‘Tis the season: Party hosts should be aware of liability issues


people at a holiday party

With Thanksgiving in our rear view mirror, we enter the season of holiday parties. If you are planning to host parties at your home or business this season, it’s time to think about responsible party hosting practices. We’re revisiting a post we made a full decade ago on holiday party do’s and dont’s – despite, the passage of time, everything is still relevant today!

A national survey on homeowners insurance issues by Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) found that about one-third of homeowners did not think or did not know if they could be held responsible in the event of an alcohol-related accident. In addition, more than 46% of the survey respondents thought they weren’t liable in the event that a guest became seriously ill from catered food consumed at the host’s home and more than 22% didn’t think they could be held responsible if a guest was injured on the sidewalk in front of their property. In fact, these are all situations in which a homeowner could have liability.

A spokesman for the IIABA suggest that homeowners regularly review their liability coverage limits with their independent agent to ensure adequate coverage, and that frequent party hosts inquire about an umbrella policy providing $1 million or more in additional coverage. IIABC also suggest the following holiday hosting tips for homeowners and business owners:

  • Limit your guest list to those you know.
  • Host your party at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license, rather in a home or office.
  • Provide filling food for guests and alternative non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Schedule entertainment or activities that do not involve alcohol. If the party centers around drinking, guests will likely drink more.
  • Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who cannot or should not drive home.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end.
  • Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Consider hiring an off-duty police officer to discretely monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
  • Stay alert, always remembering your responsibilities as a host.
  • Review your insurance policy with your agent before the event to ensure that you have the proper liability coverage.

Don’t let frozen pipes shut down your business this winter


fozen pipes with icicles

Frozen and burst pipes cost businesses millions every winter. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, 25% of businesses do not survive after a major property disaster, such as a freeze-related water incident. Philadelphia Insurance studied 433 business claims for burst pipes to offer prevention advice for businesses and risk managers. They noted that, “Our average loss related to frozen pipes is $27,000, but our most expensive claim was $1.7 million.”

Among their findings:

  • Unheated attics were the most common cause of burst pipes. Many people forget there are pipes in the attic or in concealed spaces between interior and exterior walls and therefore don’t take steps to protect them.
  • Sprinkler systems increase loss potential. Philadelphia’s claims were split 51/49 between sprinkler and domestic water pipe losses, and sprinkler claims were 33% more costly.
  • Building age is a contributing factor to loss. Claims from older buildings tend to be more severe because they often require code updates during any cleanup and repair process.
  • Complications during cleanup can drive up costs. Some environments require specialized remediation. In other cases, clean up might turn up underlying problem that needs addressing, such as asbestos.

Philadelphia recommends a Heat Examine Alleviate Technology approach, or a HEAT system. They offer a HEAT checklist, or watch this short video to prepare for and prevent pipe freeze, breakage and subsequent water damage. They also offer a handy Winter Weather Property Protection tip sheet with more great prevention tips for businesses. And see their recommendations for freeze prevention and control devices.

MA commercial truckers take note: New requirement to carry US DOT number in September


delivery trucks and vans

If you are a Massachusetts commercial trucker engaged in intrastate commerce take note: Effective September 1, 2018, you must obtain and display a US DOT number for designated vehicles. The number must be obtained and filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and made visible on vehicle markings by that date, as per 540 CMR 2.22, the Commercial Marking section of the Registry of Motor Vehicles regulations.

According to State Police, “failure to obtain and display a USDOT number on your vehicles may result in a civil fine and/or placing your CMVs Out of Service until such time as your company obtains a USDOT Number.”

What MA commercial vehicles does this affect?

According to the MA Association of Insurance Agents, “The changes could affect customers that are written on a Massachusetts Auto Policy class 30 such as plumbers, carpenters, electrician, etc.”

The MA Department of Public Utilities Transportation Oversight says that affected vehicles include those that are:

  • Engaged in intrastate commerce having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds; or
  • Used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding; or
  • Designed to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver, used in intrastate commerce in Massachusetts.

Note: Intrastate operation means you conduct business solely within Massachusetts.

How do you obtain a US DOT number?

According to the MA State Police, to obtain a USDOT, go to the FMSCA website. Follow links to obtain an intrastate USDOT number. Your company will be issued a USDOT number that must be displayed on all CMVs that your company operates, including leased vehicles. There is no charge to obtain this number from the USDOT-FMCSA.

What are the new rules about DOT markings?

For guidance on displaying the DOT number on your vehicles, see:

 

The basics Business Insurance: What you need to know to manage your risk


managing riskAny new or existing business needs to factor the costs of business insurance into the planning process – it’s a vital mechanism for managing risks and planning for adversity. Some coverages are optional while others, like workers’ comp, are mandated by law.

There’s a great primer on business insurance that appeared in the Boston Globe this week, sponsored by Rockland Trust and written by Wayne Taylor: First rule of insurance: don’t run the risk of being unprotected. Taylor notes: “For a small or medium-sized business, not being protected for uncovered losses could mean the difference between survival and failure.”

The article offers a good overview of business insurance basics, as well as coverages that are unique to specific industries.

We’re delighted that the article includes commentary from one of our Renaissance Alliance members:

“Many small businesses have a unique set of risk exposures that larger businesses don’t always have,” said W. Jeffrey Helm, president and founder of Atlantic Advisors Insurance Agency, Inc., in Norwell. “Often the small business owner is the one who is emptying the waste baskets and booting up the computers in the morning, as well as making sales calls and strategic operating decisions.

“What happens if this key player gets injured or falls ill? The company may not yet have a lot of savings in the bank, nor access to a large line of credit. Having disability coverage, for example, or business overhead expense insurance can help provide a temporary income stream so that the business continues to operate and meet its financial obligations.”

The article suggest brushing up on “the language of insurance” and finding professional guidance. Here are two excellent resources learning more about insurance.

As for a business insurance advisor – if your business is in New England, you can’t do better than a Renaissance Alliance independent insurance agency member – fine one near you!

Insurance & the Academy Awards


movie film reel and popcornWhile insurance doesn’t feature too prominently in any of this year’s Academy Award nominees, Tom Hanks does star as an insurance lawyer in Bridge of Spies. There’s a lot of competition this year so although it’s nominated in several categories, it isn’t heavily favorited on most critics’ lists.

Even when insurance doesn’t play prominently in the script, it is a vital behind-the-scenes component of any film. The Insurance Information Institute weighs in with The Role Insurance Plays in Movies. You can also see our prior post on Behind the scenes: the film industry is risky business. Speaking of risk, one film that elicited a fair amount of criticism: ‘Revenant’ Shoot Didn’t Take Crew’s Safety Issues “Seriously,” Says Union Rep. Actor and crew safety has been on the minds of many since the 2014 – see: Death on a Georgia Railroad Trestle Sparking Calls for Safety Reforms in Hollywood.

Insurance & the Movies

If you just can’t get enough of insurance-themed films, here are some suggestions:

And for those of you who’d like a deeper diver into the behind-the-scenes business of insurance, risk management & the movies, here’s a reading list: