Archive | January 2014

Keeping It Under One Roof

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Following is just a sample of the types of insurance policies needed by owners of virtually every kind of business:

  • Workers Compensation
  • Commercial General Liability
  • Commercial Property
  • Professional Liability
  • Commercial Auto
  • Business Interruption

This list is by no means complete. In fact, most researchers conclude that business owners typically need a minimum of nine insurance policies to properly insure their operations. While it may be possible to bundle or package some of these types of insurance together, this is not always an option. In many cases, owners must purchase these important policies individually. Keeping up with this many policies is not something most business owners prefer to spend time on.

Eliminating the chaos that comes along with managing so many different policies is a major advantage of using an insurance professional. Placing your business insurance through an insurance professional brings someone onto your team who can bring calm to your multi-policy chaos. Consider the following advantages to keeping all of your business insurance needs under one roof.

Understanding Your Operation

Properly insuring your business requires an almost intimate knowledge of your operations. Spreading your policies across multiple agents means spending more time educating more people about what you do and the exposures that come along with it. A single agent that truly understands the many aspects of your operations is in a better position to help identify exposures for you.

Policies That Work Together

Here’s an example: You expect that your commercial umbrella policy will provide additional coverage over that included in your commercial auto policy. However, many umbrella policies will only extend above an auto policy provided by an insurance company with a specified financial strength rating. If the rating falls below a certain grade, this may drastically affect your umbrella in that it will no longer apply to an auto loss.

It is not unlikely that two of your business insurance policies may have to work together. Thus, keeping them under separate roofs could create problems.

Personal Info

Preparing business insurance will require owners to furnish highly sensitive financial information about the business as well as personal information about personnel. Spreading insurance across multiple agents will require you to divulge this personal information to multiple parties.

Consolidating Policy Periods

Most business insurance policies are annual policies, renewing each year. As owner, you may want your insurance policies to renew at specific periods of time when it is most convenient for you. For example, you may want your property insurance to renew just before your busiest time of year when inventory levels are at their highest; alternatively, you may wish to keep the books simpler by having all of your insurance renew on a specific date. It should be your choice. A Trusted Choice® insurance professional who manages your insurance program can work with you to determine the most convenient way for your policies to renew and work with your insurance companies to make it happen.

One Call

Perhaps the most convenient advantage to having a single agent managing your business insurance is having all your needs handled in one place. If you need a certificate of insurance, are hiring a new employee, adding a location, forming a new business or any other change, there’s one number to call.

Price and Availability

By keeping multiple policies under one roof, you might have access to multi-policy discounts that can save your business hundreds or thousands annually. Further, keeping your policies under one roof may give your agent more opportunities to obtain better pricing and coverage options for your business.

Packaging

While it may not be an option for every business, some businesses may be able to bundle or package two or more policies together. This often translates into better coverage and pricing as well a simplified handling. For example, some businesses may be eligible for a business owners policy, which combines property, liability and business interruption insurance. Other businesses may be eligible for a management liability policy, which combines a variety of professional liability insurance, such as errors and omissions and employment practices liability.

Keeping your policies under one roof will help your insurance professional obtain packaging options for which your business may be eligible.

Conclusion

These are a few reasons why keeping your insurance needs with a single insurance professional are advantageous to your business operations. For more information on advantages only an independent agent can offer, call today.

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Driving in the Snow? Go Nice & Slow!

snow-stormWhen staying home is not an option and you must brave winter roads, your Tower Insurance advises you to remember the ageless moral of the tortoise and hare: Slow and easy wins the race.

From snow blizzards and white-outs to the dreaded black ice, the hazards of winter roadways must be negotiated carefully if you and your vehicle are to arrive at your destination safely. Even with the use of de-icing agents and sand, your chances of slip, sliding away into a ditch, barrier or other car are great. Beyond keeping your vehicle in top winterized condition, caution is the rule of the winter road.

Here are a few helpful winter safe driving tips direct from the experts at AAA:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. To regain traction and avoid skids, apply the gas slowly. And remember that it takes longer to slow down on icy roads, so allow extra time to brake before a stop.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads, including accelerating, stopping, and turning. Allow extra driving time. Driving slowly also gives you time to maneuver.
  • The safest following distance on normal dry pavement is three to four seconds. On ice or snow, allow eight to 10 seconds of following time. You need the increased margin of safety in order to provide the longer stopping distances required on ice and snow.
  • Know your brakes. Threshold braking is the best way to stop, regardless of the type of brakes on your vehicle. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. If a wheel locks, release the brake and reapply.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. On slippery roads, it’s much easier to accelerate while the car is still rolling than to start moving from a full stop. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on a slippery hill will cause your wheels to spin. Increase speed before you reach the hill, and let that energy carry you to the top. If possible, allow the car in front of you to crest a steep incline before attempting it yourself.
  • Never stop while going up a hill. Starting from a full stop on a hill can be impossible. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.

If you can, stay home and watch the snow from indoors. Even if you drive well in the snow, others on the road may not.

Harassment vs Bullying in the Workplace – What’s the Difference?

The terms bullying and harassment in the workplace are often used interchangeably. Both cause psychological harm to the victims and make the workplace unpleasant, but they aren’t the stop-bully-logosame thing.

Harassment usually has a physical component and is more intrusive and obvious. Victims and witnesses tend to have an immediate reaction that something is wrong. It is physical contact, invading someone’s physical space or possessions or damaging possessions. It can also include any offensive and aggressive speech that accompanies those acts. In the workplace, harassment can be perpetrated by managers, subordinates, or co-workers.

Bullying is more psychological and socially degrades the victim for enjoyment.  It is more subtle, and victims often don’t realize until later that they are being bullied. Bullying is any action or behavior that is repeated, deliberate and intended to harm the victim. Bullies often use their position of authority to keep victims intimidated. Because of this, workplace bullying often involves a manager as perpetrator and their subordinate as victim. Some examples are the victim may be bullied into performing humiliating tasks, unwillingly taking unpopular shifts or assignments, or being stationed at the most undesirable location. It also includes deliberate sabotage.

The most important difference between bullying v. harassment in the workplace is that harassment is illegal, while bullying isn’t. Harassment is the term used when the actions actually violate someone else’s civil rights. Victims are protected under harassment laws if they are being singled out because of any of the following:

  • race
  • sex
  • age
  • religion
  • national origin
  • color
  • disability
  • pregnancy
  • genetic information

Additionally, a victim is also protected if they are being retaliated against for:

  • having objected to illegal activity
  • taking family or medical leave
  • filing a worker’s compensation claim.

Most states have their own laws that may add additional categories to protected status. Anything that doesn’t fall into these categories, while unpleasant and unproductive, is legal. Most companies realize harassment and bullying are unreasonable, and should take a formal, written, specific complaint seriously, especially if it includes a statement of protected status. If a complaint qualifies as harassment, companies are held liable if they allow it to continue.

According to Healthy Workplace Bill.org, which keeps track of this type of legislation, at this time, no states have actually passed workplace anti-bullying laws, although so far, 25 have tried. The anti-bullying legislation that is being passed almost exclusively applies to schools. So someone that is a victim of bullying at work has no recourse unless their company has a policy on bullying and harassment. If the victim is included in one of the above mentioned protections, the bullying crosses over into harassment.

Small businesses with less than 15 employees are generally exempt from federal harassment laws, but states have their own laws that often do not provide exemptions for small businesses. Employers are ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe workplace.  The Supreme Court has ruled that victims of harassment have to report it if their company has a policy, otherwise they can lose their right to sue. Entrepreneur.com suggests that the best way for a small business to protect itself is to know their federal and state laws, educate their employees, and adopt policies and procedures. See Americanbar.org for a sample of what you might want to include in anti-bullying policies. The US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) also has suggestions for anti- harassment policies.

When addressing bullying v. harassment in the workplace, it is important for everyone involved to follow procedures and address issues in a serious manner. Most issues can be resolved in this way without having to involve lawyers.

Why Do Private Companies Need Errors & Omissions Insurance?

How-can-I-benefit-from-having-errors-and-omissions-insuranceErrors and omissions insurance is alternatively known as professional liability insurance or professional indemnity insurance. A private company might seek protection in the form of liability insurance to help protect against bearing the full brunt of defending a negligence claim in court.

What does Errors and Omission Insurance Cover? 

Typically, companies that specialize in advice-giving or service-rendering sectors require errors and omissions insurance to indemnify themselves against a disgruntled client bringing a negligence claim against the company. In other words, a customer may decide to file a civil lawsuit in spite of your best efforts to keep complications at bay.

Liability insurance also can defray the monetary damages associated with a successfully-argued negligence case against a private company. Whatever the legal outcome, errors and omissions insurance helps protect the policy holder (e.g., private company) against a supposed failure to perform a service or provide suitable advice to the client.

Companies and Professionals that Need Coverage 

The most common form of liability insurance in the medical profession is malpractice insurance while lawyers, brokers and consultants would typically seek errors and omissions insurance.

Professionals within accounting and financial services often require errors and omissions insurance due to the advice-giving nature of their jobs whereas the construction and transportation industries deal primarily with general liability insurance and protection against bodily injury.

Traditional general liability insurance covers areas like property damage, bodily injury and personal injury; some common claims that errors and omissions insurance cover, though, include violations of good faith, misrepresentation and professional negligence.

Although consultants and brokers are highly represented among professionals seeking errors and omissions insurance, virtually any individuals who provide service or instruction in a professional capacity are susceptible to negligence claims and, therefore, require errors and omissions insurance coverage.

Why Private Companies Require Liability Coverage 

Even commercial printing companies and advertisers require errors and omissions coverage because they are both providing a service to a client in a professional capacity.

Increasingly private companies dealing in information technology and web hosting are seeking errors and omissions insurance to protect against settlements, judgments and possible defense costs associated with negligence.

Private companies should realize upfront that the most stringently-enforced risk management practices and well-trained employees can’t totally protect against negligence, routine mistakes or occasional professional incompetence.

As an example, say a shipment amounting to tens of thousands of dollars does not make it across the country in time to meet a nonnegotiable deadline. Errors and omissions insurance may defray some of the costs associated with the shipper’s oversight or professional negligence that cost the disappointed recipient of the shipment thousands of dollars.

Advantages of Errors and Omissions Insurance 

Clients are often put at ease knowing that private companies in the service industry are indemnified against errors or omissions. Why? Clients understand that errors and omissions policyholders take risk management seriously and protect their clients in case of mistakes or negligence.

Private companies should consider making errors and omissions insurance part of their standard insurance portfolio. Fortunately, errors and omissions insurance involves a “claims made and reported” form that retroactively covers negligence that occurred within the specified duration of the liability coverage.

Some errors and omissions packages include defense expenses and protection against punitive damages. The terms and wording of errors and omissions coverage vary by profession, risk management and type of negligence exposure inherent to a particular job. A lawyer, for example, would enlist different liability coverage than a consultant or web developer.

In closing, aside from obtaining errors and omissions insurance, private companies should consider putting in place clear, written contracts and ensuring good, ongoing communication with the client to mitigate the chances of negligence or lawsuit.

7 Ways to Save on Homeowners Insurance

Owning a home is a goal for many Americans. Once you’ve found the home of your dreams, it’s important to make sure that your investment is protected with a homeowner’s insurance Save-on-HomeOwners1policy. Not all homeowner’s insurance policies are created equal. Coverage can vary widely, so it’s important to work with a good agent who will take the time to develop a policy that not only covers damage to your home’s physical structure, but will also provide you with adequate coverage for the contents of your home.

When shopping for homeowners insurance, keep in mind that there are several ways you can reduce the cost of coverage including:

  1. Increase your deductible: By offering to pay an increased amount for your deductible, you can save up to 25 percent on your monthly payment. In other words, by promising to share a larger portion of damage costs with the insurance company, you will lessen your monthly premium.
  2. Safeguard your home: You can save even more by protecting your home from harm in the first place. You can do this by adding smoke detectors and burglar alarms, or by installing dead bolt locks.
  3. Protect your credit: A good credit score can open up many doors including offering more bargaining power when it comes to insurance plans. That’s because insurance companies use credit scores to determine the risk involved in insuring you. If they can see a good level of stability (by checking such things as payment history, length of credit history, and total debt) then they may be more willing to reduce your monthly payment.
  4. Beef-up your home’s structure: Insurance companies love it when homeowners upgrade roofs and reinforce walls. This is because the more you do to protect your home from damage – a windy day for example – the less they will have to pay to repair the damage. So grab a ladder and a hard-hat, and then install new Class 4 roofing materials to save you big on homeowner’s insurance.
  5. Re-evaluate your valuables: Every item in your home depreciates in value over time as new things constantly replace the old ones. Each year, take time to consider all major purchase as well as the lost value of other items that are listed in your policy. After all, you don’t want to be paying extra for items that are no longer worth their initial value, but you still want to make sure your new plasma television is covered.
  6. Bundle and save: Many insurance companies offer discounts if you insure many items on the same policy. For example, you can choose to have your home, vehicles and liability insurance together under one plan to save up to 15 percent on your homeowner’s insurance premium.
  7. Shop around: Though the process can take a while, taking the time to price out policies with several different insurance agencies could end up saving you big time in the long run. That’s because many insurance companies offer extended deals like senior citizen discounts. Just be sure to look at more than just price because a cheap deal does not always mean a good deal. Make sure the coverage you’re getting is comprehensive, and the company is reliable and financially stable.

There are many wonderful things about owning a home. Your ability to decorate and up-grade as you see fit, the peace in knowing that you will one day own your home outright, or the fact that you know you will not have to pack and move for many years are just a few of the benefits of home ownership.

But owning a home comes with a good degree of responsibility that you may not have otherwise had, including the need for homeowners insurance. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth – without paying what you don’t have to – with these seven easy tips to save you big on homeowners insurance.

Managing Your Social Media Reputational Risk

reputationA company’s reputation is its most vital asset. But reputation, especially in the age of information, is the easiest to asset to lose. Social media, in particular, poses substantial reputational risk to companies of all sizes. It takes less than a minute to turn a brand from hero to zero. Customers will naturally stay away from your brand if negative messages about it start spreading on Facebook, Twitter and other main social channels. It’s not just about less-than-stellar and damaging reviews. Think about intentional saboteurs too.

Add to these growing challenges the fact that social media reputational risk has always been the most difficult to manage. But, although it is difficult, it can be managed. The question is how should companies (and their brand stewards) analyze potential impacts and set clear strategies for managing risks. Here are some recommendations to consider.

Invest in Reputational Risk Management

The seriousness and magnitude of the risk should dictate the amount to be allocated for reputational risk management. Companies, more often than not, are willing to invest in brand building but fail to consider the extra protection necessary to mitigate reputational risk.

Brand building, obviously, is no longer enough. There are too many opportunities for online attacks and companies now have to play both offense and defense. To do this effectively, you have to have the right tools and employ the right people to play well and make brand resilience a core competency. Adequate funding is key here. It won’t guarantee companies instant success, but lack of resources is an oft-cited reason why companies fail to assess social media risks.

Ongoing Supervision and Assessment

Companies should be fully prepared to proactively manage reputational risk once a budget is set. In the case of social media, brands should actively monitor social media sentiment and capture negative messages for assessment.

There are tools that make it easier for brands to manage official social media accounts and monitor key employee accounts. Invest in these tools while keeping in mind the goal of creating a positive online message about your brand.

Be sure everyone in the company knows that social media monitoring is occurring on an ongoing basis. After all, messages published by employees, especially those in key positions, reflect on the company.

Social Media Usage Policy and Training

Most companies are over-confident in their employees’ abilities to handle their own social media accounts. The truth is, employees are sometimes not aware of the thin line between their personal and their professional use of social media.

Take a proactive approach by making your brand message and potential risks clear to everyone. Draft a comprehensive social media usage policy and consult with employees before finalizing it. Hold a company-wide training and make sure everyone understands the policy and what it means for them. Make sure all employees have a copy of the social media guidelines or can easily access them on the Intranet. Finally, educate employees about their role as brand ambassadors. If necessary, talk to online reputation firms or expert advisors to craft a solid policy.

Get the Extra Protection

Insurance may be the last thing on your mind when the issue of reputational risk comes up. But do you know how much is at stake when social media reputational risk is involved? There are changing realities companies need to adapt to. Proactive brands start with reputational risk insurance. More and more carriers are offering this coverage so it shouldn’t be difficult to get a policy that meets your needs. Should social media reputational risk becomes an issue, insurance can gives you the extra protection you need.