Tips for Home Health Care Agencies

Owning and operating a home health care agency can be complex. The clients you deal with can have a wide range of health issues you and your employees need to be familiar with. Some clients may be small and frail, but very mobile; while another client may be large and immobile. Some may have mental problems like dementia while other clients may have mobility issues like the aftermath of a stroke. With each of these clients comes a unique set of risks. These risks all determine what type of insurance you need and how much that insurance will cost. Here are three tips to help you the next time you shop for home health care workers comp.

Make sure you are classified accurately

For purposes of workers compensation insurance, governance of these programs is left up to the individual states. Most of the states partner with the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to determine a classification code for each business and the rate of premium for each code. There are currently more than 700 different codes a business can be classified as. Each industry has multiple classification codes depending upon the scope and scale of the business. Depending upon the actions of your employees while on the job, the amount of premium is reflected through your businesses classification code.

Hire carefully

Unfortunately the home health care industry tends to have a high turnover rate. The two main reasons for this is the stress of the job and the amount of pay for most employees. In order to turn a profit, there is only so much a business owner can pay their employees in order to stay profitable. Because of this fact, it is difficult to keep the best employees around. This is a reason to hire carefully and for the long-term. Sometimes the candidate with the best resume is not as good for your business as the candidate who is the best fit for your business. Finding the best fit is different from business to business based upon the scope of the business and the market that business operates in. Taking additional time to hire the right person will almost always pay off in the long run.

Implement safety protocols

Safety programs are immensely important in the home health care industry. This industry has both a high volume of insurance claims and the claims can be high in severity. The reason for this is because many employees drive their own vehicle to a remote location and many drive to multiple locations throughout the day. The time that your employees drives from location to location makes the liability for accidents that occur the responsibility of the business. This is regardless of whether the employee is on the clock or not. It is important to consider implementing a driver safety program for your home healthcare business.

It is also important to implement safety programs  for the time your employees are in the homes with clients. Depending upon the limitations of each client, your employees should be prepared to keep themselves safe first and keep the client safe second. Let them know that they cannot help the client if they do not take care of themselves first. Because of the remote nature of this work, it is important to have weekly face to face meetings with all employees and to discuss safety protocols with them.

 

Insurance Tips for Lawn Care and Landscaping

There are many aspects to owning a landscaping business. Many aspects that have nothing to do with the actual work itself. Whether a business owner is dealing with finding the right employees, determining the right price to charge their customers or managing the day to day operations; there are always additional responsibilities pulling the business owner in a different direction.  One aspect that frequently gets looked over is purchasing commercial insurance for your landscaping business.  Here are five tips for finding the best insurance, saving money when purchasing coverage and how best to use your policy when a disaster occurs.

Get the answers to your Lawn Care and Landscaping Insurance Questions at My Insurance Question.com

Partner with an independent agent

Independent insurance agents are unique in that they can quote you policies from many different carriers and not just one or a select few.  The appetites of the carriers change from year to year for certain coverages and especially for different industries.  Some years, your premium may go up simply because the carrier has experienced a lot of losses in your industry of the last year or couple of years. As a result they raise the prices for that classification code.  Another carrier may not have experienced the same losses and may be more hungry to quote your policy.  An independent insurance agent has the ability to force carriers to compete for your business.  In the end this helps you get better coverage at rock bottom prices.

Make sure you are in the right class code

The Lawn Care and Landscaping Industry is an industry that has numerous general liability classification codes. If you do not give enough information to your agent, they are forced to guess exactly how much risk your business takes on. It is in their best interest to always assume more risk. Assuming more risk protects the insurance agency, but may cost your business more in unnecessary premium. These mistakes usually get fixed in the end of term audit, but even when corrected you still have tied up cash in unnecessary premium throughout the year.

What coverages can I do without?

Once you have taken care of finding a good agency to partner with and you have taken the time to make sure you are classified properly, it is important to ask your agent what coverage’s does your business absolutely need and what coverage’s your business may be able to do without.  At this point it is important to remember the agent works for you.  If you are honest with the agent about how much risk you are willing to take, they should be able to give you the proper information to cover your business as you prefer.  It is important to remember that insurance agents not only interact with business owners when they are selling coverage, but also when the worst of the worst has occurred.  The agent may be offering you an extra coverage because they have interacted with a business owner in the past who had a claim occur at their business where they were not covered. Those are never easy conversations to have.  Depending upon the size and severity of the disaster having the right coverage may be the difference between your business closing the doors for a week and never opening again.

Ask for available credits and debits

The best way to find the best price on coverage is to tell your insurance agent what you value in the buying process.  Insurance agents talk with many different people from many different walks of life.  One customer may want to get through the insurance buying process as fast as possible so they can get back to running their business.  Another business owner may not mind if it takes a day and a half of their time in order to save an additional five percent.  Let the agent know early and often what you value.

What do you do when your business has a claim?

It is common for a business owner to think bad things will not happen to their business, but the most successful businesses are those who have a plan in place for when things go wrong.  Part of that plan should be having the proper insurance policy in place.  When an occurrence eventually takes place, there are several steps you as a business owner can take to speed up the process of getting your claim paid and get your business back up to normal operation.

When you do have to make an insurance claim it is important to inform both your carrier and your agency.  Do not be upset if your agency informs you to contact your carrier.  It is the job of the carrier to process the claim, not the agency.  At the same time, it is equally important to keep your agency in the loop.  In the unfortunate case the carrier is not living up to their end of the bargain, the agency can contact them on your behalf.  If you have injured workers, make sure they are going to medical facilities that are properly prepared to process the workers’ compensation system within your state.  Your carrier can help you find the proper facilities.  This can drastically limit the severity of a claim and it can allow your injured worker to get the best care quickly.  The better care they get can result in the getting back on the job quicker and with the least amount of doctors’ visits possible.  Keeping the injured worker on your side is important.  If this process runs smoothly it will make your employee happy and motivated to return to work.  It will also help your insurance carrier by limiting the amount of the claim.  THis will prevent too much damage from being done to your businesses experience modification rating.  The Experience Mod is one of the main ways carriers determine how much they will charge you for premium.

Do not be alarmed if a claim stays open for a period of time after your business has gotten over the claim.  Insurance agents do this in order to not have to open a second claim.  A second claim will also impact your experience modification rating.  The carrier does this because an injured worker may return to work and reinjure themselves.   Sometimes this can happen weeks or even months after the injured worker has returned to work.  If this causes your business to file a second claim it can have a damaging effect on your rating resulting in a higher rate on premium.

 

NCCI Workers compensation class code 9014

Let’s break down NCCI workers comp class code 9014

Find the best answers to your Janitorial business question ( class code 9014 ) at MyInsuranceQuestion.com

NCCI class code 9014, like most workers comp class codes, includes many different operations.  NCCI stand for the National Council on Compensation Insurance.  It is the main governing body for workers comp codes.  These classification codes generally include a variety of operations.  The classification manual from NCCI is written to include specific operations.  Over time, additional operations are added to each individual classification code.

Commercial janitorial services is the primary operation contemplated by NCCI class code 9014. Janitorial services are specifically defined as keeping a building clean.  The businesses do this by routine dusting; mopping, vacuuming, waxing, or polishing floors.  The janitorial businesses also empty trash; clean and wash interior walls; clean, sanitize, and deodorize restrooms.   Office cleaning companies are the easiest operations to get insured (at the most favorable pricing).  It is reasonably easy to get favorable workers comp insurance for commercial janitorial companies.  Especially commercial janitorial companies that clean at retail and other light commercial spaces. It is difficult to get workers compensation insurance for commercial janitorial companies which specialize in cleaning at industrial settings.  Industrial settings frequently lead to the business having to purchase coverage from the state’s assigned risk provider.

Favorable workers comp insurance is be more difficult to get for certain operations.  For typical commercial janitorial companies, the NCCI class code 9014 allows for maintenance and minor repair work. Most insurance carriers will allow up to 10% of operations to fall into this arena. Floor waxing is another operation which underwriters consider. Some carriers allow as much as 25% of the business activity to be floor waxing.  If it is this amount or less the carrier will still quote accounts. Power washing is disfavored, and most carriers will decline to quote companies offering power washing.  Although it is an operation included in code 9014, at least if performed at ground level.

Code 9014 allows for residential cleaning if it is less than 50% of operations. A different NCCI class code is used for primarily cleaning companies.  That code is  0917. However, the majority of workers comp carriers will decline any account which does any residential cleaning as it is a less controlled work environment.   With that said, at least in some states, The Hartford will still quote commercial janitorial companies with some level of residential cleaning.  Having several years in business is generally an eligibility requirement in this case.

Insurance carriers favor interior operations over exterior operations.  A small amount of exterior operations can be allowed, but work from heights or power washing usually lead to declines from insurance carriers.  NCCI class code 9014 allows for ground level window cleaning.  Class code 9170 must be used for businesses that partake in any window washing above ground level.  This is much more difficult to get quoted by insurance carriers.

Other operations which are included in NCCI workers comp code 9014 include:

  • Exterminators
    • Some carriers will offer coverage to these businesses, but many will not.  If there is any live animal trapping provided in services almost all of the insurance carriers will refuse to provide workers comp insurance.
  • Chimney Cleaning
    • This function is acceptable to most insurance carriers if the service is performed using the vacuum suction method at ground level.  If the service includes work at heights for any employees, it becomes much more difficult to find a carrier who will quote workers comp coverage.
  • Residential boiler cleaning
    • This type of service frequently involves using vacuum suction equipment.  Any work involving boilers is difficult to get quoted by nearly all insurance carriers.
  • Swimming pool maintenance
    • A few carriers will quote swimming pool maintenance companies.  When the swimming pool maintenance company adds construction to their list of business operations, it becomes much more difficult to find a carrier willing to quote the business.
  • Pet waste removal services
    • Pet waste removal businesses need to have sufficient payroll to find many carriers willing to quote coverage.  There is a small possibility to get this quoted by carriers on the voluntary market.

There are many different operations that can be included in NCCI class code 9014.  Especially for purposes of workers comp.

Commonly Misclassified Workers Compensation Class Codes

One of the most misunderstood and difficult parts of setting up a workers compensation policy is classifying the type of work being done by each employee. With over 700 classifications there are a lot to choose from and some of the wording on the classification descriptions can be misleading. Class codes are one of the most important parts of the workers compensation policy, as they are one of the two driving factors in price/premium.  The other factor being amount of payroll for your employees. If the employees are not classified properly, there is a chance that upon audit for a significant difference in rate between the classifications.  This can cause either a large increase in premium owed, or meaning that too much has been paid into the policy. I wanted to go over my experiences with some classifications that I see commonly misused to hopefully help you with your search for the proper workers comp codes.  

5606 Contractor – Project Manager – Construction Executive – Construction Manager or Construction Superintendent.

This classification would have to be one of the most misused of all 700 codes. This classification is designed for an employee who is in charge of the construction project but does not take part in any of the physical work whatsoever. They also cannot have direct contact with the employees doing the work; they must be talking with the foreman who then will line out the work to be done by the employees on the job site.  This position is mostly work being done in the office, but occasionally will include going to the job sites to check in with the foreman’s.

5437- Carpentry – Installation of Cabinets or Interior Trim.

Carpentry is one of the commonly mis-classified class codes when it comes to general contractors.  General contractors cannot separate out this classification from other work being done.  Even if the other work was done weeks prior, the contractor still cannot use this classification. It will default to the classification that has the highest rate for the work done at the job site. This classification is designed to be used by an artisan (specialty) contractor, someone who’s scope of work is only doing the installation of cabinets or trim inside of the structure and is not doing any other type of work on the building. It is a very specific classification and the rate for this type of work is typically much less than all the other construction classifications, this means that if you are using this classification and it is incorrect you will have a very large audit balance that will be due at the end of the term.

8810 – Clerical Office Employees NOC

Clerical employees are typically one of the least expensive class codes; this is for a good reason as the chances of someone sitting behind a computer being injured is very small. Since it is the least expensive classification, it is common that business owners will try to classify as many of their employees as they possibly can in an attempt to reduce cost. The biggest requirement for this classification is that there has to be physical separation of the clerical employee from the other work being done at the location, this can be a wall or even a reception desk. The other caveat of this classification is that you typically cannot use this in conjunction with any other classifications, they refer to this as a standard exception class code meaning the employee cannot be doing any other class of work. You cannot have an employee who is classified as 5437 (trim carpenter) and then coming back into the office and assigning payroll to 8810 for them taking calls and working at their desk. Some states may have certain instances where they allow this code to be split.  Missouri is one such state who will allow an owner to assign 10% of their payroll to the 8810 class and the remaining to the governing code.  It is important to check the regulations to make sure.

Standard Exception Class Codes

As referred to with the clerical classification (8810) they cannot be used in conjunction with any other classification. There are three of these class codes that are commonly misused in this manner, 8742 (outside sales), 8810 (clerical), 7380 (delivery). Make sure that if you are using these classifications that the employee is not participating in any other aspect of work being done in the company that should be classified elsewhere.

 

Conclusion on Class Codes

The biggest take away from this is that you should verify all the classifications the agent is using on your policy.  It is important to talk through the class codes with the agent and make sure they are being properly assigned. You can always look up class codes online as a consumer through several different sites and most agents will be more than happy to explain why they used a particular classification. Classifications can sometimes be very tricky any it can even vary by how a particular insurance carrier views the work being done. A little research and questioning to make sure things are set up properly could end up saving you a lot of hassle and money upon the audit of the policy.

How can I Lower my Workers Compensation Insurance Premium?

Workers compensation insurance premium is often a large portion of overall property and casualty insurance costs. Many business owners look at the workers compensation premium and wonder how they can reduce the overall cost of the insurance policy. The following ideas can help reduce your costs and hopefully help make your business more profitable.

Make sure you are classified properly

Business will have a classification code determined by National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) or some cases the State will have a slightly different number that is used by insurance carriers to rate workers compensation insurance premium. For Example one way to reduce your cost is to take advantage of standard exceptions to the code classification. Employees who perform clerical duties and are physically separate from manufacturing operations may be classified as clerical employees with a much lower rate. Make sure the classification for your employees is appropriate.

Monitor your loss control and safety programs

Loss Control and Safety is critical for preventing losses in the workplace. Set the expectation in your safety manual. Follow up by reminding employees of safe practices including lifting, distracted driving, and the hazard of wet floors. Scheduled safety meetings and incentive programs should be used to promote workplace safety. Decreasing losses will reduce your overall insurance costs.

Develop an effective return-to-work program 

Develop a return to work program. Having injured employees staying at home collecting workers compensation will raise your costs on premiums and also on additional labor you will need to hire while that person is out. A way to get your injured employee to return to work as soon as possible is to create a temporary position for that person. You can give them duties that are not taxing on the body so that they will still be able to recover while they are working.

Speak with your agent about adding a deductible

Evaluate the benefit of adding a deductible to your Workers’ Compensation program. A deductible provides an immediate credit to the workers compensation insurance premium calculation. Additionally, losses under the deductible will not be reported to NCCI and will cause a reduction in your experience modification. Be sure to analyze the cost of funding your deductible.

Notice if there is a pattern to workers compensation claims. Determine if certain areas of your business have fewer claims than others, and determine why the risk is lesser or greater in different areas. Reduce risk by duplicating safe behaviors and programs and eliminating risky behaviors.. Eliminate workplace hazards that have caused an employee to get sick or injured so it doesn’t happen again. Some carriers will even provide help in this area. 

Report claims ASAP

Report Claims as soon as possible! Provide medical attention quickly if an employee is injured, as prompt medical attention may reduce complications that may arise from delayed care. Complications can make workers’ compensation claims more expensive, which may increase insurance premiums.Statistics prove that losses reported 24 hours or more after the loss are more expensive than those reported promptly. Managing your Workers’ Compensation program carefully can save money and improve your bottom line.

These are just a few ideas that can help you in either keeping your premiums low or driving them down. Every business wants to be more profitable and it can be as simple as investing in work place safety that could get you started in the right direction.

 

Inland Marine Insurance Coverage

Four things to remember when purchasing Inland Marine Coverage.

 

Inland Marine Coverage is frequently referred to as ‘Floaters’ or ‘Equipment’ Coverage. That is because it is designed to protect equipment that a business owns, leases or rents that is not a vehicle or a piece of property. It is also typically equipment that is going to be transported in some way shape or form. This can include a mower that a landscaping business is transporting to a clients premises or a product being delivered to a customer. Many business owners think this part of their business is covered by their basic general liability policy, but that is incorrect. If they partner with a good insurance agent they know what is and what is not covered by each of the policy they may or may not be purchasing for their business. If you find that inland marine coverage is right for your business, here are four things to keep in mind in relation to this policy.

  • Choose an agent who partners with many carriers and not just a select few. 
  • Determine the proper classification code for your business. 
  • Inventory all equipment that needs to be protected under the policy.   
  • Establish a good working relationship with your Insurance Agent.

Choose an agent who partners with many carriers and not just a select few. 

By choosing an agent who partners with many different carriers you are allowing yourself to let the insurance agent shop the policy for you. Some agents work with only one carrier or just a select few carriers. This means they are not able to make sure you are getting the absolute best coverage at the best price. You can always shop the coverage around to several agents, but wouldn’t your time be better spent running your business. Finding an agent you trust and who knows your industry well can allow you to let the insurance professionals do their job. It allows you to get back to doing what you do best, which is running your business.

Determine the proper classification code for your business. 

Most industries have several classification codes within the industry. Insurance agents and insurance carriers are in the business of analyzing risk. It is in the best interest of their business to always assume more risk until proven otherwise. If you are in a less risky classification code within your industry the agent and carrier are only going to know this if you bring it to their attention. Otherwise they will probably assume your business takes on more risk. This will result in you paying more premium and may cause some claims to not be covered. Now, these mistakes typically do get fixed at the end of term audit, but even when they are fixed you still have been tying up cash into premium you did not owe that could have been used to reinvest in your business. In some cases if you are classified into a less risky class code you will owe more in premium after the audit. In the worst case scenarios your claim may not be covered because you are misclassified and the carrier would not have offered coverage in your higher risk class code.

Inventory all equipment that needs to be protected under the policy.  

It is very important to keep an up to date inventory of all the equipment you want listed under your Inland Marine Coverage Policy. Taking pictures of the equipment is a good idea as well because if there is a claim you will get replacement level value for the equipment that is damaged or destroyed. If you have an expensive version of whatever piece of equipment you are covering the best way to prove that is with a picture. Keeping this information on file with your agent and especially your carrier is crucial when a claim does occur.

Establish a good working relationship with your Insurance Agent.

The better relationship you have with your agent the smoother the process will be when you go to renew your policy and when a claim inevitably does occur. If they know you, your business and what is important to you as a business owner they can better insure your business the way you want it to be protected. Some business owners are okay with excepting some of the risk. Other business owners want to be protect to the fullest limits of the policy. The agent can only attempt to cover your business the way you want them to if you let them know what you expect and how you run your business. This relationship can also come in handy when a claim does occur. If you were combative during the quoting process and then your business has a claim six weeks into your term it does not speak highly of the way you operate your business. On the contrary, if you take some extra time to explain all the intricacies of your business and the way in which you want to be insured during the quoting process it starts off the relationship on the right foot. Later when a claim does occur this process will move through much more smoothly and your agent will be much more likely to go to bat for you with the insurance carrier.

Work Comp 101

Work Comp Insurance 101 – A Complicated Insurance Explained Clearly

Find out everything you need to know about work comp insurance here at my insurance question.com

I regularly speak to business owners that are purchasing workers compensation coverage for the first time. Most insurance agents do not take the time to explain how the basic process works.  When this happens, business owners are purchasing a coverage they don’t clearly understand. It can lead to frustration on the part of the business owner and the insurance agent when something changes with the policy.  Especially when the change demands more money. Work Comp Insurance is my niche. I make sure to take the time to explain the basic process of how premiums are developed at the beginning of the policy period and after the policy period ends. I feel it’s important to explain this coverage properly. By doing this I find that business owners understand why changes happen and what changes are important to pay attention to.  I also make sure they know to notify their agent or insurance company throughout the policy period if any of these changes occur.

Work Comp Insurance and Employers Liability Coverage

The Basic Process:

Workers compensation rates are first dictated by the workers compensation classification code. Every industry does not have a specific code. A lot of times the process of how the work is completed is assigned to a work comp insurance code where the process is similar. For example, a business that puts waterproof coatings on parking lots would be classified the same as a painter because the process is similar.

After the workers compensation classification code is determined, in nearly every state the insurance company is able to file their rates depending on how competitive they want to be in an industry. The state typically sets the minimum and maximum rates, insurance companies file their rates within the range.

Work comp insurance policies require that business owners declare an estimated payroll for all covered persons for the annual policy period, 12 months from the date the policy begins. Business owners are tricky because states require that business owners are covered using a minimum annual payroll up to a maximum. If a business owner is included in coverage and takes less compensation than the state minimum, the additional payroll is added after the audit. If a business owner takes more than the maximum set by the state, then wage calculations stop at the maximum.

The total policy premium is determined by several factors. First the rate per $100 of payroll established by the insurance company per work comp insurance code. That rate is a percentage of the gross wages paid to employees in each workers compensation code. Second, different states can charge different taxes that are added to the bottom line. The insurance company typically charges an expense constant factor that is a flat fee. Then, the insurance company can apply credit or debits (discounts or increased pricing). All of these factors determine the final pricing when you activate coverage.

After the Workers Compensation Policy is finished a payroll audit must take place. The purpose of this audit is to determine the actual gross wages paid to covered persons throughout the policy period. Also, the auditor will double-check the work comp insurance classification codes for accuracy. If the agent used the incorrect workers compensation code OR something changed throughout the policy period, the auditor will adjust the workers compensation code. It’s very important to verify the workers compensation code for your business before purchasing a workers compensation policy. Your agent should be able to provide a detailed description of your workers compensation code to verify accuracy.

During the audit process, most insurance companies do not have the ability to staff auditors across the U.S. so they use 3rd Party companies to handle their audits. These 3rd Party auditors typically specialize in workers compensation audits for multiple insurance companies. Typically the auditor will make contact with the business point of contact within 60 days after the policy period has expired.   It’s very important to set-up the audit as soon as you can coordinate schedules, make this a priority. The auditor will inform of the payroll documents needed, have all of them prepared. These auditors are required to complete the audit process within a small timeframe otherwise they return as non-productive. When an audit is returned as non-productive, the insurance company will process and mail to the business owner an “estimated audit” with a balance due and a cancellation notice. The business owner must contact the insurance company to re-open and process the audit. This is typically a headache, it’s a lot easier to make it a priority and take the necessary time to complete it.

After the audit is processed you will receive the results and either a balance due or a credit being returned. At this point the business owner should review and file a dispute with the insurance company IF the results are incorrect. The auditor’s duties are to capture the gross wages for covered persons and verify job duties. Auditor’s make mistakes, don’t ask the appropriate questions and sometimes they are new to the industry therefore, do not know all of the rules. I know these to be the truth, I speak with the auditor’s for clients frequently. Before filing the dispute the business owner should request the auditor’s notes from the insurance company to understand how they arrived at the results. Then, the business owner can file the dispute with the insurance company if there is an argument.

There are several rules within the workers compensation industry that surprise owners after audits are complete. The audit’s purpose is to accurately charge the owner based on what happened during the policy period. Workers Compensation audits are determined by the 4 bullets below:

  1. Gross Wages for Employees of the business (no surprise here).
  1. Gross Wages for Uninsured 1099 sub-contractors. This is the most common surprise. 1099’s is discussed further below.
  1. Proper Classification Codes per employee job duties.
  1. INCLUDED Business owners. In most situations, business owners are allowed to choose whether they want to be Included or Excluded in the workers compensation coverage. When a business owner chooses to be included, the State typically determines a minimum and maximum wage threshold.   Rules for whether or not a business owner can be included/excluded and wage thresholds are determined by Entity Status (Individual, Partner, LLC, Corporation). If a business owner changes entity status during a policy period, it’s important to notify your workers compensation agent to determine if different rules apply. Otherwise, all adjustments are made at audit.

Uninsured 1099’s

This is one of the most common surprises for business owners after the audit is completed, especially in the construction industry. Uninsured 1099’s are added to the workers compensation policy based on the classification of work the 1099 is performing. Even if the state doesn’t require the 1099 to purchase workers compensation coverage, the only way for a business owner to exclude 1099’s from their policy audit is to collect a certificate of workers compensation coverage OR a “state approved exemption”.

It’s important to understand when a business owner can treat a 1099 like a true independent contractor and request a work comp insurance certificate.

1099 must use their own tools/equipment

1099 must drive their own vehicle

Contractor cannot determine when and where the 1099 is working. Must assign a project and let the 1099 execute on their own time.

1099 must also perform work for their own customers

1099 must carry appropriate licenses with state when required

Talk with your agent.

In today’s business world, time is of the essence for all business owners. When purchasing something for their business, many business owners want it done fast and cheap. They may have an inclination to rush through the buying purchase or to only focus on price. In many instances this may be wise, because their time is more valuable running the business than trying to save on buying whatever is needed for that business. When it comes to purchasing commercial insurance this is not a good idea. In this instances it is crucial for business owners to take the necessary time to have a long honest conversation with their insurance agent.

In conversations I have with agents in the insurance field, they all say rushing through the buying process is a mistake far too many business owners make. This is where a little time on the front end may cost the business owner some time away from their business, but on the back side it can save their business hundreds if not thousands of dollars when a claim does occur. During these conversations the agents are typically trying to get as much information as possible about the daily operations of your business. They understand business owners may be shopping around to more than one agency and that their time is valuable, but rushing through this process can cause your business to be under-insured or to pay too much in premium.

These problems frequently come about because business owners do not inform their agent what exactly the business does and what the business does not do as a part of their daily operations. Insurance companies are in the business of analyzing risk. It is in their best interests to assume more risk rather than less. They can only assume the risks of your business based on the information you provide them with. If you do not provide them with the enough information they frequently will assume more risk, which costs more in premium.

In most industries there are numerous industry classification codes. In most states these classification codes are determined by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).  These classification codes separate businesses by the type of work they do or do not partake in. Take landscaping as a prime example. There are at least a half a dozen class codes for lawn care and landscaping based upon the daily operations of your business. The two most common NCCI classification codes for the landscaping industry are 9102 and 0042. 9102 is designated for lawn care or maintenance of existing lawns, where 0042 is designed for businesses that install lawns and beds. The second class code is more dangerous and has a higher premium. If you rush your agent through the quoting process, they may place you in the wrong classification code. This can cause your business to end up paying far more in premium than is necessary. These mistakes frequently get fixed during the end of term audit, but even when they do your business has still paid more in premium than was necessary. That means there is cash-flow your business could use tied up in unnecessary insurance premium.

On top of tying up cash in premium, another problem exists that a good insurance agent can help your business with. The problem they can help your business with is to understand what exactly is and is not covered under your different insurance policies. This can help you fill in coverage where gaps might exist. This is where an agent can help you determine if you need a coverage like Business Loss of Income Coverage or Data Breach Insurance. 

Business loss of income coverage is a policy that is a type of commercial property insurance coverage that kicks in when a business suffers additional loss of income suffered when damage to its premises causes a slowdown or suspension of its operations.  The damage has to be the result of a covered loss. Take for instance if your building experiences a fire. Your commercial property insurance will cover to repair the damaged building, but it will not cover your business for lost revenue while you have to be closed for repairs. This is where business loss of insurance coverage kicks in. Many businesses who fail to secure this coverage do not survive when an occurrence happens.

Data breach is another coverage that is becoming more and more necessary. Many business owners feel they are too small or do not deal with computers or customer information enough to need this coverage. Take a commercial cleaning company for example. They have 5-15 employees and clean 5 office buildings and one retail store at night while the businesses are closed. Their employees only use a cell phone and never interact with a computer. Their business owner thinks they would never need something as advanced as data breach coverage. But what if you clean the offices of a bank and an employee of the bank leaves  a post-it note on their desk with the username and password for the internal system. If one of your employees finds this they could get into the system and access the financial records of the banks customers. That is a need for data breach coverage. Two of the largest data breaches in history, Target and Home Depot, were started by hackers first accessing a small business who was a partner of the larger business that got hacked. You do not have to be a big company nor do you have to store lots of personal information in order to be a target for criminals.

All of these and other problems can easily be prevented by taking the time in the first place to speak long and honestly with your independent insurance agent. They can help you understand what risks your business because not only do they interact with business all the time when they are purchasing insurance, but they also frequently interact with business owners when the unfortunate accident occurs. From that experience they can help you prepare for when dooms day comes for your business. If you take this time to properly protect your business it can be the difference between closing your doors for a short time and closing your doors forever.

6 ways to save when shopping for Workers’ Comp Insurance

Workers’ Compensation is one type of insurance that is required by law in nearly every state in the country. Because of this it is imperative that all business owners take advantage of every way they can to save on this required coverage. There are a few things business owners can change about their daily operations that can have a noticeable effect on what they pay for worker’s compensation insurance.

Keep a well-documented safety program.

Keeping a well-documented safety program includes a return to work program for injured workers and a detailed driver safety program if you have workers who will be driving as part of their normal work related duties. Safety programs do not have to take a lot of time away from your normal business routine to help you save your business money. It can be as little as a 15-minute huddle once a week. The meetings do need to be regular, but they can be weekly, bimonthly, monthly, whatever you determine is best for your business.  Attendance should be recorded as well as the subjects covered at each meeting. A well-documented safety program can really benefit your company when you do have an injury. If you have a well-documented safety program in place than your agent can speak with your insurance carrier and defend your business as one that is taking the needed steps to limit claims. If you have these programs in place the agent can more easily show the injury as more of an outlier and not a sign of trouble ahead.

 

Make sure you are in the proper classification code

Being placed in the wrong classification code happens more frequently than one might imagine. This can change what you pay in premium both positive and negative. There is an audit at the end of every term so this can cause unexpected costs at the end of the year for many businesses. Landscaping is a good example of an industry that has two classification codes that are much different in price. The two main classification codes for landscaping are 9102 & 0042. 9102 is for businesses that maintain already existing lawns and garden beds. 0042 is for businesses that design and install lawns and beds. This is a more dangerous undertaking and costs more in premium. If you are not crystal clear with your agent what your business does on a daily basis, they may assume you are in a riskier classification code. This can cause your business to pay more in premium than it has to. This can be a problem even if you pay too little because an audit is run at the end of every term and if you are than classified correctly, any premium that is owed will then be due. 

 

Actively ask your agent for approved credits and discounts.

Credits and discounts are available for many industries. They are offered by the state and the individual carriers to help business owners save on premium. Your agent has to ask for them in order to get the full amount of discount possibly available. If you bring this to their attention as a priority early in your interaction with them they will know to actively seek the best price. Insurance Agents have to deal with many business owners on a daily basis and the priorities of each business owner may be very different. Many business owners value their time above anything else. These business owners may rather pay a little more in order to just have the process over. If price is an important determining factor in your choice to buy commercial insurance, then let your agent know this up front. That way they can actively seek out every credit or discount available. 

 

Price shop, but do it carefully. 

You should always shop your policy around to make sure you are getting a competitive rate.  This is the first thing to do when you want to save on commercial insurance.  Switching for a moderate discount is not advised. This becomes important when your business inevitably has a claim. Your business will have a claim at some point in time. If you are a customer that has been with the carrier for several years, they are less likely to raise your rate on decline coverage of you altogether. If you are a business that switches carriers every year for a modest decline in price than you are much more likely to be dropped from coverage when a claim does occur. If you are dropped from coverage and cannot find insurance from another carrier than you are forced in to what is called the state fund. Policies in the state fund are much more expensive and depending upon your state once you are in the state fund you must remain there for 2-4 years. 

 

Have an informative website.

A website is beneficial to your business in more ways than just marketing. When you are applying for commercial insurance your agent is going to ask several questions about your daily operations. They are going to investigate it and so is the underwriter of the insurance carrier you are getting a quote from. If you tell them, you only do one type of business and your website shows you are doing something else than you better be prepared to explain what you do or do not do on a daily basis. On the contrary if you have a website that confirms what you have told your agent it will strengthen your relationship with them. This will help when and if you have a claim and need them to help you explain what happened to your insurance carrier. 

Consider changing the limits to your policy

The limits of your policy are important to protect your business, but they are not set in stone. They are not the same for every business owner either. Some business owners want to protect their business fully. Even protect it beyond what could imaginably happen to their business. Other Business owners are quite comfortable taking on more risk. If you are one of those business owners than lowering your limits is one way to lower what you pay in premium. Now most carriers will have a minimum amount you have to take, but if you are above those limits it may be worth your while to speak with your insurance agent about the pros and cons of lowering those limits. As long as you are making an informed decision and you know the risks you are taking lowering the limits of your policy can be an effective way to save on premium.

Lawncare & Landscaping

Lawncare and landscaping businesses are similar yet very different.

As a business owner of a lawncare or landscape company you might have had to shop for insurance. You might have had to do this to either to meet state requirements or to make sure your business is protected just in case an injury occurs to an employee. Recently I have taken many phone calls from owners of small lawncare or landscape companies that have been asked by a client, sometimes even a home owner to provide proof of work comp coverage before they are grated the job or bid. Whether you have a small or large lawncare company chances are you have had to make a call or two to obtain a work comp insurance certificate.

When going through this process have you ever wondered how your company is classified? There are two class codes that contemplate lawncare and landscaping, 9102 and 0042.  The most qualifying question to determine what class code you are in is, does your company primarily engage in maintaining already existing lawns and garden beds or is your business designing and installing landscape or flower beds. Another deciding factor is if there will be any installation of paving stones or rock beds. The class code 9102 is designated for lawncare or maintenance of existing lawns. Snow removal will also be covered under 9102 and should be discussed if there is snow removal operations in the down season of lawncare. 0042 class code is designated to design and installations of lawns and beds. Any sod laying or pavers would also fall under the 0042 class code. However both class codes do contemplate the applications of fertilizers and insecticides.

One aspect of both classes of business, that I feel I must bring up, is tree trimming. If at any time there is tree trimming the class code 0106 would need to be added to the work comp quote. Designated payroll can be added to that class or it can be added on an “if any” basis. I also must fully explain that the 0106 class code is considered high risk. It is very difficult to place with an insurance carrier.

When calling in or submitting an online quote, the first couple of questions back to you will most likely be:  How many employees not counting the owner are there and what type of lawncare are you providing? If the answer to the first question is there is only the owner, which some times is the case, that would be an owner only policy. If there is one employee or more there will need to be included a total annual payroll. At that time we would figure out how to best classify you. lawncare or landscape will find the best price and insurance carrier for your company.