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What is Covered by Your Condo Association's Insurance Policy? (Clone)

Posted on Tue, Jul 11, 2017

From: Brett C. Meade, Ezine Articles

Aside from the obvious differences between homes and condominiums, there is one crucial difference to keep in mind: the type of insurance coverage you will need. While homeowners need to purchase insurance on all of their property, condo owners are generally responsible for covering only a part of their property. It is important to know what sort of insurance you're going to need, depending on what your condo association requires. You don't want to end up spending more than you need to by covering things that your association already covers, or not buy enough insurance to cover things that your association doesn't cover.

condominiumA condo association is very similar to a homeowner's association. Both monitor and maintain common areas, like the neighborhood, or the complex in a condominium's case. Both also collect monthly or annual fees in order to pay for the maintenance. The main difference between the two is that condo associations also use some of the money collected from owners to pay for insurance for the common areas, the condominium building itself and the association's liability insurance. The theory is that all condo owners are collectively responsible to insure the areas that are shared among them. Typically, condo owners are responsible for insuring their own unit, and the condo association will take care of everything (via dues) beyond that. You can find out exactly what is covered and what is not by looking at your condo association's master policy. Even though your condo association may cover a lot, savvy owners still have individual unit insurance as well. This will protect you if your condo is burglarized, if there's interior water damage, or if someone is injured inside your unit.

Some policies cover the entire unit, from the exterior walls in, including interior fixtures such as floors, countertops, sinks, etc. Other types of policies may cover less than that; it is not uncommon for a condo policy to cover the building itself (walls, floors, ceilings), but not interiors such as countertops, cabinetry, sinks, etc. Condo owners whose associations have less coverage for individual units are in greater need of individual insurance for their unit. While homeowners usually start by insuring their property and the exteriors, condo owners should do the exact opposite. The latter should assess interiors (furnishings, electronics, etc.), then calculate in what part of the structure they are responsible for individually.

After you decide exactly what needs to be covered within your condo, you have a couple of options as to what type of insurance to get. You have to decide between replacement cost or cash value coverage. In cash value coverage, depreciation is calculated in, while in replacement cost coverage, it is not. For example, say you had to replace a 5-year-old laptop. In cash value coverage, your insurance company would look at how much you originally paid for the laptop, calculate in 5 years of depreciation and send you a check for what that laptop was worth today. In replacement cost coverage, the insurance company would pay you for what it would cost to replace the laptop today. Just like in any other insurance situation, you must weigh the risks to decide just how much insurance you want to buy. Replacement cost insurance generally costs more than cash value coverage, but could end up saving you money should you need to replace something.

As far as association coverage goes, another important aspect to keep in mind is the deductible. In most cases, the association's insurance will not cover all of the damages, leaving a deductible for condo owners to pay. This deductible is split among the condo owners, so its good to know how much the association's insurance will cover; the left over is up to the owners. Another key element that should be covered in the master policy is what happens if other condo owners do not have adequate coverage? Say one owner cannot pay their portion of the deductible. Is their liability passed along to other owners? This should be outlined in the policy, and if it's not, ask!!

Though it may seem like a lot of work now to investigate and understand your condo association's insurance coverage, it is well worth it. The best way to protect yourself and your money is to make sure you know exactly what you'll have to pay for or are responsible for in specific situations. By understanding this, you'll be able to not spend more than necessary by covering things already insured by your association.

 

Tags: condo insurance

Prepare Your Business For the Unexpected with Tabletop Exercises

Posted on Fri, Sep 09, 2016

business-continuity-header.jpgStatistics show that approximately 25 percent of businesses affected by disasters never reopen their doors. Small business owners and individuals who are self-employed are especially vulnerable to the loss of income that business interruptions can cause. To protect yourself from losses in the event of a forced shutdown, you must purchase adequate business interruption insurance and create a thorough business continuity plan.

Implementation of your business continuity plan means more than simply exercising the plan during an emergency. It means integrating the plan into your company operations, training employees and evaluating the plan.

What is a tabletop exercise?

Tabletop exercises provide a means of practicing your company’s business continuity plan and evaluating the result – without waiting until an actual emergency occurs. A tabletop exercise asks the emergency management group (EMG) to address a simulated problem – focusing on the efficiency and effectiveness of the business continuity plan. Following a tabletop exercise, many companies find there are weak points in their business continuity plans that need to be addressed.

What does it look like?

During a tabletop exercise, the EMG is asked to consider:

  • What is expected of the EMG and all other employees in the event of an emergency
  • What specific risks the company carries in light of the particular business interruption
  • Resources available to combat the business interruption
  • Communication options available to the EMG and all other employees
  • How customers will be affected and what to do in that situation
  • Security of company data and the assets
  • The order in which to respond to certain situations

After the EMG has discussed the issues presented in the exercise, the group has the opportunity to determine what was missing from the company’s business continuity plan and to revise the plan accordingly.

Conducting a tabletop exercise with your EMG is essential for the success of your business continuity plan. These exercises should be conducted regularly to provide practice for your EMG and to allow timely evaluation of your business continuity plan.

For more information about creating and implementing a business continuity plan, contact  Gaudette Insurance Agency at 800-922-8381.

Understanding Your Workers’ Compensation Experience Modification Factor

Posted on Fri, Sep 09, 2016

A key to understanding your workers’ compensation premium is the experience modification factor, also known as your mod. Understanding your company’s mod and the data used to obtain it helps you identify ways to minimize your workers’ compensation premium.

Who calculates the mod factor?

Most states use the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to collect data and calculate the experience modification factor. NCCI is a private corporation funded by member insurance companies. However, the following states have their own independent rating bureaus that are separate from the NCCI: California, Delaware, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Texas is in the process of transferring from an independent bureau to the NCCI system.

How is a mod calculated?

The process of calculating the experience modification factor is complex, but the underlying theory and purpose of the formula is straightforward. Your company’s actual losses are compared to its expected losses by industry type. The formula incorporates factors that account for company size, unexpected large losses and the incidence of loss frequency and loss severity to achieve a balance between fairness and accountability.

How does my mod affect my premiums?

The mod factor represents either a credit or debit that is applied to your workers’ compensation premium. A mod factor greater than 1.0 is a debit mod, which means that your losses are worse than expected and a surcharge will be added to your premium. A mod factor less than 1.0 is a credit mod, which means losses are better than expected, resulting in a discounted premium.

What is the experience rating period?mod_rate_decreasing.jpg

The mod is calculated using loss and payroll data for an experience rating period. The experience rating period typically includes data for three policy years, excluding the most recently completed year. For example, if your anniversary rating date is January 1, 2015, the experience period is 2010 to 2013. 2014 would be excluded.

Three years of data is used to provide a more accurate reflection of the losses, smoothing out the impact of any exceptionally bad or good year for losses.

Both actual and expected losses are divided into a primary and an excess portion in what is called a split rating method. Primary losses are designed to be an indicator of loss frequency (the number of losses) and are used at their full value in the mod formula. Excess losses are an indicator of loss severity (the amount of each loss) and are weighted in the formula so that they are less important. The emphasis of loss frequency over loss severity in the formula reflects the fact that loss frequency is a more actuarially significant indicator of risk and can be improved through proactive loss control programs.

The primary amount of each actual loss is the first x dollars of each claim, where x is determined by the split point that applies to the state and effective date. Excess losses—the amount of each loss that’s more than x—measure severity. Very large losses are also capped at levels that vary by state. This minimizes the impact that any single claim can have on your premium. In approved states, medical-only claims figures are reduced by 70 percent.

In most NCCI and some independent states, the split point is currently undergoing a multi-year transition from to better correlate with claim inflation. The process of transitioning to the new split point began in 2013, with an increase in the split point from $5,000 to $10,000 in most states. In 2014, the split point increased to $13,500 in most states. In 2015, the split point increased to $15,500 plus an adjustment for claim inflation, and is set to increase to $16,000 in 2016. The split point will continue to increase with claim inflation in 2017 and beyond.

Expected losses are calculated using your payroll data by state and class code and applying the Expected Loss Rate (ELR). The ELR is provided by each state’s rating bureau. These figures are also broken down into expected primary losses and expected excess losses.

How do your losses compare?

The final mod calculation compares your actual primary and excess loss figures to those expected for a company of the same size and industry type. To understand how workers’ compensation losses to your business compare to state industry averages, contact Gaudette Insurance Agency, Inc. to review your experience modification worksheet.

How can you control your mod?

Your mod factor has a direct impact on your workers’ compensation premium. The key to controlling your insurance costs is accident prevention.

  • The mod is calculated based on data reported to the rating bureau by past insurers. Incorrect or incomplete data can cause incorrect mod factors. Review loss and payroll data to ensure the calculation is complete and accurate.
  • Losses remain in the experience rating formula for three years. The experience modification factor is influenced more by small, frequent losses than by large, infrequent ones.
  • Develop a sound safety program, return to work program and appropriate prevention procedures to reduce loss frequency.
  • An effective self-inspection and accident investigation program are critical to managing claim frequency.
  • Implement an active claims management program to manage outstanding reserves and focus on efficiently resolving open claims.
  • Report all claims to your carrier immediately.
  • Take an aggressive approach to providing light duty to all injured employees upon their release from treatment.
  • Set safety performance goals for supervisory roles. Success in achieving safety goals should be used as one measure during performance appraisals.
  • Train employees on their responsibilities for safety, and enforce violations.
  • Frequently communicate with employees on a formal and informal basis regarding the importance of safety.

How can your experience rating save you money?

Establishing a proactive safety program is an effective way to reduce losses, positively impacting your mod and workers’ compensation premium. Contact us today at 800-922-8381. We have the loss control experience to help you promote safety and control your workers’ compensation premium.

Tags: workers compensation

Importance of An Annual Insurance Review

Posted on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

time-for-review.jpgMost people know the importance of insurance protection. You don't want to be without it when problems strike. What many don't realize, however, is that protecting themselves with insurance isn't a one and done event. You don't wear the same pants you did when you were ten years old because, besides no longer being in style, they simply don't fit. A homeowner's policy purchased when your house was furnished with bean bag chairs and bar stools is no longer going to "fit" once you're lounging on Italian leather sofas while watching television on your wall mounted plasma screen. Life is constantly changing, and your insurance policies should reflect that.

Does this mean that I have to immediately call my insurance agent every time I buy a new piece of furniture or my cousin Tammy moves in for 6 months? Not necessarily. While more significant changes should be reported immediately (such as getting married or getting a new car), items such as improving your home entertainment system or upgrading your car's sound system, can be reported at your annual insurance review. Insurance agents reach out to their clients because they want to check up on possible changes and help avoid any gaps in their clients' coverage. However, it's equally important for a policyholder to reach out to their agent to make sure they are covered for any major life changes. If one agent handles all of your coverage, this task is relatively easy. Jot down any changes that have occurred over the last year, even if you're not sure whether they are significant enough to mention. Doing so will ensure that all of your insurance policies are best suited to your current life situation.

Some examples of changes that should be mentioned to your agent immediately are listed below. Ask yourself these questions every year:

  • Have I gotten married or divorced?
  • Have I had a new baby, or adopted a child?
  • Is anyone in my house a new driver?
  • Is anyone living with me who wasn't before? Will they ever be driving any of my vehicles?
  • Do I have a personal umbrella policy? Do I need one?
  • Have I purchased any new properties?
  • Have I started a home business?
  • Have I purchased new furniture, electronics, or fine jewelry?

These are just a few examples of life changes that are often picked up during an annual review. However, there are other changes that can affect your coverage as well, so be thorough when documenting and reporting items to your agent.

Some of the above examples might seem pretty obvious. Most people know that if their teenager gets his license, they need to notify their auto insurance carrier. However, not everything is as obvious. For example, take a couple who just had their first child. They decide that it's time to purchase life insurance to provide for the child if something ever happens to them. This couple is doing the responsible thing. They understand the importance of buying life insurance when starting a family. But what about three years later when baby #2 is born? Or babies #3, #4 and #5 that come along over the enxt several years? It's just as important to update beneficiary information otherwise #1 is the only child that gets the money if mom and dad are struck by lightning. This particular tale might seem slightly "tall," but beneficiary issues create havoc, legal battles, and misdirected money on a daily basis. Sometimes it's to the tune of thousands, other times it's to the tune of millions. Protect yourself, your family, and your personal belongings by making sure that each of your insurance policies gets an annual check-up. You'll rest much better once you do. Call 800-922-8381, click or come into our Whitinsville or Grafton offices for a free review.

Image from wtsinternational.org

Tags: insurance review

Crash Test Doggies: Prevent Your Pet from Becoming a Projectile

Posted on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

Do you regularly put your dog in danger?

dog_car_booster_seat.jpgIf your pet travels unrestrained in any vehicle, then the answer is "Yes." The idea of keeping a pet safe in transit is not a new one. Indeed, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) has undertaken crash tests to rate the effectiveness of canine travel restraints. However, the reason behind the CPS trials was not what you might suppose – to promote safe travel for pets – but to reduce human injuries.

The vehicle manufacturer Subaru sponsored the CPS study, seeing it as the next logical step in promoting passenger safety. But if you are left scratching your head and wondering what the link is between pets and people, then take a look at the report's sobering definition of a dog-restraint failure: "When [the harness] fails in such a way that it allows the test dog to become a full projectile...”

The problem is that in the event of a crash, a dog loose in the vehicle travels forward and becomes a projectile that can injure fellow passengers or go flying through the windshield. So if the thought of your pet sailing past your ear gives you the chills, then make sure he is properly restrained while traveling.

Size matters

You decide to do the right thing and secure your pet, but find the wide array of pet restraints confusing. Booster seats, harnesses, carriers, and barriers leave your wondering: What is the right choice for your furry friend?

Indeed, safe travel for an 8-pound Chihuahua presents a different challenge from transporting an 80-pound Doberman. When it comes to travel safety, size matters. So your first challenge is to decide what type of device is appropriate for your pet. Finding the right equipment takes into account a combination of pet size, device type, and the individual product's safety record.

Don't give up!

If you find the safety issue alarming, but are about to file pet restraints under "too complicated" – don't despair. Read on for a no-nonsense guide to the five types of pet restraints.

1. Pet carriers

Pet carriers the familiar secure containers for taking cats or small dogs to the vet clinic. The idea is that the pet is safely confined in a box that can be picked up and carried, but it can also be strapped inside the car using the vehicle's seat belt. Pet carriers work well for cats and small dogs weighing less than 15 pounds, and give nervous animals the safety of a den-like area to hide in. The relatively small size of the pet vs. the rigidity of the container keeps the pet safely confined in the event of a crash.

2. Pet harnesses

Pets not in a carrier (those above 15 pounds) should wear the doggy equivalent of a seat belt. Of course, regular seat belts are designed for human anatomy, so a bit of lateral thinking is required in the shape of a dog harness. 

Travel harnesses are designed to fit around the dog's chest and neck, which helps spread the force of an impact. When choosing a harness, one factor to be alert for is that the heavy vest pieces of some designs are not suitable for smaller dogs.

Harnesses have tethering straps that anchor them into the vehicle's seat belt fixing points. The best harnesses have a 3-point fixing system that holds all parts of the dog's body secure against the seat. The alternative is a 1-point harness, which may allow the dog's rear end to snap forward in a crash.

In terms of absolute safety, the CPS report is well worth a browse, and you can watch a video of a crash test here. Long story short, the CPS found a big difference in performance between harness manufacturers. The most reliable system, and the harness against which all the others were measured, is the Sleepypod Clickit Utility. Other equipment tested (listed from best to least reliable) include:

That said, any pet restraint is better than none at all, especially as it also keeps dogs from distracting drivers by climbing into their laps.

3. Booster seats

Much like boosters seat for toddlers, doggy booster seats are designed for smaller pets. They commonly take the form of a comfy box-like nest, which is held above the car seat by the arrangement of the seat belt. The effect is to raise the dog up so that he can see out the window without having to balance on his hind legs. To keep the dog from jumping out of the booster seat and to keep him safe in a crash, he must wear a harness.

Again, Sleepypod scored highly in safety trials, along with Kurgo Skybox. But whichever system you choose, check to see if your vehicle's front passenger air bag will deploy in an accident (if there is no weight on the seat, not all airbags activate). If the airbag DOES deploy, your pet could be crushed, so his booster seat should be mounted in the back .

4. Barriers

For larger dogs, a harness attached to the back seat is ideal, transporting him almost like a human passenger. If the pet is too big, or will not settle in a harness, then the next option is to confine him to the back seat or trunk using a barrier.

Barriers range from mesh secured with loops to metal grills. Mesh curtains are better than nothing because they stop dogs from slipping onto drivers' laps and distracting them, but they offer no protection in an accident.

Metal grills that secure the dog in the trunk are more effective. However, these are not crash-approved and at best stop the dog from flying through the windshield in an accident. If you are confining your dog to the trunk and want to keep him as safe as possible, the best option is a crash-tested crate (see the next section.)

5. Crates

Crates are to medium and large dogs what carriers are to small pets (although obviously crates are not portable). They vary in construction from simple metal boxes, similar to puppy training crates, right up to crash-tested safety crates.

The daddy of them all is the Variocage. This is crash-tested to European safety standards as offering the equivalent of crumple-zone protection to the dog. The downside is that their solid construction means they are better suited to roomy SUVs, and you should carefully measure the trunk to ensure the crate fits before making a purchase. 

Conclusion

In an ideal world you'd choose crash-approved safety equipment for your pet. However, driver distraction is a big factor in causing vehicle collisions, and restraining your pet in transit (by whatever means) could help you both stay safe.

Image from http://petautosafetyblog.com

Tags: pets, safety

The Risks and Benefits of Social Networking at Your Workplace

Posted on Wed, Mar 16, 2016

media-998990_640.jpgStarting to utilize social media as a networking and recruiting tool at your workplace may seem scary. Feelings of both fear and excitement when first implementing social networking are common due to this trend having the potential to change the way companies across the globe do business. It not only has the ability to help your company connect with its clients, it is also a valuable resource for drawing in prospective employees and recruiting the finest candidates for jobs.

Social networking has the ability to get your message across to thousands of people very quickly, which makes it a priceless public relations and viral marketing tool. However, popular social networking sites, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ can present a large hazard to your company and its reputation depending on how you and your employees use them.

Industry leaders are constantly referring to social networking sites as places to advertise, branding them as interactive tools for connecting with clients. However, not all publicity is good publicity. It is important to project a positive company image, which you can do through setting up your own social networking account; but it is just as imperative that you control other users’ conversations about you.

Who’s Saying What About You Online?

Facebook, the largest social networking site today based on monthly unique visitors, has more than one billion active users. The fastest-growing group of users is people older than 35, which means it is becoming increasingly likely that your workforce is getting involved with social networking. While this has many potential benefits, you also want to be careful no one — whether it is a competitor, former or current employees — is tarnishing your company’s name or reputation. The same holds true for blogs, where damaging content may appear without your consent.

The key to keeping your risk low is identity management. The best way to prevent Internet buzz from becoming a hazard is to monitor the use of your company name. Periodically type it into a search engine and make sure that your official website is the top hit and that nothing offensive comes up in the first 20 hits, which is statistically as far as most people will dig in a search.

If you do find references to your company name in the first 20 hits that could be hazardous to your business or your reputation, you have a few options. If social networking sites are the culprit, consider enacting a policy prohibiting employees from mentioning the company name on their personal sites. Explain the negative outcomes this could have for business and help employees understand how acting as poor representation of the company through scandalous photos or negative comments on a social networking site could affect them directly.

Negative and Harmful Comments

If negative or derogatory comments about your company have seeped into other sites outside the control of your employees, however, the risk to your business is even greater. What’s more, this type of hazardous publicity is more difficult to manage. One approach is to flood the Internet with positive information about your company so that the negative write-ups are no longer within the top search results. Contacting sites and asking them to remove fictitious and defamatory material is another option.

If you have a serious public relations issue and your company’s reputation or legitimacy is on the line because of material on the Internet or social networking sites, it could cost you thousands of dollars in lost business. Consider hiring an identity management company, which will help organize, analyze and control the information about you that appears on the Internet.

Social Networks and Screening Candidates

The practice of using social networking sites to further research potential employees and weed out candidates based on content in these sites is risky. Not only does it cause you to dabble in issues of legality, but it also could place you in thorny situations when it comes to personal differences you become aware of via social networking tools. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 20 percent of employers are using social networking sites to screen job candidates. Before you engage in this practice, know what types of hazards you face.

The most obvious problem with this practice is how difficult it is to draw lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. According to the study, half the employers interviewed said provocative photos on a social networking site were the largest contributing factor when a potential employee was not hired. But who gets to define what constitutes provocative, and does the candidate have the right to find out this is the reason he or she was not hired? Social networking is such a new trend, especially among the older workforce, that there are currently no ethical benchmarks in place.

By using social networking sites as a filtering tool, you are exposing yourself to potential lawsuits. Many users post personal information such as their religion and age. Even if you decide not to hire them for legal reasons, such as improper educational qualifications, the candidate could accuse you of basing the decision not to hire on information obtained from their social networking site.

When it comes to looking on the Internet for information on potential job candidates, you should consider talking with your co-workers to come to the best solution. There is no right or wrong answer regarding whether Internet research on candidates is a good idea, so it is up to your company to weigh the options. Whatever you choose, remember to examine the underlying risks and consider all feasible scenarios and outcomes to make the most informed decision possible.

Please contact Gaudette Insurance Agency, Inc. for more information about this increasingly popular trend.

Tags: social media

Working Out the Kinks

Posted on Wed, Mar 16, 2016

How Good Form Can Keep You Pain Free at Work

Introduction

Working through pain can cause disabling injuries, potentially ending your career. That’s why it’s important to practice good ergonomics, which is the study of how you perform daily work tasks and correcting any trouble spots before any aches and pains due to repetitive motion, awkward postures or poor lifting techniques set in.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders can develop either suddenly or over time, causing debilitating pain and resulting in lost time and wages at work. The most common pains come from strains in the neck, lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands and eyes due to one or more of four primary risk factors: awkward postures, excessive force, repetitive motion or contact stress. The way employees lift and move their bodies is a major contributing factor in various disorders.

About Your Workstation

The way your workstation is set up may determine your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder over time. Improper positioning in your workstation can cause various disorders due to reaching or straining unnecessarily. If you are regularly bending or twisting to do regular tasks, your risk of developing a disorder is much higher. However, if you follow several basic guidelines, you can prevent pain and injury.

Warming Up Before Work

Moving the body in ways it is not ready to move and using muscle groups that haven’t been warmed up for work can be a major cause of pain. There is a real value in practicing basic stretching exercises for our hands, wrists, back and neck to prepare our bodies for work. Begin with your hands and wrists, stretching them thoroughly for the movements typically made at work. Stretch your neck gently from side to side and then from front to back. Stretch your back while sitting in a chair by bending your chin toward your knees.

Lifting Methods

When lifting, first take a good look at the load. If it is too awkward, too big or too heavy, ask for help. On many occasions, workers lift items that are too big for them simply because they are unwilling to ask for assistance, resulting in unnecessary pain and lost wages. Success at your job means getting assistance when necessary.

Second, lift with your legs, never with your back. Your legs are your biggest muscles and, unlike your back muscles, they are able to lift heavier objects. With a straight back, keep weights at shoulder level. Bending at your waist when you are lifting heavy objects can strain your back muscles, which can lead to pain and musculoskeletal disorders.

Third, avoid lifting and twisting in the same motion. Your first goal is to get the object off the ground. Once your legs are straight, you can move your legs instead of twisting your back.

One final thought on lifting: back belts do not allow you to lift more weight and may lead to additional problems if they cause you to ignore proper lifting principles. The only way to effectively prevent back injury is to follow the correct lifting procedure, with or without a back belt.

Taking Breaks

Although there are many ways to avoid musculoskeletal disorders, repetitive motion injuries and other ergonomic-related problems, one of the best ways to prevent pain is to recognize that muscles require periodic rest.

As you work, take regular breaks to stretch and rest your muscles. If you are sitting, stand up and stretch. If you have been working on a detailed task, stop and stretch your hands and wrists. If you have been standing for long periods of time, sit down and stretch your back out again. Switch with a co-worker to change the type of task you work on after a period of time to give one set of muscle groups a rest while using others. A little common sense can go a long way in reducing your risk of pain and lost wages in the long term.

Get Involved

If you feel the way that your workstation set up needs to be reviewed, remember to bring this information to your supervisor’s attention. The company is very interested in making sure that everyone is able to work without pain. If you have any questions regarding ergonomics or your work area, speak up before the aches or pains set in.

Tags: safety

Since boating season is over, should I cancel my boat insurance?

Posted on Thu, Sep 24, 2015

While it may be tempting to cancel your boat insurance policy in the off season to save a few dollars, it’s important to know that your boat can still face risks whether it’s in your yard or in a storage facility. Fire, flood, vandalism and theft aren’t limited to the warmer months; they can be year-round threats.

Depending on the size of your boat, some insurance companies require "lay up" periods. A lay-up period is usually for boats exceeding 26 feet and defines the months that the vessel is out of active service. During the lay-up period, the vessel is out of commission and is not used for any boating activities. In New England, the typical lay-up period is from October to May. It's important to know that if you put your boat in the water during the lay-up period, there would be no coverage for an “in the water “ loss during this time.

Contrary to popular belief, the amount of claims filed during cold-weather months is shocking. Over the last three years, nearly two out of every ten claims filed from Northern states were filed during the fall and winter months. Without the proper coverage, boaters would have to pay for these damages out of their own pockets.

Boaters could also be held responsible for injuries that occur on or around their boats, even during the lay-up period, and even if the injured person was there illegally. Without liability coverage - which pays for injuries to other people or damage to their property if you cause an accident - you, and not your insurer, could be legally responsible for damages or the injured parties' medical bills.

Your insurance carrier may not be eager to renew your boat policy if you cancelled the previous year. In many cases, once you cancel a policy, that company will not insure you again for a period of time. If you have financed your boat, your lender may require year-round coverage.

By cancelling a policy for the winter months, you will most likely pay more than what you would have by keeping the policy in effect. You may actually save some cash if you keep your boat policy all year. If you have other insurance policies with the same carrier, you could qualify for a multi-policy discount. If damage should occur after cancelling your policy, then you'll be paying the entire amount to repair damage to your boat since you won't have any coverage.

Don’t forget the critical need to have adequate coverage on boat trailers and boat lifts.  

Buy Local Or Buy Online? The Difference Between A Local Insurance Agent's Quote And Online Quotes

Posted on Thu, Sep 17, 2015

In the course of one day, how many insurance commercials have you seen on TV, heard on the radio, or viewed online? Just about every cable channel, media outlet or online streaming site has insurance commercials. We are bombarded with getting quotes here or saving money there. There are so many options and promises it’s hard to make a clear decision.

What do we do when we want to compare Massachusetts insurance options? Get online! Unfortunately, many folks aren’t asking themselves “Am I really getting the best deal by going online or should I go old fashion route and speak with an agent?”

Buying direct online insurance quotes

Insurance_OnlineAdmittedly, online quotes are the easiest route to go. There are so many conveniences - doing it on your own time and in your pajamas if you choose, not having to speak with anyone, having a snack while doing it, and online quotes have evolved making the insurance recommendations to better fit your needs. Depending on the person, you could even get knock out quotes.

In theory, online insurance quotes are great. You get what you need without any hassle and sometimes with great rates. Unfortunately, unless you are an expert in the insurance industry how do you know if you are getting exactly what you need?

It’s great that technology has taken us to the point where we can explore prices and plans online. However, it’s leaving people under-insured and focusing solely on the best price. For some, the decision to buy insurance is as important as buying toilet paper. We just want something that will work good enough at the best price.

It’s understandable to want cheap quotes for your insurance and doing it in a convenient way, but have you ever bought a new piece of technology and had to call their call center with a problem? Every time it's a new person who has no idea who you are, what you need, why you purchased the product and it's always a long irritating conversation. Do you want the same for your insurance every time you file a claim or need policy information?

For some this is a small price to pay, for others it is unacceptable. Is quoting through a local agent realistically better than quoting direct online?

insurance-agentAgent quotes

Local insurance agents have a bit longer of a quoting process than online quotes. Local agents are basically a middleman so they need to collect your information, gather quotes from different companies then get a hold of you again.

Getting quotes from agent's are not always the most convenient option, but they can lead to you getting the best insurance for your needs.

Having an insurance agent is like having a personal insurance consultant. They know your needs, they know the laws, and they generally know the products inside and out. A local agent knows your situation first hand and can make appropriate suggestions which will benefit you best.

Many local agents with websites will also provide online quotes. These quotes are just as convenient as the direct buy companies but may not include all of the quotes an agent can give in person.

Overall would an agent's quote be cheaper than buying direct online? The answer is maybe. Each individual is different as well as each insurance company's pricing criteria.

So what's the best option?

If you are just online browsing for quotes then go direct first. Have a coffee, relax, do it when the time suits you. When it comes time to buy, visit your local agent.

Online quotes are great for get an idea of what you will be paying in your area, but there's much more that goes into it. Contacting an agent will allow the agent to assess the situation to make sure 1) you are getting the proper coverage you need and 2) you are not paying for something you really don't need.

Along with helping you find the best insurance plan, local agents bring special advantages that buying direct does not. Since they’re local to your area, an agent is familiar with weather related disasters such as hail damage or ice storms that have blown through your town. They are a part of and support the community you live in. Local agents can ensure that you’re getting discounts and special savings. They can help you make sense of what you’re buying and be there to help you through the claims process. When it comes to big investments like your car, your home and even your family's well-being you want an expert on your side.

We can't say whether you’ll receive better quotes from an agent or a website. It depends on the person and the insurance carriers. If you want to ensure that you are properly covered, can take advantage of discounts and will have help on your side during the claims process, then it's best to go with a real live agent.

The Credit Card Liability Shift—What Merchants Need to Know

Posted on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

creditcardsEMV is the acronym for Europay, Mastercard and Visa—the three credit card companies responsible for pioneering a new credit card technology in the 1990s. Though they were the first innovators, since then, all major credit card companies have adopted the technology, which has been in widespread use in Europe and elsewhere in the world for several years. On Oct. 1, 2015, that same standard will come to the United States as credit card companies enact the “EMV liability shift.”

In the simplest terms, this means that the cost of fraudulent charges on certain kinds of credit and debit card transactions will be determined solely by the technology used in the transaction. Whoever has the least EMV-compliant technology—either the merchant processing the transaction or the card issuer—will be liable for the costs of the fraudulent charge.

Such a shift could have huge financial implications for businesses, especially since card issuers have typically borne the bulk of fraud liability. To minimize the impact of this shift on your business, it’s important to understand what EMV is, why it’s being adopted as the new standard and what the new technology will and won’t do in terms of minimizing risk.

Understanding the New Technology

EMV replaces the old standard of encoding cardholder information—the magnetic stripe on the back of the card—with a microprocessor chip that’s embedded within the card. Customers then punch in a personal identification number (PIN), much like a debit card, or sign for the transaction in the same way customers currently do with magnetic stripe cards.

EMV cards offer major security benefits. Specifically, in contrast to their magnetic stripe counterparts, EMV chip cards are almost impossible to clone. On magnetic stripe cards, thieves can steal cardholder information using a device called a “skimmer.” On EMV chip cards, cardholder information is stored in a microprocessor that generates a unique signature for every transaction, effectively “communicating” its authenticity every time it’s scanned. In fact, in countries that have adopted the EMV standard, the use of counterfeit cards has dropped nearly to zero.

 

EMV Migration – What Businesses Need to Do

There are certain steps a business will have to take in order to become EMV compliant. These can take time, so starting as soon as possible is the best strategy.

  • Examine Hardware: Some businesses that have upgraded point-of-sale (POS) card readers in the past few years might find them capable of reading EMV cards. Many businesses, however, will have to upgrade their existing hardware.
  • Consult With Third Parties: Businesses should contact their merchant acquirers, payment processors and independent software vendors. These third parties can help by offering specific recommendations and solutions that fit with each individual business’s needs.
  • Purchase and Certify New Hardware: The merchant acquirer or payment processor should be able to tell a business what certification, if any, that business might need.
o   Often, if the card reader isn’t heavily customized, the acquirer or processor may have already taken care of certification.
o   If, however, the card reader is highly integrated into the business’s POS, that business might need to obtain proper certifications. In some cases, the same policy can cover multiple events.
o   Certification takes time. Level 3 certification, for instance, can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.
  • Decide on Chip-and-PIN or Chip-and-signature: Businesses should also consider whether the terminals they purchase can handle chip-and-PIN transactions or only chip-and signature transactions. At the moment, most card companies are issuing chip-and-signature cards. However, it’s likely that chip-and-PIN will be the standard in a few years. Rather than update hardware twice, it might make sense to make that investment now.
  • Implement Internal Training: EMV cards are processed a bit differently than magnetic stripe cards, so it’s important that employees understand the differences:
o   The total amount of the transaction must be entered into the terminal before the card is inserted.
o   An EMV card must remain inserted in the terminal for the entire duration of the transaction.
  • Educate Customers: Most businesses will be far more knowledgeable on the new technology than their customers. Teaching employees how to instruct customers on using their new EMV cards will be essential in making the transition as smooth as possible.

Important Exclusions to EMV

The liability shift only applies to card-present, face-to-face transactions. Currently, there’s a separate liability shift, scheduled for October 2017, for ATM withdrawals and automated fuel dispensers.

Card-not-present (CNP) transactions won’t be affected by the liability shift. That means that even if a business has an EMV-compliant terminal, if the card information is manually entered, or if the transaction occurs on the internet, the business will usually be responsible for the costs associated with a fraudulent transaction.

It’s also worth noting that many EMV cards will also have a magnetic stripe in addition to the chip. If a business uses the stripe to read the card rather than use the chip, it will assume liability, regardless of whether the terminal is EMV compliant or not.

Putting it All Together

EMV is a technology designed to reduce losses and should be thought of as another piece of your business’s overall security strategy. For more information on how to assess and mitigate your business’s risks, contact Gaudette Insurance Agency, Inc. today.

Tags: cyber liability