Archive for April, 2013

Zip Cars, Kids and Watching Out!

Posted on: April 29th, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Two of my “children” are currently away at school and at our house we do have a suggested phone in appointment that they are very good about keeping! So each Sunday they phone in and share with us a few details of their lives away from home.

I must say I do look forward to these calls. One of my callers is very good about sharing and entertaining us. The other caller is less enthusiastic and seems to call out of “duty”, but we do appreciate the effort.

Every once is a while we even get a call not on Sunday from one of them. Typically these calls involved requests for something and they usually come directly to me.

A few weeks ago there was a call in about a Zip car. I thought that this call was worth sharing.

My daughter had a late breaking internship that was going to require a car. She looked up all of the info and called to tell me about how she had solved her car problem with a Zip car. Excellent idea? Then we had to sort out the details.

Here are a few things that we learned about Zip Cars and insurance. If you are under 21 your insurance coverage will be EXTREMELY limited. For more specifics on this and other insurance concerns you can go >>> http://www.zipcar.com/how/faqs/whats-deal-insurance

Another important item is that these Zip cars and their insurance coverage are different in each state and also will differ by the age of the Zip car driver.

If you own your own car and you are using a Zip car as a temporary vehicle you should consider updating your own Massachusetts car insurance policy with an additional coverage called Use of Other Auto.

Just like any other rental agreement, these Zip Car agreements require a bit of attention. The Zip Car can be an excellent resource and we just need to make certain that we provide the right insurance for this.

Did I mention that her Zip car was a Cooper Mini Convertible? She did want to keep it, but did return it undamaged within her time slot!

Contractors & Additional Insureds

Posted on: April 26th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

A common requirement in most construction contract and lease agreements is for someone to be added as an Additional Insured to your insurance policy. In most cases you have little to know say in the matter and the change is made to fulfill the contract. What you should be aware of is the impact the change has on your own contract and your own limits of insurance.

Adding an Additional Insured (AI) to your policy allows that AI access to your insurance. You have a new business partner. In the event of a liability claim, the AI will access your insurance policy for defense and claim payments before they turn to their own insurance. The AI has free insurance, special thank-you to you. You pick up the claim history as your own and any payments made on your policy have reduced the total liability limits available to you. Very much a one way street.

Owners, Developers and General Contractors will include Additional Insured requirements in order to do business with them. They may also include other requirements in their construction contracts. It’s very important to make sure you read the contracts you are signing. Sounds simple, but many people do not. Not all insurance policies will respond to all contract requirements made by contractors.

Most building owners will also require a tenant to name the owner as an Additional Insured. Some of the limits they ask for are unnecessary.

If you are a building owner or contractor that hires subcontractors, we strongly recommend that you have your tenants or subcontractors name you as Additional Insured. Our agency can help you with a sample certificate of insurance for your tenant or subcontractor to follow.

Your best interests are served when you know what’s in the contract you are signing, and fully understand the requests for Additional Insured and Indemnification. If you have questions, call us. We have the answers.

Our Thoughts & Prayers Go Out To All Affected by the Boston Bombings

Boston Strong

Herlihy Insurance Has Gone Green with Solar

Posted on: April 19th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

When it comes to being good green citizens, Herlihy Insurance has decided to incorporate renewable energy into the mix, partnering with Solect Energy Development of Hopkinton to install a 48.75 kW solar PV system on the roof of our Worcester offices.

We had two objectives when considering solar: First, we are making efforts to be as green as we can, and solar energy helped us reduce our carbon footprint. Second, solar energy was a great value because of attractive government incentives, and it also allowed us to eliminate a large portion of our electrical bill.

Now that we have completed the installation and are seeing terrific results, we wanted to share the key benefits:

  • Solar electricity will cut our annual electric bill significantly, and we’re expecting solar to cover up to 90% of our annual electric bill.
  • We were able to take advantage of a federal tax credit in 2012 worth 30 percent of the cost of the system.
  • SRECs (solar renewable energy credits), which utilities buy from owners of solar PV systems, are turning the system on our roof into a revenue-generator.

If you’ve thought about implementing solar energy, now is the time. Incentives for solar installations in Massachusetts are changing in July, and only projects submitted by June 1, 2013, are eligible for a full 40 quarters (10 years) of incentives. Herlihy Insurance partnered with Solect for our solar system, and they have agreed to offer our customers a free solar assessment. Contact Scott Howe, Business Development Manager with Solect, at 774-292-0730 or showe@solect.com to learn more.

Marathon Monday 4/15/13

Posted on: April 17th, 2013 by Herlihy Insurance Group No Comments

Marathon Monday 4/15/13

Our agency was closed this Monday for the Patriot’s Day holiday. On Friday 4/12/13 our staff and their families planned for an enjoyable three day weekend.

At 2:50pm on Monday our feeling of weekend happiness changed.

We salute the first responders, brave volunteers, race organizers, medical persons and the countless number of people that showed acts of kindness to friends, family and strangers during this dark day.

Our thoughts and prayers at Herlihy Insurance Group go out to all the individuals affected by the tragic events of Monday.

God Bless America

Spring Cleaning – Your Home Inventory

Posted on: April 15th, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Home Inventory

This year at Herlihy Insurance Group we will insure about 3800 homes and to date in 2013 we have not had any total house fires! In my twenty eight years working at the Herlihy Insurance Group, I can specifically remember about fifteen total house fires.

What I do remember the most about these events was the amount of time and energy our clients expended in recreating the info regarding their personal items that were destroyed in the fire. They did not need to submit receipts for each destroyed item, but they did need to create lists of the items.

Over the years we have recommended a few suggestions to our client regarding how to keep a record of their belongings. I thought that this spring we would share with you some updates to our previous suggestions on this topic.

For those “old school” people we do have a Home Inventory Worksheet which can be completed. If you are interested in this, please email us at info@herlihygroup.com and we will email this back to you.

We also have a few other suggestions on this. If you are into more “techy” solutions you could try any of the following ideas:

  • Take a video recording of your home on a room by room basis and describe the contents in each room. Then store this video NOT in your home! Store this at your office, a family members’ home or along with your music in the cloud.
  • Go to www.knowyourstuff.org and watch their video about taking a home inventory and download their inventory APP.
  • Go to http://mashable.com/2013/03/24/home-inventory-apps/ and check out a variety of mobile apps that will assist you with creating your inventory.

We hope you never need your home inventory list, but as part of Spring Cleaning we recommend that all of our home owners select one of these options and document their stuff.

And as we always say… Please remember to check those smoke detectors!

Fiduciary Liability and ERISA Bond, Mostly Misunderstood

Posted on: April 12th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

As an owner or officer of a business, you probably had a hand in if not all hands in on the retirement plan the business offers the employees. What’s most misunderstood or ignored because we probably don’t like the answer, is that as the retirement plan’s administrator you have assumed Fiduciary responsibilities to all plan members and you, individually can be held personally liable for failing to act in the best interest of the plan members. Let’s try that one again, because this is where many business owners say they don’t want to hear anymore, Your Personal assets are at risk as administrator of your retirement plan.

Most are familiar with the ERISA bond they have on their retirement plan. The ERISA bond is that piece of paper the accountant or third-party administrator is looking for every year to properly complete the filing of your retirement plan. The ERISA is a fidelity bond that protects the employees from dishonest acts by administrators, trustees or third-party vendors. The ERISA bond Is Not insurance to protect administrators or trustees from liability suits.

Fiduciary Liability provides protection for those individuals that have the fiduciary responsibility found in the ERISA law. The administrators and trustees that make plan decisions concerning management of assets and liabilities are liable to the plan members. AND, this is important, when you elect to use a third-party administrator to design and advise your plan, this does not remove your fiduciary responsibilities to the plan members. You cannot delegate your responsibility to someone else. If someone you hired messes up, you’re on it.

Some common claim examples we’ve seen over the last two years include;

  1. Delay by outside plan administrator to transfer fund balances from one investment to another over a series of years, Settlement of $1,000,000, Defense costs of $250,000
  2. Wrongful elimination of a popular investment option and the lack of communication about the change, Settlement of $686,000, Defense costs of $300,000
  3. Department of Labor charge of excessive management fees, Settlement $2,000,000+

Twenty years ago, when a policeman or physician told you something, the discussion was over and we took the word of the “professional” as law of the land. Employer conversations with employees had a similar relationship. Today everything is questioned and when something does go wrong someone must be to blame. If a retirement plan does not live up to plan members expectations you can almost guarantee the group will be heard. Fiduciary Liability is available to answer a suit from unhappy plan members. If your business offers a retirement plan or employee benefits, you should have Fiduciary Liability insurance.

For more on Fiduciary Liability and your responsibilities, call us, we have the Answers.

Spring Cleaning Time at Home!

Posted on: April 8th, 2013 by Personal Insurance No Comments

Spring Cleaning Tip for your Home: Make certain that you have filed your Declaration of Homestead on your home.

Now that it is officially April at our house we do start to consider “spring cleaning lists”. It should be well noted that at our house we “consider” many and execute far fewer than we ever plan.

This spring I am pleased to say that I can check, File our Declaration of Homestead off our list. We completed this last spring and it does not have to be done annually!

Homestead statutes allow homeowners to protect their primary residence from being attached, secured or sold off because of some types of unsecured debts. Each state has different Homestead statutes and limitations.

In Massachusetts the Homestead statute allows you to file a Declaration of Homestead with a limit of $500,000 for individuals on your primary residence. Here is the link to the Secretary of State’s office that shares info on this topic.

Now many people say, “Well, my home is protected now so I don’t need liability protection.” We like to remind people that the Homestead Act provides some important protection for your primary residence but not for any of your other assets.

That is why we firmly believe that all home owners and car drivers should have a Personal Umbrella Policy for additional liability protection. You can check out our info here.

Hope that both of these items get listed and reviewed on your Spring Cleaning this year.

Just forget the windows until next year!

Self-Funded Health Insurance, Worth a Look

Posted on: April 5th, 2013 by Commercial Insurance No Comments

Year to year each summer we struggle with how to handle our health insurance renewal in September. Like most employers the last ten years have been difficult maintaining employee benefits with constantly changing health insurer plans and the steady increase in health insurance rates. We share the frustration we see with many of our clients that look at their businesses of healthy employees but yet rates continue to rise. A new option of self-funded health insurance, a concept usually reserved for very large employers, is an option every employer should consider.

Self-Funded Health plans give a little of the control back to the employer. Traditional health plans have always offered one rate for small to medium size businesses regardless of the type of business you operate or the health of your employees. Self-Funded plans evaluate each business on their own; have low turnover, consistent number of employees and a healthy employee group, get a lower rate than the guy next door that doesn’t match up to your business. Also, you have the opportunity to share in the profit if health costs come under a predetermined amount for the group. If actual claim expenses are lower than what your business has been assigned, you keep the unused claim funds. You get a check back.

The best way to determine if a self-funded plan is best for your business is to perform a health risk assessment of your current plan. Most businesses follow the 80/20 rule where 80% of your plan is being used by 20% of your employees. Find ways to better control the 20% of employees driving your health care claims and you open doors to more control of plan options and their costs.

Self-Funded plans are not for every business. However for business owners that are used to finding alternative solutions to their problems and can accept a degree of risk to gain reward, self-funding is worth the look. We have several businesses that have made the switch to self-funded plans and are very pleased with their results. Businesses with as few as five employees are finding success.

If your business fits the profile and you would like a no obligation health-risk assessment of your current health insurance plan, give us a call. We have the answers.

A Sinkhole in My Backyard?

Posted on: April 1st, 2013 by Personal Insurance 1 Comment

The recent sinkhole stories from Florida homes got me to thinking about our own house. My first thought on this sinkhole topic was to assume that this does not happen in Massachusetts. Unfortunately I was wrong! Below are a few recent Massachusetts sinkhole events.

  • March 30, 2010: Fall River – Road buckling
  • October 12, 2011: Lowell – Water main break causes sinkhole
  • March 13, 2013: Holyoke – Seventeen foot sinkhole

My personal favorite, now that I think about it, Herlihy Insurance Group parking lot April 2009!

Based on a recent U.S. Geological Survey none of the New England states are mentioned to have the right “geological mix” to have “natural sinkholes”. However it was noted that human activities can cause sinkholes. Such things as putting up buildings or parking lots (which may change where water drains) may create conditions that are conducive to sinkhole development. In Massachusetts we also have many ancient underground sewer and water pipes in areas of continual building and development that also leave our properties vulnerable to possible sinkholes.

On my current Home insurance policy I did add in the coverage for earthquake as we recommend to all of our clients, but I had never really considered the SINKHOLE thing. Coverage for damage to my home caused by sinkhole is NOT included on my policy and most likely not yours, unless you added this.

The cost to add sinkhole coverage to my home insurance policy is $120 for the year. Sounds like a good deal to me. I think I will call my agent and make that request today!