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23 Jun

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Workers’ comp vs. Occ Acc: what’s the difference?

June 23, 2016 | By |

Workers’ compensation is a state-regulated program, and is required of employers who employ three or more employees at any one time, or employ one or more employees for 35+ hours per week for 13 or more weeks by law in most states. It may cover wage-loss benefits, medical treatment, and rehabilitation—related medical expenses—for employees who suffer a work-related injury or illness. Workers’ compensation also includes employer liability coverage, which may provide protection to an employer if an employee sues the employer in indirect relation to a workers’ compensation claim, often covering legal defense costs, up to the policy limits. Workers’ compensation doesn’t eliminate the issues of an unsafe workplace, however, and employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe working environment for their employees.

Occupational accident insurance may provide medical, disability, and accidental death and dismemberment benefits, but it’s not workers’ compensation—it isn’t state-regulated or state statutory. Occupational accident policies may cover wage-loss benefits, medical treatments, and rehabilitation for employees or covered independent contractors, but only up to the policy limits. Employers are allowed to choose their coverage and deductible amounts, based upon the employer’s perceived risk.

While workers’ compensation policies typically involve a higher cost to the employer, they may offer more comprehensive coverage, particularly in terms of employer liability, which is not a component of occupational accident coverage. However, individuals who qualify as independent contractors are not always covered under state workers’ compensation laws; while employee classification is determined by the federal government, workers’ compensation laws are determined by the state government. For these individuals, employers may want to consider occupational accident coverage.

For a useful infographic delineating the differences between workers’ compensation and occupational accident policies, click here. For more information on this and other insurance topics and coverage, please call our office.

20 Jun

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3 Major Differences Between a Bond and an Insurance Policy

June 20, 2016 | By |

Bonds are often required for a conContract Pictractor to obtain licensing or to meet the obligations of a contract. I find that there is often confusion on how bonds differ from insurance policies. While bonds are technically a form of insurance, there are significant differences between bonds and insurance policies and bonds should not be purchased in place of liability insurance. Here are 3 major differences between a bond and an insurance policy;

1. Parties involved in the contract. There are three parties involved in the bond contract. The first party is the company requesting the bond, referred to as the principal. The second party is the customer, referred to as the obligee. And the third party is the surety company. The obligee transfers the risk to the surety company that the principal will not fulfill their contractual duties.

In contrast, there are only two parties involved with an insurance policy; the insurance company and the business purchasing the coverage, the insured. When the insured causes bodily injury or property damage to a third party, the insurance company pays the damages.

2. Financial restoration after a loss. Losses are not expected to occur when a surety bond is issued. However, if a loss occurs, the principal is expected to fully restore the surety company for any financial loss incurred. Before a bond is issued, the underwriter requires proof that the principal has the financial means to reimburse the surety company should a loss occur. Thus, a bond acts like a line of credit for the principal.

On the other hand, an insurance policy does not require that the insured restore the insurance company after a loss occurs. The insured pays premiums in exchange for the coverage provided. The insured may be responsible for a deductible in the event of a loss, but does not have to reimburse the insurance company for the full loss incurred. The risk of financial loss is transferred from the insured to the insurance company.

3. Premiums and/or fees paid for the coverage. When a surety bond is issued, a premium or service fee is paid by the principal to the surety company. The service fee allows the principal to use the financial backing of the surety company. If there is a loss, the surety company pays for the loss, but requires the principal to reimburse all funds that have been paid out.

In contrast, a premium is paid by the insured to the insurance company for an insurance policy. In return, the insurance company promises to protect the insured from financial loss. The insurance company determines the premium charged for losses that are expected to occur based on the insured’s operations, characteristics, and history.

In summary, while bonds are useful for providing protection for a customer and may be required for some contracts, it is important to understand the key differences between a bond and an insurance policy.

At Pioneer Business Insurance Agency, we work hard at being accessible, helpful, and result-oriented. Learn more about us at PioneerBusinessInsurance.com. How can we put our expertise to work for you?

16 Nov

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5 Ways to Simplify Your Business Insurance Audits

November 16, 2015 | By |

Just hearing the word “audit” can cause some to cringe, but preparing for an insurance audit ahead of time can help to make the process much smoother and less stressful.

The purpose of an insurance audit is to verify payroll or revenue to confirm that the insurance policy is rated appropriately. When a policy is written, estimates for payroll and/or revenue are used to determine the annual premium. Many general liability policies and all workers’ compensation policies are audited. Other types of insurance policies can also be auditable, including excess liability policies and contractors’ equipment policies.

Here are 5 steps that you can take ahead of time to simplify your insurance audits:

1. Use clear bookkeeping processes and maintain accurate adn detailed records. Some of the records that an auditor might ask for include payroll journals, federal tax reports, and individual earnings records. Payroll journals should reveal monthly totals along with a breakdown of work performed by employees. Individual earnings records should include the type of work performed, the hiring date and the termination date.

2. Clarify classification codes used for rating. Policies are rated by classification codes, so it is essential to use correct classification codes. Rates can vary greatly by classification. For example, the rates for a clerical worker or salesperson are much lower than the rates for a carpenter. If an employee has more than one job duty, you may be able to use two classification codes depending on the state where you are located, however you must keep clear records on the hours devoted to each classification and the classification codes must be approved by the insurance company prior to starting the policy.

3. Understand how payroll is calculated. Generally, the payroll used for the audit is the total remuneration paid to an employee. There are some exclusions, so check with your agent, your state workers’ compensation agency or your insurance company to determine possible exclusions in your state. One example is overtime. You may be able to deduct pay that exceeds straight time for hours worked by an employee.

4. Notify your agent and insurance company of changes to your payroll. If your payroll changes during the policy term, talk with your agent to determine whether the policy should be endorsed to avoid unexpected premiums at the end of the policy term.

5. Verify coverage for sub-contractors. If you are using sub-contractors, collect a copy of their general liability and workers’ compensation policies prior to hiring them so that they are not included as employees in the audit.

In short, accurate records will help you to prepare for and simplify the insurance audit process and help you to avoid costly audit bills. By following the tips above, you will be well-prepared for your next audit.

If you would like to learn more, visit us at PioneerBusinessInsurance.com, or call us at 888-596-7242. At the Pioneer Business Insurance Agency we work hard at being accessible, helpful, and result-oriented. How can we put our expertise to work for you?

08 Nov

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Safety first! Prevention for Cumulative Trauma Disorders

November 8, 2012 | By |

More than half of workplace injuries are caused by musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs).  In fact, $1 of every $3 of workers’ compensation costs are attributed to MSDs. Employers who are aware of risk factors, and take action to minimize these types of injuries ultimately benefit by controlling losses and improving the productivity of their workers.

What are Cumulative Trauma Disorders?

CTDs are injuries of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems attributed to repetitive motion, over-exertion, vibrations, pressure from hard surfaces, and prolonged or awkward positions. Disorders associated with CTDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, low back pain, bursitis, and several others.

Who is at risk?

Employees who perform repetitive motions are especially susceptible to developing CTDs. Office employees who spend extended periods of time working at a computer, and manufacturing employees who perform repetive motions (such as snapping a part in place) are among those most at risk.

What can I do to prevent or minimize CTDs in my company?

First, Employers should increase awareness of CTDs, and the risk factors that contribute to these types of disorders. Designate someone on your staff to handle safety at your workplace, by researching safe practices and ergonomics (the process of adjusting workstations for safety and comfort).Your business insurance agent should also be able to provide you with helpful resources.

Next, talk with your employees about the importance of good posture while sitting or standing for extended periods of time. For example, while sitting at a computer, feet should be flat on the floor or on a foot rest, the head should face forward with a slight tilt downward, wrists should be in a nuetral position, and elbows should be within a 70-135 degree angle. Encourage employees to take short breaks to reduce injuries caused by sustained positions, and to consider deep breathing and stretching when in the same position for an extended period of time.

If you would like to learn more, visit us at PioneerBusinessInsurance.com, or call us at 888-596-7242. At the Pioneer Business Insurance Agency we work hard at being accessible, helpful, and result-oriented. How can we put our expertise to work for you?

 

 

02 Aug

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Keep property values up to date!

August 2, 2012 | By |

Did you know that the cost of building materials has increased in recent years? If you have not taken a look at the property values in your business insurance policies, now is the time. Reconstruction costs fluctuate over time, and you could end up with large out-of-pocket costs if you are not insuring to value.

Many people assume that when the market value for real estate is down, the cost of rebuilding is also down. However, in most areas that is not the case. The cost of reconstruction is affected by several factors including supply and demand for labor and materials, catastrophes, labor practices, new methods and materials, and the cost of natural resources. In fact, between 2010 and 2011, the cost of steel rebar, structural steel, plywood, and lumber all increased by over 10%, and the cost of copper pipe increased by more than 25%!

Business owners should be aware that there are potential negative consequences for not insuring buildings to value. When considering your property values, here are some things to keep in mind;

Worst case scenario. If you are not insuring your building for full replacement value, and you have a total loss, you could end up paying the difference between the value listed in your insurance policy and the actual cost to replace your building. For example, assume that your building’s replacement value is $750,000, but you are only insuring the building for $500,000. Now, let’s say a fire burns the building to the ground. Your insurance company would pay the amount of coverage listed in the policy ($500,000 minus your deductible), and you would be responsible for the remaining $250,000.

Watch for a coinsurance clause. A coinsurance clause penalizes a business that does not insure buildings to full value. In the event of a partial loss, the payment for the claim is reduced by the percentage of difference between the amount of value that the building was covered for, and the amount required by coinsurance. For example, suppose that you had a building covered for $500,000, but the building’s reconstruction cost is actually $750,000. With an 80% coinsurance clause, the insurance company would require you to carry  at least $600,000 (80% of $750,000). Now let’s say that you had a tornado rip through the building, resulting in $100,000 of damage. The insurance company would include the penalty for failing to insure to value in the settlement. The formula used to determine the amount paid by the insurer would be the amount of coverage carried ($500,000) divided by the amount that should have been carried ($600,000) multiplied by the amount of the loss ($100,000). So, instead of receiving a payment of $100,000 (minus your deductible) for the damage, you would receive $83,333. (minus your deductible).

As you can see in the above examples, the consequences for under-insuring your property could be costly. Here are some suggestions for ensuring that you don’t find your business paying unexpected costs after a loss;

Review your coverage annually and update values as needed. The cost of rebuilding fluctuates greatly. Consider the factors mentioned above in determining appropriate values.

Talk with your insurance agent. Sit down with your agent at least once a year. Discuss the value of your property, and keep your agent informed of any renovations or additions to your buildings. Your agent should have tools available to help you avoid unexpected costs in the event of a loss.

Insurance is designed to protect you against the unexpected. By taking the necessary steps to insure your property to value, you can rest assured that your business will be fully protected if you have a loss, and that you can continue to focus on meeting your business goals.

At the Pioneer Business Insurance Agency, we work hard at being accessible, helpful, and result-orientated. Learn more about us at PioneerBusinessInsurance.com. How can we put our expertise to work for you?

 

 

 

24 Jul

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What is Professional Liability, and who needs it?

July 24, 2012 | By |

Professional liability insurance, also referred to as errors & omissions (E&O) insurance provides coverage for financial loss that arises out of the advice or services performed by a professional or a business. E&O claims are often the result of a client who alleges that a professional failed to provide a service that was agreed on, or provided a service that did not have the intended or promised results.

Some examples of professionals that have traditionally sought E&O protection include doctors, accountants, real estate agents, securities brokers, bookkeepers, appraisers, actuaries, title agents, and a variety of consultants. Yet, today there are many other services for which there is an E&O exposure. Advertising agencies, printers, web hosts, financial planners, personnel agencies, publishers, engineers, internet service providers, and market research companies are just a few businesses with an exposure to professional liability. Basically, anyone who provides a professional service or advice is at risk of a loss resulting from errors, negligent acts, or omissions.

Consider these examples of professional liability claims. A software provider was hired to integrate the accounting and records systems for an organization.The organization notified the provider of problems with the system and claimed that the training provided was inadequate. The provider attempted to resolve the issues, but was unsuccessful. The organization demanded that the provider pay $120,000 including the costs of the software, legal fees, research of replacement software, and installation of new software.

In another example, a real estate agent marketed herself as having expertise in residential and commercial real estate. She assisted a client in finding a home where he could also run a pest control business. However, the real estate agent was unfamiliar with the local zoning issues in the particular area where the home was located. The real estate agent encouraged the purchase of the home and the sale was made. Several months after the home was purchased, the homeowner received a notice from the city informing him that the pest control business did not meet zoning regulations. After attempting to have the property re-zoned, the homeowner brought a suit against the real estate agent and her broker for compensatory damages, lost revenue, and attorney’s fees.

Not only does a professional liability policy provide coverage for actual damages that a professional is found liable for, most policies also cover defense costs. Attorneys fees, court costs, filing fees, and costs associated with investigation could be devastating to a small business. Even if the claim is frivolous, a professional liability policy can provide coverage for the cost of defense.

If you provide a service to clients for a fee, talk to a licensed insurance professional about your exposure to a professional liability loss. Even with the best procedures in place, mistakes can be made, and mistakes are often quite costly when it comes to errors and omissions claims.

 

At the Pioneer Business Insurance Agency, we work hard at being accessible, helpful, and result-orientated. Learn more about us at PioneerBusinessInsurance.com. How can we put our expertise to work for you?

 

06 Apr

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Workers’ Compensation FAQ

April 6, 2012 | By |

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Enacted in Michigan in 1912, workers’ compensation is the first form of no-fault insurance. Prior to 1912, workers were required to prove negligence on behalf of their employer to recover damages from their employers. Once the workers’ compensation system was enacted, the burden of proof by employees was removed and employers were required to provide compensation for workers injured while on the job.

Additionally, the Workers’ Compensation Act protected employers by limiting the damages that a worker can recover to wage loss benefits, costs of medical treatment, and defined rehabilitation services. Prior to the act, workers could recover for damages such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other damages awarded to them.

What does Workers’ Compensation cover?

For the employee who suffers a work-related injury or illness, workers’ compensation covers wage loss benefits, medical treatment, and rehabilitation. In exchange for the benefits provided under workers’ compensation, employees are prevented from filing suit against their employer in connection with the work related injury or illness, with few exceptions.

Who is required to carry Workers’ Compensation?

Michigan statute requires all public employers to carry workers’ compensation. Private employers must carry workers compensation if they regularly employ 3 or more workers at any one time; or they regularly employ at least 1 worker for 35 hours or more per week.

Workers’ compensation is voluntary for any other employer to manage the risks associated with worker injuries, and should be carefully considered. Sole proprietors, contractors, and sub-contractors have unique provisions under the workers’ compensation law, and should become familiar with state requirements.

Penalties for employers who do not comply with the Workers’ Compensation Act could include costly fines, imprisonment, and civil damages brought against the employer by an injured employee. Further, each day that an employer is uninsured serves as a separate offense under Michigan statute.

How can I manage the costs of Workers’ Compensation?

There are several ways an employer can manage the costs of workers’ compensation. Here are some suggestions:

  • Choose your insurance agency carefully. Exclusive and captive agents are limited to offering only one carrier for workers compensation, while independent agents represent multiple insurance companies, and have the ability to compare policies for the best value.
  • Implement a formal safety program. Many employers who implement safety measures such as written safety procedures, prompt claims reporting, and return-to-work programs find that they are able to effectively reduce the costs of workers’ compensation.
  • Talk about safety with your employees. Provide training for injury prevention, and allow for meetings that address safety issues.

For more detailed information about workers’ compensation in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/wca, or talk to a licensed insurance professional.

At the Pioneer Business Insurance Agency we work hard at being accessible, helpful, and result-oriented.  Learn more about us at www.PioneerBusinessInsurance.com.  How can we put our expertise to work for you?

22 Dec

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Data Breach: What do you have to lose?

December 22, 2011 | By |

Every company faces security concerns, but data breaches are an alarming new trend. You likely have read recent news reports on the data breaches of large companies like Facebook, Sony, Google, and Epsilon, but have you considered your organization’s risk of a data breach, and what the impact of a breach could be? It may be larger than you realize.

A data breach occurs when Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as social security numbers, financial data, debit or credit card information, health information, or other identifiable information is lost, stolen, viewed in an unauthorized way, or accidentally released. Potential effects of a data breach include the loss of trade secrets, proprietary information, legal and forensic costs, regulatory fees, and notification expenses. Further, loss of consumer trust and confidence could mean permanent damage to your reputation and the loss of customers. According to a recent Market Pulse survey conducted by Sailpoint, “a security breach at a financial institution or retailer can severely impact customer loyalty.” Ultimately, all consequences of a data breach could affect the profitability and solvency of an organization.

Are you at risk?

If your organization collects or stores personally identifiable information, there is an exposure to data breach.  Healthcare, real estate, technology, retail, and professional service industries have increased exposure due to the frequency of collecting PII.

Information can be hacked criminally, lost by mistake or negligence, or leaked through faulty systems. Mobile devices further increase vulnerability for a data breach. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, mobile phones, and other mobile devices used by employees contribute to data breaches. Access to social networking sites on the same computers that are used to store sensitive data could also be another risk factor for a breach.     

What steps can you take to prevent a data breach?

Information security should be a high priority for all organizations. Preventative measures can be taken to protect sensitive data and to minimize the risk for a data breach. In fact, Verizon’s annual data breach investigation report revealed that 96% of the data breaches that occurred this year could have been prevented through “simple or intermediate controls.”

Be proactive. Identify the PII that your organization collects and/or stores, either on paper or electronically. Develop clear and universal policies for the protection of sensitive data, and share them with all members of the organization.

Encrypt. An encryption software program should be used to protect hard drives, files, laptops, removable media, file transfers, email, and any other files containing sensitive data.

Protect wireless networks. Visit http://nvd.nist.gov to examine exploitable holes in your network. A firewall should be in place to protect remote services.

Don’t use unsecured mobile devices or networks. Take extra care to ensure that laptops, smartphones, and tablets are protected.    

Limit third party contracts and agreements. Research by the Ponemon Institute suggests that 46 percent of data breaches are a result of third party mistakes. Examine contracts with associates and limit the information that is shared with third parties. Restrict access to PII to only those who must have access.

Manage risk with Data Breach Insurance. Insurance for Data Breach is available through some insurance carriers. Coverage includes 1st party response costs, such as legal and forensic services, crises management, public relations, notification expenses, good-faith advertising costs, and services for impacted consumers. 3rd party coverage is also available to cover defense and liability costs. Further, consulting services are covered to prevent data breach. Discuss this option with a licensed insurance professional. 

Develop a response plan. Should a data breach occur, have a response plan in place that is readily accessible. Visit ftc.gov for more information on how to respond to a data breach.

The outlook for data breach is disturbing. Brian Nagel, Assistant Director for the U.S. Social Service warns, “Cyber-crime has evolved significantly over the last two years, from dumpster diving and credit card skimming to full-fledged online bazaars full of stolen personal and financial information.” The techniques used by criminals are increasingly sophisticated and complex. Organizations must take action to protect consumer information, or risk the costly consequences if a data breach occurs.

21 Dec

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Welcome to the Pioneer Business Insurance Agency Blog!

December 21, 2011 | By |

Welcome to Pioneer’s blog. Stay tuned for more details and information!