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Business Insurance Basics

September 25th, 2017

If you’re just starting your new business, or have recently been wondering if your current commercial insurance coverage is enough, it can be frustrating trying to educate yourself about business insurance options.

At CommercialInsurance.net we specialize in qualifying businesses over the phone and connecting you with the agent most appropriate for your needs. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re looking for when you call, since we walk you through the process of discovery, but it is helpful if you have a general knowledge of what some of the most common commercial insurance coverages are, so that we can expedite the process as much as possible.

General Liability

This is a foundational policy that will cover your business’s most common exposures, such as property damage or bodily injury caused by you during the normal course of operations. A certificate proving you have general liability business insurance may be required when you contract with other businesses, and we can usually provide that certificate within a business day.

Workers Compensation

If you have employees, this coverage will provide their health benefits for work-related injuries. Your state may require workers compensation coverage if your business has employees, and the specifics about what you’ll need will vary. The carriers we work with provide a range of options.

Business Owner’s Policy

If you need business personal property coverage, as well as general liability and insurance for your building, a Business Owner’s Policy, or BOP, can provide a reasonable commercial insurance solution by packaging all of these together.

Commercial Auto

Vehicles used in the course of your business may qualify for commercial auto coverage. When looking for a quote, be sure to have the license numbers of any potential drivers, and VINs for the vehicles.

Commercial Umbrella Coverage

For areas that fall outside of these specific policies, you might consider a commercial umbrella policy. This is written in addition to foundational business insurance policies like those listed above, and is intended to cover catastrophic losses.

Risk management is an art, and our business is helping you protect your business.

Call one of our professionals today at 1-877-907-5267 for help building a commercial insurance plan for your company. Quotes are quick and easy once you’ve supplied some basic information about your business.

If You Think You Need (Better) Cyber Insurance…You Probably Do.

September 22nd, 2017

Control is an Option to Command, by Frederico Cintra, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Image credit: Control is an Option to Command, by Frederico Cintra, licensed under CC BY 4.0

In the wake of high-profile data breaches where hackers humble multibillion dollar companies, questions like “Am I vulnerable to something like this?” or “Do I need cyber risk insurance?” inevitably rise in the minds of large and small business owners around the world.

Then they’re promptly forgotten.

Until the next time a similar story is reported on the news. (For example, the recent Equifax horror show.)

If you’re an IT professional in certain industries, you probably have no delusions about cyber risk insurance being a necessity; outside hacks for ransom and/or data breaches from within a company’s ranks are too common, and too costly. It’s a no-brainer.

Even if you’re not a motion picture CEO, or the Google VP, however, you need to be aware of the fact that you may have a cyber target on your back, or weaknesses within your company that could be exploited. A 2016 study by Symantec didn’t have “Movie Studio” or “Technology Giant” listed in the top five businesses affected by ransomware; service industries, manufacturing, finance/insurance, real estate, and public administration showed up as the most targeted. (Entertainment and technology services didn’t even make the top ten list, which included wholesale trade, transportation, communications, and utilities, retail, construction, mining, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing.)

Ransomware is affordable (it can be purchased for less than $2,000.00), and adapting as fast as protective software can be developed; Symantec found 101 new ransomware “families” in 2016. That number represents a 36% increase from previous years. While effective security measures and employee training are good protocols to have in place, a cyber insurance policy could mean the difference between returning to business after a breach, or shutting down.

Hacks for ransom (where a system is compromised and the hackers demand payment to restore it) represent only one type of data breach. Data leaks can be purposeful hacks (as with GoogleTarget, and HBO’s Game of Thrones nightmare), or accidental (like the incident with Whitehead Nursing Home or the mishap with the City of Calgary)…but the resulting public relations nightmares and potential for revenue loss are the same.

Don’t believe for a second that only large businesses are targeted; Symantec’s study found that smaller companies (251-500 employees) are more likely to be targeted by email malware, possibly for the very reason that they’re ill prepared to handle an attack.

As a business insurance sales specialist and the team leader of the INSURICA Insurance Management Network Technology Practice, James Roskopf knows what he’s talking about when he says that it’s a mistake to underestimate cyber risks and the people who perpetrate them.

“You have to remember,” Roskopf says, “That hackers are mean people.”

“A lot of people are still looking at cyber issues as a cost of doing business. If they get attacked with ransomware, they know that the FBI discourages paying hackers, but they also know that paying is the path of least resistance.”

There’s another Symantec statistic that proves Roskopf’s assertion about the cruelty of hackers, and puts to rest the notion that paying the ransom is ultimately less costly than an ongoing monthly insurance premium; only 47% of the victims of ransomware who pay the ransom are found to recover use of their stolen files.

Rather than relying on a criminal’s promise of good faith, a risk management program that includes cyber liability is the best way to forestall a business-ending security breach.

Cyber risk insurance coverage options can be scaled according to your business’s size and needs, and can include a budget for public relations repair if your customer’s data is compromised. Some other costs to consider that a good cyber liability policy can cover:

  • Security fixes and cyber forensics
  • Notification and identity protection for affected customers
  • Libel, copyright or infringement, and defamation (social media posts can take a minute to post, but have a long recovery period)
  • Damages to a third-party system (in case of an accidental virus transmission, for example)
  • System failure; hardware losses due to a natural disaster or malicious destruction would be covered under a commercial property or inland marine policy, but data and code losses would need electronic data protection coverage

Whether you’ve spent years building your business or you’re just starting…you can’t afford a catastrophe. A cyber risk policy for your company could be the safeguard it needs for a long, prosperous life.

Call us today at 1-855-279-9559 to discuss your cyber risk management plan. For the majority of businesses, a quote from an agent is available within five minutes, upon answering a few basic questions about your company.

June is National Safety Month…Are You Safe at Work?

June 19th, 2017

Journey to Safety Excellence
Provided by the National Safety Council

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Reasons Roofing Needs to Be Specifically Covered

June 6th, 2017

If you’re a general contractor and do any amount of roof repair, you need to be upfront about it with your agent when discussing your insurance quote.

While it may be tempting to leave out references to the roofing aspects of your work in order to save a little money on your premium, doing so could result in coverage gaps that might leave you in the lurch if damage occurs and a claim is filed.

Some general liability insurance policies for general contracting may include coverage for limited roofing. However, if a customer sustains damages from roof leakage, and your policy doesn’t specify that roof work is covered, you could be on the hook for costs incurred.

Contact us today to find out what coverage you need for your business.

Handyman Insurance Basics

June 7th, 2016

At CommercialInsurance.NET, we will assist you with obtaining general liability coverage for a variety of small businesses, including handyman insurance. Whether you own a janitorial or lawn care business, act as a general contractor, artisan tradesman, or landscaper, we can find policies to fit your needs, even if your business seems to change from day to day, as it often does for the jack-of-all-trades who works as a “handyman”.

On a daily basis we at CommercialInsurance.NET encounter folks looking to supplement their income by taking on small projects. Whether you are just fixing a screen door as a handyman, or completely remodeling a kitchen and bathroom as a general contractor, if you are entering someone’s home or place of business, you need a commercial general liability policy. This post will outline some of the reasons why handyman insurance is important.

You may ask yourself, “Why do I need Handyman Insurance? Why do I need a commercial general liability policy for such a small business?” No matter how small the project is, you are putting yourself at risk simply by being in someone’s home or on someone’s business property. For instance, the smallest caulking job can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage due to water leaks if done incorrectly. A fallen broom or tool instantly becomes a bodily injury hazard, to name another example. Handyman insurance is a way to manage these risks.

Now, you may say, “I’m always careful. I’ll never have a claim due to a mistake.” While this may be true, your handyman insurance doesn’t just protect you from your own errors, it protects you when someone blames you for property damage. For example, let’s say you’re repairing someone’s gutter after a storm, and before you leave your customer asks if you can tear off and repair some loose shingles on the roof. Because your handyman insurance does not cover roofing operations, you inform your customer that roofing repair needs to be done by a roofer insured for those operations, and you go merrily on your way. Several months later, you find out you are being sued because of water damage due to that customers’ leaky roof. Of course you will win in court because you always have a contract signed by the customer specifying the work you have completed, but wouldn’t you like to have a handyman insurance policy that will take care of those unnecessary court fees and attorney costs?

One of the most common questions we get from new customers is, “What information do I need to provide for a handyman insurance quote? Can I just get a price?” Even though your handyman service may consist of nothing more than a few small repairs a month, your general liability coverage is based on your location (every general liability policy has a physical location associated with it), estimate of gross receipts, and whether you have any partners, employees, or independent subcontractors working with you. Your agent will also have to confirm the answers for certain questions to confirm your eligibility. These questions usually reference operations like roofing, licensed trades, or work on high-risk properties such as medical facilities, schools, or very large mansions or estates.The process takes just a few minutes of your time, but it might be one of the most important investments you make in your business.

Call one of our specialists today at 1-877-907-5267 to get your same day quote for a handyman insurance policy.

Figuring Out the “Gig” Economy: What Constitutes an Independent Contractor?

May 4th, 2016

The rise in recent years of for-hire business models, like those used for driving services Uber and Lyft, and delivery services like Instacart and Postmate, have put the term “independent contractor” under the microscope.

High profile liability issues (like the class action lawsuit that former drivers are filing against Uber) are only one aspect of the confusion; not only do employers need to understand their obligations towards the different types of workers they hire, but aspiring entrepreneurs should have a handle on what kind of risks and rewards are associated with self-employment.

The IRS has suggestions for defining characteristics that determine whether or not a worker is an employee or independent contractor…

  • - Who controls details of how the work is done?
  • - Who is responsible for negotiating the business aspects of the worker’s job?
  • - Who provides the worker’s benefits? (Vacation, insurance, pension, etc.)

The most basic distinction, tax-wise, between an employee and an independent contractor is that an employer is generally held responsible for withholding income taxes from an employee’s wages, but not for those of an independent contractor. Workers who are hired as independent contractors are often called “1099s”, a reference to the year end tax form they receive. (As opposed to “W2 employees”, who fill out a W2 for their employers and have taxes withheld by them).

But there are distinctions between the two types of workers that have ramifications in the insurance world, as well.

While the IRS may accept your choice to classify a worker as a subcontractor who receives a 1099 from you at the end of the year, if that same worker is injured on the job, or the subject of a lawsuit, it’s the Department of Labor who will determine if the individual is an employee or a subcontractor, regardless of which tax form they’ve been receiving from you.

And if the decision is that they are truly an employee, instead of an independent contractor, you will be held responsible for all medical costs, lost wages, future lost wages, etc, regardless of who has been paying their employment taxes.

The “bottom line” is always a factor in business decisions, and while the short term benefit of not having to pay employment taxes may sway business owners towards a preference for classifying workers as independent contractors, the potential for liability and associated costs should motivate the final decision about how to categorize the people they hire.

In fact, insurance costs for standard employees may actually be lower than those for subcontractors in some cases, although rates will vary from business to business and state to state.

For the individual who is trying to determine what the best status for them would be, the same elements of cost and risk should be weighed.

While the freedom to regulate the amount and type of work taken is a great benefit, independent contractors should also remember that they will shoulder the responsibility for damages or personal injury, and weigh out those costs against the perks of self-employment.

Getting specifics about insurance coverage from anyone hiring you as a subcontractor is highly advised, and keeping a policy in place for yourself that covers you in case of injury or damages could help forestall future financial disasters.

Call one of our specialists today (1-877-907-5267) or use the orange quote box above to find quotes for both worker’s compensation and general liability policies for small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs.

Employee Benefits Liability Coverage

June 4th, 2014

Employee benefits liability coverage is just what it sounds like: It covers the company against errors or omissions which were made about an employee’s benefit plans.

This kind of coverage is usually an endorsement on another policy such as the commercial general liability policy, but it can be a stand-along policy .

Most claims revolve around clerical errors wherein the employee is not added, added to the wrong benefits, or deleted from coverages. Errors which happen in advice to an employee about a particular benefit or mistakes in calculating the amounts of contributions of the employer or employee are also covered by employee benefits liability coverage.

Such errors are usually in the Human Resources Department, though they can also come from record-keepers, accountants, and trustees.

Here are a few scenarios:

A new employee chooses her benefits in the group medical plan, but the paperwork gets lost at some point after she has finished it. No one notices that it became lost, and there is nothing to trigger an alarm that such a thing happened.

Once the initial enrollment period has passed, the employee is stuck with no health coverage until next open enrollment.

Of course, this in itself is actionable, but if the employee has a chronic illness or has an accident, this becomes crucial, and the company will have to come up with a way to settle the problem.

Employee benefits liability insurance is among the least expensive kinds of coverage, particularly if it is an endorsement. It should, however, be part of your portfolio risk management strategy. Be sure to bring this issue up with your licensed insurance professional.

Employee Practices Liability Coverage

June 2nd, 2014

Statistics suggest that three out of five companies will be sued by an employee or former employee — or even someone who interviewed but never became an employee — at some time. That would suggest that anyone who has a business should consider that it is not out of the question that they could be a target.

Employment practices liability is a newcomer to the insurance coverage world. It provides the employer, directors, officers, and business protection against claims which are made by employees, potential employees, or former employees.

Such claims include wrongful termination, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, breach of contract, emotional distress, false imprisonment, and wage and hour law violations. It also covers discrimination, whether racial, sex, age, disability, or any other unlawful discrimination, and other employment-related accusations or law suits.

It might be something you or your managers or supervisors are accused of doing or saying, or it may be over an off-color joke someone told in the break room. Or it might be something that a disgruntled employee has exaggerated. Any

As a business owner, you will want to have employment practices liability coverage before you hire your first employee.

All companies are vulnerable, whether small or huge, and even a groundless suit can cause major damage in financial resources, and time if the company is not covered.

If you plan to have have one single employee or 5,000, you will want to look into employment practices liability insurance. Be sure to talk to your licensed insurance professional about what levels of EPL you should have.

Ahoy! Ocean Marine Insurance

May 31st, 2014

Ocean marine insurance is a type of transportation insurance which is intended to protect goods that are transported on the water.

It covers a large range of causes of loss, usually o a named peril basis, including sea perils like collision, stranding, high waves, loss or damage caused by pirates, jettison, or fire.

Marine insurance can cover the loss or damage of ships, cargo, terminals, and any transport or cargo by which property is transferred, acquired, or held between the points of origin and final destination.

Ocean marine insurance can take the form of a number of different contracts, depending on the requirements of the insured.

Cargo Insurance
Cargo insurance covers the shipper of goods or cargo in the event that the cargo has been damaged or lost.

Freight Insurance
Freight insurance protects the ship owner in case the cargo becomes damaged or lost.

Hull Insurance
Hull insurance is best described as resembling collision coverage in a car insurance policy. It provides coverage against against damage to the ship or other vessel. There is a deductible that goes along with hull insurance.

Hull insurance has an extra coverage, known as collision liability coverage which provides protection for ship owners in the event that their vessel causes damage to another vessel and its cargo, if necessary. This clause does not cover bodily injury liability.

Protection and Indemnity Insurance
Protection and indemnity insurance indemnifies the owner of the ship against liability arising from bodily injury or property damage to those other than the owner of the vessel.

Workers Comp: How To Reduce Your Premiums

May 29th, 2014

We frequently hear the complaint that Workers Comp premiums are too high. The fact that it is legally necessary in all but one state leaves only one option: Find ways to reduce those premiums.

The first thing you want to do is to talk to your insurance professional to ensure that you are being billed appropriately.

You want to see to it that your employees are classified properly. The premiums vary, depending on their positions in your business. If they have been promoted or moved to other positions, you want to ensure that this information was received by the insurance company.

Rates are based partly on the amount of benefits paid, so the earlier an employee gets back to work, the lower the benefits paid. Work to get your injured employees back to work quickly. If you need to, you can set up a temporary job for them which is not physically taxing and allows the employee to come back to work on “light duty.”

Start a safety program which is created to keep your insured employees safe. Make sure that the offices are ergonomically correct. If they use industrial machines and equipment, make sure they wear safety glasses and helmets or whatever protective garb is recommended. Require employees who work in a warehouse or delivery truck to wear back braces and make sure they get training in correct lifting.

Whatever you do, you want to keep your carrier informed of safety changes and improvements made to the workplace.

Review your workers compensation annually when you review your other business insurance. Work with your licensed insurance professional and workers comp carrier to make sure your coverage, risk exposure, and premium is where they should be.