business has done anything wrong or that the IRS is asking to dig through your finances. In fact, this is a positive thing in the insurance world! A general liability insurance audit is completed to thoroughly examine your business’s payroll and risk exposure and to check for any changes over the year in how much risk was actually incurred. An audit may also be required for your workers’ compensation and commercial property insurance coverage.

Ensures proper coverage. During the first policy term or at the end of the coverage period, the insurer will request an audit to adjust your premium based on the most accurate sales numbers and earnings. With how much a business can change year to year, this helps to ensure that you have the right amount of coverage as you grow and change. It can also spot gaps in coverage or new exposures that appeared during the year that weren’t seen before, helping to make sure you are covered should the unexpected arise.

It can save you money. The initial insurance premium estimate can be off; remember, the purpose of insurance premium audits is to use your actual sales and operating data to determine the true picture of risk. The audit can save you money, as your premiums can decrease if sales volumes, staffing or other adjustments to predicted exposure change and less coverage is needed. You may also be entitled to a refund or a credit on the overquoted premium at the start of the year.

Best practices already involve accurate record keeping in your operations; this is exactly what will help your insurance audit go smoothly and painlessly. Documentation you’ll need to provide includes payroll and cash summaries, federal and state employment reports, subcontractor and 1099 forms, relevant tax documents and any other items that will help an auditor have a clear understanding of your business state and revenues.

We can walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Call or email us today, and let’s discuss your premium basis and risk exposure and what that could mean for an upcoming audit. Let’s help you prepare so that your audit can feel more like a walk in the park.

Make Sure Your Insurance Keeps Up with Your Growth

Your insurance coverage should grow and change alongside your business. Here are some key indicators that you may want to look at and make adjustments for in your coverage.

New locations. Whether it’s the first ribbon cutting or the opening of additional locations, opening up your doors comes with extra risks. General liability insurance keeps you protected against the most common claims: slips and falls, damage to another’s property, libel and slander lawsuits and more.

New equipment. While your warehouse or shop may have had some empty space at first, over time, all the crevices begin to be filled in as business begins to pick up. Between uniforms and safety and industry-based equipment, it’s important to protect your investment with proper commercial property insurance.

New hires. Workers’ compensation insurance keeps you covered in the event of workplace accidents and employee injuries. It also helps to cover any associated medical costs and lost wages and reduces your risk of encountering a costly lawsuit. Many states require carrying this policy even if you just have one employee.

New contracts. When it comes to big contracts, software and IT professionals, accountants and similar white-collar professionals require professional liability insurance. This protects you against damages potentially incurred with higher-risk professions with larger contracts. Clients may even require this coverage to do business with you so if a mistake is made, they can rest assured that remedies are paid for.

While your growth may just be beginning, it’s important to plan ahead for your success. Give us a call today to see how we can support you on your journey!

Is Your Business Protected from Employee Litigation?

Many small business owners are left vulnerable, mistakenly believing that their business liability insurance policies are inclusive of employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). This is simply not the case. In fact, insurers have strengthened their exclusions regarding EPLI coverage over the years. Even businesses with as few as one employee can be held liable under employment laws.

EPLI is a financial safeguard protecting businesses against employee lawsuits alleging inappropriate or unfair acts that violated their rights. Regardless of merit, claims regarding sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination are included in this category.

According to data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), roughly 42% of all EPLI claims were filed against small private businesses, with the average claim award hitting $217,000. Skimming on coverage can be a costly, devastating mistake. Here’s what you need to know.

Current trends. With several states passing new legislation and Internet hashtags such as #metoo and #timesup bringing the public’s attention to ethics in the workplace, EPLI claims continued to soar in 2020. The biggest rise occurred in claims alleging retaliation, sexual harassment, labor laws violations with gig workers and the gender pay gap.

Policy of prevention. The key to preventing one of these rising trends from impacting your business is to frequently review, revise and set in place new internal and personnel policies. Updating handbooks, developing programs that help prevent discriminatory hiring practices and creating detailed job descriptions and expectations for each role are just some of the ways to keep you covered.

Other effective prevention strategies involve developing and protecting a company culture of safety, respect and equity by ensuring that you have a well-implemented, structured and confidential internal complaint reporting process, developing strict anti-retaliation policies and hosting regular trainings.

Premiums. The overall cost of your EPLI policy will vary depending on a few risk factors, such as number of employees, the thoroughness of your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and procedures, and whether your company has ever had any EEOC complaints or lawsuits in the past.

Limitations. Criminal conduct, civil fines, penalties and punitive damages are just some things not covered in a standard policy. Some of your board members and leadership team may be covered, but the rest of your staff and middle managers may not be included in this policy. Be sure to have a clear understanding of which managers are covered under your EPLI policy and where you are left exposed.

What to look out for. Do you know your “risk profile”? Does your policy keep you thoroughly protected under both state and local laws? When researching EPLI coverage, take extra care to carefully understand what types of claims are covered. While less inclusive policies may save you some money in the long run, they can fail to protect you when you need it most.

Even the best employers get sued. Call us today to review potential loss exposures and ensure that you are set up with suitable EPLI coverage. We can customize your coverage to safeguard your business against the ever-increasing world of employment-related risks.

Does Your Business Change in the Summer?

Each industry has its own unique business cycles: some are steady throughout the months, while others peak and valley. Many seasonal entrepreneurs feel their businesses are too small to necessitate coverage without realizing how critical it is that they are protected as businesses that operate year-round. With the seasonal peaks summer brings for many, here are some factors to consider when it comes to making sure you’re covered.

The elements. The summer season calls us to the great outdoors, which means employees and customers become subject to the risks weather creates. Rain can cause slips and falls, wind can knock over heavy objects and injure people or damage property and heat and humidity can cause equipment to fail, resulting in repair costs and lost revenue.

Increased volume. The seasonal uptick in business often means busier days with hotter nights for employees, calling for changes or updates to your workers’ compensation policy. Additional equipment might also be purchased with expanded operations. It’s important to review your policy’s limits to make sure you’re protected.

More driving. Service-based industries especially experience increased driving and travel time to job sites. Ensuring that you have adequate coverage for both the number of vehicles and each driver is mission critical.

Vacation time. While your regular employees take time off to take much-deserved vacations, you might find the need to hire temporary staff to cover the workload. Ensure that your commercial policy includes the appropriate level of workers’ compensation.

We’d be happy to review your specific needs and discuss any other exposure to risks or additional liabilities you could incur as the seasons change. Contact us today to get your recommended SPF for summer!

The Differences between PPOs and HMOs

Understanding health insurance benefits can be confusing, plus we must select either an HMO or a PPO plan. Has deciding which plan is best for you left you confused and wondering which direction to go? Clarifying a few points might help in this decision process.

What do these letters mean? A Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) is a type of health insurance plan that restricts coverage to care from providers who work for or contract with a particular network. A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) allows the patient to choose any provider they wish, whether in or outside a particular network.

How does my cost differ when using each plan? When selecting an HMO, your services are provided based on a predetermined fee. If the actual cost of services exceeds the predetermined amount, the provider must absorb the excess costs. A PPO uses cost sharing, which means when you use medical services, you pay or share part of the cost in the form of deductibles, co-payments or coinsurance.

Does one provide more flexibility than the other? When selecting an HMO, you select a primary care physician (PCP). This physician is your point person when seeking care, and they refer you to specialists within a network. A PPO allows more flexibility. Although you still have in-network providers, you may self-refer to specialists, allowing you more control and flexibility. You may also seek care out of the network and still receive some coverage benefits.

Are you wondering which options your providers accept? Do you want to discuss your unique needs to assist in your decision? We are here to help and just a phone call away.

The Importance of Support Groups for Chronic Medical Conditions

An unexpected medical diagnosis such as cancer, liver disease or depression can have a dramatic impact on your life. Hearing a diagnosis can send you into shock. Your doctors talk, yet you may be unable to understand their words and their implications. With COVID-19 protocols, you may be alone, without someone who can remind you what your doctors said. Where do you turn?

Support groups for chronic conditions have been a big help to many patients. According to the study “The Role of Self-Help Groups in Chronic Illness Management” published in Australian Journal of Primary Health, self-help groups provide many benefits. These include the following.

Social and emotional support. After a medical diagnosis, you may not know anyone with that condition. In a support group, you’ll step into a group of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.

Medical expertise. You may not understand the treatments your doctor recommends. Support group members can help explain the treatment and what to expect. Many support groups have nurses or doctors who oversee the groups, providing expertise as well.

Improved quality of life. Studies found that patients in support groups feel a greater sense of self-confidence and control as they manage their illnesses.

Sometimes our caregivers and family lose patience. Serious illnesses can cause depression, and medications can cause illogical behaviors. Caregivers can find support groups helpful too as they navigate their role in your care.

That medical model with the patient as a passive recipient of information is no longer valid. Most patients want to understand their options to make informed treatment choices. A support group can provide vital information to help those with chronic conditions take a more active role in their treatment. Your treating facility may host a support group for your illness. A Google search will reveal more. Many people meet virtually or offer social media groups if you’re unable to attend in person.

Avoiding 5 Setbacks When It Comes to Life Insurance

Life insurance may not seem very complicated, but the process of purchasing a policy can be filled with potential pitfalls. Here are five to consider.

The conversation. First, discussing life insurance with your loved ones can be difficult because you are referring to the possibility of your own death. But if you have loved ones who rely on your income, it is an important conversation to have.

The role of your will. Many people believe a will can be used to dictate where life insurance proceeds will go, but that is not the case. Your life insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company, so you will need to specify beneficiaries with that company.

The beneficiary. Regardless of the policy you choose, you will need to select a beneficiary who will receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy when you die. That, too, can be an uncomfortable discussion. Typically, your beneficiary will be your spouse, then your children. But, at times, it can be more complicated. For example, you may not want to leave minors millions of dollars, in which case you may want to set up a trust.

The exceptions. In “community property” states, any property acquired during a marriage is owned by both spouses. In those states, if you want your life insurance beneficiary to be someone other than your spouse, both of you will likely need to acknowledge that in writing.

The taxes. Finally, although you won’t pay taxes on the payout from a life insurance policy, the proceeds may be considered part of your estate. This means they may be subject to estate tax. If you have a large policy, you may want to consider a trust to keep the proceeds out of your estate.

Life insurance can be a challenge to navigate. We’re here to help you navigate the pitfalls, and we’re just a call or email away.

Here’s What to Expect During the Claims Process

When the “unexpected” has happened (e.g., a fire, storm, fallen tree or burst pipe has damaged your property), you’ll be glad to know you’ve selected a trusted insurance agent who genuinely cares for the complexities of your homeowners insurance policy. Here’s what to expect during the claims process after the initial dust has settled.

Document. Take detailed photos of the damage. Pro tip: periodically document your home and valuables with photos or videos.

Claim intake. Make the call to initiate your claim. Your insurance provider will collect general information regarding what happened and what is damaged. Remember to ask this person for the following key information: claim number, your adjuster’s contact information and next steps with a tangible timeline for follow up.

Remediation specialist. Remediation companies clean up the mess and often later become the contractors who make any repairs. This is why it’s critical to hire a reputable company; be sure to ask us for recommendations.

The adjuster. The adjuster or other representative will visit your home, take photos and ask detailed questions. These details help compose the official report, including the determined “cause of loss.”

Determining coverage. The “cause of loss” in comparison to the terms of your policy determines what percentage of your claim is covered by insurance. Policy limits are also important to review to ensure that you have adequate coverage. We’d be happy to discuss your current policy to make sure that in the midst of tragedy, you won’t experience the added disaster of subpar coverage.

Make you “whole” again. Your insurance provider then pays to replace or repair covered items or property, either paid directly to you or to service providers. If major repairs are required, your policy should include additional living expenses and lodging while work is being done.

When disaster strikes, we become more than just insurance agents. We’re here with you, from beginning to end, to help you reclaim some peace of mind and get you “back to normal” as quickly as possible.

5 Tips to Keep Your Car Safe and Protected

With summer here and remote “weekend getaways” on the rise, it’s important to remember that even the quaintest of towns experience crime. Prevent a crime that can happen within mere seconds by taking a few of your own to quickly double-check that your car is tucked in for the night, safe and secure:

Lock it down. While it might be tempting to leave your windows cracked on a hot day, make sure that your windows are completely rolled up and the doors are locked. Don’t forget the sunroof, too.

Hide valuables. As a general rule, never leave your valuables in the car. Hide sunglasses, electronics and any other “shiny objects” in your glove box or center console. Purses and shopping bags should always be tucked away in the trunk. Always take your garage door remote inside with you.

Park smart. Keep visibility in mind when selecting your parking spot. Parking on well-lit streets and under bright street lights is always ideal.

Anti-theft devices. Car alarms are the best deterrent. Consider the addition of a tracking device, such as LoJack® or OnStar®, which could also qualify you for an extra discount on your auto insurance.

Minimize appeal. Overall, the best way to keep your car safe and protected is to lower the appeal of what treasures could be inside and to make it more difficult, risky and noisy for a thief to gain access to your vehicle.

Let’s have a check-up to review other safety tips and see what discounts we can discover for your policy.

The ABCs of Life Insurance: Key Terms to Know

Life insurance policy definitions may seem like alphabet soup, but here are some key terms you may want to know.

A is for accidental death benefit. This is an added benefit payable in addition to the principal benefit in the event of accidental death.

B is for beneficiary. This is the individual who will receive the life insurance benefits.

C is for cash value. This is the amount of cash value available in your policy’s account for withdrawal or loans.

E is for expiry. This refers to the termination of a policy at the end of its coverage period.

F is for face amount. This is the benefit that will be paid in the event of your death.

I is for insurability. This refers to an applicant’s level of acceptability to an insurance carrier.

J is for joint life annuity. This is a policy that will pay benefits that continue over the joint lifetime of two individuals but terminates after the first death.

M is for maturity date. This date indicates when the face value of your life insurance will become payable.

P is for principal sum. This is the amount that will be paid out as a lump sum in the event of your accidental death.

R is for renewable term insurance. This is a term life policy that is eligible for renewal at the end of the term.

S is for surrender. This is forfeiting a policy.

T is for term insurance. These are policies that are limited to a specific term.

Y is for yearly renewable term. This is a term life policy that you can renew annually without first having to provide evidence of your insurability.

Do you have questions or concerns about life insurance? Call or email us, and we can walk you through each of the components. We’re always here to help.

Debunking 4 Common Health Insurance Myths

With all the conflicting information out there, it can be challenging to navigate health insurance. Plan benefits, costs and enrollment timeframes can leave you confused and overwhelmed. Let’s put you in the know and look at the truth behind four common health insurance myths.

Myth 1: Original Medicare has no cost. Premium free Part A is for those 65 and older. You usually don’t pay a monthly premium for Part A if you or your spouse paid into Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. The standard Part B cost for 2021 is $148.50. If your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount, you may find an extra charge.

Myth 2: I need to enroll in COBRA when my group coverage ends. You will have 60 days to enroll in COBRA to continue your group health insurance benefits. Enrolling anytime during these 60 days can backdate your coverage start date to the first day of lost coverage as long as you pay the retroactive premium. You may be required to pay the full cost of the coverage plus a two percent administrative fee.

Myth 3: My annual physical is covered each year. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive screenings include a set of shots and are covered at no cost to you when performed by a doctor or provider in your plan network, but other aspects of a physical are not. These exams can be scheduled every 365 days.

Myth 4: My children can stay on my health insurance policy. Typically, when your children turn 26, their coverage on your health insurance policy ends and triggers a qualified event. This qualified event allows them to enroll in one of the various plans available.

There is a lot of uncertainty around health insurance, so let us be your source of knowledge. We are always here to help, and we’re just a phone call away.

Top Tips for Managing a Chronic Medical Condition

The pain and isolation of a chronic illness can be debilitating. Here are some tips for managing chronic medical conditions.

First, find a doctor who understands your condition and partners in your care. Your primary care physician (PCP) should be able to refer you to appropriate providers, but if your PCP seems unhelpful, it may be time to search for a new one. Next, invest in your care. This may mean dropping those 10 pounds, which can reduce your blood pressure and your glucose level. See if your healthcare insurer offers discounts or free memberships to local gyms, such as the Silver Sneakers program for seniors.

Never skimp on medications. To manage high prescription costs, call the manufacturer for discounts or ask your doctor about free samples. Depression accompanies chronic pain for over a third of those with frequent illnesses, according to Harvard Health. The Affordable Care Act guarantees access to mental health services, as does Medicaid. Contact your health insurer to review coverages and find treatment. Therapy does not have to be long-term to provide relief. Even a few visits with a therapist can help you create a plan to better cope with your chronic condition.

Finally, support groups for almost any kind of condition flourish in today’s online world. Facing an organ transplant? There’s a group for that. Feeling the effects of your diabetes? Start with the American Diabetes Association or Google “diabetes support groups.” Whether in person or online, support groups can help you find common ground with those who share your condition and provide helpful tips to help you better manage your disease. You don’t need to suffer with a chronic condition alone.

If you have any questions about what sources of support may be covered by your health insurance, call or email us. We are always here to help.

Understanding What Auto Insurance You Need

Even for people with stellar driving records, auto insurance premiums can take a bite out of everyone’s pocketbook. Understanding what each element of your coverage means is the key to saving money while ensuring you have a tailor-made policy that’s exactly the right fit for you.

Liability. While this coverage is required by law, the minimum amount varies by state. Liability insurance protects you in the event you are held responsible for bodily injury or property damage to another party. Sage advice is to carry a bodily injury liability policy with a minimum of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident (with the addition of enough property damage liability coverage to cover the cost of a new car). Considering all the potential costs of chaos, from medical bills to potential lawsuits, it’s often recommended to increase your limits to $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident to be on the safe side.

Collision. This type of insurance is not required by law, but it covers the cost of damage to your car after an accident. Depending on the current resale value of your car, collision coverage may not make sense for you to carry, since you’ll be paying more than what your car is worth.

Comprehensive. This coverage protects you from things that aren’t included under collision, such as fire or theft. If you lease a car, this coverage may be required, but most vehicle owners choose to add this coverage anyway, since it is often inexpensive and covers virtually any type of damage to the vehicle.

Deductibles. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. If you have a decent savings fund, are a good driver and are willing to assume the risk, paying less for your premium may make sense for you.

We’re here to help steer you in the right direction! Make an appointment today to review your auto policy. Let’s work together to meet your financial goals and match your coverage preferences and requirements.

Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover All Catastrophes

Congratulations! You’re a homeowner! With the pride this accomplishment entails, you’ve also quickly become familiar with all of the obscure yet critical details, responsibilities and laws it includes. Here’s a primer on some items not covered by typical homeowners insurance and what additional policies might be needed to protect your investment.

Earth. Anything that can do the hokey pokey and move your home around; earth movement that lifts, lowers, shifts, sinks, expands or contracts your home is included in this category.

Water. The ultimate “other” category; damage not covered by a standard policy, including items such as sewer main blockages, stormwater and backups from growing tree roots. Also, while damage from an exploding water heater might be covered, you’re responsible for the cost to replace the unit.

Maintenance. Become familiar with how insurance views “general maintenance”; items not covered are defined as “neglect” or “failure to properly maintain” your property. This can include rust, rot, mold and general wear and tear. Other notable items include damage from termites, insects, birds or rodents. Depending on your proximity to industrial or agricultural operations, damage caused by smog or smoke may also not be covered.

Prized possessions. Many standard policies only cover losses due to theft up to $1,500. So on top of the emotional damage as an unfortunate victim of burglary, you’ll also have to go through the process of replacing precious jewelry and other high-value items.

If you’re a new homeowner or haven’t updated your policy in years, it might be time for a second look. Give us a call today, and we’ll help to make sure that you’re pragmatically protected.

8 Ways to Protect Your Business from Fraud

To the tune of an estimated annual $7.4 billion loss, fraud poses a major global threat to all types of organizations. Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees are hit even harder than larger corporations, carrying over half of the crime load and, at almost double the losses, experiencing a higher than average cost per event.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), weak internal controls and fraud prevention protocols are the number one reason these crimes occur. Having systems in place and a solid strategy around internal anti-fraud controls results in overall quicker detection and thereby lowers losses incurred. Here are the top ways you can protect your business.

Stop playing ostrich. Accepting that fraud does happen and having awareness that this could happen to you are paramount. Understanding the modalities through which fraud occurs and identifying the vulnerable hotspots within your organization are key to both preventing and combating these crimes. When identifying weak spots, remember to also assess risk with customers, contractors and third parties.

A focus on culture. Building a transparent culture of checks and balances, honesty and transparency as well as a focus on maintaining and building happy employees is one of the best ways to prevent fraud from arising internally.

Employees who are satisfied in their roles and overall happy with their jobs have more to lose and thereby less incentive to commit fraud.

Educate to eliminate. Help your people help you. Small businesses often don’t have training programs for managers and employees to help identify the “red flags” and “gray areas.” Consider investing in training your people to help uphold your core values. With this, a stated anti-fraud policy in the employee handbook or code of conduct helps to reinforce your position.

Take a tip. Noting that an estimated 40% of all fraud cases were originally detected with an internal tip-off, with a third of those tips coming from outside parties (such as customers and vendors), those companies that had encouraged reporting systems, such as hotlines, detected and resolved fraudulent activity more quickly than those without measures in place.

Technology upgrade. With technological advances, why aren’t businesses better at preventing such crimes? Lack of full-spectrum fraud detection software across separate platforms and multiple disparate legacy systems in place turn accurate detection into one of manual tracking and audits across the multiverse of papers, platforms and processes. Seek to harmonize your digital and paper trails into a unified system and protocols.

Surprise audits. Considering the average time of detection for fraud crimes is about one year, increasing the frequency of internal audits helps to catch these activities earlier (and, considering most victim companies recovered nothing, also helps with loss prevention). More than this, companies that proactively implemented the “surprise audit” experienced the largest reduction in fraudulent activity.

Take active measures. Most importantly, take an active stance and implement measures that combat fraudulent activity. Organizations can reduce the fiscal damages and impact fraud creates by pursuing multilevel accountability, internal controls and policies that actively detect fraud.

Those that take a “passive” stance are likely to experience schemes that persist for much longer, resulting in higher overall losses (and future headaches).

Insurance coverage. Even the most risk-averse business owner cannot cover the unforeseen. The best way to minimize the impact of fraud is to have an insurance policy in place. We can help you better understand your overall risks and evaluate which commercial crime insurance plan is right for you. We’re here to keep you covered, and we’re just a call or email away.