Friday, February 26, 2010

"Lights, Camera, Claim Settled!"

The aftermath of a fire or natural disaster is not the time you want to be trying to remember all the treasures and possessions you have accumulated over a lifetime. Now is the time you should be preparing for the possibility of a catastrophic property loss and a Home Inventory is the best place to start.

I know what your going to say, the thought of going through your whole house, cataloging each and every item does seem daunting, but there is perhaps an easier way - Video. Today's video cameras are so much more compact and versatile than even the models from just a few years ago. The ability to store the data digitally on discs or portable hard drives give you the flexibility to make multiple copies for safe keeping at a relatively small cost.

When doing the video inventory of your home make sure you do the following:

  1. Go through every room in your home. Do no forget the garage, attic and basement.
  2. As you pass items of significant value or personal significance, provide a verbal description including there value and date purchase if possible.
  3. Make sure you show the labels for appliance and electronics, and be sure you can read the serial and model numbers on the video.
  4. Be sure to included carpeting, artwork, toys, furniture, jewelry, guns, etc.
  5. Open closets, cabinets and drawers so as to get coverage of the contents inside.
  6. Go back through the video and make a written inventory to go with the video.
  7. Store the video and inventory in a safe deposit box and send a copy to someone you trust.
  8. REMEMBER TO UPDATE THE VIDEO AT LEAST ANNUALLY. Just add the new stuff, don't shoot the whole thing all over again.

In addition to the video you should not forget important documents. These you should photo copy; keeping the copy in your home and the originals in the same safe deposit box as the video. Some documents to consider would be:

  • Personal - Birth certificates, will, passports, medical files, drivers license.
  • Financial - Bank account info, stocks, financial instruments, life insurance policies, credit cards, tax returns
  • Home - Title, deed, abstract, insurance policy, exterior photos, loan paperwork.

Any documents you have that will be difficult if not impossible to replace should be copied and stored securely off premises.

A little time spent now can save you a whole lot of anguish later and get you that much faster to a claim resolution. Now when the insurance claims adjuster says we will need an inventory, you can hand them the video with written summary. So what are you waiting for....LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Employee or Independent Contractor; Do I need Workers' Compensation Insurance?"

A very common question we get here in our agency is "Do I need Workers' Compensation Insurance for this person I occasionally hire to do work for me?" More often then not our answer is yes, because of the guidelines set by New York State.

There are 5 key factors to determining if an Employer-Employee relationship exists and thus Workers' Compensation is warranted.

1) CONTROL How much are you directing the actions of the individual in question? If you are telling the person how to do the work you have contracted them to do and are expecting them to be there doing it at specific times then likely they will be considered an employee. If however, they are operating completely on there own and on there own schedule, simply meeting the agreed to deadline, then they are more likely an independent contractor.

2) MATERIALS Are you providing all the tools and equipment they are using for the job? If yes, that is indicative on an Employer-Employee relationship.

3) PAYMENT Are you paying on a typical payroll schedule, such as daily or weekly (even monthly)? Most independent contractors are usually paid when the whole task is completed, or with a deposit and final payment. If you are paying on a schedule it may be considered an Employer-Employee relationship.

4) SIMILAR WORK Is the work or task similar to the work performed by the hiring business? If yes, this a marker of an Employer-Employee relationship. A person hired to frame a room by a carpenter is more likely to be considered an employee then say an lawyer hiring a electrician to put in a light fixture.

5) TERMINATION Do you retain full rights to hire and fire the person performing the work? A true independent contractor retains some control over how and when the work is performed.

These main factors will be taken in to consideration after an accident by workers' compensation law judge. Based on their findings a determination will be.

More often then not, the judge tends to rule that Workers' Compensation coverage was needed because an Employer-Employee relationship existed; hence our advice is typically that insurance be put in place. After all, it is far cheaper in the long run to purchase the coverage and get credit back from an audit, then to not have it and go through the legal and regulatory costs!

For more information about NYS guideline you can refer to the following link:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Your Cell Phone is for more than calling in the claim!

The rapidly expanding capabilities of cell phones in today’s world are mind boggling to say the least. Calling, texting, email, pictures, video and web browsing are all just the tip of the iceberg. As the saying goes “We’ve only just begun”; with an “App” for everything from picking out wine to purchasing stocks the utilization of these handheld marvels of technology seems limitless.

One area they can be very helpful for right now is the claim process. Using just the features that are already built in to most phones today you can acquire, retain and forward key information related to a claim in real time. This will allow you to see a faster and more accurate settlement process with the insurance carrier or other party.

These devices can be helpful for virtually any type of claim, however I will use a typical auto accident as my example. Most auto accidents are of the “fender bender” variety, meaning 2 cars and no injuries. Regardless of who is at fault, you can use your phone to:

* Call the police so the accident can be reported.
* Take pictures of the accident scene, including positions of the vehicles and damage.
* Record information on the other driver such as name, contact, insurance and vehicle information.
* Gather information on witnesses, passenger and other parties(i.e. police officer) involved.
* Record information about accident itself including, time, date, weather conditions, road information, traffic conditions, etc.
* A record of events can be written while events are fresh in the mind, statements can even be recorded!

All of this critical yet often forgotten or lost information can be easy stored and transmitted to your agent for organization and processing. They in turn can get this to your own insurance carrier in a more timely fashion. This will help your agent to stay on top of the claim for you, speed up the work of the adjuster and get you to a satisfactory conclusion much faster.

If you in fact are the negligent party, it can help you to defend yourself and limit your exposure. With accurate information you can better aid your insurance company in defending you and limiting the potential for faulty or exaggerated claims by the other party. This is especially true if unfortunately it is more then a dented fender and people have been injured.

As illustrated, the benefit of a portable communication device at the time of a loss is in the gathering and retaining of information. Information is the key to any situation, the more you have the better off you are. Losses are more easily handled with accurate and pertinent information. These magical objects can make a world of difference and save you time.

Oh but please remember, it is better if they aide you AFTER the claim and not be the CAUSE OF a loss. Please do not use them while you are driving. :-)