Archive for January, 2013

The Back Niners – Trusts and Who Owns What

Posted on: January 30th, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Living Trust & Estate Planning

Whether you are on the “back nine of life” or not you are probably related to some one who is so we at Herlihy Insurance Group want to share a story about our client.

For this story we will call them the Back Niners. The Back Niners were working with their estate attorney to organize their plans for future years. These plans included transferring ownership of an owned property to a newly established trust.

The Back Niners were thrilled with the concept of “the trust” and retitled their properties in the name of “the trust”. Unfortunately the Back Niners thought their paper work was done.

Our Back Niners DID NOT REALIZE that they also needed to update their insurance policies with this major change. Fortunately they did contact us regarding a few new jewelry items and during this phone call they mentioned “the trust”.

We immediately corrected their policy to reflect the NEW TRUST OWNERSHIP of the property so the Back Niners were now insured.

This got all of us at Herlihy Insurance thinking about how many other individuals might not be updating their policies when they move assets to a trust.

Your home or rental property insurance policy insures the property listed with a named insured listed and BOTH have to be accurate to have your claims covered!

So if you know anyone out there transferring properties to trusts for any reason, please remind them they need to update their insurance policies with this NEW ownership information. Thanks for helping us spread the word on this one!

Personal Information & Your Business (Part One of Two)

Posted on: January 25th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

In the spring of 2010, Massachusetts passed law regulating how businesses in Massachusetts would protect the “Personal Information” (PI) of all employees, customers and vendors. Short version, if you have access to PI of Massachusetts resident’s, you own it and are responsible for its safe keeping. What we have found surprising in the nearly three years since the law was passed, is the number of business owners that have done little or nothing to safe guard PI in their business.

So what is “Personal Information” (PI)?

As defined by the law, PI is a Massachusetts resident’s first and last name in combination with any one of the following:

  1. Social Security Number
  2. Drivers License Number
  3. Financial Account or Credit/Debit Number

So what businesses have PI to be protected, while larger industries like Financial or Insurance are often referenced, the fact is every business is handling PI. If you have employees, if you are taking credit cards or checks for payment, you have PI that you are responsible for protecting.

Where to start? How about your WISP, is it up to date? Or better yet do you have one?

A WISP is a Written Information Security Program, and by law you need to have one. Your WISP will designate an individual by name that is responsible to make certain the business is doing what is technically feasible, reasonable and scalable to comply with the law. Every business is obligated to do what they can, the larger the business the more resources available, the more they are expected to comply with the law. You cannot ignore, ignorance is not a defense and failure to comply may result in fines, litigation and loss of company’s good will. The questions to answer in the positive are: Can I defend my actions or inactions? And will a jury agree with me?

In Part Two next week, we will review what specifically makes up your WISP, Who’s involved in your WISP, Steps you can take to secure PI, and some recent claims of companies in violation of the law.

See you next week.

[ See part two here: Personal Information & Your Business (Part Two of Two) ]

Icy Day, Sliding Cars and High School Seniors

Posted on: January 23rd, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Slider

The good news is that all of the above are temporary! Each evening I am treated to the highlights and low lights of moments in the life of a high school senior. This past week with the icy roads, the conversation one day was regarding how many seniors slid into things.

My own personal good news is that I did not have a “slider”. Our teenage car and driver came home from school intact.

Not all families were so lucky. There were really two groups of sliders – those that just went off the road slowly and missed all objects and those that crashed. Fortunately the crashers did not have any injuries. Their cars on the other hand did have “total” experiences.

In this group of “totals” there were two other groups. One group of crashing sliders had rental insurance on their cars and one group did not. The crashers with rental were “happy” with their car insurance and the people without rental were not.

This week some of them are getting rides from others, some are getting bus passes and some are paying their parents for the cost of the rentals that their families now need!

One thing is for certain, all of these crashing sliders and high school seniors now know about rental insurance on car insurance policies. Rental coverage is optional and for most of our clients, they only need it when they need it. We recommend that all car drivers add this rental coverage to their policies!

Winter here or Winter there? Where’s your Winter?

Posted on: January 21st, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Snow

Winter in New England is a “special” time. Many of our clients have different approaches to thriving during the cold weather season. We have the clients that stay indoors, read their insurance policies and call our office with welcomed questions. We have the clients that spend a good part of the winter season embracing the climate and calling us about new snow mobiles and snow boards. Last but not least we have the clients that just leave the area. I must admit. I wish I were with them!

For these clients that leave the area (and yes, they do typically fly south) we do have a few tips about being away from us for a few months.

Insurance Winter Away Tips

First off your car!

If you are taking your car with you when you go away for more than a month, please let us know. It is always a good idea to advise us when your car will be garaged at a different location for more than four weeks. Also if anyone “follows you” and you need to add any drivers to your “new household”, we should list these on your car insurance policy.

If you are not taking your car with you and you will be using another car while you are away, please let us know. We may need to add “Use of Other Auto” to your car insurance for this.

If you are shipping your car and your have an Easy Pass for tolls, please take this out of the shipped car. We have heard client stories about all the tolls their car paid while it was being transported.

Now for your home!

While you are away ………….. Number One tip: Please make certain that the heat in your home will be maintained to at least 55 degrees. In order for your home insurance to work for you, heat at your home needs to be maintained while you are gone. Many of our insureds use heat monitoring systems or have friends and family check on their home periodically. Either will work!

If the heat is not properly maintained, this can result in broken water pipes and substantial water damage. The last thing you want is to have a mess when you return from your trip.

We know that you are locking the doors, setting all alarms and letting your neighbors know that you will be away. In addition to those things, here are a few more house items that are more general security things!

  • Porch or outside lights come on when dark
  • Remember to stop all deliveries
  • Keep your shades down about a week before you go so house looks normal
  • Place valuables out of sight of individuals who were to look in windows
  • Set your answering machine or voice mail to pick up automatically

For those of you wintering away, enjoy your season away and for those of you spending the season here with all of us at Herlihy Insurance Group ….. Wednesday March 30 is the first day of spring!

 

New England Winter Snow; “White Gold” or One Big Headache?

Posted on: January 18th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

To date our New England winter has proven to be more bark than bite, with snow fall numbers falling a foot below what we normally see by mid-January. For property owners a nice break from some tough recent winters, for contractors a lost opportunity to pick up additional revenue during a traditionally slow time of year. Either way, property owner or contractor, your potential liability and how you handle snow removal can prove to be costly if not addressed correctly.

What’s all the fuss?

A claim from last year can help answer.

One of our property owners hired a contractor to clear his parking lot and sidewalks for the winter season. A UPS driver making a delivery to the property, slips on an icy sidewalk and goes down hard. The Workers Compensation company for UPS driver sues the building owner for the medical and lost wages paid to the injured UPS driver. Building owner turns the suit over to the contractor who does not have coverage for snow removal. Building owner owes $80,000 for payments made to UPS driver. Building owner also receives an increase on their building insurance of 20% due to the claim. No one; building owner, contractor or driver is happy.

Where do we go from here?

Property Owners

All property owners should make certain any contractor doing snow removal or sanding has Automobile, General Liability and Workers Compensation insurance. The General Liability policy must INCLUDE coverage for snow removal and certificates of insurance should clearly state snow removal is INCLUDED. More companies today are excluding snow removal coverage on General Liability policies, you will not know if snow removal is in or out unless you ask for it in writing. Make the contractor show you the coverage or find another contractor. Also, add yourself as an additional insured on the contractor’s Automobile and General Liability policies. A hold harmless or indemnity agreement is also in your best interest.

Contractors

When accepting work to clear driveways, parking lots, walkways, etc., contractors need to make certain their General Liability insurance extends to their work AFTER the work is completed. In the claim scenario above, the UPS driver was injured after the contractor completed the work. Commercial Automobile insurance will not provide coverage once the job is completed. The General Liability policy can provide coverage for snow removal if the insurance company elects to offer the coverage, some companies will not offer snow removal coverage. If snow removal coverage has been removed you may be able to buy the coverage back, in some specific cases a separate snow removal policy may be necessary. Do not assume snow removal is included in your contracts, odds are it is not, read the contracts you are signing when accepting business to make sure no surprises down the road.

Winter can provide many opportunities for fun and profit if you know the rules of the game. If you are a property owner or contractor and these claims / concepts are news to you, we have the answers. Eight weeks to go until the first day of spring, we’re sure Mother Nature has saved her best for last this year.

New Year – Review Life

Posted on: January 14th, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

At Herlihy Insurance we LOVE the start of a new year! From both a personal and business perspective we take a few moments to sit back and say things like……….,

  1. That was on my list last year and I still need to get it done.
  2. Here is my new thing for 2013.

We are committed to working on improving our individual and professional lives!

To each of us that means different things. With this thought in mind I am circling back to my own personal “not quite done list” from 2012.

It starts with two uncomfortable words. Life Insurance.

The good news for my kids is that, YES, my husband and I have life insurance and the other good news is that these kids are now legally old enough to live on their own. In our house there were always many jokes about what would happen if they had to go live with relatives! The bad news for my kids is that my husband and I bought much of our life insurance several years ago and it all needs updating. One other important fact about our family and all insurance, I was elected queen of all insurance matters. So anything remotely insurance related I am suppose to “figure out”.

For the past few years each January I say to myself, I really need to go over that life insurance. I know where it all is – safely tucked away under piles of other important papers.

Here’s the thing. It is not hard for me to unearth those papers. It is not hard for me to make a chart of what we have and when it runs out. It is not even that expensive for me to get more if I need it.

I actually did check on the rates. Here are today’s 20 year term life monthly insurance rates for $250,000 of life insurance!

  • If we were 30: husband $17 / me $14
  • If we were 40: husband $24 / me $21
  • If we were 50: husband $53 / me $50
  • If we were 60: husband $137 / me $98

So now in theory, I know what we have. I know what it costs. I just need to decide how much we want for today and for 20 years from now!

What is the “right” amount of life insurance? No one answer for that one. It all depends on what you are trying to do! Do you want your life insurance to pay off a mortgage, support your family, pay tuition, and support your business?

Back to where we started, 2013 is a new year and I think this year I really will get the Life Insurance thing organized.

If you are one of those truly organized people that has all this done, please send along your suggestions on how you keep track of your life insurance things.

Or if you are one of those people (like me) that need assistance with: What do I have? How long is it good for? Do I want this? Do I have enough? Herlihy Group would love to guide you through this process.

At this point I must be clear………. I will not be the Life Insurance Agent working on this!

Workers Comp Rates: Businesses Beware

Posted on: January 11th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

Last year Massachusetts businesses received a reprieve of sorts when the Division of Insurance rejected a request by the Worker’s Compensation Rating & Inspection Bureau for an overall rate increase of 18.8%. For 2013 we don’t expect news eventually coming from rate hearings to be as positive for Massachusetts business owners.

Looking back to the early 1990’s Massachusetts claimed one of the highest workers compensation costs for employers in the country. The state stepped in, reformed the system, and over the next twenty years Massachusetts businesses saw costs drop by over 60%. For the past 11 years rates have either remained the same or decreased bringing us to where we are today.

It is difficult (if not impossible) to find a business that has decreased the price of their product by 60% and had a price freeze for 11 plus years. What we do know is the cost of healthcare, employee wages, and the amount of time injured workers are out of work are all on the rise. Industry insiders are concerned that without significant rate relief (increase), more insurance companies will look to exit the workers compensation market driving businesses to the state assigned-risk pool and higher rates for all employers.

What’s a Massachusetts business owner to do? Be pro-active and plan.

  1. Look to implement or update safety programs, nothing will drive your costs up faster than frequency and severity of claim activity.
  2. Question your classifications; know where your employees are classified and how employees are handled that fall into one or more classifications.
  3. For contractors, make sure you have filed for and are receiving your contractor’s class credit on eligible employees.
  4. Find an insurance advisor who can educate and recommend solutions specific to your business.

One safe bet, with an economy slogging along and a lack of bipartisanship in Washington, 2013 will prove even more challenging than 2012. We wish you a Happy New Year and a successful and profitable 2013.

One Month at a Time!

Posted on: January 7th, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Gift of the Month Program!

As we wrap up the holiday seasons I have to admit that our family gift buying has succumbed to a Gift of the Month Program!

Yes, this is not very original. We are just following along with excellent gift ideas!

This got me to thinking about our agency and if we had a “coverage” of the month gift.

Unfortunately in Massachusetts law prohibits an insurance provider from giving away any coverage!

If we were allowed to give away insurance our Coverage of the Month for 2013 would go some thing like this!

January:

Adding Coverage for those “BIG” holiday gifts! We know you may have received valuable, jewelry, furs, computers, snow mobiles, dirt bikes.

If it was “BIG” either in size of value, you may need to “schedule coverage”  …….. add additional insurance for this gift!

February:

This is the month we would give away Personal Umbrella Policies –  Additional liability protection for you and your family for the entire year! Pricing starts at $175 per year. Very inexpensive gift for the value! No one should wait for a rainy day to get these.

March:

Life Insurance would be the gift this month. What better date than the Ides of March to get your life insurance finally updated and in place for your family? Julius wishes he had done this.

April:

Money Magazine States:  “Two out of every three homes in the United States are underinsured on average by 22%.”  In April our gift would be increasing all underinsured homes to their accurate replacement cost amount.

May:

We would shake lose the cash to add Earthquake Insurance on to every home insurance policy in our agency.  Massachusetts has seen way to much seismic activity these past few years, not to ADD on this coverage.

June:

As our clients HIT the road for vacation season, we would increase all of their Uninsured and Underinsured car insurance coverage. Even though car insurance is mandatory in MA, it is estimated that 30% of cars on the road in our state are UN or Underinsured!

July:

During our BIG summer vacation month, we would give you a vacation from your car insurance payment and pay your bill!  We would also take the time to setup your electronic funds withdrawal so that you would save money all year with no fees!

August:

It is vacation rental season for many! We would add RENTAL car coverage to each and every car insured with our agency! Many clients never want this UNTIL they have an accident.

September:

Time to check and see who drives what, when and where! A thorough review of your drivers and any business use of your cars would be our September gift!  Car Insurance works best with updated driver info.

October:

As the Halloween holiday approaches we would add Personal Injury Coverage to all of our home insurance policies.  Whether you are blogging, tweeting, posting or dressing up in costume,  Personal Injury would add coverage for things like false arrest, wrongful eviction, slander or defamation.

November:

In November we would take a break from insurance coverage things and send each of our clients a turkey dinner.

December:

As holiday festivities start we would increase the car insurance liability limits of each and every Herlihy Insurance Group driver AND offer a free Safe Ride Home Program for the holidays.  Keep the roads boring!

We at Herlihy Insurance Group wish you and your families a very Happy and Healthy 2013!