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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

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.

 

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.

Insurance Regulator Encourages Earthquake Insurance

Regulator Encourages Earthquake Insurance Following Great Central U.S. “Shakeout” Exercise

  

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Great Central U.S. “Shakeout” exercise has passed, but it doesn’t mean Missourians should stop thinking about earthquake preparation. The Missouri Department of Insurance is encouraging policyholders to follow up with their insurance agents to see if their property is covered by earthquake insurance. Most policies do not include this coverage, which must be purchased separately.

“The Shakeout exercise is a great reminder for homeowners to review their policies for earthquake coverage,” said John M. Huff, director of the department. “Consumers who aren’t covered are encouraged to buy this extra protection for their homes, businesses and belongings.”

Missouri is home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, centered in southeast Missouri and the nation’s most active earthquake zone east of the Rocky Mountains. At least three of the largest earthquakes recorded in the continental United States are believed to have occurred in that area from 1811 to 1812 – the largest occurred on Feb. 7, 1812.

Earthquake insurance market contracting, but coverage still affordable

“The availability of earthquake coverage is a growing challenge in our state,” Huff said. “We continue to work with the industry to advance private sector improvements to the market for earthquake insurance. Unfortunately, the number of companies offering coverage is declining. We know deductibles are rising substantially and there is a decline in both coverage options and availability in some areas, particularly southeast Missouri.”

Craig’s Jones Notes:  While there are fewer companies offering earthquake insurance in Missouri we still have a number of earthquake options available through many of our insurance companies for Missouri and the rest of the States we do business in.  Call your Yennie & Jones agent to ask about earthquake protection options.

Computer Travel Tips

Whether we’re traveling for business or pleasure, most of us can’t dream of taking a trip without our computer or tablet. How else would we check our email, prepare for our business meeting or see what our friends are up to on Facebook? Follow these tips to make sure your device is safe while flying:

  • Place your laptop in a separate bin when going through airport security. This is required by the TSA, but will also save your laptop or device from being damaged by other items.
  • Charge, charge, charge. Make sure you have a full battery before taking off. You never know when you’ll find an electrical outlet next. If your computer can accommodate a spare battery, be sure to have one with you.
  • Keep an eye on them. Electronics are often stolen. If you leave your seat to walk around or use the lavatory, be sure put your laptop or tablet in a protective case and place it inside your briefcase. It is much less likely to be stolen if it is packed away.
  • Ask about on-board use. Each airline has different rules about using your device in-flight. Make sure to ask a flight attendant before taking out your laptop and hitting that power button.
  • Your laptop does not count as your carry-on item. According to the TSA, a laptop, even if it is in a laptop bag, does not count as a flyer’s carry-on item.

Additionally, don’t forget to check out Yennie & Jones’ travel insurance protection options before you leave home.  We offer a number of options including:

We can even offer Kidnap & Ransom Insurance in certain circumstances.

Call us at 816-540-2114 or look at our Travel Insurance Protection Webpage for more information.

Homeowner’s Insurance Policies Do Not Include Earthquake

Missouri Department of Insurance encourages consumers to consider buying earthquake insurance because most homeowners policies do not include earthquake coverage.

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Insurance is encouraging Missourians to check with their insurance agents to see if their property is covered by earthquake insurance. Most homeowners policies do not include this coverage, which must be purchased separately.

“At a minimum, consumers need to know if their policies include earthquake coverage,” said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. “Now is the time to check. Consumers who aren’t covered are encouraged to buy this extra protection for their homes, businesses and belongings. ”

Missouri is home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, centered in southeast Missouri and the nation’s most active earthquake zone east of the Rocky Mountains. At least three of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the continental United States are believed to have occurred in that area from 1811 to 1812 – the largest occurred on Feb. 7, 1812.

The cost of earthquake coverage has continued to rise, however the cost is still affordable. According to 2012 statistics, if an earthquake strikes along the New Madrid Fault, nearby Mississippi, New Madrid and Pemiscot counties would be hardest hit. However, only 19 percent of homes in Pemiscot County had earthquake coverage, 26 percent in New Madrid County and 27.5 percent in Mississippi County.

About the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of financial industries and professionals. The department’s seven divisions work to enforce state regulations both efficiently and effectively while encouraging a competitive environment for industries and professions to ensure consumers have access to quality products.

Farm Vehicle Safety

by State Auto Farm and Ranch Underwriter Jeanna Lemaster

Due to the change in farming over the years, farm vehicles have changed too. A farm fleet of vehicles can encompass a large variety of vehicles, trucks, and trailers. More and more farmers are increasing the auto fleet to maximize harvest transportation and keep labor costs down. There are many hazards associated with using these types of vehicles, especially by an inexperienced or perhaps inattentive driver. Drivers and vehicle owners should be trained in the specifics of maintenance and inspections of the vehicles so they can quickly identify and correct any problems. Drivers should be trained to recognize hazardous conditions.

Farm TruckMaintenance of the farm vehicles should include:

  • Checking tire condition and tire pressure before every single use.
  • Inspection and repair of the suspension systems.
  • Make sure the fire extinguisher is charged and operable, and that there are adequate flares or reflective devices on hand.
  • Checking headlights, body lights, signals and outside reflectors.
  • Service rakes, including the trailer brake connections, and parking brake.
  • Inspect nd repair hydraulic lift cylinders regularly, as well as suspension systems.

Safety in regard to the farm vehicle should include:

  • Training ad practice. New drivers of these types of vehicles need practice and raining PRIOR to harvest so they are able to drive safely.
  • Use afe distances. Trucks take more time to stop, steer, and switch lanes.
  • Load properly. Overloaded trucks are much more dangerous. Both the driving of he vehicle and the dumping of the load is more dangerous if the load is      too large for the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Most vehicles have the GVW inside the driver side door.
  • Ensure stability when dumping. Raised truck or trailer beds are unstable and can ause tipping incidents. Ensure ground is level and firm, avoid dumping on indy days, do not jack knife the trailer, and ensure the load is not off enter.
  • Ensure the trailer is properly hitched to the pulling vehicle.
  • Make sure to avoid any overhead power lines while operating a dump trailer/truck. Contact with the truck and power line can result in electrocution of the driver.

It is very important for every owner and driver to have a maintenance and safety program in place. Insurance losses for poor safety or maintenance of a farm fleet of vehicles could not only be very costly in time, commodity, or liability losses, but also very dangerous causing serious injury or worse. The USDA has good resources that can be used to make or modify both maintenance and safety programs.

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