man loading delivery van with boxes

Risk Management For Contractors and Business Owners

What Is Risk Management?

Risk Management is the process of dealing with potential loss by a business or operation. The scope of Risk Management goes beyond purchasing an insurance policy as there are many areas of loss that may not be addressed by any specific insurance policy.

The phases of the Risk Management Process typically include:

• Identifying exposures (possible losses)
• Measuring those exposures
• Developing a plan to mitigate, transfer, or fund the potential losses (an insurance policy is a funding method)
• Implementing the plan
• Reviewing the effectiveness of the plan and making any necessary adjustments

This is a never ending analysis that must be adjusted constantly to meet the pace of a dynamic business and the environment in which the business operates.

As your insurance agent, we can be an integral part of your risk management team. Along with your tax advisor, attorney, safety coordinator, and executives, we can help you review all aspects of risk for your business and help you coordinate an integrated Risk Management Plan.

Most contractors and small business owners do this intuitively every day as they measure their risk-versus-reward for every activity, project, bid, and job that comes up. We can help you formalize this process which can be a key factor to allow for the growth of the business.

A Good Way to Start Risk Management

If you are not ready to do a formal plan that includes all the steps in the risk management process, phase in a plan by focusing on the largest categories of risk that most businesses face. We can divide your largest exposures to loss in the following categories:

Property

Your business may own various types of property. How would a significant loss to your business property affect the future viability of your business?

• Buildings
• Personal property in your building or elsewhere
• Tools and equipment that may be at your premises, in transit, or at a job site
• Property in your care or custody that is owned by others
• Property in transit – Are you shipping goods to or from your premise? How are they shipped and who is responsible for that property?
• Loss of use of property – Both buildings and other property (In these days of supply flow concern this may be a much larger factor to your business operations than in the past.)

Human Loss

Your key employees may be the unique advantage that makes your company successful. Yet we spend very little time thinking about them as a critical piece of the business and protecting the business from the various losses that can happen to our “human assets”.

• Losing a Key Employee by sickness, death, retirement, or to the competition – Do we have a plan to help the company survive each of these possibilities?
• Business Perpetuation and Continuity – What happens to the business if one partner/owner gets sick, becomes disabled, or dies?
• Employee Care – Do you have an employee benefits plan that is valuable to the employee? What other employee retention program is in place?

Liabilities

What risk do you face from injuries to others?

• Bodily Injury – To employees, contractors, bystanders, or those who use your products or services. Can you mitigate this risk?
• Property Damage – What potential risk to property do your operations face? Don’t forget operations of automobiles, trucks, and equipment which may by your single largest exposure to a catastrophic liability loss.
• By Contract - Each day you may sign agreements under which you assume liability. Are you reviewing these agreements to make sure that loss is acceptable or at least covered by your insurance? (We can help you with this.)

Environment

Think beyond “environmental” to the full scope of the social and business environment in which you operate.

• Social Risk – Are you keeping pace with important changes in society that could increase your exposure to loss? This goes beyond “political correctness” and is a growing threat to all business owners.
• Regulatory Risk – Do you take part in industry associations to keep up to date on potential threats to your business or industry from regulations or laws that may threaten your ability to do business as currently made up? Are you current with all regulations and statutes?
• Competitive Risk – Are you paying attention to changes in society that could affect your business? What (or who) are the business disruptors in your industry?

G. S. Newborn & Associates Can Help

We have experience working with business owners in developing a Risk Management program. We can coordinate with your other advisors to do a full risk analysis for your company, or we can focus on whichever area of the process you feel will most positively affect your business.

For many of our clients, we perform the following services, which are steps in mitigating risk and part of a good Risk Management Program for any business:

Contract Review

We are always available to review a contract or agreement to give you an analysis of how the agreement fits with your insurance program. From a lease agreement to a proposal contract, we will let you know what liabilities you may assume under the agreement and how your insurance policy matches the insurance provisions and requirements of the agreement.

Subcontractor Agreements & Certificate of Insurance Program

If you use subcontractors, you should have an agreement where you transfer reasonable risk and liabilities to the subcontractor working on your behalf. You also must require them to have adequate insurance. We can help you develop these agreements & requirements and administer them to you so you know all subcontractors are meeting your requirements.

Employee Benefits Review

Having a meaningful employee benefits plan is not only critical in terms of expense, but it can be a centerpiece in your employee retention program as well. Not all plans are equal, and in your quest to manage expenses, you may cause increased employee turnover and dissatisfaction.

Let our experienced benefit advisor help you develop an employee benefits plan that maximizes your expenditures so you get the most bang for your buck from your employee benefits.

Other

We can customize programs that are unique to your business or industry. We think outside of the box to find the best way to protect your business.

What Do These Services Cost?

We provide the above services to our clients with no additional charge. We think an informed client is a better client!

Can you afford not to have a Risk Management Plan? Let’s talk…

- Gary S. Newborn


two people running through files together

Surviving Your Workers Compensation Audit

If Benjamin Franklin were around today, he might change his famous quote to, “In this world, nothing is certain but death, taxes, and a workers compensation audit.”

Why Is Your Policy Audited?

The premium for workers compensation insurance is based on the payroll to employees and the cost of uninsured contractors during the policy period. At the beginning of the policy term, your policy is set up based on a projection of your payroll. It makes sense that at the end of the policy term, an adjustment will then be made. It'll be either up or down based on your actual payroll.

Another way to think of this is that payroll is the unit that the insurance mechanism uses to measure your exposure to loss in workers compensation insurance. A payroll audit must be done to make sure that your small business does not pay the same premium that a much larger company would pay.

What Information Is Required?

The insurance company will ask you to produce certain documentation so that your payroll levels and cost of sub-contractors can be validated. Here is a list of the most common items that you will be asked to produce.

  • A payroll report (from your payroll service, if possible) showing a summary of gross wages by employee for the policy period. The summary should include regular time wages and overtime wages.
  • Copies of your Federal payroll tax filings—941 Forms and your State payroll tax filings—and WR 30 Forms that correspond to the quarters that encompass most of your policy period. Don’t worry if your policy dates do not match the quarters perfectly as that is normally the case.
  • The insurance company will typically ask for evidence of your gross sales for the policy period. You can provide this with a balance sheet/profit-and-loss statement that matches the policy period (if you can generate this internally). If you cannot do a policy period statement, do the closest year end statement that you can. While your gross sales are not used in determining your premium for workers compensation, they will ask for this as a check on the overall size of your business.
  • Statement of sub-contractors used during the policy period. The best way to do this is to track these expenses during the year in your accounting system and to print a report that shows each sub-contractor and the checks written to them during the policy period. The entry should show a date of the check and the amount of the check. If you cannot show a report for the use of sub-contractors, the insurance company will ask to see your general ledger or your checkbook. They'll then search for all expenditures to sub-contractors during the policy term.
  • Copies of Certificate of Insurance for each sub-contractor shown on your sub-contractor report.
  • Copies of your 1099 report for the most current year end.

Sub-Contractors and Workers Comp

An insured sub-contractor does not add any premium to your workers compensation policy. However, an uninsured sub-contractor will generate a charge just as if it was payroll. This is a double penalty because your cost of sub-contractors includes labor and materials.

It is very important that you collect insurance certificates from all sub-contractors. We recommend that you have a written agreement with all sub-contractors to outline the coverage that is required, as well as including indemnification, hold harmless, and additional insured requirements.

G.S. Newborn & Associates, Inc. Adds Value To Your Insurance Program

We can help you institute a certificate management and a sub-contractor agreement program, and are happy to help you administer this program. You should never have to pay a premium for an uninsured sub-contractor! We include this service for our commercial clients at no charge to you.

Do Your Audit Promptly

The insurance company is not going to chase you to do your workers compensation audit. Under a new regulation in New Jersey, an unaccomplished audit results in an estimated audit with a much higher premium level than your projection. So, if you do not complete your audit in a timely manner, you will receive a large additional premium audit invoice based on an arbitrary payroll level increase.

We urge you to respond right away to an audit request. If you cannot reach the auditor, please contact our office and we can intercede for you.

After The Audit

Once the audit is complete, you will receive an audit endorsement to the expired policy. There are three possible results: no change, additional premium, or return premium.

If you owe additional premium, the insurance company will send you an invoice for that premium. Keep in mind that this premium will be billed in one installment. Most of our carriers will agree to spread out this premium over two or three months depending on the size of the audit premium. You just need to contact us to arrange this for you.

If they owe you a return premium, you will receive a credit or check for this amount from the carrier.

When your audited payroll levels were much higher than your projected payroll, you will obviously have an audit premium due. Most insurance companies will also adjust the payroll levels on your current policy, which has already been issued, which will generate an additional premium invoice as well. This is a bit of a double hit so we suggest you try to make your payroll projection for your policy as accurate as possible since understating your payroll can do a number on your cash flow.

G.S. Newborn Is Here To Help

We are available to help you with all phases of this process. Please contact us if you have any questions about your workers compensation audit or any aspect of your insurance program.


first person closeup view of handshake

How, And From Whom, You Buy Your Insurance Matters

We are inundated each day with branding, messaging, and advertising. With the advances in technology and social media, it seems to be everywhere all at the same time. And it works.

We cannot help but be influenced by a catchy jingle, a compelling story, or the assault of repetition of a message that we hear dozens and dozens of times each day. But with insurance, the story that you are hearing, the messages that you are receiving, and the brands that come to mind may not be telling you the entire story.

You should note that I am not objective in this matter. I am an independent insurance agent with almost forty years of experience–so I have a definite point of view. I ask that you read further to hear me out–my budget for social media, branding, and advertising is virtually non-existent, so this is my only way to tell our side of the story.

What Is An Insurance Agent?

In basic terms, an insurance agent is any person who is licensed to review, discuss, and effect insurance coverage in each State (yes, insurance is regulated by the States). In practice, even though all agents are licensed with the State in the same manner, there are a variety of types of insurance agents.

Captive Agent

A captive agent is a licensed insurance agent who represents a single insurance carrier. These agents are typically the sales arm of the insurance company. Mostly, these agents may only sell you products from their “captive” insurance carrier.

Direct Agent

A direct agent is a licensed insurance agent who is an employee of an insurance carrier. These agents, much like the captive agents mentioned above, are generally the sales arm of the insurance company for whom they work and limited to offering you products from only their employer insurance company.

Online Representative

An online representative is someone working for an insurance provider, typically an insurance company, but perhaps a technology or other company involved in the distribution of insurance products who walks you through an automated process to purchase insurance coverage. They may license these representatives in your State, or they may work “under” a licensed insurance agent. They typically offer products and services from a single insurance company.

Independent Agent

An independent agent is a licensed insurance agent who represents multiple insurance carriers because of appointments (contracts) that are entered with each carrier that outline the specific duties and responsibilities of the agent and the insurance company.

These agents may offer you a range of products from all the insurance companies with whom they are contracted. The Agency often consists of many licensed insurance agents who work together to provide ongoing service to their clients.

Over my career in insurance, I have met competent and professional practitioners of insurance from each category and type of insurance agent. Each consumer will make their selection of how they wish to purchase insurance based on their own needs and goals from the process.

A Real Life Case Of How Purchasing Insurance Matters

We recently worked with a homeowner who was being cancelled by their insurance company because of too many claims during a five-year period.

In NJ, each insurance company files guidelines for eligibility (with the State) that they must follow. All of them include a specific number of claims over a period that allows them to terminate insurance coverage. It is typical for carriers to have a guideline of three claims over either three or five years as the tipping point.

In this case, the homeowner had three claims over a five-year period. One claim was from wind damage and the insurance company paid out $1,200. The second claim was reported by the homeowner for water that seeped into their basement during a period of heavy rainfall. This claim was declined by the insurance carrier because this type of loss is typically not covered by a homeowner policy. The third claim was for storm damage and the insurance company paid out over $40,000 for the damage. The third claim during the period for that insurance company generated a non-renewal notice, and this homeowner needed to find new insurance coverage.

There are many points we can gather from this real-life situation.

  1. The second claim perhaps should not have been reported. A competent agent would know that this is not covered. Many carriers will count every claim inquiry, including declined claims, as a reported claim. By the way, the homeowner told us that there was no damage to either the building or to their personal property. They were just wondering if their policy would pay for waterproofing to repair this condition to their home so that there would not be damage in the future.
  2. This homeowner reported the claim directly to the insurance company because their agent (in this case a captive agent) directed them to the insurance carrier’s website for claims. Sometimes direct reporting may not be optimal for the best results. As an independent agent, we believe that helping our clients at claim time is a primary duty and responsibility. It gives us an opportunity to explain how the claims process works to our client. It gives the client an opportunity to explain exactly what happened to an advocate rather than a report taker. It also gives us the chance to explain the consequences of the claim and what that claim may do to their ability to purchase insurance in the future or to their cost of insurance.
  3. Here, the homeowner had a policy with a very low deductible. We generally recommend a range of deductible limits to our clients with the express purpose to help them avoid tiny claims which may cause them to be cancelled in the future if they have larger, more substantial claims. Here, if the homeowner had a deductible of $1,000, they may not have wanted to report a claim that would only pay them $200.

By the end of our conversation, the homeowner appreciated our point of view and asked if we were able to obtain a policy for them. We knew that all our insurance carriers would decline this account because they had been non-renewed for claims activity, but we contacted one of our insurance company underwriters, explained the second claim that should never have been a claim, and that carrier agreed to offer a policy for the homeowner.

This new client has expressed to us that they wish they had worked with an agent on a “consultative” basis before they had to learn the hard way that it matters how (and from whom) you purchase your insurance.

Key Insurance Buying Takeaways

  • Work with an agent who is going to ask you a lot of questions and work with you to design an insurance policy that works for you.
  • Expect ongoing service from the person who understands your account and knows your needs for claims, payment issues, new and improved coverage, and alternative competitive quotes for your coverage.
  • The convenience of websites and toll-free telephone numbers for service is lovely but may not always get you the best advice.
  • Work with an agent that you trust and who will tell you what you need to hear, which may not always be what you want to hear.

We think that being an independent insurance agent puts us in the best position to help you get the most from your insurance program.


Hand holding iPhone with Lyft Logo on screen

Are You Covered By Your Personal Auto Policy for Business Use of Your Vehicle?

Ride Sharing, Pizza Delivery, and More Examples of Using Personal Automobile for Business

Jane uses her Honda Accord a few evenings a week while she drives for Uber.

Jim, Jr. uses his mother’s Ford Escape during the weekends for his pizza delivery job at the local pizzeria.

Sarah uses her Dodge Minivan to deliver packages for an internet-based retail delivery service five days each week until she finds a new management position.

Nick drives his Chevrolet Blazer a few days each week while he does delivers for Door Dash until his music gigs begin again as bars and restaurants reopen.

Each of these are examples of people using their personally owned automobile in a business centered around transportation of people or objects.

While some of these could be called a part of the “new economy”, there are also hosts of old school situations that are still current like driving a carpool, using your vehicle to drive people to nearby airports for pay, home delivery of newspapers, magazines, and other products, or using your own vehicle to run errands for your boss, make sales calls, or for other work-related uses.

Your automobile insurance policy may handle each of these situations differently–and that there is significant variation by specific insurance company and by state in what they may cover and how it may be covered.

Let us break down some of these business exposures and discuss how they are covered by your personal automobile policy.

Using Your Personal Vehicle on Behalf of Your Employer

Many of us will use our own car from time to time to run errands for our employer, visit a client, or attend an out of the office seminar. If you get into an accident while using your personal automobile on behalf of your employer, it is likely that your Personal Automobile Policy will protect you for both injuries you cause to others (third party claims) and damages to your vehicle (first party).

In addition, your Personal Automobile Policy will provide primary coverage to your employer if someone named them in a negligence suit as a responsible party for the damages to others. Your employer may also have coverage under their business insurance to protect them for these claims in excess of your coverage. It is unlikely that you will be a covered party under your employer’s policies for your use of your own automobile.

Since your policy may dilute your limits providing coverage to your employer (you will share your limits), you should consider having an automobile policy with high limits of liability and extending those limits by purchasing a Personal Umbrella Policy.

This conversation would be much different if the business of your employer relates to delivery of goods or services or the transportation of people.

Transportation Network Platform Use or Ride Sharing

If you really want to freak out your children (or in my case grandchildren), ask them if they know where there is a pay phone so you can call a taxi to get a ride home from a restaurant!

Companies like Uber and Lyft have become ingrained in our public consciousness. These are now massive transportation companies who do not own any vehicles–unfathomable to comprehend just a few years ago.

Driving for one of these services can be a substantial income augmenting part-time job with very little up-front costs and total flexibility in your work schedule. However, it is important to understand that using your own automobile for one of these companies is not without risk.

Most Personal Automobile Policies will exclude coverage for all sections of your policy while you are driving on behalf of a ridesharing service. Many carriers have adopted special “Transportation Network Platform” exclusions to restrict your coverage under your policy from the time you log on to the network to the time you log off the network.

It is likely that the service provides you with some level of coverage while you are on the platform, but perhaps not nearly as much coverage as you have under your own policy.

A typical scenario is that while you are logged into the system but do not have a client, you receive a low level of liability coverage from the service. We have seen coverage as low as $50,000 for Bodily Injury per person/$100,000 Bodily injury per accident/$50,000 Property Damage for this phase of operations.

Once you pick up a client, the coverage may increase to a larger limit–we have seen this as high as $1,000,000 per occurrence. Once you drop off the client and are again in between rides, you would revert to the lower limit of liability.

The insurance typically provided by the ride sharing service is only for Liability to others. This does not include coverage for damages to your car or injuries sustained by you while in the car, while your Personal Automobile Policy likely excludes all these coverages.

While Uber and Lyft may be the best known of the ride share companies, there are many others and they may include the transportation of food or other items instead of people. The exclusions in your Personal Automobile Policy include all such transportation network platform services, regardless of what you are transporting.

To fill in the gaps created by driving for a ride sharing operation, it is necessary for you to purchase a special Ride Share Coverage Endorsement from your Personal Automobile insurance company. Not all carriers offer this coverage, and it is not available in all States.

If your carrier does not offer it, it may be possible to purchase standalone Ride Share coverage. If neither of these options are available, you may need to purchase a Business Automobile Policy for the vehicle that is being used in a ride sharing business.

Newspapers, Pizza, and Other Deliveries

There are jobs that may include delivery services that do not use a transportation network platform. Delivering newspapers, pizza, or other take away food, products or services are the most common jobs that we see where folks routinely use their personally owned vehicle for delivery services for an employer.

The coverage for these situations is much less well defined. Most policies contain an exclusion that states, we do not cover the insured’s liability arising out of the ownership or operation of a vehicle while it is being used as a public or livery conveyance. The policy gives no further definition of the meaning of public or livery conveyance.

Livery generally refers to the transportation of goods or people. Clearly using your vehicle for a taxi service, limousine, or school bus would not be covered by your Personal Automobile Policy.

Occasional deliveries or things like take out food are less clearly contained in the generally accepted definition of these terms and would be open to interpretation by your insurance carrier and ultimately the courts.

We are not big fans of depending on court rulings and lawsuits to get coverage from your insurance carrier. Most insurance underwriters and claims adjusters will tell you that none of these situations are covered by your policy and all are considered public or livery conveyance.

A glance at the results of court cases on this issue are not as clear, with courts in many jurisdictions granting coverage for newspaper delivery or pizza delivery under the Personal Automobile Policy (keep in mind that this would only apply if the driver were not engaged by a transportation network platform).

Our recommendation is that you treat any delivery use of your vehicle as being excluded from your policy and purchase Ride Share coverage as mentioned above.

What Should You Do About Your Auto Policy?

  • Call your insurance agent if you have questions on specific situations that you may have with using your personally owned vehicle for business use.
  • If deliver services are a part of a job, ask your employer what insurance coverage the company provides to you for injuries to others, damage to your vehicle, and injuries that you incur while operating the vehicle.
  • Be very careful with any job where you are paid as an Independent Contractor.

Please contact us if you have questions regarding your personal automobile insurance.


three hackers around a computer wearing anonymous / guy fawkes masks

Why Businesses Should Consider Cyber Liability Insurance

Our lives are increasingly digital. A year ago, who even knew what a “Zoom” was and now it may be the single largest gathering location. More and more of us are working from home, or at least, not in a traditional setting with a greater reliance on computers and devices than ever before. We do not know what long-range effects any of this will have on society, but one thing that we know is that we must deal with a whole new range of security and safety issues.

What is Cyber Liability?

In the insurance field we call this new area of concern, Cyber Liability. A Cyber Liability insurance policy can provide a wide range of coverage (and often services) to help you avoid some of the more common cyber security issues. This is an issue for businesses and individuals. These policies have not yet been standardized, so each insurance carrier develops their own policy with different coverage, terms, and conditions–there can be tremendous differences in these policies. This is one reason you may want to work with an independent insurance agent who has many options to help you develop a coverage plan that meets your specific needs and concerns.

First-Party Cyber Liability Benefits

Most Cyber Liability insurance policies include what we call first-party benefits and third-party benefits. A first party benefit is insurance that you purchase that provides coverage for your own property. Some first party features you may need in a Cyber policy include:

  • Data Restoration–this is an insurance benefit that you use to recreate lost data because of a breach or extortion threat.
  • Loss of Income and Extra Expense provides funds to help you recover your lost income or extra expenses due to a targeted or accidental cyber attack.
  • Cyber Extortion is a common cyber security concern, especially for small businesses.
  • Notification Costs–provides funding for your responsibilities under various State and Federal laws to notify those affected by a breach.
  • Crisis Management provides funds and/or services to help you navigate these waters and mitigate the long-term damage to your business.

Third-Party Cyber Liability Claims

When someone else sues you because of a cyber attack or data breach, that is considered a third-party claim and these policies provide coverage for these suits and allegations as they are not covered under your General Liability policy (which is typically limited to bodily injury and property damage). Examples of third-party situations may include:

  • Network Security and Privacy liability suits.
  • Electronic Media Liability–may be a situation where you inadvertently cause libel or slander of another party.
  • Regulatory Proceedings–you may be held responsible for damages under State or Federal statutes and regulations.

Just about every business today maintains or collects some level of personal information in a digital format, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attack, data breach, and regulation. With more of our employees possibly connecting to our important data through less secured networks and connections, we are perhaps less secure than we were before the pandemic.

Get Cyber Liability Insurance for Your Business Today

If you have questions about your cyber security and would like a quote on cyber liability insurance, contact us today.


a heart with doctors hands holding stethescopes

Health Insurance Open Enrollment: Group Medical Plans

Did you know that open enrollment for group medical insurance plans may help you improve your health insurance coverage?

There is a lot of discussion nationally about health insurance open enrollment these days.  The one thing that we can all agree on is that it seems to get more expensive each year to provide quality health insurance to our families and employees.

Factors that Impact Group Medical Plans

The best benefits/pricing combination for health insurance is often found in group policies.  These are employer-sponsored plans that provide benefits to eligible employees.

In New Jersey, there are several important provisions in qualifying for a small group plan (under 50 full-time equivalent employees).

  • The employer must contribute to the cost of the plan for each employee. The minimum contribution is 10%.
  • 75% of eligible employees must participate in the plan or be covered by another plan (such as one from their spouse’s employer, or under a parent’s policy).  So, if you have 10 employees (and the owner does not count), you must have at least 8 of those employees enroll in the plan or provide a waiver that shows that they have coverage through a spouse or parent group policy.
  • To qualify as a “group” you must have at least one eligible employee and the business owner does not count in that calculation nor does the business owner’s spouse.

However, and this is an important exception, January 1st is open enrollment for small group plans.  This may be the only time of year small employers are not subject to the participation/contribution requirements.

Client Example

For example, we have a client who has over 20 full-time employees.

Most of those employees are laborers who make close to minimum wage, and many of them are covered by low cost or subsidized health insurance or not covered at all.

It is difficult for these employees to afford any premium contribution.  The employer certainly cannot afford to pay most or all the premium, so for years, they had no group plan.

We were able to set them up on a group plan with an effective date of January 1st, with only one employee enrolled in the plan.  This employee happened to be a relative of the owner who works in the company in a management capacity.

Since the participation requirement is waived, this group is eligible, and the owner can participate as well.

This open enrollment exception allowed the company to provide excellent health insurance to the owner and his family and a trusted, high-level employee, while all the other employees chose to opt-out of the coverage.

This could not be done at any other time of the year.

We're Here to Help

If you are a business owner without an employer-sponsored group benefits plan, contact us to see if a January 1st date opens opportunities for you to access better, and less expensive health insurance.

Please note, these plans must be submitted to the carrier between November 15 and December 15.

We can help you with a full range of retirement and employee benefit plans including qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, group medical, group dental, group life, group disability, voluntary benefits, payroll, human resource consulting and outsourcing and more.


family of five on the beach

A Complete & Simple Guide to Life Insurance Coverage

Written by: Jacob Bobick, CSA

Do You Need Life Insurance?

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month!

It’s probably not marked on your calendars - because it doesn’t sound all that exciting - but it’s a good reminder of the importance of covering ourselves and our families.

Most industry estimates suggest that half of Americans don’t have enough life insurance, and that’s a scary proposition.

I know, I know - it’s easy to say “I’m young, I’m healthy, I’m in great shape”; but not having adequate coverage could have severe consequences on the well-being and future of our loved ones.

Protect the Ones Who Matter Most

We all know that it’s expensive to live in New Jersey.  With the cost of food, shelter, taxes, clothing, college, etc., sometimes it seems like more is going out than coming in.

Insurance is never an “exciting” purchase; it obviously can’t compare with a new car, a pool, or even a new pair of shoes.  Insurance, however, is a relieving purchase.

When set up correctly, our insurances protect us if the worst happens - so at least we’re prepared for it.

Just as we have insurance to protect our homes, our cars, our businesses, our health, and our toys, it’s important to consider the impact of a lost income due to an untimely death.

Back to those expenses for a second… heaven forbid, if part of the household income is lost due to the passing of a family member, life insurance can ensure those bills are paid and the family stays afloat.

Life insurance replaces the lost income.  Life insurance keeps a terrible situation from becoming even worse.

Easier Than it Used to Be

With the timing of the global pandemic, I’ve gotten more questions than ever about life insurance.  It makes sense, as people are more “aware” of the number of lives being lost, so they consider their own mortality.

Believe it or not, the life insurance companies have made it easier for most of us to get coverage.

Because of distancing guidelines, many carriers are doing “non-med” underwriting, which means the applicant might not require an in-person exam to get approved.

For those candidates in good to excellent health, we can get policies issued in a week or two, which is comforting in these uncertain times.  If you’ve had some health challenges, we can still get you covered as well- it just might take a little longer.

The bottom line, as in all insurance planning, is to make sure you are fully covered before something happens!

Two Cups of Coffee

People ask us all the time “how much does it cost?”, which is a difficult question to answer.

Every situation is different, so we have to quote it specifically to the needs of the individual, but the fact of the matter is it’s relatively inexpensive to at least have some coverage.

For example, a healthy 40-year-old man could get a $250,000 policy for less than $12/month.  A 40-year-old female could get it for even less.

At those rates, it’s hard to justify “I can’t afford it”- that’s basically two cups of designer coffee to cover the cost.  We can get you some specific quotes to meet your needs in just a few minutes, so just call us - that is what we are here for!

It is Not Just for Families

While “personal” life insurance might be the most common, life insurance for business planning is equally important.

When there are multiple owners of a business, traditionally there is a “buy-sell agreement” in place.  Essentially, this agreement dictates what happens when one of the partners leaves the business or passes away.

Because an untimely death is often sudden, unlike a retirement, this could cause a strain on the surviving owner(s) to buy out the deceased’s share of the business.

Life insurance is one of the most common ways (and the cheapest) to protect the ownership for the survivor and the family of the deceased.

Example: Matt and Max each own 50% of a business valued at $1,000,000.  They each take out a $500,000 life insurance policy listing each other as beneficiaries.  If Matt passes away, the proceeds of the policy are paid to Max, who uses those funds to buy out Matt’s heirs.  Max now has 100% ownership of the business, and did not have to mortgage a home or the business to make it happen.

Nursing Home Costs

Long-term care planning has become a hot topic over the past few decades.

Understandably, most families don’t want to see their hard-earned money lost to a nursing home or assisted living facility, so long-term care insurance policies have grown increasingly popular as a planning tool- designed to offset the costs of care and shelter you from dipping into your savings.

Many of these policies are built on a life insurance platform to retain as much value and flexibility as possible, giving your family options (and protecting your assets) should extended care services become necessary.

Clever Alternatives

Aside from the “traditional” products mentioned above, companies are creating some “clever” ways to help families amass wealth.

Because of some of the tax advantages of life insurance, we can use it in products designed for retirement to create an income stream when you stop working (while keeping a death benefit intact in case you pass away).

Alternatively, we’ve set up “survivorship” policies, also known as “second-to-die” policies, which are a fantastic way to pass on money to your heirs.

Policies like these give some comfort to retirees who sometimes are afraid to spend their money, knowing they want to leave as much possible behind to their children and grandchildren.

We use a small percentage of their “total assets” to fund the policy, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith can utilize the remainder of their money, without fear of spending down the inheritance.

When they pass away, the lump sum is left to their beneficiaries, tax-free!  In the right situation, it’s a perfect wealth-building tool that allows a family to enjoy their retirement.

Necessary Decision

We can all agree that there is not much excitement in a conversation about life insurance.  But we can probably also agree that it’s a necessary component in a family’s financial plan, however informal that plan may be.

We’ve got the experience to guide you to the right coverage, and the insurance companies have made the entire process more streamlined, so really - there’s no excuse to not get this taken care of.  Your family [literally] depends on it!

Jacob Bobick is our newest associate at G. S. Newborn & Associates, Inc.  Jake has over twenty years of experience helping clients with life insurance, business perpetuation planning, and retirement planning.  Jake is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors.

Contact Jake at jake@newborninsurance.com for more information


Life insurance agent headshot

Welcome to the Team, Jake Bobick: Life Insurance Expert

Jacob Bobick, CSA joins G. S. Newborn & Associates with more than twenty years of experience in the insurance industry.  He is licensed in Life, Health, and Property/Casualty Insurance and holds both the Series 6 and 63 licenses as a Financial Advisor.

Jake has built a career on providing for the needs of his clients in the financial services and insurance arena and has built specialties in the following areas:

Retirement Advisory Services

  • Social Security, Pension, and Income Planning
  • 401(k) Rollovers
  • Medicare Supplemental Insurance Programs
  • Legacy planning
  • Long-term Care Planning

Business Perpetuation

  • Funding of business continuation plans (buy/sell)
  • Key-Person Insurance
  • Tax-Qualified Retirement Plans – 401(k), IRA, etc.
  • Non-Qualified Deferred-Compensation Plans
  • Disability Insurance
  • Employee Benefits
  • Business Insurance

Individual Needs

  • Full range of insurance programs including life, long-term care, disability, automobile, and home
  • Financial Advising and Investment Review

Jake is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and resides in Milford, New Jersey.  In his free time, he enjoys playing and watching sports, completing projects around the house, and spending time in the great outdoors.

To get in touch with Jake regarding any of your insurance needs, we encourage you to fill out this form.


Tropical Storm Isaias: Filing an Insurance Claim

Today, many of you were hit by Tropical Storm Isaias, and some of you have been left without power and potential property damage.

If you’ve experienced property damage, we want to provide you with what to do next. See below:

  • Contact your carrier
  • Document everything with pictures and video
  • Make necessary repairs to reduce further damage

While you are doing this, please make sure you are doing so safely. If you have minor damages, are not sure if you should call your carrier or still have questions, you can always contact us by:

We are here to help, so please stay safe and take care!


a farm with red barns and a tractor

Who Needs Farm Insurance in NJ & Why it's Important

Who needs farm insurance?  While this sounds like a simple question, we find that many folks who need farm insurance have no idea that this is something that they need, and more importantly – do not already have.  This creates a tremendous gap in their insurance coverage...

If you raise crops, vegetables, trees, or animals used for food – you need farm insurance.

If you live on a farm and rent the land to a farmer or get a farmland tax assessment on your property – you need farm insurance.

If you have children who raise animals for a hobby or as a lifestyle choice – you may need farm insurance.

If you live on a property that once was used as a farm and have outbuildings that were originally used for or designed for farming – you may need farm insurance.

The Coverage Gap

Most homeowner insurance policies exclude from liability coverage any business activities or pursuits.  By definition and in common law (court precedent), farming is a business activity.  This holds even if farming is not your primary source of income and even if you lose money or make very little money at it.  Here is a common situation:

The Smiths live in a renovated farmhouse situated on twelve acres.  Most of the land is wooded, but there is a five-acre field that they arrange to be farmed by a neighbor.  The farmer gives them a small amount of the hay that they use for their children’s pet goat.  The Smiths get a farmland assessment on their property tax statement every year.

The Smiths post their land with 'No Hunting' signs and do not give anyone other than a handful of family and friends permission to hunt on their property.  On the back end of their land, there are trails that the local teens sometimes use to ride their quads (of course without the Smith’s permission).

In this situation, The Smiths have a farm exposure which qualifies as a business that is excluded from coverage on most regular Homeowners Policies.  You may argue that they are not really farmers since they do not do the actual farming, but each year they receive a benefit from the farming of their land which is a business activity.  By getting a farmland assessment they are establishing that they have a business operation on their property.

Without special farm liability coverage added to their policy (if that coverage is available), the Smiths are vulnerable to a declination of coverage arising from any liability claim that arises from their business operations.  In this case, this could be from anything that happens on their property!

One of the local teens hits a rock on the trail and is badly injured when she falls from her quad.  The parents bring a suit against the Smiths for not properly maintain the trail.

While cutting hay, the local farmer brings up a rock that hits a car passing by on the road adjoining the property.  The owner of the car sues the farmer and the Smiths for the damage to the vehicle and the mental anguish and pain and suffering suffered in the event.

One of the Smith’s pet goats escapes the pen and eats the neighbor's prized rose plants.  The damage to the flower bed is extensive.

In all these claim scenarios, the insurance carrier could decline liability coverage because of the business (farm) exposure and the policy’s exclusion for business operations and pursuits.  We are not saying that the Smiths would necessarily lose these cases, but if their insurance company declines to cover them, they will certainly have to spend their own money to hire attorneys, etc. to defend themselves from the allegations.

Property Insurance Issues Too

Up to this point, we have focused solely on liability insurance issues, but the farm situation may also cause property insurance gaps in coverage.  Many standard Homeowners Policies also have a business and/or farm exclusion for property.

This could apply to any other structure on the property that was originally designed for or is currently used for farming.  In the Smith Family example we have been using, this could mean that the old carriage house that is now used as a game room or two-car garage may not be automatically covered by the policy since it was originally designed as a farm building.

The same may be true of the small barn that is now used to house the pet goats and to store the hay that is cut from their property as this building could be considered to be used in the farming operations.

What is the Fix?

An experienced farm insurance agent (like us) has many tools to properly cover everything from a sophisticated farm operation to the smallest hobby farm.  We use specialized policies or endorsements that are designed to cover both your personal and farm liability and property exposures.

Contact us if you have questions on Farm Insurance.


Do I Need a Workers Compensation Policy in NJ?

Written By: Gary Newborn, G. S. Newborn & Associates, Inc.

In New Jersey, the question, “Do I need a Workers Compensation policy” is not as simple as it may appear. If a business has employees, Workers Compensation is mandated by the State of New Jersey and it is a necessary and needed coverage. It gets a bit more complex when a business has no employees. Here’s the reason…

What is Workers Comp?

A Workers Compensation Insurance Policy provides benefits to workers based on each State’s statute. In New Jersey, the statute does not define who is entitled to these benefits other than the term, “employee”. The problem is that you may not know who exactly your “employee” is until after something bad happens and the court makes a ruling in your case. Of course, by that time, it is too late to purchase the coverage.

An Example of Workers Compensation

Let’s say that you are a small business in NJ that does kitchen remodeling and renovations. You are doing a project for a good customer that includes new cabinets, appliances and more. You hire a sub-contractor, George, to do the tile work for the kitchen floor.

You have known George for many years, and he has done work for you often in the past. The day the tile work is scheduled, George’s brother, Harry shows up at the job, tells you that George is sick, and he does the tile installation. The work is fine, and you call George the next day to see how he is feeling. George tells you that Harry put his back out while doing the job and is seeing his doctor. You do not hear anything for several weeks.

Then you get a letter from an attorney representing Harry indicating that Harry was injured on the job and that you should submit the information to your Workers Compensation insurance carrier as they are petitioning for benefits under your policy. In this case, Harry was an occasional worker for George who did not carry a Workers Compensation insurance policy. Because you are the General Contractor in this case, NJ statute makes you responsible for the injuries to Harry (the employee of an uninsured sub-contractor).

The case goes to the special workers compensation court in NJ where they award Harry benefits under your policy. Do you have a policy? If you don’t, you are still responsible to provide Harry with the benefits that the court has awarded him (these will be out of your pocket if you don’t have a policy). In addition, you will face fines and penalties from the State for not having a policy.

This is just one situation where someone who you would never think of as your employee becomes your responsibility under NJ statute. Other situations would include a temporary or occasional worker, a relative who helps you out for the day, or a sub-contractor who is not covered under their own workers compensation policy.

Independent Contractors

This information may be very different than what you have been told by your bookkeeper or accountant. That is because there is a very real difference between an accounting relationship and a legal relationship. Just because you pay someone as a 1099 sub-contractor does not make them one under the various laws that deal with employer-employee relationships. For more about this subject, see our blog about Independent Contractors.

Type of Business Structure

The type of business structure affects your need for Workers Compensation as well. If you are structured as a Corporation, corporate officers are considered employees (even if there is no payroll involved) and are subject to the workers compensation statute. If you are structured as an Individual/Sole-Proprietor, a Partnership, or a Limited Liability Company (LLC), the owners (individual, partners or members of the LLC) are not considered employees and are not automatically eligible for workers compensation benefits under the NJ statute.

However, you may elect coverage for this class of owners to provide coverage if desired. It is not unusual for a General Contractor to require all Sub-Contractors to elect coverage under Workers Compensation.

Contact us if you have questions on your need for a Workers Compensation Insurance Policy.


A blonde white female freelance worker

Independent Contractor vs. Employee: Do You Have A Choice?

Many businesses in various sectors depend on the use of Independent Contractors to supplement their work force.

Deciding when a worker is an Independent Contractor vs. Employee has always been a bit of a sticky issue with varying government and insurance interpretations, and little consistency between Federal and State rules.  The rules regarding Independent Contractors and employees are constantly evolving.

However, in New Jersey due to recent court cases and a renewed interest in the subject by the State government, we have seen a general consolidation of the rules that give us a better view on exactly how the State, at least, determines who is an Independent Contractor and who is an Employee.

Why It Matters To Employers?

There are certain advantages for an employer to consider a worker an Independent Contractor vs. Employee.

Generally, in this type of relationship, the employer does not provide employee benefits, workers compensation insurance, or share in payroll contributions such as State and Federal taxes, FICA (social security and Medicare taxes) and unemployment insurance.  In addition, regulations for things such as Family leave, sick time, prevailing wages, overtime and other hour/wage issues are not in play.

Your Independent Contractor relationships can be overturned by the Federal government (IRS), a State government (Department of Labor), or by court ruling as a consequence of a legal action.  If this happens, the Employer could be responsible for past wages, benefits, overtime, and taxes along with penalties and interest payments.  At the end of the day, any time you set up an Independent Contractor relationship you want to know for sure that it is solid and could withstand scrutiny by the government and the courts.

New Jersey Making It Difficult

The trend across the nation is narrow on those eligible for Independent Contractor relationship.  New Jersey is a leading State in this effort.  In fact, this is a focus point of New Jersey Governor Murphy’s administration.

“Misclassification is an unfair business practice and it is illegal,” Murphy said.  “if you are a contractor engaging in these practices, we are either, A, going to bring you into compliance or, B, we are going to put you out of business.”  To fortify enforcement efforts in this area, the State has added new investigators and has trained Division of Consumer Affairs investigators in misclassification.

We have had numerous clients, mostly in the construction industry report that they have been subject to an inquiry by the State.

What Are The Rules?

Determination of the status of a worker in New Jersey will now likely depend on the ABC Test.

The ABC Test is taken from the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law and is now the primary test to determine Employee status with the State of New Jersey.  The test presumes that every worker is an Employee unless three standards are met:

  1. The worker has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the work both under the terms of the parties’ contract and in fact.
  2. The work must be outside the usual course of the employer’s business, or, the work is performed outside of all places of the employer’s business
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.

Control

If the employer (remember the State is presuming that everyone is an employee in these situations) directs the worker in any way, the worker is an Employee vs. Independent Contractor.  Things that illustrate control include directing the work, establishing start and finish times, and use of the employer’s tools, equipment, vehicles, materials or supplies.

Outside Of Usual Course Of Business

To be an Independent Contractor, the work done must be outside of the normal work done by the employer or the work is done away from any premises or job site of the employer.

This is problematic for any business who uses workers to do essentially the same jobs that are done by other employees in the company even for a short-term basis or for a specific project.  It is hard to see how an Electrical Contractor could ever call another electrician an independent or sub-contractor.

It is also difficult to see how a technology firm can utilize a contract programmer working remotely as an independent contractor if some or all their programming employees also work remotely.

Established Business

Part C of the test may be the most difficult, especially in the construction industry.  It is impossible to see how a worker who is only working for one company can ever be called an Independent Contractor.

Under this standard, the Independent Contractor would have business cards of their own, a sign on their truck if applicable, insurance coverage, would invoice the employer for work done rather than have the employer track their hours, and perhaps even have a proposal, purchase order or written agreement for the work to be done.

What To Do?

While this is an evolving area, it is clear that the State of New Jersey is serious about the issue of independent contractor vs. employees and will be stepping up their enforcement efforts.  It is also clear that the construction industry is a primary target for initial efforts.  We will probably see this spread to the health care, hospitality, and technology industries soon.

We strongly recommend that any company using independent or sub-contractors review their procedures, assess their relationships and consult with their attorney and accountant to make sure that they comply with New Jersey (and Federal) statues.

G. S. Newborn & Associates, Inc. can help you meet with an employment attorney to discuss these matters. Make sure to discuss with us the insurance implications of using Independent or Sub-Contractors.