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Large California Traffic Ticket Fines Effective 01/06/2012

If you’re a California driver, pay close attention to this one. The Golden State of California is broke and is looking for ways to pay some bills. Aside from raising taxes like our brilliant politicians up in Sacramento like to do as a “solution” to all our fiscal problems, they looking to the highways to generate some revenue for their pockets.

Take note of the following California traffic ticket fines which took effect on Friday, 1/6. Sorry, I’m a few days late on this. I received this information from an email. Apparently, these details were taken from an article in the L.A. Times. I tried to find it but no luck. If you come across the story, please send to me so I can give some credit to where it’s due.

Rumor has it that the California Highway Patrol is under pressure to issue a lot more tickets than last year with at least 30% increase in fines over 2009, so beware of radar guns, highway and traffic cameras installed everywhere and the tougher enforcement of parking rules.

Traffic Ticket Fines (Effective 01/06/2012)

  • VC 12814.6 $214 Failure to obey license provisions
  • VC 14600(A) $214 Failure to notify DMV of address change within 10 days Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.
  • VC 16028(A) $796 Failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility (insurance) Note: This fine may be reduced with proof of insurance on or after the violation date.
  • VC 21453(A) $436 Failure to stop at a red signal.
  • VC 22349 $214 Unsafe speed, 1 to 15 miles over the limit.
  • VC 22350 $328 Unsafe speed, 16 to 25 miles over the limit.
  • VC 22450 $214 Failure to stop at a stop sign.
  • VC 22454(A) $616 Passing a school bus with flashing red signals.
  • VC 23123(A) $148 Driving while using a wireless phone not hands free, first offense.
  • VC 23123(B) $256 Driving while using a wireless phone not hands not free, each subsequent offense.
  • VC 23123.5 $148 Driving while using a wireless device to send, read or write text.
  • VC 23124 $148 Minor driving while using a wireless phone.
  • VC 22500 $976 Parking in a bus loading area.
  • VC 22507(A) $976 Violation of disabled parking provisions, first offense.
  • VC 22507(B) $1876 Violation of disabled parking provisions, second offense.
  • VC 26708 $178 Unlawful material on vehicle windows.
  • VC 27150 $178 Adequate muffler required.
  • VC 27315 $148 Mandatory use of seat belts.
  • VC 27360 $436 Mandatory use of passenger child restraints. Note: This fine may be reduced by completing a court authorized child seat diversion program.
  • VC 27400 $178 Headsets or Earplugs covering both ears.
  • VC 27803 $178 Violation of motorcycle safety helmet requirements.
  • VC 34506 $616 Commercial Driver – Log book violation.
  • VC 4000 $256 No evidence of current registration. Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.
  •  VC 4159 $178 Notify DMV of change of address within 10 days. Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.
  • VC 5200 $178 Proper display of license plates. Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.
  • VC 9400 $178 Commercial weight fees due. Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction

So what do you think? Will these California traffic ticket fines convince you to be more cautious on the road?

-JK

Clean Up Your Mess!

I wrote insurance coverage for a commercial building earlier this year, property and general liability, only to receive a phone call a couple of months later from the carrier telling me that an inspection was done on the building and for lack of a better term, the premises was an absolute mess. It needed a fix quickly, or coverage was going to be cancelled short-term. The call took me by surprise so I decided to visit the property myself. Here’s what I discovered:

This was borderline hoarding. Storage was disorganized, with random articles stacked in solid piles up to the ceiling in some areas. There were no aisles and inadequate means of getting out from the storage area in the event of an emergency. Combustible material was stacked near an electrical switch, box, and panels, etc.

The loss control recommendation from the carrier: housekeeping. “There is excessive storage of combustible inventory and miscellaneous material throughout parts of the warehouse. Such arrangement of material (with 1 small walking path) could impede safe egress from the structure; The volume of closely packed material increases exposure to a rapidly spreading fire. The material also obstructs access to fire extinguishers and is stacked adjacent to electrical boxes and panels; The heavy fire load may not be controlled by the existing sprinkler system.”

The recommended solutions to this mess?

  • The inventory should be rearranged so all electrical boxes/panels have a 3′ radius free of combustible material.
  • The inventory should be rearranged to allow access to fire extinguishers.
  • The inventory density should be reduced to allow better access to storage areas and improved water distribution for the sprinklers.
  • Housekeeping should be improved and then maintained on a regular basis.

This is one of the most extreme examples of a disorderly premises that I have encountered. It doesn’t take an insurance professional to know that this is a severe property and general liability insurance hazard. There is absolutely no way of writing insurance with any carrier if you have a premises in this kind of shape. The risks are just too extreme. I’m not an obsessive compulsive neat freak by any means, but I ask myself if this insured has any bit of concern for protecting their assets? The point here is about risk management and risk reduction, not about making things look pretty at your home or business.

What type of housekeeping do you maintain at your home or business?

JK

Why Am I Being Asked For A “Waiver of Subrogation” On My Insurance?

Ever heard of the term, “waiver of subrogation”? Sounds pretty foreign, doesn’t it? Well it kind of is. If you’re a business owner with liability insurance, you may have had a request from a client or landlord at some point asking for a certificate of insurance with a “waiver of subrogation” for general liability, workers compensation and/or auto liability. I’m actually writing this post because it’s something that I have been working on this week trying to place a new client with an insurance carrier. This client happens to be a self-storage facility.

You see, this self storage facility houses a beer distributor. One of the conditions of writing insurance for this client (the storage facility) with this particular carrier, is to have the tenant (beer distributor) provide a “certificate showing that the insured is named as an additional insured on the General Liability policy with waivers for both the GL and auto. Minimum $1 million limits.”

What does Waiver of Subrogation mean?

The definition of ‘Waiver of Subrogation” is: “The relinquishment by an insurer of the right to collect from another party for damages paid on behalf of the insured. A waiver of subrogation is often referred to as “transfer of rights of recovery.” A waiver prohibits an insurance carrier from recovering the money they paid on a claim from a negligent third-party.

For example, suppose you own a building which burns down due to the negligence of a third-party. Normally you could sue the negligent third-party for causing your building to burn down. If your fire insurance company pays off your claim, however, the insurance company is then “subrogated” to your claim against the negligent third-party. This means your claim against the negligent third-party is treated as having been assigned to the insurance company, which may sue him/her to recover the amount it paid you on account of the fire loss.

Many, but not all, general liability policies allow you to waive your rights of subrogation as long as it is done in writing and prior to a loss. Some contractual agreements, such as some facility rental agreements, require you to waive your right of subrogation (and therefore your insurance company’s rights) against them in the event of a claim.

The good news is that you, the insured, doesn’t have to worry too much about what this terminology means should you get a request from a client or landlord. Simply forward to your insurance agent/broker and be sure to bounce any questions that you may have off them. Our job is to be your insurance partner and deal with these types of insurance requirements or questions you have.

JK

Long Beach Grand Prix (and 10 Safe Driving Tips)

This past weekend was the Long Beach Grand Prix, probably the biggest weekend annually in Long Beach and by far one of my favorites. We went on Saturday and enjoyed a perfect day of sun, fast cars, thundering loud sound and jam-packed bars.  I’m not necessarily a race fan, but if you ever get a chance to check out a live race and get up front in the action, you won’t be disappointed. The speed and noise of these IndyCars give me the chills every time I see them.

Check out this short clip I filmed track-side.  This was Saturday’s IndyCar qualifying for the main race on Sunday. Cars are flying by at 160-170 mph at this point on the track:

With the theme of fast cars and driving, take a moment to browse over these 10 safe driving tips:

Top 10 Safe Driving Tips

  1. Don’t Drive Drunk – More than 30 percent of all auto accident fatalities in the United States involve drivers impaired by alcohol. It’s easy to avoid driving drunk. If you’ve been drinking, ask a sober friend for a ride or call a cab. If you’re planning to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. The mild inconvenience of taking a cab home is nothing compared to the disastrous consequences of driving drunk.
  2. Don’t Speed – Research has shown that for every mile per hour you drive, the likelihood of your being in an accident increases by four to five percent
  3. Avoid Distractions – One researcher compared the reaction time of a 20-year-old driver talking on a cell phone to that of a 70-year-old driver. What’s more, working a cell phone behind the wheel can delay reaction times by as much as 20 percent.
  4. Don’t Drive Drowsy – A study conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech reported that 20 percent of all accidents have sleepiness as a contributing factor
  5. Wear Your Seat BeltNHTSA statistics reveal that more than half of all accident fatalities were people who weren’t using seat belts
  6. Be Extra Careful in Bad Weather
  7. Don’t Follow Too Closely – The three-second rule is simple. Find a stationary object on the side of the road. When the car ahead of you passes it, start counting seconds. At least three seconds should pass before your car passes the same object
  8. Watch Out for the Other Guy – One good rule of thumb to use is, “Assume everyone else on the road is an idiot.”
  9. Practice Defensive Driving – Defensive driving is not only safer, it can save you money. Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who complete defensive driving courses.
  10. Keep Your Vehicle Safe– One of the most common maintenance problems that can lead to a crash is improper tire pressure. Uneven tire pressure, or pressure that is too high or low, can impact performance or lead to a blowout — especially in high-performance cars or heavy vehicles like SUVs

For these tips and more, visit www.howstuffworks.com

-JK

Employee Benefits Liability

Do you offer employee benefits for your employees? If so, pay close attention to this subject: Employee Benefits Liability.

Picture this scenario:

Busy Betty, office manager for your small business, functions in countless different job capacities ranging from purchasing agent to human resources manager. One day while dealing with other urgent issues, Betty forgets to enroll a new employee on your firm’s medical insurance plan. The error isn’t discovered until the employee is hospitalized with a life threatening cancerous tumor and the bills started to roll in—over $300,000 in all.

What now?!

Well, in a case like this, it’s safe to assume that busy Betty (your business essentially) will be found liable for the damages. This is when you’re hoping you have an endorsement on your commercial general liability insurance policy known as “Employee Benefits Liability” coverage.

Carrying Employee Benefits Liability coverage means your commercial general liability insurance carrier will pay those sums that the you become legally obligated to pay as damages because of any negligent act, error, or omission committed in the “administration” of your employee benefit program, barring any exclusions. The amount of insurance paid is limited to the amount of liability coverage you carry on your general liability insurance policy.

“Administration” of employee benefit programs is defined as:

  • Counseling employees, including their dependents and beneficiaries, with respect to your employee benefit program;
  • Handling records in connection with your employee benefit program;
  • or, effecting or terminating any employee’s participation in a plan included in the employee benefit program.

Employee benefit programs typically entail group life insurance, group accident or health insurance, profit-sharing plans, and pension plans.

Employee Benefits Liability coverage does not apply to losses arising out of any dishonest, fraudulent, criminal or malicious act or omission, committed by any insured; or claims or suits based upon failure of any investment to perform as represented by any insured; or advice given to any person to participate or not to participate in any plan included in the employee benefit program.  Other exclusions apply, so keep a close eye on your policy forms. Here’s an example of a typical Employee Benefits Liability coverage form.

In most cases, minimal premium charges apply for this important endorsement (as low as $50 to $100 annually). This is a no brainer if you have an employee benefit program in force. Don’t waste time digging up a copy of your policy to confirm. Call your insurance agent today. Also keep in mind that this coverage is written on a claims made basis.

JK

Distracted Driving- Auto Accidents Don’t Announce Themselves

Have you seen this comical Lexus commercial on the air pertaining to distracted driving? This one really applies to everyone on the road. Auto accidents don’t announce themselves.

After watching the video, check out the tips below to avoid distracted driving. Be safe out there.

Tips to avoid distracted driving

  1. Be well rested and alert before driving.
  2. Keep safe driving as your first priority when driving.
  3. Consider taking a defensive driving course.
  4. Park to eat.
  5. Drink with a lid on your cup, only going slow and straight or stopped.
  6. Don’t hold a cup between your knees while driving.
  7. Pull to the curb to read a map or directions.
  8. Find out what landmarks are near your destination before arriving.
  9. Tell your passengers you need to keep your eyes on the road.
  10. Keep sun glasses within reach.
  11. Check rearview mirror BEFORE you enter a curve or turn.
  12. Keep both hands on the steering wheel in a curve or turn.
  13. Use restraints for your pet when you drive with them in the car.

JK

What Do I do In the Event of An Auto, Property, or Liability Loss?

Ever been in a car accident? Or, been affected by a fire, burglary, theft, etc? Even injured someone accidentally?

Chances are there was a flood of emotions going through your head if you’ve experienced any of these scenarios. During times like these, it’s likely you’ll have to rely on your insurance coverage to help you through it. These are the times you’re actually really happy your paid those insurance premiums.

Here are some tips on what to do in the event of an auto, property, or liability loss courtesy of Golden Eagle Insurance*:

Automobile Losses

  • Make sure everyone is okay – call for medical assistance if necessary
  • Notify the police about the loss
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with other parties
  • Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses
  • Make a diagram of accident
  • Photograph the scene prior to moving the vehicle(s) if this can be safely done
  • Take reasonable steps to move your vehicle from the scene and to safeguard it and any personal property contained in the vehicle from subsequent damage
  • Make no commitments for payment
  • Do not discuss fault or blame at the scene
  • Do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone except the police, your insurance agent, claim adjuster, or your legal counsel

Property Losses

  • Protect all property from further damage
  • Preserve all evidence
  • Locate purchase records to document values
  • Describe extent of damage to property
  • If emergency restoration services are needed, call a service such as Servpro at 1-800-SERVPRO

General Liability Losses

  • Contact emergency personnel if necessary
  • Document how, when and where the accident occurred
  • Photograph scene and/or all damaged articles
  • Complete accident investigation form (available from your agent or insurance carrier)
  • Collect names, addresses and telephone numbers of injured persons
  • Make note of any injuries/complaints
  • Identify any potential witnesses and secure their names, addresses and telephone numbers
  • Make no commitments for payment
  • Do not discuss fault or blame at the scene
  • Do not discuss the details of the loss with any party representing the injured person without first consulting with your insurance agent, claim adjuster or legal counsel

*While not an exhaustive list, the above information is provided to assist you should a loss occur. Nothing contained within this material should be construed as providing legal advice nor does it imply coverage will be afforded. Every claim submitted must be reviewed and evaluated based upon the applicable policy of insurance and the facts of loss.

JK

Booze At the Office Holiday Party?

How many times have you been to a company holiday party with an open bar where the booze is flowing and everyone’s getting loose? As the night progresses you begin to see that one co-worker of yours getting sloppy and progressively more sloshed? The words start to slur and the volume picks up as the inhibitions fall. Maybe it was you? Heck, maybe it was everyone there. Who knows what can happen from there!

An office holiday party can be a nice way to mark the season and to share a little warmth and appreciation with co-workers, but they can also be danger zones where inappropriate behavior could lead to highly unforeseen consequences. Employers want to share their appreciation for their employees and allow them to have a little fun, but serving alcohol at the office holiday party can be a huge source of potential disaster.

Some people interpret office parties as an invitation to let their guard down in ways that are a liability to the company.  It is no big revelation that infusing a holiday party with alcohol can lead to lowered inhibitions and poor judgment. Even a well-meaning and otherwise mild-mannered employee might throw out an inappropriate joke or comment after a few drinks. And even if the party itself ends without incident, employers can still be liable for any harm caused by an intoxicated employee on his or her way home.

Alcohol consumption just might be the most sensitive issue an employer must consider when planning an office holiday party. Sure, employers can always opt to have a nonalcoholic gathering (party like it’s prohibition) which would significantly reduce the likelihood of booze-induced problems, but this might be a little extreme to some. Short of complete ban of alcohol, employers might want to consider some of the following options, and implement measures specific to the makeup of their workforce:

  • Have an all-cash bar, and staff it with a professional bartender.
  • Cut off the free flow of alcohol well before the party ends.
  • Provide employees with a specific number of drink tickets redeemable at the bar.
  • Restrict the type of alcohol available, either none or only beer and wine
  • Provide plenty of food to balance the effect of a couple drinks.
  • Provide for company-paid taxis to ensure a safe trip home for any employees who drink at the holiday party.
  • Collect car keys from employees who drink.
  • Offer door prizes to employees who volunteer as designated drivers.
  • Station a high-level management employee at the exit to wish everyone goodnight, while monitoring for tipsy party-goers.
  • Hold the party at a location that discourages driving, such as a hotel
  • Invite deterrents. Sometimes the presence of a spouse or significant other can help employees keep their behavior and their drinking under control.
  • Holiday party hosts should be on the lookout for any revelers who have overindulged and take whatever steps are appropriate, including ensuring that no further alcohol is consumed by such employees and arranging for transportation.

Maybe you have other ideas that are just as effective. Whatever it might be, even if you take every measure in the book to curb liability, there is no guarantee that nothing problematic will happen. I’m not saying to let your worries get the best of you to the point you can’t enjoy your own party, but don’t turn your head and look the other way if a dicey situation arises. Who knows what can happen when you throw booze into the equation. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

JK

Four Insurance Endorsements You Shouldn’t Go Without

First off, what’s an endorsement you ask? As defined by the Insurance Information Institute, an endorsement is a written form attached to an insurance policy that alters the policy’s coverage, terms, or conditions. When an insurance policy is endorsed, the premium paid for the policy can change. However, not by much considering the additional coverage provided.

The following four endorsements are not typically part of a regular property or general liability insurance policy, but they are a must if they apply to your operations.

  1. Hired & Non-Owned Auto Liability: Hired & Non-owned auto is a small endorsement which can have a huge impact on your general liability insurance coverage. It protects your business from bodily injury and property damage claims caused by a vehicle you rent or borrow; or caused by vehicles owned by others, such as your employees. A simple errand to the store by an employee can put your business at high risk if you don’t have this endorsement on your general liability policy.
  2. Employee Benefits Liability: Liability of an employer for an error or omission in the administration of an employee benefit program. Coverage is intended to extend to the “administration” of these plans, including counseling employees, handling records, enrolling/terminating/cancelling employees in specified plans on a timely basis, etc. This endorsement is usually added to the general liability policy but may also be provided by a fiduciary liability policy.
  3. Earthquake Sprinkler Leakage (For CA & other earthquake regions): Earthquake is an excluded peril on a standard property insurance policy and your fire sprinklers bursting as a result of an earthquake and discharging water all over your property is not covered either. However, by adding an Earthquake Sprinkler Leakage endorsement to your property policy, you would be covered for the water damage caused by bursting sprinklers from an earthquake.  This is never more than a few hundred dollars to add.
  4. Sewer Drain & Backup:  Fall and spring tend to be the wettest seasons of the year, making buildings and homes most susceptible to the backup of sewer or drain lines. These events don’t occur often, but when they do, it can become a small disaster. A standard property insurance policy excludes coverage for such an event. The backup of sewer and drains as well as the failure of a sump pump is also excluded on a standard property policy. The damage you sustain from either of these problems will not be covered and you’ll be responsible to pay for the loss and the clean up. You shouldn’t go without this coverage endorsement.

To reiterate, it’s never more than a few hundred dollars annually to add any of these endorsements to your existing property or general liability insurance policies.  In fact, it’s usually less than $100 in many cases for small businesses. With the amount of coverage provided by adding them, this is pocket change! Be sure to review your policies today to see if you carry these endorsements on your current policies.

JK

All Businesses Are Vulnerable to Catastrophic Auto Liability Claims

Last month, on August 9th, a tour bus carrying Japanese sightseers from Las Vegas, NV to a national park in Utah, crashed on Interstate 15 north of Cedar City, Utah. Three were killed in the crash and 11 injured.

This photo released by the Utah Highway Patrol shows the bus at the scene of a crash north of Cedar City, Utah

The 26 year-old driver of the bus was reported to have smoked marijuana heavily for several days before falling asleep at the wheel of the tour bus when it crashed. He was charged yesterday with 10 felony counts of negligent driving under the influence, and one misdemeanor charge of having marijuana residue in his system.

To date, no charges have been filed against the bus company he was driving for. That company supplied the shuttle bus and driver to other tour operators who organized the trip.

What if this happened to your business?

You might not be in the tour bus industry, but this doesn’t mean an accident of this magnitude can’t happen to your business. Do you own commercial autos titled under your business? Have a commercial auto insurance policy in force? Or, do you simply have employees run errands to the post office, store,  or to pick up your lunch? What if your employee was distracted at the wheel and veered off the road killing or injuring others? Are you certain your business is covered for these circumstances? You may want to inquire with your insurance agent NOW to confirm.

Aside from having the proper insurance coverage in force to protect your business from auto liability claims, here are some basic risk management measures you can take as a business owner to help mitigate the situation. Although, following these measures is no guarantee accidents will NOT happen.

  • Check employees’ driving records, and prohibit employees with poor driving histories from operating company vehicles;
  • Emphasize driving safety, and require employees to wear seat belts; establish a cell phone usage policy for employee drivers;
  • Ensure that employees know how to properly operate company vehicles;
  • Properly classify vehicles with your insurance company. Track vehicle usage and the number of miles driven per year, and update these records when you renew your commercial auto insurance policy;
  • Keep all company vehicles well-maintained;
  • Choose vehicles with updated safety features, such as anti-lock brakes and air bags.
  • If you have additional stories, advice, or recommendations to share, please comment!

    JK

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