Charles Hagerty No Comments

Insurance: Your 3 Biggest Questions Answered

Insurance comes in a wide array of choices for a variety of consumer and business needs. Even the best-educated consumer who spends time researching insurance issues will come across a topic he or she doesn’t understand.

Let’s take a look at what consumers say when asked: “What’s one thing you don’t understand about insurance?” Here are three common questions that Trusted Choice® insurance agents and brokers hear:

Q: Why do I need insurance?

Insurance is for the uncertainties of life. Accidents and catastrophes happen. What can’t be predicted is when they will occur, and whom they will affect. Most people understand they’ll get sick at some point in their lives, but they can’t predict the severity and extent of the illness nor the cost of the treatment.

Catastrophes strike: In 2005, there were 24 weather-related or other disasters causing a total of $61 billion of insured
losses. Hurricane Katrina alone caused $41 billion in damage from 1.75 million insurance claims.

Even the safest drivers face the risk of an accident, and even the safest homes can catch fire. In 2006, about 5 percent of insured homes had a claim, according to the Insurance Services Office. About 94 percent of these homeowners insurance claims were for property damage, including theft.

Lawsuits are another uncertainty thatbusinesses and homeowners face. They’re costly: In the 56-year period from 1950-2006, the costs of the tort lawsuit system in the U.S. increased an average of 9.2% each year, reported Tillinghast-Towers Perrin. While most lawsuits are settled before they reach the courtroom, Jury Verdict Research data show that the median plaintiff award in personal injury cases was $45,000 in 2005, compared with $32,000 in 2002. Insurance provides two benefits to those who are sued: It pays for the cost of defending the lawsuit and pays for any liability payments for which the insured is found responsible.

Q: How do you define what insurance is … or does?

Insurance is simply a vehicle for transferring risk from one party to another. You need insurance if you have financial risk (and everyone does) and you want to reduce that risk. To do so, you pay someone else (e.g., the insurance company) to assume much of the risk for you, in return for a payment known as a “premium.”

Because American consumers hold a tremendous amount of wealth in property—ranging from homes and cars to collections of baseball cards and Christmas ornaments—they have a basic need to protect themselves from losing that value.

Insurance is designed to “make people whole” after their property or assets are damaged or stolen, or if they are responsible for harm caused to another party. An insurance policy is a contract under which an insurance company agrees to pay a certain amount of money to the policyholder if certain events happen (and their property is damaged or they cause harm to someone else or someone else’s property).

Q: Is life insurance an investment or purely insurance?

A: Life insurance for centuries has been first and foremost insurance: it provides a death benefit to the family or business
partners of an insured person.

Beginning about 30 years ago, the attractive returns in stock investments led insurance companies to bring investmentelements into life insurance policies. For example, agents and companies offered consumers the choice of placing life insurance premiums into mutual
funds, stocks, and bonds within the life insurance contract—known as “variable” life insurance. The term “variable” implies that the investment returns on these premiums vary with market performance.

With these types of life insurance policies, the insurance carrier takes the policyholder’s premium dollars and places them
in the investment account(s) chosen by the policyholder. These types of life insurance policies are subject to state insurance regulation and federal and
state securities regulations.

While investment-oriented life insurance has grown popular over the past generation, traditional life insurance (both
permanent and term) continues to be purchased in large amounts. Americans purchased $3 trillion of new life insurance coverage in 2006, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.

If you’re not sure whether a life insurance policy includes investment elements, you can check the disclosure information
on a life insurance application or policy, which must discuss whether securities are part of the life insurance contract.

What are your particular questions about insurance? Give TLIG a call at 434-582-1444

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Business Use of My Personal Vehicle: Will My Insurance Work?

There are over 240 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S.,
according to the Census Bureau. At a given time, as many as a third of those
clutter American roadways, and it is estimated that one-fourth of those are
being used in the course of work.

Running errands, making deliveries, visiting customers. Even
for those whose employment is not based on driving, it’s fair to say that your
vehicle is an essential part of your employment. This presents an important
question: If you are involved in an accident in the course of employment, are
you covered by your personal auto insurance policy (PAP)?

Like most insurance questions, the answer depends on
circumstance. For example, what kind of car are you driving? Does the car
belong to you or someone else? What type of business are you in?

Consider the language found in the typical PAP. At a glance,
many policyholders are shocked to see that the PAP appears to exclude coverage
for the use of any vehicle in the
course of business other than farming or ranching. However, a very broad exception
to this exclusion allows coverage for the business use of a vehicle provided it
is one of three types: 1) a private passenger auto, 2) a pickup or van, or 3) trailer
while used with the aforementioned. This exception suggests that as long as the
vehicle is one of these three types, coverage remains intact after the accident.

But policyholders should proceed with caution, since some
PAPs are not as generous. For example, some versions may be more restrictive
towards pickups or vans, possibly including a gross vehicle weight (GVW)
limitation or a clause that restricts coverage to owned pickups or vans only. Be
sure to consult your policy before driving any pickup or van for work.

Further, policyholders should understand that any coverage permitted
for business use of personal vehicles by the PAP is not intended for these
three vehicle categories:

Commercial-type vehicles.
The PAP restricts business use to private passenger autos, pickups and vans.
While they can be purchased personally, box trucks, tractor trailers, shuttle
busses and other commercial-type vehicles do not fit this description; such
vehicles require a commercial auto policy.

Furnished or available for regular
Often called the “company car” exclusion, this provision is
dangerous and must be remedied if the exposure exists. The reason is that a
typical PAP will exclude coverage for a vehicle that is regularly available to
the policyholder but is not specifically insured under the PAP. For example, if
you are furnished a company car as a benefit to your employment, make certain
that you are covered by your employer’s auto insurance policy. If not, specific
action is required to extend coverage under your PAP; it will not do so
automatically. The good news is that this coverage change is usually
inexpensive and can be done easily; just be sure to request the change now, before
the accident happens. While the definition of furnished or available for
regular use
varies by case, err on the side of caution. Don’t assume that because
you don’t take it home with you each night or that you only drive it
occasionally you’re in the clear. Regardless, a vehicle owned by your employer could
be considered available for your regular use. This exclusion presents a
potential gap that is too risky to ignore; your Trusted Choice® agent can
help you take the appropriate steps to close it.

Vehicles that are the business.
A PAP will not cover your vehicle if you use it to carry people for a fee,
such as a taxi, limo or shuttle. The only exception is a share-the-expense car
pool. And if you’re planning to make a few extra bucks delivering pizzas, auto
parts, newspapers or other goods, proceed with caution. Many PAPs also remove
coverage for vehicles that are used to deliver food or other types of property
for a fee.

While in most cases the PAP will cover you for business use
of a personal vehicle, there are situations where it will not. Such situations
are not uncommon and, if not remedied, could result in significant financial
detriment for you and your family. Consult your insurance agent for advice on
how to close potentially devastating gaps in your PAP today.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan
to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at
or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Small Businesses: Don’t Let Business Risk Share Your Home

The diversification of the U.S. economy over the past generation has meant that millions of Americans have started their own businesses. Americans still chase the dream of being their own boss by starting their own business—and the trend has picked up because of hiring slowdowns and spikes in corporate layoffs.

Small businesses are the biggest driver of job growth, generating 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Small firms employ half of U.S. workers.

And the sole proprietor is alive and well: In 2005, there were six million firms with employees but a whopping 20.4 million firms who had no employees other than the owner, according to the Small Business Administration.

Of all small businesses, 52 percent are home-based. That means millions of Americans are earning their business income where they live. But business owner beware: Don’t expect homeowners insurance to cover business risks.

Business insurance offers protection from liability and property risks. Often these coverages are combined into a package policy called a BOP or business owner’s policy. Millions of small and mid-sized business owners purchase or renew their BOP every year.

Typically, a BOP includes the following coverages:

Property insurance for buildings and contents of the business.

Home-based business might not need coverage for their property, since it’s already insured against risks of fire, lightning and windstorm. But if there are additional risks to the structure because of the presence of business operations, those won’t necessarily be covered by homeowners insurance. Your insurance agent can help determine if a special endorsement or a separate policy are most appropriate.

Home-based businesses might not have adequate coverage through homeowners insurance because homeowners policies often have “sub-limits” restricting coverage for business property. For instance, the homeowners policy may cover business property, but typically only up to $2,500 while it is “on premises” and up to $500 while the property is “off premises.”

One example of inadequate coverage was a home-based retail cosmetics/personal care business that kept $20,000 of inventory in a garage that caught fire. The inventory was covered only up to the sub-limits of the homeowners policy. Another instance: Coverage would be limited to the “off premises” limit of $500 if a laptop computer valued at $1,500 that is stolen while the business owner has it away from home.

Property insurance for buildings and contents of the business.

If there are additional structures on a residential property where the homeowner operates a business, those won’t necessarily be covered by homeowners insurance. For example, a detached garage that serves as a small-engine repair shop would not be covered by homeowners insurance; that business owner would need a policy endorsement to gain coverage.

Business interruption insurance.

This protects against loss of income resulting from a fire or other covered event that disrupts the business. This coverage can also include the extra costs a business shoulders while it works from a temporary location. A fire in a home can be double trouble for a home-based business.

Liability insurance.

This protects the small business for legal responsibility for the damage it causes to other people or entities. Liability insurance is usually priced according to the risk of the industry in which the business operates. A business that manufactures toys, for example, faces different risks than a consulting firm. Liability insurance shields a business and its employees if they cause bodily injury or property damage.

Not included in a BOP are professional liability coverage, automobile insurance, workers compensation,
medical insurance and disability insurance. All can be covered with separate policies.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Does Volunteering Your Time Mean Volunteering Your Insurance?

Millions of Americans donate time—their most valuable asset—to
serve as a volunteer board member on non-profits, booster clubs, churches, PTAs
and civic organizations, just to name a few. The decisions these folks make can
have a dramatic impact on their respective organization—and not always for the
better. If a volunteer endeavor goes bad, would a volunteer board member have
coverage against a lawsuit under his or her homeowner’s policy?

Homeowners’ Insurance

The last thing volunteers want to consider is what would
happen if their favored organization file suit against them as a result of
their efforts. But it happens, and not infrequently. This does happen,
especially when volunteers make decisions that directly influence the finances
of an organization. Often, the only insurance these volunteers have to back
their efforts is a homeowner’s policy. Unfortunately, this policy may be of
little assistance.

The reason homeowners’ policies do not usually cover
liability stemming from actions as a volunteer is the nature of the claim. The
policy is designed to cover claims of “bodily injury,” such as someone slipping
on cracked pavement in your driveway; and/or “property damage,” such as accidentally
setting your neighbor’s house ablaze when burning some brush on a windy day.

Claims against board members do not usually involve
bodily injury or property damage. Rather, they involve bad decision-making that
results in financial loss to the organization, such as the decision to invest
in an IT system that turns out to be a debacle, costing the organization
tremendous time and money.

There is another problem. Homeowners policies do not
cover “professional services.” This is important to note, because board members
are often asked to serve in a capacity consistent with their profession. For
example, a church member who is a CPA may be asked to serve on the church’s
board as finance chairman. Even though he is not paid for his services, the
“professional services” exclusion under his homeowner’s policy would still

In addition to the above, homeowners policies do not
cover claims of personal injury unless this coverage is specifically added.
Personal injury insurance is added to the homeowner’s policy to cover claims
such as libel, slander, wrongful eviction, and false advertising.

What to Do

Events causing claims are unpredictable. While the
reasons shown above prove it’s unlikely, not all claims against volunteer board
members are excluded by a homeowners policy. Decisions to purchase personal injury
coverage and a personal umbrella policy will increase your ability to find
coverage for a suit against you.

The best method for insuring the actions of board members
is for the organization to purchase a directors and officers (D&O)
liability policy. These policies are relatively inexpensive for most
non-profits. Before volunteering, request information on the organization’s
D&O policy. The absence of this insurance leaves you at risk of having no
personal insurance to defend a suit brought against you by the organization and
should influence your decision to serve.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice®
agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety
of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan
to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

Saving Money on Insurance: How Can It Be Done?

In the throes of an economic recession, millions of consumers today are cutting back on discretionary spending—and are even tightening up on the necessities. Now is an excellent time to review your insurance coverages with your independent insurance agent to find ways to cut costs while still protecting your family or business.

The premiums paid for insurance are a tremendous value. For instance, for the cost of several hundred dollars annually, a homeowners insurance policy provides a family with the means to rebuild its home and reimbursement for the cost of temporary housing should the home be destroyed in a fire.

To consider how to cut expenses, it’s helpful to take a step back. Consider anew what insurance premiums are paying for the transfer of risk. Insurance is a unique tool that allows consumers and business owners (through a financial transaction and a legal contract) to transfer risk from the consumer or business owner to the insurance company. If you transfer less risk—either by reducing the risk overall, or retaining more of the risk yourself—the insurance carrier will charge less.

Your insurance professional can help you consider two important questions if you want to cut costs on insurance:

1. What risks might I be paying to insure that I can assume myself?

The risk profile of a family or business changes over time. It’s important to share with your agent if the family or business situation has changed recently.

One thing that changes is the financial risk a family faces as children are born and grow. Parents of newborns face a lot of financial risk, since they face 18-plus years of raising that child and, for many, paying for a college education. Life insurance is the common way to protect against the risk of a parent dying while a child is in school. Yet, when the child graduates, a parent might reduce the amount of life insurance they own—and thereby reduce the amount of premium they pay. Inform your insurance agent if these changes are occurring for you.

For homeowners insurance policies, the first place to look to trim expenses is the deductible, which is the amount of money the policyholder must pay before the insurance company starts to pay a claim. The higher the deductible, the lesser the premium will be for the policy. A consumer with a $500 homeowners deductible can save as much as 25 percent by raising it to $1,000, reports the Insurance Information Institute. A policy with a higher deductible is less likely to have claims, in part because consumers that bear more risk tend to be more careful and have fewer claims.

Auto insurance customers can ask their insurance agent about whether they can save money on state-required PIP (personal injury protection) coverage, if applicable in your state. If you have already have health coverage, you may be able to keep only a minimum level of PIP—but it’s important to consider state requirements and whether your health insurance company will allow this.

2. Have I taken advantage of all the discounts offered?

The market for personal lines insurance is highly competitive. This has kept costs down: Homeowners/tenants insurance costs increased by about 17 percent between 1999 and 2008, compared with a 57 percent increase in the cost of repairing household items and a 50 percent increase in legal services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Auto insurance carriers offer special programs that help consumers keep a lid on costs. Ask your insurance agent about discounts for having a homeowners and auto policy with the same carrier; for maintaining a claim-free record for consecutive years; for low-mileage drivers; and for young drivers who keep good grades.

For older vehicles, consider dropping collision coverage. Since auto insurance claims occur about once every 11 to 12 years, it may not be cost-effective to insure a vehicle that is worth less than 10 times the collision insurance premium. (In this case, the claim reimbursement likely would not exceed the premium minus the deductible amount.)  Ask your insurance agent what the cash value of your older vehicle is, to help you decide.

One caution: The slump in housing prices has tempted some consumers to cut the amount of insurance on their homes, but that’s a trap. Homeowners insurance should be based on replacement cost, not market value, and many homeowners are already underinsured. Replacement costs continue to grow steadily, year after year, regardless of market values. Your insurance agent can help you determine the proper amount of homeowners insurance for you.

Finally, agent also can help by shopping your insurance needs to a number of insurance carriers. If you haven’t done so in three years, now is a good time to ask if your policies can be reviewed to make sure your pricing is the most competitive available.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call them at (434) 582-1444.


Charles Hagerty No Comments

What an Umbrella Policy Is, and Why You Might Need It

Most Americans view auto insurance as necessary to protect against the costs of a car accident. Likewise, it’s common knowledge that homeowners insurance helps families rebuild their lives and homes. An “umbrella” policy is not as well known, but anyone who owns a home or any assets should consider buying it.

Umbrella liability insurance covers you in many situations if you are held responsible for bodily injury, property damage, or personal injury. The product got its name because it adds a higher level of protection above auto, homeowners and boat policies, which are “primary” policies. Umbrella coverage kicks in after primary insurance is exhausted. What’s more, an umbrella policy offers primary coverage for losses not covered by other insurance.

Typically, insurance agents sell an umbrella policy in conjunction with auto and homeowners coverage. You can usually add $1 million-plus of liability insurance for a few hundred dollars per year, and a multiple-policy discount often can be had.

One tactic insurance pros suggest: raise deductibles on auto and homeowners policies, and use the premium savings to pay for umbrella coverage.

What does primary insurance pay for? Liability insurance under auto and homeowners policies pays expenses (for example, an injured person’s medical care, rehabilitation and lost wages) because the policyholder was at fault through negligent actions. Liability coverage also pays for costs of defending against a claim or lawsuit.

It’s common for a driver, vehicle owner, homeowner, or boat operator/owner to be held responsible for someone else’s injuries, property damage, lost wage and/or expenses. An at-fault driver also can be held liable for personal injury (which is distinct from bodily injury), including psychological injury such as “pain and suffering.”

What does umbrella coverage do? The umbrella is a shield to protect an individual from having to tap into savings or sell assets to pay a judgment or claim. The umbrella policy keeps the hands of the claimant from the personal, family and business assets of the negligent person.

Intoxicated drivers leaving a party at your home, dog bites, and the neighbor kid falling off the trampoline– these incidents can cause financial losses. Even lending a friend a ski house or lake house for the weekend can create a claim. A tree in your yard that blows over in a storm and crushes the neighbor’s car is another example. A home-based business that requires visitors to come to your house may create a loss that’s excluded from homeowners coverage.

But all these incidents may cause bodily injury, personal injury and loss of wages. These losses might exceed (or be excluded from) primary insurance limits and coverages.

Who should consider an umbrella policy? Most homeowners should consider an umbrella, but especially those active in community affairs. Serving in civic, charitable, and religious organizations can lead to conflicts, claims, and even lawsuits. Even if a lawsuit is thrown out of court, you still must defend yourself. Umbrella liability coverage picks up these costs, whether or not a person is actually found to be liable. Defense costs generally are covered in addition to the liability limits of the umbrella policy.

Conversely, a person might face a damaging situation such as a false arrest or imprisonment, defamation, invasion of privacy, wrongful entry, eviction or malicious prosecution. Most will want to defend themselves, but will face legal and other costs to do so. Homeowners coverage won’t cover it; umbrella coverage can.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call them at (434) 582-1444.



Charles Hagerty No Comments

Mobile Devices: Does Insurance Tag Along?

Mobile information devices like PDAs and MP3 players occupy the bags and pockets of tens of millions of Americans. These devices can be pricey, often costing hundreds of dollars. The cost to obtain the information programmed on these gizmos can be exponentially more. If your portable device is damaged or stolen, will these costs be covered by your insurance?

Personal Insurance

Consider the iPod. Their owners span every demographic. For some, the iPod is as important to getting through the day as morning coffee or sunshine.

This pervasive product ranges in cost—usually a few hundred bucks or less depending on bells and whistles—and that’s just for the hardware. Downloading music can cost a dollar a song, videos and “podcasts” even more. Add in time spent collecting this information and you’ve got thousands of dollars invested in this thing. The same is true for other portable devices.

The good news is that most homeowners policies cover personal property while it is anywhere in the world—a positive considering the nature of these devices. The bad news is that coverage is limited—meaning the check you receive after the loss may not be what you expect.

While many believe their iPod is “worth” thousands of dollars, a homeowners insurance policy is designed to cover “direct physical loss” to property. Therefore, a typical policy will cover the cost of the device itself but not the cost of the information stored on the device. Some homeowner policies include coverage for loss to “personal records,” which may include information stored on a portable device. However, not all will do so and those that do likely limit coverage to a relatively small amount. If you have questions, consult your insurance agent.

Business Insurance

More and more people are using PDAs, such as BlackBerrys, Treos and iPhones, to conduct business on the fly. These devices keep them wirelessly connected to their work through email, Internet and phone.

If you own the device personally and use it for business, coverage under your homeowners insurance policy is less generous. Personal property used for business may not be covered worldwide and is subject to an amount of insurance that is lower than other personal property. A further restriction is that any limited coverage available for “personal records” does not apply to business records.

If the device is owned by your employer, it’s likely covered under a business insurance policy. Such policies contain similar limitations for loss of information. Business owners should call their insurance agent for information about electronic data coverage.

Back it Up

Whether used for business, personal, or both, cost to replace the device itself is likely the extent your insurance will pay if it is damaged or stolen. The best way to protect the information contained in the device is to back-up data periodically. Then, even if you have to replace the device, you won’t have to start from scratch.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.



Charles Hagerty No Comments

Power Struggle: The Cost of Electrical Surge

Your family is forced to stay home due to the big storm hovering over the house. The comforting sounds and bright screen of your 52” LCD  television eclipses the noise from outside. Then it happens: Just as you’re about to discover who gets voted off the island, your family is startled by sudden darkness.

After the outage forces your family to live in darkness for a few hours, the local power authority flips the switch and all is well…for a moment. The sudden surge of power is too much for your electronics to digest, and they’ve returned to oblivion.

American households spend billions on electronics annually. The average household contains thousands of dollars of electrical goodies like appliances and electronics, including televisions and computers. Limitations found in most standard forms of home insurance could leave you in the dark; such limitations say your insurance policy will not pay for damage to electronics that is caused by a power surge.

Renters and condominium unit-owners will not find comfort in their standard insurance policies, either; the same limitations usually apply.

A sudden surge in electrical current is not uncommon. There are a number of surge-protection devices designed to prevent this from compromising the life span of your most precious toys. But this hardware is not full-proof, and can still leave you and your family in the dark.

Losing your electronics due to power surge can be a financial disaster. Imagine having to replace that $2,000 television that is hooked up to the $1,000 home theater system you spent two weeks wiring, both of which are now left sizzling after a sudden jolt?

In many home insurance policies, this limitation only applies to personal property, not to “building property.” This means items that are considered part of your house, such as a built-in range, burglar alarm system or central heating/AC system are covered by your home insurance if bereft of life due to power surge. However, this is not true for all home policies.

There is hope. Most standard home insurance policies can be modified to cover losses to property caused by electrical surge. If your current policy cannot be modified, consider asking your agent to shop for a policy that includes the coverage or can be modified to do so.

Others may have a second option. Some power companies offer insurance for surge protection. They add a premium to your power bill, and in return offer insurance which can provide valuable coverage and allow you to collect damages without making a claim against your home insurance company or paying a deductible.

The cost of insurance provided through a power company varies; one major provider charges between $5 and $13 monthly for coverage ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

However you chose to do so, purchasing this insurance coverage can be a tremendous relief for you and your family if the sudden voltage puts your prized possessions out to pasture.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.


Charles Hagerty No Comments

What Can I do to Reduce My Workers’ Compensation Premiums?

  1. Manage Your Risks
  2. Take Advantage of Saving Opportunities
  3. Be Sure Your Premium is Correctly Figured
  4. Avoid the Assigned Risk Fund

Manage Your Risks – Most small companies cannot afford to hire a risk manager. Nevertheless, someone in the company should have a continuing responsibility for loss control and the management of workers’ compensation claims. This involves a variety of programs to keep workers safe, the medical management of claims and early return to work for any injured workers.

In some states insurers must provide accident prevention services to employers. Even if not required to do so by law, the majority of workers’ compensation carriers can help you improve safety. In some states, employers are required by law to set up safety committees and other programs to deal with unsafe conditions in the workplace. Even when not required by law, safety committees can be very effective at reducing accidents. Additionally, regularly scheduled safety meetings, “ToolBox Talks” and “Lunch and Learns” are extremely beneficial in helping to foster a safety culture.

You may also want to consider establishing formal hiring practices, implementing a Drug-Free workplace, developing an Employee Handbook, utilizing best practices and creating a company specific safety manual. Again, even if not legally required to do so, having and following written policies and procedures can help reduce accidents and ultimately reduce the total cost of your workers’ compensation program.

Take Advantage of Savings Available in Your State – Several states allow merit rating credits. Smaller businesses that typically pay $5,000 in premiums or less may be entitled to a credit of 5 to 15 percent if they have not had any lost-work-time claims during a designated period. In some states there are premium credits for drug- and alcohol-free workplace programs and safety programs. Some insurers may give you a discount if you hire a professional risk management firm to help you with your safety program.

Be Sure Your Premium Is Figured Correctly – Make sure you have been placed in the right industry classification code. Check that the insurer’s payroll computation adjusts for overtime pay and allocates the payroll of different employees correctly.

Avoid the Assigned Risk Fund – Cutting down on your claims is the best way to stay out of the state’s assigned risk plan, or insurer of last resort, which usually costs more. You may have been put into assigned risk without knowing it. Ask your agent to check on your status.

If you have been put in assigned risk, find out from your state workers comp agency if rates are higher. If they are, make a concerted effort to get other insurance. Just because one agent is unable to find something better for you doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t exist. Talk with other agents, investigate group self insurance programs that may be available in your state and talk with other people in your industry and owners of other businesses of similar size and age and with a similar risk level.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

When You Travel, Do You Need Special Insurance?

Recent months have brought travel risks to the forefront of consumers’ minds: the economic downturn, safety risks overseas due to political unrest, and a potential new strain of influenza that has emerged from Mexico.

There are two broad types of travel-related coverage for those leaving the United States:

  • Travel insurance covers the loss of the prepaid travel costs of a trip should it be canceled, interrupted, or postponed. It also can reimburse unexpected expenses incurred due to a sudden change in travel plans due to illness or other causes.
  • Specialty medical coverage protects against personal insurance risks when someone is outside the United States.

Travelers can buy travel coverage in conjunction with their travel tour, hotel bookings or flight reservations. It’s also available from providers that specialize in the international insurance market. For example, Continental, a major international airline, offers trip cancellation and interruption coverage through its reservations Web site.

The coverage reimburses the traveler for “prepaid, unused, non-refundable travel expenses should your trip be cancelled or interrupted due to any covered reason.” Such reasons include: inclement weather, an unexpected illness, death of a traveler, and travel delays.

The Insurance Information Network of California notes that trip insurance providers sometimes require a physician’s verification if a trip must be canceled before it occurs. It advises buyers to check whether the travel coverage is “cancel for any reason protection,” or more limited coverage.

Trip interruption insurance is another variation. It can provide reimbursement for extra food and lodging costs if a traveler becomes ill during the course of a trip. Some plans cover medical costs. Trip delay insurance covers expenses a traveler incurs in resuming a planned trip or returning home after being quarantined in another country. Often these various coverages are bundled and sold together in a package.

Short-term medical insurance may be appropriate for the millions of U.S. residents who travel outside the U.S. every year. Those who travel outside of America may be going beyond the boundaries of their medical insurance without knowing it, according to Clements International, a provider of international insurance policies.

The unpredictable nature of the spreading of swine flu that began in April 2009 has heightened awareness of health risks while traveling around the world. Travelers may wish to consider short-term medical insurance if they’re traveling outside of the United States for an extended vacation or business trip.

To determine whether it’s necessary, it’s advisable to check if a domestic health insurance policy covers out-of-country travel. If not, short-term medical insurance provides coverage for illnesses or medical evacuation that occurs while traveling outside of the United States.

International travelers face the same insurance risks (and sometimes additional risks) while outside the country that they do while stateside. Life insurance issued in the U.S. may not be available on the same basis while a person is traveling for an extended period as when not traveling. It’s prudent to check on the validity of life insurance coverage as part of the travel-planning process.

Check with your insurance agent about what type of insurance protection might be needed if taking an overseas trip.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call them at (434) 582-1444.