Is Your Business Protected from Employee Litigation?

Many small business owners are left vulnerable, mistakenly believing that their business liability insurance policies are inclusive of employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). This is simply not the case. In fact, insurers have strengthened their exclusions regarding EPLI coverage over the years. Even businesses with as few as one employee can be held liable under employment laws.

EPLI is a financial safeguard protecting businesses against employee lawsuits alleging inappropriate or unfair acts that violated their rights. Regardless of merit, claims regarding sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination are included in this category.

According to data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), roughly 42% of all EPLI claims were filed against small private businesses, with the average claim award hitting $217,000. Skimming on coverage can be a costly, devastating mistake. Here’s what you need to know.

Current trends. With several states passing new legislation and Internet hashtags such as #metoo and #timesup bringing the public’s attention to ethics in the workplace, EPLI claims continued to soar in 2020. The biggest rise occurred in claims alleging retaliation, sexual harassment, labor laws violations with gig workers and the gender pay gap.

Policy of prevention. The key to preventing one of these rising trends from impacting your business is to frequently review, revise and set in place new internal and personnel policies. Updating handbooks, developing programs that help prevent discriminatory hiring practices and creating detailed job descriptions and expectations for each role are just some of the ways to keep you covered.

Other effective prevention strategies involve developing and protecting a company culture of safety, respect and equity by ensuring that you have a well-implemented, structured and confidential internal complaint reporting process, developing strict anti-retaliation policies and hosting regular trainings.

Premiums. The overall cost of your EPLI policy will vary depending on a few risk factors, such as number of employees, the thoroughness of your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and procedures, and whether your company has ever had any EEOC complaints or lawsuits in the past.

Limitations. Criminal conduct, civil fines, penalties and punitive damages are just some things not covered in a standard policy. Some of your board members and leadership team may be covered, but the rest of your staff and middle managers may not be included in this policy. Be sure to have a clear understanding of which managers are covered under your EPLI policy and where you are left exposed.

What to look out for. Do you know your “risk profile”? Does your policy keep you thoroughly protected under both state and local laws? When researching EPLI coverage, take extra care to carefully understand what types of claims are covered. While less inclusive policies may save you some money in the long run, they can fail to protect you when you need it most.

Even the best employers get sued. Call us today to review potential loss exposures and ensure that you are set up with suitable EPLI coverage. We can customize your coverage to safeguard your business against the ever-increasing world of employment-related risks.

Does Your Business Change in the Summer?

Each industry has its own unique business cycles: some are steady throughout the months, while others peak and valley. Many seasonal entrepreneurs feel their businesses are too small to necessitate coverage without realizing how critical it is that they are protected as businesses that operate year-round. With the seasonal peaks summer brings for many, here are some factors to consider when it comes to making sure you’re covered.

The elements. The summer season calls us to the great outdoors, which means employees and customers become subject to the risks weather creates. Rain can cause slips and falls, wind can knock over heavy objects and injure people or damage property and heat and humidity can cause equipment to fail, resulting in repair costs and lost revenue.

Increased volume. The seasonal uptick in business often means busier days with hotter nights for employees, calling for changes or updates to your workers’ compensation policy. Additional equipment might also be purchased with expanded operations. It’s important to review your policy’s limits to make sure you’re protected.

More driving. Service-based industries especially experience increased driving and travel time to job sites. Ensuring that you have adequate coverage for both the number of vehicles and each driver is mission critical.

Vacation time. While your regular employees take time off to take much-deserved vacations, you might find the need to hire temporary staff to cover the workload. Ensure that your commercial policy includes the appropriate level of workers’ compensation.

We’d be happy to review your specific needs and discuss any other exposure to risks or additional liabilities you could incur as the seasons change. Contact us today to get your recommended SPF for summer!

The Differences between PPOs and HMOs

Understanding health insurance benefits can be confusing, plus we must select either an HMO or a PPO plan. Has deciding which plan is best for you left you confused and wondering which direction to go? Clarifying a few points might help in this decision process.

What do these letters mean? A Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) is a type of health insurance plan that restricts coverage to care from providers who work for or contract with a particular network. A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) allows the patient to choose any provider they wish, whether in or outside a particular network.

How does my cost differ when using each plan? When selecting an HMO, your services are provided based on a predetermined fee. If the actual cost of services exceeds the predetermined amount, the provider must absorb the excess costs. A PPO uses cost sharing, which means when you use medical services, you pay or share part of the cost in the form of deductibles, co-payments or coinsurance.

Does one provide more flexibility than the other? When selecting an HMO, you select a primary care physician (PCP). This physician is your point person when seeking care, and they refer you to specialists within a network. A PPO allows more flexibility. Although you still have in-network providers, you may self-refer to specialists, allowing you more control and flexibility. You may also seek care out of the network and still receive some coverage benefits.

Are you wondering which options your providers accept? Do you want to discuss your unique needs to assist in your decision? We are here to help and just a phone call away.

The Importance of Support Groups for Chronic Medical Conditions

An unexpected medical diagnosis such as cancer, liver disease or depression can have a dramatic impact on your life. Hearing a diagnosis can send you into shock. Your doctors talk, yet you may be unable to understand their words and their implications. With COVID-19 protocols, you may be alone, without someone who can remind you what your doctors said. Where do you turn?

Support groups for chronic conditions have been a big help to many patients. According to the study “The Role of Self-Help Groups in Chronic Illness Management” published in Australian Journal of Primary Health, self-help groups provide many benefits. These include the following.

Social and emotional support. After a medical diagnosis, you may not know anyone with that condition. In a support group, you’ll step into a group of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.

Medical expertise. You may not understand the treatments your doctor recommends. Support group members can help explain the treatment and what to expect. Many support groups have nurses or doctors who oversee the groups, providing expertise as well.

Improved quality of life. Studies found that patients in support groups feel a greater sense of self-confidence and control as they manage their illnesses.

Sometimes our caregivers and family lose patience. Serious illnesses can cause depression, and medications can cause illogical behaviors. Caregivers can find support groups helpful too as they navigate their role in your care.

That medical model with the patient as a passive recipient of information is no longer valid. Most patients want to understand their options to make informed treatment choices. A support group can provide vital information to help those with chronic conditions take a more active role in their treatment. Your treating facility may host a support group for your illness. A Google search will reveal more. Many people meet virtually or offer social media groups if you’re unable to attend in person.

Avoiding 5 Setbacks When It Comes to Life Insurance

Life insurance may not seem very complicated, but the process of purchasing a policy can be filled with potential pitfalls. Here are five to consider.

The conversation. First, discussing life insurance with your loved ones can be difficult because you are referring to the possibility of your own death. But if you have loved ones who rely on your income, it is an important conversation to have.

The role of your will. Many people believe a will can be used to dictate where life insurance proceeds will go, but that is not the case. Your life insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company, so you will need to specify beneficiaries with that company.

The beneficiary. Regardless of the policy you choose, you will need to select a beneficiary who will receive the proceeds of your life insurance policy when you die. That, too, can be an uncomfortable discussion. Typically, your beneficiary will be your spouse, then your children. But, at times, it can be more complicated. For example, you may not want to leave minors millions of dollars, in which case you may want to set up a trust.

The exceptions. In “community property” states, any property acquired during a marriage is owned by both spouses. In those states, if you want your life insurance beneficiary to be someone other than your spouse, both of you will likely need to acknowledge that in writing.

The taxes. Finally, although you won’t pay taxes on the payout from a life insurance policy, the proceeds may be considered part of your estate. This means they may be subject to estate tax. If you have a large policy, you may want to consider a trust to keep the proceeds out of your estate.

Life insurance can be a challenge to navigate. We’re here to help you navigate the pitfalls, and we’re just a call or email away.

Here’s What to Expect During the Claims Process

When the “unexpected” has happened (e.g., a fire, storm, fallen tree or burst pipe has damaged your property), you’ll be glad to know you’ve selected a trusted insurance agent who genuinely cares for the complexities of your homeowners insurance policy. Here’s what to expect during the claims process after the initial dust has settled.

Document. Take detailed photos of the damage. Pro tip: periodically document your home and valuables with photos or videos.

Claim intake. Make the call to initiate your claim. Your insurance provider will collect general information regarding what happened and what is damaged. Remember to ask this person for the following key information: claim number, your adjuster’s contact information and next steps with a tangible timeline for follow up.

Remediation specialist. Remediation companies clean up the mess and often later become the contractors who make any repairs. This is why it’s critical to hire a reputable company; be sure to ask us for recommendations.

The adjuster. The adjuster or other representative will visit your home, take photos and ask detailed questions. These details help compose the official report, including the determined “cause of loss.”

Determining coverage. The “cause of loss” in comparison to the terms of your policy determines what percentage of your claim is covered by insurance. Policy limits are also important to review to ensure that you have adequate coverage. We’d be happy to discuss your current policy to make sure that in the midst of tragedy, you won’t experience the added disaster of subpar coverage.

Make you “whole” again. Your insurance provider then pays to replace or repair covered items or property, either paid directly to you or to service providers. If major repairs are required, your policy should include additional living expenses and lodging while work is being done.

When disaster strikes, we become more than just insurance agents. We’re here with you, from beginning to end, to help you reclaim some peace of mind and get you “back to normal” as quickly as possible.

5 Tips to Keep Your Car Safe and Protected

With summer here and remote “weekend getaways” on the rise, it’s important to remember that even the quaintest of towns experience crime. Prevent a crime that can happen within mere seconds by taking a few of your own to quickly double-check that your car is tucked in for the night, safe and secure:

Lock it down. While it might be tempting to leave your windows cracked on a hot day, make sure that your windows are completely rolled up and the doors are locked. Don’t forget the sunroof, too.

Hide valuables. As a general rule, never leave your valuables in the car. Hide sunglasses, electronics and any other “shiny objects” in your glove box or center console. Purses and shopping bags should always be tucked away in the trunk. Always take your garage door remote inside with you.

Park smart. Keep visibility in mind when selecting your parking spot. Parking on well-lit streets and under bright street lights is always ideal.

Anti-theft devices. Car alarms are the best deterrent. Consider the addition of a tracking device, such as LoJack® or OnStar®, which could also qualify you for an extra discount on your auto insurance.

Minimize appeal. Overall, the best way to keep your car safe and protected is to lower the appeal of what treasures could be inside and to make it more difficult, risky and noisy for a thief to gain access to your vehicle.

Let’s have a check-up to review other safety tips and see what discounts we can discover for your policy.