You don’t need us to tell you that losing a loved one is difficult. The realization that the presence of your close friend or family member will no longer be in your life is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to go through. And on top of it all, the number of responsibilities and decisions that follow make the already-difficult time that much more challenging. We’ve all been there. Here at Berry Insurance, we’ve all experienced the deaths of our own loved ones, but we also hear from clients (way more often than we’d like to) about deaths of their family members. And while we can’t help those clients navigate the entire death and grief process, we are certainly able to provide some peace of mind and assistance with the insurance end of things. Below, we’ll outline how insurance is affected by a policyholder’s death, and what insurance steps you’ll need to take during specific scenarios. When a spouse dies: When a married person dies, their spouse is generally the one handling their affairs. Because most insurance policies are shared by a married couple, the insurance may not change much, but some factors do need to be adjusted. At the very least, if your spouse dies, you should contact your insurance agent or carrier as soon as you are able to notify them of the death so they are aware and know if they have to make any changes or review any coverages on their end. While it may make sense to assume your insurance agent should remove your deceased spouse’s name from your insurance policy once you notify them, this usually isn’t the case (at least not right away.) For auto insurance, you can remove the deceased from auto coverage (which might save you a little money), but you shouldn’t completely remove them from your auto policy until there are no longer any vehicles registered in their name. If you’re keeping your spouse’s vehicle, you will need to re-register it and re-title it in your name, then you can remove him or her from the policy. If you are selling the car, you will need to make sure it is sold and registered to the new owner before removing your spouse from your policy. If you are keeping the home you lived in with your spouse, you will need to make sure your deceased spouse is first removed from the deed to the home before removing them from the home insurance policy. Once they are no longer on the deed, you can simply remove them from your home insurance and keep making payments to the premium as usual. If you are selling the home, you would simply keep the policy as is until it is sold, then cancel the insurance policy. When you’re managing a single person’s estate: When you are managing the estate of an unmarried person (like a single parent, family member, or friend) you will need to make changes to both their home insurance and car insurance. Home insurance: If someone dies and you’re in charge of their estate, you should notify their insurance company as soon as possible. Whether the home is vacant, rented out, or occupied by the child, the policy will need to be rewritten to reflect the changes to the status of the home. Note: there is a chance the new policy will cost more under your name than it did under the previous owner’s because of new risks. For example, if the house is vacant, you can expect a higher premium due to a higher risk of theft, vandalism, and damage. If you are selling the home, notify the insurance carrier of your plans to cancel the policy. A notice of cancellation takes 30 days, so if the home sells within 30 days, you are all set. If the sale process extends beyond 30 days, you’ll need to rewrite the coverage in your name so it is covered until it sells. Car insurance: So what about their car? If you’re managing the property of someone after their death, are you even covered if you drive the car? What changes do you have to make before you sell or take ownership of the vehicle? If you (or any other driver) is listed on the deceased’s car insurance policy, of course you are able to drive the car. You will just need to contact the insurance company to inform them of the insured’s death so they can be removed from coverage on the policy. Again, if the car is in the deceased’s name, it will need to be re-registered and re-titled before you can remove them from the policy altogether. If you are not listed on the car insurance policy, you would not be covered under the car insurance policy, unless you add yourself as an operator on the insurance policy. If you plan to use the vehicle for any reason, it may make sense to add yourself as an operator. Normally, people not listed on policies can drive someone’s vehicle with permission, but since deceased vehicle owners can’t give permission, those not listed on the policy are not covered. To avoid any risks of not being covered, our suggestion is to simply not drive the car until you contact the insurance company. If you plan on keeping the car, you’ll need a new insurance policy and they’ll need to transfer registration and ownership. As someone managing the estate, you will need to provide power of attorney documentation so they can ensure you are in fact able to make insurance changes on behalf of the deceased. What about life insurance? Life insurance is also directly affected by the death of the policyholder. After all, it’s kind of the point of the insurance in the first place. Life insurance provides financial security to the family of the policyholder if he or she passes away. The funding paid out to the beneficiary of a policyholder may be used for funeral costs, debt payments, continuation of the policyholder’s income, college savings for children, and other final expenses. If you’re a beneficiary of a life insurance policy of someone who died, you might be wondering when and how you’ll receive the policy proceeds. Following the death, you should reach out to the insurance agent or life insurance company of the policy to inform them of the death as soon as you are able to. You will usually have to provide a copy of the death certificate and may have to fill out a form or answer some questions. Usually you get the option to choose whether you want to be paid a lump sum, or in installments and whether it is paid through a check or electronically. Generally, you can expect to get the payout roughly 30-60 days after filing the claim. There may be more, uncommon insurance steps you need to take This guide is by no means the end-all-be-all guide of what to do after your loved one dies. Each person is so individual and your loved one may have unique, less common types of insurance like recreational vehicle insurance, pet insurance, or flood insurance that you may need to either switch to your name or suspend, depending on what you’re doing with their property. Feel free to reach out to us for more detailed guidance of how to handle the insurance of your loved one. While we can’t make you feel completely better during this tough time, you can be sure we will guide you through the insurance process, and even take on much of it ourselves. After all the hassle of post-death tasks is complete, you may be wondering how you can ease the burden on your family when your time comes (a long time from now, of course.) Check out this article When are the Best and Worst Times to Get Life Insurance to see if a life insurance policy is right for protecting your family.
A lot can happen in a year … especially when you own a business. I’m sure 2020 has been a great example of that for most of you. Here at Berry Insurance, we certainly experienced it. We added expenses in some areas, reduced them in others, purchased new equipment, and switched to remote operations for much of the year. Because insurance happens to be our area of expertise, we knew exactly where we would need to adjust our business insurance policies because of those changes, but for most businesses, it’s not top of mind. Fortunately, we can help. Whether it be a year of change, like 2020, or a relatively consistent year, it is important to review your insurance annually. Even the smallest changes you make within your business come with unique risks, so you need to make sure you’re keeping up with those changes and adjusting your insurance accordingly. Let’s talk about some of the reasons you should be reviewing your business insurance policies annually, and what you should be considering when reviewing it. Reasons to review your insurance: For most commercial insurance policies, your agent or carrier will automatically renew your policy every year. Before this renewal, it is essential you review your coverages to make sure everything from the year before is still accurate, and that you have the best coverage for the best price. Let’s dive a little deeper into why annual reviews are so important. You might not have adequate coverage A lot changes within a business during the course of a year. We’ll get into some of those potential changes below, but even the smallest development or change in your business operations could cause a gap in coverage. Annual reviews will examine all areas of your business to make sure you have the proper coverages and limits. Imagine for example, that you added a piece of equipment to your company. If you renewed your business property without adding coverage for it, claims related to that equipment might not be covered. Annual reviews will also identify if your business changes warrant any new types of insurance, such as cyber insurance, professional liability, or commercial auto. You might be missing out on savings Aside from not having the proper coverage, by not reviewing your commercial insurance, you might actually be paying more than you need to for this coverage. Reviewing your current business circumstances will help your insurance agent or carrier make sure you are paying the right price for your coverage. There may also be some discount opportunities available, so during your annual review, your agent can make sure you are taking advantage of all savings opportunities. Things that might yield changes in your policies So now that you understand the importance of annual insurance reviews, let’s go over some of the areas that will actually be reviewed. There are a number of business changes that can influence your insurance. When you’ve had changes in operations: If something changes about the way you operate your business, such as the services you provide or the products you sell, you might need to make changes to your insurance policies. Having more products or services means you likely have new equipment or inventory you need covered. On the other hand, if you removed any products or services, you will be able to remove them from your insurance. You may also need to adjust your limits if the risks associated with your operational changes have altered. When you’ve made property changes: If you’ve made any improvements or upgrades to your business property or building, you will need to adjust your insurance to reflect it. Assuming you put a lot of money and work into implementing the changes, you’ll want to make sure they’re covered under your policy. You’ve purchased new equipment: If you rented/leased or purchased any new equipment or property in the past year, you’ll need to include it on your renewed insurance policy so it’s protected from any risks going forward. When you’ve had changes in staffing/payroll levels: Your insurance carrier likely uses your staffing and payroll levels to determine both your limits and your premium on certain types of business insurance. Have you hired or terminated any employees? You’ll need to inform your agent to make sure your insurance payroll reflects it. If you hired or used any subcontractors, you’ll need to let your insurance company know so they can increase or reduce your estimated payroll figure or potentially change insurance classification codes. When you’ve had changes in revenues: Similar to payroll and staffing levels, revenues also play a role in determining your insurance limits and premiums. If your business’ revenue changes, your insurance policy also needs to change. When you’ve had changes in ownership/business structure: Usually, when there are changes in the business structure of a business, the current commercial insurance policies will need to be updated. If you’ve had a change in ownership, your business name, or business entity structure (i.e. sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, corporation) you will need to inform your insurance company. While sometimes an insurance adjustment will suffice, in some of these scenarios you might need a whole new policy. For example, if your business is transitioning from a partnership to a corporation, or if it involves a merger with another organization, you will almost certainly need a new policy because so many factors will change. When you’ve had territory changes: If you have any territory changes, such as moving, adding new locations, or beginning to offer services in new states, you will need to change your insurance policy. Expanding offerings comes with additional risks and every state has different laws and insurance requirements, so you’ll need to make sure your insurance is up to par. When you’ve had new contracts: New contracts = new risks. If you have new partnerships or created additional contractual obligations, you probably need more coverage. Some partners or vendors might even require you to have certain insurance limits to ensure they are protected. You should send all contracts to your agent to review, so they can make sure your insurance is up to par. When you’ve made changes to your business vehicles/drivers: Have you leased/rented or purchased any new vehicles? Have you made any changes to authorized drivers? You’ll need to make sure your commercial vehicle policy is up-to-date. Don’t forget to look ahead: When considering your insurance plan for the next 12 months, you should also be thinking about if you’re anticipating any business changes in those next 12 months. If you’re proactive in updating your insurance, you won’t need to worry about potentially not being covered when those changes occur. Here are some considerations you may need to take for the next year: • Changes in ownership or operations • Buying or selling a business • Relocating or acquiring new space • Making updates or renovations to any buildings or property • Increase or decrease in estimated revenues • Increase or decrease in estimated payrolls • New operations, jobs or projects outside of MA • Business travel outside of the U.S. Let us do the thinking for you We know you’re busy. Owning a business is hard work, so we understand if your annual insurance renewal isn’t top-of-mind. Fortunately, if you are one of our clients, we can do the thinking about your annual insurance reviews for you. Independent insurance agencies like us usually monitor all our client accounts and reach out to schedule account reviews. After all, we want to make sure you have the best coverage at the best price. But, if you want to get a head start and prepare for one of these reviews, feel free to download this checklist with everything you need to consider about changes in your life that could affect your commercial insurance.
We know nobody is ever excited to get their insurance bill. Whether it’s your personal home/renters/car insurance policy, or your commercial policy for your business, insurance is just one of those things you need, but wish you didn’t have to pay for. Even though you can’t get around paying your insurance bill, fortunately, there are many options nowadays that can make paying easier. Often, when getting an insurance policy, we’re so busy thinking about the shopping and buying process, that we don’t really think about what happens after we buy. Even though paying for insurance may seem simple, it’s not always as straight-forward as you’d expect. Because many people don’t ask, they don’t know all the options available to them that make paying easier. Fortunately, that’s what we’re here for. At Berry Insurance, we always try to educate our clients so they know all their options and have the freedom to choose what works best for them. We certainly see the value in convenience. Below, we’ll get into ways you can split your payments, your payment options, and some payment rules and requirements for certain types of insurance. Insurance payment plan options Once you get a new personal or commercial insurance policy, you usually have options of how to split the payments, generally by either paying the lump sum up front, or dividing the payments over the course of the policy life. Pay in full I know many people can’t afford to pay for insurance in full (I certainly cannot), but if you can, it could be a great option for you. Depending on the carrier and type of insurance, you can often get a discount if you pay for your policy in full. It also feels good to know you don’t owe anything until your policy renews (usually a year after the plan started). Monthly installments Most people choose to pay in monthly installments, splitting the cost of the premium into 12 equal, monthly payments. Depending on the type of insurance, some carriers offer 9, 10, or 11 month payment plans, with a period of no payments before renewal, if you prefer to pay in that way. Note: some insurance companies require a 20% deposit for most types of new policies. Ways to pay your insurance bill Once you’ve figured out how you will be splitting your payments, you’ll also have several options of payment methods. Mail Some people just prefer the good old fashioned snail mail. If you wish, you can send a check to your insurance carrier each month after you get your bill. Simply mail a check to the address listed on your statement. While this method is generally simple, it is not immediate as it needs to travel through the mail for a number of days before being processed. You also run the risk of the check being lost and not making it to the right person. Phone If you prefer the voice-to-voice conversation, you can always call your insurance carrier’s customer service center to pay your bill. Just call the company’s billing number listed on your statement, and read your payment information over the phone. The convenience of this method depends on how your insurance company handles phone calls, and how busy they are. Some companies may have an automated menu you can pay your bill through, others might connect you with a representative immediately to pay, while others might keep you waiting on hold before they get to you. Also, many insurance companies charge a fee (usually $2.00 to $5.00) for paying over the phone. If you work with an insurance agency, it may be a better option to call your agent to pay and have them handle it instead. Online Through online pay, you can login to your insurance provider’s website every month and pay your bill with a card or your checking account. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create a username and password that you can use to access your account information and the online bill pay option each month. Many carriers also have apps, which make it easier to pay on your mobile devices. With these online payment portals, you generally have the option to save your payment information, so you can easily login and pay with just a few clicks each month. EFT/ACH For those who prefer convenience, you can easily pay online through Electronic funds transfer (EFT) or Automated Clearing House (ACH), without having to think about it each month. With both electronic payment methods, you can schedule a day every month that the payment will automatically withdraw. This works the same way as paying online, but you will select the option to have payments automatically withdrawn from your selected payment method each month. This method also saves you money ($50 – $100) by eliminating billing fees. Some policies may have restrictions: Keep in mind, all of these payment methods may not apply to all types of policies. For example, for workers compensation policies under $5,000, the policyholder must pay for the policy in full at the beginning of the term. For other types of policies, a deposit greater than 20% might be required. What comes next? It always feels great when you pay off your insurance policy … and then it renews again. Fortunately, if you work with us at Berry Insurance, we always make sure you are getting the coverage you need for the right price. (Sometimes this even means we can save you money on next year’s policy!) Generally, you don’t need to do much homework when renewing. We always reach out before renewal to conduct a review and make sure everything is accurate. But there should be some things you should be considering during renewal. Read more to find out what you need to know for your personal insurance renewal and commercial insurance renewal.
Online reviews are essential nowadays. With so much shopping transitioning into the online sphere, these reviews are one of the only ways you can make sure you are getting what you’re expecting. I know every time I consider buying something online, I first browse the reviews (specifically the ones with pictures). In fact, oftentimes we trust these reviews as much as we trust recommendations from people we know. So if your insurance agent pairs you with an insurance company that has not-so-great online reviews, what should you do? You trust your agent, but you are worried about having to deal with the issues you’ve read about in the reviews on Google or Facebook. At Berry Insurance, we work with several insurance carriers, all of which we trust, respect, and are happy to work with. However, if you look them up online, some have better reviews than others. Occasionally, when we pick the company we think is best for a client, they express concerns about some reviews they’ve seen online, and understandably so. We’re glad our clients are doing their homework and want to make sure they have great coverage, but we also know there is sometimes more to the story when it comes to bad reviews. So how much weight should you actually give these reviews? Before letting online reviews affect your decision, here are some questions to ask yourself: Who is writing the review? It is easy to hide behind your computer screen or pretend to be someone else when writing online reviews. The truth is, there is really no way of knowing who is behind them. It could be a perfectly reasonable person with a valid complaint. But it could be that company’s competition. It could be a disgruntled former employee. It could be a person with unreasonable expectations. It could be a person who misunderstood a situation. In the same vein, positive reviews can also be from employees, or family members of employees. You really never know who is behind them or what their experience was. Unfortunately, there is no way of validating these reviews, and there is no way of knowing how we would feel about the reviews if we knew the whole story. These reviews could be valid, but because you don’t know, you shouldn’t trust them with 100% certainty. What was the reviewer’s mood/motivation? How many times have you had a strong emotional response to something, only to feel different after cooling off or getting a good night of sleep? Oftentimes, when someone is upset about something, their first reaction is to go to the internet. The online reviews you read are often the result of a heat-of-the-moment impulse to vent about an issue, without taking into consideration the other side of the story. For most, feelings of anger tend to be more motivating than feelings of satisfaction. Those who are angry with a service are more likely to take to the internet than those who are pleased with it. So if you’re seeing some negative reviews on an insurance company, consider the motive. How consistent are the reviews? Again, because we don’t know who is writing negative reviews, or what their motives are, it’s hard to know how much to trust them. One way to determine how much to trust negative reviews is to observe the frequency and consistency of the reviews. If a company has hundreds of great reviews, and one bad one, I wouldn’t let it concern you too much. It could be from a fluke situation or untrustworthy source. If a company has a bunch of negative reviews, all with different complaints, that might send up some red flags. The number of bad reviews is concerning, but if they’re all saying different things, it’s hard to determine if the company does have any specific, widespread issues. If a company has several bad reviews, all with the same complaint, you can probably take them seriously. Also consider how many total reviews these companies have. Some companies make a push to get positive reviews online, which can help water down the negative reviews. Bad reviews might be more noticeable for companies who have less reviews overall. How important are the issues to you? No company is perfect. We all have our issues once in a while despite trying our best. When selecting a company to work with, you have to weigh your priorities. Review the actual issues that are brought up in the reviews … Are wait times long? Do representatives never call you back? Are representatives rude? Are services costly? Does the company donate to organizations you don’t support? Consider the issues and decide whether they are severe enough for you to refrain from working with them. Also, consider if these issues are avoidable. Do other insurance companies not have any of these problems? Sometimes, insurance companies have to comply with new laws or regulations in the industry, which may not be welcomed by the clients. Is the company working to correct these issues? Online reviews are generally one-sided, but make efforts to see if you can get a little bit of the other side of the story. Is the insurance company responding to these online reviews? Are they apologizing? Are they taking responsibility? Are they offering an explanation or solution? Check their website and social media as well. Maybe they’re acknowledging that they are going through some kind of change that is temporarily increasing wait times or causing some sort of issue. If the issue is temporary, that should put your mind at ease a little bit. If the company acknowledges there are issues and are pledging to work on them, you should feel confident that the company is genuine, transparent and cares about its clients. Can my agent remedy the issues? One important thing to keep in mind when considering insurance companies is that an agent can help. Independent agents (like us at Berry Insurance) do not work for the insurance company you have your policy with, they just work with that insurance company on your behalf. If you’re hesitant about working with an insurance company because of their reviews, ask yourself, “Does the fact that my agent will be the one working directly with the company help?” At Berry Insurance, we vet all carriers we work with. We have relationships with them and in many cases, have been collaborating with them for years. We don’t place any client’s insurance with a company we don’t trust. By working with an agent like us, you are eliminating your need to work with the insurance company directly. If there is an issue like one of the ones you read about in the reviews, we are most likely the ones who are dealing with it. If there is some widespread issue that makes you uncomfortable with providing business to a specific company, then by all means, refuse the business; but if the issues you read about with the reviews are something you don’t mind so much as long as you aren’t directly dealing with them, then don’t sign the insurance company off so soon. We know online reviews are important. In fact, we encourage you to look at online reviews (especially when choosing an insurance agency). We’re just saying, don’t put too much stock into what reviews say without some further consideration of who is writing the review, what the other side of the story might be, what the issues actually are, and if there is a pattern of issues. In addition to reviews, there are several other factors to consider when selecting an insurance agency or carrier. Check out this article What to Look for When Selecting an Insurance Agency or Company.
Every business has a personality. If we could describe Berry Insurance’s personality in three words, they would be fun, modern, and educational. And just like in life outside of business, every personality meshes well with certain personalities, and not as well with others — it’s just how life works. As a reflection of this truth of life, we don’t end up working with every prospect that walks through our door or gives us a call. We’ve been in business since 1922 — by this point, we know who melds well with our personality and who might be better suited for another insurance agency, and we don’t fight for sales with businesses or individuals who we know won’t yield a long-term relationship or positive experience. Still, we have a vast array of both personal and business clients — from single young adults, to families, to retired individuals or couples, to sole proprietors, to small businesses, to large-scale organizations in diverse industries. We’ve served them all. But, even though our personal and business clients are all very diverse, the qualities that will yield the most successful relationships are all the same. We’ll get into those qualities we appreciate in both business and personal insurance qualities below. If all the points we’re about to discuss apply to you, you can be sure we will have a mutually beneficial partnership. If not: hey, don’t worry! We value each of our clients for different reasons and provide the same level of service to everyone. However, if you don’t already work with us and you can’t resonate with any of these qualities, then chances are, we just aren’t going to be the best fit together. Qualities that yield the most valuable relationships Of course, there are many qualities we appreciate about several of our clients. Maybe you always crack jokes when we talk to you, maybe you send a box of chocolate to us every holiday season (trust us, everybody in the office loves you for that), maybe you always inquire about our Chief Barketing Officer, Shredder. But, we can’t get into every detail today. Today, we’re going to touch upon just the six fundamental qualities that always make for a great relationship between us and our clients. People with a positive attitude At Berry Insurance, our jobs can sometimes be complicated. Insurance certainly isn’t the easiest field to work in. We deal with challenges all the time. But the secret to why we come into work eager every day and leave satisfied is that we don’t dwell on these challenges for too long. We know nothing productive comes from complaining. Don’t get us wrong, we’re human and get frustrated and might vent to our bosses Kaitlyn and Chris for a couple minutes, but then we get right back to trying to solve the problem because we know it’s not going to go away on its own. When the problem is resolved, we might even joke about it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We thoroughly appreciate when clients have the same outlook as us in this regard. A lot of times, we only hear from our clients when they need to use their insurance, which means they are probably going through some kind of hardship or crisis. They’re angry, they’re sad, they’re frustrated, they’re scared — this list of possible emotions goes on and on. So while we certainly don’t expect our clients to be chipper every time they talk to us, we want them to be able to trust that we’re always here to help as best as we possibly can. The process is only going to go much smoother the more effectively we communicate and collaborate. People like us When I asked around at Berry Insurance, “What type of person is your ideal client?”, many of our agents had the same response: “People like me.” At the risk of sounding conceited, hear us out! What types of people do you tend to relate to most? When you consider their values, goals, and priorities, you’ll probably realize they align with yours. The truth is, as humans, it’s much easier to make a connection with someone who you can relate to. At Berry Insurance, most of our employees are in their 30s and 40s and are mainly focused on their jobs, families and home lives. We love working with these types of people, because we understand them! We know their values, motivations, and struggles. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean we want all of our clients to be in their 30s/40s with a family and home. Maybe you’re in your 60s and are now watching the family you raised start to raise families of their own. Maybe you are in your 20s, dreaming about your future home and family. The point is, you have the same values as us, and you understand where we’re coming from when we try to match you with the right insurance for you. We love working with people who see the value in what we do … people who want to understand their insurance and make sure they have all the right coverages to protect their families. People who are honest and transparent Some people are private and we understand that. There are a lot of scams out there and people are becoming more and more hesitant about sharing personal information. However, as insurance agents, that makes our jobs very hard. In order to determine the insurance best for you and obtain a quote, there are certain pieces of information we just need. We want our clients to know we are a source of trust. They should have no problem providing the personal information needed to get an insurance quote or claim started, or even confiding with us about their personal struggles or fears that could alter their insurance needs. If you are not willing to share information with us, we probably aren’t the right fit for you (and you’re probably going to have a hard time finding an insurance agency who is the right fit). But, if you’re open and transparent from the get-go, working together should be a breeze. People who are not just price shopping Just because we don’t usually work with people who are just shopping for the best price doesn’t necessarily mean our insurance is more expensive than other companies’. As an agency, we can price shop for you between our several carriers to get you the best deal. But, in our experience, usually people who are just shopping for the lowest price are not looking for the best coverage. They also usually want a quote instantly, and don’t want to take a few minutes to talk about their specific needs. Let me tell you about an inquiry we get at Berry Insurance every couple weeks or so. “I just got an insurance quote from X-Company for X-Price. Can you beat it?” Our response? Usually something like this: “In order to give you an accurate quote from our carriers for insurance meeting your specific needs, we will need to have a conversation and learn some details about your business, home, car, etc. If you have some time to dive in a bit further, we would love to give you a quote. If you are not willing to, then we probably aren’t the right fit for you.” Many insurance companies provide quotes based on minimal information, designating applicants the state minimum insurance limits (which usually aren’t nearly enough). Our process is much more thorough, and designed to provide the correct amount of coverage. We will never under-cover somebody. We can’t in good conscience write coverage that we know isn’t enough. Our goal is to protect our clients and we never want to be responsible for inadequate coverage. With that being said, we also never inflate coverage. Like we mentioned, we like working with clients similar to us, and we try to provide every client with the coverage that we would write for our own families or businesses. So if you want to work with us, it should be because you value the best coverage at the best price, not just any coverage at the lowest possible price. People who are willing to learn Insurance is complicated, and while we don’t expect learning about insurance to be your full-time job (that’s ours), we love to work with clients who are receptive to learning about why certain coverages or coverage limits might be right or wrong for them. We never want you to feel like you’re getting ripped off. We never want you to be unaware of what your insurance does or doesn’t cover. We want you to understand why you might need a certain coverage or a higher coverage limit. This goes even beyond our initial conversation. Every year, we have a conversation with you during a coverage review to make sure nothing has changed that would affect your insurance. During these conversations, we might have suggestions or recommendations for better coverage. You don’t need to take all of these recommendations (we know you don’t want to be spending any more money on insurance), but it’s important that you’re at least listening and willing to talk about it. We would feel guilty if you weren’t fully covered during a claim and we knew we had a solution for you that we hadn’t offered. Our philosophy lies deeply in education. We truly believe those who are more educated about their coverage will feel more confident in it and more able to protect themselves from certain claims. Long story short — we love when our clients are willing to learn with us! People who are responsive This last one goes without saying, but of course we have some of the best relationships with our clients who are responsive. Whether it’s paying bills on time, or responding quickly to any inquiries that may come up, it just simply makes our jobs easier if we hear back from you right away so we can resolve your issues quickly and get your life back to normal. Relationships are a two-way street, and even though we are here to serve you, it makes us feel appreciated and the process goes more smoothly for both parties when our clients are willing to communicate with us effectively. Plus, we make it easy for you with options including phone, email, video, or online chat. Let’s work together on your insurance We don’t want to sound picky. As long as you’re willing to work with us and be honest with us, we would love to add you to the family. But, if you have all the qualities above, bonus points! You can be sure you’ve found the right fit in an insurance company and can count on a long, successful relationship. But enough about us! Now you know what types of clients we like working with, but do you have an idea of what type of insurance agent or carrier is best for you? Check out this article What to Look for When Selecting an Insurance Agency or Company.
Unless you’re new to business ownership, you are probably familiar with workers compensation insurance audits. But, if you’re like most people, you’re probably still confused by them. The annual audit can often be very complex, stressful and time consuming for many businesses. However, understanding how your policy premium is determined, what is needed for the audit and how to avoid any mistakes along the way is critical to avoiding costly overcharges. Fortunately for you, here at Berry Insurance, we have been through it a couple times (more like a couple thousand). We’re here to simplify the worker’s compensation audit for you, explaining what it is, and how you can prepare so you’ll have an error-proof audit experience. What is a workers comp audit? At the start of your policy, your worker’s compensation premium is estimated based on your projected exposures for the policy term. When the policy expires, you’ll be asked to provide your actual exposures for the policy term. This is your audit. It is designed so you do not overpay (or underpay) for your coverage. In other words, it makes sure you only pay for the exposures you actually had. This is a good thing! We love accuracy, don’t we? Even though the process is beneficial, doesn’t mean it is not confusing. There are a lot of materials to prepare and a lot of mistakes to avoid. So, let’s get into the 5 steps you should take to prepare for your audit. Step 1: Understand How Your Premium is Determined Before your audit, you’ll want to make sure you know what your premium is, and how it was determined. There are several factors that play into determining your cost. Gross payroll First and foremost, you will be charged for the gross payroll of your employees during the policy period. Each employee will be associated with a 4-digit code that represents their primary job duties. For example code 8810 is used for clerical work while code 5190 is for electrical work. Each code is assigned a rate, which is determined by the State, and may be adjusted annually. Location Your policy is also rated based on the states in which you perform work or have locations. You will want to be sure to keep a detailed payroll record of the work performed in each state, by employee. Owners, officers, partners, or members of an LLC will have their payroll capped at a payroll amount as determined by the state, which also typically is adjusted annually. And depending on how your corporate structure is set up, owners or officers will either be automatically covered on the policy, or will need to make a written election to be included. Previous claims experience Your policy also may have a charge (or credit) for your previous claims experience. They determine this charge or credit based on something called an Experience Modification Factor. Your experience mod. is calculated six months prior to the start of your policy, and unfortunately, can also be calculated incorrectly. Your insurance agent should be monitoring this calculation and confirming its accuracy before your policy is put in place. Fees and assessments Lastly, there are a few fees and assessments that are charged as part of the policy. These are things such as terrorism, expense constant, and Department of Industrial Accident assessments. These fees are outside of your control, but it’s important to note that while they are included in your overall costs, they won’t change by much as a result of the audit. These factors are all calculated at the beginning of your workers compensation policy to determine your premium. Step 2: Prepare Your Documents As soon as your policy starts, you’ll want to begin compiling the necessary documents to complete your workers compensation audit. Here are the documents you’ll typically be asked to provide: Last four quarterly 941s Any 1099s issued Payroll reports or spreadsheet showing individual employee names, job duties, states worked, and gross payroll for the policy period Overtime pay, if any List of all owners/officers names, titles, job duties, gross payroll, ownership percentage and # of working weeks List of subcontractor names, job duties and payroll during the policy period Certificates of Insurance (COI) for all subcontracted labor — Note: If the owner is the person doing the work, make sure that the COI states the owner has coverage for himself/herself or that the COI indicates that officers are not excluded Step 3: Avoid Common Mistakes Unfortunately, mistakes happen. Even if you have all the documentation ready ahead of the audit, there are still ways in which your audit can be calculated incorrectly. Through human error, the auditor could assign the wrong code to an employee, forget to take out overtime, charge for a subcontractor they shouldn’t have, etc. To avoid this, be sure you have the following organized before the audit: Double-check all your COIs for subcontractors to make sure that none are without coverage, or are for dates that don’t include your policy term. If that is the case, request updated COIs immediately. Make sure your payroll records do NOT include any “excluded remuneration” – overtime, rewards, tips, severance, officer exemptions, payments for active military duty, etc. With these considerations, your audit should (in most cases) be calculated correctly. Step 4: Schedule/complete your audit appointment Hopefully your audit will be completed electronically or over the phone, and you’ll be able to expedite the process. But, if you have to schedule an in-person audit, there are a few extra steps you should take to make sure the process goes extra smoothly: If you can’t be available to meet with the auditor, assign a knowledgeable and friendly person to work with the auditor. This should be an employee, not an independent bookkeeper or accountant. Treat the auditor as a welcomed guest. Set them up in a clean, clutter-free work space. Do not portray this visit as an inconvenience. Present the auditor with printed copies of all your records. Do not offer any gratuitous information. Answer questions specifically and without elaboration. Do not allow the auditor to roam freely or unattended around your office or facility. Try and schedule the audit for the afternoon, preferably on a Friday. We know some of these suggestions might seem strange because if the point of an audit is to simply make sure you paid for the right workers compensation, why should how the auditor feels at the appointment affect your audit? Well, to be honest, it shouldn’t, but …it could. Creating a simple, stress-free environment for your auditor will just help the process go more smoothly. Plus it’s just courteous! Step 5: Obtain the Auditor Worksheets Even if all the steps above are completed successfully, mistakes can still happen! Why? Well, partially due to human error, but also in part because many auditors do not work for the insurance company, but rather a third-party. More often than not they are not well-versed in classification rules or state-specific coverages, resulting in costly mistakes for you. The only way to accurately confirm that your audit was completed correctly is to obtain a copy of the auditor’s worksheets. You should ask the auditor for their business card, and request a copy of their worksheets before they leave. This step is critical as their worksheets cannot be released to your insurance agent. So if you don’t request them, you might not ever see them. Review the auditor worksheets to make sure everything seems correct. If anything seems questionable, consult your insurance agent. Get through your audit with ease: We know that audit time of the year can be stressful. But if you understand your premium, keep the required information organized, anticipate common mistakes, and navigate the appointment properly, the process can actually be fairly painless! Of course, if you have any questions or concerns about your business specifically, your agent can help. Feel free to reach out to us so we can help you feel even more confident about your upcoming audit. Also, we have something else that might be able to help! Download this checklist to make sure you have navigated the audit process correctly from start to finish!