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.

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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.


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.