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J. Craig Jones

Flood Claim Tips

As our region continues to undergo some of the worst flooding we’ve seen in years we thought we’d provide these important flood claim tips for the benefit of our policyholders:

  • Call your Yennie & Jones agent as soon as you realize you will need to submit a claim
  • Check for structural damage before entering
  • Don’t dry anything that will have to be removed (carpet, drywall, insulation)
  • Take photos, save all receipts and track your time spent cleaning.
  • Make a list of damaged personal property
  • If property is removed (contents, drywall, carpet, carpet pad), keep it on the premises until released by a claims adjuster
  • We have included the Flood Claims Handbook to assist you in answering questions.

If you haven’t reviewed your insurance protection recently this is a good time to make sure that you have adequate coverage.  Remember that your homeowners or business owners policies do not cover ‘flood’ and a separate policy must be in place.

These flood claims tips also apply to some other water situations including:

  • Water backup or sump pump failure which may be covered if you have elected to include it on your home or business policy
  • Burst pipe claims which are covered on most property policies for occupied, heated structures
  • Groundwater runoff entering the premises which is caused by landscaping issues

Safeguard Against Ice Dams

What in the world is an ice dam? To put it simply, it is an accumulation of frozen water in the gutter system and at the roof edge that prevents subsequent drainage of melting snow from leaving the roof/gutter system. Ice dams are common in areas (e.g., think Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) that receive heavy snow buildups.

In most cases, ice dams begin inside the house when heated air leaks up into the unheated attic. In the winter, the roof above this attic is cold. When warm air leaks into the attic, it creates warm areas on the roof, which cause the snow on the exterior of the roof to melt. The melting snow moves down the roof slope until it reaches the cold overhang, where it refreezes. The process continues, causing ice to build up along the eaves and form a dam. Eventually, this dam forces the water to back up under the shingles and sometimes into the ceiling or wall inside the home. This phenomenon may cause structural framing members to decay, metal fasteners to corrode, and mold to form in the attic and the wall surfaces. Few homeowners policies pay for ice dam removal. Interior or exterior damage, however, caused by an ice dam on the roof is typically covered under a special perils homeowners form.

There are measures that home owners in colder climates can take to reduce the chance of ice dams, including the following.

  • Use heated cables, attached with clips along the roof’s edge in a zigzag pattern. These cables will help combat ice damage, allowing you to equalize the roof’s temperature by heating it from the outside.
  • The services of a professional should be employed to remove heavy snow from your roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. Professionals are also able to address emergency situations in which water is flowing into the house structure. This is accomplished by making channels through the ice dam to allow the water behind the dam to drain off your roof. However, the channel becomes ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage.
  • Your ceiling/roof insulation should be increased to reduce heat loss. Some state codes require an R-value of 38 above the ceiling for new homes. In narrow spaces, insulation products with high R-value (6–7) per inch are recommended. It is imperative that the ceiling is made airtight to prevent warm air within your home from flowing into the attic space.
  • Verify that there are sufficient soffit and gable end vents in your attic. These help to quickly vent any of the warm air that does get into the attic out into the atmosphere.

Copyright 2017
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Don’t Bite the Bait: Protect Organizations From Phishing Attacks

One the One Friday afternoon, the treasurer of Platte County, Mo., received an email from the presiding commissioner, requesting the immediate transfer of funds to an out-of-state consultant. The treasurer tried to verify the request, but the commissioner was away on vacation and not easily reachable. Driven by the urgency of the email, the treasurer arranged the transfer without waiting for an appropriate response, overriding county procedures designed to prevent illegitimate movement of funds. Then he got a call from the commissioner, who was totally unaware of the request. And just like that, the county lost $48,000 to a cyber criminal in a single afternoon. The “Kansas City Star” reported this incident just days after the loss.

Deception fraud or social engineering fraud is the 21st century version of an ancient con game, only now it’s played out much faster using electronic communications,” said Mike Kosednar, assistant vice president and product manager for management and professional liability insurance, The Hartford. “Email inherently carries an element of urgency, and the fraudsters prey on our desire to respond quickly, especially to emails from the boss.” Losses from social engineering, specifically phishing scams, have skyrocketed as cyber thieves grow adept at mimicking internal emails.

According to statistics gathered by the FBI, law enforcement agencies across the globe received reports from 17,642 victims from October 2013 through February 2016, resulting in more than $2.3 billion in losses. Since January 2015, the FBI has seen a 270 percent increase in identified victims and exposed loss, according to the FBI’s Cleveland division. And the phishers aren’t just targeting organizations with deep pockets. Social engineering fraud can hit companies of all sizes. “While a large public company may have a loss exceeding eight figures, for a smaller business, getting tricked into sending $6,000 or $7,000 can be significant,” Kosednar said. It’s relatively easy for cyber thieves to identify the CEO or CFO at their target company and then emulate their email style, mimicking their tone and signature, and making it appear as though the message is coming from the company’s server.

While there are several technology solutions that companies can implement to enhance their system security, such as continually updated firewalls; the use of closed, private Wi-Fi networks; requiring a two-factor authentication for log-in; or third-party testing of firewalls, these safeguards are expected — any business operating in today’s digitized world knows it needs to pay attention to its IT security. Human error is often a bigger risk. “In social engineering fraud, the weakest link in the security chain is the employee who accepts a scenario at face value and doesn’t check its legitimacy,” said Kosednar, “A willingness to please can undermine common sense.” The best defense against these insidious attacks, therefore, is employee education and training. According to Kosednar, training requires — at a minimum — a three pronged approach:

  1. Establish a process. Companies can identify fraudulent requests by developing a formal procedure around the transfer of funds that limits transfer ability to a small number of employees and requires a next-level supervisor to sign off on the request. It should also involve independent verification of the email’s sender. “Verification needs to be made to predetermined email addresses and phone numbers and not by hitting ‘reply’ or calling a phone number provided as part of the request.”
  2. Regular reinforcement. Constant reminders emphasize the importance of following proper procedures in every situation. Some companies choose to do this by randomly testing their employees with bogus emails. The company might send a message that appears to be from a senior manager, imploring staff to click on a suspicious looking link, for example. “Seeing the percentage of employees that failed helps determine additional training needs,” Kosednar said. “This should include a heart-to-heart conversation with the employees who failed, which should be constructive and encourage them to speak up and ask questions when they suspect they’ve received a fraudulent email.”
  3. Change your culture. Since social engineering fraud is often most successful at companies where questioning one’s superiors is frowned upon, companies can create an environment where it is acceptable and even encouraged for employees to double-check a wire transfer request from anyone regardless of their rank.

Information courtesy of The Hartford

Is Your Business Ready: New DOL Compensation Rules

If your business has ‘exempt’ employees there are significant changes effective 12/1/2016 that will have an estimated $1.2 Billion effect on U.S. businesses.

As an employer you should review and update both your employee manual and employee pay procedures after discussing these changes with your Human Resources or legal professionals. Failure to update your procedures and documentation could open you up to significant costs as you pay fines, legal fees and unexpected overtime wages.

Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm specializing in employment law has developed a very informative recorded webinar.

Some key features of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) include:

  1. Minimum salary levels for exempt employees more than doubles from $23,660 to $47,476.  Duties test still applies.
  2. Highly compensated exemption salary threshold increases from $100,000 to $134,004.  Duties test still applies.
  3. The minimum salary levels above will automatically change every 3 years going forward.
  4. Bonuses and incentive compensation may now be used to satisfy up to 10% of the minimum salary for exempt employees.
  5. The outside sales and professional exemptions appear to remain unchanged.
  6. Non-profit organizations are still subject to the act but there has been significant clarification as to how the act applies to employees of non-profit organizations.

Some potential fixes to those with exempt employees that will no longer qualify after 12/1/2016 include:

  • Convert salaried employee to hourly.  How will your employees respond to not having a guaranteed salary each week?
  • Work with your attorney, accountant or human resources professional to determine how to pay overtime when necessary to your salaried workers.
  • Increase salary and keep the employees exempt but consider how those employees just above those you increase will respond…will they want raises as well?
  • Hire additional workers to reduce the necessity of paying overtime.

Note that Offering Comp Time to employees that work more than 40 hours per week in lieu of overtime appears to be forbidden by the act.

Before concluding this article I’d like to leave you with a few additional thoughts:

  • Remember that for many of your employees the ‘can I leave early for a family event and make up the hours next week’ question will soon carry a cost…overtime wages.
  • If you need to start tracking hours for employees, how will you do so?  Time clock, track access through electronic means (telecommuters), self report…
  • If your employee manual doesn’t address requesting permission ahead of time to work more than 40 hours then it may be time to institute this rule.  Otherwise you’re essentially writing blank checks to your employees.
  • Change can be upsetting, especially for security driven employees who are used to getting the same amount in their paycheck each month.  Make sure to communicate with your employees not only about the pay and procedural changes but also why they are necessary.
  • While Employment Practices Liability Insurance can protect you from most employment related financial liability losses I would not anticipate any coverage for failure to comply with the FLSA.

Finally, there is a significant potential for additional labor costs…to the tune of over $1.2B per year for U.S. employers, so make sure that you spend the time necessary to assure compliance.

 

Tips To Keep Burglars Out!

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that there are over 2 million burglaries per year in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of these burglaries occur in residences. Approximately 30 percent of all burglaries happen through an open or unlocked window or door. A home burglary occurs every 13 seconds in America.

There are numerous things a home owner can do to reduce his or her chance of being a victim of this unfortunate crime, including the following.

  • Keep your windows and doors locked, since burglars obviously prefer easy access.
  • Install heavy-duty exterior doors.
  • Safeguard doors with extra-long screws and high-quality door locks.
  • Utilize a motion-sensing switch for your outdoor lights.
  • Trim your shrubs and bushes so that windows and doors can easily be seen from the street.
  • Ask for a crime assessment inspection of your home from your local police department. They are typically available free of charge.
  • Keep your garage door closed, even when you are inside your residence.
  • Utilize a property identification marking system for your valuable possessions.
  • Store small valuables, such as rare coins and expensive jewelry (that you do not typically wear), in a safe-deposit box at your bank.

Copyright 2016, International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Consider Earthquake Insurance Protection

ACA Tax Credit Means IRS Form 8962!

If you received a tax credit or subsidy under the Affordable Care Act on your individual health policy we want to remind you that you were required to file IRS Form 8962 with your 2014 Federal Income Taxes.  The Advanced Premium Tax Credit (APTC) or income-based cost sharing reduction (CSR) transfers a portion of the monthly premium for some individual health insurance policies from the policy owner to the Federal government as part of the Affordable Care Act which is known to some as Obamacare.

We strongly encourage you to reach out to your tax professional if you believe that you received APTC or CSR cost reductions to confirm that they properly filed your IRS Form 8962.

Note:

  • If your Form 8962 was properly filed with your 2014 income taxes then you don’t need to do anything.
  • If you have not filed your taxes with Form 8962 then take action immediately (i.e., electronically file your 2014 return and Form 8962).

If you have questions on this requirement you can call your tax professional or contact the IRS directly at www.irs.gov/aca or 1.800.829.0922.

National Insurance Awareness Day

June 28th is National Insurance Awareness Day.

Unfortunately, many of us take insurance protection for granted, but other than family and friends…who’s with you on the worst day of your life?  Often, it’s your insurance professional.

Depending on the protection you’ve elected your insurance professional will be there to:

  • Repair or replace a vehicle damaged in an accident
  • Pay those hospital bills or give a loved one the opportunity to seek the best treatment available
  • Replace your income after a disability
  • Keep your family in their home after an untimely death
  • Replace your home and personal possessions in the event of a devastating fire
  • Make up for the money lost to drought on your farm
  • Give you the money to pay for an injured employee’s medical bills and lost wages after an on the job injury
  • Provide you legal defense if you’re the target of a frivolous lawsuit
  • Replace your business’ inventory after a theft, fire or tornado.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. insurance companies paid out nearly $48 Billion in losses related to the 54 catastrophic (hurricanes, tornados, major inland storm systems, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, etc.) events in 2012 & 2013.  Take a moment right now to think about how your life would be impacted by a catastrophe such as these with and without insurance protection coverage…how about just an everyday injury, accident or electrical fire…

Don’t take your insurance protection for granted develop a good working relationship with your agent and review your insurance protection plan with him or her regularly.  Happy National Insurance Awareness Day.

Uber Trouble By Giving a Lyft

UberDon’t get yourself in Uber trouble by giving a Lyft for pay.  Ridesharing companies are an emerging opportunity for folks with a drivers license and a car to make a few extra dollars but carefully review the potential risks and rewards before signing yourself up as a driver or even a passenger for a ridesharing firm like Uber, Sidecar or Lyft.  Transportation network companies like these use smartphone communications technology to connect individuals who want a ride with drivers who are willing to give a lift for a fee. In addition to violating livery (taxi) licensing laws in many jurisdictions these drivers generally use their personal vehicles and intend to rely on their personal auto policies which invariably have livery and/or business exclusions written into the policy language.

Essentially this means that most Uber, Sidecar and Lyft drivers are operating without insurance protections and are gambling all their assets and all their future wages on whether or not they are involved in an accident.  Remember that an auto policy is intended to protect you not only from accidents that are your fault, but also from accidents that are the other guy’s fault when she/he is unknown (hit & run) or  unable (due to no or low insurance liability limits and limited assets to sieze) to pay for the injuries and property damage consequences.  The financial losses from auto accidents can easily exceed $100,000 or even $1,000,000 for serious accidents.

Our recommendation is to stay out of Uber trouble by avoiding these Lyft companies as a passenger and a driver unless you/your driver has secured adequate commercial livery insurance to cover such risks.

Watch Out For Deer

November brings the annual convergence of the deer hunting season and the deer mating season.  These two activities tend to generate crazy deer who jump in front of cars so exercise extra caution the next few weeks and watch out for deer!

Watch Out For DeerHere are some additional tips to stay safe on the road this fall:

  • Slow down, it’s better to arrive alive and the slower you’re going during a collision the less likely you are to be seriously injured…or worse.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Deer tend to cross roads near streams or areas where woods are situated close to roadways.
  • Deer usually travel in groups. If you see one or more deer run safely past…watch out because there may be more.
  • In recent years the deer population has skyrocketed in urban and suburban areas. According to the Missouri Department of Insurance 26% of deer-related accidents in 2013 occurred in urban areas.
  • Avoid ‘highway hypnosis’…scan the road from ditch to ditch as you drive.
  • Don’t swerve abruptly.  Sometimes hitting the deer is your safest option if the alternative is rolling your vehicle or swerving into oncoming traffic.
  • Be extra careful from just before dusk to just after dawn as most deer strikes occur between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. The majority of accidents involving deer occur between October and December and November is the worst month.

Final watch out for deer tip:  If you want coverage for your car after running into that crazy, suicidal deer…make sure that you have ‘comprehensive’ or ‘other than collision’ coverage on your vehicle.

 

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