Thursday, January 23, 2014

Small Businesses Need Liability Insurance

Today many small businesses are popping up.  The reasons for this vary.  Many want to be their own boss, some people are creating their own job since they are unable to find one or many corporate companies are encouraging their employees to become 1099 consultants to help save on benefits.  Either way, people are setting up on their own and it is to these people that I write this blog article.  

Start up costs are a difficult things to manage when you are just beginning your business.  Many demands are placed on your budget but one thing I would encourage you to put top on that list is liability insurance.  All business, big or small, should have liability insurance to both protect the business itself and its customers.  Here are four reasons I would strongly recommend liability insurance even for theone person shop.

1) Contracts:  Contracts are king these days.  Customers require contracts to do business with you.  In many contracts you will see insurance requirements so it is best to have that in place at all times to be able to meet those requirements, especially if you are bidding for a job.  Many start up business work out of their home but for those that lease space elsewhere you will find insurance requirements in your lease contract that need to be met.

2) Slip and Falls:  As I write this article Ohio is dealing with cold weather, snow and ice.  Already claims are coming in where people have slipped and injured themselves outside of businesses.  Whether you are negligent or not in these situations there is still a cost to defend yourself when someone comes to your door on crutches handing you their medical bill from the fall they took on your premises.  

3) Product Liability:  Retailers who sell products have the exposure of something going wrong with their products and causing injury.  Especially if your product is used in cooking or toys for children, this risk is always there and could be very costly.

4) Property Damage to Others: Contractors face this risk the most.  If you are mowing a customer's yard and cause rocks to damage near by cars or houses you will be liable to pay for the damages.  If you are a contractor working on a customers building and end up damage a portion of the building you are not working on, that damage will be your responsibility.  

These are just four examples of where businesses risk having claims.  Each of these would be covered by a general liability policy setup for your business.  Be sure to consult with an independent agent that can help pinpoint the type of coverages that best suit your business and stay protected from unexpected expenses.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Extended Dwelling Coverage on a Homeowner

Many moons ago all insurance companies used to have guaranteed replacement cost endorsement you could put on your homeowner policy. This endorsement would guarantee that the insurance company would rebuild your house exactly as it was prior to the claim even if your limit of insurance on the house was lower than the cost to rebuild. Today many insurance companies limit that endorsement to only homes that are considered high value (homes valued at $500,000 or more). The endorsements also require that the insurance companies send out professional reconstruction appraisers to figure out as best they can what it would cost to rebuild your home.

For those homeowner clients who have a house valued at less than $500,000 the endorsement that needs to be added to the homeowner policy is Extended Dwelling Coverage. What this endorsement does is give a percentage of the homeowner limit as extra coverage in case of a total loss on the home. For example, if you have 25% Extended Dwelling Coverage and your house is insured for $200,000 then you would actually have $250,000 if your home suffered a total loss ($200,000 X 1.25 = $250,000).

We feel this coverage is important for two reasons. One reason is we do not send out professional reconstruction appraisers to every house. Instead, insurance companies use in house software that helps determine reconstruction cost on your house using things like square footage, construction type, location, year built, etc. to come up with a value. These programs are usually very accurate but nothing replaces the accuracy of an in home visit with measuring tape and details of the type of amenities in the house. The Extended Dwelling Coverage endorsement helps make sure that if for some reason the calculations on the house are a little off, there is still enough insurance there to replace the house to its original state.

The second reason we encourage this endorsement is for catastrophe situations. Let’s say a tornado wipes out not only your house but two other neighborhoods worth of homes. Every builder and building supplier in town will be in demand. Economics 101 will tell you that if demand goes up and supply is the same, then prices are going to rise. That home that only cost $200,000 to rebuild just got a lot more expensive but if you have the Extended Dwelling Coverage on your homeowner you would be in a much better situation.

One thing to note about this endorsement, you can’t use it to underinsure your home. In our example above, you can’t insure the house for only $160,000 and add the 25% Extended Dwelling Coverage (which would put your total insurance at $200,000). That is not the intent of the coverage. The insure companies will use their software to figure out a good estimate of the cost to rebuild your house and you would have to have it insured for that amount in order to add the coverage.