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Marcee Wardell

01 Oct


Why is it important to keep property values up-to-date in my business policy?

October 1, 2016 | By |

Insurance companies determine premiums by taking in to account the risks associated with the business, the amount of coverage needed for full protection of the business, the business’s history, and statistics predicting the losses and claims by businesses. The amount of property insurance coverage is based on the cost to rebuild and restore the business, not the property’s market value. Insuring property to-value protects businesses against major losses.

For more information on this and other insurance topics and coverage, please call our office.

01 Sep


What is Workers’ Compensation?

September 1, 2016 | By |

Workers’ compensation is a state-regulated program, and is required of certain employers by law in most states. It covers wage-loss benefits, medical treatment, and rehabilitation for employees who suffer a work-related injury or illness. Workers’ compensation also includes employer liability coverage, meaning that employees who receive these workers’ compensation benefits cannot file suit against their employer in connection with the work-related injury or accident, with few exceptions.

When an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness, the workers’ compensation policy covers the costs of the employee’s wages and medical care, and many workers’ compensation policies have programs which help to facilitate recovery and expedite return-to- work.

Premiums for workers’ compensation are determined by business classification and payroll. Classifications group businesses with like businesses, and these classification categories and determined by rating bureaus. Payroll is determined on an individual basis by a premium audit. A premium audit typically includes the insured submitting information about the business’s owners/officers, employee gross payroll, job descriptions, and subcontractors. When an audit is completed, the insured receives a statement that outlines the classifications, payroll amounts, rates, and other policy changes.

Cost Management

There are several ways an employer can manage the cost of workers’ compensation.

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, such as written safety procedures, prompt claims reporting, and return-to-work programs.

Talk about safety with your employees. Provide training for injury prevention, and allow for meetings that address safety issues.

For more information on this and other insurance topics and coverage, please call our office.

01 Aug


Is an individual doing work for me an independent contractor or employee?

August 1, 2016 | By |

Several tests can be used to determine whether an individual qualifies as an independent contractor or employee for the purposes of state and federal laws. Fundamentally, all of these tests seek to answer the question, does the company control how the work will be performed (suggesting an employer-employee relationship) or does the company deal only with the results of this work (suggesting an independent contractor relationship)?

Five of the most common tests are:

  • IRS Factor Control Test (or 20 Factor Test): used in regard to IRS withholding, Immigration
  • Economic Reality Test: used in regard to Fair Labor Standards Act, Workers’ Compensation, Discrimination
  • Relative Nature of Work Test
  • ABC Test: used in regard to Unemployment benefits
  • Common Law Test (or Right to Control Test:) used in regard to Discrimination, ERISA, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, National Labor Relations Act, Labor Management Relations Act

The test used depends upon the particular statutes or government agencies involved. Please not that these tests are only guidelines and are not applicable in every situation. Therefore, a worker may be considered an employee under one statute, but an independent contractor under another.

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors carries financial risks. In addition to penalties and fees, companies may also be charged with liabilities including back taxes and overtime. This may also open the company to lawsuits related to:

  • Denial of ERISA and other benefits
  • Denial of Workers’ Compensation
  • Denial of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Discrimination for failure to accommodate for a disability
  • Failure to include the individual in employee count which resulted in the company appearing not to be required to comply with Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, WARN Act, Affirmative Action, or other state or federal employment laws
  • Failure to retain proper tax forms for employees
  • Disputed ownership of rights to completed work

For more information and relevant forms, visit Give Pioneer a call for more information on this and other insurance topics and coverage.


01 Jul


How can I protect my business from data breach?

July 1, 2016 | By |

A data breach occurs when Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as social security numbers, financial data, credit card information, or other identifiable information is lost, stolen, or viewed in an unauthorized setting, or accidentally released. If a business collects or stores PII, there is risk of data breach. Information can be hacked criminally, lost by mistake or negligence, or leaked through faulty systems.

Potential effects of a data breach include the loss of trade secrets and proprietary information, legal and forensic costs, regulatory fees, and notification expenses. Further, loss of consumer confidence could mean permanent damage to reputation and loss of business.

Insurance for data breach is available through many insurance carriers. Coverage includes first-party response costs such as legal and forensic services, crises management, public relations, notification expenses, good-faith advertising costs, and services for affected customers. Third party coverage is also available to cover defense and liability costs. Consulting services on preventing data breach may also be covered.

Preventative Measures

Preventative measures can be taken to protect PII and sensitive data and minimize the risk of data breach. Such measures include:

  • Identifying PII collected or stored by the organization and creating clear, universal policies for its protection
  • Encrypting programs, devices, and files containing sensitive data
  • Protecting wireless networks and avoiding unsecured devices or networks
  • Limiting third-party agreements and contracts and limiting information shared with third parties
  • Developing a response plan should data breach occur
  • Managing risk with data breach insurance

For more information on this and other insurance topics and coverage, please call our office.

23 Jun


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.