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Personal Insurance

Don't Make Yourself a Target for Lawsuits

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Don't Make Yourself a Target for Lawsuits

You've worked a long time and have built substantial wealth. You want to enjoy the better things in life. Hey, you deserve to! Just be aware that nice things come with a price other than sticker price... Auto accidents are the biggest reason for large claims. You are much more likely to be involved in an auto accident and lawsuit than a personal injury lawsuit occurring at your home. I hate to break it to you, but there are a lot of people out there that may look to take advantage of you if you are at fault in an accident.

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25 Ways to Winterize Your Life

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25 Ways to Winterize Your Life

Control your comfort and home energy costs over the winter season. The tips below can keep you warm and keep money in your pocket, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Don't Rely On Your Homeowners Policy For Business Property

A BayRisk, we help thousands of small businesses. Helping small businesses often means helping home based businesses. When you have little or no employees, why spend a fortune on office space when your job probably allows you to work from home? Working from home is great; we encourage it! However, we are often met with objections on covering business contents because these home based business owners and consultants think their homeowners policy covers them for their business contents. 

Most common homeowner policies have a limitation on business owned contents of $2,000. If you have a new laptop loaded with software and a decent home office with desks, chairs, printers, etc. that were purchased with company money, you will not have enough coverage in case of a loss. Also, if you are traveling there might be limitations or no coverage for your laptop. 

Most Business Owner Policies (BOPs) will cover business contents for a very nominal charge. A one person operation can likely purchase a BOP for about $500 per year vs. just buying liability for $425 per year. $75 seems like a very small price to pay to avoid any gaps between your homeowners policy and your Business Owner Policy. Also, most small BOPs carry a low deductible of $250 or $500 per year and most homeowners policies will have a $1,000 deductible. 

You can get a quote from us and our trusted insurance carriers that can include your business contents for your home based business. Think seriously about protecting your contents and contact us if you have any questions about properly protecting your business in general. 

You're A Millionaire, Now What?

If you live in the Bay Area, have a good career, own a home and have some decent savings, chances are good that you are already a millionaire. Acquired wealth comes with added exposures and liabilities. You may have a second home, extra vehicles, toys like boats, motorcycles, ATVs, but  when was the last time you really reviewed your insurance and personal risk management?

Let's look at the added liability exposure for a millionaire. The most common personal liability claims, other than auto related, are dog bites and golf related injuries. In either scenario injuries can add up quick. Consider the loss of income by the injured party and possible punitive damages and you will definitely run out of underlying liability coverage on your homeowners policy. Libel and slander are also becoming more of an issue for households. Social media opens liability exposures for you and your children via the web. It is now common for suits to start from bullying or slander via social media.

You don't have to be a celebrity or major league sports player to be a liability target. Unfortunately, there are opportunists out there that can come after you based on the car you drive, where you live or what they think you are worth. We advise our clients to add a personal umbrella to their coverage portfolio. Umbrellas are very inexpensive to add. Premiums are typically from $200 to $400per year for the first additional $1,000,000 in coverage. They tend to go down as the coverage goes up, so you many be able to add a $5,000,000 umbrella for about $1,500 per year. The likelihood of having a large claim is small, but for the cost and protection, it is extremely wise to add an umbrella. Protection from opportunists is priceless. 

Loyalty is an amazing quality and most people are loyal to their insurance agents. However, there comes a point when you may outgrow your insurance agent. Your agent, especially if they are not independent with many company choices, may not be properly equipped to guide you through your exposures and insurance needs. You have worked very hard to get where you have to lose it because you were not adequately insured.

It's nice to be able to say that you are a millionaire, but it's even better to stay one. Consult with us on protecting your family and assets or let us know if you have any questions about personal umbrellas. We will be happy to provide a review of your exposures and help manage your risk like we have for our private clients for decades. 

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Insuring Your Teen Driver

Well the kids are back to school and some of you parents may be dealing with new drivers this year. You knew the time would come and have probably been dreading it since you bought them their first baby teething key set. What you may be dreading just as much is the effect it will have on your insurance. This blog entry will not go into depth on the dangers of teen driving and risk management of your new driver; we're sure you're already giving them your own lessons on that. This will help describe some of the things you can to to protect your insurance rates while protecting your teen driver.

  1. Focus on grades. Most carriers have a "good student discount" where 3.0 GPA's or better students can receive hefty discounts. Encourage your kids to keep their grade high not only for obvious reasons, but for the savings as well!
  2. Choose the right vehicle. Even if you can afford to get your child a new car and they beg you for one, consider getting a used vehicle that you can afford to self insure for physical damage. There are great and safe used vehicles that will help save hundreds of insurance premium dollars per year vs. a new model. 
  3. Limit Usage. Most carriers will rate based on annual mileage. Make a commitment with your teen to limit their driving and check the mileage with them regularly. Carriers are cracking down on tracking mileage and may require proof anyway. This is a good way to keep premium down and limit chance for a loss. Work up from a school only commute to limited personal use once they have proven their abilities. 
  4. Limit passengers. This is easier said than done, but do your best to enforce 1-2 only. In California, 16-18 year old drivers are only allowed to drive solo or with passengers if there is an adult (25 year old or older) in the vehicle as well. Studies have shown that accidents are far more likely to occur with multiple teens in a vehicle due to distraction (no surprise there...). Limiting passengers will reduce claims, to keep your rates low and protect your children and their friends from injury.
  5. Be sure you are optimizing discounts. Ask you independent agent about discounts available that you may or may not know about. The biggest is the home and auto discount. When rates go up for adding your teen, you want to be sure you are taking advantage of discounts available. 

So what's the average cost to add a teen? In California average rates will rise approximately $1,500 to $2,000 per year. Rates can be higher depending on the vehicle they will be driving. This seems high, but insurance companies know that new drivers cause accidents and charge appropriate premium. Have questions about insuring your teen driver, contact us! BayRisk's personal client department has been insuring Bay Area families for decades and can help.  

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What Does Insurance Subrogation Mean?

Insurance can be complicate. Claims can get even more complicated. Subrogation is a vital part of the claim process. The experts at Risk & Insurance and Engle Martin & Associates provide this great explanation of what exactly subrogation means:

Getting into the details early is one of the critical success factors for claims professionals in maximizing recovery of funds from a third party via subrogation. 

Subrogation may not be as high profile as risk management or underwriting in the insurance process, but it does fill a specialized - and highly welcomed - role: It recovers funds and helps reduce costs for insureds and carriers, delivering a direct impact on the bottom line in both cases. Subrogation, in fact, is second only to premiums in how insurance carriers bring dollars in the door.

Defined in the context of insurance, subrogation occurs after a claim has been paid and the carrier steps into the shoes of its insured to enforce a claim against a third-party tortfeasor responsible for actually causing or contributing to the loss. The end game is to offset claim losses by recovering funds from the tortfeasor or their carrier. Carriers will then be able to charge a premium commensurate with the risk leading to more accurate underwriting and potentially more competitive premiums.

Engle Martin Claim Administrative Services (EMCAS) - a third party claims administrator and wholly owned subsidiary of Engle Martin & Associates, a national independent adjusting firm - serves as a carrier representative in subrogation scenarios. According to Vivian Conley, Senior Subrogation Specialist at EMCAS, it’s unusual for a TPA to offer subrogation services that parallel the first party claim adjustment. However, EMCAS’ comprehensive approach to claims management includes subrogation as another way to go the extra mile for clients and their insureds.

“From the instant a claim comes in, we dig right into the details,” Conley explained, noting that her subrogation unit applies “tenacious pursuit” strategy to every claim it investigates.

“Even with no liability coverage on the part of the tortfeasor, we wouldn’t automatically close the file,” Conley explained. “We keep investigating because there may be alternative recovery sources.” For example, if someone is driving another owner’s uninsured vehicle and causes a collision and loss to a client’s insured property, the driver of the uninsured vehicle might have their own insurance policy that may provide excess liability coverage. READ MORE...

 

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What is Santa Bringing You?

We have all seen the television commercials of the couple walking out to the driveway on Christmas morning to reveal the new car in the driveway... Though 99% of us will never share this experience it's important to make sure that your new goodies from Santa or loved ones are covered on your insurance policies. 

Say you happen to be on the EXTREMELY Nice List and get that new car in the driveway... Most auto insurance policies provide coverage for new purchases for 30 days. You should notify your agent of the purchase as soon as possible, but you should be fine to take that new car for a spin (just take the bow off first please). 

Other major purchases such as fine jewelry, watches, and arts should be scheduled on your homeowner policy as soon as possible. Most homeowner policies provide limited coverage for these items especially for theft and mysterious disappearance. By scheduling them on your policy you can get the appropriate coverage with often a small or no deductible! This is called Scheduled Personal Property. It may cost a small premium to add items, but the coverage is more comprehensive and the peace of mind is priceless. 

Say Santa does not happen to use the chimney and leaves some packages on your doorstep... Be sure you keep your receipts and online purchase statements. There has been an increase of package theft at doorsteps this season. It is good to leave Santa or other delivery elves a note with instructions on where to leave packages or not to leave them in your absence. Here's a video on preventative steps to avoid package pillaging.  Most homeowner policies carry a $500 or $1,000 deductible, so you don't want a nuisance theft like this to spoil Christmas. 

Have a Happy Holiday and call us if you are one of the lucky ones that needs an insurance adjustment on December 26th! 

Why You, YesYou, Need A Personal Umbrella Policy

Lawsuits can happen to just about anyone. Lawyers help individuals sue over what seems like the smallest of issues. Unfortunately, judges and juries are also awarding a significant amount of money every year. When you buy your personal insurance, you need to keep this in mind. When you’re given the option of umbrella insurance, you need to know just how much it can help you before you automatically dismiss the extra monthly expense.

Take a look at any of your insurance policies. There is a limit on the liability aspect of your insurance. If you’re involved in a lawsuit for negligence or other damage, you may not have enough money to cover all of the various costs. This means that it would then come out of your own finances. Most homeowner policies include $100,000 for liability coverage. Most carriers can go up to $300,000 or $500,000 for a nominal cost, but is this enough coverage? Dog bites are a leader in high paid liability claims. Auto claims are an especially large exposure for liability claims. Teenage drivers can be a particular concern and one of the best reasons to secure an umbrella policy. 

It has always been assumed that the California umbrella insurance policies are just for the wealthy. It’s not true. They are for anyone who is looking for the needed protection to cover them just in case. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. A single lawsuit can leave you penniless just because you didn’t have enough liability insurance.

You can avoid that completely by shopping for umbrella insurance. It will give you added protection on your liability above the current limits of your auto, watercraft and even homeowners insurance policies. Depending upon the company and the policy you choose, it could add up to $5 million extra in liability protection.

The insurance will simply “kick in” when it needs to so that it will continue to cover the expenses even after all of your other policies are completely exhausted. There’s a lot that can go wrong in life and even if it wasn’t your fault, there are lawyers out there who are very good at their job.

Lawsuits are so effective because they go after all that insurance money. The problem is that it’s your insurance money and you may not have enough of it. What then? You need to protect yourself so that your insurance policies aren’t leaving you with visible flaws that leave you vulnerable against lawsuits.

All of your insurance – for your car, your boat, your home, rental homes – has a liability amount attached to it. But if you get an aggressive lawyer that is going to help someone sue you, you need to be prepared for that. Forget about the wealthy protecting their wealth. Even if you’re not rich, you need to protect the things that you do have before someone else decides to take it from you.

Many insurance companies offer California umbrella insurance, so it’s worth looking into. It’s more affordable than you think and that extra protection will come in handy if you’re ever involved in a lawsuit. Contact us if you have any questions about personal liability umbrella or anything else! 

Cyber Monday: Five Tips For Safe Online Holiday Shopping

Great video and article by ABC News on safe holiday shopping and general rules for shopping online:

Before you fork over your credit card number and other info, make sure you're following these five safety tips.

1. Make sure you are buying from a secure site.
"The first thing you want to do is look at the URL and make sure it says HTTPS," says Natalie Severino, a security expert at Trend Micro. Along with the HTTPS in the web address you want to make sure you see the small padlock icon in the address bar when you get to the payment steps. Both of those will indicate that you are shopping on a secure site, which has a trusted and safe backend system.

2. Make sure your security software is up to date.

It seems like the obvious and boring tip, but it really is important. Every security expert we spoke with stressed that keeping the anti-virus software up to date and running should stop you from going to an unsafe shopping site.

3. Don't trust all those emails
If you're like any of us, your inbox is flooded with more "great Cyber Monday deal" messages than you can stand. But not all those emails are safe. "Some of the emails and the deals seem too good to be true. And they are," says Claudia Lombana, PayPal's Shopping Specialist. "The best thing to do is not to click the link, and go to a new webpage and try and go to it that way. It is only clicking links from those direct e-mail sources that can get you in trouble."

4. Use a different password at every site. 
If you can learn anything from this year's online security disasters it is never use the same password across your accounts or sites. If you are prompted to sign up for a new account to make a purchase make sure to create a new password. Both Lombana and Severino suggested a password with a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Christina stressed to stay away from your name and family names; social media has made those passwords easier to crack.

5. Be even more mindful when shopping on your phone or tablet. 
According to PayPal, there was a 193 percent increase in mobile shopping on Black Friday 2012 over last year. And that's just the start -- the number of people shopping on their phone or tablet this holiday season is only going to go up. The experts say, however, that those mobile shoppers need to be even more vigilant about security. "The number one thing when shopping on a mobile device is to password-protect the phone or tablet," Lombana said. Also, make sure to keep in mind all the other tips and always make purchases over a secure and password-protected WiFi network.

Full Link: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/cyber-monday-online-holiday-shopping-tips-staying-safe/story?id=17806847#.ULRAZ4fAcRc 

Home Based Business Insurance: What You Need To Know

There are hundreds of thousands of home based businesses across America. Whether you are a professional consultant, a dog walker, an eBay expert or a cosmetic sales associate odds are that you do not carry business insurance or believe you have coverage on your homeowner policy for your business.

Almost every homeowner policy excludes business pursuits from your personal liability coverage. They also have very limited property coverage for business property. If you have say $50,000 in inventory that you sell on eBay in your garage and have a fire or theft, you will likely be limited to $2,000 on your homeowner or renters policy. 

Although most homeowner policies exclude home-based businesses it should be your first plae to look for coverage. Some insurers are willing to issue an endorsement that will extend coverage to the home business. Typically, there's an additional fee, but it is usually inexpensive and worth every cent. If this is not a possibility there are many insurance copanies that can write a separate Business Owner Policy (BOP) that can protect you, your business and your business property. Typical premiums for small in home businesses are around $500 per year. 

If you provide professional advise or services such as consulting, accounting, legal or otherwise you should seriously consider adding professional liability (Errors & Omissions) coverage. This is typically more expensive coverage since it is more likely to be used if you are in a professional field. We see minimum premiums in the $1,200 per year range for $1,000,000 in coverage.

There could be additional insurance needs as you start or grow your home based business. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions on your home based business insurance needs or anything else. 

Halloween Safety Tips

What kind of insurance brokers would we be without sharing some simple yet useful Halloween tips with you and your family? Below is an article that will help you and your children stay safe this Halloween... We are sure you likely take these precautions, but this is just a reminder:

  • Parents should establish a specific route for their children in a known neighborhood.
  • Parents and children should use flashlights and use sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Children should use crosswalks when possible and not cross between parked cars.
  • Motorist should drive slowly and watch for children in the street and on medians and exiting driveways.
  • Parents should have their children wear bright, reflective and flame retardant costumes.
  • Children should travel in groups accompanied by an adult.
  • Children should only go to well lit houses and remain on porches and do not enter the homes.
  • Children should bring all treats home and let a parent inspect them all before eating them.
  • Parents with children with alergies should closely inspect treat ingredients before consumption.

Have a Happy (and SAFE) Halloween Everyone!

Rebuilding The Three Little Pigs Homes

BayRisk Insurance was recently asked by www.movoto.com to advise on the coverage and replacement cost of the three little pigs homes.... We thought this was a great article concept and were happy to be included... In case you ever wondered about this, or even if you haven't, here is the answer:

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Rebuilding The Three Little Pigs Homes

BayRisk Insurance was recently asked by www.movoto.com to advise on the coverage and replacement cost of the three little pigs homes.... We thought this was a great article concept and were happy to be included... In case you ever wondered about this, or even if you haven't, here is the answer:

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How To Protect Against Identity Theft In College

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So your child has settled into college and is just venturing into the world of finance. It is likely they have their own credit card, smart phones, checking accounts and definitely have personal information in their social media accounts... Maybe it is time they get a quick lesson in Identity theft. If you are a college student or the guardian of one, please read this article and help them navigate the pirate seas of the internet. 

 In interviews ahead of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which runs through the end of October, cyber security experts—both here and abroad—said identity theft is a serious problem, which may require extra vigilance on college campuses. Identity theft can mean anything from users' online bank accounts being compromised to their E-mail accounts being hacked and used to mass-distribute spam.

"Universities are, by their nature, open, trusting environments. Nobody thinks that they will be subject to an attack, and that isn't just isolated to students," says Alan Woodward, a cyber security specialist and visiting professor at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. "Many academics fall for scams as well."

Students, who often over-share personal details on social media, are also targeted in phishing scams, where thieves impersonate legitimate companies, such as banks, in order to steal victims' login information and personal details. But Woodward and his colleagues have found that students just need some prompting to understand how to protect their identities. "By showing [students] specifics, they do tend to get it," Woodward says. "After all, they're not stupid, just inexperienced."

[Learn how to build your own free identity theft shield.]

To protect themselves, students shouldn't share login details with anyone and should refrain from posting private information—such as a full address, social security number, or date of birth—on social media, because thieves can use those to confirm identities, Woodward says. Students should also vary passwords between accounts, which shouldn't relate to their personal information, and avoid saving passwords or PIN numbers online or on their computers or phones, he adds.

"Laptops and phones get stolen all the time," Woodward says.

Even if students are vigilant, some threats are beyond their control, particularly if their colleges don't effectively protect their databases, warns Don Rebovich, a professor and the executive director of the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection at Utica College in upstate New York.

"Many colleges have strong security protection to keep out hackers, but some still have not kept up with new technology used by computer criminals," he says. "That is a serious vulnerability and puts students' identities at risk."

[Read about warnings signs of identity theft.]

Students can control other aspects of their digital lives, however. They should update the security protection on their computers and use firewalls, which protect computers from external attacks, Rebovich says.

"Many students get caught up in studying, homework, and social activities and leave computer security protection as a low priority," he says.

That's consistent with data that Travelers, an insurance company, gathered from decision makers at educational institutions in the United States—50 percent of whom cited theft in general as the "greatest hazard" on college campuses.

Students need to know that identity theft tends to occur in a "traditional" manner, such as a stolen wallet, rather than an online account being hacked, says Joe Reynolds, the product manager for identity fraud at Travelers.

[Learn how to safeguard your child's social security number.]

Students should properly discard mail, and only share credit card information (excluding the security code on the back of the card) over the phone with vendors they trust, he adds. Losing an ID or running up a tab at a bar, leaving a laptop or mobile phone unattended in the library, or living with or hosting an unreliable roommate or guest can also be red flags. Finish article...

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"Big One" Looms In Minds of Experts Before California Shakeout

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On Thursday the USGS and its partners, including the California Earthquake Authority and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, held the annual Great California ShakeOut, which they say is the “world’s largest earthquake preparedness drill.”

The drill was scheduled 10:18 a.m. on Thursday, and more than 9.3 million people participated at schools, colleges, businesses, community organizations, government agencies and households. The number of participants far exceeded 2011’s 8.6 million figure, organizers said.

Several radio stations throughout the state aired a drill broadcast at 10:18 a.m. In addition to California, other states and countries held ShakeOut drills, for a total of more than 13.6 million participants worldwide.

Such disaster preparedness may come in handy if one heard Jones’ speak at the L.A. RIMS forum on Wednesday.

“The San Andreas earthquake is the most likely catastrophic disaster to hit the United States at this point,” she told the crowd.

For more from this article click here. To learn about our association's Earthquake Insurance Program from our previous blog entry, click here

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What Does A Duck Have To Do With Business Insurance

I'm sure you have heard of the duck test, "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." I have mentioned this before, but if you have staff you are required by law (most states) to carry workers' compensation insurance. Workers' compensation insurance primarily provides coverage for your employees if they are injured on the job and need medical attention as well as disability income while out due to the injury. 

We hear many reasons why small business owners do not have employees including, "I don't need to carry it since I 1099 my staff." While it may be true that independent contractors do not need be furnished workers' compensation insurance, government agencies such as the California Department of Industrial Relations are cracking down on employers that do not provide workers' compensation for employees. What most often will happen is that an employee gets injured on the job. They do not have health insurance and claim it was a work related injury. The employee and health providers look to the employer for coverage.

Oops, no workers' compensation insurance! The employee cannot afford the bills and gets the appropriate agencies involved because they feel they are an employee. The DIR and IRS essentially will do a "duck test" of their employment. Some questions you should be asking yourself are:

  • Do I set hours for staff?
  • Do I train staff?
  • Do I direct and control staff?
  • Do I furnish tools and material to staff to complete their job?

 If you answered yes to any or most of these (especially controlling staff) then chances are they would likely fall into the employee classification. The penalties for not providing employees with workers' compensation insurance in California are criminal and include monetary fines of up to $100,000. This is serious business...

The good news is that workers' compensation insurance is at a 5-6 year low right now. We work with some of the best markets that can easily and affordable provide you with appropriate coverage. Please call or contact us with any questions about this or any other business insurance question or concern. You can also request a quote here

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