How to Reduce Your Workers Comp Costs

Workers compensation can be a huge line item in your business budget. Rates vary fairly significantly by state, but in 2014, the national average cost of premium per $100 of workers’ wages was $1.85. If proper measures are not in place, this budget line can skyrocket.

Does your business have these measures in place? With a few careful steps, you can reduce the amount you spend on premiums. They are:

Get injured employees back to work – The faster you can get an injured worker back to work, the lower your costs. Modified duty is an important part of this process. When an employee is injured, an evaluation should be conducted to determine what duties can be performed, if the employee can be assigned to a different area, and what modifications are required. Get the worker back to work quickly by reassigning or adapting his or her duties.

Check your classification – Hundreds of classifications exist; if even one worker is misclassified, it can increase premiums unnecessarily. Track projects and employees carefully to ensure workers and work projects are classified correctly. If your construction firm’s work actually involves 10% HVAC maintenance, don’t label your projects 100% construction. It can make a difference. And misclassification can really impact your bottom line.

Pay a deductible – In many states, employers who pay a deductible on workers compensation can reduce their premiums by as much as 25%. Deductibles typically range from $100 to $1,000. Contact your insurance professional to see if your company can benefit from this.

Check your experience rating – Employers who pay more than $5,000 per year in workers compensation premiums receive an “experience rating.” This rating reflects your claims history compared to other companies in your industry. The lower your claims, the lower your premiums. Check with your insurance advisor to ensure your experience rating is correct.

Screen employees – Check with an employee’s previous employers about his or her safety record. Don’t hire a worker who previously has shown a lack of respect for company safety measures.

Put safety first – Having top-notch safety procedures in place will keep your workers compensation costs low. Obviously, the fewer accidents and injuries, the better the premiums. Good safety practices include use of appropriate safety equipment; proper training for lifting, sitting, and other procedures needed in your business; and regular inspections for safety hazards in the layout of work areas and use of equipment. You also may want to consider drug testing, if appropriate.

Communicate the importance of safety to your workers – Conduct regular health and safety meetings to keep everyone educated on proper safety measures and carefully document all procedures to demonstrate safety measures taken.

Make injury reports a priority – If an employee is injured on the job, respond with medical attention immediately and file all necessary paperwork completely and quickly. Delays may cause further injuries, lawsuits, and fines.

A company that takes steps to ensure workers are safe and healthy will not only save on premium costs but will show a commitment to their workers safety. Win-win.

Insurance Is a Must When Storing Flammable Material

If your business involves the storage of flammable/explosive material-even if you’re only storing gasoline for use in company vehicles-it’s essential to obtain the insurance coverage you need to protect yourself from damages in case of an event. Here are guidelines to help you navigate the tricky waters involved in storing hazardous material:

Pollution Liability: If you store any potentially hazardous material, including gasoline, you may be required to have pollution liability insurance to protect you should the material leak into a water source or cause a fire or explosion. Cleanup from these events is extremely costly, as are other liability costs, including injuries or death.

Fireworks Insurance: The storage of pyrotechnics involves myriad regulations. For insurance purposes, general liability insurance will typically cover fireworks storage. However, because of the many classifications and requirements around the storage of fireworks, it’s important to check with your agent to ensure your liability limits are sufficient.

Storage of fireworks is also regulated by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Department of Transportation; and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It’s vital you are in compliance with regulations from all these agencies. The National Fireworks Association and your insurance agent can give you more information.

It’s important to realize that many products are considered hazardous materials, and you will need the appropriate insurance if you store them. Your insurance advisor will help ensure your limits are appropriate to your business and the policy based on the type, amount, and potential hazards of the material stored.

Save on Auto Insurance This Holiday Season

Wherever you live, winter brings the possibilities of storms. In the northern part of the country, whether we welcome him or not, Jack Frost will find his way to our doorsteps, along with ice storms and snow drifts.

In other areas, hurricanes, tornados, and all manner of other nasty weather will cause floods and wind damage. It’s winter again. But it’s also time for seasonal insurance savings.

Two methods of savings are often overlooked by car owners:

Seasonal rides

If you own a car that you don’t intend to expose to the elements this winter, you can save money by reducing your coverage during winter months. Whether it’s a collector car or a sporty coupe with no business on the road in a gale or snowstorm, if it’s not leaving your garage all winter, you can benefit from these savings.

Of course, even in the garage your car remains at risk; you will want it protected against theft or a storm that collapses your garage. But you also don’t want to pay for unnecessary insurance. The solution: remove your liability and collision coverage and maintain your comprehensive coverage. This should reduce your rates and still provide the protection you continue to need.

Home from college

Your student is coming home for the holidays! Providing he or she is studying at a college that is more than 100 miles away, you may already have saved on premiums by removing him or her from your policy.

However, if he or she is now returning, you may want to check with your insurance agent.

If your student’s annual mileage is less than 25% of your car’s total annual mileage, you may be able to switch him or her to an occasional driver; your student remains on your policy but not as a primary driver, and you can save on your car insurance premiums.

Avoid Potential Disasters with These Holiday Hacks

This holiday season you want festivities filled with fun, family, and fab food…not insurance claims. Unfortunately, with each holiday season comes the potential for disaster. As you celebrate this season, keep the following in mind. It may not help with in-law issues, but it will, at least, give you peace of mind.

Cooking: According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of residential fires in the U.S. From deep-fried turkeys to pie bake-a-thons to reheating contributions to potluck suppers, cooking for the holidays offers the potential for kitchen fires. To improve your odds, closely monitor long cook times and take precautions to avoid spillovers.

Decorations: Festive decorations can also be fire hazards. Don’t leave candles unattended, especially with young kids around, and plan to clean out your fireplace by Thanksgiving. Water your Christmas tree often, don’t use lights with frayed wires, and don’t overload outlets.

Theft: The holidays are busy times for everyone, including thieves. Take steps to protect your property and your finances. Check your credit card statements and remain vigilant for cyber criminals. Protect more expensive purchases by placing them in a safe rather than under the tree. Also, check your homeowners insurance to make sure purchased gifts are covered; for high-value items, you may need to add a rider to your policy.

Finally, if Santa brings you something nice, don’t forget to add it to your home inventory for potential fire or robbery claims. And enjoy your peace of mind this holiday season.

Life Changes May Affect Your Health Insurance Coverage

Job loss, divorce, relocation, or chronic illnesses are just a few of the life events that can impact your health coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a life change may mean you can enroll outside of the ACA’s Open Enrollment Period. But don’t delay; you must apply within sixty days of the life change.

Job loss: If you lose your job, does this mean you’ll lose your group health coverage? Not necessarily. If you work for an employer with more than twenty employees (this number may vary by state) or a state or local government, the health benefit provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) may protect your health coverage.

Under COBRA, you can continue to purchase coverage through your former employer’s group health insurance for up to eighteen months after your job ends. You’ll pay a higher rate, however, so be sure to consider alternatives, such as coverage through a spouse who has insurance or at a reduced rate through the ACA; and be sure you apply for ACA coverage within thirty days of your health coverage loss.

Divorce or separation: Under most circumstances, your spouse isn’t able to remove you from a health plan as a result of separation or divorce; your divorce decree may include conditions surrounding health insurance, or the divorce may trigger COBRA.

Life events create uncertainty and raise important financial issues. Before you make any important healthcare decisions, talk to your insurance agent, who will help you through the challenges of your major life change.

Keep the Flu Bug Away with These Top Tips

The following symptoms may sound uncomfortably familiar and may require a doctor visit: chest pain or trouble breathing, a lingering fever over 100.5 degrees F (38 degrees C), an inability to hold down fluids, a persistent cough, or severe pain when swallowing.

Yes, it’s wintertime. Time for colds and flus. If you want to avoid getting sick this year, here are a few top tips from the experts to keep the bugs at bay:

Wash your hands frequently. A quick wash won’t kill germs; wash for twenty seconds (about the length of time it takes you to sing Happy Birthday twice) and rub your hands while washing; don’t forget your thumbs, which often are neglected.

Use warm water and soap whenever possible. If paper towels are available, use the towel you dried your hands with to open the bathroom door. Discard it in the bathroom only if you can prop the door open and still reach the trash can. If not, find the nearest trash receptacle outside the bathroom.

Since viruses causing colds and flus can live for a long time on some surfaces, you could catch a virus whenever you use a communal pen or touch a doorknob or service counter. Especially when you visit your doctor’s office, a hospital, or a pharmacy (places where sick people gather), make sure you use a hand sanitizer after you touch any surface, particularly before you touch your face.

A virus can easily enter via your eyes, nose, or mouth. Simply keying in your shopping code at a keypad, signing a credit card slip, or using someone else’s phone may expose you to viruses, so a hand sanitizer can help you avoid illness.

If you do get sick, it’s possible that vitamin C may help reduce your symptoms, but avoid herbal remedies without first checking with your family physician, especially if you have a chronic health condition.

Term or Whole Life: Which Is Best for You?

When many of us think of life insurance, we think of insurance that lasts for a lifetime, and this is often the case. But there’s another type of insurance that lasts for a limited number of years, and it may be just what you need, depending on your individual circumstances.

Whole life policies

“Whole” life insurance policies stay in effect for your lifetime, providing you continue paying the premiums. This policy is ideal for you if you want to provide for a beneficiary (such as a spouse or child) after your death.

Term life policies

“Term” life insurance offers another way. It provides coverage for a limited period of time. So, if you choose a ten-year term, the insurance company will pay your beneficiary the death benefit if you die within the ten-year period. Terms vary, and generally, longer terms have higher premiums.

The primary reason to consider term life insurance instead of whole life insurance is if your beneficiaries will not rely on you financially forever.

For example, if you have coverage meant primarily for your children, at some point they’ll likely be able to provide for themselves, in which case you may not need life insurance at all. In such situations, a term life policy may be a good choice because it meets your needs at a lower cost.

Reinsuring

There are a number of factors to consider when buying whole or term life insurance that can’t be covered in detail here. For example, reinsuring is an issue, meaning that if you develop a terminal illness during the term of the policy, and want to continue holding life insurance when the term expires, you likely wouldn’t be able to do so without a feature called “guaranteed reinsurability.”

Your insurance advisor will explain and help you decide which type of life insurance is best for your individual situation.