GT Insurance Blog

Insurance problems and cures

Archive for June 2012

7 Steps to help an injured worker return to work…

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When someone is injured in the workplace, both the worker and the employer will be better off if there is a plan in place to get the worker the best care and rehab, both sides know what the plan is, and they follow it. You are aiming for fewer lost days, less wage loss, better employee morale, and a better quality of life for the employee.

If you have more questions after looking at the list below, please give us a call at 1-800-548-2329.

Our thanks to CNA Insurance for this list. While they’re not the only company in the Workers Compensation business, they’re a good company.

Seven Key Steps
1. Ensure prompt access to treatment. This includes making
sure the appropriate first-aid kits are available to the injured
worker; promptly referring the injured worker to your
preferred medical provider; or, in the event of an emergency,
quickly placing a 911 call to the local emergency dispatch.

2. Report the loss immediately by calling, e-mailing or
reporting the injury online through http://www.cna.com.

3. Establish a return-to-work record, which includes: a copy
of the accident report, a job description, initial treatment
documentation, copies of medical bills, progress reports
from the physician and a log of your conversations with
your employee and the physician. This will assist you in
tracking the current claim, and establishes a model for
handling future claims.

4. Provide information to the treating physician about the
work-related injury, including details about the incident and
the employee’s job description, and briefly discuss your
company’s return-to-work policy.

5. Follow up with your injured employee within 24 hours of
the injury. Assure him or her of your company’s commitment
to their well-being. Assess the worker’s understanding of
the treatment he or she received, and respond quickly and
appropriately to questions about future treatment plans
or other general questions. Always be considerate of the
employee’s rights of privacy and confidentiality.

6. Contact the physician within 24 hours of the initial
treatment to obtain information about the extent of the
injury and recommended treatment plans. Also determine
timing for returning the employee to work as appropriate.
Where necessary, the goal is to provide temporary modified
jobs that will take into account your employee’s physical
abilities, skill and interests.

7. Maintain contact with your employee at least bi-monthly
to ensure his or her recovery is progressing as anticipated.
Collaborate with the treating physician for updates on your
employee’s recovery, and to facilitate a smooth transition to
the appropriate job duties.

Cost of flooding…

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This interactive video from the National Flood Insurance Program is aimed at home owners but gives small businesses an idea of how much damage even a minor flood can do to a building.  And the answer is, a whole lot of damage.

Click here for the NFIP video

Commercial Automobile Insurance – Loss prevention…

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Backing up accidents are a significant cause of loss for businesses with commercial automobile insurance.  A good insurance company will have training and educational materials to help business owners manage their vehicle fleets to avoid accients.   Untrained and unscreened drivers cause accidents.  Call us if you’d like to discuss some of the issues or what insurance companies can do to help you.  1-800-548-2329.  Or get some basic information at the GBW Insurance website by clicking here

A couple of points to consider:  90% of backing accidents are preventable by taking care and using proper techniques.  And the majority of backing accidents with bodily injury involve children under the age of 5.  Not only does proper training lower insurance costs, it saves lives.

The following is a summary sheet from CNA Insurance (one of the “A” rated carriers we work with), discussing some basics for safe parking and backing.

From CNA Insurance: 

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) study determined that over 90% of backing accidents
can be attributed to one of the following causes:
• Driver was unaware of the obstacle
• Driver used improper backing techniques
Yet, these accidents can be prevented by using some of
the following simple accident prevention techniques:
Preplan trips to avoid or to minimize the need for backing.
• When entering an alley that does not permit drive
through or turnaround, back into the alley, if allowed
by local ordinance, since it is usually safer
to back into the area with less traffic. This will enable
you to see the traffic as you exit the alley.
• When backing out of an alley, ask someone to be
your guide, and signal when it is safe to back into
traffic.
• When a guide is used, instruct the guide to use
appropriate hand signals rather than voice commands.
• The majority of backing accidents with bodily injury
involve children under the age of 5. Make a
walk around inspection of your vehicle before
backing, especially in an area where young children
can be anticipated.
• Park defensively to prevent your vehicle from rolling
into another vehicle. If parking on an incline,
turn the front wheels into the curb to prevent the
vehicle from rolling.
• Park in the middle of the parking space. This will
allow you room to exit the parking space without
backing and provide space if backing is required.
• Never take any situation for granted. Even though
you may have parked or backed into a location
many times, evaluate the location to determine if
clearances have changed or if new obstacles are
present.
• Experience is required to develop good backing
techniques. If you have access to a designated
area to practice backing – use it.
• Learn exactly how the rear of the vehicle responds
to every little movement of the steering
wheel. Practice – Practice – Practice!
• Know what’s going on around you at all times and
perform all backing maneuvers SLOWLY.
• Check all your mirrors when backing. Know the
mirror blind spots. Conduct a walk around inspection
of your vehicle to check these blind spots or
get someone to guide you while backing. Know
the clearance to all obstacles and the exact distance
to your stopping point.

The information, examples and suggestions presented in this material have been developed from sources believed to be reliable, but they should not be construed as legal or other professional advice.
CNA accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this material and recommends the consultation with competent legal counsel and/or other professional advisors before applying this
material in any particular factual situations. This material is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to constitute a contract. Please remember that only the relevant insurance policy can provide the
actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured. All products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice. CNA is a registered
trademark of CNA Financial Corporation. Copyright © 2010 CNA. All rights reserved

 

Cyber liability insurance policies

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A quick thought: Did you know that cyber liability insurance coverage is highty variable from one insurance carrier to another?

And not just in what limits they allow or how much they charge. The actual coverage is variable. This is not a settled field of insurance so each company is crafting its own list of what’s covered and what is not. This is important. How broadly your insurance carrier crafts the wording, or interprets claims can make a huge difference if you actually have a claim made against you.

While this is still evolving, at a minimum have your insurance advisor show you the coverage in your existing policies.

Social media policies and the NLRB…

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The Acting General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board recently issued guidance on Social Media Policies in relation to the National Labor Relations Act.  You will find the link to the actual document by clicking here to go to the NLRB site and going to document OM 12-59.

Sadly, the guidance appears to be that employers can not restrict employees’ behavior on social media or in disclosing confidential information. 

Presumably you can carve out a safe policy by making it clear that your restrictions don’t apply to issues subject to the National Labor Relations Act.   You should see your labor legal counsel if you have one, making sure your employee handbook and any other documents are in compliance.  But employers are on the spot with this since the NLRB (especially recently) takes the path of the negative Socratic dialectic in issuing guidance.  That is, you advance an idea and I tell you what’s wrong with it, but I never tell you what would be right.  (Many philosophers have argued that there were some good reasons to kill Socrates.)  

We’re not going to give you labor law advice.  There’s an excellent legal summary of this mess, available through the link at the bottom of this article.  But you should also take a look at your employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) and talk with your insurance advisor about what’s covered.  Or call us at 1-800-548-2329.

Here is the link to an alert from Bressler, Amery, & Ross. Excellent write-up of the problem.  Bressler Social Media and NLRB

Commercial Insurance prices up for the 5th consecutive quarter…

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We are in the beginning of a hard market for business insurance. It looks like this market turn is starting with small rate increases for the average account, large increases if you have had losses, carriers dropping things they should not have written in the first place, and restrictions in coverage. 

Commercial insurance market cycles tend to run through long periods of decreasing rates.  Carriers make money and pursue growth while stating they won’t compromise their standards.  Then they compromise their standards and, since insurance losses take a long while to mature, the carriers still make money.  But they store up future losses, make too many assumptions based on current results, and think they can make small changes to improve results when things begin to deteriorate.

Per Towers Watson, gathering data across the industry, rate increases of 5% annually are the highest since 2004.  Loss ratios in many lines of insurance have stabilized, though they are not making much if any money for the insurance companies.  And remember that the companies have little chance to make money with investments, so they have little choice but to raise prices until they are making money on their basic business.

Could be worse; it hasn’t reached double digit increases on average, yet.  We’ve lived through 20% average increases, and worse, in changing markets decades ago.  Talk to us if you have questions.  1-800-548-2329  or contact us by clicking here.

Here’s a link to a  Towers Watson article reviewing the state of commercial insurance pricing.

Workers Compensation Insurance and taxes: Independent Contractor (1099) or Employee?

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Business owners can hire people as employees or pay them as independent contractors. Getting that distinction right can save you taxes, protect you during insurance audits, keep you out of trouble with your state’s Department or Labor, and help you survive an IRS audit.  Getting it wrong can take you into a nightmare.  

As a business owner or hiring manager, here are seven points to keep in mind when you classify people as independent contractors or employees:

1. Getting it wrong, even unintentionally misclassifying people, can draw penalties and additional taxes due, state labor law penalties.  You can also be audited by your Workers Compensation Insurance company, with additional insurance premium going back three years.

2. Take a look at how the Internal Revenue Service  decides whether a worker is an employee or contractor.  They look at the relationship between a worker and a business. The IRS starts with three factors in determining this relationship:

  a) Type of relationship, which means how both your business and the worker view the relationship.

  b) Financial control; how do you pay the worker? Do you pay by the hour, do you pay by a task or project, do they work for any other company, do you pay the worker directly or do you pay another company for their time?  For Workers Compensation Insurance, the insurance company is going to look at whether you can prove that the worker has Workers Compensation coverage somewhere else.

  c)  Behavioral control; do you set hours, each task, provide tools and computers, starting times, hours worked on a project, provide training?  These and other control questions will be used to decide whether you owe employment taxes and withholding.

3.  Did the worker bid for the job or fill out an application?  Do you have a contract with the worker?  Does the contract refer to a single project or is it open-ended? 

4. Remember that calling someone an independent contractor does not make them an independent contractor, even if they agree with you.  If you direct and control their exact hours, methods, provide the only workplace and equipment they use, you should plan on having to pay them as employees, file tax forms, and withhold taxes as required by law.   Either the business or a worker can ask the IRS to determine whether the relationship is independent contractor or employee.  Take a look at IRS Form SS8 to see what you might have to provide to prove your point. 

5, A worker is likely be classified as an independent contractor if the business directs or controls only the result of the work, not the manner, means, or methods being used to accomplish the end result.

6. Make sure that workers are aware of their classification. This will help them plan for their tax obligations.  Keep in mind that you are trying to avoid the situation where they call the IRS and state Department of Labor to try to claim employment status.   Many workers are happy to be independent contractors until they have a tax problem, or get hurt.

7. You can use the IRS forms, or your state Department of Labor, a labor attorney or, for the Workers Compensation issues, your insurance advisor, to gather information to make a decision on how to classify a worker.  

Here’s the NJ Department of Labor FAQ page which can give you an idea of how they handle classification and eligibility for Workers Compensation benefits.  Give us a call at 973-426-1500 if you’d like advice about New Jersey issues.