When you get a commercial insurance policy, in many cases premium assigned isn't final. It's actually an estimate. Your carrier assigns a premium based on an informed guess, based on your prior year business activities. Business changes, of course, and estimates can be off. The purpose of insurance premium audits is to use actual sales and operations data to determine how accurate their guess was. The audit then determines the amount of your final premium.
At the end of the process, you could wind up with a balance due, meaning you underpaid premiums for the year, or you could wind up with a credit. This means you overpaid your premiums for the year and the carrier is either crediting or refunding your overpayment to you.
These audits are very common when it comes to General Liability insurance, liquor liability insurance, workers compensation insurance and similar commercial/business insurance policies.
Ask your agent what the basis is for your premiums. Your exposure basis is the data that the insurance company uses to calculate its expected risk, and with that the premiums to cover that risk. Examples include payroll data, sales data, vehicle counts and/or mileage data, and the like. They may also ask for a description of your operations, information about the officers and owners of the company, job duties, names of subcontractors, certificates of insurance for subcontractors, and/or tax documents.
Make sure your figures for the audit are as exact as possible. If you asked up front exactly what your premium basis was, you shouldn't have to use estimates. If you do, or if the carrier feels they are not quite getting the full story, they will request further information, or they could wind up charging a higher premium to compensate for the underwriting uncertainty.
Workers Compensation Insurance
Since workers compensation policies are based entirely on payroll data, payroll audits are very common, and if you keep good records, fairly simple. The carrier can audit on a yearly, quarterly or monthly basis, and your premium will be adjusted up or down based on the last period's audit. In many cases, this auditing process has become fully automated.
Commercial liability carriers usually base their premiums on sales levels. Occasionally they'll ask for some other data including square footage or payroll data - especially during the early months of the policy period, or if you've expanded floor space.
Cargo insurance is generally based on shipping volume or overall valuation of goods shipped.
Liquor Liability Insurance
Carriers vary, but premium basis usually includes gross sales, broken down between alcohol gross sales, non-alcoholic beverage sales and food sales, along with some operations information. Your insurance agent should be able to tell you at the beginning of the term what information to have available for the premium audit.
Most water lines connected to homes are metered to track usage for billing reasons. If a water line has a leak, the monthly usage bill can be very high. For this reason, it is important for homeowners to be vigilant in reviewing their bills. If a bill seems higher, it is time to look for a leak. Water leaks that are significant are usually detected by the utility company, and the utility provider typically notifies the affected customer. Most water leaks start out small and are easy to find with a few simple steps.
Hot Water Tanks
The valves for these tanks are usually connected to a drain that may be leaking without the knowledge of the homeowner. If the drain pipe cannot be removed, listen for a hissing sound that indicates a leak.
To find a leak in a toilet, first remove the lid from the tank. Listen for any sounds of water draining or for hissing noises. If these noises are noted, try to locate their source. Some leaks can be fixed and some cannot. When the leak is not possible to fix, call a plumber. If no leaking noises are noted, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank. After about five minutes, check the bowl for coloring. If the water is colored, this indicates a leak in the flapper. It is possible to complete this repair with a kit, but some people may feel more comfortable calling a plumber.
When the toilets have been ruled out for leaks, look at the meter line running to the house. Locating the leak for the plumber will save plenty of money, so this is an important step. Turn the shutoff valve to the off position. Remove the lid on the meter, and watch the meter's dial. In some cases, grass or dirt may be covering the meter head. When it is located, watch to see if the meter is turning. A turning meter indicates a leak somewhere between the meter and the house. Look for greener grass, muddier ares or soft spots in the yard that may indicate a leak to report to the plumber. Alternately, if the meter is not moving, the leak is somewhere in the house.
Leaks By The House
Put a metal screwdriver on the metal part of each hose bib connected to the house. Place the thumb knuckle over the top of the screwdriver. Touch the area just in front of the ear to the thumb knuckle. This creates an effect similar to a stethoscope. If any sounds are noted, remember what they sound like and where they are. When noises are louder in one hose bib than the other, this means the leak is closer to the bib where the noise is more audible. If no noises are noted on the hose bibs, try the same tip on the faucets in the house. Be careful to avoid scalding when doing this with the hot water heater.
Additional Leak Sources
Check all of the taps, irrigation systems, hoses and sprinklers on the property. Also, check the shower heads for any leaks. This is a step that many people overlook, and repairing a shower head is a simple DIY task. People who have a swimming pool or hot tub should check the unit for leaks.
Not all leaks can be identified by using the tips in this guide. Some leaks can be very hard to locate and will require the attention of a professional plumber. However, homeowners should never ignore leaks. They will only worsen when they are not addressed immediately. Taking the time to complete these steps may pay off for some homeowners, because plumbers will not have to charge as much if the leak's location has already been pinpointed.
There's no arguing that life is absolutely priceless. But when it comes to figuring out how much life insurance you need, it's important to determine how much you're worth to your family. Otherwise, you'll probably end up with too little insurance coverage.
Many consumers use what's called the "multiple of earnings" method to figure out how much life insurance coverage they need. With this method, you look at your annual salary and decide how many years your family would need to be covered if you died. So if you earn $75,000 and you want your family to be covered for five years, you would need $375,000 in life insurance coverage.
However, many experts believe this technique is not very effective. It doesn't take wage increases into account and it can be difficult to determine how many years your family will need to be covered. Plus, this technique doesn't measure your non-wage value. Non-wage contributions include essential duties such as cleaning the house or taking care of your children-tasks your family might have to pay someone to do if you were no longer living.
Many financial experts believe that Human Life Value calculations are more effective in gauging the appropriate amount of life insurance coverage that one needs. Courts often use this method to determine the amounts to be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits. Although this technique is much more complicated than the multiple of earnings method, it can offer a more precise estimate of your value.
The first step in calculating your Human Life Value is to add the current value of all future income you expect to earn plus any other value you plan to contribute to your family until your projected retirement date. You then subtract your taxes and personal expenses from now through your retirement date. Next, you adjust this yearly amount for inflation over the number of years until your planned retirement. Finally, you apply what's called a "discount rate" to each year's projected total value-this accounts for what's called the "time value" of money.
For example, let's say a 30-year-old man named Tom plans to retire at age 60. His annual salary is $45,000, and 20% of that goes into his personal living expenses while the remaining 80% of his income goes to his family. Tom provides additional value for his family by doing the yard work, handling all the house and car repairs and making a few other non-wage contributions. When added all together, he contributes about $14,000 of non-wage value to his family each year. (This is the estimated cost of a skilled worker to perform these same tasks.)
Therefore, Tom's total current annual value to his family comes out to $50,000: 80% of $45,000 salary ($36,000) + Non-wage value ($14,000) = $50,000.
Next, Tom needs to adjust his value for annual inflation. At a 3% rate of annual growth, his value will increase to $121,363 by the time he reaches his projected retirement age of 60.
Finally, Tom applies the discount rate to each year's projected value to represent the time value of his money. At a discount rate of 4%, the total present value of Tom's projected value through age 60 is a little more than $1 million. Based on these calculations, Tom needs $1 million of life insurance coverage to adequately protect his family if he were to die.
Obviously, calculating your Human Life Value can be a complex process. You may want to meet with a professional to determine how much life insurance coverage you need. Our licensed agents can help you calculate your value and ensure that your family is adequately protected. Please call us to schedule your appointment today 314-351-HALO(4256).
The seasons are changing, and the colors of autumn abound.
Regrettably, fall’s stunning display is often accompanied by some unwelcome weather hazards in Missouri – namely, wind – that can cause considerable damage to the very trees that produce those beautiful fall leaves.
At HALO Insurance, we want your yard and home to stay great throughout the season. Take a look at the following tips to ensure you keep your trees and shrubs healthy and avoid destruction that can result when the wind blows.
To protect existing trees
When planting new trees
At HALO Insurance & Benefits Group, we hope these tips will ensure that you and your yard hang tough all season long... even when the wind starts howling.
Pet insurance is available for every pet lover
At one point in time a vehicle was a means to take us from point 'a' to point 'b.' Nowadays we not only travel in our vehicles, we eat meals in them, conduct business in them, read in them, watch TV in them, listen to music and, of course, talk on the phone. Cars are being equipped with more and more gadgets to seemingly make our life easier. In the midst of this progress, we neglect to realize that easier isn't always better, or, as in the case of driving while distracted, safer. While perfecting the 'skill' of multi-tasking we sometimes forget that our vehicle is potentially a lethal weapon.
As with many common tasks for most of us driving a car is second nature. Because of this most people feel that it is safe to perform various tasks while driving. Accident statistics tell us otherwise. We know from research that just thinking about things other than the road ahead has the same effect as removing your eyes from the road. When you actually take your eyes off the road to perform a task, the distance you travel is longer than you would think, especially when traveling at a high speed. It is usually far enough to hit someone or something that is suddenly placed in front of you. When you look away from the road you are merely speculating that nothing in your path will change until you resume the task of driving. When you do this you are gambling with your life and the lives of others.
The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety estimates that, nationwide, somewhere between 4,000 to 8,000 crashes daily happen as the result of distracted drivers. A National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) survey revealed that 60% of cell phone usage takes place behind the wheel.
While we may understand the risks we also know that our lives do not suddenly slow down because we want them to. So what do we do? Take steps to make our traveling safer and also take a minute to realize that the time to accomplish 10 different tasks isn't when we are behind the wheel.
Some steps toward a safer commute include:
· Use a hands free device when making calls and dial the number when the vehicle is stationary.
· Do not answer phone calls during hazardous driving situations.
· Be familiar with the controls on your car's stereo system so that you can make adjustments with considerable ease.
· Pull over to conduct business or finish challenging discussions.
· Never attempt to look for lost items or retrieve an item off the floor while driving.
· Be familiar with and adjust vehicle controls before starting out on a trip.
· Avoid eating, drinking and smoking while driving.
The life you save may not only be your own. Saving time is not nearly as important as staying alive.
Businesses are increasingly deciding that using social media is a necessary part of their operations. They are flocking to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus to spread brand awareness and start conversations with customers.
When used thoughtfully, social media sites can be powerful tools for connecting businesses to their customers. However, sometimes careless or emotional employees can say or do the wrong thing online. A school district lifted an image of a bikini-clad minor from her Facebook page and publicly used it in a presentation immediately after an image that depicted promiscuity and alcohol abuse. A sheriff fired six of his employees after they 'liked' the Facebook page of his opponent in the upcoming election. A Michigan hospital chain fired a physician for allegedly posting on Facebook a photo of a patient's backside, under which another user posted what could have been the individual's initials.
These are just some examples of social media mistakes that landed in court. If a business or organization is sued over the use of social media, will its liability insurance protect it? The answer is not certain.
A standard commercial general liability insurance policy covers "personal and advertising injury liability." Among other things, it covers the policyholder's liability for offenses such as publishing material that slanders or libels a person or organization; disparages another's goods, services or products; or that invades another's privacy. It also covers unintentional use of someone else's advertising idea or copyright infringement. However, policy terms limit how the coverage applies.
For example, the insurance will not cover an organization's intentional violation of another's rights when it knew that it would injure that person. If the school district employee who used the photo of the young lady in the bikini knew that her rights would be violated and she would suffer some harm, the insurance would not cover that employee. On the other hand, the school district itself might have coverage if it was unaware of what its employee was doing.
Intentionally posting information that the poster knows to be false may also be cause for a claim denial. If the insured business posted false information about a competitor's service or told an employee to do it, there will be no coverage or defense for the ensuing lawsuit. Conversely, if the information turned out to be false but the employee or business owner did not know that at the time, then coverage may apply.
Finally, statements that insult or offend people but that do not fit within the policy's definition of personal and advertising injury will not be covered. An employee firing back on Twitter at an angry customer will not trigger insurance coverage.
Social media sites have opened up new opportunities for businesses to reach their customers, both happy and dissatisfied. New opportunities can bring new risks, however, and insurance may not cover all of them.
To discuss your Commercial Insurance Program and coverage, call one of our agents today at 314-351-HALO(4256).
Experts say that repair people who offer to pay insurance deductibles with the intention of enticing consumers to sign contracts for damaged homes and cars open the door to fraud. In addition to this, the practice makes insurance premiums rise. These inducements will eventually result in poor business practices, and they will hurt most of the country's insurance consumers. In some states, there are bills being considered that would classify inducements as insurance fraud. Many insurance companies, lawmakers and consumers encourage the passage of these bills in all states. Since rebating deductibles has become such a major problem in so many different areas, more than five states have already passed these types of bills in recent years.
Dishonest repair providers in home contracting businesses and auto body shops have often told unwary customers that signing contracts with the offer to pay insurance deductibles is acceptable. In most cases, this claim is an attempt to obtain new business and also bill the insurance company with a fraudulent request. Since the individuals who typically do these things are known for shoddy work, consumers also come out on the losing end of the bargain. In many cases, a repair person will exaggerate the cost of a project to cover the deductible. Insurers pass these inflated and fraudulent costs along to policyholders through higher premiums, so consumers are ultimately the ones who are hit the hardest.
Premium rebates can put a person's safety on the line in many other ways. For example, a repair person who completes shoddy repairs on a consumer's car could cause more than financial problems. If the shoddy repairs affect vital functions of the vehicle, the consumer and his or her family will be driving in an unsafe car. Serious accidents could happen, and some accidents have resulted in fatalities. Even if a consumer lived through an accident, he or she might still have to pay for medical expenses, lost time at work, vehicle damages and other costs associated with such an incident.
Honest repair businesses that refuse to offer inducements still face the competition of working against providers who offer more enticing prices. While they are not even similar in the quality of work provided, many consumers do not know this. For this reason, it is in the best interest of every small business specializing in contracting or auto repair to alert consumers about dishonest providers. As a rule, consumers should always remember that businesses performing quality work do not need to offer incentives for insurance-related work. Word of mouth is an excellent source of advertisement for these companies or individuals, so consumers should do their homework before selecting providers. For answers to any questions on these topics, recommendations for repair providers, and to discuss concerns with an agent, please call 314-351-HALO(4256).
Eating well, not smoking and exercising regularly isn't just good for your health-it's also good for your wallet. That's because healthier people generally pay much lower rates for life insurance.
On the other hand, if you smoke, are overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a heart condition, you'll pay the price when it comes to life insurance. As a matter of fact, it may be hard to find a company to insure you in the first place.
Why do unhealthy people pay more? Because life insurance companies don't want to take on large amounts of risk. The poorer your health, the higher risk you are to an insurer. Therefore, if you have a medical condition or chronic illnesses, insurance companies expect you to pay more for coverage.
Get in shape for better rates
If you already have a life insurance policy and are paying sky-high rates due to your health issues, there is hope. It is possible to lower your rates by getting fit. Some insurance companies will decrease your rates if you can verify that your overall health has improved.
Say you purchased your life insurance policy when your health was less than stellar. However, since then you've taken measures to improve your health and lifestyle. Maybe you've lost weight, quit smoking or lowered your cholesterol through diet. If so, you can request a reduction in premiums from your carrier.
How to request a lower rate
If you've recently improved your health, just call your life insurance company and ask them what's required for them to reconsider your rating class. Most likely, they will want to review your recent medical records.
Some insurance companies will ask your primary physician to confirm that you've maintained good health for a certain length of time. If you previously suffered from a severe condition, such as cancer or heart problems, you will probably have to maintain good health for an extended period of time before your insurance carrier will lower your rates. Then again, if you suffer from a condition that is irreparable, they will probably never lower your rate.
Many life insurance companies require that you go through their own medical tests. If this is the case, you'll have to be re-tested by a representative of the life insurance company each time you request a lower rate. However, if you are being tested for a specific condition, such as high cholesterol, and your life insurance company finds something else in the process, they cannot increase your rate.
One advantage is that there's no limit to the number of times you can request a lower rate from your insurance company. If your health continues to improve, you can keep asking the insurance carrier to review your medical records or re-test you.
So lose a few pounds, gain a few bucks. Quit smoking, quit paying lofty insurance premiums. Lower your cholesterol, lower your rate. This is just one more incentive to get healthy and stay that way.