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There are so many insurance providers in the marketplace today that searching for the right fit can become overwhelming to consumers. Not only is securing the right coverage for your home, car, or business an important process, but selecting who will assist you with obtaining that insurance coverage is just as critical. Many consumers are unaware of the difference between independent insurance agencies and captive agencies, but knowing what each can provide is very important.

Independent insurance agencies are just that – independent from any one specific insurance company. This means they can provide you access to a variety of insurance products from numerous insurance carriers. Independent agencies can shop the marketplace and choose to partner with the insurance carriers who offer the products their customers need. For example, an independent agency may have access to five different carriers for homeowners insurance. What does this mean for the consumer? Simply put, it means they can provide more choices. By shopping coverage through multiple carriers, independent agents can seek out the carrier that offers their customer the best coverage, premium, and payment schedules.  An independent agent will often provide the customer with multiple options for their coverage.

The independent agent is often a one-stop-shop for multiple types of insurance – everything from homeowners to life insurance to auto coverage. And since insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry, having more choices allows the consumer to make the most of their time by having their agent search the best options for them. It’s like having a personal shopper!

Captive agencies typically sell for a single insurance provider – you often see their national advertisements on TV. These providers offer a variety of insurance products; however, these products are only those underwritten by their parent company. The downside to this arrangement is that captive agents don’t have multiple insurance carriers from which to seek coverage. Think of captive agencies like a big box store that only carries one specific brand. They offer great products, but only from their own brand so there isn’t as much variety.

Independent agencies serve an important role to property owners along the Gulf Coast. Many standard carriers cancelled all of their coastal policies and stopped writing any new business after hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, which made it difficult for consumers to find coverage. However, many independent agencies were still able to offer coverage as they had a much larger pool of carriers at their disposal.  Many of the standard markets that are currently offering coverage in our area are doing so without coverage for wind, thus forcing the homeowner to seek out an additional Wind & Hail policy from another carrier.

As an independent agency, South Shore Insurance Agency prides itself on not only finding the correct coverage for our customer, but also educating the consumer on the policy details with words one can understand. An insurance policy is not all about the bottom line premium, but rather the coverage that you will or won’t receive when the unthinkable happens. Simply put, the loyalty of the independent agent lies with the consumer, not with a big box captive agency.

SSIA is a Trusted Choice®Independent Agency – click here to learn more about how this partnership can benefit you.

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Fortified Homes

Carriers are rewarding customers with discounts for building and renovating homes to be more structurally sound – and these building standards make a significant difference in a storm. According to www.disastersafety.org, “FORTIFIED can be affordable at every price point and uses a unique systems-based method for creating stronger, safer homes. The program employs an incremental approach toward making new and existing homes more resistant to damage from hurricanes, tropical storms, hailstorms, high winds and wind-driven rain associated with thunderstorms. With three levels of FORTIFIED Home™ designation available – Bronze, Silver and Gold – builders can work with homeowners to choose a desired level of protection that best suits their budgets and resilience goals.”

The links below provide downloadable fact sheets explaining in greater detail FORTIFIED Homes in Alabama:

What Is FORTIFIED?

FORTIFIED Homes for Existing Structures

FORTIFIED Homes for New Homes

 

 

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Gavel on Booksby Morgan Smith, Assistant Editor at IA Magazine

 

Your client hires a babysitter for the night, a chef for a dinner party or a gardener for a weekend. Do they understand their potential liability?

Many families form close relationships with their household employees, which makes having a conversation about coverage for domestic staff awkward and difficult to initiate. But the potential liabilities are too big to go unnoticed—and they don’t just apply to high net-worth homeowners. Anyone who hires in-home staff like nannies, butlers, chefs, housekeepers, gardeners, home health care workers and tutors all face liability.

“When an insurer looks at their risks, they think about if their house is insured properly or if they have auto covered, but they’re not realizing that they need to be aware of these additional areas that require liability insurance” says Julie Sherlock, vice president and national underwriting manager at ACE Private Risk Services. “Anybody who looks to employ somebody that’s going to have any type of exposure to their personal possessions, and/or their family, should look into coverage.”

A March 2012 whitepaper published by ACE reported that while 54% of high net-worth survey respondents employed domestic staff, 31% did not have appropriate employment practices liability coverage (EPLI) despite a high level of concern about being sued by an employee for injury on their property. Risks include injuries on the job through car accidents, criminal behavior such as identity theft or kidnapping and lawsuits for wrongful termination, sexual harassment or discrimination.

But protection and risk management practices can start before work even begins for both domestic contractors like nannies and one-time chefs and domestic employees who work on a regular basis multiple days a week. To minimize risks of employing household staff, Sherlock offers five tips to share with your homeowners clients:

  1. Check references. You find out who people are through word of mouth and through friend recommendations, but you still want to be sure you know exactly who you’re employing.
  2. Do a professional background screening. Look at criminal records, verify references, view credit reports and check motor vehicle reports.
  3. Do another professional background screening. If you’re hiring somebody for a short time, completing one background check is fine. But if you’re bringing somebody on long-term, make sure you’re checking their reports at least every other year.
  4. Maintain a clear employment contract. Outline responsibilities, payment terms, requirements and causes for termination. Be clear on what employees can and can’t do, or what they can and can’t be fired for—this will hopefully minimize the potential for a wrongful termination lawsuit down the road.
  5. Review that process on that a regular basis.

 

When first discussing domestic staff coverage with a homeowners client, Bill Burbine, vice president and personal lines manager at Fred C. Church, Inc., suggests gaining a general understanding of what protection measures they’ve already taken and then educating them on best practices. “In the initial risk assessment, talk about employment relationships they have from part-time handy work to full-time domestic staff and then seek to understand what they’ve done in the past to document and protect themselves,” he says.

Although potential liabilities can fall under general property, homeowners and auto policies, added EPLI and workers comp coverages might also be useful. (Note that EPLI does not apply to domestic contractors such as babysitters or one-time chefs.) For these additional coverages, David Wall, vice president at Mississippi-based SouthGroup, suggests looking at state regulations about whether workers comp for domestic employees is required or available—and then closely reviewing the language on ISO forms for bodily injury coverage. For EPLI, “most of the markets I’ve seen thus far will limit that endorsement as a limit to the policy,” Wall says, noting that some carriers provide coverage for up to five residential staff members based on seniority.

According to Sherlock, who advises gaining insight into a client’s lifestyle in order to help mitigate potential exposures, “when talking about liability in general, you really want to look to understand not just the value of what your tangible assets are but investable assets as well.” Veiled coverages include crisis reputation coverage—used to mitigate name and reputation damage for clients in the public eye—or counsel shadow defense cover—used for personal attorneys to shadow the insurance company’s attorney.

Underestimating the potential of a liability lawsuit from a domestic employee and misunderstanding affordability of effective protection can be irreparable. Says Burbine: “This is an opportunity for independent agents to differentiate themselves, reinforcing the independent agent model and providing value to their clients by bringing these exposures to the table.”

- See more at: http://www.iamagazine.com/markets/read/2014/11/24/is-your-ho-client-s-babysitter-a-liability-#sthash.663ldEmK.dpuf
 
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Insurance for Property Managers

Insurance for Property Managers

A property manager is a person or firm hired by an owner to manage the rental and/or maintenance of a property. These individuals/firms add value by coordinating bookings, maintenance requests, and management of an owner’s property on their behalf. With this, property managers face specific risks and should be knowledgeable about what coverage they need to protect their business and employees. Here are the top five recommended coverage types for property managers:

 

  1. Professional Liability Insurance also known as E&O Insurance (Errors & Omissions):  Professional Liability or E&O Insurance is important for anyone who provides a professional service and/or regularly gives advice to clients. One of our A-rated carriers indicates that covered risks can include: alleged or actual negligence, defense costs, personal injury (including libel or slander), copyright infringement, temporary staff and independent contractors, and claims arising from services provided in the past. Professional Liability / E&O can also protect against wrongful eviction or tenant discrimination claims. We cover more about E&O on our website.
  2. Workers Compensation: If a business has more than 5 employees, state law requires the business owner to carry work comp coverage. Even if that company does not have 5 employees, the exposure still exists. This makes it critical for property managers with temporary staff or independent contractors to be knowledgeable of the work comp coverage carried by anyone working for them as an independent contractor. We recommend that any independent contractors carry their own work comp coverage. This can help to reduce premium costs for the property manager’s work comp exposure. Learn more about and Work Comp on our website.
  3. General Liability Insurance: Business owners purchase general liability insurance to cover legal disturbances due to accidents, injuries, and claims arising out of negligence.  General Liability insurance policies protect against bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, the cost of defense, and settlement bonds.  They can also cover the premises and operations exposures arising out of the location of the business as well as damage from defective products or operations performed.  Other related coverages may also fall under general liability insurance. Coverage amounts are typically expressed in terms of $1,000,000 increments and form the corner stone of any business asset protection plan. If independent contractors carry their own GL insurance, this can also help reduce the property manager’s insurance premium.
  4. Property Insurance: We’ve mentioned Property Insurance coverage in previous blog posts. Business Insurance Now suggests that commercial property be one of the first types of coverage a new enterprise should look into.  “This coverage protects you from some of the risk that the property your company owns could be lost stolen or damaged.  If you don’t own the building where you do business, you’ll only need to cover the building’s contents.”  Business personal property insurance protects items such as fixtures, furniture, office equipment, inventory, and supplies that are housed on or off site.  Another critical property coverage is Business Income, which will reimburse a business owner for lost income due to a property loss.
  5. Cyber Liability: For property managers who handle any of their bookings, leases or rentals via the Internet, cyber liability coverage is incredibly important. According to www.irmi.com, “cyber and privacy policies cover a business’ liability for a data breach in which the firm’s customers’ personal information, such as social security or credit card numbers, is exposed or stolen by a hacker or other criminal who has gained access to the firm’s electronic network.” They indicate that cyber liability policies “can cover expenses such as notification costs, credit monitoring, costs to defend claims by state regulators, fines and penalties, and loss resulting from identity theft.” Cyber Liability is not to be confused with technology E&O insurance.

 

At SSIA, our account executives are well schooled in the types of coverage property managers should carry, and we are happy to provide a complimentary business review to make sure you are covered properly.  Contact us to learn more (251) 923-4463!

 

Sources: http://www.hiscox.com/small-business-insurance/professional-business-insurance/property-management-insurance/; http://www.irmi.com/online/insurance-glossary/terms/c/cyber-and-privacy-insurance.aspx

 

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South Shore Insurance is proudly sponsoring a Great Turkey Drive!

2014 Great Turkey Drive

Every $15 donation received will enable us to donate one 10-12 lb. turkey to feed a family at Christmas. South Shore Insurance will match all donations “turkey for turkey” until we provide a turkey for every family Catholic Social Services currently serves in our area.

 

Catholic Social Services benefits any needy family or individual, regardless of religious affiliation. To participate, complete the Turkey Drive Commitment Form and return to mindy@sshoreins.com by Wednesday, December 3rd. You can also fax the form to (251) 923-4464. Donations may be paid via check or credit/debit card. Thank you for your help in providing meals to needy families!

Cain’s Piggly Wiggly has been kind enough to provide turkeys at cost for this year’s Turkey Drive. Please support them with your patronage.

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Contractors typically have varying insurance needs based on their specific Insurance for Contractorssituation, but the below categories are the most common and recommended insurance for contractors:

 

  1. General Liability – According to www.sba.gov, general liability insurance “protects a company’s assets and pays for obligations – medical costs, for example –incurred if someone gets hurt on your property or when there are property damages or injuries caused by you or your employees. Liability insurance also covers the cost of your legal defense and any settlement or award should you be successfully sued.  Typically these include compensatory damages, nonmonetary losses suffered by the injured party, and punitive damages.”
  2. Workers Compensation (Work Comp) – Workers Compensation laws vary by state, so check with your Trusted Choice insurance professional for guidance on limits and requirements.  Workers compensation is designed to cover wage replacement and medical benefits if injured in the course of employment.   Alabama requires that employers with more than five employees carry work comp coverage.  It’s important to note – even if the law doesn’t require your business to carry work comp, an exposure still exists.  For a contractor who owns his own business and hires sub-contractors, it is a good idea for those sub-contractors to be licensed and insured with their own general liability and work comp policies.  If those sub-contractors carry their own work comp coverage, this can positively affect the lead contractor’s work comp premiums.
  3. Property – Business Insurance Now suggests that commercial property be one of the first types of coverage a new enterprise should look into.  “This coverage protects you from some of the risk that the property your company owns could be lost stolen or damaged.  If you don’t own the building where you do business, you’ll only need to cover the building’s contents.”  Business personal property insurance protects items such as fixtures, furniture, office equipment, inventory, and supplies that are housed on or off site.  Another critical property coverage is Business Income, which will reimburse a business owner for lost income due to a property loss.
  4. Inland Marine – Don’t let the name fool you… the term may be a bit outdated, but it is remains an important type of coverage.  Inland Marine covers property in transit over land, and essentially covers these categories: Imports; Exports; Domestic Shipments; Bridges, tunnels and other instrumentalities of transportation and communication; Personal property floater risks; and, Commercial property floater risks (source, Erie Insurance).  According to Wikipedia, “Despite the word marine, most inland marine coverages are for property on land, with property transported by water insured under ocean marine.” This type of insurance policy can also be commonly called “floater” policies because coverage is provided without regard to the location of the covered property.  A contractor may need inland marine coverage for such equipment items as trailers, tractors, cranes, backhoes, etc.

 

At SSIA, our account executives are well schooled in the types of coverage contractors should carry, and we are happy to provide a complimentary business review to make sure you are covered properly.  Contact us to learn more (251) 923-4463!

 

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Business Insurance Header

Much like the various homeowners policies available, there are multiple options for commercial insurance as well. Different industries have varying insurance needs, and as such require different types of policies.

Homeowner’s insurance coverage often includes coverage for the dwelling, personal property, loss of use, and personal liability. Similarly, most business insurance policies contain coverage for multiple risks as well. The most common types of commercial insurance are property, general liability, and workers’ compensation. Other coverage types available are business income coverage, hired & non-owned auto coverage, professional liability, and liquor liability. Here are 3 of the most recommended coverages for businesses:

 

Comm Prop Ins

 

1. PROPERTY INSURANCE

Generally speaking, property insurance covers damage to the business’s property such as signs, furniture, computers, equipment, inventory, and the building (should one own it).

 

Gen Liability Ins

 

 

 2. GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE

Liability insurance covers damages to third parties. This can often be referred to as General Liability Insurance or Commercial General Business Liability. This type of coverage protects a company’s assets and pays for any covered claims including legal costs if someone is injured on the business’s premise, or arising out of the business’s operations. General liability coverage can protect tenants of a building if the tenant causes any damage to the property being leased. It can also cover you against claims of false advertising including libel, slander, and copyright infringement (www.sba.gov).

 

Workmans Comp Ins

 

 

3. WORKMANS’ COMPENSATION

Workers’ compensation covers on-the-job injuries employees may sustain, typically providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured while on the job. Many states require companies with a certain number of employees to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. It is important to note that when an employee files a claim under the business’s workers’ compensation, they forfeit their right to sue the employer for negligence.

 

Doctors and lawyers may be required to obtain malpractice insurance (also known as professional liability insurance or errors & omissions insurance), which can cover various professionals against inadvertent mistakes. Learn more about small business and commercial insurance by visiting the Small Business Administration’s website.

 

Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers’_compensation; http://www.sba.gov/content/types-business-insurance; http://www.irmi.com/online/insurance-glossary/terms/c/commercial-general-liability-cgl-policy.aspx

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choosing-homeowners-insurance-deductables

The deductible is one of the most important elements of your insurance policy and the term is the most widely understood by the insurance consumer.  It is defined as a specified amount of money that the insured must pay before an insurance company will pay for a claim.  Since most consumers carry automobile insurance, they are accustomed to the deductible being the amount that they’ll have to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will step in.  Let’s say for example that you’re in a car accident and the damage to your vehicle is $1000, and your deductible is $500.  You – the policyholder – will pay $500 of the $1000, and your insurance company will pay for everything over that $500 deductible up to your policy limits.

The homeowners insurance deductible works similarly to auto insurance; however, there are many different types of deductibles available, and sometimes your policy can contain more than one type.  Knowing the types of deductibles that your policy contains, what they are based on, and what that means for you after a claim, is extremely important, as this knowledge will allow you to properly prepare for a loss.

COMMON TYPES OF DEDUCTIBLES

  • All Other Peril (AOP) Deductible: any peril covered under the policy except those that are listed separately.
  • Wind & Hail Deductible: this is the deductible that will apply to any event that results in damage caused by wind and / or hail.  This type of deductible is often expressed on your policy as a percentage of the covered dwelling amount, or a percentage of the TIV (Total Insurable Value – the full value of the insureds covered property including dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use).  These deductibles are often higher than AOP deductibles.
  • Named Storm Deductible: this is the deductible that will apply to any named storm event like a tropical storm or hurricane.  These deductibles are also typically expressed as a percentage and higher than AOP deductibles.*
  • Hurricane Deductible: applies only to damage caused by a hurricane.  These deductibles are also typically expressed as a percentage and higher than AOP deductibles.*

*An example of which deductible might apply:  If a hurricane is downgraded upon landfall to a tropical storm and the insured does not have a named storm deductible, the insureds AOP deductible would then apply sense the damages were not the result of an actual hurricane.

It is important for the consumer to be educated on which deductibles are included in their policy.  It is even more important that the consumer have that deductible amount set aside in case of a claim.  In the event you have a percentage based deductible, you will want to be sure to understand what the percentage equates to in actual dollars.  Here’s an example:

Your home is insured for $200,000

Your contents are insured $50,000

Your AOP deductible is $2500

Your wind and hail deductible is 5%

If the deductible is based on dwelling only, the deductible equals $10,000.

If the deductible is based on TIV (total insurable value including contents, other structures, personal property and loss of use, the deductible equals $12,500.

Click on either of these links to view actual quotes from the same carrier, but each with different deductibles. These illustrate how deductibles influence the annual premium.

2 Percent Wind Hail 1000 AOP

5 Percent Wind Hail 2500 AOP

Our coastal market was once dominated by 5% wind and hail deductibles; however, there are now many carriers offering Named Storm and 2% deductibles, so be sure to ask your agent what is available in your area.  Given the same carrier, lower deductibles often mean higher premium costs, and vice versa.  Many consumers find that paying a slightly higher premium is more financially feasible than risking a large out of pocket expense with higher deductibles after a loss.

The examples we’ve given are common types of deductibles for our coastal areas.  In other parts of the country, deductibles for earthquakes, landslides, and other natural phenomenon are common. Deductibles for theft are common in commercial policies.  Talk with your agent to determine what deductibles are right for you – not just in terms of your yearly premium, but also in terms of what that deductible could actually cost you after a claim.

 

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In last week’s post, we discussed loss settlement types – ACV (Actual Cash Value) versus RCV (Replacement Cost Value).  We provided information about the benefits of RCV settlement types and touched on the fact that many insureds may not know what type of loss settlement method their policy contains.  As we’ve said many times, when it comes to your insurance, the devil is in the details. Knowing your settlement type, deductibles, and most importantly what is and is NOT covered is extremely important when purchasing insurance.  We’ve made it our mission at SSIA to help educate the consumer so they aren’t surprised and trapped in an unfortunate financial situation upon suffering a loss.

Part of our education mission is to advise the public when we become aware of any important issues in the insurance industry, particularly those that can, and often do, affect some of our friends and neighbors.  One such issue is related to certain AIUA (Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association) issued policies.  If you currently carry, or are considering the purchase of a homeowners or dwelling policy issued through AIUA, this information is very important to you.

Currently, there are approximately 31,000+ AIUA issued policies, and of these, roughly 91% are written with an actual cash value settlement method.  Combined with high deductibles, many of these policyholders may be paid nothing, or only cents on the dollar after a claims event.  This leaves citizens in our community in an extremely vulnerable position creating a situation where they may not be able to repair or rebuild.

AIUA’s mission statement is to provide a market from which consumers can “obtain essential insurance when they are unable to obtain coverage in the private insurance market.” Essentially AIUA is there to provide coverage when there are no other alternatives left for the consumer.  Despite multiple carriers currently offering broad coverage at affordable rates in Mobile and Baldwin counties, AIUA’s sales continue to grow suggesting that they are becoming the preferred choice amongst many agents and consumers, rather than the insurer of last resort, as bottom line price savings become the only focus.  Consumers must begin to realize that high deductibles and actual cash value settlement methods may make it financially impossible for them to repair their property after a loss.

If you are an AIUA policyholder, here are some ways to determine what settlement method your policy is:

  • If your home is older than 25 years of age, your policy will be settled with an ACV settlement method.
  • If your home is not your primary residence, but rather a secondary or rental, your policy will be settled with an ACV settlement method.
  • Locate your declarations page, and go the second page titled, “Policy Provisions,” and look for “Forms and Endorsements”.  If your policy is shown as DP-01, your policy will be settled with an ACV settlement method.  If your policy is shown as DP-02, your Dwelling will be settled on an RCV basis, but your Contents/Personal Property will still be settled on an ACV basis.
  • Here is a sample declarations page for reference:

Untitled

We want our local consumers to know that “by design, AIUA policies provide basic, no frills coverage.” We at SSIA are proud to work with many reputable carriers who can provide affordable, well-rounded coverage.  Let us conduct a free insurance review of your policies – we’ll be happy to discuss the details of your current coverage and offer suggestions to better protect you, while keeping your premiums affordable.

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Have you had a difficult time finding coverage for tenant occupied Ho-6 policies? We have you covered! SSIA is now writing homeowners, flood and condominium owners policies in Florida! Contact us today for a quote – 251.923.4463

FL

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