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Small Business Insurance: Assessing Your Risk

Darren Kincaid - Tuesday, July 18, 2017
TriState small business insurance for owners in VA, MD, and DC

The economy is expanding and every American should be celebrating this.  More people are being hired than being let go and more businesses are opening as opposed to closing.  This is a perfect time to cover down on the subject of small business insurance for owners in VA, MD, and DC.

You might have read an outstanding tutorial on this subject recently out on businessnewsdaily.com.  If you didn’t we credit them here for their work and hope that you take a moment as a new (or soon to be) business owner to assess the risks of business ownership. 

If you're starting your first business, you likely have a plan for financing, marketing, sales, etc. But it's also critical to make sure you're guarded against common business risks – and that starts with securing a business insurance policy with the independent insurance agent professionals here at TriState Business Insurance.

The right small business insurance package is essential to your company's long-term success. Having coverage helps protect your hard work and investment in your business if something unforeseen occurs. By purchasing insurance, you can keep your business running in spite of those challenges and circumstances.

Assessing your risks

An independent insurance agent can evaluate your needs and risk, and come up with a plan to fit your business. To accomplish that, the agent will work with you to perform a risk management assessment, which will give you a list of potential events that could lead to a loss, determine the estimated cost of such a loss and tell you how best to address each risk.  

The goal is for the agent to gain a good understanding of the business and use this to identify potential risks to the customer, Haldeman said. This analysis can include an evaluation of possible property losses, business interruption losses, liability losses, key person losses, automobile losses and injury to employees.

Sharing specific details of your business purpose and location can aid your agent in suggesting the best coverages and the level of risk that you may incur. For example, consider a doctor or lawyer who has an office in a building owned by someone else, no inventory and office equipment that isn't worth a lot. In this case, liability insurance is probably not as important as malpractice insurance.

For a new business considering their first insurance policy, it's wise to consider a provider that is specifically interested in small businesses, said Kerridge.

There are a number of online providers [that] now specialize in small businesses with impressive online service and products that are geared to small business in terms of their price points and stripping away unnecessarily complex jargon," he told Business News Daily. "Quotes can often be obtained in minutes online, against days for more traditional methods."

Of course there are a multitude of considerations that go beyond risk assessment when putting together your comprehensive small business insurance coverage strategy. That is precisely our area of expertise for those of you starting business in Virginia, Maryland, and/or DC.  Business insurance considerations most definitely are effected by the state’s law in which you operate.  We’re here to help you sort all that out.  

Low Mileage Discounts For Deployed Military and Kids off at College

Darren Kincaid - Friday, July 14, 2017
TriState low mileage car insurance discount

Did you know that most U.S. insurance companies offer a low mileage car insurance discount for drivers who do not use their car very much. This discount helps a motorist save money on the cost of their coverage and secure the protection needed in the case an accident, theft or other insurable event occurs.

Your friends at TriState want you to realize that the location where the auto is domiciled plays a part in insurance cost.  So if your student is moving his/her/your car to a lower risk location that where you currently live, then you should enjoy a cost break there as well.  Even if you think your student’s college domicile is in a more risky location, you still need to report that to your insurance company.  You are well advised to be honest and forthright with you auto insurance company as you expect them to be with you.

Military Deployment Discounts

Many of our military clients forget to call us and have their auto-insurance policy adjusted for those periods where one (or both) military members are on extended temporary duty.

For the same reasons we listed last week on the blog post regarding kids off to college, it simply makes sense to seek auto-insurance discounts while you are on deployment.  It only makes sense for your insurance company to adjust your insurance rate during periods when your vehicle is on the road for a fraction of the normal operating mileage. 

Certainly there is a lot going on in our life as you prepare yourself and your family for deployment, but don’t forget, every dollar counts.  It will only take a moment of your time to call us, give us your estimated departure and return date and let us take care of things for you. 

And for those of you who this subject directly applies, our heartfelt thanks to you AND your family for the sacrifices you make for our country.  

Workers Comp 101

Darren Kincaid - Friday, July 07, 2017
TriState workers comp insurance

By now you know that all of the independent insurance professionals here at TriState Business Insurance invest significant time and energy in educating the general public about personal and business insurance topics.  It is our way of giving back.  We cover topics pertaining to personal insurance needs and business insurance needs of those in Maryland, Virginia, and DC but are warmed by feedback from outside those areas that the information that we provide is useful.  

Today, in keeping with our quest to educate the public, we credit the following tips from a great reference source of ours: NOLO.com. We find their advice to always be spot on. Below covers the very most important points regarding workers comp insurance for those operating in Virginia, Maryland, and DC.  We know that reading about this subject often spurs a whole series of follow-up questions. That’s where we come in to further assist you.  So read on.

Does workers' compensation cover just my medical bills?

Workers' comp does pay hospital and medical expenses that are necessary to diagnose and treat your injury. But it also provides disability payments while you are unable to work (typically, about two-thirds of your regular salary), and may pay for rehabilitation, retraining, and other benefits as well.

Are all on-the-job injuries covered by workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation, also known as workmans' comp, covers most, but not all, on-the-job injuries. The workers' compensation system is designed to provide benefits to injured workers, even if an injury is caused by the employer's or  employee's carelessness. But there are some limits. Generally, injuries that happen because an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs are not covered by workers' compensation. Coverage may also be denied in situations involving:

  • self-inflicted injuries (including those caused by a person who starts a fight)
  • injuries suffered while a worker was committing a serious crime
  • injuries suffered while an employee was not on the job, and
  • injuries suffered when an employee's conduct violated company policy.

For more information, see Nolo's article on when injuries are work-related.

Does workers' compensation cover only injuries or does it also cover long-term problems and illnesses?

Your injury need not be caused by an accident -- such as a fall from a ladder -- to be covered by workers' compensation. Many workers receive compensation for injuries that are caused by overuse or misuse over a long period of time (for example, repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or chronic back problems). You may also be compensated for some illnesses and diseases that are the gradual result of work conditions, such as heart conditions, lung disease, and stress-related digestive problems. For more information on repetitive stress injuries, see the Nolo article Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Workplace.

Do I have to be injured at my workplace to be covered by workers' compensation?

No. As long as your injury is job-related, it's covered. For example, you will be covered if you are injured while traveling on business, doing a work-related errand, or even attending a required business-related social function. For more information on what counts as a job-related injury (and what doesn't), see Nolo's article Workers' Compensation: Is Your Injury or Illness Work-Related?

Are all employees covered by workers' compensation?

No. First of all, not all employers are required to have workers' compensation coverage. State laws vary, but an employer's responsibility to provide coverage usually depends on how many employees it has, what type of business it is, and what type of work the employees are doing. Second, every state excludes certain types of workers. Although these exclusions vary, they often include farm workers, domestic employees, and seasonal or casual workers.

Can I be treated by my own doctor and, if not, can I trust a doctor provided by my employer?

In some states, you have a right to see your own doctor if you make this request in writing before the injury occurs. More typically, however, injured workers are referred to a doctor recruited and paid for by their employers.

Your doctor's report will have a big impact upon the benefits you receive. Keep in mind that a doctor paid for by your employer's insurance company is not your friend. The desire to get future business from your employer or the insurance company may motivate a doctor to minimize the seriousness of your injury or to identify it as a preexisting condition. For example, if you injure your back and the doctor asks you if you have ever had back problems before, it would be unwise to treat the doctor to a 20-year history of every time you suffered a minor pain or ache. Just say "no" unless you really have suffered a significant previous injury or chronic condition.

Can I ever sue my employer in court over a work-related injury?

Yes. If you are injured because of some reckless or intentional action on the part of your employer, you can bypass the workers' compensation system and sue your employer in court for a full range of damages, including punitive damages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

What is workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation, also known as workmans' comp, is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. While the federal government administers a workers' comp program for federal and certain other types of employees, each state has its own laws and programs for workers' compensation. For up-to-date information on workers' comp in your state, contact your state's workers' compensation office.

In general, an employee with a work-related illness or injury can get workers' compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault -- the employee, the employer, a coworker, a customer, or some other third party. In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually do not have the right to sue the employer in court for damages for those injuries.

For those of you with workers compensation needs in Virginia, Maryland, and/or DC, call us today.  We’ll get your questions answered!

Your College Student and His/Her Need for Renters Insurance

Darren Kincaid - Tuesday, July 04, 2017
TriState renter's insurance needs of college students in Maryland, Virginia, or DC

Whether or not college students need the protections of renter’s insurance depends on where they live. A student who lives at home or in on-campus housing is covered under his or her parent’s renters or homeowner’s insurance. This blog post pertains directly to the renter's insurance needs of college students in Maryland, Virginia, or DC.

Both renters and home policies usually have a cap on the amount of off-premises coverage. For instance, claims that a student makes on-campus could be limited to 10% of the parent’s coverage limit. In other words, if parents have $100,000 of coverage on their home, the student would be covered up to $10,000, after paying the deductible.

However, college students renting an off-campus apartment, condo, or house should have their own renter’s insurance policy. They aren’t eligible to get coverage from mom and dad’s renters or homeowners policy.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that students are too poor to have belongings to protect. Most students living off-campus have thousands of dollars’ worth of personal items, such as electronics, computers, furniture, bicycles, clothing, and textbooks that make buying renters insurance worthwhile.

Cash Value” vs “Replacement Cost” Renter’s Insurance

If you live in Virginia, Maryland, or DC, we’ll explain all of this personally to you.  For those outside those states, we hope you find the following information useful. When you’re shopping for renters insurance, make sure you understand whether the policy offers “cash value” or “replacement cost” for claims. Here’s the difference:

  • Cash value coverage reimburses you for the value of personal belongings at the time of a claim. For example, if your 3-year-old mountain bike is stolen, you’d receive the value less depreciation. If the original cost was $2,000, you might only receive $1,000, minus the deductible.
  • Replacement cost coverage reimburses you for the full value of an item. So if you’d have to pay $2,500 to buy that same mountain bike today, that’s what you’d receive, less the deductible. 

Call us anytime to learn more about renter’s insurance in VA, MD, and/or DC!

Preventing Slips and Falls (Another Insurance Liability Avoidance Guide)

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 29, 2017
TriState Accident Insurance Policy

While installing support rails, fixing broken steps and securing lifted corners of the carpet are all excellent ways to prevent falls, there also are some VERY simple things you can do in your own home in an instant to make you less susceptible to injury. Surprisingly, falling is the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Adults over 65 and young children are the most vulnerable to injury from a fall, but prevention is a good idea for any age.

Here's our top 10 list of very simple things to do to prevent injury from a slip and fall. When we say SIMPLE, we mean it. You can do any and all of these things immediately to have a big impact on safety in your home:

  1. Secure and remove cords out of walkways and traffic areas.
  2. Use non-skid mats on floor rugs or remove floor rugs altogether.
  3. If the shower or tub is slippery, put a non-slip bath mat on the floor.
  4. Use a nightlight.
  5. Never stand on an unsecure chair, table or anything with wheels.
  6. Clean up spills right away.
  7. Keep traffic areas clear. Pick up things that are lying on the floor like books, towels, shoes, blankets. Secure and remove cords out of walkways.
  8. Wear sensible shoes, even indoors. Yes, there's a higher chance you will slip and fall in those high heels! Be extra alert if you wear flip flops, loose slippers or shoes with slick soles.
  9. Exercise helps. Improving strength and balance makes falling much less likely.
  10. Check medication side effects for drowsiness or dizziness.

These solutions are easy and relatively inexpensive. There are several great resources online to make your home even more secure and you can even request professional help. For folks over 65, people with health issues or for those that are caring for someone who is susceptible to a slip and fall, it might be a good idea to go the extra length and make your home secure. Home improvement solutions may cost more, but independence might be the smartest investment you could consider. For peace of mind at your home, contact us to talk about a home insurance policy.

Deck and Patio Maintenance Tips (Liability Avoidance Tips)

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 22, 2017
TriState Deck and Patio Insurance

As a homeowner, however, it’s important to make sure your deck and patio are in good condition. The last thing you want is for a friend or family member to get injured because your deck or patio is in poor condition. We sincerely hope that you never have to file a claim against your home insurance policy. In our continuing effort to educate and protect our clients (and the general public as good neighbors do), here we offer some safety tips to help you safely enjoy your deck or patio.

  1. Inspect your deck for decaying wood. If your deck’s wood has been sealed properly, it can provide many years of enjoyment. Eventually, however, wood decays. To find out of the wood on your deck has started to decay, use a spade shovel or pitch fork to gently tap on the wood. If your shovel or pitchfork goes through the wood, it’s a sign of decay and repairs should be made.
  2. Make sure stairs and railings are secure. Loose railings and stairs that are in poor condition can be hazardous! To determine if it’s still safe, gently push on the railing to make sure it’s securely fastened. Inspect the stairs to see if they’re pulling away from the deck and are still level.
  3. Trim your trees and plants. If trees or plants are growing into your deck space, trim or prune them.
  4. Keep your grill or fire pit away from your house. It’s wise to keep always your grill or fire pit away from your house. You never know when the fire in your grill might flare. Never move your grill or fire pit close to your house just because you think it’s cool. Embers may still be smoldering and flare into a fire.
  5. Inspect deck furniture. My deck furniture takes a beating. I leave it uncovered and on my deck 365 days a year. Before using your furniture for the first time, examine the frame and cushions for loose bolts and rodent or insect damage.
  6. Clean off mold and algae. Eastern seaboard summers are usually warm and humid. Siding and deck surfaces that get a lot of shade are the perfect place for these allergens to grown. Clean off mold and algae with a product that’s not harmful to you, your pets, and surrounding plants.
  7. Inspect your patio for uneven pavers. A cold winter can take its toll on concrete patios and pavers. Inspect your patio for cracks and uneven pavers. If you find a problem area, check out the video below for ways to repair them.
  8. Think about furniture placement. Never place your furniture near a deck railing or pool fence. Young children are nimble and inquisitive. If they stand on this furniture, they could fall over the railing or into a pool.
  9. Lock your doors. If your patio or deck is surrounded by an enclosed fence and you have small children, make sure the gate is locked. If your deck or patio is away from your front door, make sure it’s locked, as well.
  10. Patio heater do’s and don’ts. Patio heaters have grown in popularity over the years. If you’re using one on your patio, make sure it’s always on a stable and level surface. Also, if the temperature is below 40°F, don’t use it because the propane may not function properly. Like the grill, keep it away from your house.

Questions? Contact us anytime!

Umbrella Policies – Deliver Affordable Peace of Mind

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 20, 2017
TriState Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy

An umbrella policy gives you that extra boost of protection in case of an accident. In the world we live in today there are many cases of people suing people for large amounts of money. Every single one of us are vulnerable to involvement in these situations where we could be liable for an accident. Don't let terrible scenarios happen to you--instead make sure you are covered!

The following are some peace of mind coverages that may come with an TriState umbrella insurance policy:

  1. Excess Liability Insurance: Coverage limits are higher than what is provided by primary insurance policies for mishaps occurring anywhere in the world. Including: Liability and property damage liability.
  2. Defense Coverage: Pays defense costs for any suit brought against you when coverage for the loss is provided by the insurance umbrella policy.
  3. Supplementary Payments: Pay other expenses that an be involved in conducting your legal defense.
  4. Million Dollars of Coverage: Your personal umbrella policy can give you $1,000,000 in coverage for each occurrence--and even higher limits are available!
  5. More coverage than you already have!

Contact your TriState independent insurance agent to talk more about what an Umbrella Policy covers and why they're important for protecting yourself.

How to Avoid Distractions While Driving

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 15, 2017
TriState Business Insurance - auto insurance

Here’s another safety-related blog post from your friendly independent insurance team here at TriState. Studies reveal that the American commuter spends 38 hours a year stuck in traffic. For some, getting behind the wheel is mundane. For others, it's new or nerve-racking. Regardless, when it comes to driving, safety needs to be a priority. Financial safety begins with having excellent quality personal auto insurance coverage. Physical safety begins with good planning.

Here are the top five tips, several recommended by wikihow.com to avoid distracted driving:

  • Program your GPS. I need to know where I'm going before even getting into my car. It's a lot easier to enter my destination into the GPS before leaving the driveway.
  • Pay attention to your windshield. Before I take a longer trip, I always check my wiper blades, wiper fluid and of course, clean my windshield. Filling the wiper fluid is easy; it prevents the agony of trying to see during a storm. I also recommend spraying anti-streak solution on your windshield to keep your line of sight clear.
  • Monitor your kids and/or pets. If you're driving with children, buckle them in and provide age-appropriate books and toys to keep them occupied and minimize interruptions while driving. If you have pets, make sure that they are put in comfortable crates in the back of the car, blocking them from entering the front seat area.
  • Ditch the phone. Don't be tempted to use your cell phone while driving! Some tips are to: silence your phone, place it in airplane mode or put it away in your pocket. If you feel the urge to check your voice mail or call someone, pull over at a rest area or gas station. You can also see some more driving and cell phone safety tips in our blog post titled: Cell Phones and Driving: A Dangerous Mix.
  • Prepare your music. trying to find the right song can be difficult at times; especially if you are a music lover! Preset your radio buttons and use the "Seek" function rather than pressing random buttons to trying to fiddle with the dials while driving. When it comes to CD's, pick them before moving your car and put them in an accessible place. CD's are probably not the common distraction for music anymore, so even pre-set playlists on your phone if you will be listening to music that way.

By spending a little time planning, you can get to where you need to be safely! Contact us regarding how to protect yourself in your auto. Ask us about what you are covered for in case of an accident, as well as what could happen if you are in a car accident with someone who is a distracted driver.

Considerations for Renting a Boat or Personal Water Craft

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 08, 2017
TriState Business Insurance - boat insurance for rental recreational vehicles

Summer is now in full swing! The weather is nice and you and your family are planning your annual trip to Stressfree USA. Many of you look forward to renting water craft and enjoying quality time with your entire family. Fantastic. Have a great time but give this plan some thought before you execute.

Many places rent jet skis or boats for a day or a week. They typically offer many options, which is nice because not everyone likes the same thing. It is important to know what your vehicle insurance policy states about boat insurance for rental recreational vehicles. Some policies cover you fully. Some not at all. Maybe yours covers some things and not others. If for no other reason, you need to know if you need to accept (and pay for) optional insurance coverage when you rent the vessel.

Usually you’ll be covered. Keep in mind, however, that you have only as much coverage as your policy’s limits. So if you have $100,000 of homeowner’s personal liability coverage, that’s the maximum that will apply to your rented boat or jet ski if you’re liable for injuries to other people.

The physical damage limit likely will be the same as your personal liability limit. So if you carry $100,000 of personal liability, that’s also your physical damage coverage limit or what’s available to cover damages to the rented boat or jet ski. By the way, the same concerns apply for securing ATV rental insurance and/or RV rental insurance.

Here are safety tips and other resources to keep you safe if you’re boating or jet skiing this summer.

Safety Tips

Understand U.S. Coast Guard requirements and state laws and regulations.

  • Read your owner’s manual and understand the various on-board warnings located on your boat or jet ski.
  • Wear a life jacket. While this sounds like common sense, the excitement of getting on a jet ski or riding in a boat may take your focus off safety. A life jacket is like a seatbelt. It should be worn at all times because it can increase your chances of survival if there’s an accident. http://www.uscgboating.org/safety/life_jacket_wear_wearing_your_life_jacket.aspx
  • Stock your boat. Make sure you have an appropriate life jacket for each person onboard. An adult life jacket is not appropriate for children. In addition, if you plan to be on the lake for the day, make sure you have plenty of water, sunscreen, medications, and snacks. Lastly, make sure you have a fire extinguisher, flares, maps, and communication devices in case you run into trouble.
  • Bring a back up. If you’re boating with friends or family, make sure somebody other than the driver is familiar with the boat. It’s not a safe idea for one adult to take a boat full of children out tubing. If the primary driver is injured or unable to navigate, it’s vital that a passenger is also familiar with the boat and can get you back to land safely.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Summer weather can change quickly. Pay attention to your local forecast and consider signing up for weather alerts that can be sent to your Smartphone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Depending on the time of the year, boat traffic can be heavy on the lake. Make sure you always keep a close eye on what’s happening around you. If pulling a tube or skier behind your boat or jet ski, always have a spotter to alert you of issues.

As always, contact us with any and all questions that you might have for your personal and business insurance needs in VA, DC, and MD.

Workers' Compensation: Why It's Important for Small Businesses

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 01, 2017
TriState Business Insurance - Workers' Compensation insurance

Writing a business plan, choosing a business location, financing your business, obtaining a tax identification number, business licenses and permits seems like a long list and a lot of work. Even after all those requirements are completed, there is still one very important element missing—Workers' Compensation insurance. Not only is Workers' Compensation insurance often required, it's also important to help protect both you and your employees from the unexpected.

After some extensive research on Workers' Compensation, your friends here at Tristate Business Insurance refer you to an article that answers most of the "what," "why," "when," even the "how much" questions. If you have a small business or plan to start your own business, check out the information below from the National Federation of Independent Business to help:

What is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' Compensation is a form of insurance that covers the medical and rehabilitation costs of your employees if they're injured on the job typically. (It also may cover some lost wages.) Typically, having insurance that covers these costs means employees give up their right to sue your business for negligence—and in turn, they get peace of mind knowing they can recover for work-related injuries without the complexity of a lawsuit.

Not only is Workers' Compensation insurance required in most states, it's also important to help protect both you and your employees from the unexpected.

Why does my small business need it?

Your small business should carry Workers' Compensation insurance because most states require it. Even if your state doesn't require it, your customers might not do business with you unless you carry it. State-levied penalties for not carrying Workers' Compensation can be stiff. Specific requirements also vary from state-to-state. For example, farming employees and self-employed persons are exempt in some states. And remember, states do not provide the insurance—insurance must be purchased from companies like Foremost!

When should I purchase workers' compensation?

In most states, Workers' Compensation insurance is required as soon as you have one or more employees who aren't the business owner or partner.

Is it expensive?

Cost is determined by the Workers' Compensation board in your state, but most states use a similar formula to calculate rates: classification risk, multiplied by 1% per $100 of an employee's payroll.

Here's what that means: Each occupation is assigned a "risk classification" determined by two factors: frequency of injury at work and severity of the injury. Then the classification is assigned a dollar amount based on the risk. For example, clerical workers in certain states have a classification of $1.25—a lower risk. If an office manager makes $600 per week, the Workers' Compensation premium for that employee would be $7.50. Your premiums, however, can be increased or decreased based on your business' safety history, whether you offer health insurance, and other factors.

If you're in the market for a Business Owners Policy or Workers' Compensation insurance policy for your business in MD, VA, or DC, contact us help you choose the right insurance for your small business.