Donald G. Blood, CIC of Brown & Brown of Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was recently honored for his ongoing pledge to education, commitment to excellence, and dedication to the insurance profession. The Society of Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC) presented Mr. Blood with a formally inscribed certificate for his continued participation in the CIC Program. Read the full release here…
I’m taking this opportunity to update our valued clients during this unprecedented time.
Although the Lehigh Valley is under a non-essential business shutdown, Brown & Brown of Lehigh Valley remains OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Please know we have consciously made the necessary arrangements to ensure business continuity during this time. Our teammates are in constant communication and will be taking advantage of technologies in place so that you can continue to receive the same high-quality support you have come to expect from Brown & Brown. Click here to read the full letter from Mat Burtt.
Please be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. As an insurance broker, we have no authority to make coverage decisions as that ability rests solely with the issuing carrier. Therefore, all claims should be submitted to the carrier for evaluation. The positions expressed herein are opinions only and are not to be construed as any form of guarantee or warrantee. Finally, given the extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, comments above do not take into account any applicable pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language.
Car insurance rates can be crippling, especially if you’re young, have been caught up in accidents, or if you’re not able to afford to latest state-of-the-art car with futuristic safety features. Though car insurance premiums can be a pain to pay, here we offer you 8 tips on lowering your car insurance rates in 2018.
1. Car insurance discounts
There are numerous discounts which you may be entitled to with your auto insurance, here are but a few examples!
LOW MILEAGE – Do you drive less than 7,500 miles per year? You may get a 5-15% discount on your car insurance! Some insurance companies even offer discounts if you do some of your travel via public transport such as buses or subways.
MULTI-CAR DEALS – You may see 10-25% discounts on your comprehensive, collision, and liability premiums if you have more than one vehicle on the same insurance policy.
MODERN CAR DISCOUNTS – Does your car have airbags, anti-lock brakes, and automatic seat belts? Perhaps it has tracking systems and anti-theft alarms? You could see discounts from 5-30% depending on how modern and safe or thief-proof your car is.
2. Complete a traffic course
You can often see a 5-15% discount if you take a traffic course to improve your driving skills. The eligibility for these tests varies from state to state, however. Traffic school courses are usually 4 to 6 hours long, and can be done online, in person, or via a mixture of the two. They often set you back around $25 to $75, though you’ll make that back in discounts quickly. You may remove points from your record for minor traffic violations, though you can’t get this AND a discount. New York, however, is an exception to this rule.
3. Watch your credit report closely
Auto insurance companies take many factors into account when calculating your premiums, and your credit history is one of them. Some states have made this illegal, but in many, it remains a legal and common practice. Pay your bills on time and maintain a decent credit rating; it will help you to seem low-risk and therefore help to keep your car insurance rates down. The difference in auto insurance rates for “good credit” drivers and “poor credit” drivers is a staggering 67%.
4. Be a safe driver
It sounds so obvious, but it’s true. People with no traffic violations or accidents get lower insurance rates (over time) as they are simply presenting themselves as low-risk (i.e. safe) drivers. A single speeding ticket can increase your auto insurances rates 11-13%, so why take the risk with your life and your insurance premiums?
5. Invest in a safer car
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Safety Ratings Page (long name) contains a list of all the safety ratings for various cars, taking multiple factors into account. Prioritize safety ratings when you buy a new car, as you’ll likely decrease your insurance rates and better protect your own life!
6. Discounts for paying in full
You can usually see a 5-10% discount if you pay your car insurance premium in full, rather than spreading the payments out over an extended period. Though many people cannot afford to do this straight away, it could save you hundreds of dollars over the year.
7. Evaluate what you really need from your policy
Do you really need comprehensive and collision coverage? Vehicles that are worth less than $3,000 or less than 10 years old simply don’t require these forms of coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, getting rid of comprehensive and collision coverage (assuming you don’t need them) could save you around $660 per year on average.
8. Compare the market
As with any form of insurance, you should be sure to compare the rates, policies, and details of different insurers. Auto insurers have slightly different methods of ascertaining how much you will pay, so one insurer could happen to see you in a much more favorable light than another.
Among the myriad of circumstances used to calculate your auto insurance rates, your insurance could significantly drop (or spike) if you get married, move house, have an accident, buy a new car, or add a young driver to a household policy.
Consider taking the customer service ratings (and customer reviews) of the insurers into account when making your decision, as insurance companies are notorious for wanting to escape paying out whenever they can. Evaluate what is most important to you, what price you’re willing to pay, and what excess you’re willing to pay, assuming it is applicable. It pays to compare competing companies!
Looking for more help with lowering your car insurance rates? Get in touch today and we’ll be able to help you with a personalized plan which aims to lower your auto insurance rates for good.
Vehicle collisions happen each day to drivers of all ages. They are part of life in big cities and small towns. Knowing the correct actions to take following an auto collision can have a lasting impact on insurance premiums and possible legal repercussions. Take the correct measures to stay protected. Here are 6 steps to take following a vehicle collision:
1. Get to Safety
The action to take following an auto collision is getting to safety. Depending on the situation, this could mean moving a vehicle safely to the shoulder or exiting the automobile immediately. Always place safety as the top priority above all else. Create distance from moving traffic and other hazards before moving ahead.
2. Evaluate for Injury
A vehicle collision sends the adrenaline response into overdrive. Shock can distract from injuries. Check for personal injuries and encourage all others involved to do the same. If any back or neck injuries are suspected, immobilization is recommended. Any medically trained personnel can perform first aid if the situation allows.
3. Contact First Responders
After moving to safety and applying immediate first aid, call 911 and request aid. This is recommended any time there’s a vehicle collision, regardless of severity. Injuries may take days or longer to appear. Additionally, insurance carriers may reference official records following a vehicle collision.
4. Collect Information
With safety and first aid under control, it’s time to collect pertinent information from the people involved. More than driver name and car insurance carrier, thoroughly record the scene. Take photographs of the vehicles, damage, and the scene. Speak to the first responders to gather any relevant information. Trauma can affect short-term memory. Record responses for simple reference and accuracy.
5. Be Cooperative
Following a vehicle collision, you may be in a heightened state of emotional response. This can make it challenging to be cooperative with other drivers and first responders. Other drivers are likely energized as well and may be challenging to communicate with. Be part of the solution.
6. Exercise Neutrality
One of the first gut responses following a vehicle collision or other trauma is talk it out. It’s perfectly natural yet following a vehicle collision a casual remark may cause trouble. After a vehicle collision, stay neutral with other drivers, witnesses, and responders. This includes remaining silent on social media channels. Inadvertently admitting fault may lead to increased insurance premiums and more.
Afterward, contact an insurance agent to report the collision and begin a claim. Agents are ready to help overcome vehicle collisions so you can get back on the road. Auto collisions are equal-opportunists and can happen anywhere. Prepare with comprehensive auto insurance and drive protected.
Entrepreneurs utilizing personal vehicles for business may want to consider extra insurance protection. Making deliveries and service calls with personal vehicles may limit insurance coverage. This can be true for accidents while working or while on personal business. A local small business owner learned this the hard way. On the way to visit a friend there was a collision resulting in significant damage to the vehicle. Although her personal policy would generally cover the damages the insurance company denied the claim. Personal auto insurance policies extend to protect many small business owners yet in some cases, vehicles employed for specific commercial purposes may be excluded from coverage.
Most small business owners are protected under personal auto insurance policies. In some cases though, the commercial purpose for the vehicle may limit or forfeit coverage. For cars and trucks performing deliveries, equipped with commercial license plates, carrying passengers and emergency vehicles extra insurance coverage is necessary. In this case, the driver owned a small business selling heaters and a small part of that included deliveries.
The owner recently switched insurance carriers online to save money. Checking the box during the quotation process, they reported 30% of the vehicle mileage related to business purposes. Reviewing the insurance claim and the business services after the collision, the claim and repayment were denied. Shocked, the business owner learned the limits of personal auto insurance protection too late. This leaves the owner with a damaged personal and business vehicle, without compensation from the auto insurer.
Business owners mixing personal and business trips with the same vehicle may want to consider extra insurance protection. For more information on personal and commercial auto insurance policies contact an agent. We’re always keeping up with insurance-related topics that may impact health or wallet. For any questions about insurance, call anytime for answers.
In 2008 Leo Welder started ChooseWhat.com. Within a year he was being sued by J2 Global for using the term “e-fax”. It was totally out of the blue and unexpected. Sadly, he found his insurance didn’t protect him from this claim. Yes, he purchased insurance but was missing coverage for intellectual property litigation.
Both companies eventually settled but only after Mr. Welder had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (How many startups have that amount of capital freely available?)
After the lawsuit, Mr. Welder decided to add an E&O policy to help protect his company from these concerns.
No matter how smart you are or how diligent you are in caring for your clients, you can still find yourself in legal and economic problems. However, even with these concerns, many startups haven’t investigated getting necessary insurance for their risk profile. (Typically because they are either trying to save money or as an oversight.)
The critical thing to understand when contemplating risk management is that problems arise from gaps in protection. With that in mind, here are recommendations from business owners and insurance experts to avoid liability problems in a business.
Cover All Your Bases
Every organization needs basic liability insurance coverage. This can protect your business from a huge number of costs from libel to customer injuries. The average liability plan is one of the least expensive types of insurance protection you can own.
Most business owners admit that they avoid insurance to keep costs low. The question to ask… is it worth it? Be sure to talk to your insurance agent and review any needed changes for your risk profile.
Here are some areas of risk to ponder:
* Do you have company cars?
* Do you or employees drive personal cars for business related activities?
* Do you attend trade shows?
* Do you store client data online?
* Is your company dependent on a key employee?
The list above is an example of what an insurance advisor will walk through with you. What you’ll end up investing in insurance is going to depend a great deal on your specific risks. (If you run a business that has low liability footprint such as copywriting or consulting you’ll have a different risk profile than if you are a construction contractor.)
If you are just starting your business, take a close look at Business Owners Plan. This could include some or even all of these policies into one affordable package. In order to qualify, you’ll probably need to have a business that employs less than 100 workers and has less than $5 million in annual sales. These policies are designed specifically for start-up companies and smaller companies. They work to decrease your risk to lawsuits.
Important: Update Your Policy As Needed
Your company is always changing and insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Be sure your insurance coverage keeps pace.
If your business size rapidly changes, if your employee count changes, if your services change… all of these are reasons to review your insurance.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistic. Yes, one insurance misstep can potentially damage your business. The good news is one call to our team can help you understand your risk profile and help you be certain you have the exact coverage you need for your company.
Here’s one of the core things we help our clients with. Understanding how to minimize personal economic dangers via insurance coverage. For example, the sudden death of a close relative can have a significant negative impact on your family’s financial well being. Having adequate life insurance can help address this. Your home might catch fire. Adequate homeowners insurance offers critical protection. And of course having appropriate auto insurance protects you from a loss in case your car is totaled.
It’s important to have insurance to protect against all of these different threats. But there is a cost to being over-insured… and not just in having a higher insurance premium. So here are a few tips to help you keep this from taking place.
Having appropriate liability insurance on all your vehicles is critical. However, having collision and/or comprehensive insurance on a vehicle with a low resale value that’s also paid off isn’t helpful. Here’s a way you can test your need. If your car was in an accident could you afford to replace it without negatively impacting your finances? If yes, scrap the unnecessary coverage and pocket the savings.
Homeowners insurance policy.
Do you know how much it will cost to rebuild your home if it were to face devastation? This isn’t the same as what your home might be worth if you sold it tomorrow. Remember that the cost of land doesn’t factor into having adequate home insurance protection.
When you buy insurance for your home or condo, you are seeking the needed coverage in case the house (or a part of it) has to be replaced. This should be 1-for-1. For example, if you have a home that is carpeted, you wouldn’t pay for insurance that would replace the carpets with hardwood floors. When insurance is called upon, the coverage must be like-for-like. Making certain you have appropriate coverage can lower your total premiums.
One of the biggest areas where folks are often over-insured is life insurance. Some folks view having a life insurance policy from a pride perspective. But do you really need a $1,000,000 policy? Carefully reviewing your needs is critical to avoid spending too much on life insurance. Having the right mix of insurance including term vs. whole can also offer savings.
Another thing to watch out for is costly riders. While there are too many to cover in detail here, riders add costs. It’s important to make certain that whatever riders you choose, they meet your unique needs.
For the most part, being over-insured drives up the cost of premiums while offering you little genuine benefit. Eliminating these costs can help you save hundreds of dollars (or more) each year. Shifting these savings towards other goals such as investing can help you build financial security. This can include setting aside for college or retirement.
The best time to address insurance is when life circumstances change. Recently married? Having a child? Perhaps you’ve just received a big promotion? You may have won the lottery. Leverage these big life moments to be 100% certain you have adequate protection. As we review these life changes with you we’ll help you understand cost-savings opportunities. This includes making sure you avoid being over-insured. Contact us today for a complete review of your risk profile and insurance requirements.
Here’s a surprising statistic. In 61% of all work places, anxiety is present in a big way. In turn, this has a dramatic impact on substance dependency. The result is a less productive workforce that doesn’t offer its best to clients.
This is only one statistic from the 2016 Mental Health & Substance Abuse survey commissioned by the IFEBP. (The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans based out of Brookfield, Wisconsin.).
According to the survey, 94% of organizations reported that their employees are stressed. 67% additionally said that drug and alcohol abuse issues have been on the rise over the last five years. These are concerning numbers.
Given these issues, all companies (small and large alike) are encouraged to look at what may cause worker anxiety in the first place. For example, can simple changes in employee policy manuals and benefits packages can have a huge impact?
Look for employee policy changes that can reduce stress. For example, Netflix offers a common sense approach for allowing workers to use company phones for the occasional phone call. Same thing with making the occasional personal photocopy. Netflix treats these as small benefits. They make it a point to hire workers that they can trust to make smart decisions. In fact, Netflix pioneered employee policies that are commonly referenced in HR departments around the U.S. (link to https://hbr.org/2014/01/how-netflix-reinvented-hr)
Also, take time to review the benefits you offer with your Insurance professional. In fact one of the best things you can implement is an Employee Assistance Program. (link to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employee_assistance_program)
Separate studies have found these programs increase employee productivity. They also lower overall medical costs while reducing absenteeism and turnover.
Another option is to offer health care benefits that include a mental health / substance abuse component. (Again, talk with your Insurance professional about options. They have the most up-to-date information and understand your specific requirements.)
Why consider incorporating substance abuse & mental health into existing benefits? Because anxiety isn’t the only issue facing employers and employees…
Here’s a breakdown of the issues survey participants cited and the percentage of those saying these issues were prevalent in their firms…
- Alcohol addiction (49%)
- Prescription drug abuse (33%)
- Stress disorders (49%)
- Sleep deprivation issues (33%)
- Other psychological health issues (12%)
And just as important as having such benefits is making sure workers know they are available and that they are safe to leverage such benefits.
In fact 36% of survey participants noted that their companies could do a better job helping employees capitalize on benefits.
Employees who are fighting drug & alcohol abuse issues are in particular need of outreach programs. Many struggle in secret and fear admitting their problems will cost them their job.
By addressing these issues, small businesses are able to cut costs. These can include quality issues, productivity, hiring, training, and legal, etc.
And remember. As you ponder anxiety, employee policies, and mental health benefits, the impact is greater than your bottom line. You may save an employee for sure. But you may save a life and a family in the process as well.
Amazon gets it. So does Salesforce. So does Etrade. Tesla? Yep, they get it too. Virtually all companies that exist mostly or solely online already understand how critical successful Internet marketing is to the bottom line.
Yet for small businesses, there seems to be a massive disconnect with how to make digital marketing work in a way that’s impactful and cost effective. So let’s take a closer look at this difficulty, the best ways around it, and why local online marketing is so necessary to create lasting success.
If you’re a small business owner, you may believe that online marketing really isn’t very important… especially if your business is located in a smaller town. But do your town residents have mobile? Do they have access to the Internet? If so, you are missing out on an opportunity to outwit your competitors.
The reality is starker. According to Marketing Land, 90% of survey respondents say that positive reviews influenced a purchase decision. Just as people leverage Google & Bing far more than the Yellow Pages to find services, they are also checking on the services they find via review sites. This trend growing nationally and is happening with as much frequency in small communities as it is in large cities. However, in small cities, bad reputations travel like wildfire. In other words, an accountant in the city with a handful of negative reviews is simply better equipped to correct those negative reviews vs. an accountant in a small town of 5,000.
And it’s important to recognize that mobile is quickly replacing all other forms of computing. Laptops and PC’s are dwindling in sales while tablets and smart phones are selling like hotcakes. If you run a local service business, it’s critical to be found in mobile-optimized search. (Yes, that’s a thing.) If your website isn’t mobile friendly, Google has said it will be dropping your website from all search results as of 2017.
If you run a small business, you must have a robust online presence. It’s that simple.
And this is where that concept of Guerilla Marketing comes into play. Remember that the notion of Guerilla Marketing is that you can have a huge marketing impact without breaking the bank and really, that’s at the core of online marketing in general. The Internet offers the potential of truly infinite reach for a relatively low cost for that potential impact. At least that’s the promise…
The truth is, this is where most business owners get lost. With search engines like Google & Bing, reputation sites like Yelp & Angie’s List, social media sites liked Facebook & LinkedIn, is it any wonder that most feel completely overwhelmed?
If you’ve talked with experts you’ll know right away that local SEO alone can cost $1,500 a month for a handful of keywords and Reputation Management can cost $500 or more each month per location.
But marketing online can be affordable, particularly if you take advantage of the right technology and learn the methods that actually work for SEO, writing content, marketing automation, etc. Sure, it takes time to do this work but if you learn how to do it properly, you’ve created new potential revenue streams that will last a long time.
One important tip as you contemplate online marketing… don’t think for a minute that you have to come across as some giant corporation. If you serve a local market, chances are people would prefer to know they are dealing with someone who cares rather than a faceless monolith. So, let your individual personality shine. Make it your mission to become the hero in your market. Leverage your messaging both online and offline to create deep personal connections that will bring you lots of business and lots of referrals… and that can elevate your brand to a premium status… yes, you might actually be able to charge MORE in your market if done correctly.
So, is it necessary to leverage Internet marketing to help grow your small business? In today’s world, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, it is critical for your survival. If you are curious about your local reputation, how well positioned you are in your local market, and what you can do to begin taking action on strengthening your local marketing, check out this free local website analysis (link to: https://www.liftdemand.com/local-seo-website-analysis) that offers a pretty handy report on a company’s local presence.
Then start to take your local online marketing seriously. Make “action” be your mission and strive to be at the forefront of your local market while also working to do so in a manner that keeps your return on investment front and center.
And remember that as your company grows, be sure to reach out to your local insurance agent for ways to reduce insurance costs, expand benefits for employees, and make your company more stable. They may be able to help you find savings opportunities that you can then invest in your nascent online marketing efforts!
Open enrollment for individual and family healthcare plans for 2017 is rapidly approaching. It begins on November 1, and many employers choose a similar timeline when allowing workers to sign up for, or make changes to, their participation in the company’s benefits offerings. As such, now is a vital time to review your benefits package and ensure your plans are in compliance with all government regulations before you roll them out to your workers during the open enrollment period.
In April, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), issued a final rule to address conflicts of interest in retirement advice. This fiduciary standard applies to anyone who provides investment advice to sponsors and participants in workplace retirement plans and individual retirement accounts including 401(k)s and IRAs, and is expected to impact compliance issues and costs for employers who offer employer-sponsored retirement plans as part of their benefits package.
In essence, the definition of ‘fiduciary’ has been expanded by the new rule, and many vendors who service employer-sponsored retirement plans who were not formerly considered fiduciaries now will be. This includes broker-dealers and mutual-fund representatives. Experts recommend that employers carefully evaluate all of their retirement plan advisors and services and cut ties with those who do not want to comply with the new fiduciary standard.
The Department of Health and Human Services continues to update regulations that can have direct effects on the healthcare benefit employers offer. Before you roll out your non-grandfathered 2017 healthcare insurance selections to your workforce, you’ll want to makes sure each one covers all essential health benefits including:
- Ambulatory patient services
- Emergency services
- Maternity and newborn care
- Behavioral health treatment for mental health and substance use disorders
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
- Laboratory services
- Preventative and wellness services (including chronic disease management)
- Pediatric services (including dental and vision care)
The medical options offered must also meet established minimum value, minimum essential coverage and affordability standards. For example, in order to avoid making employer shared responsibility payments to the IRS, your employer-sponsored plan must cover at least 60 percent of the total allowed cost of benefits that are expected to be incurred under the plan.
Finally, you must make sure that the healthcare plans you’re offering—and the insurers who back them—meet the final Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, section 1557) which prohibit any discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability when offering or providing health coverage. This includes denying or limiting coverage for health services provided to transgender individuals, categorically excluding all coverage for health services related to gender transition, or denying or limiting coverage for specific health services related to gender transition.
If your employee wellness program includes a health risk assessment, biometric screening, asks for a spouse’s information, or includes a financial incentive for participants, you’ll want to ensure it meets new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) generally prohibit employers from asking for information about their workers’ health conditions or the health conditions of their family members, they do not prevent employers from asking health-related questions or conducting certain medical examinations to determine risk factors as part of a voluntary wellness program.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as amended by the ACA, wellness programs are only considered voluntary if they offer incentives that are 30 percent or less than the cost of an individual’s health insurance premium. The maximum incentive for spouse participants is also limited to 30 percent. No additional incentives are allowed in exchange for specific genetic information (such as family history or genetic test results) of an employee, employee’s spouse, or employee’s children. Smoking cessation programs can offer an incentive up to 50 percent of the cost of individual healthcare coverage.
The Bottom Line
Benefits plan compliance has always been complicated and has only become more so in recent years. If you’re uncertain that your 2017 offerings meet government standards and regulations, contact your benefits professional for a review and assistance.