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The Best Way to Shop Your Insurance

If you’re like many businesses, you are looking for ways to cut your expenses. That can mean anything from changing the brand of pens you use to laying off staff. Sometimes the most noticeable increase in expenses comes when your insurance renewal shows up with an increase. The best way to decrease insurance premiums is by shopping your coverage. There are many bad ways to do this, and a really good one. Don’t Shop Online Many insurance companies offer websites where you can complete an online application and receive an instant quote. These may seem like a great idea, but are you getting what you need, or just what you pay for? Sure, shopping your business insurance online at 3 am while eating leftover pizza in your pajamas sounds great now. After completing the fourth online application and receiving a fourth wildly different quote, you may start to feel like this is more trouble that it is worth. In addition, are you really getting the insurance that your business needs? One-size-fits-all insurance coverage is a myth. Every business has different needs and there are probably things your business needs coverage for that the online application isn’t asking about. That is the stuff that won’t be covered. Don’t Go Everywhere Another seemingly good idea is to get a whole bunch of different insurance brokers or insurance companies working on your insurance quotes at the same time. This can also be a lot of work. You may be making a lot of phone calls or insurance agency visits, completing more applications, and fielding a lot more questions and quotes. The good...

June 2019 Cannabis Update: To Shroom or Not To Shroom?

In the last month, two cities have decriminalized magic mushrooms and certain other natural psychedelics. The first to cross the threshold was Denver, in May passing the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative by a narrow margin. This doesn’t make mushrooms legal in that city but deprioritizes criminal penalties imposed by the City of Denver for possession of psilocybin mushrooms.The second city was Oakland, CA, which took things a step further. The city decriminalized several entheogenic plants, including magic mushrooms and peyote.Expanding into natural psychedelics would seem to be a natural next step for those who own cannabis-related businesses. However, it should be noted first that decriminalization does not legalize these substances, and second that there is likely no coverage under your current insurance policies for these substances.Your business insurance coverage likely contains an “Other Plants and Products Exclusion” that excludes coverage for plants other than cannabis or cannabis related products. The endorsement will look something like this: Please note that the exclusion applies to both the Commercial General Liability coverage form and the Products/Completed Operations Liability coverage parts of the policy.What Are The Consequences?It is important to note that while possession or usage of magic mushrooms and/or other natural hallucinogenics has been decriminalized, they have not been legalized. Dispensaries or other retail establishments may be subject to legal action even within those cities where decriminalization has occurred.In addition, you may lose your insurance coverage. Insurance carriers who discover their insured producing, stocking or selling these substances may choose to cancel your policies outright or nonrenew them upon expiration. Since these substances are still illegal it would be impossible to place coverage with another carrier.Don’t lose your livelihood....

Who Is An Insured?

When purchasing insurance for your business, the application will ask for the name of your company. Typically what you will put there is the company’s corporate name, as well as any “Doing Business As” (dba). That determines the “insured” party on the policy. Did you know that on many policies the “insured” can be more than just the business? In fact, coverage may extend further than you think. It Depends on Your Corporate Structure The typical Commercial General Liability Coverage Form (CG 00 01) reads as follows: In every instance, the company is covered, as well as the decision makers within the company, depending on the structure. However, they are covered only as it relates to their duties and/or conduct within the operations of the business that is being insured. But Wait, There’s More The CGL policy goes on to state: As with directors, officers and the like, conduct of employees and volunteers must be related to the business in ordered to be covered. In addition, bodily injury or personal advertising injury caused by these individuals to owners, managers, directors, other employees or volunteers is not covered. Any property damage to company owned property by these individuals is also not covered. Anything Else? Actually, yes, there is more. The policy also extends coverage to newly acquired or formed organizations as named insureds, except for these types: A partnership.A joint venture.A limited liability company. These types of companies must be added to the policy right away.  Any other organization will have automatic coverage for up to 90 days from the date it was formed or acquired. No coverage is offered...

Your Guide to Property Claims

We hope it never happens to you, but property claims do happen. Whether it is a break-in, a tornado, or a fire, we’ve got you covered.  If it’s your first claim, you may not know what to do. Luckily your policy gives you a good idea of what your next steps should be, in a section usually titled “Duties In The Event Of Loss Or Damage”. First Things First The first question you need to ask yourself is: “Was a law broken?”  If so, you should immediately contact the police. Whether this was a burglary or a robbery, the police should always be the first call. If no law has been broken, you can move on to the next step. Timing Is Everything As per the Building and Personal Property Coverage Form (CP 00 10): Property damage may be compounded over time due to weather and other factors, so reporting damage in a timely fashion is important. As soon as you are aware of loss or damage to your building or contents, you should notify your broker or your insurance company. The company will need a description of the damage, including how and when it occurred to be sure that the damaged property is covered under your policy. Failure to report property damage or loss in a timely manner could result in reduced claim payments. Then What? Once you have reported the damage or loss to the insurance company, your duties are still not over. The policy states that upon reporting you must: You must protect the property from further damage or loss. Be sure to keep records of...

Your Guide to Liability Claims

After years of faithfully paying your insurance premium, the day has finally come: you’ve got your first claim. This is why you have insurance! However, you’re not sure what to do next. Luckily your policy gives you a good idea of what happens next, in a section usually titled “Duties In The Event Of Occurrence, Offense, Claim Or Suit”. Timing Is Everything The first thing the policy tells you is that the insurance company expects to be notified “as soon as possible of an offense or ‘occurrence’ that may result in a claim”. Even if the injured party hasn’t filed a lawsuit or made a formal claim, if you expect some sort of a claim from the occurrence, you should notify the insurance company right away. Notice is particularly important if you have a claims-made policy, such as directors & officers coverage. You could wait until you receive a demand letter or lawsuit, but depending on the timeliness of the notice, the carrier may be within their rights to refuse to defend the claim. What To Report So what does the insurance company need to know in order to open a claim file?  The policy is very specific about this, as well. The Commercial General Liability Coverage Form (CG 00 01) reads as follows: (Property claims are handled a bit differently and will be discussed in another blog post.) All of the above needs to happen in the event of an occurrence that may become a claim. Should you receive a claim letter, a letter of representation or a lawsuit, the policy advises you to do the following: It...

What Flood Insurance Doesn’t Cover

As most everyone knows, flood insurance is not covered by the typical homeowners or business insurance property policy. The solution for getting flood insurance is usually to obtain a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP attempted to fill a significant gap in coverage for property owners when property insurance carriers began to exclude flood coverage. Unfortunately, NFIP doesn’t cover everything. It Doesn’t Cover All Flooding NFIP has a specific defintion of a flood. It is as follows: A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (one of which is your property) from: a. Overflow of inland or tidal waters b. Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source c. Mudflow. Per this definition, if your bathtub or toilet overflows and makes a mess of your house, there is no coverage under your flood insurance policy. If your washing machine floods the garage while you’re out running errands there is no coverage. This type of water damage may be covered under your homeowners policy, but it depends on the type of damage and how it occurred. Talk to your broker about what types of water damage may be covered by your policy. It Doesn’t Cover Everything You Own The NFIP policies do limit the amount of coverage you can purchase for your home or business. These limits are as follows: TypeBuilding LimitContents LimitOne to Four Family Residential$250,000$100,000Other Residential (Non-Condo)$500,000$100,000Non-Residential Business$500,000$500,000 It is important to note that if the replacement cost of the structure is less...

Five Insurance Basics for Businesses

Whether you are starting a new business, or your company is well-established, protecting that business should be one of your main concerns. Locked doors, security personnel and a well-padded bank account are all nice things to have, but they can only do so much. Business insurance can be a hassle, but at Hayes Brokers we like to do our best to take the sting out of it. Here are the insurance basics for businesses, whether new or old. 1. General Liability A general liability policy should be at the top of the insurance list for any business owner. This policy can cover the business premises, the business operations off premises, and a host of other issues that may crop up related to advertising injury, products and completed operations and more. General liability insurance can cover both personal injury to customers and property damage to their property. Some might even call this policy “prepaid legal” since it will provide legal representation in the event of a claim or lawsuit related to the business operations. 2. Property Insurance Whether you own a building or just the contents, property insurance is a must. Property insurance is versatile enough to cover not only your structure and your company contents, but also business income or business interruption coverage in the event of a loss that leaves your business unable to operate for a period of time. There are many options available with property policies, such as equipment breakdown (boiler & machinery) coverage, ordinance or law, sinkhole collapse and more. Talk to your broker to find out which options are right for your business. 3....

Do You Need Railroad Protective Liability?

In most cases, when a business purchases insurance, the coverage protects that business. If coverage extends to another party, it is often done by endorsement, such as an additional insured form. There is at least one case where this isn’t true: Railroad Protective Liability (RRPL). As the name states, these policies are related to railroads. Coverage is purchased by a contractor but the coverage is for the railroad. What Is Railroad Protective Liability? Railroad Protective Liability insurance is coverage that was designed by railroads and the insurance industry. It protects railroads from liability they incur due to the work of contractors on or near a railroad line or right-of-way. This includes work on or near a train station, the tracks, on land owned by a railroad, and within 50 feet of any railroad property. Do You Already Have RRPL? If you already have Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance, you may think that it will cover you anywhere you do work. However, work on or near railroads is specifically excluded by excluding contractual liability for anything related to railroads. This is the portion of the Commercial General Liability Coverage Form (CG 00 01 04 13) that relates to insured contracts: What does this mean? If your work contract is with a railroad or includes work on or near railroad property, you have no coverage if the claim is railroad-related. Bottom line: you need RRPL in these situations. What Makes RRPL different? RRPL is a policy that is meant to cover the gaps in the CGL policy relating to railroads. The coverage is typically purchased by the contractor, but the named...

Is It Insured? Pets in the Office

In this world of impossible deadlines and never-ending stress, employers are looking for ways to make the work environment more pleasant for workers. One way that is becoming increasingly common is by allowing pets in the office. A study by Virginia Commonwealth University finds that office dogs actually reduce stress. The question is, what does your insurance say about dogs or other pets in the workplace? Let’s find out. FUN FACT: Take Your Dog To Work Day is an actual holiday! This year it falls on Friday, June 21, 2019. Things To Consider Before allowing dogs in your workplace, there are a few things to consider: Do you own a business that would be affected by dogs? Restaurants and other food-related operations may find themselves up against health violations by having a pet in the workplace.Does your landlord allow animals in the building? Some buildings may prohibit animals of any kind.Are any of your employees allergic to or afraid of certain animals? Assuming you are ok on all of the above, it’s important to make sure that the pet you are bringing in is clean, housebroken and properly trained. Does Your Policy Cover It? Most business insurance applications don’t even ask if you allow animals in the workplace. As it becomes more common, this may change. The Commercial General Liability coverage form (CG 00 01 04 13) does not have a specific exclusion that addresses animals. However, the Insuring Agreement does include this gem: The insurance company asserts they will have “no duty to defend” for any suit against which “this insurance does not apply”. What does that mean...

Insurance for Protest Marches

In the current political climate, it seems there are protest marches every weekend, and sometimes during the week. These may be associated with certain holidays or anniversaries of important dates. The point is, they happen frequently. While some protests are small, unplanned gatherings, marches are a different type of gathering. They often require months of advanced planning, funding, and scheduling. Marches are often required by cities and states to have permits, usually requiring a fee and proof of insurance. So where can you get insurance for protest marches? Hayes Brokers can help you with that. Liability Insurance Most cities and states require organizations to have liability insurance for any organized function being held on public property. When applying for a permit, organizers will receive a packet with information that includes the insurance requirements. These insurance requirements usually include a list of limits for general liability and auto liability, as well as wording that is required for adding the governmental agency and others as additional insured. They may also require a waiver of subrogation or other wording to protect themselves. This insurance may only be required for the day, and depending on the march or activity, a special events policy may work to satisfy the governmental authority and protect the organization in the event of problems during the march. However, standard insurance companies may not be willing to offer one day coverage for events with a history or reputation of problematic, violent or destructive behavior. Don’t Purchase Insurance Online Because of their insurance requirements, many governmental and municipal agencies will offer links to purchase insurance on their websites. Do not...

Cannabis Insurance Get-Started Guide

The new year brings new opportunities in many parts of the country where cannabis has finally been legalized. Whether it was medical, recreational, or both, the ability to legally sell and obtain marijuana has many dreaming of starting new businesses. Finding a location and product suppliers are important. Getting the proper licensing is a must. Learn all you can about the business before you get started. And don’t forget about insurance. Hayes Brokers has been insuring cannabis businesses since 1996, when it all began in California. In fact, we wrote the book on it. Now, we can insure cannabis operations in every state where it is legal. Here’s how we can help you. Liability Insurance for Cannabis Businesses If you own a retail operation such as a dispensary, you’re going to need general liability insurance. Your landlord may require it, but even if you don’t have a landlord, this coverage will protect you in many other ways.   Premises liability will protect against the odd bodily injury (slip and fall) claim made by customers and visitors. It will also protect against property damage claims by those same visitors. This coverage works like prepaid legal. Should someone threaten to sue for bodily injury or property damage, the coverage will provide legal representation for your business. If your business is found liable, the policy will pay the claim (indemnify you) up to the policy limit. This is the most important coverage you can purchase as a business owner. One thing not covered under most standard Commercial General Liability policies for cannabis businesses is products liability insurance. This coverage can and should...

Application Misrepresentation/Fraud

When researching insurance options the most tedious part of the process is filling out application after application after application. Every company seems to have their own form to complete, and no other application will do. Insurance companies require applications to find out all they can about your business operations. They want to know what they are potentially going to cover so that they can rate your risk properly and charge the appropriate amount of premium. They may also choose to decline a business applicant if the type of business is not something they are interested in insuring. Have You Reviewed Your Application? Depending on the size of the application you may have several pages to fill out, and then there is the signature line that comes at the bottom of the last page. It is usually proceeded by a bunch of legal jargon that most people don’t read prior to signing – but they should. This is what it looks like on the Acord 125 Commercial Insurance Application: That’s a lot to read, but it is definitely worth taking a moment to read and discuss with your broker prior to signing. What Constitutes Material Misrepresentation or Fraud? Material misrepresentation or fraud is defined as a misstatement in answer to a question on an application. That question is so important that if it had been answered truthfully, the insurance carrier may have declined coverage or charged a higher premium for the insurance policy issued.  It can be any of a number of things including: Misrepresenting prior loss history to a new insurance carrier.Failing to disclose criminal convictions or bankruptcies.Misrepresenting the...

“Alarming” Things About Insurance

If you have property insurance (and you should) the application may have asked about your security measures. Do you have armed guards? Do you have a sprinkler system? Do you have a burglar alarm system? In some cases your security measures may earn you a discount on your policy premium. However, they probably also include something else: a Protective Safeguards endorsement. What is that, and could it be a problem? Protective Safeguards Endorsement The Protective Safeguards endorsement will look something like this: The premises and building numbers will correspond with the location(s) scheduled on the declarations page of the policy, and each one will have one or more symbols listed next to it, each starting with “P-”. P-1 is an Automatic Sprinkler System P-2 is an Automatic Fire Alarm P-3 is a Security Service that makes hourly rounds P-4 is a Service Contract with a privately owned fire department P-5 is an Automatic Commercial Cooking Exhaust and Extinguishing System P-9 is any other protective system shown and described in the schedule Why List Protective Systems? If you list a protective system on your application, you will most likely receive a discount on your coverage. However, the insurance company will require that the protective system be in complete working order at the time of a loss, otherwise they will not pay on the claim. The endorsement itself includes a provision adding an exclusion to the policy that says if the policyholder knows that the protective system was not working prior to the loss, then there is no coverage. If the protective system fails because it was not properly maintained, there...

Limited By Your Business Insurance?

As a business owner, it is natural for you to always be looking for ways to make a profit. Sometimes these ideas come in the form of new products and services that you can provide to customers. Innovation is important in any industry, but there might be one small hitch in your plans. Does your current insurance policy cover the new service or product? How can you tell? General Liability Policy Hazards On your general liability policy (or your package policy that includes liability) there is usually a page that lays out the hazards and rates. This page includes the following: Class Code. This is a five-digit code number that is assigned to each and every industry component. What your business does will fit into one or more class codes. For example: 91560 – Concrete Construction 97447 – Masonry Some are even more specific, such as restaurants, where classification options include whether alcohol is sold, how much is sold, and whether there is table service. Description. This is a brief description based on the class code number. Rating Basis. This is where your premium amount comes from. Each class code has a basis, which can be area, subcontractor costs, payroll or gross receipts. Rate. This is how the premium is calculated. Insurance companies set rates for class codes and then multiply them by the rating basis to get the premium they will charge. It is a good idea to review this page with your insurance broker to be sure that your business is classified correctly and that all components of your business are accounted for. Sometimes insurance companies will...

What Your Property Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Ask the average homeowner what their property insurance covers and they will probably say “not much”. All too often homeowners make claims against their property insurance for common occurrences that simply aren’t covered by the policy. There are many things covered by property insurance: fire, lightning, explosion, smoke, windstorm, hail, riot, civil commotion, aircraft, vehicles, vandalism, sprinkler leakage, sinkhole collapse, volcanic action, falling objects; weight of snow, ice, or sleet; water damage (in the form of leakage from appliances); and collapse from specified causes (unless, of course, any of these are specifically excluded). However, there are some specific exclusions you should be aware of since claims for any of these will not be covered under your policy. Vermin & Animals The specific property exclusion in the Homeowners 3 – Special Form (HO3) policy form looks like this:     Vermin includes lice, fleas, roaches, bed bugs, and rodents. Damage or infestation by these pests is not a covered peril under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Damage to the home and subsequent repair and treatment of the home would be an out-of-pocket expense. So what is considered a rodent?  According to Wikipedia, the most well-known rodents are mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and capybaras so damage by these would not be covered. What about skunks, bats or raccoons? None of these are considered insects or rodents, so coverage would most likely apply to damage made by these creatures. However, check with your broker or insurance policy for a complete definition. As for part (h) – “Animals owned or kept by an ‘insured’” this means...

State Minimum Auto Insurance

During every sporting event, there are plenty of ads on TV touting the latest online auto insurance company. Each offers online quoting, low down payments and state minimum auto insurance. Those all sound great, but are they? Remember that old adage that “you get what you pay for”? Let’s talk more about state minimum auto insurance. What is State Minimum Auto Insurance? Nearly every state requires that drivers have insurance or financial responsibility in order to drive a vehicle. Since insurance is mandatory, states have established state minimum auto insurance requirements for drivers. State minimum auto insurance limits are the minimum amount of liability insurance (both bodily injury liability and property damage liability) that the state requires for a driver to be “legal” to drive. These limits vary from state to state. Below are some examples: California $15,000 bodily injury liability per person $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident $5,000 property damage liability per accident Florida $10,000 property damage liability per accident $10,000 personal injury protection Here is a handy guide to the websites and information for state minimum auto insurance requirements by state. What Isn’t Required As State Minimum? State laws require only that drivers have minimum liability insurance limits for bodily injury and property damage. Still others require minimum limits of personal injury protection for insured drivers and their passengers. What usually isn’t required is coverage for comprehensive and collision damage (also known as “full coverage”) or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, towing & labor, or rental reimbursement. Should You Purchase State Minimum Auto Insurance? As a law, you MUST purchase at least the state minimum in order to...

Happy Holidays

It is the time of year when we all reflect on the past 365 days and look forward to the coming year. Hayes Brokers wishes all of our current and future clients a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2019.

Christmas Presents, Christmas Perils

Tis almost the season! With the holidays shortly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to examine how the holidays might impact your homeowner’s insurance coverage. This season is a joyful one, but sometimes bad things happen. How will your current coverage respond? The Peril of Fire As seen in this classic scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Christmas trees are highly flammable: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) the likelihood of fire increases in December and January. A huge spike in home fires occurs in the 10 days after Christmas, when homeowners have stopped watering the tree regularly, and are more lax about turning the lights off. Electrical shorts from overloaded circuits near a source of kindling (a dried out Christmas tree) accounted for about 40% of Christmas tree fires. See more facts about Christmas tree fires here. The good news: your homeowner’s insurance will cover the peril of fire unless the fire was intentionally set (and 24% of them are). The Peril of Theft All types of theft increase during the holidays, including shoplifting. However, the worst kind of theft to experience at this time of year is the theft of holiday gifts. Christmas lights on the house, a brightly lit tree glowing in the window and no cars in the driveway are a beacon to thieves looking to cash in on some holiday spirit. This family was hit in 2013:  There are many ways to keep your home from being burglarized, including making sure the home looks occupied at all times, installing a security system, and keeping gifts out of sight...

What Does Equipment Breakdown Cover?

As a business owner, you may have been presented a quote by your broker for Equipment Breakdown (aka Boiler & Machinery) coverage. You may have even seen this coverage as a line item on a property, package or business owner’s package (BOP) quote. In many parts of the country, boilers are no longer used, but this coverage is still valuable for many reasons. What Is Equipment Breakdown? Decades ago, this coverage was called Boiler & Machinery and was designed to cover boilers and production machinery used by factories and other businesses. Over time this coverage was expanded to cover such things as air conditioning units and elevators, so the coverage was renamed to Equipment Breakdown insurance. Equipment Breakdown insurance is property coverage. Heating and air conditioning equipment, as well as other machinery components now rely heavily on electricity. Electrical arcing, which is excluded by the property coverage form, is a major reason for equipment breakdown and would be covered under equipment breakdown insurance. What Does Equipment Breakdown Cover? This coverage is designed to cover a significant gap in the Building & Business Personal Property coverage form that specifically excludes: Mechanical breakdown The explosion of boilers and pressure vessels and Electrical arcing The systems that are usually affected by these claims include: Electrical systems Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration Boiler & other pressure vessels Computers and communications equipment Mechanical Production systems Alternative energy systems Some claim examples: An air conditioning motor burned out in a high rise senior citizens apartment complex at the height of summer. “Spot coolers” were rented to keep the place cool while employees worked overtime to...

Preparing for a Fire Threat: Insurance

We’ve all seen the incredible and horrifying pictures of the devastation from the Camp and Woolsey fires in California over the recent weeks. Whole towns demolished. Property damage estimates are expected to exceed $19 billion for homes and businesses. The amount of uninsured or underinsured losses has not yet been calculated, but it is sure to be some portion of that amount. How could those home and business owners have better protected themselves with insurance? How could you better protect your home and business? First Things First If there is a fire bearing down on your area at this time, you cannot purchase new coverage or  make changes to any of your property or auto insurance policies. Insurance companies will put moratoriums on binding new policies or making changes to existing policies in the face of imminent threat of property damage. Call your broker after the threat has passed to discuss purchasing new coverage or making changes to existing coverage. Properly Insuring Your Property How much is your property worth? It’s an interesting question that has more than one answer. There is, of course, sentimental value. Unfortunately, that cannot be insured. Then there is market value, which fluctuates over time. Your expensive home or business can increase in value in times of economic upturn, but can decrease in times of peril, such as an oncoming fire. While this is a good starting point for insuring a home it does not accurately reflect how much coverage you may need in the event of a covered cause of loss. Replacement cost value is what property insurance policies are based on. Depending...

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