Who Covers the Cargo?

Railroad insurance is required for covering general liability concerns, and since railroads stretch from state to state, railroad companies generally go for a fairly robust policy in order to ensure that they’re covered no matter what the local laws dictate.

Here’s one thing they’re not required to cover in any of the fifty states in the nation: Cargo.

If you’re new to shipping cargo by rail, this might come as something of a shock. Ships, truck drivers and delivery services typically cover what they carry. Railroad protective liability might not cover cargo at all, unless the company shipping your goods choose to do so of their own accord.

In other words, if you’re shipping through a railroad company, you may wind up needing to provide your own insurance to keep your cargo safe. You have two basic options here:

  • Ask About Getting Covered Through The Railroad’s Policy

Although railroad companies are not required to insure the cargo they carry, they might have an option for covering your cargo through their provider. The upside to this is that it’s neat and simple and you usually wind up paying less than if you covered it yourself. The downside is that the coverage might not be as comprehensive as if you were to cover the cargo through your own provider. Your best bet is to look at what your provider can do for you, compare it to your shipper’s deal, and see which plan you like better.

  • Cover It Through Your Provider

Most business insurance providers have policies set up to cover cargo as it is shipped by rail. The major upside to covering your cargo through your business policy is that you can get it covered for the entire trip through a single plan. A railroad doesn’t drop your cargo off right at the retailer’s back door, rather, it has to get there by truck. Covering the cargo through your provider will make it easier to cover it for the whole trip.

In that the railroad company is not likely to be held liable for any lost or damaged goods along the way, the general rule of thumb is: The more comprehensive your coverage, the better. An excess coverage policy, for instance, may be a little pricier than letting your umbrella policy handle the job, but it also ensures coverage to a higher value, and against a wider range of mishaps.

How To Keep Your Snow Plow Insurance Premiums Low

 One of the tricky things about snow plowing liability is that adverse weather conditions are a defining component of what you do for a living. If it’s really snowing outside, you can take the bus to work instead of driving there. But if your job is to get the snow off the road  so that the bus driver can do their job, then, well, you’re going to be driving in the snow. Without seriously adverse driving conditions, there’d be no need for snow plows in the first place.

Snow plow insurance will generally cover your basic liability considerations, of course, including bodily and property damage. If you have employees, then you’ll be looking into workers compensation, and of course you will need a business owners policy as well as full coverage for the vehicle itself. Some insurers will offer you a better deal than others, but the bottom line is that you’re looking for a robust policy to cover some moderately dangerous work.

Here’s the good news: The stuff that you do to stay safe on icy roads is the same stuff you can do to help get a good deal on your insurance policy. Every provider has their own discounts, their own way of evaluating you as a safe driver and business owner, but in general, just as with driving your car, the safer you are, the less you are likely to wind up paying each month for your insurance.

If this were a piece of clickbait, this is the part where we’d tell you the “1 weird trick” to keep your premiums low:

  • Verify Your People

If your new driver comes in with an impressive resume, the quickest way to check their references is to put down the phone and take them to the nearest parking lot. See how they maneuver a snow plow in a controlled environment, hit them with a pop quiz. You can fake references, you can lie on a resume, but you can’t fake ability behind the wheel.

This applies to any sort of business where you’re hiring drivers, but especially when the job also entails the operation of heavy machinery. Basically: Just don’t take your drivers’ abilities for granted. Test your new drivers, and make sure your current drivers take a refresher course around the parking lot to shake off the rust before you put them out on the streets.

Managing Sports Injuries

Here’s rule number one for managing injuries whether you’re running a youth soccer team, high school football or a rugby team: Don’t even run a practice game unless somebody on hand is trained in first aid.

The easiest way to handle this: Get trained in first aid, or, if someone else manages or coaches the team, have them get training. Now there will always be somebody on hand who knows what to do in the event of an injury.

If you run a sports team for any length of time, injuries are a given. Athletes are going to pull a leg muscle, take a fall or sprain a wrist now and then. Immediate, informed response to these injuries can make the difference between your star player being out for the season, or back on the field in a week. Not only that, it can make the difference between how big of a claim you need to make on your sports team insurance.

  • Learn to Identify Concussions

The most immediately recognizable symptoms of a concussion include headache, loss of consciousness, confusion, balance problems, nausea and dizziness. You can check for a concussion by looking at your athlete’s eyes. If the pupils are of unequal size or if they stay dilated (larger) no matter their exposure to light, then you may be dealing with a concussion. Get them to an emergency room as soon as possible, and make sure that they stay awake.

  • Muscular Injuries

Dealing with muscular injuries is, thankfully, not as complicated as dealing with a broken bone. If a player complains of difficulty or discomfort moving an arm or a leg, look for swelling or redness, and make sure they stay comfortable until you can get them medical attention.

  • Bone Fractures

A broken arm or leg always looks a lot scarier than it really is. With proper medical attention, broken limbs can heal up as good as new within a few months, but you need to act fast. Make sure the athlete stays awake, use smelling salts if you need to. It’s best not to move them, but if you need to get them out of harm’s way, do it carefully. Don’t worry about setting up a splint or anything. You’re not lost in the woods, that’s the paramedics’ job.

  • Cuts and Scrapes

Disinfect, clean and bandage cuts and scrapes. Even if it’s going to need stitches, cleaning the area right away is important. Most cuts you can shake off with a band-aid and some ointment. Others may require a visit to the doctor’s office. Keep a first-aid kit on hand and be glad that cuts are pretty easy to manage.

Not only will basic first aid keep your team safe, it will also keep football team insurance premiums low by reducing the number and severity of adult or youth sports insurance claims you need to make.

Protecting Seven Soft Targets Around Your Home

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that most burglaries occur during the summer months. While some burglars enter your home, others are interested in soft targets, the items stored outside of your home. One in three homeowners do not protect their soft targets, but you can with these tips.

  1. Vacant Properties
    Thieves and vandals typically target vacant homes as they steal scrap metal or take other items to sell. If you’re on vacation, keep your windows and doors locked. Install outdoor motion activated lights and use a timer to turn on indoor lights at random times, too. You can also install a video camera that allows you to monitor your home while you’re away.
  2. Vehicles and Loose Items
    Experienced car thieves can steal a vehicle in less than 10 seconds. Always keep your car locked inside the garage or make sure the alarm is turned on and install an anti-theft device that disables the ignition or locks the steering wheel. You should hide any loose items, too, including electronics, garage door openers, toll booth passes and parking garage passes, either in the glove box or trunk.
  3. Unlocked Sheds and Garages
    Tools and lawn equipment are easy to resell. Always lock your garage, including windows, even if you’re working in your lawn. Be sure your valuable tools and equipment are stored inside the shed or garage, too.
  4. Sports Equipment
    Whether your summer activities include baseball, kayaking or tennis, resist the urge to store your sports equipment outside. Secure it safely in a locked garage or shed, in a locked bin or in your vehicle’s trunk.
  5. Bicycles
    Ideally, you should store your bike in a locked garage or shed. If you have to store your bikes, don’t use thin bike chains and wheel locks that are easy to unbolt or cut. A heavy chain threaded through the bike’s wheels and frame and a thick padlock are more secure.
  6. Air Conditioning Units
    Your outdoor air conditioning units contain copper coils and other metal piping that thieves can scrap for cash. Install a bright security light that’s motion activated near your outdoor AC unit or install a locked fence around it.
  7. Pool Pumps
    Pool pumps are easy to resell. Remove the pool pump and store it inside during your vacation. If that’s not possible, install a bright, motion-activated security light near the pump. You should also install a fence around your pool and keep it locked at all times.

Protect your home from thieves when you take steps to protect these seven soft targets. Be sure your homeowners or renters insurance policies are up to date, too, as you protect your home and possessions.

How to Ensure Your Pet is Cared for After Your Death

As a pet owner, you would do anything to care for your furry friend. Have you ever thought about what will happen to your pet when you’re gone? Millionaire Leona Helmsley’s dog Trouble received $2 million, which allowed him to live in a hotel with the best security, grooming and food. Because you may not have millions to spend on your pet, consider several options that ensure your pet receives ongoing care if something were to happen to you.

Rule Out Life Insurance
Life insurance is one asset that allows you to declare a beneficiary. Before you select your pet to receive your death benefits, realize that because pets are considered property and are unable to sign legal documents, they are disqualified from this option.

Ask Someone to Care for Your Pet
You could ask a trusted family member, neighbor or friend to care for your pet after you die. Check in with your trusted caretaker regularly to ensure he or she is still interested and financially able to care properly for your furry friend.

Purchase Pet Insurance
Like your health insurance, pet insurance covers medical treatment your pet may need. It’s a valuable resource that a caretaker can use to care for your pet after you’re gone.

Establish a Trust
A trust is a legal entity that safeguards money for specific purposes, in this case pet care. To set up a trust for your pet, take these steps.

  1. Choose a trustee. Select someone who will be ready and available to care for your pet according to your specifications. It’s also a good idea to choose a backup trustee.
  2. Decide the worth of the trust. Calculate the total cost of your pet’s care per year multiplied by the estimated number of years your pet has left to live. Remember to factor in extra expenses like medical treatment, medicine or a special diet.
  3. Do not name your pet in the trust. Generic wording that ensures all your pets are cared for when you die eliminates the need to rewrite the trust when you get a new pet or pets.
  4. Select a trust duration. Unfortunately, your pet will not live forever. Word the trust so it provides care for your pet for 21 years or until the death of your pet, whichever occurs first.
  5. Choose a remainderman. This person will receive any money left in your trust after your pet dies. Verify that the remainderman will not kill your pet to get your money.

You can care for your pet even after you’re gone. Talk to your financial advisor or attorney to ensure your wishes and your pet’s needs are met.

What to do if a Bee Flies Into Your Car As You’re Driving

In 2015, a man in Montana decided to transport five Russian honey bee hives in a cardboard box in his vehicle. He was observed driving all over the road, and when he was pulled over, a highway patrol officer found thousands of bees flying freely in the vehicle as the man drove. He was cited for careless driving. What can we learn from this story? Don’t transport bee hives in a cardboard box in your vehicle and take several steps to be safe if one or more bees do fly into your car.

  1. Don’t panic. Even though it’s scary to drive with a bee in the car, stay calm. Remind your passengers to stay calm, too, since you need to think clearly and not be distracted as you prevent an accident.
  2. Stay focused on the road. Take your eyes of the road for even a second to find or swat the bee, and you could cause an accident. Remain focused at all times as you stay safe.
  3. Keep your hands on the wheel. Swatting at the bee might make you feel better, but you’re more likely to swerve into oncoming traffic or onto someone’s property if you take your hands off the wheel.
  4. Slow down gradually. Instead of slamming on the brakes, slow down gradually. Put your four-way or hazard lights on to alert other drivers that you are driving below the speed limit as you help everyone on the road drive safely.
  5. Find a safe place to pull over. Never stop in the middle of the road, on a hill or in another unsafe area. Find a safe spot and pull over.
  6. Shoo the bee out of the vehicle. Use a shoe, rolled up newspaper or other item to shoo the bee gently out of your vehicle.
  7. Be prepared if you’re allergic. Always carry a current EpiPen or allergy medication when you drive. It can be stored safely in your emergency kit, glove box or somewhere else in easy access. You want to be prepared in case you are stung by a bee.
  8. Drive with your windows up. If you absolutely do not want a bee to enter your vehicle, drive with your windows up.

It can be annoying and even dangerous to drive with a bee or other insect in your vehicle. Take these precautions as you protect yourself and everyone on the road. You should also make sure to purchase the right insurance for your needs since even your best efforts may not be enough to prevent an accident when a bee flies into your car.

Common Insurance Coverage Gaps

You’ve purchased auto and homeowners or renters insurance like a responsible consumer. However, you could have insurance coverage gaps that threaten your assets. Here are a few common ones that you should consider closing as you save money, protect yourself and gain peace of mind.

  1. Transportation Expense Coverage
    Your auto insurance covers medical expenses and liability. Does it also provide you with a rental car or other transportation after an accident? Transportation Expenses coverage can cost as little as $8 per vehicle per year and gives you access to a rental vehicle or other form of transportation. It lessens your stress after an accident and minimizes disruptions to your daily life.
  2. Personal Catastrophe Liability Coverage
    Also known as an umbrella policy, personal catastrophe liability coverage protects your assets if you are sued after an accident. It can cover any expenses related to a personal injury or liability lawsuit and any lawyer fees, hospital bills and related expenses you may incur. This coverage starts at $150 per year and provides priceless peace of mind for you and your family.
  3. Valuables Coverage
    The average homeowners insurance policy includes a $3,000 limit on personal items. Does that amount cover the replacement of your expensive electronics, jewelry, artwork and furs? If not, buy an endorsement or rider. It gives you extra coverage for valuables and protects your items if they are lost, stolen or damaged.
  4. Flood Insurance
    While you might not live in a high-risk flood area, one in five flood claims occur outside of high-risk flood areas, and an inch of water can cause major damage to your home and possessions. Protect yourself with flood insurance. In many cases, there’s a 30-day waiting period for this coverage, so apply for it today and reduce your risk.
  5. Life Insurance
    Your group life insurance policy may cover you for twice your annual salary, but that money is probably not enough to cover your final expenses and care for your family. Purchase your own policy with a death benefit of six to eight times your annual salary. Investigate different types of life insurance policies and coverage amounts as you care for your loved ones.
  6. Outdated Insurance Polices
    You pay your insurance premiums on time so that your policies don’t lapse. When was the last time you reviewed your coverage? Adjust your homeowners coverage after renovations or when you sell collectibles. Check your auto coverage, too, to ensure it’s sufficient for your household vehicles and drivers. Policy reviews take a few minutes but can save your thousands of dollars and give you hours of priceless peace of mind.

Your insurance coverage protects your assets. Consider closing any gaps today.

Don’t Let Drivers Use Their Cell Phones!

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A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 69% of U.S. drivers talked on their cell phones – and 31% read or sent text messages or e-mails while driving. “The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive,” warns CDC Director Thomas Frieden.

Using cell phones to text behind the wheel can increase the danger of fatal crashes by six to 23 times, and drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to become involved in crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

You probably have rules about employees talking on their phones and texting while driving – but are they following them?

According to Jim Evans, president of human resources consulting firm JK Evans & Associates, some bosses turn a blind eye to cell phone use behind the wheel, while others don’t want to cut into their employees’ productivity. His advice to employers: “Dust off the old cell phone policy or unwritten practices and revisit whether employee safety and employer liability is at risk.”

To minimize this danger, your company should require employees who drive on the job to:

  • Turn off personal phones or switch them to silent mode before entering a company vehicle.
  • Pull over to a safe area if they need to make a cell phone call or send or answer a text message.
  • Ask a helper or another passenger to make a return call.
  • Contact supervisors or dispatchers when the vehicle is parked.
  • Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, reading, and any other activities that distract them behind the wheel.
  • Tell people who call them while driving that they’ll call back after reaching their destination.
  • Not send or answer text messages, surf the Web, or read e-mails.

 

Builders Risk Insurance: A Must-Have

Your last newsletter discussed the benefits of Building Ordinance insurance. If you’re planning to build on your property or adding to an existing structure, a related policy – Builders Risk – can protect you from losses during construction, helping make sure that you finish the project.

The amount of coverage should reflect the total value of the completed structure (including the costs of material and labor, but not the value of the land). In most cases, the construction budget will be the best source for calculating this amount.

The policy is usually written for a period three months, six months, or 12 months. If needed, the term can be extended once.

Builders Risk covers damage to the insured structure(s) from a wide variety of causes, ranging from natural disasters (wind, lightning, hail, and lightning) through accidental events (fire, explosion, or vehicle accidents) to human activities (such as theft and vandalism). Coverage usually also includes:

  • Fire department service charges for saving or protecting property from a covered cause of loss.
  • Removal of debris from property damaged by a covered loss.
  • Losses from the backup of sewer and drains.

Most policies exclude losses from earthquake, flooding employee theft, mechanical breakdown, contract penalties, war, government action, or faulty design and workmanship. You might be able to add coverage for some of these exclusions – such as earthquakes and flooding – if the building is in an area that’s prone to one or both of these natural disasters.

Bear in mind that this policy does not provide Liability coverage for accidents or injuries on your property.

We’d be happy to tailor a comprehensive Builders Risk product that fits your needs – and budget. Just give us a call.

 

Five Ways To Kill Life Insurance Payouts

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You buy Life coverage to provide for your loved ones after your death. To make sure your beneficiaries receive what they’re owed, avoid these errors:

  1. Lying on your application. Truth hurts, but it can hurt even more if you lie on a Life insurance application. Although it might be tempting to deny that you’re a smoker, or have been treated for a particular disease or medical condition, doing so could make your policy null and void.
  2. Failing to make premium payments. Just because you miss a payment doesn’t mean your policy is dead. The insurance company will usually offer a 30 or 60-day grace period for payment, during which the policy will stay in effect.
  3. Not telling loved ones about your policy. Although this doesn’t mean the insurer won’t pay the beneficiaries after your death, it will make things more difficult for them. Most companies check databases for policyholder deaths, but not always in a timely manner. If you don’t give your beneficiaries policy information, some states have locator programs to help them check. The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) website also provides tips for tracking policies.
  4. Not naming other beneficiaries. If your primary beneficiary dies ahead of you, the secondary beneficiary will receive the death benefit. If he or she passes away before you, the proceeds will go to the final beneficiary. If both deaths precede yours, the benefit will go to your estate.
  5. Suicide. In It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart thought (wrongly) that he was worth more dead than alive because his family could collect on his Life insurance. However, under the “suicide clause” in a Life policy, if a policyholder takes his or her own life during the first two years of coverage, the beneficiaries would receive only the premiums paid to that point.