- Posted February 2, 2014 by
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Westhill Healthcare Consulting | Massachusetts - N.J. Commissioner Offers Insurance Purchasing Tips for Small Businesses
Making the right insurance choices can have significant impact on the small business owner’s operation costs. With that in mind, New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Ken Kobylowski offered some basic tips for small businesses for purchasing or updating their insurance coverage.
There are different types of policies available to small business owners that range from life insurance options to mandatory workers’ compensation.
Commissioner Kobylowski said small business and home-based business owners potentially have several different policies that can provide necessary protections.
“Small businesses should annually review their insurance policies to verify that their coverage meets their needs,” Commissioner Kobylowski said. “This could include workers’ compensation, commercial auto, business property and liability, group health and disability as well as group life and key-person life insurance.”
Commissioner Kobylowski offered the following tips:
What steps should a small business owner take?
• Shop around – Examine rates from several companies, being sure to compare plans providing identical coverage.
• Protect yourself – Stop. Call. Confirm. Verify with the Department that the companies quoting coverage are licensed by the State of New Jersey by calling 1-800-446-7467 or by checking online at www.dobi.nj.gov. Then use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Consumer Information Resource (CIS) at https://eapps.naic.org/cis/ to compare a company offering coverage to other firms in the industry using their consumer complaint ratios.
• Review Annually – Small business insurance needs change as a company grows. Additional machinery purchased for a manufacturing plant or expansion to a larger facility could require an increase in property limits. Additions to an auto fleet could mean changes in a commercial auto policy or sales growth could result in the need for more business continuation coverage.
Commissioner Kobylowski reviewed the following policy options a small business owner might want to consider:
1. Workers’ Compensation. State law requires that all New Jersey employers, not covered by federal programs, have workers’ compensation coverage or be approved for self-insurance.
Typically, workers’ compensation covers the employee’s medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and lost wages if he or she is injured on the job. If an employer does not have workers’ compensation and an employee is injured on the job, the business may be liable for any medical expenses that individual incurs. The company might also face fines and penalties for noncompliance.
2. Property. Property insurance protects small business owners from losses due to damage to physical space or equipment and as a result of theft. For insurance purposes, a business’ property includes the physical building in which it resides, as well as its other assets.
All of the following, owned or leased, can be considered business property: the actual building; inventory; furniture, equipment and supplies; machinery; computers and other data processing equipment; valuable papers, books and documents; artwork and antiques; television sets, VCRs, DVD players, and satellite dishes; signs, fences and outdoor property not attached to a building; and non-tangible items, such as trademarks and copyrights.
3. Flood Insurance. Flood is not a covered peril in a standard business property insurance policy. Business owners can purchase flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by FEMA. Flood insurance policies have a 30 day waiting period before going into effect. To find out more about the NFIP consumers can go to www.floodsmart.gov. If the flood insurance property limits from the NFIP are inadequate to cover a business, owners can check with an insurance agent or carrier representative about additional coverage options.
4. Ordinance or Law Coverage. This pays for rebuilding a destroyed property so that it will meet the current building codes. Older structures damaged may need upgraded electrical, heating, air conditioning and plumbing units based on current municipal codes. This covers the additional cost to upgrade due to new codes.
5. Business Interruption/Continuation. This type of insurance covers lost earnings due to a loss covered by one of the property insurance plans purchased, such as a fire or theft that shuts down a business for an extended period of time. Business interruption/continuation insurance covers expenses associated with running a business, such as payroll and utility bills, based on the company’s financial records.
Business interruption/continuation coverage can be added to a property insurance policy or purchased as part of a package insurance product.
6. Liability. This insurance product covers workplace risk, for example, if an individual falls while visiting a business premises, or a customer is hurt by a product a business sells, the business owner can be held responsible. Standard policies do not provide protection against sexual harassment, professional liability or commercial auto or truck claims.
7. Commercial auto. All motorized vehicles, whether used for personal or business purposes, need auto insurance. Automobile liability insurance – required by most states – covers medical expenses for injured persons and damages to the property of other individuals as a result of a motor vehicle accident caused by the insured’s negligence.
While the types of coverage provided by personal and commercial auto insurance policies are essentially the same, there are important distinctions. Typically, commercial auto insurance policies have higher liability limits, for example $1 million. They also may have provisions that cover rented and other non-owned vehicles, including employees’ cars driven for company business.
Several factors related to ownership and use of vehicles determine whether a personal or commercial policy is appropriate. These include: who owns or leases the vehicle –individually or the business as an entity; who drives the vehicle – owner or employees; and how the vehicle is principally used – for example, transporting people, delivering packages or carrying hazardous materials.
8. Umbrella Insurance. This coverage provides protection for an individual or business above the limits for a primary policy. It is recommended for a business with a value above its primary limits for various policies selected. It is also a smart purchase for high net worth individuals. A policy can cost relatively little for the protection it provides.
“Small business owners should discuss these insurance matters with a licensed insurance professional at an agency or carrier,” said Commissioner Kobylowski. “A life and health insurance professional should also be consulted to make sure every aspect of a small business is protected.”