Did I Notify My Insurer?

An insurance policy is a promise to protect you against certain types of loss, but it can’t follow-through unless it knows about a loss. Prompt notification is so important that it is a formal policy requirement. A policyholder that fails to meet this obligation could result in a claim being denied.

A policy typically requires you to do the following:

Contact the agent or insurer as quickly as practical – the practical requirement replaced the previous use of “possible,” since some companies unreasonably denied coverage because notification was not instantaneous. The difference between words is important. It allows some flexibility for dealing with circumstances that could affect how quickly you contact your agent or insurer about a loss.

Identify yourself – Perhaps one day your insurer will be able to recognize your voice over the phone and immediately pull up your file. Until then, be prepared to at least tell your insurer your full name (or, if different, the name the insurance policy is under) and the policy number.

Give adequate details – What, When, Where, Why and How. It is important that the insurer has enough information to take proper action. This information allows an insurer to open a claim file, assign the loss to a claims person and begin investigation of your loss.

Provide copies of loss-related materials to the insurer – You should not guess about whether a legal notice or request to be paid for damages is important, even when an actual lawsuit has yet to be filed. Send a copy of the information to your insurer and let them decide.

Prompt notification helps everyone

Complete and quick communication about losses gives you the best chance to get needed coverage and gives your insurer an opportunity to handle a possible claim efficiently. It also allows the insurer to control issues that could let lawsuits gets out of control, such as the ability to offer payment for medical expenses or to contact and question witnesses.

Don’t hesitate! Contact your agent or insurer and get your loss handled.

Independence Day

We would like to wish our clients and friends a terrific and safe Independence Day.

In order to allow our staff the opportunity to enjoy the holiday we will close at 3PM on Thursday, July 2nd  and reopen on Monday, July 6th at 7:30AM. Should you have an emergency while we are closed, please call Beau at 309-333-1292.

Enjoy!detail of american flag

 

Ride-Sharing and Vehicle-Sharing

In the last year, there has been a flurry of activity related to the use of personal autos in the sharing economy. Services, such as those offered through Uber, Lyft, Getaround, and RelayRides, that enable the peer-to-peer sharing of rides and vehicles have popped up across the nation. While these transportation apps are becoming increasingly popular, they are also controversial as it relates to insurance coverage. Many personal auto insurance companies classify participation in these services as a commercial exposure that should not be covered by your personal auto insurance policy.

Each insurance company has a different approach to claims from drivers participating in these programs. Oftentimes not only is a loss excluded when a rider is in the vehicle being transported for a fare, but also if the insured driver is in transit to pick up a rider, when the insured driver is logged into an online application waiting for a rider request, or if the vehicle is parked and waiting to be picked up by a renter.

Before participating in any of these programs, it is recommended that you contact your insurance agent to discuss how your individual company handles the usage of personal automobiles for programs like these. For additional information, please contact Purdum Gray Ingledue Beck at 309.833.1755.

Memorial Day

We would like to wish our clients and friends a terrific and safe Memorial Day.

In order to allow our staff the opportunity to enjoy the holiday we will close at 12PM on Friday, May 22nd and reopen on Tuesday, May 26th at 7:30AM.

Should you have an emergency during this time, please contact Beau Ingledue at 309-333-1292.

As a motorist, do you understand biking laws?

Bicycling is growing in popularity. It’s easier on your joints, reduces stress, and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Due to federal funding, there are more bike trails and street lanes than ever before. These upgrades allow for safer rides with your family and safer commutes to work.

If you’re not interested in biking, that’s fine. However, as a motorist, you should be familiar with the laws in your state that are designed to keep bicyclists safe. Here are some laws that may apply in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

  • Safe passing laws – This law requires a motor vehicle to allow no less than three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist.
  • Treatment as a vehicle – Bicyclists have the same rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle.
  • Where to ride – If riding in the street, bicyclists need to ride as close to the curb or edge of the roadway as possible. Keep in mind bicyclists are probably still two to three feet from away from either. So while it may be frustrating to approach a biker in the road and have to slow down traffic, that biker has the right to be there. Respect their space and pass when it’s safe for both of you.
  • Dooring law – I’ll bet you’ve experienced this while driving your car: A door from a parked car suddenly opens just as you’re approaching the car. This situation can be even more dangerous for bikers. The Dooring law states that a person in a parked car DOES NOT have the right to open the door at any time. A driver or passenger may only open a door when it’s reasonably safe and doesn’t interfere with the movement of traffic.

If you’re interested in additional information, please visit http://bikeleague.org/StateBikeLaws

Provided by: Scott Stueber, West Bend Mutual Insurance
Source: http://bikeleague.org/StateBikeLaws

Do you owe the fee for not having health coverage in 2014? You may still be able to enroll in 2015 coverage if:

  • You didn’t know until after Open Enrollment ended on February 15, 2015 that the health care law required you and your household to have health coverage, or you didn’t understand how the requirement would impact you and your household
  • You owe the fee for not having coverage in 2014
  • You aren’t already enrolled in 2015 coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace

If all of these apply to you, you can enroll in a 2015 plan between March 15 and April 30, 2015. Contact us at 309.833.1755 or through the contact us link on our website to find out more.

Information taken from the Healthcare.gov website.

My ATV is already insured on my homeowners policy…right?

We often hear individual say they don’t need an ATV policy because their homeowners already covers it.  As a blanket statement, this is a dangerous belief.  This is only true when it is used for the sole purpose of maintaining the residence.  This means that if you normally use the ATV to plow snow in your drive but one day pull your children around on a sled, you have unintentionally voided coverage.  Along the same lines, anytime the ATV is used off the residence premises, coverage does not go with you.

Since it is rare if ever that ATV’s are used for the sole purpose of maintaining the residence, the solution is to maintain a policy specific to ATV’s.  The coverage is not expensive and removes all doubt at the time of a claim.

We invite you to contact us with any questions 309.833.1755.

Independent Contractor or Employee?

Most workers compensation acts set the following criteria for compensability:

  • Employment relationship
  • The injury must be accidental
  • The injury must occur in the course of the employment
  • The injury must arise out of the employment

If you are injured on the job and want to know more about what you can do contact the South Carolina personal injury lawyers to help you. Determining employer-employee relationship is not as straightforward as you think. The two most common misconceptions regarding independent contractor status include worker not included in employer’s payroll and the existence of a written agreement between the parties stating the worker is an independent contractor. Neither of which insulate the employer from his responsibility to provide workers compensation coverage.

Once the worker has proven that at the time of the injury the worker was providing work or services for the employer, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the worker was an independent contractor and not an employee. Courts will generally find in favor of the worker, barring any statutory exclusion.

The primary test in most jurisdictions is whether the employer has the right to control the details of the employee’s work. Secondary criteria includes whether there is evidence that the employer exercises that right, how the compensation is paid, whether the employer furnishes equipment or tools for performance of the work, and whether the employer has the right to terminate the employment relationship.

While the following is not all inclusive, it contains the highlights from the statutory criteria for determining independent contractor status:

Illinois

No rigid rule of law exists regarding whether a worker is an employee or an

independent contractor in Illinois. Rather, courts have articulated a number of factors to consider in making this determination. The single most important factor is whether the purported employer has a right to control the actions of the employee. Also of great significance is the nature of the work performed by the alleged employee in relation to the general business of the employer. Additional factors to consider are the method of payment, the right to discharge, the skill the work requires, which party provides the needed instrumentalities, and whether income tax has been withheld. Finally, a factor of lesser weight is the label the parties place upon their relationship.  The term employee should be construed broadly for purposes of the Illinois workers compensation Act.

Wisconsin

Following the amendments made to the law in 1990, all nine of the following criteria must be met for an individual to be considered an independent contractor (IC): 1) Maintains a separate business with own office, equipment, materials and other facilities. 2) Holds or has applied for a federal employer identification number with the IRS. 3) Operates under contracts to perform specific services or work for specific amounts of money and under which the IC controls the means of performing the services or work. 4) Incurs the main expenses related to the service or work performed under contract.  5) Is responsible for satisfactory completion of work or services contracted to perform and is liable for failure to complete the work or service.  6) Receives compensation for work or service performed under a contract on a commission or per job or competitive bid basis and not on any other basis. 7) May realize a profit or suffer a loss under contracts to perform work or service. 8) Has a continuing or recurring business liability or obligations. 9) The success or failure of the IC’s business depends on the relationship of business receipts to expenditures.

Iowa

In the employment relationship determination, the two most important indicators are the degree of control and the degree of independence. The evidence of the degree of control falls into three categories: 1) Behavioral control – Employer’s right to direct and control the work.2) Financial control – The extent to which the employee can realize a profit or gain, assumes responsibility for expenses. 3) Relationship of the parties regarding any benefits provided such as pension, sick pay, insurance, etc.

 Indiana

The state of Indiana has always considered ten factors when determining independent contractor status: 1) the extent of control by agreement exercised over the details of the work.2) Whether or not the one employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business.3) the occupation, the work is usually done under the direction of the employer without supervision. 4) Skill required 5) whether the employer supplied tools and the place of work for the person performing the work 6) Length of time employed 7) Method of payment by the time or by the job. 8) Is the work part of the regular business of the employer. 9) Relationship of master and servant. 10) Whether the principal is or is not in business. Indiana is now considering using the IRS regulations to determine IC status:

All evidence of the degree of control and independence in this relationship should be considered. The facts that provide this evidence fall into three categories – Behavioral Control, Financial Control, and the Relationship of the Parties, similar to Iowa above.

 Minnesota

Individuals who are independent contractors are excluded from coverage under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. In Minnesota, whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor is determined by applying Minn. Rules 5224.0010 through 5224.0340.  Whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor primarily depends on control over the work or services to be performed. The greater the control the employer has over the worker, the more likely Minnesota courts will deem that individual an employee.  This applies even if there is an agreement between the parties classifying the person of the independent contractor-the courts look at the party’s actions, not the written document, to determine independent contractor status.

Provided by: Lori Gibowski, Work Comp Claims Supervisor at West Bend Mutual Insurance

Rental Car Insurance Considerations

When it comes to renting vehicles for business use, it’s important to understand your coverage options to smooth out any surprise bumps in the road. Since coverage varies from one rental agency to the next, it’s important to know the risks and how to protect against them.

In the past, we have advised our clients to purchase hired car physical damage on their business auto policy and to reject the “insurance” offered when you rent a car. Since hired car physical damage covers rented vehicles the same as it would an owned vehicle, why pay more for loss damage waiver (LDW) or a collision damage waiver (CDW)? Because rental agreements have evolved in recent years and possibly create pitfalls for auto renters.

About Your Business Auto Policy
If you are relying on your hired car physical damage on your business auto policy to protect you, but the vehicle isn’t rented by the business, the hired car physical damage coverage won’t respond to claims. Your employees should use the business name on the agreement and pay with a business credit card, if possible.

Each year, the liabilities assumed under rental agreements expand. At one time, renters were responsible only for actual damage to or theft of the vehicle. Over the years, the rental car companies added loss of use. As a result, if the car is in the shop for two weeks after an accident, you, the renter, are liable for the revenue the rental car company has lost. Plus, storage fees may be passed on to you. In addition, some agreements require that you pay for “diminution of value.” This is the reduction in resale value for a vehicle that has been in an accident. If you purchase the LDW or CDW offered by the car rental company, your responsibility for damages will be waived.

About Rental Insurance
Should you use coverage from the rental car company and remove the hired car physical damage from your business auto policy? This would be a good solution if you could rely on the rental car coverage. Unfortunately, there are provisions in every rental contract that can void the coverage. For example, coverage is often voided if the driver has a single drink before driving; if he asks someone to drive in his place and that person is not listed as an authorized driver; if the driver is under the age specified in the rental contract; or if the car is taken on unpaved roads. Unfortunately, there are many ways to void the LDW/CDW, and they vary from one agreement to the next.

About Personal Auto Policies
Some personal auto policies won’t cover an SUV, van, or pickup being used for business. Plus, a personal auto policy won’t cover if the employee doesn’t carry comprehensive and collision — a likely case if the employee drives an older vehicle. Some policies exclude loss of use and all exclude diminution of value. And, if the personal auto policy does pay the claim, it will be on the driver’s loss record and might result in cancellation of coverage.

About Credit Card Coverage
Will the credit card used to rent the vehicle pay for the loss if your insurance doesn’t? To activate coverage, the cardholder must be the primary renter and must decline the LDW/CDW. Nothing is standard with credit card coverage, and it may be changed from time to time at the credit card company’s discretion. Also, if you violate any terms of the rental agreement, the credit card coverage is voided when you need it most. Many credit cards exclude rented SUVs, and some exclude any weather-related damage, like flood and hail.

Minimizing the Risk
What should you do to minimize your risk? We recommend:

  • Dealing with one corporate-approved rental company, if possible. This will establish that the rentals are for business use and that the business is renting the vehicle, not the employee. Review the contracts of at least three rental car companies and choose the one that best suits you. Make sure to sign a blanket agreement for all rentals and keep a copy on file.
  • Taking the LDW/CDW coverage, or self-insure any exposures not covered by hired car physical damage. Such exposures typically include loss of use, diminution of value, storage fees, administration and claims expenses. Some loss of use may be provided by your Business Auto policy. Ask us to review this for you. Depending on how often your firm rents vehicles and the cost of LDW/CDW, self-insuring might be a good option.
  • If you purchase LDW/CDW, make your employees understand the “Prohibited Uses” or other section that explains actions that will void coverage, even though you paid for it.
  • Continue to carry hired car physical damage on your business auto policy.

Proper Planning is No Accident
C
ar rental insurance has important considerations. If you need help sorting through this coverage with the Utility Saving expert who understands your needs, call us today at 309-833-1755.

National Blood Donor Month

While advances in medicine have lessened the demand for blood transfusions, the need for blood donors remains great. According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. That comes to a total of 41,000 blood donations needed every day. January has been named National Blood Donor Month in an effort to offset a seasonal period when blood donations drop significantly.

If you’ve never donated blood before, it is a simple, four-step process: registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation and refreshments. The actual blood donation is a safe process that typically takes 10 to 12 minutes. A sterile needle is used only once for each donor and is then discarded. The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in his or her body. Approximately 1 pint is given during a donation.

In  the Macomb area, contact the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center at (309) 836-2329, or the American Red Cross at (309) 837-1594.