Accidents Happen

construction liability insuranceNo matter how much care you take to keep job sites safe and finish projects according to specifications, accidents happen. Sometimes all it takes is one mistake for your world to come crashing down (check out this suit involving Eddie Van Halen). In many cases, construction liability insurance could be the key to holding it all together. Consider these scenarios:

  • an improperly installed kitchen cabinet shelf in a home you built collapses, injuring the owner
  • one of your employees posts a blog accusing a competitor of shoddy workmanship
  • a visitor to your worksite trips over an air hose, falls, and fractures her leg

To protect your business against the financial threat of costly litigation from such all-too-common mishaps, you need construction liability insurance.

This coverage will pay costs and legal expenses (up to the amount of the policy) for something your business did — or failed to do — that damages a third party, related to

1) your products or services (products and completed operations)

2) allegations of slander (personal and advertising injury) OR

3) injury on your premises or job site (medical expenses)

As a common business practice, both residential and commercial clients will require you, and your subcontractors, to show evidence of construction liability insurance before starting a job.

In general, residential contractors should buy coverage two to three times the amount of the construction budget. Commercial contractors usually carry policies in the multi-million dollar range. Firms that face higher risk of damages (for example, roofing contractors or those in specialized trades) tend to have more coverage. Some contractors prefer to pay their premiums up front, while others make a down payment and finance the premium over the policy period (six months to a year).

No matter how large or small your business, having comprehensive construction liability insurance is always the best policy.

We’d be happy to review your situation and recommend the coverage that’s best suited for you.

Singing in the Rain

umbrella liabilityI love that scene from the 1952 classic “Singing in the Rain” where Gene Kelly belts out the title song while twirling an umbrella, splashing through puddles and getting soaked to the skin. I recently discovered that he was actually ill during the filming of that sequence – with a fever of 103! You know what they say… “The show must go on!”

The same is true for your business. Unfortunate circumstances come into our lives, and we must deal with them. Life doesn’t stop just because it would be convenient for us, does it? Enter the Umbrella policy.

What do umbrella policies do?

Insurance professionals can’t help themselves. We rely on wonk-ish diatribes to describe umbrella policies because they are technical in nature.

So let’s try to simplify.

Most companies buy insurance because they are required by law. Workers’ compensation and automobile liability allow companies to hire employees and use public highways. If they own property, their lender requires insurance. If the company leases space, the landlord requires premises liability.

But the real reason to buy insurance: trade a known loss (premiums) for unknown losses (claims). Your company can budget for the acceptable level of known loss which protects against normal, everyday losses associated with entrepreneurship.

With an umbrella policy, you’re buying catastrophic loss coverage for imaginable claims. Imagine the multi-passenger near fatal car wreck or the nightmare products liability claim that costs millions in damages.

You’re also buying coverage for unimaginable claims. Claims not covered by your automobile, general or employer’s liability:

  • Do you promote your company through social media? Libel and slander losses are covered by personal injury liability, usually excluded in general liability policies, usually covered on umbrellas.
  • Do you send employees out of the country? The stated territories for coverage under standard general and automobile insurance is the United States and Canada. For umbrellas, it’s worldwide. Now, some umbrellas specifically expand territory language to include “anywhere” because of commercial space travel.
  • Any possible sexual harassment in your organization? Again, usually excluded by general liability, but included under umbrella coverage.

These examples of rare occurrences give a taste of the importance of umbrella liability. Your company can be blindsided by large liability claims that are not anticipated by your typical liability coverage. Broaden the territory, widen the safety net, spend a little more premium, get more peace of mind.

Trade a little more known loss, your umbrella premium, for a lot of protection against the unimaginable loss. Then you too will be able to sing in the rain.

That’s Not Me! – Identity Theft

“But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him/And makes me poor indeed.” – Shakespeare, Othello, act iii. Sc. 3.

Identity theft is a huge problem in the United States. Did you know that identity thieves stole approximately $21 Billion from victims in 2012? This equates to one incident of fraud every three seconds. That’s scary. In every minute, 20 acts of fraud occur. When you keep adding up the numbers it looks horrific. Most victims don’t know until it’s too late that they have become a victim of identity theft. If you are one of the victims of identity theft, we have listed a few things for you to do:

  • identity theftContact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) whether online or by phone, 877-438-4338.
  • If necessary, send mail certified and request a return receipt.
  • Contact your bank and let them know of the fraud.
  • Contact all of your credit card companies and credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) and inform them of the situation.
  • Contact your insurance companies and make them aware of the theft.
  • Keep a detailed filing system. Keep all your originals, only send copies of originals to requestors.
  • Follow all deadlines. Keep a timeline of when you spoke to a person and set up a follow up date.

Following the above guidelines will help minimize any future thefts. We hope that you never have to use this list.

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding

wedding insuranceYour wedding day should be the happiest day of your life. You have been planning this day for most of your life. You and your fiancé wanted to have a white wedding in the mountains. Your lodge is reserved, the caterer is ready with the menu, the disc jockey has your playlist, and you’ve just picked up your pristine gown. Everything is coming together beautifully. Even the weather cooperated — a little more than you were expecting.

A major blizzard hit your venue and there is no way anyone can go anywhere. You have to postpone your big day. The good news is that you purchased wedding insurance before your big day so everything is covered and you can still have your white wedding without paying any additional out of pocket expenses.

Your wedding insurance covers these unforeseeable acts:

  • The venue. If your venue has any unavoidable cancellations from certain acts (such as damage) your wedding insurance will take care of you.
  • Any weather related problems such as inaccessibility, damage to venue, and many others. All the details including rescheduling the ceremony flowers, tent rental and reception food will also be covered.
  • None of your vendors showed up. Any number of reasons why a vendor may not show up and in that case, your insurance will cover it.
  • If you are called for duty or your job sends you off. Wedding insurance will cover the postponement of your wedding.

Give us a call when you are ready to take the plunge. We’ll help make sure your day is a happy one – come what may.

The Ten Commandments

job safetyNow that you’re picturing Charlton Heston, I’ll tell you we’re not talking about THOSE ten commandments, but these are important as well. Instead we’d like to draw your attention to ten principles of leadership that will help you and your employees to focus on job safety.

  1. Don’t walk by. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent any potentially unsafe acts and conditions they witness from turning into accidents.
  2. STOP! Encourage employees to stop working whenever they feel unsafe, no matter what reason they give.
  3. Focus on a safe working environment. If you expect your workers to work safely, make their workplace as safe as possible.
  4. Don’t blame the worker first. Unsafe ways of working, accidents, incidents, and ill health aren’t necessarily the worker’s fault. The problem often comes from less obvious causes, such as decisions by management.
  5. Use your workforce for ideas. Employees often have a more accurate idea than you or your managers about which safety and health practices will work, because they deal with these issues every day.
  6. Be patient. Don’t expect quick wins. Improvements in job safety will emerge over time, but only if you stick with them.
  7. Explain your decisions. Just telling workers that something is wrong or a safety risk isn’t enough. If they’re to act on the information you provide, they need to know why and how to avoid harm.
  8. Lead by example. Your behavior sends powerful signals. If you carry out your job in a safe way, your workers are more likely to do the same. If you don’t, they won’t imitate you.
  9. Focus on co-operation. Treat your subcontractors in the same way as employees by encouraging them to communicate with each other.
  10. Don’t neglect occupational health. If you look after the health, as well as the safety, of your workers today, you’re less likely to create problems for them or your business tomorrow.

Sound advice! If you follow these commandments carefully, you will see job safety improve over time. By nature, most organizations resist change. Successful business owners will learn how to take these ten commandments and integrate them into the culture of their company. They will help their construction supervisors to go from simply managing, to leading.

At Mason & Mason, we’re pleased to be part of your team. Managing risk is our business – thank you for trusting us with yours.

Data Breach – You’ve Been Hacked. Now What?

No matter how prepared you are – or you THINK you are – you can still suffer a cyber-security  data breach. According to a recent report released by the Online Trust Alliance, over 740 million records were exposed in 2013 alone, making it the worst year for data breaches to date. What you do next can have a profound impact on the reputation of the business, customer loyalty, employee morale, and, ultimately, your bottom line.

An effective communication strategy should follow these guidelines:

  1. data breachNotify key regulatory and legal authorities as soon as possible, unless this might impede a criminal investigation. Even if notification isn’t required by law, it’s an important courtesy.
  2. Make sure that staff roles and responsibilities for communicating the data breach are outlined and understood clearly.
  3. Tailor the notification process to the audience – high-value customers, senior employees, or individuals who might be particularly vulnerable (such as the elderly, the disabled, and minors) and to the nature of the breach; Handle the theft of confidential client information differently than the stealing of employees’ Social Security numbers.
  4. Have legal counsel review the method and content of all communications.
  5. Prepare for media inquiries to deliver a clear message for parties affected directly or indirectly. Be sure that your spokesperson is qualified and trained to deal with the media.
  6. Provide ways for victims of the data breach to ask additional questions and/or learn how to minimize potential harm.
  7. Test the plan: If you had to execute it, how well did it work, and how did you update it? Many businesses have discovered holes in their response plans after failing to consider the impact of a cyber security data breach on daily operations, or underestimating the attention the event drew.

To learn more about spreading the word after a data breach, please get in touch with us.

Ya Gotta Treat Her Right!

auto insuranceNot too many people consider their vehicle an investment, but it is. In fact it could be your most important investment. Your vehicle gets you to and from your employment, and offers a safe and accessible way to travel.

As you know, when it comes to your vehicle? Ya gotta treat her right. You take care of your car. You fill the tank. Diligently, you pay attention to the maintenance schedule for your oil changes and milestone check-ups. Keeping an eye on your tires, parking your car in a garage or a covered parking area, getting your car detailed, and other long term preventive measures — these are all on your to-do list. You make sure your car is in tip-top shape.

Getting the right kind of auto insurance should be on that list as well. Sadly, that is not often the case. Many people like to get liability insurance to satisfy the requirements of the bank or the state. Realistically, however, that basic coverage may not be enough protection to handle the expenses incurred in an accident. Liability is basic insurance that only offers coverage for the other person in case of an accident. If you have damage to your vehicle and/or injuries you are out of luck.

Protect your investment and don’t skimp on auto insurance coverage. Get the best possible policy that covers your investment. Give us a call today to get a complimentary review of your auto policy. We can help you fill in the gaps and make sure you have the coverage you need.

Green Building is Great – But how will your insurance apply?

green buildingEnvironmentally-friendly construction (also known as green building) is increasing rapidly in the United States. Concerns about global climate change, U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy, and rising energy costs are inspiring individuals and businesses to construct buildings with a reduced carbon footprint. This trend has important implications for settlement of insurance claims when green buildings suffer damage.

A green building is one that has met the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED in 1998 as a way to help building owners identify and use practical and measurable designs, construction, operations and maintenance practices that are environmentally-friendly. Green buildings are, compared to standard buildings, more energy and water efficient, produce less carbon dioxide, and have a healthier indoor environment.

Some states and municipalities have begun to adopt building codes that require elements of green construction. California has imposed tougher water efficiency standards on new residential construction; New York City is considering more stringent energy-use standards for large buildings.

The impact of these requirements on construction costs will vary by location. Green construction might require specialized materials and methods. In the near term, contractors with expertise in these methods may be relatively scarce. That means that in some places the cost of complying with green building codes could be higher than building with standard materials and methods, and that will impact insurance coverage.

The factors that will influence the claim include:

  • Whether the green building code applies to new construction only or also to major renovations.
  • What the code defines as a “major renovation.” Some codes might consider renovations affecting more than a specified percentage of the building’s area as a major renovation.
  • How will use of green building materials affect the building’s appearance? The property owner might lose enthusiasm for a repair if a change in appearance will lower the building’s market value.
  • How will the new materials interact with the existing building components? Will integrating the new materials increase rebuilding time and cost?
  • Are qualified contractors available in the area?
  • Will wait times for green contractors and materials result in costly project delays?
  • How does the building code apply in the event of a large natural catastrophe, such as an earthquake or hurricane? Must property owners meet the higher standards at a time when hundreds of properties have suffered damage?
  • After a catastrophe, will there be long wait times for contractors to haul away debris because of overwhelmed landfills and recycling centers? Will there be long wait times for building inspectors to visit and approve all of the effected properties?

Standard personal and commercial property insurance policies provide very limited amounts of coverage for “ordinance or law” losses — extra costs incurred to meet local building requirements — but additional coverage is available. Property owners in areas with green building codes should speak with our insurance agents about options and costs.

Research and publishing company McGraw-Hill Construction has predicted that the market for non-residential building retrofitting with green building will grow to $15 billion by 2014. Property owners and insurance companies will have to address these questions much more often in the near future. The time to answer them is before the losses occur.

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

car safety featurescar safety featurescar safety featuressafety featuresDon’t you wish life came with a warning? Well, sometimes it does.

Everybody has felt that unpleasant surprise when a car comes zooming into view after being hidden in a blind spot. Older motorists are no different, and they see warning systems against this hazard as the top safety features in newer cars, according to a new report by the MIT AgeLab and The Hartford Insurance Company. After surveying hundreds of drivers over age 50 who get behind the wheel at least three times a week, the study found that these “mature motorists” felt more confident with cars which have at least one of 10 advanced safety technologies.

Here are the top 10 safety features for older motorists (in order):

  1. Blind-spot warnings alert drivers when another vehicle is approaching unseen and also help with parking.
  2. Crash mitigation systems detect imminent collisions and can help reduce passenger injuries.
  3. Emergency response systems alert paramedics or other emergency personnel if there’s an accident.
  4. Drowsy driver alerts warn motorists when they nod off or otherwise become inattentive.
  5. Reverse monitoring systems help drivers (especially those with reduced flexibility) judge distances and back up safely by warning of objects behind the vehicle.
  6. Vehicle stability control reduces crashes by helping steer a car if it veers offline or has trouble navigating a curve.
  7. Lane departure warning alerts motorists when they drift from a lane.
  8. “Smart” headlights illuminate the road more effectively by responding to the direction the driver is steering and the vehicle’s speed.
  9. Voice-activated command systems allow motorists to use a car’s features without losing focus on the highway.
  10. Automated parking assist calculates the angles and steers the car into the space, reducing driver stress and increasing the number of potential parking spots.

Does your car have any of these safety features? Do you find value in them? Let us know!

In The Cloud? Protect Your Data

the cloudMore and more businesses are storing data on off-site service providers (known collectively as “the cloud”) to reduce costs and boost efficiency. However, many companies either don’t realize how vulnerable this information is, or don’t have contracts that make third-party cloud providers responsible for lost, stolen, or corrupted data. Check out five of the top data breaches of 2013 here.

If there’s a data breach when you’re using cloud-based services, who should be held responsible? Storing software and/or databases on the servers of a cloud provider with shared infrastructure immediately eliminates many of your cyber security controls. Backing up data in multiple locations increases the likelihood that it will survive, but also raises the odds of a data breach. What’s more, shared infrastructure can leave this information exposed to malware or other computer viruses.

What about connectivity? After all, your cloud provider can’t guarantee that you’ll have access 100% of the time. If the remote server goes down or there’s a data breach, how long might it be before you’re able to restore operations? How might such an incident affect your company’s reputation, and its financial position?

An effective Cyber insurance policy can reduce these risks significantly by:

  1. Allowing you to limit the spread of sensitive or confidential information by reacting to cyber extortion as soon as possible
  2. Notifying your clients that their data has been lost
  3. Hiring a PR firm to get out the message to clients about the measures your company is taking to prevent future breaches
  4. Providing the ability to set up a data center
  5. Reimbursing customers and clients for confidential information compromised by the breach

Our agency can help you select comprehensive coverage that can protect your data in the cloud. Give us a call today.