Archive for February, 2013

Things that Happen after the Blizzard of 2013 – Storm Nemo

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

Broken Pipes

One week after our great Blizzard of 2013 in our neighborhood most sidewalks are shoveled and although our side streets are VERY narrow, all are passable. Thankfully the kids are finally back in school and other than melting piles of snow we have recovered quite well from our storm.

During the storm we had a few friends who did in fact lose their power. Our house was offered as a warm spot to stay, but most of our friends insisted that the power would be on at any time so they would stay in their cold homes.

We also had another group of friends that I was even more concerned about! These friends were either away or not actually in their homes. The good news for them is they were quite warm during the storm. The bad news for some of them was they did in fact lose power and their homes needed attention.

For many of us, no power means no heat and no heat can lead to broken pipes and major water damage. We would like to remind all of our family and friends that if your power does go out and you are away, please have some one check on your home.

Frozen pipes and major water damage are part of our winter claims here at Herlihy Insurance. Most insurance policies do contain provisions that say the property owner agrees to maintain heat on their property. In some policies there is even a specific temperature. For insurance purposes we recommend that heat at your insured property be set no lower than 60 degrees.

In most of our burst pipe claims our clients do not even know that they have lost power and are without heat. Some clients have temperature monitor systems and others have family and friends that check on their homes while they are away. Both seem to work.

So if you are planning on spending time away from your home in the winter or if you have a seasonal home, have a plan to check that your heat stays on.

We at Herlihy Insurance Group are LOOKING forward to SPRING!

Solar Energy, We’re On the Bus

Posted on: February 15th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

We moved into our “new” building over five years ago and have enjoyed all the extras a new building provides; more space, parking, heat/AC, kitchen and conference room. A long way from our beautiful but dated, one hundred year old Victorian on Elm Street in Worcester. So when the original call came last April, to consider solar energy to power up our building, we didn’t give it much thought as our building was “new” and worked for us. Once we looked a little deeper, the solar project gained some traction, so much traction that we signed an agreement to install solar panels on our building in August, and as of 2013 we are powering our building with solar energy.

When you first look at the numbers for installing solar on your building, it doesn’t really add up. We’re all for renewable energy and finding more efficient ways to get the power we need, but to take on an additional large expense with savings five to ten years out, we can only be so “green”. However once you get past the initial numbers you start looking at the immediate electric savings, federal tax credit, and these things called SREC’s, and all of a sudden you’re asking, “Why wouldn’t we take on this project ?” The project and the numbers worked for us.

One of the reasons the solar projects work financially is the ability to sell your “extra” energy. Massachusetts requires utilities in the state to generate a growing percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. One way the utilities meet this requirement is buying SREC’s from building owners that are producing energy, on quarterly basis you get a check back for producing solar energy.

Today we have 196 solar panels on our roof and in our first month we have produced 4,168 kWh of solar power, which to us doesn’t mean a whole lot. Dig a little more and we find out 4,168 kWh is the equivalent energy of; 368 gallons of gasoline, 924 loads of laundry wash and dry or 124 nights of power for the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. We know the winter months have less sun light hours and are not as productive as the summer months, so we look forward to what we can crank out this spring and summer.

We’ve learned a lot about solar and are happy with the decision to invest in our building and participate in alternative energy sources. The quality and efficiency of solar systems has increased significantly. Massachusetts has significant solar incentive programs, tax credits, exemptions and loans available and is eager to offer them. For more information check out Massachusetts RPS Solar Carve-Out page at www.mass.gov/doer. It’s worth a look.

Employment Practices Liability, Are You Self-Insuring?

Posted on: February 8th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

Congratulations business owner, you’re celebrating your tenth year in business and although the home runs are hard to come by, you’re seeing lots of singles and doubles. Things are good. You now employ 25 people and through ten years in business, accidents/losses/claims, you can count on one hand. Enter Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), you either think you have it because “your policy covers everything” or you’re not sure, which likely means you do not have it.

Employment Practice lawsuits have been growing in popularity the last ten years. EPLI provides protection for the business owner against lawsuits from employees, former employees and even potential employees. High on the list of the most popular employee lawsuits include:

  1. Wrongful Termination
  2. Discrimination
  3. Harassment

With a high unemployment rate, job insecurity and the average person having 7 to 10 different jobs in their lifetime, it’s easy to see how some people out of anger or necessity are not going to leave their job quietly.

Here’s a real world example and a claim paid out of the business owner’s pocket. Current employee of ten years gets into a bad car accident on the weekend (nothing to do with work); bad enough where the employee is out of work for three months. Business owner feels for the injured employee and keeps the job available to employee and gets by paying overtime to other employees and hiring temp help when needed. Employee returns to work after the three months only to learn she cannot sit at her desk for extended periods of time due to back pain and has trouble focusing on her job. Business owner accommodates employee with reduced hours and job function but after six additional months the employee is not improved and they must let employee go in order to hire someone full time to handle the job. Business owner is sued for wrongful termination under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the employee wants to be paid. After six additional months, lots of wasted time/emotion and legal bills the business owner settles suit out of court.

Business owner pays $50,000 to former employee and $25,000 of his own legal bills.

Today a business owner is more likely to have an EPL claim than a property or general liability claim. From the “harmless” joke around the office, the person you choose not to hire, and even the “overly-helpful” delivery driver, every business has the risk. Newer companies are even more at risk with all the focus on growing the company and no time spent building procedures for hiring, firing and disciplinary action of employees.

For more information on Employment Practices Liability claims, how they can impact your business, and what you can do about it, we have the answers.

Personal Information & Your Business (Part Two of Two)

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

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

Last week we revisited Massachusetts three year old data security law and the responsibility every Massachusetts business owner has in protecting the Personal Information (PI) of your employees, customers and vendors. When looking at your WISP (Written Information Security Program) there are specifics which must be included in your plan.

Although each business may view their WISP differently, all WISP’s should include;

  1. Specifically name one person to oversee your data security efforts
  2. Identify specific risks and determine how you will protect PI
  3. Set procedures for how all employees access, transport, maintain PI
  4. Communicate disciplinary measures for employees in violation of WISP
  5. Bar access of PI from former employees
  6. Verify third party vendors have their own procedures to protect your PI
  7. Regularly monitor all safe guards and make changes when necessary
  8. Thorough review of WISP with all employees at least annually
  9. Document breaches and what actions were taken

As mentioned previously, we have been very surprised how many business owners have not taken any action the law requires and today still do not have a WISP document. There is no getting around the fact the new law puts additional regulations and work on businesses. We have made major changes in how we handle PI. We started with our own WISP and shared the document with all our employees. Our monthly staff meetings now include a review of our WISP, any changes and examples of violations we have seen from other businesses that we can learn from. Examples of violations are not difficult to find.

Most recently, a Boston Globe photographer was dropping off his trash at a town dump only to run across a trash bag full of patient medical records discarded by a medical billing company. The medical billing company is obviously at fault, what was of greater concern was that three medical groups that used the medical billing company were also found at fault under the new law. Fines for all parties totaled to nearly $200,000, however by law a fine of up to $5,000 per record could have been imposed for a total loss of several million dollars.

Your best defense in protecting the PI of others is to take an active role in implementing your WISP and communication with all your employees. Although one person will be designated to oversee your procedures, this is not a one person responsibility but the responsibility of all employees top to bottom. Encrypted emails, New/Updated Passwords, Locking File Cabinets and Shredding Documents are all a part of our efforts to secure our PI.

If you find your business without a WISP or unsure where to start, we can help. The type and size of your business will dictate the scope and cost of the actions you will take.