Monthly Archives: March 2014

You Do Not Need To Live Near Water To Need Flood Insurance

floooooodWith our history of floods in this country you would be shocked at the number of people who just don’t think that they need to purchase flood insurance. Some of the reasons they give are:
• I live in a low risk flood zone;
• We have never had a flood in my neighborhood;
• I only insure against what is likely to happen;

The truth, however, is that anyone can be at risk for a flood. You don’t have to live in a high risk area to have a claim and the National Flood Program says that people outside of what is deemed to be a high risk area account for 25% of all claims and 33.3% of all disaster assistance. In addition, let’s keep in mind that disaster assistance is a loan and loans have to be paid back to the provider with interest!

Also, some causes of flood are the result of poor drainage systems, rapid accumulation of rain, melting snow, broken water mains, not just over flow of bodies of water, as commonly believed. For properties built on hillsides there is always the danger of mudflows which can also damage property. Did you know that mudflow is covered under the Standard Flood insurance policy?

Many people get so annoyed when they go to buy a piece of property in a high hazard area and the mortgage company requires that they provide a flood policy. What they don’t realize is that statistics concur that during a 30 year mortgage, there is a 25% chance that an insured will sustain a loss from flooding. Since banks and mortgage companies aren’t charitable institutions, and want to maintain their backing as federally regulated lenders, they will always err on the side of caution. Even in moderate to low risk areas, the flood insurance may not be mandatory, however a lender can still require that it be purchased. And should the maps be revised during the life of the loan and your property is now in a high risk area all bets are off. You will be getting notice that you must now purchase flood insurance or risk having the mortgagee purchase forced coverage for you at a much higher price. And, there have been instances where the loan was actually called in.

So all in all, it certainly makes sense to me that before saying “no” to a Flood policy, suggest that you say “yes” to investigating the actual risk to you and your family. Your first step is to call your insurance agent today.

Karen Skoler, CPCU

What You Need To Know About Flood Insurance

NoahsArkWhile watching television this weekend, I saw many advertisements for the movie “Noah” opening March 28, at my local theater. The essence of the film is that Russell Crowe is charged with the task of building the ark to save the salvageable from destruction. We could have used Mr. Crowe as well as the ark during Katrina, Super Storm Sandy and the snow of this past winter in addition to some other recent events in our history.

After Super Storm Sandy many people got a rude awakening when they learned that traditional insurance policies don’t include coverage for Flood. This prompted many insurance agents to advise their customers, in writing once again, that the policy(ies) they currently have don’t protect them in case of a flood. Even so called “ALL RISK” or “ Special Form” policies don’t cover Flood unless it is specifically added at the time the policy is written. So what is a person to do?

In the case of a homeowner or a business owner, it is important to know that if your home or business is flooded, federal disaster assistance (FEMA) will no longer reimburse you for your damages. The best they can do is to offer you a low interest loan to help cover repairs from flood damages. And these loans are only available if the president of the U.S. formally declares a disaster, and you must pay back this loan along with any existing mortgage obligation you already have.

What about tenants? If you live or work in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you qualify to get flood insurance to cover the contents of your home or the contents of your business in case of a flood. Now that can be a huge help!

Since you can no longer count on federal disaster assistance, calling your agent now to purchase flood insurance is the only option that makes sense. Either that or start building the ark!

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Calling All Cycling Enthusiasts – Now There Is Insurance For YOU

bicycle_racing_training_insuranceDid you know that you can now procure an insurance policy offering a wide variety of coverage for your bicycle? Everyday more and more people are using their bikes both in urban as well as in suburban areas as transportation, to promote fitness, or for entry in competitive tournaments.

Who should enquire about this new insurance? Those who utilize their bikes for fitness or in competitions would be most likely to get the most from this product. After all, they are the ones who are sure to have higher-end cycles and may also be members of cycling associations with the need to purchase more specialized coverages.

What are some of the features of this new policy?

Territory-US and Canada, while in transit via land or air from and to a location within the US and Canada, world-wide coverage can be added
Physical Damage Coverage-provides replacement cost for the value of the bicycle (inclusive of accessories)
Deductibles-the higher the deductible the lower the cost of the coverage.
Liability & Medical Payments
Vehicle Contact Protection
Roadside Assistance Coverage
• Additional Coverages Available:

Rental Reimbursement
Competitive Fee
Spare Parts
Cycling Apparel

So, if this sounds like you, we’d suggest that you ride right over to your agent’s office and find out how you could get this coverage. Remember, one man’s SUV is another man’s mountain bike.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

Do Adults Really Bully Each Other In The Workplace?


And even more significant is that what goes on in the workplace has a direct effect on Workers’ Compensation premiums paid by employers. How?

Mistreatment of employees by other employees and management personnel results in more sick days and days off, more workers’ compensation claims and more disability claims according to OSHA the organization charged with researching such trends.

OSHA is the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and according to the data collected for 2010, bullying accounted for 5% of absenteeism. The effect is that more and more employees will be making claims under Workers’ Compensation since that is their only recourse for “injuries” suffered in the workplace. This will invariably drive up the cost of already escalating Workers’ Compensation premiums.

So what can you, as an employer do, to lessen your exposure to risk from bullying?

1. Be aware of employees/managers who insult others;
2. Watch for employees or managers who intimidate others;
3. Be aware of gossiping as it can cause anxiety, stress , depression and even give rise to post traumatic stress disorder in severe cases;
4. Be aware of the effect on your entire team as reports indicate that just watching another employee being mistreated causes much stress and anxiety
5. Educate and train your staff to make them aware of just what constitutes a case of bullying.

An aspect of loss control is identifying industries more prone to bullying, such as social and protective services and healthcare support occupations. It has also been shown that women are more likely to file Workers’ Compensation claims than men when allegations of bullying are concerned. Conversely, architectural, engineering, physical and social science workers, as well as business and financial industries report much lower incidences in claims relating to bullying.

Whatever the industry, unless bullying in the workplace is addressed and strategies are developed to contain this hazard, we can be sure that carriers will soon be on the look-out for claims of this nature and be very discriminating in the policies they are willing to write.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

What You Must Know About New York’s Labor Law

labor-lawOn Tuesday February 11, 2014 contractors, builder groups and insurance professionals from all over New York State gathered at the State Capitol in Albany for the 2nd Annual Scaffold Reform Lobby Day.

Lawyers, insurance professionals, builders and contractors want desperately to reinforce their message that the New York Scaffold Law increases construction costs, increases insurance premiums and contributes to the decrease of job opportunities so desperately needed in this recovering economy.

These laws (Labor Law 240/241/241-a) were enacted way back in the 19th century and are still active on the state’s books today. Essentially, these laws hold property owners, employers, contractors and their agents (such as their construction managers) “strictly liable” for any “gravity related” risks involving the erection, demolition, repair, alteration, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure. Any fall off a ladder, even at a height of less than one foot off the ground, can result in a claim of enormous consequence. Over the years, the courts have defined “gravity related” to mean the risk of accident due to falling from an “elevated” work surface or being struck by a falling object which was improperly hoisted or inadequately secured from an elevated work surface. Furthermore, an owner or a contractor can still be held liable even if they don’t direct or control any of the work being done. In addition, any negligence on the part of the injured employee is not recognized even if he or she is 100% responsible for the accident that caused the injury.

Traditionally, employees injured “on the job” are compensated through Workers’ Compensation insurance which pays medical expense, lost wages and indemnity. Over the years this has proven to be an effective means of compensating injured workers as well as keeping the cost to their employers within reason. Labor laws, however, prevent recovery solely under Workers’ Compensation because they impose what is known as “strict liability” or “absolute liability.” In cases of strict or absolute liability, the owner is never exempt and Workers’ Compensation is not the only remedy available to an injured party. The only owners exempt from these laws are owners of one and two family homes who contract out for the work to be done. The owner doesn’t actually direct or controls the work being performed. In all other cases, the owner and the contractor are liable even if they are not directing the work being done nor do they control the work being done. Simply put, they have no defenses available to them even if the injured worker is found to be drunk or under the influence of drugs, or refuse to use safety equipment.

The result is that insurance for contractors and building owners in New York has become virtually unaffordable and is becoming more and more difficult to obtain regardless of price.

If you are a contractor, a sub-contractor, a construction manager and/or a building owner, these laws have a tremendous impact on your business. To find out more about how you can protect yourself and your assets, we suggest that you contact your insurance agent without delay. The business you save may be your own!

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Controlling Your Workers’ Compensation Costs

chart_workerscompWorkers’ Compensation premiums are on the rise in most states and, as a result, business owners have to budget for these increases regardless of how little their actual bottom lines may have grown. The reason for the increase is due to the rise in what the average employee injury costs an insurance company. Industry trade periodicals report that in the last twenty years the cost has risen 67% and is expected to go to 80% by the year 2015.

Due to a new method in calculating experience modifiers, the cost of Workers’ Compensation is due to continue increasing. The fix for employers is to enlist the aid of their insurance agents to exercise greater control over Workers’ Compensation costs by reviewing their existing policies with an eye toward the following:

1-Review classification of employees to ensure that employees are being classified according to the work they perform;

2-Making sure that employees are actually fit to do the job they have been hired to do by submitting to a physical examination on an annual basis;

3-Ensuring that all employees receive proper training in the use and maintenance of all equipment to be used on the job;

4-Maintaining a safety conscious workplace where everyone is concerned not only about their own welfare, but about the welfare of other workers as well;

5-If an employee is injured, making sure that a report is made and that injuries are treated without delay;

6-Instituting a return to work program for injured employees so they can get back to their jobs as soon as possible and discourage any malingering;

7-Employers should have relationships with medical personnel who understand the nature of the employer’s business and have some familiarity with the process of Workers’ Compensation claim handling. Such medical support can direct an injured worker to physical therapy as an adjunct to their recuperation and this, too, speeds up the process of returning to work.

As is usually the case, an educated consumer can usually make better decisions concerning all their business needs and Workers’ Compensation is no exception.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU