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Finding an insurance program you can bank on

By Mike Huntington

Finding an insurance program you can bank on

Banks and financial institutions have unique insurance needs.

Whether you operate a bank, savings and loan, credit union, household finance or mortgage company, you need to protect your organization’s own assets to ensure that you remain open for business. Your clients depend on you for services such as mortgages and other loans, night depositories, checking and savings accounts and ATMs.

A financial company’s assets go beyond traditional assets such as buildings and contents. Your insurance coverage should be tailored to include unique exposures you may have, such as:

  • Broad coverage for damage to special property such as bulletproof glass, night depositories, vaults and ATMs
  • Protection for your interest in a mortgaged property in the event it is damaged or destroyed and the borrower’s coverage is inadequate or has lapsed
  • Coverage for dwellings and other properties acquired in foreclosure, assuring that coverage is adequate despite the possibility of the property being vacant
  • Your interest in other collateral property such as autos, RVs and boats that are damaged or destroyed where there is an error or omission in procuring or maintaining physical damage coverage on those items
  • Both liability and physical damage protection for autos that are repossessed

Ask your insurance agent to place your policy with a carrier that provides broad coverage for common exposures of financial companies. Your assets should be as safe and secure as your clients’.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

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Check your privacy settings

By Helen Kyrios

Check your privacy settings

Actively manage your privacy settings.

Do you worry about your privacy on popular personal electronic devices and social networks? You’re not alone. Keep your stuff secure and private by managing your online privacy settings while still being sociable.

Privacy settings can be complex, but you can exercise control over who can and can’t see your personal information. A good rule of thumb is to set up privacy settings for “private” or “friends only” to keep your personal information and location out of the wrong hands. Certain information such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, usernames and passwords should never be posted on social media.

Sites generally also provide guidance on how to check for unusual access or activity in your accounts. It’s important to review your account regularly noting any unfamiliar or suspicious activity. For example, the “details” link on the bottom of Gmail’s page lists the most recent IP addresses where your mail was accessed and their associated locations. If you see suspicious account activity, immediately change your password and log out of your account.

You can use the direct links found at StaySafeOnline.org to update your privacy settings on popular devices and online services such as Amazon, Pandora, Instagram, Fitbit, Xbox and more. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, email info@staysafeonline.org, and they’ll add it.

Privacy settings are constantly evolving as new features are launched, so be aware and keep on top of things. To view more tips and advice to protect your personal information, visit STOPTHINKCONNECT.org.

OUR PRIOR BLOGS ABOUT ONLINE PRIVACY

Tips to protect taxpayers from identity theft

Top 10 tricks to protect yourself from cyber crime

See your local independent insurance agent for advice on how to protect your personal property, including electronic devices, or to protect your business from liability for online activities.

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Home health care employers should weigh auto risks

By Steve Fisher

Home health care employers should weigh auto risks

Auto travel can present a risk for businesses and employees.

Driving a vehicle is so ingrained in our daily routine we don’t think twice about the risk that this simple activity carries. But operators of home health care services should consider the risk that auto travel poses to your business and to your employees. By putting appropriate controls in place, employers can help their licensed medical staff arrive safely to care for clients.

COMPANY-OWNED VEHICLE

Employers who provide a company vehicle can reduce the chance of an accident by training employees in safe driving practices, creating a written driver safety program and implementing a vehicle maintenance schedule.

One way an employer can gauge a responsible driver is by doing pre-employment checks when appropriate. Employers may consider requesting prior work history, doing a criminal background check and obtaining a motor vehicle report (MVR) to review an applicant’s driving history and license status. If your business obtains pre-employment checks, consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and to determine when employee releases or notices are needed.

EMPLOYEE-OWNED VEHICLE

Request proof of insurance from employees who use their own cars for work-related transportation. While an employee’s personal insurance policy is not within your control, you can require employees to carry minimum liability protection of $100,000 coverage per person and $300,000 per accident, with a preference for higher limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.

Periodically check employees’ compliance. One effective strategy is to select one-third of your staff at random each year and run MVR reports and request certificates of insurance. As noted above, consult with legal counsel when obtaining MVR reports to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

CLIENT-OWNED VEHICLE

While patients often request that the caregiver use the client’s vehicle, it’s best to discourage this practice. For safety reasons, employees should drive well-maintained, familiar vehicles. Many patient vehicles sit idle for long periods due to the patient’s condition. Brakes, tires and other operating functions can be long overdue for service. Employees also likely would need to take time to adjust mirrors and seats and learn the locations for controls for each respective vehicle. This could be uncomfortable and unsafe.

Non-ambulatory patients present a special transportation exposure that may require you to contract a service provider. Loading and unloading patients requires special equipment. Employees should be highly trained, and lifts should be regularly inspected and maintained. Once inside the …read more

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Innocent employers go to court every day

By Suzi Frye

Innocent employers go to court every day

Take action to reduce risk in employment decisions.

Misunderstandings can lead to disastrous consequences for your company, but there are things employers can do to protect your business. Imagine these scenarios:

  • A manager terminates an employee based on negative performance evaluations. The terminated employee sues the employer for pregnancy discrimination, alleging she was fired based on her pregnancy and leave of absence.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sues a manufacturing company for race and gender discrimination in their hiring procedures. The EEOC alleges Asian applicants were turned down for all positions except administrative ones.
  • A former employee alleges that after he informed his employer of the need for a kidney transplant, he was terminated.

Even if the employers in these examples were completely innocent and the allegations are unfounded, they may nonetheless incur significant defense costs. What would your company do if these claims were filed against it? Would your company have the resources to pay for litigation costs that may take months or even years to resolve?

HOW DOES INSURANCE FIT IN?

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) protects your company against the financial consequences of employment-related lawsuits and from allegations that an employee’s rights were violated. Lawsuits can result in defense costs and possible state or federal fines and penalties if your company is found liable. Complaints and charges could be brought by past, present or prospective employees.

Allegations could include:

  • Wrongful termination of employment
  • Wrongful failure to employ or promote
  • Failure to create and provide workplace employment procedures
  • Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Wrongful retaliation
  • Breach of oral or written employment contracts

Top-trending employment practice claims also include:

  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Illegal background checks
  • Health-related employment discrimination
  • LGBT gender identity discrimination
WAYS TO REDUCE RISK

Take action to mitigate the risk in employment decisions:

  • Discuss employment practices liability insurance with your attorney, risk manager and local independent insurance agent.
  • Minimize the risk of lawsuits by educating your managers and employees.
  • Create employment procedures that extend from pre-employment all the way to termination and beyond.
  • Maintain accurate and thorough documentation regarding any employment action that occurs, including steps your organization takes to prevent and solve disputes.
  • Develop an employee handbook detailing company policies for discipline, termination and prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Ask interview questions that are nondiscriminatory when recruiting and selecting talent.

Employee-related complaints, charges and allegations could seriously damage the reputation and bottom-line results of your company or organization. Take action. Seek …read more

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Caring for and displaying your keepsake photos

By Doug Eisele

Caring for and displaying your keepsake photos

Part 1 of 2 –

Take care to preserve photo memories.

With the move to digital photography, many of us know how to store and back up those files. However, you probably also have a box (or boxes!) of historical family photos that you’d like to preserve for future generations. Photographs are easily damaged by improper handling, storage and exposure to environmental conditions. What can we do to protect these priceless gifts of history?

In general terms, a photograph is made up of an emulsion which comprises the light sensitive material that creates the image. This emulsion is on a support which can be made of paper, metal, glass, fabric and even stone. Additional elements may include hand-coloring dyes.

STORE IN A COOL, DRY LOCATION

Photographs should be stored in cool, low humidity, well-ventilated, low-light space. If too much heat or humidity is present, mold and mildew will grow, possibly causing severe damage to the photographs. Preventing damage before it happens slows down or prevents the need for substantial photograph restoration. Storing photographs in areas where rapid temperature or humidity changes occur can lead to condensation, which not only encourages mold growth but can also cause the emulsion to separate from the support and stick to other surfaces.

Ideally black and white photographs should be stored at 68 degrees Fahrenheit while color photographs and film negatives should be stored in cooler temperatures at about 30 – 40 degrees. Humidity should be maintained at 30 to 40 percent. Photographs should not be stored in basements or attics, where temperature or humidity can fluctuate greatly and potential water damage may occur from flooding or leaking roofs.

KEEP AWAY FROM LIGHT

The manner in which photographs are stored is as important as where they are kept. By their very nature, photographs are light sensitive. For this reason, photographs should be stored in light-tight boxes, folios or albums. These storage containers should be made of chemically stable paper or plastics. Film negatives can be stored in buffered enclosures but these should be kept separate from printed photographs. Storing them in separate locations is a good idea since the images could become damaged by fire or flood and reprints can be made from negatives.

Consider scanning and copying your important photographs on a CD and separately storing a copy in case of fire or flood. Albums should be made of acid-free paper and should not have self-adhesive pages as these can cause discoloration. …read more

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A checklist for safe snowmobiling

By Mark Hertzfeldt

A checklist for safe snowmobiling

Planning can help ensure a safe snowmobile ride.

Whether it’s to enjoy the thrill of the ride or the beauty of nature, to go places unreachable by other means or just to spend time with family and friends, millions of people enjoy the outdoors on snowmobiles.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), representing the four North American snowmobile makers, reports 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in the United States. Snowmobile-related activities account for $26 billion in economic activity annually, including accessories, supplies, gasoline and tourism. While some use their machines for work, about 80 percent use them for leisure activities.

Snowmobiles are generally registered and regulated by individual states, and no central system compiles reports on snowmobile accidents, injuries or fatalities. Of those tracked by several states, most are the result of collisions with trees or other fixed objects with excessive speed or alcohol impairment as the most common contributing factors.

ISMA promotes safe snowmobiling through its Safe Rider program, and cites dozens of ways to protect yourself and those around you.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Ensure your snowmobile is in proper mechanical operating condition before going on a ride. Check gas, oil, belt condition and carbides under the skis before each ride.
  • Dress for the conditions! Layering clothing, including a windproof outer layer, is the best way to stay warm on cold days. Fingers and toes typically get cold first, so be sure to wear warm gloves (mitts with liners are best) and insulated boots.
  • Wear a safety-certified helmet in the right size. You should have a clear face shield on the helmet or a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.
  • Avoid riding alone, especially at night. If you do, make sure you tell others the route you will be taking so they will know where to look if you are overdue.
  • Stay on the marked route when riding trails on private property. Hidden objects, such as fences, tree stumps and stretched wire, may be concealed by snow.
  • Slow down! Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that allows ample reaction time for any situation.
  • Stay RIGHT when riding on trails, especially on corners or when cresting hills to avoid colliding with other snowmobiles coming from the opposite direction.
  • Carry a first-aid kit. At a minimum, it should include a flashlight, knife, duct tape, compass, map, tow rope and waterproof matches.
  • Carry a fully-charged …read more

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Why do I need insurance after I close my business?

By Kayla Fridley

Why do I need insurance after I close my business?

Even though you close your business, you may still need insurance.

You’ve poured your life into your business, but it’s finally time to hang up your hat and retire. You find a great buyer and sell the business, or maybe you just close up shop completely. Time for some traveling, some fishing … and no more worries about commercial insurance. Unfortunately, this may not be the case.

If you fail to purchase discontinued operations coverage, your personal assets may be exposed for losses that occur after you canceled your insurance policy.
Most general liability insurance policies cover incidents on an occurrence basis, which typically means losses must occur during the policy period to be covered. The occurrence date is generally the day the injury or damage actually happened, not when the work was done or the product was made.

EXAMPLES

For example, a contractor builds a deck in 2014 and then sells his business and cancels his company’s insurance policy later that year. In 2015, the deck collapses. Since the injury or damage occurred in 2015 (after the policy canceled), the occurrence-based general liability coverage is no longer in place.

Similarly, consider a manufacturing operation. A product is manufactured in 2012. In 2014, the owner retires, closes up shop and cancels her insurance. When the product causes injury in 2015, no coverage would be in place, and the business owner’s personal assets may be at stake if she is held liable for the loss.

A discontinued operations policy provides products/completed operations liability coverage after a business is closed. It also can provide specific coverages for just one portion of a business that has closed.

STATUTE OF LIMITATION

Many states have a statute of limitation or statute of repose that sets an absolute time limit for bringing suit. Companies that go out of business should consult their legal counsel as to whether, and for how long, they need to purchase a discontinued operations policy. See your local independent insurance agent for advice on discontinued operations coverage and other insurance for your business.

Once coverage is in place, get ready to relax and enjoy your retirement!

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

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Now that you have the keys — what does that mean?

By Megan Cotterman

Now that you have the keys — what does that mean?

When driving a car, independence and responsibility go hand in hand.

All your hard work paid off and now you finally have your driver’s license. Hours in the car with Dad gripping his seat and days spent in driver’s ed were worth it because the keys are now in your hands. I remember the feelings of freedom, independence and excitement when I received my license. But with the look in my dad’s eyes as he handed the keys to me, I knew driving came with added responsibility. Here are things to keep in mind to make sure your driving experience is safe and fun.

STAY SAFE ON THE ROAD

Your choices when driving may affect yourself and others.

  • Never use alcohol or drugs when you know you will be getting behind the wheel of a car.
  • Make sure every passenger in your car is using a seatbelt. Follow any restrictions your state may have on the number of passengers allowed depending on the driver’s age.
  • Be aware of other drivers around you, and drive defensively by anticipating the actions of other drivers.
  • Concentrate on your driving and keep distractions to a minimum. Turn the radio down, don’t use your phone while driving and never text and drive.
  • Learn what to do in an event of an accident or breakdown. Know who to call and what resources you need. Program emergency numbers and contacts into your phone.
  • Keep your registration and proof of insurance information in the car.

BEING SAFE SAVES MONEY

Driving responsibly increases your safety and the safety of other motorists. Follow these guidelines to keep your insurance premiums as low as possible:

  • Obey all traffic laws. Getting a ticket may increase the amount of your insurance payments.
  • Avoid situations that may lead to accidents. Involvement in just one accident could increase your cost of insurance.
  • Consider choosing higher physical damage coverage deductibles.
  • Drive a standard vehicle. Sports cars and high-performance vehicles may be cool, but those vehicles mean higher insurance costs.

CREATE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT WITH YOUR PARENTS

All the above tips may seem like common sense, but they are important to remember and to be reminded of often. One way to have a great driving experience is to create a written agreement with your parents and establish rules. A written agreement can help keep you and your parents on the same page.