Independent Contractor (what you need to know)

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Being an independent contractor certainly has its perks: determining your own projects and hours, choosing your own pay scale and not having to answer to a corporation or company that doesn’t seem to care so much about the individual worker. That said, sometimes there are downsides to being independent. For example, it can be a lot easier for disgruntled clients to sue you, and the damages can be far more costly without a larger company backing you up. Here’s what you need to know about independent contractor insurance

Lawsuits Are Very Real Threats

Clients can become unhappy with contractor work for a wide variety of reasons, many of which can lead them to file a claim against you. More often than not it is because the work did not turn out to meet the client’s expectations, but lawsuits can also arise from flaws causing the client or someone else getting injured, from the work not meeting the client’s community or municipal standards, etc.

Liability Insurance Can Save You A Lot in the Long Run

It is true that liability insurance can seem like an unnecessary expense when you take a look at premium payments. But the truth is that you can often work out an affordable payment plan, and the cost of premiums pales in comparison to the cost of a lawsuit. Having a good liability policy in place ensures that you don’t end up using your own money to pay for legal claims, which ultimately can mean the difference between staying in business and being forced to close due to bankruptcy.

Knowing Your Legal Requirements

Depending on your location, there may be some local laws in place concerning your insurance requirements. In some areas, for example, independent contractors are required by law to have a minimum coverage limit of $1 million. The next step is to talk with an experienced insurance agent about finding a policy that both fits your needs and follows the law.

Have You Tested Your Smoke Alarms Recently? 

Have you tested your smoke alarms recently? If you haven’t, it’s possible that you, your family, and your possessions could be at risk. Smoke alarms are only useful if they actually work, and many smoke alarms could either be malfunctioning or completely dead. To avoid unnecessary risks, you need to test your smoke alarm at least once every year — and ideally once every six months. 

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Do You Need to Test Your Smoke Alarm?

It’s easy to assume that your smoke alarm works because you remember the last time it went off. But what you may not realize is that the batteries may have died… or that you may have actually disabled the smoke alarm the last time it went off. In 60% of home deaths due to fire, the smoke alarms either were not present at all or did not work. Further, the risk of death is reduced by 50% if you do have a working smoke alarm.

Almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms that did not work had missing or disconnected batteries, often due to disconnected smoke alarms. 24% of the failures were caused by dead batteries, and only 7% of the failures were caused by hardwired detectors.  (source: NFPA)

Testing a smoke alarm is important because a smoke alarm can malfunction at any time. Smoke alarms are actually fairly complex, they have different types of sensors. Some sensors detect smoke, whereas others detect chemicals. Some detect just fire and some detect carbon monoxide. Just because the smoke detector goes off occasionally if you burn something while baking, it may not go off during an actual fire. It may not be able to detect “smoldering flame,” even if it can detect smoke — and smoke doesn’t always happen until it’s too late.

The Process of Testing Smoke Alarms

Testing smoke alarm is really very easy. A smoke alarm will have a button on it that says “test.” Press the button, and the smoke alarm should go off. Don’t worry, the alarm is just going to go off for a few seconds before it stops.

That means your smoke alarm is active. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe. Your smoke alarm will start periodically beeping if it needs to have a battery replaced, which is how you can know that it is low power. But none of this tells you whether the sensors are correct. For that, you simply need to make sure your smoke alarms are current and use new sensor technologies.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk?

What if your battery dies when you aren’t around to hear it? If you’re going on a vacation, you might not even notice. You can reduce your risk by replacing your batteries on a regular basis, such as every six months. And you can further reduce your potential risks by getting a wired smoke alarm.

Most smoke alarms should be replaced after about ten years. After ten years, you may not know whether it has the best sensor technology, or whether its sensors may have potentially malfunctioned. Many new smoke alarms have multiple types of advanced sensors, such as ionization and photoelectric. Ideally you will want a smoke alarm that has every type of sensor available.

In addition to reducing your individual risk, you should also consider the placement of your smoke alarms and the number of smoke alarms you should have. You should ideally have a smoke alarm every floor of your home, especially in halls, bedrooms, and kitchens. The more smoke alarms you have, the better protected you are.

You can also consider advantageous upgrades such as smart systems, which can alert you wherever you are and therefore mitigate your risks.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter Weather

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Is the winter weather getting you down? If your home seems to be just a little colder than it should be (or you keep constantly hearing your furnace kick on), you might need to do some extra maintenance. Here’s a quick check list you can use to improve insulation and the effectiveness of your heating.

1. Check Drafts Around Outlets

Outlets, panel covers, and other inset wall fixtures can sometimes be drafty. Cold air can circulate inside of your walls and end up coming out of these areas, ruining the effectiveness of your insulation. Take a caulking gun and seal the areas around your outlets.

2. Replace Your Weather Stripping

Weather stripping isn’t meant to last forever. In fact, most weather stripping is going to have to be replaced every few years. Take out your old weather stripping around your doors and replace it with brand new, energy efficient weather stripping. Consider also checking for gaps beneath doors that could impact your insulation.

3. Caulk Any Holes in Walls

Walk around the exterior of your home and see if there are any holes that need to be caulked. Like weather stripping, caulk does eventually wear down and wear away. Caulking is frequently going to appear around outside pipes, windows, and so forth — and you may see that it has degraded. Use exterior caulk in these areas. You can also find paintable caulk if you would like to match the color of your home.

4. Close Up Your Chimney

If you have a chimney, remember to get it cleaned out (for safety) and then keep it shut when it’s not in  use. Chimneys can lose a lot of warm air, as they are designed to vent air to the surface (and because hot air rises). Just make sure you also have a monitoring system to make sure that you can detect any potentially dangerous air issues.

5. Get Your Furnace Checked

It’s a good idea to get your furnace checked every year to make sure it’s still safe and functioning. A professional will also be able to run basic maintenance on your furnace, which will help it last even longer. Furnaces generally last anywhere from 15 to 25 years, so if your furnace is getting older, you may also want to think about replacement.

7. Seal Up Your Ducts

Does your home’s heater have less “oomph” now? It could be that the heater is working just as well but there are issues with your ducts. Over time, ducts can degrade and leaks can emerge. Further, ducts can be disrupted by pests, such as squirrels in your attic. Get a full duct cleaning and have your ducts sealed up; you’ll often save money in your energy bills as well as improving the comfort of your home.

8. Buy a Roof Rake

A roof rake is an easy way to ensure that your roof is clear — and that’s important. Without a roof rake, you could end up storing a dangerous amount of snow and debris on your roof. Eventually that could cause your roof to leak… or even begin to crack. Buying a roof rake is an easy way to maintain your roof without a lot of effort on your part, and it can ensure that your gutters remain clean as well. Roof rakes also reduce your liability, because otherwise things could easily fall on visitors and cause an injury.

By being proactive about your home’s maintenance, you can not only make it more comfortable but also reduce your energy bills! You can also reduce your potential risk, as there’s less likelihood that people could be injured on your property.

You can buy a roof rake here: True Temper Telescoping Roof Rake

 

Should anything happen due to winter weather that causes your home to need repairs, don’t hesitate to reach out to our trusted partners on our Community Page.

Why Business Auto Insurance Is Important

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Earlier this year Concord Group Insurance announced their affiliation with Auto-Owner Insurance Group, a well rated mutual insurance company that exclusively works through independent agents. The reason for the collaboration between the two companies is to better serve their customers. Combining the two groups efforts will increase their financial security as well as reach and effectively deliver quality insurance coverage to a wider range of customers. Not to mention mark the beginning of their new business auto insurance line!

As a result of this new affiliation, Concord Group Insurance has added a new line of commercial auto insurance. The Group uses a mutual insurance method to protect the needs of their policy holders, rather than the shareholders, because there are no shareholders. Adding the new auto insurance line will allow Concord Group Insurance to offer all inclusive coverage and protection plan, and the Group is actively and aggressively pricing their new commercial insurance policy. It is a different kind of policy that has not been introduced like this before in other companies so it is crucial that Concord Group Insurance set the bar before anyone else can. That being said, determining the pricing might be difficult because there aren’t other policies like it to compare it to.

With all the different insurance policies out there these days it can be tough to nail down what you actually need for your auto insurance for your business. It is common for business owners to purchase business auto insurance in order to avoid unnecessary liabilities or claims involved with company vehicles. At some point, damage or an accident might occur to one of your company vehicles through no fault of your own so it is very important to make sure your investments are covered and protected. Businesses often overlook this type of insurance and they realize when it is too late that they should have had an auto policy in their business insurance plan sooner.

With a good business auto insurance policy, a business can receive compensation in the event of an accident or damage if they file a claim for it. With all of the possibilities that could damage your company vehicles, such as natural disaster, accidents, and just general car malfunction, it is imperative that you find the best quality auto insurance.

When looking for quality commercial auto insurance, there are a few things to look for and keep in mind before you make any purchase decisions. Make sure you know what kind of insurance you need for whatever company vehicles you have. Different classes of vehicles (ie. trucks vs. an SUV) have different requirements and they vary for each state. Make sure you know what the requirements are and find an insurance company that specializes in your needs. Which brings us to the next piece of advice, always do your research. Don’t just go off of hearsay because it might not be very factual. Do the research yourself and get the facts or call us if you have any questions!

Lastly, a very important tip for security and protection purposes is to keep recordings. If you have employees driving your company trucks or other vehicles, keep a live video camera on the dashboard or somewhere that can capture important details of the vehicle. In the event of an accident, having video evidence will help you build your case and defend your claim. You will be able to see if the driver had any fault, such as if he/she was texting or lighting a cigarette, or if the accident was the fault of another person. Also, take photographs of any damage you see immediately following an accident to keep a detailed record of loss and damage.

Why Use Independent Insurance Agents?

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When you’re looking for insurance, you have two major options. You can get insurance from multiple companies on your own or go to an independent, third-party agent or agency. While each of these options may have their own pros and cons, independent insurance agents (or an agency) is usually the best choice.

Independent Insurance Agents Save Money

Independent agents are most frequently chosen because they can save an individual or business money in a variety of ways:

  • Getting the best deals. An independent agent is aware of all the deals available on the market and can advise their client on which policies will work best for them. Because the agent works for a third party, they have no reason to promote any company’s services over another. They may also get bundled and discounted deals to save their clients money.
  • Establishing the right coverage. Because an independent agent is solely focused on getting their clients the best coverage, they can tell their clients exactly how much coverage they need. Agents aren’t interested in upselling their clients on more coverage, as they are interested not only in acquiring clients but also in being able to retain them. Customers happy with their insurance costs are additionally more likely to refer new business.
  • Avoiding costly mistakes. Because an independent agent is an expert in insurance, they are going to be able to prevent many costly mistakes. Individuals managing their own insurance could accidentally let policies lapse, which could lead to a lack of coverage if an incident occurs. Individuals working with companies may not realize certain things are or aren’t covered, as the company will not have a full picture of their insurance needs.
  • Getting the appropriate discounts. Senior, student, safe driver, and new home owner discounts are all available for different types of insurance policy — but these discounts may not always be immediately obvious. Independent agents know which discounts they should ask for and are able to compare different policies with these discounts already in mind.
  • Revising policies as needed. An insurance agent that works independently will also periodically analyze the insurance needs of their client to make sure they are still getting the best possible deals. Though an individual can do this, they are often more likely to simply renew the old contracts that they already have.

Independent Insurance Agents Get Better Coverage

An independent agent will assess a customer’s insurance needs from top to bottom to make sure that they have the best in coverage. By negotiating with companies (and through their own expertise in the market) they don’t just save their customers money — they also get them better policies. Insurance agents have experience in the market and they know about all of the different types of coverage available. An individual attempting to get coverage through multiple companies may acquire redundant coverage or may not have enough coverage overall.

Independent Insurance Agents Take Care of Everything

The relationship that is built with an independent agent can be incredibly important. An independent agent will understand all of your insurance needs and will consequently be able to make sure that you don’t have any insurance gaps and that your coverage is neither too little or too excessive. Because they are your first point of contact for any insurance matters, you’ll never need to wonder about who you need to contact with questions or to initiate a claim. As products and services offered by your insurance companies change, you’ll still continue working with your agent — and they will be able to offer you a continuity of customer service that you wouldn’t have if you were regularly switching between companies.

An independent agent isn’t just acting as a broker; they also can act as an advocate for their client when claims arise and can walk their clients through situations with their insurance policies. Altogether this makes the entire process of dealing with insurance much easier, not just identifying a policy and purchasing it.

Insurance can be exceedingly complex and it’s important to have someone on your side. Independent insurance agents work as partner, finding you the best coverage at the best prices and making sure that you are always cared for. Though you can try to put together your own insurance packages, you will almost universally spend less time and money working through a third party agent/agency.

Jewelry Insurance in Boston

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Is your jewelry properly insured? It’s dangerous to assume that your jewelry is already insured under either your homeowner’s insurance or your renter’s insurance — as it very well may not be. Jewelry often requires separate insurance riders, based on the value of the jewelry and the policy that the jewelry is added to. Here’s what you need to know about jewelry insurance in Boston.

What Exactly Is “Jewelry Insurance”?

Jewelry insurance isn’t like any other type of insurance policy. For starters, it isn’t a separate policy at all, but instead coverage that you add on to an existing policy. Jewelry coverage is necessary because there are many policies that limit the amount that each individual item can be insured for. In other words, your renter’s insurance may only cover individual items up to $2,000. If you have a necklace that is worth $5,000 that is lost, stolen, or damaged, you will only get the maximum amount of $2,000, even if that doesn’t exceed your total coverage cap.

To get around this, you need to insure the individual items under one of your insurance policies — or you need to increase the individual item coverage to cover all of the items that you want insured.

How Can I Get Jewelry Insurance in Boston?

Getting jewelry insurance in Boston begins by an assessment of your jewelry’s value. If it’s recently purchased jewelry, a receipt will usually suffice — but if it’s jewelry that has been in your family for a long time, you may actually need an appraisal. For expensive jewelry items, you’re going to need some written evidence regarding the jewelry’s value and its authenticity. Once you have this you can submit it to your insurance company and they will then give you a quote for coverage. Your coverage will be associated with either your renters insurance or your homeowner’s insurance.

You should always have a very thorough inventory of your home’s items, including any jewelry — and you should keep in mind that the replacement value of jewelry may differ from its appraised value, especially in the case of things such as wedding rings or other sentimental items. There is also the possibility that jewelry items may be able to be repaired or also have some salvage value, which also may be able to impact its insurable amount. Either way your insurance company should be able to help you.

It’s very important for you to have full insurance on all of the items that are in your home. Jewelry items that you may have had for a while may be more valuable than you think — or, conversely, the appraisal value may not be as high as you expect. In order to get a better picture of your full insurance needs, you can contact your own insurance agent or go through an insurance broker. An insurance broker will be able to get you multiple competing quotes.

Author: Caitlin Barrows

Massachusetts RV Insurance

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Recreational vehicles can be a adventurous way to live your life…or spend your weekend away. Getting the right insurance, will ensure that your happy weekend isn’t ruined by lack of coverage. Massachusetts RV insurance isn’t difficult. With a little understanding, you will be able to have an informed conversation with your insurance agent.

Classes of RVs

Given the wide range of vehicles that classify as an RV, there are different classifications: Class A, B, and C.  Depending on what type of RV you own and how often you are using it, your insurance options will vary.

To give you some idea of each class, let’s look at some examples:

  • Class A: motor coaches, luxury coaches, and converted buses
  • Class B: smaller RVs without cab-overs, travel-trailers, camper vans, and converted cargo vans style campers
  • Class C: cab-over styled campers, separate cab area, and fifth wheel vehicles.

Typical Coverages for RVs

First of all, an RV is still at risk for the same things your car is, so the same coverages apply: collision, comprehensive, and liability. At the same time, the vehicle is a living space. Therefore, some of the same coverage as your homeowners insurance are needed, such as coverage on your personal belongings. In addition, other coverages will vary by agent and your specific needs, but may include:

  • total-loss replacement
  • emergency expense
  • roadside assistance
  • towing
  • campsite
  • vacation
  • full-time usage (if you travel and live in your RV)
  • uninsured/underinsured motorist
  • permanent attachments

While that is a laundry list of coverages, your insurance agent will be able to walk you through the process of determining your specific needs and coverage levels.

How Much Does Massachusetts RV Insurance Cost?

Prices for Massachusetts RV insurance can vary widely, depending on two very RV-specific factors:

  • Your RV Class – Classes A & C are the most costly, respectively. Finally, Class B is usually not as costly.
  • Usage – If you live in your RV, the cost will naturally rise with the level of risk.

Additionally, your insurance costs will rise if you have a poor driving record, if you need additional coverages, or if you want certain limits and deductibles. Due to your personal needs, costs are very specific to you.  A ballpark figure in RV insurance might be $500 – $2,500 per year, but any of the aforementioned aspects could raise or lower your RV insurance costs.

Next Steps

Insurance on your investment is a no-brainer, even when it is parked. Yet, when you have your RV on the road, Massachusetts requires that you have insurance with at least liability coverage. So if you have purchased or are purchasing an RV and would like to have a conversation with an agent, you can contact us here and one of our friendly staff members will be happy to help you.

Is Rental Car Insurance Really Worth it?

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Have you ever rented a car? If you have then you probably know that rental car companies offer optional rental car insurance…but is it worth it?

One such rental car insurance package is often called the “Full Damage Waiver” and actually I highly recommend purchasing this insurance package.

When I rented a car with Enterprise recently I got the “Full Damage Waiver” added to my rental agreement. It cost me just under $17 per day.

Now, I know what you are thinking, and yes it can add up if you have the rental vehicle for a long time. I would think that most rentals wouldn’t last for more than a week or two. So at the end of one week the total cost to add this would be about $119. If you keep the vehicle for two weeks then the cost would be about $238.

Why Rental Car Insurance?

So now you are likely wondering why would you pay for this and I will tell you. If you don’t get the coverage then:

  1. If you damage the rental then the credit card you used to place the security deposit will immediately be charged the amount of the deductible on your auto policy. Most often this means a charge of $500 or $1000. (assuming you have the correct coverage on your policy)
  2. If you are at fault in a collision then your driving record will be affected causing the cost of your auto insurance to increase at your next renewal.
  3. You could be charged additional costs as well. These additional fees can include Administrative fees, Loss of Use, Diminishment of Value and possibly others depending on the rental car company. It is possible your auto insurance policy may pay one or more of these fees. In a recent claim only the Loss of use was covered.

So, in short if you purchase the “Full Damage Waiver” you can just walk away from any and all damage, get your deposit back. No fees or surcharge will be applied since your insurance company won’t have to pay for the damage.  This alone makes rental car insurance well worth the investment.

Next time you rent a car look for this waiver, but it may be called something else. Read the contract and add the waiver to save yourself a boat load of hassle that could come your way, if damage is done.

About the Author:

*Please note, I am a licensed agent in the state of Massachusetts. Details may vary state to state. I have prepared this as a summary of my experience with rental cars, it is intended as an item for consideration. Please do your own research and read your contracts when renting a vehicle.

Written by Bonnie J. O’Hara CISR
Barrows Insurance Agency, Inc.
http://www.barrowsins.com/

A Guide to Second Home Insurance

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Many of our clients have made the decision to purchase a second home, or vacation home, some on the Cape and other places. Two common conversations come up with nearly every second home policy we write. First, why is this different from homeowners insurance? Secondly, what types of insurance are needed for a secondary home? So, let’s look at what these differences are, what insurance types are needed, and what you can do to mitigate some costs.

As a disclaimer, I will mention real estate in other places, we can usually refer you to a reputable agency for places that we do not do business.

How is Second Home Insurance Different?

Second home insurance differs from homeowners insurance in several ways. Most of these differences are simply increased risk factors and that’s what I am going to focus on.

Perhaps the biggest risk factor is that the home may go unoccupied for long periods of time. While you are at your primary residence, a storm could have ripped a hole in the roof of your second home and no one is there to address the issue. So a hole in the roof becomes water damage an mold cleanup by the time someone realizes what happened.

Another prevalent risk factor is that many vacation homes are in rural locations, like that getaway cabin in the White Mountains. Compounding the effect of being unoccupied, the risk of theft increases when the location is both unoccupied and rural.

Many people also tend to offer their second home to friends, family, coworkers, or clients. While this helps with keeping a check on the property and maintenance needs, it introduces yet another threat. Damage by a 3rd party.

Additionally, some people even rent out their second home for short periods of time. For instance, a house in Daytona may get rented out to spring breakers. Did someone say, “risk”?

So, to recap:

  • Unoccupied for long periods
  • Isolated rural location
  • Guests
  • Tenants

Types of Insurance Needed:

Many of the insurances you will need for your second home, is the same as homeowners insurance. In most homeowners insurance policies, your coverages are:

  • Dwelling
  • Other structures
  • Personal property
  • Loss of use
  • Liability insurance

As you have probably figured out, you may need a few extra pieces in place. So, in addition to you’re typical homeowners insurance, you should consider:

  • Earthquake
  • Tornado
  • Hurricane
  • Additional theft/vandalism
  • Tenant Insurance (if renting)
  • Umbrella Policy
  • Flood

What you can do to mitigate costs:

  • Install an Alarm System
    • If you are leaving any valuables at your second home, then installing an alarm system isn’t only practical, it can save you money on insurance premiums.
  • Combine Policies to Save
    • If possible, combine your second home insurance with your primary homeowners insurance, car insurance, boat insurance, etc. By combining these and going through the same company, you can lower your premiums.
  • Umbrella Policies
    • Aside from the fact you are adding a valuable asset to your insurance coverages, there comes a point where having an umbrella policy just makes sense. In the event that something were to happen, like a 100 year flood that you didn’t anticipate or have covered, you may need some additional coverage. The more assets you are insuring, the higher the risk that you are exposed to one of these “freak accidents”. Maybe buying the second home doesn’t trigger the need for this, but keep it in mind.
  • Insurance & Renting
    • If you are going to be renting out your second home, you should inform your insurance agent. While it may seem more risky to be renting, the reality is that some of the risks associated with it being empty will be alleviated, which could translate into savings.
    • Another way to save on your premiums is to require tenants to carry renters insurance with minimum amounts of coverage, as outlined by your insurance agent. In doing so, some of the risk management costs can be transferred to the tenant, again saving you money without lowering your coverage.

Choosing the right insurance agency:

As you have seen, insurance for a second home is considered higher risk than a primary home. To mitigate costs, you should consider using an agency that has access to multiple insurance companies. Not all insurance products are the same and having access to more options, as well as having a knowledgeable insurance agent, will better ensure that you have the appropriate amount of insurance at the best price possible.