Beware of the AOB…..Assignment of Benefits….Avoid this at all cost.

   

“What is an Assignment of Benefits?”

“An Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is a contract between you and a contractor (such as a plumber, water remediation firm, roofer, etc.) where you give the contractor control of your claims benefits. They file a claim for their services and direct the insurance company to pay them directly.

What’s in it for the contractor?

Once you sign an AOB, you lose control of the direction of your claim. The contractor takes control, and can submit whatever they like to your insurance company, sometimes billing the company two, three, four, five times the going market rate for their services, and sometimes including work that was never performed. You don’t see this, and you can’t verify what they did.

What are the potential pitfalls in signing an AOB?

  • You have committed to this contractor, and you have little to no recourse if you’re not satisfied with their work.
  • You can no longer comparison shop if you are not satisfied with their work. Even if they walk off the job with their work incomplete, they can still claim compensation from the insurance company which gets deducted from your benefits.
  • Both you, and the contractor, are still bound by the terms and conditions of the policy, and if the contractor violates those terms and conditions, those actions could potentially jeopardize coverage for your entire loss.

What’s in it for the contractor?

This is where the age old mantra of “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” comes into play.  Has the contractor done any of the following?

  • Solicits a job from you unannounced for damages you didn’t even know were allegedly present?
  • The contractor is offering you something for nothing, such as a free roof or kitchen.
  • Wants to start work immediately and advises you to delay contacting your insurance company?
  • Offered to “take care of” your deductible.

Any of these issues could potentially lead to a fraud investigation which could jeopardize your coverage.

Possible Litigation:

As mentioned above, there is no standard for what the contractor can submit to the insurance company, and if the company questions the scope and/or the pricing submitted by the contractor the company can be sued directly by the contractor.  And while you may not be a party to this lawsuit, more likely than not you will end up being a witness.

What should you do if you have a claim?”

Contact your insurance agent to report the claim.  He can guide you through the process.  Some insurance carriers will have contractors that they have vetted and will recommend.

This article is compliments of Federated National and SWFL Insurance Agency.

Questions or need a Homeowners or Property coverage quote, call 239-265-9577 or email joshw@swflagency.com.  We are Your Insurance Answer People in SWFL.

A Heads Up to Small Businesses….What are the most common claims and their cost?

“Despite experiencing these types of events, the survey found that many small businesses aren’t filing claims for them. Insureon cites the following possible reasons for this trend:

  • They don’t have insurance or don’t have the right policy to cover the claim.
  • The cost of the incident is less than their deductible, so they deal with it out of pocket.
  • They worry that filing a claim will cause their premiums to go up.
  • They prefer to handle the matter on their own rather than wait for resolution from an insurance company.

As a result, many small business owners are choosing to let their carrier know about an incident, but don’t file a claim. Instead, they pay for the incident out of pocket to prevent higher premiums in the long run. But how does the cost of a claim stack up against the cost of coverage?”

“According to The Hartford, the 10 most expensive types of claims (and the cost per incident) are:

  • Reputational harm: $50,000
  • Vehicle accident: $45,000
  • Fire damage: $35,000
  • Product liability: $35,000
  • Customer injury or property damage: $30,000
  • Wind and hail damage: $26,000
  • Customer slip and fall: $20,000
  • Water and freezing damage: $17,000
  • Struck by object: $10,000
  • Burglary and theft: $8,000

In comparison, the median price that most small businesses pay for coverage is:

  • $428 per year for general liability insurance
  • $920 per year for professional liability insurance

Compared to a $20,000 bill for a customer slip-and-fall accident, most business owners would probably rather pay $428 for general liability per year, plus their deductible, to pick up the tab.

How do the most expensive claims compare to the top incidents small businesses experienced in 2016?” Read more…at PropertyCasualty360.com.

For a review of your business insurance risks and a competitive proposal for coverage, call SWFL Insurance Agency at 239-265-9577 or drop an email to joshw@swflagency.com. www.SWFLAgency.com

Sooo You Operate a Business from Your Home…Note to Self…My Homeowners Policy will not cover My Business Property or Liability.

     Most people often believe that their existing Homeowners, Condo or Renters insurance  Policy will cover any loss or damage to their business equipment, furniture and supplies in the event of Fire, Theft or other catastrophe, when in fact, those policies usually explicitly exclude coverage for any business exposures on their premises.

The Home Business Policy, can solve this problem.  However, is not intended for all types of home businesses. It is specifically targeted for over 100 retail and services risks operated from the insured’s residence and presenting minimal product liability, professional liability and/or off-premises exposures.

Policy Benefits:

  • Provides coverage for over 145 classes of small retail & service-type home-based businesses
  • Affordable Premiums
  • General Liability coverage up to $1 million
  • Loss of business income protection up to 12 months available
  • Broad coverage with on premises theft included
  • Carrier is admitted and A.M. Best “A+” rated
  • Up to $100,000 (varies by state of risk) comprehensive coverage for business personal property both on and temporarily off premises

Popular Business Classes Include:

  • Residential Inspection Services
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Insurance Agents
  • Mortgage Brokers
  • Teacher/Tutors
  • Photographers
  • Accounting Services
  • Bakers
  • Computer Consultants
  • Interior Decorating
  • Jewelry (Costume)
  • Art Gallery / Art Studio
  • Crafts

Call us today to discuss your business and obtain a premium proposal.  Policies start at $150. Only takes a few minutes.

SWFL Insurance Agency, Inc.

8595 College Pkwy. Suite 160, Fort Myers, FL 33919

 239-265-9577

Does your Company use Drones…Read on.

drone accident

“The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade group forecasts drones will produce $82 billion in economic value and create more than 100,000 new jobs in the first 10 years after widespread flights are ultimately approved.

There are now more registered unmanned aircraft in the United States than private and commercial aircraft combined…some 400,000 of these flying devices (oops…unmanned aircraft)”

Typically standard Commercial General Liability Insurance policies and Business owners Policies do not provide any Liability Coverage for “unmanned flying devices” or drones.  If your company uses drones, you will need to purchase a specific policy for Drone Liability Coverage.  SWFL Insurance Agency can provide this coverage…call us at 239-265-9577.

If your company hires or contracts other companies or individuals to conduct activities such as photography using drones, you should ask to be added as an “Additional Named Insured” on this policy and obtain a Certificate of Insurance showing same.  Since this is a new and developing area of insurance, it will be wise to ask for a copy of the policy to review the coverage language.  We can help you review this coverage.

SWFL Insurance Agency     info@SWFLAgency.com     www.SWFLAgency.com   239-265-9577

Fraud in the Construction Industry

work comp fraud is a crime

“A dangerous fraud scheme has infiltrated the construction industry in Florida over the last several years. Usually involving residential home building, it started in South Florida but has swept northward to encompass most major cities in the state. The scheme revolves around “shell companies,” which on the surface look legitimate and have proper workers comp coverage, but in reality are operating a giant pool of off-the-books labor and are hiding millions of dollars of unreported payroll.

The fraud starts when a labor broker, also called a facilitator, induces a (sometimes) innocent third party-often a foreign national with family to support in his or her home country-to set up a company with the state Division of Corporations that has a very generic name that may reference construction. The company’s name has to be generic, because different crews will be (a) working on many different job sites and (b) often performing all types of construction work. Often the words “Construction Services” or “Services Corp” are in the name. A series of three initials like “ABC Construction” is also common.

The owner then approaches an insurance agent to secure workers compensation coverage and reports just enough payroll in a construction class to look legitimate and to not arouse suspicion from the insurance carrier. Most often, the class code is one that typically uses unskilled labor, such as drywall, framing or concrete.

After the workers comp coverage is in place, the business owner takes his certificate of insurance (COI) listing the company’s workers comp coverage and then rents that COI out for a fee to dozens of different construction crews doing work on many different job sites.

When the general contractor pays the crew for work performed, the labor broker takes that check to a check-cashing store, gets the cash, takes his (substantial) cut, gives the check cashing store its cut, and gives what’s left to the crew leader to pay his crew for doing the work. The labor broker can have dozens of crews using hundreds of workers on different jobs sites at any one time, which means he is cashing millions of dollars in payroll checks in any given policy period.

The victims

None of this payroll is reported to the company’s insurance agent or workers comp carrier. Neither the carrier nor the agent know the true exposure associated with the policy for the shell company. For example, what is supposed to be a company with $50,000 in framing payroll that is paying $8,500 in annual premium could in reality be a company with $5 million in framing, drywall and concrete payroll that should be paying $850,000 annually.
This results in hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid premium that the insurance carrier never receives. If claims are made on the policy, they usually are from workers the insurance carrier never knew they were covering and for which they never received a penny. Of course, the shell game also reduces the commission the insurance agent should have received.

Other victims of this scheme are the undocumented workers who are injured working for one of these companies. They are the ones doing the hard work, and if they are hurt on the job, they have no idea what to do. Usually the only name they know is their crew leader; they don’t know the name of the shell company and they don’t know the name of the shell company’s insurance carrier. This complicated structure means injured workers can be left on their own to try and find medical help for injuries. ”

Read more about how to identify this very illegal activity so that you will not be caught in the scam at The Shell Game.

An article by Karen Phillips in Rough Notes, Special Report, June 2016.

Personal Auto Insurance… “Business Use” and the Realtor

accident1

Sooo…..You are headed to Sanibel to show a condominium to a new customer, who you have just picked up at SWFL International Airport. You are talking with the client, who is seated in the passenger seat.  A text comes in on your phone, you look down… 3 lanes of traffic in front of you STOP…..and you do not.  The accident totals your car, and both you and your passenger are seriously injured and taken to hospital.  What happens next??

How is your insurance going to respond? Let’s first look at what auto insurance coverage you have purchased.  Soooo….You went online and purchased what you thought was an adequate policy, a Personal Auto Policy.  You did not research the language in the policy and you filled in the blanks of the online app with the “easiest” answers that you thought would get you the cheapest premium.

Here are some important points to remember……

A Realtor’s largest “Liability Loss Exposure” probably comes from the amount of “on the job” driving that they do. Personal automobile insurance policies typically will not cover a vehicle that is intended for “regular business use,” which is defined differently depending on the policy. Many personal lines policies put restrictions on how much you can actually drive your personal vehicle for work and whether you can carry customers. ASK YOUR AGENT. Make sure he is aware of how you use your vehicle.

If you use your vehicle for “Business Use” most of the time, you should definitely consider purchasing a Business Auto Insurance Policy. Realtors are typically on the road most of their working day. There are “blurred lines” as to when you are “on the job” and when you are on “personal time”.

Are you doing business under an S Corporation or LLC? Your “business use” vehicle should be insured under a Business or Commercial Auto Policy with the business entity being the “named insured ” and your name should be shown as an “Additional Named Insured”.  Your RE Broker should be shown as an Additional Named Insured on this policy.

You have a “higher duty” to be properly insured when you are carrying customers and working under a RE Broker. Take the risk out being properly insured, use the Business Auto Policy.

Always carry Medical Payments at the highest limits available. This coverage will be available to your passengers.

Personal Injury Protection – PIP coverage will typically respond for you and your passengers. This provides some medical and lost wage coverage.  Your out of state customer may not have PIP coverage available.

Always carry Uninsured Motorist coverage at the same limits as your Bodily Injury Limits. UM will typically respond for passengers when an Under or Uninsured Motorist is the cause of the accident with your vehicle.

Always carry the Bodily Injury and Property Damage Limits at the highest limits that you can afford to protect you and your business entity for “at fault” accidents.

Request Drive Other Car coverage to provide protection when you are renting a vehicle.

If you have a personal vehicle, titled in your name and insured in your name, be very careful using this vehicle for business. Have your agent confirm that your present policy will respond should you have and accident while on the job and carrying clients.  Do not assume that you have coverage.

Always read and understand the intent of the insurance policy that you are buying.

Call SWFL Insurance Agency at 239-265-9577 for a review of your present coverage and a premium proposal.

 

Sooo…..Your salesman, Diane, just came into your office and accused Bob of Sexual Harassment…..What Now?

sexual harrassment

Sooo….You just had to ask one of your salesmen to clean out his desk. You had received a written claim of some sexual indiscretions claimed by a fellow female sales person.  The texts and verbal abuses were claimed to have been made over a 12 month period. 

Now what?  Did you do your due diligence in investigating the claims?  Will you hear from an attorney?  Either party may sue you since it supposedly happened on company time in the office.  Will my business insurance respond to protect my company and me?  This type of business professional legal liability situation falls under the heading of Employment Practices Liability.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) offers broad policy coverage for discrimination, harassment, and inappropriate employment conduct, including hostile work environment, failure to hire or promote, wrongful demotion, negligent evaluation, deprivation of career opportunity, retaliation, wrongful discipline, libel, slander, defamation of character, and invasion of privacy.

Whether you and your company are at fault or not, the legal fees could bankrupt your company. Even an organization with good human resources policies and procedures in place can be sued, and the cost of defending a claim can be enormous. It is not uncommon for legal fees associated with winning an employment lawsuit to exceed $250,000.

Here are some examples of real life claims. See if you can relate to any of these claims.

  • Sexual harassment and discrimination — $775,000+

A former employee of the insured claimed she was subject to sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. After complaining to human resources that her manager had verbally harassed her on a number of occasions and had touched her inappropriately on two or three occasions, the plaintiff claimed she was retaliated against and terminated. She sued for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and tortious assault. Travelers paid more than $225,000 to defend the claim and paid $550,000 in settlement costs.

  • Sexual harassment and discrimination — $450,000

A line worker at a bulk food packaging business filed a charge against his employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sexual harassment and discrimination. The charge developed into a class-action suit brought against the insured directly by the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission. The suit contended that the insured had a pattern and practice of failing to respond to claims of harassment and discrimination. Travelers settled the case for $350,000 after paying more than $100,000 in legal fees.

  • Sexual harassment and assault — $350,000

An applicant sued the owner-operator of a franchised bar and grill, alleging that while she was at the restaurant, and after completing her application, she was harassed, drugged, assaulted and sexually attacked by the employees and managers of the restaurant. Further investigation of the matter showed that after drinking for several hours, the plaintiff decided to apply for a position and that she was the instigator of the sexual activity that occurred. The matter was tried in front of a jury, who found in favor of the insured. Legal fees paid by Travelers exceeded $350,000.*

  • Discrimination and retaliation — $250,000+

The president of a small advertising agency sued the agency for sex discrimination, age discrimination and retaliation. The plaintiff alleged that she and the agency’s CEO engaged in a consensual affair. After the CEO passed away, his widow became Chairperson of the Board. The plaintiff claimed she was wrongfully terminated when the affair was discovered after the CEO’s death. The insured contended there were performance and trust issues associated with the plaintiff’s employment at the agency. The insured prevailed on summary adjudication, but more than $250,000 was paid by Travelers defending the case and subsequent appeal.

  • Discrimination and retaliation – $1,370,000

The head of Human Resources for a hospital system, who was a 64-year-old, was terminated by the plaintiff’s 45 year old boss after findings from an outside consultant revealed that the individual created a threatening, demoralizing and dysfunctional work environment which was not acceptable for a person in that position. The former employee of +20 years filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination and retaliatory termination for complaining about certain business practices. The case was resolved for a total of $1.15m during mediation. Defense expenses incurred were an additional $220,000.

  • Discrimination and harassment — $287,500

In 2004, the plaintiff, a graphic designer hired in 2001, resigned her employment claiming that she had been subjected to sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Specifically, she named four managers/directors of the insured as wrongdoers. The insured performed a thorough investigation and terminated three of the four people involved. The evidence collected included a long series of sexually explicit emails, jokes and comments in the workplace. The claimant was making $45,000 per year. Travelers paid $50,000 to defend the case before settling for $237,500.

Even small companies have this liability exposure. Protect your company.  ELPI coverage is available as a stand alone policy or as an endorsement to a Comprehensive General Liability Policy (CGL).  The premiums are reasonable.

Learn more………Things Employers Wish They Had Never Said

Call SWFL Insurance Agency at 239-265-9577 for a discussion of your exposures and a premium quote. You can also email us at joshw@SWFLAgency.com

What Florida’s new 2015 Drone Law means for you

drone2

In an earlier SWFL Agency Blog post called So…You bought your kid a $2,000. Drone for Christmas, we detailed the issue of how the Homeowners Insurance Policy might react when your kid drives the drone through the neighbor’s windshield.

If you are considering using a drone in your business, we recommend that you review the 2015 Florida Drone Law as outlined in the article at “What Florida’s new drone law means for you”.  There are some very interesting implications.  This thing is going to generate a number of lawsuits.  Even if you hire a company that uses drones for Real Estate activity, you should understand the law and the company you hire should completely know and abide by the rules of the statute…..even though they may be a bit ambiguous.

SWFL Insurance Agency. Newsletter October 22, 2015

Bay

INSURANCE NEWSLETTER                                                   October 22, 2015

Timely and Important Topics that can Save Money and Protect Your Wealth     

  • Open Enrollment for Medicare began October 15. Make sure to call your agent for an appointment to review the new plans for 2016. SWFL Insurance Associates, your Florida Blue Agent can be reached at 239-489-1212.
  • Open Enrollment for Under 65 Health Insurance will begin November 1. You can call for appointments now. 

 

ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY – Win $ 150 Gift Certificate to use as you please.  You can receive One Entry for each Insurance Policy that you allow us to review and provide a competitive quote for.  It only takes a few minutes, can be completed over the phone and more than likely will save you Money. Call Linda at 239-265-9577.

 

  •  Travelers has really good Auto Insurance Rates. We recently wrote a family with 5 cars and 5 drivers, two were teenage drivers. We saved $ 1,000.+ with Travelers. Prior coverage was with GEICO. We have had similar experiences when pricing Travelers against Allstate and State Farm. Call us at 239-265-9577 or request a quote at www.SWFLAgency.com.

 

  • If you have USAA Homeowners and Flood coverage, you should let us provide a review and premium proposal. We recently saved a new customer $ 3,000.+ on her Homeowners Policy and $2,000.on her flood Insurance. This is what can happen when you do business with an “800” number, like USAA. The complexities of insuring a Home in Florida require a Well Informed Local Independent Agent. We are just that. Take a few minutes and let us save you money. 

 

Give Dairyland Motorcycle Insurance a try !!!!! By Combining Multiple Discounts, Dairyland may be the Best Deal in Florida. Save up to 7% with Dairyland, when your

  • Homeowners policy is provided by SWFL Insurance Agency
  • Rider Group Discounts for Members of HOG, and some 30 additional groups
  • Special Discounts for Military Rider Groups, both active and retired.

 

Do you own a Boat??? Could this be you?? Our insured was operating his ski-boat with 2 friends along as passengers on a lake in Texas. An inner tube attached to a rope was being held down by a cooler at the rear of the boat. The cooler became dislodged and flew out of the boat. When the insured attempted to turn the boat around to retrieve the cooler, the wind blew the inner tube out of the boat and the rope began to uncoil, catching one of the passengers around the leg, launching him into the air and landing him on the boat deck. The Passenger’s injuries included complete tears of his right knee ligaments and tendons requiring surgery. In addition, he sustained a substantial injury to his right hip. He was totally disabled for approximately 6 weeks, unable to drive and has additional lost business income. The primary insurance company tendered its full policy limit which was $500,000 short of the total claim amount. However, the insured was also covered by a Personal Umbrella and payment was made for the remaining amount of $500,000.

 

  • We sell Umbrella Liability Coverrage… Premiums start at $ 250. For $ 1 Million Coverage
  • Do You own a dog? Does your Homeowners Policy provide Animal Liability protection? Many do not……Let us review your policy if you are not sure.  Check out the following link…. Dog Breeds Most Often Blacklisted
  • Not sure what your Condominium Owners Policy covers? Check out this link… What does my Condo Owners Policy Cover?

Watch for future Newsletters with new topics of interest. Don’t miss our timely articles on our Blog at www.SWFLAgency.com

Call  239-265-9577 for Quick Quotes or visit  www.SWFLAgency.com

Providing Auto, Motorcycle, Golf Cart, Home, Condo, Flood, Business Insurance

                                Health, Medicare and Life Insurance

 

    SWFL Insurance Agency, Inc.                           SWFL Insurance Associates, Inc.

     Lee County                         8595  College Pkwy, Suite 160, Fort Myers          239-265-9577

     Charlotte County             3718   Tamiami Trail, Unit C, Port Charlotte       941-624-3444

     Collier County                    2500  Tamiami Trail N. Unit 113, Naples             239-649-4442

 

Realtors…Are you at Risk for Performing Non Traditional Listing Services

What Should Brokers/Agents Do To Protect Themselves From Liability?

1.  The Brokerage can restrict their agents’ activities to those defined by the listing contract. The typical listing contract does not contain language that would obligate the listing agent to “oversee the property”, “close up/ open up the property”, “check periodically on the property”, or take on other non‐traditional real estate listing services.

2.  If an agent does undertake any additional tasks which are not defined by the listing agreement,the listing agreement should be amended to clearly state what it is that the agent is undertaking. Vague statements such as “keeping an eye” on the property should be avoided.

3.  Any contractual obligation for maintenance or repair should run from the owner to the service provider and not through the agent. The agent should not be a party to a contract with a service provider regardless of the owner’s assurance of reimbursement.

4.  The brokerage should determine, before any non‐traditional tasks are undertaken, if there is  appropriate insurance coverage to provide protection in the event of any claims.  If the agent is performing actual property management, it is important that the agent  understand that all payments for management services must be run through the brokerage. Any payments outside the brokerage may undermine insurance coverage and may be in violation of state licensing laws.

5. If the property requires work before it can be listed, the agent should confirm the work has been completed and done properly before the property is opened for showings. For example, if the agent was called upon by the seller to arrange for a repair to the property, the agent should determine that repair was made prior to the property being listed for sale especially if that repair, if not done properly, could injure people viewing the property.

6.  Any knowledge the agent acquired because of their role in overseeing or arranging for repairs to  the property is knowledge that will need to be disclosed by them as part of the real estate transaction. Specific state laws define the obligation of real estate agents to disclose material facts but knowledge acquired by the agent as a result of their taking on non‐traditional tasks is knowledge nonetheless that may need to be disclosed to potential buyers.

Agents taking on non‐traditional tasks to aid sellers in maintaining and marketing property need to appreciate that all additional tasks that they undertake may expose them to potential liability. Such additional tasks should be undertaken with caution. If undertaken, the exact parameters of the task should be memorialized in writing. The agent should not be the contracting party for repairs with service providers. The agent should also make sure that insurance coverage is in place. Finally, any knowledge they acquire as a result of this additional work may need to be disclosed to potential buyers.

Many real estate agents pride themselves on providing full service to their clients. But full service should not include full liability.   An excerpt from the Real Risks Newsletter, Travelers.

 Not sure your E&O coverage would cover these situations. 

Travelers Real Estate Agents / Property Manager E&O provides professional liability protection for claims or suits resulting from real estate agent or broker professional services.

Call SWFL Insurance Agency, Inc. for a review of your present coverage and a Competitive Premium proposal – 239-265-9577