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Hayes Insurance Attends Legal Conference

In February 2017, Galen Hayes and his team were asked to meet with California attorneys who wish to better serve the cannabis community. The conference was held in San Francisco, and was also attended via teleconference by lawyers in Los Angeles. These legal firms sought to better understand the unique challenges of cannabis-related industries. In particular, they wanted to discuss various types of insurance coverage and the protection those policies offer to both medical and recreational marijuana operations. Among the questions asked was whether marijuana businesses may obtain insurance coverage for governmental action. At this time, this coverage is not available to this business sector, but as the legality of medical and recreational marijuana continues to spread across the country, it is believed that this coverage will become available. There is still quite a bit of risk involved with marijuana operations, as this industry is still not legal at the federal level. It is important that cannabis industry owners and operators retain the counsel of competent attorneys, as well as proper insurance coverage through the most knowledgable brokers in the industry, Hayes...

Work Comp for Business Owners

It is often said in business that the largest single expense to employers is actually their employees. Many business owners agree, especially when you include benefits, paid time off, and insurance. One place a business owner may look to save money is on Workers Compensation Insurance premiums. In particular, the owner may elect to exclude himself from coverage.  Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to exclude yourself from coverage under the Workers Compensation policy. When It’s A Bad Idea To Exclude Yourself In most states, coverage is automatically extended to an owner or officer.  This is a good thing, for the following reasons: Your medical insurance won’t cover you for an on-the-job injury. Coverage can be denied and referred back to workers compensation in the case of an on-the-job injury. Your family needs your income. A major on-the-job-injury might mean you can’t work for weeks, months or longer. If you don’t have short or long term disability insurance, your lost income could be a burden to your family. Owner/officer payroll is capped. No matter what your take home pay, there is usually a cap in most states on how much of your owner/officer payroll can be used to calculate premium. Your insurance broker can tell you what the cap is. Certificate Holders require it. Some certificate holders, particularly government entities and large contractors, may require that all employees be covered, even owners. When It’s A Good Idea To Exclude Yourself Any good insurance broker would recommend that owners and officers be included on the Worker’s Compensation policy. However, there may be a couple of instances when...

Flood Insurance for Businesses

Flood insurance is more important now than ever. Flood events across the country in the last few years are affecting not only homeowners, but also businesses. In August 2016, Louisiana experienced flooding that cost over $3.8 billion in losses. Included in that figure were over 6,000 businesses, many uninsured. What many business owners don’t know is that flood is not a covered peril under your business package insurance policy. It also cannot be included in these policies. Flood insurance is always a separate policy, but it can be purchased in different ways. Here is what you need to know about flood insurance for businesses: Basic Flood Insurance The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers basic flood insurance limits for businesses. Because this is a government program, coverage is limited to: $500,000 or replacement cost value per structure at any one location, whichever is less. $500,000 or replacement cost value in contents coverage per structure at any one location, whichever is less. In addition, policies are limited to one structure per policy.  Even if your building is worth more than $500,000, the limit may not exceed $500,000. Underwriting requirements include a flood elevation certificate, two pictures of the structure front and back and payment in full of the policy premium. Unless the insurance is for a loan closing, there is typically a 30-day waiting period before the policy goes into effect. Private Market Insurance While NFIP used to be the only game in town, this is no longer the case. There are private insurers available to insure businesses for the peril of flood. The good news is that these insurers...

Domestic Employees: Should You Pay Under The Table?

It is a common complaint this time of year: taxes are complicated and expensive. Between your mortgage, your earnings, your itemized deductions and your domestic employees, filing taxes can be a long and arduous process. Wait, what do domestic employees have to do with taxes? According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publication 926, you should withhold taxes from pay made to domestic employees. How do you know who to pay and how much? What Are Domestic Employees? The IRS says that if you pay someone to do work around your home, and you control not only what they do but also how they do it, that is considered a domestic employee. These include: Nannies Cleaning People Caregivers Drivers Yard workers Maids Other types of employees may qualify as domestic employees. Check with the IRS to determine if a worker in your home is a domestic employee. Service providers who control their own tools, hours and services may or may not be considered domestic employees. These include plumbers and lawn services, or any other service that hires and pays their own employees. Some service providers could be considered employees for tax and workers compensation purposes. To find out how to determine who is or is not an employee, click here. What Should Be Withheld? For tax year 2017, any domestic employee paid more than $2,000 in the tax year must have Social Security and Medicare deductions withheld. In addition, their employer must also pay Social Security and Medicare on their behalf. Federal taxes do not need to be withheld unless the employer and employee agree to this in advance....

Case Study: Cuisinart Products Liability

In December 2016 Cuisinart was the talk of the town, and not in a good way. Consumers of Cuisinart food processors began reporting mouth injuries and tooth damage related to pieces of processor blades that ended up in their food. Cuisinart announced a massive recall of the riveted blade products sold in the US and Canada. The recall encompassed products sold from July 1996 to December 2015. The large window for item production causes other issues, which we will address in a moment. What Does Products Liability Cover? Products liability insurance is the coverage that would respond to bodily injury and property damage claims caused by products produced by the policyholder. Sometimes this coverage is included in a general liability insurance policy, but for companies that produce large numbers of consumer products it is often stand-alone coverage. This insurance protects against medical claims for bodily injury or illness, financial claims against property damage, and legal defense costs should a claim turn into a lawsuit. A large number of claims due to a product or products could result in a class action lawsuit, like in the case of the Cuisinart recall. With such a lengthy timeline of products being sold, where is the products liability coverage? Which Policy Responds? This is a complex question with many possible answers: All of the Cuisinart blade injuries have been reported in the last several months. Products liability for any bodily injury or property damage may come from the current policy. Or would it? The affected products were sold over a 19 year period. Products liability coverage is typically triggered by a claim, so...

Flood Insurance FAQs

Most insurance policies can be purchased through private insurers. Flood insurance, however, can usually only be obtained through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This government program has rules and regulations that are different from private insurance, and these differences can cause frustration and confusion for consumers looking for flood insurance. Below are some frequently asked questions about flood insurance and their answers. Why can’t I buy flood insurance RIGHT NOW? Flood insurance is one of those policies that people don’t think they need until they do. The storm of the century is bearing down or the levy is about to break, and those without flood insurance want to purchase it right away. Insurance is meant to mitigate accidental risk, those things that cannot be foreseen. With a flood bearing down, it is not in the best financial interest of the flood insurance carrier to sell a policy that might pay out face value before the premium check even clears the bank. NFIP has a 30-day mandatory waiting period on all new flood policies, meaning the policy goes into effect 30 days after the purchase date. They do allow for policies with no waiting period, but only in the event of a loan closing where the mortgagee or bank requires flood coverage. Buy flood insurance before you need it, so if you ever need it, it will be there for you. Why is flood insurance so expensive? The price of flood insurance depends on many factors: Your proximity to waters that may be subject to flooding (oceans, gulfs, bays or rivers). The height above sea-level where your home or...

Consumer Alert: The Latest Scams

We reported recently on an IRS tax scam that affected businesses. A scammer would contact a business via what appeared to be a legitimate email requesting payroll information for employees. This information was then used to file fraudulent tax returns. Scammers don’t just target businesses, they also target senior citizens, and even younger citizens for fraudulent purposes.  Here are a few of the latest scams and a few tips on how to prevent them. Can You Hear Me Now? This scam has been widely reported by news outlets and social media venues. Here’s how it works: Someone calls claiming to be from the IRS, but may sound garbled or the volume may be too low. The caller will then repeat clearly “Can you hear me now?” When the person being called answers “Yes” the response is recorded. The caller will then hang up, call back and ask the consumer if he or she is aware of money being owed and asking if the consumer plans to repay the debt. The call recording is then manipulated using the previously recorded “yes” response to make it seem as though the consumer owes the caller money. How to protect yourself or your loved ones: With the prevalence of caller ID, many consumers no longer answer a call from an unknown or unrecognized number. A legitimate caller will leave a voicemail message if the matter needs your attention. Don’t say “yes”. While this may take some getting used to, there are plenty of ways to answer in the affirmative without saying yes. Try “I can hear you now” or “you sound fine to me”....

The Basics of the WCJUA

Every state has laws for businesses regarding Workers Compensation insurance. What these regulations don’t take into account is how difficult it is for certain industries to obtain coverage. Fortunately, state labor departments and insurance departments have created Workers Compensation Joint Underwriting Associations (WCJUA) to handle hard-to-place policies. What is the WCJUA? The WCJUA or JUA goes by different names in different states. It may also be called the high risk pool, a residual market or an assigned risk plan. Insurance companies that do business within your state are required to write a certain percentage of high risk customers. These companies may split the risk with other insurance companies contracted to write these businesses. JUAs are heavily regulated by the state and require strict application and underwriting procedures. Because of the typically high risk nature of JUA customers, premiums are higher than in the open market. Who Needs the JUA? A JUA is almost never the first stop for any business, and is usually the insurer of last resort for employers. You may need the JUA if you fit into any of the following categories: High number of high payment claims. High risk industry (for example: roofers, tree trimmers, circus, skydivers, etc.) Chronic premium payment issues. Small number of employees. New business owner with no prior industry experience. Your insurance broker may be required to submit your application to at least three other open market insurers and receive declinations prior to submitting an application to the JUA. What To Expect The WCJUA is much the same as any other workers compensation insurer in that they offer both employers liability coverage...

Case Study: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Product Recall

In the fall of 2016, Samsung found itself with a problem: the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Just a few weeks after their latest product was released, consumers were reporting charging problems with the battery. These weren’t just any problems, either. The batteries were catching fire and exploding.  They issued a voluntary recall to anyone concerned about the battery. Samsung thought they had solved the problem by changing battery manufacturers, but the problems persisted.  Soon they issued a formal recall of all Note 7 devices, even going so far as to issue a software update that would render these devices inoperable (though some wireless carriers refused to push the update). Product Recall Coverage Products liability insurance would cover bodily injury and property damage to consumers that were injured by the exploding batteries. This would include damage to clothing, furnishings, or vehicles. Medical expenses related to burns experienced by consumers would also be covered. However, the costs to recall products that may cause damage or injury is usually not covered under a standard products liability policy. That’s where product recall insurance would come in. Product recalls are happening every single day, and they can have a massive impact on the cost of doing business. In December 2016 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reported 51 separate product withdrawals or recalls, nearly 2 per day. In the first 8 days of February 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 5 product recalls. Costs of Product Recall The Samsung recall affected not only the Note 7 in its first iteration, but also the faulty phones that were issued to replace the original faulty...

Can Bad Drivers Be Insured?

Certain classes of business rely heavily on drivers to make things happen. Contractors, for example, typically have a larger number of drivers than an office, since they have to go from job site to job site in company vehicles. In a perfect world anyone hired by your company could be added to your commercial auto policy and allowed to drive. Unfortunately, some prospective employees have less-than-desirable driving records, making them ineligible to insure on your company auto policy.  Sometimes those drivers are current employees or company officers. Here’s how to spot an ineligible or difficult to insure driver, and what to do about it. Get An MVR A recent motor vehicle report (MVR) is the only way to be sure of an employee’s current driving record.  Insurance companies prefer that the MVR be less than 30 days old in order to be accepted as part of the underwriting process.  There are three ways to obtain an MVR: Have prospective employees bring their own MVR. A stop at the local DMV will result in a certified copy of the applicant’s MVR. There is usually a fee associated with this service. Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to find out the fee for your state. This is the most cost-effective hiring solution, as the fee and responsibility are on the applicant. Contract with a company that provides MVRs. There are many websites where employers can pull MVRs for applicants. However, there are fees associated with this service for each abstract that is pulled and the costs can add up quickly. Insurance company or broker pulls the MVR. Many policyholders...

So Your State Legalized Marijuana…

Election 2016 was a banner year for those in the cannabis industry. On November 8, 2016 four states approved or legalized marijuana for recreational use (California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada) and four states approved or legalized for medical use (Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota). If you plan to open a cannabis-related business when the laws take effect, it is important to know the laws and be in compliance with state and local regulations.  Hayes Brokers can also help, by providing risk management and insurance policies for your new business. Insurance for marijuana-related businesses isn’t all that different from other businesses, but there are a few key things to note before you buy. The Basics Whether you rent or purchase a location to set up shop, it is important to cover all the bases. Liability: Also known as slip-and-fall coverage, liability insurance provides legal protection to your business in the event of bodily injury or damage to property of others while visitors are on your premises. Nearly every landlord will require this coverage and may require higher limits due to the nature of your business. The landlord may also require that he be named as an additional insured on your policy. Property: This coverage reimburses a business for damage or loss of property due to covered causes of loss. This will include building, contents, stock, furnishings, equipment and other items, depending on what is included in the policy coverage form, as determined by you and your insurance broker. Auto: A minimum of hired and nonowned auto liability insurance should be included in your insurance portfolio. If your business provides...

Beware W-2 Phishing Scams

Over the years the number of tax returns efiled has increased, and is expected to be around 91% of all filed returns this year. Efiling is usually quick and easy and can be done from anywhere. This makes efiling a target for identity thieves. These thieves gain access to taxpayer information by email phishing scams, then use that data to immediately efile tax returns, routing tax refunds to their own bank accounts. The unsuspecting victim finds out when he tries to file his taxes and is told they have already been filed. While this is a huge problem for taxpayers, it is an even bigger problem for their employers. Here’s How It Happens While some data breaches are hacks, many data breaches are actually human error. These breaches typically involve email phishing that seems like it would be easy to avoid. Companies that have reported breaches in 2015 include Care.com, Seagate, and Snapchat. These companies would seem to be tech-savvy, so how did they get phished? Someone within these and other companies received an email from another person who appears to be the CFO, the CEO or other high ranking company official. The email requests that the sender be provided information about payroll and employees like these examples provided by the IRS : Kindly send me the individual 2016 W-2 (PDF) and earnings summary of all W-2 of our company staff for a quick review. Can you send me the updated list of employees with full details (Name, Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Home Address, and Salary). I want you to send me the list of W-2 copy...

Should You Sign A Triple Net Lease?

Whether you are starting a new business or expanding an existing business, one of the biggest expenses besides employees is rent or mortgage for that business. Typically the easiest way to keep costs down is to rent or lease office space. There are many types of lease agreements, but the most common one that insurance brokers run into with their clients is the Triple Net Lease, also known as Net-Net-Net or NNN. This type of lease often requires the tenant to pay not only the rent and normal property expenses, but also the taxes, insurance and other maintenance, utilities and expenses not found on a typical lease. Should you sign a Triple Net Lease? Read on to find out. Standard Lease vs Triple Net Lease In a standard lease the landlord will outline what is expected of the tenant in terms of monthly rent, maintenance and expectations with regard to conduct, insurance, etc. While it may not be specified in the lease agreement, the monthly rent usually includes not only the landlord’s mortgage payment, but also any monthly maintenance and the insurance that the landlord pays for the building. Your monthly rent check covers his expenses. In a Triple Net Lease those expenses aren’t included in the lump sum but are clearly outlined in the lease or rental agreement. The expenses are probably the same as with a standard lease, but you see the numbers for yourself and are paying them as part of the lease payment or in addition to it. Who Purchases & Pays For The Insurance The Triple Net Lease usually requires that the tenant pay...

New Cyber Hacks Expose Vulnerabilities

Another day, another company cyber attacked and personal information exposed. Quest Diagnostics announced in early December 2016 that one of their applications had been breached and 34,000 customers information was accessed by an unauthorized third party. This was just the latest in a long line of major health care providers such as Anthem Blue Cross and Community Health Systems. While the breach of Quest Diagnostics may be considered minor by comparison, we have learned that over time small breaches can turn into big ones. What Information Is Considered Private? Quest advised in their initial press release that the only information accessed by the hackers were name, date of birth, lab results, and in some cases phone numbers. The hacked information apparently did not include Social Security numbers, credit card or other financial information. There has also been no indication of misuse of any of the illegally obtained information. What information is considered private? While names, and even phone numbers are easily obtainable, even birth dates can be found fairly quickly. It is a relief that no Social Security numbers or financial information was obtained, but no doubt the 34,000 patients whose lab results were exposed are none too happy about it. As we have seen in prior hacking cases, in the early days of detection numbers are often under-reported. Further investigation will likely reveal that even more patients records were exposed, and that financial information may also have been accessed. The Cost to Business Cyber attacks and hacks can be costly to business. State and federal laws provide guidelines on timely notification to customers and patients of businesses when...

Will the Repeal of Obamacare Affect You?

In just a few days, a new President will be inaugurated and life as we all know it will change. Or will it? One of the many promises the President-Elect made during the election cycle was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This made many voters nervous, as the Act has allowed health insurance coverage for millions of Americans who were unable to obtain coverage before the Act was enabled. This is a legitimate concern for many Americans, but here is why you don’t need to worry just yet. It Won’t Happen Right Away Upon election the incoming President immediately backed away from plans to repeal the Act in its entirety stating that he may even keep some parts of it. Those parts include the coverage for pre-existing conditions and the mandate to cover children up to age 26 on a parental plan, two of the most popular parts of the current Act. While the House and Senate Republicans are currently trying to put together enough support and a workable plan to repeal the ACA, they have yet to do so. The current Act took nearly two years to enact, and may take as long to be repealed and replaced. While the President-Elect has asked that Congress work quickly to repeal and replace, Congress is well-aware that changes won’t happen overnight. You Won’t Lose Coverage Right Away Insurance coverage is a contract between the insurer and the insured. As such, your contract with your insurer is to pay a certain amount of money per month over the course of a policy term, usually one year....

Insuring Self-Driving Vehicles

The transportation company Uber recently made headlines in the state of California by adding self-driving cars (also known as autonomous vehicles) to their fleet. Self-driving cars have been tested in controlled environments for several years, but are now being tested on roads in a city near you, though some are not operating legally. Are Self-Driving Cars Legal? The short answer is: no. The longer answer is: not right now, but possibly soon, depending on where you live. Currently only 7 states have passed legislation that allows for the testing of self-driving vehicles on public roads, including California. These laws only cover test vehicles, and do not include the sale or use of these vehicles for anything other than testing purposes. Many other states have legislation that has either recently failed or is currently in committee. While the process of legislating testing and eventual sales of self-driving vehicles could gain momentum with positive test outcomes in other states, a world full of autonomous vehicles still seems pretty far away. Why All the Regulations? In states like California where testing is legal, vehicles are expected to be registered and clearly marked as test vehicles. A human driver usually must accompany the vehicle, ready to take over at a moment’s notice should the vehicle fail to comply with the rules of the road. The Uber vehicles in San Francisco were not registered, nor were they clearly marked as test vehicles, blatantly violating state regulations and turning fares into unwitting guinea pigs. How many people would willingly get into a test vehicle, considering the potential risks?. Testing regulations also require that the manufacturing...

Happy New Year From Hayes!

As we close the calendar on another year, Hayes Brokers wants to wish our clients, family and friends a joyous and prosperous New Year. We are thankful for the role that you have played in our success in 2016, and we look forward to being a part of your success in 2017. Please enjoy these previously published articles. We will be back in the new year with more informative insurance blog posts for your home and business. High Cost of No Health Insurance Weird and Wacky Alternative Insurance Coverage Discrimination and the Sharing Economy My Homeowners Policy Covers THAT? 5 Things You Need to Know About Insuring Your Business            ...

Christmas Insurance: Holiday Survival Guide

We know that with the holidays coming up, the last thing on your mind is insurance. However, the season of gift-giving can bring about changes in your financial picture that you may need to account for when it comes to your homeowners, renters, auto and other insurance policies. Is there such a thing as Christmas Insurance? Technically, no, but there are ways to make sure your current insurance covers you before, during and after the holidays. Is It Insured? Most holiday gifts will actually increase the value of contents in your home. If you purchase or receive electronics, jewelry, firearms, gaming systems, antiques or collectibles, you should consider the impact on your insurable bottom line. Check your policy or contact your broker to determine if you should increase your contents limit or any sublimits for these new items. If you were lucky enough to give or receive a vehicle this holiday season, don’t forget to check your auto insurance policy. Some policies may extend coverages to new vehicles for only a few days so you will need to contact your broker to add coverage as soon as possible. If your newly minted driver received a vehicle, both vehicle and driver should be added. Unusual items such as drones, golf carts or boats may not have insurance automatically extended to them by any policy. Your broker should be consulted to deterwmine whether coverage exists or needs to be purchased separately for these items. Thwart Thieves In early January 2015, a Florida resident returned home from an outing to find a strange vehicle pulling out of her driveway. Her front door...

Closed for the Holidays? Protect Your Business

Over the years it has become more common for businesses to close for days, weeks, even a full month around the holidays. This allows them to reduce costs during that time and also gives employees time with their families. Unfortunately, this can also be the time when a business is most vulnerable to burglary. Will you be closed for the holidays? Here are some tips for keeping your business safe during times when you are closed for business. Tips To Keep Your Business Safe Any business that appears to be closed is a potential target for thieves. Lack of foot or vehicle traffic in your area is a good indication that no one is around, but there are other ways to be sure that your business doesn’t stand out as a target. Remove holiday decorations prior to close of business on the last day. If you are still decorated for Christmas after the New Year, your business will stand out to anyone looking to break in. Make sure your alarm system is on. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to think about investing in one. Many insurance companies offer discounts on property insurance for businesses that have functioning, monitored alarm systems. Keep those video cameras rolling. Inside and outside video cameras should be kept on and recording even when you’re not in the office to catch thieves in the act. If you’ve been thinking about installing cameras, they may also come in handy for liability claims such as personal injury when you are open. Make those deposits. Aside from a small amount of petty cash,...

New Year Personal Insurance Checkup

As 2016 comes to a close many people will be thinking about the future. Do you have New Year’s Resolutions? Have you made specific personal financial goals for 2017? The end of the year is a good time to take stock of the year that was and review your personal insurance to see if any changes need to be made. Here are a few points to ponder: Auto Insurance Since auto insurance is mandatory in most states, it is easy to just “set it and forget it”. You buy the policy, put the premium on auto-deduct from your checking account and motor off into the sunset. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself: Are all of my current autos on my policy? Have I sold, donated, or traded any vehicles in the last 12 months? Has my insurance agent been notified of any driver changes like a new driver or the departure of a driver due to death or divorce? Have any special modifications been made to a current vehicle that would change the value? Are my insurance needs being met by my current insurance policies? Do I have coverage I don’t need? Is there coverage I need that I don’t have? Another important question to ask: Do I know where my auto ID cards are? Many insurance companies now offer apps that include your auto ID card, or they allow you to print your auto ID card from their website. A good rule of thumb is to have two hard copies: one for your glove box and one for your wallet, even if you have an...

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