Homeowners: Here’s Help for Halloween Horrors

It’s a night of candy, costumes and…caution?

Halloween is full of fun times, but on All Hallows’ Eve many mishaps are possible.

Not to worry. From slip and falls to fires to pet bites, your homeowners and renters insurance policies are there for you.

If you have these in place, you’ll be covered for the most common Halloween B.O.O.’s, such as those listed below:

Breakage – Unfortunately, Halloween is a tempting time for vandals. Tricksters seeking mischief may come your way. If your property or personal possessions are damaged by vandalism, contact your insurance agent to file a claim. Your homeowners or renters policy provides coverage for the “trick” part of “trick or treat.”

O‘lanterns – Halloween is the fifth worst day of the year for candle fires. Thousands of home fires occur each year on Halloween, the majority ignited by decorations. If your pumpkin goes up in flames and causes damage to your property, a homeowner or renters policy will cover any losses related to the fire.

Offenses – Will you be hosting a Halloween party this year? Will trick-or-treaters be visiting your home? If a guest or candy-seeking child is injured while on your property, your homeowners or renters policy will cover this as well. The liability portion will kick in and pay for treatment of injury or other damages. This also includes scenarios in which your puppy gets overexcited about all the ghosts and goblins and one of your trick-or-treaters sustains a nip from Fido.

Ensure you have the policies in place for these potential incidents; as you prepare for Halloween this year, add one more item to your list: Get the candy.

Get the costume. And get the coverage. Contact your insurance agent to verify your policies are current and include the necessary coverage for this season.

With this settled, you can enjoy the treats – and be ready for the tricks.

Answering the Apps’ Call: Uber and Its Auto Insurance

Uber has exploded into popularity as an affordable option for passengers and a side job for extra cash for drivers. Passengers in need of a ride simply hail an Uber from their smartphone app to arrange for a car to pick them up. Local drivers respond to notifications from the app and pick up passengers in their own vehicles.

But perhaps it’s not as uncomplicated as it sounds: Uber does not own the car, and the drivers are not directly employed by Uber. So how exactly does the auto insurance work?

For those who may be interested in driving for Uber or a similar company, note that vehicle insurance policies are usually written for personal coverage and likely will exclude driving for hire. Therefore, Uber drivers may need supplemental commercial insurance for proper coverage.

That said, Uber provides some coverage for drivers, and liability coverage to protect passengers and others. While the Uber app is on, the drivers are protected. For passengers, the Uber liability insurance covers them when they step into the vehicle and applies until they get out.

Indeed, Uber-type services typically have huge liability policies that cover claims personal auto insurance wouldn’t cover. However, the policies may not cover damage to drivers’ cars. So drivers likely will also need a solid personal auto insurance policy.

Before transporting passengers for an Uber-type service, be sure to review your auto insurance with your agent. As for passengers, you may want to ask Uber drivers about their insurance coverage.

How to Avoid the Fallout from Slips and Falls

With winter on its way, business owners may need to refocus on liability risks. Poor weather conditions due to storms bring the added potential for a “slip and fall” accident.

What is a slip and fall? This fairly common scenario occurs when a person slips, falls, and is injured on your property. If one of your customers slips on a wet walkway and breaks a limb, he or she might file this type of claim, which falls under the category of “premises liability.”

Is it your fault? Determining fault in a slip and fall case can be somewhat tricky. Each case must be evaluated individually, and the conditions surrounding the particular incident carefully considered. Generally, two questions must be answered to determine if you will be held liable for the injury:

  • Were you – the business – acting with care to make slipping or tripping less likely to occur?
  • Was the customer careless by not seeing or avoiding whatever caused the fall?

If the answer to both questions is no, our business will likely be responsible for expenses associated with the injury. However, one or more things must be shown in order for there to be a “no” answer to the first question:

  • You caused the dangerous condition.
  • You knew about the hazard, but did nothing about it.
  • You should have known about the hazard, because it falls under your responsibilities for taking care of the property, so you should have discovered and removed or repaired it.

If any or all of these are true, the customer can establish that you knew of the dangerous condition and therefore either caused the injury or could have done more to prevent it.

For example, you can’t control hurricanes or snow storms, so a customer won’t be able to blame you for windy, rainy, or icy conditions. However, if you don’t make an effort to create a safe property, and/or post warnings that an area may be slippery, your customer could be within his or her right to say that you’re liable for the broken limb.

How can I prevent slips and falls? Business owners can take simple steps to prevent these costly incidents:

  • Make a habit of checking for potential hazards daily. Look for floor issues, slippery surfaces, bad lighting, clutter, and cords.
  • Ensure any problems are dealt with promptly.
  • If you discover a hazard you can’t remove immediately, place warning signs around it.
  • Train employees on how to respond to and report potentially hazardous situations.
  • Remain particularly vigilant during inclement weather.

Coverage: The fallout from a slip and fall ranges from minor expenses to major losses. To ensure your business is covered, ask your insurance agent about business liability insurance. This will cover slip-and-fall claims.

Additional areas to consider include workers’ compensation coverage (if the slip and fall is by an employee), and a business umbrella policy (which provides additional protection if the liability claim exceeds your base policy limits).

How to Get Back in Business after a Disaster

Rebuilding after a fire, earthquake, or other major event? Your insurance policy’s got it covered. Thanks to a claim to your insurance carrier, you’ll be back in business before you know it.

But what about that time lag between the disaster and the grand reopening? Even with the funds to rebuild, the recovery process takes time. Not only will you have to reconstruct, but you’ll also need to replace equipment. And a few weeks – or even a few days – with a “Closed” sign in front can pose a real problem for most businesses.

It’s for this crucial time period that insurance providers offer business interruption (BI) insurance. BI insurance will compensate you for the income lost while your business is shut down; based on your financial records, you’ll receive the equivalent of the income you would have earned if the disaster hadn’t happened. BI insurance also covers operating expenses, such as electricity bills, that don’t stop while you’re rebuilding after a disaster.

Coverage is typically available as an add-on to your property insurance policy or as part of a package. You may need coverage for more than a few days, so choose a policy that is sufficient for your revenue stream, expenses, and potential downtime. Your agent can help ensure you have the proper coverage with the right policy limits for your business. With this buffer in place, your business can recover if disaster strikes.

The damage will be an interruption, not an end. And you can change your sign from “Closed” to “Reopening Today.”

Nine Life Insurance Terms You Should Understand

Life insurance is a fairly simple product, but some of the terminology surrounding it can be complicated. If you’re looking at your life insurance options, here are some key terms:

Whole life insurance. Whole or universal life insurance policies provide coverage for your lifetime. Whenever you die, your beneficiary receives a payout.

Term life insurance. A more affordable alternative to whole life insurance, term life insurance only provides coverage for a specified period of time.

Beneficiary. Your beneficiary is the individual designated by you to receive the insurance benefit in the event of your death.

Contingent beneficiary. A contingent beneficiary is the individual designated by you to receive the insurance benefit if the beneficiary is no longer alive. This might happen, for example, if you and your beneficiary are both killed in an auto accident.

Probate. In the above scenario, when you haven’t named a contingent beneficiary, the insurance benefit might be tied up in probate court, delaying and reducing the payout.

Collateral assignment. You can take out a life insurance policy with a lender as a beneficiary, so the lender will be compensated if you die.

Exclusions. Exclusions are circumstances that are not covered under the terms of your policy. If you have a current life insurance policy, be sure to look closely at these exclusions and discuss them with your insurance pro if you have questions or concerns.

Underwriting. Underwriting is the process insurance companies use to determine the risk of issuing you a policy. They will decide whether to accept this level of risk when the underwriting process is complete.

Rates. As part of the underwriting process, insurers set rates for their coverage. The biggest factors considered during the underwriting process are gender, age, and health, but your occupation and hobbies may also be considered if they’re particularly risky (like being a pilot or having a hobby like skydiving).

Keep Your Job While Taking a Family or Medical Leave

If you or certain family members become ill, did you know you may be entitled to unpaid leave to help care for yourself or sick loved ones? The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) offers workers a chance to keep their jobs for a limited period of time after a major illness.

Many employers offer FMLA; these include employers with 50 or more workers as well as public agencies and schools, no matter how many employees they have.

If your employer falls into one of these categories, you may be eligible for FMLA leave providing you’ve worked for that employer for at least twelve months and have performed 1,250 hours of service during the period before you submit your leave request. You also must be employed at a workplace with at least fifty employees within a seventy-five-mile radius.

While FMLA leave is unpaid, employees may use accrued paid vacation or sick leave for some or all of their leave time.

Covered employees may take up to twelve weeks of leave in a twelve-month period for a variety of family emergencies, including the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child; an employee’s serious health condition; or the care of a spouse, parent, or son or daughter who is seriously ill.

Employees may take an FMLA “intermittent” or periodic leave. A reduced schedule may also fit in with an FMLA leave.

FMLA rules can be difficult to interpret. If you believe you qualify, discuss it with your company’s human resources department representative.

How to Minimize Surprise Out-of-Network Bills

Are you undergoing surgery or an outpatient procedure? Before you schedule your appointment, ensure your health plan covers all the providers who will work on you. There is no ruder awakening than receiving a big out-of-network bill after undergoing a medical procedure.

You may not know that, while your physician may be covered, the anesthesiologist or a radiologist who assists in the operation may not be a member of your health network. The same can hold true for primary care physicians. Consider taking the following steps before you’re unpleasantly surprised:

  • Each time you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, ensure he or she still accepts your health insurance plan. Be sure to ask if the physician is a “network” provider.
  • Undergoing lab or radiology tests? Be sure the provider is part of your insurer’s network.
  • Before you undergo outpatient procedures, call the facility and ask for the names of all providers who will render care. Ensure those providers are in your network. Your insurer’s website should be up to date, but don’t rely on it. Call your health insurer prior to undergoing a procedure to be sure you won’t be surprised by an out-of-network charge. Write down what is said during the call and the name of the person who spoke to you.

If you do receive an out-of-network charge, call the provider to ensure they billed the insurer correctly. Sometimes providers use the wrong tax identification number, and the insurer considers them out of network. If the charge stands, call the provider and try to negotiate the amount. If you’re on a fixed or reduced income, some providers will accept the amount your insurer would have paid or that amount plus a smaller contribution from you.

If you’re experiencing network issues, meet with your agent to ensure the plan you have now is still the best one for you.