Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc. | Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc.
|The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Regulators and Legislators Are Asking
“The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Regulators and Legislators Are Asking” is the fourth installment in NCCI’s Marijuana Conversation series aimed at exploring the issues surrounding marijuana’s impact on workers compensation stakeholders.
As discussed in NCCI’s previous conversations, medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states, as well as Washington, DC. It’s also legal for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC. However, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and is classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
This leaves regulators with questions about the best way to protect workers, employers, and insurers, while legislators at both the state and federal levels debate numerous public policy issues regarding legalizing marijuana.
Below are four key questions regulators of both insurance and labor departments, along with legislators, are asking as marijuana becomes legal across the nation.
How do I protect workers and promote safe working environments?
State insurance and labor departments share responsibility for regulating workers compensation. While the division of their duties may vary from state to state, consumer protection is a fundamental role for any state regulator. In the workers compensation system, one of the state regulator’s top priorities is to ensure that workers are protected and that injured workers receive the benefits they are entitled to in accordance with state law. As regulators evaluate the impact—or potential impact—to their state from legalizing marijuana, they are likely doing so by considering the effects on workers.
Right now, regulators around the country are dealing with an opioid crisis. Opioid addiction and overdose have reached epidemic levels over the past decade. Prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone can be highly addictive and result in thousands of overdose deaths each year. And, as reported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, misuse of prescription painkillers may be a risk factor for using heroin as a substitute. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States more than 183,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2015.
Facing these statistics, regulators are certainly wondering whether medical marijuana may be a safer, less addictive alternative to opioids for injured workers, and therefore, a better choice for pain management in the workers compensation system. Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, research has been limited and allowed only under strict controls. So, definitive answers to these questions will take time.
However, regulators must weigh the potential benefits of medical marijuana use with the potential risks to the workplace. Could an employee’s legal use of marijuana—whether medical or recreational—impact workplace safety? Are workers who are legally using medical marijuana less likely to report injuries if their employer has a drug-free workplace policy? What if the workers are concerned about potentially losing their workers compensation benefits if they test positive for marijuana at the time of injury? And what impact does all of this have on employers and insurers in the state? No doubt, regulators want to determine the best way to address these questions to ensure safe workplaces and the proper reporting of workplace injuries.
Federal regulators have also been part of the discussion. In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgated federal workplace injury and accident reporting regulations that expanded employer exposure to fines. The rule also included new standards for post-injury drug testing. However, in 2017 Congress passed—and the President signed—a resolution blocking the regulations, and at this time it seems unlikely that a similar proposal will be advanced.
How do I regulate reimbursement for medical marijuana?
The friction between federal law and state laws on marijuana creates additional challenges for state regulators tasked with governing in this new environment.
To date, at least five states—Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico—have found that medical marijuana is a permissible workers compensation treatment that requires insurer reimbursement. New Mexico was the first in 2014 when the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that insurers must reimburse “qualified” workers compensation claimants for the cost of medical marijuana to treat work injuries. Based on that ruling, the same court decided two other cases, determining that reimbursement is required if the drug is reasonable and necessary medical care for treating a work injury.
In response to these decisions, the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration created a rule and adopted a fee schedule to provide a system of reimbursement for medical marijuana given to injured workers. The fee schedule went into effect on January 1, 2016.
At this time, New Mexico is the only state that established a maximum reimbursement amount for medical marijuana in a workers compensation fee schedule. In other states where medical marijuana is legal and permitted as a workers compensation treatment, regulators are considering whether they should include medical marijuana in their fee schedules. They’re also asking: What are the challenges in implementing such a change in a fee schedule? Are there alternatives?
While only one state has established a maximum reimbursement amount for medical marijuana in its fee schedule, every state now has, or is developing, a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). PDMPs are state-run electronic databases that track the prescribing and dispensing of prescription drugs within the state. They’ve been used by states to address the opioid epidemic. As medical marijuana becomes more commonly recommended by doctors, regulators want to know if their states should consider including medical marijuana in their PDMPs. If so, how can it be effectively tracked without a universal drug code? Currently, marijuana cannot be assigned a National Drug Code due to its Schedule I status.
While it remains to be seen whether states and state courts will continue to find that medical marijuana is permissible treatment for workers compensation, regulators likely want to know how the reimbursement process works. Does the insurer pay the marijuana dispensary directly or pay the injured worker, who can then purchase the medical marijuana? And how should the reimbursement rate be determined? Regulators are exploring new tools to address these questions going forward.
What are the issues in the legislative debate about legalizing marijuana?
Legislators at both the state and federal levels are grappling with myriad public policy issues surrounding legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.
As state legislators debate whether to legalize medical and/or recreational marijuana in their states—or are dealing with implementation issues in states that have already legalized it—no doubt they are following the opinion polls. Legalizing marijuana has become increasingly popular with voters. According to an April 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 60% of voters favor legalizing marijuana, while 94% support the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
State legislators want to know: Is congress considering legislation to legalize marijuana? Are other marijuana-related issues, such as banking and tax reforms, being debated?
On the federal side, congress has already introduced at least 20 bills in 2017 addressing issues related to legalizing marijuana. Some of the bills propose removing marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act or legalizing certain forms of marijuana at the federal level. Other bills propose amending the Internal Revenue Code to address the taxing and regulation of marijuana products and/or to provide protections for financial institutions that serve marijuana-related businesses that are legal under state law.
It is too soon to tell whether congress will pass any substantive legislation related to marijuana. However, in May 2017 congress passed an appropriations bill for the current fiscal year that contained language stating federal funds will not be used to stop states from implementing medical marijuana laws.
This leads to another question state legislators are asking:
If my state legalizes—or has legalized—marijuana, will the federal government take enforcement action in my state?
In 2013, the US Department of Justice issued guidance regarding marijuana enforcement, known as the “Cole Memo.” The guidance suggested federal law enforcement officials focus their efforts on eight federal priorities—including preventing marijuana distribution to minors and preventing violent activity related to marijuana cultivation and distribution. The memo noted that the guidance was based on the expectation that state and local governments would “implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” in states that have legalized marijuana.
There have been questions whether states have systems in place to effectively address marijuana-related activity. For example, citing studies by the Highway Loss Data Institute and the American Automobile Association (AAA), a recent report by Smart Approaches to Marijuana—an antilegalization group—claimed that states with legalized recreational marijuana have seen an increase in both marijuana-impaired drivers and automobile accidents. Whether there is an actual causal link to marijuana use, or there are other contributing factors at play, may require additional data and analysis. In any case, there is ongoing debate regarding appropriate state regulatory and enforcement responsibilities.
It remains to be seen whether the federal government will take a more active enforcement role under the new Administration. In the meantime, state and federal legislators face the task of weighing these public policy issues, and their decisions will ultimately influence the regulatory process.
Medical marijuana is now legal in a majority of states, and numerous states are expected to consider marijuana proposals in the coming year. As state and federal legislators debate the public policy issues regarding legalizing marijuana, state regulators are facing questions about how to implement their state laws, while continuing to provide appropriate protections for workers, employers, and insurers.
Stay tuned for our final edition of The Marijuana Conversation: What’s Next?
Click Here to review the previous installment: “The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Employees Are Asking”
This article is provided solely as a reference tool to be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article shall not be construed or interpreted as providing legal or any other advice. Use of this article for any purpose other than as set forth herein is strictly prohibited.
POSTED FEBRUARY 08, 2018 4:54 PM
|Declare War On Workplace Germs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the number of people seeing their doctor for influenza-like illness is the highest since the pandemic in 2009. The CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination for all persons 6 months of age and older as flu viruses are likely to continue circulating for several more weeks.
According to the latest CDC flu report, thousands of cases of hospitalizations due to the flu have been confirmed. People 65 years of age or older make up the largest group of hospitalizations, followed by adults 50 to 64 years of age and children age 4 and younger. The number of deaths attributed to influenza is still growing. The American Red Cross has steps people can follow to help prevent the spread of the flu at work.
Here are 10 steps you can take to help prevent the spread of flu where you work:
1. Get a flu vaccine. It’s the best thing you can do to help stop the spread of the flu where you work.
2. If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible.
3. If you are sick with fever and respiratory symptoms, stay home from work until 24 hours after your fever is gone without taking medicine.
4. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
5. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
6. People with the flu can spread it to others six feet away through their coughs and sneezes. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. Don’t use your hands. Throw the tissues away and clean your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
7. Disinfect surfaces everyone touches - door knobs, switches, handles, toys, phones, computers, remote controls, etc. People touch more surfaces than you think and flu germs can hide in crevasses.
8. Don’t use a co-worker’s phone, desk, computer or other tools.
9. Avoid shaking hands or coming in close contact with co-workers who may be ill.
10. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
POSTED FEBRUARY 08, 2018 4:23 PM
|How to Survive a Social Media Backlash at Your Business
Social media can offer a valuable way for business owners to connect meaningfully with customers and promote their businesses. But engaging in social media also comes with risks. An ill-advised tweet from your account or a Facebook post from an unhappy customer can spark a social media backlash that could place your business in the worst possible light.
Business social media gaffs do occur and can be difficult to navigate. Handled improperly, such incidents could cost you customers, revenue, and even your business. Thankfully, in addition to having business insurance, there are ways to survive a backlash.
Write Each Social Media Post as if a Million People Will See It
The best way to survive a social media backlash is to avoid one. Be mindful that anything you post can potentially be seen by many, many people.
“What you put out there really allows the regular general public into your kitchen,” says Dennis Pang, co-founder of digital marketing agency Popcorn. That can leave you vulnerable.
Just because you don’t think it will happen doesn’t mean it won’t. A social media fail can happen quickly and to anyone, whether it’s a typo gone horribly wrong or a poorly conceived promotional tie-in to current events. Some good general guidelines to follow are:
- Avoid questionable jokes. If there’s even a chance you think it might offend someone, play it safe and don’t tweet it.
- If you pre-schedule tweets or posts, pay attention to world events in the meantime, and adjust any pre-planned items that may appear insensitive given recent events.
- When responding to world tragedies, never tie them to your company or product.
- Proofread your posts. This bears repeating: Proofread your posts.
“In these days you just never know,” says Pang. “Just assume that, as a small business owner, your post could end up being shared by 30,000 people,” he says.
Always Monitor Your Social Media Accounts and Mentions
If you want to get ahead of a social media backlash, you have to know when it’s starting.
“Ensuring that you have the proper procedures and processes set up so that you can monitor and be on top of when people are talking about you — that comes first,” says Pang. That means setting up tools like Hootsuite that can track your mentions, and ensuring you or an employee checks your social media accounts and mentions regularly and often.
This is important because, once the social media snowball starts rolling, things can sour quickly. Consider the backlash United Airlines faced in April 2017 after violently removing a passenger from an overbooked plane. In less than 24 hours, the video of the incident made international news. “In the world that we live in, things go viral a lot quicker now,” says Pang. “When one person shares it, 10 people share it, and the next thing you know, 30,000 people share it and you’re on the front page of every newspaper.”
The sooner you become aware of a social media backlash, the sooner (and better) you can start strategizing how to respond.
Respond Quickly, Then Thoughtfully
When a social media backlash hits, it can be a challenge to figure out how and when to respond. Do you respond immediately to get in front of the blowback, but maybe risk a response that needed time to be more carefully thought out? Or, do you take your time to formulate a thorough reply, but risk being perceived as ignoring the issue?
Thousands of critical replies or retweets are often a sign you’re facing a backlash. Once that becomes clear, Pang subscribes to the approach of a quick public acknowledgment. The faster you can get out in front, the better. “So that even if we don’t have an answer at that particular moment, they are aware that this is something that has been brought to our attention and that we are taking the appropriate steps to look into it further,” he explains.
In your first response, mention that you have seen people’s concerns, express your regret, promise you’ll investigate the situation, and commit to providing a full response soon.
Once you’ve had time to either process or investigate what happened, it’s time for an official and more in-depth response, ideally on the same day. Small business owners should keep a few things in mind:
- Offer explanations — not excuses
- Take ownership
- Be honest
- Be human
- Apologize in a way that’s sincere
If you’re not sincere, customers will sense it, and you’ll add fuel to the fire. For example, when the United Airlines CEO attempted to address the public’s reaction to the removal of the passenger from the plane, he used corporate buzzword speak: “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these passengers.” The result was even more public ridicule and criticism, because his comments were seen as insensitive, insincere, and dodging ownership.
Have Protocols in Place
When social media users become upset by something your company has done, it requires your full attention as a business owner. If you’re a sole proprietor who runs your own social media, you may be quick to notice when things are going wrong and can begin planning your response.
Of course, running a business takes a lot of time and focus, and there may be times when you haven’t checked Hootsuite in a while. In that case, if you notice hundreds of angry tweets coming your way, it’s imperative to take a step back and immediately devote your full attention to damage control.
If you have an employee or virtual assistant managing your social media, you need protocols in place so they know how to recognize a bad situation and when and how to involve you. “Knowing where their responsibilities end, and where it would require somebody more senior, or perhaps the owner, to really get involved [is important],” says Pang.
That means the employee or virtual assistant needs to have a standard instant response in place and ready to use (ideally in the form of the quick acknowledgment mentioned earlier), as well as the means to reach you — or a designated secondary contact — no matter where you are or what you’re doing, so you can bring your full attention to the crisis at hand.
In all cases, your business is best served by responding both promptly and honestly.
POSTED FEBRUARY 08, 2018 3:28 PM
|EMC Insurance: OnCall Nurse Hotline
How does your organization handle on-the-job injuries? Unless you have a health professional on-site for all work shifts, the injured employee or a supervisor will likely have to make a snap decision about what level of care is needed. EMC offers a safer way to respond: EMC OnCall Nurse, a 24-hour work injury hotline.
Learn more about the program from this interview with EMC Workers’ Compensation Program Supervisor Alyssa Comito.
Q: What is the EMC OnCall Nurse program?
A: The EMC OnCall Nurse program allows injured employees and their supervisors to immediately speak with a registered nurse following a workplace injury. The nurse will help determine what level of medical attention is necessary in any injury situation. EMC has partnered with Medcor to offer this 24/7 work injury triage service.
Q: How does it work?
A: When an accident or illness occurs, both the supervisor and the injured employee contact EMC OnCall Nurse. The nurse will speak first to the supervisor to collect account details, then will talk with the injured employee. The nurse assesses the injury and recommends a level of care. Recommendations may range from self–care, with instructions provided by the nurse, to various levels of professional care. The nurse will recommend a preferred clinic approved by your organization and can even alert that clinic that the injured employee is on his or her way.
The nurse then generates a confidential incident report, along with your state’s required first report of injury. These reports are sent via secure email to the organization’s work comp contact and to EMC’s claims team. This saves your organization the hassle of reporting, while allowing for a faster claim setup (if needed) and greater communication among all parties.
Watch this video for more information.
Q: How does my organization enroll in the EMC OnCall Nurse program?
A: You can contact Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc. directly, your EMC underwriting or marketing representative, or email EMC’s medical management staff at Claims.OnCallNurse@emcins.com. You’ll need to provide your account name and contact information, including phone, email or fax.
Enrollment is required and must be confirmed before you can use the OnCall Nurse program. Remember to provide information about your organization’s preferred medical providers when you complete enrollment.
Q: Is there a fee for enrolling in the EMC OnCall Nurse program?
A: This program is complimentary for EMC workers’ compensation policyholders. EMC provides this service because we feel the benefits outweigh the costs for all involved.
Q: What are the benefits of the program?
A: The following are just a few of the benefits of the EMC OnCall Nurse program:
- Triage begins as soon as the nurse answers the call. As an added service, translators are available for more than 200 languages.
- Injuries are reported sooner. Nearly 75 percent of the calls placed with EMC OnCall Nurse were reported within 24 hours of the injury. The average reporting time for all work comp claims not using nurse triage is 16 days. Note: This stat is for trauma claims only, not including occupational diseases or cumulative injuries.
- Injured employees and management feel confident that the decisions made offer the best and most appropriate care and are less likely to second–guess the decisions.
- There are real cost savings from eliminating unnecessary medical treatment—including medical office and emergency room visits.
- With nurse–generated injury alerts to the preferred care provider, the medical office knows what to expect when the injured worker arrives. Note: Injury alerts can only be sent if the organization has preferred medical facilities in the system.
- The nurse submits the triage report and first report of injury following the call, saving time at the workplace in filling out and filing necessary forms.
- An injured employee or the supervisor can make follow–up calls to EMC OnCall Nurse for more assistance at any time, using a reference number provided at the time of the initial call. For example, if the initial recommended advice involves self–care and the employee does not improve, he or she can check in for more guidance on what to do next. The nurse may recommend medical care at your organization’s preferred clinics or may have other suggestions.
POSTED FEBRUARY 08, 2018 6:00 AM
|Does Auto Insurance Follow the Car or the Driver?
There are a few questions in life that are more confusing than their answers. The blanket query into whether or not insurance follows the car or the driver in a particular jurisdiction is such a question – one we see regularly.
The answer to whether insurance follows the car or driver depends on many variables, most notably the kind of insurance coverage being referred to. There are coverages that follow the car and coverages that follow the driver. In general, auto insurance follows the car instead of the driver, but the specifics of a claim can differ since insurance laws and coverage vary depending on the policy, coverage and state being dealt with.
Liability insurance coverage on a personal auto policy follows the driver no matter whose vehicle is being operated, provided it is an eligible vehicle. All states, except for one (New Hampshire), require at least liability coverage. Liability coverage protects the insured (i.e., follows the driver) when the insured operates a vehicle owned by someone else. In such a situation, they will still usually be covered under their own auto insurance policy. However, the best rule of thumb in looking for coverage under a policy is to begin with the exclusions.
While an “insured vehicle” may include a friend’s or neighbor’s vehicle or a rental car, if the vehicle was available for regular use, it might be excluded. A “replacement” vehicle will probably be covered, but in some cases only under circumstances where the insured’s vehicle cannot be operated for some specific reason, such as a repair. Coverage might not follow anyone if the insured is driving a vehicle other than a “private passenger vehicle not owned and listed on the insured’s policy.” There really is no such thing as a standard auto policy anymore and coverage for non-owned autos will be different under some policies and non-existent under others.
Comprehensive and Collision
Comprehensive and collision auto insurance coverage, on the other hand, are tied to the insured vehicle (they follow the car). These coverages pay for damage that befalls the insured vehicle as a result of an accident or vandalism. One could say that if you loan your vehicle, you loan your insurance. With comprehensive insurance which covers almost everything, it is the car rather than the driver that is covered. This, however, requires many stipulations to be put in place, such as who is allowed to drive the car. If someone other than the insured is driving a vehicle covered by comprehensive coverage and is not listed as a covered driver – even if the other person has permission – the other person might not be covered in an accident. Family members (such as children or a spouse) are generally already included in the policy definition of “insured.” However, rarely will insurance cover a driver operating a vehicle without the owner’s permission.
Other Drivers Driving the Insured’s Vehicle
When an insured allows other drivers to drive his vehicle, then, and only then, does the question of whether insurance follows the car or the vehicle become even awkwardly relevant. The right question to be asking is not whether insurance follows the car or the driver, but whether or not other drivers will be covered by the insured’s auto insurance.
Unfortunately, there is no bright line answer to the question, and it depends greatly on the language of the policies involved, the jurisdiction you are concerned with, and the specific facts involved. Permissive use is generally covered under the liability terms of an auto policy. As always, however, there are exceptions.
There are certainly insurance carriers and policies that will not cover any driver not specifically named in the policy. Other relevant facts include where the “other driver” resides and if they are related to the insured. In general, if someone is living in the insured’s household and regularly drives the insured’s vehicle, many insurance carriers expect you to have that person named on the policy. They will need to undergo the same underwriting and qualification process as any other policyholder.
In some cases, if a family member is visiting and has permission from the insured to drive the family vehicle, there will be coverage if there is an accident, but the coverage may be limited. All policies should be reviewed to determine if there are any excluded drivers and any limitations on coverage for anyone driving the car that is not specifically named on the policy.
When the policy of the vehicle owner and the policy of the permissive user have different limits, the matter becomes even more complicated. If the damages caused by the permissive user’s negligence exceed the owner’s liability limits, the policy of the permissive user might be tapped as secondary coverage, but usually only where the permissive user’s liability limits are higher than the owner’s liability limits.
The Insured Driving Someone Else’s Vehicle
In general, insurance coverage for an insured driving someone else’s vehicle is the coverage he carries for his own vehicle. The driver’s personal coverage will apply in most cases when driving a vehicle he does not own. This includes any uninsured motorist coverage he carries and the medical portions of his policy. The driver’s property damage coverage might carry over while driving another’s car as well, depending on the policy language, the respective limits of the two policies involved, and the facts. If a person drives his own vehicle without insurance, he should not expect that he is covered when driving someone else’s vehicle.
Certain factors must be considered in determining if an insured is covered when driving someone else’s vehicle, including the reasons for driving the vehicle, if the insured had permission or not, or if it was a rental or dealership loaner. In each case, the individual circumstances and state law involved will factor into the outcome, but another policy might be considered primary over the insured’s.
When an insured borrows a vehicle from a friend, the insured’s liability coverage usually steps in only when the insured’s policy limits are exceeded. Collision and comprehensive coverage do not apply to a borrowed vehicle. Medical Payments (Med Pay) and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, as we will see below, also follow the insured into a borrowed vehicle.
Med Pay and Bodily Injury Insurance
Med Pay and bodily injury insurance are two other types of coverage that usually follow the person, not the car. Med Pay coverage pays for any injuries that an insured or his passengers may incur in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Such coverage usually follows the driver. It is based on people, not the vehicle. In fact, such coverage sometimes covers the insured when he is walking or biking. This coverage also usually follows the driver when he rents a car, because the rental vehicle is a substitute for the insured’s own vehicle. However, Med Pay coverage sometimes follows the car. If the passengers in a vehicle don’t have coverage of their own, Med Pay and PIP coverage can extend to their injuries.
Drivers from Other States
Auto insurance will generally cover a driver from any state as long as he has the insured’s permission to operate the vehicle. However, this isn’t always the case. In all instances, when someone else operates the insured’s vehicle, the auto coverage and policy terms may vary greatly depending on the carrier and insurance options selected by the insured. That said, if an insured is driving a company/commercial vehicle which has Med Pay/PIP coverage, that coverage is usually primary over the driver’s personal auto policy, which will be secondary in terms of coverage. There are some exceptions.
Insurance Coverage When the Insured Is Not Present
In order for insurance to cover an accident when the insured is not present, there will need to be comprehensive auto coverage. The facts of each such case definitely matter. If the driver is a relative, then most likely the absent insured’s insurance will cover the accident. The driver also needs to have had permission, express or implied, or the insured’s insurance may not cover the claim, unless the vehicle was stolen. Individual insurance companies and policies may vary in regard to these rules.
Cheap, sub-standard auto carriers write insurance for insureds with bad driving records. They are able to do this by setting their own limited conditions under which they will provide coverage. These sub-standard carriers do not cover claims that would be covered under a more standard policy. These policies can contain “named-driver exclusions” which limit coverage to persons specifically named in the policy. “Step-down” policies often lower liability coverage to a state’s minimum limits for permissive users, even if the insured pays for higher limits. Deductibles can be higher and/or a policy won’t extend coverage to a rental vehicle. Therefore, policy terms vary and directly affect whether a particular coverage follows the car or the driver.
POSTED JANUARY 16, 2018 6:00 AM
|The Griswolds had nothing on our Christmas
The week before Christmas my family and I returned home from a weekend at the lake to find Mr. Squirrel nestled comfortably on top of our living room couch. He was gazing outside into the yard - probably thinking of the old life he used to live in the wild after spending his weekend warm and safe inside of our home! Now the pictures below may tell you a different story because, as you can see, he clearly wanted OUT of our house. We had significant damage to most of our trim as well as furniture and drapery. See for yourself....
And here is Mr. Squirrel himself:
I am still not 100% sure how he got in - but what I do know is that Mr. Squirrel owes me a couple $1,000.
"But won't your insurance kick in?" you may be asking....
While damage caused by most wild animals to your home (Dwelling) may be covered by a homeowners insurance policy, there are limitations for some classes of the little creatures. There are specific exclusions for Birds, Rodents, and Insects – including all animals owned or kept by the insured. A typical homeowners policy excludes damage caused by any animal to your Personal Property but some policy forms are broader for Personal Property and mirror the Dwelling coverage language.
For our little house guest, all rodents are mammals but not all mammals are rodents. This guy falls in the rodent class.
As a side note - No animals were injured in the making of this story, we got Mr. Squirrel out of the house safely with the help of a broom and a pathway made of dining room chairs.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your Homeowners Insurance – call me 708.293.5500.
POSTED JANUARY 16, 2018 6:00 AM
|AIG: A reminder about frozen pipe prevention
Bitter cold, snow and ice continue to blanket many areas of the country, and we still have much of the winter season to go! Click Here
for a quick reminder from AIG about safeguarding your home from frozen pipes.
POSTED JANUARY 16, 2018 6:00 AM
|What Type of Trust Should You Create for Your Estate?
A trust can be a great way to protect your assets and help provide income to your family if you pass away. But how do you determine what’s best for you and your family? Learn more about different trusts so you can choose the right one for your estate.
Revocable trust: This type of trust allows the grantor — the person who created the trust — to change or end the trust at any point during his or her lifetime. Most trusts can be revocable.
Having a revocable trust in place can help you avoid probate, which is the process a court takes to finalize your legal and financial matters after you pass away. Probate can be a lengthy process for your loved ones to work through, and becomes a matter of public record.
Also, your assets in a revocable trust are considered personal assets for estate tax purposes and creditors. This means that if you owe money when you pass away, creditors have access to your assets to pay off those debts. Taxes on your estate may also be owed if your assets meet the minimum value requirements.
Irrevocable trust: Once an irrevocable trust is created, it can’t be changed or terminated. A revocable trust you create in your lifetime becomes irrevocable when you pass away. Most trusts can be irrevocable.
This type of trust can help protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits and reduce your estate taxes. If you file bankruptcy or default on a debt, assets in an irrevocable trust won’t be included in bankruptcy or other court proceedings. They also aren’t considered personal assets when the IRS values your estate to determine if estate taxes are owed.
Special needs trust: If you have a disabled loved one, this type of trust can provide income to them after your passing without disqualifying them from government benefits like Social Security Disability Income. Keep in mind that your special needs beneficiary doesn’t control the funds — the trustee, someone you choose to manage the trust, does.
Spendthrift trust: This type of trust distributes assets to your beneficiaries over time, rather than in a lump sum. Your beneficiaries will receive payouts over a specified period of time, which can help ensure that your savings last.
Also, the funds in a spendthrift trust aren’t considered your beneficiary’s personal assets until they’re disbursed. This means that creditors can’t access the money in the trust in case of loan default or bankruptcy.
Charitable trust: If you want to donate money in a tax-efficient manner when you pass away, a charitable trust is a good option. Assets included in the trust are not considered your personal assets, so they won’t be vulnerable to estate taxes.
Asset protection trust: This type of trust can keep your assets safe from creditors. If you file bankruptcy or default on a debt, assets in this type of trust won’t be included in bankruptcy or other court proceedings.
Bypass trust: With this type of trust, you can leave assets to your spouse estate tax-free. Then, when the surviving spouse passes away, the assets go to his or her beneficiaries, again bypassing the estate tax.
Totten trust: This type of trust is essentially a payable-on-death (POD) bank account. It’s a revocable trust that you can set up with your bank by simply filling out paperwork and naming a POD beneficiary. This helps you maintain control of the account during your life while avoiding probate after you’ve passed away.
If you’re thinking about setting up a trust, you should also consider purchasing a life insurance policy to ensure your assets go to your loved ones. Life insurance benefits are typically disbursed tax-free and your beneficiary can use the proceeds to pay estate taxes or other debts that your estate may owe.
It can also be wise to set up certain trusts using life insurance. For example, if you have a loved one with special needs, you may not have enough money to fund a special needs trust on your own. With life insurance, you can apply for a death benefit that ensures financial security for your beneficiary.
Estate planning may seem overwhelming, but learning about your options can help you plan for your future and the future of your loved ones.
The information in this article is for your general information. It is not complete nor does it cover every situation. MetLife, its agents and representatives do not provide tax or legal advice and this article should not be construed as such. Please seek advice based on your particular circumstances from a qualified advisor.
POSTED JANUARY 16, 2018 6:00 AM
|Zeiler Insurance Customer Spotlight: I Heart Keenwah®
The name is I Heart Keenwah® because owners Sarah Chalos and Ravi Jolly genuinely love quinoa and they want to spread that love! They spell quinoa using the phonetic spelling to help de-mystify quinoa and to make it easy for people to try their amazing food.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, low-glycemic, high in fiber, packed with vitamins and minerals, and has a high protein content - between 14-18%.
I Heart Keenwah® produces quinoa snacks and have expanded into cook-and-serve toasted quinoa and quinoa hot cereal. All of their products proudly feature organic Bolivian Royal Quinoa as the primary ingredient.
Why Bolivian Royal Quinoa you may ask? Well...
Bolivian-grown quinoa is touted as the highest quality quinoa in the world! Here are their reasons for choosing Bolivian:
- Heirloom Seed. Bolivian Royal Quinoa is an heirloom seed, which means it is a non-hybridized, non-commercially bred or non-GMO seed. Bolivian farmers retain 10% of every year’s harvest to replant for next year’s season. The moniker “Royal Quinoa” is a protected term used solely for Bolivian-origin “heirloom” quinoa (neighboring Peru and Ecuador, in contrast, grow commercially-bred quinoa).
- Larger Size. Bolivian quinoa is larger in size, which means its fluffier (when cooked) and nuttier in flavor.
- Sustainable. Bolivian farmers employ sustainable farming practices, using lama dung as fertilizer, avoiding chemical pesticides, picking weeds by hand and allowing the soil to rest for a minimum of one year after each harvest.
- Fair Trade. Bolivian quinoa is cultivated by smallholder farmers (as opposed to agribusiness), and I Heart Keenwah’s commitment to Fair Trade Certification ensures that farmers make a living wage.
For more information and where to purchase these tasty products, Click Here.
For a quick video about I Heart Keenwah®, Click Here.
We love to spotlight our clients on TheZ. Feel free to contact us for more detail.
POSTED JANUARY 03, 2018 7:00 AM
|Why Publishing Policies Against Workplace Sexual Harassment Is Not Enough
Sexual misconduct happens at work not because companies don’t publish anti-harassment policies, experts say, but because managers don’t enforce them – and because people fail to apply them to themselves.
While the floodgates on reporting abuse and sexual harassment have opened with high-profile cases in Big Tech, Hollywood and Washington, it’s not yet clear whether the effects of the #metoo movement have trickled down to day-to-day offices, factories and other places regular people work.
“I do think it will be a lasting movement,” said Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who won the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage in the U.S. But while Kaplan – who is defending a woman who is being sued by Hollywood produced Brett Ratner after accusing him of rape – thinks “most companies have policies that are pretty good,” there’s still a problem: Many people don’t truly comprehend them.
“They understand the English language, and what the words mean in the abstract sense, but I don’t think most people understood it in everyday life,” she said.
In an unusual move for a large company, Facebook last week publicly released its policies against workplace harassment and bullying, including its enforcement procedures and how it investigates complaints. The company says it wants to help other companies create better policies, and ideally prompt them to publish their own luprocedures too.
“We don’t think we are perfect, we don’t think we have all the answers,” said Lori Goler, the company’s vice president of people. But she said companies should “come together to make sure that we all learn from each other.”
Facebook itself has been sued for sex discrimination and harassment, in 2015 by a former employee who said she was wrongfully terminated in 2013 after she complained about being harassed. The woman, Chia Hong, later dropped the suit, and Facebook has maintained no wrongdoing.
Facebook would not disclose how many complaints of sexual harassment it has investigated, or specific details on how well its policy has actually worked. Goler said the goal is not to reduce the number of reports, but to get “as many people to raise their hand as possible.”
Dan Eaton, an employment attorney and instructor of business ethics at San Diego State University, said “sexual harassment policies, like ethics policies, are only as good as the managers who implement them and are responsible for making sure there is broad compliance.”
For a policy to be effective, he said, it has to be applied consistently – and if wrongdoing is found, there have to be consequences that are disclosed “not only to the person who complained but to the entire workplace.”
“That sends a message that these policies are not only on paper but in action,” he said. It is not clear if Facebook’s policy meets that standard.
Goler said that while Facebook’s policy itself has been “pretty consistent” over the years, the training around has evolved to address the “gray areas” and nuanced situations that people might encounter. For example, she said, “how many times do you ask someone out?” before backing off, and what if they don’t say no outright but that they are busy? Do you ask again?
Facebook, like many other companies, will fire offenders if the company determines that sexual harassment has taken place. More difficult are the unclear cases, where it’s one person’s word against another’s.
Facebook also has a mandatory arbitration agreement for anyone who joins the company. Experts on workplace harassment say these sorts of clauses can deter people who want to report harassment.
Facebook’s move on Friday follows Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s post over the weekend warning of a potential backlash against women and urging companies to put clear policies in place on how they handle sexual harassment allegations.
“We need systemic, lasting changes that deter bad behavior and protect everyone, from professionals climbing the corporate ladder to workers in low-paid positions who often have little power,” she wrote. “We need to end the abuse of power imbalances due to gender – and race and ethnicity, too. We must not lose this opportunity.”
POSTED DECEMBER 19, 2017 6:00 PM