Monthly Archives: February 2014

Life Insurance: As A Way To Keep You In Your Home If You Need To Be Taken Care Of

life isurance blank bar chart and glasesNobody I have ever met wants to discuss life insurance; however, it is a fact of life (nobody gets out of here alive). As a responsible adult, the topic does bear pondering. Besides which, every year that I put this off, the more expensive it gets, the more my health can change, the greater the chance that I might even pick up some bad habit that precludes me from coverage (ie. gaining weight, smoking, etc).

Recently, I had a discussion with my daughter who told me that her husband had increased the limits on their life insurance policies after their second child was born. Wow, now that was a thoughtful husband! A wonderful event such as a birth of a child is definitely a trigger for the need to purchase life insurance or increasing the coverage that you already have. Other triggers to be mindful of are engagements, weddings or purchasing a home.

My husband used to sell life insurance so I know some very practical aspects of this subject. When the head of a household, as known as “the breadwinner”, used to say that he or she was young, in good health and didn’t need to think about life insurance, my husband used to tell him to call the night prior to their anticipated demise so as to insure the security of the family they would leave behind. OK, maybe not so funny, but, seriously, what about the families we leave behind? Without life insurance will they be able to remain in their homes? Who will provide for them in terms of clothing, food and shelter when we are gone? What about other disruptions? Can they continue to go to the same schools, daycare, and houses of worship? Will they be deprived of the support systems developed over years just at the time they will need them the most?

What about if we were to become disabled or very ill ? The possibility of our death still exists; however, the eroding of assets to pay for ongoing care is now primary. Most people do not even think about this situation let alone plan in advance for a financial solution. Some Life insurance policies have cash values and, in a pinch, we might be able to take a loan or partial surrender on an existing policy to see us through a rough financial patch. Of course, this option would reduce any applicable death benefit; however, it is still a source of cash should the need arise. In addition, there are life insurance policies that can ensure that we are able to remain in our homes for this long term care that many do not even know exists. For more detailed information, read about these options in our blogs on Assest Based Life Insurance or Accelerated Death Benefit Rider

If you are thinking about this subject, we strongly suggest that you contact your insurance agent to find out the type of policy that best fits your needs and your budget. Life insurance can do so much more than what we traditionally think of it doing.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

What is Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

un-insured-motorist-picture4Two drivers get into an accident and one is at fault. The problem is that the one who is at fault may not have insurance. If that is the case than that operator now becomes an uninsured motorist. What if that operator is YOU? So how can you get compensated for your loss? That is where Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Coverage (a/k/a UM/UIM) from your automobile policy becomes very important. Uninsured Motorist can provide you with coverage for any bodily injuries you suffer in this accident.

Now let’s say that the other driver has some insurance; however, they only carry minimum liability limits. In this case, your UM/UIM coverage can provide the difference between your actual injury expenses and the other driver’s coverage up to the limits provided under YOUR own policy. Of course, this is only if you are carrying higher UM/UIM limits that the other driver. Keep in mind that the minimum UM/IUM liability limits vary from state to state and in NYS those limits are only $25,000 per person and $50,000 per occurrence no matter how many people are injured in an accident.

What is most important to understand about UM/IUM coverages is that it only applies when you are involved in an accident and, the person causing the accident, doesn’t have any insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your bodily injuries. The coverage also applies when you are the victim of a hit and run accident, a pedestrian knock down or a bicycle knock down accident. In such cases, you can file an “uninsured motorist” claim with your own auto insurance carrier, under your own coverage.

Do you know what your limits are? Have you reviewed these limits with your insurance agent?
You may believe that such occurrences are not common; however, insurance information sources indicate that up to one (1) out of every seven (7) drivers is uninsured and of those who are insured, many carry only minimum limits. In some states these limits might be as low as $10,000 for each person injured, and $20,000 regardless of how many are injured in one accident. This is not all that surprising given our current economic climate where many people are trying to reduce costs whenever and wherever possible. Even radio and television advertisements seem to be more interested in the cost of insurance rather than in the actual product(s) or coverages being provided. As the economy struggles toward recovery, we urge you not to sacrifice necessary and important coverage for reduced premiums. It could mean your hard earn assets could be wiped out if your limits are not enough to cover your injuries and the necessary expenses related to your recovery.

If you have any doubts about what coverages you should have in place, do not hesitate to contact your insurance agent today.

Are you aware that your Umbrella Policy may or may not offer some additional UM/IUM protection for you and your family? This is what your insurance agent is there for—-to educate and consult with you, as the consumer, so that you can make good choices on what assets and property you want to protect.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

Business Disaster Recovery Planning Guide

disaster-recovery-and-business-continuityRecently one of our insurance carriers sent us information regarding Disaster Planning and the guidelines necessary to adequately prepare for weather events that could have an effect upon your ability to serve your clients during these unforeseen weather related occurrences.

Of course, depending upon the specific industry your business serves, there may very well be some specific eventualities to consider, however, overall here are some of the more general suggestions they made:

Make a list of the type of weather related risks that could affect your business such as flood, earthquake, snow, hurricane, hail, cyclone, heat wave, ice storm, extremely low temperatures, strong winds, etc. to name just a few.

Create a plan reflective of what you might face in terms of these events such as power outage, lack of transportation, extensive property damage and lack of sufficient infrastructure. The carrier indicated that the cost of downtime for a small business arising out of a weather related event is approximately $3,000 a day.

Prepare in advance by making sure to stock up prior to a storm in case you can’t make or receive deliveries; make sure employees have emergency kits in their vehicles and arrange for plowing/shoveling so that your customers can access your business once the storm has passed.

Train employees how to be extra cautious if walking or driving on ice and snow. Better yet, devise a plan to have employees work from a remote location where they can gain access to information needed to carry on business as usual in a safe environment.

• In the case of hurricane preparedness, there is usually a warning given within 24-36 hours of the impending storm. Be prepared with a specific plan to safeguard any property, including documents, before the storm actually arrives.

Protect computers and electronic devices from the devastating effects of power surges and outages by having all computers and servers connected to uninterruptible power supplies which will provide you with adequate short term protection; make sure to perform regularly scheduled backups so that all of your valuable data can be retrieved immediately following a catastrophic event.

• Make sure that your business and your employees can navigate through an extended heat wave which could stress local power grids to the max. A short term solution is a backup generator when the power outage doesn’t last more than a day or two. If air conditioning fails, or is weakened by the stress on the system, make sure to have lots of water available to keep everyone adequately hydrated.

• Explore ways to stay in business without power, telephone or Internet service to assist your clients during a critical time. This includes the use of backup power such as generators, cell phones, remote locations, alternative transportation, etc.

• Update your plan annually and communicate any new ideas to your personnel to keep them in the know.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

Off Premises Utility Services/ Power Interruption Coverage

Power_outage10_1_jpg_475x310_q85This week’s storm played havoc with electricity up and down the eastern seaboard and some cities are still without power as of this writing. Icing of power lines, road closures, even the weight of ice and snow on roofs, caused many property losses; however, for businesses, many sustained loss of income claims as well. For many business owners the losses they sustained were ones that they just could not afford to absorb. Weather can and often does cause catastrophic losses.

Provided that the loss is caused by an occurrence covered under your policy, there may be compensation for a resulting loss of property and/or loss of income. In addition, depending on the length of the waiting period on your policy, you might be able to file a claim under off-premises utility service for any interruption of regular business caused specifically by a power outage.

Do you have coverage for a power outage claim ?
Utility Service interruption coverage provides for a loss due to incoming electricity, or the lack of incoming electricity, caused by damage from a covered cause of loss (for example, fire, flood, windstorm, etc.) During SuperStorm Sandy, many people were affected by the loss of electrical power when Con Edison’s power station went down. In order to collect for damages, they needed to have both Flood coverage as well as utility service interruption coverage on their policies. This coverage, like Flood and Earthquake is not standard coverage, but it can be added by endorsement. Such endorsements may cover Direct Damage to property and/or time element coverage which provides for business interruption. Overhead transmission lines may or may not be covered so check your policy.

Whether you are a small business owner, a new venture or a business just beginning to realize a profit, you invariably depend on every day’s receipts. Therefore, any interruption in your normal business hours can have serious consequences. This is true with any business, but in the case of food service establishments there is the potential of lost business as well as lost inventory. Think of Deli’s, Diners, Luncheonettes, small Groceries, and Pizzeria’s, to name only a few of the places recently impacted by weather.

Therefore, it is imperative that you speak with your agent and make sure that your business is protected should the need arise to close due to weather conditions. We are only 1/3 through this winter and already cities have exhausted snow removal budgets. Many vendors have depleted their stock of salt used for roads. Don’t get caught short insurance wise. Before the next snowfall, we strongly suggest that you contact your agent and make sure you are covered properly going forward. If the immediate past is any indication of the future, this winter promises to be a humdinger! Be safe, stay dry, keep warm and above all, make sure you are covered by the type of insurance that can save YOUR day.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

Who Is Responsible When Retailers Are Hacked?

cyberFollowing the recent news reports involving shoppers at Target, Neiman Marcus and other large retail stores, this past holiday season, once again Cyber Liability and the urgent need to protect yourself against hackers has become the new darling of the media.

All industries such as E-Commerce to Retail Stores, Online Websites, Professional Services, Medical Offices, Online Publishing, Schools, Colleges, Cities, States, Municipalities, Not-For-Profits, Contractors, Motor Vehicle Departments, to name a few, as well as anyone who takes payment over the internet and/or has confidential information on their sites should have the protection of a Cyber Liability policy.

Some coverages provided by a Cyber Liability Policy are:
• Privacy Liability
• Network Security Liability
• Media Content Liability
• Reputational Damage
• Notification Expenses
• Crisis Management including Public Relations
• E-Business Interruption and Cyber Extortion.

Additional coverage for Credit Monitoring, Data Restoration, and Privacy Regulation Fines may also be added. Even such fines as those imposed by US federal state and local statute including any breach of regulations governing the control and use of Private Information including HIPAA (Health Insurance and Accountability Act of 1996), Gramm-Leach-Bliley of 1999, state laws such as California Database Protection Act of 2003 and the federal and state consumer credit reporting laws such as the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act can be added.

We all know that technology is here to stay and that it is just a fact of life and a component of our society. It is up to us to protect ourselves and our customers from having their business or personal information stolen and misused if we want to be able to do business in the world as it is today.

According to a recent article in Business Insurance (January 19, 2014) on the Target Corporation security breach fiasco, it was indicated that Target actually had a Cyber Liability policy with a $100 million limit at the time the breach was discovered. Of course, such a limit of insurance won’t even begin to cover their liabilities in this matter. However, it is a start and a good one at that. At least they were savvy enough to understand their powerlessness in the face of such an event taking place and they were proactive enough to take the necessary steps to minimize the actual loss, and respect the insurer’s capabilities, when it came to loss control and needed assistance after the breach took place.

Clearly, Cyber losses can be costly to your business as well as your reputation so if you think you need the coverage, you probably do. Even if you are not sure, there is no harm in asking. If you want to know more about how to protect your business and your customers, we strongly urge you to consult with your insurance agent about the type of policy that would best fit your needs.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU