Skip to Main Content

We're open and here for you. Click to view our new COVID-19 practices.

Berry Insurance Blog

Real People, Real Risks, Real Results

Blog Feature

homeowners insurance | personal insurance

By: Corin Cook
November 9th, 2020

As I am writing this, it is a 70-degree fall day and just a week ago there was a blanket of snow on the ground. But what do you expect? This is New England.

Blog Feature

Business Insurance | commercial insurance | Learning Center | bonds | insurance bonds

By: Corin Cook
October 29th, 2020

So you have general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, commercial auto, commercial umbrella, cyber insurance and more -- you think you are all set with a comprehensive business insurance policy. But did you know if you are in a certain profession, you might need more than those business insurance policies? I know it sounds crazy, right? But doing business for or providing services to another party can be complex, and sometimes it involves additional risk mitigation tools. That’s where bonds come in. What even are bonds, you ask? That’s where we come in. At Berry Insurance, our team is expert in the bond area, issuing hundreds to our clients per year, so we can walk you through it. But bonds can be confusing, so buckle in and let’s dive into what you need to know. What is an insurance bond? Is it an insurance policy? Although they are generally lumped in the insurance category, bonds are actually not technically insurance. Here is the difference between the two: An insurance policy is an agreement between the insured (you) and the insurance company, whereby the company agrees to pay for certain claims in return for you paying a premium.  A bond (also called surety bond) is an agreement between three parties - the principal (the person purchasing the bond), the obligee (the person who receives the benefit) and the insurance company. An insurance bond is not meant to pay for claims. It is meant to provide a financial guarantee that the person or entity purchasing the bond (the principal) will reimburse the obligee should the principal default, fail to fulfill its obligations, or a claim is made. In other words, an insurance bond is meant to prove or support the financial stability of the entity purchasing the bond. It affirms that the principal will be able to repay the bond company if it pays out a claim. In most cases, when bonds are written, loss isn’t generally expected. They are intended to work as an extra layer of protection just in case the bond purchaser (the principal) is liable for not meeting the terms of any work-related agreements. What is the point of a bond? When considering the three-way relationship of a bond, you might be wondering why it can’t just be a two-way relationship between the obligee and principal. If the principal is responsible for paying anyways, why does an insurance company need to get involved? And why would the insurance company want to take on the risk if there’s potential for the principal not paying them back? Well, there’s something in it for each party. For the obligee: a bond ensures they will not be liable for anything if the principal doesn’t meet contract requirements or pay its employees. The obligee is requiring a bond to ensure the insurance company will pay them if the principal cannot. For the insurance company: they are paid a premium for the bond (kind of like interest on a loan). They’re not expecting to have to pay anything to the obligee, but they make some money out of the deal simply by being paid a premium by the principal. For the principal: the bond ensures the insurance company will pay if they themselves cannot. However, the expectation is that they will pay the insurance company back. Why would they pay the insurance company back instead of letting them take care of it? Well, the principal needs to maintain that relationship with the insurance company. If the principal doesn’t pay back, they won’t be able to be bonded again, which likely means they won’t get any more jobs. What types of bonds are there? I warned you, bonds are pretty confusing, but let’s look at some examples of bonds to help you understand when and why they might be necessary. There are many types of insurance bonds available, but the most common are public official bonds, license and permit bonds, fidelity bonds, and contract bonds. A public official bond is designed to guarantee that you will faithfully perform the duties of your office (whether elected or appointed). Typically these are issued to persons responsible for handling money.  Some common examples of public official bonds are: Tax Collector Treasurer/Assistant Treasurer Town Clerk Constable Subordinate handling money A contract bond is used to guarantee fulfillment of your construction contractual obligations. Some common examples of contract bonds are: Bid Bond: guarantees that if you are awarded a job, you will comply with the bid specs. (This bond typically does not cost you anything!) Performance Bond: requires the contractor to finish a job on budget and on deadline. (usually combined with a Payment Bond) Payment Bond: provides your subcontractors and vendors a guarantee that they will be paid for their work on the job. A license and permit bond is used to satisfy the requirements of a government agency, such as your local city or town.  Some common examples of license and permit bonds are: Professional licensure bonds (i.e. real estate, insurance, etc.) Mortgage broker or lender bonds Notary bonds Private investigator bonds Auto dealer bonds Street repair, drain laying, demolition or street opening permit bonds Auctioneer bond Collection agency bond Travel agency bond A fidelity bond can be used to protect your business from fraudulent acts committed by your employees.  Some common examples of fidelity bonds are: Employee theft/dishonesty bonds Janitorial service bonds ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) bonds Probate or Executor bonds Does my business need to be bonded? As a business, you may need one or all of these insurance bonds, depending upon your contractual and regulatory requirements. You may be legally required to be bonded per the state, an industry association, or a contract you’ve signed.  In addition, if you perform services in someone else’s home or business, or you or your employees have access to money, you may wish to be bonded for extra protection.  Finally, if you are involved in any construction work, you may also benefit from the additional protection from an insurance bond. How do I get bonded? So you think you might need a bond -- what are the next steps? First, you’ll need to reach out to your insurance agency or carrier to find out exactly what you need.  Depending on the bond, you could either need to complete a simple application, or a more lengthy one. You may be asked to provide financial statements, resumes for owners, bank references, and details regarding current projects and works in process. Once your agent compiles all the necessary information for you, he or she will process it and issue your bond. But keep in mind, if you need to get a bond to satisfy regulatory or contractual obligations, you should do it as soon as possible. The process of obtaining a bond could take as little as a day or as much as several weeks.  How much does a bond cost? We wish we could give you a definitive answer here, but because all bonds are so different and priced based on various factors, it’s difficult to be specific. The cost of a bond depends on many factors, including the type of bond needed, industry experience, the financial stability of the entity or employee being bonded, credit score, and more.  Mostly however, it depends on the contract amount of the bond. Most bonds cost somewhere between .5% and 20% of the value of the bond. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s You do a lot to protect your business. Bonds are just another risk management tool to ensure you are properly meeting all your business obligations.  There are so many types of bonds, and just as many scenarios for why you might need one, so if you’re still confused, we don’t blame you. Reach out to an insurance agent to discuss your specific situation and determine what you might need. While you’re thinking of contacting your insurance agent for a bond, it may also be a good time to review your entire business insurance policy to make sure you don’t have any other gaps in your protection. Check out this article Why You Should Review Your Commercial Insurance Annually, to know what to keep in mind when checking your policies for gaps or inaccuracies.

Blog Feature

Business Insurance | General Liability | Learning Center | hired and non-owned auto | Business Auto

By: Corin Cook
October 23rd, 2020

Do you hire any vehicles to perform work for your company? Do your employees ever use their personal cars to conduct company business? If so, you may have gaps in your insurance coverage. I know what you’re thinking: “I already have liability insurance, property insurance, and business auto insurance among others. How do I possibly have any gaps in coverage?” Well as you know, there are several nuances to running a business, so there are also several types of business insurance to cover those nuances. That’s where we come in. At Berry Insurance, we want to educate all our clients of potential exposures they may have and help them cover those exposures through coverages such as hired and non-owned insurance. Let’s begin by discussing everything you might need to know about hired and non-owned insurance. How does hired and non-owned auto insurance work? Hired and non-owned auto is a commercial auto coverage that extends your auto liability coverage to vehicles that aren’t owned by your business, but are used for your business tasks. These can include “hired” vehicles, rented, leased, or borrowed to perform business operations. It also includes “non-owned” vehicles, owned by employees. If one of your employees or a contractor were to cause an accident doing a work-related task in a vehicle your company does not own, the driver’s auto insurance would kick in first, then hired and non-owned would cover the remainder of the damages after the employee’s insurance is exhausted. This coverage can usually be added as an endorsement on your business’ general liability policy or commercial auto policy. What does hired and non-owned auto insurance cover? Specifically, hired and non-owned insurance provides liability coverage for property damage and bodily injuries caused by someone driving while performing business duties for your company. It also covers any legal fees associated with a lawsuit resulting from the accident. It does not cover collision damages to the hired or non-owned vehicle. Do I need hired and non-owner auto? We recommend that any business who uses vehicles they don’t own (whether hired or owned by employees) for any business-related-operations have hired and non-owned auto. You may be thinking this scenario doesn’t apply to you, but think again. There are several small tasks that can be considered work-related. Some of these include: Going to the bank Going to the post office Delivering supplies from one location to another Picking up supplies at a store Going on a lunch or coffee pickup run for the office Traveling between work sites Making client visits If a car accident occurs while performing one of these company tasks or others, without hired and non-owned insurance, your company may be found liable and stuck with a large, out-of-pocket cost. As we mentioned before, hired and non-owned kicks in when the driver’s personal insurance has exhausted. And you have no way of knowing if the driver has low coverage limits on their insurance or worse, if their insurance has lapsed, which could make you responsible for a significant portion of damage or injury expenses. What if I already have commercial auto insurance? If you have commercial auto insurance, it covers all vehicles that your company owns. However, it does not cover any vehicles that are not owned by the company, even if they are being used for business purposes. So if any vehicles your company does not own are used for business purposes, you need hired and non-owned, regardless of any other coverages you already have. How much does hired and non-owned auto cost? The cost of hired and non-owned auto coverage can vary based on several factors such as number of vehicles/drivers, driving records, types of vehicles being used, driving distance and locations, vehicle use and more. However, you can generally expect the coverage to cost around $100 per year. Cover the gaps in your business auto insurance We know you work hard to protect your business.  So you definitely don’t want something trivial like an employee on a coffee run to be the cause of its downfall. With hired and non-owned insurance, your business is covered from liability for property damage or bodily injuries caused by non-company-owned vehicles performing work on behalf of your company. If this is a protection you think you need, you don’t want to spend another day unprotected … it’s time to talk to your insurance agent. While you’re at it, it may be a good time to review all of your business insurance, specifically your commercial auto insurance, to make sure you’re covered on the road and more.

Blog Feature

Individuals & Families | Learning Center | company adjuster | Home Insurance | carrier adjuster | homeowners insurance | claim adjuster | individuals and families

By: Corin Cook
October 15th, 2020

Oh no … someone hit your car?  A tree fell on your house? Your home was robbed? You’re kidding me! At Berry Insurance, we’ve seen it all, and in some cases … we’ve been there ourselves. We know in the moments after one of these disasters strike, it seems like the sky is falling.  While already dealing with the stress of your property damage, navigating the insurance claim process can get overwhelming. You may ask yourself, “How do I know what steps to take next?” or “How can I be sure I’m filling the paperwork out correctly?” or “How will I know if I’m getting a fair settlement?” Especially if the damage to your property is significant, you’ll want to be sure you’re navigating the process properly and getting a fair deal out of your claim settlement, but what is the best way to do this?  That’s where we come in. Your insurance agent can help you navigate the claims process, along with the adjuster that is assigned to you from the insurance company. After filing a claim with your insurance agent, they will assign you an adjuster to investigate your claim, but you also have the option to hire a public insurance adjuster who will represent you personally, working alongside the insurance adjuster and completing your part of the claims process for you.   What is an adjuster? An adjuster’s job is to investigate a claim by interviewing the person making the claim and witnesses, reviewing any related police or hospital records and inspecting property damage to determine the amount of liability. There are three types of claims adjusters: The most common type of adjuster is a company claims adjuster (or staff adjuster.) Company adjusters are employees of the insurance company — they are the ones who most people deal with by default for their insurance claims.  An independent claims adjuster also works for the insurance company, but as a contractor. Sometimes when an insurance company is overloaded with claims, (such as after a natural disaster) they need to employ the use of independent adjusters in addition to their company adjusters to keep up with the demand. A public insurance adjuster works for the policyholder rather than the insurance company. Policyholders may choose to hire (and pay) public adjusters to work on their behalf during the claims process. These adjusters will charge a fee and a portion of the settlement to work alongside the insurance company adjusters, doing the work that would normally be up to the policyholder. Reasons why you may want to hire a public adjuster:  Having your own public insurance adjuster may make the insurance process smoother and help you to get more value out of your claim, but often times it is unnecessary and the costs are greater than the value. Below we will discuss the reasons a public adjuster could be beneficial. They could earn you a higher sum Some people feel having an adjuster on their side will help them get a larger payout from their insurance company rather than trusting the insurance company’s assessment.  If you feel like your insurance company does not have your best interest in mind financially, or feel like their damage assessment is incorrect, you may choose to hire a public adjuster. Likewise if your claim could result in a large loss (such as significant damage on your home), you may want to hire a public adjuster to help you get a larger amount to repair or rebuild the damaged or lost property. Some public adjusters may be more adept at negotiating settlements and could earn you more money.  Submitting an accurate claim to your insurance company is a critical piece of obtaining a fair settlement. Because policyholders are not trained in insurance, they are less likely to fill out paperwork as accurately and thoroughly as a professional.  You are having an unpleasant experience with the insurance company’s adjuster Some people may not trust an adjuster who is working directly for the insurance company paying for the claim because they feel they do not have their best interests in mind.  Alternatively, you may not feel like the insurance adjuster is communicating well, listening to you, or being thorough and accurate. If this is the case, you may want to hire a public adjuster to have a second opinion and have someone advocating on your behalf.  You don’t have time to manage your end of the claims process Navigating the claims process, especially for a complex claim, can be time-consuming, Hiring a public adjuster could reduce the burden and the time commitment of managing all the steps of the claims life cycle.  Typically, when a policyholder has a claim, it is his or her job to manage their side of the process, which involves completing paperwork, making phone calls, meeting with adjusters and inspectors, listing and evaluating cost of damaged property, completing simple math, understanding insurance terminology, and negotiating the settlement.  If you have a full-time job or a busy schedule, the task of administering your own claim might seem daunting. Hiring a public adjuster might be right for you.  You want to better understand the claims process: Some insurance policies and claims are intricate. The claims process may involve multifaceted steps, confusing terminology and math. If you feel like you will have trouble understanding the process on your own, a public adjuster may make it more easily digestible. Furthermore, you may feel like you are not equipped to represent yourself effectively and negotiate a fair claim. A public adjuster can handle this step of the process. For more straight-forward insurance claims, like simple fender benders, it is usually not worth it to hire a public adjuster, but for larger, more complex cases, like large-scale home damage after a natural disaster, you may see a benefit.  Reasons you might not want to hire a public adjuster: They can cost you more money than they earn you: Public insurance adjusters charge fees for their services. Each adjuster will charge base fees and added fees, and most will charge a percentage (often 5 to 15 percent) of the total settlement. For example, if you hire an adjuster who charges 10 percent and your insurance company pays you a $100,000 settlement, you will owe the adjuster $10,000. And if you want the best adjuster for your claim, you may have to pay more. The more experienced the adjuster, the more they are likely to charge. Will your adjuster always be able to earn you more than you’re paying them? Chances are: no. Often, a public adjuster won’t even be able to earn you more than the percentage of the total settlement they are charging.  Just because a public adjuster is more experienced in negotiation, doesn’t mean he or she will succeed with your claim. After negotiating back and forth with an insurance company, a public adjuster may still feel the policyholder deserves a larger settlement. If this is the case, the policyholder would have to decide whether to turn to litigation (which would cost even more.) Company insurance adjusters, on the other hand, do not cost you any extra money.  Asking questions and communicating clearly with a company adjuster will help you get a fair settlement.  Insurance companies want to help It is in insurance companies’ best interest to settle claims fairly. Company insurance adjusters are trained to thoroughly and accurately assess all claims information, and are required to clearly outline the reasons claims are settled in the way they are. If you feel displeased with the service of a company adjuster, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be happy with a public adjuster. Often, the issue lies in the individual adjuster, not the company employing them.  If you are having a problem with a company adjuster, ask to speak to a supervisor at the insurance company. They should be able to solve the issue or assign you a new adjuster. Keep in mind, your insurance agent is also there to help. They may be able to advocate for you and resolve your issues. You don’t necessarily need to hire a public adjuster because of a problem with a company adjuster. Selecting and hiring an adjuster also takes time and effort: Since you will be spending money on an adjuster, you’ll want to make sure the person you select is capable of yielding the results you’re hoping for. Before hiring someone, you’ll need to take several steps, such as: Reading online reviews Ensuring they are licensed and can legally practice in your state Seeking referrals from friends or family Ensuring they have experience with claims similar to yours Discussing expectations with them Understanding what they charge, and negotiating Keep in mind, while you’re doing all of this, you’re delaying your claim from moving forward while still dealing with the effects of the situation that caused the claim.  The claims process may be simpler than you expect (and your agent can help): You may surprise yourself! Once you sit down and try to navigate the process one step at a time, you may realize it is simpler than you expected. Perhaps the insurance company adjuster you will be dealing with is very experienced and adept at helping you through the process. Rather than a public adjuster, your insurance agent can also guide you and advocate you throughout the claims process. If you have a competent insurance agent, he or she should be able to perform the same function as a public adjuster, but without charging a fee or taking a portion of the settlement.  It’s important to note – if you choose to hire a public adjuster, your insurance agent can no longer be involved in the process.  Before you enlist the help of a public adjuster, see how the process goes without one — you can always bring one into the mix later if you feel you need to.  Is hiring a public adjuster worth it? We understand there are certain situations and complex claims where you may just feel more comfortable hiring a public adjuster. If you feel the benefits outweigh the negatives, go for it! However, in most cases, the service you will receive from an insurance company adjuster and your agent alone will be more than adequate. Many insurance agencies (like us!) only work with insurance companies they feel are competent, helpful, and are going to make sure their clients get a fair settlement.  Furthermore, Berry’s insurance agents are always happy to help you navigate the claims process, offering the same guidance that public adjusters will charge you for.  To learn more about what a claims process (in this case, auto) might look like, read about the typical timeline for a claim.

Blog Feature

commercial property insurance | Business Insurance | Learning Center | Property Insurance

By: Corin Cook
October 14th, 2020

20% of businesses are affected by a burglary or theft. 15% of businesses are affected by wind or hail damage. Those are scary numbers. And it’s even scarier when you consider these are only two possible causes of property damage that can completely derail your business. At Berry Insurance, we are a business ourselves, and while we are mostly optimistic, we sometimes can’t help but think about all the things that could go wrong on our property. After all, we help hundreds of businesses of all industries and sizes navigate property claims all the time, so we know first-hand what can happen.  Commercial property insurance is there for when these unexpected disasters strike. Let’s dive in deeper to learn more about it, including what it covers, how much it costs, and if it’s worth it for your business. How does commercial property insurance work? Commercial property insurance protects your company’s physical assets – things like buildings, furniture and equipment, supplies, computers, inventory, customer’s goods, signs, fencing, and even lost income. The policy will provide financial reimbursement to help recover the cost of items damaged, lost or destroyed from various incidents (we’ll get more into what specific incidents are covered in the next section). If you had damage to your property, you would simply need to file a claim with your insurance company, and they would reimburse all repairs and replacements up to the coverage limits you selected on your policy. What does commercial property insurance cover (and not cover?) Commercial property insurance covers most property and most causes of property damage, but there are some exclusions and some optional coverages you can select. What is typically covered? Damages from fire Damages from theft and vandalism Damages from storms Damages from explosions Building repair/replacement Business personal property replacement Home-based business property replacement Property in transit or off-site Computers and media Equipment Tools Inventory Furniture and fixtures Leased or rented property Employee dishonesty Outdoor property Debris removal Customer goods (optional) Lost income replacement (optional) Lost rental income replacement (optional) Water back up (optional) What is not typically covered? Floods (hint: you may need flood insurance)  Earthquakes (optional) Accidental damage (i.e. dropping something) Damages to someone else’s property Damages to your business vehicles Intentional property damage Do I need commercial property insurance? Honestly, it depends. First of all, if you are a tenant with a lease, a building owner with a mortgage, a business with a line of credit, or have leased or rented any type of equipment (such as copier, postage machine, equipment and more), you may be required to have coverage. If you are just starting out, and don’t have a lot of property used in your business, you might decide not to get property insurance. But if you have anything of significance, or more importantly, anything that would create a financial burden should you have to replace it, then you will likely want to purchase commercial property insurance.  In many cases, you might even want to buy a business owners policy (BOP), which combines a commercial commercial property insurance and commercial liability insurance into one policy. The advantage of this is you get a combination of coverages, usually at a lower price than if you were to buy each policy separately. And who doesn’t want to have more coverage for less money? How much does commercial property insurance cost? Again, it depends.  Policies can range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars, depending on your unique business needs and how much property you own and wish to cover.  Some of the factors that will determine the price of this insurance are the upkeep and condition of your business location, what protection and controls you have in place to keep your property safe, and the coverage limits and optional coverages you select. Saving on commercial property insurance costs: Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to help reduce your commercial property (and overall) insurance costs.  First, partner with an independent insurance agent that understands your industry, can provide expertise and advice, and will shop your insurance to always make sure you have the best protection at a price that fits your budget.  Next, work to mitigate any potential claims before they happen. Making building upgrades, installing alarms, creating a disaster plan, and adapting safety protocols are always a great idea. Lastly, you can elect a higher deductible (if you’re comfortable) and enroll in automatic payments to reduce your cost and eliminate billing fees. How much commercial property insurance do I need? So you think you might need commercial property insurance … the next obvious question is “how much do I need?” Remember those coverage limits we talked about earlier? When you get a commercial property policy you have to decide the dollar amount of property you would want your policy to cover if you were to have property damage. So how do you decide those limits?  This is where a little rough math comes in. Generally, we recommend a policy that would cover all of your property and potential lost income if a disaster were to cause a total loss, but ultimately, the choice is up to you. Protect your business from the ground up We know how important your business is for you. It is your passion, your income, and how you spend most of your time. You want it to be protected from property damage risks. But we also know there is a lot to think about when deciding on your property insurance. Your insurance agent can help you evaluate your risks and properties to help you determine if you need property insurance, and how much you need to thoroughly protect your business. Chances are, if you are considering a commercial property insurance policy, you could probably also use a comprehensive business insurance policy to cover every aspect of your business operations. If you’re interested in obtaining a business insurance quote, check out this article What Information Do I Need for a Business Insurance Quote?

Blog Feature

Business Insurance | General Liability | Learning Center | general liability insurance | snow plow insurance | commercial auto | Business Auto

By: Corin Cook
October 8th, 2020

The leaves are changing colors, the air is becoming crisp, and the sky is getting darker earlier. You know what that means … snow is on the way.  While this thought may make many New Englanders cringe, if you make money by snow plowing, you may actually be looking forward to it. But are you actually ready?  You might think you’re ready to hit the snowy roads this winter, but in fact, you might have gaps in your snow plow coverage.  At Berry Insurance, we routinely help many clients secure the coverage they need to avoid costly claims and we want to help you too. Read on to learn if you have adequate snow plow coverage and where you may need to make some changes. First, let’s brush up on what snow plow insurance is When someone says “snow plow insurance,” they are typically just referring to a general liability policy to cover your snow plow operations. This policy covers you for any bodily injury or property damage caused by your plowing. It will also give you “completed operations coverage”, which we’ll discuss more in a minute.  One thing that is important to note – you may already have a general liability policy in place for your contracting operations. Unfortunately, unless it is specifically endorsed to cover your snow plow operations, you do not automatically have coverage. Am I covered if I plow for a business? Possibly, but most likely not. Here’s the thing. When you offer snow removal services, there are few specifics you’ll need to decide before you can find out what type of coverage you may, or may not, need. They are: Will you plow residential driveways, commercial properties, parking lots, residential streets/roads, or highways? Will you be charging for services? Will you provide additional snow removal services – like sidewalks, walkways, or roofs? Will you be sanding or providing any surface treatments? Do you want coverage for any damage to the plow itself? Will you be hiring new employees? Which vehicle will you be using to plow – personally owned or owned by the business? Once you’ve ironed out the details of your snow plowing operations, by answering the questions above, you can begin to determine what type of coverage you have already, and what you may need going forward. Let’s dive deeper into how the answers to these questions may affect the insurance coverages you’ll need. Are you plowing residential driveways, commercial properties, parking lots, residential streets/roads, or highways? Some insurance companies are comfortable offering liability coverage to contractors who plow streets and roads, but not contractors who plow commercial parking lots. Other insurance companies prefer contractors who only plow highways. Some will allow you to do the occasional driveway for a neighbor or for your home, while others won’t cover that at all. Some insurance companies also put restrictions on the size of parking lots you can plow. It’s enough to make your head spin. And it changes each year. In addition to this, your general liability policy may have a snow plowing exclusion. Or it may have some limited coverage. It is important to identify all your potential plowing operations ahead of time so that you can be sure everything is covered before the first snowflake falls. Note: If you plow for a city or town, you will likely be asked to provide a certificate of insurance, verifying that you have high limits and you may also be asked to name the city or town as an “Additional Insured”. There could be a charge for this, so be sure to find out what is required of you before you begin work for a town. Do you charge for your plowing services? This may seem like a silly question – but it’s important. If you just plow a few driveways to be a good neighbor, then you may have coverage under your auto policy. But if you are charging for your services, that can be considered a business exposure. If all you have is a personal auto policy, you need to change your insurance rating to “business use” in order to be covered. Do you provide additional snow removal services like sidewalks, walkways, or roofs? Additional snow removal services typically result in additional insurance costs, especially if you are getting up on a roof.  If you have a policy for snow plowing, you need to discuss any additional services you complete with your agent, so they can ensure you’re covered for them. Do you provide surface treatments? Road treatments can be a slippery proposition (see what we did there?). If someone slips and falls after you’ve treated the area, you could be held responsible for their injuries. In addition to this, sanding typically requires specialized equipment attached to your trucks, which may need extra insurance. This brings us to the next question… Do you have coverage for your plow itself? If the plow is attached to your truck, and your truck has physical damage coverage (collision and comprehensive), then damage to the plow would be covered under your Massachusetts auto policy.  However, it’s on an actual cash value basis. So if you would be looking for replacement cost coverage, you’d need a separate equipment insurance policy to provide that coverage. The same would apply for any specialized equipment that you may want full replacement cost on should a claim happen.  You’ll want to provide a copy of the receipt for the plow and any additional equipment so that you can update the values on your auto policy, or to obtain the separate replacement cost equipment policy. Are new employees covered? Many contractors will hire additional employees/drivers during the winter months to cover the various snow plowing shifts they take on. If that is something you also plan to do, you’ll want to be sure to check driving records of those new hires.  A “true and attested public driving record” copy of the individual’s Massachusetts driving record costs $20 and can be ordered right online by the potential new hire. Checking this prior to the start of employment could give you an indication of whether they will be considered an acceptable driver for insurance coverage. (Note: Applicants/Employees with several moving violations or citations may be excluded by your insurance policy.) Do you own your plow vehicle, or is it owned by the business? Here’s where things get interesting….and I find it best to use examples. First and foremost, any damage to your vehicle is covered under your auto policy – whether that is a personal policy or a commercial business policy. If you are plowing a street and scrape your truck/plow against some parked cars, the damage to your truck/plow is covered under your auto policy. If you are plowing and hit a car, the damage to that car would be covered under your auto policy. However,what about what could happen after you’re done plowing? This is known as your “completed operations” and is only something that can be purchased on a general liability policy. Again, let’s use some examples: You plow a commercial parking lot and a patron slips and falls. They sue you for their injuries. Your auto policy provides coverage for damage to your vehicle, or liability for accidents involving your vehicle. Neither of these are applicable here, so you’d be left without protection. You plow a residential driveway for someone while they are away on vacation. You didn’t realize that some snow was piled against the side of the property and when the weather warmed up, melted and flooded the resident’s home. They want reimbursement for the damages and cleanup costs. Again, you don’t have coverage without a general liability policy. Finally, do you have enough coverage? There’s no point in having plow insurance if you’re still going to be stuck with a large out-of-pocket expense if you have a claim, right? For anyone that plows, we recommend a $1 million liability coverage limit and $1 million auto liability coverage limit.  This may seem like a lot, but an accident involving a plow can be extremely costly, and if you’re paying for plow insurance, you want to be sure you’re fully covered. Let your plowing service pay you … not suck you dry: Plowing during the winter months can provide a great source of additional income – whether you’re a business or an individual. But as you can see above, it also could come at a cost, especially if left unprotected. At Berry Insurance, we’re here to help you review your snow plow insurance before you begin plowing this year, so you don’t get stuck with any costly claims. While you’re reviewing your snow plow insurance, it may also be a good time to review all your commercial insurance to ensure you have no gaps in coverage heading into the winter months.