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Understanding Flood Insurance in 2017

Understanding Flood Insurance in 2017

After flying through the House, many believed the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act would zip through the Senate, too. The Act was thought to become law sooner than later. However, things didn't go as smoothly as planned in the Senate.

The National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO) and their officials continue to work to get the bill through the Senate. They continue to work to get this Act into law.


Understanding the Act

Why is the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act of such importance for NAPSLO? For a variety of reasons, but one seems to stand out: the bill clarifies the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12).

The new Act defines the ability of privately issue flood insurance when meeting a lenders' purchasing requirements. Initially, the Act required lenders to accept private flood insurance for mandatory purchase. Then language was added before the bill was passed that created confusion. Lenders who were evaluating policies for the purpose of complying with mandatory flood insurance requirements became confused.

Now, the Flood Insurance and Market Parity and Modernization Act clearly defines a private flood insurance policy as:

"A policy issued by a company licensed, admitted or otherwise approved by the state."

According to Brady Kelly, the Executive Director of the NAPSLO, the bill strives to clarify a number of items, including the surplus lines market:

"All we're doing in this legislation is clarifying that the Surplus Lines market is, in fact, an eligible market from which to accept a private Flood insurance policy. I say that because Surplus Lines insurers have long written Flood insurance policies — this isn't a new opportunity.

Before BW-12 was signed, our market has always served as a supplement to the NFIP There are a number of homes and commercial properties that don't fit within the terms and conditions of the NFIP policy.

So we've oftentimes served as an excess option, or an option when the NFIP policy doesn't do the trick. From that perspective, the primary goal is to preserve the types of solutions the market was already providing."


No Smooth Sailing

While the bill is hung up at the Senate now, the House was no issue. In April of last year, the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act flew through the House with a vote of 419-0.

While the victory seemed like smooth sailing, many have noted the result stemmed from a lot of hard work. The NAPSLO began educating legislators on the bill and the surplus lines marketplace at the start of 2014. These efforts were in preparation for the day the bill reached the House.

According to NAPSLO higher-up Keri Kish, the surplus line marketplace is:

 "It's not something everyone just knows about and understands. Our education really helped them understand how the Surplus Lines market functions as part of the private insurance market — how we developed and why it's important to maintain our ability to provide those options."

Luckily, many believe the failure in the Senate was more due to timing than legitimate concern over surplus lines. The election took a lot of time and energy for those in Washington. Many Senators were in heated state races and didn't have time or concern to hear about flooding.

Once the elections have passed, many surmise the bill will get more focus in the Senate. Not only will the election be over, but increased interest in flood issue will be coming up next year, as the National Flood Insurance Program is being reauthorized.


Optimism in 2017

Many NAPSLO members are excited and optimistic about the idea of the bill passing the Senate in 2017. Kish certainly is:

"I'm confident it will pass this year. There's no reason not to do it now. Ultimately, this is giving consumers choices. I can see no policy concerns in passing it this year."

While optimism is good, we'll have to wait and see if the bill goes through. If issues arise, the potential impact on the surplus line marketplace will certainly be noticed. The bill needs to be passed if the private market is to be a viable alternative to the NFIP.


The Strength of the Surety Market

The Strength of the Surety Market

It's not too complex. Naturally, the power of the surety market strongly correlates with the success of the construction industry. The stats show that when the construction industry is down – so are the surety markets.

With over $5.5 billion in 2008, the construction markets took a dive following the recession. Once the economy improved, the markets rebounded, and construction activity increased to over $5.5 billion once again in 2015. Looking at statistics isn't the only way to know the markets have bounced back.

According to Susan Hecker, director of national contract surety and area executive vice president, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co:

"One way I measure what's going on in the construction industry is how many tower cranes I can count on my drive to work every day. Over the past few years in the San Francisco area, it has gone from a handful to more than 50."


Understanding the Upswing

Private projects are thriving, and more bonds have been issues on these plans as of late. Most see this as a great thing for sureties, as lending institutions have started to require bonds for financing projects in the private sector.

However, spending on public projects has not found the same level of bounce-back. State and local governments don't have the funding that they did before the recession. While there is still a demand for projects, the government has to get creative in finding ways to meet their needs.

Enter P3s. One creative manner many government entities are working on is public-private partnerships or P3s. While the name is self-explanatory, the surety side has been working to offer bonds that fill this ever-growing market. Typically, a P3s bond offering will need to be more liquid.


Is All Growth Good?

While the upswing in the construction and bonding demand is a good thing, there are still concerns. Many worry about the availability of high-skilled employees and workers. It can be hard to find a qualified workforce for many construction companies these days.

The lack of skilled workers comes from a few factors. First, baby boomers are retiring. This leaves a lot of knowledge at the trade level off the table. There is a void to fill. And while the unemployment rate for construction workers is lower than it has been in the last decade, the available labor force has been strained. According to Ed Titus, senior vice president of surety for Philadelphia Insurance Cos:

“We see the Texas, California, and Florida construction markets struggling with not having enough of an available trained, skilled workforce for contractors to start bidding on new projects."


Cause & Effect

With a lack of skilled labor, most sureties have been keeping a close eye on the industry. Many have found a rise in claims. A lack of workers makes it difficult to finish on time. Projects that take longer often find more damages, too.

Plus, the flow of money slows down. Often, owners can't pay sub-trades until things get completed. When this happens, a claim can be triggered. Bonds often guarantee labor providers and suppliers are paid. If the flow of cash is slow, then it comes back to the claims.


Energy Sector Issues

Construction isn't the only industry sureties work heavily in. The energy sector has been problematic for the surety markets lately, too. Bankruptcy in the energy sector has become all too familiar.

The largest surety loss of all time was an energy company, Enron. Thus, when sureties see a number of energy companies file for bankruptcy, there's a legitimate call for concern.


Understanding the Surety Marketplace

With the construction industry coming up, sureties are looking to expand their business. Professionals in the space are hungry for new business. But with pricing becoming hyper-competitive, one can expect the industry to remain active and engaged – if profitable results are to continue. 

For more information on bonds and surety contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600. 

Trends for 2017: Workers' Comp Edition

Trends for 2017: Workers' Comp Edition

Some brokers struggle to help clients these days. It's not easy. Rising health care costs seem to be an inevitable part of doing business today. While the skyrocketing costs cannot be ignored, there are ways to decrease risk and manage premiums in the wide world of workers' comp.


Workers' Comp Trends in 2017

As we enter 2017, changes and trends in the workers' comp world are coming. Brokers may have niche opportunities to help businesses and clients by keeping workers' comp costs in line.

Here are six workers' comp trends to pay attention to:

1. Rising Premiums

High claims typically lead to high premiums. This is the insurance industry in a nutshell. That's the bad news, but it gets worse. Certain insurance companies have seen more claims, longer breaks from work, and higher dollar amounts being claimed. That's a recipe for high premiums. And many predict these premiums will continue to go up due to increasing costs for prescription drugs and an aging workforce. If change is to happen quickly, most brokers note it'll come from within an organization – not to the system.


2. Bad Management

One way companies may control workers' comp costs is through better management of pharmaceutical benefits. Opioid use has continued to rise in the United States. As such, many employers require workers' comp claims using opioids to have a weaning off strategy at the start. Another way to manage benefits is limiting where employees can get pharmaceuticals. Getting drugs from the physician's office typically costs more than at an off-site pharmacy.


3. Plentiful Partnerships

Certain workers' comp programs have developed relationships with facilities that specialize in work-related injuries specific to their industry. While requiring workers' comp claimants to choose a particular occupational medicine clinic is barred, a recommendation is legal. Brokers can help make an introduction in these scenarios.


4. More Technology

Innovations in the medical field incorporate technology to give patients options. Telemedicine is one such trend. Instead of visiting a doctor's office, a patient can call in on a smartphone or iPad at any time during the day or night. This is especially useful for people who work nights and mornings. Other programs have incorporated a hotline that connects injured employees to a health care professional immediately.


5. Cultural Focus

A culture of getting back to work is essential to ensure the success of a workers' comp program. Employees who want to get healthy and get back to work can save a company a lot of money. One way to potentially get employees back faster is through support. Most companies don't contact employees while they're off on a workers' comp claim. A phone call or card from a supervisor could help an employee recover mentally and physically.

Many were surprised to learn that over 80% of a workers' comp program costs go towards 5% of the claims. This means employees away from the job for a long time eat up more costs than anything else. Getting these people back on the job on schedule can be significant for workers' comp programs.


6. Keep Things Safe

While workers' comp programs are in place for a reason, the easiest way to potentially control costs is through a safety program at the workplace. Many have found the costs of incorporating more safety programs and measures to be minimal compared to the cost of workers' comp when an employee gets injured.

Certain companies have found a large financial incentive to focusing on safety and doing things the correct way. A broker can play a significant role in helping companies manage workers' comp costs by focusing on safety. 


For more information regarding workers compensation contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600. 

It Finally Happened! 421-A Gets Extended

It Finally Happened! 421-A Gets Extended

It took months upon months. There was a lot of hand-wringing. Developers threatend to stop a number of multifamily developments if there was no tax abatement in place.

Luckily, that disaster was avoided. Finally, the Real Estate Board of New York and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York came to an agreement. The extension of the lapsed 421-A program that offers tax exemption has been extended.


What It Means?

So what was all the fuss about? The 421-A extension means that eligible buildings in Manhattan must pay an average hourly wage of at least $60 – including all wages and benefits. Other buildings in Queens and Brooklyn are required to pay at least $45 per hour when all wages and benefits are taken into account.

The 421-A extension obligations only apply to buildings in certain areas that meet specific criteria. Only buildings in Manhattan south of 96th street qualify. In Brooklyn and Queens, only buildings in Community Boards 1 and 2 around one mile from the closest waterfront bulkhead qualify.

As well, only buildings with over 300 rental units are obligated to the pay stipulations. Buildings that have 50% or more of affordable housing units are also excluded from the obligations in 421-A.

If a project began before the effective date of the new 421-A agreement, then the project can choose to opt-in to the program if they want to. Of course, these projects must meet eligibility criteria, too.


Understanding the Benefits of 421-A

While the details are important, the reasoning behind the agreement shouldn't be overlooked. Many important people are thrilled with the agreement, especially regarding benefits for low-income New Yorkers. Governor Andrew Cuomo is one of them:

"The deal reached today between these parties provides more affordability for tenants and fairer wages for workers than under the original proposal. While I would prefer even more affordability in the 421-a program, this agreement marks a major step forward for New Yorkers.

The agreement extends affordability for projects created with 421-a for an additional five years–bringing affordability for these units to 40 years. It also allows lower-income individuals to qualify as it lowers the percentage of area median income needed to apply.

Additionally, this agreement rightly delivers fair wages for working men and women – providing a rate of $60 per hour in Manhattan and $45 for certain projects in Brooklyn and Queens. Most importantly until this agreement is finalized, the State Legislature has refused to release $2 billion in state affordable housing funds. I urge the Legislature to come back to Albany to pass desperately needed affordable housing and to sign the MOU to release these funds. We simply cannot allow the lack of resolution to stall affordable housing production for years to come. There is no excuse not to act."


More Info on 421-A

Governor Andrew Cuomo is excited about 421-A for a number of reasons, including:

1. Traditional Worker Standards: Many applaud the amendment for continuing to give construction workers the rights they deserve in New York City. The standards and benefits provided in 421-A go a long way towards keeping workers taken care of.

2. Affordable Housing: The 421-A amendment allows for the development of affordable housing for low-income individuals. This is critical in a city like New York City, which features some of the most expensive housing costs in the world. The 421-A program allows buildings complying with the regulations to stay in the program for 35 years with a property tax exemption. This incentive should keep units with income limitations in the program.


Finally Done!

Overall, the passing of 421-A is set to benefit a number of New Yorkers. The amendment ensures quality wages and benefits for construction workers. It also ensures affordable housing units are created in some of New York's most popular neighborhoods and areas. 

For more information about NYC insurance laws contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600.

New York Labor Law

New York Labor Law

  • What it means for property owners, their agents, managers and commercial tenants.
  • What you need to know to protect your assets.
  • How GNY can help.

New York Labor Law:

New York State’s Labor Law (NYLL) represents an onerous burden for property owners and managing agents in New York, making them financially liable for virtually any work-related accident on their premises. So as building owners and managing agents routinely hire contractors to do work on their properties, they routinely face huge liability exposures.
To insulate themselves from high-value lawsuits brought by injured workers, building owners and managing agents should enter into hold harmless and indemnification agreements, backed up by the contractors’ own insurance, which transfers liability for such injuries from themselves to the contractors and subcontractors whose negligence caused the injuries. Failure to do so can cost building owners millions of dollars.

GNY can help navigate this challenging landscape.


Three Key Sections:

1. Section 200 requires building owners and managing agents to provide workers with safe places to work.

2. Section 241(6) makes building owners strictly and vicariously liable for worker injuries at their buildings if improper or inadequate safety equipment causes a worker’s injury. Damages from resulting lawsuits can be reduced or eliminated if building owners can show that the injured worker was partially or fully responsible for his injuries.

3. Section 240(1), commonly known as the Scaffold Law, makes the building owners as well as their contractors and project managers “absolutely liable” for all gravity-related construction accidents at their buildings, subject to a few hard-to-prove exceptions. The building owner is liable even if it did not hire the injured worker or his employer, even if it did not know that the worker or his employer was working at the building, and even if the worker is partially or fully responsible for his own injuries. These lawsuits often result in summary judgment for the plaintiff on the issue of liability, leaving only the damages portion of the lawsuit to be tried against the building owner and property manager. Because these lawsuits often present serious injuries, verdicts in such cases can be quite high.

  • A good safety record will not protect building owners, managing agents and construction contractors from liability under any of these statutes. In addition, litigation can become a part of your loss history, which may drive up your insurance rates. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • GNY Recommends The Following Steps To Protect Your Business And Assets Under These Statutes: 

1. KNOW YOUR CONTRACTOR:

  • Verify the contractor is properly licensed, insured and experienced in the type of work it is being hired to perform.
  • Verify whether the general contractor uses subcontractors. If the general contractor uses subcontractors, find out how it screens its subcontractors and confirm with your contractors that its subcontractors are properly insured.
  • Verify there are written agreements in place between the building owner and its general contractor, as well as between the general contractor and its subcontractors, with proper indemnification and insurance-procurement clauses. The contractor and subcontractors should name the building owner and the managing agent as additional insureds on their liability policies on a primary and non-contributory basis.
  • Verify before entering into contracts with your contractors that the contracts make the contractors responsible for worksite safety and for having a safety-and-employee training program in place.
  • Verify contractors have obtained all necessary permits before they begin their work.
  • Verify your contractors and their subcontractors do not have a history of Occupational Safety and Health Administration Law violations.

2. USE RISK TRANSFER TACTICS:

Using written contracts to transfer the risk of liability and damages from you to your contractors can protect you from claims of serious injury and potentially large damage awards. The following clauses have proven successful:

  • Hold Harmless and Indemnification Agreements

Every contract between you and your general contractors, as well every contract between your general contractors and their subcontractors, must contain a clause requiring the general contractors and their subcontractors to “defend,” “indemnify,” and “hold harmless” the building owner and the managing agent from liability, loss or other damages that arise because of any of the contractors’ negligence. It is important that this agreement be properly worded, dated and executed before the work begins.

  • Insurance Procurement Requirement

Contractors and their subcontractors must agree to add building owners and their managing agents as additional insureds to their insurance policies for any liability arising out of their work. The limits of these policies should be at least $1 million for a primary commercial general liability (CGL) policy and $5 million for an umbrella policy. Also, the additional insured coverage should be written on a “primary and non-contributory basis.”

  • Insurance Requirements and Certificates of Insurance

While it is common practice to request a Certificate of Insurance (COI) from contractors and subcontractors, the certificate alone does not confer or prove the existence of additional-insured coverage on your behalf. A proven “best practice” is to require your contractors to submit a copy of their primary liability and umbrella policies for review by an insurance professional. All COI’s and insurance policies must be provided to the building owner or managing agent before the work begins. The COI and insurance policies should also show that the building owner and managing agent are named on the primary and umbrella policies as additional insureds.

GNY will review your contracts with your contractor or subcontractors free of charge. Simply ask your broker to forward the contracts and insurance policies to your GNY underwriter.


SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR ...

 

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS:


NYLL’s unfavorable liability provisions can adversely affect the owners of commercial buildings when tenants hire contractors to perform construction, alteration, repair or maintenance in their units, and those tenants are inadequately insured or indemnified by the contractors they hire.

As part of their commercial leases with tenants, building owners should use the same strategies suggested above for the transfer of risk from themselves to their contractors:

  • Obtain copies of the CGL and umbrella policies and COI’s from all commercial tenants and their contractors.
  • Set up a notification system alerting you to renewal dates for these policies.
  • Make sure tenants have sufficient CGL and umbrella policy limits.
  • Require tenants and their contractors to name the building owner and the managing agent as additional insureds on their CGL policies on a primary and non-contributory basis.
  • Require tenants to sign agreements indemnifying and holding the building owner and managing agent harmless for liability arising out any of the tenants’ work in their units.
  • Review your leases with an attorney to ensure these clauses have been included in the leases.

GNY will review the relevant contractual clauses and policy provisions for you free of charge. Simply ask your broker to forward the contracts and insurance policies to your GNY underwriter.


RESIDENTIAL CO-OPS

To protect the board, the shareholders and the co-op corporation, the same risk-transfer strategies mentioned above should be in place whenever a shareholder in a co-op has work done in his unit. This work ought to be done under an Alteration Agreement, which should require the shareholder’s contractors to indemnify and hold harmless the shareholder, the co-op and the managing agent, and to name these entities as additional insureds on the contractors’ general-liability policies on a “primary and non-contributory” basis.

The Alteration Agreement should also require the shareholder to indemnify the co-op and the managing agent and to have proper liability insurance in place to cover these exposures. The co-op must mandate, preferably in the lease agreement, that contractors cannot begin work in a unit until the shareholder submits to the co-op and the co-op approves all of these construction contracts and insurance policies.

Insurance companies insuring contractors have come up with broad exclusions and limitations designed to protect them from having to defend and indemnify you as additional insureds under their policies. This is very unfair to the co-op. By showing you what to look for in these policies, GNY can help protect you and your finances.

GNY will review the relevant contractual clauses and policy provisions for you free of charge. Simply ask your broker to forward the contracts and insurance policies to your GNY underwriter.

GNY can also supply you with an exemplar of an “Alteration Agreement” incorporating these conditions for the co-op, the shareholder and the contractors to sign.

Actual Cash Value (ACV) Vs. Replacement Cost Value (RCV)

Actual Cash Value (ACV) Vs. Replacement Cost Value (RCV)

Buying items is simple. Selling things is a little more difficult, but still fairly straightforward. As long as humans have been around, we’ve been giving value to certain items, whether it be monetarily or otherwise. “How much does it cost?” isn’t that complex of a question – until it is.

So when it pricing complex? Pricing becomes a problem when claims adjusters get involved. Finding a definitive price for an item not on the market, after depreciation, and so forth is an art form. Well, more like a science. So how do claims adjusters find the true or definitive price of an item?


The Basics

Enter actual cash value (ACV) and replacement cost value (RCV). Actual cash value is the cost to replace an item minus depreciation. Replacement cost value is the cost to replace the asset at the full present value.

While these concepts may seem straightforward, things can get complex quickly. Adjusters not only need to decide on the value of an item, but there are also numerous local and state laws that can impact how ACV and RCV are calculated.


Diving Into Differences

Each state tends to handle ACV and RCV a bit differently. For instance, California includes an interesting tidbit in their legislation regarding these issues. In California:

“Actual cash value is the amount it would cost the insured to repair, rebuild, or replace the item lost or injured less a fair and reasonable deduction for physical depreciation based on its condition at the time of the loss.”

While seemingly fair, this leaves pre-loss condition in a tough situation. Many adjusters have found themselves between a rock and a hard place due to this law. Often, it can be difficult to determine what an item actually is – much less its exact condition at the time of the loss.


Unique or Obsolete

Furthering confusing things, an adjuster has to work with obsolete and unique items. Not even item loss will be easily purchased on Amazon.com. No, there will be a variety of items that hold a unique value for the owner. Many of these items will be tough to find pricing for.

 This Honus Wagner baseball card sold for 2.1 Million in 2013

This Honus Wagner baseball card sold for 2.1 Million in 2013

As an adjuster, understanding that one man’s trash could equate to another’s treasure is paramount when dealing with these unique cases. When dealing with these cases, communication is key. The adjuster must work to understand the insured and what he or she places value on. You need to understand the insured and the item before placing a value on it.

When dealing with these items, begin by understanding what exactly the item is, how it was used, and if the insured still values it. Many times, an adjuster will need to dig deep and do some research before giving value to a unique or obsolete item.

If an adjuster is struggling to price an item properly, try:

  • Consulting experts in the field. Look for a certified consultant who can help you give value to a unique, obsolete, or high-priced item. Always verify these individuals’ credentials.
  • Use the Internet. While Internet pricing isn’t the most accurate, you’ll often be able to gather a working knowledge of the item and its value by going online.

Overall, the best way to determine value for an obsolete or unique item is to find a similar item already on the market. Finding a similar kind and like item can ensure fair pricing and valuation for both parties.


Understanding Antiques

Antique items open a whole other bag of worms for adjusters. Not every item that is older is considered a valuable antique. Most items are required to be a certain age and origin to qualify. A minimum of 100 years old is required for an item to be “antique” from an insurance perspective. Adjusters should handle antique items in a similar manner to obsolete and unique items.


Actual Cash Value Vs. Replacement Cost Value

Overall, understanding the actual cash value versus the replacement cost value isn’t that complex. Most homeowners will benefit from RCV more than ACV when an adjuster is looking into their claim. How a state handles these cases and individual policies will go a long way in determining how the claim is calculated.

For more information about Actual Cash Value (ACV) vs. Replacement Cast Value (RCV) contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600

Everything You Need to Know About Condominium Associations and Insurance

Everything You Need to Know About Condominium Associations and Insurance

Condominiums are popping up all over the United States – and the world. From high-rise buildings in urban areas to townhomes in the suburbs – it's hard to miss these new development efforts. Typically, every condominium offers a few distinctive features:

Common Areas: Places that all residents use like stairs, elevators, and hallways are jointly owned by the unit owners. Each owner's interest is proportionate to the value of his or her unit.

Dwelling Units: The housing unit that is individually owned by the person who bought it.

Administrative Framework: Often, a condominium has an association. This is usually made up by a board of managers, who typically own a unit. The organization manages the common areas and assets. They also set the rights and obligations of the unit owners.


What Condo Owners Need to Know

With the basics out of the way, it's time to talk about insuring condominiums associations. Here are a few items potential condo owners must understand before buying a condominium and having to work with an association:

1. Responsible Associations:

The condo association is only responsible for insuring the common areas of the complex. The interior of the individual units is the responsibility of the owners. Nearly every state requires the association to have insurance for all common elements and bare walls. When insuring a condominium, you'll be quoting for mostly, “walls –in” coverage; unless your condo’s association’s Master Insurance Policy says otherwise.


2. Important Documents:

Before gathering coverage for a condominium association, you'll need some important documents. These sets of documents offer the information needed to see the scope and full extent of coverage required.

  • The declaration of the condominium, which is subjected to a condominium act.
  • The condominium property act that is in effect in the association's state. This defines the boundaries of coverage and responsibilities.
  • To further understand the scope of coverage, you'll need bylaws and various instruments that clarify what is permitted under the act.

Once you have these documents, you'll find condo coverage becomes a lot easier. It'll be simple to itemize and identify which areas will be covered. Then you'll be able to add limits and subject items to coverage.


3. Personal Property:

Condo associations do not offer coverage for personal property. Common items that condo associations like to cover include:

  • Outdoor furniture
  • Fire extinguishing items
  • Appliances
  • Floor coverings

…And more!


4. Errors & Omissions:

No one is perfect. The board of directions for a condo association is no different. Condo association insurance does not cover errors and omissions of board members in a standard policy. For this reason, most associations choose to purchase Errors & Omissions Liability Insurance.

Certain states require the coverage, but some do not. Other states limit the liability of errors & omissions, but many do not.


5. Safe Volunteers:

The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 does not cover volunteers within the condo association, as the act does not defend volunteers against lawsuits. The act protects against tort liability stemming from acts of bodily injury and property damage.

When liability for criminal misconduct, gross negligence, flagrant indifference or safety of others is brought to attention, the act does not cover anything. In these situations, general liability insurance often comes in handy.

It's important to note that certain states have opted out of the Volunteer Protection Act and created provisions concerning these issues within their legislation. Often, a state's legislation will limit the personal liability of volunteers within the condo association.

For more information about insuring a condominium association contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600

New And Improved Workers’ Comp Rehabilitation Programs

New And Improved Workers’ Comp Rehabilitation Programs

The end goal in a workers’ compensation claim is to get the employee in the position to be able to go back to work. Work rehabilitation has long been a factor that contributes to this goal. By providing employees with the proper physical therapy to be able to successfully do their job once more, it is not only improving the well-being of the employee, but also benefits the employer as the carrier can typically closer the claim quicker. However, work rehabilitation programs have changed, and new and more efficient programs have mostly replaced the more scattered, outdated rehab plans of the past.


Work Hardening and Conditioning

A term that many often use in correlation with workers’ comp is "work hardening." Work hardening is a multi-focus regiment used to physically and mentally prepare employees to return to work. Sessions run several hours long, are often five days a week, and can take as long as eight weeks to complete. In the past, this type of return to work effort was used mainly for skilled laborers who needed to regain dexterity to perform their job again. The problem with work hardening is that most employees injured on the job do not need rehabilitation to the extent that it is designed to provide. The cost of the problem often outweighs the value.

Work conditioning is another method of workers’ comp rehabilitation that is more boot camp-like. The regiment includes an individualized plan for recovery, but focuses more on the physical aspect of returning to work only.


New and Improved Rehabilitation

Today, new return to work programs are using a mixture of the two techniques to create the advanced work rehabilitation plans that health care professionals commonly use for the modern injured worker. There are a few key factors contributing to the success of the program.

  • Personalizing: Crafting the rehabilitation plan to each employee is important to make the program as efficient as possible. Each workers’ comp injury can be vastly different from the next, and so it stands to reason that every rehabilitation plan should be different as well.

  • Focus on Job-Specific Functions: The primary goal in back to work rehabilitation is for the employee to get back the ability to do their job unhindered. Returning to work may require small steps to accomplish, but by focusing on the specific functions they need to perform their job tasks, workers’ are typically able to return to work faster than they are with multi-function rehab plans. By strengthening the functions that the employee uses on a daily basis on the job, there is also a lower chance of re-injury. 

  • Faster Recovery: With the specificity of today’s return to work programs, workers’ are often able to return to the job much faster than they had in the past. The employer clearly benefits from this as the cost of the workers’ comp claim is less, but it also benefits the employee as well. The longer one is out from work, the harder it is to return. Benefiting from a quick recovery, the worker can get back into the flow of things faster and become a productive member of the workforce once again.


Recap

Getting injured on the job is not an ideal situation for anyone. Typically, neither the employee nor their employer wants to see the worker undergo the arduous and sometimes painful process of rehabilitation. Though it can seem like a daunting task to undertake, by utilizing the personalized workers’ comp rehabilitation programs available today, employees are now able to get on the path to recovery and return to work faster than ever.

For more information contact: Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600

The Upside of Tech-Savvy Construction

The Upside of Tech-Savvy Construction

In a world full of bad news, good news comes in the form of the rise of the construction market. While it has not quite hit pre-recession levels, numbers are expected to increase in 2017. So now that the market is recovering, the next goal to tackle is how the construction industry can be improved.  It turns out that technology might play a big part in the future of the business. New technological tools are already bringing new advantages to the worksite and opening up the doors for new and possibly better ways of doing things.


Loss Reduction

The ability to predict, detect, and counteract losses is game-changing possibility that new technology tools are turning into a reality. Damages to construction from weather and nature-related losses have always been an unfortunate side effect of the trade.  One does not have to look too far back to find a time when technology limitations made weather difficult to track and therefore more frequently devastating. With advancements in technology, weather prediction became more accurate, and contractors were able to prepare better for the coming storms. In the same manner, new technologies are making risks that were hard to predict more manageable.


Building Information Model

A Building Information Model (BMI) is a digital, 3D model of a building that contains combined resources between engineers, architects, and members of other construction trades to help more accurately and more efficiently make development and designing choices. With the shared knowledge of all parties involved, everyone becomes more informed about the other areas of construction. Increased knowledge and awareness makes for a safer and more accurate construction environment. BMIs also provide for less duplication of work, easier conflict resolution between trades, and the ability to be closer to perfection than ever before.


Detectors and Predictors

As mentioned earlier, the weather has always been a significant risk in construction. Enhanced forecasts are a plus, but the precision of weather predicting is reaching higher levels than ever before. A weather predictor or application is an invaluable tool to use on the job site. The ability to anticipate potentially devastating weather provides for the time to take the necessary precautions to lessen or eliminate damage completely.

Water leakage is another area where technology has provided a tool to assist. New water leakage detection technology can determine where there is possible water leakage on a job site. Catching water leaks fast can mitigate any further damage that may have otherwise occurred.


Other Technologies

The development of functional and sophisticated drones has also lead to a convenience in the industry regarding surveying usage. Could the forefathers in construction ever have dreamed that one day we could survey a job site without ever setting foot on it? Another piece of technology that brings a whole new wave of possibility is the 3D printer. The ability to recreate just about anything is a mostly yet untapped potential in the construction field but could provide endless benefits in the future. Mobile Apps are also an area of technology that is teeming with advantage for the tech-savvy tradesman. From calculating apps to assist with supply configuration to blueprinting gadgets, there is a whole market of construction-related apps available.

The fact of the matter is that we are living in the 21st century and as a benefit of life in our time, we are privy to technological advances that those that came before us could ever imagine. The construction industry is no exception to these advantages. The construction market is changing, and technology is beginning to play a bigger and bigger role. Now is the time to make use of the tools that are out there. 

For more information contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600

The Truth About Fire Safety

The Truth About Fire Safety

The second week in October was Fire Prevention Week. This year, the National Fire Protection Association chose to promote smoke alarm replacement, urging people to replace all their smoke alarms once every ten years, at least. Unfortunately, prior to this campaign, only a very small percentage of people even knew that smoke alarms needed to ever be replaced, let alone how often. The truth is, smoke alarms have been proven life savers time and again. As a matter of fact, statistics show that three of every five fire-related deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors. And, like most electronics, parts start to wear out after a certain amount of time. Sensors in smoke alarms have a ten year shelf life. After that point, they will no longer work.

Preventable Deaths

The numbers are humbling when you truly take a look. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that seven people die in US home fires EVERY DAY. Three main issues tend to be the cause of most of these fires. First, cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires, such as stoves, hot plates, and even microwaves. After cooking equipment, smoking is the number two cause of house fires. Finally, heating equipment is listed as the number three cause of house fires. This can relate to radiators or even electric blankets and space heaters. Many of these causes can be prevented and, of course with the help of a working fire alarm, can at least result in no or fewer deaths.

Fire Damage

Fires are not all easily preventable, nor do they all occur in the home. For instance, in 2015 alone, there were 501,500 structure fires in the US. That is one fire every 63 seconds. These fires resulted in estimated property damage totaling $10.3 billion. Structure fires can be caused by numerous, undetected issues, such as faulty wiring, lightning, or some other random act, such as an act of nature or even arson. People may be severely injured, or even killed, due to the lack of time to escape or lack of knowledge that the event is occurring.

Another source of fire accidents can occur on the highway. In 2015, there were 174,000 highway vehicle fires. In 2014, the number was 3.9% less. These fires caused a total of $1.2 billion in property damage. Causes may include accidents, faulty mechanics, or even smoking, as a cigarette can ignite the gas line if not disposed of properly. Many times, these fires are not preventable once the incident leading to its cause has occurred, such as the initial accident.

Safety Tips

The good news is we have gotten smarter about fire safety. Since 1980, home fires and deaths have actually decreased by 50%. In 1980, there were an estimated 734,000 home fires, which had dropped to 365,500 in 2015. Deaths from these incidents also dropped, from 5,200 in 1980 to 2,560 in 2015. Much of this decrease is due to increased awareness and working safety equipment in the home.

For instance, one great idea that is being used in many homes is for each bedroom to have its own working smoke detector. In addition, people are checking the detectors once a month to ensure they are working properly and do not need new batteries or total replacement. Each home should have an ionization smoke alarm, which warns about flames, and a photoelectric alarm which warns about smoldering fires. And, those who are deaf or hard of hearing can also be warned by alarms specifically made for these groups. Finally, check the age of the alarm by looking on its back or side to find the date of manufacture. Remember, if that date is longer than ten years ago, replace the alarm immediately.

Some other useful tips that can save your life and your family members’ lives include teaching your children how to recognize the sound of a smoke alarm. Those not yet in school may not be used to the sound and may not know what to do should the alarm go off. Also, make sure you plan an escape route in case of a fire. It is easy to freeze in that situation, but time is of the essence. Have a plan, rehearse the plan, and use the plan. Finally, be smart. Keep open flames safe and secure as well as anything that can start a fire, like matches or a lighter. And if you smoke, make sure your ashtray is also secure and that your cigarettes are completely out.

What You Need to Know When a Windstorm is Coming

What You Need to Know When a Windstorm is Coming

Whether it be hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones or another type of windstorm – you never know when they'll hit. You just know they may. When the worst happens, small business owners are often in a world of hurt.

Windstorms can have a disastrous effect on your company. Small business owners have a lot to lose when damaging storms come through. Property damage and business interruption, are typically covered by insurance coverage, but time out of business can hurt your reputation, which can lead to a loss of market share.


Skyline Commercial Insurance wants you to be ready. So here is how you can prepare for a windstorm, so no such things occur:

  • Create a Plan: Write down exactly what needs to happen if a windstorm did hinder your business. Detail exactly who in your organization would be responsible for what. Assemble any emergency supplies that could be required. Then put together a list of contractors, vendors, and other services that could come in handy during an emergency.
  • Secure the Perimeter: Make sure the outside of your company is prepared for a storm. Fasten down any and all loose equipment. Move items indoors if needed. Remove any large trees or limbs that could damage any buildings in the area during a windstorm.
  • Take Care of the Roof: Next, you will want to inspect the roof. Make sure no repairs are needed. Your roof could take a lot of damage during a windstorm. You need to make sure it is in excellent shape.
  • Fuel Up: You don't want any fire pumps, generators, or company-owned vehicles to run out of gas during a time of emergency, so fill up all your tanks before the storm hits.
  • Protect Windows and Glass: Any window or door that has glass must be protected. Throughout your company, find any of these areas and attach pre-fitted windstorm shutters. This will seal your perimeter, which ensures no broken glass.
  • Protect Electronics: Your computers, machinery, and all electronics will be damaged if water reaches them. Right before the storm, try to cover all your electronics with a plastic tarp and move things to a safe location. Backing up data is also essential.
  • Watch for Chemicals: Do you have any chemicals on hand? If you store any type of chemical, you need to make sure they are properly and safely stored. If not, a storm could cause such chemicals to react in a violent manner if they come together accidentally.
  • Prepare for the Flood: Vulnerable openings around your building should be covered with sandbags. Electronics should be moved to a higher elevation and covered with a plastic tarp. Turn off the electricity in your building once the storm and flood are nearing.
  • Turn It All Off: If the storm is nearing, turn everything off. From electricity to gas lines to all flammable sources – make sure everything is off.

Understanding Insurance

After the storm has hit, you'll want to check your insurance policy. You'll need to check the type of coverage and level of coverage. Different events can be insured in different manners in certain locations. This includes landslides, tree damage, flash flooding, and more. As a small business owner, it is your duty to ensure your business is properly covered by any threat, especially windstorms.

You never know what damages might occur as a result of a powerful weather storm. Contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600 to evaluate your options and voice your concerns. 

Umbrella Policies: Your Asset Protector

Umbrella Policies: Your Asset Protector

At one point in your life, while watching the news or surfing the web, you have likely seen photos of a multi-car pileup on the freeway, or maybe you heard a story about someone whose dog got loose and viciously attacked another person. You may have viewed the events from an outsider perspective, believing that something like that would never happen to you, but what if it did?  Alongside with the emotional and physical traumas that such events bring, there is the unfortunate side effect of extreme financial loss if the party liable does not have enough insurance.  Umbrella policies are designed to increase coverage above and beyond your existing underlying auto and home policies to provide you the additional protection that you need in those extreme events where you max out your liability limits.


Who

Truthfully, everyone could benefit from an umbrella policy.  Your agent may recommend one if your asset level exceeds your coverage level, but realistically, any time your liability obligations go above your coverage limits, you are going to be expected to pay for the rest. If you are the driver that causes that multi-car pileup, and you only have $500,000 of liability coverage on your policy, but have caused $1,000,000 in damages, you could be on the hook for the difference. Those who own their own business, have young drivers in the house, or have high asset levels are the most in need of an umbrella policy. If you match any of those descriptions and do not currently have an umbrella policy, you may be severely under-insured. However, as we mentioned before, anyone can find themselves in a position of being liable for more damage than your insurance policy covers, and therefore umbrella policies are beneficial to just about everyone.


How

An umbrella policy usually correlates to your auto or home policy. If you already have those policies with the same company, the simplest thing to do is to get your umbrella policy through them as well. Most carriers require that you have one or all of your policies through them already to purchase an umbrella policy.  By having all of your policies through the same carrier, it can ensure more efficient claims handling if something did happen that caused you to exhaust your underlying policy and move onto the umbrella. Also, you will often receive a multi-policy discount by keeping the policies together under one insurer.


Why

We already highlighted a couple of scary situations that many people can find themselves in that make an umbrella policy a necessity.  You never know what could happen. Even the most cautious person in the world cannot prevent every accident from happening.  Anytime you have someone visit your home, there is an opportunity for someone to get injured.  You may have the sweetest dog in the world who has never harmed a person, but then one day something spooks them, and they hurt somebody.  Any situation that could force you to use the liability coverage on your home and auto policies could become a situation where you need an umbrella policy.

Umbrella policies are an invaluable insurance tool that can be used to protect your assets.  While we never want to imagine that the worst can happen, the truth is that it can.  Ask around and you might be surprised that you do not need to go far to hear the story of someone who could have used an umbrella policy and did not have one. I bet if you asked them if they have an umbrella policy now, the answer would be a firm "yes."

Considering adding an umbrella policy to your insurance coverage? Contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600 to discuss your options.