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Fairfax, VA 22030

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The Need for Annual Small Business Insurance Policy Reviews

Darren Kincaid - Monday, February 26, 2018
TriState Business Insurance - Virginia, Maryland, and DC

Last week we discussed the wisdom of reviewing your seasonal insurance coverage, specifically your watercraft insurance coverage and your ATV insurance coverage across VA, MD, and DC.  Seasons change gives us pause to check many things in and around the house and your business insurance coverage is no different.  Things change over the course of a business year introduces the potential to change your small business' liability insurance coverages.   

Do you and your employees engage in any new service offerings that might present risk that previously did not exist?  Did you eliminate high risk service activities that might allow you to decrease insurance coverage?  Did a new business partner or strategic business relationship emerge over the last year that presents circumstances that could threaten continued business operations if he/she/they disappear?  What happens if that new relationship either accidentally (or intentionally) goes south and you and your business are suddenly subject to new liability risks that did not previously exist. As your business grows and matures, the specific coverage within your comprehensive insurance policy can change dramatically. 

Last week we discussed umbrella insurance policies for the home and the boat, but every business owner should discuss the merits of an umbrella insurance policy to cover catastrophic business-related accidents as well.  This subject presents the true advantages of trusting independent insurance agents like us here at TriState Business Insurance serving small business owners across Virginia, Maryland, and DC. We serve as your agents and shop over a dozen A-1 rated insurance carriers on your behalf.  We deliver custom policies for your business that deliver far greater value than the policies that insurance company sales staff will pitch to you.  

Like most business owners focused on business operations, there is little time to consider the vast variety and quality of insurance offerings.  We're here to do that for you.  Insurance value fluctuates from carrier to carrier.  Our professional skill centers upon which insurance companies deliver the most value based on your unique coverage requirements.   We invite you to contact us for a no-fee consult that time and time again put our clients on the path to increased business insurance coverage at decreased cost. 

Does My Umbrella Insurance Policy Cover Watercraft Accidents?

Darren Kincaid - Friday, February 23, 2018
TriState Business Insurance - Virginia, Maryland, and DC

Like most of us here at TriState in mid-March, our idle moments are spent day dreaming about being back on the boat with family and friends.  We're not physically out on the water yet, but some of us are already readying our boats and personal water craft.  New paint, new oil, purging old fuel and replacing with new, greasing trailer bearings, and other chores that we really don't classify as work.  But here's something else you should think about working on, reviewing your water craft insurance coverage.  This is really important and we'll tell you why.

There are few activities in your active lifestyle that subject you to real risk and the risk of lawsuit than operating your water craft.  To cover catastrophic legal exposure for claims against your automobile policy, you may or may not have an umbrella insurance policy to cover court-ordered claims in excess of your policy limits.  Your umbrella policy likely covers the unthinkable accidents that could happen on your property.  Real threats that DO happen like a guest falling down your steps and breaking their neck or someone slipping on ice and suffering a life-threatening head injury.  This isn't a some scare tactic we're using here, the're the types of things that happen to ordinary people.  Things that you can never plan for yet can (and do) ruin families financially.  That's why smart people carry umbrella policies. Those same people almost universally praise the affordability and value of umbrella insurance coverage.

Back to boating.  We're no longer shocked by the number of people who just assume that their umbrella policy extends over and into watercraft operation coverage.  The simple fact is some umbrella insurance policies cover boating accidents, and some will not.  And while supremely fun, boating is an inherently dangerous sport.  So as independent insurance agents (more your neighbors and friends than anything else)  we implore you to get smart on your insurance coverage and make certain that you are covered for the unforeseen catastrophic events (both on and off the water) that life can throw at you.  

To learn more about umbrella insurance, personal boat insurance, and how they do and do not intersect each other, contact TriState Business Insurance.

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.