Sexual Harassment Lawsuits: How to Protect your Company

By now, employers should all realize and understand that sexual harassment is illegal. However, what employers might not be aware of is that the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings in June of 1998 that expanded what is termed sexual harassment; expanded the responsibility that employers have to provide a work environment that’s non-hostile; and did away with harassed employees having to prove that their company holds some responsibility or that their career suffered from lack of promotion, firing, demotion, or such. Employers are now directly responsible for employee behavior, thereby giving harassed employees more recourse in bringing about legal actions against employers.

Work-related harassment and discrimination cases have been steadily climbing since the Civil Rights Act of 1991 allowed for trial by jury, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in legal cases involving discrimination. According to the EEOC, there were nearly 7000 sexual harrasment complaints in 2015. 

Any employer that’s ever been involved in a sexual harassment suit can attest that the cost to settle or defend a sexual harassment lawsuit can be jaw dropping. The cost to defend and settle a sexual harrassment lawsuit can easily run serveral hundred thousand to several million or more. 

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

The first step in protection is understanding what is defined as sexual harassment. State and federal law prohibits behavior that involves an employee in authority basing professional expectations or decisions regarding a subordinate employee being willing or unwilling to exchange sexual acts. The following are examples of such behavior:

* Altering expectations of job performance when a subordinate repeatedly refuses advances for a date or sexual encounter.

* A superior demanding sexual acts in order for a subordinate to receive a raise or promotion.

* Disciplinary action, including termination, of a subordinate that refuses sexual advances or ends an existing romantic relationship.

However, sexual harassment doesn’t always involve a subordinate/authority figure relationship. An offender can be anyone from a coworker to a customer or business vendor. The offender can be male or female, as can the victim. Furthermore, the victim doesn’t even need to be the employee actually harassed. Anyone that’s affected by the harassing or offensive behavior can be termed a victim; for example, an employee that overhears two other employees discussing a taboo subject. The two employees directly involved might not be offended, but if the overhearing employee is offended, then it can constitute sexual harassment.

Verbal, visual, physical, or written…any behavior that causes another employee to view the work environment as hostile, are unwanted, or focus on the sexuality or gender of another person may constitute as sexual harassment. Specific examples of such would be teasing, suggestive objects or pictures being displayed, and repetitively requesting sexual acts or dates verbally or in writing.

Protection With Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)

After knowing what constitutes sexual harassment, businesses can further financially protect themselves with employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). This is an insurance to protect employers when an employee makes the claim that their legal rights have been violated.

While policies vary, EPLI generally doesn’t cover criminal or civil penalties and punitive damages. EPLI does generally cover settlements, judgments, and incurred legal costs arising from an array of incidences – wrongful termination, employment contract breaches, employment and promotion failures, wrongful disciplinary actions, wrongful emotional distress infliction, negligent employee evaluations and discrimination. Some plans automatically include sexual harrassment as well, however other plans may not or you may be required to get a special endorsement for sexual harrassment. This is why it is very important to know exactly what your EPLI covers by reading the policy contract. 

Coverage is specific. So, before purchasing a policy, decide who should be covered. For example, should full and part-time employees, contracted persons, supervisors, department heads, subsidiaries, company divisions, and so forth be covered or not?

One other note about EPLI is that it’s mandatory for employers to report incidents within a reasonable amount of time. Some policies may feature an ERP (extended reporting period) or prior acts. The length, cost, and availability varies by carrier.

Purchasing EPLI has been challenging for small companies in the past. However, the 2004 rate increases have somewhat plateaued. Some rates have even decreased. Keep in mind that EPLI cost is figured based on the business type, employee numbers, and past lawsuits associated with the business.

Prevention Of Harassment Lawsuits

Prevention is the cornerstone in decreasing the risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Prevention steps include the following key elements:

* If the business has EPLI, any incident should be reported immediately.

* Create, communicate, and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for workplace sexual harassment.

* Have an effective harassment complaint process in place and take immediate, consistent, and appropriate action when a complaint is made.

* Thoroughly document all complaints and the following investigation and actions.

 

Understanding Living Wills And Advance Directives For Medical Care

Advance directives and living wills are documents that provide legal instructions about medical care preferences for people who are not able to make decisions on their own. If a person becomes terminally ill, develops dementia or is seriously injured, these documents provide instructions for what types of care to give or withhold. Advance directives and living wills are important for adults of all ages.

Power Of Attorney

There are power of attorney forms for medical purposes, and they may also be called durable power of attorney or health care proxy forms in some states. A medical power of attorney document gives a designated person the ability to make medical and health care decisions on behalf of the document creator if he or she becomes mentally incapacitated. Most people choose a family member, a trusted friend or a clergy member to name on a power of attorney document. Several alternate people can be named in the event that the designee is unable to fulfill the role. It is important to name people who are willing, able and meet the state’s requirements for being a health care agent. Do not choose a personal doctor or a member of a personal medical care team.

Living Will

This legal document reflects the wishes of the creator about medical treatments that he or she would or would not want to use to be kept alive. For example, ventilators, breathing tubes and feeding tubes are used to keep people alive in some situations. Some people may want to avoid these items and possibly die instead of being in a vegetative state for an undetermined amount of time. Living wills also reflect wishes about organ donation, pain management and other important issues. The specifications in a living will should be the personal wishes of the creator. When unsure about what to do or what each option entails, discuss the issues with a personal primary doctor. The following are some important issues to discuss with a doctor:

How long to stay on a mechanical ventilator

  • How long to be fed using a tube or possibly not allowing a tube at all
  • How long to receive dialysis if it is necessary
  • Whether to use antibiotics during end-of-life care
  • Whether to use palliative measures for end-of-life care
  • Whether to donate tissues, organs, skin and corneas
  • Whether to be buried, entombed, cremated or donated to science after death
  • Whether or not to allow resuscitation to restart the heart in different situations such as surgery or sudden emergencies

In choosing to be an organ donor, a person can potentially save five or more lives. With organ donation, keep in mind that the donor must be kept alive while the organs are harvested. The individual is not conscious and does not feel any pain from this procedure. This should not discourage generous people from choosing such a selfless last act of charity. However, it is important to be aware of the process. This particular measure is necessary to preserve the organs and keep them functioning properly for the recipients who need them. To have a body donated to science, contact a local university or medical school to learn about options.

DNR And DNI Orders

There is no need to have any advance directives to create orders against resuscitation or intubation. To avoid a breathing tube or resuscitation, talk to a primary physician. The physician can write these in a person’s medical record as orders, and they will appear when doctors in hospitals or other medical facilities look up the patient’s record before providing care. Also, mention the existence of a living will if it has already been created.

When setting up plans for advance directives and end-of-life care, be sure to discuss them with family members. Creating these plans takes the mental burden and stress away from family members and prevents them from having to make hard decisions at difficult times. Also, discuss the role of health care agent with them, and only designate those who are willing and capable of possibly fulfilling the role.

Most Businesses Are Not Prepared For Hacking And Data Breaches

According to a recent survey conducted by the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, about 70 percent of businesses experienced one or more hacking incidents during the past year. More than 50 percent of business owners did not feel that they had spent enough money or trained enough personnel to address the growing security risks and evolving hacking techniques. Experts at HSB said that businesses can do better when it comes to dealing with hacking attacks and stressed that the key factor to overcoming security risks is preventing them in the first place instead of dealing with the aftermath of attacks. Of the risk managers interviewed by HSB, more than 60 percent were from large enterprises. Another 30 percent represented mid-sized business, and almost 10 percent were associated with small businesses.  One of the major concerns addressed in the report was the security of cloud technology. For cloud services, more than 75 percent of risk managers cited confidentiality breaches as their top concern. About 15 percent cited service interruption as their main worry, and a small percentage voiced government intrusion concerns. Of those who cited information breaches as a top concern, more than 50 percent were especially worried about exposing personal information of individual clients. More than 30 percent were concerned about sensitive corporate data leaks, and about 15 percent of respondents were worried about exposing financial data. Researchers also asked risk managers about their preferences among different types of services to combat hacking. More than 30 percent favored penetration testing and intrusion detection. About 25 percent preferred to educate their employees better, and another 25 percent hoped to use encryption.  Every business owner or risk manager should make sure that security basics are covered. Along with advanced measures, these are some helpful tips to remember:

  • Remove electronic data from company computers before disposing them.
  • Restrict access to sensitive customer data to a few trusted employees.
  • Use password protection for computers and important files.
  • Encrypt emails and stored data.
  • Keep antivirus software and malware removal software updated.
  • Secure access to the network on all levels.
  • Train workers and test their knowledge regularly about security measures.

Another important part of hacking defense is buying cyber insurance. More than 45 percent of the respondents in the survey reported buying this insurance or raising existing coverage levels for it. In comparison with the high cost of a data breach, the low premium yields a great value. To learn more about this coverage, discuss your concerns with an agent.

Preventing Family Disputes Over Inherited Property

After a family member dies and leaves property or belongings to heirs, it is common to hear about disagreements and even fights. Property inheritance rarely brings out the best in family members. If a loved one left instructions regarding property distribution, it is possible for most people who normally do not get along to set aside any differences and comply with those wishes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many family members who normally get along well end up fighting after a family member dies. A death in the family has a way of bringing long-dormant relationship issues, jealousies and feuds to the surface.

When the element of surprise is added into the mix, this can create a recipe for disaster. Many people die without leaving hints about how their property will be distributed among heirs. They automatically assume that an attorney or representative will read their will to everyone, and there will be no issues. If wishes are communicated ahead of time in addition to outlining them in the will, everyone will know what to expect. In many cases, people expect to receive certain assets or items, and the owner of those items may not feel the same way about how they should be distributed. Family members who are unhappy about what they will receive or what they will not receive will have time to adjust to reality rather than being surprised later on when their assumptions are proven wrong.

When a person outlines wishes in a will or leaves behind vague instructions without alerting family members before dying, the surprise may land everyone in court. They may be able to settle some disagreements on their own. However, many fights make it to court. Most people create an estate plan to help provide for their surviving loved ones. If survivors end up paying money to fight each other in court over assets or keepsakes, some will actually lose money.

Since there is no rule saying that a person has to leave his or her property to survivors, it may be beneficial to consider other options. If survivors are likely to fight about belongings despite advanced warnings and provisions in a will, it may be better to leave the property and money to a charity. It is good to inform family members of this choice as well. Dividing assets equally may be difficult in many cases, and some people may be cautious to leave hard-earned money to family members who want it but will waste it. Unequal division of assets usually leads to fights and resentment among surviving family members. This is another example of a good opportunity for leaving personal property or money to charity.

Estate planning is a difficult process for people who have heirs to think about and future fights to avoid. To learn more about estate planning options, discuss concerns with an agent.

 

Americans Who View Life Insurance As Complicated Avoid Buying It

Many Americans believe that purchasing life insurance is a complex process. Since they are also unlikely to seek help in finding insurance, it is easy to see why 100 million American adults do not have a life insurance policy. A recent survey conducted by Life Happens showed that more than 65 percent of Americans who were less than 40 years old and over 50 percent of the cumulative population did not have a positive view of purchasing life insurance.

The survey’s findings are in line with the general perception of other common financial tasks. About 65 percent of Americans said that income tax forms were complex. When it comes to filing income taxes, many Americans hire accountants or tax prep services to help them. The Internal Revenue Service said that about 60 percent of personal tax returns were prepared by a professional instead of by the filing taxpayer.

While Americans have plenty of resources available for filing their taxes, they do not have the same type of well-known help for finding life insurance. For example, there are question-and-answer programs to guide them through basic tax filing. This simple type of software is not widely available for life insurance guidance.

It is important for consumers to have help when they compare policies. This gives them the opportunity to make sense of the many complexities and confusing terms of life insurance policies. There are some little-known tools and resources available to help them through the difficult process. Agents must be proactive about encouraging them to use the tools, and employers who offer life insurance through their companies should also communicate better with employees about their life insurance provisions.

Since Americans generally see life insurance as just another complex process, this gives life insurance companies the opportunity to improve. Experts recommend that industry professionals be proactive and address the concerns of confused consumers. By doing this, they will be able to create better resources and tools to educate consumers. They will also be able to create tools that aid in the decision-making process. Consumers may not know how easy it is to obtain life insurance, and they may not know how beneficial it is for their survivors. For those who are concerned about finances, many do not realize that there are affordable options for every budget. Industry professionals, employers and agents must work hard to communicate these benefits to consumers and workers.

In addition to the previous findings, the survey by Life Happens showed some additional interesting points. The researchers asked participants which financial tasks were the most complicated to do. In response, more than 65 percent said that understanding and using current technology was one of the hardest tasks. About the same amount of participants said that filling out tax forms without the help of a professional was the hardest task, and more than 55 percent cited driving without a GPS as the most difficult task. Less than 55 percent cited buying a life insurance policy as the hardest task, and almost 50 percent cited setting up an IKEA furniture ensemble as the most difficult task. Another 7 percent chose various uncategorized tasks.

Since many people understand the frustration behind putting together a complicated piece of furniture, it is easy to see why so many avoid buying life insurance or start to compare policies and give up. They need to have answers to their questions readily available, and information must be presented in plain terms that make sense to everyone. To learn more about these options and how to make information more accessible, discuss concerns with an agent.

 

Legal Defense is the Best Part of your Liability Coverage

It’s no secret that insurance companies hire from among the best attorneys available, and those attorneys defend you when you get into a legal incident covered by a liability policy that you have secured. But you may ask these two questions: is it still cost effective to get such legal defense through an insurance policy and what policies does a business need to secure to get the best legal guns to defend themselves in a given situation?

If you get an attorney demand letter or any kind of notice of legal action, who do you call? Well you can always call an attorney who may be a friend, have done a trust for you, or put together some contracts for you, but will they be the best litigation attorney for you if it comes to that? Keep in mind the plaintiff will probably know if you have a qualified attorney or not and that will dictate how they will proceed and how much they are willing to settle for. The less qualified your attorney is, the more leverage the opposition will have against you and the more likely it is that they will drag out a settlement or even take the case to litigation. The worst part is these legal issues can take up your time and distract you from running your business. 

The bottom line is, hiring an attorney yourself can be very costly when compared to the benefits of going through your insurance company. Insurance company claims departments handle these kinds of incidents every day, and they know exactly how to keep costs low without compromising on skill. They specialize in managing attorneys and claims incidents. The bottom line is, they are so efficient that it costs them less to settle than it will ever cost you doing it by yourself. These savings are built into the cost of you premium for liability coverage. The good news is, this cost is capped every year for whatever your insurance policy premium is. By not having a policy, legal expenses can easily run into six figures, even before any settlement or litigation takes place. In many cases those taking action against you, most especially if it is frivolous, would rather not face an insurance company attorney and this puts you in a much better position. 

Does a liability policy cover every incident? Of course not, but you can mitigate your legal risks by making sure you have the right policies in place. Here are the most common policies that your business will need to cap your legal exposure:

General Liability (GL)

This is the most common type of business liability policy. GL covers injuries caused to others, damage to the property of others, and may cover personal and advertising injury coverage, such as incidents caused by libel or slander. Many of these policies include products liability, which covers defective products that may cause injury or property damage.

Employment Practices Liability (EPLI)

EPLI insurance is becoming more and more necessary for employers, both large and small alike. EPLI provides protection against employee lawsuits such as discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to employ, and many others. This coverage generally does not pay for punitive damages, but instead will pay for the company’s legal costs associated with a covered lawsuit.

Errors & Omissions Coverage (E&O)

Also known as malpractice insurance, E&O provides coverage to individuals and firms who provide a certain expertise and counseling to their clients. When a professional receives payment in exchange for services, they are held to a high standard by both the client and the legal system. While incidents are not common, when they do happen they are very costly. Having the right insurance coverage in place helps to allow continuity of a practice, while minimizing possible huge financial burdens and distractions by transferring these burdens to the insurance company.

Directors & Officers Liability (D&O)

This type of insurance is taken out to protect legal action against directors & officers of a company. Any firm who has a board of directors, such as privately held companies, non-profit organizations, and homeowners associations, need this coverage. Anyone serving on a board without this coverage is putting their own personal assets at risk. Legal action against Directors & Officers can come from competitors, government agencies, creditors, employees, stockholders, and other third parties.

Pollution Liability

A Contractor’s Pollution Liability insurance policy covers environmental liabilities excluded by standard General Liability insurance. This coverage helps protect contractors against pollution incidents, such as contaminated soil disposal, accidental release of fuel oil, chemicals/toxic gases from broken pipelines, utilities, and stationary and mobile fuel tanks.

Auto Liability

A business should not neglect Auto Liability even if they don’t own any vehicles. If an incident happens during working hours and the injured employee was using their personal vehicle for business use, the business may be named as a party to legal action on any injury or property damage that may occur. If the business is using personal vehicles on the job full time, it is probably best to have those insured under the company to make sure the company has coverage against legal action due to an automobile incident.

Each business is different, which is why it’s so important to review all potential exposures with your agent to determine if any of these exposures can be covered by insurance. A business owner truly gets a bigger bang for their buck when having these liability policies by dealing with experts who know how to leverage their expertise most effectively. These types of insurance policies bring more certainty to your business, the premium is all you pay, you have no worries of losing your business or facing significant setbacks due to spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars defending and paying claims that most people have no idea how to handle.

 

Planning A Trip? Take Care of Key Estate Planning Tasks First

The vast majority of vacations happen without a health care crisis, of course, but as we all know, anything could happen and tomorrow is not promised. Accidents, heart attacks, and strokes can occur at any time with devastating effects.

Sometimes people who experience a health crisis close to home still have time to react. Family members, especially next-of-kin, can be present to make decisions. There’s time to hold a conference of loved ones. Attorneys and financial planners who have known the family for years can, if the family is fortunate, be brought in to help execute key documents, update a will, update power of attorney documents and ensure your wishes are known and respected.

But when you are away from home, things often play out very differently. It is much more probable that you and your loved ones will not have the time or resources to take care of these important end of life planning steps.

Ideally, you will have taken these critical steps already, and all you need to do is keep them updated as circumstances change. But if you’re planning on being away from family and loved ones for any period of time, updating your estate planning document is especially important.

 

  1. Check life insurance beneficiaries. Are all the beneficiaries on your current life insurance policies still relevant? Have there been divorces, deaths, births or adoptions that make it necessary or desirable to change primary beneficiaries? How about secondary or contingent beneficiaries? Have one or more beneficiaries reached adulthood? Can you scrap a trust arrangement?
  2. Check retirement fund beneficiaries. Many people fail to assign named beneficiaries to their IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities and other retirement vehicles. But it’s important to do so in order to ensure that you are preserving the options your heirs have to manage any inheritance in the most tax efficient way possible. It’s also vital if you have stepchildren or other non-traditional family arrangements – otherwise you may accidentally disinherit someone despite a lifetime of love, loyalty, affection and support. Stepchildren and long-time romantic partners who are not married to you are especially vulnerable to accidental disinheritance.
  3. Update your will. Have you acquired or lost property since you last signed a last will and testament? If you lost property, or spent down assets, are the divisions to heirs specified in the will still equitable? You may want to make adjustments to the will, or purchase life insurance to equalize benefits among heirs, or both.
  4. Verify your executor. Is the planned executor for your will still appropriate? Is he or she capable and willing to take on the tremendous responsibility of executor of a will?
  5. Check your health care power of attorney. If you should become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions requiring your health care, whom do you want making these decisions on your behalf? If you don’t establish a health care power of attorney, it will devolve to your next of kin, or in a worst case scenario, to the courts, with you and other family members powerless to look out for your best interest. Naming a health care power of attorney helps ensure your wishes regarding end of life care will be respected.
  6. Establish a living will. This living will provides your health care power of attorney and health care professionals with your guidance about what you want to happen in the event you are incapacitated and they must make some difficult choices on your behalf. Do you want to be an organ donor? How long do you want to be kept on life support if chances of recovery are next to nil? Do you want health care professionals to refrain from CPR or heroic measures to revive you if your quality of life is likely to be poor? Your living will is a legal document that will help your wishes be known.
  7. Homestead declarations. In some cases, you may want to sign a homestead declaration. This may help protect some home equity for heirs in the event of judgments that arise after the declaration is signed – such as awards for lawsuits involving unpaid medical bills. Speak with your attorney about homestead exemption laws in your state.

Your Return on Investment with Vision Coverage

Companies lose billions of dollars every year in employee productivity due to vision problems. The vision issues the majority of these employees have are easy to correct. However, eye care and corrective treatments are expensive. Since most Americans do not have vision insurance, they cannot afford to pay for the vision care they need. Annual policy premiums are much more affordable than paying upfront for eye exams, corrective lenses or expensive treatments. In addition to this, there are several good reasons to obtain and keep vision insurance.

Early Detection Eye doctors recommend annual exams for everyone. In addition to providing updated prescriptions for contact lenses or glasses, these exams are also beneficial for early detection of serious eye conditions. Glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts are some examples of serious issues that are easier to treat when they are detected early. If serious conditions are left untreated, they may be impossible to treat in the future. Some are capable of causing blindness. Fortunately, many plans cover the majority of required treatments for these conditions.

Comprehensive Eye Care One annual exam is covered by most vision insurance plans each year. They usually also cover the majority of the cost of corrective lenses, lens fittings or glasses. While some plans cover 100 percent of these necessities, there may be restrictions. For example, colored contacts may not be covered if they exceed the annual maximum allowance for corrective lenses. During this exam, the doctor checks to see if vision specifications have changed. For example, a person whose last visit was four years ago might find that he or she needs a stronger prescription for glasses. Wearing outdated glasses or contact lenses will cause eye strain and headaches. Eye doctors can also detect many other non-vision health problems by a comprehensive exam. High blood pressure, diabetes, brain tumors and neurological conditions are examples of conditions that commonly show signs in the eyes. To detect the possibility of such issues, an eye doctor must dilate the pupils.

Affordable Out-Of-Pocket Costs Over 100 million Americans require contact lenses or glasses to correct their vision deficiencies, which are usually categorized as farsightedness or nearsightedness. Providing corrective measures for Americans costs about $150 billion each year, which is mostly paid out of customers’ pockets. Although not all vision plans cover 100 percent of exams and corrective aids, they usually cover a significant portion of the costs. In most cases, the benefits are enough to make people who need new glasses obtain them instead of using old ones.

Business Advantages Since employees with vision coverage are likely to use their benefits, companies offering vision insurance in a benefits package enjoy saving a great deal of money on lost productivity. However, employees who do not have coverage and neglect their vision needs are more likely to make costly mistakes on the job or miss work. They are also more likely to get into auto accidents and miss work. To avoid these issues, it is important for companies to offer affordable coverage with adequate provisions. The cost of providing vision insurance for employees is affordable in comparison with the cost of lost work and costly mistakes made by employees with vision problems.

Letting vision quality deteriorate also causes unnecessary burdens on the American healthcare system. If everyone maintains adequate coverage and takes advantage of yearly benefits, this burden could be lessened. Individuals and companies are responsible for making these changes, so discuss the available vision insurance options with an agent today.

Annual Insurance Review is Critical

Most people know the importance of insurance protection. You don’t want to be without it when problems strike. What many don’t realize, however, is that protecting themselves with insurance isn’t a once and done event. You don’t wear the same pants you did when you were five years old because, besides no longer being in style, they simply don’t fit. A homeowner’s policy purchased when your house was furnished with bean bag chairs and bar stools is no longer going to “fit” once you’re lounging on Italian leather sofas while watching television on your wall mounted plasma screen. Life is constantly changing, and your insurance policies should reflect that.

Does this mean that I have to immediately call my insurance agent every time I buy a new piece of furniture or my cousin Tammy moves in for 6 months? Not necessarily. While more significant changes should be reported immediately (such as getting married or getting a new car), items such as improving your home entertainment system or upgrading your car’s sound system, can be reported at your annual insurance review. Agents reach out to their clients because they want to make sure to check up on these changes and help avoid any gaps in their clients insurances. However, it’s equally important for a policyholder to reach out to their agent to make sure they are covered. Schedule your own annual review, and call your agent as you get your annual renewal. If one agent handles all of your coverage, this task is relatively easy. Jot down any changes that have occurred over the last year, even if you’re not sure whether they are significant enough to mention. Doing so will ensure that all of your insurance policies are best suited to your current life situation.

Some examples of changes that should be mentioned to your agent immediately are listed below. Ask yourself these questions every year:

*Have I gotten married or divorced?

*Have I had a new baby, or adopted a child?

*Is anyone in my house a new driver?

*Is anyone living with me who wasn’t before? Will they ever be driving any of my vehicles?

*Do I have a personal umbrella policy? Do I need one?

*Have I purchased any new properties?

*Have I started a home business?

*Have I purchased new furniture, electronics, or fine jewelry?

These are just a few examples of life changes that are often picked up during an annual review. However, they are far from the only changes that can affect your coverage, so be thorough when documenting and reporting items to your agent.

Some of the above examples might seem pretty obvious. Most people know that if their teen-ager gets his license, they need to notify their auto insurance carrier. However, not everything is as obvious. For example, take a couple who just had their first child. They decide that it’s time to purchase life insurance to provide for the child if something ever happens to them. This couple is doing the responsible thing. They understand the importance of buying life insurance when starting a family. That significant step in planning for the future is taught to the general public quite effectively, in the form of commercials, television shows, radio spots, and the like. But what about five years later when little Ellie is born? Having child number 2 doesn’t necessarily flip on the proverbial switch like the first time, shining that bright light on the right decision.  All anyone ever hears about through popular culture is the importance of getting life insurance if you don’t have it, especially if you are starting a family. If the Henderson family gets a life insurance policy when their first little one is born, and 4 children later, mom and dad are hit by a logging truck on a trip to Alaska, only #1 gets the money. Unfortunately, #1 also happens to be 18 by that time, and decides to run to Vegas with his new fortune. This particular tale might seem slightly “tall,” but beneficiary issues create havoc, legal battles, and misdirected money on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s to the tune of thousands, other times it’s to the tune of millions. Protect yourself, your family, and your personal belongings by making sure that each of your insurance policies gets an annual check-up. You’ll rest much better once you do.