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Real People, Real Risks, Real Results

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Personal Auto | Individuals & Families | Condo Insurance | Learning Center | Home Insurance | car insurance | Pet Insurance | Renters Insurance | homeowners insurance | individuals and families | Life Insurance

By: Corin Cook
June 30th, 2020

Did you know June 28th is National Insurance Awareness Day? OK, OK — we realize not everybody is as insurance-obsessed as us, and you probably didn’t know that. But here at Berry Insurance, basically every day is insurance awareness day … we practically live and breathe it. But, we understand that most of the population doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, your insurance is probably something you aren’t thinking about very often at all. However, our lives are always changing. That’s kind of the point of life. So you need to make sure you’re keeping up with those changes and adjusting your insurance accordingly.  Let’s talk about why you should be reviewing your home/renters/condo and auto insurance annually, and what you should be considering when reviewing it. Reasons to review your insurance: For most personal insurance, 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 in a year. We’ll get into some of those potential changes below, but even the smallest development in your life could cause a gap in coverage. Annual reviews will examine all areas of your life to make sure you have the proper coverages and limits on your home/renters/condo and car insurance. Imagine for example, that you added a pool to your property this year. If you renewed your policy without adding coverage for your pool, a number of things could go wrong. A storm comes and damages your pool? Insurance might not cover that damage. One of your children’s friends gets hurt in the pool? You might not have the proper coverage to pay for the medical bills. Annual reviews will also identify if your life changes warrant any new types of insurance, such as life insurance. You might be missing out on savings Aside from not having the proper coverage, by not reviewing your personal insurance, you might actually be paying more than you need to for this coverage. Reviewing your current situation will help your insurance agent or carrier make sure you are paying the right price for your coverage. There are also a number of discounts you can take advantage of to save on personal insurance, so during your annual review, your agent can make sure you are getting all applicable discounts. 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 life changes that can influence your insurance. You’ve made changes to your home or property Remodels, additions, decks/sheds/pools, kids playsets, trampolines, etc. — all of these changes could affect your insurance in a number of ways. You probably put a lot of time and money into these changes, so you’ll certainly want to make sure you have proper coverage for them. Also, items causing additional risks like pools, playsets, and trampolines need to be factored into your premium. It may seem like a pain, but if your insurance company thinks you’re more likely to have a claim due to one of these items, you may have to pay a little more.  In fact, certain insurance carriers will not insure homes with trampolines because of the risk, so you may even need to change your carrier. You’ve made a big purchase If you’ve made a big purchase or inherited an expensive item, you may need to raise your limits on the personal property section of your home insurance, or schedule the item on your policy. Scheduling an item provides the security of knowing that item will be covered in full, and not limited by personal property restrictions, because oftentimes, your home insurance will limit the amount the insurance company will pay for certain categories of items.  For example, if you have a $5,000 jewelry limit on your policy, but have $10,000 worth of jewelry, you can schedule the items of jewelry to ensure they would receive full coverage if there was a claim. Your marital status has changed If you get married (or divorced), that is something your insurance company should know about. Sometimes, marital status can increase or decrease your insurance rates (specifically auto).  You’ve had a baby It goes without saying when you have a baby, your life changes a lot, so your insurance agent should know about it. You may want to increase your home insurance limits to include all your new baby-related belongings. A new baby is also a great time to make sure you buy life insurance to initiate a financial safety net for your family. You got a new pet Even if your pet is well behaved and wouldn’t hurt a fly, your insurance company will consider it an additional risk.  Be sure to inform your agent of your new pet so they can factor it into your policy and make sure you have adequate coverage. It may also be a great time to consider pet insurance. If you work with Berry Insurance, our Chief Barketing Officer, Shredder will welcome your pet to the agency by sending a special gift. You’ve added or removed a driver Depending on their driving records and each insurance company’s individual algorithm, adding or removing a driver from your car insurance policy can affect your premium rates in either direction.  You’ve added new uses to your vehicle Is anyone on your auto policy newly using a vehicle for work? Did anyone start offering ride sharing services like Uber/Lyft. If that’s the case, your car insurance policy will need to include an indication that a car is being used for business use. If not, an incident that occurs while the driver is technically working may not be covered. You’ve purchased a new vehicle Have you purchased any antique/classic cars or motorcycles? Have you purchased any recreational vehicles? (travel trailers, RVs, campers, golf carts)? While you may not immediately realize it, all types of vehicles need to be added to your insurance policy. Without being included on your policy, any incidents occurring to or from that vehicle won’t be covered. 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 life 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 life changes occur. Let us do the thinking for you We know you’re busy. It might feel like trying to remember to think about one more thing every year could send you off your rocker. 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 personal insurance.  

Blog Feature

Personal Auto | Individuals & Families | Learning Center | individuals and families

By: Corin Cook
June 25th, 2020

So, your car insurance policy just renewed and something seems a little off … your premium is a lot higher than it was last year. Nothing has changed on your policy, so why should you be paying more? At Berry Insurance, we get your frustration. Nobody wants to be paying more for a service they used to pay less for, but unfortunately, that’s sometimes how insurance works for us all.  Small increases are usually normal. Many external factors cause rates to inflate annually, but if the increase is significant, there might be other factors playing into it.  More than ever, auto insurance rates are increasing, and for many, the reason they’ve increased might surprise you. Out-of-state violations are just being processed Last summer, a review by transportation officials revealed that the Massachusetts RMV failed to process thousands of out-of-state driving violations. These violations mailed to MA from other states quite literally piled up, sitting in over 50 boxes at an RMV office. Since then, the RMV has been working to correct the backlog and as a result, Massachusetts drivers are just starting to see the consequences of an out-of-state violation that may have occurred years ago. When drivers commit an offense in another state, Massachusetts penalizes them as if they had committed the offense in Massachusetts.  As a result, drivers who were cited in other states may be noticing their policies increase by hundreds of dollars, depending on the offense. Others are having their licenses revoked altogether for more severe offenses. Could you be affected? It appears the RMV workers stopped processing the violations in March 2018, so if you had an out-of-state violation after that time and weren’t penalized immediately, you may be seeing your insurance rising once it’s renewed (or occasionally mid-term if the carrier receives a re-inquiry request from RMV). Didn’t have an out-of-state violation? If it doesn’t seem like the above situation pertains to you, your car insurance cost increase probably had a different cause. For more information, check out this article Why Do My Car Insurance Rates Keep Going Up? We’ll also summarize some potential causes below. Life changes:  Some life changes, such as moving or adding/removing drivers from your policy can affect the price of your car insurance in either direction. Lost Discounts: Many insurance companies offer safe driver discounts, loyalty discounts, multi-vehicle discounts, multi-policy discounts, and more. If you were once eligible for those discounts, and now are not, you’ll likely experience an increase in your car insurance rates.  Changing payment plan: Paying in full, or using ACH or EFT to pay for car insurance can save you money on monthly billing fees. But if you remove that payment method, you will definitely see an increase in your monthly bill. More technology: Cars are more advanced today. And that technology continues to expand every year.  Things like cameras, safety sensors, keyless start and bluetooth help make our lives easier. But they also make auto repair costs higher. To replace a bumper used to cost a few hundred dollars. Today, with backup cameras and sensors, it can easily cost thousands.  Even something simple like a windshield replacement costs more due to higher quality glass.  To offset the increase in repair costs, the insurance companies raise rates to try and recoup some of their extra expenses. More accidents/claims: It’s an ugly truth, but unfortunately, car accidents are on the rise.  Whether it is because there are more people driving, or there are more distractions, with more claims for injuries or damage than ever, car insurance companies have to raise costs to offset the money they are paying out  on claims. Rising medical costs: As medical costs rise, the costs paid by insurance companies for claim injuries rise also. To help absorb some of these increases, insurance companies will raise auto insurance rates. What to do if your rate increased? If you were impacted by an out-of-state driving incident, fortunately those violations will drop off your policy and the price will decrease again. In Massachusetts, violations drop off your record in 6 years after the date it is surcharged on your policy. Aside from that, there are several other ways to save on car insurance.  Bundle policies Many insurance companies offer incentives for the more business you provide them. By bundling your car insurance with other policies (such as homeowners/rental) within the same insurance company, you may be able to save approximately 5-25 % on your policies. Insure more than one car with the same policy or carrier (multi-car discount) Similar to bundling policies, you can also earn discounts for insuring more than one vehicle in the same household.  Pay via EFT/ACH or pay ahead Paying for your auto insurance through electronic funds transfer (EFT), automated clearing house (ACH), or paying the premium up front can eliminate billing fees. If you’re comfortable with your payment automatically withdrawing from your bank account each month, or if you can afford to front the premium, these methods can save you both time and money. Choose a higher deductible plan Of course, you can also lower your premium by selecting an auto insurance plan with a higher deductible.  Doing this means you’ll be paying less per month, but will have to pay more if you get in an accident, so if you select a higher-deductible plan, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money set aside in case you need to cover damages from an accident. Ask your agent about any discounts You can get a discount for doing the following: Being a member of an association (such as AAA, AARP, alumni associations, wholesale clubs, military organizations, honor societies, and more) Giving to a charity  Getting good grades (insurance companies reward both high school and college drivers for earning good grades) Being a safe driver (drivers without accidents or violations for a certain period – usually five years – can save hundreds on their insurance through a safe driver or good driver discount) Ask your agent if you are eligible for any discounts that aren’t already applied to your policy. Remove Optional Coverages Many insurance plans include optional coverages intended to provide services in specific scenarios. If these coverages do not apply to you, or if you have another service that provides similar coverage, you should not be paying the extra amount for them. Collision: Collision insurance offers coverage to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident. If your vehicle is older and the value is low enough that you could afford to repair or replace it if it were damaged or destroyed, you may want to remove collision insurance.  Keep in mind, if you are leasing your vehicle, or if it isn’t paid off, collision coverage is typically required. Substitute Transportation:  Substitute transportation insurance will pay for at least a portion of the cost of a rental vehicle if you need one due to a covered loss while it is being repaired or replaced (if you have collision insurance).  If you have an alternative vehicle you can use, or if you are able to go without your car for a period of time, you could remove substitute transportation. Roadside/towing: Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance or towing insurance if your car breaks down on the side of the road and you are unable to get it to a mechanic. If you have both roadside/towing and AAA, you are essentially paying for the same coverage twice, so choose one or the other. Enroll in telematics Through the use of technology, insurance companies are using tracking devices to monitor driver data including speed, mileage, driving time, hard brakes, and more to determine if you are eligible for a discount. Pay-as-you-drive insurance models using telematics, such as Drive with Safety or N&Drive through Norfolk & Dedham, monitor driving habits to offer discounts up to 30% to cautious or low-mileage drivers.  Telematics can not increase your premium. At worst, your premium will stay the same, but you could get a discount. Understand your car insurance costs We know you probably aren’t excited to pay your car insurance bill every month, especially if it is higher than you expected it to be. Unfortunately, auto insurance is just one of those things you don’t want to buy, but are required to have. Whether an out-of-state driving incident just caught up to you, you had a life change, or outside factors impacted you, you can’t control your rising insurance costs, but there are some things you can do to manage it. If you aren’t familiar with insurance in general, it might be difficult to know if you are paying a fair price for car insurance. Check out this article to dive deeper into what car insurance costs.  

Blog Feature

Personal Auto | Individuals & Families | Learning Center | car insurance | water damage | individuals and families

By: Corin Cook
June 24th, 2020

Of all the damage that could happen to our vehicles, we usually don’t expect it to be caused by water. Well … it can happen. And we sure hope you didn’t come across this article because it happened to you. But if it did, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Whether it’s flooding, hail, a slow leak, or an accidental window left open, At Berry Insurance, we’ve had plenty of clients ask us about water damage to their cars. So what’s the answer then? Is it covered? Well, it depends. Mainly, it depends on two factors: if you have the right type of coverage, and what caused water damage. Let’s get into it. Do you have comprehensive coverage? When someone asks us whether or not water damage to their vehicle is covered, the first thing we do is check if they have comprehensive coverage on their auto insurance policy.  Comprehensive insurance is an optional part of your Massachusetts auto insurance policy. It covers your vehicle from damages resulting from incidents other than collisions.  These situations include: Vandalism Theft Wind  Flood Fallen objects (such as tree limbs) Hail  Pest infestation Collision with animals Comprehensive also covers glass losses, and in MA, glass is covered with no deductible (unless some unscrupulous insurance agent includes a glass deductible on a policy). Water damage caused by one of the above incidents is covered by comprehensive insurance. If it has another cause, it’s probably not covered, but we’ll get into that more below. Comprehensive insurance is generally very affordable, ranging from $30 to $200 annually, so we always recommend our clients opt for it (car glass can be damaged easily, so it’s probably worth it for the glass coverage alone). However, some people still do choose to exclude the coverage. If this is the case for you, you will not be covered for water damage. What caused the damage? Just because you have comprehensive coverage on your car insurance policy doesn’t mean you are guaranteed coverage for every water damage situation. Let’s get into some specific scenarios and discuss whether or not they are covered. What car water damage is covered: As we already mentioned, water damage caused by situations outlined under comprehensive insurance are all covered. Some of these include: Flood: If your car is parked in or driving through a flooded area, the water could cause significant damage to your car. If flood waters affect the mechanics or interior of your car, your auto insurance will pay for the damage. Hail: Although we don’t see it very often around here, severe enough hail can greatly damage your vehicle. If hail breaks through your windshield and causes water damage within your car, that damage (as well as the glass damage from the hail) will be covered under comprehensive insurance. Fallen objects: Whether it be a tree branch, rock, scrap of metal, or any other object, damage from fallen objects is covered under comprehensive insurance. This includes any damage from water that entered the car due to the damage. Vandalism: If your car is vandalized, the damage (including water damage) is covered. This could either be from rain water entering the car through broken windows, or from intentional use of liquids by the vandals. Either way, you’re covered.  Keep in mind: before your car insurance pays the claim, you will have to pay your deductible. The insurance company will also only compensate up to your coverage limits. What car water damage isn’t covered: We know mistakes happen, but oftentimes in insurance, if you’re at fault, or if you neglected to keep up on routine maintenance, related issues are not covered. Some of these situations include: Slow leaks: Slow leaks caused by lack of maintenance are usually not covered by auto insurance. Because the leak could have been easily fixed before it caused any damage, insurance companies will not pay for this type of claim. Exterior damage: Sometimes, rain can cause rusting to the body of your vehicle.  Unfortunately, this is considered natural wear and tear and is not covered by insurance. Windows left open: It’s happened to the best of us. We have a lot going on in our days and sometimes it’s easy to forget you left your car windows open. Unfortunately, if this is the case, the damage won’t be covered by insurance. Stay dry and protected: We hope that you never encounter water damage in your car, but hey, if you do, there’s hope that your car can be returned to normal without a significant payment on your part. In general, most accidental causes of water damage to vehicles are covered under comprehensive insurance. While there are some situations when water damage won’t be covered by your car insurance, most of those can be avoided with preventative measures. One of the most important steps is to ensure you have active comprehensive coverage. Reach out to your agent to make sure you are covered for water damage. When it comes to car insurance, we know it can sometimes be difficult to assess which coverages you need and how much of each you should have. While we almost always recommend having comprehensive coverage, there are some other areas that aren’t as black and white. Check out this article: How Much Car Insurance Do I Need (And Why the State Minimum Isn’t Enough).  

Blog Feature

Business Insurance | Learning Center | Workers Compensation | nanny insurance

By: Corin Cook
June 18th, 2020

It’s that time of year again! The kids are out of school for the summer and your daily schedule is about to look different. For many, this means it is time to hire a nanny or an au pair. But did you know if you have a child caretaker, you need nanny insurance? The term nanny insurance can be confusing because it doesn’t have defined boundaries. Massachusetts nanny insurance is a group of policies aimed to protect nannies and their employers from work-related risks. Many of these policies are optional and can be purchased depending on individual needs and risks. However, one of these policies, workers compensation, is not optional. In Massachusetts, if you employ one or more nannies or au pairs, you will need workers compensation insurance. Don’t know where to start? That’s where we come in. At Berry Insurance, we help several clients apply for nanny insurance, and we can help you prepare as well. In this article, we will discuss Massachusetts workers compensation and what you need to apply for it so you can protect yourself and your nanny.  What is workers compensation and what does it cover? Workers’ compensation insurance covers medical payments and a portion of lost wages for employees who become injured or ill due to work-related causes. It also protects the employer from liability for these work-related injuries or illnesses. So how does this apply to having a nanny or au pair? Well actually, it works the same as it does in a more traditional work environment. If a nanny becomes injured or ill while working, whether it be from slipping and falling, heavy lifting, being exposed to chemicals, being cut by an item, etc. workers compensation would pay the nanny for related medical expenses and lost wages if they cannot work.  In Massachusetts, all businesses (this includes individuals who employ nannies) are required to have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Without coverage, employees could sue their employer for injuries or illness sustained on the job. What will I need for my nanny insurance (workers compensation) application? If you’re applying for nanny insurance, you’ll need to fill out a workers compensation insurance application. The application is the same whether you are a sole-proprietor or a large-scale company, so you might find some confusing terminology that doesn’t apply to you. Let’s go over the information you will actually need to provide to get nanny insurance. Details about the applicant (that’s you!) As you would expect for any application, you will begin by providing basic information about yourself. This will usually include: Name Address Phone number Federal Employer Identification Number (TAX-ID) In addition to the basic information, you will also need to provide a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).  That’s right, if you pay employees, you are considered an employer and have to file taxes as one. As an employer of a nanny or au pair, you are required to have a FEIN, and you cannot get insurance without one. Don’t have an FEIN? Don’t worry, this part of the application sometimes throws people off, but fortunately, it is very simple to get an ID by applying online, by phone, through mail, or through fax. Once you are appointed a FEIN through the IRS, you can continue the application process. Effective date: When applying for nanny insurance, you will also be asked for an effective date. This simply means the day your nanny is expected to start working. Has your nanny already started working? Not to worry. We often have people come to us who already have a nanny working for them, unaware that they needed the insurance. In this case, you’ll just want to make the insurance effective immediately, so plug in today’s date. Number of nannies You will also need to indicate the number of nannies or au pairs you have working for you. This helps the insurance company determine the cost of the nanny insurance. For each nanny that works for you, the base charge is $141 per year. (With fees and state assessment charges, the total cost for one nanny on a $1 million policy is $285.) Insurance history (workers compensation) Before approving your new workers compensation, the insurance company wants to look at your insurance history to make sure you don’t have any outstanding premiums. If you’ve had workers compensation insurance in the past three years, you will need to provide details about it, including the insurance company, policy number, effective dates, and premium. Seperate form (if you own a business) While this doesn’t apply to most people, if you own a business, you will need to take another step. You will need to fill out some additional paperwork outlining details about your current business and insurance. While your business may seem irrelevant to your nanny insurance, the insurance company wants to make sure you have no outstanding premiums and that everything is filed accordingly with the state. Miscellaneous “yes” or “no” questions Like we said earlier, you are filling out the same workers compensation application that any business is, so you will have to check either “yes” or “no” on many questions that may not even seem to apply to you at all. We’ll give you a hint here: you are most likely checking “no” for most of the questions since they apply to other types of businesses, but read each carefully and check off accordingly. If you are unsure if one of these items might apply to you, your insurance agent can help.  Has the employer’s coverage, either voluntary or assigned risk, recently terminated or expired? Have you received any offers for voluntary coverage? Is there any unpaid workers’ compensation premium due from you or any other commonly owned enterprise? Does the employer have any outstanding audits or inspections on a prior workers’ compensation policy? Has an audit been scheduled? Was the applicant self-insured within the last twelve months or was the applicant’s expiring policy subject to the Premium Determination Endorsement – Former Self-Insurers 1? Has the employer received a Stop Work Order from the DIA? Is the employer in bankruptcy? Does this entity or any other commonly owned entity have operations in states other than MA? Has there been a name change within the last five years? Has there been a sale, transfer or conveyance of ownership interest within the last five years? Did the applicant purchase or otherwise acquire the physical assets of another entity whose operations they took over within the last five years? Have the owners or officers ever had ownership interest in any other entity, either currently or previously existing? Is it anticipated that subcontracted labor will be utilized during the policy term? Do you use independent contractors? Does the employer lease employees to other businesses? Does the employer provide employees to other businesses but not consider their arrangements to be employee leasing arrangements in accordance with 211 CMR 111.00? Does the employer lease employees from or regularly have temporary employees supplied to them from another business? Does the employer operate a trucking or delivery business? Does the employer operate as a general or subcontractor in commercial or residential construction operations? If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, the insurance company may reach out to you to ask for some additional information. Pick your coverage limits: When applying for workers compensation nanny insurance, you will also need to select your coverage limits.  The standard policy offers a $100,000 limit for each accident, a $500,000 limit for the entire policy, and a $100,000 limit for each employee. However, we always recommend the maximum limits ($1 million for each coverage). This policy provides a lot more protection for only about an extra $70 per year. What happens after I apply? After you fill out your application, your agent will submit it to the state, wait for approval and take your payment (in full, checking account only). Typically, this process takes two days. Once approved, you’re officially protected and ready to start working with your nanny! If at any point you no longer have a nanny or au pair, you can cancel your policy, but unfortunately, you probably won’t get any refund. Protect your nanny and yourself: We know when it comes to your childcare plans, protecting your child is at the forefront of your focus (understandably so). But don’t forget to protect the person you’re hiring to care for your children, as well as yourself. Having workers’ compensation for your nanny is not only required, but also critical in ensuring your nanny is covered in the case of an accident, and doesn’t come after you for payment.  While you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to ensure extra protection. Read this article to assess your risks and see if other, optional nanny insurance policies might be right for you.  

Blog Feature

Personal Auto | Individuals & Families | Learning Center | individuals and families

By: Corin Cook
June 16th, 2020

There isn’t much more frustrating than paying for something you aren’t using.  If you have a car you aren’t driving right now, you know what I mean.  Maybe your family has switched to using only one car during the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders. Maybe your car is currently broken down and not being fixed for a while. Maybe you just have a second “for fun” vehicle you aren’t driving right now (good for you). Regardless of the reason, you aren’t saving much money by keeping that car off the road. In addition to paying to keep your vehicle up and running, you are also paying to insure it, even if you know you don’t need that insurance. At Berry Insurance, we know this is a common scenario right now. We have had many clients reaching out, asking what they should do about their insurance if they aren’t using a car right now.  If you can relate, you might think it may just make sense to cancel insurance for a car you aren’t driving, right?  Well, it’s not that simple. Let’s look at your insurance options if you aren’t driving using a vehicle right now. Do I need insurance? The Massachusetts law: In Massachusetts (and other states), in order to maintain a vehicle’s registration, you need to have at least the state’s minimum auto insurance requirements. If you wanted to cancel insurance on a vehicle altogether, you would need to cancel the registration. While you could do that, it probably wouldn’t be worth the hassle to cancel, then reinstate and pay for the registration when you’re ready to drive it again. In order to maintain your registration, your vehicle needs to meet the following minimum insurance requirements (whether you’re driving it or not.) The Massachusetts minimum: In Massachusetts, there are four coverage types that are required for auto insurance: bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, and uninsured motorist. These are known as “compulsory coverages.” We’ll summarize them below, but you can read in more detail about them in the article How Much Car Insurance Do I Need? (And Why the State Minimum Isn’t Enough). Keep in mind, the minimum coverages are only applicable to individuals who own their vehicles. If you lease or finance, there are additional requirements.  Bodily Injury to Others If you cause an accident in Massachusetts that injures someone else, this coverage pays their medical expenses and any lost income.  The coverage has two limits: per person and per accident. In Massachusetts, you are required to carry $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Damage to Someone Else’s Property If you are involved in an accident and cause damage to any type of property (vehicles, homes, telephone poles, guardrails, storefronts, fences, stone walls, mailboxes, etc.), this coverage is what will pay the claim. In Massachusetts, the state minimum required property damage coverage is $5,000.  Personal Injury Protection If you are involved in an accident, regardless of fault, your personal injury coverage will pay for any medical bills and lost wages for you and your passengers. The Massachusetts state minimum for personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is $8,000 per person. Uninsured Motorist  If you are involved in an accident with someone that does not have insurance coverage or are involved in a hit-and-run incident, uninsured motorist coverage would pay the claim.  The coverage has two limits: per person and per accident. In Massachusetts, you are required to carry uninsured motorist coverage of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. What you can do if you aren’t driving your car: While you can’t cancel auto insurance or remove the vehicle you aren’t using from your policy, there are some other options if you want to save money on your car insurance. Lower your coverage limits: If you aren’t driving, reducing your coverages to the state minimums to maintain your registration may save you some money. Keep in mind however, the state minimums are usually not enough to cover you when using your vehicle, so if you begin driving it again make sure you raise your limits. Again, you cannot reduce your insurance to the minimum coverage if you finance or lease your car. Low-mileage discount: If you aren’t driving at all right now, you may very well qualify for a low-mileage discount. These discounts offer a 5-10% reduction on your auto premium for driving under a certain mileage (generally 7,500 miles per year). Since the rate is based on a 12-month driving period, you will not be able to get immediate savings if you aren’t driving a lot right now. However, if you’re driving way less for the year, you may see a discount when your policy renews.  Bundle policies: Many insurance companies offer incentives for the more business you provide them. By bundling your car insurance with other policies (such as homeowners/renters/condo) within the same insurance company, you may be able to save approximately 5-25 % on your policies. Insure more than one car with the same policy or carrier (multi-car discount) Similar to bundling policies, you can also earn discounts for insuring more than one vehicle in the same household.  Shop around for rates Insurance prices differ from company to company, so if you feel like you’re paying a lot for car insurance, you might want to obtain quotes from a few different companies. Alternatively, you can also save money by maintaining your coverage with your insurance company, as some carriers offer price breaks for longtime customers, so you’ll want to check with your agent to see which option is best for you.  Pay via EFT/ACH or pay ahead Paying for your auto insurance through electronic funds transfer (EFT), automated clearing house (ACH), or paying the premium up front can eliminate billing fees. If you’re comfortable with your payment automatically withdrawing from your bank account each month, or if you can afford to front the premium, these methods can save you both time and money. Choose a higher deductible plan Of course, you can also lower your premium by selecting an auto insurance plan with a higher deductible.  Doing this means you’ll be paying less per month, but will have to pay more if you get in an accident, so if you select a higher-deductible plan, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money set aside in case you need to cover damages from an accident. Ask your agent about any discounts You can get a discount on your auto policy for doing the following: Being a member of an association (such as AAA, AARP, alumni associations, wholesale clubs, military organizations, honor societies, and more) Giving to a charity  Getting good grades (insurance companies reward both high school and college drivers for earning good grades) Being a safe driver (drivers without accidents or violations for a certain period – usually five years – can save hundreds on their insurance through a safe driver or good driver discount) Ask your agent if you are eligible for any discounts that aren’t already applied to your policy. Remove Optional Coverages Many insurance plans include optional coverages intended to provide services in specific scenarios. If these coverages do not apply to you, or if you have another service that provides similar coverage, you should not be paying the extra amount for them. Collision: Collision insurance offers coverage to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident. If your vehicle is older and the value is low enough that you could afford to repair or replace it if it were damaged or destroyed, you may want to remove collision insurance.  Keep in mind, if you are leasing your vehicle, or if it isn’t paid off, collision coverage is typically required. Substitute Transportation:  Substitute transportation insurance will pay for at least a portion of the cost of a rental vehicle if you need one due to a covered loss while it is being repaired or replaced (if you have collision insurance).  If you have an alternative vehicle you can use, or if you are able to go without your car for a period of time, you could remove substitute transportation. Roadside/towing: Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance or towing insurance if your car breaks down on the side of the road and you are unable to get it to a mechanic. If you have both roadside/towing and AAA, you are essentially paying for the same coverage twice, so choose one or the other. Enroll in telematics It’s no secret that technology is advancing and infiltrating almost every industry, but did you know it can also help save you money on your car insurance? Through telematics, insurance companies are using tracking devices to monitor driver data including speed, mileage, driving time, hard brakes, and more to determine if you are eligible for a discount. Pay-as-you-drive insurance models using telematics, such as Drive with Safety or N&Drive through Norfolk & Dedham, monitor driving habits to offer discounts up to 30% to cautious or low-mileage drivers.  Telematics can not increase your premium. At worst, your premium will stay the same, but you could get a discount. Keep your insurance (and car) active: If you aren’t driving your car, paying for insurance can feel like a waste. Unfortunately, there are some minimum insurance requirements you need to maintain whether or not you are driving.  However, there are a variety of options available to help you save money. Reach out to your agent to discover which combination of these opportunities could save you money on your car insurance while you aren’t driving much. In addition to saving money on your car insurance during this time, you should also be making sure your car isn’t costing you extra money while it sits in your driveway. Read these tips about maintaining a vehicle you aren’t driving.  

Blog Feature

Business Insurance | General Liability | Learning Center | Property Insurance | Workers Compensation | Business Auto

By: Corin Cook
June 11th, 2020

If you run a business, or are planning on opening a business, by now you know there are many costs associated with it. You may have to pay for the office space itself, the supplies and equipment you use, your employees, and so much more. On top of that, you have to pay for insurance to cover all of those things you are already paying for. This is done through several groups of policies known as “business insurance” or “commercial insurance.” We get how frustrating it can be. At Berry Insurance, we insure a number of businesses across diverse industries, ranging from a handful to thousands of employees. Plus, we are a business ourself, so we see the complexities every day.  If you’re not too familiar with insurance, you might not know what to expect and you might be wondering what it actually costs to insure a business. Honestly, even though we sell the insurance, this is a very hard question for us to answer. Not because we don’t understand insurance or we have something to hide, but because there is no straightforward answer. Asking what business insurance costs is kind of like asking how much it costs to buy a house on Earth. There are so many variables that influence the price. But we also know you want to have an idea of what to expect before you buy insurance, so we want to help you understand the costs of business insurance as best as you can.  Below we’ll address the costs of business insurance (most specifically property, general liability, commercial auto, and workers compensation insurance) and what factors influence each of them. While some businesses may be outliers, with even higher or lower annual premiums than we present, these numbers are general ballpark estimates of what you can expect. What is a business owners policy (BOP)  and what does it cost? When you own a business, your main business owners policy comprises two policies bundled together: property insurance and general liability insurance. Since these two coverages are bundled, we’ll talk a little bit about each, then go over what the package could cost. Property insurance:  What it covers: Property insurance can cover the actual structure of your business’ building and its contents, as well as the exterior features such as fencing, or signage.  What determines the cost: Premiums for property coverage are typically based on replacement value or actual cash value and take into account the location, cost to rebuild, building construction, type of materials, sprinklers, alarm systems, distance to the coast, and the limits and deductibles you select. General liability insurance: What it covers: General liability insurance covers costs arising from claims against businesses resulting from their operations, such as property damage, physical injury, and personal injury, including libel and slander. What determines the cost: Premiums for liability coverage are typically based on sales for the year, payroll, square feet of the premises or even average number of guests or attendees at the business, and and the limits and deductibles you select. So, what does a business owner’s policy generally cost? What it costs: Annual premiums for a business owners policy (both property and liability) can range from $233 for a home-based business to closer to $80,000 for larger businesses with higher risk operations. Commercial auto cost What it covers: Commercial auto insurance covers the cost of bodily damage or property damage caused by vehicles as well as physical damage of your own vehicles, just like personal car insurance does, but for commercially owned vehicles. What determines the cost: Premiums for commercial auto coverage are generally based on the number of vehicles the company owns, the cost of the vehicles, where the vehicles are garaged, business operations, coverages inclusions, and limits and driver history.  What it costs: Annual premiums for commercial autos can range from $1,500 for a private passenger vehicle to $40,000 for a larger company with many work vehicles. Workers compensation cost What it covers: Workers compensation insurance covers wage replacement and medical payments to employees injured while performing job-related duties and protects companies from liability against employee claims. What determines the cost: Workers compensation costs are usually based on the number of employees in the company, estimated yearly payrolls, and job duties/business operations, and the limits you select. What it costs: Premiums for workers compensation policies can range from $218 for a basic nanny policy, for instance, to $100,000 or more for large corporations with higher-risk operations. Let’s look at some business insurance cost examples: By now, I’m sure you can see how much business insurance cost varies based on details about the business. Let’s look at a couple of realistic scenarios of what business insurance might cost. For a very small business, take for example a singular residential house cleaner with no employees, no property, and no commercial vehicles, they may only pay around $500 a year for business insurance (they only need general liability coverage).  Now let’s look at a larger business. An HVAC contractor with a property coverage limit of $60,000, general liability limits at $1M/$2M, a $625,000 payroll, and 10 vehicles may pay around $60,000 per year for the business insurance they need. An even larger corporation with many employees, work vehicles, expensive equipment, and high risk operations, like a mechanical engineering company could pay $250,000.  Other business insurance costs: Above, we talked about the most common types of business insurance that nearly every business needs to buy, but there are more types. Depending on the specifics of your business, you may need one or more of the following more specialty coverages. We aren’t going to dissect the costs of these additional insurances, but be aware that you may need to spend additional money to get them. If you have any questions about the costs, feel free to reach out to your agent. Professional liability insurance: Also known as errors and omissions insurance, professional liability protects certain types of professionals from costs associated with accusations of negligence. Business umbrella insurance: Business umbrella insurance provides excess coverage on a business liability insurance in the case of a lawsuit exceeding policy limits. Cyber and identity theft insurance: This insurance covers costs associated with a cyber attack or data breach. This includes malicious actions such as hacking, viruses, phishing, denial of service (DoS) ransomware, malware and more; but also data losses from incidents such as computer glitches, power surges, and accidental deletions.  Flood insurance: For businesses at risk of floods, flood insurance provides coverage from damages caused by floods. Pollution insurance: Pollution insurance covers costs related to pollution caused by a business’ operations. Bonds: Commercial bonds are required in certain industries to protect the business and its customers from specific risks. Having one or more of these insurance policies would increase the amount you spend on insurance for your business. Protect your business with a comprehensive business insurance policy: We know your business is important to you, so it is crucial you protect it. While the combination of business insurance policies you need can sometimes be pricey, it’s worth the protection against even more costly incidents that can put you out of business. As I’m sure you can tell, the cost of business insurance can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. The best way to know what you will need to pay is by reaching out to your agent or carrier. An agent, like our agents at Berry, can help you create a custom policy to protect your business without breaking the bank. Don’t have an agent or carrier yet? Check out this article about what to look for when selecting an agency or company.