As a small business owner and employer, you have a responsibility to your employees to ensure their health and safety in the workplace. Whether your employment involves operating heavy machinery or typing away at a computer all day, there are always risks. Here at HIG, we want to protect your business and it’s employees, which is why we’re offering tips to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.
Here at HIG, we’ve been helping local businesses in Fall River, Somerset, and along the South Coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island with their business insurance needs for more than 100 years. Over the course of that time, we’ve seen how the business world has changed, and have worked to make sure our insurance offerings evolve with it.
We sat down with HIG partner Chris Hadley to go over some of the biggest risks and questions that business owners today have. Read along to learn more about what your business needs to be fully protected.
Q. What are some business insurance options that can protect a company when it comes to slips and falls?
A. “Slips and falls are a pretty big concern for businesses, especially in the winter time. We see this come up a lot when businesses don’t properly salt an entrance or sidewalk. We also see issues with this when people mop floors during business hours. That can be a big risk, even if you put up ‘Wet Floor’ signs. Luckily, a business owners policy (BOP) includes liability protection, which covers a company’s responsibility for any harm it may cause to others. Your BOP covers medical or legal expenses resulting from an accident, like a slip or fall, which happened on your property.”
Q. What kind of income protection does a business have if it’s shut down from a fire?
A. “Most BOP’s have business interruption coverage. If your business experiences a covered loss, like a fire, water damage or another catastrophic event that requires your business to close for a period of time, the actual loss of income you experience would typically be covered during the period of restoration. Business interruption coverage also picks up any extra expenses incurred from setting up in a new location. For example, if you’re a doctor or dentist and you open a temporary office while yours is being restored, the extra expense of renting the space and buying or renting equipment would be covered in this scenario.”
Q. What can a business do to protect themselves from lawsuits related to things like wrongful termination?
A.“Many business owners policies now have Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) to cover this. EPLI provides coverage for wrongful acts related to the employment process. The most typical situations are wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. It’s a security policy that pays for legal defense costs and/or any punitive damages. HIG has definitely seen our fair share of these types of claims coming from clients, so we have a discussion about EPLI coverage with anyone who has employees.”
Q. A topic that has been in the news recently is that of employee embezzlement. What can a business owner do to protect themselves from this?
A. “Many BOP’s have an option to purchase what’s known as employee dishonesty or crime coverage. This insurance coverage can protect a business owner from financial losses resulting from fraudulent acts performed by an employee such as theft, computer fraud, embezzlement, wire transfer fraud, etc. Your independent insurance agent will be able to help you determine how much of this coverage your unique business needs.
Q. Cyber Security has been top of mind for business owners for many reasons in recent months, but most recently with the WannaCry attack — what can business owners do today to protect themselves from a data breach or cyber attack?
A. “This is an enormously important topic these days with all of our business insurance clients. We recently had a client come in who had added an online purchasing option to their website. I suggested adding on data security coverage, which is an additional coverage that can be added onto your BOP, since their website was now taking credit card information. They decided to go with my recommendation and added on the coverage, which was very fortunate, because six months later they were the victim of a data breach. It’s one of those coverages where you don’t realize how important it can be until you experience a loss first hand.
Data Security Coverage protects your business if it becomes the victim of a cyber hack. One of the biggest benefits comes if you have credit card data that is stolen. This coverage will protect individual customers and your business by notifying all affected individuals and setting up credit card reporting and monitoring for each customer who is impacted, which can be a serious cost for a business to take on themselves. Business owners should know that credit card data isn’t the only thing cyber criminals are after, however. If they hack your computer system, they can also steal sensitive, personal information, like social security numbers, which is another way that this coverage can be helpful. Individuals who are impacted by your business’ data breach are eligible for identity restoration case management in addition to credit monitoring.
Data Security Coverage will also cover any damages that were done to your computer or computer systems, and includes a professional forensic IT review to research and determine any vulnerabilities in your computer system. It also covers cases of extortion, which have been happening recently like with the WannaCry ransomware attack. It’s not that expensive to add on, especially when you weigh the cost a business could face without this coverage, so we definitely advise any business that uses computers to purchase this additional coverage.”
When it comes to insuring your business, you never want to leave things to chance. A Business Owners Package is a great option for small to medium sized businesses because it combines your major property and liability risk into one comprehensive package, saving you time and money on your total insurance program. While many of the coverages we’ve discussed today are included in most BOP’s, your independent insurance agent can go over policy specifics and limits to make sure your unique business has the protection it needs.
You’ve probably seen it in the news, but car insurance rates are on the rise, with all signs pointing to technology as the main culprit. In today’s highly connected world, cars are becoming more advanced with new safety features and technology. While these changes were intended to make cars safer, they also make it more expensive to repair a car when it is involved in an accident. Hence, the increase in car insurance rates in Massachusetts, even for drivers who have not been involved in a recent crash.
Here at HIG, we are breaking down why car insurance rates are going up for almost everyone and sharing a few ways to help you save on your car insurance costs to hopefully offset any changes you may see.
Cost of Fixing Cars
The cost of auto repairs have skyrocketed. There is no doubt that there have been vast safety improvements in cars over the last several years, but these changes have also affected repair costs and subsequently, insurance rates. Modern cars are more complex — made out of different materials and more parts than ever before. All of these improvements translate to labor intensive and costly repairs. Below are some of the ‘used-to-be easy’ fixes that have been impacted by newer and safer technology.
A fender-bender used to be an easy fix, maybe a few hundred dollars at most. In the past, auto technicians could simply punch out the dent — but that’s no longer the case. Many new bumpers are now a molded piece of vinyl attached to aluminum, which is designed to absorb impact and function with the crumple zone. This means that when there is damage to the bumper, it has to be completely replaced and typically with a hefty price tag, sometimes over $1,000! New bumpers also include sensors for things like backing up, collision avoidance, lane alignment, and even cruise control, further increasing repair costs.
Headlights have also evolved over the last several years. In the past, many car owners were able to replace a headlight assembly themselves with a little patience and know-how. However, newer cars now use LED or HID bulbs which require different parts and expertise to replace. A typical halogen bulb would cost $15-20 on average, but HID bulbs typically cost $100 or more — and don’t forget about the cost of labor.
For most insures the cost to replace a cracked or broken windshield is covered under your auto insurance policy; which is a significant saving for you. However, with new technology, the cost of repairing your windshield has increased drastically. According to a recent article in The Boston Globe, it used to cost around $350 for a simple windshield replacement. Today, those same windshields are made with higher quality glass and often contain connected sensors that can detect things like lane departures, rain, and even changes in lighting. Consequently, these advances have almost doubled the cost of repairs.
Technology isn’t the only thing impacting your car insurance rates — low gas prices, unemployment rates, and the technology in your hand have as well.
With gas prices still relatively low and unemployment rates in Massachusetts still under 4% it may seem like a good thing, however in the insurance world, it can mean something completely different. The National Safety Council (NSC) projected that there were 3% more drivers on the road in 2016. And with more people on the road, there is an increased risk of car accidents. Combine this data with increased rates of distracted driving, and auto insurers are seeing much higher rates of auto insurance claims.
For the first time in history, we are dealing with a generation that learned to text before they learned how to drive. But teen drivers aren’t the only ones to blame — 36% of all drivers text and drive. With more distracted drivers on the road, we also see an increase in distracted driving accidents and fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities attributed to distracted driving increased 8.8% in 2015, reversing a long-running decline in automobile-related fatality rates. (If you’re concerned about distracted driving and want to learn tips to avoid this dangerous behavior, read our blog on Tips to End Distracted Driving.)
Technology is changing the world we live in, and here at HIG, we want to help you keep up. While we can’t stop auto insurance rates in Massachusetts from climbing, we can work to help you find a policy that fits your needs and your budget. Here are just a few discounts and coverages you should consider when assessing your car insurance options.
- Bundling Auto & Home With The Same Insurance Carrier
- Disappearing Deductible
- Accident Forgiveness Multi Car Individual/Spouse
- New Customer Discount
- Automatic Bill Pay/Pay In Full
- Energy-Saving Hybrids Or Electrics
- Advanced Driver Training
- Military Away
- Motor Club Membership
- New Auto Replacement Cost
- Auto Loan/Lease Gap Coverage
- Pet Coverage
- A Student Away At School
- Good Student Discount
- Low Mileage Discount
- Group Discounts
Not happy with your current auto insurance policy? Get in touch with us today to let us help you find a policy that fits your needs. You can reach us at (508) 676-5949 or by visiting our website.
You thought you took the necessary steps to protect your home from freezing temperatures, but now you’re dealing with a burst pipe. What should you do? First of all, stay calm. Then, follow these steps.
Shut off your water and potentially your electricity
If a pipe bursts in your home, the first thing you should do is turn off your water to minimize flooding damage. Every homeowner should know where the main water valve is. Find it and shut it off immediately! If necessary, you should also turn off electricity to the areas of your home where the flooding is occurring.
If you are living in an apartment and do not have access to the building’s water supply or electric services, call your landlord or building manager as soon as you notice a problem.
Call a plumber
Next, call a plumber. If your plumber does not offer 24-hour services, do some research. A quick online search should yield services in your area that work round the clock.
Move your belongings
Move anything you can away from leaking pipes to minimize damage. This includes furniture, clothing, art, or any other items that can be damaged by water. Be extremely careful with electronic devices that may have come in contact with water.
Remove as much water as you can
Get together as many buckets, pots, pans or any other containers you have and start collecting the water. You want to get as much water out as quickly as possible to avoid problems with mold and mildew. Towels and mops or even a wet/dry vacuum can also help with this process. If you don’t own a wet-dry vac, try renting one from your local hardware or home improvement store.
Set up fans and a dehumidifier in the affected area to remove moisture from the air and dry things out faster. Make sure to keep an eye on the dehumidifier and empty it before it fills up. Desiccant products like silica gel can also help for more serious damage. You can apply tubs or sachets of the gel near areas most affected by water such as floors or walls.
For more severe damage, such as leaks affecting multiple rooms or floors of your home or cases where leaks have gone unnoticed for more than 8 hours, a water mitigation or restoration professional may be required.
Call you insurance agent
Get in touch with your insurance agent to keep them up to date about what is happening. Photographs and notes recording the extent of the damage will help you and your agent when it comes time to file an insurance claim.
Along the South Coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, there is a high potential for flooding as a result of increasingly violent storms. High winds, downbursts, and fast-moving water are just a few examples of forces that increase the risk of water damage inside your home. Even with our close proximity to the water along the coast, most people don’t realize that flood insurance is not covered in your a homeowners insurance policy.
Here at HIG Insurance, we’ve worked to protect homeowners from flood damage for more than 100 years. The first step to protect your coastal home is to get good flood insurance — then consider these ways to reinforce your home during storms:
Caulking and Weather-Stripping
You may know that weatherizing can keep your home warmer while saving you money on energy bills. But did you know that quality caulking and weather-stripping can also help protect your home from flood related water damage?
Checking for existing leaks and sealing cracks is an effective way to minimize flood damage. Before applying caulk or weather-stripping, assess your home to figure out where water may enter during periods of heavy rain and wind. Look for gaps or holes around window frames, doors, and vents. Pay special attention to cracks in your basement, roof, or in the foundation of your home. Keep in mind that for large cracks, you may need to call a professional.
Affixing weather stripping to all doors that provide outside access is another way to keep water, snow, or sleet out of your house. When installed correctly, weather-stripping should create a watertight seal when doors are closed. Both caulking and weather-stripping wear with time and use, so make sure to inspect both annually.
Gutters and Downspout Inspection
It is important to keep your gutters and downspouts clear all year round. If leaves or other debris are clogging gutters, they can create blockages that prevent water from flowing away from your home. Make sure to also check for leaks in your gutters and downspouts to avoid potentially ruining both the siding and foundation of your home.
Especially during times of heavy rain, it is crucial to ensure that water is moving away from the foundation of your home to avoid flooding. If this is a problem for your house, consider purchasing a downspout extender. Ideally, water should be released away from your home at a distance of at least five feet.
Check Flood Vents
In the event that water does enter your home, flood vents can reduce the likelihood of structural damage by equalizing water pressure inside and outside of your home. If you have structures that are below base flood elevation or if you live in an area prone to flooding, you should consider installing flood vents. It is important to note that while many crawlspaces have air vents in the foundation, these do not function in the same way as a flood vent.
Make sure you have enough flood vents for the size of the area you are trying to vent. Vent opening should be large enough to provide for the force and flow of water. They should also be located low enough on the structure of your home to avoid draining water back to your foundation. Lastly, make sure to check regularly that flood vents are not blocked by debris, especially during periods of heavy rain and flooding.
Dry vs Wet Flood-Proofing
Dry flood-proofing involves several methods for keeping water from entering your home all together, while wet flood-proofing has more to do with minimizing damage once water has gotten into your home. Often times, these approaches are better suited for homes or structures that are not being lived in during times of flooding, such as vacation or seasonal homes.
For dry flood-proofing, you should consider steps such as anchoring your structure, reinforcing walls, raising all utility services above flood walls, and installing a sump pump in your basement. Wet flood-proofing consists of changing the uninhabited areas of your home that are more prone to flooding, such as basements and crawlspaces. This can include installing flood vents (described above) or replacing all construction and finishing materials with flood resistant materials.
Often times, a structural engineer is required for when implementing either of these methods. Make sure to be aware of permitting and coding regulations in your specific area before making large structural changes to your home.
Learn More About Flooding
To read more about how to protect your home and family both before and during severe weather, here are some resources for you to check out:
- NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association — A guide to what you need to do to protect your family and your home from coastal flooding.
- Gov — See if your area flood map has changed and learn about the insurance program sponsored by the federal government.
- National Weather Service — News and updates about severe weather conditions.
HIG specializes in helping Fall River, Massachusetts and Rhode Island owners of coastal properties find the best Flood Insurance for protecting their home in case of flood damage. Please give us a call at 508-676-5949 to speak to an expert today.
Ice dams are a very real problem that you will most likely face if you own a home in Massachusetts. While ice can be lovely for skating, it can quickly ruin your home if you don’t take the proper precautions. Luckily, we know all about ice dams! Follow our suggestions and you can rest easy knowing that even if we see a repeat of last year’s winter, you won’t have to worry about ice dams ruining your home.
What’s An Ice Dam?
Great question! An ice dam occurs when water from melting snow runs down your roof then refreezes, causing the ice to accumulate, or “dam” in one spot. If any water gets under a shingle it will lift it up, which can often cause water to drip into your home, ruining gutters and shingles along the way. Ice dams are not your friend.
Oh No! How Do I Prevent Them?
The trick to preventing ice dams is to completely seal and insulate your attic space. Unfortunately, this usually means calling a contractor! Call a contractor now and schedule a visit ASAP before they’re booked for months. If your contractor isn’t available, or if you prefer to just do-it-yourself, it’s not that difficult! This guide from Energy Star lays out all the materials you would need and walks you through the process step by step. The sooner you can prep your home, the more quickly you can stop worrying about an ice dam!
Take Care Of Leaves
Autumn in New England is what makes winter worth it for all of us. However, all those beautiful leaves will often clog up your gutter, which can lead to more ice dams. Keep your gutters free of leaves and snow so they can actually do what they were designed for. Now is the time to buy a roof-rake to help keep your roof clear of snow. Remember, the crux of ice dam prevention is a clean roof!
It’s also important to note the importance of basic ladder safety when doing any work on the roof, particularly in the winter. Always keep your ladder away from an electrical wiring, have a spotter stabilizing the base of the ladder and always face the ladder when descending or climbing!
Alright, so despite your best efforts, you still got an ice dam. Don’t panic. We can fix this. Simply run down to the hardware store and grab a chemical melting agent! Avoid using rock salt. While rock salt will melt the dam, it will also likely damage your shingles and gutters. Stick with a basic melting agent like calcium chloride. All you have to do is apply the agent to the dam and you’ll be all set!
Don’t Use Fire
Always use a chemical melting agent rather than fire. While it may intuitively make sense to use some sort of fire, such as a blow torch, to remove ice dams we beg you to listen to us and simply don’t do it. Seriously, don’t do it. You are far more likely to cause a problem than to fix one when using fire in this situation.
If you own a home in New England you need to prepare for ice dams! A little money upfront to purchase the necessary preventative tools will save you a lot of money down the line. Finish winterizing your home by making sure your all of your insurance needs are up to date. Give us a call at 508-676-5949 or visit our website!
October is National Fire Prevention Month! Is your home protected? Most everyone has some semblance of fire prevention in their home, even if it is just a few fire alarms with aging batteries. While “stop-drop-and-roll” may be all you needed to know as a child, as an adult it’s time to step up your game. Fortunately, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about effective fire prevention in this article—complete with a few tips from our very own Paul Burke, who spent 35 years as a firefighter!
Fire Alarms: Location, Location, Location
A working fire alarm is the crux of every fire prevention plan. According to the National Fire Prevention Agency, a working smoke alarm can lower your chances of dying in a reported fire by 50%. Yes, the beeping when the batteries are low can get annoying, but one bulk purchase of batteries just for your fire alarm will ensure you’re protected.
Paul Says: “Smoke alarms obviously work and are designed to save lives. If you have battery smoke alarms, change the batteries every time you move the clocks forward or back. If you have a monitored burglar alarm you want to include the smoke detectors. That way if you’re not home the alarm company can notify the fire department if there is a fire in your house. A fire doubles in size every minute so the sooner the fire department is notified the less damage you’ll have.”
The placement of the smoke alarms is critical to their effectiveness. There needs to be a detector on every floor of your home, in each sleeping area and outside each sleeping area. You can’t predict a fire, but correctly placed, working smoke alarms are the next best thing.
It’s also important to note that every floor should have a working CO2 monitor. CO2 has no smell, making these monitors the only way to detect it. Thousands of people lose their lives every year to this “silent killer.” Get a monitor, rest easy.
Paul Says: “Obviously you want one in the basement near the boiler. You want to have a CO2 detector on every floor.”
Take the time to create an escape plan with your family. Make sure you know which exit is the closest to where you sleep and create a designated meeting point for all house members that is a safe distance from your home. If an unexpected fire occurs, it will be hard to think clearly amidst the frenzy. Having a plan could make all the difference. Make sure no one forgets by practicing the plan at least twice a year.
With everyone becoming more and more connected to the digital landscape, homes are consuming an increasing amount of power. Remember to use surge protectors, keep electronics such as space heaters away from curtains and fabric, and be wary of halogen lights, which have been known to ignite nearby flammable material. You should never leave halogen lights on when you are not at home.
Paul Says: “If you have a room where there are a lot of electronics, you may not be required to put a smoke detector in, but that’s where you should put it. My answer is put it in every single room.”
If you live in a home that is particularly susceptible to fire, you may want to consider a few additional measures. Home sprinkler systems are becoming more common and are surprisingly cost effective when installed only in high risk areas of the home (kitchen, fireplaces, etc).
Paul Says: “Make sure any fireplaces or wood/pellet stoves are thoroughly cleaned before they are used. This is the time of year where it’s about to get cold at night. If you burn a lot of green wood you need to clean them more than once per year.”
It’s also worth noting that smokers need to be extra careful of home fires. It sounds obvious, but you should never smoke in bed! Whether in bed, in your backyard or driving your car, carelessly discarded cigarettes are the leading cause of fires in the United States.
This National Fire Prevention Month, take the time to make sure your home and family are prepared for an emergency. Stop-drop-and-roll is only the beginning. These tips will ensure that you’re prepared for any unexpected fires.
Severe weather can strike at any time–as we saw a few weeks ago when golf ball sized hail took Massachusetts by storm in the middle of summer. If you’ve experienced a hailstorm you know that these small balls of ice are much more dangerous than they look. The rare form of precipitation is also the most dangerous, and even small sized hail can cause substantial damage to the unprepared car or home. The average hailstorm lasts about five minutes, but according to reports by the National Weather Service, hail causes upwards of a billion dollars worth of damage every year. Minimize your damages by learning the basics of protecting your car and home from hail.
Protect Your Car!
If a hailstorm is predicted, it is certainly wise to avoid driving during the peak hours of the storm. If you have to be on the road, be ready to pull over into any kind of covered parking when the hail hits—it only takes one piece to crack a windshield. Consider getting to the office a little early that day and leave your car in a covered parking garage.
If you’re in an area that is regularly at risk for hailstorms, you should buy a plastic cover for your car that you can keep in your trunk. The cost of one of these covers pales in comparison to the cost of a dented vehicle. If hail is an infrequent problem and you don’t want to purchase a formal cover, a heavy blanket or comforter will also protect your car from any dents or scratches.
Protect Your House!
The most important way to protect your home from hail is to keep your roof in tip-top shape! Make sure there are no leaks, rotting wood or exposed areas that hail could harm. A well kept roof will protect your home from any form of precipitation. If you need to redo your roof, consider using an impact-resistant material if you’re in an area that regularly deals with hail.
The size of hail will vary depending on the severity of the storm, but some pieces can be as large as grapefruits! A large enough piece of hail can easily shatter your basic home windows. Covering the window shades, drapes and blinds can help prevent the wind from blowing broken glass into your home and causing further damage or even injury.
If you have any patio or outdoor furniture, always try to either bring it inside or place protective covers over it. One hailstorm can easily decimate an entire patio set.
Comprehensive and rental insurance coverage will leave you with the peace of mind that your home and car are protected, regardless of the severity of the weather. Most comprehensive insurance covers severe weather (like hail), as do most rental insurance agreements. The only thing worse than ruining your car in a hailstorm is ruining your rental car in a hailstorm. Take the time to make sure you have the proper coverage.
The best thing you can do to protect your home and vehicle from any kind of severe weather is to prepare in advance. If you follow these easy tips, hail will never be more than a minor inconvenience. While we can’t yet control Mother Nature, we certainly can mitigate the damage she causes by taking a few precautions before the hailstorm hits.
The adage “safety is priceless” is rarely more apt than when it’s used to describe rental insurance. A lot of times it takes a loss before you realize that while rental insurance in Fall River or the surrounding communities isn’t always mandatory, it is always necessary. Many Fall River residents learned this the hard way after a devastating winter of intense snowfall left many apartments flooded due to ice dams and their belongings damaged. If you are getting ready to move into a new apartment and don’t have rental insurance, here are five reasons getting a quote is the right choice:
While each individual scenario will differ, the average rental insurance policy costs a little over $150 a year—that’s $3 a week. If you packed one lunch, or skipped one cup of coffee you’ve paid for your rental insurance that week. Think about it: that’s $3 a week protecting thousands of dollars worth of your stuff!
Your Landlord’s Insurance Isn’t As Comprehensive As You Think
A good landlord will always be appropriately insured, but your landlord’s insurance never protects your personal belongings. So while they may help with a damaged dishwasher, your sofa that was flooded is not going to be replaced.
Rental insurance also protects your belongings from theft. People’s belongings are worth more now than ever before, in a large part due to the value of technology like computers and cellphones. Dealing with a burglary will be a lot easier knowing that you can be reimbursed by your trusted insurance agent for the cost of your stolen belongings.
You Have Neighbors
You may be thinking only within the walls of your own home here, but your neighbor’s actions affect your life. What if your neighbor forgets to turn off their stove and starts a small house fire? Even if the fire doesn’t spread to your apartment, you could be dealing with thousands of dollars worth of smoke damage. Without rental insurance, you could be in serious trouble through no fault of your own! Rental insurance can give you the peace of mind that you are in control of your belongings.
It Protects You From Negligence
We all make mistakes, that’s just a fact of life—but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for them. Insurance is about investing in your future and protecting what you work for. Remember, if you leave a pot cooking on the stove and start a fire in your apartment complex, you’re not only liable for your apartment, but for any others affected. Most rental insurance policies cover negligence and when it comes to protecting your future, the best you can do is make sure you’re prepared.
Protection that Travels with You
Rental insurance protects your belongings, no matter where they are. This means that if you lost your laptop while on your vacation in Europe, it isn’t a complete loss. Always remember to check your policy or ask your insurance agent what constitutes “other covered losses” to know the full extent of your protection while traveling abroad.
Rental insurance provides protection for your belongings wherever they may be, and liability coverage for accidents in your home. You work hard for the life you have, why would you not protect it for less than the cost of a single drink a week? Rental insurance in Fall River may not be mandated by your landlord, but if you value your property it’s a small investment with a large payoff.
Now is the time to protect your home, and HIG Insurance is happy to help find the right coverage for you! To request a quote today: CLICK HERE.