The NC Insurance Commissioner, Mike Causey, announced on November 10, 2020 that the NC Rate Bureau (NCRB) has requested an increase on NC home insurance rates. The requested increase is 24.5% statewide. The proposed rate hike would go into effect on August 2021. If accepted by the NC Department of Insurance (NCDOI) all NC home insurance writers would be obligated to comply and increase their rates.
Before you get too concerned, it is worth noting that the actual rate increase will probably be settled much lower. The final rate increase cannot be implemented without the approval of the NC DOI. Typically in these rate hike requests the NCDOI will negotiate the rates lower than suggested. The last time this has taken place was in 2018 when the NCRB requested a rate increase of 17.4% and it was negotiated down to 4%.
It is tough to say how much lower the 24.5% will be whittled down to. I personally don’t see it going any lower than a 6% hike and it will likely be higher than that. The primary factor in the need for a larger rate increase is due to the increased wind and hail claims in North Carolina. Most notably the number of roof replacements stemming from such losses. Some of these claims are from legitimate storms but most, I fear, are not.
I have been saying for a decade that there are entirely too many roofs being replaced on older roofs that are attributed to wind and hail losses. The true cause of the damage to these roofs though is often just normal wear and tear. In most cases, the claims come from roofs 15-20 years of age or older. I often joke that wind and hail somehow never seems to find its way to newer neighborhoods with roofs less than 10 years old. I suspect that we will only trend with higher rates until a decision is made on rectifying this problem.
Insurance companies and the NC DOI really need to determine their stance on this. A distinction should really be made on the causation of the damage to a roof. Is it wind and hail? (a covered peril) or is it normal wear and tear? (not a covered peril). If we are using our home insurance policies as a form of warranty than we have to expect higher insurance rates.
To put some perspective on this, you can compare it to needing to replace your hardwood floors. If you have not updated them in 25 years, you can expect some wear and tear and when it comes time to replace them you wouldn’t expect to be able to file a claim for that loss.
With continued rate increases on home insurance, there has never been a more important time to have an independent insurance agent working for you. Aside from state mandated regulations raising home rates, you can expect carriers to have fluctuations in their rates over a several year span as well. You need an agent that will keep a watchful eye on your policies and be there to step in and move it to another carrier if your current company gets out of line on their home insurance premiums.
Over the years last 15 or so years I have seen the best rates shift from Farmers to Hartford to Bankers to Heritage and now to Homeowners of America. That is a generalization of course. These are the companies that have been the most competitive across the board during this timeframe. We also see companies like Travelers, State Auto, Kemper, and Universal Property and Casualty win a good bit on premium too.
It is so important to have an independent insurance agent as your advocate not only on rates, but also on making sure you are adequately covered. You just can’t trust one individual insurance company to have your back year after year. Let us know how we can help by reaching out to us at 704-494-9495 or by emailing us at email@example.com. You can always reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. I would be happy to discuss this topic further with you or answer any other questions you may have.
8 Questions Regarding Cyber Insurance and Your Business.
Cyber insurance is relatively new in comparison to other business insurance types. It is increasingly being a necessity for many businesses today though. Some industries require it while others simply want it to protect themselves.
You have worked hard to build your business and maintain it. It can only take one unfortunate situation to cost you a significant amount of money or even put you out of business.
With cyber insurance being so new, many companies don’t fully know exactly what it is and if they have a need for it. We have put together a handy questionnaire to help you assess your need for this valuable product.
Ask yourself these 8 questions when determining if cyber insurance is right for you.
1. Do you have employees?
Most breaches come from mistakes made by your employees. You may tell yourself that you wouldn’t make any mistakes that would cause a data breach. The same may not be said for those who work for you.
Even when an employee has the best of intentions, mistakes can be made. Simply opening an email that is suspect could lead to someone accessing your customer’s or vendors information wreaking havoc on maintaining the success of your business.
Also, keep in mind that we are all humans and even us as business owners can make a simple mistake. Oftentimes you don’t even need to make a mistake. You have just experienced bad luck in becoming the target.
2. Does your business have a website?
Your website could be hacked which could cause valuable information getting stolen. You could also face business disruption due to your website being down. Further, you could be at risk of defamation in printed word and copyright and trademark infringements.
You should also make proper considerations to ensure your business website is ADA compliant. Your cyber insurance policy may protect against some of that backlash.
3. Does your business accept credit or debit cards or other mobile friendly payments?
Cyber criminals are most often trying to obtain customer credit card numbers in these data breach situations. This can be especially detrimental if you store any payment information.
In fact, 40% of all cyber crimes come from an attempt to steal client credit card information
4. Does your business use email?
A lot of information is delivered by email and could get into the wrong hands which can come back as a claim against your business.
You could also have someone hack your email and send out phishing emails that could come back on your business.
5. Does your business keep records of customer information?
If you keep records of customer data than you could be at risk of this data being stolen.
That includes but is not limited to the following:
Social Security Numbers
Date of Birth
Drivers License Numbers
Credit Card Info
Bank Account Info
Company Tax ID Numbers
6. Do your employees use personal devices?
Stolen phones, laptops, and tablets could contain valuable customer data that could be detrimental if it got into the wrong hands.
Even if a hacker can’t get into your network, they may have a much easier time getting into your employee’s devices.
7. Does your business have a social media presence?
I don’t have to tell you that we live in very sensitive times. If you or an employee posts a comment on Facebook, Instagram, Next Door, etc, and it is seen as discriminatory or harmful to another person it can be very damaging to your business.
Remember, the intentions of your comments don’t even matter these days. Only how someone received your comments.
8. Do you know exactly how to react if you had a cyber breach?
Let’s say the worst thing happens, and you are a victim of a data breach. There are certain things that need to happen immediately. If you have cyber insurance, the company will immediately go to work to rectify the situation and acting quickly can be the difference between an unfortunate situation and something that may put you out of business.
Let’s discuss some of those common claims paid by cyber insurance companies.
Common Claims Paid by Cyber Insurance
Covering fraudulent funds transfer from your bank.
Reimburse you for lost income from a network or website interruption.
Cover legal fees in suits made against your company from a data breach.
Pays legal fees for slanderous comments made by your company on social media.
I hope this has helped shed some light on the world of cyber insurance and how it can be useful to your business.
If you have any questions or would like a quote on this valuable coverage, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 704-494-9495. We directly represent the best companies and the most competitive premiums in the industry. You can also click here for my previous article on this topic.
Getting your trucking insurance policy from a local agent is extremely important. Customers tell us that “finding truck insurance near me” is not easy to find. The main reason for this is because the trucking industry is complicated. Most of them had been insured with an agent or call center across the country. Dealing with a local agency that you can sit face to face with can be very helpful though when you are dealing the complications and claims situations.
Commercial trucks can include any of the following types of businesses:
Types of commercial trucks
Dump Truck Insurance
General Freight Hauler Insurance
Auto Hauler Insurance
Public Transportation Insurance
Tow Truck Insurance
Non-Emergency Medical Insurance
If you own a business similar to one of the ones listed above, then you will likely have either a Federal or State of NC requirement to be able to acquire and keep a commercial tag. Even if you don’t have those requirements, then you may have requirements from a contract that requires the same or higher limits as those required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or the state of NC.
What Types of Coverage Do you Need?
This question will vary depending on your business type, the requirements of the State of NC and Federal Government.
Business Auto Liability Limits: You will have some limit of liability required, depending on several factors. These limits can range from $30,000/60,000/25,000 up to $5,000,000 combined single limits. The amount of coverage required can depend on your vehicle, radius, what you are hauling, gross vehicle weight, and if you are crossing state lines to name a few.
Cargo Liability: This covers the commodity that you are hauling and can vary a great degree depending on the contract requirements and the Federal or State of NC requirements.
Physical Damage: This covers the value of the vehicle you are driving, and the coverage required will depend either on your comfort with losing the value of your vehicle in the event of a loss or the bank requirements of the bank you are financing the vehicle through.
On Hook: This covers the vehicle you are hauling in towing insurance risks. The value of the coverage chosen should be minimally, the highest value of the vehicle you would ever tow.
General Liability: This covers your negligence outside of hitting someone with your vehicle or damage to the items you are hauling.
Umbrella: An umbrella or excess liability policy will cover above and beyond where your underlying policy limits leave off. You want this policy in place to protect yourself further or to satisfy a contract. Many of the bigger contracts will require this policy today.
Workers Compensation: This covers your legal liability for your employees or subcontractors and may even be required by a contract even if you don’t have employees. Even if you hire only one independent contractor, you are obligated by NC law to carry workers compensation.
Commercial truck insurance takes on a whole new level of responsibility than your personal auto insurance. You may want to consider consulting an agent that is near you, to help you with local State of NC laws and help you determine what coverage will best suit you for these requirements.
Outside of government responsibilities, you will likely encounter contract requirements that a veteran agent and agency can help you navigate. You will also want an independent agency that can help you get quotes from multiple carriers. For those of you saying I want the best commercial truck insurance near me, please contact us at 704-494-9495. We are here if you have any questions or would like a shopped quote from the top insurance companies in your industry.
I am often asked to explain what a personal umbrella insurance policy is. Put simply, an umbrella policy is an excess policy that covers you where your underlying limits leave off, at whatever umbrella limit you choose. Umbrella insurance policies give you an extra layer of protection over top of your other personal insurance policies.
This policy is oftentimes purchased as your net worth grows. In our litigious society today, it is very important to protect your assets. Many times it is predatory claimants that will come after you once they find out you have something to lose. Most times though, it is there to protect you against catastrophe situations that may arise, such as major accidents or lawsuits.
What Types of Policies Will My Umbrella Policy Cover?
Most of your personal insurance policies will be covered under your personal umbrella insurance policy. An umbrella policy is what is known as a follow-form policy. A follow-form policy means that if your underlying policy covers you on a claim, then your personal umbrella policy will pick up where that policy left off. Some common personal insurance policy types include:
Seasonal Home Insurance
Rental Property Insurance
Personal Watercraft Insurance
How Much Does an Umbrella Policy Cost?
Most umbrella insurance policies are quite affordable. In fact, they are probably one of least expensive personal lines policies available. Typically for a household with 2 drivers and 2 vehicles, the premium for an umbrella policy will run around $200 per year or less. The premium is based on several risk factors.
How is an umbrella premium determined?
Some of the most common rating factors for umbrellas are shown below.
Number household of drivers
Number of household vehicles
Age of household drivers
Driving record of household drivers
Number of residences owned by insured
Number of other owned toys such as motorcycles, boats, RV’s, etc
When Should I Purchase an Umbrella Policy?
The short answer is anytime you have a concern of being sued you should buy an umbrella policy. We have some clients that purchase these policies when they are very young and have very little net worth. Others will purchase one as they start to gain some equity in their homes or other assets. Still others will do this when their kids reach driving age and there is a concern that they might be involved in auto accident that might cause them to be sued.
There is no perfect answer for everyone. You have to weigh the costs versus the rewards. With the cost of the premium being so small, there isn’t a lot holding you back from protecting yourself. The chance of having an umbrella claim is significantly less than having a claim on your auto and home policy. However, when you do need to file an umbrella claim, it is typically for a large sum. There are many cases where uninsured people lose everything if they aren’t adequately covered. With the benefits outweighing the costs, most people find that $200 per year is worth the peace of mind.
What Liability Limits Should I Have on My Underlying Policies?
While each company can vary on their minimum underlying limit requirements, the most common minimum limits are shown below by policy type.
Auto Insurance- $250,000 Bodily Injury Per Person, $500,000 Bodily Injury Each Accident
Home Insurance- $300,000
Other cycle or boat insurance policies- Either $300,000 Combined Single Limit or $250,000/$500,000 Split Limits
It is important to understand that if you don’t already carry these minimum limits, you would need to increase them to qualify for an umbrella policy. There will be an increase in premium for the increase in limits as well. Most times the increase in minimal, depending on what your current limits are.
What Else Do I Need To Know About Umbrella Policies?
There are some other important concerns you should be aware of when you have an umbrella policy.
Notify the carrier if anything changes. This includes new cars, drivers, residences, toys, etc. It also includes any new major violations. Most companies will send you a questionnaire at each renewal period to make sure they have the updated information.
Most companies will offer umbrella limits up to $5,000,000. Ask for quotes on each $1,000,000 layer until you hit your comfort level based on premium. Find your sweet spot.
Be prepared for higher rates when household drivers are inexperienced or if you have a driver with a DWI or other major violation.
Your personal umbrella policy will only cover personal lines underlying items. If you have a business and business policies then you should purchase a commercial umbrella policy over those underlying policies. For info on commercial umbrellas or other commercial policies check out one of our previous blogs on the subject.
Ownership matters. Make sure all items are owned by the same named insured. Due to insurable interest, you must make sure all of the underlying policies are also in your name and that the umbrella policy matches that name. Typically this means placing everything in your name and your spouse’s name.
We write umbrella policies through multiple companies. We take all factors into consideration when we shop out these policies. In some cases it is best to have all policies with the same company. In others, the rates are much more affordable to spread them out to multiple carriers. As an independent insurance agency, we put your needs first. Please give a knowledgeable agent a call at 704-494-9495 for a quote or with any other questions you may have regarding umbrella policies.
Contract bonds are a type of surety bond that help guarantee that the terms of a contract are met. If a contractor does not adhere to the terms of the contract than the injured party can collect any financial losses incurred from the bonding company. It is an additional safeguard to ensure the principal performs all items in a written contract.
Types of Contractor Surety Bonds
A contract bond is often times synonymous with the following terms:
Bid Performance Bond
The two common types of contract bonds are bid bonds and performance or payment bonds.
Bid Bonds specifically protect the obligee from the Principal either backing off of the stated bid that has been accepted or submitting a low-ball bid and then not honoring the agreed upon price. Bid bonds are typically issued between 5-10% of the overall bid.
Performance Bonds will protect the obligee in areas of the contract like completing a job when agreed upon and under the agreed upon items. It guarantees that the contractor will perform the contract and pay for the labor and materials needed to complete the project. Payment bonds are typically issued at 100% of the contract amount.
A surety bond is an agreement that involves three of the following parties:
The Principal– The party purchasing the bond that is being required to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
The Obligee– The party that is usually requiring the bond and is reimbursed for financial losses due to the principal’s failure to fulfill the duties of the contract.
The Surety– The party that is responsible for paying out the financial losses of the obligee due to the prinicipal’s failure to fulfill the duties of the contract.
Contract bonds are usually only required on larger projects by large builders or subcontractors. It is a way to easily recover from financial burdens without having to enter into costly lawsuits against the contractor. Typically any public project over $100,000 will require a a contract bond.
Business Types Needing Contract Bonds
A list of common business types that will be required to have these bonds include:
Common Underwriting Requests for Contract Bonds
Due to the nature of these bonds and high possible payouts, most companies will run a credit score on the principal before agreeing to issue a bond. In addition to this, some companies may require the following other items to consider a risk.
Financial statements for the business
Personal financial statement for the owner
Resume of owner
Certificates of insurance on other commercial policies the principal may have
Bank letter of reference
Job reference letters
Schedule of current projects on hand
Our agency writes through various bonding companies, as we do insurance companies. Preferred risks will see the best pricing in the industry with a couple of our carriers, but we also have other markets that may not be considered by the preferred companies for one reason or another. Please call us at 704-494-9495 for any questions you may have on this surety bond type or to get a quote today.
Cyber liability insurance is one of the fastest growing business insurance policies that NC small businesses are looking to protect themselves with. Because it is such a new policy type, there are several questions on what it is and what it covers. We will discuss exactly those things in this article so that you can make an educated decision if this policy is right for your North Carolina small business.
Everyone knows how much cyber is a growing concern, but it might surprise some businesses just how common it is. It is far from being a concern for only large corporations too. In fact 60% of cyber crimes are against small businesses. 60% of those businesses that are victims of these attacks go out of business within 6 months of the attack. The costs are staggering when they do occur and those without cyber insurance are left with 100% of those costs.
Are you exposed to the possibility of this happening to your business?
If your company has/does have any of the following, then the answer is a resounding yes.
Social Media Accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In)
Accept Credit Cards
Uses Online Banking
Store Customer Data (Name, Address, Date of Birth, License Numbers, Credit Card Info, Social Security Numbers)
If you realize that you could be at risk, but are still confused on what types of things could happen to you, then you are not alone. It can be very complicated. We will discuss and clear up some of those common claim types below and explain the ways that a cyber policy will help cover those things.
Social engineering is a predatory type of cyber crime where an employee is tricked into sending or uploading money to someone through false pretenses.
Cyber insurance will cover those lost funds from these types of schemes.
This is a virus sent as a link in an e-mail. Once an employee clicks the link, the virus immediately begins to to encrypt computer files. The imposter will then demand funds in order to recover the company’s files. Typically bit coins will be demanded.
The cyber liability policy will cover the cost of the ransom in order to have your files recovered.
This type of attack gains the most media attention. Large organizations like Sony, Target, and Equifax have recently been in the news for being hacked. These losses occur when a cyber criminal breaches a company network and gains access to customer data.
Cyber policies will typically cover the following:
1. Fines by regulatory commissions and other penalties
2. Legal fees toward lawsuits from customers
3. Security expert assessments
4. Public relations firm services
5. Customer notification costs for those effected by the breach
Covers defamation or slander by an employee about a customer on social medial accounts causing a lawsuit.
Cyber insurance will cover defense in a lawsuit against your company.
FUNDS TRANSFER FRAUD
Hackers gain access to your system and transfer company funds to their account.
Your cyber policy will cover any losses incurred, not covered by your bank for fraudulent transfers.
Your company site gets hacked making your system inoperable and not allowing customers access to their information.
Cyber insurance will cover lawsuits by customers for not being able to access their account.
One final myth we would like to dispel regarding cyber liability insurance, and that is that the premiums are too expensive for a small business. We write through some of the leading insurance companies in the industry, with the most competitive premiums. Premiums start as low as $800 per year depending on the business type, size, and exposure.
Please call us at 704-494-9495 with any questions, or if you would like a quote on this valuable insurance policy today.