Commercial Insurance: One Size Does Not Fit All

The mom-and-pop shop selling daily essentials has different insurance needs from a nationwide big-box chain. But what about everything in between? And do you know where your business falls on the spectrum?

Depending on whether a business is small, medium, or large, it has different insurance needs. It may be difficult for owners to determine how to categorize their company, especially as it grows. To establish the size of your business, look at the number of employees, total sales, and earnings. Following is the breakdown of generally accepted numbers for the three size categories and the appropriate insurance for each.

Small businesses

Typically, businesses with 50 or fewer employees are small businesses. They are independently owned and operated and are not industry leaders. The small-business sector, however, is considered the engine of the economy and employs 94 million employees (some 77.8% of private sector US workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

For small businesses with fewer than 100 employees and revenue of $5 million or less, insurers usually offer a Business Owners Policy, or BOP. These standard policies are generally sufficient to provide coverage for your company against common risks. If your business has unique needs that you feel might not be covered, consult with your insurance agent to determine if you need a customized policy.

Medium-size businesses

If you employ between 50 and 1,000 staff and generate between $10 million and $1 billion, you are considered a medium-size business. This medium-size status makes you large enough to need additional insurance coverage. Insurers offer policies specifically designed for medium-size businesses that may combine liability and property coverage. Medium-size-business owners with expensive equipment or locations in several states may need specialized policies.

Large businesses

When a business has more than 500 employees, it’s considered a large business. And it faces multimillion-dollar risks. Commercial insurance policies for this level of business are customized to meet the specific needs of each company. One (or more) of the 500+ employees is likely responsible for risk management. This involves identifying areas of potential losses, recommending insurance coverage, and managing claims with the insurance carrier.

What about home-based businesses?

If you are running a business out of your home, you are likely the sole employee and are not yet generating a great deal of revenue. But this doesn’t mean you should skip business insurance. More than 500,000 American businesses are located in their owners’ homes, and many don’t carry the appropriate insurance. Homeowners insurance is often not enough to cover your home-based business; property loss or liability related to your company may require a different policy. Check with your insurance agent on the coverage you need based on the type, size, and scope of your home business.

Are you still unsure about your business size? Does your company have special services, products, or circumstances you feel might not fall into a typical category? Your agent will review your options and help ensure your business has the protection it needs.

Business Owners Need More Than SPF Coverage in Summer

For some business owners, seasonal changes mean significant business changes. Have you considered what summer means for your company, aside from sunny, warm days? Does your business have the appropriate insurance for the coming season? Consider the following factors as you evaluate your summer insurance needs:

Increased workload: If your company is heavily seasonal, such as landscaping or construction, your workload is likely much higher in the summer. Do you hire extra employees during this time? Ensure your workers’ compensation policy is adequate. Do you purchase or lease additional equipment? Verify that this additional equipment is covered, and check any limits on your policies.

Increased driving: Summertime may mean more driving time. Check commercial auto insurance policies to ensure you have proper coverage for every vehicle and driver. It’s important to keep in mind that coverage for the vehicles is different from the coverage for employees.

Increased time off: Summer is also prime vacation time. While regular employees are away, you may hire temporary staff to keep things running smoothly. Check whether your commercial policies provide appropriate workers’ compensation for temporary staff, as well as whether you’ll incur any additional liability.

It may be necessary to get extra riders on your commercial policies to carry you through the summer season. Or you may need to rethink your yearly coverage. Contact your insurance agent to review your policies and determine if your current coverage meets your summer business needs.

It’s Hail Season: Here’s How to File a Claim

Every year, hail causes some $1 billion in damage. Across the United States, there were 5,411 hail storms in 2015; 1,324 of those were in June alone. Are you ready?

Hailstones range from pea-size to golf ball-size, and bigger. The Guinness World Records’ website reports that the heaviest hailstones weighed in at some two pounds (1 kg) as they crashed to earth in Bangladesh on April 14, 1986.

If your property is peppered by damaging hail, there are steps to take to file a claim and receive compensation for the damage.

First, however, you’ll need coverage. Typically, your homeowners insurance will cover repairs to your home if it’s damaged by hail. But depending on your policy, you may have a deductible to pay first.

Talk to your agent, who can discuss policy options and recommend the best coverage for you.

Once you have coverage in place, you are prepared if a hailstorm hits. If damage results, follow these steps:

  1. Document the storm. Not just the date and time, but the hailstones themselves. Photograph them, placing a tape measure next to one to show size.
  2. Document damages. Examine your roof, and take pictures of any damaged shingles. Photograph damage to siding and don’t forget to check outdoor air conditioning units. Take a peek in the attic to check for leaks, and wander the property for indications of other damage.
  3. Call your homeowners insurance claim phone number. Provide your policy number and your documentation. Your insurer will issue a claim number.
  4. A claims adjuster will be assigned to inspect your property and prepare a repair estimate. After inspection, the adjuster will file a report with your claim examiner, who will review it and make a decision on your claim.
  5. The outcome of the claim will depend on the severity of the damage, the way your house is built, and the insurance company’s evaluation criteria.

Weigh Anchor with Insurance Coverage This Summer

Are you ready for another boating season with your favorite vessel? Of course. But don’t set sail without your anchor, your insurance anchor, that is.

While car owners usually ensure they obtain proper coverage for their vehicles, boat owners are often unaware of their options. Due to the risks and potential costs involved, insuring water vehicles is just as important as insuring land vehicles. In fact, your boat may well have a higher value than your car! Before you hit the lake with this valuable asset, talk to your agent about insurance coverage for your boat. Options are available for a wide range of boating concerns:

  • Risk coverage: Insure your boat in case of fire, theft, storm, capsizing, stranding, collision, or explosion.
  • Property coverage: You likely have a lot invested in the equipment aboard your vessel, possibly more than you realize. Insurance can cover items such as tools, life preservers, seat cushions, anchors, oars, dinghies, extra fuel tanks, canopies, and skis.
  • Liability coverage: This will provide coverage in the case of an accident. You will be protected against legal liability if you injure someone with your boat or cause damage to others’ property.
  • Medical payments coverage: This provides payment of medical expenses if you and/or other boat occupants are injured in a boating accident.
  • Wreck removal: This coverage pays expenses incurred if you have to remove or destroy your wrecked boat.

How to Choose the Right Type of Life Insurance

Choosing the right type of life insurance is an important decision. These guidelines can help you narrow down your options between term and permanent life.

Term life insurance

This provides you with coverage for a specific time period. You might consider it under two circumstances:

  • If you have a need with a time limit; for example, if you have young children and want to ensure their college education will be paid for in the event of your death, term life insurance might make sense. You can choose a variety of different terms, 10 years or even 20 years, depending on your health and the ages of the children.
  • You might also consider term life insurance if you have a limited budget, as it generally costs less. If you are still alive when the term expires, coverage stops, but you will also have the option of renewing it or buying a new policy. Keep in mind the fact that premiums are typically lowest when you’re young, and they increase as you age; so when you go to renew, it could be costlier.

Permanent life insurance

Permanent life insurance pays a death benefit whether you die tomorrow or live to be 100. In other words, it’s in effect forever. That offers peace of mind when you don’t know what your beneficiaries’ future needs will be, but it comes at a cost; premiums for permanent life insurance policies are generally higher than they are for term life insurance policies.

“Convertible” term policies

If you don’t believe permanent life insurance is for you but think your financial needs might change, you may want to consider so-called convertible term policies, which let you convert your term life insurance to permanent life insurance in exchange for higher premiums (and usually without a medical examination).

Your insurance advisor, who knows your situation, can help you decide the best option for you.

Struggling with Hearing Loss? You’re Not Alone

As America’s population ages, many individuals struggle with hearing loss. In fact, about 20% of Americans report some degree of hearing impairment. One reason people avoid hearing aid purchases is cost; the average price of “mid-level” hearing aids is approximately $4,500 for two, according to AARP. And most health insurance plans cover little of the cost of hearing aids.

Medicare, for example, doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids, exams, or fittings, but may, in some circumstances, cover “diagnostic testing” for hearing loss. However, you must still pay your Part B deductible and an additional 20% of the cost of testing.

On the other hand, Medicare Advantage may provide some coverage toward hearing aids and the associated costs of exams and fitting, such as a co-pay for hearing exams, some coverage for the hearing aid fitting, and a small amount of coverage, perhaps $500, toward a hearing aid purchase.

While many people accept hearing loss as a normal part of aging, those who resist purchasing hearing aids may want to rethink waiting: recent studies have shown a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease. In two Johns Hopkins’ studies, researchers found that those with hearing losses serious enough to impact conversation were much more likely to develop dementia.

As well, older adults with hearing difficulties feel lonely and isolated, resulting in depression and other physical and psychological problems. If you are in the 20% struggling with hearing loss, discuss your options with your insurance agent or check AARP’s website, Paying for Your Hearing Aid. It’s so worth it!

Beware the Insect Bites of Summer…

Summer insect bites aren’t just unpleasant…they can be serious. While most stings and bites heal naturally, some can cause concern. In the Southwest, for example, a scorpion sting can send the unnerved victim to the emergency room, with attendant deductible and co-pays. But is the ER always the solution?

If bitten, the first rule of thumb is to remain calm. With bees, frantic movement can attract more stings.

If a scorpion or spider bites you, try to photograph it with your cell phone to help physicians identify the type of insect and determine the correct antidote or treatment. Unless you are experiencing problems breathing, you may want to try a first aid solution. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) offers 24-hour, seven-day-a-week telephone assistance for bug bites as well as for food poisoning.

If you know the type of bite, AAPCC’s Poison Help Line, 1-800-222-1222, will walk you through the symptoms and treatment protocol. The free service is a clearinghouse for poisoning information and will help reduce costly hospital visits with first aid home treatment. Here are a few tips if an adult is bitten:

  • Wash the bite area. Bugs and arachnids such as scorpions are extremely dirty. Washing with an antibacterial soap can prevent a secondary infection.
  • Elevate the bite site.
  • Apply cool compresses, but avoid ice, according to Poison Control representatives. The compress should be no colder than refrigerated water.
  • For pain, use over-the-counter pain relievers and antihistamines to reduce swelling. If pain becomes intense, seek emergency treatment or advise Poison Control, who can make recommendations.

If you experience trouble breathing, have a rapid heartbeat, or begin vomiting, head straight to the ER. Whenever a child is bitten, contact your pediatrician or your health provider’s nurse line immediately. Be sure to seek immediate medical care for a child bitten by a scorpion.