If your small business is growing and you need to hire a few employees, you’ve probably already thought about workers’ compensation insurance. At first, it might seem like just one more annoying and confusing business expense, so we came up with this little guide that summarizes what workers’ compensation is, what it isn’t and how to get the best coverage for the lowest prices. Read on…
Why It Exists
Workers compensation is an insurance program set up to provide workers who were injured on the job benefits to make up for lost wages while they’re out taking care of their injury. According to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, the laws surrounding worker compensation serve to relieve employers of liability from common law suits involving negligence in exchange for becoming responsible for medical costs and lost wages of on-the-job injuries regardless of fault. That’s right: offering workers’ compensation can actually protect you and your small business from litigation if an employee gets injured or becomes sick as a result of the job.
How Much It Costs – and Who Has to Provide It
The cost for workers’ compensation insurance varies by provider and industry (high-risk jobs like roofing or construction carry higher premiums than office jobs, for instance). In addition, a business’s premiums can either increase or decrease depending on the number of claims filed. Laws vary by state, but in South Carolina, any business with four or more employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
How To Lower Your Premiums
One of the best ways to save on workers’ compensation insurance is through safety measures, such as:
An employee can collect benefits even if they weren’t at the workplace when they were injured.
According to FindLaw.com, generally any time an employee is injured within the scope of performing their job – even if they are not at their workplace – they’re covered. Examples include a salesperson who is injured at a the hotel he’s staying at for business purposes or an employee who’s injured while out running an errand on behalf of the company.
Workers can be paid for an injury that occurred at work, even if it was partially their fault.
While employees don’t have free reign to injure themselves on purpose in order to collect benefits, if the injury rises out of or is within the scope of their employment – even if they might have been careless – then they’re covered.
Want to learn more about how to make workers’ compensation work better for your business? Contact us anytime!
Distracted driving is one of the fastest growing safety issues on the roads today. These are the driving behaviors that make you shake your fist in frustration or bow your head in recognition. But these behaviors are more than frustrating or something you know you should not do: Distracted drivers aren’t just a threat to themselves; they’re a danger to everyone else on the road.
At any given moment during the daylight hours, over 900,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
Yes, younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distracted driving (and distraction-related fatal crashes). But people of all ages are using a variety of hand-held devices, such as cell phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, and navigation devices, when they are behind the wheel.
The infographic below from AllState shows what the distracted driving statistics look like today.
There are three main types of distraction:
Visual: taking your eyes off the road
Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving
Texting While Driving – The Most Dangerous and Most Common
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph. And CNBC reports that texting and driving is actually more dangerous than drinking and driving. One test, which involved measuring how long it took for a driver to hit the brakes in a car going 70 mph, found that a legally drunk driver took an additional 4 feet to hit the brakes, while a driver sending a text took an additional 70 feet.
NHTSA leads the fight nationally against distracted driving thru campaigns, public service announcements and partnerships with local police to enforce laws against distracted driving that help keep us safe. You’ve likely seen or heard one of their public service announcements, but we’re also on Facebook and Twitter sharing stories and tips to help save lives.
Since April of 2015, the NHTSA has promoted the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. And as of June 2017, two new driving rules went into effect:
The national distracted driving effort focuses on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness, and education.
Teens can be the best messengers with their peers, so we encourage them to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted, to have their friends sign a pledge to never drive distracted, to become involved in their local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter, and to share messages on social media that remind their friends, family, and neighbors not to make the deadly choice to drive distracted.
Parents first have to lead by example—by never driving distracted—as well as have a talk with their young driver about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving. Remind your teen driver that in South Carolina, which enforces graduated driver licensing (GDL), a violation of distracted-driving laws could mean a delayed or suspended license.
To learn more and access materials you can use at www.distraction.gov.
The holidays are here – time for cooler weather, cooking big meals and Christmas decorating. And with these things, come new in-home dangers. So we took the best advice from the best sources – The National Fire Protection Association, the US Fire Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Home Safety Council and the EPA – to bring you these winter weather home safety tips.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 40% of home fires between 2009 and 2013 were caused by improper use of a space heater.
Christmas Trees and Holiday Decorating
The National Fire Association reports that fires involving decorative lighting cause an average of 150 fires, eight civilian deaths, 14 injuries and $8.5 million in property damage annually.
Fireplaces and Firewood
Kitchen and Cooking
Live to Ride, Ride to Live, and Save Money in the Process
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in 2016, there were 8.6 motorcycles on the road and 88,000 motorcycle riders and passengers suffered injuries. Those are the type of statistics your mom worried about when she warned you to “never to ride a motorcycle.”
However, despite mom’s advice, many of us have a lifelong love of motorcycle riding. And part of being a cyclist is carrying insurance. Here is our advice on how to get the best insurance at the best price.
How clean is your driving record?
A clean driving record – one with no or very few accidents, tickets or violations – can qualify you for significant discounts.
Do you belong to a club?
Motorcycle clubs sometimes offer discounted rates to members. They’re also a great way to compare notes with other bikers, get recommendations, and see who’s paying what. Examples include Harley Owners Group, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, and the American Motorcyclist Association.
How much seat time do you have?
You riding time and experience can also save you some money. The amount of seat time you have and how much of that time has been spent riding the specific motorcycle to be insured are both factors that can help reduce your premiums.
How much riding do you do?
If you’re a seasonal cyclist, riding on sunny weekends or avoiding winter riding altogether, ask about our discounts for part-time or occasional drivers. Keep in mind that if you have a loan on the bike, the lender will likely require full coverage on it year-round.
“Riders should carry enough insurance to cover bike replacement costs, hospitalization and to avoid bankruptcy.”
Have you shopped around?
It used to be that only a few major insurance carriers offered motorcycle insurance, but today, it’s a buyer’s market. If you haven’t comparison-shopped, good. Because we do it for you. As an independent insurance agency, we work for you, not a specific insurance company. Meaning, we can do the shopping around and comparing for you and present you with the best option customized for you.
Did you get enough coverage for extras?
Regular motorcycle insurance policies don’t cover any enhancements you have made to your bike, such as chrome accessories, custom paint, or a sidecar. We can customize your coverage so that it covers everything from a full bike replacement to medical payments if you get in an accident.
When we are suffering from a cold or just having a bad day, the one who helps us feel better is often just a tail wag or purr away. It goes without saying that our dogs and cats are full-fledged family members. According to the latest American Pet Products Association’s Pet Owners Survey, Americans spent over $15 billion on vet care in 2014; yet only 4% of dog owners and 1% of cat owners carry pet insurance policies.
“It’s puzzling why we are a nation so in love with our pets, yet so slow to embrace the concept of pet insurance,” said Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).
You wouldn’t think of not insuring yourself or your child, but what about the four-legged members of your family? If you’re like most pet owners, you’ve probably heard about pet insurance but don’t know too much about how it works, whether it would work for you or whether it’s worth the cost.
Here are 4 things that make pet insurance a worthwhile investment:
1. You’ll Never Have to Decide Between Your Wallet and Your Pet
More and more veterinary treatment options available for sick and injured pets every day. That’s great news—though it comes at a cost. As a pet owner, deciding whether or not to have a major surgery or procedure on your furry friend is one of the hardest things you will have to do. By having pet insurance (most policies reimburse up to 80% of costs after deductibles),you can take the financial aspect out of the equation so you can focus on your pet’s care—not the cost.
2. You Can Pick Your Plan
Depending upon your pet’s age and breed, pet insurance can be tailored to fit your budget and your pet’s needs. The options vary greatly – from major accidents, hereditary and congenital conditions and behavioral issues to simple vaccinations and checkups.
3. You Can Pick Your Vet
Unlike human health insurance, with pet insurance, you can pick your provider. Choose your current vet or from any licensed veterinarian in the US or Canada—you can even go to a specialist or an emergency clinic.
4. It’s Easy
Most pet insurance companies make it as painless as possible for you to be reimbursed. Here’s how it typically works: you pay the vet, send in an itemized receipt from your visit and, within a few weeks, you’ll receive a check for part or all of the costs from that visit.
Each company differs slightly when it comes to protecting your pet, however pet insurance works on the same basic principles as most other forms of insurance (minus the copays – phew!) We can help you compare policies and look at coverage and budget options to build a pet insurance policy that works best for your entire two-legged and four-legged family.
With Harvey’s havoc still fresh in everyone’s mind, and Irma roaring toward the coast, there’s no doubt about it. Hurricane season has begun. And while the country watches the progress of these storms, those of us living in potentially affected areas have to wonder: would my insurance cover my home in the event of a hurricane?
Hurricane Harvey: A Warning
Sadly, for most of the homeowners affected by Harvey, the answer to that question is “no.” CNN reports that only a very small percentage of homes in Harvey’s path were covered by flood insurance. The latest cost estimates show about 70% of home damages caused by flooding won’t be covered by insurance.
Next up: Hurricane Irma
And now, the “potentially catastrophic” Hurricane Irma is roaring toward the northeastern Caribbean islands as a Category 5 storm, the National Hurricane Center said, threatening to slam into Antigua, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Wednesday before possibly taking aim at the US mainland.
Preparations to protect life and property in those areas “should be rushed to completion,” the hurricane center said in an advisory.
“While it is too soon to specify the timing and magnitude of the impacts,” the hurricane center said, “everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.” Florida is bracing for the storm and, on Tuesday as Hurricane Irma strengthened, began ordering an evacuation.
Hurricanes & Insurance
Many homeowners learn the hard way (or the wet way) that their homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover property damage caused by hurricanes and floods. As the families recovering from Harvey can attest, it takes just a few inches of water to cause comprehensive damage to a home, but a typical homeowner’s policy will not cover it.
Here’s what you need to know about hurricane and insurance coverage:
While standard homeowners insurance policies will cover damage from a hurricanes high winds, they will not cover damage from rising water, as in a flood.
Separate flood insurance will cover the water damage from a hurricane but, unless you live in a designated high-risk flood zone, your lender does not require that you purchase it.
Therefore, for those of you in a zone that’s moderate- or low-risk, you may still benefit greatly from having flood insurance. According to FEMA, almost 25% of all flood insurance claims come from areas with low-to-moderate flood risk. And in the case of Harvey, many of the damaged homes were in those low and moderate risk zones.
No matter what type of zone your home is in, it’s well worth your time –and peace of mind – to speak with a professional about the safety of your home in hurricane season.
Investing in an insurance policy, whether for your family, home or car, is a major decision that should not be influenced by gimmicky promotional ads. Well informed decisions regarding the right policy usually involve the knowledge and expertise of trustworthy broker at a local, independent insurance agency.
Independent insurance agencies are not beholden to “selling” the policies of one insurance carrier. While big box insurance companies can only offer variations on one product theme, smaller, independent insurance agencies enjoy the flexibility to choose the best insurance policy to fit your needs and budget, often providing a better price and a better fitting coverage package.
A local agency knows your community and the insurance needs of its businesses and residents. A local agency means representatives are right around the corner when you need to file a claim, drop off payments, update your policy or ask questions.
A small, independent insurance agency can advocate on your behalf and help help you in a number of other ways, from resolving a claim to clearing up billing issues. Such invaluable support, not available from most big insurance companies, illustrates the personalized help that you can get from your local, independent agency.
Brokers at independent agencies are available to discuss specific insurance questions over the phone, especially about mid-cycle changes, giving customers a stronger feeling that they are in safe hands. Customer service agents at direct or big box agencies don’t have the training to address specific issues of your plan, especially after the initial purchase. Indeed, studies show that brokers at independent agencies performed significantly better than their Big Box counterparts to customer queries or mid-cycle requests for changes, particularly later in the policy life cycle.
A small independent insurance company might prove to be a better choice if you are looking for more localized insurance, lower premiums and the very nominal price increases that only a small company can offer. What’s more, small, independent insurance agencies are more likely to approve applicants with a poor credit history.
Brokers at small, independent agencies are more efficient at cross-checking a number of different policy options across insurance providers, can educate their customers about the differences as they pertain to individual needs and explain the critical differences in policies and coverage.
Finally, insurance policies purchased through independent agencies are surprisingly more affordable than than policies purchased through direct insurance.
If you’ve been sitting on the fence about whether to call a nationally recognized direct insurance agency or walk around the corner to meet with your local independent insurance company, now’s the right time to choose. In these times of uncertainty, why not rely on the knowledgeable, personable and patient expertise of your local independent insurance broker who will know you as a friend rather than as number on a screen.
If you want security for yourself and your family, then look no further than your local independent insurance agent. You couldn’t be more secure.
Deciding whether to purchase whole life insurance or term life insurance is a personal decision that should be based on the financial needs of your family, your beneficiaries as well as your financial goals. Life insurance is an important investment that can provide financial security for your family and, depending on the type of policy you choose, can even help you build a cash reserve.
Reasons to choose a term life insurance policy.
When choosing between whole life or term life insurance, your circumstances play a big role in determining the best option for you. If you are the primary income earner in your household and the parent of young children, consider buying a term life policy. Essentially, with term life insurance, you are paying an insurance company to take on “a risk” that you will die during the agreed-on term of the policy. A twenty year policy mandates that your premiums will remain constant for twenty years; If you die during the twenty-year period, the insurance company pays the death benefit to the specific beneficiaries you have named in your policy. If you are past the mid-life point and your children are already grown, a term policy could cover your final expenses or provide for your spouse’s needs if he or she lives on after you die.
To assess the total value of the term policy you need for your family should you die prematurely, total your annual living expenses, your home mortgage, all current debts (with estimated date of final pay-off) and your children’s education (include private school tuition and college fees for all). Ideally, meet with a professional insurance broker who can best help you calculate a term policy that meets your family’s needs.
Reasons to choose a whole life insurance policy.
Alternatively, you might look into a whole life policy that will not only pay the face value should you die before your children are through college, but would accrue a cash value providing additional benefits or emergency funds to your family. Whole life insurance seems expensive compared to term life insurance because the money you invest in whole life policies builds cash value that you can use later in life or at the time of your death. The percentage of your costs that go into your cash accrual account increases year by year.
Switching from a term policy to a whole life policy.
Most term life insurance policies allow you to convert your term policy into a whole life insurance policy. Consider taking advantage of this flexibility if you are in your 50s or 60s and your term life policy is about to expire or you simply want to extend your life insurance coverage but the option of term insurance is prohibitive to your current age. Converting term life to whole life insurance can be an excellent way to continue your life insurance policy and also build cash value.
Life insurance is an important investment whether you choose a term policy or whole life policy. Make sure to discuss your specific needs and goals with an insurance professional who can explain the options and benefits open to you. Once you do invest in life insurance, no matter the type of policy, you can rest assured that your loved ones will have the financial security they need.
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