Drones and Aerial Photographs

Drones are helping the insurance industry process claims much quicker in disaster ridden areas.

In the wake of three devastating hurricanes this fall, many insurance carriers have begun to use drones and and other aerial vehicles to aide in the claims process.  The use of drones have sped up the turn around time for claims processing dramatically.

Drones and Aerial Photographs

Unfortunately, this fall far too many small businesses are beginning to understand the need for protecting their small business with adequate insurance. These same business owners are also getting more familiar with the claims process between the business, the insurance agency and the insurance carrier.  If they did not know before, they are becoming familiar with at this time, the fact of how crucial it is for a claim to be processed quickly.  Getting victims back to everyday life can have an enormous impact on the communities impacted by natural disasters. This is what the insurance industry is striving to help the communities hurt by the hurricanes over the past few months.

Technology is helping in many ways. First, drones are helping carriers take both still photos and video to observe properties they are not physically able to visit. The carriers can use the information they get from drones, both in the form of aerial photographs and video, to create 3D images of the impacted area. Technology is now allowing them to do this at scale and determine what percentage of a property is destroyed without ever setting foot on the property. Now, this is not possible in all circumstances, but it is possible in many. Every case that is sped up, frees the adjusters to move on to other victims who desperately need help.

According to an article with the Insurance Journal, a recent KPMG (Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler) Survey found, “the two biggest challenges facing insurers are the difficulties in assessing property damage and managing customer expectations”. As a result of the same survey insurance executives overwhelmingly said, ‘To improve claims efficiency and communication with customers, insurance executives cited the use of drones as one of the technologies they will utilize to help quickly settle claims’. Drones are helping with these exact problems facing the insurance industry, by allowing those within the industry to show the victims, with pictures and video, what they are doing and how they are going about doing it.

Through the use of drones many companies within the industry are able to drastically speed up the processing time for claims by allowing the insurance claims processor to get a majority of the claims process done without the ability to physically visit the property. Once they are able to get out to the property, insurance professionals can use the drone to examine several properties in a particular area in a short amount of time. This allows the claims adjuster to spend a short amount determining what properties are most devastated and will need the most of his time. It can also allow the adjuster to determine if another property does not need any further observations on his part and free up time for him to observe other areas that are severely devastated.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for how this and other technologies will help the insurance industry, better serve their clients in the future.

 

6 Tips for controlling the cost of a Workers Compensation Claim.

  1. Quickly report all claims to the insurer.

Some states have requirements for how quickly a workers compensation claim must be reported. Insurance carriers have specific departments that deal with claims exclusively. They will know the process thoroughly for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Because this is a process your business hopefully does not deal with frequently, getting your injured worker the proper coverage quickly will be easier with the help of your carrier.  Documenting the claims allows the carriers to pick up on patterns and help businesses develop programs to prevent common injuries.

  1. Make sure supervisors are adequately trained.

Taking care of an injured employee may not be at the top of the priority list when hiring a manager for your business. Hopefully it is not something your managers have to encounter very frequently, but it needs to be something they can effectively deal with for the success of your business. Many businesses have a point person who studies the workers compensation claim process thoroughly. It is still important to have this person train the other managers to be aware of this process in case of an incident occurring when they are not on duty or away on vacation.

Communicating with your employees is important to limiting the impact of a workers compensation claim.

  1. Keep complete notes of the injury and reporting process.

Note taking is crucial in everything you do within your business. This is especially important when you experience a workers compensation insurance claim.  It may seem tedious, but it can save your business immensely if a claim makes it into the court of law.  Besides the fact you need to cover your business legally, accurate documentation helps your carrier document injuries within your industry. They can use this information to see patterns and to determine appropriate safety programs to deal with those patterns.

  1. Communication is key.

Communicating with all parties involved in the workers compensation claim is extremely important. This starts with communicating with your employee. In most states they have the right to seek a second opinion, but the more you keep your carrier in the loop of these situations the better they can help you control the cost of the claim.  Separate from the cost of the claim, it is in your best interest to let your injured employee know you care about their well-being.  Communicating with both your insurance agent and carrier is important as well. The carrier is the one equipped to handle the claim, not your agent.  The agent can be helpful if you feel your carrier is not living up to your expectations. Keeping them updated on the workers compensation claim can help you ensure you are getting the proper attention from your carrier and they can help you prepare for explaining the claim when you go to renew your policy.

A proper safety program can prevent employee injuries and limit a workers compensation claim.

  1. Prevent employees from injuries.

Safety programs are key to the long term success of your business. Making a safety plan part of your ongoing training is essential to your business and it does not have to take a lot of time.  Fifteen minute discussions two or three times a month should be sufficient. Make sure the meetings have a specific topic and ask for feedback from your employees. Asking for their feedback gets them involved in the discussion. This will make them more involved in the program. It can lead to higher job satisfaction if those employees feel like you are listening and make changes based on their feedback.

  1. Create a return to work program.

Studies have shown that the quicker a person gets back on the job in any form or fashion, the more likely they are to return to permanent work.  Humans are creatures of habit. Coming to work is part of their habit and the longer they go without that habit the more likely they are to create new habits not associated with your business. This is when a claim can get out of control if an injured employee goes on long term or permanent disability.  Designing low impact work of some kind will allow those employees to return to work and get back in the routine of work quicker.

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.

Seven Insurance Coverages Every Restaurant Should Carry

I am opening a restaurant, what Insurance do I really need? This is a question insurance agents get asked a lot. Not just from restaurant owners, but from all small business owners. The answer to this question is like many things in life; It depends. The answer to this question will be different if you are a Painter, a Dry Cleaner, or even an Artisan Contractor.

 

There are many variables that go in to running a restaurant and those variables bring on completely different risks.

First and foremost the restaurant owner needs to determine what class code their business will be in. To find this out you will need the help of an experienced insurance agent. It is very important to be open and honest with the agent about what your restaurant will and will not be doing. For example, if you are a bar that stays open until 2 AM you will be in a different class code than a diner that is open from 6 AM until 2 PM. The risks are different, so the businesses are classified different. Furthermore, if you are not honest with your agent about serving alcohol they may leave out Liquor Liability Coverage. If an incident occurs without coverage it may be a loss so large it forces you to close permanently.

So once a business is classified correctly there are seven main coverages every restaurant should carry. Some restaurants will need all of these coverages and more. Some restaurants will need only a few coverages. Again, that is where the help of an experienced commercial insurance agent is important. This list is a great starting point for protecting any restaurant.

 

  • General Liability
  • Liquor Liability
  • Commercial Property
  • Hired and Non-owned Auto
  • Commercial Crime
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Umbrella Policy

 

General Liability

General Liability (GL) is often referred to as the first line of defense in any good business insurance policy. A GL policy protects a business against liability claims for bodily injury and property damage as a result of normal business operations. It also covers some types of advertising liability. This can be as simple as someone slipping and falling on the way to the bathroom to another business claiming you stole their advertising slogan. There are exclusions in every policy and not every carrier has the same exclusions. Reading your policy and consulting with your agent are important.

 

Liquor Liability

Liquor Liability is designed for businesses that sell or serve alcohol. If you do not plan on selling alcohol this is not necessary for your business. In many states, business are required by law to carry this coverage. Liquor liability covers liquor related instances including bodily injury, mental anguish, psychological damage, assault, intoxicated employees and property damage.

 

Commercial Property

Regardless of whether you own or rent the facility your restaurant is located, property insurance is an essential part of protecting your restaurant from disaster. Commercial Property Insurance covers losses and damages to a companies property including buildings and permanent fixtures, inventory, furniture, equipment, personal property, signage, fences, and even landscaping.

 

Hired and Non-Owned Auto

One risk that many restaurant owners forget about is when their employees are using their personal cars for business purposes. This is where Hired and Non-owned Auto Coverage is necessary.  Many restaurant owners think if they do not offer delivery services they do not need Commercial Auto Coverage. That is not always the case. Hired and Non-owned Auto Coverage kicks in when your employees use their own vehicle or a rented vehicle not owned by the the company. The employee could be using their vehicle for something as simple as going to get change at the bank. Regardless of how small the activity may seem, when the employee is using any vehicle to do business activity you are liable.

 

Commercial Crime

In today’s day and age the risk for credit and debit card fraud is very high at a Restaurant. You and your customers are putting a lot of faith in the people you hire to not steal their personal credit card numbers. For this reason it is necessary to carry Commercial Crime Insurance. This coverage provides coverage for criminal acts committed by you or your employees. These can include employee dishonesty, forgery, computer fraud , funds transfer fraud, kidnap, ransom, extortion and money laundering. Depending upon the policy it will pay to defend you at trial and some fines or judgments awarded by a court of law.

 

Workers’ Compensation

 Workers’ Compensation Insurance offers coverage similar to General Liability. Workers Comp is designed for your employees instead of third parties. Work Comp Coverage is frequently referred to as the “exclusive remedy”. This means employees give up some rights to sue for injuries occurring on the job in exchange for guaranteed benefits like lost wages and coverage of medical costs. Employers gain the piece of mind that they will not be sued for most accidents occurring on the job unless the business is intentionally negligent.

 

Umbrella Policy

An Umbrella Insurance Policy is a great way to provide an added layer of protection to your business. The coverage is a policy that goes over the top of other insurance policies for a rainy day. Basically, the Umbrella Policy will provided higher limits of coverage when a large claim occurs. Think about the size of a potential claim if your restaurant caught on fire while people were inside. This could easily lead to you reaching the limits for General Liability and Commercial Property Coverage. This type of situation could easily exceed a typical $1,000,000 occurrence limit for those underlying policies. This is when the Umbrella policy would kick to provide additional coverage over and beyond those limits.

 

In most cases these policies can be bundled together under a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP). Most insurance carriers like to offer policies in a bundle because it brings them more business and allows them to get better prices for the business owner. It also ensures business owner’s are completely covered with no gaps in their coverage. So when you go out looking for your restaurant’s insurance policy these are seven insurance policies to consider when protecting your restaurant.

What is Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation?

Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation Insurance is a fairly new program that is designed to help business owner’s free up cash so they can pay their insurance premium’s monthly instead of in one lump sum. Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation benefits employers in three main ways:

  1. Pay as You Go Workers Compensation Insurance allows businesses to pay their premium monthly instead of in one large payment.
  2. Pay as You Go frees up cash flow for more immediate business needs.
  3. Pay as You Go prevents audits because both payroll and premiums are calculated monthly instead of yearly.

My Insurance Question can help you pick out the best Pay as You Go Workers' Compensation Insurance Policy.

Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage benefits businesses by allowing them to pay their insurance premium’s monthly based on the payroll of their workforce that month only. This is a great option for industries like construction, farming or landscaping. These industries sometimes have a hard time forecasting payroll because of the weather and many other factors. If your business deals with these types of issues than Pay Go may be a great option for you and your business.

 

Another benefit of Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation Insurance is that it frees up cash flow for more immediate business needs. With a traditional Workers Comp policy typically twenty five percent of the premium is due all at once. The rest is usually paid in nine monthly payments. This means the business is spending money on insurance immediately that could be used on other more urgent business needs.

Pay as You Go Workers' Compensation Insurance

Finally, business owner’s benefit from Pay Go Workers’ Compensation Coverage because it prevents audits from happening more frequently. An end of term audit still happens, but Pay Go prevents audits from happening more frequently and makes the difference owed much smaller. With the monthly payment format there is less risk of over or underpaying the premium.

The Importance of Your Company’s Website for Getting Business Insurance

The web presence of a business dramatically affects the business insurance options available for that business.  Much of the insurance buying landscape for businesses is shifting to the online/e-commerce environment. This often offers businesses faster service, better prices and the opportunity to get quoted by more carriers. Many of these transactions are conducted exclusively over the phone and by email.   An agent seeing a business face to face is becoming less and less common. Thus, underwriters are increasingly relying on a company’s website to assess whether they want to insure a company or pass on the opportunity.

For some industries, such as contractors, many insurance carriers will require evidence of a business online before they will quote that business (even if a formal website is not be required).  This gives the insurance carriers more confidence they know what business they are insuring. A good web presence helps businesses obtain better business insurance by getting quotes from more carriers.

Websites are generally used as a marketing tool for businesses. They often are over-expansive in the services they list they will offer.  That is good for marketing, but can make it more difficult for businesses to get insured.   Insurance company underwriters often rely on information contained on a website more than any other resource available. Thus, they will often decline quotes if services are offered which are ineligible for coverage. The rub is that often the businesses don’t really offer all of the services listed on their websites. Many times websites are created by a vendor the business owner contracted with, and their only goal was to make the website the strongest it could be from a marketing perspective. Additionally, the business owners may not always monitor their website on an on-going basis or update the website for changes in business operations.

However, when it comes to getting insurance, it is important that your company’s web presence most accurately reflects your business operations. Editing your company’s website is one way to accomplish this task. Sometimes, it is possible to explain why websites advertise services which are not really offered. However, sometimes it is not. Furthermore, sometimes carriers might price insurance more conservatively due to their potential doubt of the company’s operations based on an inaccurate website. An accurate website puts a good foot forward with insurance carriers.

There are many persuasive reasons to have an accurate and current website. Ease in obtaining business insurance (and potentially better priced business insurance at that) is another reason to add to that list.