How to Reduce the Impact of an Accident

As a small-business owner, you are accustomed to taking risk.

After all, building a business takes a lot of hard work and effort with little guaranteed reward.

One way to reduce risk and save money on insurance premiums and claims is to know how to appropriately respond to an accident or injury.

Fortunately, with a bit of planning and preparation, it’s possible to dramatically impact the outcome of an accident.

Following are some tips to help you reduce risk and make sure everyone remains as safe as possible:

1. Remain Calm and Objective: Even if you suspect an employee contributed to the accident or that the accident is unrelated to the workplace, it is important to remain as levelheaded as possible. Treat every accident as legitimate and respond to the situation with appropriate measures, including first aid or medical attention, and refrain from voicing personal concerns, objections or accusations.

2. File Accident Reports: Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, but it is important to file an accident report as soon as possible if there are job-related injuries. Be sure to collect a statement from anyone involved in an accident, as well as from bystanders. Remember, several different agencies and organizations may be involved, including your commercial auto policy, small-business liability, personal umbrella policy and workers’ compensation, depending upon the nature of the accident and persons impacted. If you suspect foul play or intentional misrepresentation, contact the police and your insurance agent as soon as possible.

3. Document Everything: Take plenty of photographs, obtain written statements and retain all records related to an accident for at least seven years even if there were no additional claims. Obtain an accident report and copies of any other documents that may be pertinent. In the event a problem arises later on, you will have all the necessary information required to respond to a claim.

4. Prevention Is the Best Practice: Without a doubt, the best defense is a good offense when it comes to responding to accidents. Protect yourself by creating a comprehensive safety process that covers how accidents are to be reported, the use of company property and other expectations. Be sure every employee is provided with a copy when hired. It’s a good idea to work closely with your insurance agent to make sure the policy reflects the forms of coverage held by your company and to identify potential areas of concern.

5. Review Annually: Gaps in coverage can easily occur when new assets or employees are brought on board, so be sure to review policies and coverage options at least annually. Workers should be notified in writing of major modifications to the safety policy with a letter of acknowledgment included in personnel files for future reference.

6. Obtain Legal Advice When Needed: If you aren’t sure about your options, it might be worth the time and effort to have your attorney review items beforehand. Common examples include filling out insurance forms, meeting with insurance representatives and even signing checks. In most instances your insurance agent will be able to provide the guidance and information needed, but specialized circumstances may dictate the need for additional counsel or legal advice.

Strategies to Cover Home-Based Workers

As more employees work from home, small-business owners are encountering the need for specialized safety strategies to reduce the risk of job-related accidents or injuries. Research conducted by Gartner Inc. shows that the number of remote workers is expected to surpass 46 million by the end of 2011. But just because a worker is out of sight doesn’t mean he or she isn’t prone to job-related injuries. Everything from an auto accident to a fall can result in an increased insurance claim for your small business. Following are some safety strategies to help remote workers and protect companies:

1. Purchase Company-Approved Property:
One easy way to help employees stay safe is to provide company-approved tools, furniture and other items for use in day-to-day business. Emphasize that company-sponsored equipment and supplies are to be kept in good working order and are subject to regular inventory control.

2. Enhance Insurance Options: Be sure to speak with your agent about sporadic or occasional use of company and/or personal property by employees, including specialized riders for auto policies and liability coverage.

3. Mandate Training and Encourage Open Communication: Remote employees often feel left out of mandated training for common safety concerns. By providing training on additional safety skills, including ergonomic awareness, you can reduce employees’ the risk of long-term chronic conditions caused by poor posture or other potential problems. Open communication is another essential element to ensure that remote workers speak up when they encounter a problem. Rather than leaving employees on their own, encourage them to speak up about work-related problems both on-site and remotely.

Insurance Options for Your Four-Legged Friends

Anyone who has ever experienced a puppy’s love or the gentle purr of a kitten knows how important a loving and loyal pet can be. And, because four-legged friends are now an increasingly important part of the family, it should come as no surprise that pet insurance is one of the most popular new forms of insurance. Following are some things to think about when choosing a policy:

Health Insurance: Unexpected vet bills can add up quickly. Pet health insurance helps you budget for routine visits and reduces the cost associated with major intervention by negotiating preferred premiums and other discounts. It’s an especially attractive option for those with older pets or those dealing with a chronic condition. However, be sure you understand exclusions, co-payments and other deductibles.

Auto Accidents:
Make sure every passenger is covered in the event of a crash by adding pet coverage to your auto policy. This is an especially important form of coverage for those who deal with show dogs, therapy pets or other skilled animals, as well as expensive breeds. Ask your agent about additional coverage options to help defray the cost of treatment, shelter and other expenses in the event your pet is involved in an auto accident.

Homeowner Liability: Last but not least, consider adding additional liability coverage or even an umbrella policy to protect yourself if your pet injures somebody. Remember, as a responsible pet owner, you assume all liability for your pet’s behavior, including anything from digging up the neighbor’s rare exotic plants to biting.

What Is Usage-Based Auto Insurance?

If you haven’t heard about usage-based auto insurance, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Usage-based auto insurance is a relatively new type of policy that calculates rates based upon usage patterns, including distance, time and place. It’s often called “pay as you drive” and comes in three different forms:

1. Distance-Based:
Most traditional auto insurance underwriters provide deep discounts for people who drive fewer than 7,000 miles annually. However, even that may be too costly when broken down by the mile. New distance-based options are a terrific alternative for college students, retirees or others who primarily rely upon public transportation but want to maintain a driver’s license for seasonal travel or short trips around town. Not only can a distance-based policy help control costs, but the prepaid option makes it easy to add coverage on short notice. Just be sure to keep a good eye on the odometer, because overages can be quite costly or even result in a denial of claims just when needed most.

2. Time-Based: Another popular form of usage-based auto insurance is time-based. Essentially you pay only for the actual time driven rather than miles or location. Vehicle information is recorded and transmitted to the insurance company in order to track actual usage patterns. Time-based usage is a great alternative for car sharing, small businesses and those who may benefit from driving during off-peak hours. Potential negatives include a lack of privacy, paying for time stuck in traffic jams as well as intrusive technology that monitors everything from speed to duration of the trip.

3. Place-Based: Anyone who has ever tried to navigate Los Angeles or New York during rush hour will certainly appreciate the open highway of an interstate. That fact isn’t lost on your insurance underwriter either. It has long been known that certain areas are more dangerous than others. Place-based policies are designed to address that difference while helping save money. Individuals and small-business owners are likely to enjoy substantial cost savings based upon actual risk, but in return, expect to give up some level of privacy.

Trouble Getting Life Insurance?

You probably know that your health affects your ability to obtain life insurance and the rate you’ll pay for it.

However, you may be able to get coverage even if you’ve battled a serious illness.

Only 2% to 4% of life insurance applications are rejected annually, according to the Life Insurance Foundation for Education.

But many applications result in increased premiums as a result of medical conditions.

The top five health conditions that could increase the price you’ll pay for individual term or whole life insurance (other than HIV/AIDS, which is generally considered uninsurable) are cardiovascular problems such as a recent heart attack, bypass or valve surgery; stroke or even a mini-stroke; diabetes; cancer; and hepatitis C.

These conditions will almost always result in an increase in the premium, in some cases as much as 100%, at least for a period of time. For example, active cancers may lead to a denial of coverage, but after two to five years of remission, insurers may consider offering you coverage.

It may even be at standard rates, especially for some types of prostate and breast cancer. However, you shouldn’t give up if an application is rejected by one insurance company.

Instead, try to find what’s called an impaired-risk specialist, which is a life insurance agent who works with many different companies and thus knows the ins and outs of underwriting preferences. An impaired-risk specialist can make informal inquiries to a number of insurance companies at no cost to you.

You need to proceed with a formal application and medical exam only if the situation looks promising. Your advisor is a good starting point for finding an impaired-risk specialist.

Avoid using the Internet to find a risk specialist, though, because online pitches typically quote prices for a preferred risk class, which generally consists of healthy nonsmokers.

Health Insurance Options for Americans with Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. There are different types of diabetes, including type 1, type 2 and gestational.

Type 1 is diagnosed primarily in children and younger adults. Type 2, the more common form of diabetes, can be diagnosed at any age. Gestational diabetes, occurring in pregnant women, is more of a temporary condition and typically goes away once the woman has given birth.

A great many diabetic individuals are uninsured, which severely limits the options they have available for treatment. It also leaves them at risk for additional complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and even lower-limb amputation.

It is important for diabetics to obtain health insurance coverage in order to help control both the diabetes itself and the additional issues it can cause. Since this lifelong condition requires ongoing treatment, a good health insurance policy can help pay the high cost of ongoing medications, regular doctor visits and other procedures.

There are several things to look for when shopping for a health insurance policy for someone with diabetes. Make sure the policy will cover treatments for medical conditions that are associated with diabetes. Also be sure to consider coverage that will help pay for pharmaceutical needs such as insulin shots and other medications. And get more than just one policy quote, as even very similar health insurance plans may have vastly different premiums.

Jobless? Tips for Health Insurance

For many unemployed Americans and recent college graduates who can’t find jobs, access to quality health care may seem like an impossible and expensive option.

Since most health insurance is issued through employers, losing your job also means losing your health insurance.

And insurance premiums are often seen by unemployed individuals as an unnecessary expense that can be cut in order to save on monthly bills.

Ironically, however, health insurance is actually designed to ensure that you do not go into debt as a result of unexpected medical expenses.

Therefore, finding an affordable health insurance policy is really a way to reduce the risk of going into what could amount to a tremendous load of debt that could even ultimately result in bankruptcy.

One option that is offered to many who have lost their jobs is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health benefit provisions.

But while COBRA benefits can last up to 18 months, they can be extremely expensive.

So if you expect to find another job soon, investigating the options for short-term health insurance coverage may be a much better alternative.

Although short-term health insurance policies are usually less comprehensive, they can protect you against catastrophic emergencies.

These types of plans are usually issued for six-month terms.

However, there are some plans that will cover you for up to a year.

Short-term health insurance policies typically have low monthly premiums – often roughly one-third the cost of a COBRA plan, with coverage amounts of up to $2 million.

And some short-term policies even have same-day approval for some applicants.

Talk with your health insurance agent, who can help find the plan that best fits your current needs and budget.