Vaught Wright & Bond
P.O. Box 1328
533 Main Street
Placerville, California 95667
Phone: 530-622-1835
Toll-Free: 800-652-0168
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CA Lic. #00448556

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Stay Safe This Summer

California Personal Insurance Update

With the summer months approaching, now would be a great time to review your homeowner’s and personal insurance program.  There is a large spike in auto accidents during June through August.  We offer a free review to assess your insurance needs, and we can recommend needed personal insurance coverage like a personal umbrella, cyber liability, and flood insurance.  Summer Risks Are Very Real.

Here are a few of the risks your family may face this summer:

  • Watercraft — Remember, your personal watercraft insurance does not cover racing. In addition, if your boat is over a certain length, you will need a separate boat policy.  Remember to have personal floatation devices for all people in the boat, and do not drink and drive your boat.  Venture beyond the geographic limits in the policy and the insurance may be nullified.
  • Travel — If you are planning a family vacation, make sure you keep your home safe while gone. Use timers on lights, cancel the mail and garbage, and do not post vacation pictures on social media while you are gone.
  • Swimming — Never leave a child unattended around water. If your child does not know how to swim, make sure they have a floatation device on at all times.
  • Bug Bites — If you are heading outdoors, be prepared for annoying critters. Use EPA-registered insect repellents* that contain at least 20% DEET (products include Cutter Backwoods and Off!  Deep Woods) for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs.  Other repellents protect against mosquitoes, but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs.
  • Barbecuing — Never leave a barbeque unattended. Do not barbecue inside or in a garage.  If you receive a minor burn, hold the skin under cool running water for up to 15 minutes to reduce swelling or until the pain subsides.
  • Sunburns — Always use sunscreen, and if your skin is burned, mix one-part whole milk with one-part cool water and gently apply it into the affected areas with a washcloth.
  • Heat Stress — You may be having fun or working in the sun, but if it is hot, keep hydrated by drink plenty of water. Wear lightweight clothing and take breaks every hour or so.
  • Fire pits — Fire pits are becoming increasingly popular for outdoor entertaining. While some burn wood, others use propane or natural gas.  Keep kids at a safe distance and teach them that fire pits stay hot long after the flames go out.

Remember to always seek medical treatment if the injury warrants it. At Vaught Wright & Bond, our Personal Insurance specialists work with you to tailor an insurance program to protect your family, home, auto, and other valuable possessions at the most reasonable costs our carriers can provide.

 

Check your Home Insurance to Be Sure You Are Protected From Disasters

Fewer than 22% of homeowners see changes in the environment or natural disasters as being an important factor to consider when updating their homeowner’s insurance coverage.

This information was found in a new study done by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). With the increase in natural disasters, the NAIC encourages homeowners to think about their risks and take the time to understand what coverages are included in their existing insurance policies.

For example, recent climate changes in the northern area of Nevada have been determined as the underlying cause of a catastrophic flood. State officials warn that the worst may not be over as they are preparing for additional flooding.

Another example: There is an increased risk for mud and rock slides because of erosion in the areas that have been affected by increasing wildfires.

Damage to your house or property caused by such disasters may not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Instead, you’ll need a special policy that offers specific coverage for things like flood insurance coverage.

Between 2005 to 2015 natural disasters caused roughly $24 billion in insurance claims. However, the study performed by the NAIC found that 56% of homeowners have not read through their homeowner insurance policies in over a year. Additionally, 14% are not sure if they have ever evaluated their plan.

It is important you review your policy with your agent to be sure you have the coverage you need.

Prior to Natural Disasters

We recommend asking yourself these questions each year:

Is my home in increased danger of:

* Floods,
* Wildfires,
* Earthquakes?

Next ask yourself:

* Has anything changed in my house?
* Has there been any change in the total number of people living in my house or the value of the personal belongings in the house?
* Have I added any major acquisitions such as art or other valuable belongings?
* Have I had any updates to the house such as renovations, an updated security system, or any other major changes to the home?

Then ask:

* Are there any new fire prevention or protection solutions offered in my area?
* Do I have a fire safety zone around my home? Has it been adequately maintained?

And remember, our team of insurance professionals is at the ready to help you. Please reach out if you have questions.

Performance Bonds, Bid Bonds, and Other Contractors Bonds

As the construction industry remains slow, contractors are forced to bid on as many jobs as possible. Some of the better opportunities require bonds just to bid, even if the bid is ultimately lost. If your bid is accepted, you may be required to provide evidence of bonds in addition to the bid bond and contractors license bond. Examples include Performance bonds, encroachment bonds, and payment bonds.

How much do these bonds cost? Unfortunately there is no simple answer. The cost will be based on the size of the job, the risk of the job, and sometimes on your business’ and/or your personal credit and financial strength. Additional factors include the type of contracting you are involved in (B license, etc), and how often you require bonds.

In many cases the bid bond itself will not cost anything, but some bonding companies charge a fee for each bid, sometimes $100. If your bid is accepted and a performance bond is required, the cost will be based on the size of the bond, usually 1-2% of the contract amount. The percentage cost generally drops as the size of the contract increases.

The good news is that most of these bonds are not too difficult to get, or at least to apply. That part is generally free. Once the initial process is completed, subsequent bonds are much easier. If your credit worthiness is not acceptable, there are other markets that are potentially available. The cost may be higher, but if you can secure the bond, you can get to work.

Let us know if you would like to get the bonding process started. It should be pretty painless and we are happy to help. You can call or click the link to bonds above.

(800)652-0168

https://vwbins.com/bonds/

Test Your Business Insurance IQ

A Business Insurance Update

We don’t expect you to be experts in business insurance, but we thought it might be fun to test you on what you do know about your business insurance. Business insurance is designed to cover unexpected losses. We can offer a wide range of business insurance options, so please call our office today.

Business Insurance Quiz (answers at the end)

  1. Your deductible is the amount you are responsible for if a covered loss occurs.

True       False

  1. Flood and earthquake coverage are always part of your business property coverage.

Ture       False

  1. Cyber Insurance is protection against losses caused by hackers from businesses dealing strictly in e-commerce, but it does not exist.

True       False

  1. Business Interruption covers your lost income no matter what kind of loss closes your business.

True       False

  1. My employees are prohibited from suing me, as this would be a workers’ compensation claim.

True       False

We maintain relationships with underwriters who are specialists in the commercial property insurance arena, and we consistently monitor the marketplace for new and innovative underwriters. We will evaluate your specific business needs and make personalized recommendations for your business.

At Vaught Wright & Bond our Commercial Lines specialists not only tailor a policy to fit your business’ needs, but also work diligently with you to avoid unnecessary costs and exposures.

Answers

  1. True-
  2. False- You need to add this coverage under a separate policy
  3. False- Cyber insurance can be purchase by all business
  4. False- Business interruption only applies to covered losses under the policy
  5. False- Your employees have rights under federal and state laws to sue you if they feel they have been wronged. You would need employment practices liability insurance in order to protect you and your business from employee lawsuits.

One Insurance Mis-Step Can Risk Your Business

In 2008 Leo Welder started ChooseWhat.com. Within a year he was being sued by J2 Global for using the term “e-fax”. It was totally out of the blue and unexpected. Sadly, he found his insurance didn’t protect him from this claim. Yes, he purchased insurance but was missing coverage for intellectual property litigation.

Both companies eventually settled but only after Mr. Welder had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (How many startups have that amount of capital freely available?)

After the lawsuit, Mr. Welder decided to add an E&O policy to help protect his company from these concerns.

No matter how smart you are or how diligent you are in caring for your clients, you can still find yourself in legal and economic problems. However, even with these concerns, many startups haven’t investigated getting necessary insurance for their risk profile. (Typically because they are either trying to save money or as an oversight.)

The critical thing to understand when contemplating risk management is that problems arise from gaps in protection. With that in mind, here are recommendations from business owners and insurance experts to avoid liability problems in a business.

Cover All Your Bases

Every organization needs basic liability insurance coverage. This can protect your business from a huge number of costs from libel to customer injuries. The average liability plan is one of the least expensive types of insurance protection you can own.

Most business owners admit that they avoid insurance to keep costs low. The question to ask… is it worth it? Be sure to talk to your insurance agent and review any needed changes for your risk profile.

Here are some areas of risk to ponder:

* Do you have company cars?
* Do you or employees drive personal cars for business related activities?
* Do you attend trade shows?
* Do you store client data online?
* Is your company dependent on a key employee?

The list above is an example of what an insurance advisor will walk through with you. What you’ll end up investing in insurance is going to depend a great deal on your specific risks. (If you run a business that has low liability footprint such as copywriting or consulting you’ll have a different risk profile than if you are a construction contractor.)

If you are just starting your business, take a close look at Business Owners Plan. This could include some or even all of these policies into one affordable package. In order to qualify, you’ll probably need to have a business that employs less than 100 workers and has less than $5 million in annual sales. These policies are designed specifically for start-up companies and smaller companies. They work to decrease your risk to lawsuits.

Important: Update Your Policy As Needed

Your company is always changing and insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Be sure your insurance coverage keeps pace.

If your business size rapidly changes, if your employee count changes, if your services change… all of these are reasons to review your insurance.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistic. Yes, one insurance misstep can potentially damage your business. The good news is one call to our team can help you understand your risk profile and help you be certain you have the exact coverage you need for your company.

Managers Take Note

According to a 2015 Gallup survey of more than 7,000 U.S. workers, 51 percent of employees have quit a job to get away from a boss. The reasons are many, from lack of communication and appreciation to favoritism and micromanagement. If you’ve noticed that turnover in your department is increasing, you may want to take a look at your management style and consider these simple things you can do to become better liked and respected by your team.

Maintain your boundaries. Boundaries are necessary in the boss/employee relationship, so don’t ask to join your team for lunch or invite them to hang out after work. You are their leader, not their friend or confidant. While this doesn’t mean you don’t need to listen when they approach you with a concern or complaint, it does mean you shouldn’t give in to every demand in effort to placate them or make superficial gestures to show you’re just ‘one of the guys.’

Solicit constructive criticism. Regularly ask your team how you’re doing and if there’s anything they think you can do better. Encouraging them to critique your performance honestly—and accepting that criticism gracefully—is a great way to create a work environment where constructive feedback is welcomed rather than resented. As a result, you’ll have to deal with fewer negative responses from the team when you need to give feedback rather than praise.

Give them space. While you need to be a visible, active part of your department in order to be an effective leader, you don’t have to hover, micromanage or even stay in constant communication. The most engaged employees are often the ones who feel like their bosses trust them to do their jobs correctly even when they’re given greater responsibilities. And engaged employees are generally happier with their relationships with their bosses and less likely to leave.

Watch your tone. Sometimes you’ll have to be the bearer of bad news.  However, it’s important to stay positive and try to find the good as well as the bad. A month that’s shaping up to be slower than normal could be an opportunity to work on projects that have been on the back burner. Losing a client to a competitor could be the inspiration to work harder than ever at improving the company’s products and processes.

Ask your employees for help. Everyone wants to feel like they’re needed at work. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks your employees can complete quickly and successfully. They’ll feel important and pleased that you trusted them with a special project. You’ll have happier, more engaged employees as a result. Note: Don’t do this if an employee has complained about being overworked or during times when the team is especially busy. In those cases, it’s more likely to do more harm than good.

Apologize for your mistakes.Maybe you gave someone the wrong information and they made their own error as a result. Perhaps you distractedly snapped at a team member after a call with an irate client. Whatever your error, it’s important to own it—and do so publically. You’ll earn the respect of your staff and encourage them to take responsibility for their own shortcomings as well.

Are You Under Insured?

Shoes that are too tight can hurt your feet. Pants that are too loose will fall down. Whatever clothing you’re putting on your body, it’s important to find the right fit if you want to look and feel your best. The same can be said about homeowner’s insurance. If you purchase more coverage than you need, you’re wasting money. But if you underinsure your home and possessions, recovering from a burglary, fire, flood or other natural disaster could be even more costly.

You need homeowner’s insurance with coverage that’s just right for you. And with a little time for research and a few conversations with your insurance agent, it’s absolutely possible to get it.

Begin by reviewing your current policy. Will it reimburse you for the value of your home and property based on its current condition (actual cash value coverage) or will you receive the funds required to replace what you’ve lost (comprehensive replacement cost coverage). Depreciation will hurt you if it’s the former. The age of your home and belongings doesn’t factor into the equation with the latter.

Make sure your coverage limit is high enough. You’ll need enough to fully cover the costs of rebuilding your home (excluding the value of the land) and replacing the rest of your property. In the case of your residence, this is not the same as current market value. Rebuilding could cost more—or less—than what your home would sell for today.

Take a look at local construction costs. If you recently purchased a newly built home or refinanced a mortgage in the last year, the appraisal should offer a fairly accurate representation of replacement cost as well as actual cash value and market value. If you own an older home, talk to local homebuilders about the average cost per square foot of construction. Then purchase coverage accordingly.

Account for upgrades. If you’ve spent at least $5,000 on remodeling projects since you last adjusted your homeowner’s insurance policy, you should consider increasing your coverage. If you’ve made any other high-ticket purchases or the value of the items in your home has otherwise increased, you should also adjust your coverage.

Buy endorsements as necessary. If your policy only provides actual cash value on contents, you may be able to purchase an endorsement to receive replacement cost value. If you own valuable items that aren’t covered by the standard policy, you can purchase endorsements for those as well.

Don’t forget your liability coverage. By some accounts, the average liability claim for bodily injury and property damage is nearly $16,000. If you have a gathering at your home and someone falls down the stairs, or a delivery person slips on your icy sidewalk during the winter, being underinsured will hurt you.

If you’re worried about the cost of fully insuring your home and belongings, we may be able to help you find ways to make your premiums more affordable. These include bundling endorsements, eliminating unneeded riders, and adjusting payment limits on a variety of claims. Give us a call today to review your current policy and discuss money-saving options.

Telling White Lies Can Void Your Car Insurance

Many motorists feel car insurance costs are higher than they want to pay. Rates are indeed on the rise. But some folks have taken to telling “white lies” to mislead insurance companies and get lower car insurance rates.

A nationwide survey conducted by a leading online financial firm showed that almost 85% of survey participants had given misleading information to keep the cost of their car insurance as low as possible. This figure is far higher than the estimates previously thought.

Drivers have come up with all sorts of creative story-telling. According to the survey quoted above, the following ranked as the basis for the top five “white” lies that drivers used to lower insurance costs:

1. Failure to accurately report on accident history and previous insurance claims.

2. Falsification of details regarding where the car is parked overnight.

3. The use or purpose of the motor vehicle – family, social, business, traveling, etc.

4. Falsification of the estimated annual mile driven.

5. Failure to properly identify who the primary driver of the vehicle is.

Why mislead on the above?

The main motivation for these little white lies is monetary. The insured knows very well that tinkering with the truth can save money on premium costs.

However, this is a risky move. Carriers are on the lookout for these and if they catch you, your insurance policy can be nullified. That can be especially problematic if you make a claim and the carrier determines you didn’t tell the truth on your insurance application. They will not honor your claim and you’ll be unprotected.

And remember, you’ll be on the hook for more than the damages to your car. You could be responsible for medical expenses of everyone involved in an accident found to be your fault.

A “little white lie” to save a few bucks simply isn’t worth the risk.

And that is not all. That little white lie could very well get you into trouble with the law. It is a criminal offense to falsify the details required by an insurance underwriter as you are seeking for a car insurance policy. Insurance fraud is a thing best avoided.

And remember, this applies to who is driving the car the most as well. Many parents think they should list themselves as the primary driver on a car that their teen mostly drives. This again is the kind of “white lie” that can result in all the previously mentioned problems.

What are the Long Term Effects of Non-disclosure?

As discussed above, failure to give all the necessary details on an insurance application can result in a claim not being honored as well as potentially being taken to court for fraud. YIKES!

And if you’re “found out”, such non-disclosures can have a negative impact on your ability to get a great rate on future policies.

The good news is that our team of specialists strive to help you find the best rates on auto insurance by obtaining multiple quotes from different carriers. We make insurance companies compete for your business and that helps you pick the best mix of budget sensitive features to fit your exact needs.

If you need to review your auto insurance, please reach out to us. We’re here to help!

Cyber Insurance: What is it? Do You Need it?

Technological advancements have revolutionized the way online advertisements, promotions, and shopping are done. This has brought immense benefits to companies, who have now found new ways to interact with the existing and potential buyers. The opportunity offered by social media alone is rich for companies that intend to conduct exhaustive marketing activities. However, social media platforms have also become avenues of cyber-attacks. This has wrought untold financial losses to all types of companies – small, medium and large. A case in point is the latest attack from “wanna-cry’’, a ransom ware that affected businesses on a global scale. Cyber-attacks can originate from almost anywhere. Businesses large and small have to be vigilant.

There are a number of ways that companies can react to the threat of cyber attacks in order to protect themselves and their clients. Some threats are avoidable through proper implementation of policies like requiring strong passwords. Others may require more advanced software and monitoring. But regardless, if you deal with clients online, or if you keep important personal information, you likely need cyber insurance.

What is the Role of Cyber Insurance Providers?

Cyber Liability Insurance Protection (CLIC) is an insurance plan that is meant to offer protection in the event of a cyber-attack. Companies face massive losses and expenses in the event of a cyber-attack and the cyber insurance plan is meant to mitigate such eventualities. The concept of cyber insurance has grown tremendously since 2005. It is projected to reach close to $8 billion in premiums within the next three or so years. Many companies in the US have realized the need for investing in a cyber insurance policy. Presently, close to 35% of US businesses have acquired cyber insurance policies of some kind, and their number is growing daily.

The cyber insurance industry is evolving at a breathtaking rate. However, the magnitude of the cyber-attacks threat has not been fully appreciated for a couple of reasons. One, many companies fail to report the full extent of the damages they face from cyber-attacks for fear of negative publicity. Second, the nature of cyber-attacks is often changing. The two reasons straddle underwriters with a challenge on how to value the financial impact of an attack.

Generally, a cyber-insurance policy will cover the following expenses:

1. Forensics Examination

Once an attack takes place, it is vital that a forensics examination is conducted. The examination will reveal the full extent of the damage and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. The forensic examiners will advise the company on what needs to be done to successfully avert or withstand any future cyber-attack threats.

2. Expenses Arising from Lawsuits and Extortion

The policy will cater for expenses that arise from lawsuits preferred against the company. Such lawsuits may be occasioned by a breach of client confidentiality occasioned by a cyber-attack. The policy also covers any statutory fines that may be imposed on the business, the cost of legal negotiations and any costs incurred as a result of cyber extortion.

3. Service Losses

The cyber insurance policy will meet the cost of loss as a result of failure by the company to deliver service due to the cyber-attack. The service interruption may be as a result of network downtime or otherwise. Other service costs that are covered by the cyber-insurance policy include those of recovering any lost data and carrying out the necessary PR activities to repair the firm’s dented image.

4. Information Alerts

The policy caters for information alerts to customers following a breach. This also includes monitoring the credit rating of customers whose credentials and identity might have been compromised during the assault.

What do you look for in Cyber-insurance Coverage?

A number of cyber insurance companies offer a list of items that are covered by their insurance policy. The buyer can use these lists to compare and contrast various providers before they settle on the one they perceive to be most receptive to their needs. You can also leverage an independent insurance agency to help you shop for the best value. For example, because we are independent, we can shop between multiple carriers for all kinds of insurance needs. Whatever the case, you must ask about the following aspects of a cyber-insurance plan:

a. Does the insurer customize the insurance coverage plan to the needs of their clients, or does it offer a one-size-fits-all kind of policy? Of course, as the buyer, you will be more interested in an insurance firm that is willing to customize their products for your firm.

b. How do deductibles compare amongst the various insurers? Be sure to compare and contrast deductibles among various insurance providers to determine the ones with the best deals.

c. Does the insurance policy include coverage for third-party providers? What are the limits? If third-party providers have cyber-insurance, how will this influence the terms of my contract?

d. Does the insurance policy cover APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) and other network attacks?

e. Does the insurance policy offer protection in the event of a strike?

The strikes could be targeted at the company, or the company may be affected by collateral damage. How does the insurer propose to handle this?

f. Does the insurer offer E&O protection that caters for an injurious action done inadvertently by an employee?

g. For how long will the policy offer protection against the risk of APTs?

How Do Insurance Companies Determine Insurance Coverage?

A cyber-attack insurance provider expects potential clients to have put certain measures in place before they can underwrite them. For example, the buyer must ensure that they have done a risk evaluation and created a detailed cyber risk profile. They also must have solid protections against potential cyber-attacks. The insurer will request that the buyer educates its workforce on the best security practices to prevent, control, or successfully withstand a cyber-attack.

The buyer is encouraged to consult moral hackers with a view to getting an insight on the buyer’s most vulnerable spots and how to protect them.

Cyber insurance buyers may be asked to provide a detailed audit of their company’s procedures and practices. This will be to enable the insurer to assess the vulnerability levels of the company. Insurers may ask companies to change some aspects of their administrative practices if they are deemed to be a threat.

The Importance of Cyber Insurance Coverage for Businesses

Companies that partially or fully conduct their businesses over the internet need to contact a reputable insurer for a cyber-attack insurance policy. This is because such businesses stand the greatest risk of being assaulted and losing their assets. Statistics clearly show that cyber-attacks are on an upward trajectory. A shocking observation: small businesses are being attacked at a higher frequency than expected. For example, a report by two leading internet security providers found that about 30% of the cyber-attacks recorded 2 years ago targeted small businesses. Shockingly, the attacks against small businesses increased by 15% (to 45%) last year. This in itself should be a wake-up call to small businesses to safeguard their businesses against such attacks.

(It is estimated that the impact of cyber crimes on the world’s economy has skyrocketed to $580 billion per year, from the $350 billion experienced just a few years ago.)

The cost of a cyber insurance plan is dependent on how the buyer’s industry is organized. The industry dictates the policies and procedures of the firm, the kind of services offered, and their risk profile. Small businesses with profits of between $90,000 and $500,000 will have lower premiums than larger organizations.

If you have questions about cyber insurance, definitely reach out to us so that we can put you in touch with the best available resource.

Auto Insurance for the High-Risk Driver

An Auto Insurance Update

Are you a high-risk driver?  Incurring too many accidents or violations on your driving record can have a negative impact on your auto insurance coverage rates.  High-risk drivers do have options, and we certainly do not want you to go without auto insurance.

Find the right auto insurance company

Insurance companies differ in what they are willing to insure. It is important to shop your insurance with us to make sure you find the best possible combination of coverage, price, and service.  Some insurers will charge much higher rates if you have a record of accidents or violations.  We know the insurers that are willing to take high risk drivers.

Make sure you have the basic auto coverage

We can design a policy for you to help you minimize the high cost of insurance. We recommend auto liability and physical damage coverage. Whatever you do, do not go without auto insurance as that can create many more problems for you.

Many people don’t fully understand what their auto insurance policy covers and excludes. To avoid making costly assumptions, it pays to know what’s included in your policy. We are here to help answer all your insurance questions.

At Vaught Wright & Bond, our Personal Insurance specialists work with you to tailor an insurance program to protect your family, home, auto, and other valuable possessions at the most reasonable costs our carriers can provide.