Internet Defamation – Words Have Power

internet defamationSocial media is a great way build your business’s reputation. Interactivity between merchants and customers has helped many unheard of boutique shops become Internet darlings with maxed out sales. However, fostering social media on your website or participating in social media on another’s blog can be dangerous.

The danger is Internet Defamation.

What is Internet Defamation?

Defamation is when a person makes false statements about your business such as stating that you use discriminatory practices in hiring, or you use dishonest practices dealing with your customers. Making statements like these and putting them on the Internet for anyone and everyone to see is libel. There are important elements for a statement on the Internet to earn the label of a defamatory.

  • The person who published the statement was not the person defamed
  • The statement is a false statement of fact
  • The false statement was understood to be:
    • About the plaintiff and
    • Designed to harm the reputation of the plaintiff
  • Should the plaintiff be a public figure he or she must also prove malice.

Businesses with a presence on the Internet, especially if the Internet site encourages comments and dialogs among visitors need to be especially vigilant monitoring about what other users post on their site. There is a powerful federal law known as Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230). This federal law is part of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. This law has precedence over any local or state laws and protects owners of interactive computer service providers from claims of defamation from postings made through reader’s comments and entries of guest bloggers. In other words, this law gives you, as a web host, protection from claims made from hosting information written by third parties.

Then why should a business watch what third parties say on their site? This is a valid question. You want your site and blogs to promote your brand, not distract from that purpose by allowing a “flame war” on your sites.

Allowing an offensive statement to stay on your site — even when written by a third-party — is off-putting to potential clients and customers.

Imagine: your own employee gets baited into a discussion and tries to defend your business. He then engages in Internet Defamation costing you customers and even cash if a lawsuit against you goes to court. Words have power.

Insurance for Internet Defamation

Even though the Section 230 language and the truth – if what you said is true it is not libel – help keep the threat of you being successfully sued for Internet Defamation lower, it is a risk that your insurance advisor can cover through your BOP policy, your General Liability Insurance, or an Umbrella Policy.

Talk with one of our risk specialists to understand your exposures and the best way to cover them with insurance.

Prevent Cold Weather Injuries

The winter months are the most dangerous for people who work outdoors. Often workers succumb to cold weather illness when working outside. However, employees in other industries also have ongoing cold exposure as well.

These workers include:

  • cold weatherDelivery People
  • Postal Workers
  • Maritime employees
  • Food Processing Workers
  • Cold storage industry
  • Supermarket worker
  • Tow truck operators

Cold is punishing to people and exposure to cold has many negative effects that include dehydration, frostbite, numbness, shivering, hypothermia and immersion foot disease.

What Ongoing Cold Exposure Does

Hypothermia

Continued cold exposure first affects the limbs, toes and fingers and then progresses deeper into the body tissues and the core of the body. If the core temperature of the body dips below 95 degrees F, the worker has hypothermia. Hypothermia is a dangerous illness and along with frostbite is one of the two most dangerous dangers of working in a cold environment – inside or out.

Frostbite

When a person’s skin is has a severe reaction to cold, frostbite can occur. Frostbite freezes the skin and makes crystals of the body fluids including blood. The chilling effect of frostbite is permanent damage to hands and feet, ears, and the nose. When frostbite is severe, the worker may have to undergo an amputation.

Other Dangerous Illnesses

Frostbite and Hypothermia are the two most common cold environment illnesses workers get from cold exposure. Other significant cold weather injuries include:

  • Cold Immersion
  • Chilblains
  • Trench Foot

Prevention of Cold Weather Injuries

Keeping feet warm and dry is the best prevention measure against trench foot and frostbite of the foot. Boots that have insulation and are waterproof is one type of the many personal protection equipment available for cold weather injury prevention. Other measures include long johns that have insulation, cold weather outer coats, space heaters where possible and other appropriate cold climate measures.

Preventing cold weather injuries is better than treating them and having your construction company’s worker compensation rates rise. Make sure that you take all reasonable measures to prevent these types of injury. For more protective measures, see our Cold Weather Checklist, and also check out this article by Juan Rodriguez – good stuff.

Risk Management vs. Insurance

risk managementRisk management is a process by which business risks are identified, analyzed, engineered, reduced, eliminated or transferred. Often, insurance is the final transfer of risk.

Certain risks point to insurance solutions, for example large liability limits for products or automobile exposures.

Other risks immediately point to engineering or operational risk management. Think of insurance as replacing a monetary loss. If a building burns to the ground, money replaces the loss as building funds or asset value. Now, think of losses that money cannot replace. Money will not buy a second Mona Lisa.

Failure to recover data from damaged computers, loss of cryogenically stored materials, losing the irreplaceable — these risks require management.

The cloud changes the data recovery problems of the past, but it exposes data to misuse and mischief. Simply keep a second portable record separate from the original. This duplication technique can be used for inventory management too; split mission critical stock storage into two locations.

Use redundant monitoring systems on refrigeration or other climate controlled areas. Implement a self-contained back-up energy supply such as a generator. If money cannot replace the materials stored, take avoidance and reduction loss control measures.

Do you have a product which requires a high level of expertise to operate properly?

Once the product leaves your care, poor operator training can lead to injuries or property losses. Distinguishing between defective equipment and operator error can be difficult, or it may become secondary to the financial depths of the stakeholders’ pockets.

If your product requires operational expertise, reconsider selling it as a service whereby your own personnel complete the task. You may save your company exposure to liability claims.

Risk management techniques work well with non-monetary issues or when components are irreplaceable at any price. Think through your operations and identify risks which cannot be solved with money. Risk manage those. We can help.

Car Maintenance: Winter Weather Checklist

car maintenance

Cold weather is here, but it doesn’t have to slow you down. Have you taken the time to make sure your car is prepped for winter weather? There are several things you can do to protect your vehicle and help it run properly all winter. Here are some car maintenance tips to get you started.

Check the tire tread. In most states, it must be at least 2/32-inches, which you can measure by placing a penny in the tire – adequate tread will cover part of Lincoln’s head. However, because your vehicle’s ability to stop on slippery surfaces decreases when the tread reaches 4/32″, consider replacing worn tires with all-weather tires for better traction.

Change the windshield wipers. These two pieces of equipment clear snow, ice and debris from your windshield. To work properly, they must be free from rips and wear.

Charge the battery. With full juice, your battery’s ready to start no matter how low the temperature falls. Clean the terminals and double check that the battery’s secure, too.

Fill the fluids. Antifreeze, windshield washer, transmission and brake fluid assist your vehicle in running smoothly. Fill these fluids to the recommended level as you prep your vehicle for winter.

Keep your vehicle fueled at all times. You never know when you’ll become stuck in traffic or a snow drift, and you’ll be thankful for a full gas tank in those situations.

Stock an emergency kit. A few supplies assist you in flagging help and staying safe in almost any weather. They include:

  1. A small shovel
  2. Traction material like kitty litter or sand
  3. Flares
  4. Fire extinguisher
  5. Blanket
  6. Charged cellphone
  7. Flashlight and extra batteries
  8. First aid kit
  9. Water and non-perishable food like energy bars or nuts
  10. Small amount of cash for fuel or other emergencies

Update your auto insurance. From fender benders to hail damage, adequate insurance gives you peace of mind and ensures you have financial resources to fix your vehicle.

Don’t let winter weather keep you at home. Follow these car maintenance tips and prepare your vehicle now. For more helpful info, visit www.carcare.org. As always, feel free to give us a call with any questions.

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means kitchens all around America are ready to see some serious action. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment, with 3 times the average number.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe while you whip up all that delicious goodness next week…

  1. Thanksgiving safety tipsWatch it like a hawk – errr… turkey. Don’t leave your stovetop unattended. Keep an eye on those burners!
  2. Keep the kids occupied. Your stove is going to be hot, and kids should stay at least 3 feet away. Plan to have some cool activities ready for them to help keep them out of the kitchen while you cook.
  3. Check the floor. Try to keep your floor clear of anything that might get tripped over in the chaos of getting everything ready. There’s nothing worse than dropping that dish of Grandma’s mashed potatoes just before it’s time to eat!
  4. Wind it up. We use all kinds of appliances on Thanksgiving – electric knife, coffee maker, mixer, etc. Don’t let those cords dangle off the counter in easy reach of a child.
  5. Arm the Alarms. Check your smoke detectors in advance of the craziness to be sure they have fresh batteries and are functioning properly.

Check out the NFPA website for more safety tips. You can also download the tips here.

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means kitchens all around America are ready to see some serious action. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment, with 3 times the average number.

Here are some Thanksgiving safety tips to help you stay safe while you whip up all that delicious goodness next week…

  1. Thanksgiving safety tipsWatch it like a hawk – errr… turkey. Don’t leave your stovetop unattended. Keep an eye on those burners!
  2. Keep the kids occupied. Your stove is going to be hot, and kids should stay at least 3 feet away. Plan to have some cool activities ready for them to help keep them out of the kitchen while you cook.
  3. Check the floor. Try to keep your floor clear of anything that might get tripped over in the chaos of getting everything ready. There’s nothing worse than dropping that dish of Grandma’s mashed potatoes just before it’s time to eat!
  4. Wind it up. We use all kinds of appliances on Thanksgiving – electric knife, coffee maker, mixer, etc. Don’t let those cords dangle off the counter in easy reach of a child.
  5. Arm the Alarms. Check your smoke detectors in advance of the craziness to be sure they have fresh batteries and are functioning properly.

Check out the NFPA website for more Thanksgiving safety tips. You can also download the tips here.

Who’s Your Star?

key man insurance

Small and medium-sized businesses often have employees that are “stars.” Sometimes the star is the CEO or president, other times there is a salesperson who consistently outsells every other sales team member by a two to one margin. Maybe you’re a software company that has a star coder whose ideas led to your product being a number one editor’s choice. The point is that most companies have an employee or two that helps their business thrive. What happens to your business in the short-term if a star employee, referred to by the insurance industry as a “key man,” dies?

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), only 22% of small businesses carry this type of coverage.

Death is an issue that most people do not like discussing, so many small and medium-sized businesses do not have detailed succession plans, and key person life insurance remains an unresolved issue. It is a discussion that helps your company survive the difficult times that can follow the death of a key person.

What is Key Person Life Insurance?

Key man life insurance protects a business from economic loss relating to the death of a key employee. The company buys the insurance, owns the policy, and is the beneficiary of the policy in the event of the sudden death of the insured. Payment from the insurance company to the business is a lump sum, and there are no restrictions on how the company can use the money. Most companies use the money to stabilize the business until they find the key person’s replacement.

Types of Key man Life Insurance

Businesses gravitate to two kinds of policies for key employee life insurance.

Term Life Insurance. Startups favor this type of policy. Startups always try to conserve cash, term life insurance is cheaper than any other kind of personal life insurance.

Policies that build cash value. Whole life or universal life insurance builds cash value that increases the cash value of the policy and is an asset on the company’s book. The company can get access to the excess cash value of the policy at any time for any purpose since the money from the cash buildup belongs to them.

Life insurance premiums vary between companies and smart companies comparison shop for the best insurance program.

The discussion is uncomfortable, but if you do not have key man insurance, it’s worth talking about. Give us a call.

Electronics Insurance – is that covered?

Take a minute to count the number of cellphones, TVs, computers, gaming systems and music players in your home. Do you own more than 5, 15 or even 25 devices? What are they all worth? Did you know that your homeowners or renters insurance policy might not cover your electronics? Woah. So what about electronics insurance?

Check Your Homeowners or Renters Insurance PolicyUnder the Contents section of your homeowners policy, take a look at what’s covered. If your electronics aren’t specifically mentioned, ask your agent for details about available coverage. Remember to ask if your devices are covered in case they’re damaged accidentally, dropped, immersed in liquid, cracked, vandalized, stolen or affected by a power surge.electronics insuranceThink About Actual Versus Replacement ValueYou may have purchased your computer a few years ago for $300, but replacing it with a comparable model today may cost $700. Be sure your insurance policy covers the cost of replacing all your electronic devices. The extra premium you’ll pay is usually only a few dollars but pays for itself multiple times over if you need to file a claim.

Consider the Deductible

Most homeowners policies include a $500 deductible that’s your responsibility to pay if you file a claim. Your deductible might even be higher if you’re on a strict budget. Include that deductible into your calculations as you decide how much coverage you need for your devices.

Keep Thorough Records

Insurance companies typically need to see proof before they pay a claim. So, carefully store all your receipts when you purchase electronics and accessories. Additionally, record the serial numbers and take pictures of all your insured devices. Copies of these records should be kept in a fireproof safe and at a friend’s house or safe deposit box. Update the records as you buy, sell and upgrade electronics.

Call your insurance agent today to add the necessary electronics insurance coverage you need. Then, stay in touch, enjoy your favorite tunes and watch the movies you like with peace of mind.

Pollution Liability – Don’t Wait!

pollution liabilityAs an independent contractor, you carry insurance to protect yourself against financial liability from your work. Many jobs require contractors to show that they have a pollution liability policy, which will pay for bodily injury and property damage claims, as well as the expenses of cleaning up toxic waste materials –costs that a standard general liability policy does not cover, and could run into millions.

Any contractor whose business involves risks of hazardous waste exposure, such as asbestos abatement or waste depository, needs pollution liability insurance. This policy will protect you from liability both during the job and if there’s any problem from hazardous waste materials at a later date (“completed operations” coverage). Pollution liability insurance could also be valuable if you own an industrial site that you believe is free of hazardous waste. The inspection you had performed on the property before you bought it might have missed some underlying hazardous substance that could create liability exposure down the road.If you neglect to carry this coverage and have a pollution-related incident at a job site or from one of your completed operations, it will be too late to buy pollution liability. You can purchase pollution liability from a number of insurance companies. The premium will depend on the amount of the policy, the deductible you choose, and whether you buy it on a stand-alone basis or in combination with other types of commercial insurance.Before deciding whether to purchase pollution liability, be sure that you have the information you need to make the right choice. As always, we’d be happy to offer our advice at any time – just give us a call.

Goldilocks Insurance: Coverage that’s “Just Right”

Business Owners PolicyWe’ve all heard the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right? Hungry little girl breaks into the bears’ house and makes herself at home. She tries all the chairs to find the best one (and breaks it), then eats the food, and climbs into each of the three beds until she drifts off to sleep in one that’s “just right”. Hoodlum.

What does that have to do with insurance? I’ll tell you.

Once upon a time, the insurance industry wanted to design a policy for small, typical Main Street businesses. These businesses had some property, maybe their building and stock, and a low risk of liability claims. Insurance companies designed the Business Owners Policy (BOP) for these businesses. With this type of policy, the insured bought a package which included property, liability, some crime coverage, and other incidental coverage at one low cost.

From a risk perspective, these Main Street businesses were very similar.

In the modern era of BOPs, many businesses now qualify for specialty industry coverage. Restaurants, small manufacturers, small contractors, and artisans can all qualify for this type of policy.

BOPs cover property similarly to conventional policies. Typical options are extended as part of the package. For example, crime coverage is included in many BOPs rather than having to add this coverage on. Investigate the limits of these add-on coverage to be sure they are adequate. We would be happy to discuss the details with you to design a program to meet the specific needs of your business.

Liability coverage follows the general liability format, except again, some extensions of coverage are included. These extensions may have lower liability limits, so again, review these with your insurance professional.

If your business does not own cars or trucks, but you occasionally use your personal auto in your business, consider adding non-owned and hired automobile coverage to your BOP. This coverage pays for your company’s liability while you use your car for your company’s benefit.

Business owners policies began as a one size fits all retail risks insurance form, but they have evolved into an important small business — and now not so small business — policy, to cover industry typical businesses. There are a number of options to choose from, and policies can be tailored until they are “just right” for you.. not “too big” or “too small”.

Your business does need to qualify for this coverage. Please give us a call. We can discuss the specific needs of your business and find coverage that’s designed to help increase the likelihood of you living happily ever after.