Be One of the 35 Percent of Businesses That Survive a Fire

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 65 percent of businesses that experience disaster close their doors within one year of the event. Fire is not a rare occurrence. It’s a genuine threat to your property. Are you taking the proper steps to protect your business from fire?

You can greatly reduce your risk of fire devastating your business by avoiding fire code violations and maintaining proper preventive measures. To keep your business out of the flames, ensure you are:

Following fire code measures such as:

  • Ensuring all exits are accessible. Don’t block or lock. These should also be well marked, particularly the paths to exits.
  • Having an adequate number of fire extinguishers on hand. Check and service them regularly.
  • Limiting the use of extension cords; they’re supposed to be temporary solutions, not permanent installations. They also pose tripping hazards for your workers. Generally, they’re not a great idea.
  • Storing flammable liquids and hazardous materials properly or, better yet, getting them off your property entirely, if that’s possible.

And taking preventive measures, including:

  • Asking a fire marshal or property manager familiar with fire codes to inspect your property and point out potential hazards as well as ways to increase your fire protection.
  • Having and properly maintaining fire extinguishers and smoke detectors and installing a sprinkler system. A sprinkler could save your business; it also will reduce your insurance rates.
  • Preparing ahead. Do your employees know what to do in the event of a fire? Regular fire drills ensure everyone will be prepared.
  • Posting evacuation routes as part of your fire plan.
  • Ensuring first aid kits are available in high-risk locations, such as kitchens. They must be easily accessible and regularly restocked.

You’ll need the right insurance: It’s important to cover not only the damage to your building and machinery, but your loss of business as well.

You’ll need commercial property insurance, which covers structural and equipment damage as well as the cost of rebuilding, and commercial casualty insurance, which covers the loss of revenue while your business is closed. Pay close attention to limits noted in your coverage; you may need umbrella insurance or additional riders to cover specific valuables. Finally, ensure your coverage is sufficient in the event you need to relocate or close temporarily, and as a result, will need to file a business interruption insurance claim.

It’s important to discuss any changes in your commercial insurance with a commercial insurance professional who has experience in your industry. Nothing could be more important to your business’s survival than the right policy with the correct limits that will provide you with the coverage that’s appropriate to your particular situation. A commercial agent who is familiar with the industry, and with your specific circumstances, is best able to advise you on the right coverage. Be sure your company remains in the 35 percent of businesses that can face disaster and survive. Your business depends on it.

Commercial Insurance Rates: Are They on the Rise?

Our property values are slowly increasing after the recession. Our grocery bills seem to be increasing rapidly. Gas prices are in constant flux. So do you need to worry about insurance rates? The answer is not yet. While commercial insurance prices in the U.S. increased 1 percent in the second quarter of 2015 (the most recent information available) they’re generally trending downward.

The Commercial Lines Insurance Pricing Survey (CLIPS), by consultant Towers Watson & Co., reveals low-single-digit increases in most lines, and decreases for some. This survey compared the second quarter of 2015 with coverage during the same period of 2014.

The most recent Global Insurance Market Quarterly Briefing by insurer Marsh shows a continued global decline in commercial insurance rates. As of the second quarter of 2015, Marsh reports that nine consecutive quarters have shown overall rate declines. The highest increases in the Towers Watson survey were seen in commercial automobile coverage and employment practice liability. Small decreases were actually reported in directors and officers liability and commercial property insurance. Workers’ compensation pricing remained nearly steady; however, some larger workers’ compensation accounts have recently experienced the first price increases in five years.

Indications point to a downward trend in prices. As noted in Insurance Journal, the Marsh study suggests that “globally, natural catastrophe losses are at historic lows, which is helping profitability but also reducing the drive for rate increases.” It appears business owners can, for the moment, dismiss worries about increasing insurance rates and focus their bottom-line concerns on other areas.

Pets Are Family: Do You Insure Them Like Family?

You insure your car. You insure your house. You insure your life. But should you insure your pet? Fluffy may feel like part of the family, but is pet insurance really necessary?

In some cases, it may be worthwhile. In 2014, Americans spent over $2 billion in pet purchases and $15 billion on vet care. For those with high-maintenance or high-value animals, insurance could be a wise investment. The market currently offers several types of pet insurance. Consider your furry family members and decide if these policies meet your (and their) needs.

Health insurance

Similar to human health insurance, these policies include premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. Also like people insurance, the cost varies based on the animal’s age and health and the level of insurance purchased.

Life and theft insurance

Intended primarily for exotic animals, this coverage reimburses owners for stolen animals and pays benefits upon death. It’s commonly held by zoos and owners of high-value animals such as championship racehorses or police dogs.

Homeowners and renters insurance

Standard homeowners and renters policies offer protection for pet owners. Depending on your situation, customization may be necessary to provide the coverage you need.

Liability Protection – If your dog bites someone, this coverage will kick in. However, if he or she has a history of biting, or is classified as a dangerous breed, limitations may be placed on policy coverage. In these cases, you may need to purchase a separate liability policy specifically for your pet.

Personal Property – Pet accessories can be pricey. Large cages or other accessories for bigger animals can be especially expensive. Keep in mind that these fall under the personal property coverage of your homeowners or renters policy. If Clifford’s dog house or Morris’s “gold” collar is damaged or stolen, you should be reimbursed. But check to be sure you don’t need a special rider for that collar.

Happy New Year! It’s Time to Review Your Insurance Coverage

Exercise more. Eat better. Learn something new. It must be New Year’s resolution time again. As 2016 approaches, it’s a good opportunity to make New Year’s insurance resolutions by reviewing your coverage and deciding if changes are needed. As you examine your policies, consider making these resolutions for next year:

Update home inventory: Is your home inventory up to date? What have you sold, donated, or pitched in the past year? What devices will the family splurge on this Christmas? An up-to-date home inventory is essential to make the most of your coverage in case of theft or disaster. Include all items and their cost. Store this list off-site or in the cloud.

Assess car policies: Does your vehicle coverage accurately reflect your car’s value? As autos age, you may want to reduce coverage. Who drives the car? Are primary and occasional drivers designated properly?

Check for savings: Are you currently taking advantage of every savings opportunity? A call to your agent will be worthwhile. Check for new programs, multiline discounts, and changes in policy requirements; they may save you a few bucks in the coming year.

Life changes: Be sure to discuss with your agent any life changes, such as marriage, divorce, death, or births as well as home purchases, renovations, job changes, and health concerns. These can impact your insurance needs and may affect everything from your homeowner and life insurance policies to health insurance. You may even need commercial insurance if you’re starting your own company in the new year.

It’s Time to Review Your Health Policy for the Coming Year

It’s that time of year again – open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends January 31, 2016. You can renew your current plan, or if you’re not happy with it, now’s the time to switch. Whichever option you decide on, here are a few tips to make the process as painless as possible.

Review your medical expenses over the past year. Did you pay a lot in deductibles or coinsurance? Do you understand the difference between a deductible and coinsurance? Even if you do know the difference and are a savvy consumer, it’s prudent to meet with your insurance advisor before renewing your current health coverage. Your health care coverage is a critical decision, and a trusted health care adviser can help you choose wisely.

If it’s possible, take with you to this meeting copies of your medical expenses for the past several years. By reviewing your out-of-pocket payments, your advisor can help you select the best plan for your situation. For example, if your medical expenses are low, a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account may save you money. Perhaps your employment picture changed, and you earn less. If so, federal ACA subsidies may reduce your premiums. Or perhaps you are unhappy with the choice of physicians in your current plan.

Whatever your situation, review your policy now, before the New Year rush. If you want to consider changes to your current health care plan or switch to another plan, schedule soon, as health insurance agents are very busy during this period.

Ridesharing Comes with Insurance Concerns

Blend today’s smartphone technology with the need for speedy transportation and you’ll likely come up with a transportation network company (TNC). A TNC is not a commercial cab or a shuttle van. Instead, a privately owned vehicle driven by a nonprofessional driver arrives to drive you to your destination. The drivers may work for Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar, among others.

At the moment, the so-called rideshare industry is in its infancy, and this poses potential problems for passengers and drivers. From 2009 when Uber was founded, the number of people taking advantage of this cheaper form of transportation has mushroomed, and there are rideshare options in most large centers worldwide. Unlike taxis, which are closely regulated wherever they operate, regulation around TNCs is spotty. A number of cities have launched legal challenges in an attempt to prevent rideshare companies from operating.

There are many concerns with rideshare companies, and a key one is insurance: insurance industry experts are struggling to adapt coverage to this growing trend, and while insurance details are still under development, insurance companies that provide personal auto coverage potentially will deny claims when vehicles are used for TNC commercial purposes.

TNCs themselves may offer limited coverage; however, understand that if you are involved in an auto accident while riding in a TNC, you may have to rely on your health insurance coverage for treatment. That means you may be faced with copays and coinsurance issues while the individual auto insurers decide which policy, if any, should respond.

Rideshare companies are working closely with state and federal regulators to ensure appropriate insurance coverage; however, the details are far from finalized. Certainly, you may save a few dollars using a TNC, but if you are injured during your ride and you must rely on your health insurance for coverage, it may cost you more in the long run…a lot more.

All About Love…and Life Insurance

There are many types of life insurance, just as there are many types of couples, often making it confusing for lovebirds who are trying to decide what coverage is best for their needs.

Young families

Growing families often have the greatest need because the children won’t be fully capable of taking care of their own financial requirements for decades; if one partner passes away, that’s a big burden for the other one to shoulder alone.

Older couples

Older couples, however, also can use life insurance, especially if one works and the other doesn’t, or one earns significantly more than the other. In this case, life insurance should be purchased on the life of the higher earner so the one with the lower earnings isn’t faced with bills he or she can’t pay.

Other arrangements

More unusual circumstances can create greater challenges. Consider, for example, a couple in their 50s, together for a decade but unmarried. The woman has significant assets and income – including the home the couple lives in – but she also has two adult children from a previous marriage to whom she plans to leave her assets, including her house. The man has fewer assets and a lower income, but has contributed to renovations on the house.

After her death, the courts may well decide that, given what the man contributed toward the home, it would belong in part to him. And her plan to leave the house entirely to her children might not work out.

This couple would be well advised to write a cohabitation contract and individual wills, which will enshrine her wishes regarding her home. The couple also should consider (and discuss with an advisor) purchasing insurance on the woman’s life.

On her death, the life insurance policy would give the man sufficient funds to live comfortably, without having to worry about moving from the home and the resulting extra expenses he’d incur.