Protect Your Business from Natural Disasters

In the past few months, newspapers and online news sites have been full of stories on the natural disasters that have overtaken many cities in the U.S. and deprived thousands of families of their homes. Little, however, has been written about businesses that have been closed for weeks and sometimes months as a result of weather-related disasters.

Business property coverage becomes increasingly important to business owners when weather and natural disasters become more unpredictable, as they have in the past few years. In these cases, damage to a commercial building that is not handled expeditiously can have catastrophic consequences to your income.

Business interruption insurance can help replace your income after a covered loss. When endorsed on your property policy, coverage is triggered by a covered event such as a fire or a tornado. Most carriers do not include coverage for events such as an emergency evacuation or a civil disturbance, although coverage for these types of events can be added by endorsement.

While you are considering purchasing business interruption insurance, don’t forget about the equipment and furnishings contained in your building. Today’s businesses invest heavily in computers, peripheral devices and media, and many are purchasing coverage to repair or replace damaged software or data lost due to power failures, viruses, or physical damage to computer equipment.

Additionally, expensive art, furniture, or other scheduled personal property is an important element in property insurance protection.

Equipment breakdown coverage fills the gap left by traditional insurance policies, which cover your equipment for external events such as a fire or a windstorm. With equipment breakdown insurance, you are protected in the event your valuable equipment sustains physical or financial damage resulting from an explosion of steam boilers. It also covers equipment such as computers, telephone systems, or mechanical or plant machinery if they are damaged by internal losses such as electrical arcing or short circuits.

More of today’s businesses are “going green.” Whether you are building a new structure designed with a reduced carbon footprint or rebuilding “green” after a loss, you may want to ensure that your property coverage will meet the additional costs of environmentally friendly upgrades.

Although the industry is changing, many insurance policies do not cover these costs. It’s important to talk your insurance professional to find out what is now available for companies investing in environmental upgrades. As well, check to see if tax breaks and other incentives are available to help you offset any additional insurance premiums costs.

In summary, with the right coverage, your earnings should be protected after a covered loss, and your equipment, insured to value. The correct policy should also ensure you have access to information and support to help prevent equipment breakdown or catastrophic events.

Your insurance professional will assist you in finding the coverage that will work for you. He or she is conversant with the nature of these unique business risks, and will work to ensure you have the appropriate coverage.

Beat our increasingly unpredictable weather, and save yourself and your company from devastating losses.

Understanding the Workers’ Comp Reserve System

Many employers don’t have a clear understanding of what reserves refer to in Workers’ Compensation issues. Reserves are funds allocated by your insurance carrier or claims administrator to pay your claims. If your employee is injured, an adjuster, in addition to managing the medical care, must estimate the total cost to pay the claim from initial treatment through settlement.

If the injury impairs an employee’s future capacity to work, adjusters must also estimate the amount to pay for this impairment early in the life of the claim, as well as the cost of investigating, defending and managing the injury. If vocational rehabilitation is required in your state, your adjuster must assess these costs, as well.

The reserve system includes: medical costs, which pay for doctor visits, prescriptions, and physical therapy; wage replacement costs, which replace wages temporarily, or permanently in cases of partial or total disability; and loss adjustment expenses, which assist in evaluating and defending claims. Vocational rehabilitation, may be included, depending on the jurisdiction of the injury.

Because reserves established on your company’s claims greatly impact your experience modification factor, they should be closely monitored. Review loss runs at least quarterly to watch reserve development. As the client, you should monitor and question the progress of claims.

The reserve system can work for you if you understand how it works, ensure you monitor loss runs on a regular basis, and move claims forward. Talk to your adjuster regularly and make a point of asking questions.

Bambi Collisions Can Raise Your Car Premiums

Fall is deer hunting season, meaning it’s time to hit the brakes for Bambi, and also review your auto insurance.

From September to December, deer migrate and mate, increasing chances of collisions. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the top month for deer-vehicle collisions is November, with October second.

Many are serious: An estimated 200 people die in deer-vehicle crashes annually. But even minor collisions will cause costly damage. One large insurer’s claim history indicates that deer hit over one million vehicles in a 12-month period – that’s one million reasons to double check your current policy to be sure you have adequate coverage.

Insurance Hunting

III says the average cost of a deer collision claim totals $2,800. Typically, animal-related damage is covered under comprehensive coverage, not collision, but only if you hit the animal. If you swerve to miss Bambi and hit a tree, guardrail, or other car, it becomes a collision claim.

Although the damage would still be covered under your collision coverage, collision claims are rated the same as at-fault accidents by insurers, which likely means an increase in your premiums. Comprehensive claims – unless several claims are filed around the same time period – won’t generate an increase.

If you have both coverage types, review your deductibles. Raising deductibles is a popular way to save money, but are you ready to pay $1,500 towards deer damage? Even if you answered “yes,” it’s easier to save money by avoiding deer altogether, which you can try to do by following these tips:

Fall Driving Tips

Keep your eyes open between sunset and midnight, and early morning when deer are most active.

If you see one deer, more are likely to follow.

Slow down at deer-crossing sites.

If you have no choice, hit the deer, not another vehicle or object.

Following these tips will help protect you…and hopefully, Bambi.

How to Pick the Homeowners Policy That’s Right For You

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision; it’s time to become a homeowner. But before you even start your home search, look into the kinds of homeowners insurance you’ll need. Follow these tips to protect your new family home for a lifetime:

Insure your home at replacement value

When you purchase homeowners insurance, you have a choice between actual cash value and replacement value. Actual cash value insures your home at the amount it was purchased for. While this seems like a good idea, keep in mind that housing prices fluctuate with the market. Replacement value covers a total loss, including rebuilding and labor costs. It’s pricier than actual cash value, but worth the investment.

Purchase flood insurance or other endorsements

Consider where you live and the correlated risks. Water damage from a burst pipe is typically included in your home policy, but if a flood ruins your basement, you’re responsible for the damage. Live in California? Earthquake damage is also very expensive and isn’t covered by most insurance plans. Find out if you live in a high-risk location that is prone to floods or earthquakes. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S., so the extra insurance cost is worth it.

Set the right liability limits

Most homeowner policies automatically include a $100,000 coverage limit, but that may not be enough. In an accident, you could be held responsible for property damage and bodily injury totaling well over $100,000. Evaluate your personal assets and earning potential to find the right limit.

Millions of Women Benefit from ACA Provisions

Some portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are already in effect, and the remainder of the Act’s significant changes will be implemented in 2014. Already, the ACA has had an impact on every American, but women, in particular, have gained ground when it comes to healthcare issues.

Women no longer pay higher premiums: Before the ACA, women often paid higher premiums based on their gender; on average, a healthy 22-year-old woman could pay premiums up to 150 percent higher than a man of the same age and health status. With the ACA, that ends.

Preventive services are expanded: The ACA emphasizes preventive care, and most people no longer co-pay for these procedures. Female-specific services such as mammograms, prenatal care, well-women exams, and others are covered under most women’s health plans.

Access to affordable healthcare improved: With the expansion of Medicaid, 10 million women will get access to healthcare benefits. Check your state insurance department to see if your state is participating in this measure. Also, more than seven million women who don’t have affordable insurance through employers will qualify for government subsidies to offset the cost of separate health insurance.

Pre-existing Female-related conditions will now be covered: The ACA specifies that no one can be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, with the exception of those with individual health insurance plans (which have been grandfathered). Previously, women with breast or uterine cancer, for example, could be denied coverage or charged higher premiums. So after 2014, most women with pre-existing conditions such as these will qualify for insurance coverage.

Senior women benefit: All seniors, including older women, will now have access to better preventive care and more affordable prescriptions through Medicare.

The ACA offers many women the opportunity for health care coverage for the first time and expands coverage for many more. For them, its impact will be significant.

Three Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Health Plan

Whether you’re purchasing health insurance through your employer or an independent market, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” healthcare. Choosing the right insurance plan for you requires careful consideration and research. While fine print can be confusing, it’s worth taking the time to understand the details of your health insurance plan, as well as your personal situation.

Here are three common mistakes many people make in selecting a health insurance plan:

Choosing an inconvenient network: HMO and PPO plans work within a healthcare network. Visiting a doctor outside that network can be expensive. Ensure your primary care doctor is covered by your health plan, but don’t forget to check on specialists and emergency care as well.

Over or under-insuring: A young, healthy individual without dependents may not need as much insurance as one with a family of four. Over-insuring yourself means you’ll pay higher premiums for care that isn’t used. But under-insuring can be even more expensive if you’re faced with a serious disease or accident; even a significant amount of coverage may not be sufficient. So don’t skimp, and be sure to examine the fine print for procedure-specific limits and out-of-pocket maximums.

Focusing on deductibles and co-pays: Trying to limit your out-of-pocket costs with low deductibles and co-pay amounts may seem like a good idea, but could cost you more in the long run. As long as you can afford it, raise your deductible amount and try eliminating co-pays. You might be surprised at how much you really save.

Avoid These Three Mistakes When Buying a Health Plan

Whether you’re purchasing health insurance through your employer or an independent market, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” healthcare. Choosing the right insurance plan for you requires careful consideration and research. While fine print can be confusing, it’s worth taking the time to understand the details of your health insurance plan, as well as your personal situation.

Here are three common mistakes many people make in selecting a health insurance plan:

Choosing an inconvenient network: HMO and PPO plans work within a healthcare network. Visiting a doctor outside that network can be expensive. Ensure your primary care doctor is covered by your health plan, but don’t forget to check on specialists and emergency care as well.

Over or under-insuring: A young, healthy individual without dependents may not need as much insurance as one with a family of four. Over-insuring yourself means you’ll pay higher premiums for care that isn’t used. But under-insuring can be even more expensive if you’re faced with a serious disease or accident; even a significant amount of coverage may not be sufficient. So don’t skimp, and be sure to examine the fine print for procedure-specific limits and out-of-pocket maximums.

Focusing on deductibles and co-pays: Trying to limit your out-of-pocket costs with low deductibles and co-pay amounts may seem like a good idea, but could cost you more in the long run. As long as you can afford it, raise your deductible amount and try eliminating co-pays. You might be surprised at how much you really save.

Term Life Insurance, Is It Right for You?

Many of us think of life insurance as something that will last for the rest of our lives – but that’s not always the case.

So-called “whole” life insurance policies do stay in effect for your lifetime, providing you continue to pay the premiums.

“Term” life insurance, on the other hand, provides coverage for a limited period of time or “term,” and the length of the term is up to you. For example, if you choose a 10-year-term, the insurance company would pay your beneficiary a death benefit if you die within the next 10 years.

Why consider term life instead of whole life insurance? Term life might be appropriate if, for example, one or more of your dependents doesn’t rely on you financially.

In this situation, you may want to have coverage for your minor children only, as your spouse is not now dependent on you financially and will be able to care for himself or herself if you die. Coverage for your children may last until they’re grown, if you choose.

Term life insurance is usually the least expensive way to purchase a substantial death benefit, so if you are in this situation, purchasing term life may be the solution for you.

A few caveats: Term life insurance generally cannot be used for estate-planning or charitable-giving strategies, as other types of life insurance can.

There may also be issues with re-insurability. Say, for example, that you acquire a terminal illness during the term of the policy. If you want to continue holding life insurance when the term expires, you likely wouldn’t be able to do so. However, some policies offer a feature called guaranteed re-insurability to address this.

There are many other factors to take into account when buying life insurance, such as how much life insurance to buy. Your advisor can help you make those determinations.