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    Thursday
    Dec072017

    Five Ways to Control Workers' Comp Costs

    Most businesses are required by law to provide workers’ compensation insurance. It protects employees, providing income and medical care if they’re injured on the job. It also protects employers; the liability portion provides coverage for lawsuits filed as a result of a work-related injury.

    As an employer, the amount you pay for workers’ compensation coverage varies according to your industry and claim history. Workers’ compensation insurance for companies that engage in office-based work is generally much less expensive than insurance for industries like construction or trucking.

    Regardless of your industry, there are proactive steps you can take to keep workers’ compensation costs under control. Here are some tips:

    Thoroughly train new employees: Surveys show that nearly a third of workers’ compensation claims result from accidents involving newly hired employees. Take a look at your orientation program and see if you can improve overall safety by beefing up new employee training.

    Make safety a top priority: The best way to keep costs down is to not incur claims in the first place. Create a safety culture throughout the company, and engage employees directly in the effort. For example, you could establish safety councils and solicit ideas from employees on how to create a safer workplace.

    Pre-screen employees: Another preventive action you can take is to make sure you hire the right employees in the first place. Statistics show that workers who are substance abusers are far more likely to have an on-the-job accident. An investment in pre-employment drug screening can save a significant amount in claims down the road.

    Manage claims proactively: When an employee is injured, make sure you keep tabs on the worker's condition and plan for their return to work as quickly as possible. In some cases, injured employees can rejoin your workforce on light duty, which can reduce the amount of the claim.

    Make sure employees are classified properly: There are hundreds of classification codes used to determine the appropriate level of workers’ compensation coverage. If employees are misclassified, you may not have the coverage you need, and misclassifications can result in fines.

    Workers’ compensation is essential to protect your employees ― and your company. To sharpen your company’s competitive edge, it’s important to control costs. Take a fresh look at your company’s approach to safety, hiring, classification and claims management. You may find new ways to keep costs under control.

    Tuesday
    Dec052017

    Market Value - How Much is My Home Actually Worth?

    Homeowners always seem to have a ballpark estimate of their home's worth, but when it comes down to the real value, they can be a little off target. People tend to view their home through rose-colored glasses as they calculate its value, remembering all of the tender moments that happened over the years. The open market, however, removes sentimental value from the formula and only assesses value based on features and characteristics.

    In order to talk about how houses get rated, you must first understand what the term "market value" means. To real estate agents, it refers to the price a house can be bought and sold for within a practical time frame. This would be at a price that is considered fair by both the seller and buyer, and within a time frame ranging up to three months.

    If you are interested in figuring out your home's market value, you must concentrate on the types of things buyers look for when browsing around. Remember that the housing market can change in the blink of an eye and that the value of houses can vary drastically from one neighborhood to another. To establish a good starting point, take a look at the asking price of similar homes for sale in your area.

    What to look for when doing a market value analysis of your home:

    Location, Location, Location - What school district is the home located in? How desirable is the neighborhood? Is it near local parks, shopping centers, or public transportation?

    Design and Overall Appeal - Is the layout of the home aesthetically pleasing? Does the home look nice or like a fixer-upper? Is there landscaping?

    Quality of Construction - Does the house appear to be in good condition? Are there visible and obvious repairs?

    Maintenance - Has the wiring and plumbing been maintained or updated? Does the home need new shingles or siding? Is there peeling or faded paint on the back porch?

    Home Improvements - Is the back patio enclosed or has the bathroom recently been remodeled?

    Distinguishing Features - Is there an in-ground pool for swimming or is the basement finished? Is there room in the backyard to plant a garden?

    Another way real estate agents measure market value is by looking at the home's price per square foot. This figure is calculated by taking the amount of livable square feet in the home and dividing it into the home's most current appraised value, which can usually be found in your property tax paperwork. Look in the newspaper to see what similar houses in your neighborhood are selling for and determine their price per square foot. To prime your house to sell, you will want to price your house at a comparable rate.

    Finally, you must take into consideration the current condition of the housing market. Thousands of dollars can be gained or lost depending on real estate trends. Changes in interest rates, the local economy, and even national issues have an effect each home's market value. A booming economy improves interest rates and leads to higher home values, and on the other hand, in times of recession, home values sink below what owners think is fair. By completing a market value assessment on your home each year, you will have a better idea whether or not your home is properly insured. Be proactive, as an undersized policy will not offer much protection if something terrible would happen.

    Thursday
    Nov302017

    Driving Risk: When Employees Run Business Errands

    Have you ever sent an employee out to pick up needed supplies? Offered to buy lunch for the crew and asked an employee to pick it up? Unless you only send employees who are insured to drive your company vehicles, you may be putting your business at risk. Your business may also incur liability if you travel on company business and have an accident in a rented car while traveling to meet a client or for other business-related purposes.

    Why would your business be at risk? Because if there is an accident that causes damage to a third party and the driver’s insurance doesn’t cover the full costs, your company may be sued to recover the excess amount. Employees who use their personal cars are generally required by law to have insurance. But unless you hire them as drivers, you probably have no idea how much insurance coverage employees actually carry ― or even if they have insurance at all.

    If you’re traveling on company business in a rental car, you’re probably covered by your personal insurance or by a policy purchased through the rental agency. But if you’re in an accident and cause damage that exceeds the amount of personal coverage you have, an attorney for the injured party would almost certainly seek damages from your company.

    The Solution

    The good news is that there’s a simple and relatively inexpensive solution: a non-owned auto insurance policy. This type of policy protects your business if an employee gets in an accident and causes damage while running a company errand. It also protects your company if you cause damage in an accident while driving a rental car on company business.

    Keep in mind that non-owned auto insurance generally doesn’t cover drivers ― its purpose is to protect the organization. Non-owned auto insurance generally does not function as primary insurance; it is designed as excess liability protection. In other words, if your employee causes damage in an accident while driving a personal car on company business, the employee’s insurance would generally pay first. But if the liability exceeds the amount of the employee’s coverage, non-owned auto insurance would protect your business from being responsible for damage costs not covered by the employee’s coverage.

    The Bottom Line

    Liability claims caused by vehicular damage can run into the millions of dollars. Your business could be at risk if an employee has an accident while traveling on company business. Your company could also be at risk if you or an employee has an accident while driving a rental car on business. Non-owner auto insurance can provide peace of mind ― and vital protection.

    Tuesday
    Nov282017

    Identity Thieves: They Play, You Pay

    It's hard to tell exactly how they do it. Maybe you threw away some papers with your account number on them, somebody watched you put in your PIN number, or maybe you fell victim to an email phishing scam. Identity thieves don't care where they get your information, they are just out take your money and ruin your credit in the process. Because there are so many different ways for identity theft to occur, it is important to know how to protect yourself and your assets.

    Identity thieves are criminals who prey on other people's personal information, for instance their social security number, credit card information, bank account information, and online account log-in information. Thieves even want to know your pet's name or mother's maiden name to help them steal passwords. Using this critical information, thieves are able to make unauthorized transactions and transfer funds behind your back. Before you ever find out, an identity thief could be enjoying a Caribbean vacation at your expense. While these damages can be repaired, it will cost you plenty of headaches and potentially thousands of dollars.

    The threat of identity theft is ever present, but there are some things you can do to keep your credit protected. The first thing you should do is prevent yourself from revealing personal information over the phone and on the Internet. If you do not understand why a business would need your social security number or similar information, then do not give it out. Junk mail and credit card offers are also potential threats and should always go through a paper shredder before being thrown out.

    Bank receipts and discarded deposit slips are a goldmine for thieves and should never get tossed in a public trash bin. When ordering new checks, request to have your first initial printed in the corner instead of your full name, to make it harder for forgeries to occur. Checks should never be printed with your social security number on them.

    In your free time, take a trip to the library or use your office copier to make paper copies of everything in your wallet. Keep these duplicates in a strongbox or other safe spot at home so you can reference your driver's license and credit card numbers if you ever lose your wallet or have it stolen. Make sure to photocopy the backs of your credit cards too, which contain the customer service phone numbers to call to deactivate the cards. Having these numbers handy will get your cards suspended quickly and cut down the amount of time the thief can access your accounts.

    If you discover or suspect that your identity has been compromised, call the local authorities after you have deactivated your cards. Filing a police report legitimizes your claim and opens an investigation to find and stop the thief. Also, make a report with the fraud department at the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration. To stop further attacks to your credit, alert the three credit reporting bureaus to block the use of your social security number and name on any new credit applications.

    Insurance companies offer identity theft policies to individuals who want added protection. These policies cover the costs of unauthorized purchases and restoring your credit. Sometimes identity theft protection is included with homeowner's insurance or it can be added as an endorsement to a renter's or homeowner's policy.

    Nearly 100,000 people each year have their identity stolen, according to Federal Trade Commission statistics. Just one bank slip or piece of mail can lead to having your credit destroyed by an identity crook. By making only a few changes to your lifestyle, you can keep your identity from being targeted by crafty thieves.

    Thursday
    Nov232017

    Traffic Accidents May Be Biggest Risk to Employee Safety

    The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) discovered that not only are highway vehicles the biggest risk of serious injury to employees, but they are also associated with some of the most costly workers’ compensation claims.

    The researchers analyzed injury data from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Their findings revealed that only work in construction, agriculture, and certain natural resource industries caused more employee injuries than vehicle accidents. The data also showed that traffic accidents were the source of a large portion of the total number of serious disabilities and fatalities.

    The study categorized injuries by industry and occupation. As an occupational class, truck drivers were found to have a substantially high risk of fatalities; however, they had significantly fewer non-serious injuries. The reverse was true for passenger cars. They were found to have fewer fatalities, but almost double the number of non-serious injuries. The researchers concluded that the size and weight of trucks protect occupants in slower-moving collisions with other vehicles. However, because trucks are prone to jackknifing and overturning, truck drivers are more likely to experience a fatal injury. Besides the high fatality rates, trucker drivers were discovered to have workers’ compensation claims of longer duration and higher average cost.

    Other occupational categories that generated a high number of expensive workers’ compensation claims as a result of vehicle accidents were salespersons, messengers, and collectors. It is important to realize that these were actual claims, and not rates of injury per worker. This means that jobs that have traditionally been considered unlikely to cause worker injury carry more risk than originally believed.

    The data also indicated that employees involved in vehicle accidents had a significantly higher rate of permanent total disability and workers’ compensation death claims than all other types of claims combined. The average severity of temporary total disability, permanent total disability, and fatality was greater for vehicle claims than for non-vehicle claims.

    The predominant cause of injury in workers’ compensation claims resulting from vehicle accidents was neck sprain and neck pain, which accounted for 15 percent of all vehicle claims. However, these claims made up less than two percent of the overall number of workers’ compensation claims.

    When examining the cost of vehicle accidents to employers, workers’ compensation payouts represent only a small part of the expense. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety studied the combined cost of motor vehicle accidents to employers in 2000. The researchers found that medical expenses amounted to $7.7 billion, sick leave, life and disability insurance benefits totaled another $8.6 billion, while workers’ compensation claims costs approximately $2 billion for employers.


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