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Business Protection Bulletin

What is a Farms/Ranches Business Owners Policy

By Business Protection Bulletin

As a farmer or rancher, you may produce a variety of products. Maybe you grow grain, flowers or fruit, raise cattle, horses or alpacas, or manage fish ponds, chicken barns or a custom farming fleet. A farms/ranches business owners policy is essential for protecting your livelihood.

What is a Farms/Ranches Business Owners Policy?

A regular homeowners’ policy covers your home if it’s damaged, and it may give you some liability coverage. This policy won’t give you the protection you need for your farm or ranch business, outbuildings or livestock, though. You need a specialized farms/ranches business owners policy with several layers of protection.

What Does a Farms/Ranches Business Owners Policy Cover?

Farm and ranch owners may customize their business owners insurance policy. In general, your farms/ranches business owners policy covers:

  • House – Repair or replace your farm or ranch house and any possessions i
  • Liability – Cover medical and legal expenses you may incur if someone is injured while visiting your farm or ranch.
  • Livestock – Receive financial reimbursement if your livestock are stolen, attacked by dogs or wild animals, accidentally drown or are shot, suffer electrocution or die during a natural disaster or collision.
  • Machinery and equipment – Replace damaged, lost or stolen tractors, wagons and other machinery and equipment you own, borrow, rent or lease for farm or ranching activities.
  • Structures – Cover farm/ranch structures, including barns, pens, fences, silos, machine sheds and other buildings, that may be damaged, stolen or vandalized during a weather incident or other incident.

Additionally, you may customize your farms/ranches business owners policy with a schedule that’s based on your specific farm or ranch operation. If something on your farm or ranch is not listed on the schedule, it may not be covered if it’s damaged, lost, stolen or vandalized.

Ask your insurance agent about these optional coverages, too.

  • Accidental Direct Physical Loss
  • Amendatory Deductible on Cab Glass
  • Chemical Drift
  • Custom Farming
  • Crop Dusting
  • Equipment Breakdown
  • Extra Expense
  • Fire on Growing Grain
  • Hired Auto
  • Incidental Business
  • Limited Pollution Liability
  • Loss of Earnings
  • Seasonal Coverage

Where do you Buy a Farms/Ranches Business Owners Policy?

A farms/ranches business owners policy is a valuable investment. To purchase a policy, talk to your insurance agent. Discuss your unique needs, business and budget and create a policy that’s right for you. For example, you may choose a policy with high liability limits if you conduct school tours on your farm or ranch, and the size of your farm or ranch affects the amount of coverage you will buy.

A farms/ranches business owners policy gives you peace of mind and valuable protection for your home and your business. Understand what it is as you operate your farm or ranch.

Business Classes and Insurance

By Business Protection Bulletin

Every business owner who has ever received a bill for an insurance premium has wondered how the insurance company came up with the price, especially if the premium has gone up since the last renewal. Although the insurance pricing mechanism can seem mysterious, and might involve a certain amount of discretion by underwriters, the starting point is always the same: The underwriter must answer the question, “What type of business is this?”

That might appear to be a simple question, but it does not always have a simple answer. When the underwriter answers the question, they assign the business to one or more classifications; more than any other factor, these classifications determine how much premium the business will pay.

Classifying a business can be straightforward or it can be more art than science. Most state Workers Compensation insurance manuals contain roughly 700 classifications; the Commercial General Liability insurance manual has a little less than double that. Compare those numbers to the thousands of business types that exist today and the new ones that will exist five years from now, and you get a sense for why classifying a business can be tricky.

In addition, while Workers Compensation, General Liability and Property classification descriptions are similar in some cases; in many others they bear no resemblance to each other. The underwriter who knows that they’ve correctly classified the business for one type of policy might find that classification to be of no help for the others. Although it might appear that determining the correct classification is only the underwriter’s problem, it also has short- and long-term effects on the insurance buyer.

The correct classification ensures that the buyer pays the appropriate rate and that all buyers in that classification receive fair treatment. If the classification is incorrect, the buyer will pay a rate that is either too high or too low for that type of operation. For example, compare two contractors — one installs plumbing systems in commercial buildings, the other installs automatic sprinkler systems in them. If the plumber’s work is faulty, a pipe might leak and cause water damage to furniture and equipment in one or more rooms.

If the sprinkler contractor’s work is faulty, the sprinklers might not work when a fire breaks out and the fire might destroy the entire building. The risk of a severe loss resulting from completed operations is much higher for the sprinkler contractor than it is for the plumber. If the underwriter classifies the sprinkler contractor as a plumber, the sprinkler contractor pays a much lower rate for completed operations coverage than it should.

In the long term, loss experience will cause the rates for plumbers to increase. This is unfair to plumbers and to sprinkler contractors whose underwriters classified them properly.

Also, charging an inadequate premium might cause the business’s experience modification to be higher than it should have been. The experience rating formula compares actual losses to the losses a typical business in that classification with that level of payroll or sales would have. If the classification is wrong, the formula will understate the level of expected losses, resulting in a higher debit or lower credit.

The rating manual rules require that policies issued to businesses in some classifications carry specific endorsements (policy changes). For example, the rules for restaurants require the company to attach an endorsement that changes the definition of the products-completed operations hazard. Use of the wrong classification can result in the wrong policy terms for the business. A business owner should work closely with one of our professional insurance agents to ensure that insurance companies are using appropriate classifications. Although the wrong classification might appear to save the business money in the short run, it can prove to be costly in the long run.

What’s Included in a Nonprofit Commercial Package

By Business Protection Bulletin

Your nonprofit organization specializes in serving and helping others. A lawsuit or other liability could inhibit your organization’s ability to continue operations, though. You need a nonprofit commercial package with invaluable protection that meets your needs as you help others.

What a Nonprofit Commercial Package Includes

The right insurance provides invaluable protection for your organization. Look for several types of coverage when shopping for a nonprofit commercial package.

    1. General Liability Insurance

      When visitors or clients are injured from a fall, slip or accident on your property, your organization is liable for medical payments and other damages. General liability insurance offers classic slip-and-fall coverage for any unfortunate accidents.

    1. Property Insurance

      Natural disasters, fires, vandalism and other risks can happen at any time. Property insurance pays for necessary repairs and minimizes operation disruptions to the property your organization owns or rents. This insurance can cover:

      • Computers and accessories
      • Equipment and machinery
      • Fixtures, including carpeting and lighting
      • Inventory and supplies
      • Office furniture
    1. Auto Insurance

      Any time your staff or volunteers drive a company or personal vehicle for organization activities, your nonprofit is liable for accidents or damages. Purchase adequate auto insurance that includes liability and any coverage your state requires, such as personal injury protection or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

    1. Product Liability Insurance

      Your nonprofit may sell products to raise funds for your cause. Examples include items your clients create or baked goods. Property liability insurance protects your organization financially if someone suffers an injury or other damages because of a product you sell.

    1. Directors and Officers InsuranceNonprofit organizations rely on the leadership expertise of directors and officers. These men and women could be sued for fraud, financial mismanagement or other things, though. Directors and Officers insurance covers defense and damage costs.
    1. Professional Liability Insurance

      When someone files a discrimination, mismanagement or sexual harassment lawsuit against your organization, the nonprofit is liable for related costs and damages. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions or malpractice insurance, is similar to Directors and Officers insurance but covers your entire organization, including staff and volunteers.

In addition to these six coverage options, your nonprofit commercial package may include:

  • Abuse Liability
  • Cyber Liability
  • Loss of Business Income
  • Misconduct
  • Negligence
  • Special Event Insurance
  • Umbrella Coverage
  • Volunteer Medical Expense Coverage
  • Workers’ Compensation

Your organization needs customized insurance that meets your needs, fits your budget and protects your assets. Contact your insurance agent today for a customized quote and more information on the Nonprofit Commercial Package that’s right for you. It provides invaluable protection that allows you to address risks while continuing to serve others.

EPLI: Does it Cover Third Parties?

By Business Protection Bulletin

The purpose of third-party coverage in an Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) policy is to protect an organization and its employees from accusations of wrongful acts committed against customers, clients, vendors, and suppliers. Some EPLI policies also cover wrongful acts committed by third parties against the insured’s employees.

Harassment and all forms of discrimination are covered under wrongful acts. Discrimination claims include discriminatory practices against a person based on their race, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, pregnancy or sexual orientation. Harassment involves unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. Both verbal and physical conduct, as well as other forms of harassment that create a hostile or offensive work environment, are covered. Some policies also cover accusations of mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and assault.

If your organization has a lot of interaction with the public, it is especially vulnerable to third-party claims like those described above. In some cases, EPLI carriers might not provide third-party coverage to firms with a high potential for claims. What they might offer instead is limited coverage, such as covering accusations of discrimination, but not harassment claims.

To protect your organization from third-party claims, you need to go beyond just purchasing coverage. You must implement policies and procedures that address discrimination and harassment issues, both from the standpoint of an employee’s actions and the actions of third parties. EPLI insurers are increasingly requiring employers to implement these practices before they will issue a policy.

Having policies in place will offer little help to stop third-party claims if employees aren’t adequately trained. New employee orientation programs should include a presentation outlining the organization’s harassment/discrimination policies. The training must also include how to report and handle a third-party claim. However, hearing the information once is not enough to insure compliance. Employees must be retrained periodically through departmental meetings. To maintain the effectiveness of departmental training sessions, be sure that supervisors are provided with copies of all policy updates and procedural changes.

One important caveat to keep in mind is that most EPLI policies don’t provide third-party coverage for accusations involving the violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Nevertheless, you should review your EPLI policy’s definition of a claim to determine the policy’s interpretation. Many policies define a claim as a “demand for monetary damages.” This definition can present a problem in an ADA claim, because many of these claims are asking for reasonable accommodations, not monetary awards.

That’s why it is important to ensure that your policy’s definition of a claim includes claims for non-monetary damages. A policy with this expanded definition will cover defense costs and indemnity connected with an ADA claim, but will not provide the funds to bring your organization into compliance with the provisions of the law.

Professional Liability Insurance: Protecting Your Name

By Business Protection Bulletin

Professional liability insurance is essentially there to protect your reputation as a professional.

Things happen. There are unforeseeable circumstances that can botch even the easiest job in the most capable hands. When that happens, most contractors, consultants, professionals and business owners are more than happy to help cover the cost to the client, to injured parties and so on. That’s why the insurance policy is there.

Professional liability is there to protect specifically against claims of negligence by covering the court costs. These are the cases that we fight not because we don’t want to foot the bill, but because a reputation is on the line, and at the end of the day, all any professional really has to lean on is a trusted name. That is the foundation of success in any field. You can lose your office space, you can lose your clients, you can lose some of your best employees, and you can always rebuild from there. Once your name has been stripped of value, however, there’s not much left to do. Top talent will avoid the association with a negligent employer and clients and customers will jump ship.

These are the cases that you want to fight even at a financial loss. Even if you know that you’re not at fault for a visitor who suffered an injury on your property, it may make more sense to take responsibility than to fight it in court and spend more money in front of the judge than you would have on the doctor bill. The more comprehensive your professional liability policy, the less likely you are to have to do this when your reputation is on the line.

Of course, you can’t always have the case dismissed, so professional liability will cover the costs awarded to the plaintiff in a civil suit should you lose the case, meaning that you will be covered even where general liability coverage does not kick in. However, the real value in the policy is in allowing you to defend yourself against that civil suit in the first place, and, wherever possible, protecting your reputation within your industry.

Medical professionals rely on malpractice insurance for the same reasons, while insurers and lawyers will rely on errors and omissions, or E&O insurance. In any field where a professional mistake can prove incredibly costly or harmful, you will find some form of professional liability insurance being sold.

Your Executives Can be the Biggest Risks.

By Business Protection Bulletin

Having the wrong executive in the wrong spot might create a legal problem, as well as a business headache. In the California appellate case Align Technology v. Bao Tran, Align sued a former employee, attorney Bao Tran, for stealing their patents and starting a competing law firm. The suit alleged that Tran used confidential information to assist a startup competitor and fund an unauthorized law practice on the side.

According to the allegations, Tran used company funds to apply for patents in his own name and for his clients, ran his side business using the company’s phones and computer systems, and misappropriated company property by applying for patents in his own name.

Align allegedly learned of Tran’s side business as the result of at least 13 phone calls from his clients, including one call in June 2005 from an individual who indicated that Tran had been his company’s intellectual and patent attorney for three years. Tran denied these allegations and accused Align of defaming him and attempting to undermine his new business.

Bottom line: Don’t assume that your executives aren’t a problem. Many companies focus on rank-and-file employees, even though executives can cause 10 times the damage.

To read the case, click here.

How Big Is Your Printing Business?

By Business Protection Bulletin

Success comes with a price. The more business you’re doing, the more it’s going to cost to do business. Maybe that’s why so many small business owners aren’t interested in growing beyond a few employees in a small shop, maybe that’s why there are software developers making enough money to buy some office space, but prefer to run the business out of their garage. Ambition, empire building, it comes with its share of headaches.

Insurance is one of those areas where the law is going to put a completely different set of rules on you depending on how much business you’re doing, and commercial printers insurance is no exception. If you’re a small business owner looking to expand, something you may want to consider is your BOP.

BOP’s are for small businesses only. A BOP or Business Operator’s Policy is basically a simple, all-in-one general liability and property insurance policy. It simplifies the process for business owners who would rather let the insurance run on autopilot. It is available to businesses with fewer than 100 employees, running their business out of a smaller workspace, and who don’t need to buy more than a year of coverage at a time.

When you expand your business, you expand your risk. More employees means more people who could become injured, and people who are, let’s face it, more likely to sue if they feel that your worker’s compensation policy is not adequate. You’re not likely to face civil charges when you’re only employing your immediate family and a couple of friends, but the risks are compounded when you’re staffing a full company. The laws regarding insurance take that into account.

If your business is growing, then you may need to look into expanding your policies regarding slander and libel, as well. As you start taking on larger projects, you’re taking on greater risk of upsetting the wrong people with what you print. First amendment laws can protect printers to an extent, and your clients are most likely to take the brunt of the heat should charges be filed. However, an important rule of thumb in all litigious matters is that they’re going to target whoever has the most money and resources with which to pay out. That’s not a major concern if it’s you and a small staff running your press out of a studio, but it can be when you start leasing an old warehouse and hiring enough people to fill it.

If you want to establish yourself as a major brand in printing,

Why Do You Need Business Insurance?

By Business Protection Bulletin

Most business owners would agree that it’s important to maintain insurance to protect business assets. When they think about insurance, business owners generally consider protection against hazards such as fire, flood or theft at their company sites. This is obviously an important protection to have. However, there are other types of hazards that may not be quite as high on the list, but protection could be every bit as important to offset significant financial losses. Here are five examples that underscore the need for comprehensive business insurance protection:

Company vehicle contents

If you operate a business with employees on the road making service calls to customers, chances are there is valuable equipment contained in the company vehicles. But a typical auto insurance policy would probably not cover the contents of a company vehicle if that valuable equipment is lost or stolen.

Tenant property improvement insurance

Do you rent space to conduct your business? Have you built out the interior of your space or made improvements to accommodate your business needs? If so, you probably made a considerable investment in the improvements. But many property insurance policies don’t include the value of the improvements made by a tenant to the existing structure. If you’ve invested in improvements, it’s worth taking a look at securing coverage to protect it.

Home-based business equipment

More and more people are working at home at least part of the time, even if they maintain an office or site elsewhere. Most don’t have insurance on the business equipment they keep at home; many assume their homeowner’s insurance would cover it. However, homeowner’s insurance generally does not cover business equipment. If you have expensive business equipment at home, you may want to consider purchasing additional protection.

Business interruption insurance

Remember the series of hurricanes that hit Florida? The wild fires that damaged cities and towns in California? The flooding that disrupted life in the Midwest? In addition to the effect that disasters have on individuals, they can bring businesses to a standstill for weeks or even months. Business interruption insurance can provide a way to get back on your feet.

Key person insurance

In many companies, the knowledge and skills of a single person or a top few are absolutely essential to the enterprise’s success. Key person insurance can help a company recover if an essential employee dies or becomes disabled for a lengthy time. The coverage can provide needed funds that allow the company to continue operating during a search for a successor or until the key employee returns.

As you can see, there are many hazards businesses face that aren’t covered under a typical insurance policy. However, you can get extra protection with the types of coverage outlined here. Since you invest so much time, money and effort into your business, it pays to make sure you have the protection you need. Call us for a consultation today!

Covering Your Non-Profit and Volunteer Workers

By Business Protection Bulletin

The challenge in running a non-profit is that it still takes money and resources. Just because you’re not interested in getting rich off of this idea doesn’t mean that money is not an issue. If a worker suffers an injury on the job, their compensation has to come from somewhere.

Something that may come as a surprise to many: Volunteers are not typically covered by worker’s compensation policies. In more states than not, worker’s compensation only covers, well, workers. If you are paying actual employees at food banks workers’ compensation insurance will cover their injuries. Likewise Meals on Wheels insurance policy will cover the organization’s workers. If you’re working with unpaid volunteers this is not the case.

Your volunteers may wind up covered by a general liability claim, but this is not always the case. If you want to make sure that your people are covered no matter what, then you’re probably going to have to bring them in as paid employees, or at the very least, under an internship program that includes medical and worker’s compensation benefits and so on.

A problem with relying exclusively on volunteers for your workforce is that you don’t really get to pick your staff from the best and brightest. Many who volunteer will bring their A-game, they will take the task just as seriously as they would take their dayjob. This isn’t always the case, unfortunately, and without any payment or compensation or even the safety net of worker’s compensation to draw talent, you wind up taking what you can get.

Non-profit doesn’t mean nobody gets paid. Non-profits are usually devoted to a humanitarian cause and their primary concern is not making anybody rich, but making a difference, but that doesn’t mean that everyone involved is simply donating time and resources without compensation. Typically you’re going to have benefactors and other income streams that will allow you to hire qualified people for your food bank, and provide them with the appropriate coverage they need in order to provide them, and you, with peace of mind.

To put it bluntly: a volunteer force is a great idea in concept. In reality, you’re asking some of the kindest, most generous people in the world to foot the bill themselves if they get hurt on the job. That’s a recipe for, if not a lawsuit, at least a guilty conscience. The most effective way to make a difference in the long term is to get some money behind your cause and treat your workers like you would paid employees at any other business.

Layoffs and Your Insurance Risks

By Business Protection Bulletin

One of the most difficult aspects of running a business is the hiring and firing of employees. In particular, firing or terminating an employee can be a complex issue regardless of the circumstances involved. Proper handling is necessary in order to prevent the employee from harboring hard feelings against the company. Furthermore, in this situation the employee may develop a plan to find employment elsewhere. It is imperative for the business to handle the termination delicately to prevent the worst from happening, namely a lawsuit filed against the company by the ex-employee. Even for businesses that use “at-will” employment, this risk is not fully alleviated. “At-will” employees are just as dangerous as contracted employees.

When either the employee or the company can terminate employment at any time and for any reason, unless that reason is illegal, the phrase “termination-at-will” is used to describe this situation. This clause is important protection against the potential lawsuit of the employee. That does not mean that employers can let their guard down, however.

In the jurisdictions where termination-at-will applies, employers need to tread very carefully to avoid putting the employee’s at-will status in danger. An example application of this principle would be if the employer gave the employee verbal assurances that their job was secured. If the employee is later fired, this could be grounds for a lawsuit, since the verbal assurances directly contradicted their at-will status.

If performance issues are at the forefront, the employer cannot simply fire the employee. First, they must schedule a comprehensive evaluation meeting with the employee and go over exactly where the employee is failing to meet their standards and what can be done about it. The two key components of this meeting must be a set of goals that the employee considers attainable and a reasonable time frame in which to achieve those goals. Crucial to the success of this meeting is the understanding that the employee will be terminated if they cannot meet these goals within the time frame.

It cannot be emphasized enough that this is the key protection the company has against a lawsuit. To finalize this protection, an action plan that documents the goals and the time frame must be created and signed by both the employee and the employer. Until the goals are met or until it becomes clear that the employee cannot or will not meet them, the employer must monitor the employee’s progress. Satisfying these constraints provides firm legal ground for the termination of an employee, since that termination can be shown to be fair and the last resort.

Aside from job performances, the other two issues affecting termination lawsuits are termination based on misconduct and termination based on layoffs. If misconduct is at the forefront, the employer needs to marshal evidence that they did, in fact, conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation of the employee’s conduct. This investigation must be of a fact-finding nature that determines whether the employee violated any behavioral conduct standards. The employer must avoid trying to find out if the employee violated the law; only possible violations of company policy are the purpose.

When an employee is laid off, the layoff procedure must comply with the stipulations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act or WARN Act or the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act or OWBPA. Companies with 100 or more employees are subject to the constraints of the WARN Act. There is a time limit associated with the WARN Act: they do not cover employees who have worked less than six months at the company, or employees that work fewer than twenty hours per week.

If the worker is laid off due to age-related concerns, the employer must seek an agreement from the employee that the employee will not sue for age discrimination. Under the OWBPA, there are stringent constraints for age discrimination claim waivers. Previous court cases have handed down rulings that these stipulations are unqualified and meant to be applied exactly as written.

Contact our office today for information about the Business insurance products that can help to protect your company against employment-related risks.

This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with the issues and laws of your state before taking any action.