How Much Business Liability Do You Need?

 

There is no set formula regarding how much liability a business needs. However, the more coverage you have, the more bulletproof your business becomes. If you are running a very successful business, you will probably want minimal disruption if an incident occurs in which you may be seen as liable. Thus, the more coverage you have, the greater the likelihood that your business will not be affected by such an incident. Moreover, if you don’t have enough coverage, the incident may result in hundreds of thousands-if not millions-of dollars costing you out of pocket.

Hitting Your Limits

The problem with not having enough liability occurs when you are faced with a legal situation where the injured party or parties don’t want to settle for the coverage amount you have purchased. For example, if you have a $2 million liability policy-and the combined parties will not settle for anything less than $4 million-then you have a problem on your hands. You can pay the difference out of pocket or be forced to go to court. If you go to court and your insurance company agrees to pay your limit to the other parties, then you are probably going to be on your own to cover your legal costs at this point. After all, the insurance company has agreed to pay its maximum obligation under your policy. Of course, if you don’t have the funds, bankruptcy is an option. But do you really want to deal with problems and the disruptions to your business that can result from bankruptcy?  Also, bankruptcy may not be an option if you don’t qualify for it under bankruptcy laws.

Multiple Plaintiffs Are Not Uncommon

Often times when a liability occurs, it affects more than one person. Take the recent explosion that occurred outside of Waco, Texas. About 15 people died and over 100 were injured, many seriously. While your business may not have the risk potential of a fertilizer plant, there are always potential dangers that can affect more than one person. Your liability limit is not in any way a per-person limit. It’s a flat limit-no matter how many people are injured. The bottom line is this: the numbers can add up when a number of people are injured. Insurance companies will then pro-rate and split up the limits between all injured parties.  Once the insurance runs out, it’s up to you to hire an attorney to settle all remaining cases.

Understanding the Numbers

In most cases, you will see two numbers on your liability policy. The first is your occurrence limit and the second is the annual aggregate. Occurrence refers to any single accident/incident and to subsequent related incidents. For example, in the Texas fertilizer plant incident, the blast constituted an occurrence. So any death, injury or property damage from that accident is only covered by this occurrence limit. The annual aggregate limit is if there are multiple and unrelated accidents or incidents. For this reason, the occurrence limit is extremely important and is the number you should look at as your coverage amount.

The Umbrella Solution

There are a number of ways you can purchase higher limits. Some companies will allow you to increase your liability limits on each of your policies. However, you may be capped at a certain limit, depending on the policy type, the size of the policy and the company. The best solution is to purchase an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy will extend the limits on all or most of your policies. For example, if you have a $2 million occurrence limit, the coverage amount in an umbrella policy will pick up any coverage thereafter. Umbrellas can be purchased in increments of a million dollars.  It’s not unusual for a business to purchase $10 million or more of this excess coverage.

Deciding on Your Amount

There are a few good ways to determine how much coverage you need. A discussion with your insurance agent about your business, your risks and your exposure is probably a great starting point. It may also be smart to have this discussion with your attorney or an attorney who handles liability cases. You can also do research on online legal sites to review incidents that have occurred in businesses similar to your own. However, the problem here is that you will only see the cases that went to court, since out-of-court settlements are bound by a gag order.

Liability limits should be taken seriously because your business is your livelihood.  Any liability incidents are not pleasant, especially when they put your business or your assets at stake. Robust insurance policies help neutralize these incidents and are crucial to the ongoing success of a business, especially when an undesirable incident occurs.

If you have any questions or would like help in determining the proper protection for your business, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Easy Tips For Locating a Water Leak

 

Most water lines connected to homes are metered to track usage for billing reasons. If a water line has a leak, the monthly usage bill can be very high. For this reason, it is important for homeowners to be vigilant in reviewing their bills. If a bill seems higher, it is time to look for a leak. Water leaks that are significant are usually detected by the utility company, and the utility provider typically notifies the affected customer. Most water leaks start out small and are easy to find with a few simple steps.

Hot Water Tanks
The valves for these tanks are usually connected to a drain that may be leaking without the knowledge of the homeowner. If the drain pipe cannot be removed, listen for a hissing sound that indicates a leak.

Toilets
To find a leak in a toilet, first remove the lid from the tank. Listen for any sounds of water draining or for hissing noises. If these noises are noted, try to locate their source. Some leaks can be fixed and some cannot. When the leak is not possible to fix, call a plumber. If no leaking noises are noted, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank. After about five minutes, check the bowl for coloring. If the water is colored, this indicates a leak in the flapper. It is possible to complete this repair with a kit, but some people may feel more comfortable calling a plumber.

Meter Line
When the toilets have been ruled out for leaks, look at the meter line running to the house. Locating the leak for the plumber will save plenty of money, so this is an important step. Turn the shutoff valve to the off position. Remove the lid on the meter, and watch the meter’s dial. In some cases, grass or dirt may be covering the meter head. When it is located, watch to see if the meter is turning. A turning meter indicates a leak somewhere between the meter and the house. Look for greener grass, muddier ares or soft spots in the yard that may indicate a leak to report to the plumber. Alternately, if the meter is not moving, the leak is somewhere in the house.

Leaks By The House
Put a metal screwdriver on the metal part of each hose bib connected to the house. Place the thumb knuckle over the top of the screwdriver. Touch the area just in front of the ear to the thumb knuckle. This creates an effect similar to a stethoscope. If any sounds are noted, remember what they sound like and where they are. When noises are louder in one hose bib than the other, this means the leak is closer to the bib where the noise is more audible. If no noises are noted on the hose bibs, try the same tip on the faucets in the house. Be careful to avoid scalding when doing this with the hot water heater.

Additional Leak Sources
Check all of the taps, irrigation systems, hoses and sprinklers on the property. Also, check the shower heads for any leaks. This is a step that many people overlook, and repairing a shower head is a simple DIY task. People who have a swimming pool or hot tub should check the unit for leaks.

Not all leaks can be identified by using the tips in this guide. Some leaks can be very hard to locate and will require the attention of a professional plumber. However, homeowners should never ignore leaks. They will only worsen when they are not addressed immediately. Taking the time to complete these steps may pay off for some homeowners, because plumbers will not have to charge as much if the leak’s location has already been pinpointed.

Distracted Walking: Injuries Soar for Pedestrians on Phones

More than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to be treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking, according to a new nationwide study.

The number of such injuries has more than doubled since 2005, even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that time. And researchers believe that the actual number of injured pedestrians is actually much higher than these results suggest.

“If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015,” said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University.

“The role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians.”

The study found that young people aged 16 to 25 were most likely to be injured as distracted pedestrians, and most were hurt while talking rather than texting.

Nasar conducted the study with Derek Troyer, a former graduate student at Ohio State. It appears in the August 2013 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

The researchers used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database maintained by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), which samples injury reports from 100 hospitals around the country. These reports are used to estimate total injury occurrences at emergency rooms across the country.

They examined data for seven years (from 2004 to 2010) involving injuries related to cell phone use for pedestrians in public areas (in other words, not at home).

A wide variety of injuries were reported. One 14-year-old boy walking down a road while talking on a cell phone fell 6 to 8 feet off a bridge into a rock-strewn ditch, suffering chest and shoulder injuries. A 23-year-old man was struck by a car while walking on the middle line of a road and talking on a cell phone, injuring his hip.

Findings showed that in 2004, an estimated 559 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for injuries received while using a cell phone. That number dropped to 256 in 2005, but has risen every year since then. Meanwhile, the total number of pedestrians estimated to be treated in emergency rooms dropped from 97,000 in 2004 to 41,000 in 2010.

Nasar said he believes the number of injuries to distracted pedestrians is actually much higher than these statistics suggest.

He said a more accurate count of injuries to walkers might come from comparing distracted walking to distracted driving, which has been much more heavily studied.

Nasar compared CPSC estimates for injuries related to drivers distracted by cell phones with actual data from emergency rooms across the country. Recent research examining increases in traffic accidents related to cell phone use suggests that the number of crash-related injuries in emergency rooms is actually about 1,300 times higher than CPSC national estimates, Nasar said.

Such data isn’t available to compare CPSC estimates with actual injuries to distracted pedestrians. But if the pedestrian numbers are similar to those for drivers, then there may have been about 2 million pedestrian injuries related to mobile phone use in 2010.

Moreover, Nasar said he believes emergency room numbers underestimate actual injuries because not every person who is injured goes to an emergency room. Uninsured people might not go at all. Other people might take care of themselves, or go to an urgent care center. In addition, not everyone who does go to an emergency room reports using a cell phone.

“It is impossible to say whether 2 million distracted pedestrians are really injured each year. But I think it is safe to say that the numbers we have are much lower than what is really happening,” Nasar said.

As might be expected, young people are the most likely to be injured by distracted walking. The 21- to 25-year-old age group led the way, with 1,003 total injuries during the seven years covered by this study. The 16- to 20-year-olds were not far behind, with 985 total injuries.

For pedestrians, talking on the phone accounted for about 69 percent of injuries, compared to texting, which accounted for about 9 percent.

Nasar said he doesn’t think the lower texting injury rate is because texting is necessarily safer than talking and walking. Instead, it is probably because fewer people actually text while walking than talk while on foot.

The problem with distracted pedestrians is likely to get worse, he said.

“As more people get cell phones and spend more time using them, the number of injuries is likely to increase as well. Now people are playing games and using social media on their phones too,” he said.

Nasar said he believes the best way to reverse these numbers is to start changing norms for cell phone use in our society. And that starts with parents.

“Parents already teach their children to look both ways when crossing the street. They should also teach them to put away their cell phone when walking, particularly when crossing a street.”

 Source: Ohio State University

What Contractors Need to Know About Venturing to Other Types Of Work

 

Contractors who are picking up projects to stay busy in a tough economy are starting to move into areas that they are not familiar with, which means they are taking more risks. Experts say that with such limited work opportunities, contractors are faced with having to change their operations. When contractors also decide to work with subcontractors on these projects, they are often taking on the risks of working with the sub’s employees. In many cases, the employees are not properly trained, so they only contribute to the existing risks. Many of the areas contractors are choosing to migrate to have different legal implications, but some may not be aware of the risks involved in such a change.

Experts say that going out of a specialty area to take on new types of work is a mistake that many experienced contractors advise newer ones against. Acquisitions and mergers for contractors are happening more and more often in the tough economy. When contractors combine their work through mergers, it is important for them to involve their insurance underwriters and engineers to help in identifying risks.

Types of work that would have drawn less than five bidders in the past are drawing between 15 and 20 now, but many contractors who are bidding are unfamiliar with the work. They may think it sounds interesting and may be confident that they can complete it. However, getting involved in an entirely different type of work could be disastrous. For example, a carpenter who decides building roads sounds more interesting would not have the right skills to make an immediate jump.

When contractors start working in states where they have not worked before, the exposures become even more complicated. In addition to rules and regulations, several aspects of construction can differ from one state to another. Some examples are different weather conditions and different soil. Moving to a new state also puts contractors in different selection pools. This means they will not be familiar with which subcontractors are reliable and which ones are not. It is important for contractors to stay alert and keep their insurers informed of their plans. This will help insurers identify risks before incidents happen that may result in uncovered claims.

When contractors who are not familiar with certain types of work are winning bids, it usually means they are undercutting specialists who know what it takes to do the job. The main issue for contractors moving into new areas is expertise. If they lack it, they should not bid on the job. Taking a job without the right expertise only harms the specialists who miss out, the party contracting for the job and possibly the environment or the neighbors of the contracting party. Contractors looking to change to a different area of work should ensure they receive the proper training before making such a switch.

Losing Everything Due to Inadequate Auto Liability Coverage

 

While there are minimum legal requirements for auto coverage, this minimal coverage may not get you off the hook in many cases should you actually be involved in an accident.  The state’s goal is to make the required insurance affordable, but in many cases this results in minimum coverage that is not adequate for most people to drive on the road and meet their true financial obligations. Even limits that are several tiers above the minimum may not be adequate for some drivers, because once those limits are exhausted, any remaining damages must be paid out of pocket.

Bankruptcy is the first thought that comes to the mind of some, but bankruptcy does not come without problems. Bankruptcy will probably hurt or even eliminate your chances of getting credit in the future; even if credit can be obtained, it will cost you a lot more and come with conditions. In addition, many employment backgrounds checks include a credit check. Also, bankruptcy is not always an available option, especially if you have assets or own property. Because the costs and lost opportunities that result from bankruptcy are significant, it’s not an option most people want to or should choose. For that reason, this article discusses your obligations and how to minimize your risk of ever filing for bankruptcy, losing your home, or paying for damages that could be covered by higher liability limits.

Let’s look at an example of how coverage applies. Suppose that you have $100,000 of coverage, your car’s brakes fail, and you rear-end the car in front of you with very high impact, paralyzing the driver. Do you think $100,000 would be sufficient to pay for a lifetime of medical care and lost wages? Would you settle for that amount if you were paralyzed? Chances are most would not. Accidents like this can happen to anyone, and planning in advance can help you to avoid serious trouble and serious financial consequences if an accident should occur.

Once your limits have been paid by the insurance company, it becomes your obligation to pay for any further damages. In the example mentioned in the previous paragraph, if the injured party is justified in asking for $3 million, your insurance company would pay the $100,000 for which you are covered and you would then be expected to pay the remaining $2.9 million. Alternatively, the injured party could take you to court and this could easily cost you hundreds of thousands in legal fees in addition to any judgment granted to the plaintiff.  Filing for bankruptcy would also be an option, or, if you have assets, you would have to pay what you have and possibly lose everything. Your wages also may be garnished to pay any judgment.

In any case, not having adequate liability let alone minimum limits set by the state are not really a solution. Premiums in most cases are not significantly more, and also an umbrella policy available in increments of a million would cover liability for all the cars in your household for one low premium. With such options available, why risk damaging your future with a bankruptcy or, worse yet, losing everything you own because you did not plan in advance to set up coverages that would protect you?  It does not cost you anything to discuss the options with your agent. You may also wish to consult with your attorney or a personal injury attorney who can point out the importance of making sure you properly address your liability limits. For more information, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Helpful Tips for Minimizing Estate and Trust Taxes

 

Although a tax relief plan was passed in 2012, several complications ensued in the complex world of income and estate taxes. Beneficiaries and fiduciaries should pay attention to the new changes made with the recent laws. It is also important for them to be aware of strategies that may help minimize taxes. However, immediate action is necessary for the strategies to be effective. It is especially important for fiduciaries to be familiar with the deadlines and strategies. If beneficiaries or their trusts are forced to pay extra income taxes, this could cause financial hardship.

Ordinary Income And Capital Gains Tax Rate Increases
Tax rates have increased by more than four percent. The top rate applies for individuals when they have a taxable income of $400,000 or more. For married couples, this number is $450,000 when filing jointly. The top rate applies to trusts when an individual has a taxable income of $11,950. There was an increase of five percent on the qualified dividends and long-term capital gains rate.

A new Medicare surtax was introduced, which totals almost four percent on net investment income. This includes annuities, royalties, dividends, interest, rents, income from a business or trade and gains that can be attributed to property disposition. The surtax is applied to the lesser of the excess of modified income or the net investment income for individuals. To be considered excess, the AGI must exceed $200,000. For married couples filing jointly, this number is $250,000. The surtax applies to the lesser of excess AGI over $11,950 or undistributed investment income for trusts and estates.

Ways To Minimize Income Taxes
These are some of the strategies people can use to lower their tax liabilities:

– If beneficiaries are under the income thresholds for surtax, distribute the net investment income to them.

– Minimize the surtax for Medicare.

– Make passive activities active. If three are participating in a trust, it is considered active in most cases. Appointing a non-participatory trustee can help eliminate the need to pay surtax.

– Provide distributions to beneficiaries who are in lower tax brackets. This allows income to be taxed at beneficiary rates instead of trust rates.

– If the payments to a trust are made during the first 65 days of the tax year, lower rates may apply. Making a 65-day election is a wise idea.

– Consider other factors before making distributions that would minimize income taxes. Fiduciaries should weigh the savings against distribution disadvantages. If a trust is not subject to generation-skipping taxes, the savings for tax transfers may outweigh distribution savings.

– Trusts and estates are taxed based on calendar years, but it may be possible to tax estates on a fiscal basis. Electing a fiscal year can be beneficial, and this may make it possible to add the qualified revocable trust of the decedent to the estate.

Estates electing fiscal years may see lower tax regimes. In following years, undistributed income may be taxed at lower rates without surtax in some cases. However, income that is distributed to beneficiaries will be taxed at the current year’s rates, which are subject to change in the future. To learn more about the specifics of these changes and for updated rates, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Understanding Terrorism Insurance Limits and Provisions

 

Businesses and individuals can purchase terrorism insurance to cover possible losses resulting from terrorist attacks. It is important for consumers and business owners to understand their options and coverage inclusions.

Individuals
A standard homeowners policy includes coverage for property damage and damage to personal possessions as a result of terrorist attacks. However, terrorism is not specifically referenced. This type of policy offers protection for homeowners due to fires and explosions, which are common methods of terrorist attacks. Owners of co-ops or condominiums can also have protection for personal possessions in the event of a terrorist attack. Damage to common areas are only covered if the board has purchased terrorism coverage, so people who live in large complexes should be aware of this. The same is true for people who rent apartments. While personal possessions are covered, damages to any common areas are the responsibility of the landlord.

If a car is destroyed or damaged due to a terrorist attack, an auto insurer will only cover the destruction if the owner purchased comprehensive coverage. People who have vehicles that are still on loan or lease terms must carry this coverage. Those who have only liability insurance will not be covered. Life insurance policies do not include exclusions for terrorism. If a policyholder dies in a terrorist attack, the beneficiaries will still receive their money.

Businesses
Before 9/11, commercial insurers provided terrorism coverage without extra costs. However, this type of insurance is now offered separately with its own price that is reflective of current risk levels. Insured losses are covered by private insurers that are reinsured by the government according to the Terrorism Risk and Insurance Act, which was originally formed in 2002. The TRIA includes commercial property owners. Some examples of such properties include shopping malls, factories and offices that are required to carry this coverage. While an attack must be certified by the Secretary of the Treasury to be triggered by the government for these policies, no declaration is needed for auto or home coverage. This is because there are no terrorism exclusions.

What Is Not Covered
Restrictions apply to biological, nuclear, radiological and chemical events for both commercial and personal policies. Risk exclusions that are war related reflect the reality that damages stemming from war acts are not insurable. For the war risk exclusion to apply, no formal declaration is needed from Congress. If some exclusion are allowed by a state, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act says that insurers do not have to make the excluded coverage available.

Business Interruption Coverage
Commercial buildings sustaining damages from terrorist attacks may include claims for business interruption. Insurance for this type of incident covers financial losses stemming from firms suspending business due to direct damages or access restrictions placed by civil authorities. Although coverage depends on individual policies, it usually starts after a waiting period of at least two days. It lasts anywhere from two weeks to several months.

Losses due to business interruption that are associated with civil authority closures may be triggered by physical damages or losses nearby. The losses do not have to happen on the insured’s premises to apply. Civil closures and loss of income due to closures would not be covered by business interruption policies.

Workers’ Compensation
This is a compulsory coverage for business owners. It covers workers who are killed or injured on the job, so it automatically includes acts of terrorism. This is the only type of coverage that does not exclude war act provisions. In every state, exclusion of coverage for terrorist attacks is not allowed.

Health, disability and life insurance policies may offer coverage for death, sickness or injuries related to the attack. To learn more about this type of coverage and its inclusions or exclusions for businesses, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website

Stay Safe by Keeping Tabs on Hurricanes through Mobile Apps

Technologies may change by leaps and bounds, but the forces of nature remain raw, powerful and – oftentimes – destructive.

While technology may never rival the power of nature, it has proven to be an invaluable tool in helping people protect themselves against the potential damage hurricanes bring. Information is the tool meteorologists and hurricane experts rely on the most – thanks to technological advances such as satellites and radars.

Today, these technologies are simply a touch away from anyone who has a smartphone or tablet – be it an iPhone, iPad, Android device or the newest Windows 8 tablet. Beyond combining several gadgets in one sleek package, these devices can now empower any user with valuable hurricane information – through a growing range of hurricane apps.

As the country faces another hurricane season, it might be wise to add “download hurricane apps” to your hurricane preparedness list.

The Choices before the Storm

What app, you ask? The choices seem to be growing steadily with emerging software developers and increasingly accessible technologies. As with most apps, the basic features of most hurricane apps are similar:

  •  Visual

A picture of a hurricane is definitely worth a thousand words. This is why almost all hurricane apps provide high-resolution images of hurricanes as well as maps tracking their projected paths through satellite and radar.

  •  Informative

Apart from providing warning information such as a hurricane’s estimated time of landfall, wind speeds and duration, many apps include checklists and planning maps, among other preparation tools. One of the top-rated apps by users and the media, Hurricanes by American Red Cross, for example, includes comprehensive details such as step-by-step to-do instructions when cell towers are down and the power is out. This app also goes a step further by including a built-in test that will enable users to find out how ready they are for the hurricane.

  •  Geographical

Do you want information that covers the whole country or prefer tracking hurricanes in a specific area? Hurricane Hound Free by STKI Concepts, for instance, covers the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins. It lets users choose the ocean basin they are interested in, one of three graphical themes, and their preferred wind speed units.

  •  Interactive

Many apps easily connect to Facebook, Twitter, email and other social media to let users get in touch with their family and friends, and update them of their current circumstances. WDSU Hurricane Central by HTVMA Solutions, Inc. even lets users share their hurricane photos and videos.

Other considerations that may limit your choices are the apps’ hardware and software requirements. Aside from the performance, speed and graphics quality of your device, an app, such as Hurricane Software by HurricaneSoftware.com, may also require GPS and internet connection to function optimally.

The only way to know which apps suit your needs the most is trying them out yourself. After all, it only takes several minutes to download and install each app – except for some which may also cost you about 99 cents to a few dollars.

These paid apps are often mainly ad-free versions of the free apps, or include some value-added functions. For example, SeaStorm by Poignant Projects, which can be downloaded for $1.99, packs more punch with an optional forecast model viewer add-on. It has an interactive map complete with panning, zooming and individual model point information, as well as selectable models, start time and run length.

Before you decide on keeping all apps that you have tried, ask yourself: What good will 10 great apps do you when they drain your device’s battery and memory faster than a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind?

Rate your apps based on your own criteria and choose the top two or three apps to keep – and update regularly.

Covering All Bases

Remember that preparing for a hurricane means also preparing for possible flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes.

Downloading an app is one step out of many. You may also install other disaster preparedness apps to complement your hurricane app, but make sure that you cover all bases by planning several strategies for different scenarios.

For long-term protection, ensure that your family, as well as homes, businesses and other properties, are covered by adequate insurance. Most homeowners’ insurance policies, for instance, do not cover flooding. Review your existing policies – and update or upgrade if necessary.

After the Hurricane

How did your apps help you before, during and after the hurricane? Find time to leave ratings, comments and suggestions on the apps’ download page. Apart from informing potential app users of your actual experience, your feedback will also help software developers improve the apps – and possibly save lives and properties.

What to Expect when Annuitizing Annuities

 

Insurance companies sell retirement products called annuities. There are different types of these products available. A deferred annuity is a set amount of money that earns tax-deferred interest until the time comes to convert it into retirement income. Immediate annuities are lump sums of money, and the insurance company must pay out a set amount of money based on the sum every month. The monthly payments are guaranteed and do not change. Annuities convert lump sums of money into monthly payments, which can be made up of principal return and interest. When a person converts a deferred annuity into an immediate one, this is considered annuitizing of a contract. A person receiving payments is called an annuitant.

Income Options For Annuities
When annuitizing a contract, the choices people have are a monthly income or a lifetime income. The monthly income is distributed over the span of several years and is a fixed amount. Periods of payments for annuities based on monthly income vary between 10 and 20 years in most cases, but some may exceed 40 years. Lifetime annuities guarantee an income until the annuitant dies without period limits. Payments will not stop before the death of the individual.

Income Modifications For Annuities
Lifetime annuity payouts can be altered with a refund modification, a period certain or a joint-and-survivor annuity. When a person adds a period certain, this means the payments will continue for the rest of the annuitant’s life or for a specific amount of years. Joint-and-survivor annuities distribute monthly payments, which are based on the beneficiary’s life span and the annuitant’s life span. The payments for these annuities continue until both parties have died. Refund annuities guarantee that payment totals will be as much as the original lump sum in the event that the annuitant dies prematurely.

Annuity Taxes And Additional Considerations
Annuities that are purchased with all or some of a person’s after-tax income will be eligible for partial payment exclusion ratios with quotes for different annuity payout options. Insurance companies provide exclusion ratios with their quotes for annuity payments. Those who are considering purchasing annuities as retirement tools should spend time comparing other investment options against the annuity’s after-tax return. It is important to remember that annuitizing a contract is an irreversible step. When a person makes this decision and payments start, there is no way to change the contract. In addition to this, there will no longer be a lump sum available for other uses. To learn more about annuities and other retirement planning options, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

Understanding OSHA and Which Workplaces Must Comply

 

The bill that would lead to the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect on April 28, 1971. When Congress passed the bill, they made it clear that their intention was to ensure that every working individual in the nation would have healthful and safe working conditions. OSHA was then formed as a division of the Department of Labor. After being formed, it was given the power to enforce and set safety and health standards for American workplaces. In addition to this, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which is a research institute for disease control, was established. OSHA describes employers as any persons engaged in businesses that affect commerce and have employees. However, political subdivisions of individual states and the United States political divisions are not included.

Nearly all workplaces must comply with OSHA. Hospitals, offices of charities, private schools, labor unions, restaurants, construction companies, law firms, manufacturers and many more types of businesses must follow OSHA’s regulations. Religious organizations that have employees for secular purposes are included. Family farms, people who are self employed and workplaces that are subject to other federal laws are exempt. Some examples of workplaces that are subject to other federal laws include nuclear weapons manufacturers, airlines, railroads and mining companies. State and local governments are also exempt. However, the United States Postal Service and other federal agencies are included.

Under OSHA regulations, employers are required to:

– Comply with and be familiar with applicable standards.
– Maintain practices that keep workers reasonably safe on the job.
– Make sure employees are provided with necessary protective equipment when applicable.

This is part of the General Duty clause. When OSHA acts on the clause, there must be four elements present:

– There must be a hazard.
– The hazard has to be recognized.
– The hazard is likely to cause serious injuries or death.
– It must be possible to correct the hazard.

Since it is difficult for OSHA to make rules, the division mostly focuses on mechanical and chemical hazards instead of procedural tasks. They currently focus on falls, electrical hazards, toxic substances, digging trenches, infectious diseases, hazardous waste, explosion dangers and machine hazards.

If an employee dies due to a work-related injury, an employer must report the death to OSHA within eight hours. This is also true if there are three or more workers hospitalized as a result of a workplace accident. Workplace injuries must always be reported in a timely manner. Reports must be kept on file for five years following an injury. Any on-the-job heart attacks must also be reported immediately. It is important for employers to communicate with their workers about hazards and procedures to avoid them. Technical guides and material safety data sheets should be available to all workers.

OSHA forbids employers from retaliating, discriminating against or discharging any employees for exercising their rights outlined in Section 11. Employees have the right to contact OSHA about concerns, participate in proceedings and participate in inspections. Some states adopt their own safety and health plans, which is permitted in Section 18 of OSHA. However, the state’s standards must be effective in creating healthful and safe employment.

If you have questions understanding how OSHA requirements affect your business, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.