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5 Reasons You And Your Business Are Going to Get Sued

Joseph Coupal - Friday, February 16, 2018
TriState Business Insurance - Virginia, Maryland, and DC

Every business year that goes by where you or your business is not sued is a year to celebrate. Our Virginia, Maryland, and DC business insurance clients realize the imperative that business insurance coverage serves to protect their business, selves, and family from potential financial ruin. The goal, of course, is to never get sued at all which is why we authored this article on your behalf.

Some threats you simply can’t predict or prepare for like a customer suing for spilling hot coffee on herself. With that said, there are common sense actions for EVERY business owner to take to limit exposure to law suits. Consider these five:

You Make Promises You Can’t Deliver On.

If you want to get sued, make promises where you can’t deliver.

We’re not talking about your claim to serve “Virginia’s greatest hamburger” or “World Famous Chicken Wings” – because everyone knows those promises are subjective marketing ploys. We’re talking about hard promises that you can’t deliver: “this one little pill will reduce your body fat 10% in ten days” or “double your retirement income guaranteed”. Sounds ridiculous, right? But business owners nefariously or naively make such claims all the time.

A better approach is to stay good on reasonable and deliverable promises and then over deliver. Customers remain happy if they think they got good value. This is especially important where your clients are spending vast amounts of money for your services. Of course, most businesses must walk a fine line. You may use superlatives to try to get people through the door, or buying your products. But any strategy of produce sales that relies upon over promises will not be sustainable.

You Do Not Have An Employee Handbook.

Another way you can welcome a lawsuit is by not having an employee handbook. This is a simple step you can take today that will cut down on the chances of a lawsuit.

An employee handbook is a simple communication tool which sets the ground rules for your employees, describing what you expect from them and what they can expect from your company.

You have no excuse for not having an employee handbook, especially given how easy it is to create one from a template.

If you have to fire an employee, and you don’t have a handbook, it will be more difficult for you to establish that the reason they were fired was justifiable. Be sure that your employee handbook defines broadly the various different grounds upon which you may terminate an employee. Once you adopt an employee handbook, don’t forget to follow it! An employer who has stated policies which were not followed may be held to a higher standard. For example, if you have a handbook that states that employees will not terminated or disciplined under certain circumstances, yet you terminate a certain employee for one of the reasons that are protected in your handbook, then the fired employee may argue that they were wrongfully terminated because your company failed to follow your own procedures.

You Signed a Personal Guarantee..

A personal guarantee is a promise by an individual to repay a debt if the main party to an agreement cannot or does not. In and of itself, signing a personal guarantee won’t get you sued. However, it certainly increases your chances. After all, what’s the point of forming a corporation or forming a LLC to shield you from liability if you later get sued on a personal guarantee?

There are two problems. One is that many people don’t realize the significance when they sign a personal guarantee. People tend to assume the best, so they assume the personal guarantee will never be necessary.

The second problem is that there are many circumstances where you must sign a personal guarantee or else you won’t get what you need. For example, commercial property owners often require the principal of a business to sign a personal guarantee for a lease agreement, or a lender may require a small business owner to sign a personal guarantee on a business line of credit.

It’s a difficult choice – refuse to sign the guarantee or sign the guarantee and get the lease or loan you need. Most people simply sign the guarantee and hope for the best. A better option is to sign the guarantee, but to cap the amount of your damages in the agreement.

You Do Negligent or Intentional Acts Which Harm Others..

This is a no-brainer. You own a LLC or a corporation. You drive aggressively and dangerously during a business lunch and cause a car accident. You leave broken glass out where customers may step. You forcefully push an angry (maybe even a hostile) customer out your business’ front door and they whack their shoulder along the way. Personal injury and accident claims are be easily avoided with just common sense.

These are negligent and/or intentional acts, and they will subject you to a lawsuit. But I don’t think you really needed me to tell you that.

You Breached Your Fiduciary Duty.

If you are an officer or a director of a corporation, you have a fiduciary duty to the company’s shareholders. This is a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the shareholders.

The client is entitled to the best efforts of the fiduciary on his behalf and the fiduciary must exercise all of the skill, care and diligence at his disposal when acting on behalf of the client.

The fiduciary is held to a high standard of honesty and full disclosure and cannot obtain a personal benefit at the expense of the person or shareholder. Any owner who violates this fiduciary duty can be sued personally for damages that result from their actions or inactions.

The major take away here is that today’s American society is more litigious than at any time in our history. Far too many people wish to be given their money than earn it. One tool of the lazy is to sue business owners for frivolous reasons that include their very own mistakes or judgment errors like spilling hot coffee on themselves. Don’t provide these people with the ammunition to sue you. Be observant, be active in prudent business policy and safety enforcement, and be prepared with comprehensive small business insurance that, on a daily basis, saves American business owners from financial ruin.

TriState Business Insurance is positioned to offer your business the best business insurance consultation and coverage at the absolute most affordable rate. We defend that promotion based upon the fact that we are independent insurance agents who work directly for YOU and NOT for any single individual insurance company. We are business insurance consultants first and foremost. This fact differentiates us from the vast majority of the business insurance industry comprised of business insurance salespeople who work directly for insurance carriers and are incented to sell high cost (and often unnecessary) insurance coverages.

Umbrella Insurance – Not Just for the Irresponsible Youth of Your Family

Darren Kincaid - Friday, February 09, 2018
TriState Business Insurance - Umbrella Insurance for Bicyclist

We love the stories emerging from theinsurancejournal.com as they remind us of just how quickly life can go wrong for uninsured or underinsured people. Here’s another story of how umbrella insurance would have saved two people from bankruptcy. The offenders liable act that caused him and his victim to file for bankruptcy: riding his bicycle. Yes, it caught our attention also.

More than one-fifth of bicyclists killed in crashes are impaired by alcohol. They’re also more likely to be riding without a helmet, a contributing factor to bicyclist deaths.

Biking while drunk might seem harmless. How much damage can one bike cause? Take this real-world case from my files and see what you think.

Derek rode his bike to work every day, mainly for the exercise. One Friday afternoon after a difficult project was completed, he and his coworkers decided a happy hour was in order.

After a few drinks, he decided he better ride home before he lost the daylight. As he was cycling out of town, he ran a red light in front of Heather. Swerving to avoid him, she collided with another car and sustained a variety of complex injuries, which resulted in decreased mobility and motor function. She was unable to return to work as a university mathematics professor for several months.

Claim: $925,000

How can an umbrella help?

Heather’s medical bills quickly exhausted the minimum coverage offered by Derek’s renters insurance, so she had no choice but to sue him for reimbursement, incurring legal fees paid in advance, out of her own pocket.

Because Derek didn’t have significant liability insurance coverage, he declared bankruptcy, putting Heather back to square one. Burdened by debt, unable to work and without compensation for lost wages, she too was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Rewriting the story

If Derek had a personal umbrella policy, liability insurance coverage, or a combination of both, it would have covered the gap left by the underlying policies to take care of Heather’s lost wages and medical bills.

Life’s uninspected turns can turn financially catastrophic for the ill prepared. You friends here at TriState Insurance will not let this happen to you. You’ll likely be surprised and the relatively low cost of this insurance. You most certainly will not be surprised at the peace of mind that it offers. Call us.

Just For Laughs – Funny Auto Insurance Claim Incident Descriptions

Darren Kincaid - Friday, February 02, 2018
TriState Business Insurance - Auto Insurance Claims

As an independent insurance agent and one who works for YOU and NOT the insurance companies, we consider all of you our friends and neighbors. And what to friends and neighbors do for each other. Among other things, we make each other laugh.

So today’s blog post is designed just to share a little laughter on the subject of insurance that is by nature a very serious subject. These funny stories involve auto insurance claims. They’re not ours, just stories shared around by the good-natured insurance agents across our industry. For you business owners out there, sometime soon we’ll publish a similar set of odd quotes that involves workers compensation claims. Yes, truth is stranger than fiction.

After the laughs subside, however, reflect about how you can be the most skilled and defensive driver on the planet, but some things you just can’t prepare for. Things such as:

"In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole."

Drastic measures for killing a fly, no? Talk about overkill.

How about this:

"I knew the dog was possessive about the car but I would not have asked her to drive it if I had thought there was any risk."

Well, the dog is man's best friend, but that does not necessarily make the dog a great driver.

Food is another major part of auto insurance quotes claims, such as the accident that was caused by a potato being lodged behind the brake pedal or the one where the claimant's car was damaged by a frozen kebab that was tossed out of a another car.

And then there's this one, where you really must check out this guy's focus on his driving:

"I had one eye on the parked car, another on an approaching truck, and another on the woman behind."

Three eyes totally focused on everything but the road. At least he's being honest about focusing on the 'headlights' of the woman behind him.

Getting back to the animals which are so prolific ...

Question on one of the auto transport quotes claims: "What warning was given by you?"

Insurance claimant's answer: "Horn."

Next question on one of the auto transport quotes claims: "What warning was given by the other party?"

Insurance claimant's answer: "Moo."

Apparently that guy ended up being just as horny as the previous (three eyed) guy - just in several different ways. But at least he stayed in control, and control is vital in ensuring an accident happens:

"The accident happened when I was trying to steer my car out of a skid by steering it into another vehicle."

So, if you don't have control you really need fast reflexes:

"I started to slow down but the traffic was moving more slowly than I thought."

Ah, these car insurance quotes - here's another really good one, one of very best car insurance quotes:

"An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle, and disappeared."

Those damn invisible cars! Constantly slamming into passing vehicles and disappearing into nowhere. Happens all the time! Never any witnesses, though. For some reason, nobody ever sees it happen.

Other un(fore)seen factors also contribute to people filling out their auto insurance quotes claim:

"An indirect cause of this accident was some little guy in a small car with a big mouth."

And, finally, the third and last of these spooky quotes on car insurance:

"As I neared an intersection, a sign all of a sudden appeared where no stop sign had ever appeared before."

Yeah, those pesky signs; always showing up where you least expect them! :-)

Well, there you go, funny as they may, good drivers sometimes cause severe damage. The question you need to ask yourself is: “Am I (or are we) adequately insured”? Remember, as discussed in recent blog posts, you current liability limits may not approach what a severe judgement against you calls for. Let’s talk that over.

Worker's Comp -- A Highly Valued Employee Benefit

Mark D'Etcheverry - Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Tristate Business Insurance Workers' compensation insurance

Workers' compensation insurance covers medical expenses for your employees and at least some portion of their lost wages if they are injured on the job. But while often viewed as an employer mandate to cover his or her rear end, employees read into their worker"s comp coverage highly value the protection and consider it a benefit.  And happy employees is good for business.

Most states require companies to purchase workers' compensation insurance for their employees. Therefore, companies must find private workers’ compensation policies.

Small-business owners often think that workers’ comp insurance is just one more overhead expense that provides little benefit. But good workers' compensation insurance is actually an affordable benefit that protects both you and your employees and is a highly valued benefit..

Where workers’ comp insurance is mandated by law therefore, with today’s ever changing workers compensation climate, it’s critical to be insured by an A1-rated workers compensation insurance policy. If an employee should ever suffer a work related illness or injury, your business feels it, emotionally and financially. Workers compensation should cover both you and your employees.

TriState Business Insurance is uniquely positioned to offer your business the best coverage at the absolute most affordable rate, contact us.

Common Insurance Mistakes of the Small Business Owner

Darren Kincaid - Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Small Business Insurance Considerations Provided By Tristate Business Insurance

It takes hard work, dedication, creativity, and tenacity to get a small business up and running successfully, and it makes sense to have the right business insurance coverage in place to protect it. In fact, purchasing business insurance may be one of the most important decisions that the new business owner will make. The right coverage can help prevent unforeseen events from ruining all the work invested in starting and managing your new business. 

Small business owners often make mistakes in the area of insurance. To help you avoid them, some common insurance mistakes business owners make are listed below:

  • Thinking that two insurance agents are better than one: This is simply not so. When you use more than one agent, you are setting your business up for lost discounts (higher premiums) and potential gaps in coverage. It is better to use one agent for all your business insurance needs.
  • Buying unneeded insurance policies: This is one of the most common mistakes of small business owners – paying for coverage they don’t need. Our independent business insurance agents serving Virginia, Maryland, and DC can help you determine the coverage you need and most economical way to obtain it.
  • Only buying general liability insurance: This could be a serious mistake. While general liability insurance can protect you from many business risks, it does not cover everything. Work with our knowledgeable insurance agent to evaluate your risks and determine what additional coverage you need.
  • Not buying loss of income coverage: Also known as business interruption insurance, this covers loss of business income in the event of a disaster. Property insurance only covers physical damage should a disaster require you to shutter your operations. Loss-of-income coverage can be added as a rider to your business owner’s policy or business property insurance policy.
  • Not keeping policies updated: Successful small businesses are continually expanding and evolving. It is essential to review with your agent and update business insurance policies accordingly at least once annually, if not more frequently.
  • Paying too much for business insurance: Always shop the coverage offered to find the best rates available. Our agent will work hard to help ensure that you have the right business insurance coverage for the lowest available premiums.

If your business is expanding, you may be purchasing equipment, setting up new facilities, hiring employees, or adding to your product or service lines. To protect all you have invested in your business, it is crucial for your insurance coverage to keep pace with the changes. Let the independent insurance agents here at TriState Business Insurance go to work for your Virginia, Maryland, or DC area business. We have the knowledge, experience and affiliations to advise you on the coverage you need, shop the policies for the best rates, and help you make the right business insurance decisions. 

We invite you to contact us today!

Actions To Take Prior to Applying for Life Insurance

Darren Kincaid - Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Small Business Insurance Considerations Provided By Tristate Business Insurance

This blog post offers some sound advice for those seeking personal life insurance within Virginia, Maryland, and DC.  Don't sign into a new life insurance agreement until you read this blog post. Your hobbies, lifestyle, and overall health impact how much you pay for life insurance. For example, if you scuba diving, mountain climb, rock climb, BASE jump, or sky dive and need new and/or additional life insurance, strongly consider your commitment to the sport. If you honestly don't plan to engage in these activities anytime soon then consider them your ex-hobbies and don't list them on your insurance application. Should you subsequently restart the interest later in the coverage period,  then give your agent a call.  You possibly would have avoided some degree of avoidable insurance expense.    

Essentially, your life insurance policy is a legal contract between you and the company that issues it. As you would (hopefully) never lie or mislead your lawyer, you should likewise NEVER mislead insurance underwriters on your life insurance application.  If an insurance company can prove intentional deceit regarding purposely omitted risky lifestyle definition, they can seek full or reduced claims.  Your local independent insurance agent (like us here at TriState) serve as your personal insurance consultant and can guide you toward value-based insurance coverage in ways that the agents employed directly by the insurance carriers cannot.  

These companies evaluate all risks associated with covering you against death or incapacitation. Certain behaviors and conditions will increase the cost of your policy and the premiums you will pay. Every policy should be customized to match the individual. The types of behaviors that life insurance companies often consider risky include:

  • Smoking. Insurance companies will cover smokers, but at a higher rate.
  • Body weight. The life insurance company underwriters will evaluate your height and weight for known associated health risk factors.
  • Driving record. If you have a history of traffic violations – particularly moving violations or driving under the influence – your rates may be higher.
  • Risky activities. If you engage in certain high risk activities, such as scuba diving, motorcycle riding, flying a plane or similar pursuits, your rates will be higher.
  • Alcohol consumption. Your alcohol consumption will be evaluated as a risk factor in issuing a policy.

If you are soon to apply for any type of life insurance that requires a lifestyle and health certification, consider taking active measures to mitigate such things.  Of course you can't change your driving record, but you can quit smoking, loose weight, quit or reduce alcohol consumption, etc.  

We invite you to contact us today to discuss these and any other insurance question or need that you may have!

Happy New Year from Tristate Business Insurance

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, December 28, 2017
Happy New Year from Tristate Business Insurance

Happy New Year from Tristate Business Insurance. We would like to thank our customers, friends, family, and community for allowing our business to be part of your lives in 2017. We wish all of you a wonderful and prosperous 2018!

If we have had the pleasure of being your choice in providers, we hope that we provided the highest level of customer service and met all of your needs. In the coming months if you find yourself in need of the services we offer, we hope you choose us again in 2018.

It is our sincere wish that in the New Year you are surrounded by warmth, family, and friendship and that 2018 brings you good health and prosperity. From all of us here at Tristate Business Insurance we hope you have a safe and exciting New Year.

“We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday – the longer, the better…” ~ Charles Dickens

Auto Accidents -- Never Admit Fault at the Scene

Darren Kincaid - Thursday, December 07, 2017
TriState Business Insurance - Auto Insurance Claims

To our valued clients, now that we've helped you secure automobile insurance coverage for your newly licensed son or daughter here in Virginia, Maryland, and DC, do yourselves a favor and make sure you periodically review with them what to do in the event of an accident. The following words of advice could save you both money and legal problems.

Never leave the scene of an accident. Regardless of how bad the accident is or who is at fault, most state laws require you to stop. If you drive away, you can be charged with a hit-and-run even if you are not at fault. A minor accident is an accident that does not involve any injuries or large scale damage to any vehicles or property. If there are any injuries, if the accident is blocking a lane of traffic and cannot be moved, or if there is significant damage, call the police immediately. Low impact fender-benders or hitting a parked car in a parking lot would be examples of minor accidents.

Assigning Blame. For any type of accident, your teen should never admit fault or apologize. On the other hand, your teen should never accuse the other driver of being at fault. Immediately after an accident is not the time to play the blame game. The insurance companies can solve that argument. Never sign anything unless it is from a police officer. Your teen should not allow himself to be bullied by the other driver. What is said and done after a car accident can impact the insurance claim. Sadly, some adult drivers will be aggressive and try to take advantage of a distraught new driver.

Make sure everyone involved is OK. If so, move the cars off of the road and away from traffic, turn your hazard lights on, and turn the cars off. There could be damage to the engine or your car may be leaking fluid. A car fire would certainly make the situation worse. Then, inspect all cars involved for any damage.

When to file a police report. Some minor accidents do not cause any visual damage or immediate injury. To a teenager, quickly clearing the matter up and driving away can seem like an easy way out of trouble so the parents do not find out. Your teen needs to be aware of the consequences of not filing a police report. Even if the other driver claims to be OK and refuses emergency treatment, they can always come back months or years later and file a lawsuit claiming damages. If you have a police report, you have the evidence to plead your case. Without the police report, it’s your word against theirs. Unfortunately, it’s easy to side against a new driver. Therefore, we suggest always contacting the police. After getting a police report and deciding to file a claim, contact your insurance company and let them know about the accident and follow their instructions.

In the event your teen decides not to contact police, make sure he gets contact information for the other driver, asks for proof of insurance, and writes down the insurance information. He should also write down the license plate number and a brief description of the car. In the future, this information might be needed. You can never been too cautious, and asking for this information is standard procedure when involved in a car accident.

We'll be glad to talk this over with you personally.  Accidents happen and you need not worry....we've got your back!

New Small Business Insurance The Simple Way

Darren Kincaid - Thursday, November 30, 2017
TriState small business insurance for owners in VA, MD, and DC

We're nearing the end of calendar year 2017 and there is optimism in the air regarding tax reform and reported incentives for the small business owners.  We hope that means that many of you out there who have been thinking of starting your own business might just jump in.  We hope you do and offer our sincere best wishes.  The entire team here at TriState Business Insurance (serving VA, MD, DC) are your biggest fans.

Some analysts predict the new economy will spike a surge of individual business owners with trade skills.  We can both consult you on your new business startup and source the most comprehensive and affordable business insurance available to you. When you need business insurance coverage in VA, MD, or DC, know that we've delivered for countless new small business owners across the tri-state area.Just some of the small business owners we have and continue to support include: 

  • Carpenters
  • Painting Services – Interior & Exterior
  • Janitorial Services – Both Residential & Commercial
  • Electricians
  • Home Remodeling
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Siding Installation
  • Landscaping

Unfortunately, no matter how long you have been in business and regardless of your skills, risk is inherent in operating as an independent contractor.  Whether you are a current of future small business owner/operator in need of business insurance coverage anywhere in MD, VA, or DC, take advantage of the independent professionals here at TriState Business Insurance.  It is our job to research the insurance market on your behalf and to deliver you the best value on the market today.  Your risk-free consult is simply a phone call away.

Happy Thanksgiving From TriState Business Insurance

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, November 22, 2017
TriState Business Insurance - Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving week and a time each year when we reflect upon the blessing within our lives. Today our warmest Thanksgiving wishes go out to all of you, our clients, friends, and neighbors. Along with this note of thanks to you, this week we offer a special Thanksgiving “shout-out” to one of the more unsung Thanksgiving heroes, Sarah Hale. Historians credit Sara Hale as the originator of the Thanksgiving federal holiday.

Sara Hale undertook a 17-year letter writing campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday observed in all states. Before Hale, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday but rather an informal tradition. Presidents would select a day and make it known that it would be a day of thanksgiving and community. Hale lobbied five separate presidents for a set date until finally her request was granted by president Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln congratulated her tenacity and immortalized the holiday as part of American culture.

So thanks, Sara, for your 17 years of letter writing, for securing our day of Thanks on Thursday, and for your part in creating one of the most warm and celebrated day within our American culture!